Speeches 2005



Friday, 28 January 2005

Your Eminences, Your Excellencies,
Dear Fathers,
Brothers in Christ,

I am pleased to welcome you all on the occasion of your second plenary meeting and I thank His Grace Anba Bishoy for his kind words. In a special way I greet the representatives of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, and through you I extend fraternal best wishes to my Venerable Brothers, the Heads of your Churches.

I join you in praying that the real bonds of communion between us may be further strengthened through a spirituality of communion which contemplates "the mystery of the Trinity dwelling in us", and sees "what is positive in others, to welcome it and prize it as a gift from God" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 43).

With these sentiments, I encourage your efforts to foster mutual understanding and communion between Christians of East and West, and I invoke the blessings of Almighty God upon your deliberations.




Friday, 28 January 2005

Mr President,

1. I am delighted to welcome you and I cordially thank you for this pleasant visit, as well as for your kind words. Your presence today reminds me of our first meeting here in the Vatican, in March 1999, for the opening of the Rome-Armenia Exhibition, and of our meeting in September 2001, at Yerevan, during my Apostolic Pilgrimage to Armenia for the Jubilee celebrations of the 1,700th anniversary of the Armenian People's conversion to Christianity.

I willingly take this opportunity to send an affectionate greeting to the entire Armenian People and extend it to the millions of Armenians who, despite being scattered across the world, always preserve their ties with their culture and their Christian traditions.

2. Mr President, I am eager to express my sincere appreciation of the good relations that bind the Holy See to your Country's Government. I know that the Catholic community is well-thought of and respected, and its various activities contribute to the well-being of the entire Nation.

We all eagerly hope that collaboration between the Holy See and the Armenian Government will continue to increase and, wherever situations so require, that the status of the Catholic Church can be perfected.

3. In addition, relations of esteem and friendship exist between the Catholic Church and the Apostolic Armenian Church. Thanks to the initiative of Catholicos Karekin II, who gave it an even greater emphasis, this understanding will certainly have a positive impact on the peaceful coexistence of the entire Armenian People, required to face many social and financial challenges.

Furthermore, I hope that real, enduring peace will be achieved in the region of Nagorno-Karabagh, Mr President, which is your birthplace. This could come about by a determined refusal to resort to violence, through patient dialogue between all the parties, thanks also to an active international mediation.

4. The Holy See, which down the centuries has ceaselessly condemned violence and defended the rights of the weak, will continue to back every effort to build a solid and lasting peace.

Mr President, I assure you of my prayers for you yourself, your family and the Armenian People, as I invoke the abundant Blessings of God upon you all.



Saturday, 29 January 2005

1. This annual appointment with you, dear Prelate Auditors of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota, highlights the essential connection between your precious work and the judicial aspect of the Petrine ministry. The words of the Dean of your College have expressed your common commitment to full fidelity in your ecclesial service.

It is in this perspective that I would like to place certain considerations concerning the moral dimension of the activity of all who work at the ecclesiastical tribunals, especially the duty to conform to the truth about marriage as the Church teaches it.

2. The ethical question has always been asked very pointedly in any kind of judicial proceedings. In fact, individual or collective interests can induce the parties to resort to various kinds of duplicity and even bribery in order to attain a favourable sentence.

Nor are canonical proceedings, in which an attempt is made to discover the truth about whether or not a marriage exists, immune from this risk. The unquestionable importance of this for the moral conscience of the parties involved reduces the likelihood of acquiescence to interests alien to the quest for the truth. Nevertheless, cases can exist in which a similar acquiescence is expressed that jeopardizes the regularity of the proceedings. The firm reaction of canon law to such behaviour is well known (cf. CIC, cann. 1389, 1391, 1457, 1488, 1489).

3. However, in the current circumstances there is also the threat of another risk. In the name of what they claim to be pastoral requirements, some voices have been raised proposing to declare marriages that have totally failed null and void. These persons propose that in order to obtain this result, recourse should be made to the expedient of retaining the substantial features of the proceedings, simulating the existence of an authentic judicial verdict. Such persons have been tempted to provide reasons for nullity and to prove them in comparison with the most elementary principles of the body of norms and of the Church's Magisterium.

The objective juridical and moral gravity of such conduct, which in no way constitutes a pastorally valid solution to the problems posed by matrimonial crises, is obvious. Thanks be to God, there is no lack of faithful people who refuse to let their consciences be deceived. Moreover, many of them, despite being personally involved in a conjugal crisis, are not prepared to solve it except by keeping to the path of truth.

4. In my annual Addresses to the Roman Rota, I have referred several times to the essential relationship that the process has with the search for objective truth. It is primarily the Bishops, by divine law judges in their own communities, who must be responsible for this. It is on their behalf that the tribunals administer justice. Bishops are therefore called to be personally involved in ensuring the suitability of the members of the tribunals, diocesan or interdiocesan, of which they are the Moderators, and in verifying that the sentences passed conform to right doctrine.
Sacred Pastors cannot presume that the activity of their tribunals is merely a "technical" matter from which they can remain detached, entrusting it entirely to their judicial vicars (cf. CIC, cann. 391, 1419, 1423 1).

5. The criterion that inspires the deontology of the judge is his love for the truth. First and foremost, therefore, he must be convinced that the truth exists. The truth must therefore be sought with a genuine desire to know it, despite all the inconveniences that may derive from such knowledge. It is necessary to resist the fear of the truth that can, at times, stem from the dread of annoying people. The truth, which is Christ himself (cf. Jn Jn 8,32), sets us free from every form of compromise with interested falsehoods.

The judge who truly acts as a judge, in other words, with justice, neither lets himself be conditioned by feelings of false compassion for people, nor by false models of thought, however widespread these may be in his milieu. He knows that unjust sentences are never a true pastoral solution, and that God's judgment of his own actions is what counts for eternity.

6. The judge must then abide by canonical laws, correctly interpreted. Hence, he must never lose sight of the intrinsic connection of juridical norms with Church doctrine. Indeed, people sometimes presume to separate Church law from the Church's magisterial teaching as though they belonged to two separate spheres; they suppose the former alone to have juridically binding force, whereas they value the latter merely as a directive or an exhortation.
Such an approach basically reveals a positivist mindset which is in contradiction with the best of the classical and Christian juridical tradition concerning the law. In fact, the authentic interpretation of God's Word, exercised by the Magisterium of the Church (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, n. 10 2), has juridical value to the extent that it concerns the context of law, without requiring any further formal procedure in order to become juridically and morally binding.

For a healthy juridical interpretation, it is indispensable to understand the whole body of the Church's teachings, and to place every affirmation systematically in the flow of tradition. It will thus be possible to avoid selective and distorted interpretations and useless criticisms at every step.
Lastly, the preliminary investigation of the case is an important stage in the search for the truth. The very reason for its existence is endangered and degenerates into pure formalism when the outcome of the proceedings is taken for granted. It is true that the entitlement to timely justice is also part of the concrete service to the truth and constitutes a personal right. Yet false speed to the detriment of the truth is even more seriously unjust.
7. I would like to end this Meeting by offering my truly heartfelt thanks to you, Prelate Auditors, Officials, Advocates and all who work at this Apostolic Tribunal, as well as to the members of the Studium Rotale.

You know that you can count on the prayers of the Pope and of many people of good will who recognize the value of your work at the service of the truth. The Lord will repay your daily efforts with peace and joy of conscience and with the esteem and support of those who love justice, not only in the life to come but already in this life.

In expressing the wish that the truth of justice will shine out ever more brightly in the Church and in your lives, I cordially impart my Blessing to you all.



Monday, 31 January 2005

Dear Brothers,

1. On the occasion of the Third General Chapter of your Institute, I am pleased to send a special greeting to Fr Marcial Maciel, your Founder, as well as to Fr Álvaro Corcuera, recently elected General Director of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and of the Regnum Christi Movement. I also extend my greeting to the members of the General Council and to the other Chapter Fathers.

2. The General Chapter is always a very important event for revitalizing your founding charism, for examining with a grateful heart the wonders that God has wrought in your history and for facing the challenges to the Church today with your own spirituality, in communion with the multitude of charisms that the Holy Spirit has poured out upon her down the centuries.

You are meeting at a historic moment in the life of your Institute, in which a new phase is unfolding. For 64 years, you have had the opportunity of proceeding under your Founder's guidance. Thus, you have grown and developed to maturity. You will now have to journey on guided by the new General Director. You will not, however, be deprived of the assistance, fatherly affection and experience of Fr Maciel, who has declined a new period of governance. This commits you to preserving, living and faithfully transmitting the gifts that you have received from the Lord through him.

3. The task of developing the work inspired by the Founder lies before you. Through it, you seek to distinguish yourselves in devoted service to the Church and by the formation of youth in sound Christian and human principles which, based on freedom and personal responsibility, will contribute to their spiritual, social and cultural maturity, faithful to the Magisterium and in full communion with the Pope. I have personally been able to participate in the life of your Congregation on various occasions, in a practical way by definitively approving your Constitutions in June 1983, and recently, by approving the Statues of the Regnum Christi Movement.

4. Dear brothers, I encourage you to persevere in your dynamic spiritual and apostolic outreach with its wealth of different activities, ever open to new approaches in accordance with the most pressing needs of the Church in the various times and places. Faithful to the charism of the Institute and firmly anchored to the Rock of Peter, your contribution to the Church's evangelizing mission will be truly fruitful.

I ask the Holy Spirit, through the motherly intercession of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, to enlighten you in your work in the Chapter, and I impart my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing to you all.
February 2005



Tuesday, 1 February 2005

To my Venerable Brother Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski

Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education

1. I am pleased to offer my cordial greeting to you, to my venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, as well as to all the members of the Dicastery who are meeting on the occasion of the Plenary Assembly. I wish you great success with your work in these days while you are examining certain questions that concern Seminaries, Ecclesiastical Faculties and Catholic Universities.

2. You are paying special attention to the educational project at Seminaries, which takes into account the fundamental complementarity of the four dimensions of formation: human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral (cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 43-59).

In light of current social and cultural changes, it can sometimes be useful for educators to avail themselves of the work of competent specialists to help seminarians acquire a deeper understanding of the requirements of the priesthood and to recognize celibacy as a gift of love for the Lord and for their brethren. At the time of the young men's admission to the seminary, their suitability for living a celibate life should be carefully assessed so that a moral certainty regarding their emotional and sexual maturity may be reached before they are ordained.

3. Your Plenary Meeting has also focused on the Ecclesiastical Faculties and Catholic Universities that constitute a rich patrimony for the Church. In the "great springtime for Christianity" that God is preparing (cf. Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio, n. 86), they must be distinguished by the quality of their teaching and research so as to take part officially in the dialogue with the other faculties and universities.

Given the rapid developments in science and technology in our time, these Institutions are called to a continuous renewal, to evaluate "the attainments of science and technology in the perspective of the totality of the human person" (Ex Corde Ecclesiae, n. 7). From this point of view, interdisciplinary dialogue is undoubtedly useful. The comparison with "a philosophy of a genuinely metaphysical range" (Fides et Ratio, n. 83) and with theology itself is proving fruitful.

4. Another interesting subject you are addressing at your meeting is Christian education at scholastic institutions. Forty years ago, the conciliar Declaration Gravissimum Educationis outlined in this regard certain principles that the Congregation for Catholic Education was subsequently to develop further.

In the context of globalization and the changing mosaic of peoples and cultures, the Church is aware of the urgent need for the mandate to preach the Gospel and wishes to live it with renewed missionary dynamism. Catholic education thus appears more and more as the fruit of a mission that must be "shared" by priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful. The ecclesial service carried out by teachers of Catholic religion in schools fits into this horizon. Their teaching contributes to the students' integral development and to knowledge of others in mutual respect. Hence, there is a lively hope that the teaching of religion will be recognized everywhere and will play an appropriate role in the educational plan of scholastic institutions.

5. Lastly, I would like to mention the efficient vocations promotion carried out by the Pontifical Society for Priestly Vocations, established by my Predecessor, Pius XII. It sustains first of all the "World Day of Prayer for Vocations", an annual occasion that is the centre of vocational initiatives and events in all the Dioceses.

As I express deep gratitude to you for this praiseworthy instiution, I willingly encourage those of you who dedicate time and energy to promoting a far-reaching vocations apostolate in the Ecclesial Communities. I think that the spiritual initiative it has embarked on in this year dedicated to the Eucharist is very timely. By arranging prayer shifts on each continent, it has created a chain of prayer that links Christian communities throughout the world.

6. In this regard, I would like to reaffirm that the Eucharist is the source and nourishment of every priestly and Religious vocation. I would like, therefore, to express my appreciation of every initiative in this "network" of prayer for vocations, which I hope will encircle the whole world. May Mary, "Woman of the Eucharist", watch over all who are devoting their energies to the pastoral care of vocations.

I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to all your loved ones.



Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. To all of you I offer cordial greetings and I would like to express my appreciation for the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, ever devoted to its traditional task of study and reflection on the delicate scientific questions facing contemporary society.

The Pontifical Academy has chosen to dedicate this session of the Study Group - as on two earlier occasions during the 1980's - to a theme of particular complexity and importance: that of the “signs of death”, in the context of the practice of transplanting organs from deceased persons.

2. You know that the Church’s Magisterium has maintained from the outset a constant and informed interest in the development of the surgical practice of organ transplant, intended to save human lives from imminent death and to allow the sick to continue living for a further period of years.

Since the time of my venerable predecessor, Pius XII, during whose pontificate the surgical practice of organ transplant began, the Church’s Magisterium has continually made contributions in this field.

On the one hand, the Church has encouraged the free donation of organs and on the other hand she has underlined the ethical conditions for such donation, emphasizing the obligation to defend the life and dignity of both donor and recipient; she has also indicated the duties of the specialists who carry out this procedure of organ transplant. The aim is to favour a complex service to life, harmonizing technical progress with ethical rigour, humanizing relationships between people and correctly informing the public.

3. Because of the constant progress of experimental scientific knowledge, all those who carry out organ transplants need to pursue ongoing research on the technical-scientific level, so as to ensure the maximum success of the operation and the best possible life expectancy for the patient. At the same time, a constant dialogue is needed with experts in anthropological and ethical disciplines, so as to guarantee respect for life and for the human person and to provide the legislators with the data needed for establishing rigorous norms in this field.

In this perspective, you have chosen to explore once again, in a serious interdisciplinary study, the particular question of the “signs of death”, on the basis of which a person’s clinical death can be established with moral certainty, in order to proceed with the removal of organs for transplant.

4. Within the horizon of Christian anthropology, it is well known that the moment of death for each person consists in the definitive loss of the constitutive unity of body and spirit. Each human being, in fact, is alive precisely insofar as he or she is “corpore et anima unus” (Gaudium et Spes GS 14), and he or she remains so for as long as this substantial unity-in-totality subsists. In the light of this anthropological truth, it is clear, as I have already had occasion to observe, that “the death of the person, understood in this primary sense, is an event which no scientific technique or empirical method can identify directly” (Address of 29 August 2000, 4, in: AAS 92 [2000], 824).

From the clinical point of view, however, the only correct way - and also the only possible way - to address the problem of ascertaining the death of a human being is by devoting attention and research to the individuation of adequate “signs of death”, known through their physical manifestation in the individual subject.

This is evidently a topic of fundamental importance, for which the well-considered and rigorous position of science must therefore be listened to in the first instance, as Pius XII taught when he declared that “it is for the doctor to give a clear and precise definition of ‘death’ and of the ‘moment of death’ of a patient who lapses into a state of unconsciousness” (Address of 24 November 1957, in: AAS 49 [1957], 1031).

5. Building upon the data supplied by science, anthropological considerations and ethical reflection have the duty to put forward an equally rigorous analysis, listening attentively to the Church’s Magisterium.

I wish to assure you that your efforts are laudable and will certainly be of assistance to the competent Dicasteries of the Apostolic See - especially the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - which will not fail to ponder the results of your reflection, and then to offer the necessary clarifications for the good of the community, in particular that of the patients and the specialists who are called to dedicate their professional expertise to the service of life.

In exhorting you to persevere in this joint commitment to pursue the genuine good of man, I invoke the Lord’s copious gifts of light upon you and your research, as a pledge of which I affectionately impart my Blessing to you all.

From the Vatican, 1 February 2005




Archbishop Franc Rodé, C.M., Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, presided at the traditional Mass for consecrated persons in St Peter's Basilica. Here is a translation of Archbishop Rodé's brief introduction in Italian to the Holy Father's Message for the Day.

"On the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, the day on which the Son of God, conceived in eternity, is proclaimed by the Holy Spirit as "a light for revelation to the Gentiles' and the "glory for your people Israel', we are gathered here to renew our consecration to the Lord. Dear Brothers and Sisters, I convey to you all the personal greeting of the Holy Father, who thanks you for the affection you have shown him and for your fervent prayers. He joins us here at this moment with his prayers and he sends us his Blessing. Let us listen with grateful hearts to his Message to the consecrated men and women of the world".

Archbishop Rodé then read the Pope's Message:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Today, we are celebrating the Day of Consecrated Life, a favourable occasion for thanking the Lord together with all who are called by him "to the practise of the evangelical counsels, and who make faithful profession of them, bind[ing] themselves to the Lord in a special way. They follow Christ who, virginal and poor (cf. Mt Mt 8,20 Lc 9,58), redeemed and sanctified men by obedience unto death on the cross (cf. Phil Ph 2,8)" (Perfectae Caritatis PC 1). This year the celebration acquires special importance because we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of the Decree Perfectae Caritatis, through which the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council updated the guidelines for the renewal of the consecrated life.

During these 40 years, in obedience to the directives of the Church's Magisterium, Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic life have followed a fertile path of renewal, marked on the one hand by the desire to be faithful to the gift received from the Holy Spirit through their Founders and Foundresses and, on the other, by concern to adapt their way of living, praying and acting to "the present-day physical and psychological condition of the members. It should also be in harmony with the needs of the apostolate, in the measure that the nature of each Institute requires, with the requirements of culture and with social and economic circumstances" (ibid., n. 3).

How could we not thank the Lord for this timely "updating" of consecrated life? I am certain that it will also lead to the multiplication of the fruits of holiness and missionary activity, on condition that consecrated persons keep their ascetic zeal unaltered and instil it in their apostolic works.

2. The secret of this spiritual ardour is the Eucharist. In this year specially dedicated to the Eucharist, I would like to urge all men and women religious to establish an ever more profound communion with Christ by sharing daily in the sacrament which makes him present, in the sacrifice which actualizes the gift of his love on Golgotha, the banquet which nourishes and sustains God's pilgrim people. "By its very nature", as the Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata affirms, "the Eucharist is at the centre of the consecrated life, both for individuals and for communities" (n. 95).
Jesus gives himself as Bread "broken" and Blood "poured out" so that all may "have life, and have it abundantly" (cf. Jn Jn 10,10). He offers himself for the salvation of all humanity. Taking part in his sacrificial banquet does not only entail repeating his gestures but also means drinking the same cup and taking part in the same immolation. Just as Christ makes himself "bread broken" and "blood poured out", so each Christian, and especially every consecrated man and every consecrated woman, is called to give his or her life for the brethren, in union with the life of the Redeemer.

3. The Eucharist is the inexhaustible source of fidelity to the Gospel, for in this sacrament, the heart of ecclesial life, the deep identification and total conformation with Christ to which consecrated persons are called, is completely fulfilled. "In the Eucharist all forms of prayer come together, the Word of God is proclaimed and received, relationships with God, with brothers and sisters, with all men and women are challenged. It is the Sacrament of filiation, of communion and of mission. The Eucharist, the Sacrament of unity with Christ, is at the same time the Sacrament of Church unity and community unity for the consecrated person. Clearly it is "the source of spirituality both for individuals and for communities'" (Starting Afresh from Christ, n. 26). Consecrated people learn from the Eucharist "a greater freedom in the exercise of the apostolates, a flourishing with greater awareness, a solidarity expressed through knowing how to stand with the people, assuming their problems, in order to respond to them, paying close attention to the signs of the times and to their needs" (ibid., n. 36).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us penetrate the mystery of the Eucharist guided by the Blessed Virgin Mary and following her example! May Mary, Woman of the Eucharist, help all who are called to special intimacy with Christ to participate diligently in Holy Mass and obtain for them the gift of prompt obedience, faithful poverty and fruitful virginity; may she make them holy disciples of Christ in the Eucharist.

With these sentiments, as I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, I willingly bless all consecrated persons and the Christian communities in which they are called to carry out their mission.

From the Vatican, 2 February 2005





Saturday, 5 February 2005

Dear Friends,

1. I join you with great joy on the day of the Feast of Our Lady of Trust, Patroness of the Roman Major Seminary. I greet the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishops, the Rector, your other Superiors and, with special affection, you yourselves and your relatives, dear Seminarians. I greet the diocesan Choir and Orchestra conducted by Mons. Marco Frisina, as well as my young friends at the Roman Seminary. You are a cause of comfort to me because you are a privileged sign of the Lord's love for his beloved Church which is in Rome.

2. "To contemplate the face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, is the "programme' which I set before the Church at the dawn of the third millennium, inviting her to put out into the deep on the sea of history with the enthusiasm of the new evangelization" (Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia EE 6). You have chosen to make these words of mine a topic of reflection for your feast day.

Mane nobiscum Domine! Mons. Marco Frisina's oratorio has filled the Paul VI Auditorium with this invocation, intense and ever timely for Christians, especially in times of suffering and trial. Celebrating Mary in the Year of the Eucharist for you means focusing attention on the sacrifice of her divine Son, who becomes sacramentally present at every Holy Mass.

3. Dear Seminarians, how meaningful Jesus' gesture is in the icon of Our Lady of Trust that you venerate at your Seminary! Pointing to his Mother, the Child seems to anticipate silently what, at the end of his life, he was to say to his disciple John from the Cross: "Behold, your mother!" (Jn 19,27). I would like to repeat to you today: here is your Mother, to love and to imitate with full trust, so that you may become priests who can speak the crucial words of faith, not only once but always: "Here I am", "Fiat".

"Mater mea, fiducia mea"! May this short prayer sum up in depth and simplicity your days, spent contemplating Christ with Mary.

4. I would like to extend this wish to all the young people present, especially to the young men in the process of vocational discernment with a view to entering the Seminary, and to all who are following with interest the vocations programmes that the Diocese of Rome offers to children, adolescents and young people. I am thinking in particular of the little altar servers and the parish youth groups.

Dear young people, the Lord passes by and calls (cf. Mt Mt 4,18-22); be ready to cooperate with him.

I entrust you to Our Lady of Trust. And pray to the Lord of the harvest that workers for his harvest will not be lacking (cf. Mt Mt 9,38).

I bless you all with deep affection.



Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes

13th World Day of the Sick

Friday, 11 February 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I joyfully join all of you who are taking part in the annual meeting of pilgrims, the sick and volunteers, organized jointly by UNITALSI and the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi. I extend a most affectionate greeting to each one of you.

In the first place, I greet the Cardinal Vicar, the Bishops and the many priests present, and I extend my greeting with deep sympathy to you, dear pilgrims who have come here to relive Lourdes' special atmosphere; to you, dear directors of UNITALSI and of the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi; to you, dear volunteers; and especially to you, dear sick people, to whom I feel particularly close.

2. The evocative Eucharistic and Marian Celebration in which you are taking part in St Peter's acquires special significance on the day in which the liturgy commemorates Our Lady of Lourdes.
The anniversary of 11 February reminds us of the Grotto of Massabielle, high up in the French Pyrenees, where in 1858 Our Lady appeared at least 18 times to St Bernadette Soubirous. From that Grotto, which has become a place of prayer and hope for multitudes of pilgrims from every part of the world, Our Lady continues to ask for prayer, penance and conversion. Her message is the same as that of Christ: "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mc 1,15), which is offered to us by the liturgy of Lent that has just begun. Let us accept it with humble and docile compliance! The flow of sick and suffering people to the feet of the Blessed Virgin is a ceaseless exhortation to entrust ourselves to Christ and his heavenly Mother, who never abandon those who turn to them in moments of suffering and trial.

3. In dying on the Cross, Christ, the Man of sorrows, brought the Father's plan of love to fulfilment and redeemed the world. Dear sick people, if you join your suffering to the suffering of Christ, you will be his privileged cooperators in the salvation of souls. This is your task in the Church, which is always deeply aware of the role and value of illness enlightened by faith. Thus, your suffering, dear sick people, is never wasted! Indeed, it is valuable for it is a mysterious but real sharing in the saving mission of the Son of God.

The Pope, therefore, sets great store by the value of your prayers and suffering: offer them up for the Church and for the world; offer them for me, too, and for my mission as universal Pastor of the Christian people.

4. From St Peter's Basilica, our gaze now broadens to take in so many other localities where Christian communities are gathered today on the occasion of the 13th World Day of the Sick and, especially at "Mary Queen of the Apostles" Shrine in Yaoundé, Cameroon. It is there that the principal celebrations of this important ecclesial event on the theme: "Christ, hope for Africa" are being held. The African Continent, together with all humanity, is crying out to experience the merciful love of the Lord and the support of the Holy Virgin, especially in moments of exhaustion and illness.
May Mary, Woman of sorrow and of hope, be gentle to all who are suffering and obtain fullness of life for each one: may she clasp them all to her maternal heart.

Most Holy Virgin, Queen of Africa and of the whole world, pray for us! I impart my Blessing to everyone with affection.

Speeches 2005