Speeches 1997 - Monday, 10 February 1997



Thursday, 13 February 1997

I would like to thank you for this meeting and especially for your witness. I would like to repeat to you once again a phrase that constantly springs to mind: “Parochus super Papam”. I learned this as a young Bishop and I have seen in Kraków and here in Rome how true the saying is. The parish priest always has a basic, direct experience of the local Church entrusted to him. It is also thanks to parish priests that the Bishop can carry out his mission, and this fact increases my gratitude to you, esteemed brothers in the priesthood, especially after 50 years of experience, first in Kraków and then in Rome. Thus I also wished to write something about my vocation, but you already know that and I do not want to repeat it. And now, if none of you is going to speak, I shall conclude and summarize all that has been said today.

* * * * *

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

1. I greet you with deep affection and am very pleased to have this annual meeting. I address a particular greeting to the sick and elderly priests, and to those who have been attacked and injured in the exercise of their ministry, and I assure each one that I will especially remember him in my prayers.

The Cardinal Vicar in his opening speech, for which I thank him, gave a brief picture of current events in the Diocese of Rome and of the Roman presbyterate in particular. This outline was then filled in and coloured by the accounts many of you gave. It is a picture in which, by the grace of the Lord the lights easily prevail over the shadows: let us thank God!

I cannot forget the great Vigil of Pentecost when we began the city mission. This mission is now fully under way, mobilizing the vital forces of the Diocese and attracting the attention and support of the entire city and, I should say, of the whole Church, according to what Bishops from all over the world are telling me. At the same time, the more long-awaited, systematic task of the continuing formation of priests has begun and will help this city mission considerably.

I would like to reflect with you briefly on this theme of priestly formation, in the perspective of the preparation for the Great Jubilee and hence of the city mission, recalling also that this is the year devoted to Jesus Christ, the one Saviour of the world, yesterday, today and forever (cf. Heb He 13,8), and with reference to the gift I have received of experiencing the 50th anniversary of my priestly ordination.

2. The priest’s continuing formation is a way to keep alive in us the gift and mystery of our vocation. It is a gift that infinitely surpasses us and is a mystery of divine choice: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (Jn 15,16). We must be grateful to God for the gift of our vocation and express this gratitude in our ministerial service, which is concretely the daily offering of our life. Our Eucharist is at the origin and centre of all this: daily Mass which is the most important moment of our day and the centre of our life, for in celebrating it, we touch the heart of the mystery of salvation in which our priesthood is rooted and our ministerial service nourished.

Mass puts us in touch with God’s holiness and most effectively reminds us that we are called to holiness, that Christ needs holy priests. Effective pastoral ministry, a true “cura animarum”, can thrive only on the basis of priestly holiness, as we know from experience.

The primary, essential goal of continuing formation is precisely reciprocal help in the journey of priestly sanctification: the diocesan presbyterate, as a true sacramental brotherhood, in fact has an important role in every priest’s personal life and this role is expressed in a special way by periods of continuing formation. It is good that younger priests can have regular fortnightly or monthly meetings, primarily to pray together and also for a fraternal exchange about their first experiences as priests. But it is also important for all priests, although at different times, to have the opportunity and joy of being together, of strengthening one another in fidelity to their vocation.

3. Formation naturally supports us on our way to holiness, calling us each day to conversion.We are ministers of reconciliation and thus carry out an essential part of our mission through the ministry of the confessional; but we can do so with sincerity and effectiveness if we ourselves first have constant recourse to God’s mercy, diligently confessing our sins and imploring the grace of conversion.

In turn, every aspect of our ministerial service, our daily efforts, the joys and worries of the parish priest, the curate, the priest teacher, those who work in the Vicariate or are involved with youth, families or the elderly, all this must have a place in continuing formation. What is important is the perspective in which we see all our ministerial activity. This is why a word from the Apostle Paul can be most helpful: “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Morever it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (1Co 4,1-2). This word “steward” cannot be replaced by any other. It is deeply rooted in the Gospel: let us think of the parable of the faithful and unfaithful stewards (cf. Lk Lc 12,41-48). The steward is not the owner; he is the person to whom the owner has entrusted his property, so that he can manage it with dedication and responsibility. Precisely in this way does the priest receive from Christ the gifts of salvation for the benefit of each believer and of the whole People of God.

Thus we can never claim to be owners of these gifts: not of the word of God, to which we must witness and present with fidelity, without ever confusing it or replacing it with our own words and views; not the sacraments, to be administered with care and personal sacrifice, according to the intention of Christ expressed by the Church; but not even the facilities, places or material equipment of our parishes and communities: we are responsible as though they were our own and more than if they were our own, not for our benefit but for the good of the portion of God's People entrusted to our care.

At this time of the city mission and in view of making the Church of Rome ever more missionary, let us open as often as possible our churches, our parish meeting places and all the structures we have available in order to meet the needs, the schedules and the desires of our people, who are frequently obliged to keep difficult working hours and need to find priests who are ready to listen and can speak a word of faith, encouragement and consolation.

4. One of the most promising aspects of the city mission is the great number of lay people in our parishes and communities who have offered themselves as missionaries.The spirit in which they are preparing for their missionary work and the sense of Church they demonstrate are touching. They want to go as Christ’s witnesses to homes and families, work places, schools, hospitals, centres for scholarly research and communication, and places for sport and recreational activities.

But all this too has meaning for our ministry and our formation as priests. The laity are a gift for us and each priest bears in his heart those lay people who are currently, or were in the past, entrusted to his pastoral care. In a way they show the way; they help us to understand our ministry better and to live it fully. Indeed, we can learn much from our relationships and exchanges with them. We can learn from children, adolescents and young people as well as from the elderly, the mothers of families and workers, from artists and the learned, from the poor and simple. Through them our pastoral activity can be extended, overcoming barriers and penetrating otherwise difficult environments. The city mission is thus a great school of the lay apostolate in this Rome of ours, and so it is also a school of apostolate for us priests.

The special attention the Diocese of Rome is devoting to young people and the youth apostolate this year reminds me of my ministry as a priest and teacher, when I was particularly involved with young people. That experience has remained in my heart and I have tried to broaden it, so to speak, through the initiative of World Youth Days. I know that you are working hard for and with young people, and I ask you to work with them more and more. May the World Day we will celebrate this August in Paris be a further encouragement to investing the Diocese’s spiritual and human energies in the pastoral care of youth to form in a profound and truly missionary way the young people who are already close to us, but also to seek out all the young people of Rome, opening doors to them and, as far as we can, pulling down the barriers and prejudices that separate them from Christ and the Church.

5. To be a true help to young people and to all the lay people involved in the mission, and to live fully our own priesthood, it is essential always to put Jesus Christ at the centre of all our efforts. St Cyprian rightly said that the Christian, every Christian, is “another Christ” — Christianus alter Christus. But we would be even more correct to say, with the whole of our great tradition, Sacerdos alter Christus. This too is the deepest meaning of his vocation to the priesthood and of the joy felt by every new priest who is ordained.

Christ must be at the centre of this “Christological year” but also of all the the preparations for the Holy Year and the city mission. The loss of moral sense, practical materialism, the lack of confidence in being able to discover the truth and also the search for an excessively vague and ill-defined spirituality, all help to form those dechristianizing influences which tend to make our people lose their authentic faith in Christ as the Son of God and our only Saviour. We ourselves must be alert to the subtle snares that come from our surroundings and risk weakening the certitude of our faith and the fervour of our Christian and priestly hope.

It is therefore all the more fitting that Jesus Christ, his person and his mission should be the principal reference point for the continuing formation of priests. The more we grow in our relationship with him, indeed, in our identification with him, the more we will become authentic priests and effective missionaries, open to communion and capable of communion, so that we may become more concretely aware of our membership in the one Body of which Christ is the Head.

6. In my book Gift and Mystery I recalled the “Marian thread” of my priestly vocation: that thread which unites me with my own family, the parish that formed me, my Church and my homeland, Poland, but also with Italy and this Church of Rome which for more than 18 years has been my Church. “Salus populi Romani”. Mary leads us to Christ, as she led and leads the citizens of Rome to Christ, Mary “Salus populi Romani”. But it is also true that Christ leads us to his Mother. Mary brings us closer to Christ, inviting us to live her mystery as the faithful Virgin and Mother. In her, in her womb and in her humble and spontaneous devotion, was brought about the great mystery that is at the heart of the Year 2000 and of all human history: the Incarnation of the Word of God (Jn 1,14).

At the end of our meeting, I would like to renew with you the entrustment to the Mother of God offered us by St Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort. It says: Totus Tuus ego sum et omnia mea Tua sunt. Accipio te in mea omnia. Praebe mihi cor Tuum, Maria.

With these sentiments, I impart my cordial Blessing to you all.
* * * * *

The Holy Father concluded his address by saying:

Thanks be to God everything went smoothly, “secundum praevisa merita”, but also according to the grace of this second day of Lent. After yesterday’s ashes we can enter the Lenten season with trust and courage. So, have courage.

After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father said:

Thank you. I commend myself to your prayers during my Spiritual Exercrises in the Vatican next week.



TO H.E. Mr Fernando Henrique Cardoso,

President of the Federative Republic of Brazil

Friday, 14 February 1997

Mr President,

1. It is a great pleasure for me on the important occasion of this official visit on which Your Excellency, as chief executive of the Federative Republic of Brazil, and accompanied by the distinguished dignitaries of your entourage, comes to Rome to meet the Successor of Peter. In your person, I see the whole Brazilian nation, from north to south and from east to west. I wish to meet you at this time to convey to you my most cordial greetings and best wishes for peace and prosperity in every corner of this continent-country.

I do so with the greatest esteem in order to express my highest regard, but especially as a reflection of the excellent relations betweeen the Holy See and Brazil, which are are being constantly fostered and strengthened by sincere collaboration between the local Church and the State. With these relations, respectful of one another’s independence, the Church is not seeking privileges, but sufficient space to carry out her mission for the common good in the area of religion, at the service of man and woman in the full truth of their existence as persons and as members of the community and society, in the many relations, contacts, situations and structures that join them to others of the same country.

2. In addition to our good relations, something else adds to the joy of our meeting: the fact that the majority of your people profess the Catholic religion, with a glorious past of devotion to the cause of Christ and the Church and of distinguished evangelization. At the end of this century, Brazil will be celebrating 500 years of history; undoubtedly this is a significant date because it enables Brazil, in the eyes of the community of nations, to affirm its outstanding individuality in the social, economic and cultural fields, of great importance and full of promise for the new millennium now drawing near. In this regard the Church, God willing, will continue to collaborate in spreading the Gospel and will be attentive to the demands of her mission, sparing no sacrifice in order to make an ever greater contribution to the cause of the common good, as a sister with the same lofty aims as the Brazilian Government.

3. It is no secret, Mr President, that I have followed events in your country’s religious and social life with keen interest. Brazil is currently undergoing a phase of progressive development at all levels of national life, thanks to a series of significant changes that enable it to look ahead with optimism to the future. After a turbulent period in their recent history, Brazilians are continuing to mature with regard to their rights and duties. This demands from their leaders diligent dedication and a respect in full harmony with the dignity of every human being, created in “the image of God” (Gn 1,27).

On the one hand, as I have recently had the opportunity to reiterate: “It is the task of nations, their leaders, their economic powers and all people of goodwill to seek every opportunity for a more equitable sharing of resources, which are not lacking, and of consumer goods; by this sharing, all will express their sense of brotherhood” (Address at the FAO, 13 November 1996, n. 2; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 20 November 1996, p. 5). The domestic scene of Brazilian life is oriented to making a general effort of improvement, so that the just distribution of wealth will become an ever more widespread reality and will narrow the gap between rich and poor, with consideration for and solidarity with the underprivileged and the destitute. Respect for the indigenous peoples, commitment to an agrarian reform implemented in accordance with the laws in force, the protection of the environment, among other things, justify ever more courageous efforts aimed at ennobling the democratic cause. On the other hand, it is also essential to stress the undeniable rights of every human person in order to foster the cultural, spiritual and moral values that form a common heritage which must constantly be promoted and guaranteed. This must be done by starting with areas vital to the community, such as the family, children and youth, education and social welfare.

In these areas and expressions of human life, as in others, many needs arise that must be faced in conformity with the demands of justice, freedom and common solidarity; the Church also feels called to meet these needs, by virtue of the dimension of service to man belonging to her mission. On these lines, she will always act in defence of the needy, the poor and the marginalized, without neglecting any class of society, rich or poor, since all are God’s children. This is why it is clear that her efforts to collaborate in establishing justice and peace become a preference for the protection of the most underprivileged, the abandoned, the elderly and, in general, all those who seek greater respect for their natural rights. She will make use of all available means to defend life from conception to its natural end. For this reason, when radically unjust legislation is introduced, such as abortion and euthanasia, she will continue to be the faithful and staunch defender of the moral rights of citizens who seek to have their convictions respected. The Church’s Christian message sheds full light on man and the meaning of his existence and his life; she will always seek in dialogue the commitment to awakening a new culture of life (cf. Encyc. Letter Evangelium vitae, nn. 69, 82).

4. Brazil’s relations with its neighbours are currently in a phase of accelerated co-operation which, through Mercosur, is achieving an integration that will contribute to the member countries’ economic and social prosperity, with opportunities for extending it to other geographical areas of the continent. However, for the achievement of really integral progress, attention must be paid to culture and education in authentic moral and spiritual values. The Church wishes to contribute to this task, making use of her rich heritage of centuries-old tradition to build up the basic values that are rooted in Christian faith and principles. Moreover, religious teaching in the public and private schools is moving in this direction, since provisions for it were made in the various constitutions which your country has had since the 1930's. The extraordinary importance of basing any individual and social structure on lasting principles does not consist merely in supplying information far removed from the real life of society. On the contrary, the Church is firmly determined to defend in practice the values of the home and of a correct view of the Christian family. Furthermore, with a little foresight, it is easy to see on the threshold of the third millennium that the welfare of society and of humanity itself is largely in the hands of women, of those who accept the role and task which they alone, and no one in their stead, can fulfil: that of being mothers of a family, teachers who form their children’s personalities and are primarily responsible for the atmosphere in the home. No one will make the mistake of denying woman her right and duty to take part in and influence social life. In the world of science and the arts, of literature and communication, of politics, trade unions and universities, woman has her place and does very good work in it. However, it is also known to everyone that by serving the micro-society of the family with its own characteristics, the woman-wife-mother is directly serving the larger society and humanity itself. For this reason, “by defending the dignity of women and their vocation, the Church has shown honour and gratitude for those women who — faithful to the Gospel —have shared in every age in the apostolic mission of the whole People of God” (Apostolic Letter Mulieris dignitatem, n. 27).

5. Mr President, on this occasion I would like to assure you of the determined will of the Church in Brazil, shown on various occasions by the Bishops, her legitimate representatives, to continue to co-operate with the authorities and the different public institutions in serving the great causes of man and woman, as citizens and children of God (cf. Gaudium et spes GS 76). I am therefore certain that our meeting will be a good omen for constructive and regular dialogue between the civil authorities and the Pastors of the Church and will further relations between the two institutions. For their part, the Episcopate, priests and religious communities will tirelessly continue their work of evangelization and of charitable and educational aid for the good of society. They are spurred to do so by their vocation of service to all, especially the neediest, and thus they contribute to the integral advancement of all Brazilians and the preservation and promotion of the highest values.

On this welcome and solemn occasion, as I confirm the Apostolic See’s full esteem and concern for your country’s welfare, I offer you once again my best wishes for sound progress, well-being and increasing prosperity in tranquil peace and harmony among all Brazilians, as they build an ever more human and fraternal Brazil, where each of its children, in the light of Christ, may feel fully involved in creating the nation's common history.

With these cordial wishes, I pray that God will always protect the beloved Brazilian people and help its leaders in their arduous task of serving the common good of the beloved children of this noble nation.




Friday, 14 February 1997

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am pleased to extend my cordial greetings to you, dear Members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, who have gathered for your third general assembly. I especially thank the President, Prof. Juan de Dios Vial Correa, for the friendly words he has just addressed to me on behalf of you all.

I know that some of you, ordinary members, are present for the first time, since you have only recently been appointed. Likewise the corresponding members, who are taking part in this meeting for the first time, also serve in the life of the Academy as a valuable link with society. I extend my welcome to all, receiving you as a distinguished community of intellectuals at the service of life.

First of all I would like to express my satisfaction with the activity that the Academy has carried out in this short period since its foundation: I would like especially to stress the valuable works that have already been published as a commentary on the Encyclical Evangelium vitae, and the active collaboration offered to the various dicasteries for courses and study conventions on the contents of both the Encyclical and other pronouncements by the Magisterium in the delicate area of life.

2. The theme that you chose for this assembly — “Identity and Status of the Human Embryo” — with the approach of the 10th anniversary of the Instruction Donum vitae, published on 22 February 1987, is also in line with your commitment and today has a particular cultural and political relevance.

In fact, it is first of all a question of reaffirming that “the human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human to life” (Donum vitae, I, 1). Such statements, solemnly restated in the Encyclical Evangelium vitae, are entrusted to the conscience of humanity and are increasingly accepted even in the areas of scientific and philosophical research.

Appropriately during these days you have tried to clarify further the misunderstandings in the modern cultural context stemming from preconceptions of a philosophical and epistemological nature which cast doubt on the very foundations of knowledge, especially in the field of moral values. In fact the truth about the human person must be freed from every possible exploitation, reductionism or ideology, in order to guarantee full and scrupulous respect for the dignity of every human being from the first moments of his existence.

3. How can we fail to recognize that our age is unfortunately witnessing an unprecedented and almost unimaginable massacre of innocent human beings, which many States have legally endorsed? How many times has the Church's voice, raised in defence of these human beings, gone unheard! And how many times, unfortunately, from other parts has what is an aberrant crime against the most defenceless of human beings been presented as a right and sign of civilization!

But the historic and pressing moment has come to take a decisive step for civilization and the authentic welfare of peoples: the necessary step to reclaim the full human dignity and the right to life of every human being from the first instant of life and throughout the whole prenatal stage. This objective, to restore human dignity to prenatal life, demands a joint and unbiased effort of interdisciplinary reflection, together with an indispensable renewal of law and politics.

When this journey has begun, it will mark the beginning of a new stage of civilization for future humanity, the humanity of the third millennium.

4. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is quite clear how important is the responsibility of intellectuals in their task of conducting research in this field. It is a matter of restoring legal protection to specific areas of human existence, first and foremost that of prenatal life.

On this restoration, which is the victory of truth, the moral good and rights, depends the success of the defense of human life in its other more fragile moments such as its final phase, illness and handicap. Nor should it be forgotten that the preservation of peace and even the protection of the environment presuppose, by logical coherence, the respect and defence of life from the very first moment until its natural end.

5. The Pontifical Academy for Life, which I sincerely thank for the service it is rendering to life, has the duty of contributing to a deeper awareness of the value of this basic good, especially through dialogue with experts in the biomedical, legal and moral sciences. To achieve this goal, the work of your study and research community will have to rely on an intense life ad intra, characterized by exchange and multidisciplinary scholarly collaboration. It will thus be able to offer ad extra, in the world of culture and society, beneficial encouragement and worthwhile contributions for an authentic renewal of society.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the generous beginning of your activity reassures us in this hope. I wish here to encourage you to continue on the path you have taken, in memory of the praiseworthy insight of your first President, Prof. Lejeune, that valiant and tireless defender of human life.

The Church today feels the historical need to protect life for the good of man and of civilization. I am convinced that future generations will be grateful to her for having so firmly opposed the many manifestations of the culture of death and every form of diregard for human life.

May God bless your every effort and may the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, make your research fruitful. In testimony to the interest with which I follow your activity, I willingly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you all.



TO MEMBERS of the Regional Board and Council

of the Lazio region

Saturday, 15 February 1997

Mr President of the Regional Board,

Mr President of the Regional Council,
Distinguished Members of the Board and Council,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am pleased to meet you and offer you my best wishes for a 1997 full of satisfaction and success. I willingly extend them to your families and to all the citizens of the Lazio region.

I cordially greet each one of you, starting with the President of the Board, whom I thank for his words conveying your cordial sentiments and explaining the Regional Administration’s plans.

The Church’s gaze, as the President himself has pointed out, is turned to the Year 2000, which is a highly significant date, a Holy Year of special importance for many of our contemporaries. Indeed, as I wrote in the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, “the 2,000 years which have passed since the Birth of Christ ... represent an extraordinarily great Jubilee, not only for Christians but indirectly for the whole of humanity, given the prominent role played by Christianity during these two millennia” (n. 15).

In preparation for the Holy Year, the Diocese of Rome has announced a “city mission”. Its plans include the distribution in the days ahead of Mark’s Gospel to all the city's families. I am therefore pleased to present it today to you, as a testimony of the “Good News” of Jesus Christ, Son of God, the one Saviour of the world.

2. Today’s meeting affords a new opportunity to compare and harmonize the objectives of the ecclesial community and of the Regional Administration of Lazio in the perspective of this event.

It is well known that the city of Rome is, as it were, the Holy Year’s pole of attraction, in happy correlation with Jerusalem. However the role which the Regional Administration is called to play acquires great importance from many points of view in preparing for it and in carrying it out. A pilgrimage is, by its nature, a twofold experience: spiritual, in view of its deep, strong religious motives, and practical, as a result of its concrete activities such as the journey, the stops, the visits, the traveling and the meetings. The Lazio region is the actual area in which the pilgrimage’s destination is located, the city of Rome: an area rich in places of high spiritual and cultural value, and closely linked to other centres of deep significance for pilgrims, in Lazio and in the other Italian regions.

All this invites the administrators to put promptly and imaginatively into practice appropriate legislation and business initiatives in order to make the very most of the various resources the regional territory possesses. These are truly considerable: one need only think of the remarkable physical and intellectual potential which the region’s inhabitants represent; of the exceptional cultural heritage variously distributed in it; of the development of structures for hospitality, both lay and religious. I warmly hope that the Regional Administration and the ecclesial community will recognize and co-ordinate their respective responsibilities in a spirit of great collaboration, in order to create a hospitable and efficient environment in the vicinity of Rome.

3. However, the “extraordinary character” of the forthcoming Jubilee must not let us forget the “ordinary” problems of the area and of the people who live in it. The impact of the Jubilee on society demands that these problems be resolutely faced for a meaningful celebration of “the year of the Lord's grace”.

Among the social issues that call for daily attention, that of employment, connected with the occupational crisis which is especially humiliating for the younger generation, stands out. The Regional Administration is invested with specific competence and responsiblity in this area, which allow it to plan and carry out particular interventions to support the educational institutions that prepare young people to succeed in finding a place in the labour market.

While dwelling on the gravity of the phenomenon of unemployment, I would nonetheless like to address a warm invitation to everyone not to lose heart over its worrying persistence, but rather to redouble every effort to bring about an adequate solution. This solution depends of course on everyone's co-operation and on broad policies. However it is vital in this vast endeavour of society as a whole that your efforts, as regional administrators, should not be lacking. I pray the Lord that your contribution in this regard may be effective, so as to permit Lazio’s young people and families to look to the future with renewed hope.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, from work, our gaze extends to the other great tasks incumbent on the Regional Administration, such as health-care policies and those of the land and the environment. You know well how the Church is concerned with these issues that directly affect people’s quality of life. They deserve the ever more attentive and courageous consideration of the public administrators and a strong capacity for planning in close co-operation with all the forces present in the territory.

Much is already being done on these lines; but much still remains to be done, with the combined efforts of all. In particular, the commitment to the social progress of the various Lazio communities must include a firm ethical foundation, since it is only possible to build a fraternal society of solidarity on the basis of essential human values.

I pray the Lord to support the effort of each person who is motivated by a desire to serve the common good and, as I again express my hope that you will all contribute effectively to the good government of this worthy region, I impart my Blessing to each of you and willingly extend it to your families and to the entire Lazio community.

Speeches 1997 - Monday, 10 February 1997