Speeches 2001 - Saturday, 19 May 2001





Friday, 18 May 2001

Mr Ambassador,

1. I am pleased to welcome you on this solemn occasion and to receive the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Mexico to the Holy See. I am most grateful for your kind words and for the deferential greeting you have brought from Mr Vicente Fox Quesada, President of the United Mexican States. I reciprocate with my best wishes for his prosperity and for the integral progress of all the citizens of this beloved nation.

2. Mexico has always been distinguished for its pure and rich spiritual, cultural and human values, as I have had the opportunity to experience during my four Apostolic Visits. Today, as you have clearly pointed out, it is experiencing a process of political growth, through a profound change in many aspects of social life, aspiring to overcome the structural causes of poverty and marginalization through an integral model of development that is based on social justice. Therefore it should encourage a culture that will strengthen the democratic and participatory institutions, founded on the recognition of human rights and the cultural and transcendent values of the Mexican people. In this respect I would like to recall that "a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism" (Centesimus annus, CA 46). This is the only way that Mexico will be better able to come to grips with the challenges of the new sociopolitical scene, both in its domestic development and in its relations with the international community.

3. I would like to encourage your country's political and social leaders to deal responsibly with the overall economic situation. On several occasions I have alluded to these situations which, on a global scale, present many problems and prevent so many countries from emerging from underdevelopment and achieving desirable levels of well-being. In the perspective of integral development, until now the globalized economy has above all benefited a few specific individuals and groups. On the other hand, new forms of poverty, marginalization and even the exclusion of large social groups have developed, especially among the farm workers and indigenous peoples. It is therefore essential to ensure that political and cultural institutions are truly at the service of the human being, without distinctions of race or class. The Church thus feels "called not only to promote greater integration between nations, thus helping to create an authentic globalized culture of solidarity, but also to cooperate with every legitimate means in reducing the negative effects of globalization" (Ecclesia in America, ).

It is important that Mexican society become aware of this and, with a truly supportive attitude, be prepared to make the necessary sacrifices that must under no circumstances aggravate the conditions of poverty of the humblest classes. Consequently it is indispensable to improve, progressively, the living conditions of the neediest, in the attempt to guarantee the just means for everyone, also at the fiscal level.

4. Church-State relations in Mexico are marked by a gradual increase in mutual respect and cordiality: respect, so as not to interfere in what is proper to each institution, but which leads to mutual support and collaboration in order to achieve greater well-being for the national community. Thus it is possible, through constructive dialogue, to promote fundamental values for the organization and development of society. Therefore, now is the time for the whole historical truth of Mexico, from its origins, to shine far more brightly, overcoming prejudices and discredits, dualisms and revisionism.

To this effect, the Church, whose mission is spiritual and not political, encourages cordial relations with the State, thereby contributing to the harmony and progress of all, without distinction. It is therefore to be hoped that the Church in Mexico may enjoy greater freedom in the various areas where she carries out her pastoral and social mission.

In this regard, the political community and the public institutions of the State should be connected in a way that respects the principal of subsidiarity and guarantees the religious freedom of individuals and groups. This requires that forms of intolerance be avoided and that the contribution of religion to the common good be properly appreciated, in the same way that the institutions of the State and of the political parties neither directly nor indirectly take the place of the Church. For this reason the Second Vatican Council determines this area in the following words: "At all times and in all places the Church should have true freedom to preach the faith, to proclaim her teaching about society, to carry out her task among men without hindrance, and to pass moral judgements even in matters relating to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it. The means, the only means, it may use are those which are in accord with the Gospel and the welfare of all men according to the diversity of times and circumstances" (Gaudium et spes, GS 76).

5. One concern felt by the Church in Mexico and by Mexicans is that legal and juridical development establish an increasingly just order for the indigenous peoples. There have sometimes been contrasting attitudes which, considering the convergence of cultures as a misfortune, have opted for one to the detriment of the other. Some, aiming to protect the indigenous culture, have insisted on ideologies based on a blurred interpretation of history. Others, on the contrary, have extolled the imported values as though they were the only ones to be valid and genuine.

Looking at this panorama it is impossible not to undertake a purification of memory and to assess the mestiza identity, starting with the two cultures that combine and have great future potential, if they can be reconciled. In this way, it will be possible to forge a sound identity that will adopt the two roots of its present characteristics with joy and hope.

Appreciation of the dignity of the indigenous must therefore continue to mature without any kind of interruption. In Mexico's plural and multi-ethnic situation this is the root that influences the piety and the national identity. If Mexicans succeed in becoming better acquainted with one another, their awareness of being brothers and sisters in the great Mexican family will be strengthened. On this subject, I know that the Bishops, with their attitude of diligent collaboration, are inviting Mexicans not to erect barriers of division and hostility which separate them, but to "build together a just, reconciliatory, supportive and fraternal peace". Indeed, during my last visit to Mexico I said, "May no one be excluded from this dialogue and may it bring all your inhabitants even closer together, believers loyal to their faith in Christ and those who are far from him. Only fraternal dialogue with everyone will give new life to the plans for future reform desired by citizens of good will, who belong to every religious creed and to the various political and cultural sectors" (Farewell address, International Airport, n. 2, 26 January 1999).

6. At the time when you are beginning the important office to which you have been appointed, I would like to offer you my best wishes for the success of your mission to this Apostolic See. As I ask you kindly to convey these sentiments to your President and his Government, to the authorities and to the beloved Mexican people, I assure you of my prayers to the Almighty that with his gifts he will always help you and your distinguished family, your collaborators and the leaders and citizens of your noble country, whom I always remember with special affection.




Saturday, 19 May 2001

To the Superior General
and Members of the Society of African Missions

Extending to all of you a warm welcome on the occasion of your General Assembly, I offer a special greeting to your newly-elected Superior General, Father Kieran O’Reilly, whom I thank for his kind words on your behalf. I greet as well his immediate predecessor, Father Daniel Cardot, who has led your Society for the past six years.

As you approach the end of your first General Assembly of the new millennium, I encourage you to draw abundantly upon the rich spiritual legacy of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 as you renew your commitment to mission and evangelization. A new century, a new millennium has begun in the light of Christ, but, as I wrote in my Apostolic Letter at the close of the Great Jubilee, "not everyone can see this light. Ours is the wonderful and demanding task of becoming its ‘reflection’" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 54). In a world where there are many lights that distract from and are even contrary to the pure light of Christ, you must strive always to be more like Jesus — nourishing yourselves on his word and being firmly rooted in prayer and contemplation — so that you may faithfully reflect his light and effectively make him known to others.

I am pleased to see young missionary priests from Africa and Asia among your numbers today; this is a positive indication of the growing international character of your society. Continue to promote and nurture missionary vocations, for "preaching the Gospel requires preachers; the harvest needs labourers" (Redemptoris Missio RMi 79). Your efforts to involve the laity in your missionary work is another essential element in the plantatio Ecclesiae in mission lands, for it is through a mature and responsible laity that the Christian message and the example of Christian holiness pass more immediately into the life of society. In imitation of our Lord and Master, renew your commitment to working with the poor, especially refugees who so urgently need a sign of God’s love. Accept the challenge of interreligious dialogue, a path to which the Church must dedicate greater attention in this new millennium. Defend human life at every stage of its existence, from conception to natural death, and do not fail to make people more aware of their responsibility to transform their communities and cultures in accordance with the saving truths of the Gospel.

Dear Friends, it is my desire on the occasion of our brief meeting to encourage you in your missionary undertaking and to exhort you to be true to the spirit which you have received from your Founder, the Servant of God Marion de Brésillac. Filled with hope and enthusiasm, therefore, go forward confidently to meet the challenges of the new millennium, looking always to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who ever remains "the radiant dawn and sure guide for our steps" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 58). To you here present and to all the members and friends of the Society of African Missions I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.



Monday 21 May 2001

"Grace be with you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rm 1,7). With these words of the Apostle Paul, I greet each of you and offer a most cordial welcome.

I warmly thank Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, Dean of the Sacred College, for being the interpreter of your common sentiments. His were kind and deferential expressions not only in the name of those present, but also of those who, though unable to be with us physically, are united by their prayer to our common task of these days, a task which makes visible the communion existing between the Successor of Peter and the Cardinals, his first and closest collaborators. The make up of our assembly which brings together Cardinals coming from every part of the earth and belonging to a wide variety of cultures, represents the unity, universality and missionary nature of the Church, as she moves to- wards new apostolic goals.

2. The meeting, which begins this morning, is important and is spiritually connected with the Jubilee, whose echo is still alive among us. While I recall with gratitude the different moments and numerous celebrations which we lived together during the Holy Year, I pray that the Spirit of the Lord, who allowed us to live such extraordinary events, may continue to guide and help us select the challenges emerging at the beginning of the new era. In the Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte, whose signing I made part of the solemn closing of the Jubilee, I emphasized the need to bring to your attention a number of practical suggestions for the Church's mission of evangelization at the dawn of the new millennium. It is a question of laying out the Church's chief missionary priorities and studying the most suitable methods and means of achieving them. We must pay great attention to the superlative formation and intelligent assignment of our priests and lay collaborators because the field of apostolic action before us is vast and complex.

However, we know that, while our commitment is indispensable, everything depends on God's action. If that is so, the primary effort of every believer and ecclesial community can only be that of striving for holiness, the passionate seeking of God and the loving contemplation of His face.

3. Venerable brothers, in these days we have a chance to listen to each other's experiences and reflections. We can confront each other fraternally about pastoral problems and challenges. We can try to decipher the direction that will help us become the credible sign of God's love for every human person. Above all, we can pray and be docile to the Holy Spirit and his inspirations, realizing that the entire People of God are united with us in prayer as they were at the beginning of the Church. We realize that our heavenly Father keeps sending us to be at their service.

May Mary, Mother of the Church and Star of Evangelization, accompany us as she accompanied the Apostles in the Cenacle. In her maternal hands I want to place the work of the Extraordinary Consistory and the pastoral and spiritual fruits we hope to derive from it for the good of the Church and of the world.




Thursday, 24 May 2001

The moment for our farewell has come. We give thanks to the Lord for the days of grace and profound ecclesial communion which we have lived together. The Extraordinary Consistory allowed us to reinforce the bonds of fraternity, reciprocal esteem and fruitful understanding, which unite us in the service of the Church. The fraternal agape which we now conclude is the expression of the fraternal and serene climate which we experienced in the course of our work.
I want to thank each of you for your presence and for the significant contribution which you generously made to these days of common reflection.

Now you return to your daily life. I ask you to bring my cordial greeting to all those whom the Lord has entrusted to your care while we remain united in the invocation of the Holy Spirit, whose gifts we await in the coming feast of Pentecost for the fruitful exercise of our daily apostolic work.

I direct a particular word of thanks to Cardinal Gantin, the Dean of the Sacred College, for the kind words he addressed to me in the name of all. In them I perceived the affection with which the College of Cardinals accompanies the Successor of Peter and the ardent desire of each of its members to be of help to him in his ministry of service to the universal Church.

Warm thanks to all those who in many different ways collaborated in the preparation and running of the Consistory. Thanks to the Daughters of Charity and to the personnel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.We have benefited from the charism of Martha in the house that bears her name.

As was appropriate today, the weloming dining room helped us to remain in the climate of the Cenacle. In this spirit we now leave it, giving our mutual prayers to the Lord. In October some of us will be together again for the Synod of Bishops and we can again experience this very valid form of the exercise of episcopal collegiality.

May Mary, whom we venerate today with the title "Help of Christians", accompany and protect you always. I am close to you with my prayer and I bless you cordially.




Friday 25 May 2001

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Again this year, the visit of your Delegation for the Feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius gives me the opportunity to assure you of my prayers for the peace and security of your people. The mission of the two holy Brothers, the Apostles of the Slavs, has left indelible traces in the religious and cultural life of your nation. And your annual pilgrimage expresses your growing sense of how necessary their legacy is to the life of your own country and to Europe as a whole.

By the power of God’s grace, the two Brothers of Salonika made a decisive and enduringly valid contribution to the building of Europe. Not only did they bring different peoples together in the bond of Christian communion, but they also brought cultural and civic unity to the lands where they worked. In recent times the peoples of the Balkans have known much suffering and fear, and I therefore feel obliged to recall the immediate and practical relevance of the teaching that Saints Cyril and Methodius have left behind. "Being Christians in our day means being builders of communion in the Church and in society. This calls for openness to others, mutual understanding, and readiness to cooperate through the generous exchange of cultural and spiritual resources" (Slavorum Apostoli, 27). Given the tensions and conflicts in your region, and the threat which they represent to individuals and to society, the path traced by Saints Cyril and Methodius remains as valid as ever.

In the Gospel values proclaimed by the holy Brothers, those now in positions of authority and responsible for the destiny of your region can find powerful inspiration in the search for a just and overall peace. May the God of all mercies bless you and your people with his love and protection.



Friday 25 May 2001

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am pleased to greet your delegation which has come to make its annual pilgrimage to the tomb of St Cyril, in the ancient basilica of St Clement, to show the Bulgarian people's attachment to the memory of the two brothers, the holy apostles of the Slav world, and at the same time to pay a visit to the Bishop of Rome. Through you, I cordially greet the beloved Bulgarian people, the country's civil authorities, the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church of Bulgaria.

2. As I had the opportunity to repeat during my recent Jubilee pilgrimage in the footsteps of St Paul, the lives of the holy brothers, Cyril and Methodius is a particularly eloquent example of evangelization to which the whole Church is called. Having set out to meet the Slav peoples, the two brothers of Salonika first devoted themselves to translating the Bible and learning the language, but also the customs and usage of the peoples who welcomed them. In creating a new alphabet adapted to the Slav language they made an essential contribution to the culture and literature of all the Slav nations. They "not only carried out their mission with full respect for the culture already existing among the Slav peoples, but together with religion they eminently and unceasingly promoted and extended that culture" (Slavorum Apostoli, n. 26). In a Europe in search of its identity and unity, they offer an exemplary and stimulating way for it to be nurtured and made fruitful by the Gospel, which is deeply rooted in the popular culture. This is a specific contribution to the continent's development which your act forcefully underlines.

3. At the end of our interview, I warmly thank you for your pleasant visit and express my fervent good wishes for all the people of Bulgaria. May it continue on its way towards the fulfilment of its legitimate aspirations to peace and concord. I entrust these wishes to God, and through the intercession of Sts Cyril and Methodius, I invoke an abundance of divine Blessings upon you and upon all those you represent.



Saturday, 26 May 2001

Dear Sisters,

1. I am very pleased to have this meeting with you who are celebrating your 15th General Chapter, during which you would like to discern God's will for your institute at this time in history, at the beginning of a new millennium.

I affectionately greet Sr María Pilar Martínez García, re-elected as Superior General, her Councillors and her other close collaborators, as well as those who are taking part in this Chapter.

Please also convey this greeting to the sisters you represent, who are carrying out their mission in various countries of Africa, America, Asia and Eur ope. With their pastoral and educational activity they enrich the particular Churches in which they live and above all are the bearers of their charism, which is always a gift granted to the Church by the Spirit.

2. The fifth anniversary of the beatification of Cándida María de Jesús, your foundress, occurred a few days ago. I had the joy of raising her to the honour of the altars with one of the first Sisters, Bl. María Antonia Bandrés Elósegui. Mother Cándida knew how to progress on the path of holiness with fidelity and constancy but at the same time, almost 130 years ago, she began a project of religious life in Salamanca so that others, in giving themselves totally to God and rendering a better service to the Church, would follow in her footsteps.

So it was with Bl. María Antonia, the holiness of whose life is as it were confirmation of that original project, since "every sound tree bears good fruit" (Mt 7,17). It is up to you to yield good fruit today, with an ever deeper devotion to your vocation and the constant aspiration to be a sign of Christ's presence and a channel for God's call with your life witness.

The coincidence of this heartfelt commemoration with your Chapter's work is an eloquent invitation to reproduce courageously the foundress' enterprising initiative, creativity and holiness, in response to the signs of the times emerging in today's world (cf. Vita consecrata, VC 37). The total and unconditional gift of self to God continues to be an unchanging reference point for all planning, since it should not be forgotten that "God ... asks us really to cooperate with his grace and therefore invites us to invest all our resources of intelligence and energy in serving the cause of the kingdom". But woe to us if we forget that "without Christ we can do nothing" (Novo Millennio ineunte, NM 38).

3. These considerations acquire special significance in the pastoral work of education, one of the most distinguishing facets of your charism and tradition, and an essential element of the Church's mission (cf. Vita consecrata, VC 96). Indeed, those who have deeply perceived the sublime beauty of God and feel rooted in Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life will not be content to impart a mere set of notions to be memorized by the young people, but will stir up in them the desire to grow in all of life's dimensions and, above all, will foster their enthusiasm for "an ulterior truth, which would explain the meaning of life. And it is therefore a search, which can reach its end only in reaching the absolute" (Fides et ratio, FR 33). As they face this sublime task, teachers cannot remain extraneous to what they teach. Jesus himself speaks "as the Father taught me" (Jn 8,28) and the Apostle proclaims "that which we have seen and heard" (1Jn 1,3 Ac 4,20).

To pass on knowledge and culture competently, to awaken social responsibility, to imbue the moral conscience with the loftiest ethical values and to illuminate the sublime transcendent vocation of every human being are certainly urgent tasks, especially in a world that is frequently tempted by triviality or immediate material gain. In addition to this, it is also important for women religious to be a prophetic sign. For this reason, you should give priority in your mission to displaying a special following of Christ, clearly showing that you continue to cultivate in history "the seeds of the kingdom of God, which Jesus himself sowed during his earthly life whenever he responded to those who came to him with their spiritual and material needs" (Novo Millennio ineunte, NM 49).

In this way, you also proclaim your hope in a future for humanity according to God, without leaving room for discouragement or gloomy predictions. On the contrary, the woman religious teacher accounts for her faith "in the wonders of grace accomplished by the Lord in those whom he loves" (Vita consecrata, VC 20) and with her tenacious trust in the possibilities of every human person she can surprise the world and cause new hopes to keep springing up in it. This is a way of revealing daily "to all believers the heavenly goods, which are already present in this age" (Lumen gentium, LG 44).

4. At the end of this meeting, in this as in other areas of your apostolic activity, I invite you to be attentive to the needs emerging in our time and to give them a response that originates in the heart of Christ and in the Church's primitive mission. Indeed, "the more one lives in Christ, the better one can serve him in others, going even to the furthest missionary outposts and facing the greatest dangers" (Vita consecrata, VC 76).

I express to the Superior General and her collaborators my very best wishes for the responsible office entrusted to them. The importance you give to the prudent discernment, in accordance with your Ignatian heritage, of God's will and your firm determination to follow it lays solid foundations in order to face fearlessly the decisions, at times difficult, that are part of your service of governance.

To conclude, I would like to place the fruits of this 15th General Congregation and the future of the Institute in the hands of the Virgin Mary. In her you will find the joy and hope that must permeate your personal and community life, your work and your mission. With these wishes, I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and I am happy to extend it to all the Daughters of Jesus.



Tuesday, 29 May 2001

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I am pleased to receive you, Pastors of the Church of God in Guatemala, who have come to Rome for your ad limina visit, during which you meet the Successor of Peter, maintain the appropriate contact with various dicasteries of the Roman Curia and pray at the tombs of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, pillars of the Church, so that with such strength you may continue in your mission as heads and guides of the pilgrim People of God in the "country of eternal springtime".

I am grateful to Archbishop Martínez Contreras of Los Altos-Quetzaltenago-Totonicapán, President of the Bishops' Conference, for his cordial words expressing your communion with the Bishop of Rome and the sentiments that motivate you in your pastoral action for the beloved Guatemalan people. I witnessed their rich values on the occasion of my two apostolic visits to your country which took place in very different circumstances. During my first visit the nation was living in a state of merciless internal fighting, whereas during the second one, horizons of peace, which I wanted to encourage, could already be glimpsed. I always felt pleasure in meeting a lively, enthusiastic Church close to everyone and seriously involved in announcing Jesus Christ and his Good News.

2. As Bishops, your fundamental mission is to build your communities on the rock that is Christ (cf. 1Co 10,4), by preaching God's Word, by celebrating the sacraments and by furthering charity. Encouraged by the Lord's promises and by the strength his Spirit instils in you, you are called to be the first to bring to completion the mission entrusted to his Church, even if to this end you must face and accept the Cross, which in contemporary society can manifest itself in many forms.

Both individually and as a group, through the Bishops' Conference and other ecclesial institutions, you are involved in analyzing the successes and expectations of Guatemalan society; you seek to interpret them in the light of the Gospel, to guide society and help it advance in the area of moral values, especially by fostering national reconciliation for which there is so great a need after the bloodstained years of the civil war.

Hearing what "the Spirit says to the churches" (Ap 2,7), you also feel it your duty to make a serene, open and understanding discernment of the various circumstances and events, initiatives and projects, without neglecting society's serious problems and highest aspirations. I therefore encourage you to continue tirelessly and without losing heart in the office of teaching and proclaiming the Gospel of Christ to men and women (cf. Christus Dominus, CD 11), working out and implementing a suitable pastoral plan (cf. Ecclesia in America ). You are heavily burdened by responsibilities but the Lord's Spirit will enlighten you and will always give you the strength you need.

3. In the first place, you can count on your priests' help in carrying out your mission. Contemporary society, which is so varied, requires the priest to be a signs of communion and to exercise his ministry with humility and pastoral charity, leading the faithful to encounter Jesus Christ (cf. Ecclesia in America, ). Knowing how you exercise your ministry, I thank God for your spirit of brotherhood and sacrifice, for your witness of austerity and poverty, and for your generous dedication to the service of your brethren. I know that in some areas your pastoral work has to contend with particular difficulties, and this requires a very great availability. As I said in my Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday this year, yours is "work that is often hidden and, without making headlines, causes the kingdom of God to advance in people's minds and hearts", which is why I tell you once again of "my admiration for this ministry, discreet, tenacious and creative, even if it is sometimes watered by those tears of the soul which only God sees" (n. 3).

If the service of priests is to be ever more effective in facing the challenges to evangelization of the contemporary world, they need to have a solid spirituality, to imitate Christ the Good Shepherd and to undergo a continuing formation that will prepare them better each day to pass on the Gospel message. In this regard, I am pleased that as part of the Guatemalan Bishops' Conference Overall Plan, you have set up the Commission for the Clergy and Pastoral Care of Priests, which has published the National Plan for the Pastoral Care of Priests 2001-2006. In the context of these programmes, be alert to the specific situations of each one and offer them all the help they need, encouraging them to continue with joy and hope on the journey of priestly holiness. May none of your priests lack the necessary means to live his sublime vocation and his ministry!

4. In your quinquennial reports, you emphasized the esteem and gratitude of your particular Churches for the gift of the consecrated life. In fact, there is a consistent presence of men and women religious in Guatemala which contributes to evangelization, either through direct pastoral work in the parishes, or through various forms of educational or charitable apostolates.

Speeches 2001 - Saturday, 19 May 2001