Speeches 2001 - Friday, 9 February 2001

I entrust your intentions to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who knows the sufferings, joys and hopes of these people, and I affectionately give you and all your loved ones my Apostolic Blessing.




Sunday, 11 February 2001

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. Today, 11 February, we have come together as we do every year for this customary gathering in the Vatican Basilica. My thoughts naturally turn to the grotto of Massabielle, where every year so many people pause in prayer at the foot of the statue of the Immaculate Conception. And, precisely in Mary's name, I greet all of you who have come for the Eucharistic celebration and for the evocative candlelight procession which recreates the characteristic atmosphere of Lourdes. I also greet those who have promoted and organized this always moving Marian event.

I first greet the Cardinal Vicar and the Bishops present; I also greet the directors of Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi and all the priests, religious and lay people who are taking part in the national pastoral-theological convention on the theme: "The Local Church, Pilgrimage and Traditio Fidei".

I greet you in particular, dear sick people, and, with you, the organizers and volunteers of UNITALSI, a commendable association that cares for you, especially on pilgrimages.

2. Dear sick people and volunteers, your presence has special meaning, since we are now celebrating the World Day of the Sick for the ninth time. I still remember last year's celebration.

We were in the intense spiritual atmosphere of the Great Jubilee, and the witness of faith given by those who took part made a deep impression. The generous acceptance of the Lord's will by those who are suffering is always a great lesson of life. As I have said on other occasions, the Church relies heavily on the support of those who are tried by illness: their sacrifice is sometimes little understood, but, when combined with intense prayer, it has a mysterious efficacy for the propagation of the Gospel and the welfare of the whole People of God.

Dear brothers and sisters, today I would like to express again my deep gratitude to you for your silent mission in the Church. May you be firmly convinced that it gives extraordinary power to the progress of the entire Ecclesial Community.

3. This evening, in the evocative setting of this gathering, we want to feel in communion with our brothers and sisters meeting in Sydney, Australia, for the World Day of the Sick. The theme chosen for the event this year is: "The New Evangelization and the Dignity of the Suffering Person". This is a theme on which it is important to reflect, because physical and spiritual pain mark everyone's life more or less deeply, and it is necessary that the light of the Gospel also illumine this aspect of human existence.

In the Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte, which I signed on the closing day of the Jubilee, I invited all believers to contemplate the face of Jesus. I wrote in that Letter that "in contemplating Christ's face, we confront the most paradoxical aspect of his mystery, as it emerges in his last hour, on the Cross" (n. 25).

You in particular, my sick friends, understand how paradoxical the Cross is, because you are allowed to feel the mystery of pain in your own flesh. When your strength fails because of a serious illness, projects you have long cherished in your heart are abandoned. In addition to physical suffering, there is often spiritual suffering due to a sense of loneliness which grips the individual. In contemporary society, a certain culture considers the sick person a troublesome hindrance, failing to recognize that he makes a valuable spiritual contribution to the community. It is necessary and urgent to rediscover the value of the Cross we share with Christ.

4. At Lourdes Our Lady said to Bernadette on 18 February 1858: "I do not promise you will be happy in this world, but in the next". During another apparition, she invited her to turn her gaze to heaven. Let us listen again to these exhortations of our heavenly Mother as if they were addressed to us: they are an invitation to evaluate earthly realities correctly, knowing that we are destined for eternal life. They help people patiently to bear adversity, sufferings and sickness, in the perspective of paradise. At times some have thought of paradise as an escape from daily reality; on the contrary, the light of faith makes the harsh experience of suffering better understood and thus more knowingly accepted. St Bernadette herself, harshly tested by physical illness, exclaimed one day: "Cross of my Saviour, holy Cross, adorable Cross, in you alone I place my strength, my hope and my joy. You are the tree of life, the mysterious stairway that joins earth to heaven, and the altar on which I want to sacrifice myself by dying for Jesus" (M. B. Soubirous, Carnet de notes intimes, p. 20).

5. This is the message of Lourdes, which so many pilgrims, healthy and sick, have accepted and made their own. May the Virgin's words bring interior comfort to you, suffering brothers and sisters, to whom I once again offer my fraternal solidarity. If you docilely accept God's will, in your illness you can be a word of hope and even of joy for many people, since you tell our contemporaries, who are often restless and unable to find meaning in pain, that God has not abandoned them. In living your situation with faith, you bear witness that God is near. You proclaim that the Lord's tender and loving closeness ensures that there is no season of life that is not worth living. Illness and death are not realities to flee or criticize as useless, but both are stages on a journey.

I also wish to encourage all who dedicate themselves zealously to caring for the sick to continue in their precious mission of love and find in it the inner consolation which the Lord grants to those who become Good Samaritans for their suffering neighbour.

With these sentiments, I embrace you all in the Lord and cordially bless you.



Monday, 12 February 2001

Your Beatitude,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Friends,

We are about to concelebrate the Sacrifice of the Lord. The communion of Pastors and disciples in faith and love around the Successor of Peter becomes a reality in Christ. Your presence this morning is particularly significant.

I greet Your Beatitude Grégoire III, the new Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. In your communion with the Bishop of Rome you bring the spiritual treasures of the people whose care the Lord has entrusted to you, thereby showing the Church's catholicity. I pray that Christ will grant you his gifts in abundance, so that each day, along with all the Bishops and clergy, you may be a Pastor after God's heart.

My thoughts turn to the communities of your Patriarchate, as I ask the Lord to accompany them in their spiritual life and in the witness of faith and hope which they must give to all people. Drawing support from the enthusiasm we witnessed during the Great Jubilee, may they remain closely united to Christ, in order to receive from him the power of faith, the courage of hope and boldness in proclaiming the Gospel! May the Theotokos and the saints of your Church intercede for you all!


Monday, 12 February 2001

Your Beatitude,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. The arms of the Successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome, open joyfully to welcome the Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholics, who has come to celebrate our full ecclesial communion. With this gesture, I spiritually embrace the Bishops, priests, religious and faithful of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church present here, as well as all her members who today proclaim their fidelity to Christ by their commitment and often at the cost of great difficulty.

There is no symbol more profound than the liturgical action we have just concluded: celebrating the fullness of ecclesial communion by sharing the Body and Blood of the Lord. In them the Church's unity shines out, as well as her faith, hope and love. In them, we have a foretaste of the deep joy we ask of the Lord: that of the day when all Christians will be reunited, drawing from the one Bread and the one Cup the strength to bear a unanimous witness of evangelization.

2. Union with the See of Rome in no way diminishes your own characteristics or treasures; on the contrary, it strengthens them and makes them a precious gift that enriches the whole Catholic world. The Pope appreciates your attachment and fidelity to the traditions of the Christian East, of which you are rightly proud; he hopes that they will always be jealously guarded and fully rediscovered, in order to be accessible to the men and women of our day and thus to nourish their Christian life. You are a strong, consistent Church rooted in your identity: take care to continue your pastoral commitment, developing your ancient treasures and giving suitable answers to the questions of our contemporaries. Your efforts to be fully integrated into the milieu where your faithul live shows that Christianity can accept everything good found in cultures and, at the same time, fruitfully enrich them.

Your ecumenical commitment is especially appreciated. I urge you to find sacramental strength and theological incentive in the Divine Liturgy, to participate more and more actively in the search for unity, with prudent courage and in union with the whole Catholic Church, so that the time of full communion will come quickly.

3. Your Beatitude, I offer my fraternal wishes that the Spirit will make fruitful the distinguished task to which you are called, and that you may be a model for the people entrusted to you: after the example of the Good Shepherd, care with the same love for all the sheep of your flock, building them up by your priestly prayer, by the ardent love of a "pater et caput" who has received the mission to guide them and by the spirit of universality that comes from belonging to the Catholic Church: this will help you to view your decisions and choices in the broader horizon of the good of the Church and of humanity. In the troubled context of the Middle East, be an ardent defender of the weak and a tireless peacemaker. Always keep a special place in your heart for your children in the diaspora so that, knowing their Pastor loves them, they will always feel a part of their Mother Church, while being fraternally united with the other local Catholic communities and their Pastors. Go out to them all, not with human power and wealth, but only with the unarmed love of Christ, who, though he was rich, became poor to enrich all people.

4. Your Beatitude, please convey my particularly grateful greetings to your venerable predecessor, Patriarch Maximos V. We are indebted to his pastoral zeal for many achievements that have contributed to the progress of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. Assure him of the affectionate gratitude of the Pope, who prays for him and asks God to grant him an abundance of his consolations.

In returning to your see, be assured that the Successor of Peter accompanies you with his prayer. May the warmth of the holy kiss we have exchanged support you in the efforts and joy of your pastoral endeavours!

With these sentiments I cordially give you all my Apostolic Blessing.



Tuesday, 13 February 2001

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. I gladly offer a cordial welcome to all of you who form the great family of Vatican Radio. Thank you for this visit, which you wanted to pay me on the 70th anniversary of the foundation of your praiseworthy radio station.

I think affectionately of each of you who intelligently and devotedly make it a living and effective instrument of service each day to the Apostolic See. Today's meeting gives me the opportunity to express my gratitude to you all. I am particularly grateful to Fr Pasquale Borgomeo, General Manager, for his courteous words on your behalf, which also illustrated the great variety of activities you have carried out, especially during the Jubilee Year. With him I greet Fr Federico Lombardi, Programme Director, and Fr Lino Dan, Director of Technical Services. Through them I would like to extend my gratitude to all the Fathers of the Society of Jesus who from the beginning have made their valuable contribution to this institution in a genuine spirit of fidelity to the charism of St Ignatius of Loyola.

It was also to express my appreciation in a concrete way that I decided to make Fr Roberto Tucci, Chairman of your Administrative Committee, a member of the College of Cardinals. I extend my most cordial thanks to him for the work he has done at Vatican Radio, as well as for having helped me for many years with my apostolic journeys to so many parts of the world, with the active assistance of Dr Alberto Gasbarri, Administrative Director.

2. Today we would like to commemorate Vatican Radio's 70 years. How could we not offer a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for granting the Church, for love of the Gospel, to become a pioneer in the field of radio communications? My thoughts return to 12 February 1931, when my venerable Predecessor Pope Pius XI inaugurated the first worldwide radio station by broadcasting a prophetic message to the world.

Since then the history of what you call, with legitimate pride, the "Pope's Radio", has been interwoven with the tragedies, expectations and hopes of humanity. For seven decades your station has followed the exciting and terrible events of the century just ended. It has spread the Gospel message and the words of Peter's Successor to every corner of the globe. It would take too long to list the variety of services it has rendered to the Apostolic See. I will limit myself to recalling its contribution to the success of the Great Jubilee just ended and, in particular, the special Jubilaeum broadcasts which were also transmitted over the Internet, with thousands of work hours in various languages, over 2,500 studio guests and almost double that number by telephone, as well as an exceptional number of link-ups. These programmes involved volunteers and were in regular contact with other stations around the world, providing special arrangements for national pilgrimages along with many other initiatives. Once again, I thank all those who have collaborated in various ways during these 70 years in the daily work of Vatican Radio, with a special thought and prayer for all who have entered eternal life in this period.

3. By statute Vatican Radio is entrusted with the task "of proclaiming the Christian message with freedom, fidelity and efficacy, and linking the centre of Catholicism with the various countries of the world by spreading the voice and teaching of the Roman Pontiff, providing information on the Holy See's activities, reporting on Catholic life in the world, giving guidance for evaluating current problems in the light of the Church's Magisterium and paying constant attention to the signs of the times".

What my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, whom you rightly consider the second founder of Vatican Radio, said to you on your 40th anniversary is an illuminating comment on this text: "What power the voice acquires!", he said on that occasion, "What a function is entrusted to the Radio! Is there any service more akin to our apostolic mission than the one that you, made ministers of the Word, render to the cause of the Gospel and the Church?" (27 February 1971; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 11 March 1971, p. 11).

Yes, your primary mission is to broadcast the Magisterium, the words and the very voice of Peter's Successor; to make known with your aerials the Church's vitality, her charitable projects, her joys, her sufferings and her hopes. Continue to dedicate all your best energies to this singular mission for the good of the entire Christian people. Yours is a modern, professional contribution to the work of the new evangelization in our time, which is marked by the expansion and intensification of global communications.

4. In this regard, you are facing two great challenges today: the technological and the editorial. The technological challenge involves the production and broadcasting of programmes. Many years ago, satellite and telematic broadcasting was opportunely begun, with a decisive increase in listeners thanks to the retransmission granted to about 800 local stations. Moreover, the introduction of digital technology, offering vast, unprecedented production possibilities, is significantly changing its classic professional features. If the technological challenge requires financial resources and technical and administrative skills, the editorial challenge primarily involves intellectual and creative abilities. It is a question of giving to the richness and depth of the content to be communicated the specific forms and language of radio broadcasting, adapted to its evolution and capable of achieving the goals of a radio station serving the Church.

Evangelizing by radio means offering professionally unexceptionable information which, with its implicit and explicit commentary on the facts, can become a daily catechesis rooted in life and the listener's experience. This evangelization demands a continual effort of adaptation and updating, but also a solid human, cultural and professional formation along with sound spiritual and missionary motivation. The ability to proclaim the Good News effectively depends above all on intense prayer, on listening to God and on courageous fidelity to Christ, the divine Communicator of salvation.

5. Dear brothers and sisters! The 70th birthday of Vatican Radio falls at the beginning of the third millennium and just after the close of the extraordinary Jubilee experience. The enthusiasm which the Great Jubilee brought to the Church can only spur you to set out afresh with humble courage on a new stage of your journey in service to the Gospel. The Pope counts very much on your help in carrying out his Petrine ministry and asks you to broadcast each day the truth that sets man free.

Continue to write interesting pages of your history, already rich with noble memories. May the Church's urgent apostolic needs in this phase of rapid change encourage you to go forward with enthusiasm. I now give you the same exhortation I made in my recent Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte: "Now we must look ahead, we must "put out into the deep' trusting in Christ's words: Duc in altum!" (n. 15). Put out into the deep and be not afraid, dear members of the great family of Vatican Radio. Before you lies a future not without shadows, but one in which Christian hope sees promises that do not disappoint. Do not let difficulties, limited resources and your own limitations discourage you. Do not be upset by the ever faster change of contexts, structures, methods and ways of life.

"Duc in altum! - Put out into the deep!". In serving the faith and unity of Christians, in defending life and human rights, in proclaiming peace to all people of good will, you are not alone: you are in the heart of the Church. You are also present in my daily concern and prayer.

I willingly entrust you, your work and your plans to the motherly protection of Mary, Star of Evangelization. I accompany my wishes with a special Apostolic Blessing, which I affectionately extend to your families and to the millions of listeners throughout the world who are the treasure and boast of Vatican Radio.




Tuesday, 13 February 2001

Mr Ambassador,

1. Please accept my sincere thanks for your words on the occasion of the presentation of your Letters of Credence as the new Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Austria to the Holy See. As you begin your mission, I cordially welcome you and offer you my best wishes for this noble and important task. At the same time I ask you to convey my warm greetings to the Federal President.

2. When I think of Austria, my thoughts inevitably turn to the three unforgettable Pastoral Visits that have taken me to your esteemed country during my Pontificate. Besides the personal meetings with many representatives of ecclesial and social life, I have an especially vivid memory of the cultural scene which marks that Alpine republic; but it is also rich in the wealth that Christianity has produced and which must be preserved and fostered in the new millennium just begun.

This task is all the more urgent, when one considers Austria's geographical location in Europe. I would like to emphasize what you mentioned in your address: the fall of the Iron Curtain also marked a turning-point for the role your country plays. Austria has changed from a borderland to a "bridge-land". The demarcation between two worlds has disappeared and has opened an Areopagus in which Europe's East and West can meet.

I note with satisfaction that Austria is becoming more and more aware of her responsibility as a country in the heart of Europe and, as her opportunities allow, is actively supporting the expansion of the European Union in the sense of a Europeanizing of the whole continent. That is also the Holy See's desire: it is tireless in its efforts at this historical moment to call for a "cultural transformation" to defend and promote the dignity of the human person (cf. Evangelium vitae, EV 95).

3. Whoever looks at Austria cannot help broadening his gaze to the continent as well. European culture is a network woven of many strands: there is the spirit that inspired ancient Greece, as well as the Imperium Romanum with its Latin, Slavic, Germanic and Finno-Ugric peoples. When the Christian faith reached Rome, the Roman Empire was the basis for its inculturation in the individual peoples and in this way it effectively spread. The Corpus Christianorum steadily grew as a spiritual family of States, composed of Roman, Germanic and Slavic members, and unthinkable without Christian values. It has essentially moulded the face of Europe and deeply influenced the Western heritage, which it is our task to keep alive.

Precisely at a time when Christianity can look back on her 2,000 years of existence, we have the important duty to be not only custodians of the past but also creators of a future that will reawaken people's hope. Project "Europe" as a whole and the individual countries that are to find their place in it stand at a crossroads today: to become either a thriving garden or a stagnant pond. I wish to take this solemn occasion, then, to point out several areas where the Holy See and Austria can continue and deepen their proven collaboration in order to prepare the ground for a thriving garden.

4. If the garden is to bloom at all, it must be a place where life is fostered. In our societies, therefore, a "culture of life" must prevail. Whoever rightly maintains that personal dignity is an inalienable possession of every human being can harbour no doubts that this personal dignity finds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. When the right to life is not staunchly defended as a condition for all other personal rights, all other references to human rights - to health, housing, work, starting a family - remain false and illusory.

We cannot be resigned to the many offences inflicted on the human person regarding his right to life. For this reason the Church supports all political efforts in keeping with the principle I expressed in my first Christmas message and which today is more valid than ever: "For God and before God, the human being is always unique and unrepeatable, somebody thought of and chosen from eternity, someone called and identified by his own name" (Urbi et Orbi, 25 December 1978; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 1 January 1979).

5. Therefore man has a right to life in all phases of his existence, from the moment of conception until natural death. He retains this right in every situation in which he finds himself: in health or sickness, in wholeness or disability, in wealth or poverty. The fact that abortion is permitted during the first three months of pregnancy in many European countries, including Austria, therefore remains a bleeding wound in my heart.

What applies to the beginning of human life also applies to its end: unfortunately, it seems that in the growing discussion on euthanasia the assumption that man has been given life as a gift is becoming less and less common. It is thus becoming increasingly difficult to defend the human right to die when God wills it. Death too is a part of life. Whoever deprives a person of the right to life at the end of his earthly existence ultimately deprives him of life itself, even if he tries to conceal the crime of euthanasia under the cloak of "humane death".

Lastly, with deep concern I would like to mention the responsibility arising from the tremendous advances in the biological and medical sciences and from the immense technological possibilities connected with them: today man is in the position not only of "observing" human life at its beginning and in the first stages of its development, but also of "manipulating" and "cloning" it.

In view of these tremendous challenges, I encourage "concerted actions" with the aim of "calling culture back to the principles of an authentic humanism, so that the promotion and defence of the rights of the human being may find a dynamic and sure foundation in his own essence" (Christifideles laici, CL 38).

6. A garden is in bloom when many flowers blossom together. This image also applies to people in the garden of society. Society is a sign that people are called to live in community. This social dimension of human existence has its first and primordial expression in marriage and the family. As the cradle of life in which human beings are born and grow, the family represents the basic cell of society.

Through her pastoral initiatives, therefore, the Church gladly allies herself with everyone who, through political decisions, legislative measures or financial means, supports marriage and the family as the privileged place for the "humanization" of the individual and society. The goal of building a "civilization of love" along with a "culture of life" by strengthening marriage and the family must be pursued all the more urgently, since attacks on the stability and fruitfulness of marriage are more and more widespread, as are the attempts to relativize the legal status of this primary cell of society.
Experience shows that the stability of nations is encouraged above all by flourishing families.

Moreover: "The future of humanity passes by way of the family" (Familiaris consortio, FC 86). Therefore, the family requires respect and special protection from public authorities. The garden of our society will thrive when families bloom again.

7. The family, moreover, is a special place of learning. It is not only the "sanctuary of life" (Evangelium vitae, EV 94), but also a school of "social charity" in miniature (Centesimus annus, CA 10), which on a large scale is called "solidarity". This "is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all" (Sollicitudo rei socialis, SRS 38). In this connection I would like to recall a principle that underlies every sound political order: the more defenceless individuals are in a society, the more they depend on the concern and care of others, especially on the intervention of the State authority.

So I welcome all the initiatives promoting a family and social policy that is marked by the allocation of appropriate aid and active forms of support for children and by care for the elderly, so that they will not be separated from their families, and relations will thus be strengthened between the generations. I also express my gratitude for all the efforts made in your country to create the closest possible social networks for families. Wherever possible, the Church will gladly support them with her charitable associations.

In this connection it should be said that many human needs require more than material aid; it is often a matter of listening to deeper, inner questions. One also thinks of the situation of immigrants and refugees, the disabled and all the needy who are really helped only when sincere fraternal aid is given in addition to outward measures. So I am firmly convinced that in the future Austria will continue to offer its generous solidarity and active love of neighbour to others in need.

This wish does not stop at the country's borders. It includes the whole continent, so that, as Europe grows closer together, it must measure itself by whether solidarity can increasingly blossom between rich and poor countries.

8. I cannot conclude my reflections without expressing my confidence that the friendly relations between the Republic of Austria and the Holy See, which you rightly stressed in your address, will develop productively.

In our present social context, marked by a dramatic struggle between the "culture of life" and the "culture of death", we are joined by the common goal, over 10 years after the political transformation, to bring about a cultural transformation as well, one which will lead to a general mobilization of consciences and set new priorities for the human will: the primacy of being over having, of the person over things (cf. Evangelium vitae, EV 98). It is the human person whose well-being must be the common concern of the State and the Church by working together as partners in promoting noble values and ideals.

Mr Ambassador, as I cordially wish you a pleasant stay in Rome, I gladly give you, your esteemed embassy staff and your family my Apostolic Blessing.




To Mr José Ramón Díaz-Torremocha
President of the St Vincent de Paul Society

1. On the occasion of the meeting of the St Vincent de Paul Society's International Coordinating Committee, I am pleased to greet you, and through you to greet the members of the International Coordinating Committee and those of the International General Council. You represent an eminent form of charity that is carried out on all the continents, the service of the poor which, as Monsieur Vincent liked to recall, is a way of serving Christ. Through its daily efforts, your association is a constant reminder to the Church of her vocation to show Christ's preferential love for the poor.

2. During the Jubilee of the Incarnation, "the Church's joy was great this year, as she devoted herself to contemplating the face of her Bridegroom and Lord" (Novo millennio ineunte, NM 1).

This contemplation fills the Church's life, prayer and action, inviting her to make her own the tender, compassionate look of Christ, who reminds every person of the value of his dignity and his unique place in God's heart: "You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich" (2Co 8,9). The spiritual life and apostolic activity of your precursor, Frédéric Ozanam, whom I had the joy of beatifying in Paris in 1997, were deeply marked by this contemplation of Christ's face in the poor.

Such a spiritual attitude is essential for your apostolic efforts and the enthusiasm of the conferences. I therefore encourage you in your personal contact with the poor always to be witnesses to charity as well as to justice, contributing to the individual's overall development, after the example of your founder.

3. "Love is endlessly inventive". These words of St Vincent marvellously express this reality in the Church: the Spirit inspires many charisms, so that Christian communities will be the sign of the infinite kindness of our Father in heaven. By making your specific contribution to the mission of the particular Churches, "in full harmony ... and in obedience to the authoritative directives of the Pastors" (Novo millennio ineunte, NM 46), you are helping to build a society based on love and solidarity. By active collaboration with the various local agencies coordinating the apostolate of charity, you are realizing the deep desire that set the heart of Bl. Ozanam on fire: to embrace the whole world with charity. In this spirit of unity, the international associations of the lay faithful are called to be properly integrated into the ecclesial fabric; this is why the Church offers different forms of juridical recognition, while respecting legitimate charisms and differences. It is to be hoped that the St Vincent de Paul Society, with a history of over 100 years, will continue its reflection with the competent authorities in the Dioceses and in the Holy See, especially with the Pontifical Council for the Laity, in order to harmonize its institutional foundations and practice with its ecclesial nature as an international association of the lay faithful who seek holiness in the service of the poor.

4. As I stressed in my recent Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte, the time has come for a "new "creativity' in charity, not only by ensuring that help is effective but also by "getting close' to those who suffer" (n. 50). I ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to help you constantly to find new ways to love the poor, so that the whole Church will live this charity each day from close at hand, and I affectionately give you my Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to all the members and friends of the St Vincent de Paul Society.

From the Vatican, 14 February 2001.

Speeches 2001 - Friday, 9 February 2001