Saturday, 28 April 2001
I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Iraq to the Holy See. I wish you to know of my esteem for the Iraqi people, whom I remember daily in my prayers, especially in light of the continuing difficulties which they face. As the embargo in your country continues to claim victims, I renew my appeal to the international community that innocent people should not be made to pay the consequences of a destructive war whose effects are still being felt by those who are weakest and most vulnerable.
You have referred, Mr Ambassador, to the Holy See’s presence in the international community and its efforts to serve the worldwide human family. Indeed, the Holy See seeks that "wholesome mutual cooperation" (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes GS 76) between the Church and the political community which benefits individuals, peoples, nations and the world at large. Today’s world, in fact, although sadly afflicted in many regions by tension, violence and armed conflict, is seeking greater equity and stability so that the whole human family can live in true justice and lasting peace. These are not abstract concepts or remote ideals, rather they are values which dwell in the heart of every individual and nation, to which all peoples have a right.
It is precisely the pursuit of this justice and this peace which is the driving force behind every activity of the Holy See in the area of international diplomacy. While it is true that the present world situation — with disease, poverty, injustice and war still causing much suffering and hardship — could lead one to doubt the ability of the international community to heal the world’s ills, the Holy See firmly believes, as I had occasion to remark earlier this year, "that without social solidarity or recourse to law and the instruments of international diplomacy, these terrible situations would be even more dramatic and could become unresolvable" (Address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, 13 January 2001, 1).
Thousands of years of human history have clearly shown that humanity in every age is tempted to construct "a self-enclosed world in an attitude of self-sufficiency, domination, power and pride" (ibid., No. 6). The Holy See therefore sees as one of its chief duties that of reminding public opinion that "no authority, no political programme and no ideology is entitled to reduce human beings to what they can do or produce" (ibid., No. 7). The inalienable rights and personal dignity of every human being must be upheld, the transcendent dimension of the human person must be defended. "Even if some are reluctant to refer to the religious dimension of human beings and human history, even if others want to consign religion to the private sphere, even if believing communities are persecuted, Christians will still proclaim that religious experience is part of human experience. It is a vital element in shaping the person and the society to which people belong" (ibid.).
In this context, my thoughts turn naturally to the members of the Iraqi Catholic community. Together with their Muslim countrymen, Iraqi Christians wish to work for unity and harmony. Their Christian faith and values inspire them to cultivate a spirit of mutual respect, with pride in their national identity and concern for the progress of their country. In Iraq, as in the world at large, dialogue between Christians and Muslims is more necessary than ever. Through such dialogue, believers will be enabled to respond positively to the call to respect one another, to rise above all discrimination and to serve the common good in a spirit of brotherhood and understanding. In like manner, it is the obligation of every government to ensure that the equality of all citizens before the law is never violated for religious reasons, whether openly or covertly.
Mr Ambassador, with the long experience and high qualifications which you bring to your duties, I am confident that your term of service will do much to strengthen the bonds of friendship between your Government and the Holy See. I offer you my best wishes for the success of your mission and assure you of every assistance in fulfilling your responsibilities. Upon yourself and the beloved Iraqi people I cordially invoke the manifold blessings of the Most High God.
1. I extend a cordial welcome to you on the occasion of the International Congress of the Catholic Schools of Europe, organized by the European Committee for Catholic Education. Joining you in a fervent prayer, I hope that your meeting may be the source of a new awareness of the specific role and mission of the Catholic school in the European historical and cultural sphere. By basing yourselves on the richness of your pedagogical traditions, you are invited to seek courageously for suitable answers to the challenges presented by the new ways of thinking and acting of young people today, so that the Catholic school may be an area of total education with a clear educational programme whose foundation is Christ. The theme of your Congress, "The educational mission: a witness to a hidden treasure" places at the centre of the educational programme of Catholic schools the basic requirement of every Christian educator: to transmit the truth not only with words, but also by explicitly testifying to it with one's life.
By assuring high quality teaching, Catholic schools present a Christian vision of man and of the world that offers young people the chance for a fruitful dialogue between faith and reason.
Likewise, it is their duty to transmit values to be assimilated and values to be discovered, "with the awareness that all human values find their fulfilment and consequently their unity in Christ" (Congress for Catholic Education, Circular Letter, 28 December 1997, n. 9).
2. Cultural upheavals, the relativization of moral values and the worrisome weakening of the family bond generate a sincere anxiety in young people, which is inevitably reflected in their way of living, learning and planning their future. Such a context invites European Catholic schools to propose an authentic educational programme that will permit young people not only to acquire a human, moral and spiritual maturity, but also to commit themselves effectively to the transformation of society, while also being concerned about working for the coming of the Kingdom of God. They will thus be able to spread in European cultures and societies, as also in the developing countries where Catholic schools can offer their contribution, the hidden treasure of the Gospel, to build the civilization of love, of fraternity, of solidarity and of peace.
3. In order to accept the numerous challenges that they must face, educational communities must place an emphasis on the formation of both religious and secular teachers, so that they may acquire an increasingly vivid awareness of their mission as educators, combining professional skill with a freely made choice to testify coherently spiritual and moral values, inspired by the Gospel message of "freedom and love" (Gravissimum educationis, GE 8). Conscious of the nobility but also of the difficulties of teaching and educating today, I encourage in their mission all the personnel involved in the Catholic educational system, that they may nourish the hopes of the young people, with the desire to "propose simultaneously the most extensive and deep acquisition of knowledge possible, a demanding and persevering education to true human freedom and the introduction of the children and adolescents entrusted to them to the highest ideal that there is: Jesus Christ and his Gospel message" (Speech to the Council of the World Union of Catholic Teachers, 1983).
The experience acquired by the educational community of the Catholic Schools of Europe, in a "creative fidelity" to the charism experienced and transmitted by the men and women founders of the religious families involved in the world of education, is irreplaceable. It allows teachers to keep together pedagogical and spiritual programmes and to adapt them to the overall development of young people. How can we fail to insist also on the close relations of cooperation that must unite schools and families, especially in this time when the family life is more fragile? Whatever the scholastic structure, it is the parents who remain primarily responsible for the education of their children. It is the task of the educational communities to promote cooperation so that parents may become newly aware of their educational role and be assisted in their basic task, but also so that the educational and pastoral programme of the Catholic school is adapted to the legitimate aspirations of families.
4. Catholic schools must, finally, accept another challenge that regards a constructive dialogue in the multicultural society of our time. "Education has a particular role to play in building a more united and peaceful world. It can help to affirm that integral humanism, open to life's ethical and religious dimension, which appreciates the importance of understanding and showing esteem for other cultures and the spiritual values present in them" (Message for the 2001 World Day of Peace, 8 December 2000, n. 20). In this way the effort made to welcome young people belonging to other religious traditions into the hearts of Catholic schools must continue, without, however, weakening the typical character and Catholic specificity of the institutes. By permitting the acquisition of skills within the same educational sphere, the social bond is formed by acceptance and mutual knowledge is favoured in a serene confrontation, making it possible to plan the future together. This concrete way of overcoming fear of the other undoubtedly constitutes a decisive step towards peace in society.
5. The Catholic schools in Europe are thus called to be dynamic communities of faith and evangelization, in close contact with diocesan pastoral activity. By being at the service of the dialogue between the Church and the community, undertaking to promote man as a whole, they remind the people of God of the central point of their mission: to permit every man to give meaning to his life by making the hidden treasure that is his flow, thus inviting mankind to join in the plan of God manifested by Jesus Christ.
In entrusting the fruitfulness of your Congress to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, I invite you to allow yourselves to be instructed by Jesus Christ, receiving from Him, who is "the Way, the Truth and the Life" (Jn 14,6), the strength and joy to fulfil your exciting and delicate mission. To you all, organizers and participants in this Congress, as also to all your families, to all the personnel within the Catholic educational sphere and to the young people that they follow, I sincerely impart my Apostolic Blessing.
To Bro. Alvaro Rodríguez Echeverria
Superior General of the Brothers of the Christian Schools
1. On the occasion of the 350th anniversary of the dies natalis of St John Baptist de La Salle, I am pleased to join the Brothers of the Christian Schools and those who share their founder's ideal in giving thanks for the example of the "special patron of the teachers of children and youth". My heart filled with joy at the marvels worked by the Brothers throughout their history, I invite you to "propose anew the enterprising initiative, creativity and holiness" of your founder (Vita consecrata, VC 37), to reinforce in each one the desire to respond generously to the charism of your religious family in each one.
2. I have already had the opportunity to recall Jean-Baptiste de La Salle's pedagogical genius, as well as the importance of your mission among children and young people, especially the poor and those in difficulty. Your ideal, ever timely, requires disciples who let themselves be formed by God and who, filled with enthusiasm for education and evangelization, will be able to hold up to young Christians hope and reasons for living. In enabling young people to discover your founder's endearing figure you invite them, at his school, to have the experience of a close encounter with Christ, and introduce them to the "heart's contemplation of the mystery of the Trinity dwelling in us, and whose light we must also be able to see shining on the face of the brothers and sisters" around us (Novo millennio ineunte, NM 43).
3. The secret of Jean-Baptiste de La Salle is the close and living relationship with the Lord that he fosters in daily prayer, the source from which he draws his typical daring creativity. In listening to God, he received the lights which little by little permitted him to discern the urgent needs of his time, in order to find a suitable response. Moved by the Spirit "who dwells in you" and "must penetrate the depths of your hearts" (Jean-Baptiste de La Salle, Méditations pour tous les dimanches de l'année, n. 62, 3), you will live more and more in conformity with the gift received by your founder. He who implored the Brothers to live as "interior men" (Explications de la méthode d'oraison, n. 3), reveals to us in the treasure of his writings the contemplative dimension of his life, and therefore of every Christian and missionary life. After his example, renewed by their personal meeting with Christ, the Brothers will be able to proclaim the Gospel to the young people who are entrusted to them and tactfully to guide them in their human, moral and spiritual growth.
4. I would like to draw the attention of the Institute's members to the importance of the witness of fraternal life. John Baptist de La Salle saw it as an essential means to enable the Brothers to carry out their mission of education and evangelization in the best possible way. "We must especially study how to be united in God and to have but one heart and mind; and what must be its principal motivation is, as St John says, that whoever lives in charity lives in God and God lives in him" (Méditations, n. 113, 3). Called to make visible Christ's gift of brotherhood to the Church, it is the community's duty "to be and to be seen to be a living organism of intense fraternal communion, a sign and a stimulus for all the baptized" (Fraternal Life in Community, n. 2b). It therefore exerts a natural attraction and the joie de vivre it emanates, even in the midst of difficulties, becomes a witness that gives religious life a powerful magnetism which is a source of vocations.
5. In this context, I encourage the Brothers to make their houses schools of fraternal life, in order "to promote a spirituality of communion" (Novo millennio ineunte, NM 43), involving the young people entrusted to their care and the lay people who collaborate with their mission, helping all to discover and share the Institute's charism. I rejoice in the initiatives already taken, such as the creation of the "De La Salle Youth Network", which it would be good to follow up and develop. It will give rise to an exchange which permits the baptized to discover and to live to the full their specific vocation, and the Brothers to remember the demands of this "high standard of ordinary Christian living" which is holiness, with a "training in holiness adapted to people's needs" (Novo millennio ineunte, NM 31), particularly those of the young.
6. "You have not only a glorious history to remember and to recount, but also a great history still to be accomplished! Look to the future where the Spirit is sending you in order to do even greater things" (Vita consecrata, VC 110). Dear Brothers, may this anniversary renew your fidelity to Christ and to the Gospel! For the Christian Brothers" family a millennium is unfolding into which it is invited to enter, "relying on the help of Christ!" (Novo millennio ineunte, NM 58), who, contemplated and loved, calls us once again to follow him.
7. The Most Holy Virgin accompanies us on this path. I entrusted the third millennium to her and I called upon her as the Star of the new evangelization. May she also accompany the spiritual sons of St John Baptist de La Salle and make them grow in availability and holiness, as well as in the service of Christ and their brethren! As I entrust you to the intercession of your founder and of all your Institute's saints, to all the Brothers I wholeheartedly impart my Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to the young people, the members of your educational communities and to all who share St John Baptist de La Salle's ideal.
From the Vatican, 26 April 2001.
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. With great joy I greet and welcome you who have come to Rome to honour the new blesseds: Manuel González García, Marie-Anne Blondin, Caterina Volpicelli, Caterina Cittadini, Carlos Manuel Cecilio Rodríguez Santiago. You represent many nations, almost as if to reflect the spreading of the witness of these generous disciples of Christ which, by the grace of God, knows no bounds. In fact, the Church fully expresses her universal mission when she speaks the language of holiness and especially when she must adopt this language in the contemporary age, in which the Spirit spurs her to a renewed proclamation of the Gospel in every corner of the earth.
2. I affectionately greet the Spanish Bishops and pilgrims who have joyfully participated in the beatification of Bishop Manuel González García, known as "the Bishop of the deserted tabernacles", founder of the Misioneras Eucarísticas de Nazaret (Eucharistic Missionaries of Nazareth) and of various institutes whose aim is to spread devotion to the Eucharist.
His life was that of a Pastor totally dedicated to his ministry, using every means within his reach: preaching, the publication of writings, the promotion of institutions to encourage Christian life and, above all, the witness of an extraordinary life, whose message continues to be profoundly up to date. Indeed, our lives would be missing something essential if we did not first of all contemplate the face of Christ (cf. Novo millennio ineunte, NM 16). What better way to contemplate the Lord than to adore him and love him in the Sacrament of his real presence par excellence ? Devotion to the Eucharist is the centre that strengthens all Christian life since the faithful, responding to the Lord's request: "remain here, and watch with me" (Mt 26,38), find in him the strength, comfort, firm hope and ardent love that come from the Lord's mysterious and hidden, but real, presence.
I therefore encourage you all to imitate the new blessed in his assiduous contact with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, presenting to him the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time (cf. Gaudium et spes GS 1). At the same time, I encourage the Misioneras Eucarísticas de Nazaret to continue to be faithful to the founder's charism, inviting the men and women of today to listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, present in the sacrament.
3. I would now like to greet Cardinal Luis Aponte Martínez, Archbishop emeritus of San Juan and the other Bishops of Puerto Rico who, accompanied by the authorities, priests and numerous pilgrims, took part in yesterday's ceremony for the beatification of Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Santiago, fondly known as "Charlie". Born in Caguas, he concluded his earthly mission at the age of 44, after a fruitful apostolic life, suffering sickness with great fortitude.
The life of this new blessed was that of a layman committed to spreading Christian humanism in the university world. He carried out his apostolic work at the Catholic University Centre, encouraging its members to live the present time in fidelity to the past and open to the future, fostering with the spread of Christian thought the perfect Christian balance between the natural and the supernatural, the ancient and the modern.
Puerto Rican lay people have found an example to imitate in this outstanding figure of your land, so close to us in time. Consequently, gathered in the "Circles" called after him and guided also by your Bishops, you promoted his cause. I am pleased at this initiative which culminated in yesterday's solemn ceremony. Now, officially held up as a model of holiness, he is also one of your countrymen who intercedes for you from heaven.
4. The life and apostolate of Mother Marie-Anne Blondin testify to her ability to let herself be taken over by Christ, to pass with him every day from death to life. From her intimacy with Christ, Mother Marie-Anne Blondin not only found her missionary zeal but also the prophetic strength to live Gospel forgiveness in daily life. The most sorrowful moments of her life would be transfigured by her desire to forgive incessantly in Christ's name, considering that there is more happiness in pardoning than in taking revenge. May Mother Marie-Anne Blondin's inspiring witness encourage the Church to bring peace to the world and to make herself close to life's injured persons, particularly in the fields of education, health care, and pastoral and social guidance, to bear witness to the love that God offers to every person and to proclaim his liberating forgiveness, which dissolves every reason for hatred and exclusion!
5. Caterina Volpicelli lived in Naples in the middle of the 19th century. She received a sound human and religious formation from her family and had the opportunity to meet several men of God such as Bl. Ludovico da Casoria, the Barnabite Leonardo Matera and Bl. Bartolo Longo, who deeply marked her spiritual development. Her heart expanded more and more, in proportion to the size of the Heart of Christ, whose fervent disciple and apostle she became, cultivating an intense Eucharistic life and the Apostleship of Prayer.
It was precisely with the first messengers of the Apostleship of Prayer that Caterina founded the Istituto delle Ancelle del Sacro Cuore (Institute of the Servants of the Sacred Heart), which, after being approved by the Archbishop of Naples, received the decree of praise from my predecessor, Leo XIII. With such a rich interior life, Caterina and her sisters made themselves "Good Samaritans" in various situations of poverty, not only carrying out a philanthropic and charitable work, but witnessing to genuine Gospel charity with simplicity and discretion, solidarity and respect for the simple and humble people. Her apostolic heritage is a very precious gift for the Church, for which we would like to thank the Lord. May this religious heritage be preserved and increased by her spiritual daughters.
6. I now address you, dear brothers and sisters, who are rejoicing in the beatification of Caterina Cittadini, with a special thought for the Suore Orsoline di San Girolamo in Somasca (Ursuline Sisters of Somasca), whom she founded.
The great insight of this distinguished daughter of the Bergamo region was that of having grasped the importance of school as a fundamental means for the formation of citizens and Christians. In this way she prophetically anticipated the directives of the Second Vatican Council, which in the Declaration on Christian Education Gravissimum educationis on Catholic schools exhorts Catholics to "orient the whole of human culture to the message of salvation" (n. 8).
The pedagogical method worked out by the new blessed is based on personal acquaintance and direct relationship with the boarding-school girls. She herself points out to her teachers in the exhortation contained in the Rule: "Let them consider as a special benefit from God their involvement in a task that belongs to the angels, and let them consider themselves fortunate and unworthy of being employed in teaching school students; they should show the desire for their good, remembering that our Lord said: "Whatever you do for one of these little ones I consider as done for me'" (Chap. XVI, 2).
I warmly hope, dear Ursuline Sisters of Somasca and all who are inspired by the spirituality and example of Caterina Cittadini, that you will continue faithfully on the path she marked out in order to be reliable guides on the journey of faith and the cultural formation of children and young people.
7. Dear brothers and sisters, your devout and festive presence, yesterday and today, have given greater ecclesial attention to the proclamation of the new blesseds. May you yourselves be the first imitators of these brothers and sisters, whom the Church points out as models of Gospel life! Call upon them in prayer; study their witness and make it known; imitate their virtues. In the communion of saints, faith permits us to feel close to them, together with the Virgin Mary, Queen of all the saints, to whom I entrust you, together with your loved ones. With these sentiments, I bless you all.
Dear Minims Tertiary,
1. For the fifth centenary of the approval of the First Rule, with which the lay movement of the Third Order of Minims [secular branch of the Order of Minims] was juridically established, you asked me, through Fr Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini, the Order's Superior General, for a word of encouragement to continue your journey of faith and apostolic commitment in full communion with the See of Peter. I gladly grant this wish and hope with all my heart that you will always be most generously faithful to the Church and her Bishops. This has been your movement's style since 1 May 1501 when with the Bull Ad ea quae, Pope Alexander VI, granting the request of the hermit Francis of Paola, approved the first draft of your Rule, together with the second draft of the Rule of the Minim Friars of the First Order. Thus your lay movement, the Third Order of St Francis of Paola, officially came into being.
At the end of the 15th century the Hermit of Paola appeared to everyone as an outstanding champion of the Church's reform. Some members of the nobility and of the common people asked to share more closely in his penitential commitment, without renouncing their activities and the married state. To enable them to share in the privileges and spiritual benefits that the Pope granted to friars during the Holy Year of 1500, the Hermit of Paola perfected his idea of re-writing the Rule for the religious and drafted a completely new one for the faithful who had chosen him as their spiritual guide and master. The Minims Tertiary wished to commit themselves, together with the Friars, to a special witness of evangelical penitence, which was basically expressed through the restoration of the old form of penitential discipline, weakened in the 15th century by a profound crisis.
In the centuries-old history of the secular Third Orders, the approval of your Rule is an interesting sign of something new: indeed the Rules of the first and third Franciscan Orders have never been compiled simultaneously by the same founder as your founder did, thus defining relations and charisms from the outset.
As in all periods of change, today too the Church asks believers for that indispensable conversion of consciences which alone can guarantee society's renewal. Was it not in the sign of penance and conversion that we celebrated the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, recently ended?
2. In this same perspective I invite you to commemorate the joyful occasion of your centenary by rediscovering the value and timeliness of your Rule. It begins with the solemn invitation to take seriously the evangelical journey, the guarantee of authentic happiness: "If you would enter life, keep the commandments" (Mt 19,17 cf. Rule, chap. I). This is the starting point for those who decide to follow Jesus, accepting the radical nature of the Gospel, which is not satisfied with natural honesty, but entails courageous choices that are often in contrast with common feeling. In this you follow your founder, who was indicated by the Church as an ardent imitator of our Redeemer (cf. Alexander VI, Ad fructus uberes, 20 May 1502).
Today the penitential proposal of your Rule is very fitting: founded on a "Lenten" spirituality, it is the real novelty of the charism of the family of the Minims in which you share. By simultaneously approving your rule and that of the friars of the First Order, my predecessor Alexander VI wanted to point out to the Church an evangelical style based on penance, in accordance with a journey marked by the wholesome teachings of St Francis of Paola (cf. Bull Ad ea quae). It is precisely in the penitential effort for conversion that you find the timeliness and originality of your ecclesial mission today.
The invitation to do penance, made by Jesus at the beginning of his preaching (cf. Mk Mc 1,15), puts baptized persons into the condition of being in the world without being of the world. Thus your Rule (cf. chap. IV) calls you, with the words of the Apostle John, to affective detachment from the world: "Do not love the world or the things in the world" (1Jn 2,15); and with St James it reminds you that: "Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (4,4). The explicit exhortation to flee usury, unlawful contracts and every form of avarice (cf. Rule, chap. I) stresses how the founder then clearly perceived the changes taking place in society; changes that were to create, by ignoring the evangelical dimension, the social and economic imbalances that we still deplore today.
How useful the wise suggestions of the penitent hermit Francis of Paola appear even today: "the glory of this world is false and its riches are fleeting. Happy is he who thinks of a good rather than a long life; happy is he who worries more about a pure conscience than a full coffer" (Rule, ch. IV).
3. The Second Vatican Council teaches how necessary interior freedom is: a freedom that does not detract from one's commitment in the world, from the desire to serve it and save it (cf. Gaudium et spes, ch. IV), after Jesus' example (cf. Mt Mt 9,36). Indeed, it is precisely because of this "loving distance" that Christians can understand the hope that faith in Jesus, the only Saviour, gives them (cf. 1P 3,15), qualifying them to be "good Samaritans" in our society (cf. Paul VI, Homily for the closure of the Second Vatican Council).
All this involves sacrifice, because it requires mortifying and breaking those bonds that risk making us slaves of evil. Hence the need for spiritual action is born. It is achieved in prayer, in contemplation of the face of Christ and in interior discipline. Your founder led you on the path of inner discipline, demanding of you this spiritual commitment as a necessary condition for belonging to his Order: "Whoever wishes to serve God in this kind of life must dominate his flesh" (Rule, chap. V). He then recalled, in support of the Rule's prescriptions, the words of the Apostle Paul: "Put to death ... what is earthly in you" (Col 3,5), because "if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live" (Rm 8,13).
The commitment required by your Rule does not enclose you in a totally interior spirituality but, appealing to your special penitential mission, urges you to share what is yours with your needier brothers. The Church's call to love God and neighbour must impel every baptized person. St Francis of Paola, follower and imitator of the ancient Fathers, in the Rule that he left you, very wisely combined under one heading, fasting, abstinence and works of mercy (cf. Rule, chap. V), thereby giving you, in the unity of the charism you share with the friars and nuns, the preference for the commitment to an active charity.
Accept, dear Minims Tertiary, the invitation I addressed to the whole Church to make room for a new creativity of charity (cf. Novo Millennio ineunte, NM 50), while taking into account the requirements you have already identified in your common research with the religious of the First Order. We cannot put out into the deep at the beginning of this new millennium without becoming more attentive to the needs of our brothers: "The charity of works ensures an unmistakable efficacy to the charity of words" (ibid., n. 50). Learn from your founder the wonderful synthesis between the contemplative dimension and the witness of charity, which he developed through an apostolate of welcoming all who came to him, confident that they would find understanding and sharing. He knew how to put himself in tune with all the needy, afflicted in body and soul.
4. The happy celebration of the fifth centenary offers you the chance to be privileged leaders of the new evangelization. Do not be afraid of the difficulties, because the Rule shows you the necessary means to be strong and to proceed with certainty. It proposes prayer to you first of all, as the sacrifice of praise to be daily immolated to God (cf. Rule, ch. II). In that way you will excel in the art of prayer (cf. Novo Millennio ineunte, NM 32) which I presented to all the Christian communities, so that pastoral activity [may be) profoundly rooted in contemplation and prayer (ibid., n. 15).
Then in your code of life there is the exhortation to care for the purity of conscience with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The words used in this regard retain all their charm, although they are associated with a spirituality that is far from our way of feeling: "Jesus the Nazarene - he writes - full of flowers, whose joy it is to stay with the children of man, delights in the flowers of the virtues" (Rule, chap. III). Lastly you have the invitation to participate in the Eucharist in which you find the source of your fidelity. The founder's words deserve to be remembered for their power of expression: "May daily attendance at Mass be for you a wholesome piece of advice, so that fortified with the arms of the Passion of Christ, which are recalled in the Mass, you may be strong and faithful in your observance of the commandments of God. In attending Mass you will also pray that Christ's death may be your life, his pain the mitigation of your pain, his toil your eternal rest" (Rule, ch. III). By lengthy meditation on your Rule, you will find a new incentive to give even more value to the sacrament of Reconciliation and to Sunday Mass.
5. May the fifth centenary therefore bring you to a more intimate rediscovery of the precious code of spiritual life bequeathed to you by St Francis of Paola. Do so as individual Christians involved in the world. Do so as communities, testifying that it is possible to build a universal fraternity, according to the divine project. Your local groups are called "fraternities" within which the brothers are called to be instruments of pardon, of reconciliation and of peace (cf. Rule, chap. VII).
By sharing the same charism with the friars of the First Order and the nuns of the Second Order, you find forms of cooperation and apostolic sharing with them. The participation of your delegates in the First Order's last General Chapter crowned a praiseworthy itinerary which had begun some years ago, according to which you had suggested and hoped after the Synod on the consecrated life (cf. Vita consecrata, VC 56). Continue on that road towards an even fuller sharing of your common charism.
May you be accompanied by the Holy Virgin, Mother of the Church and pillar of our hope. For my part, I assure you that I will keep you in my prayers and, while I invoke on your intentions and on your commitment the protection of the founder St Francis of Paola and of the holy Patrons, St Francis of Sales and St Joan of Valois, also Minims Tertiary, I sincerely bless you.
From the Vatican, 1 May 2001.