Speeches 2001

May 2001


Thursday, 3 May 2001

Dear Executives and Members of the "Circolo San Pietro",

1. I sincerely thank you for this visit, which, as every year, gives me the opportunity to meet you. I greet you with affection and I am thinking of your families and those who are unable to be present.

I greet and thank your President, Marquis Marcello Sacchetti, who kindly wished to express the sentiments you share. In his words I grasped the enthusiasm and generosity with which your association carries out its liturgical service and intense charitable activity every day, especially for the neediest. I also listened carefully to the projects that you intend to carry out so that, as we have just said, your solidarity may be even more "a faithful extension of the charitable hand" of the Successor of Peter. I extend a fraternal greeting to your spiritual director, Bishop Ettore Cunial, and to the other priests who guide your spiritual formation.

2. In welcoming you today, my thoughts go to the Holy Year, which ended successfully a few months ago, and to your important and skilled contribution to its success. At the beginning of this meeting, we recalled not only your liturgical activities but also the meals you distributed to the poor from the kiosks prepared at the four Patriarchal Basilicas. Your association also supervised the collection of numerous testimonies of people from every nation and continent who came to Rome for the Jubilee. You wished to include some in a booklet to present to me as a gift. Thank you for your much appreciated cooperation. May God reward you!

Filled with the emotions experienced throughout the Jubilee journey, we have entered the new century and the new millennium, aware that the Lord calls us to be apostles of our time. The memory of our strong ecclesial experiences certainly acts as a stimulus to open wide our hearts to the promising horizons of the new evangelization. In this spirit you too, dear friends, must resume the "ordinary" but profound work of your apostolate, spreading Christian hope everywhere.

3. Do not forget that holiness is the first commitment of every Christian and of every community. I wished to stress this in my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte, entrusted to the entire people of God as a gift of the Jubilee.

So try to live this Gospel ideal first of all within your families, so that they may be "oases" of family spirituality and openness to your neighbour. Show your adherence to Christ by spreading his light with your every gesture and your conduct in your work and professional activities. I am certain that the constant search for holiness by all its members will impress on the Circolo San Pietro a fresh desire for authentic newness, especially if it is supported by prayer and attentive listening to the Word of God, as well as by frequent participation in the sacraments and by a style conformed to Gospel teachings.

Only a strong spiritual life can sustain an effective and generous charitable activity. Only if they are enlivened by the breath of the Holy Spirit do your initiatives of assistance and human development for the elderly and children, for the poor and the sick become eloquent signs of the Gospel of love.

With this openness of heart, may you accomplish the many plans that direct you towards vast missionary horizons, making everyone experience the merciful love of God. You bring to the needy, in the name of the Pope, the comfort of brotherly love, expressed in concrete sharing and solidarity.

Your mission includes the collection in Rome of "Peter's Pence", entrusted to your association through an ancient privilege. Today you came to bring me its results; thank you also for this! May the Lord help you to accomplish your ecclesial service always more faithfully, which, as your motto says, involves "prayer", "action" and "sacrifice".

I entrust each and every one of you to Mary, as we enter the month of May dedicated to her. May Our Lady accompany you, protect your families and render your apostolate fruitful. I promise to remember you in my prayers and I gladly bless you.



Thursday 3 May 2001

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. With great joy I welcome you and I extend my cordial greeting to each of you. I greet, in particular, Abbot Ugo Gianluigi Tagni and I thank him for the words expressing your sentiments.

My greeting and my cordial appreciation go also to the Daughters of the Heart of Mary Missionary Sisters who, like mothers and sisters, assist the guests of the International College, opened by the Cistercian monks with praiseworthy attention to the Church's pastoral needs. It welcomes priests and religious of various nationalities who have come to Rome to complete their studies by attending the city's numerous academic centres. Finding themselves together in a place that is so suitable to the requirements of those who have been called to devote themselves to the priestly ministry makes it possible to achieve a wonderful exchange of gifts that is certainly useful for their future apostolic activity.

The contact, then, with the typical spirituality of the Cistercian monastic order gives the opportunity to take advantage of another possibility for spiritual and apostolic formation. My sincere hope is that each of you may draw abundantly from this source, which has over the centuries nourished so many concrete realizations of consecrated life.

2. As you are well aware, the monastic life is characterized by a constant call to conversion. The Rule of St Benedict, from which the Cistercian Order takes its inspiration, prescribes that a candidate to monastic life promise, in the presence of all the community, a sincere and radical conversion, with the help of God and relying on the intercession of his holy patrons (cf. R.B. 58: 17). It is not just a typical exercise of the Lenten period, but must form the aspiration of the Christian towards a truly evangelical life. It is, in other words, the sincere and uninterrupted effort that individual baptized persons, and especially priests and religious, must nourish in order to tend to holiness.

I would like here to recall what I already have said in my recent Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte, that "the time has come to re-propose wholeheartedly to everyone this high standard of ordinary Christian living" (n. 31). This is even more valid for you, dear Brothers ordained for the service of the Christian people. Jesus asks you as he did Peter: "Simon, Son of John, do you love me more than these?" (Jn 21,15). And he awaits your answer, expressed not only in words, but also, and above all, in the concreteness of your daily choices.

In the school of Cistercian spirituality, you are encouraged to direct your entire existence to the contemplation of God, according to the advice of St Benedict: "put nothing before the love of Christ" (cf. R.B. 4: 21 and 72: 11). May the monastic experience likewise encourage you to practise lectio divina, to celebrate together the Liturgy of the Hours, especially the Eucharist every day, and to prolong your intimacy with the Lord in Eucharistic adoration. The concern for your studies must not distract you from daily immersion in God. In fact, only from him can you draw the strength that is essential for the apostolate that will be entrusted to you by your superiors when you return to your respective countries and dioceses.

The authentic theologian is he who prays. It was in this perspective that I wrote in the Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte: "We who have received the grace of believing in Christ, the revealer of the Father and the Saviour of the world, have the duty to show to what depths the relationship with Christ can lead" (n. 33).

3. From unceasing contemplation that leads to an increasing intimacy with God comes the need for communion among you and with your brothers. You come from numerous countries and religious institutes: the variety of rites, cultures, experiences or pastoral needs of your communities and local Churches forms a meaningful patrimony that should be shared and which must impel you to love all the more the one Church of Christ. In fact, it is the Church that the Lord asks you to serve with the multiplicity of your charisms and pastoral services.

Let Sts Benedict and Bernard inspire you to live ecclesial communion in great fraternity
Before you shines the example of many saints who have drawn unceasing inspiration from the Benedictine and Cistercian spring. Look especially to St Bernard, your great spiritual master, a man of contemplation and action. With regard to the different religious orders, he noted with deep wisdom: "We all need one another: the spiritual good that I do not have and do not possess, I receive from others.... And all our diversities, which manifest the wealth of God's gifts, will exist in the one house of the Father, which has many rooms. Now there is a difference of graces: then there will be distinction of glory. Both here and there unity consists in the same charity" (Apology to William of St Thierry, IV, 8: PL 182: 903-904).

May your College therefore be a Cenacle: a place where, in assiduous and harmonious prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus (cf. Ac 1,14), you should be of one heart and one soul (cf. ibid., 4: 32). A school of fraternal life where, as St Benedict teaches (cf. R.B. 72: 4 ff.), each one competes with the other in paying reciprocal honour, while supporting each other's weakness with the greatest patience. May no one seek his own advantage but rather that of others, loving his neighbour with chaste love. The lifestyle, the experience of communion between priests and religious will be of valid help to you in your communities of origin when, having finished the time of your formation here in Rome, you will undertake the work to which the Holy Spirit will call you.

May Mary, whom we wish to invoke as Mater boni consilii, watch over your good intentions and your entire daily activity. Dear friends, have constant recourse to her and to her intercession. With these sentiments, I cordially bless each and every one of you.



Friday, 4 May 2001

Mr President,

1. I thank you for your kind words of welcome. I am deeply grateful for this opportunity to greet you, and through you to offer a cordial greeting to the members of the Government and of the Diplomatic Missions. I have happy memories, Mr President, of your visit to the Vatican last January, and I thank you for your invitation to come to Greece. Through you I likewise extend heartfelt greetings to all the people of your country. My wish is in some way to recognize the great debt which we all owe to Greece; in fact no one can be unaware of the enduring influence that her unique history and culture have had on European civilization and indeed on that of the entire world.

Last year, Christians everywhere celebrated the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ. I had a deep desire to mark that event by becoming a pilgrim to some of the places connected with the history of salvation. This desire became a reality in my pilgrimage to Sinai and to the Holy Land. Now it is to Greece that I come as a pilgrim, in the footsteps of Saint Paul, whose mighty figure towers over the two millennia of Christian history and whose memory is etched for ever in the soil of Greece. It was here in Athens that Paul founded one of the first communities of his voyages in the West and of his mission on the European continent. Here he worked tirelessly to make Christ known; here he suffered for the proclamation of the Gospel. And how could we not recall that it was here in the city of Athens that there began the dialogue between the Christian message and Hellenistic culture, a dialogue which would decisively shape European civilization?

2. Long before the Christian era, the influence of Greece was felt far and wide. In Biblical literature, the later books of the Old Testament, some of which were written in the Greek language, were profoundly marked by Hellenistic culture. The Greek translation of the Old Testament, known as the Septuagint, had a great influence in Antiquity. The world that Jesus himself entered and knew was already deeply imbued with Greek culture. The New Testament was written in Greek, with the result that it spread rapidly. But it was much more than a simple matter of language, for the early Christians also drew upon Greek culture in order to transmit the Gospel message.

Certainly the first encounters of Christianity and high Greek culture were difficult. One indication of this is the reception accorded to Paul when he preached at the Areopagus (cf. Acts Ac 17,16-34). While corresponding to the profound expectation of the Athenian people in search of the true God, Paul did not find it easy to preach Christ who had died and was risen, and to show that in Christ is to be found the full meaning of life and the goal of all religious experience. It would fall to the first Apologists, like the martyr Saint Justin, to show that a fruitful encounter between reason and faith was possible.

3. Once the initial distrust was overcome, Christian writers began to see in Greek culture an ally rather than an enemy, and there emerged great centres of Christian Hellenism throughout the Mediterranean world.

Reading the learned writings of Augustine of Hippo and Dionysius the Areopagite, we see that Christian theology and mysticism drew elements from the dialogue with Platonic philosophy. Writers like Gregory of Nazianzus, steeped in Greek rhetoric, were able to create a Christian literature worthy of its classical antecedents. Gradually, then, the Hellenistic world became Christian, and Christianity became to a certain extent Greek. Then there came to birth the Byzantine culture of the East and the Medieval culture of the West, both deeply imbued with Christian faith and Greek culture. And how could we not mention the approach of Saint Thomas who, in rereading the works of Aristotle, proposed a masterly theological and philosophical synthesis?

Raphael’s painting "The School of Athens" in the Vatican Palace makes clear the contribution of the school of Athens to the art and culture of the Renaissance, a period which led to a great exchange between classical Athens and the culture of Christian Rome.

4. Hellenistic culture is characterized by its attention to the education of the young. Plato insisted on the need to train the mind of the young to seek the good and the honourable, as well as to respect the principles of divine law. How many Greek philosophers and writers, beginning with Socrates, Aeschylus and Sophocles, invited their contemporaries to live "in accordance with the virtues"! Saints Basil and John Chrysostom did not neglect to praise the value of the Greek educational tradition, for its concern to develop the moral sense of young people and to help them to choose freely what is good.

The fundamental elements of this long tradition remain valid for the people, including the young people, of our own time. Among the most sure elements are the moral aspects contained in the Hippocratic Oath, which emphasizes the principle of unconditional respect for human life in the maternal womb.

Greece is also the country in which two great sporting traditions, the Olympic Games and the Marathon, were born. Through these competitions a significant conception of the human person is expressed, in the harmony of the spiritual and bodily dimensions, through disciplined effort, marked by moral and civic values. We can only rejoice that to see that these competitions perdure and continue to create close bonds among the peoples of the world.

5. The inculturation of the Gospel in the Greek world remains an example for all inculturation. In its relations with Greek culture, the proclamation of the Gospel had to make a careful discernment, in order to receive and evaluate all its positive elements, and at the same time to reject aspects which are incompatible with the Christian message. In this we have a permanent challenge for the proclamation of the Gospel, in its encounter with the various cultures and with the process of globalization. All of this calls us to engage in respectful and honest dialogue, and requires a new solidarity which evangelical love is capable of inspiring, bringing to fulfilment the Greek ideal of the cosmopolis in a world which is truly united and imbued with justice and fraternity.

We are in a decisive period of European history, and I hope most fervently that the Europe now emerging will rediscover this long tradition of encounter between Greek culture and Christianity in fresh and imaginative ways, not as the vestige of a vanished world but as the true basis for the genuinely human progress that our world seeks.

Carved on the façade of the Temple in Delphi were the words "Know yourself"; I appeal therefore to Europe to know herself ever more deeply. Such self-knowledge will come only in so far as Europe explores afresh the roots of her identity, roots which reach deep into the classical Hellenistic patrimony and into the Christian heritage which brought to birth a humanism based upon the vision of every human person as created in the image and likeness of God.

6. Geography and history have set your country, Mr President, between East and West, and this means that Greece’s natural vocation is to build bridges and a culture of dialogue. Today this is essential for Europe’s future. Many walls have been broken down in recent times, but others remain. The task of integrating the Eastern and Western parts of Europe remains complex; and there is still much to be done to bring harmony between the Christians of East and West, so that the Church can breathe with both her lungs. All believers should see themselves as having a duty to work for this objective. The Catholic Church in Greece desires to share loyally in this noble cause, which also has positive effects in the social sphere. From this point of view, a significant contribution is made by the schools in which the younger generation is trained. Schools are par excellence places where the integration of young people of different backgrounds takes place. The Catholic Church, in harmony with the other Churches and religious confessions, desires to cooperate with all citizens for the education of the young. She wishes to continue her long educational experience in your country, especially through the activities of the Marist Brothers and the Brothers of the Christian Schools, the Ursuline Sisters and the Sisters of Saint Joseph. These different religious families have shown that, with tact and respect for the cultural traditions of the young people entrusted to them, they are able to educate men and women to be true Greeks among the Greeks.

At the end of our meeting, I once more thank you most warmly, Mr President, for your welcome, and at the same time I express my gratitude to all who have made possible my pilgrimage in the footsteps of Saint Paul. I ask God to bestow upon the people of your country his abundant blessings, so that in the third millennium Greece may continue to offer new and wonderful gifts to the continent of Europe and to the family of nations!



Friday, 4 May 2001

Your Beatitude,
Venerable Members of the Holy Synod,
Most Reverend Bishops of the Orthodox Church of Greece,
Christòs anèsti!

1. In the joy of Easter, I greet you with the words of the Apostle Paul to the Church in Thessalonica: "May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way" (2Th 3,16).

It gives me great pleasure to meet Your Beatitude in this Primatial See of the Orthodox Church of Greece. I offer heartfelt greetings to the members of the Holy Synod and all the hierarchy. I salute the clergy, the monastic communities and the lay faithful throughout this noble land. Peace be with you all!

2. I wish first of all to express to you the affection and regard of the Church of Rome. Together we share the apostolic faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour; we have in common the apostolic heritage and the sacramental bond of Baptism; and therefore we are all members of God’s family, called to serve the one Lord and to proclaim his Gospel to the world. The Second Vatican Council called on Catholics to regard the members of the other Churches "as brothers and sisters in the Lord" (Unitatis Redintegratio, UR 3), and this supernatural bond of brotherhood between the Church of Rome and the Church of Greece is strong and abiding.

Certainly, we are burdened by past and present controversies and by enduring misunderstandings. But in a spirit of mutual charity these can and must be overcome, for that is what the Lord asks of us. Clearly there is a need for a liberating process of purification of memory.For the occasions past and present, when sons and daughters of the Catholic Church have sinned by action or omission against their Orthodox brothers and sisters, may the Lord grant us the forgiveness we beg of him.

Some memories are especially painful, and some events of the distant past have left deep wounds in the minds and hearts of people to this day. I am thinking of the disastrous sack of the imperial city of Constantinople, which was for so long the bastion of Christianity in the East. It is tragic that the assailants, who had set out to secure free access for Christians to the Holy Land, turned against their own brothers in the faith. The fact that they were Latin Christians fills Catholics with deep regret. How can we fail to see here the mysterium iniquitatis at work in the human heart? To God alone belongs judgement, and therefore we entrust the heavy burden of the past to his endless mercy, imploring him to heal the wounds which still cause suffering to the spirit of the Greek people. Together we must work for this healing if the Europe now emerging is to be true to its identity, which is inseparable from the Christian humanism shared by East and West.

3. At this meeting, I also wish to assure Your Beatitude that the Church of Rome looks with unaffected admiration to the Orthodox Church of Greece for the way in which she has preserved her heritage of faith and Christian life. The name of Greece resounds wherever the Gospel is preached. The names of her cities are known to Christians everywhere from the reading of the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of Saint Paul. From the Apostolic era until now, the Orthodox Church of Greece has been a rich source from which the Church of the West too has drawn for her liturgy, spirituality and jurisprudence (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 14). A patrimony of the whole Church are the Fathers, privileged interpreters of the apostolic tradition, and the Councils, whose teachings are a binding element of all Christian faith. The universal Church can never forget what Greek Christianity has given her, nor cease to give thanks for the enduring influence of the Greek tradition.

The Second Vatican Council stressed to Catholics the Orthodox love of the liturgy, through which the faithful "enter into communion with the Most Holy Trinity and become sharers in the divine nature" (Unitatis Redintegratio, UR 15). In offering liturgical worship pleasing to God through the centuries, in preaching the Gospel even in dark and difficult times, in presenting an unfailing didaskalia, inspired by the Scriptures and the great Tradition of the Church, the Orthodox Church of Greece has brought forth a host of saints who intercede for all God’s People before the Throne of Grace. In the saints we see the ecumenism of holiness which, with God’s help, will eventually draw us into full communion, which is neither absorption nor fusion but a meeting in truth and love (cf. Slavorum Apostoli, 27).

4. Finally, Your Beatitude, I wish to express the hope that we may walk together in the ways of the Kingdom of God. In 1965, the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras and Pope Paul VI by a mutual act removed and cancelled from the Church’s memory and life the sentence of excommunication between Rome and Constantinople. This historic gesture stands as a summons for us to work ever more fervently for the unity which is Christ’s will. Division between Christians is a sin before God and a scandal before the world. It is a hindrance to the spread of the Gospel, because it makes our proclamation less credible. The Catholic Church is convinced that she must do all in her power to "prepare the way of the Lord" and to "make straight his paths" (Mt 3,3); and she understands that this must be done in company with other Christians – in fraternal dialogue, in cooperation and in prayer. If certain models of reunion of the past no longer correspond to the impulse towards unity which the Holy Spirit has awakened in Christians everywhere in recent times, we must be all the more open and attentive to what the Spirit is now saying to the Churches (cf. Rev Ap 2,11).

In this Easter season, my mind turns to the encounter on the road to Emmaus. Without knowing it, the two disciples were walking with the Risen Lord, who became their teacher as he interpreted for them the Scriptures, "beginning with Moses and all the prophets" (Lc 24,27). But they did not grasp his teaching at first. Only when their eyes were opened and they recognized him did they understand. Then they acknowledged the power of his words, saying to each other: "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?" (Lc 24,32). The quest for reconciliation and full communion means that we too must search the Scriptures, in order to be taught by God (cf. 1Th 4,9).

Your Beatitude, with faith in Jesus Christ, "the firstborn from the dead" (Col 1,18), and in a spirit of fraternal charity and lively hope, I wish to assure you that the Catholic Church is irrevocably committed to the path of unity with all the Churches. Only in this way will the one People of God shine forth in the world as the sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of the unity of the entire human race (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 1).


Friday, 4 May 2001

Dear Catholic Bishops of Greece!

1. This meeting is particularly important and significant to me, and so I have looked forward to it with lively anticipation. It is to you that I am linked by the closest bonds of communion. In the strictest sense of the word, you are my family in Greece, and it is because of this closeness that I would now like to speak to you from the depths of my heart.

First, I wish to express my paternal and fraternal affection, together with my sincere admiration for you who shepherd the flock of the Catholic Church, frequently in very difficult conditions. Often you care for communities which are small and scattered, and you are their Pastors in the truest sense of the word. By your person and your ministry you strengthen the bond of visible unity, you give voice to the preaching of the Word, and you are the primary minsters of sacramental life for the Catholic communities of this country. Precisely because of the efforts required to maintain these contacts, you are particularly loved by your faithful and your visits are a source of great spiritual joy. This itinerant episcopal ministry of yours in some way takes us back to the earliest days of Christianity, a period to which this land of Greece is a living witness.

2. To our brothers and sisters of the Orthodox Church dwelling in this land we are united by a powerful bond of faith in our common Lord. How we wish that all hearts were open and all arms outspread to welcome our fraternal greeting of peace! How we dream that the Pastors of this noble country, whether members of the Orthodox or the Catholic Church, could overcome the difficulties of the past and with courage and a spirit of charity face the challenges of the present, with a sense of common responsibility for the one Church of Christ and its credibility in the eyes of the world!

If historical events in the past, events linked to ways of thinking and acting typical of their times, have been a source of conflict and division, Christians must consider memory above all the sanctuary where the living witness of the Risen Lord is preserved. It is memory which gives rise to Tradition, to which our Churches owe so much. To memory is also entrusted the Sacrament which is the guarantee of efficacious grace: "Do this in memory of me", the Lord exhorts us at the Last Supper.

For Christians, memory is too lofty and noble a sanctuary to be defiled by human sin. Certainly, sin can painfully damage the fabric of memory, but it cannot tear it asunder: that fabric is like the seamless garment of the Lord Jesus, which no one dared to divide.

Dear Brothers, let us spare no effort in making it possible for memory once again to illuminate the great things which God has done for us. Let us lift our gaze from human pettiness and sin, and let us contemplate in heaven the throne of the Lamb, where the eternal liturgy of praise is chanted by men and women of every people and race, clothed in white robes. There they contemplate the face of God, no longer "per speculum et in aenigmate", but as it is in reality. There, on high, memory gives way to fullness, and there are no more tears, nor death, because the former things have passed away.

3. You are "frontier" Bishops: because of the particular conditions in which you are living, you greatly desire the obstacles which stand in the way of full union, and which cause such suffering for you and your faithful, to be quickly overcome. And so, as you assert your just rights, you urge the Catholic Church, at times impatiently, to take steps capable of revealing with ever greater clarity the common foundations which unite the ancient Churches of Christ.

I am grateful for this passionate concern, which is a sign of great generosity. I assure you that I share the same fervent desire that the unity of the Church may be seen, as quickly as possible, in all its fullness. I likewise agree with you that there must be a continuation of the efforts, forcefully stated and encouraged by the Second Vatican Council, by which the Catholic Church herself strives, in her own daily life, to be ever more concerned to lay the foundations for better understanding with her brothers and sisters of the other Churches. These other Churches, in the meantime, must not fail to do their part in the quest for communion.

Nonetheless, you know well that much time is required for situations to mature, for prudent rapprochement to take place, and honest and continued dialogue to develop. This calls for the patience born of charity, so that clergy and faithful can appropriate and gradually accept the changes that are necessary, to understand the reasons behind them, and to promote them personally. Nor must it be forgotten that, after the painful divisions of the past, the Catholic Church has had experiences of her own and clarified certain aspects of the faith in a specific way.

The Holy Spirit asks that we revisit all of this and that new forms – or perhaps ancient forms rediscovered – may be adopted, but in the certainty that nothing of the deposit of faith will be lost or even obscured. This twofold effort of openness and fidelity has been the inspiration of my papal ministry. I am certain that it is also at the basis of your desires and aspirations.

4. During your ad Limina Visit in 1999, I offered certain specific proposals, including some of a pastoral nature, which I do not think need to be repeated here: these proposals still appear valid to me, and they can serve as a point of reference in your service of the faithful entrusted to your care. What I wish to emphasize today is that the Pope is here, with you, in this very land, in order to demonstrate a solidarity which is also physical, a genuine and affectionate esteem, and an unfailing remembrance in his thoughts and prayers.

I would like to be able to meet individually the beloved sons and daughters of the Catholic Church. My pilgrimage in the footsteps of Saint Paul has enabled me to meet living communities. I rejoice to be able to pray with them and to celebrate our communion in the Risen One and with one another. With you I wish to embrace in particular the priests and deacons who preserve, nourish and strengthen in faith and charity the communities entrusted to their care, together with the men and women Religious, whose presence is essential for the Catholic Church in Greece. May we never forget that these lands of ancient witness are sanctuaries of faith, and that we are called to draw from the treasures of the past the spiritual strength to carry out our ministry in the world today.

It is my hope that young people will face with confidence the journey of the new Greece, ever more fully integrated into Europe, ever more cosmopolitan, and therefore necessarily open to dialogue and to the recognition of the rights of all, yet at the same time exposed to the dangers of an unbridled secularization, which tends to drain the lifeblood that gives refreshment to the soul and hope to the human person. I wish the elderly and the sick, who are particularly close to the Lord’s Cross, to feel the fraternal concern of the whole Church.

5. Dearly beloved Brothers, in the variety of your pastoral and liturgical ministry, you make present the diversity in unity typical of the Catholic Church. And the whole Catholic Church expresses to you today, in my person, her solidarity and love. Never feel alone, never lose hope: the Lord certainly holds unexpected consolations in store for those who trust in him. Work together in harmony, with gentleness and charity, courageous in the truth.

Know that the Pope remembers you and your work daily in his prayer, which from this day forward is strengthened by the joy of this meeting.

With affection I impart to you and to your communities my Apostolic Blessing.

Speeches 2001