November 1995



Hall of Popes

Monday, 6 November 1995

Dear Friends,

It is with great pleasure that I greet you, Supreme Knight Virgil Dechant and the Executive Board of the Knights of Columbus, and welcome you to the Vatican. In a sense, today’s meeting renews the joy of our celebration of Mass in Brooklyn just a few weeks ago. The presence of so many Knights from throughout the United States was an eloquent sign of your long-standing devotion to the Successor of Peter and your firm commitment to support him in his ministry to the universal Church. In recent years, this commitment has found a particular expression in the Vicarius Christi Fund; I thank you most heartily for this concrete manifestation of your desire to share in my pastoral concern for the needs of God’s people throughout the world.

The wide variety of good works undertaken by the Knights of Columbus in service to Christ and his Church demonstrates your Order’s spiritual vitality as it strives to carry on the vision of its Founder, Father Michael McGivney. It is my hope that the Knights will always be in the forefront of the Church’s efforts to prepare for the coming Third Christian Millennium by bringing the light of faith to bear upon the urgent social issues and problems of our time. Whether in small towns or great cities, the Knights have a vital role to play in building a new and "vibrant culture of life" (cf. John Paul II, Homily at the Aqueduct Racecourse in Brooklyn, New York, 8 [Oct. 6, 1995]), in which every person is cherished as a child of God and invited to share fully in the life of society.

Dear friends, I encourage you to join your good works to constant prayer for the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom in our world. I invoke upon you the joy and peace of Christ our Savior and cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing, which I gladly extend to all the Knights and their families.





Thursday, 16 November 1995

Mr Ambassador,

I am very pleased to welcome you to the Vatican today as you present the Letters of Credence appointing you the first Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the Holy See. I likewise receive with pleasure the good wishes which you have conveyed on behalf of His Excellency President Kiro Gligorov. As the President convalesces after the recent attempt on his life, I would ask you to assure him of my prayers for his full return to health and vigour.

In the international community, the Holy See constantly defends and emphasizes the ideals of harmony and of solidarity, ideals based on the reality of our membership in the one human family. Today, unfortunately, the attainment of these ideals faces a great many obstacles: they are hindered by racial prejudice or religious intolerance, by ideologies and systems which sow distrust, rivalry and conflict. It is therefore all the more important that policies, initiatives and programmes developed at the international, national and regional levels should consistently respect all groups and sectors of the population, upholding the dignity and rights of all, and especially of minorities. We have only to look at the tragic events which have overtaken some of your neighbours in the Balkans to understand that no effort must be spared to ensure that the peoples of the world live in friendship and develop the trust and cooperation necessary to consolidate the peace which men and women of goodwill everywhere long for and which they demand as their right. The diplomatic relations existing between your country and the Holy See represent the expression of a shared conviction that understanding, dialogue, cooperation and peace must supplant all forms of division, force, violence and coercion. I am certain that we share the hope that the discussions now taking place between the parties involved will bring a prompt and lasting solution to the horrific violence that has plagued the Balkans for the past four years.

In effect, the task of ensuring peace incumbent upon the international community consists fundamentally in the promotion of the human person, of all men and women, in the fullness of their dignity, rights and responsibilities. The Church views this as an integral part of her religious and humanitarian mission. As the Second Vatican Council expressed it, she fulfils this task "by her healing and elevating impact on the dignity of the person, by the way in which she strengthens the seams of human society and imbues the everyday activity of men and women with a deeper meaning and importance" (Gaudium et Spes GS 40).

As recently as last month I had the opportunity to address the 50th General Assembly of the United Nations Organization in New York. I went there "not as one who exercises temporal power... nor as a religious leader seeking special privileges for his community", but as "a witness: a witness to human dignity, a witness to hope, a witness to the conviction that the destiny of all nations lies in the hands of a merciful Providence" (John Paul II, Address at the Fiftieth General Assembly of the United Nations Organization,17 [5 Oct. 1995]). It is precisely this same belief which characterizes the activity of the Holy See in the sphere of international diplomacy. In conformity with the mission of the Church, the Holy See is present in this forum of dialogue not for political purposes, but as a witness to the principles and values which underlie the common good of the whole human family. As I said to President Gligorov and the other national representatives who came to Rome to celebrate the Feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius earlier this year, civil society and the ecclesial community are called to engage in this work with courage and perseverance, on two different levels, but with equal responsibility (cf. John Paul II, Address to the President of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 2 [26 May 1995]).

As Your Excellency has pointed out, Christianity has a long and venerable history in your country, and although the number of Catholics is small, one notes with great satisfaction the existence of a climate of understanding which favours ecumenical cooperation and exchange between the various Churches. It is my ardent hope that this form of religious solidarity will continue to grow and will help meet the urgent spiritual needs of our time. I am likewise confident that our newly established diplomatic relations will strengthen this climate of cooperation.

Mr Ambassador, a commitment to work for a more just, humane and peaceful world is the basis of the good relations which exist between your country and the Holy See. At the beginning of your mission, I assure you of the Holy See’s full cooperation as you fulfil your responsibilities. May Almighty God assist you and bestow upon the noble people of your land his abundant blessings.



Thursday, 16 November 1995

Mr Ambassador,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican and receive the Letters accrediting you as the first Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Suriname to the Holy See. I am also happy to receive the good wishes which you have conveyed on behalf of the President. Please extend to him my cordial greetings, and assure the Government and people of Suriname of my prayerful closeness to your nation.

The diplomatic relations recently established between your country and the Holy See are a sign of our shared desire to work for the advancement of the human person and of society. It is an expression of "a common effort to build the civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice and liberty" (John Paul II, Address at the Fiftieth General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, 18 [5 Oct. 1995]). Such a task entails fostering an ever greater awareness of and respect for the dignity which belongs to men and women by the simple fact of their being human. That dignity is not some abstract reality or something granted by the community, the State or the law. It is an inalienable, inherent possession which belongs to each individual everywhere and in every circumstance. It thus precedes laws and agreements, and determines their justness and appropriateness. Everything that upholds, promotes and enhances human dignity is good for society. Whatever threatens or harms it is a defect in the life of society, one which can have terrible consequences for individuals and peoples.

It is in this perspective that the Holy See seeks to raise its voice in the international community in order to defend and promote moral and spiritual values. Such values are essential for integral human development and correspond to the deepest longings of the human heart. The well-being not only of individuals, and of the family as the primary cell of society, but also of nations themselves and, indeed, of the entire human race, is intimately connected with a sense of truthfulness, responsibility, solidarity and respect for the legitimate rights and freedoms of others. These are some of the necessary ethical building blocks of a just and harmonious society.

Economic and political structures, separated from their ethical and moral content, will not suffice to bring the hoped – for development and well-being. Quite often the tensions which threaten peace and hinder development are the result of individual and collective selfishness, especially in the forms of an allconsuming desire for profit and a thirst for power (cf. John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 37). Thus, many serious obstacles to development have their origin in the human heart, in the attitudes people take towards society and towards their own duties in society. A great educational effort is called for, in order that each generation may live up to its responsibilities. Such an education involves transmitting a keen sense of commitment to the common good, respect for the rule of law, and compassion and concern in the face of human suffering. The question of moral goodness is not alien to a people’s development.

I note the references you have made, Mr Ambassador, to your country’s resolve to pursue the goals of peace, freedom and justice, at both the national and international levels. The Holy See is certainly a most willing partner in this endeavour. The Catholic Church in Suriname, while carrying out her principal role of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and forming consciences in moral truth and virtue, expends no small effort in seeking to provide education, health care and other social services. In this regard I thank you, Mr Ambassador, for your kind words about the contribution which the Church is making to the improvement of the lives of the people of your country.

Mr Ambassador, as you assume your responsibilities within the diplomatic community accredited to the Holy See, I offer you my prayerful good wishes for the success of your high mission, and I assure you that the various offices of the Holy See will always be ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. I cordially invoke upon you and upon the beloved people of Suriname the abundant blessings of Almighty God.




Thursday, 16 November 1995

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the Holy See. My thoughts turn to the noble Pakistani people, to whom I wish success in building a just and harmonious society in the framework of peace and security throughout your region of the world. I acknowledge with gratitude your kind words of esteem for the Holy See’s efforts to foster peace and to promote the development of all peoples.

In speaking to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See at the beginning of this year, I could not but refer to the "too many cries of despair and pain" arising from our brothers and sisters in humanity, crushed by war, injustice, unemployment, poverty and loneliness (cf. John Paul II, Address to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, 4 [9 Jan. 1995]). While we must all be convinced that peace and reconciliation between peoples is possible, this goal must be sought after with wisdom and worked for with perseverance. Governments and world leaders must be ready to follow the path of mutual respect and dialogue as the only guarantee of humanity’s future. Along this path, great efforts must be made to exclude exaggerated nationalism or religious intolerance. These are indeed enemies of peace in the world, for they divide people from one another and raise barriers of mutual fear and mistrust.

On that occasion I also spoke of "situations where the international community has shown itself to be far-sighted and effective" (Ibid., 8), situations in which courageous men and women look at one another and listen, and find fitting tools for building societies where diversity is recognized as a source of enrichment. The followers of the various religious traditions have an essential role to play in fostering a climate of mutual understanding and acceptance. But this happens only when society promotes attitudes and behaviour which lead people to manifest the utmost respect for others and for the very principle of religious freedom. The basis of this right to religious freedom is the dignity of the human person. It is a right which is so fundamental that it precedes civil laws, and all civil authorities are therefore obliged to defend and guarantee it. Your own country, Mr Ambassador, has a tradition of openness to and respect for difference. It is my earnest hope that this tradition will be cherished and safeguarded, in order to avoid unjustifiable bias and discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of religious belief.

While the Catholic community in Pakistan is small in relation to the whole population, its members consider themselves no less Pakistani than other citizens. Christians suffer whenever public attitudes or the legal system itself fail to protect them fully in their status as citizens, as if in some way they were strangers in their own land. At the international level, Pakistan is a signatory to many Conventions and Agreements, including the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantee inalienable human rights, including the right to religious freedom, and which exclude intolerance and discrimination based on religion and belief. More specifically, Pakistani Christians have served their country loyally and effectively from the outset, playing a not insignificant part in the very formation of the country as a sovereign State through their contribution to the Constituent Assembly. They continue to contribute to the life of the nation, most visibly through their educational activities and their assistance to the needy, including refugees. I wish to express the hope that Pakistan will never abandon the path of its democratic ideals and fundamental freedoms, and that all its people will be enabled to share in building a society of justice, mutual trust and cooperation.

I am confident, Mr Ambassador, that you will use all your personal talents and diplomatic skills in order to strengthen the bonds of friendship between Pakistan and the Holy See. As you begin your mission, I offer you wholehearted good wishes and assure you that you will receive attentive and willing help from those who assist me in my ministry and who are therefore dedicated to the service of the international community. May the Most High God sustain you in your task and may he pour out his rich blessings upon the whole Pakistani people.



Consistory Hall

Thursday, 16 November 1995

Your Excellencies,

1. It gives me great pleasure to welcome you today to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of your respective countries. You represent States belonging to three different continents, different in the history of their development as nations, as well as in their cultural and religious traditions, but one in the Church’s prayerful attention and esteem.

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Suriname are being represented here for the first time, whereas relations with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan go back to the early years of national independence. I pray that your mission to the Holy See will offer you the opportunity not only to serve your own countries well, but also to deepen your understanding of the profound religious and humanitarian truths and values which inspire the Catholic Church’s service of the human family.

2. The situation of the human family at the end of the 20th century presents a picture of vivid contrasts. There is a widespread and intense yearning for peace and well-being, while on every continent ethnic, nationalistic and economic interests continue to spur rivalry and violence.

Some societies have reached unprecedented levels of affluence and prosperity, while other millions of our fellow human beings continue to be oppressed by poverty, hunger and injustices of all kinds. While the knowledge and expertise exist to bring higher standards of living, of education, of health care to the four corners of the earth, such a development would appear unattainable in the face of the old and new barriers deriving from deep-seated prejudices and seemingly insurmountable divisions within the human family. And yet, your diplomatic profession and the mission you assume today are themselves signs of the will of your peoples to advance on the path of development and progress in spite of obstacles.

3. In the international forum the Holy See seeks to be a voice which speaks encouragement and hope for the human family. It does so above all because the Church’s mission involves preaching a message of divine love for all mankind and of salvation for each individual. In my recent Address to the United Nations on the occasion of the Organization’s 50th Anniversary I expressed the conviction that "now is the time for new hope, which calls us to expel the paralyzing burden of cynicism from the future of politics and of human life" (John Paul II, Address at the Fiftieth General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, 15 [5 Oct. 1995]). Herein lies a challenge which I would respectfully put before each one of you. I am confident that you, as the distinguished Representatives of your countries to the Holy See, will pursue the interests of your own Governments and the good of your own peoples within the wider context of genuine service to the human family as a whole, and having as your goal "a new flourishing of the human spirit, mediated through an authentic culture of freedom" (Ibid., 16).

May Almighty God sustain you in your task and noble profession! Upon yourselves and your families, and upon the peoples you represent, I gladly invoke an abundance of divine blessings.




Hall of Popes

Friday, 24 November 1995

Dear Cardinal Arinze,
Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops, and Friends in Christ,

1. I am happy to have this occasion to meet the members of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue gathered for your Plenary Assembly. I greet you in the peace of Christ, through whom "we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God" (Rm 5,2).

Thirty years after the Council issued the Declaration on the relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, your involvement in interreligious dialogue cannot but continue to be guided and encouraged by the teaching and insights of that important document. Indeed, the theme of your Assembly, The Dialogue of Spirituality and the Spirituality of Dialogue, provides an excellent opportunity for reflection on what might be called "the reading of the human soul", which is the starting point of "Nostra Aetate", which states: "Men look to their different religions for an answer to the unsolved riddles of human existence... What is man? What is the meaning and purpose of life? What is upright behaviour, and what is sinful? Where does suffering originate, and what end does it serve? How can genuine happiness be found? What happens at death? What is judgment? What reward follows death? And finally, what is the ultimate mystery, beyond human explanation, which embraces our entire existence, from which we take our origin and towards which we tend?" (Nostra Aetate NAE 1).

2. Often today, in many parts of the world, a materialistic culture imprisons people as it were in space and time, so that they find themselves disorientated and unable to give meaning to life. Some, as the Second Vatican Council already noted, living in an atmosphere of practical materialism, do not perceive this human drama (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 10). There are others "whose hopes are set on a genuine and total emancipation of mankind through human effort alone and look forward to some future earthly paradise where all the desires of their hearts will be fulfilled" (Ibid.). A third category, those who believe in God or search for the Absolute, finds a response to these interrogations of the human soul through spirituality, in other words through a conception of life and of human history which is not confined to the narrow limits of our earthly existence, but which is open to transcendence and to eternity. The Church, for her part, "believes that Christ, who died and was raised for the sake of all, can show man the way and strengthen him through the Spirit in order to be worthy of his destiny". She believes too that "the key, the centre and the purpose of the whole of man’s history are to be found in the Lord and Master" (Ibid.).

3. The "spirituality" which is at the heart of your reflections involves the concept of man’s quest for a personal relationship with God, a relationship which can give life and substance to his relations with others who follow a different religious tradition. "Spirituality" is more than knowledge and discussion. It is inseparable from the search for holiness which, in the absolute sense, belongs only to God, but which, through his tender mercy, is given also to man as a gift and a responsibility. The Second Vatican Council has re-echoed the exhortation of St Paul: "What God wants is for you all to be holy" (1Th 4,3), underlining on more than one occasion the universal vocation to holiness ((cf. Lumen Gentium LG 42).

In the wider perspective, the search for perfection, for purification, for conformity to the divine will is not restricted to Christians. It involves every human being. It is no wonder therefore that we find in the religious traditions of humanity a clear awareness of the call to the highest values. The various religions, as my predecessor Pope Paul VI taught, "bear within them the reflection of thousands of years of searching for God, an incomplete quest but one often enough carried out with sincerity and honesty. Theirs is an impressive heritage of profoundly religious texts. They have taught generations how to pray. All are strewn with innumerable ‘seeds of the Word’" (Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 53).

4. Thus the theme of spirituality constitutes a natural meeting point for the followers of different religious traditions and a fruitful subject for interreligious dialogue. As your Plenary Assembly has shown, the "dialogue of spirituality" is an essential and crowning form of dialogue between men and women of different religious experiences. It enables "persons rooted in their own religious traditions" to share "their spiritual riches, for instance with regard to prayer and contemplation, faith and ways of searching for God or the Absolute" (Ibid., 42). Such exchanges, for which Christians should be adequately trained, can be a source of mutual enrichment and a stimulus to fruitful co-operation for promoting and preserving the highest values and spiritual ideals of humanity. Within this dialogue there will be ample opportunity for Christians to share the very heart of the Gospel message and to communicate "the reasons for the hope that lies within us" (1P 3,15). Although dialogue can take on other forms – the "dialogue of life", the dialogue of co-operation, and formal dialogue or exchanges among experts – all of which are important, the dialogue of spirituality can contribute a depth and quality which will preserve these from the danger of mere activism.

5. Such a dialogue of spirituality requires a spirituality of dialogue, that is, a vision capable of sustaining the efforts to promote good and harmonious relations between the followers of different religions. Interreligious dialogue is never easy. It requires solid convictions and a great understanding and sensitivity regarding difference. It is my hope that your meeting will produce the outlines of a spirituality of dialogue which will be useful to pastors and faithful everywhere, for "each member of the faithful and all Christian communities are called to practise dialogue, though not always to the same degree or in the same way" (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 57).

6. As the whole Church prepares for the Jubilee of the Year 2000, we must take into account "the increased interest in dialogue with other religions" as one of the "signs of hope present in the last part of this century" (John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 46). In this context I thank you for your attention to the implications and necessary conditions of this dialogue. It is my earnest prayer that the coming of the Third Millennium will see a deepening and consolidating of ever more cordial relations between the different religious traditions, for the benefit of peace and solidarity among peoples everywhere. Invoking upon you the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, I willingly impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.




Friday, 24 November 1995

Your Excellencies,
Dear Brothers in Christ,

I am happy to have this occasion to meet the Mixed Committee for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East. A year after the signing of the Christological Declaration between our two Churches, you are meeting to reflect on important themes of mutual interest, in this case the Sacraments and particularly the Eucharist.

I wish to extend a special welcome to the Assyrian delegates of your Committee, asking you kindly to convey to His Holiness Patriarch Mar Dinkha IV, as well as to the other members of the Holy Synod and to the priests, my prayerful regards and warmest wishes for the delicate pastoral mission which you fulfill to the Assyrian faithful dispersed throughout the world.

May the Holy Spirit guide your discussions during these days so that the work of your Committee will effectively help to hasten the day when we will be able to celebrate the Eucharist together. May God strengthen you in the service of the Church’s unity of faith and communion of life.





Saturday, 25 November 1995

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. Continuing this series of ad Limina visits by the Bishops of India, today I have the great joy of greeting the Pastors of the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Agra, Guwahati, Imphal and Shillong: "Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come" (Ap 1,4). As the liturgical year draws to a close, Holy Church once again directs her gaze to the glorious coming of the Lord of history, who will, in his own time, bring to fulfilment the promised Kingdom. Until then, God’s people on earth walk in faith amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God, announcing the cross and death of the Lord until he comes (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 8). On this pilgrimage the faithful are guided by the Successors of the Apostles, "linked with one another and with the Bishop of Rome by the bonds of unity, charity and peace" (Lumen Gentium LG 22). We have gathered together today to reflect on the ministry that the Spirit entrusted to us through Episcopal Ordination, and to recommit ourselves to it with full confidence in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2. The local Churches of India are full ecclesial realities insofar as they arise in and from the universal Church (cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Communionis Notio, 9). By recognizing the apostolic ministry of the College of Bishops, involving as it does the unique charism which Christ entrusted to Peter as the Shepherd of his flock (cf. Jn. Jn 21,15-17), each particular Church reflects fully the one Church of Christ. The Petrine service of unity is intrinsic to each local Church: "All the Churches are in full and visible communion, because all the Pastors are in communion with Peter and therefore united to Christ" (John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint UUS 94) . Just as the Bishop of Rome is the principal guardian of the Church’s unity, my mission also requires me to be the primary advocate of her catholicity, which excludes certain forms of attachment to one’s own cultural, regional or national identity which harm the universal openness and love that ought to inspire Christ’s followers. I rejoice therefore to see the ways in which, through an exchange of gifts – spiritual and human resources above all – your Dioceses seek to put into practice what the Second Vatican Council stated: "The whole and each of the parts are strengthened by the common sharing of all things and by the common effort to attain to fullness in unity" (Lumen Gentium LG 13).

3. In a few days time we shall commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church. In the words of that memorable document, the Church’s mission to bring the light of the Gospel to every nation is grounded in the eternal love of the Blessed Trinity: "The pilgrim Church is missionary by her very nature, for it is from the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit that she takes her origin, in accordance with the decree of God the Father" (Ad Gentes AGD 2). As Pastors of the Church in India, your personal commitment must be to fan into flame the fire of love lit by the Lord’s saving death and Resurrection. You must constantly ask yourselves: How can we more effectively lead people to the discovery and deeper experience of "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ep 3,8)?

4. A twofold challenge faces the Catholic community in India. On the one hand, the Holy Spirit is urging you to take the Good News to all those who have not yet heard it. On the other hand, each particular Church, each parish community and each religious institute is being challenged to open itself with fresh fervour to being evangelized anew. I urge you to inspire the faithful to focus their attention on the primary objective of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000: "a true longing for holiness, a deep desire for conversion and personal renewal in a context of ever more intense prayer and of solidarity with one’s neighbour, especially the most needy" (John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 42). The Holy Spirit will undoubtedly bring forth a rich harvest from your efforts to evangelize, provided that those endeavours are built on sound Christology, soteriology and ecclesiology, authentic inculturation, the tireless dedication of the agents of evangelization and the efficacy of the structures which serve it.

5. In view of our responsibility to meet this immense challenge, I cannot fail to reflect with you on the fact that the Church must – always and everywhere – scrupulously safeguard the truth about her Bridegroom, the truth which alone sets people free (cf. Jn. Jn 8,32). Among the principal duties of Bishops is that of ensuring respect for the right of every person to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed in its fullness and integrity. Here I am thinking particularly of your need to be vigilant with respect to teachings which minimize the universal destination of the Gospel, by playing down the uniqueness of the Revelation which culminated in the new and everlasting Covenant established by the Blood of Christ, and which is faithfully preserved down the ages in the Church’s faith and teaching.

Christ, the Son of God made man, is the one, perfect, definitive and unsurpassable Word of the Father. He is the "mediator and fullness of all Revelation" (Dei Verbum DV 2), the only Redeemer of all humanity. "No one, therefore, can enter into communion with God except through Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit" (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 5). Likewise, the Church is the universal sacrament of salvation, the divinely chosen sign and instrument through which Christ’s saving grace is offered to all. In order for the Church in India to remain steadfast in its fidelity to the Lord, it is essential to ensure that the harmony, beauty and power of the truths of faith are understood and loved, most especially in seminaries, houses of formation and institutes of higher learning.

6. At the same time, the effectiveness of both the new evangelization and the mission ad gentes depends on proclaiming "the truth of the Gospel" (Ga 2,14) in a way that is persuasive and relevant. Evangelization is inextricably linked to the profound, gradual and exacting process of inculturation, a process which poses a permanent challenge to the Church in all parts of the world. The Good News of Redemption must "take flesh" in the various cultures of your vast sub-continent, so that God’s praises may be sung by each people in its own "tongue". Genuine inculturation is achieved only where the core of a culture is enlightened and strengthened by the truths and values of Revelation, and where people respond to the call to holiness by being true to Christ, Eternal Wisdom, who transforms all aspects of life, including our cultural and social heritage. Pastoral efforts to promote inculturation will not just concentrate on externals, as if it were the result of a hasty or superficial adaptation of the customs and values of those to whom the word of God is preached. Rather your efforts in this field must lead to the building of communities whose very existence and unity springs from faith-filled prayer, joyous celebration of the sacraments and life lived in accordance with the demands of the Gospel. Inculturation succeeds particularly well where couples and families embody the Christian vision of their vocation and responsibilities. Bishops – through their attitude of attentive listening, community dialogue and discernment – must ensure that the ways in which the Gospel is expressed and lived among their people are always fully compatible with the apostolic deposit of faith and the bonds of ecclesial communion (cf. John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 54).

7. As many of your quinquennial reports have mentioned, the experience of your local Churches has convinced you that the success of the Church’s mission in India involves bearing united witness to Christ in a programme of pastoral solidarity.People increasingly look first to the messengers, to the authenticity of their lives, before they consider the message itself. In the Upper Room, when the Lord gave his new commandment, he revealed how he would draw people to himself: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 13,35). The witness borne by the peace, spirit of co-operation and holiness of each Christian community within itself and in its relations with others intensifies the Church’s effectiveness as the sign of God’s love. This witness, which ought to be particularly visible in the fraternal union of the Bishops themselves, is indispensable if the task of evangelization is to be carried out as God wills. I urge the whole Church in India to be consecrated in evangelical love, so that, seeing that Christ’s disciples live in self-giving service and solidarity, those who have not yet accepted the Good News may come to believe (cf. ibid. 17:21-23)!

8. Within your vast country, Christians are a tiny and sometimes beleaguered minority. Yet they are called to be a leaven in the dough (cf. Mt. Mt 13,33) and a light on a lampstand (cf. ibid., 5:15-16). Despite innumerable hardships, many priests, religious and lay people have borne heroic witness to their fidelity to the Lord. I pray that the Holy Spirit, "the principal agent of the whole of the Church’s mission" (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 21), will continue to stir up among the People of God in India the courage, fervour and enthusiasm which marked the first Christian communities! I urge parents, priests, catechists and all those who serve the People of God to foster a new ardour for holiness in order to give fresh impulse to charity.

For their part, religious institutes, especially the many flourishing Congregations of Sisters, play an indispensable part in bringing the Good News to the men and women of our time, in particular to the poor and to those who yearn, often without knowing it, for the fullness of life (cf. Col. Col 2,10). Important as it is for religious to give the best of themselves in their apostolic works, they contribute to evangelization above all by their total consecration to the Lord. They must let themselves be ever more deeply evangelized, so that Christ’s light may penetrate their hearts and enable them to radiate that same light to others. Should not those who follow the path of the evangelical counsels bear special witness to a spirituality rooted in loving contemplation, detachment from the world and a spirit of sacrifice?

9. As many of you have said to me, the laity in your particular Churches are becoming increasingly aware that, by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, they have a specific mission to build up the Body of Christ. While we cannot forget that "the vocation of the lay faithful to holiness implies that life according to the Spirit expresses itself in a particular way in their involvement in temporal affairs and in their participation in earthly activities" (John Paul II, Christifideles Laici CL 17), it is also true that lay men and women should be, structurally involved in the life of every parish and Diocese. If lay people sometimes feel that their right to participate in Church life is ignored, Bishops must work to establish a climate of confidence and partnership among all members of Christ’s Body.

10. I wish you to know, dear Brothers in Christ, of the unceasing prayer I offer for each of you personally and for all your people. As the third millennium draws near, we should be convinced that the best preparation for that Great Jubilee "can only be expressed in a renewed commitment to apply, as faithfully as possible, the teachings of Vatican II to the life of every individual and of the whole Church" (John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 20). This is what the Spirit is saying to the Church in India (cf. Rev. Ap 2,7-8)! I commend all of you – together with the priests, religious and laity entrusted to your pastoral care – to the maternal intercession of Mary, who lovingly guides our pilgrimage towards the fullness of the Kingdom. With my Apostolic Blessing.