Speeches 1997 - Friday, 24 October 1997




Saturday, 25 October 1997

Mr Ambassador,

1. I am pleased to welcome Your Excellency to the Vatican on this solemn occasion for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Morocco to the Holy See.

I warmly thank you for the greetings you have addressed to me on behalf of His Majesty King Hassan II. In return, I would be grateful if you would kindly express to him my cordial wishes for his person as well as for the happiness and prosperity of the Moroccan people. I pray to the Most High to accompany the efforts of each individual in the work of building a nation of ever greater brotherhood and solidarity.

2. By deciding that his representative to the Holy See will now reside in Rome, His Majesty the King bears witness to the importance he attaches to strengthening the already long-standing ties between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Apostolic See, in order to foster increasingly trustful relations. At a time when violence and intolerance are breaking out in many regions, it is indeed necessary that the leaders of nations as well as spiritual authorities explore ways to help build societies in which all human life is fully respected, and where the person has the first place and is recognized in his full dignity.

3. Mr Ambassador, you have stressed Moroccoís long tradition of openness and tolerance. I am pleased to recall here the visit I made to Casablanca over 10 years ago, which allowed me to address Moroccan young people. In your country there are many opportunities for Catholics and Muslims to meet, so that together they may try to improve the quality of their relations, in the hope that relationships of mutual esteem through reciprocal knowledge between believers will continue to be strengthened; this can only encourage an ever greater collaboration in the service of man and the needs of his development. In fact, as you stressed in your address, Christians and Muslims are called to collaborate in building a world of justice and peace through mutual reflection and recognition of their points of view. In giving the Most High the adoration and obedience which is his due, we must also witness together to the respect that must be paid to every individual, created in Godís image.

4. For her part, since the Second Vatican Council the Catholic Church has been more resolutely committed to the paths of fraternal contact and collaboration with all people of goodwill and, in particular, with Muslims. The dialogue we desire among believers must also lead to the guarantee that each community will be able to express its faith freely. Indeed, for the Catholic Church, "respect and dialogue require reciprocity in all spheres, especially in that which concerns basic freedoms, more particularly, religious freedom" (Address in Casablanca, 19 August 1985, n. 5; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 16 September 1985, p. 7). I am pleased to know that Catholics in Morocco enjoy everyoneís esteem and trust, and thus give a clear witness that believers of different religious traditions can live in peace and mutual respect.

5. In your address, Mr Ambassador, you referred to the situation in Jerusalem. In fact, it continues to be an acute source of concern for believers who regard this city as a symbol of the peace which comes from God. I ardently hope that the international communityís efforts to find an equitable and satisfactory solution to the delicate problem of the Holy City may at last be happily resolved as we prepare to enter the third millennium of the Christian era. Honest dialogue should allow progress on this path, with respect for justice and the legitimate rights of all the communities involved. It is also necessary that the communities surrounding the Holy Places of the three monotheistic religions be able to live there in harmony and pursue their religious, educational and social activities in full freedom and a spirit of true brotherhood, thus making this unique city the true "City of Peace". I call upon almighty God to grant that this land, so dear to the heart of believers, may at last experience an era of reconciliation between brothers and sisters and of lasting peace.

6. On this happy occasion, I would like, through you, to address my warmest wishes to the Catholic community in Morocco and its pastors. I encourage all its members to be increasingly fervent witnesses among their brothers and sisters to Godís boundless love for humanity. As the Church prepares to celebrate the great Jubilee of the Year 2000, I invite them to grow in faith and to live in unity.

7. As your mission to the Holy See officially begins, I offer you my best wishes for its success. You will always find here an attentive welcome and cordial understanding on the part of my coworkers.

I cordially invoke an abundance of Blessings from the Most High upon Your Excellency, upon your family and upon all the Moroccan people and their leaders.





Monday, 27 October 1997

Mr Ambassador,

1. I am pleased to welcome Your Excellency on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Romania to the Apostolic See. This meeting is a new milestone in the relations between the Holy See and the noble Romanian nation, a milestone which paves the way to a continually more developed and trusting dialogue.

2. I am particularly aware of the sentiments with which you begin your new mission, of the convictions contained in the words you have just addressed to me, as well as of the attention you pay to the activity of Peter's Successor and of the Apostolic See in international life and in ecumenical relations. I would be grateful to you if you would kindly convey my respectful greetings to Mr Emil Constantinescu, President of Romania. I offer my best wishes to those who have the lofty duty of serving the Romanian nation and to all the countryís residents.

3. Since December 1989, Romania has reclaimed her autonomy and is keen to develop all sectors of activity, so that the national wealth may be made available to all her citizens. I am pleased with the efforts made by the authorities to strengthen democratic institutions and to encourage the people as a whole to take an active part in public life with the proper patriotic sentiments. Like all our contemporaries, your compatriots, especially the young, need to be given a profound moral education. This formation provides the principles for guiding them in their personal decisions, in commitments to their country's service and in the relations of brotherhood and solidarity they must develop with all those who live on Romanian soil. As you have rightly pointed out, they must acquire a deep sense of personal and collective responsibility. Furthermore, this will not fail to broaden dialogue and understanding between all the members of the nation, for its internal unity and its active participation in building the greater Europe.

4. You are aware of the Holy See's attention to the dignity and advancement of individuals and peoples, as well as its desire that each should have his place in national and international life, and be able to make his contribution. In your country, as in other parts of the continent, cultural and ethnic minorities exist as well as human communities which are the result of immigration. They represent a precious resource for the benefit of all, since they can contribute their own characteristics and know-how, thus participating in the national growth and forging bonds between people. Within a society, any opposition between groups, any inclination to think that a particular group coming from abroad and keen to be integrated may represent a danger, can only weaken the country and its institutions, both at home and beyond its borders.

5. In Romania, even if there is an Orthodox majority, Catholics form a living community. They are concerned to devote themselves to serving their brothers and sisters by their involvement in all areas of social life. By their networks of charitable assistance, signs of the love Christ showed the people of his time, the Catholic communities are particularly concerned to aid the most destitute, without distinction of culture or religion. Thus their sole desire is to relieve poverty and at the same time to contribute to fraternal solidarity and mutual aid for all the country's inhabitants, thus fostering national unity.

Moreover, the different local Catholic institutions are devoted to training young Romanians intellectually, morally and spiritually, so that in the future they will take an active, responsible part in public life with respect for their homeland, and so that their personal and community life will have meaning. To fulfil this public, useful task, according to the principles of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (cf. Dignitatis humanae DH 1-2), the Church needs the authentic exercise of religious freedom and a truly democratic life to be developed, offering everyone the same opportunities for initiative and the same chances, as well as freedom of action for her religious ministers. For, "the freedom of the Church is the fundamental principle governing relations between the Church and public authorities and the whole civil order" (ibid., n. 13). In particular, considering her long experience of school and university teaching, it is important that the Church be able to maintain and develop the educational opportunities she offers the young people of Romania, and to provide Catholic children and adolescents with the catechetical teaching to which they have a right, like their compatriots of other religious beliefs. In this spirit, I keenly hope that the obstacles to restoring the property necessary for the freedom of worship and religion be removed ó property belonging to the Catholic Church before 1948 and unjustly confiscated. In the near future, by pursuing a constructive dialogue with the civil authorities, I am confident that the Catholic communities will be able to see concrete and positive signs in this regard.

6. In view of the Year 2000, I repeated the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council's appeal and ardently urged all Christís disciples to engage in dialogue in order to achieve that full unity which will be a witness for all the world (cf. Encyclical Ut unum sint UUS 1). For this reason, I invited the members of the Catholic Church to intensify their co-operation with the other Churches and Christian communities by engaging in an ecumenism which will bring full communion closer, while respecting their own sensitivities and traditions, and being careful to build on what already unites us. You know that the Catholic faithful of the different rites are always ready to pursue this course. In this regard, I am very pleased with the spiritual attitude with which you are beginning your mission and with your desire to make a significant contribution to the ecumenical process.

7. Your scholarship in anthropology, Christian history and patristics gives you knowledge of the Latin and Eastern philosophical and spiritual cultures. Mr Ambassador, you more than anyone can contribute to increasing the number of bridges between the different Christian traditions of East and West, and to intensifying trustful diplomatic relations between the Holy See and your country, relations which are based on the desire to defend individuals and peoples. Indeed, the principal service that authorities must offer their peoples is to help them further peace and mutual aid, sources of profound joy and growth for the individual and for the development of national communities.

8. As you begin your mission as the representative of Romania to the Holy See, may I offer you my good wishes. Be assured, Mr Ambassador, that you will always receive attentive support from my co-workers and the cordial understanding you may need if your work is to be fruitful and bring you all the satisfaction you can expect from it.

Upon Your Excellency, upon the Romanian people and upon its leaders, I wholeheartedly invoke an abundance of divine blessings.



Thursday, 30 October 1997

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

Dear Friends,

1. I am pleased to welcome you who are taking part in the 17th plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. I especially greet the Council's new members and consultors, meeting for the first time since the beginning of their quinquennial mandate. It is also the first plenary assembly for your President, Archbishop James Francis Stafford, with Bishop Stanislaw Rylko as Secretary. I thank you all for your valuable collaboration; I also express my gratitude to those who work in the Councilís service in Rome. I would also like to say here that I feel close, in fraternal affection and prayer, to Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, who for a long time directed your dicastery with competence and devotion.

Dear brothers and sisters, you have a particular responsibility: the appointments you have received make you collaborators with the Successor of Peter in his pastoral ministry, to serve the vast and diversified reality of the Catholic laity. I am grateful to you for having accepted this office with generous willingness. You have been called personally: the Council is therefore counting on your Christian experience, on your sensus Ecclesiae, on your ability to understand and make known the wealth of Christian life in the diversity of peoples and cultures, the experiences of education, associations and mutual aid in every milieu. Your assembly is an important time for listening and discerning the needs and expectations of the lay faithful, in order to encourage their witness and their actions, and to define better the tasks of the Council which is at their service, in the light of the Church's doctrinal and pastoral Magisterium.

2. Thirty years have passed since the foundation of the Council by Pope Paul VI, in response to what was desired by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council. I was once a consultor and I can testify to both the continuity of the work accomplished during these three decades and to its constant renewal; I give thanks with you.

The Pontifical Council for the Laity takes its inspiration from the essential teachings of the Second Vatican Council: the Church has become more keenly aware of being a mystery of communion and of being missionary by nature; the dignity, co-responsibility and active role of lay people has been better recognized and highlighted. These 30 years give us many reasons for hope: today, the maturity of the lay faithful is shown by their activities in the most diverse communities, institutions and ecclesial services. They participate more intensely in the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church, the source and summit of Christian life. They desire a systematic and complete formation. Taking into account the plurality of charisms, methods and commitments, one sees the blossoming of a new generation of associations of the faithful, which are producing abundant fruits of holiness and apostolic service, and give new vitality to the communion and mission of the Christian people.

The World Youth Days ó we remember the one in Paris, so recent and impressive ó have shown that young people are indeed the hope of the Church that is about to enter the third millennium. Young people vigorously express their need for meaning and ideals, their desire for a more human and genuine life: these sentiments are rooted in human hearts and in the culture of peoples, and deeper and more enduring than the nihilistic conformism which seems to overwhelm many minds.

In recent years, the process of affirming the true dignity of woman has met with the Churchís active sympathy, because the "feminine genius" increasingly enriches the Christian community and society. Moreover, we must admire the involvement of numerous Christians in the most varied organizations for human and social assistance. They show the constructive creativity of charity and put themselves at the service of the common good in political, cultural and economic institutions. The Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici analyzed these signs of hope in the post-conciliar journey of the Catholic laity. It is now up to you to continue in this direction. The whole Church is counting on an even more active involvement of the faithful in all the outposts of the world.

3. In the framework of preparation for the Great Jubilee, your assembly is taking place during the year dedicated to Jesus Christ (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 40-43). The Jubilee invites us to remember, in thanksgiving, the presence of the Incarnate Word: it is a question of the living memory of his Presence, here and now, as true and as new as it was 2,000 years ago. A deeper understanding of the mystery of the Incarnation can lead, in the course of the year, "to a renewed appreciation of Baptism as the basis of Christian living" (ibid., n. 41). In Paris, during the vigil for World Youth Day, the celebration of Baptism for 10 young people vigorously called the hundreds of thousands of young people assembled there, but also all Christians, to become conscious of the gift of their Baptism and the responsibilities that flow from it.

Today, the greatest challenge is that of a widespread dechristianization. The Jubilee therefore calls for a serious catechetical and missionary commitment. Every person must be able to discover the presence of Christ and the Lord's loving regard for each individual, so that he will again hear his words: "Come, follow me". This is why the world expects a clearer witness from free men and women gathered in unity, who show by their way of life that Jesus Christ offers, in total gratuitousness, an answer that crowns their desire for truth, happiness and human fulfilment. It is therefore essential for the faithful, as the theme of your assembly says, "to be Christians on the threshold of the third millennium", to live their Baptism, their vocation and their Christian responsibility.

Unfortunately, one sees an increasing number of those who are not baptized, even in regions with an age-old Christian tradition. In addition, many baptized persons are led to forget what they have become through the grace they have received, that is, "a new creation" (Ga 6,15), by putting on Christ. These situations need more than ever to be attentively analyzed. Missionary enthusiasm should be revived by offering journeys of Christian initiation for the many young people and adults who ask for Baptism, and a renewal of Christian formation for those who have distanced themselves from the faith they received.

At issue is the capital question of being taught the faith in the faith, at a time when the ability to transmit the faith in continuity with tradition seems to have lost its vigour. I am pleased with the theme chosen by your Council; I have no doubt that your reflections and final recommendations will be most useful.

It is also the duty of your assembly to plan the dicasteryís work schedule for the years to come. I know that the world congress of movements and their pilgrimages to Rome are being prepared. These initiatives have great importance. The two events you are planning for the Great Jubilee will also have special importance: the World Congress of the Lay Apostolate, returning to the tradition of regular meetings which began before the Second Vatican Council, and the Jubilee of Young People on the path of a young Church on the move.

I thank you for coming here today. In prayer, I entrust the work of the Pontifical Council for the Laity to the Lord through Maryís intercession, and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to all of you present here and to your brothers and sisters in the various particular Churches.





Friday, 31 October 1997

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. It is a great joy for me to welcome to this house you who are the Pastors of Christís Church in the North African region. You come on pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles to renew your hope and apostolic zeal, in order to carry out with ever greater intensity your episcopal ministry among the peoples of your region. I thank Archbishop Teissier of Algiers, President of your Episcopal Conference, for his forceful words expressing the sorrows and tragedies of your people, but also the joys and lights that manifest Godís action there. In receiving you, I would first like to recall the memory of Cardinal Duval, who for many years was President of your Conference and whose episcopal ministry so marked the Churchís life in North Africa. As the Successor of Peter, today I would like to encourage you in your pastoral service. Convey my affectionate greeting also to the faithful of each of your Dioceses and, through them, to all who live in the countries of the Maghreb.

2. Your presence in Rome gives me the opportunity to turn my eye to each of your communities. In recent months the Church in Libya has had the joy of welcoming a new Pastor in the Vicariate Apostolic of Benghazi. I am pleased to receive him and to wish him a fruitful episcopal ministry. I also hope that there will soon be an end to the hardships of the Libyan people resulting from the air embargo imposed on their country several years ago.

I take pleasure in recalling the visit I made last year to Tunis and the warm welcome I received from the Catholic faithful and the Tunisian people. On that memorable day in the footsteps of the holy men and women who marked out the history of the country, I was able to meet you, the Bishops of the Maghreb, for the first time together on the soil of your region.

The Catholic community of Morocco remains in my memory since the happy day of my meeting with them and Moroccan young people in Casablanca, which gave new growth to relations and dialogue between Christians and Muslims. I hope they fervently continue their witness of Gospel brotherhood among the residents of that country.

With special affection I would like to greet and encourage the Catholics of Algeria. I am aware of their sufferings and those of all the Algerian people. I am grateful to them for courageously sharing, in Christís name, in the trials of that nation so tragically affected in body and soul. Nineteen religious have shed their blood in recent years, willingly offering the supreme gift of themselves for their brothers and sisters. Among them I would particularly like to mention Bishop Pierre Claverie of Oran and the seven Trappist monks of Notre-Dame de líAtlas. As violence unacceptable to every human conscience continues to rage, I pray God to give peace at last to the land of Algeria and to lead everyone on the paths of respect for all human life towards a true reconciliation and healing of the numerous wounds inflicted on the hearts of so many people. For my part, I often appealed to all men of goodwill to work together for the restoration of peace in Algeria. I know what a painful cross that land is enduring and I am close to all who mourn the loss of their loved ones. Once again, I would like to give my assurance that the Holy See will make every effort to help restore peace to Algeria.

3. The Church in your region gives particular expression to the mystery of Godís Incarnation among men, especially the mystery of Nazareth. In fact, she manifests the discreet yet living presence of Christ, while respecting individuals as well as different human and religious communities, in order to communicate to all the fullness of the heavenly Fatherís love. The vocation of your communities is also a vocation to hope based on Christ. A little flock, which possesses no power or pretension in society save that of love, you are led to put all your trust in God, confident that it is he who is guiding you as you reach out to your brothers and sisters. St ThťrŤse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, the centenary of whose "entry into life" we are celebrating this year and whom I proclaimed a doctor of the universal Church several days ago, wrote: "From the moment I understood that it was impossible for me to do anything by myself, ... I felt that the only thing necessary was to unite myself more and more to Jesus and that all things would be given to me besides. In fact, never was my hope mistaken" (Manuscript C, 22vļ). May the Lord help you to persevere in faith and love, even when the results of your work are a long time in coming!

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, you have the weighty task of supporting the people entrusted to you on their journey to the kingdom and in their witness among their fellow men. Being of one heart within your Episcopal Conference, continually strengthen the unity of your communities, while recognizing legitimate differences! Be attentive leaders who know how to listen and encourage each individual in his Christian life so that he can grow in faith and charity.

4. In the Churchís mission priests have a special role. Men of communion in the Christian community, they serve the life and growth of Godís People by proclaiming to them the Word of Life and providing them with the Churchís sacraments. I invite them to make the Eucharist the centre of their lives and the heart of their ministry, discovering there in ever greater depth the event in which Christ, having reached out to humanity, offers his entire self for the worldís salvation.

The priest is also "called to witness in all his relationships to fraternity, service and a common quest for the truth, as well as a concern for the promotion of peace and justice" (Pastores dabo vobis PDV 18). In your region, with great generosity and courage, through a concerned presence for everyone, your priests witness to the universality and graciousness of Godís love in the midst of their brothers and sisters, often among those who are most poor. I encourage them to strengthen their witness by confidently advancing on the way of holiness. May they be certain that the authenticity of the life that comes from God is expressed above all by the quality of their spiritual being, based on their docility to the Holy Spiritís work within them.

5. I would like especially to greet the men and women religious of the Maghreb, who bring the wealth of their charisms to the Churchís life. The Church is grateful to them for their Gospel witness among their brothers and sisters.

In your particular situation, where members of the institutes of consecrated life often form an important nucleus of pastoral workers in your communities, a trustful dialogue between the Bishops and those responsible for these institutes must allow for a joint examination of the demands of pastoral life associated with the presence of their members. I deeply hope that the Superiors of these congregations will generously show their solidarity with your particular Churches, especially by fostering vocations to the Churchís witness in your region.

Changing human situations require of consecrated persons a great spirit of faith to adapt themselves to the new circumstances and different needs that arise. I encourage them to remain faithful to their charism, while having the boldness of creativity. It is authentic witnesses to Godís love that the world needs most of all. Once again I strongly urge all consecrated persons: "Live to the full your dedication to God, so that this world may never be without the ray of divine beauty to lighten the path of human existence" (Vita consecrata VC 109).

6. The role of the lay faithful, some of whom are closely linked with the destiny of your countriesí people, has great significance for expressing the profound reality of the Church. In fact, "simply in being Christians, even before actually doing the works of a Christian, all are branches of the one fruitful vine which is Christ. All are living members of the one Body of the Lord built up through the power of the Spirit" (Christifideles laici CL 55). With the priests and religious, in communion with their Bishops, the laity form the Church as Family which the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops wished to promote. I invite them to participate more and more actively in the life and witness of their communities, in order to be a radiant local Church, welcoming to all.

During the World Youth Day in Paris, I appreciated the presence of young people from your region, particularly the students. They have an important place in your communities and give an excellent witness of Gospel living among their brothers and sisters in the universities and schools, often under difficult conditions. Through you I say again to them: "Continue to contemplate Godís glory and Godís love, and you will receive the enlightenment needed to build the civilization of love, to help our brothers and sisters to see the world transfigured by Godís eternal wisdom and love" (Homily at Longchamp, n. 6; LíOsservatore Romano English edition, 27 August 1997, p.2).

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, allow me ask you to convey the Popeís affectionate greeting to the disciples of the Gospel who are in very difficult situations or great hardship. I know their courage and their devotion to Christ and his Church. May they put all their trust in the Lord, who will never abandon them!

7. At the Synods held in many of your Dioceses, the faithful have often expressed the desire for a solid spiritual and doctrinal formation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church now represents a common reference text which it will be good to make known. It is desirable that this deepening of the faith should contribute to the unity of each personís life, in order "to grow continually in intimate union with Jesus Christ, in conformity to the Fatherís will, in devotion to others in charity and justice" (Christifideles laici CL 60). A special place should also be given to knowing the culture of the people among whom Christians are called to live so that, with an attitude of listening and dialogue, they will be better able to give a Gospel witness in view of the new questions and problems that man and society are raising today.

8. Service to the very poor is a prophetic sign that Christians are committed to following Christ. I know and appreciate what has been done in your Dioceses to show the graciousness of Godís love to all people. As I had occasion to stress at the beatification of Frťdťric Ozanam: "The neighbour is every human being without exception. It is not necessary to ask his nationality, or to which social or religious group he belongs. If he is in need, he must be helped. This is what is required by the first and greatest divine law, the law of love of God and neighbour" (Paris, 22 August 1997, n. 1; LíOsservatore Romano English edition, 27 August 1997, p. 3). Through various diocesan aid organizations, such as Caritas, often in cooperation with other associations and also by personal sharing, not only do you assist in providing the destitute with the means of existence, but above all you help them to recognize their dignity as men and women created in Godís image. Your activities in the service of health care, education and human development, which must often be adapted to new needs, remain the primary way to manifest the charity of Christ and are places for meeting and sharing, where hearts can open themselves to mutual trust.

9. Among the believers of Islam your communities are a sign of the Catholic Churchís esteem for them and her desire to continue searching with them for a dialogue in truth and mutual respect. In an era too often troubled by feelings of distrust or even animosity, your communities give a selfless witness of friendship and harmony which sometimes proves heroic in the tragic situations some of them experience. It is satisfying to note that sharing in the same hardships fosters a new attitude of mutual trust and understanding. Despite the difficulties, remain firm in the conviction that dialogue is "a path toward the kingdom and will certainly bear fruit, even if the times and seasons are known only to the Father" (Redemptoris missio RMi 57).

10. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, we are preparing for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000; the coming year will be dedicated to the Holy Spirit and to the rediscovery of his presence and activity in the Church and the world. It will be an opportunity for Catholics to renew their hope, that basic virtue which "encourages the Christian not to lose sight of the final goal which gives meaning and value to life, and on the other, offers solid and profound reasons for a daily commitment to transform reality in order to make it correspond to Godís plan" (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 46). In your particular and sometimes dramatic conditions, I invite you then to seek out and highlight the signs of hope that reveal to us the Holy Spiritís work in human hearts. I pray to the Mother of Christ, the Blessed Virgin whose whole life was guided by the Spirit, to be your protectress and to lead you on the paths of trust and peace to the meeting with her divine Son. From my heart I grant my Apostolic Blessing to each of you, to your priests, deacons and religious, and to all the lay faithful of your Dioceses.

Speeches 1997 - Friday, 24 October 1997