Speeches 2004 - Thursday, 16 December 2004



Thursday, 16 December 2004

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you today and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Norway to the Holy See. Though my visit to your country took place some years ago, I fondly recall the warmth and hospitality with which I was received. I thank you for the gracious greetings which you bring from His Majesty King Harald V and from Prime Minister Bondevik. I would ask you to convey to the Royal Family, the Government and all the people of Norway my good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the well-being of the nation.

At the heart of the Holy See’s diplomatic activity stands a steadfast commitment to defending the dignity of the human person. This promotion of human rights, social justice and solidarity, arises out of the recognition of the common origin of all life and points to the common destiny of all men and women. In this broad perspective, humanity’s transcendent dimension is brought to light, countering the social fragmentation and secularism so sadly prevalent in many societies today and providing a sure foundation for solidarity and harmony in our world.

Within the international community Norway has long been esteemed for its generosity to developing nations. Tangible expressions of this are found, for example, in Norwegian participation in peace-keeping operations, assistance with aid projects, readiness to combat arms trafficking as well as championing of the causes of sustainable development and environmental protection. These acts of solidarity are an expression of a persevering desire to promote the common good and, at their most significant level, help to elicit a recognition of the essential nature of human life as a gift and of our world as a family of persons. In fact, genuine acts of solidarity are more than just unilateral gestures of good intent. They uphold God’s universal plan for humanity and, in accord with this vision, address the complex challenges of justice, freedom of peoples and peace.

Mr Ambassador, as you have correctly noted, Christianity has been of fundamental importance in Norway’s history. It must be likewise in the present and in the future. In my pastoral visit to your country, I came as a pilgrim wishing to honour the lives of Saint Olav and the other great Saints of the North, whose example still speaks today about the profound truths and values which have shaped Norwegian culture for over a thousand years. These guiding principles retain their significance for contemporary society, since they reveal "man’s deepest sphere" and give "meaning to his life in the world" (cf. Redemptor Hominis RH 10). Indeed, as seen in extraordinary ways through the witness of the Saints, the values at the heart of Christian Europe call all men and women "to direct their steps towards a truth which transcends them" (Fides et Ratio FR 5) so that good may prevail and God may be honoured. When individuals lose sight of this goal, which is their only guarantee of freedom and happiness, they become entrapped by impoverished ideologies and then fail to lift their gaze to the heights of life’s purpose.

In this regard, one cannot but notice that an eclipse of the sense of God has cast its shadow not only over your own country but over other Nordic lands as well. In this disquieting process of secularization, as I have noted on many occasions, it is marriage and the family which come under greatest threat. For this reason I continue to urge both religious and civil leaders to uphold the sacred institution of marriage, willed by God in the very act of creation, with its concomitant of stable domestic life. The truth of human sexuality is illustrated in the beauty of married couples’ love as a unique and exclusive gift of self to the other and the mutual acceptance of that wonderful gift by which they become cooperators with God in giving life to a new human person (cf. Familiaris Consortio FC 14). Secular and pragmatic distortions of the reality of marriage can never be equated with the splendour of a life-long covenant based on generous self-giving and unconditional love and they will only damage the foundation upon which the legitimate aspirations of a nation are built.

From the beginning of my Pontificate I have made commitment to ecumenism a priority of my pastoral concern and action. Awareness of the common history shared by Christians has fostered brotherhood and dialogue, and united Christian witness for the advancement of the kingdom of God in our midst (cf. Ut Unum Sint UUS 41). To this end I encourage all the religious leaders of your nation to persevere along the path towards Christian unity. In this way they will help all Norwegians to draw on their rich heritage of over a thousand years of Christian faith: in Christ all people – nationals, migrants or foreigners – are brothers and sisters, and our gestures of solidarity towards them become acts of love and fidelity to Christ, who came that we might all have life and have it abundantly (cf. Jn Jn 10,10).

With these words of encouragement I assure you that the Catholic Church will continue to work for the spiritual enrichment and social development of the Norwegian people. Through her witness of charity the Church reaches out to all men and women, irrespective of ethnicity or religion, facilitating the growth of a "culture of solidarity" and restoring life to the universal values of human coexistence (cf. Ecclesia in Europa, 85).

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



Thursday, 16 December 2004

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 Kenya to the Holy See. Though my pastoral visits to your country took place some years ago now, they remain clearly etched in my mind as events of great joy. I thank you for the greetings which you bear from President Kibaki, the Government and all the citizens of Kenya. Please convey to them my sincere best wishes and assure them of my prayers for the well-being of the nation.

On arrival at Nairobi in 1995, I observed that your nation and indeed the whole continent of Africa was at a crossroads (cf. Arrival Speech, Nairobi, 18 September 1995). Its peoples and their leaders were being called to exercise all their wisdom in the difficult and urgent task of promoting democratic government and prudent economic development as essential elements to the building of a just society. The "winds of change" driving that common desire have not abated; indeed they have gathered strength with people demanding ever more insistently concrete action to ensure the development of a civic life marked by respect, fairness and integrity (cf. Ecclesia in Africa ).

Kenya, it can now be said, has set out along the road of truth and peace. Against the often disturbing backdrop of human tragedies which continue to afflict the continent of Africa and other regions, your nation has taken a leading role in promoting peace initiatives and social stability. In this regard, the recent United Nations Security Council’s sitting in your capital has given Kenya much positive attention in the international media and rightly has brought praise for the nation’s considerable contribution to peace-keeping missions and projects, especially in Sudan and Somalia. Such generous undertakings, as well as bringing immediate relief to the long-suffering peoples directly affected by conflict, will also elicit in your neighbouring countries a deeper sense of shared responsibility for the defence and promotion of the fundamental human rights of the peoples of your region. When there is hesitation in the international community about the obligation to respect and implement human rights (cf. Message for the 2003 World Day of Peace, 5), misery ensues as is so evident today in Darfur.

In addition to a country’s willing participation in the accords and agreements that promote international relations, authentic development also requires adherence to a sound plan of genuine national progress. In fact, the "unbreakable bond between the work of peace and respect for truth" (ibid., 8) suggests that the success of a government’s participation in peace processes abroad will depend largely upon the degree of honesty and integrity with which it governs at home. In this regard, President Kibaki’s determination to root out the scourge of corruption, which crushes the spirit of a nation, is to be applauded, and demands the active support of all politicians, civic leaders and bureaucrats in order that the common good may flourish. While much remains to be achieved, successes already attained in Kenya clearly give hope. Further strenuous efforts to guarantee an impartial judiciary and to ensure security through the rule of law and order are needed and will do much to favour a spirit of optimism among your people and to attract the kind of investment necessary to create the opportunities of employment which offer a brighter future to all and especially the young.

The family stands at the heart of the cultures of Africa. This is a treasure which must be preserved and never neglected, for the future of your people, and that of the world, passes through the family (cf. Familiaris Consortio FC 86). It is only right therefore that civic and religious leaders should work together to ensure that the sacred institution of marriage, with its concomitant of stable home life, is affirmed and supported. Breakdown of domestic life is always a source of intractable problems which, in addition to causing incalculable distress to individuals, undermine the very fabric of society and its means of secure development.

The peoples of Kenya, though remaining confident about the future, are nevertheless suffering several acute social problems. Solutions cannot be restricted to the mere removal of hardships but instead require the courage to embrace a way of life faithful to God’s plan for all men and women. In this regard, I note with grave concern the measures currently under debate in your country to facilitate abortion. In addition to violating life’s essential dignity, abortion invariably causes untold emotional and psychological pain to the mother, who herself is frequently a victim of circumstances contrary to her deepest hopes and desires. Similarly, in regard to the tragedy of AIDS which the whole human family is currently facing, it must be recalled that at heart this is a question of behaviour. Proposed remedies which either ignore or reject the only genuine foundation of health and happiness in this matter – sexual fidelity within marriage and abstinence without – are likely to increase rather than resolve the tragedy and indeed can be understood as new forms of colonialism. I therefore appeal to the Christian community of Kenya to bear steadfast witness to that intimate communion of life and love which defines the family, brings joy to communities, and provides the foundation upon which the aspirations of a nation can be built.

For her part the Catholic Church in Kenya will continue to support families in all possible ways, working as an ally in the pursuit of peace, stability and prosperity. Through her numerous schools, health-care facilities, and community development programmes, she is already contributing much to securing a better future for the country. In this service the Church desires neither power nor privilege, but only the freedom to express her faith and love in works of goodness, justice and peace.

Your Excellency, as you enter the diplomatic community accredited to the Holy See, I assure you of the ready assistance of the various offices of the Roman Curia. May your mission serve to deepen the already strong bonds of understanding and cooperation between Kenya and the Holy See. Upon you, your family and your fellow citizens I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.



Thursday, 16 December 2004

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Malawi to the Holy See. I would like to express my gratitude for the greetings which you bring from your President, His Excellency Dr Bingu wa Mutharika. Your presence here reminds me of my visit to Malawi in 1989, when I was welcomed with such warmth. I would ask you kindly to convey my cordial greetings to His Excellency and to assure him of my continuing prayers for the peace and well-being of your nation.

The people of your Continent have much to offer the rest of the world concerning respect for the family. In this connection, I would encourage them to continue to promote stable family life as the proper environment in which to bring up children, thereby building firm foundations for the future of society. In particular, I would urge your Government to resist any attempts by outside agencies to impose programmes of economic assistance tied to the promotion of sterilization and contraception. Not only are such campaigns "affronts to the dignity of the person and the family" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 234), but they also undermine the natural growth and progress of nations. However serious the social and health-care problems facing your country and your Continent, the good of your people demands the pursuit of authentic human development, responding not simply to their material needs but also to their cultural, moral and spiritual aspirations. "Development which is merely economic is incapable of setting man free; on the contrary, it will end by enslaving him further" (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 46).

The alarmingly rapid spread of AIDS demands renewed efforts on the part of the international community and the Government of Malawi to find acceptable ways of combating the disease and providing proper care for the sick and their families. Public authorities and faith communities need to work together to promote fidelity within marriage and abstinence outside it as the most effective safeguards against infection. Every effort should be made to educate the people about AIDS, so as to deter them from resorting to superstitious and traditional practices which can lead to the further spread of the virus. I thank you for expressing your appreciation of the Church’s contribution to health care in your country, and I pledge the continued support of all our Catholic institutions and medical personnel involved in this important work.

You have spoken of the part played by the Catholic Bishops in your country’s transition to democracy, and I thank you for those gracious words with which you describe the Church as the "conscience" of the Malawi nation. The Catholic Church welcomes the opportunity to cooperate with the Government by instructing and informing the faithful, "particularly those involved in political life, so that their actions may always serve the integral promotion of the human person and the common good" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life, 6). Indeed she has a duty to do so, while recognizing the autonomy and independence of the political community in its proper sphere (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 424).

The extreme poverty afflicting so much of the population of Malawi demands urgent action from the rest of the world. I am confident that the Government will strive to do all in its power to provide adequate financial support for all humanitarian and educational programmes. In this regard, every effort must be made to tackle corruption and thus achieve maximum transparency and accountability in the use of international aid. Through her institutes of education and charitable agencies, the Church remains determined to offer whatever assistance she can, so that the citizens of your country may be able to live with proper human dignity.

In offering my best wishes for the success of your mission, I would like to assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are ready to provide help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon Your Excellency and all the people of Malawi I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.




Thursday, 16 December 2004

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome Your Excellency on this solemn occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg to the Holy See.

I warmly thank you, Mr Ambassador, for the cordial greetings you have addressed to me from His Royal Highness, Grand Duke Henri. I remember with pleasure his recent visit. I am always touched by his delicate attention to the Apostolic See and would be grateful if you would reciprocate with my respectful good wishes for him, for the grand ducal family and for the People of Luxembourg.

In this season of the year when we turn our eyes to the Prince of Peace who is to come (cf. Is Is 9,5), we feel more acutely the tragedies of violence and war that affect so many of our contemporaries, and become aware of the compulsory need to build a future of peace for all.

As the Catholic Church has often recalled, peace and development go hand in hand. Consequently, in our time of globalized exchanges, the richest countries have a special responsibility for building peace. Today, the European countries that formed the original nucleus to avert war and re-establish conditions for lasting peace between them, form a powerful political and economic pole at the core of the European Union that also has a special duty with regard to peace and development. Far from merely wishing to constitute an island of peace and prosperity closed in on itself and obliged to defend itself from external attacks, Europe must continue to be open and set an example. In fact, by sharing her economic, social, religious and cultural riches and in accepting those of others, she will be carrying out her proper mission. I am sure that your Country, about to take on the presidency of the Union, is working in this direction and is helping in particular to ensure that the process of integration currently under way between the West and the East of the European Continent is also accompanied by the necessary dialogue and increased exchanges between the North and South of our planet.

Mr Ambassador, your Country is one of the most developed in Europe today, and its population enjoys a very high standard of living. Aware of its wealth and the responsibilities it entails, Luxembourg society exercises to the full its duty of solidarity with the poorer countries, especially on the African Continent. I ask your fellow citizens to continue to be hospitable to foreigners who account for a large part of the Country's population. I also ask them to try to create friendly relations between the different social classes to avoid the phenomenon of social alienation that all too often also affects the most developed societies of the contemporary world.

I am delighted to know that your Government is willing to help families by reinforcing the structures of assistance for children and has decided to continue the programmes of religious instruction in secondary schools. Indeed, the young generations must benefit from a sound formation to prepare them to assume their responsibilities in the society of the future.

Above all, they need to be motivated by the strong ideals of freedom, respect and justice among individuals and peoples and the dignity of them all, which are also religious ideals. By having a clear awareness of the values that are at the root of their history and culture and finding fresh dynamism in them, young people will be able to turn more confidently to the future and work to build it with generosity and enthusiasm. Each will then discover that life has a truly altruistic meaning, far more fulfilling than the immediate satisfaction of material needs tied to the restrictive logic of a purely commercial and hedonistic vision of human destiny.

Likewise, to help them in their integral development, this kind of education would foster their inner life and form their conscience, with a view to their making decisions that correspond to the dignity of human persons.

It is also the mission of the Church, which seeks no advantages for herself, to remind our societies of the pressing invitation of the Gospel ideal. This is why she defends with such conviction the inalienable value of human life from conception to its natural end, as well as the greatness of marriage between a man and a woman as the basis of the family and of society. It is in this capacity that she permits herself to intervene in society's debates, to recall what serves the nobility of human dignity and what injures it, sometimes seriously, and to invite Governments to ponder on the importance of the economic, political and ethical decisions they make in order to build an ever more human society.

Through you, Mr Ambassador, I am pleased to greet Archbishop Fernand Franck of Luxembourg, the priests, deacons and all the faithful who form the Catholic community of the Grand Duchy. I know that they are enthusiastically playing an active part in the life of the Country in the attempt to give the Christian Communities a face that welcomes all, but first and foremost the lowly.

Mr Ambassador, at the time when you are beginning your noble mission to the Holy See, I offer you my cordial good wishes. You may rest assured that you will always be courteously welcomed and kindly assisted by my collaborators.

Upon you, Your Excellency, upon your family and all your collaborators, as well as upon the People of Luxembourg, I wholeheartedly invoke an abundance of divine Blessings.



Thursday, 16 December 2004

Your Excellencies,

1. I welcome you with pleasure on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of your countries: Kenya, Luxembourg, Malawi, Norway and Thailand. As I thank you for conveying to me the courteous words of your Heads of State, I should be grateful if you would express my respectful wishes to them and for their important mission at the service of their country. Through you, I also greet the civil and religious Leaders of your nations and all your compatriots, with a special thought for the Catholic communities.

2. Our world continues to be marked by the scourge of war. In the face of humanitarian tragedies, a burst of creative, charitable, financial and political action is asked of the international community. It is important that diplomacy, for its part, persevere in making peace triumph. I appeal once again to all people of good will to lay down their arms definitively and take the path of trusting and brotherly dialogue. Violence serves neither the cause of peoples nor their development.

I therefore express the wish that our contemporaries, particularly the leaders who watch over the people's future, may be increasingly concerned to serve humankind and the common good.

I offer you my very best wishes for your new mission, and upon you, your families, your collaborators and your countries, I invoke an abundance of divine benefits.



Thursday, 16 December 2004

Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am pleased to greet with affection all of you who are taking part in the Seventh International Pastoral Congress for Circus and Fairground People, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. I greet in particular the President and Secretary of the Pontifical Council, as well as the Bishops and Chaplains present here.

The theme of your Congress: Accepting Circus and Fairground Artists: from diversity to the friendly coexistence of differences, is inspired by the Message for this year's World Day of Migrants and Refugees which you will be studying in these days.

2. Dear Circus and Fairground Artists, you live among people from every social class, working and performing in your shows. You thus provide concrete opportunities for bringing the different generations together in a joyful atmosphere. Your profession, far from easy and certainly special, can be a privileged opportunity to proclaim authentic human values in the world's squares. In an age in which nothing seems to count but the frenzy of production and the accumulation of wealth, the gifts of joy and festivity are a real witness to those non-material values essential to a life of brotherhood and gratuitousness. You can set a unique example of a travelling Church that prays, listens, proclaims and cultivates brotherhood.

3. Dear friends, your world, the world of the Circus and Fairground, can also serve to spearhead the great themes of pastoral care, ecumenism and meetings between members of other religions and the common commitment to build up a universal brotherhood. I pray the Lord that he will help you in your difficult work.

I gladly take this opportunity to wish you all a peaceful Christmas, and I accompany my good wishes with a special Apostolic Blessing.



Friday, 17 December 2004

Distinguished Guests,

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you, members of a delegation of the Anti-Defamation League as you visit the Vatican. The Catholic Church and the Jewish people continue to enjoy close bonds of friendship. It is my fervent prayer that men and women will work together to eradicate all forms of racism in order to build a society that promotes truth, justice, love and peace. Upon all of you I invoke the divine gifts of strength and joy. Shalom!



Friday, 17 December 2004

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I greet you with great joy on the occasion of the "Christmas in the Vatican" concert. This event has become one of the most important Christmas events in Rome and is popular with Romans, since its purpose is to support the building of new churches, especially in the suburban areas of our Diocese.

I wish to express my sincere hope that once again it will achieve its noble aim.

2. Various events that involve concerts or singing, such as yours, are organized in parishes, schools and many other contexts during the Christmas season. I express the wish that together with other traditional and evocative signs, such as the crib and the Christmas tree, they will make it easier for people to encounter the Saviour, born in Bethlehem, who in every epoch has offered people his message of truth and love.

Lastly, I extend my fervent good wishes for Christmas to the sponsors, organizers and musicians involved in this Concert and to all those who watch it on television.

I accompany my good wishes with a special Apostolic Blessing. Happy Christmas to you all!



Saturday, 18 December 2004

Mr Prime Minister,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and I thank you for your kind greetings. With Hungary’s entrance in the European Union this year, a significant new chapter has now opened in her history. I am confident that your country will make a specific contribution to the future of this Continent by drawing upon the rich patrimony of cultural and spiritual values which, from the time of Saint Stephen, have formed the soul of the Hungarian people.

In this regard I think especially of the young people of your nation, and the importance of their training in sound moral and civic virtues. This is an area of particular concern to the Church as she seeks to contribute to the common good in the fulfilment of her religious and educational mission. I am therefore most appreciative of the series of juridical agreements entered into by Hungary and the Holy See in recent years, particularly the Agreement on Financing the Activities of Public Service and other Religious Activities undertaken in Hungary by the Catholic Church. That Agreement defines in a juridically binding way the role of the Church in an important area of Hungarian society, with due respect for the human rights to religious freedom and to education. It is my hope that a spirit of constructive cooperation will continue to mark the work of both Church and State in the task of implementing faithfully what was negotiated and agreed upon.

With gratitude for your visit I offer Your Excellency the assurance of my prayers for all the beloved Hungarian people, and I cordially invoke upon the nation God’s blessings of prosperity and peace.




Saturday, 18 December 2004

1. I greet with affection the Forum of Family Associations and thank the President, Prof. Luisa Santolini, for her words on behalf of you all. This meeting with you, the representatives of thousands of Italian families, is taking place close to Christmas. It is precisely by contemplating the mystery of God who became man and was welcomed into a human family that we can fully understand the value and beauty of the family.

Not only is the family at the heart of Christian life, but it is also the basis of social and civil life and thus constitutes a central chapter in Christian social teaching, as is clearly shown in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (cf. nn. 209-245). It is vital to deepen continually the profound personal importance and the social, original and unrenouncable consequence of the union between a man and a woman, which is brought about in marriage and gives birth to the family community. Those who destroy this fundamental fabric of human coexistence injure society deeply and do damage that is often irreparable.

2. Attacks on marriage and the family are unfortunately growing stronger and more radical every day, both on the ideological and legislative fronts (cf. Ecclesia in Europa, n. 90). Attempts to reduce the family to a private emotional and socially unimportant experience; to confuse individuals' rights with those proper to the family nucleus constituted by the bond of marriage; to equate de facto unions with marriage; to accept, and in certain cases to advocate, the suppression of innocent human lives by means of voluntary abortion; to distort the natural process of begetting children by introducing artificial forms of procreation, are but a few of the contexts in which the subversion taking place in society is blatantly obvious.

No civil progress can derive from the social devaluation of marriage and loss of respect for the inviolable dignity of human life. In many cases, what is presented as the progress of civilization or a scientific breakthrough is a defeat for human dignity and society.

3. The truth about human beings, their call to be welcomed with love and in love from conception cannot be sacrificed to the domination of technology and evil-doing over authentic rights. The legitimate longing for a child or for good health cannot be made an unconditional right to the point that it justifies the suppression of other human lives. Science and technology are truly at the service of humanity only if they safeguard and promote all the human beings involved in the process of procreation.

Catholic associations, together with all people of good will who believe in the values of the family and life, cannot yield to the pressures of a culture that is undermining the very foundations of respect for life and the promotion of families.

Hence, among the "manifold social service activities" already hoped for in Familiaris Consortio, whereby families should grow in awareness and assume the responsibility for transforming society (cf. n. 44), the prophetic voice of the Forum of Family Associations appears particularly relevant for Italy and for Europe.

4. In fact, the Forum, acting in a completely innovative and original way in Italian society, carries out the important and in many ways innovative task of being a voice for those who have no voice and a spokesman for the rights of the family, starting with those specified in the Charter of the Rights of the Family that is an integral part of the Agreement of your Association.

I thank you for all that you have done in the past 10 years and for what you are. As I urge you to continue in your commitment to the service of life and of the family I impart my Apostolic Blessing with affection to you all.

Speeches 2004 - Thursday, 16 December 2004