Speeches 2001





Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate!

1. I am pleased to offer you my cordial greeting on the occasion of your spiritual conference for the friends of the Focolare Movement, taking place these days at the Mariapolis Centre in Castel Gandolfo. Thank you for today's visit, an expression of the ecclesial communion that unites you to the Successor of Peter.

You have gathered for shared reflection, based on reports, experiences and testimonies, on the stimulating theme: "Christ Crucified and Abandoned, Root of the Church as Communion". While expressing my deep appreciation of this initiative, which is taking place for the 25th time, I encourage you to be guided by the indications I gave in the Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte. In it, in fact, I invite the entire Christian people to set their gaze firmly on the face of the crucified and risen Christ and to deepen their knowledge of the mystery of suffering and love from which the Church as communion is born and is constantly renewed as a living icon of the Holy Trinity.

2. In the cross of Christ we find the true source of salvation, the supreme revelation of God's love and the profound root of communion with God and among us. In Jesus' agony on the cross, which appears as the moment when darkness and evil trumphed, it is actually the victory of Christ that is accomplished through his obedient love for the Father and his solidarity with men, prisoners of sin.

In the Apostolic Letter mentioned above, I wrote in this regard: "Jesus' cry on the cross is not the cry of anguish of a man without hope, but the prayer of the Son who offers his life to the Father in love, for the salvation of all. At the very moment when he identifies with our sin, "abandoned' by the Father, he "abandons' himself into the hands of the Father" (Novo millennio ineunte, NM 26).

Therefore evil and sin are definitively defeated in Christ crucified and abandoned, and the full unity of mankind with the Father and of human beings with each other becomes possible. According to the words of the Evangelist John, inspired by an earlier oracle of the prophet Zechariah, men "shall look on him whom they have pierced" (Jn 19,37). This convergence on the cross is directed by Christ to the Father, in order to form around him a new community of love. We shall truly never exhaust the depths of this great mystery (cf. Novo millennio ineunte, NM 25)!

3. Love for Christ crucified, contemplated in the climax of suffering and abandonment, is the high road not only for making the communion of the ecclesial structure ever more real at all levels, but also for opening a fruitful dialogue with other cultures and religions. To this end, the spiritual themes, theological reflections and testimonies which you are sharing in these days will be of great help to you.

From contemplating the face of the abandoned, crucified Christ important consequences will certainly result, prompting you to live in depth the great mystery of the communion contained and revealed in it: "If we have truly contemplated the face of Christ", I wrote in the Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte mentioned above, "our pastoral planning will necessarily be inspired by the "new commandment' which he gave us. "Love one another, as I have loved you' (Jn 13,34)" (n. 42).

In the historical transition that we are experiencing, you have a difficult mission before you: to make the Church the place where we live and the school where the mystery of God's love is taught. How will this be possible without rediscovering an authentic spirituality of communion? It is necessary first of all to see with the eyes of the heart the Trinitarian mystery present within us, in order to know how to recognize it in the faces of others. A brother in faith should be regarded as one who belongs to us in the mysterious unity of the Mystical Body. Only by making room for my brother, by acknowledging what is positive in him, can I understand how much he is a gift for me (cf. Novo millennio ineunte, NM 43). Thus lived, the spirituality of unity and communion that characterizes your Movement will not fail to bear abundant fruits of renewal for all believers.

4. Venerable and dear Brothers! You offer the contribution of your experience and pastoral ministry to the study and reflection of these days. Thanks be to God, you yourselves are witnesses to the fruits of mutual understanding and close cooperation that are growing in the Church as a result of the efforts made by the various Movements. May you yourselves be its generous and responsible leaders.

May you know how to make this conference a fitting occasion to grow in this dimension, in the spirit of the effective and affective collegiality which must characterize your mission. From mutual love you will draw reasons for encouragement, renewed strength and firm hope. With these sentiments and wishes, I invoke the constant protection of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Unity, on each of you, on your ecclesial communities and on all your loved ones, as I affectionately give you a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 14 February 2001.


Thursday, 15 February 2001

Mr Commissioner,
Dear Officials and Officers of the Rome Police Headquarters!

1. I am pleased to have today's meeting, which is taking place just over a month since the close of the Great Jubilee, in order to express my gratitude to you for the generous work you carry out each day and which was unusually intense during the months of the Jubilee Year.

I first thank Commissioner Giovanni Finazzo for his presence and for his kind words to me on behalf of you all. Thinking back over the Jubilee events, which were attended by an enormous number of pilgrims, we must thank God again for the order and seriousness with which everything took place. At the same time, however, it is also right to recognize the valuable contribution of those who, like you, have attentively watched over millions of pilgrims visiting the Roman basilicas, especially here in the Vatican. I know that this involved personal and family inconveniences for all of you, as well as extra effort with much forbearance and sacrifice. May God, who considers everything in his provident mercy, amply reward you.

2. I cannot fail to recall some of the unforgettable moments we spent together. I am thinking of the meetings in St Peter's Square and Basilica, the visits by authorities from every part of the world and many other occasions, which made the Holy Year an event of extraordinary grace for millions of people. In a very special way I would like to mention World Youth Day, when you were energetically involved in St Peter's Square, in the city of Rome and especially at Tor Vergata for the Vigil and the final Mass.

I am sure that for you too the Jubilee was an intense moment of grace, whose spiritual fruits continue to mark your life. Now you have returned to your ordinary activities and I would also like to thank you for your discreet but necessary presence. I ask the Lord to help you faithfully to carry out your work. I include in my prayers a remembrance of your families and loved ones.

As I entrust you to the loving intercession of Blessed Mary and St Michael the Archangel, your special patron, I impart my affectionate Blessing to each of you and gladly extend it to your loved ones.




Friday, 16 February 2001

Mr Ambassador,

1. It is a great pleasure to receive you at this formal presentation of the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Peru to this Holy See, and I would like to offer you my most cordial welcome as you begin the important duties entrusted to you by your Government. I am grateful for your kind words and especially for the greeting of President Valentín Paniagua Corazao, which I return with my best wishes that his service to the Peruvian people at this moment in their history will help them all to advance on the path of harmony, mutual understanding and peace.

2. You come as the representative of a people who, as you recalled in your address, have deep historical roots as the repository of a rich cultural and moral heritage. Indeed, the Inca civilization, emblematic of Peru's magnificent past, was blended with Western culture down the centuries from the time when the Gospel arrived, making Peruvians a profoundly religious people of whom Christianity is a distinctive feature. In this environment, faith and piety have borne excellent fruits, among which the Church honours Sts Turibius of Mogrovejo, Martin de Porres, Juan Macías, Francis Solano, Rose of Lima and Bl. Ana de los Ángeles Monteagudo.

You also mentioned the two unforgettable visits that I made to your country, the first in 1985 and the second, three years later, for the closing of the Bolivarian Eucharistic Congress. On both occasions I had the joy of meeting an open and welcoming people, whom I encourage to continue on the good path they have undertaken, making the most of all the resources on which the Peruvian soul can rely.

3. The Church's contribution has been broad and generous in the almost 500 years that she has proclaimed the Good News to all Peru's inhabitants. This service to Peruvians was also recognized by the Constitution, which states in Article 50 that the Church has played an "important role in the historical, cultural and moral formation of Peru". In fact, it is easy to discern these features in the important moments of Peruvian history.

You also mentioned the Church's involvement in education by establishing schools and universities, as well as in the fields of health care and assistance to the neediest. The Peruvian Episcopate has made a firm commitment to continue in this direction, as I wrote recently, "carrying on the tradition of charity which has expressed itself in so many different ways in the past two millennia, but which today calls for even greater resourcefulness" (Novo millennio ineunte, NM 50).

The Church also contributes to the good of society with her social teaching. She does not, in fact, try to solve social problems from the technical or administrative standpoint, which is the task of the civil authority, but through her sense of the person, promotion of solidarity and concern for the weakest, she seeks to help build a better social life.

4. The political and institutional crisis that your country has been experiencing in recent months, and which you also mentioned, Mr Ambassador, has given rise to serious problems for the nation. I have attentively followed the unfolding of events, asking the Lord that the life of Peruvians might not be disturbed. It is now necessary to join forces, to put aside partisan approaches, so that, with everyone's collaboration and with honour and good will, a climate of trust, real justice, trustworthiness, transparency, mutual respect, peace and freedom may be fostered. In this way the Peruvian people will be able to overcome this crisis and restore the moral values of a just, equitable, united and honest society, promoting a State governed by law in which all citizens feel co-responsible and share in building the homeland and working for their common good.

In this regard, it will be important to work on improving the economic situation and overcoming the shameful poverty caused by the heavy external and internal debt, which must be tackled by all social leaders. I have mentioned on various occasions this serious worldwide problem, hoping for a cancellation, or at least a substantial reduction, in the external debt by the creditor countries, which will enable countries in these circumstances to face the future with optimism, promote suitable development and achieve desirable levels of well-being.

The return to democratic normalcy must necessarily be accompanied by the restoration of genuine moral and ethical principles. Indeed, as I have said many times, political life cannot disregard respect for truth and values, since, "as history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism" (Centesimus annus, CA 46).

I would also like to mention the peace process with your sister nation of Ecuador, with which an Agreement has been signed that was also supported by the self-sacrificing cooperation of both Episcopal Conferences. It is indispensable to resist any temptation to turn back, but to move forward in the climate of coexistence that marks countries united by so many values and in conformity with the region's peaceful tradition. Moreover, your country has resolved its unsettled issues with Chile by signing, in November 1999, the Act of Execution of the clauses of the 1929 Treaty of Lima, by which Peru showed its willingness to concentrate its efforts on the development and prosperity of its society.

5. In conclusion, Mr Ambassador, I offer you my best wishes for the success of your mission. At the Holy See you will find the greatest cooperation for everything that can serve the prosperity of the beloved Peruvian people and for the good relations between your country and this Apostolic See. I ask the Lord, through the intercession of Our Lady of Evangelization and all the Peruvian saints, to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties and to bless your distinguished family, your staff and all the leaders and citizens of the noble Peruvian nation, whom I always remember with deep affection and esteem.


Friday, 16 February 2001

Dear Sisters,

1. I am pleased to receive you today and I cordially greet Reverend Mother General, Sr Josefa Oyarzábal, as well as her councillors, the others who assist with the governance of the institute and the sisters of the Rome community. You have come to this meeting filled with joy at the various commemorations you are celebrating this year: the 175th anniversary of the birth of your mother foundress, St María Soledad Torres Acosta; the 150th anniversary of the foundation of your institute; and the 125th anniversary of its papal approval. These are fitting occasions for thanking the Lord, who "has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden" (Lc 1,48), and with his gifts has wanted to prepare a spiritual journey of holiness that enriches the Church and is a Gospel leaven in the world. I therefore share your joy and once again express my appreciation of consecrated people, who "have helped to make the mystery and mission of the Church shine forth, and in doing so have contributed to the renewal of society" (Vita consecrata, VC 1).

2. I take this opportunity to urge you to be faithful to your founding charism, because it was inspired, through your mother foundress, by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, you should turn to him constantly, in order to recognize the gift of God and receive the living water (cf. Jn Jn 4,10) that sustains the Church's journey through history and makes it fruitful. St María Soledad was very attentive to the Spirit and opened her whole being to God's saving and sanctifying action (cf. Dominum et vivificantem, DEV 58), when, faced with what seemed a mere charitable need of her era, she discovered the call to bear witness to the presence of God's kingdom in the world through one of its unequivocal signs: I was "sick and you visited me" (Mt 25,36).

Although some circumstances have changed since then, Christ continues to show himself today in all the faces that speak to us of poverty, loneliness and suffering. It is necessary, then, to maintain a great spirit of prayer and intimacy with God, who gives life to the specific service you perform, since "the Christ encountered in contemplation is the same who lives and suffers in the poor" (Vita consecrata, VC 82).

Moreover, the particular nature of your primary task, free care of the sick in their own homes, takes on new meaning in our times where the reality of illness or death is often concealed in daily life. With this service you eloquently proclaim that illness is neither an unbearable burden for human beings nor does it deprive patients of their full dignity as persons. On the contrary, it can become an enriching experience for the sick and for their whole family. In this way, by holding out a hand to the sick, your mission also helps to keep families together and discreetly supports cohesion in the home, where no one should feel he is a burden.

The charism you have inherited, then, directs you to a future in which the Church is called to "carry on the tradition of charity which has expressed itself in so many different ways in the past two millennia, but which today calls for even greater resourcefulness" (Novo millennio ineunte, NM 50). You have before you the challenge of a humanity in which so many of our brethren, in addition to effective help in life's delicate moments, especially need respect, closeness and solidarity (cf. ibid.).

3. Therefore I urge you to live the celebrations of this year, at the beginning of a new millennium, as a providential occasion for revitalizing your personal commitment and your work, which has already spread to Africa, America and Europe. You know well that authentic renewal occurs when "the more personal their dedication to the Lord Jesus is, the more fraternal their community life, and the more ardent their involvement in the institute's specific mission" (Vita consecrata, VC 72).

I ask the Virgin Mary, Health of the Sick, to accompany you in your efforts and to visit homes with you, in order to show them Jesus, the true Saviour and Redeemer of every human being through his sacrifice on the Cross and his glorious Resurrection.

As I invoke the intercession of St Soledad Torres Acosta for each of her daughters, I cordially give you my Apostolic Blessing and gladly extend it to all your sisters, the Servants of Mary, Ministers of the Sick.




Friday, 16 February 2001

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate!

1. "May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word" (2Th 2,16-17). With these words of Paul to the Christians of Thessalonica, I cordially greet you, dear Bishops of the Church in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. You have come on your visit ad limina Apostolorum to show your Catholic communion and your bond with the Successor of Peter. I thank Metropolitan Archbishop Franc Perko of Belgrade, President of the Episcopal Conference, for the kind words he addressed to me on your behalf as well.

Through you, I express my appreciation to the priests, the consecrated persons and all who work with you in the task of evangelization. May the Lord reward you all abundantly, as he himself has promised.

In these days I have been able to converse fraternally with each of you, and I am grateful for the words of hope you expressed to me regarding the Churches that the Holy Spirit has apppointed you to govern and, as successors of the Apostles, to safeguard their deposit of faith (cf. Acts Ac 20,28-31). Together with you I pray to the Father, from whom every good and perfect gift comes (cf. Jas Jc 1,17), that the believing people, whose Bishops you are, will make the most of every opportunity to bear witness to the Good News and produce abundant fruits of holiness.

2. Meeting with you gives me the chance to observe your great zeal and readiness to try to respond in a suitable way to today's pastoral needs. I urge you to continue with courage, in union with your priests, to carry out your tasks of service to the People of God who live in your regions, without paying heed to the toil and sacrifices. I sincerely hope that the new political climate created in recent months will open new prospects and offer new opportunities so that the activies of your country's Catholic communities can be conducted in an orderly way.

In your service always look to the example of the Good Shepherd, Christ the Lord. When your efforts seem useless, listen to the Master, who also says to you: "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch". Make Peter's reply your own: "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets" (Lc 5,4-5).

Remain attentive to the breath of the Holy Spirit and, together with your diocesan communities, let yourselves be guided by him. He never ceases to bestow abundant vitality and gifts on communities and on each of the faithful. You will not lack, then, apostolic courage, prophetic foresight and the necessary wisdom for being teachers of life and zealous Pastors for the flocks entrusted to you.

3. We are living in an historical time filled with lights and shadows. In crossing the threshold of the new millennium, a new stretch of the road to be traveled with missionary courage is appearing on the Church's horizons. Let us look at the future with confidence, because it too is enlightened by the Gospel, "the power of God ... to everyone who has faith" (Rm 1,16). It is up to us, Christ's disciples, to spread this bright message to the men and women, to the families and to all humanity of the third millennium.

The various situations in your individual diocesan communities unfortunately do not make it possible, as one would wish, to plan common pastoral activities in every area. However, this does not prevent you from exchanging experiences and from helping each other on the basis of what you do have in common. By unifying your goals and not wasting the available resources and strengths of your diocesan communities, try to coordinate your efforts. This will enable you to give further impetus to the new evangelization by involving men and women of all ages, families and parishes.

All the People of God - priests, religious and lay faithful - must feel responsibly engaged, together with you, in the vast work of evangelization. By virtue of Baptism every believer is called to make his own contribution in the Church according to his state of life.

4. The proclamation of the Gospel will have a greater impact if, as is only right, it is accompanied by the witness of a consistent life that is faithful to Christ and by the search for pastoral ways and means that will give suitable responses to the challenges of our time. Pastoral activities, then, should aim at prompting fidelity to Christ and his Gospel. This pastoral commitment will bear abundant fruit if it insists on the centrality of the Word of God and the vital importance of the sacraments. This is the way to grow in faith, hope and love; it is the path of holiness which every Christian must daily seek.

The urgent need for evangelization requires constant concern for the formation of candidates for the priesthood and the consecrated life. The ongoing theological, liturgical and pastoral formation of the clergy is also necessary. At the same time an intense vocations apostolate should be promoted, supported by constant prayer that involves and engages the entire Ecclesial Community.

The revival of the spiritual life in the country where you live and work can be helped by promoting sound popular devotion, missions to the people and all the traditional pastoral methods, as well as those that meet modern needs, including the communications media. In the light of the Word of God and the Church's Magisterium, make the most of your past experiences and the new opportunities for proclaiming salvation.

It is important, moreover, to remember that the Gospel must be inculturated in everday life, so that whoever accepts it will commit himself to building a civilization of love and peace. This too will be a contribution to the development of culture itself and to its continual progress. For, "culture is the form of man's self-expression in his journey through history, on the level of both individuals and social groups.... A person necessarily lives within a specific culture" (Message for the World Day of Peace 2001, nn. 4-5).

I am aware of the tragic situations which your peoples experienced in the past. Now you have updated me on the difficult situation that continues even today, in particular, the persistence of political and social tensions that threaten to explode into new conflicts. Encourage your faithful not to surrender to the temptation of using violence.

5. Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate! Remain united with one another; form one heart and one soul with your communities, persevering in the teaching of the Apostles, in communion, in the breaking of bread and in prayer (cf. Acts Ac 2,42 Ac 4,32). Despite the difficulties, engergetically commit yourselves to ecumenical dialogue, so that the journey to the full unity of Christ's disciples may continue. He himself is with us and offers us the Holy Spirit to lead us towards that unity for which he prayed to the Father (cf. Jn Jn 17,20-21) before entering "once for all into the Holy Place ... with his own blood, thus obtaining an eternal redemption" (He 9,12).

The path to unity includes heartfelt forgiveness and sincere reconciliation. This paves the way to the necessary unity of Christ's disciples and prepares a future of peace and progress.

"That they may all be one ... so that the world may believe" (Jn 17,21). The unity of Christians is a gift of God that requires our generous and unconditional commitment: "Christ's prayer reminds us that this gift needs to be received and developed ever more profoundly.... It is on Jesus' prayer and not on our own strength that we base the hope that even within history we shall be able to reach full and visible communion with all Christians" (Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte, n. 48).
6. We are comforted by the certainty that God will make what each of you has sown (1Co 3,5-6) grow in abundance beyond all human expectations.

I entrust you, your priests and deacons, together with the religious and lay faithful of your Churches, to the maternal protection of the Mother of the Redeemer. May Mary, the dawn of the new times, obtain for you the gift of fidelity to the mission you have received, the courage to continue zealously proclaiming the Gospel and the joy of bearing witness to Christ.

In assuring you of a constant remembrance in my prayer, I cordially bless you.


Saturday, 17 February 2001

Dear Friends in Christ,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome today a Delegation from the Church of Scotland. You have come to Rome in that spirit of fraternity and dialogue which for many years now has marked the relationship between us as we seek to walk the path of unity willed by Christ.

As we explore together the ways in which Christians can advance in mutual understanding, I thank you for the interest which you have taken in my Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint. That Letter includes a solemn re-affirmation of the Catholic Church’s commitment to the ecumenical movement. Moved by a true desire for reconciliation, we must all continue on the journey towards visible unity. We still have far to go, but with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit we shall continue to make progress. The Lord himself will bless our efforts and those of Christians everywhere as we strive to respond to his prayer at the Last Supper that "they may all be one" (Jn 17,21).

With gratitude for your visit, I cordially invoke upon you and the members of the Church of Scotland the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.



Saturday, 17 February 2001

Dear Friars Minor Conventual!

1. It is a great joy to me to meet you today on the occasion of your General Chapter. I extend a special greeting to Friar Joachim Anthony Giermek, your new Minister General, the 118th successor of St Francis, and I thank him for the words he spoke to me on behalf of you all. I extend my cordial greetings to the new General Council as well as to Friar Agostino Gardin, who has led the order for the past six years: I express to him my grateful appreciation for all he has done in these years of service to the Church as Minister General of his religious family and as President of the Union of Superiors General.

Through you, dear brothers, I would like to extend a greeting filled with esteem and affection to all your communities throughout the various continents. I cordially wish the new Minister General and his Council generous and fruitful service in guiding your entire religious community at this beginning of the third Christian millennium.

2. The General Chapter, held a few weeks after the close of the Great Jubilee, has felt the effects of the present historical moment in a significant way. In the life of a religious institute the Chapter is an important occasion for reflection and planning, spurring its members to turn their gaze especially to the future. In meeting you, I would naturally like to repeat the invitation which I addressed in my Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte to all the Ecclesial Communities: "Now is the time for each local Church to assess its fervour and find fresh enthusiasm for its spiritual and pastoral responsibilities, by reflecting on what the Spirit has been saying to the People of God in this special year of grace, and indeed in the longer span of time from the Second Vatican Council to the Great Jubilee" (n. 3).

3. "Starting afresh from Christ" (cf. Novo millennio ineunte, chap. III): this must be your first task, dear Friars Minor Conventual. Only by firmly relying on Christ will you be able to implement the various guidelines for action which you identified during your Chapter in response to urgent challenges and apostolic priorities. This love for Christ must be first expressed by fidelity to personal and community prayer, especially the liturgy, which has characterized your order since its beginning. St Francis wrote to the General Chapter and all the friars: "Therefore, I implore the Minister General, my lord, as best I can, to see that the Rule is inviolably observed by all and that clerics say the Office with devotion in God's presence, paying no heed to the sound of their voice, but to the conformity of their mind, in order that the voice may be in harmony with the mind and the mind, then, in harmony with God, so that they may please God through purity of heart" (Letter to the General Chapter and All the Friars, 6, 51-53, in: Fonti Francescane, 227). Your fraternal life and your evangelizing mission will bear abundant fruit if they flow from a "praying community" which finds in its encounter with God the meaning and inner energy for daily fidelity to its commitments.

4. From an intense relationship with the Lord, you will draw spiritual strength to foster fraternal life. In this regard, it is a question of being faithful to your specific Conventual Franciscan charism, which has always seen in the sharing of the community journey its own specific character within the vast Franciscan movement. May you find encouragement in what I wrote on this subject in my Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata, stressing the theological dimension of fraternal life lived in a spirit of authentic communion: "More than an instrument for carrying out a specific mission, fraternal communion is a God-enlightened space in which to experience the hidden presence of the risen Lord (cf. Mt Mt 18,20)" (n. 42).

The first biographer of the Poverello of Assisi, Friar Thomas of Celano, presents in a certain sense the ideal image of the order, describing the group of Francis' first companions as filled with a love that is not only joyful but also enlivened by true fraternal affection (cf. First Life of St Francis of Assisi, 38, in Fonti Francescane, 387, 393). Do not forget that "the Church urgently needs such fraternal communities, which, by their very existence, contribute to the new evangelization, inasmuch as they disclose in a concrete way the fruitfulness of the "new commandment'" (Vita consecrata, VC 45 cf. Novo millennio ineunte, NM 43-45).

5. During your Chapter the call to a simple and intense spirituality was often heard; in a word, Franciscan spirituality. If you are men of profound dialogue with God, you will also be witnesses and teachers of authentic spirituality. Therefore, safeguard and promote the spiritual life, making yourselves available to offer guidance on this path to the faithful who make you their reference-point. Our age shows more and more evident signs of a deep thirst for spiritual values, paths and goals. In the Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte cited above, I remarked: "Is it not one of the "signs of the times' that in today's world, despite widespread secularization, there is a widespread demand for spirituality, a demand which expresses itself in large part as a renewed need for prayer?" (n. 33).

This new yearning for the spiritual world must find a valid and fruitful response in your Franciscan communities. Through docile listening to the word of God, personally accepted and shared in the traditional practice of lectio divina, and through the exercise of personal and community prayer, you will become effective traveling companions for the many people who wish to follow Christ and his Gospel "sine glossa". In this way you will respond to the requests you receive in different ways from the men and women of our time, and will succeed in drawing souls to the ways of spiritual growth and of rediscovered inner vitality.

Speeches 2001