25 March 2003
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I am pleased to greet you, the Members, Consultors, Staff and Experts of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, as you come together for your plenary meeting. Indeed, it is appropriate that your gathering takes place during the week in which the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Annunciation, when the Good News of our salvation in Jesus Christ was announced by the Angel Gabriel to Mary. This Good News is to be shared by all peoples of all times and places, and it is your precise duty to make it ever more effectively present in the world of the media. I thank you for your commitment in this regard and encourage you to persevere in it.
There is no question that the media today exercise a most powerful and pervasive influence, forming and informing public opinion on a local, national and global scale. As we reflect on this fact, a passage from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians comes to mind: "Let every one speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another" (4:25). These words of the Apostle form an apt summary of what should be two basic aims of modern social communications: making the truth ever more widely known, and increasing solidarity within the human family.
Forty years ago, my predecessor Blessed Pope John XXIII had something similar in mind when, in his Encyclical Pacem in Terris, he called for "fairness and impartiality" in the use of the "instruments for the promotion and spread of mutual understanding between nations" (No. 90). I myself took up this same theme in my recent message for the Thirty-seventh World Day of Social Communications, to be celebrated on 1 June 2003. In that message I noted that "the fundamental moral requirement of all communications is respect for and service of the truth". I then went on to explain: "Freedom to seek and speak what is true is essential to human communication, not only in relation to facts and information but also, and especially, regarding the nature and destiny of the human person, regarding society and the common good, regarding our relationship with God" (No. 3).
In fact, truth and solidarity are two of the most efficacious means available for overcoming hatred, resolving conflict and eliminating violence. They are also indispensable for re-establishing and strengthening the mutual bonds of understanding, trust and compassion that unite all individuals, peoples and nations, regardless of their ethnic or cultural origin. In short, truth and solidarity are necessary if humanity is to succeed in building a culture of life, a civilization of love, a world of peace.
This is the challenge facing the men and women of the media, and it is the task of your Pontifical Council to assist and guide them in responding positively and effectively to this obligation. I pray that your efforts in this regard will continue to bear much fruit. During this Year of the Rosary, I entrust you all to the loving intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary: may her faith-filled response to the Angel, which gave the world its Saviour, serve as a model for our own proclamation of the saving message of her Son. As a pledge of grace and strength in the Word-made-flesh I cordially impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.
Your Royal Highnesses,
I thank you for your visit and for the sentiments you have expressed to me on behalf of all the people of Luxembourg. Please be kind enough to convey to their Royal Highnesses the Grand Duke Jean and the Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte my cordial remembrance, assuring the Grand Duchess of my prayers for her, so sorely tried by poor health.
I know of the attention you give to the education of young people, to pass on to future generations the patrimony of the values which forged our societies and must continue to give them a soul. As I have often had the opportunity to say, the building of the European Union cannot be limited merely to sectors of the economy and the organization of the market. Rather, it should aim to promote a model of society that honours the fundamental dignity of every human being and his or her rights, and gives priority among individuals and peoples to relations based on justice, mutual respect and peace. This is the spirit in which the Holy See is working tirelessly, to remind people that "man is more valuable for what he is than for what he has", as the Second Vatican Council said. The religious dimension of the person and of peoples, whose importance cannot be ignored, rightly entitles each one to express his profound being, to recognize God as his origin and to understand the significance of his action in terms of mission and responsibility.
It is our duty to make known to all who dwell on our continent, who enjoy the wealth and benefits of peace, the inalienable value of our common humanity and the responsibility for every person that it confers on them, especially for those who suffer from poverty, lack of respect for their dignity or who are tried by war. I am glad that many young Europeans today thirst for the spirit of the Beatitudes and are increasingly ready to welcome it in their lives.
As I thank you for your visit, through you I greet the beloved people of Luxembourg and I impart to you, Your Highnesses, as well as to your children, an affectionate Apostolic Blessing.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. I am glad to receive you, Counsellors and Members of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America who have held your Plenary Assembly, with the objective of examining again the ecclesial situation in Latin American countries, to identify their pastoral problems and offer guidelines that will help to design an evangelizing strategy that will measure up to the great challenges emerging in this crucial period of the beginning of the new millennium.
I cordially thank Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, President of this Pontifical Commission, for his kind words on your behalf, as he presented in summary form the agenda that you followed in these days of meeting, reflection and dialogue. I am likewise grateful to you all for the dedication and the work achieved in these days, that resulted in the guidelines and the help that you offer, in this way participating in my concern as universal Pastor of the entire Church. Your considerations and proposals will be of great benefit for the renewed evangelization of Latin America, whose religious and social situation I have always followed with interest and affection, and in a very concrete way with my 18 apostolic visits to the beloved Continent of Hope.
2. The Latin American Bishops made their ad limina visits from 2001 until February this year, with the exception of the Colombian and Mexican Bishops who will be making theirs shortly. I addressed each one of the 28 groups who visited me, giving them pastoral guidance on many topics. In fact, these were specific instructions, not just for the group visiting me, but also for the entire Episcopate. The Pontifical Commission for Latin America has collected them in a book which your President has presented to me and which can be a useful tool for recalling what I said, prompted by my pastoral concern and love for South America. Indeed, on this occasion you began your sessions by studying these orientations.
3. To carry out better your task of proclaiming Christ to the men and women of today and shedding the light of Gospel wisdom on the challenges and problems that beset the Church and society in Latin America at the beginning of the new millennium, the Church needs many competent evangelizers who, brimming with faith and hope, will speak "increasingly of Jesus Christ" (Ecclesia in America ) with fresh zeal and a profound ecclesial spirit. These evangelizers - bishops, priests and deacons, men and women religious, faithful lay persons - are, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the indispensable primary agents in the task of evangelization in which persons count more than structures, necessary though at times these may be.
The structures must be simple and flexible and only those that are indispensable, so that they do not encumber but help and facilitate pastoral work. Moreover, they must be effective and correspond with the needs of the present time. It is important to make the most of the modern technologies for evangelization but to avoid excessive bureaucracy, limiting travel, meetings and personnel, so as to employ time and financial means to the best advantage in the direct action of Gospel proclamation and attention to the needy. Structures and organizations, and the ecclesial life style, must always mirror the simple face of Latin America to facilitate a greater closeness with the underprivileged masses, the indigenous peoples, immigrants, displaced persons, workers, the marginalized, the sick and, in general, those who are suffering, that is, all those who are or should be the goal of your preferential option (cf. Ecclesia in America ).
4. The originality and fruitfulness of the Gospel, a continuing source of creativity, inspires ever new forms of expression and initiatives in ecclesial life and helps to identify new methods of evangelization that, in full fidelity to the Magisterium and Tradition of the Church, are necessary to take the proclamation of the Gospel to the most remote places, to all men and women, to all races and social classes, including the most difficult or refractory sectors.
The acceleration of events and social changes obliges the Church, and consequently, her Pastors, under the inspiration of grace, to take new and significant steps towards an increasingly radical surrender to her Lord, with whom our sentiments, doctrine and behaviour must be totally identified. Jesus Christ is the one Lord of the Church and of the world, and everything should be oriented to him, since "the Church must make the crucified and risen Christ the centre of her pastoral concern and her evangelizing activity. "Everything planned in the Church must have Christ and his Gospel as its starting-point'" (ibid., n. 67).
5. Among the realities or pastoral problems submitted for your consideration, there is one that deserves special attention and that has been the object of your studies and of certain resolutions at this Plenary Meeting and at the smaller session that the Commission organized in January with the collaboration of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and CELAM.
I am referring to the phenomenon of the sects which, as I said in my recent address to the Bishops of Brazil (23 January 2003): "Is not the phenomenon of the sects that are spreading intermittently from one area to another, with periods of relentless proselytism among the culturally and socially disadvantaged, a concrete sign of an unsatisfied hunger for the supernatural? Doesn't this present a real challenge, for you Pastors, to renew the style of the welcome within your ecclesial communities, and also a pressing incentive to embark on a new and courageous evangelization that can create adequate forms of catechesis, especially for adults?" (Address to Brazilian Bishops of the First Southern Region on their ad limina visit, 23 January 2003, n. 2; ORE, 5 February 2003, p. 4).
In-depth evangelization, a continuous and active presence of Pastors, Bishops and priests among their faithful, and the personal relationship of the faithful with Christ: these are some of the keys for confronting with serious determination the insidious problem of the sects.
6. It is evident that in reference to the ecclesial situations or realities to which you alluded at your meeting there are other sectors, such as youth, families and above all priestly vocations, which are in need of urgent attention from Pastors, with a broad synergy, that is, with the commitment of all, focusing decisively on unity and communion: it is more and more necessary "to make the Church the home and school of communion: that is the great challenge that lies before us in the millennium which is now beginning, if we wish to be faithful to God's plan and respond to the world's deepest yearnings" (Novo millennio ineunte NM 46 cf. Ecclesia in America, chapter IV).
Here I would like to recall the great importance of the evangelizing action of men and women religious, as well as of the ecclesial movements; for this reason they should always work "in full harmony within both the universal Church and the particular Churches, and in obedience to the authoritative directives of the Pastors" (Novo millennio ineunte NM 46).
7. Last year I had the joy of kneeling before the venerated image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the occasion of my visit to Mexico to canonize Bl. Juan Diego, her messenger, on 31 July and subsequently, in the same place, to beatify the two catechists martyrs of Oaxaca Guadalupe, after canonizing Bro. Pedro de San José de Betancur in Guatemala.
Since I went for the first time on pilgrimage to the splendid Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe on 29 January 1979, she has guided my steps in almost 25 years of service as the Bishop of Rome and universal Pastor of the Church. I would like to invoke Mary, who shows the sure way to encounter Christ (cf. Ecclesia in America ) and who was the First Evangelizer of America, as the "Star of Evangelization" - Stella evangelizationis - and entrust to her the ecclesial activity of all her sons and daughters of America: Pastors and faithful, ecclesial communities and families, the poor, the elderly and the indigenous.
As an expression of these hopes, I cordially impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.
1. The course on the internal forum, organized every year by the Apostolic Penitentiary, gives me the opportunity to greet you at a special Audience. I extend a cordial welcome to the Major Pro-Penitentiary, Archbishop Luigi De Magistris, and I thank him for his kind words of greeting. I also greet the Prelates and Officials of the Tribunal and the Confessors of the Patriarchal Basilicas of Rome, as well as the young priests and candidates for the priesthood who are taking part in this traditional opportunity for their doctrinal formation.
On many occasions I have expressed my gratitude to all who dedicate themselves to the ministry of penance in the Church: indeed, the Catholic priest is, above all, a minister of the redeeming sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist and a minister of divine forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance.
2. On this occasion I wish to reflect particularly on the close connection that exists between the priesthood and the sacrament of Reconciliation, which the priest must first of all receive with faith and humility and with a frequency born of conviction. Indeed, with regard to priests, the Second Vatican Council teaches: "The ministers of sacramental grace are intimately united to Christ the Saviour and Pastor through the fruitful reception of the sacraments, especially the repeated sacramental act of Penance. If it is prepared for by a daily examination of conscience, it is a powerful incentive to the essential conversion of heart to the love of the Father of mercies" (Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 18 CIC 276 CIC 2,5 and likewise, CIO 369 CIO 1).
In addition to the intrinsic value of the sacrament of Penance when it is received by the priest as penitent, one can mention its ascetical efficacy as an opportunity for self-examination and, consequently, for the pleasant or painful determination, whether the results are pleasing or not, of one's degree of fidelity to his promises. It is also an ineffable moment to "experience" the eternal love with which the Lord cherishes each one of us in his own unique individuality: it is an outlet for disappointment and bitterness, perhaps for something unjustly inflicted on us. It is a comforting balm to alleviate the many forms of suffering that life entails.
3. As the minister of the sacrament of Penance who is conscious of the precious gift of grace placed in his hands, the priest must offer the faithful the charity of warm welcome, without begrudging his time or showing a harsh or cold manner. At the same time, regarding their problems, he must have the charity, indeed, the justice, to convey the genuine teaching of the Church without ideological distortions or arbitrary omissions, avoiding fashionable secular novelties (profanas vocum novitates).
I particularly wish to draw your attention to the need for proper adherence to the Magisterium of the Church concerning the complex problems in the bioethical field, and the moral and canonical norms concerning marriage. In my Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday 2002, I remarked: "It can happen that in the face of complex contemporary ethical problems the faithful leave the confessional with somewhat confused ideas, especially if "they find that confessors are not consistent in their judgements.' The truth is that those who fulfil this delicate ministry in the name of God and of the Church have a specific duty not to promote and, even more so, not to express in the confessional, personal opinions that do not correspond to what the Church teaches and professes. Likewise, "a failure to speak the truth because of a misconceived sense of compassion should not be taken for love'" (Letter to Priests, 17 March 2002, n. 10).
4. If the sacrament of Penance is well administered and received, it is the principal means of vocational discernment. The person acting in the internal forum must personally reach a moral certitude about the suitability and integrity of those to whom he gives spiritual direction if he is legitimately to approve and encourage their intention to receive Orders. Besides, one can only attain this moral certitude when the candidate's fidelity to the demands of a vocation has been proved by prolonged experience.
In any case, the spiritual director should offer candidates for the priesthood not only discernment, but also the example of his own life, seeking to reproduce in himself the Heart of Christ.
5. The just and fruitful ministry of penance and love for the personal use of the sacrament of Penance depends above all on the Lord's grace. To obtain this gift for the priest, the mediation of Mary, Mother of the Church and Mother of priests, has unique importance since she is the Mother of Jesus, the Eternal High Priest. May she obtain from her Son the gift of holiness for every priest, through the sacrament of Penance, humbly received and generously offered.
May the Apostolic Blessing which I cordially impart to you, as a pledge of God's blessings, descend upon your convictions, your resolutions and your hopes.
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (1Co 1,3)! With these words of Saint Paul and with affection in the Lord, I welcome you the Bishops of Indonesia on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum. Through you I also embrace in spirit the clergy, religious and laity of your particular Churches. Your travelling such a great distance to kneel at the tombs of the Apostles, to join in prayer and to meet with the Successor of Peter bears witness to the universal character of the Church. As Successors of the Apostles, whose witness to Christ Crucified and Risen is the sure foundation of the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel in every time and place, you have come to confirm your communion in faith and charity. I give thanks that during these trying times you were able to make this pilgrimage to share the faith, experiences and insights of your local communities, as well as the challenges you face. May the fruits of our meetings enrich the Church in Indonesia and enhance your own pastoral ministry.
2. Your leadership helps to ensure that the Church is at the forefront of fostering peace and harmony in a country composed of so many various groups. Indeed, your Conference seeks to reflect the motto Bihneka Tungal Ika, "unity in diversity", found on your national coat-of-arms. Your differing ethnic and cultural backgrounds, brought together in an atmosphere of faith, dialogue and mutual trust, can offer a model of hope for all of Indonesia. At the opening of a new era, Indonesia faces the challenge of building a society based on the democratic principles of the freedom and equality of its citizens, regardless of language, race, ethnic background, cultural heritage or religion. I have no doubt that the Church will remain actively involved in this endeavour by encouraging all peoples to continue to join with one another in exercising their civic responsibilities through dialogue and openness, avoiding every type of prejudice or bigotry. The development of a society that embodies these democratic ideals will help to curb the disturbing violence which has sadly plagued your country over the last few years.
Religious freedom, which has been one of the traditional characteristics of Indonesian Society, is guaranteed by the Nation’s Constitution. The Church must at all times remain vigilant to ensure that this principle is respected on both the federal and local levels. It is my hope that such efforts will help to create a climate where respect for the rule of law becomes the new mind-set for a democratic society which is tolerant and non-violent. This important first step begins with suitable human formation. As I said in my Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, assisting "the individual through education and formation in true ideals" is a necessary element for the creation of a civic order marked by genuine concern for the common good (cf. 46).
Particular attention in this regard must be given to the poor. The Church is concerned that "the advancement of the poor constitutes a great opportunity for the moral and cultural growth of all humanity" (ibid., 28). Since Christ’s message is one of hope, his followers must always ensure that the less fortunate among us, regardless of religion or ethnic background, are treated with the dignity and respect demanded by the Gospel. Promoting the fundamental rights of the weak is a proven path towards a stable and productive society. The Church is called to "take her stand beside the poor, to discern the justice of their requests and to help satisfy them" (cf. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 39).
3. One of the most effective ways for the Christian community to help the poor is through education. In this area, as well as in its impressive system of charitable agencies, the Church in Indonesia is to be commended. Although Catholics account for only a very small part of the total population, they have developed a large and respected school system. The Church’s work in the field of education is recognized as one of your greatest contributions to Indonesian society, and it certainly remains an effective means for the transmission of Gospel values. Catholic education, as an important part of the Church’s catechetical and evangelizing mission, must be based on a philosophy in which faith and culture are brought together in harmonic unity (cf. Congregation for Catholic Education, The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 34). Your efforts to preserve Catholic schools, especially in impoverished non-Catholic areas and in the wake of financial hardship, demonstrate your firm commitment to multicultural solidarity and to the requirement of evangelical love for all. While it is encouraging to note the high literacy rate within the population, one cannot fail to be alarmed by the number of young people who do not go on to secondary school. Your youth should be encouraged not to forego their education for the lure of shallow and fleeting materialism. In this regard, I would also like to highlight the essential work of catechists in countries like Indonesia where the faithful are such a small minority. The lack of access to Catholic education in some impoverished areas, coupled with an environment at times in conflict with or even hostile to Christianity, brings out the need to provide serious programmes of catechetical formation for young and old alike. The ecclesial community has a responsibility to ensure that its members are welcomed into an "environment where they can live as fully as possible what they have learned" (Catechesi Tradendae CTR 24). Catechesis is the task of the entire faith community and an extension of the ministry of the word entrusted to the Bishop and his clergy. It is an ecclesiastical responsibility which requires adequate doctrinal and pedagogical formation. I encourage you to give all possible support to those who have willingly undertaken the difficult and demanding task of providing this essential service, for which the entire Church is grateful.
4. For some time your Bishops’ Conference has recognized that evangelization goes hand in hand with the profound, gradual and exacting work of inculturation. The truth of the Gospel should always be proclaimed in a way that is persuasive and relevant. This is especially important in a complex society such as your own where, in some areas and among certain groups, Catholicism is at times viewed with suspicion. Yours is the delicate task of seeing that the Gospel maintains its fundamental meaning, valid for all people and cultures, while also communicating it in a way that is attentive to traditional values and the family. As I said during my Pastoral Visit to Indonesia in 1989, "the example of Christ and the power of his Paschal Mystery penetrate, purify and elevate all culture, every culture" (Homily at Yogyakarta, 10 October 1989).
Successful inculturation depends on couples and families who embody the Christian vision of their vocation and responsibility. I encourage you, therefore, to continue to promote the traditional values of the family so closely tied with Asian culture (cf. Ecclesia in Asia ), infusing them with the new life that comes from the Gospel. The serious concerns about growing threats to family life which you have voiced on many occasions must not be overlooked. A true "conspiracy against life" (cf. Evangelium Vitae EV 17) and the family is appearing in many forms: abortion, sexual permissiveness, pornography, drug abuse and pressures to adopt morally unacceptable methods of population control. Notwithstanding the difficulties involved in countering these tendencies in a non-Christian society, you as Bishops are "the first ones called to be untiring teachers of the Gospel of life" (ibid., 82). At all times, the Church’s prophetic voice must loudly proclaim the need to respect and promote the divine law written on every heart (cf. Rom Rm 2,15). By listening, dialogue and discernment, Bishops must assist their flocks in living the Gospel in a way that is fully compatible with the deposit of faith and the bonds of ecclesial communion (cf. Redemptoris Missio RMi 54).
5. As some of you have mentioned, the Church in Indonesia is one that lives and suffers with the people, confronting the challenges arising from daily contact with a non-Christian society. It is a community that seeks a path of integral human development in the context of religious harmony and tolerance, offering and receiving much within a complex cultural milieu. There already exists a commendable level of interreligious dialogue in your country on an institutional level. This mutual exchange of religious experiences has found practical expression in the interreligious charity projects and collaboration which have been undertaken, particularly following natural disasters. Even in predominantly Muslim areas, the Church is actively present in orphanages, clinics and institutions dedicated to helping the downtrodden. This is a wonderful expression of the boundless nature of Christ’s love; a love not for a few but for all.
Here, I wish to assure you of my deep concern for the beloved Indonesian people at this moment of heightened tension in the entire world community. War must never be allowed to divide world religions. I encourage you to take this unsettling moment as an occasion to work together, as brothers committed to peace, with your own people, with those of other religious beliefs and with all men and women of good will in order to ensure understanding, cooperation and solidarity. Let us not permit a human tragedy also to become a religious catastrophe (cf. Address to the Interreligious Delegation from Indonesia, 20 February 2003).
At the same time, I am well aware that certain portions of the Christian community in your nation have suffered from discrimination and prejudice, while others have been victimized by acts of destruction and vandalization. In some areas Christian communities have been denied the permission to build places of worship and prayer. Indonesia, together with the international community, was recently stunned at the terrible loss of life due to the terrorist bombing in Bali. In all of this, however, one must be careful not to yield to the temptation to define groups of people by the actions of an extremist minority. Authentic religion does not advocate terrorism or violence, but seeks to promote in every way the unity and peace of the whole human family.
6. Since Christians constitute a very small minority in your country, they are especially called to be "leaven in the dough" (cf. Mt Mt 13,33). Despite hardship and sacrifice, your priests and religious continue to bear daily witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ, bringing many to the Gospel. Because "the Church in Asia finds herself among people who display an intense yearning for God" (Ecclesia in Asia ), you are challenged to find concrete ways of meeting that need. Indeed, your efforts to promote vocations to the priesthood and the religious life reflect your awareness of this duty. I commend you for your insistence on maintaining high standards of education and formation in seminaries and religious houses. Concern and attention shown in selecting and training candidates for the priesthood and religious life always redound to the benefit of the local Church.
Since formation and spiritual development are life-long processes, Bishops have an essential responsibility to assist their priests by making available to them programmes of continuing formation, retreats and time for prayer and fellowship. An important element in this formation, both initial and continuing, is an adequate training in the theology and spirituality of the liturgy. "The liturgy is the source and summit of all Christian life and mission. It is also a decisive means of evangelization, especially in Asia where the followers of different religions are so drawn to worship, religious festivals and popular devotions" (cf. Ecclesia in Asia ). Your priests need to be given opportunities to be both nourished by that liturgy and to become experts in bringing its richness to others, so that its depth, beauty and mystery will always shine forth. The spiritual and moral support which you give to the men and women Religious in your Dioceses is also a significant part of your episcopal ministry. Members of Religious Institutes have played an indispensable role in bringing the Good News to the men and women of Indonesia and in a special way to the poor and the outcast. In this important work, they must always be helped to strengthen their consecration to the Lord through their daily living of the evangelical counsels. "All who have embraced the consecrated life are called to become leaders in the search for God, a search which has always stirred the human heart and which is particularly visible in Asia’s many forms of spirituality and asceticism" (Ecclesia in Asia ). For this reason, Religious can have an essential role in the Church’s overall commitment to evangelization.
7. Dear Bishops, it is in a spirit of faith and communion that I have shared with you these reflections on certain aspects of the care of God’s beloved people in Indonesia. Through your presence, I feel very close to the Indonesian faithful, and in this moment of uncertainty it is my fervent prayer that they will be strengthened in Christ. I commend all of you to the intercession of Mary, Queen of the Rosary, who embraces all who call on her in distress and never fails to ask for their deliverance from evil. In the love of Jesus Christ, I impart to you and the faithful of your Dioceses my Apostolic Blessing.