Speeches 2001 - Thursday 11 October 2001

which occurred in different parts of the United States of America,
we again recommend
to the eternal mercy of the God of our Fathers
the numerous innocent victims.

We ask for consolation and comfort
for their family and relatives,
burdened by pain;
we invoke strength and courage
for the many who continue their work
in the places struck by this terrible disaster;
we implore for tenacity and perseverance
by all men of goodwill
continuing on the paths of justice and peace.

May the Lord remove from the heart of man
every trace of resentment, of hostility and of hate,
and open him to reconciliation,
to solidarity and to peace.

Let us pray so that the "culture of love"
may be established all over the world.

After the Hymn, the Psalmody and the brief reading of the Hora Tertia of the day, a Synod father, H.E. Most Rev. John Olurunfemi ONAIYEKAN, Archbishop of Abuja, President of the Episcopal Conference (Nigeria) and a Fraternal Delegate, H. E. Most Rev. Peter FORSTER, Bishop of Chester (Great Britain), Fraternal Delegate of the Anglican Communion, held a brief Homily.

Then the Holy Father introduced the Intercessions (the Prayer of the faithful) with the following words:

In communion with the Virgin Mary
we offer to God the Father
our unanimous prayer
so that through Christ his Son
the hearts of men on the entire earth
may be infused with
the Spirit of consolation
the Lord who gives life.

The Intercessions were read by:

· in English: H.E. Most Rev. Seán B. BRADY, Archbishop of Armagh (Ireland).

· in French: H.E. Most Rev. Michel-Marie-Bernard CALVET, S.M., Archbishop of Nouméa, (New Caledonia).

· in Spanish: H.E. Most Rev. Roberto Octavio GONZÁLEZ NIEVES, O.F.M., Archbishop of San Juan de Puerto Rico, President of the Episcopal Conference (Puerto Rico).

· in Arabic: H.E. Most Rev. Thomas MERAM, Archbishop of Urmya of the Chaldeans, Bishop of Salmas of the Chaldeans, President of the Episcopal Conference (Iran).

· in Portuguese: H.E. Most Rev. Francisco VITI, Archbishop of Huambo, (Angola).

· in Russian: H.E. Most Rev. Tadeusz KONDRUSIEWICZ, Titular Archbishop of Hippo Diarrhytus and Apostolic Administrator of the Northern European Russia of the Latins (Russian Federation).

· in German: H.E. Most Rev. Alois KOTHGASSER, S.D.B., Bishop of Innsbruck (Austria).

After reciting the Our Father and before the Apostolic Benediction, the Holy Father pronounced the following prayer:

O God, Almighty and Merciful,
he who sows discord cannot understand you,
he who loves violence cannot welcome you:
watch over us in our painful human condition
tried by the brutal acts of terrorism and death;
Comfort your children and open our hearts to hope,
that our time may again know days of serenity and peace.

Through Christ our Lord.



To the Very Reverend Father HUBERT M. MOONS
Prior General of the Order of Friar Servants of Mary

"The Grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus" (1Co 16,23). With these words of the Apostle Paul I greet you and the whole Order of Friar Servants of Mary on the occasion of your General Chapter at Ariccia (8-30 October 2001).

You have chosen "Together with Mary, from hearing God's word to life-giving service" as the theme for your Chapter and it highlights the need to give witness that is both faithful to your original charism and responsive to the needs of contemporary mankind.

Very Reverend Father, I send you my cordial greetings and sincere thanks for your twelve years of service to the Order as Prior General. I greet all the participants of your General Chapter and through them all the members of your religious family, and send each of you a word of encouragement along with the assurance that you are always in my prayers.

You have sought guidance from the Holy Spirit for your Chapter, I am certain, and have prepared this meeting with great care, defining priorities and choosing subjects for discussion. The Chapter provides us with an occasion to stress certain elements of Our Lady's participation in the mystery of Christ and the Church that can inspire the choices and decisions you make. From its very origin the Order of Friar Servants of Mary has seen Our Lady as the Star that guides their journey, the frame of reference for their every apostolate.

1. With Mary seeking God. Seeking God is an essential component of consecrated life. Mary is our most certain guide in this quest. Seek the Lord! You have made this the object of your reflection it is the heart of your vocation it is the first item on your Chapter agenda. Yes! Seek Christ, seek his face (cf. Ps Ps 27,8). Seek him daily from dawn (cf. Ps Ps 63,2), with your whole heart (cf. Dt Dt 4,29 Ps 119,2). Seek him with the tenacity of the Shulamite woman (cf. Sg Sg 3,1-3), the wonder of the Apostle Andrew (cf. Jn Jn 1,35-39) and the eagerness of Mary Magdalene (Jn 20,1-18).

In the Ritual for the Celebration of a Chapter, you invoke the memory of the Seven Holy Founders as "Seekers after God". This is exactly what they were: they sought the Kingdom of God and his righteousness (Mt 6,33), they sought the wisdom of the Gospel tirelessly. Following their example you too seek the Lord in the hour of your joy and in the time of your desolation. You imitate the anxious Mary seeking her twelve-year-old son in Jerusalem (Lc 2,44-49); or the beginning of her son's public ministry, when Mary went looking for him (Mc 3,32) worried by the rumours concerning him (Mc 3,20-21).

To realize the need to seek God is something for which we should be grateful. In reality it is God who seeks us out he it is who has first loved us (1Jn 4,10). Seeking God can be a source of consolation but it is also demanding: we must be prepared for renunciation and radical choices.

What does all this mean for you in your pres-ent situation? It implies renewed emphasis on contemplation, an intensification of personal prayer, a re-evaluation of the silence of the heart.

There is no opposition between contemplation and action, between prayer in one's cell and liturgical celebrations, between the necessary "flight from the world" and the need to stand with those who suffer all of these things are present in the traditions of your Order and in your Constitutions (cf. Const. OSM [1987] 16a, 31a-b. 116). Experience teaches us that fervent and effective apostolic action is the fruit of intense contemplation.

2. With Mary listening to the voice of God. Hearing the Saving Word is closely connected with the quest for God. Mary is an example and a guide on this journey. The Church emphasizes her unique relationship to the Word. Our Lady is the "Virgin who listens". With humility and wisdom she is eager and ready to take the Angel's message to heart. With her fiat she welcomes the Son of God; through her the Subsistent Word becomes incarnate for the salvation of the world.

Lectio Divina which you hold in great esteem is an especially appropriate method for listening to the Word. There is an explicit mention of this practice in the formula for solemn profession: you commit yourselves to a life of "listening to the Word of God" (Rituale della professione religiosa dei Frati Servi di S. Maria [Ritual of the religious profession of the Friars Servants of Mary], Second printed edition, 211, Rome, General Curia OSM, 1993, PP 128-148). Mary listens and accepts the Word into her heart before it enters her virginal womb. In imitation of her fiat (cf. Lk Lc 1,38), you too pronounce your total yes to the God who reveals himself (Rm 16,26). In the words of Holy Scripture God reveals the riches of his love; he unveils his plan of salvation and charges each of us with a specific mission in his kingdom.

Love for his Word will move you to re-think community prayer, to give special attention to your liturgical life to make it a more heartfelt and shared experience. Let your community prayer be such that your personal prayer becomes a preparation for and extension of the liturgy you celebrate in common. In this way the words of the Apostle will become a reality in your Order: "May the Word of Christ dwell among you in abundance" (Col 3,16).

3. With Mary in a life of service. The second priority of the General Chapter is an examination of the various forms of your apostolic service. To serve the Church and mankind is an essential part of the charism of the Friar Servants of Mary. With eyes fixed on Our Lady the humble and eager handmaid of the Lord, each member of the Order is imbued with zeal, energy and a cheerful concern for his brothers. You are sensitive to human needs and appreciate the value of human relationships.

Your style is not primarily concerned with efficiency and technological progress rather you rely on the efficacy of God's grace (1Co 3,6-7). You read the signs of the times and weigh the possibility of suspending certain activities to respond to new missionary needs in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. Stay true to the original inspiration of your religious family, founded to "bear witness to the human and evangelical values seen in Mary" (Const. OSM, 7). In the mendicant spirit of your Order learn to live with that sense of transience and insecurity found in the Gospel; be ready to go wherever there is need (ibid., 3).

Among the many forms of service mentioned in the outline of your Chapter, there is "service to life". In a world where a culture of death predominates you are servants of life faithful to a God who "is not the God of the dead but of the living" (Mt 22,32). You are heralds of the Gospel of hope under the protection of Mary the "Mother of Life".

4. With Mary in promoting vocations. Finally the Chapter should consider vocation recruiting something of great interest and urgency. We must pray ceaselessly for vocations; they are a gift to the Order and to the Church. May the image of Our Lady at Pentecost guide your considerations. In the cenacle Mary is represented as Orans (praying). Together with the apostles she is calling down the Holy Spirit the source of every vocation. Mary is the Mother of the Church: in the cenacle the Virgin begins to exercise her motherhood toward the community of disciples, which her dying Son entrusted to her care on the cross.

Along with prayer (Lc 10,2), the consistent and faithful witness of all those who are called to radical evangelical discipleship produce vocations. Future generations look to you and are attracted to consecrated life not because it is "easy" but because it lives the Gospel without compromise.

The seventh of October 2001, marks the 750th anniversary of that "Act of Poverty" of the first community on Mount Senario. With that act of generosity your friars committed themselves to possessing nothing like the Master who "had no place to rest his head" (Lc 9,58). May the memory of this event move you to give an ever more authentic witness to poverty by living modestly (cf. Const. OSM, 57) and by sharing your possessions.

I entrust the work of your Chapter to the maternal care of Our Lady the Queen of her Servants. I assure you of my prayers and cordially impart to you, to all the members of the Chapter and to the entire Servite Family my Apostolic Blessing, as a pledge of the Lord's infinite mercy.

From the Vatican, 29 September 2001.






1. I heard with joy that the Church in Italy is preparing to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Familiaris consortio with a series of events: they will be a great help to the People of God, for all who are in search of the truth and even for secular society. These are important initiatives; I would like to accompany them with my prayers and deep affection, as I look forward to meeting the Italian families at the Vigil that will be held in St Peter's Square on Saturday 20 October, and at the Mass that I will have the joy of celebrating the following day, for the beatification of the married couple, Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi.

At the beginning of my Pontificate, when I inaugurated the work for the Synod on the Family, 26 September 1980, I said that "the family is the fundamental object of evangelization and catechesis of the Church, but it is also its indispensable and irreplaceable subject: the creative subject" and I added that, because of its creative force, "it is precisely the family that gives life to the society". I then concluded my address to the Synod Fathers recalling that all the duties of the family can be summed up in one which is primary: "simply guarding and preserving man!".

2. Many people ask: why are families so important? Why does the Church so insist on the topic of marriage and the family? The reason is simple, even if not everyone can understand it: the future of the human person, his happiness, his capacity for giving life meaning all depend on the family. The destiny of the human being depends upon that of the family; this is why I never tire of saying that the future of humanity is closely linked to that of the family (cf. Familiaris consortio FC 86). This truth is so obvious that the attitude, unfortunately very widespread, of those who neglect, offend and relativize the value of marriage and the family seems paradoxical.

The vision of the human person, the interpretation of his personal unity in which the physical, intellectual and spiritual dimensions are expressed, the significance of the tenderness of married love and of the generation of life are the focus of an epoch-making debate that is having a profound effect on the condition of families. In the face of this situation, the Church's primary task is to point out the reasons that make the commitment to the family of all Christians urgent and necessary. At the same time, it is the task of families themselves and of all people of good will to do their utmost to ensure that the rights of this fundamental social institution be recognized, for the good of individuals and of the whole of society.

3. The Synod on the Family marked the life of the Church in its implementation of the Second Vatican Council, and Familiaris consortio, which set out its precious work, stands as a crucial landmark in identifying the responsibilities of families and of what must be done to help them fulfil their irreplaceable role. Twenty years after this Apostolic Exhortation, we should thank God for the abundant fruits it has yielded for the Church and for society. We must gather the seeds of good which have grown in the hearts of families which are beginning a new season of lively leadership thanks to the teaching it represents. These 20 years have served to bring about a widespread awareness of the vocation and mission of the family, and, as happens in the normal course of human life, this is the point when the season of maturity begins, the season of fully assuming responsibility.

The Church must accompany this journey properly and provide from her spiritual resources that are rooted in the sacramental grace of marriage all those human, cultural and social contributions that can help the family become the centre and the crossroads of ecclesial and social life. Every naive and improper separation between the spiritual life and social life must be overcome. The good of the family is an integral good and the various dimensions of its life are inseparable. Its life, as the first cell of the Church and of society, always has a social and public value that must be recognized, protected and promoted.

4. The family is at the beginning of salvation history, but it is also at the beginning of the history of humanity; we can say that it is its essence, because the history of humanity is substantially a love story. We can never forget that "man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it" (cf. Redemptor hominis RH 10 repeated in Familiaris consortio, FC 18).

The family revolves around this central nucleus of human life and from it society draws its origin. All too often today, this truth is forgotten, belied and trampled upon. We must therefore maximize the opportunities for study and reflection, the ways to mobilize families, the cultural, social and political initiatives which, with respect for roles and duties, can help those responsible for the common good to act consistently with the truth about man, which primarily involves safeguarding human life, marriage and the family. For some time the Church in Italy has been working in favour of the family in a cultural perspective that combines pastoral action with a marked presence in the fields of culture and of communication.

5. This convention, organized by the Episcopal Commission for the family and life, by the Forum of Family Associations and by the (Italian) National Service for the Cultural Project, on the theme: "The family as a social subject. Roots, challenges and projects", which will be held in Rome from 18-20 October and in which more than 1,000 delegates from dioceses and family associations will take part, is of great importance for the ecclesial community and for the beloved Italian nation. To all the participants I extend my warm best wishes for the success of the meeting and a special blessing, so that this precious occasion for study and comparison may confirm the convictions about the value of marriage and the family and give rise to fresh enthusiasm in the task of serving the family. The theme chosen clearly indicates the direction that must be taken in order to make an impact on the social situation, that in Italy has not yet fully embraced a coherent project in the area of family policies, which are often talked about but seldom put into practice.

Above all it is necessary to stop considering the family as a sector to viewing it as a criterion by which to measure all political action, because all the dimensions of human and social life are interconnected with the good of the family: the protection of human life, health care and the environment; city planning that must offer the housing conditions, services and green areas that families need; the school system that must guarantee a series of services, State schools or schools run by other social groups, in accordance with the parents' right to choose; the revision of work procedures and taxation criteria, which cannot be based merely on the consideration of single subjects, neglecting or worse still, penalizing the family nucleus.

6. The work that awaits the congress participants is vast and challenging. However, today conditions exist for a significant inversion of trends, starting with the firm conviction that the principle of subsidiarity has to operate in relations between the State and families, and there is a strong cultural impulse that can make the values of marriage and the family once again the centre of everyone's esteem and attention. The correct relationship between the State and families is based on the juridical institution of marriage, which is and must remain, as stated in the Constitution of the Italian Republic, an element that guarantees the social recognition of the family. Marriage is also the condition that allows the State to make a correct and necessary discernment between genuine families with their inalienable rights and other forms of cohabitation.

What I wrote in Familiaris consortio remains a fundamental reference point: "The institution of marriage is not an undue interference by society or authority, nor the extrinsic imposition of a form. Rather it is an interior requirement of the covenant of conjugal love which is publicly affirmed as unique and exclusive, in order to live in complete fidelity to the plan of God, the Creator" (n. 11).

Of course, the expert contributions of the relators, the experts and all the convention participants will be useful in finding the most suitable ways to affirm and develop all this in the new season. Indeed, on the one hand families legitimately call for the social conditions that correspond to their needs, on the other, they must contribute to building a new social model, through their direct efforts and with the help of the family associations they represent. I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation for all that has been done in Italy by the Forum of Family Associations, which can be credited with having encouraged a high-profile debate on social problems, giving a voice to the most authentic appeals of families and thus contributing to the good of the whole of Italian society.

7. I joyfully look forward to the meeting on Saturday, 20 October, to call upon the Lord together with many families. It will be an important moment to reflect on the challenges concerning the family and on the responsibility of the various subjects in the context of ecclesial and civil life. The different stages of this journey, which has involved Italian families in reflection and brought them together by the Italian Bishops' Conference, will reach its high point at the beatification of the spouses Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi on Sunday morning. As I look forward to celebrating the wonders of the Lord rendered visible in the journey of holiness of this husband and wife, I address my grateful thoughts to all the families that are committed to building the civilization of love, and I accompany this day of reflection and examination of conscience with prayer, invoking the protection and closeness of Mary, Queen of the Family, upon you all.

From the Vatican, 15 October 2001.




Saturday 20 October 2001

1. Dear families of this beloved nation who have gathered in Rome to strengthen your faith and your vocation, I greet you one by one, clasping you in a great embrace. I greet the guest families from Eastern Europe whom I have met. I extend my greeting to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, President of the Italian Bishops' Conference and to the other Cardinals and Bishops present, as well as to the political and civil authorities.

I welcome you with affection to this square, the heart of the universal Church. This evening it has been transformed, thanks to the festive presence of so many Christian families, into a great domestic Church. I thank you for your warm greeting and for the joy you give me by your heartfelt welcome.

This meeting is a new stage of the journey that saw us gathered here in St Peter's Square last year, with many of you and with many other families from across the world, to celebrate the Great Jubilee. We are here to confirm your journey and to keep our gaze fixed on Jesus Christ, the One who is our "Light, and who calls you to shed the light of your witness on humanity's way along the paths of the new millennium!" (John Paul II, Address to the Third World Meeting of Families, 14 October 2000, n. 9; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 18 October 2000, p. 3).

2. For this meeting you have chosen the theme: "Believing in the Family is Building the Future". This demanding theme invites us to reflect on the truth about the family and, at the same time, on its role for the future of humanity. Certain questions can guide us in this reflection: "Why believe in the family?", and further, "what family should we believe in?", and lastly, "who should believe in the family?". To answer the first question, we must start from an original and fundamental truth: "God firmly believes in the family. From the very first, from the "beginning", by creating the human being in his image and likeness, male and female, his intention was to centre his plan on the reality of the love between man and woman (cf. Gn Gn 1,27). The whole story of salvation is an impassioned dialogue between the faithful God, whom the prophets often describe as the betrothed or the bridegroom, and the chosen community, the bride, often tempted by infidelity but always awaited, sought out and reclaimed by her Lord (cf. Is Is 62,4-5 Os 1-3). So great and strong is the Father's confidence in the family that with the family in mind, he also sent his Son, the Bridegroom, who came to redeem his Bride, the Church and in her, every human person and every family (cf. Letter to families, LF 18).

Yes, dear families, "the Bridegroom is with you!". From His presence, welcomed and responded to, flows that special extraordinary sacramental power that makes your intimate union of life an effective sign of love between Christ and the Church and makes you as it were responsible subjects and leaders of ecclesial and social life.

3. The fact that God established the family as the foundation of human coexistence and the paradigm of ecclesial life, calls forth from you a determined and convinced response. In Familiaris consortio, written 20 years ago this month, I said: "Family, become what you are" (cf. n. 17). Today I add, "Believe in what you are"; believe in your vocation to be a luminous sign of God's love.

This meeting enables us to thank God for the gifts he has lavished upon his Church and upon families, which in recent years have cherished the teachings of the Council and those of Familiaris consortio. We must also be grateful to the Church in Italy and to her pastors for having made a crucial contribution to the reflection on marriage and the family, with important documents such as Evangelization and the Sacrament of Marriage which, since 1975, has been a real turning point in family ministry, and especially, the Directory of the Family Apostolate, published in July 1993.

4. The second question leads us to reflect on a very timely aspect, because today such different opinions on the concept of family are being professed that one can be misled into believing that there is no longer any criterion to qualify or define it. As well as a religious dimension, the family also has a social dimension. The family's value and role are equally obvious from the social point of view. Today, unfortunately, we are witnessing the spread of distorted and particularly dangerous visions of the family, put forth by relativistic ideologies and universally peddled by the media. In fact, for the good of the State and of society, it is fundamentally important to safeguard the family founded on marriage, accepted as an act that seals the reciprocal commitment, expressed and supervised publicly, the full assumption of responsibility towards the other and to the children with its entitlement to rights and duties, as the primary social nucleus on which the nation founds its life.

If we lose the convinction that the family founded on marriage cannot in any way be equated with other forms of emotional relationship, we undermine the very structure of society and its juridical foundation. The harmonious development and progress of a people depend to a large extent on its ability to invest in the family, by guaranteeing at the legislative, social and cultural level the full and effective realization of its functions and duties.

Dear families, in a democratic system, it becomes fundamentally necessary to formulate the reasons that motivate the defence of the family based on marriage. It is the principal source of hope for the future of humanity, as is expressed well in the second part of the theme chosen for this meeting. Thus we hope that individuals, communities and social entities increasingly believe in the family founded on marriage, a place of love and authentic solidarity.

5. In fact, if we are to look to the future with confidence, it is indispensable that everyone believe in the family, by embracing the responsibilities that correspond to his own role. Thus we responded to the third question with which we started: "who should believe in the family?". First of all I would like to stress that the first to guarantee the good of the family are the spouses themselves, either by living responsibly their daily commitments, joys and efforts or by adding their voice, together with associations or groups and cultural initiatives, to social and legislative petitions capable of sustaining family life. Everyone knows and appreciates the work done in these years by the Forum of Family Associations. I express my appreciation of all they have done and also of the intiative called Family for family, which intends to build up relations of solidarity between Italian families and families in the countries of Eastern Europe.

Politicians and government leaders have a special responsibility. They have to put into effect the norm of the Constitution and seriously consider the solid requests of the people, the majority of whom have families whose union is founded on the bond of matrimony. It is therefore right to anticipate legislation that focuses on the dignity of the human person and on the proper application of the principle of subsidariety between the State and families, legislation that can lead to the solution of questions that are important and in many ways crucial for the country's future.

6. It is particularly important and urgent to arrange for a scholastic and educational system that has at heart the family and its freedom to choose. This does not mean, as some people erroneously think, taking from the State schools to give to private schools, but rather it means to overcome an obvious injustice that penalizes all families by preventing their effective freedom of initiative and choice. Thus there are additional burdens for those who desire to exercise their fundamental right to control the educational approach for their children by choosing schools that are carrying out a public service, even if they are not State schools.

A major improvement in the quality of social policy programmes would also be desirable because they should increasingly consider the centrality of the family, to sympathize with its needs for choices in the area of residential planning, the organization of work, the determining of salaries and criteria for taxation. Special attention should be paid to the legitimate concern of the many families that report an increasing deterioriation in the media which, as a vehicle for violence, vulgarity and pornography, are proving less and less attentive to the presence of minors and their rights. Institutions and social forces cannot leave families unaided in their efforts to guarantee their children a healthy, positive environment that is rich in human and religious values.

7. Dear families, as you face these great challenges, do not despair and do not feel alone: The Lord believes in you; the Church walks with you; people of good will are looking with confidence to you!

You are called to be the moving spirits of the future of humanity, to shape the vision of the new millennium. In this task may the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother, guide and assist you; she is present in our midst in one of her more venerated images. As I invoke her heavenly protection, I entrust your every hope to Our Lady of Loreto, Queen of the Family, who, with her husband Joseph, in the home of Nazareth, experienced the joys and fatigues of family life. Dear husbands and wives, may the Lord strengthen you in the faithfulness you promised with your marriage vows on your wedding day. The Pope and the Church pray for you. I warmly bless you, together with your children!

Speeches 2001 - Thursday 11 October 2001