Dear Friends in Christ,
1. In the peace of the Lord Jesus I greet you as you come to Rome for the inaugural meeting of the new Anglican – Roman Catholic Working Group, a meeting which began in London where you met Archbishop Carey of Canterbury. Your presence here is a sign of how far Anglicans and Catholics have travelled towards one another since the days of the Second Vatican Council. "The ecumenical journey is certainly still difficult, and will perhaps be long" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 12), but this should not blind us to the fact that we have already made much progress. We cannot but praise the God of all mercies for the many genuine advances of ecumenism.
2. On this significant occasion our minds turn spontaneously to the meeting between Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Ramsey in 1966, from which there came the first Anglican and Roman Catholic International Commission. In their Joint Statement, the Pope and the Archbishop spoke of the need for "a serious dialogue which, founded on the Gospels and on the ancient common traditions, may lead to that unity in truth for which Christ prayed". Now we can look back and say that that dialogue has continued fruitfully in the years since then.
It was given new impetus by my own visit to Canterbury in 1982, when Archbishop Runcie and I agreed to establish the second Anglican and Roman Catholic International Commission. Our Joint Declaration recognized that theological dialogue "must be accompanied by the zealous work and fervent prayer of Roman Catholics and Anglicans throughout the world as they seek to grow in mutual understanding, fraternal love and common witness to the Gospel" (No. 4). This was itself a sign of growth; for theological dialogue was seen to be essential but not enough. Our common journey required as well that Anglicans and Catholics learn to pray and work together.
Another milestone came in 1996, when Archbishop Carey and I issued a Common Declaration which called on our people "to repent of the past, to pray for the grace of unity and to open themselves to God’s transforming power". It had become increasingly clear that full and visible unity would come not as the result of human will and planning, however important these are, but as a divine gift at a time which we cannot know but for which we must prepare. The Declaration also foreshadowed last year’s International Meeting of Anglican and Catholic Bishops in Mississauga, Canada, where it was decided to establish the new Working Group to which you have been appointed.
3. As an international group of Bishops, you are especially well qualified to consider the next practical steps which might be taken not only to consolidate the gains already made, but also to lead us to new depths of communion on the way to that fullness of unity which is the will of Christ. Only the experience of deeper communion will enable us to bear more effective witness to Christ in the world and to accomplish the mission which he has entrusted to us (cf. Mt Mt 28,19-20). It is clear that disunity has impaired our mission in the world. In these troubled times the world needs more than ever the common witness of Christians in every area, from the defence of human life and dignity to the promotion of justice and peace.
4. I am certain that the new Working Group will feel sustained by "the hope that comes from being led by the Risen One and the inexhaustible power of his Spirit, always capable of new surprises" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 12). We have seen many of these surprises in recent decades; and when discouragement threatens or new difficulties arise, we need to focus once more upon the Spirit’s power to do what seems to us impossible. At times of apparent pause we must wait for the Holy Spirit to do what we ourselves cannot do. Yet this waiting is not passive. It is the very active experience of Christian hope, which cries out "Come, Holy Spirit!" but also implies the hard work of dialogue and shared witness which you are undertaking. Today I wish to encourage you in that hope and to offer my prayers in the certainty that Christ "who calls you [to this work] is faithful, and he will do it" (1Th 5,24).
The Season of Advent will soon begin, and our prayer will then be: "Come, Lord Jesus!" In our ecumenical journey it is already Advent. Today therefore, as we look confidently to the success of the new Working Group, let our common prayer be: Come, Lord Jesus! Make us one as only you can, so that the world may see at last "the Bride of the Lamb...coming down out of heaven from God, shining with the glory of God" (Ap 21,9-10). Amen.
Dearest brethren in Christ!
1. For me it is a great joy to meet you all, distinguished leaders of the United Biblical Societies (UBS), representatives of the Editors and members of Italian churches and ecclesiastical communities, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of "Parola del Signore" (Word of the Lord) the interconfessional common language Italian New Testament. Particularly I thank Dr. Markku Kotila, President of the European-Middle East UBS Committee and Mons. Albert Ablondi, President of the Catholic Biblical Federation (CBF) for the kind words you have addressed to me on behalf of those who are present.
As you have mentioned, in 25 years this important biblical and ecumenical initiative has reached praiseworthy goals that have gone beyond the expectations of those that conceived and began it. The publication of the interconfessional translation in the language of the common people has to be acknowledged as the ecumenical initiative with the best results in Italy. For a great number of our people, it will be a valid contribution to making known and familiar the Word of God.
2. It is well known that the work of a translator is a difficult art. It implies the commitment to put in contact and to create a communication among histories, cultures and languages sometimes very far from one another in space and in time. A good translation is based on three pillars that must simultaneously support the entire work. First there must be a deep knowledge of the original language and cultural world. Next, there must be a similar good familiarity with the language and the cultural context in and for which the text is translated. Lastly, to succeed in the whole work, there must be an adequate mastery of the contents and meanings of what is being translated.
In the interconfessional translation that you have edited, you have tried to be faithful to the tenor of the original text and at the same time you have tried to make the text understandable for the contemporary readers, using words and forms of everyday speech.
The exceptional circulation of this book shows the favour and great appreciation it received in many ecclesiastical and cultural environments. By the way I am pleased to recollect that this translation was used during the 15th World Youth Day, that took place in Rome, August 2000, as well as in many other ecumenical initiatives that took place during the Jubilee Year.
3. This work that you edited is one of the best and most significative fruits of the cooperation among churches and ecclesiastical communities in Italy. It is interesting to notice how the desire for a better comprehension of the sacred text promotes the overcoming of divisions that occurred during history, that indeed took their origin from different interpretations of certain biblical passages. All of us hope that such a possibility to meet and dialogue will increase, since we are convinced that "the Holy Scriptures are able to give us the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2Tm 3,15).
I ask upon you and your precious work the abundant blessing of the Lord, and I hope that this interconfessional translation of the Bible will continue to have the greatest circulation. May the Word of God be always known better by the men and women of our time, be accepted with a sincere heart and be translated into the choices of real life.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. I am very pleased to meet you again, the day after the solemn canonization of Joseph Marello, Paula Montal Fornés of St Joseph of Calasanz, Leonie Frances de Sales Aviat and Maria Crescenzia Höss. Today's meeting gives us the opportunity to prolong the thanksgiving we addressed to the Lord yesterday. At the same time, we can reflect a little longer in contemplation of the shining witness of these exemplary disciples of Christ.
I cordially greet the Cardinals, as well as the civil authorities who have wished to be present at this festive event. I offer a special "thank you" to the bishops and priests who have led the groups of pilgrims.
2. The first to rejoice in the canonization of Joseph Marello are his spiritual sons, the Oblates of St Joseph, whom I warmly greet and congratulate. Eight years have passed, dear friends, since I proclaimed your beloved founder Blessed in the Campo del Palio of Asti. Another miraculous sign - the cure of two children in Peru - has made it possible on this earth to crown his journey of holiness. This meaningful event has occurred just after the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated precisely to the ministry of the bishop in the Church and in the world today.
I greet warmly the pilgrims from Asti and from Acqui, cities that had him as priest and bishop respectively, and I greet all the communities, all over the world, where the Oblates and their mission have providentially arrived. Together with you all, sons and followers of St Joseph Marello, I would like to praise the glorious St Joseph, Patron of the universal Church. Young Marello's deep love for the Virgin Mary prompted him to choose St Joseph as his model of life and guide in following Christ. And this sums up the message that he left to all Christians - religious, families, priests - love the Mother of the Redeemer and imitate her Guardian.
3. I now warmly greet the bishops, priests and faithful who have come for the canonization of Mother Paula Montal Fornés and, in particular, the Daughters of Mary, Sisters of the Pious Schools, as well as the Piarist Fathers and their students and the large group of alumni of the Calasanz family.
The new saint is a person you know well and admire; and so you wanted to be in Rome for yesterday's solemn ceremony. Now, with her canonization, St Paula Montal is held up to the whole Church as model and intercessor. Her spiritual profile shows us a person who trusted in God and consecrated herself to him, collaborating with his plan of salvation, especially through her mission of teaching. She was a mystic rooted in action, dedicated to carrying out properly a task at the service of the Church and of the world. In the concrete circumstances of her time that were far from easy, she intuited the role of women in the family and in society and dedicated herself to an ideal: the human and Christian education of women.
Her message is very much up to date. In this regard, I am pleased to recall what she writes in one of her letters: "We are bound to seek the tranquillity and progress of society that are only possible with a transparent life, which is the life God asks us to live". Through her intercession, may today's world travel on these paths that require Christian teachers who can transmit the values of the Gospel competently and with the witness of their lives to the children and young people of today who are called to be the leaders of tomorrow.
4. Dear pilgrims, your presence shows your attention to the ever current charism of St Frances de Sales Aviat, foundress of the Congregation of Sisters Oblates of St Francis de Sales, whose Superior General, Sr Frances Isabelle Stiegler I greet; I also greet Bishop Stenger of Troyes and Bishop Louis of Châlons, the dioceses where Leonie was born and lived, as well as the members of the civil institutions of the region.
Teachers and educators who with the Oblate Sisters guarantee a mission and thus render an indispensable service to young people in many of the world's regions, I encourage you to continue this educational task, to pass on to young people, through an integral formation and the witness of your life, the human and Christian values they need for their growth. Dear Sisters, I give thanks for your beautiful vocation that combines contemplation and action. Your desire to live daily life with love already has a missionary orientation. Do not let yourselves be discouraged by difficulties, of which Mother Aviat said: "They are always the means that God gives us to reach him!".
Following her example, may you be able to witness to the joy of giving yourselves to Christ, glad "to be of service to Our Lord, joyful to win souls for him, and joyful ... to teach them renouncement and self-control"! I impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you all.
5. With great joy I welcome the German faithful who have come on the occasion of this canonization. I greet especially Cardinal Friedrich Weter and Bishop Viktor Josef Dammertz, who have led the pilgrimage to to the Eternal City.
St Maria Höss is a great gift. You must be proud of this woman. She is an attractive person for the city of Kaufbeuren, and for the Diocese of Augsburg, for the Ecclesiastical Province of München und Freising and for the whole Church of Germany.
Although we are distant from her in time, nevertheless the new saint speaks to us at the beginning of the third millennium.
Every day, people of various creeds praying at her tomb entrust their concerns to her. Already in her lifetime Maria Crescenzia Höss reminded people of the one whom we all need: the Holy Spirit!
The Holy Spirit can work great things in our lives and throughout the Church if we allow him to do so. With this hope, I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to all who have brought their resolutions to Rome.
6. Dear friends, once again, through these four new saints, the Church is pointing out to us and calling us to the high standard of ordinary Christian living: holiness. Holiness that consists not in doing exceptional tasks, but in living ordinary things in an extraordinary way, that is, as lovingly as possible. Returning to your usual occupations, treasure this teaching, learned at the school of Mary and of these saints. Thus you will experience a reflection of eternal bliss, which God promises to his faithful in the heavenly kingdom.
With these wishes, which I accompany with prayer, I cordially renew my Blessing to you.
Friday, 30 November 2001
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. During these days of your ad limina visit you have had the opportunity to venerate the tombs of the holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, renewing before them fidelity to the faith you have received, and reviving your evangelizing spirit, which made these great witnesses of Christ, together with the other Apostles, a firm foundation for the Church of all time (cf. Eph Ep 2,20). It is therefore as though you were returning to the origins of the apostolic ministry in the different particular Churches of Costa Rica, planting and watering the seed of the Gospel, so that God will give it abundant growth (cf. 1Co 3,6-7).
In this spirit I received you with great joy today, to share your pastoral concerns, to encourage you in your efforts to implant the Gospel in the hearts of the beloved sons and daughters of Costa Rica more and more firmly every day, thus carrying out the task Jesus gave Peter to strengthen his brothers in the faith (cf. Lk Lc 22,32).
I cordially thank Archbishop Román Arrieta Villalobos, Archbishop of San José and President of the Bishops' Conference, for his words on behalf of you all, expressing closeness and a spirit of communion with the Bishop of Rome, to whom you are bound by bonds of unity, love and peace (cf. Lumen gentium LG 22). In them I also feel the heartbeat of a peace-loving people "with a fruitful history" (Address at the Airport of San José, 2 March 1983, n. 1) of which I cherish such grateful memories from my Pastoral Visit in 1983.
2. I am pleased to know that in facing the challenges of the new millennium, your country is open to hope, thanks to the generous dedication of the pastors and their collaborators in the work of evangelization. The commemoration of the centenary of your wonderful predecessor, Bishop Bernardo Agusto Thiel, the second Bishop of San José, who was soon able to spread the first seeds of the Church's social teaching has encouraged you. The long democratic tradition of dialogue and tolerance in Costa Rice is largely his work. It is a precious heritage that must spur you to renewed trust in the peacemaking power of the Gospel at a time when this value seems so threatened and almost impossible to attain. This conviction will also contribute to focusing with Christian far-sightedness on the modern processes of social coexistence, which in Costa Rica takes the form of an influx of emigrants coming from the countries on your borders.
Your sensitivity in preserving and increasing the spirit of communion, in each of your ecclesial communities, among yourselves and with the Sister Churches of Central America, is also satisfying.
These relations have great value, because they more effectively foster specific aspects of pastoral action and make the Church "the home and school of communion", which is "the great challenge facing us in the millennium which is now beginning" (Novo Millennio ineunte NM 43).
3. The relations of bishops with their priests is the best place for living the spirituality of communion, since a spirit of harmony should exist between the Pastor and his close collaborators if they are to revive pastoral work together with the whole diocese (cf. Christus Dominus CD 16). The reports you sent highlight the special attention you pay to your clergy, who are comparatively plentiful, with whose spiritual and pastoral care you are concerned. You want every priest to live "his personal encounter with the living Christ, to be a qualified agent of conversion, communion and solidarity, and thus to give an impetus to the new evangelization", as you said in the recent Message you sent to them (Message of the Bishops of Costa Rica to their Priests, 12 April 2001, IV).
Make sure concrete choices are made that lead to an attentive discernment in the admission of candidates to the priesthood and to an intensified spiritual formation of seminarians, by following them and guiding them "towards an affective maturity that makes them suitable to embrace priestly celibacy and capable of living in communion with their brothers in the priestly vocation" (Ecclesia in America ). Do not ignore the programmes of continuing formation for all priests. If the goal of all pastoral action is holiness, the ministers of the Gospel must be the first to witness to this "task which must shape the whole of Christian life" (Novo Millennio ineunte NM 30). The bishop must be on personal, friendly terms with his priests, to encourage them in their vocation, to direct them in their activities, and to kindle apostolic zeal in them. When necessary, he will be able to correct them in a fatherly and kindly way.
4. In Costa Rica, people are living a moment that is spiritually decisive. On the one hand, everywhere one finds a lifestyle based on merely material criteria, which is an incentive to trivial consumerism with negative consequences for the dignity of the person and for the common good of society. On the other hand, one can appreciate the rebirth of a profound religious spirit that has put down deep roots in the Costa Rican people, and their search for a deep meaning of life. In this context, even more pressing is the urgent need "to rediscover and to set forth once more the authentic reality of the Christian faith, which is not simply a set of propositions to be accepted with intellectual assent. Rather faith is a lived knowledge of Christ, a living remembrance of his commandments, and a truth to be lived out" (Veritatis splendor VS 88) in a world that is increasingly secularized. In fact, the Church's mission is to bring the light of the Gospel to all spheres of human life, so that each one may realize the universal vocation to holiness.
It is very important to continue an evangelizing action that reaches out to all the classes of society, and develops in the faithful the joy of believing and celebrating their own faith, their responsibility as members of the Body of Christ (cf. 1Co 12,27) and their share in the mission of proclaiming the Good News to all creatures (cf. Mk Mc 16,15). To this end you must give a decisive stimulus to catechesis so that it may offer a more and more consistent formation in the faith. Today's Christians will be prepared to give a response to those who ask them to account for the hope that is in them (1P 3,15). At the same time, make yourselves a faithful echo of the teaching of Jesus who roused such wonder in the crowd (cf. Mt Mt 22,22-23), and offer a sense of the transcendent value of life, curtailing the progress of the sects and the new religious groups that are proselytizing your people (cf. Ecclesia in America ).
5. I am aware of your efforts to involve lay people in this task, as I instructed you during my visit to Costa Rica (cf. Address to the Bishops of Central America, 2 March 1983, n. 3), and I note the increase in catechists in your dioceses. They are often the most direct channel through which the gift of faith grows in children and guides them at the turning point of life. They deserve special attention from pastors, so that they have the proper theological and spiritual formation, to witness to what they teach, and be fully aware of the transcendental aspect of their mission in the Church.
Lay catechists, through their special ties with the parish and with other ecclesial communities, through their theological formation and their familiarity with the Church's teaching, must also be committed Christians in daily life. They will collaborate with the pastors in the directly pastoral tasks and maintain their specific vocation, where they act in the temporal order "guided by the light of the Gospel and the mind of the Church, prompted by Christian love ... in a direct way and in their own specific manner" (Apostolicam actuositatem AA 7 cf. Novo Millennio ineunte NM 46).
The great hopes placed in the laity in Costa Rica constitute an appeal to pastors for attention, so that they will feel the urgent need to give sound formation in the spiritual life and Christian criteria that the lay faithful have to bring to life in the sectors of family, society, politics, work and culture (cf. Ecclesia in America ). You are also called to watch over and encourage the specific movements and associations, that act as a vehicle to help their members, to integrate the new generations and to foster the Christian lifestyle of the members.
6. You also expressed your worry about the situation of families in your country; they suffer from the "radical and widespread crisis" that this "fundamental institution" is experiencing (Novo Millennio ineunte NM 47). At times, in some of your dioceses, this phenomenon may have had a special impact, both because it has happened so quickly and because of the deep esteem in which the family has traditionally been held. The problems have caused discouragement in the face of an unhoped for and seemingly relentless phenomenon. I would therefore like to remind you of Jesus' comforting words when his closest disciples were hesitating: "Take heart, it is I; have no fear!" (Mt 14,27). With these words in our minds and hearts, we can overcome the temptation to waver in our mission to watch over the treasure of love and life that God has given us with the institution of the family, founded on indissoluble marriage.
In fact, the Church has to be active when the gift and the fundamental right to life from its conception are disputed; or when the love of the spouses is impoverished, the value of their reciprocal fidelity weakens or the natural bond between man and women which reaches its true fullness in marriage is broken. Through fidelity to the Gospel and the radical esteem of the dignity of the human being, it is impossible to remain neutral before phenomena that are the hallmark of a culture of hedonism, selfishness and death, however great the problems, however powerful external influences may be.
In this regard, it is necessary to revive a family ministry that prepares young people for forming a new home; and that provides guidance for married couples in the difficulties they may encounter, helping them to accept children joyfully, to bring them up with tender love and to pass on the faith to them. It will also be necessary to revive the social, economic and legal conditions that can safeguard the unity and stability of homes, asking families themselves to "become increasingly conscious of the care due to children, and to play an active role in the Church and in society in safeguarding their rights" (n. 47).
7. I also want to refer to an area that is crucial for the Church: religious institutes and consecrated persons. Not only have they made a decisive contribution to the evangelization of your country, but also to a large extent to forging the cultural identity of Costa Rica.
The Church constantly gives thanks to the Holy Spirit for the consecrated life that he inspires within her, which "sinks its roots into the Gospel and brings forth abundant fruit in every season" (Vita consecrata VC 5). Some of these fruits are clearly visible in the many works dedicated to education, to youth ministry, to the care of the sick or to the many forms of poverty and marginalization. However, over and above its concrete activities, the ecclesial community must appreciate that it is "an especially rich expression of Gospel values and a more complete expression of the Church's purpose" (ibid., n. 32). The development of consecrated life in each particular Church shows her ability to present Christ with such vigour that it inspires the desire to follow him in the total, radical way of the Gospel.
Pastors are required to promote vocations to the consecrated life and to watch that the proper identity of each institute be respected (cf. CIC, cann. 385, 586). They should foster great esteem for a life that is totally consecrated to God, and establish forms of vocations apostolate that show "the unanimous commitment of the whole Church" in this field (cf. Vita consecrata VC 64).
8. I encourage you, Bishops of Costa Rica, to continue to bring new enthusiasm to the mission of evangelization, to satisfy with Christ's message the deepest yearnings of the People of God: children and young people, the sick and the elderly, women and men, families and peoples, the poor and the neglected. I entrust to the protection of Nuestra Seńora de los Angeles, Mother and Advocate of the Costa Rican people the pastoral resolutions which motivate you and which must inspire sound faith in the particular Churches entrusted to your care.
I thank you for the generous way you fulfil your ministry. I ask you to greet your communities warmly in the Pope's name and to tell them how close I am to them. To them and to you I impart a heartfelt Apostolic Blessing.
To His Holiness Bartholomaios I
Archbishop of Constantinople Ecumenical Patriarch
"Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love" (II Jn 1,3).
It is with the Apostle John's blessing, that I greet you, Your Holiness, as well as all the members of the Holy Synod and all the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on this joyful occasion of the feast of St Andrew, the Apostle and Brother of Peter. The delegation led in my name by our Brother, Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Council for Promoting Christian Unity, will assure the fraternal participation of the Church of Rome. She joins you to implore from the Lord "the stability of the holy Churches of God and union among all" (Liturgy of St John Chrysostom).
The Feast of St Andrew, the first Apostle to be called by Jesus, constantly reminds us of the mystery of the Christian vocation and the duty to announce the Good News: "One of the two who heard John speak and followed [Jesus] was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother" (Jn 1,40). The Christian vocation is intrinsically linked to the recognition of the Messiah, designated by the Baptist: "Behold, the Lamb of God!" (Jn 1,36) whom the Apostles will never cease to proclaim by their words and deeds, by their lives, and even by martyrdom, as Peter and Andrew did.
In our day, Christ's disciples are called to announce with one voice the proclamation of salvation. By jointly celebrating Andrew and Peter, we manifest our common desire to pass on the apostolic faith together to our contemporaries, who all too often allow themselves to give way to a religious indifference that leads them to lose the true meaning of life. With concern for the mission what is asked of us is to bear a common, faithful Christian witness "in truth and in love". The divisions that still endure and the bitterness that appears at times among Christians weakens the force of Christian preaching, which proclaims the love of God and of neighbour. But I am confident, for "the Lord has made it possible for Christians in our day to reduce the number of matters traditionally in dispute" (Encyclical Ut unum sint UUS 49).
Thank you for your generosity in being ready to cooperate with the Church of Rome
I would like to thank you, Your Holiness, for the readiness you have constantly shown by responding favourably to the requests for cooperation that come from the Catholic Church, and for encouraging the initiatives of the Orthodox Churches that call for the participation of the Church of Rome. I particularly appreciated your appointing a Fraternal Delegate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the recent Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church. This was a new occasion for dialogue, for brotherly exchange and for learning more about one another.
The Catholic Church is ready to do all in her power to promote the development of relations with the Orthodox Churches. The difficulties that the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue has encountered in recent years must be analyzed and resolved. The dialogue must recover its initial positive spirit and be prompted by the will to solve the real problems. It must also show signs of an enthusiasm that only theological faith and hope can foster.
In accord with the invitation of the Second Vatican Council (cf. Unitatis redintegratio UR 24), let us put our hope in God so that we may advance on the path of unity and that the world may know a better future! In recent months, terrorism and war, with the full impact of the death and disorder they sow, have given rise to an anxiety that paralyses peoples and overthrows the normal course of social life. To implore God to protect the nations and to revive human consciences, I thought it would be helpful to summon believers for a Day of Fasting and Prayer for Peace next 24 January. The Lord will hear the prayer that with one heart we will make for the salvation of the human race.
With the approach of the Feast of the Apostle St Andrew, before the festal observance, let us pray together to the Lord and make our own the invitation that, in his Second Epistle, St John addresses to the Christians of Asia Minor: let us "love one another" (II Jn 1,5). Thus we will continue on in love and truth. And peace will be with us.
With this hope, and with my prayers for all the members of your Patriarchate, I exchange the kiss of peace with Your Holiness, and I assure you of my brotherly affection.
From the Vatican, 22 November 2001.