Speeches 2003 - Tuesday, 13 May 2003

The same is true of the formation of candidates for consecrated life. "All are to have appropriate formation and training which should be Christ-centred ... with emphasis on personal sanctity and witness; their spirituality and lifestyle should be sensitive to the religious heritage of the people among whom they live and whom they serve" (Ecclesia in Asia ). As Bishops, you are the source of guidance and strength for the religious communities in your Eparchies. Through close cooperation with religious superiors you must help to guarantee that the training received by candidates transforms their hearts, minds and souls in such a way that they are enabled to give themselves without reservation to the work of the Church. Your strong leadership will do much to encourage religious communities to persevere in their edifying example as witnesses to Christ’s joy.

5. Dear Brother Bishops, these are some of the thoughts that your visit evokes. The Solemnity of Easter which we have just celebrated urges you to allow the Risen Lord to renew continually the Churches under your care. Entrusting you to Mary, Queen of the Rosary, I pray that through her intercession the Holy Spirit will indeed fill you with joy and peace, and I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to the priests, Religious and faithful of your Eparchies.



Thursday 15 May 2003

Your Excellency,

It is a pleasure for me to extend a cordial welcome to you today as I accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Australia to the Holy See. Though some years ago now, my pastoral visits to your country remain clearly etched in my mind. I especially recall the beatification of Mary MacKillop, that loyal daughter of the Church who, for Australians in particular, has become a model of Christian discipleship. I thank you for the greetings which you bear from the Government and the people of Australia. Please convey to them my sincere best wishes and assure them of my prayers for the peace and well-being of the nation.

The common ideals and human values with which both the Holy See and Australia seek to confront the problems facing humanity today must continue to find resonance even in societies marked by strong individualism and increasing secularism. In this regard, the Holy See’s diplomatic mission seeks to present a vision of hope to an increasingly divided world. The Church’s commitment to this aim, seen in her defence of the dignity of human life and the promotion of human rights, social justice and solidarity, arises out of the recognition of the common origin of all people and points to their common destiny. In this perspective the transcendent dimension of life works to counter tendencies towards social fragmentation and isolation so sadly prevalent in many societies today.

Solidarity with developing nations is a well known and laudable trait of your people. Involvement of Australians in peace-keeping missions, their generous assistance with aid projects and more recently their support of the newly independent nation of East Timor, all speak well of their desire to contribute to the international security and stability necessary for authentic social and economic advancement. Drawing on the strength of Australia’s many years of sound diplomacy, her emerging role as a leader in the Asia-Pacific region gives your nation the opportunity to become an increasingly important agent of peace for those countries seeking a maturity in international solidarity. This has been particularly noted in the wake of acts of terrorism which tragically shatter the hopes for world peace.

Acts of solidarity are more than just unilateral humanitarian acts of good intent. True humanitarianism recognizes and expresses God’s universal plan for humanity. It is only in accord with this vision of worldwide solidarity that the complex challenges of justice, freedom of peoples and the peace of humanity can be effectively addressed (cf. Familiaris Consortio FC 48). At the heart of this vision is the belief that all men and women receive their essential and common dignity from God and the capacity to transcend every social order so as to move towards truth and goodness (cf. Centesimus Annus CA 38). It is in this light that your dialogues and partnerships with those countries north of your continent, which do not share a Christian heritage, will find their proper and stable foundation. Similarly, it is only within this perspective of the essential unity of mankind that the trying difficulties associated with the reception of refugees and with the lingering question of Aboriginal land rights will find compassionate and truly humanitarian solutions.

Your Excellency has observed that tolerance is a further trait of the people of Australia. Indeed this characteristic has endeared many to your land and is reflected in the integration of the multiple ethnic communities now found there. The respect due to all persons does not however find its origin simply in the fact of differences between peoples. From the understanding of the true nature of life as gift stems the requirement that men and women must respect the natural and moral structure with which they have been endowed by God (cf. Centesimus Annus CA 38). While political emphasis on human subjectivity has certainly focused on individual rights, it is sometimes the case that tendencies of "political correctness" seem to neglect that "men and women are called to direct their steps towards a truth which transcends them" (Fides et Ratio FR 5). Sundered from that truth, which is the only guarantee of freedom and happiness, individuals are at the mercy of caprice and undifferentiated pluralism, slowly losing the capacity to lift their gaze to the heights of the meaning of human life.

In Australia, as in many other countries, the struggle to interpret choices of lifestyle in relation to God’s plan for humanity is manifested in the pressures facing marriage and family life. The sacredness of marriage must be upheld by both religious and civic bodies. Secular and pragmatic distortions of the reality of marriage can never overshadow the splendour of a life-long covenant based on generous self-giving and unconditional love. This splendid vision of marriage and stable family life offers to society as a whole a foundation upon which the aspirations of a nation can be anchored.

For her part the Catholic Church in Australia will continue to provide support for family life, through which the future of humanity passes (cf. Familiaris Consortio FC 86). She is already heavily involved in the spiritual and intellectual formation of the young especially through her schools. Additionally her social apostolate extends to those facing some of the serious problems of modern society – alcohol, drugs, behavioural addiction – and I am confident that the Church will continue to respond generously to new social challenges as they arise.

Your Excellency, I know that your mission will serve to strengthen further the bonds of friendship which already exist between Australia and the Holy See. As you take up your new responsibilities I assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia are ready to assist you in the fulfillment of your duties. Upon you, your family and fellow citizens, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.



Thursday 15 May 2003

Mr Ambassador,

I offer you a warm welcome to the Vatican as I accept the letters by which you are accredited Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Zimbabwe to the Holy See. I am pleased to receive the greetings and good wishes which you bring from the President, Government and people of your nation, and I ask you kindly to convey to them my own prayerful good wishes. Although many years have passed since my visit to your country, I still have fond memories of the days I happily spent among your fellow Zimbabweans, experiencing their warmth and hospitality, sharing their joys and aspirations. On the occasion of that visit I spoke of Africa as a "continent of hope and promise for the future of mankind" (Speech at Arrival Ceremony in Harare, 10 September 1988, 1): it is my fervent desire that, in this new millennium, that hope and promise will become a reality for the people of Zimbabwe and for all the peoples of Africa.

Your kind tribute to Archbishop Patrick Chakaipa, who passed away only last month, are very much appreciated, and I am grateful also for your recognition of the significant contribution made by the institutions of the Catholic Church to Zimbabwean society at large, particularly in the fields of education, health care and social services. Indeed, the Church sees her apostolate in these areas as an essential element of her religious mission, and she is ever eager to carry out this work in harmony with others who are active in the same fields. Cooperation between Church and State is of great importance in advancing the intellectual and moral training of citizens, who will then be better equipped to build a truly just and stable society. This is part of the contribution that the Church seeks to make to the human development of individuals and peoples, especially those who are most in need.

It is this same commitment that motivates the Holy See in its diplomatic activity. In working with other members of the international community, the Holy See strives to foster peace and harmony among peoples, looking always to the common good and the integral development of individuals and nations. The task of diplomacy nowadays is increasingly determined by the challenges of globalization and the new threats to world peace which this entails. The key questions no longer concern territorial sovereignty — borders and jurisdiction over certain land areas — even if in some parts of the world this remains a problem. By and large, the threats to stability and peace in the world today are extreme poverty, social inequalities, political corruption and abuse of authority, ethnic tensions, the absence of democracy, the failure to respect human rights. These are some of the situations which diplomacy is called to address.

There is no country in the world which does not face one or more of these problems. For this reason, the values of democracy, good government, human rights, dialogue and peace must be close to the heart of leaders and peoples. The more these values form a fundamental part of a nation’s ethos, the greater will be that nation’s capacity to build a future worthy of the human dignity of its citizens. Moreover, the globalization of these values represents the globalization of solidarity, which aims to ensure that economic and social benefits are enjoyed by all on a planetary scale. This is a sure way of working for peace in today’s world. Conversely, when these values are neglected or, worse, actively violated, no programme of economic or social reform will enjoy long-term success. Instead, social and political violence will eventually increase, the gap between rich and poor will grow ever wider, and government leadership itself will be unable to create an environment that fosters truth, justice, love and freedom.

Utmost vigilance is therefore called for in safeguarding the rights and protecting the welfare of all citizens. Public authorities must refrain from exercising partiality, preferential treatment or selective justice in favour of certain individuals or groups; this ultimately undermines the credibility of those charged with governing. In his famous Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris, my predecessor Blessed Pope John XXIII, quoting Pope Leo XIII, summed up the situation thus: "The civil power must not serve the advantage of any one individual or of some few persons, inasmuch as it was established for the common good of all" (par. 56). In fact, when everyone is treated on an equal basis — a sine qua non for a society firmly based on the rule of law — the value, gifts and talents of each member are more easily recognized and can be more effectively tapped for building up the community. As traditional wisdom handed down in an African proverb has put it: Gunwe rimwe haritswanyi inda (many hands make work lighter).

Making reference to your Government’s land reform programme, Your Excellency has remarked that this is a vehicle for improving the people’s standard of living, achieving equity and establishing social justice. In many countries, such agrarian reform is necessary, as noted in the document "Towards a Better Distribution of Land" published in 1997 by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, but it is also a complex and delicate process. In fact, as this same document points out, it is an error to think that any real benefit or success will come simply by expropriating large landholdings, dividing them into smaller production units and distributing them to others (cf. No. 45). There are first of all matters of justice to be considered, with due weight being given to the various claims of land ownership, the right to land use and the common good. Moreover, if land redistribution is to offer a practical and sustainable response to serious economic and social problems in a given country, the process must continue to develop over time and must ensure that the necessary infrastructures are in place. Finally, and no less important, "indispensable for the success of an agrarian reform is that it should be in full accord with national policies and those of international bodies" (ibid.).

Feelings of disenfranchisement or of being unjustly treated only serve to foment tension and discord. Justice must be made available to all if the injuries of the past are to be left behind and a brighter future built. Insofar as the authentic common good prevails, the fundamental causes of civil strife will disappear. The Catholic Church pledges her full support for all efforts to construct a culture of dialogue rather than confrontation, of reconciliation rather than conflict. This in fact is an integral part of her mission to advance the authentic good of all peoples and of the whole person.

Mr Ambassador, as you enter the family of diplomats accredited to the Holy See, I assure you of the ready assistance of the various offices and agencies of the Roman Curia. I am confident that your mission will strengthen the bonds of understanding and friendship between us. Upon yourself and the beloved people of Zimbabwe I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.



Thursday, 15 May 2003

Madam Ambassador,

I am pleased today to welcome you to the Vatican, Your Excellency, on this solemn occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Syrian Arab Republic to the Holy See. I thank you for the courteous greeting you have conveyed to me from President Bachar Al Assad, and I would be grateful if you would kindly reciprocate my cordial good wishes for him and for the happiness and prosperity of the Syrian people.

You mentioned the visit I paid to your country on the occcasion of my Jubilee pilgrimage in the footsteps of St Paul. I thank God who enabled me to go to Damascus. It was here that the Christian community welcomed the Apostle Paul for the first time after his conversion, and where the memory of the martyrdom of St John the Baptist is preserved. On that occasion I was able to meet with the leaders of Islam, thus demonstrating the importance of interreligious dialogue to the cause of peace. I did so once again a few months later at the Day of Prayer in Assisi on 24 January 2002, solemnly affirming that in no way can violence in God's name be legitimized and that religions are at the service of the good of humanity and of peace.

How is it possible not to recall in your presence the serious situation of tension that marks current international relations? The blind eruption of terrorist violence on 11 September 2001, prompted all leaders to examine carefully the state of the world and reminded them just how fragile is the balance. War, which has once again prevailed, cannot be thought of as a means of resolving conflicts; it seriously harms people and drags the world into deep imbalances. As you know, Madam Ambassador, the Holy See has not ceased to recall that everyone must seek the profound causes of terrorism in order to combat effectively this phenomenon which poses an intolerable threat to the common good of peace and the dignity of persons and peoples. The Holy See has also expressed its steadfast commitment to dialogue among the nations, in the context of the legitimate international authorities, to avoid all unilateral action which risks leading to a weakening of international law and undermines the existing agreement between nations. The search for peace, as we well know, involves honest and deep dialogue between leaders with a view to seeking broader agreements with the participation of international institutions, to avoid any spirit of revenge or temptation to excessive violence that might unleash an even greater evil. This dialogue also demands of the parties involved the ability to question themselves and to oppose effectively situations of injustice or domination that give rise to sentiments of hostility or hatred in peoples, subsequently difficult to uproot.

Your country, Madam Ambassador, is directly affected by the conflict that for many years has bathed in blood the Middle East and the Holy Land, the region of the world that is so dear to all believers that has all too often been fought over in the past. How can we disregard the legitimate aspirations of all the peoples living there today to take their own affairs in hand and to live at last with dignity and security, true independence and sovereignty in their own land, to take their proper place in the concert of nations and contribute their own riches to it? It is to be hoped that all the leaders of this region will have the courage and daring not to be disheartened by previous failures so that they will be capable of an authentic search for peace with respect for justice. I appreciate the attention your Government pays to the work for peace of the Holy See, which you have just echoed. I assure you that it will continue to work without respite to achieve this aim, asking that the international community redouble its efforts for the good of the peoples themselves and assume its responsibility for this war which has lasted too long, more effectively helping the protagonists to rediscover the indispensable path of true dialogue with a view to peace (cf. Message for World Day of Peace 2003, n. 7). I have no doubt that your country, which is currently a member of the Security Council of the United Nations, is also working hard to achieve this goal, in accordance with the principles you have just recalled.

Your presence here gives me the opportunity to greet the Catholic community of Syria, which I had the joy of meeting during my Jubilee pilgrimage. I know that its members, although few, are anxious to participate in the economic and social development of their country and to take their place in national life, witnessing to the values of responsibility, freedom and dignity of the person which the Gospel ideal inspires in them. May they know that the Successor of Peter is encouraging them all, pastors and faithful, to persevere in their desire for fraternal relations with their Christian brethren of other confessions and in their concern for dialogue with the Muslims!

Madam Ambassador, today you are beginning the noble mission of representing your country to the Holy See. Please accept my good wishes for its success, and rest assured that you will find in my collaborators an attentive welcome and cordial understanding!

Upon you, Your Excellency, upon those who work with you as well as upon the people of Syria, I cordially invoke an abundance of Blessings from the Most High.



Thursday 15 May 2003

Your Excellency,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican as you present the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to the Holy See. Though my visit to your country took place some years ago now, I well remember the warmth and hospitality with which I was received. I would ask you kindly to express my sincere best wishes to His Excellency President Richards, to the Prime Minister and the Government, and to all the people of your beloved country. Please convey to them my gratitude for their greetings and assure them of my prayers for the nation’s peace and prosperity.

The Holy See’s steadfast commitment to promoting the dignity of the human person stands at the heart of all her diplomatic activity. Without the fundamental recognition and protection of the incomparable worth of the human person, efforts to attain peaceful coexistence among peoples of differing ethnic groups and religious traditions are in vain. In this regard it gladdens me to note your country’s appreciation of the urgent need for the entire human family – from individuals to countries, from regional organizations to international alliances – to give tangible and practical expression to what my predecessor, Blessed Pope John XXIII, identified as the four pillars of peace: truth, justice, love and freedom. The efficacy and indeed necessity of these pillars for peace stem directly from their being "four precise requirements of the human spirit" (Message for the 2003 World Day of Peace, 3). Building peace in our world thus finds its sure basis in respect for the inviolable dignity of every person.

In a multi-cultural and multi-religious society such as that found in your own country, the imperative of recognizing and protecting the intrinsic dignity and distinctiveness of every human being is keenly felt. Furthermore, the quest to achieve national unity through diversity and social harmony through tolerance, when firmly anchored in a willingness to defend the values rooted in the very nature of the human person, becomes not just a matter of passive acceptance but a means of active cultural enrichment for all. Indeed when cultural and religious differences are treasured as gifts, they disclose the hand of God who creates every man and women in his own image, and who alone bestows the fullness of unity upon the human family.

Authentic economic development, which always contains a moral aspect, is also of crucial importance to the well-being and peaceful progress of a nation. It is here that the demand for justice is satisfied (cf. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 10). The right to meaningful work and an acceptable standard of living, the assurance of a fair distribution of goods and wealth, and the responsible use of natural resources all depend upon a concept of development which is not limited to merely satisfying material necessities. Instead, such a concept must also highlight the dignity of the human person – who is the proper subject of all development – and thereby enhance the common good of all humanity. While such a goal certainly demands the support of the entire international community, it is also the case that much can be achieved at the level of regional development. This requires that excessive nationalism be laid to rest so that the profound value of communal solidarity be permitted to find expression in local agreements conducive to regional economic and social cooperation.

Mr Ambassador, as you have remarked, the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, like many people in our world, though remaining confident about the hope of tomorrow are nevertheless suffering from acute social problems. The assault on family life, which seems tragically to be a sign of our times, takes on many forms. One of the most pernicious of these is undoubtedly the trade and use of drugs, representing a grave threat to the social fabric. They fuel crime and violence, contribute to the desolation of family life and to the physical and emotional destruction of many individuals and communities, especially among the young (cf. Ecclesia in America ). The ensuing degradation of the person betrays the nature of life as gift and undermines the meaning of the fullness of life revealed to us by Jesus Christ. For these reasons I have stressed on many occasions that "here we are facing one of the most urgent challenges which many nations around the world need to address" (ibid).

For her part, in proclaiming the Gospel of life received from her Lord (cf. Evangelium Vitae EV 2) the Catholic Church ardently desires to promote among all peoples, and in a special way among the young, the culture of truth and love which leads to authentic freedom and happiness. To this end, both civic and religious institutions must work together to ensure that the sacred institution of marriage, with its concomitant of stable family life, is upheld and supported wholeheartedly. Any hope for renewal of society which does not adhere to God’s plan for marriage and the family is destined to flounder (cf. Familiaris Consortio FC 3), for it is within family life that the God-given dignity of every person is first realized and experienced. But when this dignity is affirmed through principles of equality and respect for the common good, and protected through the maintenance of law and order and by honest governance, society cannot fail to flourish. Motivated by love, the Catholic Church in Trinidad and Tobago will thus continue to support marriage and family life and uphold it as the "most effective means for humanizing and personalizing society" (Familiaris Consortio FC 43). It is to this Gospel-inspired vision of life that her schools, health-care facilities, and other works of charity attest.

Mr Ambassador, I am confident that your mission which you begin today will help to strengthen the bonds of understanding and cooperation between Trinidad and Tobago and the Holy See. As you take up your new responsibilities I assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia are ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon you and your fellow citizens I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.



Thursday 15 May 2003

Mr Ambassador,

As you present the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to the Holy See I offer you warm greetings and welcome you to the Vatican. With gratitude for the good wishes which you bring from the President and Prime Minister of your country, I ask you to convey to them my own cordial good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the well-being of the nation. I also take this opportunity to express my whole-hearted support for the continuing peace process: it is my fervent hope that all concerned will work with courage and vision to ensure that a just and lasting peace based on mutual understanding, reconciliation and cooperation will once again be firmly established.

In this regard, I am pleased to note the active involvement of the international community as the initial cease-fire was brokered, as the subsequent agreements on the cessation of hostilities were drafted, and in offering continued assistance for the full implementation of the provisions of these accords. Particularly worthy of mention is the Ethiopian-Eritrean Boundary Commission, which has its headquarters at The Hague, and also the recent resolution of the U.N. Security Council extending the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea. There is no question as to the inestimable value of the help which the worldwide family of nations offers in this process, but this involvement in no way replaces the need for the parties immediately concerned to manifest clearly their goodwill and resolve in addressing the situation: their sincerity and commitment remain essential for overcoming any difficulties and tensions which may arise. I therefore encourage every effort aimed at restoring direct dialogue between the Ethiopian and Eritrean Governments. Only in this way can true reconciliation be achieved, leading to the normalization of relations, the re-opening of borders, mutual exchange between populations, and a definitive end to the risk of military conflict.

The independence of States can no longer be understood apart from the concept of interdependence: in our modern world all nations are interconnected, for better or for worse. In order that relationships of mutual interdependence may become channels for effectively improving the lot of mankind in ever part of the globe, leaders at all levels — whether regional, national or international — must act in accordance with universal moral principles, rejecting situations of injustice and of institutional corruption. This is nothing more than what is required by good governance. As I said earlier this year to the members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See: "The material and spiritual well-being of humanity, the protection of the freedom and rights of the human person, selfless public service, closeness to concrete conditions: all of these take precedence over every political project and constitute a moral necessity which in itself is the best guarantee of peace within nations and peace between States" (Speech to the Diplomatic Corps, 13 January 2003, 6).

Your Excellency has mentioned the democratic and economic reforms currently under way in Ethiopia. Projects such as these, which seek to promote genuine progress in the social, economic and political spheres, call for a strong and unwavering commitment to the inalienable rights and dignity of the human person. In fact, the safeguarding of fundamental rights and respect for human dignity are the prerequisites for integral human development. The human person must ever remain the focal point of all development. And it is precisely in this area that the Church has an important contribution to make: for through her social teaching she seeks to increase moral awareness of the demands of justice and solidarity, demands predicated on the incomparable worth and centrality of the human person. Sharing with the people of our time a profound and ardent desire for a life which is just in every aspect, she does not fail to examine the various aspects of the sort of justice which the life of people and society demands (cf. Dives in Misericordia DM 12).

A key element in the harmonious coexistence of individuals and groups is freedom of conscience, a necessary expression of which is religious freedom. Here, Your Excellency’s reference to the constitutional assurance of freedom of religion in Ethiopia is most heartening. The Church herself is a tireless promoter of the right of individuals and organized religious communities to profess and practise their faith freely. In fact, respect for religious freedom serves as an indication and a guarantee of authentic social progress, and religious freedom itself is an indispensable component of any public policy which seeks to serve human dignity. It is this freedom that allows the Catholic Church in Ethiopia, always in keeping with her specific nature and mission, to be actively involved in practical efforts aimed at the improvement of society and at responding to concrete human needs.

Ethiopian Catholics are committed to working hand in hand with their fellow citizens as active participants in the political, social and cultural advancement of their nation. They do this in imitation of their Lord, who "came not to be served but to serve" (Mt 20,28). It is for this very purpose that many missionaries — members of religious communities and lay men and women — have come to your country offering their services not only in the area of Catholic ecclesial life, but also in the broader fields of education, health care and social services. The work they do is not for the benefit of Catholics alone, but for the good of all the people. It is my hope that the Government of Ethiopia and the public authorities will welcome this service on the part of the Church and will assist Catholic missionaries and others as they seek to continue these efforts aimed at the building up of Ethiopian society.

Mr Ambassador, as begin your diplomatic mission to the Holy See, please know of the readiness of the various offices and agencies of the Roman Curia to assist you in the fulfilment of your responsibilities. Assuring you of my good wishes for the success of your work, I cordially invoke upon you and upon the leaders and people of Ethiopia the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

Speeches 2003 - Tuesday, 13 May 2003