Speeches 2004 - Thursday, 23 September 2004
1. On the occasion of the General Chapter of your Institute, I am pleased to welcome you and to assure you of my spiritual closeness in prayer. I greet in particular the Superior General and the members of the new General Council of the Congregation. I hope that their work will go well in this demanding office.
I thank you all for the affection you show to the Successor of Peter which I cordially reciprocate, also because of my devotion for your Founder, St Eugène de Mazenod, and my esteem for your Congregation which is both Marian and missionary.
2. "Witnesses of hope" is the motto of this Chapter Assembly which is in continuity with the previous one. Together with the whole Church, you have entered the new millennium in the sign of hope, and it is in this perspective that you desire to continue on your way, trusting in divine Providence. Your presence, enlivened by an authentic religious and missionary zeal, must be a sign and seed of hope for all those you meet, both in secularized milieus and in contexts where the Good News has not yet been proclaimed.
3. I encourage you to persevere in order to reach the objectives you have set for yourselves, and first and foremost, a renewed fraternal union in accordance with the wishes of the Holy Founder, who conceived of the Institute as a family and whose members form one heart and one mind. Today you are present with more than 1,000 communities in 67 countries of the world; this unity is a challenge that is demanding but so important for humanity, called to take the path of solidarity in diversity.
I also appreciate your reflection on the profound changes that are marking the Congregation, whose centre of gravity is moving toward the poorest areas of the world. This important fact is prompting you to update your formation, distribution of personnel and forms of governance and of the communion of goods.
May you be able to make clear decisions on the basis of the priorities of your mission. The prime requirements certainly include the permanent care of spiritual life for a constantly renewed fidelity to your original charism. Indeed, it is God with the action of the Holy Spirit who enables Religious Families to respond adequately to new demands, drawing from the specific gift entrusted to them.
4. For all these goals, I invoke from Heaven, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, an abundance of light and strength. In particular, I ask her to watch over each one of you and over your confreres with maternal solicitude, and I wholeheartedly impart an Apostolic Blessing to you all.
Dear Papal Representatives,
1. I am happy to welcome you at the end of your meeting in Rome. I would like to renew to each of you my appreciation of the invaluable service you offer the Ecclesial and Civil Communities in Africa.
We all cherish in our minds and hearts the memory of Archbishop Michael Aidan Courtney, who carried out his mission to the suffering people of Burundi with generosity and fidelity to the point of making the supreme sacrifice of his life. May his heroic witness instil renewed strength in all who work for peace in Burundi and throughout the African Continent!
2. I know that you carry out your service with zeal and fidelity in difficult situations, sharing the sufferings and tragedies of the Churches and Peoples to whom you have been sent. I willingly take this opportunity to express to you once again my gratitude for the dedication and wisdom with which you carry out the sensitive mission entrusted to you! Know that the Pope and the Roman Curia are with you, as our meeting shows.
The Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Africa, whose 10th anniversary occurs this year, and the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa were events that showed the Church's particularly intense pastoral concern for that Continent.
Today the Church in Africa is facing old and new problems, but she is also open to great hopes. As Papal Representatives, you are called to guide the development of Ecclesial Communities, to encourage the integral progress of society and above all, to encourage the "encounter of cultures with Christ and his Gospel" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa ).
3. Continue to do your utmost to be witnesses of communion in order to surmount the tensions and misunderstandings, the victory over the temptation of particularism and the reinforcement of the sense of belonging to the one and undivided People of God.
With these sentiments and hopes, I renew to you my most cordial thanks for this meeting, and entrust you and your missions to the motherly protection of the Virgin Mary, Star of Evangelization.
To you who are present here and to your collaborators in the Nunciatures, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing and gladly extend it to the beloved Peoples of Africa, among whom you carry out your specialized work as Papal Representatives.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am pleased to welcome you on this last Sunday of September, when my summer stay at Castel Gandolfo is coming to an end. Indeed, our traditional meeting gives me the opportunity to express to each one of you my deep gratitude for your generous service in this Papal Residence.
I greet in particular Dr Saverio Petrillo, General Director of the Pontifical Villas, and I thank him for his courteous words on behalf of those present. I gladly extend this affectionate greeting to all the employees of the Villas and to their families. May the Lord reward you for the commitment and fidelity with which you carry out the tasks entrusted to you.
On returning to the Vatican, I will take with me a fond memory of the serene and restful days I was able to spend at Castel Gandolfo, thanks to your help. I trust in your prayers, and for my part, I assure you that I will not fail to pray to the Lord that he will always accompany and help you. As I entrust you to the motherly protection of the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Rosary, I bless you affectionately, together with your relatives and all your loved ones.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I am delighted to have this meeting that enables me personally to award to you, dear Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek, the "Fidei Testis" prize conferred by the Paul VI Institute of Brescia, at the Symposium held recently for its 25th anniversary. I cordially greet the Cardinals Giovanni Battista Re, Paul Poupard, Georges Cottier, and the Bishops, [Giulio] Sanguineti and [Pasquale] Macchi, the priests and each one of you, distinguished Members of the Board of Directors. I thank the President, Dr Giuseppe Camadini, for his courteous words.
In addressing you, venerable and esteemed Cardinal Swiatek, I would like to offer you my heartfelt congratulations on this prestigious recognition. The title of "Fidei testis" is in fact more appropriate than any other for a Christian: especially when he is an outstanding Pastor who has been raised to the rank of Cardinal and who bore a faithful and courageous witness to Christ and his Gospel in the difficult years of the persecution of the Church in Eastern Europe.
2. Your Eminence, you were ordained to the priesthood shortly before the beginning of the Second World War. Two years later, Providence called you to take the Way of the Cross of persecution, in solidarity with the passion of the Christian people entrusted to your care, yourself carrying the cross of prison, of unjust condemnation and of the work camps with their burden of exhaustion, cold and hunger. "Only with faith was it possible to survive", you confided. And the Lord granted you a strong, brave faith to overcome that long and harsh trial, at the end of which you returned to the Ecclesial Community as an even more credible witness of the Gospel: Fidei testis.
This new season of your life culminated in your appointment as Archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev, a ministry that you are still carrying out. With your words and example, you have proclaimed to all, believers and non-believers, the truth about Christ, a light that illumines every person.
3. You have done all this with the help of Mary Most Holy, Mater Misericordiae, as your episcopal motto also testifies. I entrust you to the Virgin with deep affection, venerable Brother, as I have the joy of awarding the "Fidei Testis" prize to you. And I wholeheartedly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all, with renewed gratitude.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I am very glad to greet you and to welcome you here. I greet Dr Giovanni Tinebra, Chief of the Department of Prison Administration, whom I thank for his courteous words, the officers present and dear Mons. Giorgio Caniato, the General Inspector of Chaplains. I extend my greeting in particular to you, probationary Women Police Officers for Women's Prisons. This meeting is especially for you, who have just ended your year's training.
2. I learned with pleasure that you have demonstrated praiseworthy commitment during the course and have achieved encouraging results. I congratulate you and take this opportunity to offer you a suggestion: always take care of your spiritual life. Indeed, your role requires sound human maturity that will enable you to combine firmness with consideration for people. To this end, your being women is certainly helpful, for you possess those truly feminine qualities that have a positive effect on interhuman relationships. However, what you will need above all is the inner strength that comes from prayer, that is, from intimate union with God in every situation of life, including daily tasks.
3. By a felicitous coincidence, today, 27 September, is the liturgical commemoration of St Vincent de Paul, a great saint of charity. He personally suffered the hardship of prison and taught the "Ladies", who later became the Daughters of Charity, to pay special attention to that category of the poor who are condemned to hard labour. He demanded they be treated with humanity and understanding. St Vincent was motivated by the love of Christ, who also in the Gospel identifies himself with prisoners (cf. Mt Mt 25,36, 40, 43, 45). The primary value of the human person must be the basis of all civil and professional ethics and of the related training. I am therefore pleased to place you and your work under the protection of St Vincent de Paul.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I warmly hope that the desire for the authentic promotion of justice will be successfully expressed in every sector of the Italian Prison Administration, and I thank you for your courteous visit and willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all and to your loved ones.
Dear Members of the Municipal Board and Council,
At the end of my summer stay in Castel Gandolfo, I wanted to say goodbye to each one of you. I thank you in particular, Mr Mayor, for your courteous words expressing the sentiments of everyone here. I extend my grateful thoughts to the Members of the Municipal Administration and to all the citizens for the warm hospitality they have offered me in these months.
I have been able to spend serene and restful days in this pleasant and hard-working locality in the Alban Hills, which are so dear to me. I am now preparing to return to the Vatican and I am comforted by your spiritual closeness and prayers. I warmly thank you for all this, also on behalf of my collaborators.
I entrust you and all your loved ones to the motherly protection of the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Holy Rosary, and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all.
Dear Officials and Officers of the Police Force,
of the Financial Guard,
and Officers of the Carabinieri Army Corps,
As I prepare to leave the residence at Castel Gandolfo, I feel duty bound to express to you my esteem and appreciation of the generous and faithful service you carry out to enforce order and security.
I thank you for contributing to my serene and tranquil stay in this beautiful region. I hope you will always be witnesses to the values of justice, loyalty and a spirit of sacrifice, whose deepest source is love for God and for our neighbour.
For this I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and, as I invoke upon you and your families the motherly protection of Mary Most Holy, Virgo Fidelis, I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all with affection.
I offer you a warm welcome and express my deep gratitude to you for your visit on the occasion of the inauguration at the Vatican Museums of an exhibition with the symbolic title, "Stephen the Great, a bridge between East and West".
Today's meeting affords me the opportunity to remember with emotion and gratitude the memorable Visit that I had the joy of paying to Romania in 1999. A pilgrim of faith and hope, I was warmly and enthusiastically welcomed by you and by the State Authorities, by H.B. Patriarch Teoctist and by all the people of the venerable Orthodox Church of Romania. I received a particularly warm embrace from the Bishops and from the beloved Catholic communities of both Byzantine and Latin rites.
Mr President, I express to you, to your collaborators and to the entire Romanian Nation my affectionate good wishes for prosperity and peace. I accompany these wishes with my prayers, and invoke the Lord's Blessing upon everyone.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. I am pleased to receive you at this meeting which, at the end of your ad limina visit, enables me to greet you and to encourage you in hope, so necessary for the ministry that you generously carry out in your respective Archdioceses and Dioceses in the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Ibagué, Nueva Pamplona, Tunja and the recently erected Province of Villavicencio.
With the pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, you have had the opportunity to strengthen the bonds that unite your tasks today with the mission that Christ entrusted to the Twelve and to find inspiration in his example of self-denial and constant devotion to the evangelization of all peoples. At this meeting and at others with the various offices of the Roman Curia, communion with the See of Peter and the concern that all Bishops must have for the universal Church becomes obvious and effective (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 23).
I am grateful to Cardinal Pedro Rubiano Sáenz for his words on behalf of all of you, expressing your attachment and sincere affection. In this way you also reflect on the profound religious spirit of the Colombian People and the great appreciation of your communities for the Pope. Take them my greeting and remind them that I keep them very present in my prayers, especially at this difficult time for the Nation.
2. In your ministry to carry out the work of evangelization, you rely on such essential factors as the growing number of vocations to the priesthood and Religious life, the ample presence of religious institutes that enrich the particular Churches as well as the existence of many study and formation centres. All this shows how deeply rooted in the Country are the Christian faith and the dynamism of the apostolic commitment of both individual members of the faithful and the ecclesiastical institutions. At the same time, it represents a valuable heritage to help all the baptized fulfil their ultimate true vocation: holiness (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 39).
In fact, holiness is the goal and the basic programme of all pastoral action. "It would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 31). For these very reasons, the visit of the relics of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus to Colombia is an opportunity to become aware that we are all called to holiness, a fundamental objective of the Church's mission.
3. In analyzing the situation of the Church and of Colombian society, you noted the increase in the truly disturbing phenomenon of moral deterioration. It appears in many different forms and affects the most varied contexts of personal, family and social life, undermining the intrinsic importance of moral rectitude and seriously threatening the very authenticity of the faith, which "gives rise to and calls for a consistent life commitment; it entails and brings to perfection the acceptance and observance of God's commandments" (Veritatis Splendor VS 89).
It is a phenomenon that is partly due to ideologies that prevent the human being from clearly recognizing good in order to put it into practice. More often, however, it is a matter of a blurred conscience or one that deceitfully seeks to justify the person's conduct aided by an atmosphere that dazzlingly displays false values which tend to mask or denigrate the supreme good to which individuals aspire in the depth of their hearts.
Moreover, it is a very significant challenge that entails various types of pastoral action modelled on Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who came precisely to call sinners (cf. Mt Mt 9,13), coming close to many of them and urging them to change their way of life (cf. Lc 19,8).
4. Jesus' mercy and compassion for human frailty did not prevent him from clearly pointing out what conduct to follow or which activities are most in tune with the divine will, and he often demolished the subtle arguments of his adversaries; this earned him the admiration of the people, "for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes" (Mt 7,29). Nor did the Lord shrink from denouncing hypocrisy or abuse. Following his teachings, the Apostles never ceased in their preaching to insist on the ethical demands of those called to live "in true righteousness and holiness" (Ep 4,24).
As his successors, it is the duty of Bishops to teach "that worldly things and human institutions are ordered, according to the plan of God the Creator, towards the salvation of men" (Christus Dominus CD 12). Proclaiming justice, truth, fidelity and love of neighbour with all their concrete implications is inherent in proclaiming the Gospel in its integrity. This proclamation contributes to the formation of an upright conscience and enlightens all people of good will: thus, "they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way" (Jr 26,3).
This teaching, integral and in perfect harmony with the moral doctrine of the Church, will be far more fruitful if it is combined with personal example, constant guidance and tireless encouragement.
Indeed, "the Bishop is the first preacher of the Gospel by his words and by the witness of his life" (Pastores Gregis ). This is especially important at this period of history in which, on the one hand, will power is being immobilized by the temptation to an easy life and on the other hand, the insistence on rights is misleading, deferring the need to assume personal duties and responsibilities. Pastors, consecrated persons, catechists and other evangelizing workers can do much through their own joyful witness of an irreproachable life, bringing the true human values into the limelight.
In this way, they show on the one hand that fullness of life in accordance with the Gospel criteria lies in being and not in having; moreover, assuming our obligations, even if this may at times cost us dearly, is an indispensable prerequisite for affirming the true dignity of the person which, in turn, brings inner peace that is the product of doing our duty and expending ourselves for a just cause.
This peace is also extended to the social surroundings and especially to the institutions when, based on an authentic spirit of service to the common good, they are governed by the criteria of equality, justice, honour and truth.
5. You recently reflected on Christian initiation as one of the key points of evangelization. This is a subject both crucial and thrilling, since it directly responds to Christ's mandate: "Make disciples of all nations... teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Mt 28,19-20). It is a matter of cultivating faith that germinates and like new shoots grows and brings forth new life to the Church of God. Starting out in the faith is also a magnificent opportunity for both Pastors and communities to relive the saving mystery of God from its very beginnings: the undeserved gift of sanctifying grace that unites us most deeply with Christ; the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that transforms and enlivens, endowing human life with continuous growth as a new creature; incorporation in the Church to be with her a sprouting seed and the beginning of the Kingdom of God on earth (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 5). All this places before our eyes our sublime origin as Christians, and the lofty vocation to which we are called.
At the various stages of Christian initiation where the mysteries of salvation are taught, there is also a visible need to examine them more deeply every day, taking nothing as normal or for granted, continuously discovering their greatness and keeping alive a sense of wonder before the sublime.
This will be a great help to you, not only in increasing your own faith and consolidating your baptismal commitment, but also in acquiring an awareness of the great responsibility that derives from it regarding catechumens and neophytes. Their future as disciples of Jesus will be largely shaped by the example of their formation teachers, as well as by the ability to inculcate in their hearts a living, solid and complete faith.
The need for an organized Christian initiation, adapted to the cultural conditions of our time and of every place, and directed by well-qualified Pastors and catechists, becomes a priority especially where the social environment is unfavourable to the growth of the faith or where channels for its transmission and development are lacking, such as the family, school or even the Christian community. At times it can be useful to be inspired by the discipline of the early centuries, when, in addition to ascertaining the good intention of candidates, they are also carefully instructed in Christ's message and in proper Christian behaviour, and examined later to see "whether they have lived their catechumenate correctly, honoured widows, visited the sick and done good works" (Traditio Apostolica, n. 20).
6. At the end of this Meeting, I would like to bolster your hope, so necessary when facing the difficult situation that Colombia is currently going through, when we are continually receiving news of attacks on the life, freedom and dignity of people as if the human being were a commodity of little worth.
Furthermore, the frequency of kidnapping is notorious. It is a scourge to which thousands of families are exposed, which shows once again the depths of perversion to which human baseness can sink; with evil intent, every moral perspective is lost and the most fundamental human rights are neither recognized nor respected. In Colombia, many of these evils originate in the drug trade that has repercussions in numerous areas. It has afflicted the Nation for years, with incalculable negative consequences in social milieus.
I share your anxiety in facing this situation, and I appreciate your constant endeavours to avert violence, to eliminate its causes and to lessen its effects, paying proper attention to the victims and tirelessly encouraging those who are motivated to abandon the language of weapons and start out on the path of peaceful dialogue.
Dear Brother Bishops, please convey my encouragement and cordial greeting to your particular Churches, especially to your priests, religious communities, catechists and other people dedicated to the exciting task of being messengers of Christ's light and keeping it alive in the People of God.
As I invoke the protection of Our Lady of Chiquinquirá on your apostolic tasks, as well as on all the beloved Colombians, I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you with affection.
Thursday, 30 September 2004
With pleasure I greet you, and those accompanying you, as you come to the Vatican, and I thank you for the kind sentiments you have expressed on behalf of the people of your nation.
In these times of turmoil and violence, I encourage you and your fellow citizens to continue to foster a spirit of dialogue and tolerance in your region. It is only by acknowledging the need for mutual understanding among peoples, through a frank and open exchange of ideas, that the world can obtain authentic justice and peace. Upon you and all the people of Pakistan I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. I am pleased to address a cordial welcome to all of you who have come on pilgrimage to Rome on the occasion of the 17th centenary of the martyrdom of St Domnius, Patron of your Diocesan Community and of the city of Split.
I greet Archbishop Marin Barisic with affection and thank him for his words on behalf of all. With him, I greet your Archbishops emeritus, Archbishop Ante Juric and Archbishop Frane Franic, who is present in spirit. In addition, a special greeting goes to the priests. I likewise address a respectful thought to the Mayor of Split, to the President of the County of Split-Dalmatia and to the other Authorities gathered here.
Your presence gives me the opportunity to remember with pleasure the warm welcome you gave me during my Pastoral Visit to your Archdiocese on 4 October 1998.
2. From the places where St Domnius and the other Martyrs of your regions have borne witness to Christ from the early centuries to our day, you have come to the tombs of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul and of the other Martyrs of Rome. By so doing, you wished to show your attachment to the faith that they themselves confessed.
This attachment demands a commitment of constant fidelity to Christ and to the Church through a courageous and consistent witness in the family, in places of learning and work and in other social milieus. Strive, therefore, to further a coherent Christian humanism in every sphere of your life, both in private and in public. Let the heroic example of St Domnius and the other Martyrs guide and sustain you; impelled by steadfast faith in Christ, they gave their lives for the good of their brothers and sisters.
3. May the Blessed Virgin, Queen of the Martyrs, assist you with her maternal protection and the intercession of your heavenly Patron always guide you.
May an abundance of divine graces be poured out upon each one of you, upon your families, your Archdioceses and your beloved Homeland, as a pledge of the Apostolic Blessing which I wholeheartedly impart to you all.
Praised be Jesus and Mary!
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to welcome you and cordially greet Cardinal Lustiger as well as Mr Patrick Wajsman, Director of the magazine Politique Internationale, and the members of the French Catholic television company, KTO. I thank you for awarding me the "Political Courage Prize" This draws attention to the Church's mission of peace in a world where conflicts are unfortunately too numerous. I would like to launch a new appeal for peace, to build a society of brotherhood among the peoples.
My thoughts go to journalists, who through their witness and publications are artisans of peace and freedom, and who pay a heavy tribute to wars. I am also thinking of the hostages and their families, innocent victims of violence and hatred, and I invite all people of good will to respect human life. No reprisal can end in haggling over human lives. The path of violence is a dead-end.
As I entrust you to the Virgin Mary and implore for the world the gift of peace that comes from God, I impart to you and to all your loved ones my Apostolic Blessing.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. I am pleased to meet you the day after the solemn beatification liturgy. Let us pause to further reflect together on the timeliness of the message and spirituality of these five new Blesseds.
2. The lives of Blesseds Peter Vigne and Joseph-Marie Cassant urge us to return lovingly to the Lord Jesus, Head of the Church and present in the sacrament of the Eucharist. They both contemplated this mystery for long hours in the silence of prayer and found in this spiritual nourishment the desire to follow Christ and the grace of conversion. May their example and their intercession help Christian communities today to make the Eucharist, the source and summit of the Church's life, the centre of their lives. May it awaken the missionary zeal that the world needs in order to hear the Good News!
3. The life of Mother Ludovica De Angelis was dedicated to the glory of God and the service of her brothers and sisters. The programme of the long years she spent in the Paediatric Hospital of La Plata, a centre which today bears her name, was "to do good to all, no matter who". In this task she did her utmost to nurse sick children, working competently with health-care personnel and being an exemplary community superior for her Sisters. Her life was a continuous journey towards holiness, and presents her to us as an intercessor and a witness of charity.
4. In deep union with the suffering Saviour, the "Mystic of the Land of Münster" carried out the Apostle's mission to complete what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the Body of Christ, the Church (cf. Col Col 1,24). Through the intercession of Bl. Anne Catherine, may the Lord make your hearts available to the interior and exterior needs of your neighbour. May the example of the Blessed reinforce in everyone the virtue of patience and the spirit of sacrifice.
Charles of Austria always wanted to do God's will. Faith was the criterion of his responsibility as the reigning Emperor and the father of a family. May faith in God also determine the orientation of your lives, after his example! May the Blessed accompany you on your pilgrimage to your heavenly Home.
God keep you in his grace!
5. I am delighted to greet the Bishops and Representatives of the Civil Authorities, as well as the Trappist Brothers, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and all the French-speaking pilgrims here this morning. May the new Blesseds help you to give thanks to God!
I greet the Bishops, priests and faithful, and with special affection the Daughters of Our Lady of Mercy who are taking part in this Audience. I commend you all to the intercession of the new Blesseds.
I also address a joyful greeting in the faith to the Bishops, priests and Religious, as well as to the faithful from the German-speaking countries. May God keep you in his grace!
Dear brothers and sisters, as I invoke the heavenly intercession of the Virgin Mary and the new Blesseds, I bless you from my heart, as well as the Communities you come from and all your loved ones.
Speeches 2004 - Thursday, 23 September 2004