Speeches 1997 - Saturday, 1 February 2005





Saturday, 1 February 1997

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. It is now your turn to make your visit ad limina Apostolorum, Pastors of the Dioceses of western France, after the Bishops of your country whom I have already received. I naturally recall my recent visit last September to Saint Laurent sur Sèvre in the Diocese of Luçon and to Sainte Anne d’Auray in the Diocese of Vannes. The warm welcome I was given by you and by the faithful of your region, made that early autumn a true sign of the Church’s eternal springtime.

I warmly thank Bishop Jacques Fihey of Coutances, your president, for his concise assessment of the pastoral situation in your Western Apostolic Region, which he presented on your behalf. You are welcome in the home of Peter’s Successor, in the city where the mandate Christ entrusted to the Prince of the Apostles, who witnessed to the Lord with his blood, continues to be exercised.

2. The formation of the lay faithful represents one of the activities frequently mentioned in your reports, with a pastoral orientation that I wish to encourage. The step taken by your Bishop's Conference, which has led to the Letter entitled Proposer la foi dans la société actuelle, will provide you with a useful guide for the members of your Dioceses and encourage them to give ever greater consideration to their witness. I would like to devote this meeting to stressing several significant points for the various kinds of formation you are to offer.

Every Christian is continually invited to deepen his faith; this will help him to come closer to the risen Christ and to be his witness in society. In fact, in a world where people do not cease to improve their scientific and technical knowledge, knowledge of the faith cannot remain merely the catechism learned in childhood. To grow humanly and spiritually, the Christian has an obvious need for ongoing formation. Without this, he risks no longer being enlightened in the sometimes difficult choices he must make in his life and in carrying out his specific Christian mission among his brothers and sisters. For as one of the most ancient patristic texts says, “what the soul is to the body, Christians are in the world .... So noble is the position to which God has assigned them that they are not allowed to desert it” (Letter to Diognetus, n. 6).

Thus I encourage all Christ’s disciples to respond to your appeals and to take the time to develop their Christian life and their understanding of the faith. The Christian must be aware of this primary truth: God made man in his image and gave him the power to rule over creation, to put it at his service and to glorify the Creator. In creating him a rational being, he also gave him the possibility of reaching a form of rational knowledge of God, who, in addition, then invites him to follow a journey of faith.

Personal formation primarily offers the faithful an opportunity to interiorize all the knowledge acquired to enable them to unify their existence and their life around this central core of the person which the Fathers of the Church called the “heart's heart”; thus, from the depths of their soul they will belong to Christ and develop all the dimensions of their life, especially in their professional work and in social life. For it is every believer’s duty to take part in building up society, putting himself at the service of his brothers and sisters through the search for the common good. By his work, which enables him to meet his needs and those of his family, he also shares in developing and perfecting creation.

By virtue of his Baptism, the Christian is called to be a fully conscious and active member of the whole Body of the Church. “In Christ”, St Paul says, “you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ep 2,22). And since he bears Christ within himself, he is called to reveal him to his brothers and sisters and to be an apostle, that is, one who has been sent.

3. In the towns and villages of your Dioceses, lay people are taking increasing responsibilities in ecclesial life. They are ready to take their part in evangelization; they provide services of catechesis, liturgical leadership and preparation for the sacraments, spiritual assistance to the sick or to prisoners and reflection and activities in many social contexts. To do this in a Gospel spirit, they often ask you to help them acquire the necessary training. In your Dioceses, as Bishop Fihey pointed out in his regional report, many initiatives have been taken: at the diocesan level or even at the level of groups of Dioceses, you organize formation courses sometimes lasting several years for persons called to take on responsibilities; it is evident that the lay faithful are thus equipped to fulfil as well as possible the functions you can entrust to them.

At the grass-roots level, bible groups or basic theological formation is offered to parishioners keen to be Gospel witnesses. I can only invite you to pursue your very positive efforts in this direction with the selflessness of all apostles, for “one sows while another reaps”.

While I am fully aware that this can present problems in each Diocese, I ask you to give real priority to the formation of certain priests or lay people, as well as religious, who must acquire definite competence and lasting experience in order to be good formation personnel themselves. This is an indispensable investment whose fruits will mature over the years. Your region benefits from a Catholic university whose role is essential to formation. In the long run, teachers and researchers should be trained in order to guarantee its continuance and to give an impetus to theology and pastoral care.

4. I do not intend here to devise programmes for the various stages of formation; rather I would like to recall some essential features. It is especially important, when it is a question of persons called to carry out pastoral services, to attend to the balance between teaching and effective involvement in a mission. In short, formation will better achieve its objective if it involves people who actively live their Christianity: do not isolate the intellectual work required of people from their commitment to the community, so that they may progress in their sense of Church. In addition, while they are being given the means for theoretical and practical formation, the means for a properly spiritual renewal must be offered, that is, a guided initiation into prayer and times for meditation or retreat.

5. As in any formation or catechetical activity, Sacred Scripture must have a privileged place. As the Second Vatican Council recalled in the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, Sacred Scripture is the soul of theology (cf. n. 24). St Jerome said: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ” (Commentary on Isaiah, Prologue). We know that, when read in the Church, Scripture is the soil in which the tree of the knowledge of God can grow. The People of God cannot hope to live the life of their Master if they do not assimilate the very words which have been passed on to them so that, by believing in Christ, they may have “life in his name” (Jn 20,31). Thorough familiarity with Scripture nourishes the spiritual life and makes in-depth participation in the liturgy possible.

Two millenniums of meditation and reflection on the mystery of Christ have led the Church to a knowledge of the faith which all should acquire. Christians, in order not to let themselves be “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ep 4,14), will benefit from a sound reflection on the Creed, which does not necessarily mean learned study. In the widespread culture of this age, the image of Christ can be distorted if we neglect to discover its treasures as developed over the course of centuries by the Councils, the Fathers and theologians, without forgetting the spiritual authors. There is nothing of an ungrounded intellectual approach in a properly directed study of the Creed; it gives the faith a structure and contributes to its transmission. This is the spirit in which the Second Vatican Council clearly showed that the Church finds her raison d’être in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, revealed by the work of Christ the Redeemer. The Cathechism of the Catholic Church was compiled to provide indispensable standards, which your Bishops' Conference, following the example of others in the world, has adopted in accordance with a pedagogy appropriate to your culture.

6. If they are clearly and solidly presented, the gifts of faith will effectively help to make it understood that belonging to Christ implies a rule of life, a law that is liberating rather than constraining. The deep bond that exists between faith and morals escapes many of our contemporaries, who remember only the prohibitions, as a good many of your reports show. The discerning faithful should be enabled firmly to grasp the positive and vital meaning of the Church’s moral teaching. This is what I felt had to be explained in the Encylicals Veritatis splendor and Evangelium vitae, in particular.

Day by day, it is necessary for Catholics to practise enlightened discernment regarding the opinions whose influence is spreading and of which they must remain free. Whether it is a question of personal or social morals, a disciple of Christ must be able to recognize where the right way, the truth about man and respect for life truly lie. What is known as the evolution of morality cannot in itself reform norms of life based on the natural law that every person of goodwill can learn with his own right reason, and the Gospel. What civil law authorizes, does not necessarily correspond to the truth of the human vocation, nor to the good which every person must try to accomplish in his personal choices and in his conduct towards others.

All in all, in a cultural context that tends to relativize most convictions, the believer must be devoted to the search for and the love of the truth. This is a central principle. The Lord Jesus himself said: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life” (Jn 14,6), and he promised his disciples the Spirit of truth which “will guide you into all the truth” (Jn 16,13). This means repeating once again that a formation which truly helps one live the Christian life implies intelligent and responsible acceptance of the truth received from God through the Gospel.

7. It is appropriate to recall here that formation is one of the objectives of the movements that bring Christians together according to their different goals and support the energy of individuals. Spiritual, apostolic or charitable movements, outreach teams or those providing preparation for the sacraments lead their members to dedicate themselves to serving those brothers and sisters who practise occasionally, or persons who are far from the Church. They can be the best at relaying the Christian message in contexts where the Gospel is still unknown or distorted, by their witness of faith and the concrete love of their neighbour.

You have informed me of the current development of the catechumenate for young people and adults in your Dioceses. This is naturally a privileged place of formation for men and women who aspire to discover faith in the Church. With you, I congratulate the many Christians who guide the catechumens and neophytes on their journey.

Further extending my talk, I would also like to encourage the faithful who work in the media, whether Christian or not, at the national or local level to inform their many readers or listeners about the meaning of their life and of events. Social communication in communities requires well-trained spokesmen, who in turn are able to contribute positively to the formation of those who hear them.

8. From another viewpoint, I would also like to recall that pastoral action must be attentive to the different states of life which the faithful can choose and which all have great value. Lived in fidelity to their initial choice, they are an eminent way to profess one's faith, for they show that in moments of joy as in those which are difficult, life with Christ is the way to happiness. This is the case with those who are committed to the priesthood, to the diaconate or to the consecrated life, which I have already discussed with the Bishops of another Apostolic Region.

Those who live in marriage are the privileged witnesses to God’s covenant with his people. Through this sacrament, their human love takes on an infinite value, for spouses make the Father’s love present in a particular way, and receive an important responsibility in the world: to bring forth children who are called to be children of God, and to help them in their human and spiritual growth. In our contemporary world, human love is often held up to ridicule. Pastors and couples committed to the Church will be particularly anxious to deepen the theology of the sacrament of marriage, in order to help young married couples and families in difficulty to recognize better the value of their commitment and to receive the grace of their covenant. I invite married lay people to witness to the greatness of married and family life based on commitment and fidelity. Only a total gift makes one completely free to love truly, not merely according to the emotional side of one’s being, but with the deepest part of oneself, to achieve the union of hearts and bodies, a source of profound joy and an image of man’s union with God, to which we are all called.

I have not forgotten those who have been unable to achieve a plan of life of this kind. If their celibacy was not chosen, this can make them feel that their life is partly a failure. May they not lose heart, for Christ never abandons those who trust in him! They can dedicate themselves to others and to developing fulfilling fraternal relations. They are examples for many. They have their full place in the ecclesial community. In every state, a life of giving is a source of joy.

9. During my recent visit to France, I said that I appreciated the Church’s vitality in your country, despite the difficulties she encounters. I am convinced that your initiatives in the areas of the formation of the faithful, as well as your concern to help each person to fulfil himself in the community and to give witness in society will bear fruit in this time of renewal as we approach the Great Jubilee.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, through you, the members of your Dioceses are present here. In the year of the centenary of the death of St Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, we commend your persons, your ministry and all the faithul of your Apostolic Region to her intercession. With all of them in mind, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you.



Your Eminences,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. I had wanted to meet you on the occasion of the convention that every year brings you together as friends of the Focolare Unity Movement. This not being possible, I would at least like you to receive my written greetings and the assurance of my closeness in the charity of Christ.

These days have been a favourable occasion to renew together the deep bonds of communion which, through the Holy Spirit, unite you in harmonious dedication to the service of the Bride of Christ on the eve of the forthcoming millennium.

The eyes of all are turned towards that historic date when we will be celebrating the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. In this light, your convention has wanted to study more deeply the meaning of the Bishop’s mission in relation to the mandate Christ entrusted to his Apostles. You have reflected especially on the risen Christ’s presence in the community through the new commandment of love.

2. As everyone knows, the Christological theme marks 1997, the first of the three years of immediate preparation for the Holy Year. In preparing to celebrate the Jubilee, the Church wishes to centre her attention on “Christ, the Word of God, made man by the power of the Holy Spirit” (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 40). The Father sends his Son and the Son, accepting his mission, becomes man by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin of Nazareth. “And the word became flesh” (Jn 1,14). The history of salvation is totally woven of love. The Word is the Son eternally loved and eternally loving. How can we fail to be filled with wonder at the mystery of Love?

There is an extraordinary outpouring of God’s love in the mystery of the Incarnation: the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Virgin Mary. The Evangelist Luke writes: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Lc 1,35).

3. However the Incarnation cannot be separated from Christ’s Death and Resurrection. The Apostles saw and met the Risen One: this extraordinary event transformed them into witnesses filled with joy and apostolic zeal. Today, as then, the apostle’s principal task is to proclaim and witness with his life that Christ is truly risen, that he is present among us through the new commandment he left us.

Divine charity is a testament of life which, if practised daily, enables us to achieve that deeper unity which Jesus himself intensely implored from the Father at the Last Supper: “That they may all be one; even as you, Father are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17,21). Only the commandment of love, a love that becomes a total gift of life, is the secret of the Resurrection.

Here we are in the heart of Christian newness. In the silence of prayer and contemplation we can come into contact with Christ and listen to his words: “The Father loves me, because I lay down my life.... No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again” (Jn 10,17-18). For the Church's Pastors, therefore, a spirituality of communion means commitment to the total gift of self; it means considering the cross of one as the cross of the other.

4. Venerable and dear Brothers, during the work of your convention, reflection on ecumenism and interreligious dialogue has occupied a special place, in the light of the supernatural law of divine love. This attention was indeed praiseworthy, precisely with regard to the forthoming historic celebration of the Jubilee. As the Second Vatican Council states: “Co-operation among Christians vividly expresses that bond which already unites them, and it sets in clearer relief the features of Christ” (Unitatis redintegratio UR 12). Ecumenical collaboration is born of a grace granted by the Father in answer to Christ’s prayer (cf. Jn Jn 17,21) and of the Holy Spirit’s action within us (cf. Rom Rm 8,26-27). However, true ecumenism only bears fruit where love increases in an authentic spirit of service to one's brothers and sisters, after the example of Christ who came not to be served, but to serve (cf. Mt Mt 20,28). This is the ecumenism which must have an important place in the life of every Diocese. It should be developed by historical, theological and liturgical study and discussion, as well as by mutual understanding in daily life (cf. Unitatis redintegratio UR 5).

This ecumenical activity draws strength from constant prayer, trustingly addressed to our common Father in heaven, so that the full unity of all Christians may be hastened.

This is also my wish, which I confirm with the assurance that I will constantly remember you to the Lord. May he accompany you, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, and support you in your daily pastoral ministry.

As I invoke upon your convention the protection of Mary, Mother of Unity, I cordially send you a special Blessing, which I willingly extend to the local Churches entrusted to your care.

From the Vatican, 6 February 1997.





Tuesday, 11 February 1997

Your Eminences,

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

1. I am pleased to extend to you all a cordial greeting at the end of the Mass celebrating the Fifth World Day of the Sick, on the liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes.

This Day takes us in spirit to the grotto of Massabielle, to pause in prayer and to commend to the Blessed Virgin, Salus infirmorum, all the sick, especially those who are the most sorely tried in body and spirit.

The official celebration is taking place today at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, particularly dear to me and highly significant in the present phase of preparation for the Jubilee of the Year 2000. The Blessed Virgin’s message at Fatima — as at Lourdes — is a call to conversion and penance, without which there can be no authentic Jubilee.

For the human person sickness is also a call to conversion, to entrust oneself entirely to Christ, the one source of salvation for every man and for the whole man. The theme of the convention sponsored by the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, which re-echoes the universal call of the first year of preparation for the Jubilee, invites us to do this.

2. My affectionate thoughts are especially addressed to the many sick people present; I cordially extend them to all the sick who have joined us by radio and television. May Our Lady, dear brothers and sisters, obtain for each one of you comfort of soul and body. I also willingly bless those who have accompanied the sick, the volunteers and the members of the UNITALSI gathered here, and I thank them for the valuable apostolic work they are doing for the sick in escorting them to various Marian shrines.

I likewise thank the Monteverdi Choir and the Philharmonic Society of Crespano del Grappa for enlivening the liturgy today and for their inspiring performances. I am also grateful for the gift of a precious reproduction of the statue of Our Lady of Monte Grappa, who watches over the monumental cemetery where thousands of soldiers who died in the First World War are laid to rest. Let us pray for them on this occasion.

3. Every year, the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi suggests a prophetic gesture of peace: this year it plans a pilgrimage to Hebron to the tomb of the Patriarchs, a holy place for the three great monotheistic religions, as a harbinger of peace in the Holy Land.

I pray that this initiative, in the name of our common father Abraham, may be the beginning of a new flowering of reconciliation pilgrimages for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. May Rome and Jerusalem become the poles of a universal pilgrimage of peace, sustained by faith in the one, good and merciful God. For this intention, I invite you, dear sick people, to raise to the Lord fervent prayers enriched by the offering of your suffering.

4. Let us now, spiritually united with the pilgrims gathered at the shrine of Lourdes and those who are in Fatima to celebrate the World Day of the Sick, turn to Mary with trust, invoking her motherly protection.

I cordially bless you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.





Monday, 10 February 1997

Your Eminence,

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. In the love of our Saviour Jesus Christ, I welcome you, the third group of Philippine Bishops in this series ofad limina” visits by your Conference. I take the occasion of Cardinal Sin’s presence to recall once more with a profound sense of gratitude the extraordinary events of January 1995. The magnificent response of so many young people at the World Youth Day and the joy of commemorating the fourth centenary of the Archdiocese of Manila, and the then-suffragan sees of Cebu, Caceres and Nueva Segovia constitute a cherished moment of my own pilgrim ministry. Those wonderful days spent in Manila confirmed my hopes for the spreading of the light of the Gospel in the next millennium in the continent of Asia.

Through the intercession of the Apostles Peter and Paul, whose witness sanctified this see of Rome, I pray that the Catholic community of the Philippines will always be fully conscious of the important “missionary vocation” which the Lord has placed before you and for which the Holy Spirit has been preparing you since the first evangelization of your islands. This vocation confers on you a great responsibility and a special dignity. It makes practical demands on your own episcopal ministry, including a generous application of the provisions of the Norms which the Congregation for the Clergy has issued on co-operation between particular Churches and the better distribution of clergy (cf. Postquam Apostoli [25 March 1980]: AAS 72 [1980], 343-364; Redemptoris missio RMi 64).

2. As I already mentioned in my other meetings with the members of your Conference, the challenges facing the Church in the Philippines are truly enormous. They call you to absolute trust in the Lord and demand a systematic catechesis at every level of the Church’s life. Guided by your “sound teaching” (2Tm 4,3), Filipino Catholics must be able to apply the “word of faith” (Rm 10,8) to the real-life situations in which they live out the universal call to holiness. In the Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi tradendae, I urged Bishops to foster in their Dioceses “a real passion for catechesis, a passion embodied in a pertinent and effective organization, putting into operation the necessary personnel, means and equipment, and also financial resources” (n. 63). I renew that appeal, especially with regard to two crucial and intimately related areas of pastoral life: the family and the promotion of social justice.

3. Indeed, the defense and promotion of the family, the heart of every society, is a pre-eminent task facing all those committed to the pursuit of social well-being and justice. Throughout my Pontificate I have striven to explain that “through the family passes the primary current of the civilization of love, which finds therein its ‘social foundations’” (Letter to Families LF 15). It falls in the first place to you, the Bishops, to form the consciences of the faithful in accordance with the Church’s teachings, so that the laity in particular may work effectively for the introduction of public policies which strengthen family life. Your Conference has spoken out frequently on this theme, recalling that a family policy must be the basis and driving force of all social policies. In this sense the State, which by its nature is ordered to the common good, is bound to defend the family, respecting its natural structure and inalienable rights. The lay faithful, especially through family organizations and associations, are to be encouraged to continue to promote social institutions, civil legislation and national policies which support family rights and responsibilities (cf. Familiaris consortio FC 44).

The economy likewise has a vital part to play in ensuring the strength of the family. One of the main criticisms which the Church’s Pastors have to make regarding the prevailing socioeconomic system, understood as the subordination of almost all other values to market forces, is that the family dimension of the work contract is generally ignored. Such a system makes little or no provision for the family wage. How far are most societies from what the Church urges: “Just remuneration for the work of an adult who is responsible for a family means remuneration which will suffice for establishing and properly maintaining a family and for providing security for its future” (Laborem exercens LE 19)! Legislators, leaders of business, industry and labour, educators and those working in the mass media, and families themselves, must all be encouraged to re-create a family-centred economy, based on principles of subsidiarity and solidarity. True social justice passes by way of the family! It is also with this in mind that I will be present at the celebration of the International Day of the Family in Rio de Janeiro next October.

4. In the Philippines, as in many parts of the world, the family is like a window on a society suffering the tensions of transition from a more traditional way of life to one characterized by increasing individualism and fragmentation. In this transition, the moral and religious truths which should give support and direction to individuals and society are often forgotten or rejected, to the point that certain kinds of behaviour which used to be considered as altogether wrong are becoming accepted both socially and legally, and even promoted as “rights”. Here, the most effective antidote will be the efforts of competent pastoral agents, working with perseverance and initiative through catechesis, family support groups and through the media of social communication. When the truth and meaning of human sexuality is undermined by a secularized mentality, the Church must increasingly teach and uphold God’s wise and loving plan for conjugal love. When “social life ventures on to the shifting sands of complete relativism” (Evangelium vitae EV 20), the moral and spiritual care of the family is a challenge which cannot be ignored: it practically defines the Church’s pastoral mission. In the year which commemorates the centenary of the birth of my venerable Predecessor, Pope Paul VI, I wish to repeat his pressing invitation to every Bishop: “Work ardently and incessantly for the safeguarding and the holiness of marriage, so that it may always be lived in its entire human and Christian fullness. Consider this mission as one of your most urgent responsibilities at the present time” (cf. Humanae vitae HV 30).

5. It is to the majority of the faithful who struggle each day to live up to the demands of their Christian dignity in marriage and the family that pastoral efforts are principally directed. The present-day tendency to look at difficult cases and special categories should not deflect the pastors of the Church from giving due attention to the needs of normal families. They look to their spiritual guides for the support of sound doctrine, the grace of the sacraments and the human empathy which will sustain them in the never easy mission of being a true “domestic church”, the first community to be evangelized, so that it in turn can be the proximate and immediate evangelizer of its members. Young couples preparing for marriage need to be helped to understand that marriage and the family rest on responsibilities freely assumed before God, before one’s partner, before the children involved, before society and before the Church. The bonds forged between those who become “one flesh” (Gn 2,24) demand life-long communion and fidelity. Fortunately, in your Dioceses you can count on many groups and associations which help the family to live its vocation as a community of love, a school of humanity and a sanctuary of life. Your Bishops’ Commission on Family Life likewise is untiring in its efforts to lead and co-ordinate pastoral efforts in this field.

Dear Brothers, our prophetic mission as heralds of “the truth of the Gospel” (Ga 2,14) demands that we proclaim vigorously and persuasively the Church’s teaching on the responsible transmission of human life. This requires a concerted effort to help the faithful to understand more clearly that conjugal fulfilment is linked to respect for the intrinsic meaning and purpose of human sexuality. I warmly encourage you to continue the initiatives already undertaken to improve marriage preparation and to support the teaching of the natural methods of regulating fertility. The cultural and religious traditions of your people, who treasure life and freedom, should help them to oppose measures directed against life: abortion, sterilization and contraception. The Church preaches the Gospel of life, a fully positive view of human existence, contrary to the pessimism and selfishness of those who plot against the splendour of human sexuality and human life (cf. Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, Conciliar Document, n. 585).

6. A deeper evangelization of the People of God requires that you shed the penetrating light of the Gospel on every situation and circumstance which hinders the growth of Christ’s kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace (cf. Preface of Christ the King). We are all aware of the difficulties involved in the proclamation of social justice, most especially when the questions involved are deeply imbedded in long-standing social structures and cultural mores. The preferential option for the poor is often misinterpreted, giving rise sometimes to tensions between the Church and certain sectors of society which require constructive dialogue in the interests of the common good. You show yourselves to be Shepherds after the Lord’s own heart (cf. Jer Jr 3,15) when you lend your intelligence, pastoral skills and creativity to the promotion of a vision of man — every single human being — which fully corresponds to human dignity as revealed by Christ.

Your commitment to social teaching is no mere humanitarian concern: hunger and thirst for justice must be constantly nourished by prayer and liturgical worship.Through union with Christ, the baptized are transformed by grace for the service of charity; at the altar they receive the strength to persevere in the service of justice (cf. Sollicitudo rei socialis SRS 48). The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines rightly drew attention to the close connection between the life of faith and the work of justice: “The social apostolate is to be constantly given solid religious grounding through catechesis and organic linking with worship” (Decrees, article 20, §3). I encourage you therefore to continue, with wisdom and courage, to guide and enlighten the faithful, and indeed the whole of society, regarding the moral and ethical foundations of a just and humane coexistence.

7. Dear Brothers in the Lord: in the Upper Room the Lord Jesus invited his disciples to be his friends, to persevere in loving communion with him (cf. Jn Jn 15,13-14), and he sealed this intimacy with the gift of the Eucharist. You are now celebrating a Eucharistic Year, which you inaugurated with the Fifth National Eucharistic Congress on the theme of Eucharist and Freedom. The same Eucharistic Lord accompanies you, the Successors of the Apostles, in your daily ministry. Thinking of your daily toil for the Gospel, I exhort you in the words of St Ignatius of Antioch: “Bear with all, just as the Lord does with you. Have patience with all charity, as indeed you do. To prayer give yourself unceasingly; beg for an increase in understanding; watch without letting your spirit flag” (Letter to Polycarp, 1:2). In this spirit I join you in commending our Brother Bishop Benjamin de Jesus, Vicar Apostolic of Jolo, to our heavenly Father’s eternal love. Together with you I invoke God’s peace upon the entire southern region of your country. I pray that as the Church in the Philippines prepares for the third millennium the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, will obtain for you and the priests, religious and lay faithful a share in her unfaltering faith, constant hope and fervent love. With my Apostolic Blessing.

Speeches 1997 - Saturday, 1 February 2005