Saturday, 16 November 2002

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I greet you all affectionately with the words of St Peter, the first Pope: "May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord" since you have also "obtained a faith of equal standing with ours in the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ" (II PT 1,1-2), to kindle hope in the hearts of the men and women of our time.

I would like to thank you for the words and sentiments expressed by Cardinal Serafim Fernandes de Araújo, Archbishop of Belo Horizonte, on behalf of the entire Episcopate of Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo. I am glad to see how the love of Christ impels you to an intense and generous apostolate for the growth of the Kingdom of God in the communities entrusted to your care. This ad limina visit gives you the opportunity to express your pastoral anxieties and concerns as fully as necessary, both in the reports you have presented and in the personal conversations you have had with me. My meeting with you today, first of all, allows me to thank you in the name of the Church for your zeal in the work you carry out, and then to confirm you in the common mission of the Good Shepherd who provides for the People of God, especially families, pastures where they may find life and find it in abundance.

2. In the Letter I addressed to families in 1994, I said that the family is placed "at the centre of the great struggle between good and evil, between life and death, between love and all that is opposed to love. To the family is entrusted the task of striving, first and foremost, to unleash the forces of good, the source of which is found in Christ the Redeemer of man. Every family unit needs to make these forces their own so that ... the family will be strong with the strength of God" (n. 23).

The basic cell of society and the "domestic Church" (Lumen gentium LG 11), the family provides the first natural abode for the human and Christian development of the new generations, inculcating in them the Christian values of honesty and fidelity, diligence and confidence in divine Providence, hospitality and solidarity; today, therefore, it needs special support in order to resist the threat of disintegration coming from the culture of individualism.

3. In the course of my pontificate, I have insisted on the importance of the role played by the family nucleus in society. I also recall that during my first pastoral visit to Brazil I pointed out its influence in the formation of your culture (cf. Homily at Mass for Families, Rio de Janeiro, 1 July 1980, n. 4; ORE, 14 July 1980, p. 3). Certain values denote a tradition the Brazilian people acquired long ago, such as respect, solidarity, respect for privacy; they have a common origin in the faith lived by your ancestors. Brazilian women, in particular, have always had a unique and fundamental place of their own in the origin and life of every family. The bride brings to the marriage and the mother to the life of the family special gifts linked to her physiological and psychological make-up, character, intelligence, sensitivity, affection, understanding of life and attitude to it, but above all, to her spirituality and relationship with God that are indispensable in forging the men and women of the future. For every family community, she is the fundamental link of love and peace, and the guarantee of the future.

In recent decades certain social factors have undoubtedly led to the destabilization of the family nucleus. They were mentioned in Puebla Document: they are social (unjust structures), cultural (education and the media), political (domination and manipulation), economic (salaries, unemployment, having several jobs at the same time) and religious (secularization) (n. 572). Nor should it be forgotten that in some regions of your country, the lack of housing, hygiene, health-care structures and education contribute to the break-up of the family.

In addition to these factors the lack of moral values opens the door to infidelity and the dissolution of marriage. Civil laws that encourage divorce and threaten life by seeking to introduce abortion officially; birth-control campaigns which, instead of inviting responsible procreation by means of the natural rhythms of fertility, have led to the sterilization of thousands of women, especially in the North-East, spreading the use of contraceptive methods which are now revealing their most tragic results. The very lack of objective information, along with geographical uprooting, jeopardizes social coexistence and gives rise to the break-up of the family nucleus in its most essential elements.
This situation, despite the undeniable efforts of various pastoral initiatives and religious movements, that aim at recovering the Christian vision of the family, seems to continue their influence on the social reality of Brazil.

4. I am aware of your commitment to defending and promoting this institution which has its origin in God and in his plan of salvation (cf. Familiaris consortio FC 49). Today we are seeing a trend, very widespread in certain areas, which is tending to reduce its true nature. Indeed, there is no lack of attempts, in public opinion and in civil legislation, to make equivalent to the family mere de facto unions or to recognize as such same-sex unions. These and other anomalies lead us with pastoral firmness to proclaim the truth about marriage and the family. Not to do so would be a serious pastoral omission that would lead people into error, especially those who have the important responsibility of making decisions for the common good of the nation.

It is necessary to react vigorously to this situation, and, above all, with a constant and more effective catechetical and educational instruction, which will make it possible to motivate the Christian ideal of the faithful and indissoluble union of marriage, the true path to holiness and openness to life.

In this context, I recall once again the need to respect the inalienable dignity of women, in order to confirm their important role, both in the family and in society in general. Indeed, it is sad to observe that "women still meet forms of discrimination" (Ecclesia in America ) especially when they are victims of sexual abuse and male chauvinism. It is therefore necessary to sensitize public institutions, to be more effective in fostering family life based on marriage, and to protect motherhood with respect for the dignity of all women (cf. ibid.). Moreover, one can never insist enough on the irreplaceable value of the woman in the home: after giving birth to a child, she is the constant reference point for the human and spiritual growth of this new being. The mother's love is a precious gift in the family, a treasure in the heart that is cherished for ever.

5. We cannot forget that the family must witness to its own values among its members and before society. The duties that God asks it to carry out in history flow from his original plan itself and represent its dynamic and existential development. Husbands and wives must be the first to witness to the greatness of married and family life, based on the commitment to fidelity made before God.

Through the sacrament of marriage, human love acquires a supernatural value, enabling the spouses to participate in the redeeming love of Christ itself, and to exist as a living portion of the Church's holiness. This love, in itself, takes on the responsibility of helping to bring forth new children of God.

However, how can one learn to love and give oneself generously? Nothing is so conducive to loving, said St Thomas, as knowing oneself to be loved. It is really in the family, a communion of persons where love reigns that is freely given, generous and without self-interest, that the human being learns to love. The reciprocal love of the spouses is extended in their love for the children.

The family, more than any other human reality, is the place in which the person is loved for himself and in which he learns to live "the sincere gift of self". Thus the family is a school of love, as long as it keeps its own identity: the stable communion of love between a man and a woman, founded on marriage and open to life.

I wanted to recall these principles, venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, since the disappearance of love, fidelity or generosity to the children, disfigures the family. The consequences are not long in coming: for adults, loneliness, for children, neglect; life becomes an inhospitable territory for one and all. I have recalled them, in a certain sense, to muster all the diocesan pastoral forces, so that they will not hesitate to help couples in difficulty, encouraging them appropriately to be faithful to their vocation at the service of life and the full humanity of man and woman on which the "civilization of love" is founded. To those who fear the demands that such fidelity might involve, the Pope says: do not be afraid of taking risks! "There is no difficult situation that cannot be adequately confronted when one cultivates a genuine atmosphere of Christian life" (Address to the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family, 18 October 2002, n. 3; ORE, 30 October 2002, p. 3).

Moreover, greater by far than the evil that is active in the world is the effectiveness of the sacrament of Penance, the way to reconciliation with God and with one's neighbour.

Give a new impetus to the pastoral care of families, to an adequate preparation for marriage
6. In the 1994 Campaign for Fraternity, I observed once again with a certain apprehension the direction taken by the institution of the family in your homeland. I said on that occasion, "the climate of hedonisn and of religious indifference, which is at the root of the disintegration of a large part of society, is spreading within it and is the cause of the break-up of many families".

For this reason I wish to invite all who are dedicated to the pastoral care of families in your dioceses to give a new impetus to the defence and promotion of the family institution, with an adequate preparation for this great sacrament, "with reference to Christ and the Church" (Ep 5,32). Through the teaching of the Church, offered in classes, in courses for engaged couples, in meetings with suitable married couples or with an expert priest, marriage will reinforce the faith, hope and charity of the spouses in the face of the new social and religious situation which they are called to confront.

The occasion is likewise favourable for a re-evangelization of the baptized, when they approach the Church to ask for the sacrament of Marriage. In this regard, attention is called to education, in school as well as further education, which, even if it has made significant progress in certain areas, lacks a corresponding development in the Christian life of the younger generations. In this area, ecclesial communities have to fulfil an important role by experiencing and witnessing to God's love so they will be able to express it effectively and deeply to those who need to know it. A pastoral proposal for the family in crisis presupposes, as a preliminary requirement, doctrinal clarity, effectively taught in moral theology about sexuality and the respect for life. The opposing opinions of theologians, priests and religious that the media promote on pre-marital relations, birth control, the admission of divorced persons to the sacraments, homosexuality and artificial insemination, the use of abortion practices or euthanasia, show the degree of uncertainty and confusion that disturb and end by deadening the consciences of so many of the faithful.

At the root of the crisis one can perceive the rupture between anthropology and ethics, marked by a moral relativism according to which the human act is not evaluated with reference to the permanent, objective principles proper to nature created by God, but in conformity with a merely subjective reflection on what is the greatest benefit for the individual's life project. Thus a semantic evolution is produced in which homicide is called "induced death", infanticide, "therapeutic abortion", and adultery becomes a mere "extra-marital adventure". No longer possessing absolute certainty in moral matters, the divine law becomes an option among the latest variety of opinions in vogue.

We must, of course, thank God that the religious traditions of the family are firmly rooted especially in Minas Gerais, where there have been many vocations to the religious life and to the priesthood. However, without neglecting the other priorities of pastoral care - especially the vocations' apostolate and the guidance and formation of candidates for the priesthood - a generous effort is necessary in the vast area of the family apostolate, through catechesis, preaching, and personal counseling. In this perspective your ecclesial communities are encouraging the enrichment of ecclesial life in the State itself. To them too, I would like to convey my praise and encouragement for the evangelizing work they are realizing.

7. Lastly, my thoughts go to the cases of marriage annulments that are submitted for examination to your diocesan tribunals, and, when called for, to the Roman Rota.

In her fidelity to Christ, the Church cannot stop teaching in a persuasive way "the good news of the definitive nature of that conjugal love that has in Christ its foundation and strength (cf. Eph Ep 5,25)" (Familiaris consortio FC 20). "For this reason, the ecclesiastical judge, the authentic "sacerdos iuris' in the ecclesial society, cannot fail to be called to fulfil a true "officium caritatis et unitatis'. How demanding, then, is your task and, at the same time, how great is its spiritual importance, since you become the real practitioners of a unique diakonia for every individual and even more for the "christifidelis' (Address to the Roman Rota, 17 January 1998, n. 2; ORE, 4 February 1998, p. 2).

In your concern to apply the norms for the process carefully, not only is the credibility of the revealed faith at stake, but also the peace of consciences. In some of your dioceses there has been an effort to organize the tribunals, and to reinforce the interdiocesan ones. I express the wish that in this delicate interdisciplinary process, fidelity to the truth revealed on marriage and on the family, interpreted authentically by the Magisterium of the Church, may always be the reference point and authentic incentive for a profound renewal of this sector of ecclesial life.

8. May the Holy Family, the icon and model of every human family, help each one of you to continue on your way in the spirit of Nazareth. Therefore, beloved Brothers in the Episcopate, pass on to the faithful entrusted to you the encouragement inherent in the fact that "even as he was at Cana in Galilee, the Bridegroom in the midst of the bride and groom as they entrusted themselves to each other for their whole life, so the Good Shepherd is also with us today as the reason for our hope, the source of strength for our hearts, the wellspring of new zeal and the sign of the triumph of the "civilization of love'. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, continues to say to us: Do not be afraid. I am with you. "I am with you always, to the close of the age' (Mt 28,20)" (Letter to Families LF 18). May this certainty lead the spouses and those who help them to understand and put into practice the teaching of the Church on marriage, and may your episcopal ministry, venerable Brothers, be ceaselessly nourished on this, a certainty in which I strengthen you with my Apostolic Blessing that I willingly impart to you and extend to every member of your diocesan communities.



Saturday, 16 November 2002

Dear Bishop Wagle,
Distinguished Friends,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome to the Vatican this Delegation from the Lutheran Diocese of Nidaros, in Rome for the Feastday of Saint Olav, Patron of Norway.

I well remember, during my visit to Norway and the other Scandinavian countries in 1989, the ecumenical service in the Cathedral of Nidaros in Trondheim with your predecessor, the Right Reverend Kristen Kyrre Bremer. It was a sign of new and deeper ecumenical relations between us, improved relations which, in 1993, enabled the Lutheran Church to allow the Catholic community to celebrate in the old mediaeval cathedral the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the re-establishment of the Catholic Church in Norway. Let us thank God who has helped us to make such progress.

We are committed to moving further ahead on the path to reconciliation. The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church, signed in 1999, paves the way for more extensive common witness. It brings us a step closer to the full visible unity which is the goal of our dialogue.

May the Lord help us to treasure what has been achieved so far, and may he sustain us in our efforts to hasten its development into ever broader cooperation. At the beginning of the new millennium the Lord is calling all his followers: "Duc in altum! – Put out into the deep!" (Lk

5:4). May we ever remain open to the surprising work of the Holy Spirit among us. God bless you!




Dear Italian Bishops,

1. "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (II Cor 13,13).

To each one of you, meeting at the Shrine of Merciful Love in Collevalenza, for your 50th General Assembly, I extend my cordial greeting, along with my best wishes for intense and fruitful days of prayer and work together. In particular, I greet Cardinal Camillo Ruini, President, the three Vice-Presidents and the General Secretary, and all those who are generously dedicated to serving your Conference.

As always, I am very close to you in your daily concern as Pastors for the good of the particular Churches entrusted to your care and of the entire beloved Italian nation.

2. Your Assembly will mainly focus on what has become recently a growing challenge to the crucial question that was already central for the Second Vatican Council (cf. Gaudium et spes GS 12) "What is the human person?". An ancient challenge but ever new, since what has never really faded is the tendency of denying or forgetting the uniqueness of our being and vocation as creatures made in God's image, and today it draws new vigour from the claim that one can adequately explain the human being by using only the methods of the empirical sciences. This is happening when it is more necessary than before to have a clear, sound conviction of the inviolable dignity of the human person, to confront the risks of radical manipulation that can take place, were the resources of technology to be applied to man, prescinding from the basic anthropological and ethical parameters and criteria inscribed in his nature.

This consciousness of the dignity that is ours by nature is also the only principle on which a truly human society and civilization can be built, in a period when economic interests and the information and programmes presented by TV are rushed around the globe, threatening the cultural and moral values which are a nation's primary and treasured heritage.

3. For this reason, you would do well, dear Brother Bishops, together to concentrate on this fundamental problem, in order to plan a pastoral and cultural programme that will bring together all the energies of Italian Catholics.

Thus you will give a new and particularly significant impetus to the Christianly-oriented cultural project through which you rightly seek to give a stronger, more incisive cultural form to evangelization, the heart of your concern as Pastors.

In the same perspective, I would like to congratulate you and encourage you on your dedication to promoting an expert Christian presence in social communications, an area as important and influential as it is controversial and challenging. I am particularly pleased by your endeavours to improve the quality and public prestige of the daily paper, "Avvenire". I note with pleasure the progress you are making in the area of radio and television broadcasting. It is to be hoped that in turn Italian Catholics will benefit from these instruments that are made available to them for an intelligent reading of social reality that is as fair as possible and fosters genuine values.

4. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, just a few days ago, accepting a kind invitation, I visited the Italian Parliament. In a very significant way my visit witnessed to the deep and truly special bond that through the centuries has been forged between Italy and the Catholic Church and that, even now, with full respect for each one's reciprocal autonomy, can be a source of helpful collaboration for the benefit of the Italian people.

I am well aware of the close attention you pay as individual Bishops, gathered in the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI), and in your Regional Conferences to this beloved nation's future. In particular, I share with you your concern and care for the family, always recognized as the backbone of social life. The commitment of the Church to the pastoral care of families, which I hope will be more convinced and far-reaching, is a major contribution to the good of the country.

We are required to pay equal attention to the education of the new generations, to their schools. For this reason we can only press for proper, concrete steps forward be taken to bring about scholastic parity.

In an economically and socially difficult period, let us now look closely with effective solidarity at the living standards of many persons and families, affected by poverty in many ways or threatened by the loss of their jobs.

For this and for many other reasons it seems more important and necessary for representatives of the world of politics, economics, culture and communications, and throughout the fabric of Italian society, to reinforce their attitudes of solidarity and responsibility for the common good of the nation.

5. Concern for one's own country today can never ignore the broader, international context. I therefore express my pleasure at the diligent way in which your Conference follows the events of the European Union in a period that is important for and sensitive to the definition of its institutional order, as it prepared to expand to include the Central-Eastern European nations. In this regard, once again I desire to stress the role that Italy and Italian Catholics can carry out in safeguarding and promoting the Christian roots of European civilization.

In our hearts and in our prayers, we have a deep concern for peace. Together, let us ask God, rich in mercy and forgiveness, to remove the sentiments of hatred in the hearts of whole peoples, to put an end to the horror of terrorism and to guide the steps of national leaders on paths of mutual understanding, solidarity and reconciliation.

Dear Brothers, a short while ago, you and all Italy were overwhelmed by great sorrow, in which I too deeply shared, for the many victims, especially children, of the earthquake in Molise. Let us raise our common, heartfelt prayers to God, first of all, for them and for their families. Let us also pray for the whole of Italy and for each of the Churches entrusted to your pastoral care, so that their great legacy of faith, charity, and Christian culture may be preserved and once again renewed.

With these sentiments I impart to you and to your Churches a special Apostolic Blessing, which I also want to extend to the clergy, religious and faithful, entrusted to your care.

From the Vatican, 15 November 2002.




Thursday, 21 November 2002

Your Eminences,

Venerable Patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I am happy to welcome all of you who take part in the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. I thank you for your presence and greet you with affection.

In a special way I greet His Eminence Cardinal Ignace Moussa Daoud and thank him for his kind words on your behalf. My thanks go to the Secretary, the Undersecretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and to all your collaborators.

2. Your Congregation is called to help the Bishop of Rome in the exercise of his supreme pastoral office in all that concerns the life of the beloved Eastern Churches and their Gospel witness. This plenary assembly is focused on three themes related to important aspects of the life of the Eastern Catholic Churches.

In the first, you considered the activity of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches over the past four years. I am happy to recognize all that has been done in this period, and to encourage you to continue with determination on the path you have taken. I know that your Congregation gives priority to liturgical, catechetical renewal, and to the formation of many members of the People of God, starting with candidates for sacred orders and for consecrated life. This work of formation is inseparable from the ongoing formation of the directors of formation. I would like to recall now what I said in the Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis: "It is evident that much of the effectiveness of the training offered depends on the maturity and strength of personality of those entrusted with formation, both from the human and from the Gospel points of view" (n. 66).

Through you, I willingly take this opportunity to send a cordial greeting to the superiors and students of the colleges and institutes in Rome which the Congregation supports. I hope that all whom the colleges have welcomed may receive an integral formation and may grow in an ever more ardent love for the Church, who is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. Diversity of rite must never lead one to forget that all Catholics belong to the one Church of Christ.

3. Of special importance is the theme that refers to the procedure for the election of Bishops in the Patriarchal Churches. I will be pleased to give serious consideration to your suggestions, in the light of the norms on the matter of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. With the canons, I wished to establish a modus procedendi (form of procedure) that would safeguard both the prerogatives of those in charge of the Churches and at the same time the right of the Roman Pontiff to intervene "in singulis casibus" (in individual cases) (CIO 9). With the increased possibility of communication, something unforeseen in the past, the present manner allows the Head of the College of Bishops to be able to admit new candidates to hierarchical communion - without which "Episcopi in officium assumi nequeunt" (bishops cannot assume office; [Abbot translation of the Council]) (Lumen gentium LG 24) - with his "assensus" (assent), as far as possible, before the election itself. In any case, whenever difficulties in the application of the canonical norms in force are pointed out to the Holy See, there will be an effort to resolve them in a spirit of effective collaboration.

With regard to the norms in this sensitive area that were worked out together with all the Eastern Patriarchs, I reaffirm what I observed regarding the principal of territoriality, on the occasion of the presentation of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches to the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops of 1990: "Have faith that the Lord of lords and the King of kings will never permit the diligent observance of these laws to do harm to the Oriental Churches' welfare" (n. 12; ORE, 5 November 1990, p. 4).

4. Finally, venerable Brothers, I wish to stress how important it is to study with a global vision topics that concern the situation of the Oriental Churches and their prospects for pastoral renewal. In fact, a particular ecclesial community must not be limited to studying its own internal problems. Rather, it must be open to the vast horizons of the modern apostolate, to the people of our time, and especially to the young, the poor and the "fallen away". The difficulties that Eastern communities have to face in many parts of the world are well known. Scant numbers, poverty of means, isolation, and minority status often prevent a serene, fruitful pastoral, educational, charitable and relief activity. Moreover, you report a constant migratory flow of the more promising members of your Churches to the West.

And what can I say about the suffering in the Holy Land, and in other Eastern countries, caught up in a dangerous spiral that humanly speaking it seems impossible to stop? May God put an end to this spiral of violence as soon as possible! Today I would like to entrust a prayer for peace to the intercession of Blessed John XXIII as we come up on the impending 40th anniversary of the promulgation of the famous Encyclical Pacem in terris. May he who lived so long in the East and who so loved the Eastern Churches, present our plea to the Lord. May he also intercede that these Churches may not be imprisoned in the formulas of the past but be open to the healthy "aggiornamento" which he set forth with the policy of the wise harmony between "nova et vetera" (new and old).

5. Today the Latin Church commemorates the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple, a liturgical memorial celebrated in the East since the sixth century. I entrust the life and activity of your communities to the Mother of God, who, prompted by the Spirit, made of herself a total "dedication" to the Lord. In these years I have been able to visit many of these churches: from the Middle East to Africa and from Europe to India. I invoke the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary upon all these brothers and sisters of ours, and particularly our brethren in the Holy Land and Iraq who are passing through difficult moments of great suffering.

With these sentiments, I renew to each of you my gratitude for your services to the Church, and I cordially impart my prayerful Apostolic Blessing to you all.



Friday, 22 November 2002

Mr Ambassador,

1. It is a pleasure for me to welcome Your Excellency, on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Haiti to the Holy See.

I thank you for your kind words, and for the greetings you have conveyed to me from the President of the Republic, H.E. Mr Jean-Bertrand Aristide. I would be most grateful if you would kindly give him in return my best wishes for the fulfillment of his high responsibility in the service of the nation. Through you, I would also like to greet with affection the entire people of Haiti, who are dear to me.

2. Mr Ambassador, I appreciated the decision taken by the highest authorities of the State to designate a resident ambassador once again, and in your person. This desire shows the concern of the Haitian State to develop increasingly the relations of friendship and understanding it already has with the Holy See, in order to support all Haitians in their efforts to take an ever more active part in the human and spiritual advancement of their country.

3. You have just recalled the forthcoming bicentenary of the Independence of your nation that will be celebrated in 2004. You also mentioned the deep crisis affecting your country, which you describe as a crisis of values and of society. I earnestly hope that the anniversary of this event, of which the Haitian people are so proud since Haiti was the first country in the whole of Latin America and the Caribbean to proclaim its independence, may be a privileged opportunity to deepen the ability to "co-exist" together. This requires social choices based on human, moral and spiritual values. Likewise, it is important to take into account the just aspirations of the population to respect for individuals, for peace, security, justice and equity. The vast majority of the inhabitants suffer from an ever more intolerable poverty, which drives many of your compatriots to emigrate or to leave the rural environment to take refuge in the large cities. This savage urbanization which spawns cultural rootlessness and the break-up of families, deepens the gulf between the rich and the poor, plunging individuals, families and communities, particularly village communities into despair.