Speeches 2001 - Monday, 6 August 2001

For us at Castel Gandolfo, today's Solemnity of the Transfiguration has had an intimate and familiar tone ever since my unforgettable Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, died here in this Apostolic Palace 23 years ago. While the liturgy was inviting contemplation of the transfigured Christ, he ended his earthly pilgrimage and entered into eternity, where the holy face of God shines in its full splendour. This day is therefore linked to his memory, which is enveloped in the special mystery of light that radiates from this Solemnity.

The venerable Pontiff also liked to stress another aspect of the mystery of the Transfiguration, the "ecclesial" one. He never missed an opportunity to point out that the Church, the Body of Christ, participates through grace in the very mystery of her Head.

"I wish", the Holy Father said, "you were able to glimpse in the Church the light she bears within herself, to see the Church transfigured, to see, that is, what the Council set out so clearly in its documents", "The Church", he added, "contains ... a deep, immense and divine mystery.... The Church is the sacrament, the tangible sign of a hidden reality, that is the presence of God among us" (L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 9 March 1972, p. 4).

These words reveal his extraordinary love for the Church. She was the great passion of his whole life! May God grant each one of us to serve faithfully, as he did, the Church, which today is called to a new and courageous evangelization.

This is what we will ask the Lord during this Holy Eucharist, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church and Star of the New Evangelization.




To the Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza
Bishop of Galveston-Houston
President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

On the occasion of the Symposium to mark the Twentieth Anniversary of the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, being held on August 15-18, 2001 in Arlington, Virginia, I send warm greetings to all taking part, assuring them of my prayerful support. I thank the organizers of the Symposium, especially Cardinal William Keeler, Chairman of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Anthony O'Connell, Chairman of the Committee for Marriage and Family Life.

The Church has always been committed to proclaiming God's plan for marriage and the family, and to supporting and strengthening the family institution. In fidelity to that mission, the 1980 Synod of Bishops was devoted to this theme. It was held at a time when families were experiencing increasing difficulties, and sometimes confusion, on account of rapid social change and new pressures and threats. On that occasion, Bishops from all over the world gathered to reaffirm the truth about marriage and the family, and to reflect on ways of assisting families to live in accordance with their specific vocation. The Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, published a year later, reflected the work of the Synod. Intended to be a celebration and reaffirmation of the role of the Christian family in the Church and in the world, the Exhortation placed a strong emphasis on its mission to safeguard, reveal and communicate love (cf. n. 17). Since its publication, considerable effort has been devoted to developing the theology of marriage and many pastoral initiatives have been undertaken in support of marriage and the family.

Twenty years later, however, the solidity of the institution of the family is still endangered by many insidious forces. The high level of divorce, and widespread acceptance of contraception and abortion, as well as other threats to life, are causes of concern for Bishops and for all who have the good of the family at heart. Clear and convincing teaching regarding the divine plan for marriage and the family, and insistence on the need to protect and strengthen the institution of the family for the well-being of society, are urgent priorities.

God calls every human person into existence through love and for love. Inscribed in the nature of every man and woman is a vocation to love and communion, a vocation which may be realized in marriage or celibacy, each in its own way. The union of a man and a woman in marriage calls for unselfish and generous self-giving on the part of the spouses and for openness to the gift of life. Built on these solid foundations, the family comes into being as an "intimate community of life and love" (Gaudium et spes GS 48) and a communion of persons bonded by relations of mutual respect and love.

The fundamental task of the family is to serve life. Couples called to marriage not only have to be open to the gift of new life, but they also have the responsibility of ensuring the human, moral and spiritual education of their children. Spouses need to be vigilant in resisting the many contemporary threats to life and in helping society as a whole to respect, defend and promote the dignity of every human person, "at every moment and in every condition of that person's life" (Evangelium vitae EV 81). I encourage initiatives aimed at helping married couples and young people preparing for marriage to undertake these responsibilities, such as catechesis on the true meaning of love and sexuality, training in chastity and personal maturity, and education in responsible procreation in accordance with the Church's teaching.

The Christian family is in a real sense a "domestic church" (Lumen gentium LG 11), with parents as the primary educators of their children and the first heralds of the Gospel for them. To parents belongs the mission of handing down the faith by word and example, and of imbuing the family with a spirit of love and reverence for God and others. Since the future of evangelization depends in great part on families, parents have a particular responsibility to bear witness to Jesus Christ and participate actively in the life of the Church. By sharing in the Eucharist, receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly, setting aside time for family prayer and performing practical acts of charity, families will be strengthened in fidelity and unity.

With these thoughts, I encourage those taking part in the Symposium to work together with ever greater zeal in ensuring that families, on whom the future of humanity depends, will always receive the strength and support they need. Commending all involved in the pastoral care of the family to the protection of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Church, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

From Castel Gandolfo, 6 August 2001.







Dear Young Friends,

During these days I am going in spirit on pilgrimage with you to Czestochowa, to Jasna Góra. I kneel devoutly at the foot of the Black Madonna beside each one of you. I entrust each one of you to her motherly heart.

I do so just as I did 10 years ago when, during the unforgettable Sixth World Youth Day, Jasna Góra experienced a new siege. It was besieged by thousands of young people from all over the world - from the West and, for the first time, from the East. They came to confess unanimously from the depths of their hearts: Maria, Regina Mundi! Maria, Mater Ecclesiae! Tibi adsumus!

Mary, Queen of the World! Mary, Mother of the Church! We are close to you, we remember you, we are keeping watch with you! This threefold profession, which contains so to speak the mystery of Christianity and determines the whole reality of the life of faith, accompanied us in a special way during those days. Today we must return to it.

"I Am": this is God's name. Since the time of Abraham, God has not ceased to reveal this name, which is the foundation of the Old and New Covenants. This name does not only mean God's eternal existence, but also his presence, full of love - a presence with man, in the midst of his everyday events. "I am" was manifest once and for all in the Cross of Christ. "The divine "I AM' of the Covenant - of the Paschal Mystery - of the Eucharist". This is why, 10 years ago, the young people gathered at the foot of Jasna Góra, erected the cross in the midst of the assembly. They wanted to remember this "I Am", which contains in itself the "I am" of every human being. This is so because "the human person is created in the image and likeness of God, and can say to his Creator "I am'. This human "I am' includes the truth of being and conscience. "I am' before You, who "Are'". Permit me to recall the words, which I addressed to the young people at that meeting and which today seem even more timely: "The world around you, modern civilization, has influenced many to remove that divine "I Am' from man's consciousness. It tries to live as if God did not exist.

This is its plan. But if God does not exist, you, human person, can you really exist? You have come here, dear friends, to renew and confirm in its very depths your human identity: "I am', in front of the "I AM' of God. Look at the cross upon which the divine "I am' means "Love'. Look at the cross and do not forget! May the "I am near you' be the cornerstone of your whole life".

"I remember". "Man exists before God, he remains near God through the act of remembering. In this way he preserves the words of God and the great works of God, meditating on them in his heart like Mary of Nazareth". To be alive, this memory must continually return to the sources, to the words and events through which God revealed and brought about his plan of salvation. The truth about the love of God for man, written in the pages of the Bible, should not be forgotten! Young people knew this 10 years ago, and for this reason they have returned to Jasna Góra with the book of Sacred Scripture. Take up this sacred Book too, young people of the third millennium, never cease to be in close contact with the Gospel, with the word of the living God. Know Christ always better, in order to know yourselves better and to understand what your vocation and your dignity are.

"I keep watch". "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation" (Mc 14,34). How often Christ repeated this exhortation! I am watchful - "it means: I am obliged to be a person of conscience. I do not stifle this conscience and I do not distort it; I call good and evil by name, I do not confuse them; I have increased the good in me and tried to correct the bad, overcoming it in myself". I keep watch - this also means: I see the other person, make my eyes and my heart sensitive to his material and spiritual needs, and seek to know him with love.

When 10 years ago the young people from various countries, backgrounds and cultures meditated on what the word "watchful" meant to the believer, and sought a common model for reference, their insight rightly brought them towards the mother. "I keep watch" in fact expresses the mother's attitude.

"Her life and her vocation are expressed in being watchful. She keeps watch over men and women from the first moments of their existence". This is why, beside the Cross and the Bible, the young people set up another eloquent symbol: the icon of the Mother of God. They wanted the icon of Mary to represent, during World Youth Day, this special maternal watchfulness that accompanied the coming into the world of the Son of God and his agony on Golgotha, as well as the birth of the Church on the day of Pentecost. They wanted the image of the watchful Mother to be deeply engraved in their minds and hearts, and to form their lives. Today too, standing before the Icon of Jasna Góra, look at Mary's eyes, read in their depths the perfect purity of heart, a peace of conscience that is undisturbed, thanks to an ever faithful love. May this look remain in your souls. May it always teach you what "I keep watch" means.

With the memory of the celebration of youth at Czestochowa, which we lived in joy and in deep prayer 10 years ago, I extend my cordial greetings to you - dear friends - and invite you to the future meetings of the great international community of Christ's young witnesses. I believe that these meetings will shape the personal life of each and every one of you, and will also help to ensure that the world of the new millennium is more human, serene and peaceful.

Once again I entrust you, your parents, your pastors and all Polish young people to the protection of Our Lady of Jasna Góra. I bless you with all my heart.

From Castel Gandolfo, 13 August 2001





Saturday, 18 August 2001

1. Dear young participants in the second International Meeting "Young People to Assisi", welcome! I am delighted to receive you and joyfully offer you the Gospel greeting so dear to you: "May the Lord give you peace"! You arranged to meet from so many parts of the world to reflect together, in the simplicity of Franciscan places, on the witness of two champions of the Spirit: St Francis and St Clare of Assisi.

Thank you for your pleasant visit. I greet, in particular, the Minister General of the Friars Minor Conventual, Fr Joachim Anthony Giermek, and I thank him for his words on your behalf. I greet the Friars and the Sisters who are your guides on the path of Gospel life.

The theme chosen for your international meeting is "Joy". It is a topic of great interest and timeliness, because we all need authentic, lasting joy.

2. Young Francis was called by his friends the king of parties, because he was available and generous, brilliant and likeable. Humanly he could have had many reasons to be happy yet he was missing something. He abandoned it all when he found what he needed most. He met Christ and discovered true happiness. He realized that one can only be happy by giving one's life for an ideal, building something enduring in the light of the demanding counsels of the Gospel.

Dear young people, many false teachers point out dangerous ways that lead to fleeting joys and satisfactions. Today expressions of our culture are mired in superficiality. Dear young people, in imitating Francis and Clare, refuse to sell your dreams too cheaply! Dream, but in freedom! Plan, but in truth!

The Lord is also asking you: "Will you also go away?". Answer with the Apostle Peter: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6,68). God alone is the infinite horizon of your life. The more you know him, the more you will find out that only he is love and an inexhaustible source of joy.

But to enter and remain in contact with God it is indispensable to establish a deep relationship with him in prayer. When it is genuine, prayer spreads divine energy in every context and at every moment of life. It makes us live in a new way. Is it not prayer that made Francis a new man and Clare a source of light?

3. You are God's and God is yours! The awareness of belonging to God will make you, like Francis and Clare, creatures who are soothed by his presence. "The love of God gives happiness", wrote St Clare in one of her letters, "his sweetness pervades the whole soul, which is the worthiest of all creatures, it is made by the grace of God greater than Heaven. Indeed, whilst the skies with all the other created things cannot contain the Creator, the faithful soul instead, and it alone, is his dwelling place and home" (FF 2901; 2892).

The soul is greater than heaven! Having understood this profound spiritual reality, Francis and Clare did not hesitate to hasten towards the peaks of holiness. Holiness is not a sort of extraordinary ascetic journey which can only be undertaken by a few "geniuses" but, as I recalled in my recent Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte, it is the "high standard" of ordinary Christian living (cf. n. 31). Holiness is doing something beautiful for God every day, but also recognizing what he has done and continues to do in us and for us. Be holy, dear young friends, because the lack of holiness is what makes the world sad! The saints that inspire you continue to exercise an extraordinary fascination because they dedicated their whole life without interruption to Christ. And, involuntarily, they have given rise to a "revolutionary" evangelical style, which still today continues to fascinate so many young people, and not exclusively the young. You too have been captivated by the fascination of their witness and your presence at this meeting emphasizes your desire to imitate them faithfully.

4. Francis and Clare not only became brother and sister to every human being but to all animate and inanimate creatures. In contemplating nature, when Francis discovers that everything speaks to him of God, his eyes are filled with joy and he exclaims in the Canticle of Brother Sun: everything "... from you Most High, bears significance" (FF 263).

Dear young people, may you too learn to look at your neighbour and at creation with God's eyes. Mainly respect its summit, which is the human person. At the school of such excellent teachers, learn the careful and attentive use of goods. Do your utmost to see that they are better distributed and shared, with full respect for the rights of every person. In reading the great book of creation, may your spirit open to grateful praise to the Creator.

5. Like Clare and Francis, learn to have constant recourse to divine help. They repeat to each one of you: "Put your trust anew in the Lord and he will take care of you" (FF 367). Yes, dear boys and girls, trust in God! Also imitate Francis and Clare in their filial entrustment to Our Ladd and seek warmth and protection in her. Be close to Mary, our sweetest Mother, whom the Church has invoked down the centuries as "Cause of our joy". She will also be a cause of joy for you, because Mary is a caring Mother for everyone!

With this wish, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and cordially bless you all.




To Father General Maximiano Lucas
Superior General of the Congregation of the Sons of Merciful Love

1. I learned with joy that this year your religious family is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and I very gladly join in your thanksgiving to the Lord on this happy occasion.

Fifty years ago, inspired by the Lord, the Servant of God Mother Speranza Alhama Valera began your Institute. As you recall that day with thanksgiving, dear Sons of Merciful Love, may you sing a common hymn of praise to Almighty God. As you remember your venerable foundress' teaching, you should thank Him "who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (Ep 1,3). At the same time, united in one heart, you intend to renew your allegiance to the Magisterium of the Successor of Peter.

2. This significant anniversary offers you the opportunity to meditate on your distinctive charism as well as give thanks to God. This is what you plan to do at the symposium that is taking place these days at Collevalenza, on the theme: "The Sons of Divine Love and Priestly Brotherhood ". This theme, which clearly illustrates your mission and service to priests, encourages you to be daring, tireless apostles of divine mercy everywhere.

In the words of the Apostle Paul, I express my hope "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge" (Ep 3,17-19). Indeed, it is his love that you must spread; it is his grace that you are called to communicate with every means at your disposal.

"God who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ" (Ep 2,4-6). Think often of these words that the Apostle Paul spoke to the Ephesians. A priest's life embodies the "mystery of mercy". This is what I wanted to recall in the Letter I sent this year to the priests of the whole world for Holy Thursday.

Even if the present-day mentality, more than that of the past, seems to want to remove from life and from the human heart the very idea of mercy, we need to continue to proclaim the absolutely free initiative by which God has chosen us and loves us. "Mercy", I observed in the cited Letter to Priests, "is his deigning to call us to act as his representatives, though he knows that we are sinners ... [it] is the forgiveness which he never refuses us" (n. 6).

3. I recall with gratitude the pilgrimage I had the joy of making to the Shrine of Merciful Love at Collevalenza 20 years ago. It was my first apostolic journey after the event in St Peter's Square on 13 May. I am now returning on a spiritual pilgrimage to Collevalenza, where your community is meeting for the Jubilee celebrations. Together with you I kneel and contemplate the great, moving Crucifix, before which so many pilgrims stop to pray.

From the pierced Heart of the Redeemer streams the infinite source of merciful love. God is "rich in mercy": may your whole life be a hymn of praise to this sublime mystery of salvation. Make everyone you meet in your daily apostolate feel that the Heavenly Father is always "particularly close to man, especially when man is suffering, when he is under threat at the very heart of his existence and dignity" (Dives in misericordia, DM 2).

Yes! Welcome and spread the Lord's love, a love that understands and renews all things; a love that embraces every man and the whole of man; a love that changes sorrow into joy, darkness into light, death into life. In a world marked by loneliness and anguish, you are asked to shine with the truth and warmth of the divine Lord, our source of peace and hope.

4. Dear Sons of Merciful Love! Fifty years are not a great deal for a religious institute, but they are an important milestone. In these days you are appropriately thinking back to your origins, to look to the future with a more generous zeal. The Church is counting on you! At the dawn of a new millennium, she is asking you to put out into the deep with trust, keeping your eyes fixed on Christ.

May Mary, the Mother of the Word made Man, walk beside you and support you. With the total confidence that was shown by your Foundress, turn to Mary, who with her total availability was the "handmaid of the Lord" (Lc 1 Lc 38) and made her life a hymn of praise and blessing to God's immense tenderness.

For my part, dear Father, I assure you of my prayers while I bless you, the members of the Institute and all the members of your spiritual family.

From Castel Gandolfo, 11 August 2001





To Reverend Father Ottaviano D'Egidio
Superior General of the Congregation of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

This year, the 21st edition of the "Tendopolis", promoted by the Passionist Fathers will take place in the shadow of the Shrine of St Gabriel of the Our Lady of Sorrows.

I greet all of you who are taking part in it and those who have carefully prepared it. In a special way, I greet Cardinal Agostino Cacciavillan, who will preside at the solemn Eucharistic celebration on Saturday, 25 August. Participating in spirit, I would like to address each one of those present with the trust I place in their youthful enthusiasm.

Dear young people! Christ is asking you to be protagonists of a deep religious renewal in contemporary society, that is focused on prayer, personal conversion and the constant search for ecclesial communion. Many of you, as catechists and the leaders of groups, movements and associations, are involved in various capacities in parishes and in different dioceses, especially in Central and Southern Italy. May your missionary activity make you ever more attentive to the "signs" and "challenges" of our time.

The theme of your meeting is: "Inhabit the earth and live with faith; globalization or the global person? " and it gives you an opportunity to reflect on one of the most timely topics. Modern economic and technological development is tending to make humanity a "global village" with a dense network of interchanges and communications. We are in the presence of a sea change that should nonetheless be guided, if it is not to be detrimental to human dignity and the common good. Christians are thus called to make their contribution by imbuing the complex process with the Gospel values. Solidarity and love must be "globalized" in accord with Jesus' new commandment. It is up to you, dear young people, to strive with every possible means to build a civilization and a culture inspired by the Gospel of charity. The future of the world will be largely in your hands.

In this regard, I remember what I asked the young people of the whole world at the unforgettable Prayer Vigil at Tor Vergata for World Youth Day during the Jubilee of the Year 2000. I said: "at the dawn of the third millennium I see in you the "sentinels of the morning at the dawn of the third millennium'".

I repeat this invitation to you, dear "Tendopolis" participants. To carry out this important task, faithfully follow the formation path of spiritual formality that requires you to be "pilgrims, sentinels and witnesses". Pilgrims in quest of God, sentinels who keep watch, preparing for the glorious return of the risen Lord, undaunted and courageous witnesses of his message of salvation.

On this spiritual journey, may you be sustained by the example of St Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows who protects you from the great Tent of his Shrine. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of hope and Star of the new evangelization, guide you always.

With these sentiments, I cordially impart the Apostolic Blessing to you, Reverend Father General, to Cardinal Agostino Cacciavillan, to the organizers of the meeting and to all the young people taking part in the "Tendopolis".

From Castel Gandolfo, 6 August 2001.





To Mother Maria Goretti Manzo,
Superior General of the Franciscan Sisters of St Anthony

1. Together with the Chapter Sisters, you expressed with filial devotion your desire to meet the Successor of Peter during your fraternity's General Chapter which coincides with the centenary of your Institute. Grateful for the affection you have shown me by your presence, I greet you, Reverend Mother, and the General Council that assists you; I greet the capitulars gathered here and through you convey my fatherly appreciation to all the Franciscan Sisters of St Anthony who are committed to working for the Lord in the different parts of the world.

Dear Sisters, I encourage you to continue generously to "serve your neediest brethren, living in poverty, simplicity, humility, charity, sacrifice, prayer and joy, in accordance with the ideal of St Francis of Asisi", as your Rule says.

In commemorating the first centenary of your religious family's birth, how can you not give thanks to God who through his Spirit has called you in your lowliness to follow the poor, chaste and obedient Christ? This special event is a favourable opportunity to renew your witness of love and fidelity to the Lord and to his Church, reaffirming your sincere and full adherence to the charism.

2. You were founded to serve the poor and the needy. In those who come knocking at your door for help, support and comfort in their troubles, it is Christ himself who is present and asking you to let him in. This is how your foundress, Mother Miradio Bonifacio, who died 65 years ago, liked to present your apostolate. How often would she turn to Jesus, trustfully calling on his holy Name! We can say that the Name of Jesus became the inexhaustible source of her charity and good deeds.

She also showed you where to find Christ and draw light and support to respond to the needs of your brothers and sisters. It is the mystery of the Eucharist that draws from the fount of love. May you therefore continue to draw from Eucharistic adoration your apostolic and missionary zeal and commitment. Work for the glory of God, serving those who are the poorest and most forsaken.

May the Eucharist be your daily source of nourishment and support. St Francis, whose charism inspires you, recalls that "we possess and see nothing corporally of the Most High himself in this world, except his Body and Blood, the names and words by which we are created and redeemed from death to life" (FF 207/a).

As well as love for the Blessed Sacrament of the altar, your venerable foundress wanted to leave you a special legacy: unconditional trust in divine Providence. From God she expected full support to carry out the charitable projects that the Spirit inspired in her heart. In Jesus, the Redeemer of mankind, she found that style of practical attention to the person and to all his needs which was the hallmark of her apostolic activity. Indeed she strove to work for the glory of the Lord in the service of her brethren, by living in total love for Christ and his Church, and by devoting herself without reserve to the service of her brethren.

3. Dear Franciscans of St Anthony, follow the road on which your foundress set out faithfully and without stopping. The Church is also counting on your contribution in order to proclaim Christ to our contemporaries. "The Church", I wrote in the Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata, "and society itself needs people capable of devoting themselves totally to God and to others for the love of God. The Church can in no way renounce the consecrated life, for it eloquently expresses her inmost nature as "Bride'" (n. 105).

Incarnate the Gospel Beatitudes with joy, simplicity and charity, with trusting abandonment to God's providential and merciful love, in accordance with the ideal of St Francis of Assisi. The Christian people expect this of you, so that you may help them grow in unconditional adherence to their divine Teacher and Pastor.

Always be united by fraternal communion, supported by the hope that does not disappoint (cf. Rom Rm 5,5). Sensitive to the mandate of the Lord who sends out his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all the nations, you too should cultivate deep missionary zeal. Be everywhere witnesses of the merciful love of God.

Look to the Immaculate Virgin Mary, to whom I entrust anew your religious family and its goals. May Mary, to whom your foundress turned with humble, filial devotion, support your apostolate with her powerful intercession. May Sts Francis and Anthony protect you likewise, as well as the shining ranks of God's friends who have branched out from the Franciscan tree.

May my wishes for peace and good accompany you, along with a special Apostolic Blessing.

From Castel Gandolfo, 20 August, 2001.




Thursday, 23 August 2001

Venerable Brother in the Episcopate,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am pleased to welcome you jury members of the "Premio Internazionale Perdonanza" (International Prize for "Pardon"). You chose me as the first to be awarded this prize, which is linked to the name of my holy Predecessor, Celestine V. In expressing my gratitude to you, I greet each one, with a special thought for Archbishop Giuseppe Molinari, Pastor of the Archdiocese, for Mr Biagio Tempesta, Mayor of the city of Aquila, and Dr Antonio Cicchetti, President of the Jury, whom I thank for his cordial words on behalf of you all.

Speeches 2001 - Monday, 6 August 2001