Speeches 2002 - Monday, 28 October 2002


Tuesday, 29 October 2002

Your Eminence,
Your Excellencies,
Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am very happy to greet all of you who take part in the Seventh Public Session of the Pontifical Academies, each one in its own field of research and initiative generously committed to the effective promotion of a new Christian humanism for the third millennium.

My gratitude to Cardinal Paul Poupard, President of the Coordinating Committee of the Pontifical Academies, and my thanks for his kind words on your behalf. With him, I greet the cardinals, ambassadors, bishops and priests and all who are present.

2. This assembly of the Pontifical Academies is dedicated to Mariological reflection and was organized by the International Pontifical Marian Academy and the Pontifical Academy of (Mary) Immaculate. I greet the two Presidents, the well prepared presenters and the academicians who are here.

With the theme of this meeting: Mary, the "radiant dawn and sure guide" of the new evangelization, you have wished to take up the words that I used to conclude my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte, entrusting the destinies of the new millennium and the way of the Church to Mary, Mother of God and Mother of all believers. Once again I wanted to point her out as the "Star of the New Evangelization" so that, in the heart and mind of every disciple of the Lord, she may truly be the star that illumines and guides him/her on the journey towards Christ.

"Set out anew from Christ", is the call I addressed to the whole Church at the end of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. Set out anew from Christ, learning to contemplate and love his face, on which shines the glory of the Father.

3. Who, better than Mary, can help us and encourage us in this endeavour? Who, better than Mary, can teach us to contemplate and love that face that she contemplated with immense love and total dedication throughout his life, from his birth until the hour of the Cross, and then at the dawn of the Resurrection? The Gospel of St Luke tells us twice that Mary "kept all these things in her heart" (Lc 2,19 Lc 2,51). Mary's heart is a precious tabernacle in which she keeps safe for us too the riches of Christ.

If it is true, as the Second Vatican Council says in the Constitution Gaudium et spes, that only in the mystery of Christ is the mystery of man truly made clear (cf. n. 22), and the mystery of Mary that "exceptional daughter of the human race" (cf. Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Mater, n. 4). It is also true that on the face of Christ and in the features of his humanity are reflected the features of his mother, her educational style, her way of being and feeling. For this reason, if we want to contemplate in depth the face of Christ, we must have recourse to Mary who, in fully accepting God's plan, in a most singular way, "shaped" her Son and accompanied him at each stage of his growth.

So we can accept the invitation that St Bernard addresses to the supreme poet, Dante Alighiere: "Look now at the face which bears the closest resemblance to Christ, for its brightness alone can dispose you to see Christ" (Par. XXXII, 85-87). Mary is truly the bright dawn of the new evangelization and the sure guide on the path of the Church in the new millennium.

4. What is important is the theological, cultural and spiritual commitment of everyone, starting with you, dear academicians of the Pontifical International Marian Academy and the Pontifical Academy of (Mary) Immaculate, who reflect on the person of the Virgin Mary to know her in a much deeper way. This also supposes an interdisciplinary research that develops Mariological reflection, investigating new sources in addition to the traditional ones, to draw from them further starting points for theological research. For example, I can think of the saints and their personal experience, of Christian art, which has always found in Mary a preferred subject, and of popular piety that in affirming the "affective" dimension, has left us an important witness to Mary's mission in the life of the Church.

A suitable opportunity to intensify this commitment will be the 150th anniversary of the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. The two Pontifical Marian Academies, each in its own sphere of activity and with its own competence, are called to make their contribution so that the observance may be an opportunity to renew the theological, cultural and spiritual endeavour to communicate to the men and women of our time the meaning and the genuine message of this truth of faith.

5. Dear brothers and sisters, you all know that I have established the Pontifical Academies' Prize to encourage the work of young scholars and of institutions that dedicate their activity to the advancement of Christian humanism. For this reason, accepting the proposal of the Coordinating Committee of the Pontifical Academies, on this solemn occasion I am pleased to award this Prize to Rosa Calě for her doctoral thesis entitled: The Anti-Mariological Texts in the Exegesis of the Fathers from Nicea to Chalcedon. As a sign of appreciation and encouragement I also wish to present medals of the Pontificate to Fr Stanislaw Bogusz Matula and to Sr Philomena D'Souza for their outstanding studies.

Finally, in bringing this solemn Session to a close, I would like to express to all the academicians my deep appreciation of their activity and my hope of a renewed and generous commitment in the theological, spiritual and pastoral fields tertio millennio ineunte (as the third millennium begins).

With these sentiments, I entrust each one of you to the motherly protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and I cordially impart to you a special Apostolic Blessing.



Dear Missionaries of Mariannhill,

I greet you with affection in the Lord on the occasion of your General Chapter, and I extend my warm encouragement to the newly elected Superior General, Father Dieter Gahlen. At the beginning of the Third Christian Millennium, the Congregation of the Missionaries of Mariannhill, as the Church in general, is challenged to start afresh from Christ (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte, ch. III). In accordance with the theme chosen for your General Chapter, "Revisiting our identity and spirituality as a new era dawns", your path into the future is the path of a genuine renewal of your consecrated life, in a new season of spiritual and apostolic growth (cf. Starting Afresh from Christ, 19).

Your Congregation is the fruit of the many gifts bestowed by God on your founder, Abbot Franz Pfanner. These gifts continue to shape your Community and, as I invited Institutes of Consecrated Life in my Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, you too are called "to propose anew the enterprising initiative, creativity and holiness" of your founder "in response to the signs of the times emerging in today’s world" (No. 37). In fact, it is only in renewed faithfulness to your founding charism that your Congregation will be enabled to face confidently the mission of proclaiming the saving message of the Gospel to an increasingly globalized world which in many ways is troubled by a "crisis of meaning" and by "ambiguous thinking" (Fides et Ratio FR 81).

It is for this reason that Jesus’ words to Peter to "put out into the deep" ("Duc in altum", Lc 5,4) must ring out for you too in your lives as missionaries. In the new era that is unfolding, you must be true missionaries and true saints, for holiness is at the very heart of your vocation (cf. Redemptoris Missio RMi 90). As your founder knew, holiness must be actively sought and prayed for. He underlined this in his motto: Currite Ut Comprehendatis — "straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Ph 3,13-14). Abbot Pfanner, a man on fire for the building of the Kingdom, a man who courageously persevered in the face of obstacles, beckons you to "go forward in hope" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 58) as you respond to God’s call in Christ Jesus.

In fidelity to the Benedictine-Trappist tradition on which your consecrated life is founded, your missionary apostolate will flourish and produce fruit to the degree that it is firmly rooted in the tenet "Ora et Labora". In this way too, you will achieve what is described in your Instrumentum Laboris as "the equilibrium of the contemplative missionary, the witness who remains immersed in prayer even while grappling with his urgent active commitment". I urge you therefore to intensify your formation in this crucial aspect of your vocation. Prayer and contemplation cannot be taken for granted. Prayer has to be learned in order that we may converse with Christ as intimate friends (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 32), and daily contemplation of the face of Christ will strengthen within you the reality of your consecration.

My dear Brothers in Christ, in a world where the human drama is too often marked by poverty, division and violence, the following of Christ demands that consecrated persons respond courageously to the Spirit’s call to a continual conversion, in order to give new vigour to the prophetic dimension of their vocation (cf. Starting Afresh from Christ, 1). As missionaries, your witness to Christ means taking up the Cross out of love for the Lord and for your fellow human beings. This is the heart of all authentic proclamation of the Gospel. The Church counts on your commitment and on your enthusiasm for the mission ad gentes, confident that you will contribute thereby "in a particularly profound way to the renewal of the world" (Vita Consecrata VC 25).

May the Blessed Virgin Mary, your patroness, the one who presented Christ as the Light of the Nations, continue to be your guide in all your missionary endeavours. May her mother Ann, to whom you have been devoted from the beginning, together with the host of witnesses of your own Institute, protect and encourage you on your journey to holiness. Assuring you of a remembrance in my prayers, I gladly impart to all the Missionaries of Mariannhill my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 26 October 2002




Thursday, 31 October 2002

Mr Ambassador,

1. I am pleased to welcome Your Excellency at the Vatican, for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Belgium to the Holy See, and I am most grateful to you for conveying to me the courteous message of His Majesty King Albert II. I would be grateful if, in turn, you would kindly present to His Majesty my very best wishes for him, for Queen Paola, for Queen Fabiola and for Prince Philippe, and for the Belgian people.

2. As you mentioned, Belgium was an active party in the European project from the very beginning and has always actively supported it during the successive phases of its development. It has thus enabled the old continent, which has experienced so many rifts and fratricidal wars in its history, to provide for itself the means of a stable peace and fruitful cooperation among the countries that compose it. The European Union today represents on the international scene a place for dialogue and cooperation, that has an obvious appeal for many peoples of the world who aspire to development and peace. I am delighted to know that your country encourages and supports the process of its enlargement that is under way to permit the gradual integration into the Union of the Central and Eastern European countries, the promise of a new future for all.

Mr Ambassador, you know that the building of Europe, which is slowly taking place before our eyes, requires the good will and determination of the authorities and the desire to base the Union on the common values, with the awareness of the Christian roots of the different peoples who are a permanent reality of European history and culture. In fact, the decisive contribution of Christianity, of the Christian vision to the history and culture of the different countries belongs to the common treasure and so it would seem logical to inscribe it in the draft of the European Convention.

Moreover, it is important that the existence and freedom of action of the churches and religious confessions be recognized, as is the case in the constitutions of many European countries.

3. In the face of the serious tensions in our world at the beginning of this new millennium, the leaders of the nations need great determination to fight terrorism effectively, to reduce opposition between peoples by using the means of dialogue and common endeavour, and to combat the forms of injustice that kindle resentment, hatred or violence. In this regard, Mr Ambassador, I am eager to acknowledge the renewed attention your nation is paying to the countries on the African continent, especially those in the Great Lakes' Region with whom it has kept strong economic and cultural ties, who have suffered and still suffer from serious tensions. It is good that countries like yours are seeking to help the younger States to overcome their domestic crises and the conflicts that set them against one another, guiding them in establishing political, economic and social structures, especially by the formation of leaders, encouraging them to have recourse to a demanding but constructive dialogue between all the parties present. The Holy See appreciates this contribution to peace and solidarity which your country is making on behalf of the poorest countries on the international level.

4. The Church has always paid great attention to youth by fostering a wide range of institutions devoted to this apostolate. This is particularly true in Belgium, where Catholics participate actively in the education of children and young people, and where there are many confessional schools.

Recent events have revealed, often dramatically, in our developed societies, the need to protect children and to ensure that their education is truly at the service of their integral development, whether at home or at school. For this it is important to condemn with the greatest severity the sexual abuse of the young. It is also necesary to pursue a bold policy of support for families, to help them in their educational mission, notably by supporting the institution of marriage. As a fundamental bond between a man and a woman, marriage makes the family the place for a stable and balanced fulfilment of the children that is built on the affective ties that relate to the father and mother. It is also necessary to recall and to honour the responsibility of educators, recognizing the difficult responsiblity they must assume in the name of the whole of society, in the human, moral and spiritual formation of the citizens of the future. Strengthened by her long experience in this area, the Church desires to continue to offer her loyal contribution to this demanding and exalting task for the entire society.

5. The human person, created by God and called to share his divine life, has always been at the centre of the Christian vision of the world. For this reason the Church respects and defends the gift of life. How could she fail to express her intense disquiet and rejection of the laws recently passed in several countries legalizing active euthanisia, thus making the human being the master of life and death? In a society where all too often only good health and economic profit seem to matter, it is important to take a different look at the persons who are feeble or nearing the end of their lives.

What is especially appreciated is the setting up and developing of palliative treatment for all the sick whose situation requires it. It is a form of treatment which makes it possible to relieve pain and to accompany the dying with dignity. In fact, the recognition of the sacred and inviolable character of every human person, which has been given to them by the Creator, is the only true bulwark to protect them against the ever possible violation of their dignity and rights. A society that takes the risk of calling into question these foundations, exposes itself to very serious dangers, especially that of making the right of individuals and fundamental values depend solely on a consensus that is subject to ongoing change. The respect for every human being, at every stage of his life, is also an essential element in forming people for peace and justice, and I hope that political leaders, and also educators and those who are responsible for fostering the responsibility of citizens, will assess the great importance of what is at stake and uphold the cause of life. For her part, the Church is aware that she has a pressing duty to intervene, in season and out of season, as the Apostle says, to make people listen to the Word of the Gospel of life, and to enlighten consciences.

6. Through you, I would like to greet the Christian community of Belgium and its Pastors, and convey my encouragement to them. I appreciate the attention you are paying to the missionary work accomplished by the priests and lay people who originally came from Belgium and who, after the example of Fr Damien, have been witnesses of God's love to the ends of the earth. May I also recall the figure of Bishop Jean Huard, who died recently. As we face the situation of the increasing secularization of society, Catholics today must rediscover, without fear and without complexes, the mission of witness by their words and deeds. I know that they are deeply committed in social life, with youth, immigrants, the disabled, and people in trouble. I invite them to persevere in this commitment at the service of their compatriots. I encourage them again to work in every field in harmony with Christians of other confessions, to strengthen the bonds that already unite them and to show that the Spirit of unity is at work. May they not fear to bear witness to Christ, the source of their faith, the New Man and the true face of God's love!

7. Mr Ambassador, today you begin the noble mission of representing Belgium to the Holy See. Please accept my best wishes for its fulfilment and be assured that you will always find here, with my collaborators, an attentive welcome and cordial understanding!

Upon you, Your Excellency, upon your family, the members of the Embassy and all your compatriots I invoke an abundance of God's Blessings.

November 2002




Solemnity of All Saints

Friday, 1 November 2002

In this crypt we entrust to the mercy of the Father above all the victims of the earthquake that struck the south of Italy and especially the many little children who lost their lives, their parents and their families.

We also pray for those who are buried here and await the resurrection of the flesh, particularly, the Supreme Pontiffs who have served as Pastors of the Universal Church so that they may share in the eternal liturgy of heaven.



Tuesday, 5 November 2002

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am happy today to welcome, along with the members of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, the national delegates designated by the respective ecclesial authorities to take part in the Plenary Assembly going on these days in Rome. I cordially greet each of you, and especially Cardinal Jozef Tomko, President of the Committee, whom I thank for his kind words on your behalf. I also greet Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íńiguez, Archbishop of Guadalajara, the place where the next International Eucharistic Congress will take place.

Your Assembly has given special attention to the Congress, whose theme will be: "The Eucharist, Light and Life of the New Millennium". The millennium has just begun but already everyone clearly sees how necessary for humanity and for the Church is the light of Jesus Christ and the life he offers in the Eucharist.

The beginning is not without threatening shadows. For this reason, it is necessary to re-present to humanity "the true light that enlightens every man who comes into the world" (Jn 1,9), the Word Incarnate who wished to remain with us in such a wonderful way as he does in the Eucharist. In this sacrament, Jesus Christ is present with the gift of himself "for the life of the world" - pro mundi vita - for the life of our world as it is, with its lights and shadows. The Eucharist is the sublime expression of the love of God incarnate, a permanent and effective love.

2. The principal goal of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses is that of "making ever better known and loved the Lord Jesus in his Eucharistic Mystery, centre of the life of the Church and of her mission for the salvation of the world" (Statutes). One is dealing with a very elevated goal for which the Committee provides, on the one hand, promoting the regular celebration of International Eucharistic Congresses, and, on the other, fostering the initiatives that contribute to increase devotion to the Eucharistic Mystery. With your apostolic endeavour, you fulfill the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, that presented the Eucharist as "the source and summit of the entire Christian life" (Lumen gentium LG 11).

The International Eucharistic Congresses have a long history in the Church and have assumed ever more obviously the characteristic of the "Statio Orbis", that highlights the universal dimension of such a celebration. In fact, the Congress is always a feast around Christ in the Eucharist, in which the faithful, not just of a particular church or of one nation participate, but as far as possible those coming from many parts of the globe. It is the Church who is gathered around her Lord and her God.

In this regard, how much more important is the zeal of the national delegates, appointed by the authorities of the Churches of the West and of the East. They are called to sensitize their churches to the theme of the International Congress, above all in the period of preparation so that it may become an event that for the particular churches may be the source of rich gifts of life and communion.

3. The Eucharist has the central place in the Church because it "makes the Church" come into being. As the Second Vatican Council affirmed, with the words of the great Augustine, it is "the sacrament of love, sign of unity, bond of charity" (Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 47). St Paul says, "Because there is one bread, we who are many, are one body: for we all partake of the one bread" (1Co 10,17). The Eucharist is the source of unity in the Church. The Eucharistic Body of the Lord nourishes and sustains his Mystical Body.

The International Eucharistic Congresses contribute to this explicitly ecclesial finality. The fact that the faithful coming from so many places can participate in the Eucharistic event symbolizes the unity and communion of the Church. The national delegates can take back to their communities the spirit of Eucharistic fervour and communion that is lived in these periods of concentration on adoration, contemplation, reflection, and sharing. The Congress, when it is lived in depth, is a fire for renewing the zeal of those who animate living Eucharistic communities and of the evangelizers of those who do not know very well the great love that is contained in the Eucharist.

4. Dearly beloved Brothers and Sisters, the Eucharistic apostolate to which you dedicate your diligent activities is certainly a reply to the Lord's invitation "to put out into the deep". Persevere in it with dedication and passion, inspiring and spreading Eucharistic devotion in all its forms. In your ecclesial service, may a genuine spirit of communion always guide you, as you foster an effective collaboration between the Pontifical Eucharistic Committee and the National Committees.

I accompany these wishes with the assurance of my prayer and with the Apostolic Blessing that I wholeheartedly impart to you and your loved ones.



Thursday, 7 November 2002

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am glad to meet you on the occasion of the 17th International Conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care.

I cordially greet each of you. I extend a special greeting to Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragán, President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care whom I thank for the kind words of respect he spoke in your name and for his overview of the goals of your conference. I am pleased that your Dicastery promotes this annual initiative that is an important chance for reflection, debate and dialogue between the ecclesial and the civil world on such a priority goal as health.

The theme of the present Conference - "The Identity of Catholic Health Care Institutions" - has great relevance for the life and mission of the Church. In fact, in carrying out the work of evangelization, in the course of the centuries, the Church has always associated the assistance and care for the sick with the preaching of the Good News (cf. Motu proprio Dolentium hominum, n. 1).

2. Following closely the teaching of Christ, the divine Physician, several saints of charity and of hospitality, such as St Camillus of Lellis, St John of God, St Vincent de Paul established hospices for the recovery and care of the sick, anticipating what would later become modern hospitals. The network of Catholic social and health care institutions was gradually created as a response of solidarity and charity by the Church to the mandate of the Lord, who sent the Twelve to proclaim the Kingdom of God and heal the sick (cf. Lk Lc 9,6).

In this perspective, I thank you for the steps you are taking to put fresh life into the Confederatio internationalis catholicorum hospitalium (International Confederation of Catholic hospitals) a valid organism for responding better to the many questions that arise in the minds of those who are involved on many fronts in the world of health care. For this reason, I encourage the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care to sustain the work realized by the Confederation so that the service of charity that is carried out in Catholic hospitals will be constantly inspired by the Gospel.

3. To understand the identity of such health care institutions fully, one must go to the heart of what the Church is, whose supreme law is love. Catholic health care institutions thus become powerful witnesses to the charity of the Good Samaritan because, in caring for the sick, we fulfill the Lord's will and contribute to realizing the Kingdom of God. In this way they express their true ecclesial identity.

It is right to review from this point of view "the role of hospitals, clinics and convalescent homes.... These should not merely be institutions where care is provided for the sick or the dying.

Above all they should be places where suffering, pain and death are acknowledged and understood in their human and specifically Christian meaning. This must be especially evident and effective in institutes staffed by religious or in any way connected with the Church" (Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, n. 88).

4. In the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte, referring to so many needs in our time that challenge Christian sensitivity, I recalled those who lack even the most basic medical care (cf. n. 50). The Church looks with particular concern to these brothers and sisters allowing herself to be inspired by a new "creativity in charity' (cf. ibid.)

I hope that Catholic health care institutions and public health care institutions may be able to collaborate effectively, united by the common desire to serve the human person, especially, the weakest and those who, in fact, are not socially insured.

Dearly beloved, with such good wishes, I entrust all of you to the motherly protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Health of the Sick, while, with every best wish for the fruitfulness of your ecclesial service and your professional activity, I wholeheartedly impart to you, to your families and to those who are dear to you, a special Apostolic Blessing.




Friday, 8 November 2002

Your Eminence,
Dear Friends,

Once again this year I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican on the occasion of your annual visit. I am grateful to Cardinal Maida for his continuing guidance of the Center and its activities, and I thank all of you for supporting its efforts to present the Catholic tradition in its richness and cultural relevance.

It is significant that the Cultural Center opened its doors as the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 concluded and the Church made ready to "set out into the deep" (cf. Lc 5,6) with renewed commitment to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and peoples. The mission of the Center, so close to my heart, is inspired by the firm conviction that Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, is the center of human history and the key which unlocks the mystery of man and reveals his sublime calling (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 22). To build a world more worthy of humanity, it is urgent that Christ be proclaimed with joy and conviction as " the way, and the truth and the light" (cf. Jn Jn 14,6) which can illumine the life of each individual and the destiny of the whole human family. The Cultural Center is committed to showing how the Gospel responds to our deepest yearnings and highest aspirations as these find expression in the cultures which shape the future of our world. It is my hope that in carrying out this essential mission, the Center will make a distinctive contribution to the new evangelization.

Dear friends, I thank you and the staff and benefactors of the Center for your promotion of its initiatives. To you and your families I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord.


Friday, 8 November 2002

Dear Daughters of Mary Help of Christians,

1. I am happy to meet you on the occasion of the General Chapter of your institute and I wish you all a cordial welcome. I greet your newly confirmed Superior General, Sister Antonia Colombo, and I thank her for her kind words on behalf of everyone present. I extend my best wishes so she may know to direct, with the assistance of the new General Council, your religious family in faithful acceptance of the ever valid teaching of the Saints John Bosco and Maria Domenica Mazzarello. I offer a cordial greeting to the Major Rector, Don Pascual Chávez Villanueva, who wished to be present for this gathering.

In these days of intense work you wished to focus your attention on the theme, "In the renewed covenant, the commitment of an active citizen" - keeping ever present the programme of your Founders - "form good Christians and upright citizens" - that is as current in the present multicultural social situation, charged with tensions and even tragic challenges. This programme calls you, dear Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, to witness to hope on the many frontiers of the modern world, knowing how to indicate with missionary boldness new highways for evangelization and human advancement, especially at the service of the young generations. You should know how to communicate to the younger generations, in an atmosphere permeated by loving friendship according the style of Don Bosco, the message of the Gospel, summed up in the proclamation of the love of the merciful Father, ready to embrace every person in Christ.

2. To realize fully such a demanding mission, it is above all necessary to maintain constant communion with Jesus, untiringly contemplating his face in prayer, to serve him energetically in our brothers and sisters.

Speeches 2002 - Monday, 28 October 2002