Speeches 2003 - Saturday, 15 February 2003

3. I emphasize the need for a renewed commitment to the formation of your youth and laity. The seduction of material things, and the dangerous attraction of cults and secret societies which promise wealth and power can hold great appeal, especially for young people. These worrying trends can only be changed by helping our youth realize that they are truly "a new generation of builders", called to work towards a "civilization of love" marked by freedom and peace (cf. World Youth Day Prayer Vigil at Downside Park, Toronto, Canada, 27 July 2002, 4). You must help young people to reject "the temptation of unlawful short-cuts towards false mirages of success and wealth". In fact, it is only in justice, often achieved through sacrifice, that real peace can be attained (cf. Message for the 1998 World Day of Peace, 7).

With you, I praise our Heavenly Father for the gift of so many men and women committed to the work of catechesis and the fundamental formation of the laity, young and old alike. They are truly the salt of the earth and a guiding light for others. These "irreplaceable evangelizers" have been and will continue to be the backbone of your Christian communities, spreading the Good News in difficult and even dangerous circumstances. As Bishops, you must support your catechists in their efforts to improve their ability to assist you in your work of evangelization. Accordingly, proper formation, both spiritual and intellectual, as well as moral and material support, are required if these dedicated servants of the Word are to be effective (cf. Ecclesia in Africa ).

4. A fundamental element of African culture and civilization has always been the family. "The faithful and fruitful union of man and woman, blessed by the grace of Christ, is a genuine Gospel of life and hope for humanity" (Closing Remarks to the Fourth World Meeting of Families, 26 January 2003, 1). Unfortunately this Gospel of life, the source of hope and stability, is being threatened in your countries by widespread polygamy, divorce, abortion, prostitution, human trafficking and a contraceptive mentality. These same factors contribute to irresponsible and immoral sexual activity leading to the spread of AIDS, a pandemic which cannot be ignored.Not only is this disease destroying countless lives, but it is threatening the social and economic stability of the African continent.

As the Church in Africa does all within her power to defend the sanctity of the family and its pre-eminent place in African society, she is called above all to proclaim loudly and clearly the liberating message of authentic Christian love. Every educational programme, whether Christian or secular, must emphasize that true love is chaste love, and that chastity provides us with a founded hope for overcoming the forces threatening the institution of the family and at the same time for freeing humanity from the devastation wrought by scourges such as HIV/AIDS. "The companionship, joy, happiness and peace which Christian marriage and fidelity provide, and the safeguard which chastity gives, must be continuously presented to the faithful, particularly the young" (Ecclesia in Africa ). This task not only includes encouraging and educating young people but also requires the Church to be the leader in the sustained effort to promote programmes which foster authentic respect for the dignity and rights of women.

5. Although your countries continue to face humanitarian challenges, I join you in giving thanks to God for the great strides made in restoring peace in Liberia and Sierra Leone. At the same time, however, I am troubled by recent developments in the immediate area which could threaten the continuing efforts to re-establish stability. The path to peace is always a difficult one. Nevertheless, I am certain that the commitment and good will of those involved in the process can help to build once more a culture of respect and dignity. The Church, which has suffered enormously from these conflicts, must maintain her strong stance in order to protect those who have no voice. I call on you, my Brother Bishops, to work tirelessly for reconciliation and to bear authentic witness to unity by gestures of solidarity and support for the victims of decades of violence.

Along these same lines, we cannot fail to note with concern the tragic situation of millions of refuges and displaced persons. Some are victims of national disasters, like the severe drought in the Gambia, while others have been marginalized by power struggles or by inadequate social and economic development. In a special way I commend you and your local Churches for reaching out, despite your very limited resources, to those who have been forced out of their own countries into foreign lands. We must always be mindful that our Lord and his family were refugees as well. I urge you and your people to continue to love and care for these brothers and sisters just as you would for the Holy Family, reminding them always that their condition makes them no less important in God’s eyes.

6. Another priority of your ministry is your pastoral attention to the spiritual lives of the consecrated men and women in your Dioceses.This is especially true for the newer foundations, which need your guidance in order to be ever more committed to their apostolates and the pursuit of holiness. The call to "leave everything and thus to risk everything for Christ" (Vita Consecrata VC 40) has been followed literally by many religious in your countries as they have shared fully in the lot of your people during the war and violence that have devastated the region. Some have been killed, others imprisoned or made refugees. This steadfast presence among their brothers and sisters suffering the same fate bears witness to a God who does not abandon his people.

7. It is edifying to note that even in the midst of turmoil and war men and women have continued to answer God’s call with generosity. The already arduous task of proper formation becomes more difficult when the bare necessities for such work are not available. I commend you in your efforts to establish solid formation programmes. Bishops, as those primarily responsible for the Church’s life, must ensure that all candidates for the priesthood are carefully selected and formed in a way that prepares them to give themselves totally to their mission in the Church. All those consecrated in this special way to Christ, the Head of the Church, should strive to lead lives of true evangelical poverty. In a world filled with temptations, priests are called to be detached from material things and to devote themselves to the service of others through the complete gift of self in celibacy. Scandalous behaviour must at all times be confronted, investigated and corrected.

Given the severe shortage of priests in your Dioceses, you may feel obliged to place newly ordained men in positions where they must immediately take on heavy pastoral responsibilities. While this may sometimes be unavoidable, great care must always be taken to see that young priests are also given the time necessary to nurture and develop their spiritual lives.All priests must have at their disposal structures of priestly support. Such structures include continuing spiritual and intellectual formation and retreats and days of recollection which bring the brotherhood of priests together in word and sacrament.

"By sacred ordination and by the mission they receive from their Bishops, priests are promoted to the service of Christ, the Teacher, the Priest and the King" (Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 1). Your clergy are your closest collaborators, as their ministry is a reflection of the love of Christ, the Good Shepherd, for his flock. Engaged at all times in pastoral activities, they need your guidance in order to maintain a proper balance between their work and their spiritual lives. Priestly life must be centred upon the constant renewal of the grace received in Holy Orders. Your own example and leadership can do much to encourage the growth of this grace, especially through consultation and collaboration in matters of administration and pastoral work. This in fact is essential for a truly effective ministry.

8. Dear Brothers, I wish you to know of my constant prayers for you and your people. As we celebrate a special year devoted to the Rosary, it is my sincere hope that you will help your flocks to rediscover this rich yet simple prayer. It is a prayer for peace, a prayer for the family, a prayer for children and a prayer for hope (cf. Rosarium Virginis Mariae RVM 40-43). May Mary, Queen of the Rosary, assist you as you lead towards salvation God’s people in the Gambia, Liberia and Sierra Leone. To each of you and to all the priests, religious and lay faithful of your Dioceses I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.



Saturday, 15 February 2003

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. Today I am pleased to receive you, Pastors of God's pilgrim Church in the Republic of Equatorial Guinea who have come to Rome for your ad limina visit. In these days you have had the opportunity to renew your faith at the tombs of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul and to show your communion with the Bishop of Rome through unity, love and peace (cf. Lumen gentium LG 22), feeling co-responsible in pastoral solicitude for all the Churches (cf. Christus Dominus CD 6). Besides, your visits to the various offices of the Roman Curia have helped to support and guide you in the mission entrusted to you.

With you, Archbishop Ildefonso Obama Obono of Malabo and Bishop Juan Matogo Oyana of Bata, I desire to greet the priests and religious who are your collaborators in the mission of making the Kingdom of God present in your country in conditions that are not always easy. In your local Churches and in the Diocese of Ebebiyin which now has no Bishop, all should know that they can count on the affection and prayers of the Pope, trusting that their generous actions will bear fruit in an ever more intense evangelization which can reach the hearts and minds of the men and women of Equatorial Guinea. The three dioceses, united in mind and heart, form the family of God in your country and must offer a constant witness of communion and fraternity.

2. More than 20 years have passed since I had the opportunity to visit your beautiful country. I have pleasant memories of that apostolic pilgrimage in February 1982 that took me to the places where you carry out your work as ministers of the Gospel. Today I would like to repeat the appeal I made then in Liberty Square, Bata, that every ecclesial community, on the mainland and on your islands, remain firm in a renewed faithfulness to the mission of evangelization (cf. Mass, Liberty Square, Bata, 18 February 1982, n. 8; ORE, 15 March 1982, p. 6).

All the faithful and you, first of all, since you have been placed at the head of the people of God, must devote your best energies to the proclamation of the Gospel. Indeed, it is only in Jesus Christ, that the men and women of Equatorial Guinea who seek to satisfy their hunger for God and their legitimate aspirations to see respected their dignity and inalienable rights, will find the complete response to their deep questions about the meaning of life. The celebrations of the Great Jubilee made me realize the need for the gaze of the Church to be "more than ever firmly set on the face of the Lord" (Novo Millennio ineunte NM 16). In Equatorial Guinea, this consciousness should also guide the ecclesial life and mission. May all who have received the mission to lead and feed the flock find in Christ the sublime example, the best guidance for unselfish, generous pastoral service.

On their part, the members of the faithful who are rooted in Jesus Christ, the one Saviour of mankind, will find the necessary strength to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (cf. Mt Mt 5,13-14) so as in all circumstances to account for the hope that is in them (cf. I Pt 3,15).

3. One of the greatest difficulties that your particular churches face is the shortage of priests. Thus there is still great need for the work of promoting local vocations who will become part of your diocesan communities of priests and join the missionaries in serving the various communities.

Vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life are a gift of God that it is necessary to ask for with insistent prayer; hence the importance of prayer for vocations, following the Lord's mandate (cf. Mt Mt 9,38). It is also important to be able to count on strong and healthy families in which genuine values are learned, as well as on ecclesial communities where the figure of the pastor is properly esteemed and appreciated. It is in these contexts that young people will clearly hear the voice of the Teacher inviting them to follow Him (cf. Mt Mt 19,21) and leads them to place themselves generously at the service of their brothers and sisters.

Since your last ad limina visit, you have shown great concern in improving the national seminary for the formation of new priests. I encourage you to continue in this work. The creation of satisfactory places where candidates can receive the appropriate education in the different human and theological sciences is, in turn, of great importance. It is equally important to teach them a lifestyle in which prayer and frequent reception of the sacraments will bring these future ministers of the Church to an ever-growing intimacy with Jesus Christ, supported by discipline, fraternal community and by learning those habits that form the attitude of the priest or consecrated person of our time. It is an indispensable responsibility of the bishop and of the directors of formation to accept for priestly ordination only truly suitable candidates who, in presenting themselves, are prompted only by the desire to follow Jesus Christ and are never inspired by ambiguous ambitions or material interests.

4. In Equatorial Guinea, the works of assistance and evangelization are the responsibility of men and women religious, many of whom traditionally come from Spain. For this work, with you, I would like to express my gratitude to them, for all that they are doing to ensure that the seed of the Gospel, planted in your land long ago, may continue to bear abundant fruit.

According to the specific charism of each institute, men and women religious work in many areas, from the direct apostolate in parishes and missions, to education and health-care initiatives and works for social or charitable assistance. The religious enrich your local Churches, not only with the effectiveness of their services, but above all, with their personal and community witness to the Gospel. Consequently, while they work in close communion with the Pastors, they not only deserve their thanks but the gratitude of the whole community and the constant respect of civil society, so that they may maintain and increase their generosity and dedication.

5. The laity, by virtue of their baptismal vocation, have an important role in facing the challenges posed by the present and future of Equatorial Guinea. Never forget, therefore, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, the importance of offering them a permanent and well-organized catechesis that will help them to grow in and consolidate their faith, to reinforce their hope and to make their charity more active.

The laity have a specific mission which is to witness in the world to an irreproachable life, to the pursuit of holiness in the family, at work and in society, along with the commitment to infusing "the Christian spirit into the mentality and behaviour, laws and structures of the community in which [they] live" (Apostolicam actuositatem AA 13). Pastors must therefore ask all the baptized not only to express their Christian identity clearly, but also to be the effective persons who usher in a social order that is inspired by justice and never conditioned by antagonism, tribal pressures or lack of solidarity.

To enable them to live this way, they must receive a satisfactory religious and human formation that will help them withstand the erroneous forms of religiosity or the pseudo-religious movements that are so widespread today. Like leaven in the dough, they must promote human and Christian values in accord with the political, economic and cultural reality of the situation, with the goal of establishing a social order that is more just and equitable. In their communities they must give an example of honesty and transparency, and individually or in legitimate associations, they must act, whenever possible, in public life, enlightening it with the values of the Gospel and the Church's social teaching.

6. Your country's last century of history marked by a number of painful episodes, has suffered serious consequences whose negative effects still need to be corrected in both the social and ecclesial fields. Facing this task, the Church, who wants to serve the cause of advancing every aspect of human dignity, so men can enjoy proper freedom, understanding and respect, is determined to continue sowing the good seed.

In this sense, it is important, dear Brothers, that you and your collaborators, always be ministers of reconciliation (cf. II Cor 5,18), so that the people entrusted to you, overcoming the difficulties of the past, may advance on the paths of reconciliation with all, without exception. Forgiveness is compatible with justice and offers the best future for the country built on peace, the fruit of justice and forgiveness, given and received, in a way that will consolidate a just and dignified national life in which all may find an equitable atmosphere of mutual respect.

7. The Church's patrimony of social doctrine presents an ethical project that aims at fostering the dignity of the human being, a creature of God and, for this reason, the depository of inalienable rights that cannot be denied or disregarded. These rights must be considered in their integrity, from the right to life of the human being, including that of the unborn child, to natural death, the right to religious freedom and other rights, such as the right to nourishment, education, the right to the exercise of the freedom of movement, expression and association.

It is true that in the world human rights are still not a fully implemented project; but not for this reason should we give up the firm resolution not to forget them and to respect them. Whenever the Church is concerned with the dignity of the person and his inalienable rights, she is concerned to see that no one's rights are violated by other human beings, by their authorities or by foreign authorities. Therefore, without a spirit of challenge, but in the fulfilment of your mission, continue to work patiently for justice, true freedom and reconciliation.

8. Dear Brothers, at this meeting I have reflected with you on several aspects of your pastoral activity. In Bata when I said goodbye, I told you, "I carry with me a striking memory of your Christian enthusiasm and your kindness.... I shall continue to pray for you all to our common Father in heaven, that he may grant you peace and serenity, that you may always be good Christians and citizens" (Farewell address at Bata Airport, Equatorial Guinea, 18 February 1982; ORE, 15 March 1982, p. 6). I say it again to you today, as I warmly impart to you, to your priests, your religious and to all the faithful of the three dioceses of Equatorial Guinea, my Apostolic Blessing.



Saturday, 15 February 2003

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

1. The ad limina visit you are making these days to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul is for me a source of joy. It is an opportunity to confirm once again the bonds of communion that unite you to the Successor of Peter, and, with him, to the universal Church. I give thanks for the missionary zeal of your diocesan communities and for the fruit with which the Holy Spirit enriches your pastoral ministry. I cordially welcome you, and I especially greet Bishop Philippe Kourouma of N'Zérékoré, President of your Bishops' Conference. On your return to your dioceses, bring to your priests, religious, catechists and all your faithful the affectionate greeting of the Pope who is close to each one in his thoughts and prayers. Convey to all your fellow-citizens my cordial wishes for a future of peace and reconciliation, so that all may be able to live in security and brotherhood.

2. The Catholic Church in Guinea Conakry is very much alive. In the happy and sad periods of the history of your country, despite the small number of faithful and the lack of means, she has kept alive the strong consciousness of being the Gospel leaven, accounting for her faith, hope and charity by the proclamation of the Word that saves and the often heroic witness of her life. As you stress in your quinquennial reports, today there are many obstacles to the acceptance of the faith that include the plight of the desperate poverty of the populace, the difficulty of proclaiming the Gospel message in a situation that is defined by the predominance of other religious traditions and the problems you face as you reach geographically isolated communities. The new challenges of evangelization that confront the Church today must not frighten her; on the contrary, they must revive her missionary conscience by rooting her in an ever-stronger union with Christ and by reinforcing the bonds of communion that make truly fruitful the witness of Christians. By being established on the human and spiritual values that constitute the riches of the culture of the Guinean people, the Church is called to sow the Good News through the inculturation of the Gospel message, that offers all human beings an opportunity to receive Jesus Christ and to let him meet them in the entirety of their personal, cultural, economic and political being so that in view of their total union with God the Father, they lead a holy life under the action of the Holy Spirit (cf. Ecclesia in Africa ). Through a basic change of mentality and conversion of heart that are always necessary, may your communities, called to become ever more fraternal, welcoming and open to others, make visible the signs of the love that God has for every human being!

3. As you mention in your quinquennial reports, this task of evangelization cannot be separated from an authentic human advancement which gives every person the chance to live to the full according to his dignity of child of God. From the beginning of evangelization in Guinea, the patient work of the missionaries, whom I want to thank with you today, has inseparably linked the prophetic mission of the Church, revealing the mystery of God who is the last end of man, and the mission of charity, revealing to the human person, by means of her actions, the integral truth about himself (cf. Gaudium et spes GS 41). By her work in the fields of education, relief work, health care and social advancement, the Church in Guinea makes the Word of God present, accompanying the material and spiritual growth of persons and communities. I invite you to continue in this direction, calling Christians especially to participate more fully in the political life of the country, and helping them, by an adequate doctrinal formation, to consistently combine their Christian faith with their civic responsibilities (cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Note on some Questions regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life, n. 3). Thus they will be able "to bring to bear upon the social fabric an influence aimed at changing not only ways of thinking but also the very structures of society, so that they will better reflect God's plan for the human family" (Ecclesia in Africa ), working for the common good, brotherhood and the building of peace in justice.

4. As I could see, in your pastoral programmes, you make plenty of room for the various agents of evangelization, so that they may carry out their indispensable role in the Church and in society. This has become even more necessary on account of the aggressive activity of the sects that exploit the poverty and credulity of the faithful to turn them away from the Church and the liberating word of the Gospel. In this perspective, I hope you will pay renewed attention to the formation of catechists, whom I greet with affection and whose tireless devotion I greatly appreciate. I warmly encourage you to give these valuable collaborators of the mission material, moral and spiritual support, and ensure that they benefit from an initial and ongoing doctrinal formation. They should be models of charity and defenders of life, since their daily example of Christian life is a valuable witness of holiness for those whom they are mandated to lead to Christ!

5. Today in Guinea all kinds of threats further the break-up of the family and its foundations, and harming social cohesion. "From the pastoral point of view, this is a real challenge, given the political, economic, social and cultural difficulties which African families must face as a result of the great changes which characterize contemporary society" (Ecclesia in Africa ). It is essential to encourage Catholics to preserve and promote the fundamental values of the family. The faithful must hold in high esteem the dignity of Christian marriage, the sign of Christ's love for his Church.

Fully conscious of the dangers that the practice of polygamy represent for the institution of Christian marriage, the Church must teach clearly and tirelessly the truth about marriage and the family as God has established them, recalling especially that the love that the spouses bear each other is unique and indissoluble, and that, due to its stability, marriage contributes to the full realization of their human and Christian vocation and opens them to true happiness. Thus the family continues to be the indispensable place for the human and spiritual growth of children.

I also hope that the young people of your dioceses, who are close to my heart, may discover in their closeness to Christ the joy of welcoming his word of life and of being ready to serve him. In the difficulties they experience, may they never lose their confidence in the future; through prayer and a strong sacramental life, may they remain close to Christ in order to bring the values of the Gospel into the places they live and generously play their part in the transformation of society!

6. I cordially greet the priests of your dioceses, irreplaceable collaborators whom you should consider as your brothers and friends, being ever more concerned with their material and spiritual situation, and urging them to collaborate in an increasingly brotherly way with you and with one another. I also urge the presbyterium of your dioceses to show its unity and its deep communion around the Bishop, with the conviction that all are at the service of the one mission that the Church has entrusted to them in the name of Christ. In fact, this witness of unity is essential so that the local Church may fruitfully continue to be built up and grow. The witness of the irreproachable life of priests is also a strong incentive for young people and it can help them respond generously to the Lord's call, showing them the joy to be found in following Christ. In the promotion of vocations, and in their discernment and direction, the primary responsibility belongs to the Bishop, who must personally assume his responsibility, while also guaranteeing the indispensable collaboration of his presbyterium, notably, of priests who have been well-formed for this ministry, and by reminding Christian families, catechists and all the faithful of their personal responsibility in this area.

7. Meeting with the believers of other religions, especially with Muslims, is the daily experience of Christians in Guinea, a country where Islam is the religion of the large majority. At the time when suspicions, temptations to withdraw into self or the refusal of dialogue can be serious obstacles to social stability and personal religious freedom, it is important that the dialogue of life between Christians and Muslims continue, so that they may be ever more daring witnesses of the good and merciful Lord, in mutual respect. The future of a country largely rests on respect for the people, and for their freedom of conscience which includes the free choice of religion. However, as I wrote in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte: "Dialogue, however, cannot be based on religious indifferentism, and we Christians are in duty bound, while engaging in dialogue, to bear clear witness to the hope that is within us" (n. 56).

8. I know of the active presence of the Church, especially through her national and international charitable institutions, with people who are affected by such serious illnesses as AIDS, with the many refugees who come from neighbouring countries, and, in a general way, with all who are suffering the consequences of poverty. I encourage you to persevere in your efforts to offer them the material and pastoral help they request. I warmly thank those who generously put themselves at the service of their brothers and sisters. In this way, in the name of the whole Church, they are witnesses of Christ's love to the weakest and most underprivileged of society.

9. At the end of our meeting, dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, I thank God with you for the work you have accomplished. I entrust each one of your dioceses to the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary. I implore her Son Jesus to pour out upon the Church in Guinea an abundance of divine blessings, so that she may be the living sign of the love that God has for all people, and, especially for the deprived, the sick and the suffering. I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, which I gladly extend to the priests, men and women religious, catechists and all the laity of your dioceses.


Monday, 17 February 2003

To Reverend Mother Sr Maria Antonietta Cappelli
Superior General of the Institute "Daughters of Our Lady of the Garden"

1. I am pleased to address my cordial greetings to you, Reverend Mother, to the General Council and to the sisters, meeting in Rome for the 17th General Chapter of this Institute. To each one I manifest my spiritual closeness and assure you of my remembrance in prayer. I would also like to extend to all the Daughters of Our Lady of the Garden scattered throughout the world a special word of encouragement, inviting them to continue in their witness of consecrated life and to work generously in their various pastoral, educational and charitable activities.

You have chosen a provocative guiding theme for your reflections and exchange of experiences: "Consecrated and sent out to serve the Kingdom". It impels you, dear Sisters, to return to the roots of your charism to examine them in the light of the current needs in a world in continuous evolution. The original inspiration which led your Founder in the first half of the 19th century to found a religious institute in Chiavari essentially oriented to the service of the person continues to offer you valid motives for a renewed dedication to your educational and charitable mission today.

2. With energy and zeal, St Anthony Mary Gianelli lived his mission at the service of the Kingdom of God. He was fond of repeating: "God, God, God alone". All his activity was motivated by his burning desire to belong to Christ. He wanted to serve the Lord in the poor, the sick, the uneducated and in those who did not yet know or had not yet met God in their lives. He opened his heart to welcome his brethren and showed concern for everyone. His teachings are well expressed in your Constitutions which describe the style that identifies your religious family: fidelity to the charism, living in watchful Gospel charity, forgetting your own interest and comfort, being attentive to the needs of the times, happy to make yourselves all things to all people with a devotion that knows no bounds, other than the impossible or the inopportune (cf. n. 2).

3. Dear Sisters, continue on this path putting Christ at the centre of your life and mission. I am pleased here to stress what was said to you in a recent Instruction of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life: "One must start afresh from Christ because it was from him that the first disciples started in Galilee; from him, that throughout history men and women of every status and culture, consecrated by the Spirit in the strength of their call, have started out; for him they have left family and homeland, following him unconditionally, making themselves available for the announcement of the Kingdom and doing good for all (cf. Acts Ac 10,38)" (Starting Afresh from Christ, 19 May 2002, n. 21; ORE, 26 June 2002, p. V). Dear Sisters, put out into the deep in the new millennium conscious that your apostolate is a providential opportunity to make God's glory shine in the world.

Let your activity be founded on that love which for your holy Founder was - and rightly so - a fundamental pedagogical principle. He recommended to his spiritual daughters: "In the first place see that you are truly loving and show great love to the little girls who are entrusted to you, for no one loves those who do not love; if they are not loved by you, they will not come to school, or they will not want to be with you and will learn only half of what they would learn if they loved their Teachers and realized that their Teachers loved them".

4. Poverty, accepted willingly and joyfully, is a condition that makes your witness easier and more fruitful. As St Anthony Mary Gianelli liked to repeat, let poverty be "the true badge of your Institute". Next to faithful love of poverty, let the spirit of sacrifice never be absent in the daily consciousness that a Daughter of Mary "cannot be without the Cross".

Then be tireless witnesses of hope. Among the virtues that the Daughters of Our Lady of the Garden should cultivate, St Anthony Mary Gianelli stressed great confidence in God. Live abandoned to Him: it is this that will enable you not to be upset by apparent failures and, indeed, will enable you to give support to people who are anxious and confused. In his time, your Founder exhorted your sisters: "When something turns out not very well or even badly, do not be disturbed nor think it a real evil; but be humble before God and be confident that from it He will draw some good".

5. Reverend Mother, as I express to you and the Chapter Sisters my best wishes for an intense and fruitful outcome for the benefit of the entire Congregation, I urge you all to cherish the rich spiritual experience that distinguishes your religious family. May your gaze, dear Daughters of Mary, remain fixed on the Founder and on your Sisters who preceded you in faithful service to the Church. Rest assured that even in difficult moments Divine Providence does not cease to support you effectively.

May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Garden, your special Protectress, accompany you on the path of holiness on which you have set out, and help you draw abundant fruit from your Chapter Meeting. I assure you of my prayers, and cordially impart to each of you my Apostolic Blessing, which I gladly extend to your entire religious family and to those you meet in your activities.

Speeches 2003 - Saturday, 15 February 2003