Speeches 2002 - Saturday, 14 December 2002

In Sacred Scripture, the call to the duty to love one's neighbour is linked with the commandment to love God with one's whole heart, with one's whole soul, and with all one's strength (cf. Mk Mc 12,29-31). Love for one's neighbour fully realizes Christ's mandate if it is based on the love of God.

In a certain sense the Christian is called to make "experimentable' the providential tenderness of the heavenly Father through his selfless devotion to his brothers and sisters. If love for our neighbour is to be free from reservations or tiredness, it must be nourished by the furnace of divine love. This implies prolonged periods of prayer, attentive and constant listening to God's word, and above all a life centred on the mystery of the Eucharist.

4. For this reason, the secret of the effectiveness of your projects is the constant reference to Christ. Many of your friends, distinguishing themselves as authentic and generous Gospel workers, sometimes even to the point of giving their lives, have witnessed to this.

Following their example, dear brothers and sisters, move forward confidently. Indeed, intensify your apostolic enthusiasm to respond to the urgent needs of so many who today are obliged to live in conditions of hardship or abandonment.

May the Immaculate Virgin protect you and make you artisans of justice and peace!

With these sentiments, I express my best wishes for a rich and fruitful apostolate to those of you who have come here and to all your associations. With the approach of Christmas, I add my fervent good wishes to you and your families, and as I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, with affection I bless you all.



Thursday, 19 December 2002

Madam Ambassador,

1. This is an especially pleasant meeting for me today as you present the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See. As I thank you for the courteous expressions on your own behalf and on that of the highest State authorities, I desire to recall my recent meeting with the Delegation of your country, led by H.E. President Rudolf Schuster, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Independence of the Republic. On that occasion, the exchange of the instruments of ratification took place of the Accord signed in Bratislava last 21 August. The accord regulates religious assistance to the Catholic faithful in the Armed Forces and Police of the Republic.

This was another expression of the cordial relations that exist between the beloved people of the nation you represent here and the Successor of Peter. In fact, the ties between the Bishop of Rome and the Slovak peoples date back to the time when Sts Cyril and Methodius brought the preaching of the Gospel to your country. Since that time, these bonds have been constantly developed and consolidated, despite the historical circumstances that have not always been favourable.

2. As you have observed, the majority of the Slovak people declare themselves to be Christian.

The Gospel in fact, has contributed in many ways to forming their culture and traditions. The Catholic Church, to which many of your fellow-citizens belong, carries out her mission with the full recognition of the sovereignty of the democratic State. Through it she intends to have a cordial and constructive dialogue, respecting the reciprocal areas of responsibility, motivated by the intention to contribute to the well-being and progress of the nation.

This dialogue is of especial value at this time when, after a harsh period of persecution, Slovakia is flourishing again in freedom, and wishes to make true progress at all levels. It is important in this phase of tempestuous changes that people do not give into false perspectives that are rooted in practical materialism and unbridled consumerism. I am confident that the Slovak people, by drawing from the rich tradition of moral values that has always distinguished them, in the future will know how to deal with the dangers of a modernity that is deaf to the spiritual values.

3. Today the promising prospect of Slovakia's entry into the European Union is underway. I am certain that this event will make a very important contribution of culture and values to the new Europe, helping to consolidate the "common home" of the continent. The long process of development which the country has undergone in the past 10 years, despite the complex problems, is a guarantee of its harmonious integration in the concert of European nations, with mutual advantages. The solution of age-old difficulties will be facilitated by this prospect. How can we fail to see in this event an opening for the new generations, coming to the fore in your country, a concrete opportunity to employ their energies better to promote the common good? This is also my most fervent hope, as I think back to the enthusiasm with which, on many occasions, multitudes of young Slovakians have expressed to me not only their joy, but their anxious expectations for their future. Strengthened by a sound Christian formation, they will be able to bear a convincing witness to the Gospel values among their peers on the continent, showing the dynamic fruitfulness of these values for building a society in which justice, solidarity and peace prevail.

4. The society of the future will be founded on the young people. It is therefore necessary that the State meet their needs, offering them the indispensable support for their formation and for their subsequent admission into the world of work. In this context, no less important is the common concern to encourage the formation of new and stable families based on marriage and open to life. The Church will certainly not fail to make her own contribution in her own field.

This was one of the intentions of the Basic Agreement between the Holy See and the Slovak Republic, signed in 2000. I am confident that the new atmosphere created by this understanding will foster a better collaboration between the authorities of the State and the Pastors of the Church, the better to serve the common good of the nation.

5. Madam Ambassador, in communicating to you my reflections, I offer you my very best wishes for the important mission that has been entrusted to you. I assure you, on behalf of my collaborators, of the most open and constructive availability; here you will always find a friendly atmosphere.

As I ask you to convey my respectful esteem to the President and to the government authorities, I gladly invoke an outpouring of divine favours upon you and your work, as I impart a special Blessing to the entire Slovak people, whom I feel so close to my heart.


Thursday, 19 December 2002

Dear Sisters, Daughters of St Anne,

1. On the occasion of your General Chapter you wanted to meet the Successor of Peter to confirm your bond of faith and union with the Holy See. I am delighted to receive you and to welcome each of you cordially.

I especially offer my congratulations to the new Mother General, Sr Anna Maria Luisa Prandina, assuring her of my remembrance in prayer so that she may fulfil effectively the important mission entrusted to her. I express to you my appreciation for everything that the Congregation is doing, with generous fidelity to the teachings of Bl. Rosa Gattorno. In meeting those of you who are present, I certainly intend to greet warmly all the other "branches" of your spiritual family, whose members I encourage to persevere in the way of life they have chosen, under the protection of St Anne, Mother of Mary Immaculate.

2. The Chapter Assembly, during which you are reflecting on the theme: Fidelity to the Spirit, with Christ and Mother Rosa, to enter into the "historical processes", putting out into the deep with the optimism of Easter, is a favourable opportunity to review the past with gratitude, live the present with devotion and look with confidence to the future, giving the heavenly Father thanks for all he has granted you to achieve so far.

In the past six years your Institute has expanded its missionary work, doing the utmost to serve a great many needy people, especially in the sectors of education, human advancement, health care and assistance to the elderly. Your activity has been encouraged and stimulated by the Apostolic Exhortations which set out the guidelines of the continental Synods, celebrated in preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. As you yourselves wished to underline, these texts are the soil and the "grammar" for an appropriate understanding of the reality in which your congregation too lives and must act.

"O sweet Jesus, those who love you know how to speak well! Therefore, daughter, love and do all that you wish, for you will do everything well". Your Foundress sent you out into the world with this spirit and you intend to continue to draw on it in living your religious consecration.

3. Dear friends, in the new millennium which has just begun we need discerning eyes to recognize the work that Christ accomplishes, and a generous heart to become his hands (cf. Novo Millennio ineunte NM 58). Hence the fundamental importance of prayer, it enables us to recognize the signs and instruments of the Redeemer. Mother Rosa Gattorno still recommends it to you today: "Prayer is the key to grace: it opens up the Lord's treasures".

May the heart of your community be the Eucharist, the living presence of Christ among human persons. Frequently spend time in the company of Jesus in the Eucharist. On this subject, your Foundress used to repeat: "Before Jesus, time has no time".

If you are accustomed to contemplating the face of Christ in the silence of prayer, you will be able to recognize him in every person you meet. During this year, which I wished to be the Year of the Rosary, endeavour to contemplate the face of the Redeemer with Mary's gaze, especially with the help of the daily recitation of the Holy Rosary. As I wrote in the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (Rosary of the Virgin Mary), "in the sobriety of its elements, it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium" (n. 1). It is at the school of Mary that we most easily learn to discern the priorities of our apostolic activity.

4. Dear sisters, although you may be worried by the dwindling numbers of religious personnel and the weakening of your vitality in Italy, you must not lose heart. God will not fail to support those who confidently serve him. You are asked in the first place to dedicate yourselves to loving and serving the Lord, expending your energies for the benefit of his Mystical Body (cf. Vita consecrata VC 104). Imitating your Foundress, know how to place your confidence in God and, "since the Work is his, he will provide for everything". From Jesus and his Spirit will come the powerful strength that will enable you to consolidate your current activities and impel you towards new apostolic and missionary goals, to bring the joy of divine love to the many people awaiting concrete actions of evangelical charity.

This is my fervent hope for your entire Institute. As we approach Christmas, I am happy to wish each one of you the blessings of the season and invoking on you and on your congregation the protection of Mary Immaculate and of Bl. Rosa Gattorno, I wholeheartedly impart my Blessing to you.



Saturday, 21 December 2002

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Men and Women Religious and Lay People of the Roman Curia,

1. Cum Maria contemplemur Christi vultum (With Mary let us contemplate the face of Christ)! The meeting which gathers us today in accordance with a beautiful custom has a marked family atmosphere. We want to exchange good wishes in the imminence of Holy Night, on which we will pause to contemplate the face of Christ with Mary. I thank Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the new Dean of the College of Cardinals, for the thoughts and sentiments he has expressed with noble words on behalf of you all. On this occasion, I would also like to extend an affectionate greeting and good wishes to the Dean emeritus, Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, and to express deep gratitude to him for all his work at the service of this Apostolic See.

This is a particularly important Christmas for me, because it falls in the 25th year of my Pontificate. This particular circumstance impels me to share with you my "gratitude" to the Lord for the gifts he has lavished upon me in this long period spent at the service of the universal Church.

I would also like to say a very cordial "thank you" to you who are especially close to me, day after day, with your competent and affectionate collaboration. Without you, my ministry could not be satisfactorily carried out. I ask the Lord to reward you for this service to the Successor of Peter and to enable you to derive deep joy and spiritual comfort from it.

2. The Year of the Rosary in which our meeting takes place makes it special. This year aims to revive in the Christian community a prayer that is more effective than ever, also in the light of the theological and spiritual directives outlined by the Second Vatican Council. Indeed, it is a Marian prayer with a distinctly Christological heart.

On this occasion, in reviewing, as is our custom, the principal events that have marked my ministry in recent months, I would like to do so in the perspective which the Rosary suggests: with a contemplative gaze that brings to the fore the sign of Christ's presence in the events themselves. In this sense, in the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, I underlined the anthropological significance of this prayer (cf. n. 25); by training us to contemplate Christ, it guides us to see humanity and history in the light of his Gospel.

3. How can we forget, first of all, that the face of Christ continues to have a truly passionate, sorrowful expression because of the conflicts that are bathing so many regions of the world in blood, or threatening to break out with new virulence? The situation of the Holy Land continues to be emblematic, but other "forgotten" wars are equally devastating. Then terrorism continues to reap victims and to widen breaches.

In the face of this panorama streaked with blood, the Church does not cease to make her voice heard and, above all, she continues to raise her prayer. This is what she did in particular last 24 January on the World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, when with representatives of the other religions, we witnessed to the mission of peace which is a special duty for all who believe in God. We must continue to cry out loudly: "religions are at the service of peace" (Address, n. 3, Assisi, 24 January 2002; ORE, 30 January 2002, p. 6).

I also reaffirmed this truth in my Message for Peace for the coming 1 January, commemorating Pacem in terris, the great Encyclical of Bl. John XXIII, who, on 11 April 1963 - almost 40 years have passed since then! - raised his voice at a difficult time in history to point out truth, justice, love and freedom as the "pillars" of true peace.

4. The face of Christ! If we look around us with a contemplative gaze, it will not be difficult to discern a ray of his splendour in the beauties of creation. But we will be forced at the same time to regret the devastation that human carelessness can cause the environment, every day inflicting wounds on nature that turn against man himself. I am therefore glad that I have been able to witness this year too, on various occasions, to the Church's commitment in the context of ecology.

Moreover, in this regard, doubly significant, since it is a result of collaboration between the Churches, is the Declaration that I signed on 10 June with His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I who was in Venice, by means of a special video link. We told the world that everyone must have a new "ecological awareness" for the future of humanity and with special concern for children, as an expression of responsibility towards self, towards others and towards creation.

5. Let us then look at all I have been granted to do with regard to relations with the States.I have reminded everyone of the urgent need to make the dignity of the human person and the service of the common good the focus of national and international policies. It is to announce this that the Church participates, in her own capacity, in international organizations. This is the reason for the agreements she stipulates, with a view not only to the expectations of believers but also to the good of all citizens.

In the address I gave to the Parliament of the Italian Republic on 14 November last, I underlined that the great challenge of a democratic State is its ability to found itself on the principle of the recognition of the inalienable rights of man, and on the generous, solidary cooperation of all in building the common good of the nation.

It is only right to recall that my Venerable Predecessor, Pius XII referred to these values 60 years ago, in his Radio Message of 24 December 1942. Mentioning with deep feeling "the stream of tears and sorrows" and the "accumulation of suffering and torment" that derive from the "devastating, terrible conflict" (AAS, 35 [1943], 24), the great Pontiff clearly outlined the universal and indispensable principals according to which, once the "dreadful catastrophe" of the war (AAS, loc. cit., p. 18) was over, it would be necessary to build the "new national and international order so ardently desired by all peoples" (AAS, loc. cit., p. 10). The years that have passed since then have only confirmed the farsighted wisdom of those lessons. How can we fail to hope that hearts, especially the hearts of the young, will open to accept these values in order to build a future of true and lasting peace?

6. Speaking of the young, our thoughts turn to the unforgettable experiences of World Youth Day, celebrated in July in Toronto. A meeting with young people is always an involving, and I would say "regenerating" event. This year the theme reminded them of their missionary commitment on the basis of Christ's mandate: to be the "light of the world" and "salt of the earth". It is wonderful to see that once again the young people did not let us down. Despite difficulties, vast numbers came to take part.

The presence of so many young people at the meeting with the Gospel and with the Pope should certainly not make us forget all the others who remain on the fringes or have fallen away, allured by other messages or confused by a thousand contradictory suggestions. It is up to the young people to become the evangelizers of their peers. If pastoral care can involve them, young people will not disappoint the Church, because the Gospel is "young" and can speak to the hearts of the young.

7. I then recall, with especially heartfelt gratitude to the Lord, the headway that the ecumenical process has made this year too. In fact there have also been plenty of reasons for dismay.

However, we must look at the light parts rather than at the shadows. Among the light patches, in addition to the Declaration signed with Patriarch Bartholomew I, already mentioned, I would like above all to recall the meeting with the Delegation of the Orthodox Church of Greece, which came to visit me on 11 March, bringing a message from His Beatitude Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece. Thus I was able to relive, in a certain way, the atmosphere I experienced last year during my visit to Greece in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul. Although some causes for distance still remain, this attitude of reciprocal openness is certainly a ray of hope.

The same should be said with regard to the visit paid to me by the Orthodox Patriarch Teoctist of Romania with whom I signed a Common Declaration last October. When will the Lord at last give us the joy of full communion with our Orthodox brethren? The answer remains shrouded in the mystery of divine Providence. However, trust in God does not dispense us from personal commitment. This requires that we intensify above all the ecumenism of prayer and of holiness.

8. In this overview, I would like lastly to single out holiness as the highest "peak" in the ecclesial "landscape", since this year too I had the joy of raising to the honours of the altar so many of the Church's children who distinguished themselves in fidelity to the Gospel. Cum Maria contemplemur Christi vultum! It is in the saints that "God shows to men, in a vivid way, his presence and his face" (Lumen gentium LG 50).

I praise God for the beatifications and canonizations that took place during my Apostolic Visit to Guatemala City and to Mexico City. Further, how can I fail to mention the canonizations of St Pio of Pietrelcina and of St Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, which moved public opinion?

My apostolic journey to Poland for the dedication of the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Kraków-Lagiewniki also took place in the sign of holiness. On that occasion I could once again remind our world, tempted to feel discouraged in the face of so many unsolved problems and the unknown threats of the future, that God is "rich in mercy". For those who trust in him nothing is ever lost for good; everything can be pieced together again.

9. Cum Maria contemplemur Christi vultum!

Dear co-workers of the Roman Curia, dear brothers and sisters, it is with this invitation that I offer you my very best wishes for Christmas, close at hand. "Natus est vobis hodie Salvator, qui est Christus Dominus" (today a Saviour has been born to you; who is Christ the Lord) (Lc 2,11).

May this announcement bring joy to your hearts and give you enthusiasm in your daily work for the Holy See.

On the day of his Birth, may Christ find us with hearts that are ready to greet him and may Mary, Queen of the Holy Rosary, guide us in a motherly way to contemplate his face. Happy Christmas to you all!

Speeches 2002 - Saturday, 14 December 2002