Speeches 2001 - Thursday, 1 February 2001



Saturday, 3 February 2001

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood!

1. I am filled with joy at welcoming you on this first ad limina visit since Albania regained its place among the free and democratic nations after the end of the communist dictatorship.

I greet you with great affection and extend to each of you my cordial welcome. I thank Archbishop Angelo Massafra, President of the Episcopal Conference, for expressing the sentiments you all share. I also wish to send my best wishes to Archbishop Rrok Mirdita of DurrŽs-Tirana, who could not be with us for health reasons.

An especially affectionate greeting goes to the four new Apostolic Administrators of RrŽshen, LezhŽ, SapŽ and Pult-Bajze, whose appointment, after the reorganization of the ecclesiastical territories, is a promising sign for the life of all the Christian people of Albania.

My thoughts turn to the contacts I have had with your Ecclesial Community. I am thinking of the Pastoral Visit on 25 April 1993 and the ordination of the first four Albanian Bishops celebrated on that same memorable occasion. I especially recall Archbishop Frano Illia and Bishop Robert Ashta, who have returned to the Father's house after living their lives in courageous fidelity to the Gospel. I am also thinking of the elevation to the purple of the late Cardinal Mikel Koliqi, a faithful witness to Christ, whose venerable figure epitomized in a way the sufferings, persecutions and indomitable hope of Christians in your beloved land.

2. The Catholic Church's long journey in Albania has known moments of promising vitality and periods of difficulty, amid obstacles and persecutions. Suffice it to recall the long Turkish domination that sorely tried the faith of Albanian Catholics for 450 years and, closer to our day, the half century of communist dictatorship which forced it to live in the catacombs. At times it seemed that the Ecclesial Community was doomed to disappear, but the Lord's mysterious presence precisely in that period sowed the seeds of new growth and new fruit.

What Tertullian said also proved true in Albania: "The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians" (Apologeticum, 50, 13). This is demonstrated by the many Albanians who kept the faith, despite the harsh oppression they endured for their fidelity to the Gospel. Splendid proof of this are the priests and religious who suffered imprisonment and torture.

On this special occasion I would like to thank the entire Albanian Church for the witness she bore during the years of persecution and to join her in praising the Lord for having been able to celebrate together here in Rome, on 4 November last, the 10th anniversary of the reopening of the churches and the visible return of ecclesial life in the country.

I offer my gratitude as well to the priests and religious, mainly from Italy and Kosovo, but also from Bosnia and Hercegovina, Croatia, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Malta, India and the Philippines, whose effective work is making a pastoral, cultural and material contribution to the cause of the Gospel.

3. After the long winter of persecution a new season of hope has begun. Various churches have been built and many religious houses have been opened. They are the providential outposts of evangelization and human development. Vocations to the priestly and religious life have increased. The Interdiocesan Major Seminary of ShkodrŽ has reopened and since 29 June 1999 has already begun to bear fruit with the first five ordinations to the priesthood. Worthy of note too are the social and educational efforts that have led to the building of clinics, outpatient units and schools for children and young people. The poor have also been assisted by the construction of houses for the homeless and the distribution of food and clothing.

In this period your Church has regained its place in the nation's life. During the disorders and fratricidal clashes of 1997, she played a peacemaking role; through the national Caritas and other Catholic non-governmental organizations she worked actively on behalf of refugees from Kosovo; she also undertook significant projects such as "the peace bell", desired by children in the Zadrina area of LezhŽ, and the "peace village" built in ShkodrŽ by the Sons of Divine Providence. Nor can I forget the ongoing dialogue with the Orthodox and Muslim communities.

In addition to my great satisfaction for the work of your Community, I cannot fail to mention the comfort I took in the cultural programmes you have organized, such as the international conference on the theme: "Christianity among Albanians" from 16 to 19 November 1999, as well as the participation of many groups representing your Churches in the Jubilee celebrations in Rome.

4. ""I am with you always, to the close of the age' (Mt 28,20). This assurance ... has accompanied the Church for 2,000 years, and has now been renewed in our hearts by the celebration of the Jubilee. From it we must gain new impetus in Christian living, making it the force which inspires our journey of faith. Conscious of the risen Lord's presence among us, we ask ourselves today the same question put to Peter in Jerusalem immediately after his Pentecost speech: "What must we do?' (Ac 2,37)" (Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte, n. 29).

These words, which express the profound reason for every pastoral project since the Jubilee experience of grace, are especially timely for you, dear Pastors of the Church in Albania. Was it not your assurance of the risen Lord's presence that sustained your martyrs, nourished the hope of Christians and gave your Communities the strength to rise again after the terrible experience of atheistic communism? Should not all your present and future projects be based on this assurance?
In this new season several priorities stand out in relation to the kind of future your Communities will have. I also wrote in the Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte: "To make the Church the home and the school of communion: that is the great challenge facing us in the millennium which is now beginning, if we wish to be faithful to God's plan and respond to the world's deepest yearnings" (n. 43).

This task must receive an authoritative and assured response from your Episcopal Conference. I am certain that a welcoming manner which respects all charisms will prompt you to make the most of the contribution offered by the missionaries and women religious from other nations who have chosen to serve Christ and their brethren in your land. Their presence and pastoral commitment are a gift for your Communities. Working together, with mutual respect, so that everyone feels part of one Church and at the service of the one Gospel cause: this is the right attitude for effectively developing a programme for the ever deeper inculturation of the Christian message in the Albanian context.

5. It is a task that calls for everyone's contribution and for this reason parishes must become privileged places for listening to God's word, for formation and for Christian experience.

The training of clergy and the pastoral care of vocations also have fundamental importance, because a Church's future depends in large part on her ability to provide spiritual, doctrinal and pastoral resources that are solid and attentive to the signs of the times for those called to the ministerial priesthood and the consecrated life.

In addition to the formation of the clergy, religious and pastoral workers, venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, you must also pay explicit attention to two other indispensable objectives for the Church of the third millennium: the pastoral care of young people and the family. There is an urgent need, in fact, to prepare the younger generation to build a better future in their own country by overcoming the temptation to emigrate and the illusion of achieving easy success abroad. It is also indispensable to give moral and material support to families and to combat the serious evils that unfortunately afflict your country too, such as abortion, prostitution, drugs, the spirit of revenge, the exploitation of women and violence. Never tire of firmly speaking out in defence of life from its conception and do not be deterred from the commitment to defend the dignity of every human person with courageous determination.
Christ is with you: be not afraid!

6. A vast field of evangelization and human development is opening before your eyes, dear and venerable Brothers in the Episcopate! The sheer weight of the problems may sometimes discourage you. How can you accomplish such a demanding task? How can you build adult communities that take responsibility for the new evangelization? First of all, by keeping your hearts firmly set on Christ: it is from him that you can draw strength and light. His grace will make you strong and patient, ready to receive the many gifts with which he fills his Church. The risen Lord continues to tell you, as he did the prophets sent to proclaim his word in difficult and hostile surroundings: "I will be with you until the end of the ages. I will remain with you. Be not afraid!". Strengthened by the power of the Cross, your Churches, like little seeds in God's field, can become verdant trees abounding in fruit.

May the Mother of the Lord, who was close to the Apostles with her presence and prayer in the Upper Room, accompany you with her maternal protection. May she make all your apostolic projects fruitful and prepare ever new outpourings of the Spirit for the People of God entrusted to you.

In the daily labours of your apostolic ministry may you also be comforted by the Apostolic Blessing which I cordially give you and the faithful of beloved Albania, with a special thought for the sick, the young, families and all who suffer in body or spirit.




Friday, 9 February 2001

Venerable Brothers!

1. With great joy I extend a cordial greeting to each of you and my most heartfelt welcome. This visit renews the close bonds of unity and communion that join you and the communities entrusted to you with the Successor of Peter.

I thank Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz for the words he spoke to me on your behalf. In addressing you, I wish to express my sincere affection to your communities, assuring them of my constant good-will and a daily remembrance in my prayer.

This meeting is taking place a few weeks after the closing of the Holy Door, while we still have a vivid memory of the Great Jubilee, a time when divine mercy was poured out upon the Church and the world in abundance. The fruits of that extraordinary event are tangible and strongly encourage us to intensify our efforts for the kingdom of God.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, strengthened by the spirit of the Great Jubilee, you are resuming your journey amid the trials of the world and the consolations of God, while remaining faithful to the task of a careful evangelization and a constant fostering of the sensus Ecclesiae. In this extensive pastoral activity you receive valuable help from the collaboration of priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful, as well as from a promising group of young people who are preparing for the priestly ministry.

2. All the wounds left by 70 years of militant atheism are still painful, but they must not discourage you from carrying out your ministry. The realization that Christ has called you to proclaim the Gospel at a difficult time must spur you to an even bolder work of catechizing those entrusted to you by Providence. I am aware of your current efforts to make the liturgical books, teachings of the Magisterium, catechetical texts and prayer books more accessible in your language. I wish to encourage you to continue in this direction, since a deeper and more generous fidelity to the life of grace is strengthened by a convinced and prayerful knowledge of the divine mysteries.

The vast mission of evangelization you are undertaking first of all requires that you take care to train priests who are holy and zealous in their ministry. In this connection, you are already working to prepare Russian-born teachers and professors who can deeply understand the mentality and heritage of their great people and, at the same time, can fully and genuinely appreciate the spirit of their own culture through knowledge of Sacred Scripture and the writings of the ancient Church Fathers.

It is also necessary to involve young people in the task of the new evangelization by identifying the different vocations that God gives those who have been marked with the seal of Baptism. It all depends, of course, on trusting prayer to the Lord of the harvest that he will send into his harvest workers after his own heart who are holy and generous.

3. A vocation comes from God but grows in a family and is supported by a fervent, faithful Christian community. Who does not realize the spiritual and moral devastation inherited from the century just ended? Who is unfamiliar with the difficulties that families, especially young ones, must face today? Know how to be a strong and encouraging support for them. Accompany them as reliable guides; help them with your prayer, open the treasures of divine mercy to them and break the bread of Christ's truth for them. This is the vast apostolic work that you, diocesan Pastors, are called to carry out with those whom the Lord has put at your side: priests, consecrated persons and lay collaborators. Nurture a spirit of heartfelt understanding and mutual support among yourselves, while respecting the charism of each individual and coordinating the various methods of evangelization.

Although the difficulties of daily life are inevitable, you can overcome them with the Lord's help by following the high road of the dialogue of charity. This is how individual gifts serve the good of the entire Body of Christ.

4. Respectful dialogue also becomes a patient methodology, making it possible to establish relations with other baptized faithful living in Russia. Seek whatever fosters mutual understanding and, when possible, cooperation: this is a concrete rule of ecumenical dialogue that was so dear to Bl. John XXIII, who loved to say again and again that what unites us is much greater than what divides us. This is why we should not be discouraged by the difficulties and even the failures of the ecumenical journey, but, sustained by prayer, we must continue making every effort to establish full unity among Christ's disciples. With trust in God, with charity, with constancy we can help to hasten the fulfilment of the divine Master's ardent desire "that they may all be one ... so that the world may believe" (Jn 17,21).

Venerable Brothers, the Bishop of Rome is close to you and with great affection encourages you to persevere in this important spiritual work entrusted to you by God. May your hallmark be charity, which is the bond of perfection. Enlivened by this fundamental virtue, you will know how to find, as you are already doing, ways to help the poor and needy who knock at the door of your heart. By imitating the Good Samaritan in the Gospel, you will serve Christ himself who comes to you in the ragged clothes, pleading faces and sore-laden bodies of the poor and abandoned. This is a direct and understandable work of evangelization.

As I entrust you to the protection of Mary, Mother of God, who is revered with tender affection in the land where you carry out your pastoral ministry, I invoke upon you an abundance of heavenly graces and bless you with all my heart.



Friday, 9 February 2001

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood!

1. It is a great joy for me to offer you a cordial welcome during your ad limina visit, by which you intend to strengthen the sentiments of communion between you and the Successor of Peter.
I thank Archbishop Nerses der Nersessian for his kind words expressing the sentiments you share. In addressing you, dear Pastors, I would like to express my sincere affection to the faithful of your Churches. I remember them all in my daily prayer.

Our meeting is taking place at the beginning of a new millennium. The legacy bequeathed by the difficult century just ended confronts the Church in many regions with urgent and complex problems. In the field of evangelization and the care of the Christian people, the first task that awaits you is certainly the rebuilding of your respective communities, small flocks that have long been buffeted and dispersed.

2. The experience you have had in recent years convinces you that the proclamation of the Gospel can not only restore courage to the Ecclesial Communities, but also contribute to the effective building of a new society based on sound ethical and moral values. In all your efforts maintain firm trust in God. For it is he who builds up the Church and guides the way of peoples according to his inscrutable plan of salvation.

Be convinced messengers of a new culture which, by preaching respect for everyone on the part of all, will be based on lasting spiritual values and will recognize God's primacy in life. Strengthened by this awareness, work without delay to spread hope by using every means to encourage the cooperation of all in proclaiming the Gospel.

First, you must foster in your flocks a new mentality, inspired by the civilization of love, which will strengthen respect for every human being. Do not be afraid to speak out in defence of every just cause and explicitly offer the gift you have received: faith in Christ who has chosen you. Bear witness to his saving message, which is addressed to all nations.

3. To carry out this prophetic mission, your communities must acquire an increasing awareness of their vocation. In my Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte, I thought of the Church as a barque which must venture upon the vast ocean that God is opening before her at the beginning of the millennium, I invited Pastors and faithful to "set out anew from Christ", sustained by hope, facing their new tasks with firm trust in the unfailing support of Providence. This vast apostolic work must utilize the energies of priests, religious and lay people. May their formation be your priority concern so that, by drawing from the treasury of prayer and study, they can share the problems of our contemporaries and offer to everyone the substantial food of God's word.

Special attention should be paid to young people, who are the future of the Church and of humanity. If Christ calls them to follow him on the path of the priesthood or consecrated life, support them and involve the whole Christian community in the necessary work of vocations.

4. The priority tasks to which you must tirelessly devote your time remain "prayer and the ministry of the word" (Ac 6,4). The Lord chose you for this reason, so that after praying at length you might proclaim his Gospel and bring the hope and comfort of his love to all. From prolonged contact with him you can draw the necessary enthusiasm to continue courageously proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and communicating the message of the merciful love of God, who reaches out to all human misery.

Despite the scarce means at your disposal, do not forget the poor and those in difficulty. The harsh legacy of the past presents you with fragile families, threatened by the social plagues of divorce and abortion. And how many in your lands are tempted by the mirages of practical materialism and consumer hedonism! Stay close to your people, offering them concrete support enlivened by the comfort of faith. Above all, remember your young people, who are searching for solid reasons for facing a future that is often unclear to them.

Please assure everyone of my spiritual closeness. Know that I share your daily pastoral concerns. May love for Christ's flock spur each of you to work in active harmony, so that "love which binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Col 3,14) may be firmly rooted in the Church.
May the heavenly Mother of God protect you and go with you!

With these sentiments and as a pledge of my affection, I give you a special Apostolic Blessing, which I gladly extend to the whole flock entrusted by God's mercy to your care.





Friday, 9 February 2001

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood!

1. I am pleased to welcome all of you on your ad limina visit. I have looked forward eagerly to this fraternal meeting, which expresses the full communion of your Churches with Peter's Successor. In such an intense moment of spiritual unity, the Lord lets us feel his presence, encouraging us to confirm our personal willingness to guide the people his providential love has entrusted to our pastoral care.

We are meeting one month after the close of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 and the echo of that extraordinary time of grace, in which we returned to the sources of our salvation, still resounds within us. Now we continue the journey, keeping our gaze fixed on Christ, "the same yesterday and today and forever" (cf. Heb He 13,8).

I thank Bishop Jan Pawe≥ Lenga for the words he addressed to me on behalf of you all. I greet each of you with great affection. Your witness to the Gospel and your zealous care for Christ's sheep in the difficult situations where you live and work honour you and are a great comfort to me.

After the long period of persecution and dispersion, which has caused many sufferings and privations, and at times even martyrdom, a season of hope has now opened for your small but promising communities. Your hard work is well known to me and I encourage you to persevere in the efforts already begun: always look to Christ, our sure hope, and serve him with a fervent heart.

While expressing these sentiments to you, venerable Brothers, I would like to offer the people entrusted to you my best wishes for ever more generous fidelity to the Gospel. I am thinking of the clergy, consecrated persons, the laity, young people, families and especially those afflicted in body or spirit.

2. God has appointed you as Pastors to lead your people with wise humility and to be examples to whom they can look with trust (cf. 1P 5,2-3). Through your ministry, in communion with the Pope, you prolong the work of Christ, the Good Shepherd, who pastures his sheep and cares for them with tireless concern. With his grace he sanctifies those who receive him and nourishes the Church with the gift of the sacraments.

Be zealous, dear Brothers, in carrying out your mission. Emulate one another in reciprocal love; maintain a sincere and cordial dialogue with each other and help one another, while respecting each other's responsibilities. May the love that reigns among you be an example to the priests who assist you and to the faithful who look to you as burning lamps lighting the way.

May you be open to every person of good will. By your words and actions encourage everyone to cooperate generously in building the Church in harmony, diligence and peace. Faced with the vastness and complexity of the harvest and the scarcity of labourers, do not lose heart. Trust in Christ, who knows how to bring all things to fulfilment. In his name lead your communities, without fearing hardships or obstacles.

3. On meeting you personally, I was able better to understand your goals and the problems that worry you. I am fraternally close to you and, above all, I support you with prayer. A long road awaits you, but I am sure that you will not lack the enthusiasm to move forward quickly, overcoming the obstacles with the contribution of all.

I am thinking, for example, of a right relationship with the administrative authorities so that your ministry can be carried out within a legal framework that respects the State's laws and your legitimate freedom. I am also thinking of the necessary understanding which must continue to grow between the diocesan clergy and religious. Support priests and religious with prayer and your fatherly concern, spurring them to rely, in prayer and in the fervent celebration of the Eucharist, on the energy that flows from the daily encounter with Christ, the Eternal High Priest consecrated to the Father's glory. May your pastoral care make the most of everyone's best talents, so that each one's gifts may serve the common good. Divine Providence, which never abandons those who trust in it, will also help you with further resources and new co-workers in the priestly ministry to assist you in your efforts and join you in caring for the whole People of God.

I entrust you to the intercession of Mary, Star of Evangelization and Queen of the Apostles. May she comfort and sustain you in your daily apostolic work. May you be encouraged and supported by the example and intercession of the patron saints and faithful witnesses to the faith, some of whom in your lands have sealed their fidelity to Christ and the Gospel with their blood.

With these sentiments and as a token of my affection, I cordially give you a special Apostolic Blessing, which I gladly extend to the whole flock entrusted to you.



Friday, 9 February 2001

Dear Scalabrinian Capitular Fathers!

1. I am pleased with this meeting which enables me to greet you all personally on the occasion of your General Chapter. You requested this audience in order to reconfirm your devotion to Peter's Successor, according to the fidelity that characterized your founder. My cordial welcome to you all!

A little more than two years have passed since we met at Castel Gandolfo in September 1998. The premature death of your Superior General, Fr Luigi Favero, who guided your congregation with enthusiasm, has brought you back to Rome to elect a new Superior General. Your votes went to Fr Isaia Birollo, to whom I offer my congratulations and best wishes for the difficult task entrusted to him. At the same time I hope that this meeting in Rome has permitted you to reflect more deeply on your missionary project.

2. You have held your General Chapter while the memory of the Great Jubilee, which brought us into the third millennium of the Christian era, is still vivid. This moment of reconciliation and grace was lived "not only as a remembrance of the past, but also as a prophecy of the future" (Novo millennio ineunte, NM 3). On the Church's pilgrimage, migrants are an eloquent image of the journey of the entire People of God to the Father, who wishes to reveal his face to those who seek it. Their experience becomes a symbol on which it is worth reflecting.

Modern migrations highlight the consequences of vast, complex social phenomena, which affect all societies to varying degrees. The imbalances created by economic and social processes that have a particular impact on the very weak force millions of men and women to seek the possibilities of survival elsewhere. Ethnic conflicts, natural disasters and political oppression oblige entire populations to ask for asylum and protection from other nations. Fear of the foreigner, however, prompts affluent societies to put restrictions on the entrance of migrants, making their acceptance and integration more difficult. But the barriers cannot stifle the hope of those who have the right to a better future.

The presence of migrants, in fact, has transformed many countries into multiethnic and multicultural societies. Such diversity is often perceived as a threat to the cultural and religious identity of the host countries. Hence the pressure for xenophobic restrictions, which in themselves carry the risk of tension and misunderstanding that are damaging for social peace. Before the risk of ethnic clashes, all are invited to reconsider social coexistence in terms of dialogue and fellowship.

Real integration requires the building of a society that can acknowledge differences without absolutizing them and foster a generation of citizens formed in the culture of dialogue. "In the climate of increased cultural and religious pluralism which is expected to mark the society of the new millennium, it is obvious that this dialogue will be especially important in establishing a sure basis for peace" (Novo millennio ineunte, NM 55).

3. In view of these issues, dear Scalabrinian Fathers, we see all the timeliness of your mission. You are called to deepen your charism in order to spread it as the Church's gift to the world of human mobility. The ever broader horizons of migration require of you the courage to open yourselves to new frontiers, to which your mission calls you. The Lord of the harvest will not permit his weakest and most scattered children to remain without those who will break bread for them and gather them in unity.

In reflecting on your missionary project, you have also become more aware that fraternal life in community characterizes your specific life and mission. Through this witness, too, you can be a sign, prophecy and witness of the Resurrection wherever the marks of division and injustice are strongest. By gathering the migrants of different nations together, you will enable the various local Churches to sing in different languages, as at Pentecost, the praises of God for the marvels that he works in history.

As you behold the suffering face of migrants, consider it your duty to defend and promote their rights with the heartfelt sharing that the Spirit inspires in those whom he has called to the service of the kingdom. The growing number of non-Christian migrants cannot leave Ecclesial Communities indifferent, for they are called to proclaim and bear witness to the saving love of the Father. "Proclaiming and bearing witness to the Gospel of charity constitutes the connecting tissue of the mission towards migrants" (Message for World Day of Migration, 2001).

4. Your specific charism spurs you to proclaim and bear witness to the Good News of the kingdom among migrants whose situation is most critical. In searching for a better future they often experience exclusion, marginalization and setback. It is up to you to sustain their hope, in such a way that through your solidarity and that of many other Christians they may experience the provident action of God, who guides history towards a more human future. Faith lived in the midst of daily difficulties thus becomes a proclamation of the mission of Christ, who came to gather the dispersed children of God (Jn 11,52).

Migrants question and challenge you to live the values of openness, hospitality and communion in diversity, following the example of your founder, Bl. John Baptist Scalabrini, who knew how to view the reality of migration in a providential and prophetic light. Together with him, may you look at migration with God's eyes and listen to his word with a migrant's heart.

I ask the Virgin Mary, Mother of migrants, to accompany your intentions to carry out your missionary project, so that you may be, together with other equally sensitive and wise disciples of Christ, "morning watchmen at the dawn of the new millennium" (Novo millennio ineunte, NM 9).
With this wish, I impart my affectionate Blessing to you all.


Friday, 9 February 2001

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen!

1. I am pleased to meet you and I extend my cordial greetings to each of you. By your presence in Rome you wish to bear witness to the sufferings, joys and hopes of the people of Bosnia and Hercegovina, especially to the plight of the refugees and exiles, which has yet to be satisfactorily resolved in the light of the Washington and Dayton Accords. Your visit offers me the occasion once again to assure those dear people of my spiritual closeness.

We are living at a time when the consequences of the globalization phenomenon can be seen with increasing clarity. The consequences are not all negative, for the phenomenon implies a growing closeness and greater familiarity among people from every part of the world, thus opening the way to possible agreements for a more fraternal sharing of resources. Very often, however, this does not occur. Problems thus arise that challenge the consciences of all, inviting them to take a stand. To respond to "human" problems of this kind, you decided to create your "International League". You wish to devote your energies to hastening the arrival of a more just and human world.

2. Today as yesterday, the Church is close to those who put themselves in the service of the cause of man. The Second Vatican Council recalls, in this regard, that "nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in the hearts" of Christ's disciples (Gaudium et spes, GS 1).

The Church's attention to man forms an integral part of her mission. The human being is the way for the Church, precisely because the salvation achieved by Jesus Christ, the Son of God who also wished to be the Son of man, concerns every person as a whole. The social action of the Ecclesial Community unfolds in many ways and embraces numerous programmes. Various structures have arisen in the Church to meet humanity's needs. No less extensive is her cooperation with all people of good will who have the common good at heart. It is a cooperation that includes vast fields of activity and concerns respect for man, for his dignity and for his inalienable rights, his material, moral and spiritual development, and support for his quality of life.

3. It is with this spirit that she acts in various parts of the world, as in Bosnia and Hercegovina, a land particularly dear to me. I am well aware of the social, political and economic problems that the local people are facing in this period. In the years of the recent armed conflict, the Holy See did not fail to make its peacemaking presence felt. Even now it continues to be involved in various initiatives on behalf of justice and peace.

The most difficult period for Bosnia and Hercegovina has passed, but the people's suffering continues, especially in the plight of refugees and exiles. Tens of thousands of people from the Banja Luka region, Bosanska Posavina and other parts of the country are still waiting to return to their homes. We must not forget this tragedy. On the contrary, we must promote effective solidarity at the local and international levels. It is first necessary to correct the existing injustices by listening to the legitimate expectations of those who are directly involved and who ask to have their inalienable rights respected. This is the basis for building a future of hope in the multiethnic, multicultural and multireligious society that characterizes Bosnia and Hercegovina.

4. I pray to God that the efforts of all will soon put an end to the suffering caused by the recent armed conflict in Bosnia and Hercegovina, and that everyone will be offered equal opportunities and have their full and unconditional freedom of religion guaranteed. Support and understanding are needed: support for overcoming the current social, political and economic problems; understanding for finding better solutions to the legitimate expectations of the three peoples that make up the country.

Dear ladies and gentlemen, I am sure that you will actively cooperate in this important work of building a future of peace. I urge you, along with the civil and religious authorities, to be generously involved in promoting the welfare of Bosnia and Hercegovina's people.

Speeches 2001 - Thursday, 1 February 2001