Speeches 1997 - Monday, 3 March 1997
To respond ever more appropriately to the demands of the priestly ministry, continuing formation is an urgent necessity and must continue throughout his life, for it “helps the priest to be and act as a priest in the spirit and style of Jesus the Good Shepherd” (Pastores dabo vobis PDV 73).
3. It is an essential responsibility of every Bishop to give priority concern to the formation of future priests and to seminary life. In fact, “the first representative of Christ in priestly formation is the Bishop” (Pastores dabo vobis PDV 65). If seminaries are to be true communities of formation for the priesthood, it is indispensable that candidates be well known, to allow for serious discernment of their motivation before they are accepted, realizing that “the interior call of the Spirit needs to be recognized as the authentic call of the Bishop” (ibid.). A good level of human, intellectual and moral formation will enable the future priest to acquire sufficient maturity to live his priesthood with proven personal balance and to encourage the encounter between Christ and the people to whom he is sent. I invite you to be vigilant over the quality of the spiritual formation provided in seminaries. “For every priest his spiritual formation is the ‘core’ which unifies and gives life to his ‘being’ a priest and ‘acting’ as a priest” (Pastores dabo vobis PDV 45). Future ministers of the Gospel must resolutely commit themselves to a path of holiness, if they are to become pastors according to the heart of God.
It is often very difficult to set up teams of teachers and spiritual directors. I fervently hope, despite the consequent sacrifices for other pastoral areas, that you will be able to make use of the worthiest priests who are the best suited to this ministry, so important for the Church’s life and future. For this work it is necessary to train capable priests who are aware of the Church’s real needs. Collaboration between Dioceses in the same region can help to deal more effectively with this issue.
4. As you pointed out in your reports, religious life has put down firm roots in your country, and more and more young people are responding to God’s call. I rejoice with you in this grace which the Lord has granted his Church in Zaire. In this difficult period for your nation, the witness of consecrated persons must be especially emphasized: “A particular duty of the consecrated life is to remind the baptized of the fundamental values of the Gospel, by bearing ‘splendid and striking testimony that the world cannot be transfigured and offered to God without the spirit of the Beatitudes’” (Vita consecrata VC 33).
I greet with special affection all the religious who with great self-sacrifice are dedicated to serving their poor, sick, displaced or exiled brothers and sisters, or those who in various ways and in difficult situations are working to establish greater justice and brotherhood, sometimes at the risk of their lives. With all my heart I encourage them to continue their work in a spirit of total self-sacrifice. “Look to the future, where the Spirit is sending you in order to do even greater things” (Vita consecrata VC 110). The world today needs their prophetic witness of service to God and of love for mankind, where the Lord’s presence is revealed among people who suffer. This prophetic witness, which is expressed through community life as a sign of ecclesial communion, must be extended by true brotherhood lived in the diocesan presbyterate between religious and members of the secular clergy.
In your country, several institutes of diocesan right have arisen in recent years, expressing the vitality of your local Churches. I hope that the progress of these communities is closely followed, especially with regard to the adequate formation of their members, so that they may develop according to the norms of consecrated life prescribed by the Church. The Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata will be a valuable aid for reflecting on the meaning and mission of religious life in the world today.
5. Society’s economic and social problems have a negative impact on many young people. In your reports, you have often stressed the injuries which scar them and their painful consequences for the future. The pastoral care of young people is one of your main concerns. The Catholic Church’s schools and universities make an important contribution to the human and spiritual formation of the younger generations, in view of your country's enormous needs. You also want to show attention to those who do not have access to education or have dropped out of school, and to those who are out of work, left to their own devices and without hope for the future. So many obstacles to their development have yet to be overcome! As I encourage you to be ever closer to them and to listen to their questions, together with the Fathers of the African Synod I would again like to make a heartfelt plea on their behalf: “It is urgently necessary to find a solution for their impatience to take part in the life of the nation and of the Church” (Ecclesia in Africa ); and I renew to Zaire’s young people the appeal made by that Synod to all the young people of Africa: take in hand the development of your country, love the culture of your people, and work for its renewal with fidelity to your cultural heritage, through a sharpening of your scientific and technical expertise, and above all through the witness of your Christian faith (cf. ibid.)! I invite them not to lose heart, but to face the challenges in their life with the strength Christ gives them, striving to establish true human solidarity in order to build the future. In this world they are called to live fraternally, not as a utopia, but as a real possibility. In this society, they are called as true missionaries of Christ to build the civilization of love (cf. Message for the 12th World Youth Day, n. 8).
6. In your Dioceses, the faithful must be guided to live and co-operate with their brothers and sisters of other Christian denominations. “United to Jesus Christ by their witness in Africa, Catholics are invited to develop an ecumenical dialogue with all their baptized brothers and sisters of other Christian denominations, in order that the unity for which Christ prayed may be achieved, and in order that their service to the peoples of the continent may make the Gospel more credible in the eyes of those who are searching for God” (Ecclesia in Africa ). However, so that they may truly lead Christ’s faithful on the paths of unity, it is appropriate that their fraternal relations with other Christians be built up in sincere, reciprocal knowledge and with respect of what constitutes the community to which each belongs.
7. The sects and new religious movements are a challenge today which the Church in your region must resolutely face. In order to permit Catholics to make the necessary discernment and to answer the questions posed by the activity of these groups, it is of the utmost importance to guide the faithful to a renewed awareness of their Christian identity by deepening their faith in Christ, the one Saviour of mankind. By simply and clearly presenting to them the Gospel message centred on the person of Jesus Christ living and acting in his Church, they will be helped to achieve true conversion of heart. A good knowledge of the word of God, rooted in Tradition, will lead them to acquire an authentic spirituality and to discover the riches of personal and community prayer, with the inculturation which enables each person to feel he is fully participating. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is an excellent aid in this task of formation. Lastly, an effort must be made to reinforce the unity of the People of God in the ecclesial communities, where the accent will be put on “care for others, solidarity, warmth in human relationships, acceptance, dialogue and trust” (Ecclesia in Africa ).
8. Dear Brother Bishops, as your country experiences a time of great trial and is at a turning point for its future, I strongly encourage the Catholics of Zaire to help build a harmonious society with their compatriots, where the dignity of all citizens will be equally recognized and respected. I hope that the elections planned for the coming months will be able to take place and that they will allow your country to establish a true constitutional State. The Christian communities must be particularly sensitized with regard to their responsibility in promoting justice and in the defence of the basic human rights.
For many years and again recently, you have addressed all Zairians, speaking on behalf of those who have no voice, to recall the demands of justice and peace, as well as to encourage and form the people entrusted to your care. I know the courageous role played by Catholics in the slow process of democratization which your country has undertaken, as well as in seeking dialogue for a better society. Through this involvement the Church in no way wishes to serve partisan politcs. She hopes to encourage the search for the authentic good of man and of his life in society.
Thus I invite you to persevere in proclaiming the Gospel message of hope, encouraging the faithful to a knowledge of the Church’s social doctrine, in order to work effectively at achieving justice and solidarity. The Christian communities must also engage with ever greater determination in working for reconciliation among all, rejecting every form of discrimination and violence that destroys man and the community. “In a certain sense every baptized person must consider himself a ‘minister of reconciliation’ since, having been reconciled with God and the brethren, he is called to build peace with the power of truth and justice” (Message for the World of Peace Day 1997, n. 7; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 18/25 December 1996, p. 8). The present season of preparation for Easter reminds us of the urgent need for a return to God and for conversion of heart as the way to peace.
9. In my thoughts and prayers I am close to the victims of the war which is spreading in the eastern part of your country. I urgently renew my call for the fighting to cease. I keenly hope that the parties affected by the crisis in the Great Lakes region will lose no time in initiating dialogue and negotiation to find a peaceful solution to the tragic problems that exist, while respecting the principles of the inviolability of internationally recognized boundaries and of each State’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. As you wrote recently, “national unity remains to be preserved, supported and reinforced” (Message des Évêques de Zaïre, 31 January 1997). To this end, the international community — including the regional African organizations — must “increase [their] political activity” (Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 13 January, n. 3; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 15 January 1997, p. 7), at the same time finding rapid solutions to the tragic human and moral problem of the massive number of Rwandan refugees living in Zaire, in camps or scattered in the forest, as well as of the multitudes of displaced Zairians. No person of goodwill can ignore the fate of these people, who, in the regions affected by the conflict, are living in conditions which are an affront to human dignity, and whose lives are constantly in danger. No one can remain indifferent!
I forcefully deplore the attacks on individuals as well as the pillaging and destruction of which Church property and institutions in many of your Dioceses have been victims, when, in many cases they were the only social structures still functioning. I invite you courageously to begin repairing the institutions that permit the Church to carry out her mission effectively, and to be an expression of Christ’s love for the poorest and most abandoned. For real social assistance, as has been done on several occasions, I hope that the particular Churches in Zaire, as well as the universal Church, will agree to pool their resources generously in solidarity with your communities.
10. At the end of our meeting, dear Brother Bishops, I urge you to confidently continue your struggle for peace and your commitment to establishing brotherhood. As we prepare for the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, meditating this year, with the whole Church in Zaire, on the person of Jesus Christ, the one Saviour of the world, be fervent witnesses of the hope he brings to our humanity, for “hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hears through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rm 5,5)! Turning to the Immaculate Virgin and to those who, like Bl. Anuarite and Bl. Isidore Bakanja, are courageous models of faith and love for the Church in your land, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to each of you and to all the members of your Dioceses, as I pray the Lord of peace to lavish an abundance of his gifts on the whole Zairian people.
1. To mark the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome, which you have come to celebrate in this city, you have wished to meet the Successor of Peter. I am pleased to welcome you on this happy occasion and I thank Mr Wilfried Martens, your President, for his kind words. I am delighted with your efforts to make these Treaties, the birth certificate of a new Europe, also a call to overcome the confrontations, rivalries and hatred of the past. The importance of this event, which took place 40 years ago, is obvious, especially when one realizes that at the time all European peoples were scarred by the Second World War, which in size and in its multiple effects on the human conscience exceeded all previous conflicts.
2. Today, it could perhaps be useful to seek the source of the courage of those men who are called the fathers of Europe, some of whom belonged to your political family. It seems clear that the Christian faith which motivated them and was their primary conviction gave a particular vigour to their involvement in the res publica and in the projects they formulated at that time: their political activity was never divorced from their Christian faith. They were also aware of the demands on their personal life which this faith entailed, if they were to explain clearly the basis of their activity and ensure the credibility of their political project. Indeed, the Christian who serves civil society knows that this task requires him to expend great effort, if he is to witness to Christ in his personal conduct and political activity.
Thus the authors of the European project needed a profound vision of man and society and uncommon courage to propose to their peoples — whether they had emerged from the war as the winners or losers — that they establish new relations under the banner of mutual understanding, and to adopt a European ideal, while underscoring the importance for each individual of belonging to his own nation (cf. Centesimus annus CA 50); thus these political figures instilled in the people of the continent the desire to build Europe together, by becoming aware of the role of each person and each nation in constructing a great, common home.
3. The European project was not based on the desire for power, but on the idea that mutual dialogue and esteem were essential to establishing peace on the continent and to each nation’s dynamic growth. The founding fathers of the European Union proposed to their peoples new ways of coexisting in a community of destiny, not by forgetting the past, but by assimilating it. Action had to be taken to ensure that Europe would never again be the root of wars or the home of ideologies which had destroyed so many human lives and corrupted so many consciences, as did totalitarianism whose memory is still vivid in our minds. It is also important that European peoples strive to fulfil the concrete conditions for making headway in building the Union.
4. The Holy See has followed the European project closely since it began, conscious of the difficulties of an undertaking which demands great efforts and sacrifices from the Union’s various member nations. Those who began the building of Europe and who forged a certain concept of Europe are an example to its current and future builders.
In fact, the building up of the European Union first of all presupposes respect for every person and for the different human communities, by acknowledging their right to their own spiritual, cultural and social dimensions. Today there is a great temptation to say that belief in God is merely a contingent sociological phenomenon. Faith in Christ is not a purely cultural fact characteristic of Europe; its dissemination to all the continents proves this. Nonetheless Christians have greatly contributed to forming the European conscience and culture. This is not irrelevant to the continent’s future, for if the transcendent dimension of the person is neglected in the building of Europe, especially by refusing to recognize the inspirational power of faith in Christ and the Gospel message, a large part of its foundations will be lost. When Christian symbolism is ridiculed and when God is excluded from the human construction, the latter is weakened because it lacks anthropological and spiritual foundations. Moreover, without reference to the transcendent dimension, political progress is often reduced to an ideology. Conversely, those who have a Christian vision of politics are attentive to their contemporaries’ personal experience of belief in God; they place their activity within the scope of projects that make man the focus of society and they are aware that their commitment is a service to their brothers and sisters, for whom they are responsible to the Lord of history.
5. One often hears talk of the need to build Europe on the essential values. This requires that Christians involved in public affairs should always be faithful to Christ’s message and take care to have an upright moral life, thereby testifying that they are guided by love for the Lord and for their neighbour. Thus Christians who participate in political life cannot refrain from paying special attention to the very poor, to the most destitute and to all the defenceless. They also want just conditions to be created so that families are assisted with their indispensable role in society. They recognize the incomparable value of life and the right of every being to be born and to live in dignity until his natural death.
The love of others inspires fraternal attitudes and solid relations between individuals and nations, so that the principles of the common good, solidarity and justice will lead to an equitable sharing of work and wealth within the Union and with the countries in need of aid; there should be a generous spiritual motivation if Europe is to remain an open and welcoming continent and if the dignity of our brothers and sisters is not to be denigrated, for society’s raison d’être is to enable each individual to lead “a truly human life” (Jacques Maritain, L’homme et l’État, p. 11).
6. In the years to come, your task will be important, particularly if all the countries that so wish it are to acquire the necessary conditions for their participation in this great Europe with everyone's support. With your discussions and your decisions, you belong among the future builders of European society. By restoring hope to those who have lost it, by encouraging the social integration of those who live on the continent and those who come to settle on it, you are responding to your vocation as Christian politicians.
At the end of our meeting, I commend you to the intercession of the holy patrons of Europe and ask the Lord to enlighten you and make your activity fruitful, as I cordially grant my Apostolic Blessing to you, to the members of your families and to all who work with you.
It is a pleasure for me to welcome you, Jews and Christians from the Boston area actively involved in improving relations between the followers of both our traditions. The aim which you have set yourselves, of fostering mutual knowledge and understanding, and of increasing respect and co-operation between us, is very close to my heart. I earnestly encourage all such efforts, especially when they seek to strengthen the close spiritual bonds linking the children of Abraham and the followers of Jesus of Nazareth (cf. Nostra aetate NAE 4).
I thank you for your generous support of the Holy See’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jews. Since its establishment as a result of the Second Vatican Council, the Commission has served as a meeting point for all who recognize that the divine will urges us to overcome every form of discrimination and religious intolerance. May the Lord bless you all in this work.
Mr National President.
Dear Brothers and Sisters.
1. I am pleased to receive you today on the occasion of the national convention marking the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Christian Union of Business Executives (UCID) and I extend a cordial welcome to you all.
I especially greet dear Cardinal Michele Giordano, Archbishop of Naples, your national ecclesiastical adviser, and I thank him for the kind words he addressed to me on your behalf, as he explained the basic characteristics of your association. With him I greet Bishop Quadri, who is always attentive to questions in the Church’s social teaching. I also extend my greeting to the national president, Prof. Giuseppe De Rita, to the national advisers and to all the members of your association.
2. Your statutes, recently approved by the Italian Episcopal Conference, include among the principal goals of the Christian Union of Business Executives “the knowledge, implementation and dissemination of the Church’s social doctrine”, “the Christian formation of its members and the development of a high professional morality”, as well as co-operation among the employees of a business, with respect for the central value of the person and of solidarity.
These objectives commit you to considering your association as an outpost, so to speak, of the Church’s mission in the world of economics and business, to promote Gospel values by opposing mentalities that debase the dignity of man such as the various expressions of statism, the excessive search for profit and different forms of discrimination.
This commitment to giving witness, which has guided the first 50 years of the UCID, has become ever more urgent in view of the unprecedented situations in our time, which call on businesses to promote a real well-being that can never be separated from human and ethical values.
3. In this regard, the Church’s social doctrine considers the capacity for initiative and entrepreneurial ability as an essential part of “disciplined and creative human work” (Centesimus annus CA 32), while acknowledging the businessman’s leading role in development. Energy, the spirit of initiative and of creativity, indispensable for a businessman, make him a key figure for social well-being.
The right to entrepreneurial activity and free economic initiative should therefore be safeguarded and developed, because it is “important not only for the individual, but also for the common good” (Sollicitudo rei socialis SRS 15). Corresponding to this right is the businessman’s responsibility to make his business a community of men who work with others and for others (cf. Centesimus annus CA 32) and together they help one another to mature as human beings, without marginalizing anyone.
It will be the task of your praiseworthy Union to cultivate this essential function in the vast, dynamic world of Italian business, by drawing attention especially to the urgency of offering new job opportunities to the far too many people who today are in critical need of them.
4. The correct relationship between profit and solidarity represents another fundamental point of the Church’s social teaching. In fact, a conflict situation between these demands would not only harm a firm’s efficiency but would betray its authentic purpose, which “is not simply to make a profit, but is to be found in its very existence as a community of persons” (Centesimus annus CA 35). It will therefore be the businessman’s task to create suitable conditions so that in the firm the development of the worker’s ability is harmonized with the rational production of goods and services.
The current phenomenon of economic globalization, which is bringing profound changes to the economic world, highlights the growing interdependence of those involved in it. Experience shows us each day that in the contemporary world we all depend on everyone. Solidarity, more than a duty, is a need that arises from the same objective network of interconnections. Therefore, attention to the value of solidarity in the production process not only promotes the good of the person, but also helps to overcome the profound causes that hinder full development.
I urge your praiseworthy Union to work tirelessly so that economic laws may increasingly be at the service of man. It is indeed necessary that, in the transformations that are taking place in business and the production process, that man should always have the leading role that is his due.
5. The history of the Christian Union of Business Executives is interwoven with political and social events in Italy over the last 50 years.
Your association has wanted to be involved in the profound changes that have taken place in these years by offering the world of production valuable incentives for humanizing work and business, and by affirming the values of freedom, justice and solidarity. The new role of social subjects vis-à-vis the State and the concrete prospects of European integration today call Christian businessmen to take new leadership in the Italian Catholic movement and in society, in order to provide concrete answers to the challenges of the moment and to contribute effectively to the cultural and economic growth of the country.
As I deeply hope that your Union can carry out its new tasks with the skill and generosity shown thus far, I entrust you all to the maternal protection of Mary and impart to each of you, to your businesses and to your families a special Apostolic Blessing.
1. I am pleased to welcome you, dear Italian volunteers who are members of the “Hospitalité Notre Dame de Lourdes”. I greet you with affection, together with the members of the Committee of the Archconfraternity, who wished to accompany you. I also extend my greeting to the members of the Boston College Chorale, who have come from the United Sates of America.
This meeting offers me a fitting occasion to underscore the value of hospitality, an essential and distinctive dimension of Christian charity, the work of mercy that the disciples of Christ —as individuals, as families and as communities — are called to perform in joyful obedience to the Lord's command.
2. Because of modern conditions of life, the values of acceptance and hospitality, present in every culture, risk being weakened and lost: they are actually delegated to organizations and structures that specifically provide for them. Even if this responds to appropriate organizational demands, it must not be reflected in a lessing of our sensitivity and attention to our neighbour in need. Professional hospitality is certainly valuable, but it should not be at the cost of that culture of hospitality which draws its deepest motivation from the word of God and as such remains the patrimony of the entire People of God.
As an example of this, I like to recall the passage in the Book of Genesis which tells of Abraham and the three mysterious guests at the oaks of Mamre (cf. Gn Gn 18,1-10). In the likeness of three passing strangers, the ancient patriarch welcomed God himself. Hospitality finds its fulfilment in Christ, who welcomed our humanity in his divine person, becoming as the liturgy says, “a guest and pilgrim among us” (Roman Missal [Italian edition], Common Preface VI).
3. Dear brothers and sisters, as your activity also testifies, hospitality acquires special importance with regard to the pilgrimage experience, especially when the pilgrims are the ill or very elderly, who need special attention. How many saints have achieved the perfection of charity precisely by assisting the sick with that love which only Christ, received in the Eucharist and served in one’s brother, is able to communicate!
One of the important aspects in the preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 is that of deepening our spirit of hospitality. Every ecclesial community is called to develop this dimension, by opening its heart and making room in it for all those who knock on its doors. Thus, for every particular Church the Holy Year is a providential opportunity for conversion to the Gospel, for welcoming and serving the sick and suffering.
4. Welcoming our brothers and sisters with care and willingness must not be limited to extraordinary occasions, but must become for all believers a habit of service in their daily lives. In this regard, dear brothers and sisters, your active involvement in the pastoral care of the sick, as carried out in your Dioceses, is truly commendable. It expresses your desire to prolong the experience of the pilgrimage to Lourdes in the everyday life of the Church.
I therefore encourage you to continue generously in your commitment, always in active communion with the Bishops. With the wish that your service may be a source of holiness for you and of real comfort to the people you assist, I invoke the special intercession of your patroness, Our Lady of Lourdes.
5. I am also happy to greet the Boston College University Chorale and to wish you a pleasant stay in the city of Sts Peter and Paul. I hope that your visit will help you to be sensitive to the need to deepen your attachment to authentic Christian values and a transcendent vision of life’s meaning. Belonging to the University Chorale surely brings you much satisfaction, and I pray that it will also help you to develop a deeper spiritual life through praise of God in song. May the Lord bless you all; and take my greetings to your families and friends.
6. On this day, 8 March, dedicated to reflection on the dignity and role of woman, I wish to address a thought to all the women of the world, especially to those who unfortunately find themselves in situations of marginalization and discrimination. May every woman be able fully to express the richness of her personality in the service of life, peace and authentic human development!
To you all, dear brothers and sisters, I again express my appreciation for this welcome visit and impart my cordial Apostolic Blessing.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. I am pleased to address you together, Bishops of the Apostolic Region of Provence and the Mediterranean, after the personal meetings which your ad limina visits have enabled me to have with you, and I thank you first of all for sharing your pastoral concerns with me. Your Dioceses constitute a region that is quite varied but to which the Mediterranean gives a common orientation; this is one of Europe’s loveliest areas, which attracts not only tourists but also longterm residents. Thus you are in an area with multiple contacts. The presence of so many foreigners leads you to develop an ecumenical dialogue with Christians from the East and with the Ecclesial Communities which arose from the Reformation. On the other hand, interreligious dialogue acquires particular importance because of the presence among you of many believers of Islam; exchanges with them will certainly contribute to the serious studies, being done within the framework of a new specialized institute. I also recall that your region includes several important universities, whose work is extended by active institutes for scientific research. The Catholic communities in your Dioceses are often small and priests tend to be scarce. But you are aware of and share the zeal of the clergy and the laity, their fidelity to their prestigious and ancient origins linked to the apostolic generations, their support for a very respectable popular piety, as well as for the renewal efforts achieved by your Dioceses as a whole. Please convey the Successor of Peter’s encouragement to all the faithful, to the priests, and to the contemplative and apostolic religious.
You have told me of your concern for the poor, often all the more acute since in your region there is a starker contrast than elsewhere between poverty and affluence. It is to be hoped that all the faithful will seek to promote a sense of total and impartial public service in society for the benefit of all the inhabitants regardless of their origins, in solidarity and mutual aid, and that they will generously practise the precept of love of neighbour. May they all join forces each day, to be convincing witnesses of Christ and of the demands of the Gospel! In this spirit, I would like to give special encouragement to the pastors and faithful of the Diocese of Ajaccio for their commitment to reconciliation and fraternal peace in their tormented society.
2. The subject on which I would like to reflect with you further today is the pastoral care of the liturgy and sacraments, taking into account the essential role every Bishop and the Episcopal Conferences have in this area, as I recalled in my Apostolic Letter for the 25th anniversary of the Council’s Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, (4 December 1988, nn. 20-21).
Speeches 1997 - Monday, 3 March 1997