Speeches 1996


H.E. Mr Pierre-Michel Nguimbi,


Thursday, 12 December 1996

Mr Ambassador,

Welcome to the Vatican where I have the pleasure of receiving Your Excellency on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Congo to the Holy See.

I thank you for conveying the greetings of President Pascal Lissouba, with whom I had the opportunity to converse in this house last 12 November. I would be grateful to you if you would kindly convey to the President my good wishes for his person and for the accomplishment of his task at the service of his people. I also cordially greet the people of the Congo and their leaders, and I pray that God will bless their common efforts to build a more fraternal and prosperous society.

I am pleased to hear what you say of the progress achieved by your country on the ways of development and democracy in national harmony. The nation still faces many difficult challenges. I warmly hope that thanks to the keen sense of solidarity and community life which are innate values of African culture, the obstacles and resistance to the quest for the common good can be rapidly removed. I again express my wishes that the injuries that wounded the country a few years ago are truly healed, and that an atmosphere of social peace and mutual trust is reaffirmed between all those who make up the nation, so that the forthcoming elections can take place in a calm atmosphere. Everyone will benefit from a firmly rooted and peaceful public life where all hostilities are overcome, the convictions of each respected and understanding between groups strengthened by a wise use of the differences due to race, traditions or languages, which will no longer be perceived as a threat. You mentioned, Mr Ambassador, that to administer national affairs well, honest men are required who are first and foremost concerned to serve their people. The Church ardently desires that all who are in leadership positions should always make the good of the individual and the group their main concern. I also hope that better sociopolitical relations between nations will allow the development of international co-operation in order to support the efforts of the most underdeveloped countries in their struggle to guarantee their people's satisfactory living conditions and effective security. As I said in my Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa “the fruit of solidarity is peace” (n. 138).

Your accreditation as Ambassador, to the Holy See, witnesses to your nation’s esteem and openness to the spiritual dimension. You have frequently mentioned their importance in building up the nation. I have no doubt that the mission you officially begin today will help to deepen the links that unite the Congo and the Apostolic See. The latter, for its part, has desired to promote and encourage them by the recent appointment of a permanent pontifical representative in Brazzaville.

In your courteous address, Mr Ambassador, you mentioned the Church’s role in the education of consciences to the values of love, respect, freedom and justice. The Church’s mission, in fact, is to bring men the message of peace and brotherhood that she received from her Founder. As the recent Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops emphasized, “the Church walks and lives intimately bound in a real sense to their history” (Ecclesia in Africa ). Catholics cannot neglect the serious questions asked today on the African continent in the area of justice, development and peace. It is their duty to participate to the full in building a just and peaceful society, to the extent of the means available. Thus, in the Congo, Pastors and faithful have made a precious contribution to the cause of democracy and they will not fail, in the future, to collaborate loyally and cordially with those who have the country’s true good at heart, in the struggle for human dignity and the material and spiritual fulfilment of all. Such commitments target the whole man from every aspect, and give a central place to the openness of the individual and societies to the transcendence of God. For the Church, to proclaim Christ is to reveal to man his inalienable dignity, since this dignity comes to him from God himself who created the human person in his image and likeness.

Through you, Mr Ambassador, I would like to greet affectionately the members of the Catholic community in the Congo. I encourage them to live increasingly in fraternal communion and to be true witnesses of Christ’s Gospel among their brothers and sisters. United with their Pastors, may they courageously and generously strive to express the universality of Christ’s love which surpasses the barriers of human solidarity, thereby signifying the unity of the human family freed from its ancient divisions. Christians are called to reach out in love towards every human being, as the Lord teaches them. I invite them also to work zealously with all their compatriots to remove the causes of division and to build up a society ever more prosperous and united.

I offer you my best wishes at the time when you are beginning your mission to the Holy See. Be assured that you will always find here an attentive welcome and cordial understanding in my co-workers.

I cordially invoke an abundance of divine Blessings on Your Excellency and on the people and leaders of the Congo.




Thursday,, 12 December 1996

Mister Ambassador,

I offer you a warm welcome to the Vatican as you present the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary Plenipotentiary of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to the Holy See. My esteem and affection for the people of your country remain ever great, and I ask you kindly to convey to President Negasso Gidada and the Ethiopian Government my good wishes and the assurance of my prayers.

Your Excellency has recalled the long history of relations between your nation and the Holy See, In fact, bonds of friendship and cooperation between us have existed for many centuries and indeed can be traced to the first millennium, when contacts between the Christians of Ethiopia and the Bishops of Rome were not infrequent, The Holy See holds in profound respect the rich cultural and religious traditions of the Ethiopian people and of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to which many of your fellow citizens belong. I assure you that the Holy See continues to have a keen interest in your country and a solicitous concern for the welfare of its people.

Last month, the World Food Summit in Rome, sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, addressed the important question of the need to ensure worldwide food security. Your nation is acutely aware of the dramatic and tragic effects which drought and hunger can have. The disastrous famine of 1984-1985 is still deeply etched in our minds, and this dire spectre was again evoked by the food shortages which your people have endured in more recent years. Moreover, throughout the world there are still hundreds of millions of people suffering from malnutrition, and no solution is yet in sight. For this reason, the need is ever more urgent, as I said in my Address to the World Food Summit, for people to work together in order to remedy this situation, "so that we will no longer have, side by side, . . . the starving and the wealthy, . . . those who lack the necessary means and others who lavishly waste them" (John Paul II, Address to Participants in the Inaugural Session of the World Summit on Nutrition, 2 [13 Nov. 1996]) .

Justice and solidarity are at issue here. These are the social virtues which must find expression in strategies and plans aimed at helping the poorest nations and determining fair trade terms and credit agreements. They should likewise guide the economic and political decisions of national and international bodies, as policies are developed to address the problems of the distribution and sharing of necessary resources.

It is precisely the advancement of solidarity which is one of the main objectives of the Holy See's involvement in international diplomacy. By its activity the Holy See seeks to encourage mutual co-operation between sovereign States, co-operation centred on concern for human development and the defence of human dignity (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 76). The Church and the political community are independent and self-governing, each in its proper sphere. Yet each also serves the personal and social vocation of the same human beings. For man is not restricted to temporal realties: although he lives in a specific period of history, he is called to transcendence and is destined for eternity. It is this high calling and this final destiny which must inform and shape the social, economic and political undertakings of individuals, peoples and nations (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 76).

I am pleased to note Your Excellency's comments that Ethiopia respects and values differences in religion and culture. Indeed, an indispensable condition for any people to secure for itself a just and peaceful social order is that the followers of different religious traditions should strive to live in harmony. Particularly important in this regard are the provisions in Ethiopia's new Constitution guaranteeing the individual's right to freedom of religion, both in belief and practice, in public and in private. This freedom is one of the cornerstones of human rights and is a necessary component of a truly democratic society.

Living in this climate of freedom, and guided by the light of the Gospel, the Catholics of your country will continue to contribute to the building up of society, through their involvement in education, health care and the work of charitable organizations. I appreciate your words of gratitude for this work of the Church.

Mister Ambassador, as you assume your new responsibilities I offer my good wishes for the success of your mission and assure you of the willing co-operation of the various offices of the Roman Curia. Upon Your Excellency and all the people of Ethiopia I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.


TO H.E. Mr Manzi Bakuramutsa,


Thursday, 12 December 1996

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome Your Excellency here on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Rwanda to the Holy See.

I thank you for greeting me on behalf of the Rwandan people, and of His Excellency, the President of the Republic and the Government. In turn, I would like to greet all the members of the Rwandan nation and their leaders, hoping that God will help them establish an increasingly fraternal spirit amongst all, so that each is recognized and accepted for what he is. I particularly desire to express the fatherly love of the Successor of Peter for the persons and families who are living in distress, suffering or bereavement, as well as for those who are still in exile.

In your speech, Mr Ambassador, you have wished to recall the genocide your country experienced two years ago. Since those tragic events, I have made frequent appeals so as to encourage each to seek ways of true reconciliation through dialogue and respect for justice. I rejoice at all the efforts being made today in this regard. It is urgently necessary for all Rwandans to wipe resentment from their hearts and together to seek to rebuild a national community where each will be able to find his place and live in mutual respect. For this, an atmosphere of mutual trust and solidarity must be restored among all the sons and daughters of the Rwandan nation.

The return to their homeland of several hundred thousand of your compatriots during the last few weeks offers a fresh opportunity to restore the people’s unity. It is the leaders’ task to promote dignified and safe conditions for their acceptance and I hope that all Rwandans will be ready to receive their brothers and sisters with goodwill. The refugees’ return must not cause us to forget your many fellow-citizens who are still outside the country and often in tragic situations. I hope effective humanitarian aid structures, which are always necessary, will rapidly be set up.

I hope furthermore that in seeking those responsible for the tragedy your country has suffered, justice and equity will prevail at the trials of those accused of taking part in the genocide. With regard to the Church, as I have already stressed, she cannot as such “be held responsible for the faults of her members who acted against the law of the Gospel; they will be called to account for their acts. All the members of the Church who sinned during the genocide must have the courage to bear the consequences of the deeds they committed against God and against their neighbour” (Letter to Bishop Ntihinyurwa, 14 March 1996; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 27 March 1996, p. 9). Authentic reconciliation between all Rwandans can only be achieved in new-found truth and mutual trust.

As for the Catholic Church, she intends to continue her efforts to establish lasting peace between individuals and communities, in working for the advancement of the human person and to establish a climate of truth, justice and solidarity.

Your presence here, Mr Ambassador, is a sign of the importance your nation attaches to spiritual and Gospel values, if harmony and solidarity among the people, all members of one family, are to be restored. I have no doubt that your mission, which you are officially inaugurating today, will contribute to reinforcing the ties of mutual understanding between Rwanda and the Apostolic See.

Through you, allow me to affectionately greet the Catholic community of Rwanda. With the whole people they suffered the trial; with the whole people they want to commit themselves to working zealously to rebuild and develop the country. I invite all their members not to lose heart but in fidelity to the Baptism they have received, united to their Pastors, may they be able to forgive and may they be generous witnesses to the message of love and mercy bequeathed to them by Christ. Enlightened by the Gospel, may they zealously contribute to building a new society, so that yesterday’s evils may never again be repeated in their country!

I offer you my best wishes for the accomplishment of your task and assure you that you will always find attentive and friendly assistance here with my co-workers.

I fervently invoke the Blessings of the God of peace on Your Excellency, on the leaders of the nation and on all the Rwandan people.


TO H.E. Mrs Rosemary Karpinsky Dodero,


Thursday, 12 December 1996

Madam Ambassador,

1. I am pleased to receive you at the solemn occasion of the presentation of the Letters of Credence accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Costa Rica to the Holy See, and I sincerely thank you for your words. They demonstrate the good relations existing between this Apostolic See and this noble Central American nation whose inhabitants, as you yourself have just said, while preserving profound human values in their traditions, find moral guidance in the Catholic religion which has positive repercussions on the life of Costa Rican society.

I am likewise grateful for the friendly greeting from Mr José María Figueres Olsen, President of the Republic, who was kind enough to visit me last March, thus emphasizing his personal sentiments and desire to increase Church-State co-operation for the common good. I reciprocate and ask you to convey my best wishes to the President of the country for his lofty and delicate mission.

2. Costa Rica, which I had the opportunity to visit in March 1983, and of which I still have vivid memories, has an immense treasure in its “profound human, moral and religious values which have built and sustain this country” (Arrival address, Juan Santa María Airport, Costa Rica, 6 March 1983, L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 5 April 1983, p. 10). This brings me to renew my wish that these values “may be preserved and consolidated, because in this way one can look to the future with hope and optimism” (ibid.).

One of these values is its long democratic tradition as you recalled, pointing out how, throughout your country’s progress, its leaders have retained the objective of upholding the democratic system.

The Church, which devotes all her energy to promoting whatever can foster the defence of dignity and the gradual perfecting of the human being who “is the primary route that the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission” (Redemptor hominis RH 14), promotes the value of democracy understood as a participatory system of governing the State, through special representative and controlling institutions, in the service of the common good. But it should be taken into account that a democracy without values easily tends to become totalitarian, both open and hidden, as history shows (cf. Centesimus annus CA 46).

In fact, respect for the absolute values and inalienable rights of each, which do not depend on an established juridical order nor on popular assent, requires that the democratic system always have an ethical foundation since, as I had the opportunity to state in my Encyclical Evangelium vitae, “It is therefore urgently necessary, for the future of society and the development of a sound democracy, to rediscover those essential and innate human and moral values which flow from the very truth of the human being and express and safeguard the dignity of the person: values which no individual, no majority and no State can ever create, modify or destroy, but must only acknowledge, respect and promote” (n. 71).

3. Costa Rica plays an active and highly appreciated role in the international context. After the periods of totalitarian regimes, ideological confrontations and civil wars which have plagued the Central American isthmus for several decades, systems of participatory democracy have been reinforced. In this regard, the Church has not remained on the fringe of the process of reconciliation and democratization, and desires to continue to offer her support and collaboration so that values such as justice and solidarity may always be present in the life of the nations in this region.

The Holy See notes with appreciation and interest the enthusiasm with which your country’s Government is committed to the process of Central American integration. In a context of increasingly powerful political and economic groups, there is a growing need for greater solidarity between the countries of the isthmus which, despite their cultural and social differences, are called to join forces in the fight against poverty, unemployment, drug dealing and the other evils which threaten their stability and well-being.

Costa Rica, distinguished by its traditional spirit of openness and respect, is called to make a considerable contribution to ensuring that the ideals of integration and regional solidarity are strengthened, for the benefit of all. The plight of the immigrants who have arrived in the country in search of bread, a roof over their heads and work, deserves special attention. The Costa Rican people’s deep sense of hospitality is well-known as are the authorities’ remarkable efforts to regularize the situation of these immigrants so as to integrate them into national life.

4. On the other hand, Costa Rican society is experiencing a time of great change and profound readjustment in its various environments. Its Government is committed to furthering economic and social development, to which should be added their ecological commitment, which has deeply penetrated the Costa Rican soul, in order to prevent uncontrolled development from damaging the natural beauty with which the Divine Creator has endowed his earth. The human potential represented by the youthful majority of the population, the rich civil, historical and cultural heritage, the successes achieved in the field of health care and education, must not make us forget that there are also causes for concern such as, among others, the difficult economic situation, unemployment and the public debt, both internal and external. In addition, in recent years there have been natural disasters such as the hurricane “Caesar”, which sowed death and destruction; I noticed that before it the Catholic faithful, responding to their Bishops’ appeal, mobilized themselves to help the injured rapidly and with great generosity.

In the face of these evils, it is necessary for all citizens to be involved in furthering the common good through serious and honest work, with renewed patriotism and with putting the common concerns before individual or group interests. If indeed citizens have a right of access to the services and wellbeing they need, likewise the country requires them all to contribute to peace and common development. The Church shares this task, in the area of spirituality and morals, in order to form consciences and to create a positive mentality of responsibility, respect and solidarity.

In this regard, it is of primary importance to safeguard and strengthen the institution of the family. There is no doubt that many social evils originate in the disintegration of the family, which is why it is necessary to teach the new generations the meaning of true love, the total and indissoluble gift of self through marriage which makes it possible to get the better of moments of misunderstanding and lack of trust, so that every home may be a place of love and peace and a true school for humanity.

5. Madam Ambassador, before concluding this meeting, I would like to express my best wishes to you that the mission beginning today may be successful and bring good results. I ask you once again kindly to convey my sentiments and hopes to the President of the Republic, as well as to the other authorities of your country, while, as a spiritual pilgrim to the shrine of Cartago, I implore God’s Blessing on all the beloved children of your noble nation through the Queen of Angels, Mother of all Costa Ricans.




Thursday, 12 December 1996

Mister Ambassador,

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which His Excellency President Robert Gabriel Mugabe has appointed you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Zimbabwe to the Holy See. I am grateful for the President's cordial greetings and ask you kindly to assure him of my continued prayers for the progress, peace and prosperity of your country.

The fruitful and friendly relations existing between your country and the Holy See have their foundation in the shared conviction that the dignity and rights of the human person must be upheld and defended at all times and under all circumstances. In the international forum, the Holy See seeks to draw attention to the primacy of the human person and to the moral obligations which flow from placing the genuine good of people at the centre of all efforts to foster economic and political development. One of the positive aspects of our times is the increased awareness among large numbers of men and women of their own dignity. As a result, they show a lively concern that their human rights be respected (cf. John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 26). Certainly, it is a step in the right direction when that awareness is placed as the criterion of public policies and development programmes. At last year's World Summit on Social Development held in Copenhagen there was some indication that such an approach is becoming more generally accepted. On the other hand, as is made clear by the unresolved and even increasing difficulties being experienced in certain areas of the world, progress is not a straight-forward and automatic process, as though societies were able to advance endlessly towards some sort of perfection (cf. Ibid., 27).

Citizens have to be helped to take an active and responsible part in their own authentic development. They need to be given an awareness and understanding of their rights and responsibilities. Here, education is essential; an education which is not merely a matter of acquiring knowledge and information, but is also a question of openness to the world and of respect for others in all their legitimate diversity. I note with full agreement that Zimbabwe's leaders place much emphasis on education as the soul of social dynamism, the support of all effective programmes of development, the key to society's future.

Each country is essentially responsible for its own good governance, especially in what concerns the defence of human dignity, the protection of human rights and the administering of justice, But no nation can close itself within its own borders and ignore the rest of the world. The globalization of almost every aspect of life demands new efforts of regional and even continental and worldwide co-operation and co-ordination. Zimbabwe's participation, for example, in the Organization of African Unity, and in the specific Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution, enables it to play a constructive role in finding African solutions to African problems.

In all of this, of course, Zimbabwe's Catholics are eager to lend their support and make their contribution to the nation's life and development. Their faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ impels them to respond to the cry of the uneducated, the sick, the suffering and the marginalized. This in fact is part of the spiritual mission which has been entrusted to the Church by her Divine Founder, and in fidelity to this mission she seeks to serve all people, especially those most in need. In union with their fellow citizens, the members of the Catholic community will continue their efforts in the service of the common good; I thank Your Excellency for your grateful recognition of the work of the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe and of her positive Influence on society.

Mister Ambassador, I extend to you my best wishes for your tenure as your nation's representative to the Holy See, and I assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia will be ready to assist you as you fulfil your responsibilities. May Almighty God abundantly bless you and your fellow citizens.


TO H.E. Mr Teófilo de Figueiredo Almeida Silva,


Thursday, 12 December 1996

Mr Ambassador,

I have great pleasure in welcoming you to the Vatican today and in receiving the Letters of Credence appointing you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Cape Verde to the Holy See, one more in the series of your country’s representatives, with the distinguished mission of maintaining and deepening the relations between the Apostolic See and your nation, the object of my pastoral concern and affection.

I would first like to convey my gratitude for your words of esteem, expressing the many sentiments of closeness and adherence to the See of Peter which dwell in the hearts of the large majority of your fellow citizens, as I could experience during my Apostolic Visit in 1990. I would also like in some way to recall the pleasant visit which Mr António Mascarenhas Monteiro, the President of the Republic, recently made me. I take this important occasion in order to warmly greet, through Your Excellency, the people of Cape Verde, committed to building a society that corresponds to their aspirations. I ask God to bless the efforts of all who are engaged in building an ever more dignified and prosperous country.

As Your Excellency knows, the Church’s mission is essentially religious; her diplomatic relations with the different nations aim to respond to the pressing need, at the international level, to affirm and strengthen the unity of the human family. The Second Vatican Council teaches that “the encouragement of unity is in harmony with the deepest nature of the Church’s mission” (Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes GS 42), and that the Church is and must be “a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men” (Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium LG 1).

In fulfilling this mission, the Holy See continually appeals for a more just world order, inspired by true and necessary solidarity, in order to sustain the development of the countries which are endeavouring to overcome the difficulties resulting from the adverse conditions which have beset them and which are ruining your country, as in the case of the drought you mentioned. At the recent World Food Summit, sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Association, Governments expressed the clear political will to join hands to overcome the serious emergencies which place the survival of entire peoples at risk. May the international community, in the name of that spirit of the one great family which is humanity, honour the commitments made and so give rise to a fruitful exchange of gifts in which the most underprivileged nations are given due attention, or better, priority and which should, ultimately, result in the well-being of all! Truly “it is in the interest of the rich countries to choose the path of solidarity, for only in this way can lasting peace and harmony for humanity be ensured” (Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa ).

I highlighted the above-mentioned family spirit, which will bring about calmer and better days for humanity, in my address to the General Assembly of the United Nations last year: “The idea of ‘family’ immediately evokes something more than simple functional relations or a mere convergence of interests. The family is by nature a community based on mutual trust, mutual support and sincere respect. In an authentic family the strong do not dominate; instead, the weaker members, because of their very weakness, are all the more welcomed and served. Raised to the level of the ‘family of nations’, these sentiments ought to be, even before law itself, the very fabric of relations between peoples” (Address, 5 October 1995, n. 14; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 11 October 1995, p. 10), so that the international community may aspire, with well-founded hope, to see healed the wounds still bleeding in the very flesh of countless human beings.

Mr Ambassador, passing from the context of the “family of nations” to the families of the nation, I recall how at the Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops which took place in 1994, it was stressed that on this continent, “in particular, the family is the foundation on which the social edifice is built” (Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa ), specifying that it has “vital and organic links with society, since it is its foundation and nourishes it continually through its role of service to life: it is from the family that citizens come to birth and it is within the family that they find the first school of the social virtues that are the animating principle of the existence and development of society itself. Thus, far from being closed in on itself, the family is by nature and vocation open to other families and to society, and undertakes its social role” (Ibid., 85). This is the reason why the Church in Cape Verde, as elsewhere in the world, has the defence of the family so much at heart: by safeguarding the basic cell of society, she helps to prevent its disintegration. I can assure you that Cape Verde’s Catholics continue to be determined to collaborate in the nation’s well-being, despite the vandalistic attacks on religious symbols which are unfortunately perpetrated by anonymous hands.

Moreover, when it is acknowledged as you have rightly done, Mr Ambassador, that your country “has grown, ever supported by a culture structured on the basis of Christian principles and values”, one can hope that the model of the family founded on the unity and indissolubility of marriage may be given priority as a guarantee of stability and solidarity for the nation’s social life. The Second Vatican Council made this appeal: “Civil authority should consider it a sacred duty to acknowledge the true nature of marriage and the family, to protect and foster them, to safeguard public morality and to promote domestic prosperity” (Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes GS 52). A juridical order which appropriately safeguards the family will have positive repercussions on the common good, enabling this institution to continue to be the nucleus on which society is founded.

Mr Ambassador,

At the end of this meeting, I offer you my cordial wishes that your lofty mission which starts today may bring you much satisfaction in its fulfilment. I commend to almighty God your person and your dear ones, the President of the Republic and all who are at the service of the beloved people of Cape Verde whom Your Excellency has the honour to represent to the Holy See, from this moment.

Speeches 1996