Speeches 2002 - Friday, 8 November 2002

For this reason, I desire to repeat to you the Lord's exhortation, "to put out into the deep" (Lc 5,4) that I directed to the entire Christian people in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte. Yes! Put out into the water, dear Sisters, and confidently throw the nets in the name of the Redeemer. In an era marked by a disturbing culture, empty and "lacking direction", proclaim categorically the primacy of God who always hears the cry of the oppressed and the afflicted. The foundation of every apostolic commitment and the antidote to dangerous spiritual fragmentation is personal holiness coming from a docile listening to the Spirit who frees and transforms the heart.

Holiness is your essential and primary mission, dear Salesian Sisters. It is the best contribution you can make to the new evangelization, and the guarantee of a genuinely evangelical service for the benefit of the neediest.

3. Your religious family already boasts of a long history, written by courageous witnesses to Christ, some of whom even confirmed their fidelity to the Gospel with martyrdom. You must continue to walk on the same path even in situations that are marked by tension and fear, by opposing forces and division, by extremist elements and violence, that are capable even of blacking out hope.

However, there are plenty of apostolic opportunities and providential ferments of evangelical renewal. You, as are all men and women religious, are called to live wholeheartedly the radical choice of the Beatitudes, learning at the school of Jesus, to listen and put into practice the demanding Word of God as Mary did. As I said at Toronto, meeting with the young people from all over the world, the beatitudes describe the face of Jesus, and at the same time, that of the Christian; they are the portrait of the genuine disciple who struggles to be in perfect agreement with his divine Master.

Inspired by such spiritual fervour, you will not hesitate to push forward with prophetic freedom and wise discernment on daring apostolic highways and missionary frontiers, while you foster close collaboration with the bishops and other members of the ecclesial community. The vast horizons of evangelization and the urgent need to bear witness to the evangelical message to all without distinction, make up the field of your apostolate. So many are still waiting to know Jesus, the only Saviour of the human person, and there are plenty of situations of injustice and moral and material hardship that are a challenge for believers.

4. Such an urgent mission requires an unceasing personal and community conversion. Only hearts that are totally open to the action of grace can interpret the signs of the times and take up the appeals of a humanity in need of justice and peace. You can meet the needs of the people if you keep intact the spirit of St John Bosco and St Maria Domenica Mazzarello, who lived with their gaze fixed on heaven and a joyful heart even when the following of Christ involved obstacles and difficulties and apparent failures.

Dear Sisters, may your faithful loyalty to Christ and to his Gospel shine forth in the many areas of your ecclesial service.

May the Blessed Virgin Mary whom you venerate with the lovely name of Help of Christians, protect and help you and be the sure guide of the course of your religious family, so that you may realize all your plans for the good of souls.

With these best wishes, while I assure you of my affectionate remembrance of each of you and of those you meet in your daily apostolate in prayer, I wholeheartedly bless you all.




Saturday, 9 November 2002

Your Eminences,

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

1. I cordially greet Cardinal Camillo Ruini, President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, and thank him for the kind words that he addressed to me, in the name of all those present. I extend a heartfelt welcome to the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops, the Minister for Communications, Mr Maurizio Gasparri and those who have participated in this meeting with the people who are involved in communications and culture throughout Italy.

You have reflected on the theme "Communication and Culture: New Paths for the Evangelization of the Third Millennium". It is an important basic perspective, that deserves great attention from the entire Christian community.

To you who work in the field of culture and communication, the Church looks with confidence and expectation since, as protagonists of the changes taking place in these sectors in a time of increasing globalization, you are called to interpret the present time and identify ways for communicating the Gospel according to the language and sensibility of the contemporary human person.

2. We are conscious that, especially in the field of social communications, rapid technological transformations are creating new conditions for the transmission of knowledge, for coexistence among peoples, for the formation of lifestyles and mentalities. Communication creates culture, and culture is transmitted through communication.

But what culture can be created by a communication which is not centred on the dignity of the person, the ability to help deal with the great questions of human life, the duty with honesty to serve the common good, and attention to the problems of a just and peaceful coexistence? Persons are needed in this field who, with the genius of faith, can interpret modern cultural needs, committing themselves to approaching the communications age not as a time of alienation and confusion, but as a valuable time for the quest for the truth and for developing communion between persons and peoples.

3. We must be increasingly aware in the face of this "new Areopagus", shaped largely by the media, that "the very evangelization of modern culture depends to a great extent on the influence of the media" (Redemptoris missio RMi 37). We could feel inadequate and unprepared, but nonetheless we must not become discouraged. We know that we are not alone: we are sustained by an unlimited strength which comes from our being with the Lord. Dear workers in communications and culture, if you have assumed this commitment, it is because, like the disciples of Emmaus, you have also recognized the risen Lord in the breaking of the bread and have felt your hearts beating with joy at hearing Him. This is the truest source of cultural renewal. This is the strongest stimulus for a coherent commitment to communication.

We must not tire of fixing our gaze upon Jesus of Nazareth, the Word made flesh, who accomplished the most important communication for the history of humanity allowing us to see through Him the face of the heavenly Father (cf. Jn Jn 14,9) and giving us the Spirit of truth (cf. Jn Jn 16,13) who teaches us all things. Let us once again listen to the teaching of Christ, so that the proliferation of antennas on the rooftops, those emblematic instruments of modern culture, does not paradoxically become the sign of an inability to see and to hear, but is rather the sign of a communication which grows in the service of man and the integral progress of all of humanity.

4. On this path the Church in Italy has embarked on a courageous journey. Already, the Ecclesial Convention in Palermo marked the beginning of an intense pastoral outreach. At the time, I encouraged you to make this time a "time of mission and not of preservation" (23 Nov. 1995). At the time you created a "cultural plan of Christian inspiration" to contribute to creating a vision of life that is inspired by Christian values. The "pastoral orientations" of the Italian bishops for this decade, are characterized by this emphasis, that entails the involvement of both Christian communities and individual believers in order to support them in the work of interpreting the present time, in the quest for plausible life styles and a more effective Christian presence in society. Starting out from this basic choice, many worthwhile initiatives have been launched in the communications field. An important one is the contribution to an original presentation of events and Christian viewpoint offered by the national daily Avvenire, currently involved in a major plan of redesigning its pages for its relaunching. No less important are the initiatives that foster many Italian Catholic weeklies.

New opportunities have arisen in the field of television transmission with the satellite TV channel Sat2000, and the radio broadcasting network, which brings together many local radio stations.
We can only see in this pastoral and cultural leaven a concrete and significant fruit of the Conciliar decree Inter mirifica. From this Decree a season of renewal has begun, and even now its suggestions are still valid.

5. The witness of believers finds a vast field of expression in the world of the media and culture. In this sector, special vocations and personal gifts are to be recognized, that the Lord will certainly not allow His Church to be without. Especially, it is the lay faithful who are asked to demonstrate professionalism and authentic Christian consciousness.

Those who work in the media and shape culture, believers and non-believers alike, must have a profound consciousness of their responsibilities, especially with regard to the persons who are the most defenseless, who are often exposed, without protection, to programmes full of violence and distorted visions of the human person, the family, and life. In particular, public authorities and associations for the protection of viewers are called to be active, according to their specific competencies and responsibilities, in order that the media maintain as a high priority their primary goal of service to persons and society. An absence of control and vigilance does not guarantee freedom, as many would like to believe, but instead, ends by fostering an indiscriminate use of very powerful instruments which, if used badly, produce devastating effects on the consciences of individuals and the social life. In a system of increasingly complex communications and global expansion, clear and just rules are also needed which guarantee the pluralism, freedom, participation, and respect of the viewers.

6. Dear workers in communications and culture, before you lies a great challenge: look with faith and hope to the future, using your best energies and trusting in the support of the Lord! I accompany you with my prayer, knowing well, from personal experience, how central the question of culture is to evangelization and how much the media can contribute to a profound cultural renewal enlightened by the Gospel.

May Mary, who welcomed the Word of life, and with the Apostles received the gift of the Spirit in the outpouring of Pentecost, accompany and sustain you, so that you may always proclaim and witness to the Gospel with your lives and your involvement in communications and culture.

To all of you I give my Blessing!




To the Catholic Fraternity
of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" ( Rom Rm 15,13). With the words of the Apostle Paul I greet you on the occasion of your Conference being held in Rome at this time. This is indeed an occasion of joyful thanksgiving as you celebrate thirty-five years of Catholic Charismatic Renewal within the Church. As I move into the twenty-fifth year of my Pontificate, I thank you for the prayers with which you have accompanied me and for your fidelity to the ministry entrusted to me. Your contribution to the life of the Church, through your faithful witness to the presence and action of the Holy Spirit has helped many people to rediscover in their own lives the beauty of the grace given to them at Baptism, the gateway to life in the Spirit (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 1213). It has helped them to know the power of the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit conferred at Confirmation (cf. ibid., 1302). I join you in praising the Most Holy Trinity for the work of the Spirit who continues to draw people more fully into the life of Christ and to render their bonds with the Church more perfect (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 11).

Your reflection on Family Life, Youth and Human Promotion cannot fail to open your hearts and minds to the needs of humanity as it struggles to find purpose in a world too often troubled by a "crisis of meaning" (Fides et Ratio FR 81). You are fully aware of the urgency of a new evangelization, an evangelization of culture, in order that life may be marked by hope rather than by fear or scepticism. In my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte I encouraged everyone to trust in Christ’s words to Peter to "put out into the deep" ("Duc in altum", Lc 5,4). I encourage you to make your communities living signs of hope, beacons of Christ’s Good News for the men and women of our time.

To be authentic witnesses to hope means to be authentic witnesses to the truth and vision of life entrusted to and proclaimed by the Church. Communion in faith and life, in heartfelt union with the Successors of the Apostles, is itself a powerful witness to the anchor of truth which the world so needs. The great challenge facing us in this new millennium then is to make the Church the home and the school of communion (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 43). And what is a challenge for the whole Church is certainly true also for the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships. Fidelity to the ecclesial nature of your communities will ensure that their prayer and activity will be instruments of the profound life-giving mystery of the Church. This precisely will determine their ability to attract new members. So, with Saint Peter I encourage you to account for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence (cf. 1P 3,15-16).

Entrusting the work of your Conference to the unfailing protection of Mary, Mother of the Church and Seat of Wisdom, I cordially impart to each of you and to the communities you represent my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 7 November 2002




Monday, 11 November 2002

Dear Members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences,

It gives me great pleasure to greet you on the occasion of your Plenary Meeting, and I offer a particularly warm welcome to the new members among you. Your discussion and reflection this year focuses on "The Cultural Values of Science". This theme allows you to consider scientific developments in their relation to other general aspects of human experience.

In fact, even before speaking of the cultural values of science, we could say that science itself represents a value for human knowledge and the human community. For it is thanks to science that we have a greater understanding today of man’s place in the universe, of the connections between human history and the history of the cosmos, of the structural cohesion and symmetry of the elements of which matter is composed, of the remarkable complexity and at the same time the astonishing coordination of the life processes themselves. It is thanks to science that we are able to appreciate ever more what one member of this Academy has called "the wonder of being human": this is the title that John Eccles, recipient of the 1963 Nobel Prize for Neurophysiology and member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, gave to his book on the human brain and mind (J. C. Eccles, D. N. Robinson, The Wonder of Being Human: Our Brain and Our Mind; Free Press, New York, 1984).

This knowledge represents an extraordinary and profound value for the entire human family, and it is also of immeasurable significance for the disciplines of philosophy and theology as they continue along the path of intellectus quaerens fidem and of fides quarens intellectum, as they seek an ever more complete understanding of the wealth of human knowledge and of Biblical revelation. If philosophy and theology today grasp better than in the past what it means to be a human being in the world, they owe this in no small part to science, because it is science that has shown us how numerous and complex the works of creation are and how seemingly limitless the created cosmos is. The utter marvel that inspired the first philosophical reflections on nature does not diminish as new scientific discoveries are made. Rather, it increases with each fresh insight that is gained. The species capable of "creaturely amazement" is transformed as our grasp of truth and reality becomes more comprehensive, as we are led to search ever more deeply within the realm of human experience and existence.

But the cultural and human value of science is also seen in its moving from the level of research and reflection to actual practice. In fact, the Lord Jesus warned his followers: "everyone to whom much is given, of him will much be required" (Lc 12,48). Scientists, therefore, precisely because they "know more", are called to "serve more". Since the freedom they enjoy in research gives them access to specialized knowledge, they have the responsibility of using it wisely for the benefit of the entire human family. I am thinking here not only of the dangers involved in a science devoid of an ethic firmly grounded in the nature of the human person and in respect of the environment, themes which I have dwelt on many times in the past (cf. Addresses to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 28 October 1994, 27 October 1998 and 12 March 1999; Address to the Pontifical Academy for Life, 24 February 1998).

I am also thinking of the enormous benefits that science can bring to the peoples of the world through basic research and technological applications. By protecting its legitimate autonomy from economic and political pressures, by not giving in to the forces of consensus or to the quest for profit, by committing itself to selfless research aimed at truth and the common good, the scientific community can help the world’s peoples and serve them in ways no other structures can.

At the beginning of this new century, scientists need to ask themselves if there is not more that they can do in this regard. In an ever more globalized world, can they not do more to increase levels of instruction and improve health conditions, to study strategies for a more equitable distribution of resources, to facilitate the free circulation of information and the access of all to that knowledge that improves the quality of life and raises standards of living? Can they not make their voices heard more clearly and with greater authority in the cause of world peace? I know that they can, and I know that you can, dear members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences! As you prepare to celebrate the Academy’s Fourth Centenary next year, bring these common concerns and aspirations to the international agencies that make use of your work, bring them to your colleagues, bring them to the places where you engage in research and where you teach. In this way, science will help to unite minds and hearts, promoting dialogue not only between individual researchers in different parts of the world but also between nations and cultures, making a priceless contribution to peace and harmony among peoples.

In renewing my warm wishes for the success of your work during these days, I raise my voice to the Lord of heaven and earth, praying that your activity will be more and more an instrument of truth and love in the world. Upon you, your families and your colleagues I cordially invoke an abundance of divine grace and blessings.




Thursday, 14 November 2002

Mr President of the Italian Republic,
Honourable Presidents of the Chamber of Deputies and of the Senate,
Mr President of the Council of Ministers,
Honourable Deputies and Senators,

1. I am deeply honoured by the marvellous welcome given me today in this illustrious seat of government, in which you are the worthy representatives of the Italian people. To each and every one of you I extend my warm and respectful greeting, fully aware of the special significance to be attributed to the presence of the Successor of Peter in the Italian Parliament.

I thank the President of the Chamber of Deputies and the President of the Senate of the Republic for the noble words with which they have expressed your shared sentiments, giving voice also to the millions of your fellow citizens whose affection I experience daily in my many meetings with them. That affection has always been with me from the very first months of my election to the See of Peter. On this occasion therefore I again wish to voice my deepest gratitude to the Italian people.

Already in my days as a student in Rome and later during my periodic visits to Italy as a Bishop, especially during the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, I learned to admire your country, where the proclamation of the Gospel, begun in apostolic times, gave rise to a civilization marked by a wealth of universal values and a marvellous flourishing of the arts, which have portrayed the mysteries of the faith in works of incomparable beauty. How often have I touched with my own hand, as it were, the splendid traces which the Christian religion has impressed on the customs and culture of the Italian people! This can be clearly seen also in countless men and women Saints, whose charism has had an extraordinary impact upon the peoples of Europe and of the world. It suffices to recall Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Catherine of Siena, the Patrons of Italy.

2. Truly deep is the bond that exists between the Holy See and Italy! We all know that this association has gone through widely different phases and circumstances, subject to the vicissitudes and contradictions of history. But at the same time we should recognize that precisely in the sometimes turbulent sequence of events that bond has had highly positive results, both for the Church of Rome, and therefore for the Catholic Church, and for the beloved Italian Nation.

In fostering this closeness and cooperation, with respect for mutual independence and freedom, much was achieved by the great Popes that Italy has given to the Church and the world during the last century. Suffice it to remember Pius XI, the Pope of the Reconciliation, and Pius XII, the Pope of Rome’s safety during the War and, closer to us, Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, whose names I too, like John Paul I, have taken.

3. In an effort to present a broad overview of the history of recent centuries, we can well say that Italy’s social and cultural identity, and the civilizing mission it has exercised and continues to exercise in Europe and the world, would be most difficult to understand without reference to Christianity, its life-blood.

Allow me therefore respectfully to invite you, the elected Representatives of this Nation, and with you the whole Italian people, to maintain a convinced and pondered trust in the heritage of virtues and values handed down by your forebears. It is on the basis of this trust that it will be possible to give clear answers to the issues of the moment, however complex and difficult they may be, and even more, to look boldly to the future, asking what more Italy can do for the progress of civilization.

In the light of the extraordinary juridical experience acquired in the course of the centuries, beginning from pagan Rome, how can one not feel an obligation, for example, to continue to offer the world the fundamental message according to which, at the centre of every just civil order, there must be respect for man, for his dignity and for his inalienable rights? With good reason the ancient adage stated: Hominum causa omne ius constitutum est. Such an affirmation implies the conviction that there exists a "truth about man" which asserts itself beyond the barriers of different language and cultures.

In this perspective, speaking at the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization on the Fiftieth Anniversary of its foundation, I recalled that there are universal human rights, rooted in the nature of the person, in which are reflected the objective requirements of a universal moral law. And I added: "These are not abstract points; rather, these rights tell us something important about the actual life of every individual and of every social group. They also remind us that we do not live in an irrational or meaningless world. On the contrary, there is a moral logic which is built into human life and which makes possible dialogue between individuals and peoples (No. 3).

4. Following with affectionate attention the development of this great Nation, I am led to believe that, in order for its characteristic qualities to be more clearly expressed, it needs to increase its solidarity and internal cohesion. Thanks to the riches of its long history, as also to the multiplicity and dynamism of its social, cultural and economic enterprise and activities, which in various ways shape its peoples and its territory, the reality of Italy is certainly extremely complex. It would be impoverished and impaired by a forced uniformity.

The path which makes it possible to maintain and use differences to advantage, without them becoming sources of confrontation and obstacles to overall progress, is the path of sincere and steadfast solidarity. This solidarity has profound roots in the heart and in the customs of the Italian people, and one of the ways in which it is currently being expressed is in numerous and praiseworthy forms of voluntary work. But there is also an evident need for solidarity in the relationships between the various sectors of society and between the diverse geographical areas.

As political leaders and institutional representatives, you yourselves can give a particularly important and effective example in this field. Your example will be all the more meaningful insofar as the dialectic of politics tends rather to emphasize differences. Your activity in fact takes on all its noble significance to the extent that it is seen to be prompted by a true spirit of service to your fellow citizens.

5. Decisive in this perspective is the presence in the heart of each one of an intense awareness for the common good. The teaching of the Second Vatican Council in this matter is very clear: "The political community... exists for the common good: this is its full justification and meaning and the source of its specific and basic right to exist" (Gaudium et spes GS 74).

The challenges facing a democratic State demand from all men and women of good will, irrespective of their particular political persuasion, supportive and generous cooperation in building up the common good of the Nation. Such cooperation however cannot prescind from reference to the fundamental ethical values inscribed in the very nature of the human person. In this regard, in my Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor I warned of the "risk of an alliance between democracy and ethical relativism, which would remove any sure moral reference point from political and social life, and on a deeper level make the acknowledgement of truth impossible" (No. 101). In fact, as I noted in another Encyclical Letter, Centesimus Annus, if there exists no ultimate truth to guide and direct political life "ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism" (No. 46).

6. I cannot fail to mention, on such a solemn occasion, another grave threat that bears upon the future of this Country, one which is already conditioning its life and its capacity for development. I refer to the crisis of the birthrate, the demographic decline and the ageing of the population. Raw statistical evidence obliges us to take account of the human, social and economic problems which this crisis will inevitably impose on Italy in the decades to come. Above all, it encourages – indeed, I would dare to say, forces – citizens to make a broad and responsible commitment to favour a clear-cut reversal of this tendency.

The Church’s contribution to the development of an attitude and culture by which this reversal of tendency can become possible is her pastoral action in favour of families and openness to life, and more in general in favour of a way of life marked by self-giving. But there is also ample room for political initiatives which, by upholding recognition of the rights of the family as the natural society founded upon marriage, according to the expression of the Constitution of the Italian Republic (cf. art. 29), can make the task of having children and bringing them up less burdensome both socially and economically.

7. At a time of often radical change, when past experience seems increasingly irrelevant, there is an ever greater need for a solid formation of the person. This too, distinguished Representatives of the Italian people, is an area which calls for the broadest cooperation, to ensure that the primary responsibilities of parents can find adequate support. The intellectual training and the moral education of young people remain the two fundamental "ways" for all persons, in the decisive years of their development, to prove themselves, to widen the horizons of the mind and to prepare for the reality of life.

Men and women live a genuinely human existence thanks to culture. Through culture they find their true being and come to a deeper "ownership" of themselves. The thoughtful person understands clearly that the human measure of a person is who he is rather than what he has. The human value of each individual is directly and essentially related to being, not having. For this reason a nation concerned for its own future promotes the development of its learning centres in a healthy climate of freedom, and leaves no effort undone to improve their quality, in close cooperation with families and all sectors of society, as in fact is the case in most European countries.

No less important for the formation of the person is the moral climate prevalent in social relations, and which at the present time is massively conditioned by the communications media; this challenge is a concern for every individual and family, but particularly for those charged with major political and institutional responsibilities. The Church, for her part, will never cease to carry out also in this field that educational mission which is part of her very nature.

8. The genuinely "human" nature of society is shown especially in the attention which it is able show towards its weakest members. If we consider Italy’s development in the almost sixty years since the devastation of the Second World War, we can only admire the immense progress made towards a society in which all are guaranteed acceptable living conditions. But it is likewise necessary to acknowledge the continuing grave crisis of unemployment affecting the young in particular, and the many forms of poverty, deprivation and marginalization, both old and new, involving numerous individuals and families, whether Italians or immigrants to this country. Great therefore is the need for a willing and comprehensive network of solidarity, in which the Church is entirely committed to making her own specific contribution.

Such solidarity, however, needs to be able to count above all on constant and close attention on the part of public Institutions. In this context, and without prejudice to the need to guarantee the security of citizens, attention needs to be given to the prison situation, where inmates often live in conditions of appalling overcrowding. A gesture of clemency towards prisoners through a reduction of their sentences would be clear evidence of a sensitivity which would encourage them in their own personal rehabilitation for the sake of a constructive re-insertion into society.

9. A self-confident and internally cohesive Italy can be a great enrichment for the other nations of Europe and the world. I wish to share this conviction with you at this time, when the institutional shape of the European Union is being defined and its expansion to include many countries of Central and Eastern Europe appears imminent, as it were sealing the end of an unnatural division. It is my hope that, thanks also to Italy’s support, the new foundations of the European "common house" will not lack the "cement" of that extraordinary religious, cultural and civil patrimony which has given Europe its greatness down the centuries.

There is a need to guard against a vision of the Continent which would only take into account its economic and political aspects, or which would uncritically yield to lifestyles inspired by a consumerism indifferent to spiritual values. If lasting stability is to be given to the new unity of Europe, there must be a commitment to ensuring that it is supported on those ethical foundations which were once its basis, while at the same time making room for the richness and diversity of the cultures and traditions which characterize individual nations. In this noble Assembly I would like to renew the appeal which in recent years I have made to the various peoples of the Continent: "Europe, at the beginning of the new millennium, open once again your doors to Christ!"

10. The new century just begun brings with it a growing need for concord, solidarity and peace between the nations: for this is the inescapable requirement of an increasingly interdependent world, held together by a global network of exchanges and communications, in which nonetheless deplorable inequalities continue to exist. Tragically our hopes for peace are brutally contradicted by the flaring up of chronic conflicts, beginning with the one which has caused so much bloodshed in the Holy Land. There is also international terrorism, which has taken on a new and fearful dimension, involving in a completely distorted way the great religions. Precisely for this reason, the world’s religions are challenged to show all their rich potential for peace by directing and as it were "converting" towards mutual understanding the cultures and civilizations which draw inspiration from them.

In this great enterprise, on whose outcome depends the future of the human race in coming decades, Christianity has its own particular genius and responsibility: by proclaiming the God of love, it presents itself as the religion of mutual respect, forgiveness and reconciliation. Italy and the other nations historically rooted in the Christian faith are in a sense inherently prepared to open up for humanity new pathways of peace, not by ignoring the danger of present threats, yet not allowing themselves to be imprisoned by a "logic" of conflict incapable of offering real solutions.

Illustrious Representatives of the Italian People, a prayer arises spontaneously from the depths of my heart: from this ancient and glorious City – from this "Rome where Christ is Roman", in Dante’s celebrated phrase (Purgatorio 32:102) – I implore the Redeemer of man to grant that the beloved Italian Nation will continue, now and in the future, to live in a way worthy of its radiant tradition, and to draw from that tradition new and abundant fruits of civilization, for the material and spiritual progress of the whole world.

God bless Italy!

Speeches 2002 - Friday, 8 November 2002