Speeches 2002 - Monday, 21 October 2002



Thursday, 24 October 2002

Mr Ambassador,

1. I am happy to welcome you for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Hungary to the Holy See and I thank you for your courteous words. I would be grateful if you would convey to President Ferenc Mádl and the members of Government my thanks for their cordial greetings. As I fondly recall his recent visit to the Vatican, I wish to assure the President of Hungary of my best wishes for himself, for the country's leaders and for the entire Hungarian people.

2. Mr Ambassador, you have just recalled the rich history of your country and its bonds with the Apostolic See. After the painful ruptures caused during the last century by the two World Wars and after the dark years of Communist dictatorship, Hungary has recovered the possibility of freely determining its own future. During the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, your nation solemnly celebrated the millennium of its foundation and of its Baptism under King St Stephen I. This was an exceptional opportunity to manifest national unity and to recall how the nation draws from its religious roots the strength to build a society where each one is recognised and respected and is able to take part in the democratic life of the country. As you have stressed, the Church shares the hopes and sufferings of the Hungarian people, and has accompanied them during the difficulties that have marked their history.

Today she too rejoices to have recovered her freedom of action in Hungarian society, especially thanks to the accords signed with successive governments, that demonstrate the cordial relations, distinguished by respect and mutual confidence, that are restored between the Catholic Church and the country's authorities.

3. Hungary is engaged in a great movement for the reform and rebuilding of national life in all its components. Among them there is the family, basic cell of social life, which it is important to support and assist, especially when financial difficulties affect its most impoverished members. Through her institutions, the Church makes her own contribution to social welfare and outreach to the poorest of society; she does not fail to support the institution of the family, recalling in her teaching the greatness of marriage and the family.

The future of a people is already defined by the attention it pays to its youngest members and to their education. It is indispensable to pass on to the young the civil, moral and spiritual values that have forged generations of Hungarian hearts, while you prepare the young to live in an open, secularised world that is characterized by selfishness and the desire for material possessions. Although this educational enterprise is primarily a family responsibility, it also involves the responsibility of the nation, through schools and all who collaborate with them. The Church, who has ever taken great care of young people, in your country has a vast network of schools through which she takes part in this work of education, and in this regard you can always count on her availability.

4. Your country, Mr Ambassador, has now re-established its economic, political and cultural links with its European neighbours, and is a candidate for future membership in the European Union. The Holy See is delighted at the prospect of this extension of the Union that should allow the gradual re-establishment of the unity of Europe for a time shattered by the partitioning of the Yalta Conference and the closure of the Soviet bloc. Only the free circulation of people and goods, as well as the dialogue of cultures and the exchange of spiritual treasures among nations can overcome the fear, withdrawal into self and national narrow-mindedness that, even in the recent past, have given rise to many hostilities throughout the European continent, and even more so on a global scale.

Your nation knows well, and its recent history has made it particularly sensitive to respect for minorities, since today many people of Hungarian origin and culture live in other countries than their own. This is a permanent concern which impels the authorities to continue persistently to find the means of dialogue in order to assure their citizens the best living conditions possible and respect for their culture. Vice versa, this same concern demands that Hungary show attention and respect for those in Hungary who may belong to culturally different minorities. The Apostolic See, attentive to this situation of cultural diversity, never stops urging the leaders of nations and religious leaders to open a courageous dialogue that is the only way to prevail over friction between people and prepare everyone for a future of justice and peace.

I hope that in witnessing to its history and rich cultural identity, your country may help the future Europe to be not just a vast market of material goods but also a living expression of a wealth of the cultural and spiritual treasures that belong to each nation that can be shared for the benefit of the Union. This is an important responsibility of European nations, even for people of other continents who would also like to join forces and wealth and to serve development and peace.

5. Your Excellency, through you, I wish to greet the Catholic community of Hungary and its Pastors. I assure them of the prayer and spiritual closeness of the Successor of Peter, and I encourage them without pause to proclaim the call of the Gospel, especially among the young who seek to find the meaning of life and desire to dedicate themselves to serving their brethren. I know that Catholics play a full part in the life of the nation, in accord with their vocation. May they be faithful to the example of the great saints who have marked their history, such as St Stephen, St Elizabeth and the Bishop Vilmos Apor, whom I had the joy of beatifying recently, and of all the witnesses to the faith during the persecution of the Communist regime. Among them stands out the late Cardinal József Mindszenty of venerable memory!

6. Your Excellency, at the time when you are beginning your noble mission, I assure you of the availability of all my collaborators, and I wish you all the best as you foster good relations between Hungary and the Holy See!

Upon you, your family and those who work with you, and upon the entire Hungarian people, I invoke an abundance of God's blessings.




Saturday, 26 October 2002

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. The liturgy of these days reminds us of our common vocation and the grace each one of us has received: "for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ until we all attain ... to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ep 4,12-13). We must all do our utmost to build the Body of Christ, making the most of the providential wealth of charisms which the Holy Spirit never ceases to bring forth to life in the community.

I am pleased to receive you collegially, after our individual meetings. The kind words of Archbishop Celso José Pinto da Silva of Teresina, on behalf of Regions 1 and 4 of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops, have explained the many hopes that impel the Christian communities which divine Providence has entrusted to your pastoral care, without overlooking the anxieties and problems found in a land undergoing profound social changes.

2. It cannot be denied that the situations of Ceará and Piauí, and North-East Brazil in general, demonstrate the modernization of the structures created for their development. However, in various respects, this modernization goes hand in hand with the harsh marginalization of entire populations.

In the past ten years there has been an effort to combat illiteracy, endemic disease and the rate of infant mortality; coexistence with poverty and chronic wretchedness, largely due to immigration from rural areas to the city; the problems of the fair distribution of land and attention to the people who work on the sea, in addition to a wide range of other problems, without forgetting drought and flooding, two sides of the same coin. All these things are constant causes of concern for the local authorities, let alone the pastoral planning of the different dioceses.

Your particular Churches were founded in the last century and are therefore relatively young. Proper to young people are dynamism, spirit of initiative and daring, things that belong to the Brazilian nationality where one can find the strength to face the prevailing challenges. Both Provinces must face the lack of clergy; you must develop evangelization and catechesis, for adults and children, in the rural areas and in cities. You must guide those who are involved in the decision-making and students, at all levels. I am aware of your dedication to preaching justice and brotherhood in one of the poorest areas of the country. You deserve praise for your commitment and coordination in pastoral work, and especially to promote the vocations of seminarians with educated formation directors, and to foster the continuing formation of priests. I ask God to help you in your material needs, because the lack of means and the cost of the seminarians' formation cannot hinder the task of forming workers for his harvest.

With the enthusiasm of faith that nothing can destroy, I would like to encourage the evangelizing work of your dioceses, and I urge you to throw your whole selves into it with new missionary zeal, for the spread of the Kingdom of God in this world.

3. These are apostolic initiatives that are spreading in your particular Churches. The religious reawakening, especially among young people, is tangible and encouraging. A source of hope is the sensitivity of the growing inclination of the faithful for a Christian practice that is firmer and more consistent. The people of the North-East are deeply religious. They are interested in the life of the Church and constantly open to the transcendent dimension of life, although they need guidance in the area of popular devotion, and an inculturation that should be in conformity with the Gospel.

However, many obstacles can sap the enthusiasm of Christians, due to the frequently negative influence of the consumer society which is threatening to cloud the brightness of the Gospel proclamation. It is necessary to develop in the faithful a firm and consistent faith, because only the effective rediscovery of Christ as a foundation on which to build the life of the entire society will enable them not to fear any kind of difficulty: when the house is founded on the solid rock, it does not fall, despite the rushing waters of the rivers overflowing their banks with the torrential downpour or the threatening powerful winds (cf. Mt 7,24-25).

A qualitative leap in Christian life must be made so that people witness clearly and transparently to their faith. This faith, celebrated and shared in the liturgy and in charity, nourishes and strengthens the community of the Lord's disciples and builds them up as a missionary and prophetic Church. May no one feel excluded from this apostolic commitment!

4. At the beginning of the new millennium, when I wanted to call attention to certain pastoral priorities which were born of the experience of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, I did not hesitate to point out first of all that "all pastoral initiatives must be set in relation to holiness" (Novo Millennio ineunte NM 30). Today and in the past, the Church has responded to the "universal call to holiness", highlighted in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium, with myriads of saints, some of whom are universally known whereas others remain anonymous. They have all been able to live an unconditional sacrifice for God, embracing the Cross of Christ through contempt of the world, that detachment from the world which distinguished them, or the consecration of the world that is proper to lay people "in any state or walk of life", who "are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love" (Lumen gentium LG 40).

The Church needs holy priests and religious who distinguish themselves by their exclusive consecration and their founding charism, to carry out the task of evangelization with generosity and self-sacrifice in the essential mission entrusted to them, after the example of Mother Paulina, the foundress of the Congregation of the "Irmãzinhas da Imaculada Conceição" (Little Sisters of the Immaculate Conception), whom I canonized last May. Today, more than ever, the Church needs holy lay people who can be raised to the honour of the altars after seeking Christian perfection in the midst of temporal reality, in the exercise of their own intellectual or manual work, totally pleasing to God, to whom they dedicate themselves for his honour and glory. Vocations to the priesthood and to the religious life will be born among them.

5. Today I would like to turn my thoughts to the priests, men and women religious and lay people who are doing all in their power to spread the Gospel truth, often amid great difficulties. Many of them are collaborating or taking an active part in the associations, movements and other forms of group existence which, in common with the Pastors and in accord with the diocesan initiatives, bring their spiritual, educational and missionary riches to the heart of the Church as a precious experience and proposal of Christian life.

On my various pastoral visits and apostolic journeys I have been able to appreciate the results of this presence in many areas of society, in the world of work, in international solidarity with the most deprived, in ecumenical commitment, in priestly brotherhood, in assistance to families and youth, and in many other areas of concern.

This reality represents a multiform variety of charisms, educational methods, apostolic approaches and goals, lived in a community of faith, hope and charity, in obedience to Christ and to the Pastors of the Church. In practice, "they must work as true instruments of communion in the Church, showing a sincere and effective mutual collaboration in facing the challenges of the new evangelization, as well as an indispensable harmony with the objectives determined by the Bishops, successors of the Apostles, in the various local Churches" (Message to the National Meeting of Lay Movements, Lisbon, 28 March 2000).

6. I know the efforts your Dioceses are making to reach these objectives. One of the factors to stress in your thinking with the Church is the fact that the presence of new realities called into being by the Spirit, the movements and associations in your particular Churches, helps your "responsible participation ... in the Church's mission of carrying forward the Gospel of Christ, the source of hope for humanity and the renewal of society" (cf. Christifideles laici CL 29).

There is sometimes a risk of a blurring or shortsighted view of the transcendent value that the phenomenon of community life is acquiring in the Church. I have had the opportunity to assert that there is an ecclesiological motive "based on ecclesiology, as the Second Vatican Council clearly acknowledged in referring to the group apostolate as a "sign of communion and of unity of the Church of Christ'"; and this is not all: that great gathering also highlighted what it chose to describe as a "true and proper right ... to found and run such associations and to join those already existing" (ibid., n. 29).

The criteria of ecclesiality, of course, for the appropriate integration of these new realities, must always be respected and analyzed by diocesan authority, in accord with the pastoral needs not only of the particular Church, but also of the universal Church (cf. ibid., n. 30). A more solid communion with their Pastors is certainly asked of all the Churches, since "no charism dispenses a person from reference and submission to the Pastors of the Church" (ibid., n. 24); on the other hand, they must have a capacity for discernment, to judge the authenticity of the path they must take in the diocesan context. It is not impossible to imagine complementary structures, which could bring about an organic convergence of priests and lay people. In this way an effort should be made to reach the goals that are truly laid out in diocesan pastoral plans, and, in the ultimate analysis, in the mind of the Successor of Peter and in the Magisterium, correctly applied. It is essential, however, to avoid the danger of the dispersion of vital forces with objectives that differ from the "concern for all the churches" (II Cor 11,28). In this sense, I would like to call your attention to the desire expressed in some sectors to transform into a Conference the National Council of the Laity that would be a parallel organism to the National Bishops' Conference of Brazil. To claim to create an autonomous organism that would be representative of the laity without referring to the hierarchical communion with the Bishops, constitutes an ecclesiological error with serious and obvious implications. I am sure you will not delay in guiding the laity away from such initiatives.

7. Furthermore, as we know, the fundamental role of the laity in the Church's mission was stressed by the Second Vatican Council and by many post-conciliar documents.

As we read in Lumen gentium, lay people "have, as living members, the vocation of applying to the building up of the Church ... all the powers which they have received..." (Lumen gentium LG 33), to spread the Church among individuals and peoples. Even more explicit and categorical is the Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People, which says: "The laity have an active part of their own in the life and action of the Church" (Apostolicam actuositatem AA 10). Therefore their apostolic activity is not optional but a specific duty, which is the task of each one of the faithful, for the simple reason that he has been baptized. They should all "have a lively consciousness of their own responsibility for the world, they should foster within themselves a truly Catholic spirit, they should spend themselves in the work of the Gospel" (Ad gentes AGD 36). The mission is one, but the ways of carrying it out differ, according to the gifts the Spirit has bestowed upon the various members of the Church. Lay people's action is indispensable, if the Church is to be considered truly built up, alive and functional at every level, thus becoming fully a sign of Christ's presence among men. This presupposes a mature laity, in full communion with the hierarchy, committed to bringing the Gospel to the different situations of society.

The task of Pastors consists in stimulating and guiding their people toward the same true evangelizing and missionary mandate that the Redeemer passed on to his Church. As masters of the faith, they will reinforce the respect of their flock for the canon law of the Church, seeking to guide them also in the observance of the State laws, since "they are not distinguished from other people by country, by language or by political organization" (Letter to Diognetus, 5: ), but by their Christian faith and hope and the purity of their life.

8. A persevering and attentive youth ministry which is called to witness to the Christian values in the new millennium is particularly necessary. It is not a commonplace to say, once again, that young people are the future of humanity. Concern for their human and Christian maturity is a precious investment for the good of the Church and of society. Hence the conviction that "youth ministry must be one of the primary concerns of Pastors and communities" (Ecclesia in America ).

As we know, Brazilian youth are a feature of the country's life not only because of their number, but also because of the influence on social life that they exercise. In addition to the thorny problem of caring for minors deprived of their dignity and innocence, there are problems linked to their insertion into the job market, the increase in juvenile delinquency, which is largely conditioned by the situation of endemic poverty and the lack of a family stability and the harmful impact of some of the media, internal migration in the quest for better living conditions in the larger cities and the worrying involvement of young people in the world of drugs and prostitution, are all factors that continue to be of primary concern.

Young people are not indifferent to what the Christian faith teaches about human life and destiny. In our time, although ideologies abound and they have many champions who remain fixed in their errors, mingled with the superficial attitudes there are high aspirations, heroism as well as cowardice, idealism as well as deception and people are dreaming of a new world that is more just and more human. "If Christ", therefore, "is presented to young people as he really is, they experience him as an answer that is convincing and they can accept this message even when it is demanding and bears the mark of the Cross" (Novo Millennio ineunte NM 9).

9. Before ending this fraternal meeting, I address a special thought to the deceased bishops in the form of a prayer that God in his mercy will repay them with the eternal reward of his glory. At the same time, I address a word of deep appreciation and brotherhood to the bishops who retired from active service in the dioceses during this long five-year period. I renew my gratitude to them here; with their presence and example of faith and holiness, they continue to be a true blessing for the pilgrim Church. May the Holy Spirit grant an abundance of his consolations to them all!

May Blessed Mary, our Mother, protect you on your journey through life and help you in the difficulties of your ministry. With these vows, I cordially impart to each one of you my Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to your priests and co-workers, the deacons and the religious families, the seminarians and all the faithful of your dioceses.



Saturday, 26 October 2002

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

As the Institute for Human Sciences celebrates the twentieth anniversary of its establishment, it gives me great pleasure to meet you here at the Vatican. In a special way I greet Professor Krzysztof Michalski, one of the original members of the Institute, who is present with us today. Our meeting enables me to express my own personal appreciation for the Institute’s work, which has included the organization of eight memorable colloquia at Castel Gandolfo. I also take this opportunity to honour the memory of the late Jozef Tischner, the founding president of the Institute, who was so deeply committed to its project of fostering a dialogue on the future of Europe open to voices from both East and West.

Today, twenty years after its establishment, the Institute for Human Sciences has amply lived up to the vision of its founders. The events of 1989 and the quickened pace of Europe’s unification have shown the need for precisely the kind of disciplined analysis, broad-ranging discussions and concrete proposals to which the Institute is dedicated. In these years, the Institute has made a significant contribution to a more responsible shaping of the political, economic, social and cultural future of the Continent. I express my hope that in the years ahead it will continue to emphasize the "human" dimension of the immense possibilities and challenges opening up before mankind at the dawn of this new millennium. In the end, any solution to the grave crises which face contemporary society, and any effort to create a future more worthy of man must be based on an appreciation of the innate dignity and the spiritual grandeur of each human being. It must likewise show respect for the rich variety of cultures and the religious values which have given historical expression to the quest for authentic freedom and the building of a world of solidarity, justice and peace.

On this happy anniversary I offer prayerful good wishes for the continuing work of the Institute. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.




Monday, 28 October 2002

Mr President,

1. I am delighted to offer you a cordial welcome on this visit which you have wished to pay me on the 10th anniversary of the Independence of the Slovak Republic. I gratefully remember the greeting we exchanged last 18 August at Kraków, during my pilgrimage to Poland. Today's meeting confirms the feelings of mutual esteem that pervade the relations between your country and the Holy See.

In greeting you, Mr President, I would also like to extend affectionate greetings to the beloved inhabitants of Slovakia, who for centuries have looked to the Successor of Peter with feelings of deep devotion and sincere attachment. A profound, reciprocal bond was formed which since the time of Cyril and Methodius has continued to develop and grow deeper. The faith of the Slovak people is solid and rich, due to the work of enlightened and generous Pastors who knew how to be close to their faithful in both pleasant and sorrowful times.

With their robust Christian identity, the Slovak People look confidently to Europe, to which Slovakia belongs by geographical location, history and culture. I am certain that the upcoming entry of your country into the European Union, besides the benefit it will bring to you, will contribute to the well-being and stability of the entire continent. Ten years after Independence, it is only right to point out the long journey travelled and the goals achieved, despite the complex problems that in this period had to be faced.

2. Today's circumstances are very important from the view point of bilateral relations. Indeed, we will exchange the instruments of ratification of the Agreement on religious assistance to the Catholic faithful in the Armed Forces and Police of the Republic, signed in Bratislava last 21 August (ORE, 28 August 2002, p. 12). This Agreement is one of the consequences of the basic Accord established in November 2000 between the Holy See and Slovakia.

The Church does not seek privileges or favours, but only asks to be able to carry out her mission with respect for the laws that regulate civil coexistence. For this reason, in recognizing fully the sovereignty of the State, she intends to maintain a relationship of cordial and constructive dialogue with its various institutions. Her main goal is to serve as best she can within her area of responsibility the Slovak people. This dialogue is so very useful when one realizes that in Slovakia, before the Independence, the Catholic Church had to undergo a period of harsh persecution under the Communist regime. Now she lives and flourishes once again in freedom, and wants to contribute to the integral well-being of the people of whom she is a part.

The importance of the Church's action is obvious, especially in the current circumstances in which the young democracy has to confront the problems connected with the heritage of the Marxist ideology, but also with the tumultuous process of modernization, with the phenomenon of unemployment and with the consequent danger for those in need, of becoming involved in illegal activities.

3. Mr President, the recognized force of spirit of your fellow citizens, their solid Christian tradition, their desire to build their own present and future in freedom are a cause of hope for the future of the Slovak people.

As I express my deep pleasure for the attention which the Government and Parliament of the Republic are paying to the mission of the Church, I desire to confirm the understanding and support of the Holy See for the efforts that Slovakia is making to create a free, peaceful and solidary society.

With these sentiments, as I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, I cordially impart my Blessing to you, to those who have accompanied you and to all your compatriots.



Monday, 28 October 2002

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Ep 1,2). With these words I welcome you today to the See of Peter. I am particularly happy to be able to exchange the holy kiss with the Sister Churches of Díli and Baucau who, in a certain way "have come through the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb", inspired by the certainty that he "will be their shepherd and will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes" (Ap 7,14 Ap 7,17).

I thank God for the generous way in which the Churches of Timor have lived solidarity with their fellow-citizens, becoming their moral support in the hour of trial. Once again, I wish to entrust to the divine mercy the victims of the violence, and express my profound solidarity with all who are suffering the consequences of the tragedy that has befallen your people. I warmly thank the priests and religious, the catechists and all the faithful of Timor for their courage and fidelity to Christ and to the Church. When you return bring to them the Pope's affectionate greeting and the assurance of his prayers that they may continue to be tireless witnesses of God's love among their brethren.

Likewise, please convey to all your compatriots my fervent wishes for the great success of a fraternal and prosperous nation.

2. At the start of the third millennium, the family of nations has been able to celebrate the birth of the Democratic Republic of Timor. The people and its leaders are determined to rebuild the country destroyed by hatred and the failure of others to understand a choice, that of being Timorese, and, for the majority, Timorese Catholics.

For centuries, their religion, an integral part of every people's culture, has sublimated the superstitious fear of popular beliefs with timor Dei, fear of God, but of a God of hope, sensitive to the desire for a future and to the power of prayer. Indeed, when insecurity forced the Timorese to escape to the mountains, they could bring nothing with them; yet they had with them the crucifix or an image of Our Lady of Fatima from their family oratories. Praised be God who, in his goodness and providence has granted us to see the return of freedom and peace to your land, enabling you to dedicate all your energy to serving a promising harvest.

Do all in your power to help your ecclesial communities to resume the normal pattern of their lives and Christian witness. They will be called, here and there, like the father of the prodigal son (cf. Lk Lc 15,11-32), to offer a reconciling embrace to their brothers and sisters who, confident of finding fraternal forgiveness, will return to the "home of communion" (Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte, n. 43). Perhaps disappointed, coerced, or persuaded ... they may have sown mourning and left children orphaned. They probably did not realize that in killing another person, they were killing themselves. Now they knock at the door of the Church, whose "one ambition is to continue [Christ's] mission of service and love, so that all ... "may have life and have it abundantly'" (Ecclesia in Asia ).

The memory of that appalling tragedy will not fail to raise the question: How could such cruel and irrational violence have been unleashed? If one excludes those who gave their own lives in forgiveness, will anyone be able to consider himself fully immune from the contagion of that homicidal violence? In this regard, Jesus' words: "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her" (Jn 8,7) resound in the people directly concerned and give rise to an examination of conscience and a follow-up resolution, in other words, a "purification of memory". This act of purification could prove useful for your ecclesial communities, as was the case during the Holy Year, when it "strengthened our steps for the journey towards the future and ... made us more humble and vigilant in our acceptance of the Gospel" in our faith (cf. Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennio ineunte, n. 6).

3. Believing in Jesus means believing that love is present in the world and that this love is stronger than all the kinds of evil in which man, humanity and the world are involved. For this reason, "to bear witness to Jesus Christ is the supreme service which the Church can offer to the peoples of Asia, for it responds to their profound longing for the Absolute, and it unveils the truths and values which will ensure their integral human development" (Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia ).

To enable the faithful, young and adults, an ever-clearer rediscovery of their own vocation and a greater readiness to fulfill their mission, it is necessary for them to have a complete catechesis on the truths of the faith and their concrete applications in life, to ensure that they may encounter Jesus Christ, converse with him, let themselves be inspired by his love and set on fire by the desire to make him known and loved by all. This formation, given and received in the Church, will bring forth solid, missionary Christian communities for "a fire can only be lit by something that is itself on fire" (ibid., n. 23).

The ones who make this catechetical proposal are the entire Christian community in all its variety of members. However, if parents are to pass on to their children what they themselves received, the educational action of families is fundamental. If family life is based on love, simplicity, concrete commitment and daily witness, its essential values will be protected from the disintegration which, all too often in our day, threatens this primordial institution of society and the Church. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, continue, in season and out of season, to make heard the "appeal" launched by the Fathers of the Synod for Asia, who called upon "the faithful in their countries where the demographic question is often used as an argument for the need to introduce abortion and artificial population control programmes, to resist the "culture of death'" (ibid., n. 35). The Church defends and promotes life, against the pessimism and selfishness that darken the world.

4. Ecclesial experience teaches that "only from within and through the culture does the Christian faith become a part of history and the creator of history.... For this reason the Church calls upon the lay faithful to be present, as signs of courage and intellectual creativity, in the privileged places of culture, that is, the world of education - school and university - in places of scientific and technological research, the areas of artistic creativity and work in the humanities" (Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici CL 44). The presence of lay people is of the greatest importance during this stage when national life is being restored in East Timor, which expects a great deal from the competence and experience of the Church, and especially through her educational institutions, for the satisfactory training of the future socio-economic and political leaders and shapers of the country.

As I congratulate you on the praiseworthy work of the Catholic school in Timor, I recall that it is her duty to "be firmly resolved to take the new cultural situation in her stride and, by her refusal to accept unquestioningly educational projects which are merely partial, be an example and stimulus for other educational institutions, in the forefront of the ecclesial community's concern for education" (Congregation for Catholic Education, The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium; ORE, 22 April 1998, p. 9). In this way, the Catholic school provides a useful public service. Although it is definitely Catholic in its approach, it is not reserved exclusively for Catholics but is open to all who appreciate and desire to share in their excellent education.

5. The effectiveness of all this evangelizing action depends to a large extent on the spiritual tenor of your priests, "prudent cooperators of the episocpal order" (Lumen gentium LG 28). If it is true that it is the task of bishops to be "heralds of the faith" and its "authentic teachers" (ibid., n. 25) in the midst of the flock that the Holy Spirit has entrusted to them, only the continual action of their priests can guarantee that every Christian community is nourished by the Word of God and sustained by the grace of the sacraments, especially, the Eucharist, the memorial of the death and resurrection of the Lord who builds up the Church, and Reconciliation, which I recently discussed in the "Motu proprio" Misericordia Dei, urging a "vigorous revitalization" (p. 6) of this sacrament.

May priests be ever more the men of faith and prayer the world needs, "not just charity workers and institutional administrators, but men whose minds and hearts are set on the deep things of the Spirit" (Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia ). In conformity with their vocation as pastors, may they give priority to the spiritual service of the faithful entrusted to their care, to lead them to Jesus Christ whom they themselves represent, while remaining men of mission and of dialogue. I invite them to foster among themselves the spirit of priestly brotherhood and collaboration, for the fruitfulness of their common pastoral action.

6. Whether they are indigenous or foreign, men and women religious participate fully in the Church's mission of evangelization, and generously pay attention to the poorer and weaker members of society. In the name of the Church, I thank them for the generous witness of charity they bear by the total gift of themselves to God and to their brothers and sisters. The consecrated life contributes in a decisive way to establishing and developing the Church in Timor; I hope it will continue to be the object of your pastoral care, venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, and that you will continue to promote it, in its active and contemplative forms, safeguarding the special features of its service to the Kingdom of God.

I am happy to know that vocations to the priestly and religious life are increasing in your dioceses. I appreciate the care you give to them and your endeavours for the formation of the young who, following in the footsteps of Christ, desire to serve the Church. Please pass on to the young people who have answered the call of the Lord and to their families the Pope's gratitude for the generous gift they have made to Christ.

7. At the end of our visit, as we think of your noble country, I urge all its sons and daughters, in accord with each one's level of responsibility, to be firmly committed to building a society that is more fraternal and supportive, whose members have an equal share of the honours and burdens of the new nation. May God pour out on everyone his Spirit of love and peace.

May Christ's disciples turn to the Father of mercies in an attitude of deep conversion and intense prayer to ask him for the strength and courage, with all people of good will, to be tireless champions of dialogue and reconciliation. Tell your communities of the Pope's spiritual closeness to each of them and to the members who still live far from their homeland or do not yet have their own home. May this period offer the Church in Timor a new springtime of Christian life, and obtain for her the grace to respond courageously to the promptings of the Spirit.

To the Immaculate Virgin Mary I entrust your ministry and the life of your ecclesial communities, so that she may guide their steps towards Christ Our Lord, while I gladly impart to you my Apostolic Blessing and extend it to the priests, men and women religious, catechists, and all the faithful of your Dioceses.

Speeches 2002 - Monday, 21 October 2002