Speeches 2002 - Friday, 10 May 2002



Friday, 10 May 2002

Dear Leaders and Members of the Circolo San Pietro,

1. Welcome to this encounter that every year helps me to know you better and to appreciate the attentive, caring work you perform. I greet each of you cordially and, through you, the members who are unable to be present. I greet your families, who share the generous involvement of the laudable "Circolo San Pietro".

I welcome your General President, Dr Marcello Sacchetti, and I thank him for his courteous words describing the ideals that guide you and the activities of the Association. His words have shown everyone the actual extent and quality of your liturgical and charitable dedication, as well as your ability to deal with the needs of your brethren with creative love.

I greet fraternally your chaplain, Archbishop Ettore Cunial, and the priests who dedicate themselves to your ongoing Christian formation.

2. "When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret" (Mt 6,3-4).

Jesus' words, reported by the Evangelist St Matthew, inspire the style and programme of your association, which, for more than a century, has rendered an effective social and apostolic service. It is a service that is perhaps not well known to the communications media, but it constitutes a reliable and welcoming source of support for those who, lonely and forsaken, find themselves facing hardship and serious health problems.

Your president has just recalled that like Christ, you have opted to consider as "the first", namely, the object of primary attention and loving service, the ones whom the world and the logic of profit consider the "last", propelling them to the fringes of our opulent society.

With this spirit of charity you continue your century long activities and set up new ones such as the Nursing Home for the therapy of pain relief.

In all these positive initiatives you can count on the availability and sacrifices of the members of your association, who, following the image of the Good Samaritan, reach out to their brothers and sisters who are injured in body and in spirit, to bring them, besides material help, the comfort of a word of hope and a gesture of fraternal charity.

3. In your many activities always take the time to listen to the Word of God; may the Gospel be the manual where you learn love for the poor! In the face of the forms of new paganism that attract so many people, I hope that your discreet and active charity, nourished by intense prayer, will be an eloquent sign of God's tenderness for every human being.

In carrying out your important charitable activity, you intend to witness to the Pope's concern for those in need. The "Circolo San Pietro", in a certain sense, is an extension of his "charitable hand" to those who are the poorest and the most neglected. Your mission also includes the collection of "Peter's Pence" in Rome on the Day of the Pope's Charities; it was entrusted to your association by ancient privilege. At this meeting, you have presented me with the results of this collection. I am grateful to you for this generous and important act.

May the Virgin Mary go with you and protect each one of you and your families, especially during this month of May that is dedicated to her.

I am also close to you with prayer and I impart to each of you, to your families and to the poor whom you lovingly assist a heartfelt Apostolic Blessing.



Saturday, 11 May 2002

Dear Bulgarian Friends,

Again I have the joy of welcoming a Bulgarian Delegation on the occasion of the Feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius. Your visit has by now become traditional. This year it has special significance as I look forward to my own visit to Bulgaria in two weeks time. I thank Your Excellency, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, for your gracious words, and Your Excellency, Metropolitan Kalinik, for your fraternal words and for the greeting you bring on behalf of Patriarch Maxim. I assure Your Delegation of my heartfelt prayers for the well-being of the Bulgarian people, so rich in history and humanity.

While my visit to you country will have a pastoral purpose, that of confirming my Catholic brothers and sisters in their faith, it is also my fervent desire to strengthen the bonds of Christian communion between the Catholic Church and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Our encounter will surely help Bulgaria to consolidate its Christian foundations at a time when the old order has gone and a new life is taking shape for your country. And it would be a service rendered by the Churches to the continent of Europe as it seeks to build a new unity, drawing more abundantly upon the riches of both East and West.

Such a contribution would be profoundly in keeping with the vision of Saints Cyril and Methodius, a vision which has lost none of its relevance through the centuries. Born of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, theirs was a vision of unity within diversity, of freedom tied to truth, of hope in the face of every affliction. In visiting Bulgaria, I shall be visiting the people born of their witness and meeting the culture which embodies the soul of their teachings.

To the Holy Synod I send greetings of peace from the Tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. To the Government and people of Bulgaria I express my joy that I will soon be in your land. Entrusting you to the protection of the Mother of the Saviour and to the intercession of Saints Cyril and Methodius, I invoke upon the nation the abundant blessings of Almighty God.



Sunday, 12 May 2002

I am pleased to greet you warmly, as you gather in such a crowd to take part in the traditional "Spring Marathon", organized on Catholic Schools' Day in Rome.

This event involves students, teachers, collaborators, alumni and sponsors of Catholic schools in a joyful day of fraternity, with the desire to give visibility to a social and educational reality that has the goal of bringing to life a formational plan inspired by the Gospel.

I urge the Catholic schools of Rome to persevere with courage and dedication in their important mission for the service of young generations. At the same time, I hope that the steps that have been taken to bring about effective parity between State and non-State schools will be successful.

Dear friends, I wish you all a successful race through the streets of our city. May it be a celebration of friendship and hope! With your enthusiasm and joyful spirit, communicate to those you meet the joy of the risen Christ. I wholeheartedly bless you.




Monday, 13 May 2002

Dear Friends,

It gives me great pleasure to meet you, the Mayors of some of the world’s most important cities. You are gathered in Rome to reflect on how globalization affects the life of your cities, and on the opportunities it offers for closer ties between them. I am deeply grateful to the Honourable Walter Veltroni, Mayor of Rome, for his kind words of introduction and synthesis.

A city is much more than a territory, an economic productive zone, a political reality. It is above all a community of people, and especially of families with their children.It is a living, historically rooted, culturally distinct, human experience. Those who exercise administrative and political control over it have weighty responsibilities for the common good of the people – human beings graced with inalienable dignity and rights; just as citizens have important duties towards the community.

The ethos of a city should be marked by one characteristic above others: solidarity. Every one of you faces serious social and economic problems which will not be solved unless a new style of human solidarity is created. Institutions and social organizations at different levels, as well as the State, must share in promoting a general movement of solidarity between all sectors of the population, with special attention to the weak and marginalized. This is not just a matter of convenience. It is a necessity of the moral order, to which all people need to be educated, and to which those with influence of one kind or another must be committed as a matter of conscience.

The goal of solidarity must be the advancement of a more human world for all – a world in which every individual will be able to participate in a positive and fruitful way, and in which the wealth of some will no longer be an obstacle to the development of others, but a help.

As you reflect on the many complex issues raised by your Conference, I encourage you to see your task as a unique opportunity for doing good, for improving in real ways the world in which we live. May the Almighty enlighten and sustain your efforts. Upon you and your fellow citizens I invoke abundant divine blessings of harmony and peace.




Your Eminence,

1. I willingly join with you and your staff, the ambassadors accredited to the Holy See and all the public figures who have gathered to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

Dialogue between Church and cultures is vital for development of the human being
Since the beginning of my Pontificate, I have taken every opportunity to emphasize the importance of the dialogue between the Church and cultures. This area is vital, not only for the new evangelization and inculturation of the faith, but also for the destiny of the world and the future of humanity.

In the past 20 years, the mindset and customs of our societies have changed radically, whereas with the advent of the modern communications technologies, our technical progress has had a deep influence on man's relations with nature, with himself, and with others. Even globalization, at first restricted to the economic context, has now become a phenomenon that also invades other sectors of human life. In the face of these cultural changes, what appears ever relevant is the reflection of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council who, in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, wished to stress the importance of culture for the full development of the human being. In my Autograph Letter for the creation of the Pontifical Council of Culture, I wrote: "The synthesis between culture and faith is not just a demand of culture, but also of faith.... A faith which does not become culture is a faith which has not been fully received, not thoroughly thought through, not faithfully lived out" (Letter to Cardinal Agostino Casaroli establishing the Pontifical Council of Culture, 20 May 1982; ORE, 28 June 1982, p. 7).

2. After the Council, these were recurrent topics at the assemblies of the Synod of Bishops and I have treated them in a number of Apostolic Exhortations. Now I would like to thank this Pontifical Council, which I created on 20 May 1982, for all its help to me in this area that is so important for the Church's missionary action.

Then in 1993, I merged the Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Non-Believers, founded by my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, with this Council, in the conviction that culture is a privileged way to understanding the thoughts and feelings of those of our contemporaries who claim to have no religious belief. With this in view, I wrote for that occasion: "The Council promotes the meeting between the saving message of the Gospel and the cultures of our time, often marked by disbelief or religious indifference, so that they may be increasingly open to the Christian faith, which creates culture and is an inspirational source of science, literature and the arts" (Motu Proprio Inde a Pontificatus, 25 March 1993, art. 1; ORE, 12 May 1993, p. 3).

3. Your Eminence, I would like to make the most of this festive occasion to encourage the Pontifical Council for Culture and all its members to persevere on the path they have taken, ensuring that the voice of the Holy See reach the various "areopagi" of modern culture, maintaining profitable contacts with those who cultivate art, science, letters and philosophy.

In ecclesial and intercultural sessions with science, culture and education as well as in the international organizations, may your constant effort witness to the Church's interest in the fruitful dialogue of Christ's Gospel with the cultures and to the effective participation of Catholics in building a society that is more respectful of the human person, created in God's image.

Since the feast of Pentecost is upon us, as I invoke the light of the divine Spirit upon the Council's activity I cordially impart to you, Your Eminence, to your colleagues and to all who have gathered to celebrate this happy anniversary, a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 13 May 2002.




Thursday, 16 May 2002

1. The annual meeting with the national directors and collaborators of the Pontifical Mission Societies, gives me great joy.

The Church's missionary reality is a strong incentive to respond with responsibility and far-sightedness to the problems of the contemporary world. To the difficulties and expectations of the present time that challenge our faith, the Church puts forward with humble courage the answer, Jesus Christ, her living hope. The Church is aware that "missionary evangelization ... is the primary service which the Church can render to every individual and to all humanity in the modern world" (Redemptoris missio RMi 2), revealing the love of God that is manifested in the Redeemer. The community of believers moves forward through the centuries, obedient to the Lord's mandate: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations ... teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Mt 28,19-20).

Did not Jesus assure us that he will be with us "always even to the end of the world" (Mt 28,20)? Certain of his Word, Christians live every time as the "acceptable time" and the "day of salvation" (cf. II Cor 6,2), because "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever!" (He 13,8). And brothers and sisters, it is your mission to help ecclesial communities to respond to the gifts of the Spirit and to collaborate actively in the universal work of salvation.

2. In the days preceeding the General Assembly of the Pontifical Mission Societies, you spent time reflecting on the necessity of an adequate formation of missionary personnel and on the necessary dialogue with the other religions. It is clear to you that this formation is not "peripheral, but central to the Christian life" (Redemptoris missio RMi 83).

Indeed at the various levels of responsibility, in the Church everyone must be educated to cooperate together with Christ's mission. There should be no lack of vocations ad gentes (to the nations), nor of workers for various assignments in the vast field of evangelization. Moreover, missionary activity can never be reduced to mere human advancement, help for the poor and liberation of the oppressed. Even if she must intervene courageously in these areas, in collaboration with every person of good will, the Church has another primary and specific mission, to bring every man and woman to meet Christ, the only Redeemer.

Missionary activity, for this reason, must be concerned first and foremost with transmitting the salvation that Jesus accomplished. Who better than you can bear witness that the poor hunger for God first of all, and not only for bread and freedom? When those who believe in Christ are faithful to their mission, they become powerful instruments of global liberation.

3. Missionary formation, first of all, requires the witness of an evangelical life. The saint is the true missionary and the world is waiting for missionaries who are saints. It is not enough then to be dedicated only to renewing pastoral methods and structures, coordinating ecclesial forces better; it is not enough to be limited to exploring the biblical and theological foundations of the faith with greater penetration. What is indispensable is to stir up a new "ardour of holiness" in missionaries and in the Christian community, especially among the missionaries' closest collaborators.

Once again, I would like to repeat the urgent need for missionaries ad gentes (to the nations) and ad vitam (lifelong missionaries). This vocation "retains all its validity: it is the model of the Church's missionary commitment, which always stands in need of radical and total self-giving, of new and bold endeavours (Redemptoris missio RMi 66).

I thank the Lord for all those who, hearing his voice, respond to him generously. Even though they are conscious of their own inadequacy, they place their confidence in his promises and help. Supported by divine grace, missionaries - priests, men and women religious and lay persons - dedicate their energy to Christ in far off lands, even in the midst of difficulty, misunderstanding, danger and even persecution.

4. How can we not recall with gratitude those who in the past few months have fallen in the breach in order to stay faithful to their mission? They are bishops and priests, religious and many lay persons. They are "the martyrs and witnesses to the faith" of our time, who encourage all believers to serve the Gospel with total dedication.

I raise my prayer to God for each one of them as I entrust you, brothers and sisters, to the hands of Our Lady, Star of Evangelization, and cordially impart to you a special Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to all your collaborators in the tireless work of missionary promotion, formation and cooperation.



Friday, 17 May 2002

Mr Ambassador,

1. I am pleased to welcome you on this solemn occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as the first Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Belarus to the Holy See.

As I thank you for your kind words expressing the spirit in which you desire to begin your mission, I would be grateful if you would convey my courteous greetings to H.E. President Alexandre Loukachenko of Belarus and assure the Belarusian people of my warmest best wishes for their harmonious human and spiritual development.

2. In your address you stressed that the stage reached today is a milestone in the development of relations between the Holy See and your country, and a sign that the authorities and the Belorusian people hope to affirm the country's social cohesion and its place among the nations of Europe and in the concert of nations. It is also an evident expression of the will of people who want to open themselves to others in international life through dialogue and acceptance of others with respect for their different cultures and traditions.

3. You recall the coexistence of different religious confessions in the nation as one of Belarus' greatest advantages. This reality is the fruit of the history of your country and still belongs to its culture today. It is rooted in the right to religious freedom, an inalienable right of every human being that is one of the most fundamental rights, for it is directly related to freedom of conscience. It is important that everywhere it be recognized by civil society and guaranteed by the State. Such a step does honour to the countries which respect it. You know that the Catholic Church is very attached to safeguarding this freedom which must always be able to find a place within the framework of a country's legislation and practice. I am delighted to know that Belarus is especially concerned with this aspect of the life of persons and human groups and that Catholics freely enjoy this right, which enables them to play their part in the life of the country and to contribute to the construction of society together with their compatriots.

4. The Catholic Church has an essentially spiritual mission: to enable the Gospel to be proclaimed to all people, so that, by deeply imbuing their life and culture, they may lead a personal and a community life in conformity with evangelical values in view of the common good. The Church has no intention of replacing the legitimate authorities and does not want her faithful to be relegated to the fringes of society, as if they were alien to it but she would like them, nourished and renewed by the Word of life, always to continue to be active participants in national life. The reorganization of your country's dioceses, desired by the Holy See and carried out several years ago out of pastoral concern for their faithful, serves the Church's integration into the life of the nation. In this spirit, I rejoice at the recent opening of a second seminary in Pinsk, to form the priests who belong to this people and are imbued with its culture. It is an obvious sign of the spiritual fruitfulness of the Belarusian land. I also know that the action of Catholics, especially in the social context and in assistance to the neediest, is appreciated by the authorities as an effective participation in the country's development. In this regard, I hope that all the institutions concerned will continue to guarantee the work of the ecclesial community and the Catholic institutions, which are at the service of everyone, in order to permit the Catholic Church to exercise ever more her spiritual mission in your country.

5. Mr Ambassador, I am glad through you to be able to greet the Catholic faithful of Belarus. I thank God for their courageous fidelity during the difficult and painful times of the past. I invite them to use their rediscovered freedom to renew and intensify relations between the ecclesial communities for the service of all. I know of the pastors' work to implant the faith more deeply in living communities, through the liturgy celebrated in the national language thanks also to the doctrinal and spiritual formation of the laity. I thank the priests and the men and women religious who generously dedicate their lives to their brothers and sisters, and I assure all the lay faithful of my spiritual closeness in prayer. I invite them to be true witnesses of Christ's love for everyone, so that all may know the riches of God's mercy.

6. At the moment when you begin your mission as your country's representative to the Holy See, Mr Ambassador, please accept my very best wishes for your success. I assure you that you will always find among my collaborators an attentive welcome and cordial understanding to help you in your noble function.

I invoke an abundance of the Lord's Blessings upon you, Your Excellency, upon your family, upon your staff and upon the entire Belarusian people.



Friday, 17 May 2002

Mr Ambassador,

1. I am pleased to welcome you on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Niger to the Holy See.
Social progress that serves human values, plus international solidarity for real need
I thank you for the kind words you have addressed to me and the greetings you have conveyed to me from President Tandja Mamadou. I would be grateful in return if you would kindly express to him and to the people of Niger my cordial good wishes for their happiness and prosperity.

2. I am particularly moved by your attention to the Church's humanitarian involvement in your country. One can only hope that the efforts achieved by the different segments of the people of Niger will contribute to its overall development, not limited to better material well-being but embracing the fulfilment of the person in his human and spiritual dimensions and the progress of life in society. In the first place, it is the task of local political, social and economic leaders to engage with great generosity and honesty - for every form of public service is a service to the people - in promoting initiatives that will allow all the citizens to be leading agents in building the nation, and to profit equitably from the benefits of development. Many of the country's citizens live in conditions of extreme poverty, caused by the scarcity of food and by crop failure. With all my heart I hope that the international community will continue and intensify its support to meet the needs of the people and to reduce the country's external debt in order to give new hope to future generations. No one can refuse solidarity to those who lack the vital necessities and who, in fact, are wounded in their human dignity. It is also well known that in the long term, this situation of distress can only generate local or regional conflict.

3. As you know, the war against poverty in all its forms also takes the form of eliminating the scourge of illiteracy. Education, which is a fundamental human right of men and women, can only encourage the human and moral growth and social development of a nation, offering the younger generations the possibility of being involved in transforming society and in putting into practice such universal values as solidarity, a sense of the common good, respect for human life and hospitality to the stranger. In this spirit, putting in place more suitable structures for teaching is necessary for the intellectual, human, spiritual, moral and civic formation of persons. Through her work in the education sector, the Catholic Church is always ready to put her institutions and experience at the service of this kind of plan for the integral advancement of persons and the building of society, in accord with her inner spirit and the values she represents. To carry out this major mission, she needs the esteem and confidence of the civil authorities.

4. Mr Ambassador, you emphasize the increasingly important role played by the Holy See in the resolution and prevention of conflicts in the world. The Church hopes to play her part in strengthening unity and brotherhood among individuals and peoples with respect for the human, spiritual and cultural riches that are proper to each one. In collaboration with the other members of the nation, she wishes to commit herself to doing her utmost to enable the people of Niger to live in peace, a fruit of justice, equity and the respect for human rights, including the right to religious freedom, which is a fundamental aspect written into your country's Constitution.

In the present context where many conflicts continue to stain the African continent with blood, the religions have the duty to participate in establishing a just and lasting peace. As was stressed at the meeting of Assisi last 24 January, they are called to collaborate with one another and to focus on eliminating the social and cultural ills that lead to violence, contempt for others and the disintegration of human solidarity. In joining forces to teach the dignity of the person and in awakening consciences to the sense of human brotherhood, the religions build bridges between people and thus render a precious service to the development of peoples. I hope that the existing relations between Christians and Muslims in Niger, that are based on knowledge and true friendship, will maintain this spirit of mutual understanding, to dispel fear and to encourage trust among individuals.

5. It is in this spirit of dialogue with all the living forces of the country without distinction that the Catholic Church in Niger intends to collaborate fraternally and loyally in building a nation where each one will benefit from the fruits of development and pay special attention to the poor. I am pleased that the Catholic community, even though numerically it is a minority, is recognized and appreciated by the civil leaders and by the people of Niger. Permit me, Mr Ambassador, through you to extend a warm greeting to the Bishops and Catholics who live in your noble country. After Christ's example, desiring to put herself at the service of one and all in such different areas as health care, education, social and charitable assistance, the Catholic Church ardently hopes that by using means which foster and strengthen solidarity, she can make a specific and decisive contribution to a true culture of peace (cf. Ecclesia in Africa ).

6. Mr Ambassador, at the moment when your mission to the Apostolic See begins officially, I offer you my cordial good wishes for the noble task that awaits you. Be assured that you will find among my collaborators the attentive and understanding welcome you may need.

7. Your Excellency, upon you, upon the leaders of the nation and upon all the people of Niger, I cordially invoke the Almighty's blessings in abundance.



Friday, 17 May 2002

Mr Ambassador,

With great pleasure I welcome you to the Vatican and receive the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Sweden to the Holy See. I am grateful for the kind greetings which you bring from His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf, and I would ask you to convey to His Majesty my heartfelt thanks and good wishes, which I extend as well to the Swedish Government and people, with the assurance of my prayers for the well-being of the nation.

My memories of Swedish hospitality have not faded since my visit in 1989, and I am pleased to recall the visit to the Vatican of His Majesty the King with Queen Silvia and Princess Victoria in 1999, on the occasion of the proclamation of Saint Bridget as Co-Patroness of Europe. Such visits undoubtedly helped to consolidate the cordial relations between Sweden and the Holy See which have deep historical roots and which will surely bear new fruit in the future.

I appreciate your remarks on building "a world in which co-operation, solidarity, respect for the individual and mutual understanding form the basis for attaining a just, peaceful, secure and humane international community"; for that is a goal which the Holy See shares with Sweden. At the turn of the new millennium, we witnessed as it were an extraordinary global acceleration of that quest for freedom which is one of the great dynamics of human history, and hopes were high that a new era of peace and stability might be possible. Yet events since then have shown that such a prospect will not be achieved without great wisdom and persevering effort. It is therefore all the more urgent that the international community should strive to build peace and stability on the basis of genuine justice and solidarity, not partisan interests or long-standing animosities. Otherwise, patterns of violence born of the world’s profound imbalances will continue indefinitely; and the dynamic of human hope rebels against such a prospect.

You have rightly spoken of basic values, values such as equality, freedom and tolerance. These are regarded as fundamental and are prized by all, very much so in your own country; and this is cause for great satisfaction. Yet, it is reasonable to ask what is the foundation of these values, and then we see that they derive from an understanding of the universality of human dignity. But we also see that in our world that universality is often ignored and even rejected. Herein is the contradiction which the Catholic Church seeks to point out and help peoples to overcome. For the danger is that, when these values are asserted and their foundation is denied, the values themselves are corrupted and run the risk of turning into their opposite. For example, when freedom is sundered from the universal truth of the human person, it sooner or later becomes a new kind of slavery, in which the law of the stronger will inevitably prevail.

We believe that all human beings are equal in dignity. This means that the weak – whatever form their weakness may take – are no less endowed with inalienable rights than are the strong. They may in fact find it more difficult to defend their rights or press their claims, but this does not change the basic truth that they are possessed of an equal dignity. Indeed, in the view of the Catholic Church, any society is to be judged ultimately on how well it protects its weakest members. This is an understanding drawn from the Bible itself, which insists that all human beings are created in the image of God (cf. Gen Gn 1,26), an understanding deeply embedded in Swedish culture.

The seven hundredth anniversary of Saint Bridget provides a splendid occasion to focus more clearly upon the Christian heritage of Sweden, and to see that the values central to this heritage are also central to the new unity which Europe is striving to build. The search for a new European unity is complex, but it offers the hope of transcending the antagonisms of the past and breaking the cycle of relapse into violence; therefore it must be pursued. Yet if it is not based upon those fundamental values of which you speak, and if these are not in turn grounded upon a sense of the universality of human dignity, then it is likely that the search for European unity will prove disappointing. The Catholic community in your nation is small, but it too will continue to make a very positive contribution to the future that you have described as "just, peaceful, secure and humane".

Mr Ambassador, as you enter the diplomatic community accredited to the Holy See, I assure you that the offices of the Roman Curia will be ready to offer whatever assistance you may need in the performance of your high duties. May your mission serve to strengthen still further the bonds of understanding and cooperation between your nation and the Holy See. Upon you and the beloved people of Sweden I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

Speeches 2002 - Friday, 10 May 2002