Speeches 2005

March 2005




Dear Young University Students,

1. I address my cordial greeting to all of you who have gathered in the Paul VI Hall for a Marian vigil. Although I am unable to be with you, I am nonetheless close to you with my affection and prayers. I extend my greeting to your peers who, on the occasion of the Third European University Day, are taking part in your meeting via special television link-ups in Bari, Italy, and then in Berlin, Bucharest, Lisbon, Zagreb, London, Tirana, Madrid and Kiev: Europe is spiritually involved in this important moment of prayer and reflection in preparation for the upcoming World Youth Day, which will take place in Cologne, at the very heart of the European Continent.

2. I am pleased that as students, you have wanted to make your own specific contribution to the preparation of the important world youth event with this meeting, whose theme is: "Intellectual search as a way to encounter Christ". There is no contradiction between faith and reason, as the experience of the holy Magi shows; they reached Bethlehem using both these dimensions of the human spirit: intelligence that scrutinizes signs, and faith that leads to adoration of the mystery. To face the long and gruelling journey in search of the Messiah, reason did not suffice; in order to reach their goal, the Magi also needed faith in the sign of the star. The hope and ardent longing of the Magi were not in vain. They sought the Infant Jesus in Bethlehem and once they had found him, their minds needed faith in order to recognize that the humble Son of man was the Messiah, awaited and foretold by the prophets throughout the Old Testament.

3. Dear young people, may you always be motivated by the desire to discover the truth of your lives. May faith and reason be the two wings that bear you aloft towards Christ, the truth about God and the truth about man. In Christ you will find peace and joy. May Christ be the centre of your entire existence. This is my deepest hope, which I warmly express to you all and accompany with the assurance of my prayers.

On this first Saturday of the month, I especially entrust you to the motherly guidance of Mary Most Holy: may she teach you to follow Jesus faithfully to the Cross and to experience the joy of the Resurrection.

With these sentiments, I bless you all. Have a Happy Easter and a good journey to Cologne!

From the Gemelli Polyclinic, 5 March 2005





Mr Ambassador,

1. I am pleased to accredit you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Hellenic Republic to the Holy See. I am grateful to you for conveying to me the greetings of H.E. Mr Constantinos Stephanopoulos, President of the Hellenic Republic. I remember with pleasure his visit to me at the Vatican and my own Visit to Greece during my Apostolic Pilgrimage in the footsteps of St Paul; I should be grateful if you would kindly express my cordial good wishes to him, for him personally and for all the Greek people. At the end of his mandate, I address my warmest greetings to him. I also greet H.E. Mr Karolos Papoulias who will be taking charge of the Country's destiny in a few days time.

2. I cannot mention your Country without recalling the Apostle St Paul, who founded the first Christian communities in Europe about 2,000 years ago. Today Greece does not forget its heritage of Christian faith which is one of the constitutive elements of the Nation. Greece knows that this heritage, far more than a memory of the past, will endure as a vital element of its culture and institutions. Greece also knows that the Christian heritage can bring its noble, lofty aspirations for humanity's future to new fruition, especially in Europe where the hallmark of Christianity is so deeply impressed on culture.

I feel sure, Mr Ambassador, that your Country can continue to play an important role in the European Union provided that the religious dimension, to which the Holy See and the Hellenic Republic are equally attached, is favourably recognized and expressed.

3. In today's world, debilitated by the risk of terrorism and the permanence of wars, long, drawn out and ever threatening, the European Union appears in many ways a model of political will, in favour of the union of peoples for peace. The Holy See cannot but rejoice at this and ask the European nations bound to it to spare no effort to encourage dialogue and understanding between peoples, as well as to reinforce the international institutions that guarantee them. As I have frequently recalled, an effort of this kind can only succeed if it is accompanied by a desire for justice in the international community, and consequently, a courageous development policy for the least privileged countries, especially those on the African continent. The recent tragic events in Southeast Asia have highlighted the international community's ability to mobilize itself effectively for sorely-tried populations; likewise, the Olympic Games held in Athens last year were a brilliant example of the innate desire in men and women for brotherhood, which can overcome hate and violence. Thus, we must be able to hope confidently for an equivalent ongoing mobilization of nations and individuals for peace and at the service of humankind.

4. Mr Ambassador, may I offer a warm greeting through you to the communities of Catholic faithful who live in Greece. These small communities are few and far between but they cherish their faith and are eager to bear a lively witness to it among their Orthodox brethren. You emphasize, Mr Ambassador, the importance that your Government attaches to the presence in your Country of the Catholic Church. In this regard, it would be appropriate if the Catholic Church, pursuing an open and constructive dialogue with all the leaders concerned, were to possess the legal status that she lacks. This would be a sign that her rights were fully recognized, as is the case in the countries of the European Union overall. For her part, the Catholic Church has engaged in a fraternal dialogue with the Orthodox Church. She knows that the sole desire of her faithful residing in Greece is to live this dialogue daily, since they are also keen to play a full part in the economic, political and social life of the Country to which they are so deeply committed. I assure the entire Catholic community and its Pastors of the support and prayer of the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter. I also warmly greet the Pastors and faithful of the Orthodox Church of Greece, especially H.B. Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens, who offered me a brotherly welcome during my pilgrimage. I rejoice in the bonds that we wove on that occasion, and I assure them once again of the Catholic Church's desire for fraternal dialogue.

5. At the time when you are beginning your noble mission of representation to the Holy See, Mr Ambassador, I offer you my best wishes for its success. Please rest assured that you will always find among my collaborators the welcome and understanding you may need.

I wholeheartedly invoke an abundance of divine Blessings upon you, Your Excellency, as well as upon all the Greek People and their Leaders.

From the Gemelli Polyclinic, 7 March 2005





Your Excellency,
Mr Ambassador, Dr Türk,

1. On the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Austria to the Holy See, I warmly congratulate you on the new and honourable mission that the President Heinz Fischer has entrusted to you. I hope that the centuries-old and traditionally good relations between Austria and the Apostolic See will also form a solid basis in the future for fruitful collaboration between the State and the Church for the good of humankind.

2. I have made three Pastoral Visits to your beloved Country. On my first Visit in 1983 for the Austrian Katholikentag, I went on pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Mariazell to pay homage to Mary Magna Mater Austriae and to entrust to her the petitions of all Christians and especially of the Austrian People. The theme of that pilgrimage was Spes nostra salve! In May last year, 2004, I returned to Mariazell, joining (in spirit) the innumerable pilgrims who witnessed to "Christ, Hope for Europe" at the end of the Mitteleuropäishen Katholikentag. This important meeting of the faithful from eight Central and Eastern European States, which have a Catholic population of 60 million, was an obvious expression of the desire to proceed together, in the future, on the basis of the Catholic faith that unites people.

3. I remember the Pilgrimage of Peoples to Mariazell with heartfelt gratitude for the involvement of the Republic of Austria. The large-scale participation of the Federation and the Landes Steiermark contributed much to making the concluding celebrations of the Mitteleuropäishen Katholikentag a forum for many invaluable meetings at various levels between political representatives and social leaders from the eight participating countries. Their Catholic roots constituted the common denominator of all these meetings and colloquia.

However, it was not only the great celebration of faith at the foot of Our Lady of Grace at Mariazell in the very recent past that revealed the Catholic identity of Austria and its inhabitants; the moving farewell to Cardinal Franz König, marked by the attendance of a great throng of people, showed the world that despite certain critical attitudes towards the Church and the strong trend towards secularization, a large number of Austrians still consider themselves permanently rooted in the Christian faith.

4. Mr Ambassador, the Pilgrimage of Peoples to Mariazell under the patronage of Austrian Catholics reminded many that their Country is called to be politically active in a broad European context. The reasons for this can be found in Austria's history and its geo-political position at the heart of the Continent. As I have said before, from being a border State, Austria has become a "bridge Country". This aspect of your beloved Country has become more and more obvious above all in recent years, but not only from the political viewpoint. It is necessary to build bridges in all the contexts in which division threatens human coexistence. The Catholic Church, which is working with determination to encourage an ecumenical atmosphere in the various Christian confessions and has taken up the challenge of dialogue with the other world religions, appreciates the concern and support of the Austrian State in this area. Social and political issues are rightly a priority in the State's action. With the help of the divine will, every government must effectively seek to promote a just and balanced civil order for the people. Government is at the service of the common good and the primary obligation of its policies is to guarantee this good, which today obviously depends more than ever not only on national factors but also on the general political atmosphere in Europe.

If Austria, involved in the circumstances of the present day, intends to return to its great tradition of cohesion among the peoples now and in the future, it will have much to offer Europe and the world. In fact, as an intermediary between the East and West of this part of the world, Austria has courageously furthered and actively accompanied the European Union's expansion to the East. The peaceful union of so many Central and Eastern European nations with their Western neighbours has established and nurtured a politically-sound political and economic community whose members meet on the basis of equal rights and duties as partners who cooperate to serve their citizens.

5. However, we cannot ignore the fact that economic and political coordinates cannot on their own guarantee in the long term the good of all the participants. Furthermore, the European Union consists above all in "an agreement about the values which must find expression in its law and in its life" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, n. 110). The role of the Catholic Church as the founder of Europe's meaning and identity is part of this "agreement about [European] values". Indeed, the Church in your Country has distinguished herself in this regard as a source of dynamism. This has gone hand in hand with the active commitment of practicing Christians in politics and in the State institutions.

An authentic consensus about values constitutes the indispensable premise for a "community of solidarity" that goes beyond boundaries and, as history shows, does not end in the transient economic well-being of the successful. First of all, the values that your people find in the Christian faith give their union a solid basis on which to build, expand and constantly modify "the common European house". In agreement with other Catholic nations, Austria has an important task, today and in the future, that must be carried out by all politicians who feel committed to Christian and social values, independently of their own political affiliation.

6. Countless people across the world find in their Christian faith inspiration for their social and political work. In many areas, acting with Christian responsibility means being concretely prepared to help others and, not lastly, to foster the common good. This commitment does not only take a private form but is often achieved significantly by joining forces with others and at an institutional level. The Church with her orientations also wishes to make her own contribution to the common good. The primary and fundamental route that the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission is man (cf. Encyclical Redemptor Hominis RH 14). She therefore feels called to intervene wherever the salvation of humanity is at risk.

The Church wishes to collaborate with the State for the good of men and women, wherever she can make her own specific contribution. The Holy See notes with pleasure that a fertile and well-tested collaboration exists in Austria between the State and the Church for the good of, and in the interests of, all the cities and all the citizens, independently of their religious denomination or confession. I would like here expressly to emphasize the collaboration between the Church and the State in the sectors of education, health care and social services. This collaboration benefits people of all social classes and all ages. In this context, it is necessary to remember that the Austrian Government is taking positive and encouraging steps with a series of family policies. It is to be hoped that the fundamental "yes to life" is expressed ever better and more frequently politically in a "yes to children". No one can ever be denied the right to life, which is the presupposition of all the other rights. A society can truly be described as "human" if human life in all its phases, that is, from conception until natural death, enjoys the full and effective protection of this right. The Church never tires of recalling it. The Church is also aware that her demand for the unconditional protection of human life and the dignity of the person can always count on the understanding and support of people of good will. She also notes with pleasure that young people are ready to commit themselves to this.

7. In your long years of diplomatic service, Mr Ambassador, you have become familiar with the Holy See's stance in the area of international law. I know that you support the universal commitment of the Successor of Peter to reconciliation, justice and peace, and I am sure that your new mission will give you joy and satisfaction. I once again gladly reciprocate the good wishes you have conveyed to me on behalf of the President of the Republic of Austria. As I entrust your beloved Country to the intercession of Mary, Bl. Charles of Austria and all the Country's Patrons, I wholeheartedly impart the Apostolic Blessing to you, to the members of the Embassy of the Republic of Austria to the Holy See and to your family.

From the Gemelli Polyclinic, 7 March 2005






Dear Brothers,

1. With great joy I address a cordial greeting to all of you who are taking part in the Course on the Internal Forum organized by the Tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary. I offer a special greeting to Cardinal James Francis Stafford, Major Penitentiary, and to his Collaborators, as well as to the confessors in the Basilicas of the City who carry out a service that is more precious and important than ever.

The Course on the Internal Forum inspires interest in the young priests who are studying at the Pontifical Universities and Athenaeums; it is a formative programme of considerable interest, which sheds light on the need for continuous theological, pastoral and spiritual updating on the part of priests, to whom the "the ministry of reconciliation" has been given (cf. II Cor 5: 18).

2. The Gospel passages to which the liturgy calls our attention in this Lenten Season help us to understand better the value of this unique priestly ministry. They show the Saviour converting the Samaritan woman and he is a source of joy to her; he heals the man born blind and becomes for him a source of light; he raises Lazarus and manifests himself as the life and resurrection which conquer death, the consequence of sin. His penetrating gaze, his words and his loving judgment fill with light the consciences of all those he meets, bringing about their conversion and deep renewal.

We live in a society that seems all too often to have lost the sense of God and of sin. Ever more urgent, therefore, is Christ's invitation to conversion that implies a conscious confession of one's sins and the related request for forgiveness and salvation. The priest knows that in the exercise of his ministry he is acting "in the person of Christ and under the action of the Holy Spirit". He must therefore cultivate the same sentiments as Christ and increase within himself the love of Jesus, teacher and shepherd, doctor of souls and bodies, spiritual guide, and just and merciful judge.

3. In the tradition of the Church, sacramental Reconciliation has always been considered as closely connected with the sacrificial banquet of the Eucharist, the memorial of our redemption. In this year that is especially dedicated to the Eucharist, it seems to me particularly important to call your attention to the vital relationship that exists between these two sacraments.

The early Christian communities were already aware of the need to prepare themselves through a dignified way of life to celebrate the breaking of the Eucharistic bread, which is "communion" with the Body and Blood of the Lord and "communion" (koinonia) with believers who form one body because they all partake of the one bread, the Body of Christ (cf. 1Co 10,16-17).

How useful it is to recall Paul's exhortations to the faithful of Corinth who did not take the celebration of the "Lord's Supper" seriously and were oblivious to the deep meaning of the memorial of the Lord's death and its requirements of fraternal communion (cf. I Cor 11: 17ff.)! His very severe words also warn us that we should receive the Eucharist with a genuine attitude of faith and love (cf. ibid., 11: 27-29).

Many elements in the rite of Holy Mass emphasize this requirement of purification and conversion: from the initial penitential act to the prayers for forgiveness, from the sign of peace to the prayers the priests and faithful say before Communion. Only those who know in their hearts that they have not committed a mortal sin may receive the Body of Christ. The Council of Trent makes this quite clear when it states that "anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution" (Session XIII, chap. 7; DS 1646-1647). And this continues to be what the Church also teaches today (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 1385 Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, nn. 36-37).

4. Dear Brothers, take great care to celebrate the Eucharistic Mystery with a pure heart and sincere love. The Lord recommends that we not become branches which are cut off the vine. Preach clearly and simply the right doctrine about the need for the sacrament of Reconciliation before receiving Communion when a person is conscious that he or she is not in God's grace. At the same time, encourage the faithful to receive the Body and Blood of Christ to be purified from venial sins and imperfections, so that celebrations of the Eucharist may be pleasing to God and may unite us in offering the holy and immaculate Victim with a contrite and humble heart, trusting and reconciled.

May you be for everyone assiduous, available and competent ministers of the sacrament of Reconciliation, true images of the holy and merciful Christ.

May Mary, Mother of mercy, help you and all priests to be docile "instruments" of the mercy and holiness of God. May she make every priest aware of the lofty mission he is called to carry out with a pure heart and docility to the action of the Holy Spirit, to pour out upon the world with the creativity and ardour of love the gift that he himself receives upon the altar.

With these sentiments, I warmly bless you all.

From the Gemelli Polyclinic, 8 March 2005





Your Highness,

1. I send you a greeting at the time when you are presenting the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Georgia to the Holy See. I deeply regret that because of my convalescence I am unable to receive you in person, to offer you my best wishes at the moment when you are about to begin your mission. Please convey my good wishes to President Mikhail Saakashvili, together with the assurance of my prayers for the prosperity and peace of the entire Georgian Nation.

On this occasion, I am pleased to recall the tribute that I paid to the rich Christian patrimony of Georgia at the beginning of my Pastoral Visit to your Country in 1999. I express my firm conviction that the spiritual and cultural values present in the tradition of the Georgian People will not fail to play an important role in nurturing a new and flourishing growth of civilization from the roots of Georgia's Christian past or to encourage the consolidation of a society worthy of your noble Nation (cf. Arrival Address, Tbilisi, Georgia, 8 November 1999, n. 3; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 17 November, p. 3).

2. Ever since Georgia set out on the road to independence and national reconstruction it has had to face many, often extremely demanding, challenges that have put to the test the generosity and self-sacrificing spirit of its citizens in the service of the common good. In addition to the challenge of setting up sound political and economic structures, Georgians have also had to face the task of keeping their sense of unity intact while they open up to the broader European and international Community.

As the experience of many Nations in the past 20 years has shown, it is only possible to face these challenges by maintaining a wise and prudent balance between the requirements of unity and respect for the legitimate differences.

Consequently, what is felt to be the greatest need is the development of a solid model of unity in diversity that is firmly anchored in the Country's historical experience, but at the same time open to the enrichment that comes from dialogue and cooperation with others.

"Today's world is challenging us... to know and respect one another in and through the diversity of our cultures" (Address to the World of Culture and Science, Tbilisi, Georgia, 9 November 1999, n. 4; ORE, ibid., p. 7). Only in this way will the path to a future of solidarity, understanding and peace be open to social, economic and cultural life at every level.

3. The Catholic Church in Georgia is eager to make her own contribution to the spiritual rebirth of the Nation and the progress of the common good. She wishes to do this through the fulfilment of her own specific religious mission as well as through her commitment to works of charity and the promotion of cultural exchanges and educational opportunities for young people who are the future of Georgia.

Although Georgian Catholics are a minority, I would like to assure you of their fervent desire to work in a spirit of collaboration and full respect with their Orthodox brothers and sisters, as well as with all people of good will, to build a future of freedom, justice and social harmony.

Today more than ever, believers are called to join forces to lay solid foundations for an authentic social renewal. They will contribute to forming consciences in peace with respect for the inviolable dignity and rights of every person, and at the same time, they will cooperate in order to uproot every form of hostility, prejudice and discord.

In this context I would like to express my desire for constructive dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Government Authorities, so that the Catholic community may be guaranteed adequate legal protection in the exercise of its proper mission.

4. These are the sentiments with which I offer you my best wishes and prayers at the time when you are assuming your high-level responsibilities.

I am sure that the fulfilment of your tasks will contribute to further strengthening the friendly relations that exist between Georgia and the Holy See. In this perspective, I assure you of the constant availability of my collaborators to offer you any help you may desire in carrying out your demanding mission.

I cordially invoke an abundance of Blessings from Almighty God upon you and the Georgian People.

From the Gemelli Polyclinic, 9 March 2005





Mr Ambassador,

1. I am pleased to accredit you, Your Excellency, as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Senegal to the Holy See. I am grateful to you for conveying to me the cordial wishes of H.E. Mr Abdoulaye Wade, President of the Republic. I have pleasant memories of his visit to me at the Vatican several months ago. In return be so kind as to convey to him my very high opinion and esteem.

Thank you for your courteous words. They are a sign that relations of reciprocal trust have not ceased to develop between Senegal and the Apostolic See, and thus show the importance that your Country gives to the spiritual dimension of the human being and of the people as a whole.

Lastly, I offer all your compatriots my warm greetings and the assurance of my prayers for the material and spiritual prosperity of the entire Nation.

2. Senegal has a long tradition of friendly coexistence among all the communities of which it consists. I am delighted, therefore, with the promising results of the efforts made in your Country to reinforce civil peace at home and to eliminate all possible causes of violent disputes and confrontations. Indeed, it is essential that the inhabitants be able to live in security and peace.

As I have often had the opportunity of stressing, "Peace... is a supreme good and the condition for attaining many other essential goods" (Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 10 January 2005, n. 7: L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 12 January, p. 3).

Peace is indispensable if a people is to achieve its just aspiration to a dignified life in solidarity. Besides, it is necessary more than ever to teach the young generations the ideals of brotherhood, justice and solidarity.

Senegal's commitment to seeking and reinforcing peace in Africa is known and appreciated by the international community. In this perspective, I warmly encourage the efforts made to recover understanding and brotherhood in various countries of the region, while strengthening bonds of solidarity between the neighbouring peoples.

Africa is in urgent need of peace and stability. Violence is never a satisfactory solution for settling disagreements between human groups; courage and perseverance are the most effective means to achieve genuine reconciliation.

As for the Catholic Church, she is totally convinced that there is no peace without justice and no justice without forgiveness (cf. Message for World Day of Peace, 1 January 2002, n. 15). She therefore hopes that everyone will allow themselves to be guided by the light of the true good of men and women, in a constant search for the common good.

3. However, the many testimonies of friendly coexistence among the members of the different religions, and Muslims and Christians in particular, deserve to be highlighted in our world that is all too often darkened by vast shadow areas, a consequence of the sometimes violent opposition which people seek to justify with religious reasons. And I am pleased to note that your Country has been committed to moving in this direction for some time and is thereby showing that dialogue between believers and between cultures is an essential element for building peace among peoples.

Senegal is particularly sensitive to the need to live the diversity of religious affiliation in the unity of the Nation. The full development of society depends on this. Despite the inevitable difficulties inherent in the coexistence of different human communities, dialogue makes it possible to recognize the riches of their diversity. The different communities will discover that dialogue is the best way to safeguard their own particular features, as well as to reach true reciprocal understanding, founded on respect and friendship.

This dialogue, however, must first of all be expressed in the authentic friendly coexistence of all the communities, at the service of the common good of the one human family. The communities still have a long way to go together, the way of mutual knowledge, forgiveness, reconciliation and openness to regular cooperation that will help build a peaceful and brotherly society. As you know, Mr Ambassador, the Catholic Church has set out with determination on this path. It is up to believers to make it a hope for the world.

4. On this solemn occasion, Mr Ambassador, I would also like to offer a cordial greeting through you to the Catholic community in Senegal. I ask this Catholic community always to be united around their Bishops so that it will shine out increasingly with Christ's love, sharing with everyone the joy and peace that it never ceases to receive from him. The Gospel calls all Christ's disciples to work tirelessly with all people of good will to build the unity of the human family, whose source is God!

5. At the moment when you are beginning your mission to the Apostolic See, I offer you my very best wishes for its success. You may rest assured that you will always find in my collaborators an attentive welcome and the cordial understanding you may need.

I wholeheartedly invoke an abundance of divine Blessings upon you, Your Excellency, and upon your collaborators, your family, the Senegalese People and their Leaders.

From the Gemelli Polyclinic, 10 March 2005

Speeches 2005