Speeches 2003 - Friday, 30 May 2003



Saturday, 31 May 2003

Dear Friends,

I greet you with pleasure, pilgrims of the Diocese of Saint-Brieuc and Tréguier, who have come to Rome on the occasion of the celebrations for the seventh centenary of the death of St Ivo. I also cordially greet the authorities and more especially, those of the civil and legal world who have come to Rome to attend a colloquium to study in depth the timeliness of St Ivo's message. I thank Bishop Fruchaud for the kind words he has just addressed to me on behalf of you all. The Churches of St Yves des Bretons (St Ivo of the Bretons) and Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza (St Ivo at the University), at which you will be gathering, testify to the extraordinary spread of the devotion to him, long practised in Europe by all who recognize him as their spiritual master, and particularly by lawyers whose Patron Saint he is.

The values proposed by St Ivo continue to be a powerful incentive in our time, especially in the Europe that is being built. A servant of justice, St Ivo invites people of good will to build a world of peace founded on respect for the law and on the service of the truth. This lawyer, a champion of the poor, encourages persons and peoples to exercise solidarity and fairness to guarantee the rights of the weakest whose inalienable dignity will be fully recognized. As a priest and a tireless preacher of the Word of God, he calls the Church today to present the Gospel to all, a source of new human relationships. May St Ivo's example and life invite Christians to contribute actively to building Europe, destined to be a community in which all are called to work so that love and truth meet, and justice and peace embrace! (cf. Ps 85[84]: 11).

As I entrust you to the care of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Querrien, I impart to you my Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to the pastors and faithful of the Diocese of Saint-Brieuc and Tréguier.





Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Vatican Gardens

Saturday, 31 May 2003

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. As every year, you have recited the Holy Rosary, contemplating in particular the mystery of Mary's Visitation to St Elizabeth which the Liturgy celebrates for us today. In this way you have wished to conclude the month of May at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Vatican Gardens. I join you in spirit and greet you with affection. I greet Archbishop Francesco Marchisano, my Vicar General for Vatican City, the Cardinals and the other Prelates present, the priests, the men and women Religious, the young people and all the faithful. I pray with each one of you in front of the Grotto as it were to offer to the Immaculate Virgin the gift of the whole spiritual journey completed in this Marian month: every resolution, every concern, every need of the Church and of the world. May the Blessed Virgin hear your every prayer.

2. On this occasion I would like to renew to everyone the invitation to recite the Rosary diligently, paying great attention to the tone. I am thinking of priests first of all: that their example and their guidance lead the faithful to rediscover the meaning and value of this prayer. I am thinking of consecrated persons, especially women Religious, of whom I imagine there are many among you: may they closely follow Mary who cherished the mysteries of her divine Son in her heart. I am thinking of families, and I urge them to gather often, especially in the evening, to recite the Rosary together: it is one of the most beautiful and comforting experiences of the domestic community!

3. The Year of the Rosary which we are celebrating constantly motivates us to reflect on Our Lady's role in the history of salvation and in our lives. As she was associated with the mission of her divine Son, so Mary continues to accompany the Church on her way down the centuries. Let us persevere in prayer with her, dear friends, like the Apostles in the Upper Room while they waited for Pentecost, now at hand. The liturgy of these days helps us relive the spiritual atmosphere that led up to that event, and, if the whole Year of the Rosary is to be marked by constant prayer with Mary, we must be even more closely united to her in these days of the Novena, invoking an abundant outpouring of the Spirit upon the whole Church throughout the world.

Then as the month of May draws to a close and the month of June, consecrated to the Heart of Christ, begins, we are even more conscious of how Mary leads us to Christ. She is the shortest path to the Heart of Jesus, from which we can draw the extraordinary gifts of his love and his mercy.

"Magnificat anima mea Dominum!" (My soul magnifies the Lord). Let us make our own the canticle that welled up in Mary's heart at the home of St Elizabeth, and may our entire life be a song of praise to the Lord!

This, dear friends, is my hope; I cordially accompany it with my Blessing, which I gladly extend to all your loved ones.

June 2003



Monday 2 June 2003

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the State of Israel to the Holy See. Your presence here today is a testimony to our common desire to work together to build a world of peace and security, not only in Israel and the Middle East, but in every part of the globe, for all peoples everywhere. This is a task which we undertake not alone but with the whole international community: indeed, perhaps unlike any time in the past, the entire human family today feels the urgent need to overcome violence and terror, to expunge intolerance and fanaticism, to usher in an era of justice, reconciliation and harmony among individuals, groups and nations.

This need is probably nowhere more acutely felt than in the Holy Land. There is absolutely no question that peoples and nations have the inherent right to live in security. This right, however, entails a corresponding duty: to respect the right of others. Therefore, just as violence and terror can never be an acceptable means for making political statements, neither can retaliation ever lead to a just and lasting peace. Acts of terrorism are always to be condemned as true crimes against humanity (cf. Message for the 2002 World Day of Peace, 4). Every State has the undeniable right to defend itself against terrorism, but this right must always be exercised with respect for moral and legal limits in its ends and means (cf. ibid., 5).

Like other members of the international community, and fully supporting the role and efforts of the larger family of nations in helping to resolve the crisis in the Middle East, the Holy See is convinced that the present conflict will be resolved only when there are two independent and sovereign States. As I said earlier this year to the Diplomatic Corps: "Two peoples, Israeli and Palestinian, are called to live side-by-side, equally free and sovereign, in mutual respect" (Speech to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, 13 January 2003, 4). It is essential that both parties give clear signs of their determined commitment to bring this peaceful coexistence about. By doing so, a priceless contribution will be made towards the building of a relationship of mutual trust and cooperation. In this context, I am pleased to note the Israeli Government’s recent vote in support of the peace process: for all involved in that process, the Government’s position is a positive sign of hope and encouragement.

Of course, the many issues and difficulties raised by this crisis must be dealt with in a fair and effective manner. Questions concerning Palestinian refugees and Israeli settlements, for example, or the problem of setting territorial boundaries and defining the status of the most sacred places of the City of Jerusalem, need to be the subject of open dialogue and sincere negotiation. By no means should a decision be made unilaterally. Rather, respect, mutual understanding and solidarity demand that the path of dialogue never be abandoned. Nor should real or apparent failures lead the partners in dialogue and negotiation to be discouraged. On the contrary, it is precisely in such circumstances that "it is all the more necessary that they should consent to begin again ceaselessly to propose true dialogue, by removing obstacles and by eliminating the defects of dialogue". In this way, they will walk together the path "which leads to peace, with all its demands and conditions" (Message for the 1983 World Day of Peace, 5).

Mr Ambassador, as you have noted, it was ten years ago that the Fundamental Agreement between the Holy see and the State of Israel was signed. It is this Agreement that paved the way for the subsequent establishment of full diplomatic relations between us and which continues to guide us in our dialogue and mutual exchange of positions regarding many issues of importance to both of us. The fact that we have been able to reach an accord on the full recognition of the legal personality of the Church’s institutions is a source of satisfaction, and I am pleased that an accord also appears close at hand regarding related fiscal and economic matters. Along these same lines, I am confident that we shall be successful in drawing up useful guidelines for future cultural exchanges between us as well.

I would further express the fervent hope that this climate of cooperation and friendship will allow us to deal effectively with other difficulties that the Catholic faithful in the Holy Land face on a daily basis. Many of these problems, such as access to Christian shrines and holy sites, the isolation and suffering of Christian communities, the dwindling of the Christian population due to emigration, are in some way connected to the current conflict, but that should not discourage us from seeking possible remedies now, from working now to meet these challenges. I am confident that the Catholic Church will be able to continue to promote good will among peoples and to advance the dignity of the human person in her schools and educational programmes, and through her charitable and social institutions. Overcoming the difficulties mentioned above will serve not only to enhance the contribution that the Catholic Church makes to Israeli society, but will also strengthen the guarantees of religious freedom in your country. This in turn will reinforce the feelings of equality between citizens, and each individual, inspired by his own spiritual convictions, will thus be better enabled to build up society as a common home shared by all.

Three years ago, during my Jubilee Year pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I remarked that "real peace in the Middle East will come only as a result of mutual understanding and respect between all the peoples of the region: Jews, Christians and Muslims. In this perspective, my pilgrimage is a pilgrimage of hope: the hope that the 21st century will lead to a new solidarity among the peoples of the world, in the conviction that development, justice and peace will not be attained unless they are attained by all" (Visit to Israeli President Ezer Weizman, 23 March 2000). It is precisely this hope and this concept of solidarity that must ever inspire all men and women — in the Holy Land and elsewhere — in working for a new world order based on harmonious relations and effective cooperation between peoples. This is mankind’s task for the new millennium, this is the only way to ensure a future of promise and light for all.

Your Excellency, I ask you kindly to convey to the President, Prime Minister, Government and People of the State of Israel the assurance of my prayers for the nation, especially at this critical moment in its history. I am certain that your term of service as representative to the Holy See will do much to strengthen the bonds of understanding and friendship between us. Wishing you every success in your mission, and assuring you of the full cooperation of the various offices of the Roman Curia in the fulfilment of your high duties, I cordially invoke upon you, your fellow citizens and all the peoples of the Holy Land an abundance of divine blessings.


Tuesday, 3 June 2003

Your Eminence,
Dear Brother Bishops,

1. In the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, I warmly welcome you, the second group of Latin Rite Bishops of India, on the occasion of your Visit Ad Limina Apostolorum. In a particular way, I greet Archbishop Viruthakulangara, and I thank him for the good wishes he has conveyed on behalf of the Bishops, clergy, Religious and lay faithful of the Provinces of Bombay, Nagpur, Verapoly, the newly created Province of Gandhinagar and the Archdiocese of Goa-Damao. I pray that through the intercession of the Apostles Peter and Paul the Catholic Church in India will continue fearlessly to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.

On the subcontinent, and especially in the regions of Kerala and Goa, the saving message of Christ has been heard for many centuries. Recently, the Church celebrated the 450th Anniversary of the death of the zealous missionary Saint Francis Xavier, one in the long line of faith-filled men, like Saint Thomas the Apostle, who gave their lives for the evangelization of Asia. Saint Francis teaches us the importance of forgetting our own desires and human plans and of giving ourselves entirely to God’s will (cf. Office of Readings for the Feast of Saint Francis Xavier). It is my hope that the life and work of this Patron of the Orient will stir in the Indian people a desire to give of themselves more completely to the will of the Father.

2. Christ continues to make your Dioceses fertile ground for his harvest of faith. "Just as the great dialogue of love between God and man was prepared for by the Spirit and accomplished on Asian soil in the Mystery of Christ, so the dialogue between the Saviour and the peoples of the continent continues today by the same Holy Spirit at work in the Church" (Ecclesia in Asia ). During my Pastoral Visits to India, I have been impressed by the many expressions of Christianity in your nation. The presence of the Latin and Oriental Traditions in such close proximity is a great source of strength and vitality for the Church. At times, the relationship can be a challenge to your communities, as you strive to work together to find concrete ways of ministering to God’s people.

As I mentioned to the Syro-Malabar Bishops from your country, it is important to persevere in strengthening bonds with your Brother Bishops of the Oriental Rites through an efficacious inter-ritual dialogue in order to overcome any misunderstandings which may occasionally arise. This is especially the case in spheres concerning evangelization and the pastoral care of Oriental Catholics in India (cf. Ecclesia in Asia ).

Since Christ has placed you as shepherds of his flock, you are called in a special way to foster mutual dialogue and understanding between Catholics and the other Christian communities. The Apostle Paul encourages us all to "walk as children of the light, for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true" (Ep 5,8-9). As Bishops, it is your obligation not only to walk in that light but to help illumine the path of all Christ’s followers, leading them towards an ever more complete spiritual solidarity.

3. It is very encouraging to see the impressive numbers of religious and diocesan vocations in your Provinces, and the high percentage of faithful who attend Sunday Mass. Even though your local Churches may be materially poor, especially when compared to other Christian communities, they are rich in human resources. This is clearly evidenced in the many basic Christian communities, lay movements and associations which play such a vital role in the ecclesial life of your regions.

Notwithstanding these positive signs, your Dioceses are also faced with challenges. The negative influences of the mass media, secularism, materialism and consumerism, compounded by the false promises of a few fundamentalist groups, have lured some Catholics into giving up their faith. Sadly, even some members of the clergy have, at times, been attracted by empty promises of money, comfort and power.

When facing these problems one is tempted to ask the same question which the disciples put to Peter soon after Pentecost: "What must we do?" (Ac 2,37) In this regard, it is consoling to see many of your Dioceses answering the question by Synods and pastoral planning, confronting problems in a serious manner and thereby avoiding possible future crises. As I said in my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, pastoral initiatives must always include the four Christian pillars of holiness, prayer, the sacraments and the word of God (cf. 30-41), always keeping in mind that "it is not therefore a matter of inventing a new programme. The programme already exists: it is the plan found in the Gospel and in the living Tradition, it is the same as ever" (ibid., 29).

4. Effective pastoral planning must be contextualized in such a way that it addresses the special problems created by modern society. Like many other countries, India finds itself caught in the movement towards a culture of death, as seen for example in the menacing threats directed towards unborn children, especially unborn girls. Brother Bishops, I encourage you to remain vigilant in your efforts to preach fearlessly the consistent teaching of the Church regarding the inviolable right to life of every innocent human being. Concerted efforts to curb the culture of death necessitate the involvement of the entire Catholic community. Accordingly, any strategy in this regard must include individuals, families, movements and associations committed to building "a society in which the dignity of each person is recognized and protected and the lives of all are defended and enhanced" (EV 90).

Globalization has also challenged traditional customs and ethics. This is clearly seen in attempts to impose upon Asian society morally unacceptable types of family planning and reproductive health measures. At the same time, an incorrect understanding of the moral law has led many people to justify immoral sexual activity under the guise of freedom, which in turn has resulted in a commonplace acceptance of the contraceptive mentality (cf. Familiaris Consortio FC 6). The consequences of such irresponsible activity not only threaten the institution of the family but also contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS, which is reaching epidemic proportions in parts of your country. The response of the Church in India must be to continue to promote the sanctity of married life, and the "innate language that expresses the total self-giving of husband and wife" (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 2370). The Church is called to proclaim that true love is Christian love, and Christian love is chaste love. I encourage you to support programmes of education which emphasize the Church’s teaching in this regard.

At the same time, efforts which respect the dignity and rights of women must be made to guarantee that at all levels of Indian society a "new feminism" is promoted. This will "reject the temptation of ‘male domination’, in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society, and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation" (cf. Evangelium Vitae EV 99).

5. At the beginning of this talk, I spoke of Saint Francis Xavier, who did so much for the spread of Christianity in India. He possessed the ability to minister successfully in a non-Christian environment. I pray that the Church in India will, in imitation of him, respectfully yet courageously proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not an easy task, especially in areas where people experience animosity, discrimination and even violence because of their religious convictions or tribal affiliation. These difficulties are exacerbated by the increased activity of a few Hindu fundamentalist groups which are creating suspicion of the Church and other religions. Unfortunately, in some regions the State authorities have yielded to the pressures of these extremists and have passed unjust anti-conversion laws, prohibiting free exercise of the natural right to religious freedom, or withdrawing State support for those in scheduled castes who have chosen to convert to Christianity.

In spite of the grave difficulties and suffering this has caused, the Church in India must never relinquish her fundamental task of evangelization. It is my hope that you, dear Brother Bishops, together with the faithful, will continue to engage local leaders of other religious beliefs in an interreligious dialogue which ensures greater mutual understanding and cooperation. Likewise, you must maintain a substantive dialogue with local and national authorities to ensure that India continues to promote and protect the basic human rights of all its citizens. An integral part of such a democracy "which truly serves the good of individuals and peoples is respect for religious freedom, for this is the right which touches on the individual’s most private and sovereign interior freedom" (cf. Address to the New Ambassador of India, 13 December 2002).

6. "‘As the Father has sent me, even so I send you’ (cf. Jn Jn 20,21). From the perpetuation of the sacrifice of the Cross and her communion with the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, the Church draws the spiritual power needed to carry out her mission" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia EE 22).

Dear Brothers in the Lord: as you return to your local Churches after this visit to the tombs of the Blessed Apostles, I hope that, filled with "spiritual power", you will have renewed your desire to participate ever more fully in the Church’s mission which "stands in continuity with the mission of Christ" (cf. ibid.).

In this year of the Rosary, I pray that, through the intercession of our Blessed Lady, the Holy Spirit will confirm you, the clergy, Religious and faithful of your Dioceses in "the gift of God that is within you" (2Tm 1,6), and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord.




To the Reverend Father Giacomo Bini
Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor

1. I am pleased to express to you, Reverend Father, and the whole Order of Friars Minor, my cordial good wishes and greeting on the occasion of the Ordinary General Chapter, meeting in the town of Sts Francis and Clare. It is being celebrated at the Portiuncula, reviving the joyful memory of the origins of the Order, which developed under the gaze of Santa Maria degli Angeli, whom you venerate as your special Patroness with the title of the "Immaculate".

The "Pentecost" Chapter Assembly, prescribed by the Rule (cf. n. VIII), highlights the fundamental role of the Holy Spirit, as St Francis recognized, and whom he liked to describe as the "Minister General" of the Order (cf. Celano, Vita Secunda, CXLV, 193). The Holy Spirit purifies, enlightens and inflames hearts with the fire of love, leading them to the Father in the footprints of the Lord Jesus (cf. Lettera a Tutti i Frati, VI, 62-63).

On this significant occasion, I am pleased to renew my gratitude to this religious Family for its service to the Church for so many centuries, continuing the work that was begun by Francis of Assisi and his disciple, Clare. I would also like to take advantage of this opportunity to offer to the members of the General Chapter and, through them, to all the Friars Minor, some useful elements for a community revision of the ground covered so far, and for a more effective apostolic action in the contemporary world.

2. At the end of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, with the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, I wanted to remind the entire Christian people of the spiritual priorities of the third millennium, and I did not hesitate to say that all pastoral initiatives must be based on holiness (cf. n. 30). I emphasized that in every evangelization programme pride of place must be given to the "primacy of grace...", "the primacy of Christ and, in union with him, the primacy of the interior life and of holiness" (n. 38). Moreover, the Institutes of consecrated life are also called to play a special role since their specific mission is to bear a prophetic witness to the Kingdom of Heaven. This entails ceaselessly striving for holiness. It helps us to understand better the passage in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata: "Today a renewed commitment to holiness by consecrated persons is more necessary than ever, also as a means of promoting and supporting every Christian's desire for perfection" (n. 39).

If it is true that "the ways of holiness are many, according to the vocation of each individual" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 31), the Rule and Constitutions of your Order "provide a map for the whole journey of discipleship, in accordance with a specific charism confirmed by the Church" (Vita Consecrata VC 37). This journey has been made by many of your Confreres, Franciscan Saints and Blesseds, who observed with heroic fidelity until death the commitments they freely assumed on the day of their religious profession. It will be a great help to you to turn constantly to these masters and models of holiness, drawing inspiration from their example, deepening your knowledge of them, calling upon them devoutly and commemorating them on their liturgical anniversaries.

3. The General Chapter is being held in the town of Assisi, vibrant with the eternal echo of the voice Francis heard three times speaking to him from the Cross: "Go, repair my house which, as you see, is all in ruins!" (Bonaventure, Legenda Maior, II, 1).

In recent years too, marked by considerable social changes, the Order has undertaken to bring up to date this unique call, deepening its meaning in order to live the charism consistently. This reflection has encouraged your religious Family to give greater prominence to the missionary and ecclesial service entrusted by Christ to the young Francis, and, subsequently, confirmed by Pope Innocent III with the words: "Go with the Lord, brothers, and as the Lord will see fit to inspire you, preach penance to all" (Celano, Vita Prima, XIII, 33).

It is important that the Order preserve its own missionary style, expressed in poverty and fraternal life and animated by a spirit of contemplation and the sincere search for justice, peace and respect for creation. It is likewise indispensable that each member and all the fraternities cooperate to build the one Church of Christ, of one accord and in full communion with the Pastors of the local Christian communities.

Your Order, in agreement with the diocesan Ordinaries, will thus help "consolidate and expand the Kingdom of Christ, bringing the proclamation of Christ even to the most far-off regions" (Vita Consecrata VC 78), thanks to a renewed spirit of obedience and a sincere desire for ecclesial communion.

4. Your only objective, in every choice and apostolic decision, should be the salus animarum (salvation of souls), as it was for the Poverello of Assisi who was always and only motivated by zeal for the salvation of his brothers. Since "the Only-begotten Son of God saw fit to hang on the Cross for souls, [St Francis] could not consider himself a friend of Christ unless he loved the souls that Christ loved" (Celano, Vita Secunda, CXXXI, 172), and "chose to live for the One who died for all. For he knew well that he was being sent by God to win souls that the devil was bent on stealing" (Celano, Vita Prima, XIV, 35).

The salus animarum even spurred him to promote the dignity and rights of the person, created and formed "in the image of his beloved Son according to the body, and in his likeness according to the Spirit" (Francis, Admonitions, V), as well as to safeguard creation, since all things have been created through Christ and for Christ, and all subsist in him (cf. Col Col 1,16-17). Francis' life was marked above all by a constant spiritual tension, which brought him to see and understand all things in the light of the "definitive happiness found in God" (Vita Consecrata VC 33). From his love for God flowed his burning passion to preach to the faithful "vices and virtues, punishment and glory" (Rule, IX). This, dear Friars Minor, should continue to be your apostolic "style" in the Church. I hope that the Chapter's work will produce appropriate guidelines to meet the challenges of modern times.

5. "The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few!" (Mt 9,37). These words of Christ come to mind as we face the vast field of action and the scarcity of available workers. To speak of missionary dymanism seems hardly realistic even for your Order, given the reduced number of its members and the increase in their average age in recent years. However, instead of making you feel disheartened, it must challenge you on the one hand to intensify your prayer to the Lord of the harvest "to send out labourers into his harvest" (Mt 9,38), and on the other, to devise new pastoral and vocational policies.

Why lose faith, if Jesus himself assured Francis that it was he who was "principally responsible" for the Order? Did he not promise Francis: "I have called, I will preserve and I will tend, and I will raise up others to make up for the loss of some, so that, even if they have not been born, I will have them born" (Bonaventure, Legenda Maior, VIII, 3). Knowing this, encourage and accompany vocations with prayer and with the witness of your lives, trusting in that "God who can raise Children of Abraham even from stone... and make sterile wombs fruitful" (Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Starting Afresh from Christ, n. 16).

The Order has done well to put much energy into the pastoral care of vocations and the formation of aspirants to the consecrated life, in collaboration with other Institutes of Franciscan inspiration and with the dioceses.

Francis and Clare of Assisi have a great fascination for young people, and this should be used to propose to the generations of the third millennium "a more attentive reflection on life's essential values. These reach their fulfilment in the response which each person is invited to give to God's call, particularly when the call implies the total giving of self and of one's energies to the cause of the Kingdom" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 46).

In this regard, the celebrations proclaimed by the four Ministers General of the Franciscan Family for the 750th anniversary of the death of St Clare could also be a particularly appropriate opportunity to make better known the Franciscan-Claritian vocations to the contemplative, apostolic, eremitic and secular life.

6. May you yourselves be men who are passionately in love with Christ and with the Gospel, men of ceaseless prayer, joyful witnesses of the radical choice of the Kingdom of Heaven. Your work will be all the more effective the greater your efforts to offer eloquent signs of "the primacy which God and the truths of the Gospel have in the Christian life" (Vita Consecrata VC 84).

The traditional habit that you normally wear at first sight refers to the style of penance and poverty, of docility and acceptance, of simplicity and total consecration to God that must distinguish you. Be faithful to your typical charism, at the same time opening yourselves with wisdom and prudence to the needs of the apostolate in our time.

May the Holy Spirit, with his light and power, make you capable of bearing Christ "in your heart and body through love and a pure and sincere conscience", and of giving birth to him "through a holy activity, which must shine before others as an example" (Francis, Lettera a Tutti i Fedeli, X, 53).

May St Francis, St Clare, and all your holy Patrons accompany the work of the Chapter and make it fruitful for the good of the Order and of the Church. May the Virgin Mary, "Star of the New Evangelization", help you stay faithful to the missionary commitment to which Francis continues to exhort you with his beautiful words: "Cast your care upon the Lord and he will sustain you" (Celano, Vita Prima, XII, 29).

Address every day the "Virgin made Church" (Francis, Saluto alla B.V.M.), Queen of the Apostles and "Advocate of the Order" (Celano, Vita Secunda, CL 198), with the recitation of the Rosary, that exquisitely evangelical and Franciscan prayer.

With these sentiments, while assuring each one of my constant remembrance to the Lord, I cordially impart to you, Reverend Father, to the Chapter Members and to all your Confreres throughout the world, a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 10 May 2003

Speeches 2003 - Friday, 30 May 2003