Speeches 1997 - Thursday, 24 April 1997

3. Mr Ambassador, you have wished to focus your speech on the commitment to peace.

As you so rightly recalled, in the Maltese tradition peace is an authentic vocation favoured also by the island’s geographical position. To be nourished and bear fruit, this vocation must remain anchored in its deep and solid Christian roots. Peace, in fact, is not merely one value among many, but is as it were the synthesis and full fruit of all the values which make up the integral development of the human person and his social relations. There is no commitment for peace without a commitment to truth, justice, active solidarity and freedom, as my venerable predecessor Pope John XXIII recalled in his memorable Encyclical Pacem in terris (cf. ch. III, AAS 55 [1963], 279-284).

This is why peoples who have received and accepted the Christian message down the ages are called, from generation to generation, to follow its enlightened inspiration, as the recent pastoral letter of the Maltese Bishops underlined. This need is more valid and necessary than ever for the people of our time if they mean to bequeath to the generations of the third millennium solid spiritual and ethical foundations on which to build what the Church calls the “civilization of love”.

This involves the demanding task of combining the values of modernity and progress, in the various fields of human knowledge and activity, with the perennial truths and values which have also motivated the Maltese people’s culture.

4. Among these values I want to emphasize those primary values of human life and the family, the proper understanding of which is threatened by relativistic concepts, often spread by the mass media.

As regards the value of life, you are well aware that the Church is mobilized on a world scale in a great challenge, on many fronts, both old and new. My intention in the Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae was to remind believers, but also all people of goodwill, of the Christian message on life, and the need to promote a renewed culture of human life.

This commitment starts with the family itself, which, founded on marriage, forms the natural environment in which the person, in the various stages of his life, is accepted, educated, cared for, from conception until death.

In order to safeguard adequately these two primary values, it is important that the civil institutions, through the commitment of those who are called to work in them, should refer to ethical criteria which are truly respectful of man and his dignity.

5. For all these reasons, Mr Ambassador, collaboration between the Church and the State is highly desirable and I am sure that you will be able to contribute to the development of this co-operation in accordance with your country’s best traditions. I assure you that among my collaborators you will always find a welcome, attention and prompt understanding.

While I renew my wishes for a serene and fruitful mission together with my best wishes for your loved ones, I invoke upon you, the authorities and all the people of Malta an abundance of heavenly Blessings.






24 April 1997

Mr Ambassador,

It gives me great pleasure to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Iceland to the Holy See. I am grateful for the good wishes which you have brought from President Ólafur Ragnar Grimsson and from the Government and people of Iceland, and I gladly reciprocate with the assurance of my prayers for your country. Your presence here today is a pleasant reminder of my Pastoral Visit to your country in 1989. During that visit I was able to experience its unique natural beauty and the traditions of hospitality, generosity and love of justice and freedom of which Icelanders are justly proud.

I deeply appreciate your kind remarks regarding the contribution which the Catholic Church has made to the cultural, social and spiritual life of Iceland. By her Divine Founder the Church has been entrusted with a mission that is above all else spiritual and religious, directed to the transcendent and eternal destiny of the human family. While she carries out this mission through her preaching and religious activity, the Church remains at the same time firmly committed to promoting the progress of peoples through the social and educational institutions under her direction. An essential aspect of this work is the forming of people's consciences in the fundamental truths and ethical values which serve as the basis of a society truly worthy of man.

In today's world, a weakening of adherence to such truths and values can constitute a real threat to peaceful coexistence and creative cooperation between peoples and nations, with immediate and particular interests overshadowing concern for the wider good of the human family as a whole. The Church is convinced that the complex and weighty problems affecting peace in the world can be solved only if people respect the universal moral norms which God has written on the human heart, and only if leaders govern according to them. These norms are humanity's most reliable guide for the authentic renewal of social and political life.

Through its involvement in the international community, the Holy See strives to contribute to a more extensive awareness of certain universal human rights which flow from the very nature of the person, with a corresponding moral duty on the part of everyone to defend and respect them. On the threshold of a new millennium, fresh efforts must be made to guarantee such rights in the laws of nations and in international agreements, especially for the benefit of the most vulnerable and threatened members of society. Care for the homeless, refugees, the handicapped, the elderly and the terminally ill - care based on profound respect for their human dignity - is an authentic measure of civilized life. The Catholic Church will continue to serve the common good through her many educational, social and health-care activities and by forthrightly stating her opposition to attempts to legitimize any actions "contrary to the fundamental principles of absolute respect for life and of the protection of every innocent life" (Evangelium Vitae EV 72). The Catholics of Iceland are committed to working in harmony with their fellow-citizens for the establishment of a civilization of love, that is, "to build a world of justice, peace and love, where the life and equal dignity of every human being, without discrimination, is defended and sustained" (Homily, Reykjavik, 4 June 1989, No. 4).

Another matter to which you have referred, one which has profound moral implications, is the need to find means to overcome the continuing recourse to force as a means of resolving disputes. In order to surmount this spiral of violence, the entire international community must resolutely work to create a climate in which dialogue is accepted as the only viable, responsible and ethical way of defending the rights of peoples and nations. Dialogue however will only be successful if it is also accompanied by specific initiatives designed to curtail the transfer of immense quantities of arms to highly volatile regions. Decisive efforts must be made to stop the immoral and scandalous arms trade which violates international conventions and is closely linked not only to actual conflicts but also to terrorism, organized crime and drug trafficking. Such illicit trade is even more distressing when poorer countries are persuaded to purchase weapons of destruction, while being unable to provide their own citizens with the basic necessities of life. It is my hope that Iceland will continue to raise its voice against the dangers of the arms trade - especially the widespread illicit sale of all types of weapons and military materials - and in favour of legally binding international norms. I wish to repeat what I wrote in my Message for the 1997 World Day of Peace: "it is urgently necessary to develop a consistent 'culture of peace', which will forestall and counter the seemingly inevitable outbreaks of armed violence, including taking steps to stop the growth of the arms industry and of arms trafficking" (No. 4).

Mr Ambassador, I am confident that as you fulfil the obligations of your lofty mission the cordial bonds which exist between the Republic of Iceland and the Holy See will be further strengthened. I offer you my good wishes and assure you that the offices of the Roman Curia will always be ready to assist you. Upon Your Excellency and your fellow-citizens I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.






24 April 1997

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People's Republic of Bangladesh to the Holy See. I thank you for the greetings which you bring from the President, His Excellency Mr Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed, and from the Prime Minister, Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina. I ask you kindly to assure them of my prayers for the peace and well-being of your nation and its people.

You have referred to the Holy See's commitment to the service of the human family. Indeed, in its diplomatic activity the Holy See seeks that "wholesome mutual cooperation" (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes GS 76) between the Church and the political community which redounds to the benefit of individuals, nations and the world at large. At the centre of this cooperation there must be shared concern for people's integral well-being and for the defence of human dignity. The possibility of close cooperation between the Church and the State is ultimately based on our recognition of the fact that the purpose of all social and economic development is the service of man in his totality, taking into account not only his physical needs but also the requirements of his intellectual, moral and religious life.

Man is both a material and a spiritual being. Accordingly, the full human dimension of the person involves both material and spiritual values, and it is the spiritual values which enjoy pre-eminence. For it is the latter which give fullness of meaning to material realities and indicate the proper use that should be made of them. Respect for this hierarchy of values is paramount in ensuring that social, economic and technological development truly serves the well-being of every person and of the whole person (cf. Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 13 January 1997, No. 4). The Church is fully confident that in defending and fostering spiritual values she is making an essential contribution to the realization of humanity's deepest aspirations to peace, genuine solidarity and progress in every field of human activity.

Your people are the heirs to an ancient civilization with a rich diversity of cultural traditions, from which a common national identity has been forged. My fervent prayer is that by further stengthening the harmony that already exists between the various sections of society, Bangladesh will be ever more a nation in which its citizens will be able to contribute effectively to the country's development and will increasingly share in the benefits of economic and social progress.

As I have often had occasion to remark, chief among the conditions required for a peaceful society is the development of a culture based on respect for others, including respect for their right to religious freedom, a freedom which applies to all individuals and communities. Religious minorities especially must be guaranteed the freedom to believe and worship as communities according to their own traditions, and to provide appropriate religious education and training for their own members. Any attempt to impede the exercise of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience inevitably has serious negative consequences for social order and peace in society. Without compromising their religious beliefs, all citizens should be able to feel that they are equal members of their national community and that their contribution to its progress is accepted and appreciated. In this way civil society can count on believers who, because of their deep convictions, will not be dominated by prevailing ideological trends nor hesitate to act in accordance with their aspirations to all that is true and right, an essential condition for securing peace (cf. World Day of Peace Message, 1 January 1988, No. 3).

Here I would like to express my gratitude for Your Excellency's remarks on the presence and involvement of Catholics in Bangladeshi society. Although they are one of the smallest minorities, Catholics in Bangladesh are working with their fellow-citizens for their country’s economic, social and cultural development. It is also through their dedication that the Church is able to pursue her activity in the fields of education and social assistance. She seeks no special privileges as she offers these services, but merely the freedom to pursue her spiritual mission and to serve the integral good of society. I am confident that the Government of Bangladesh will continue to maintain fruitful contacts with the country's Catholic Bishops regarding matters of mutual interest and collaboration.

Mr Ambassador, I am certain that as your country's diplomatic respresentative you will do much to strengthen the bonds of friendship between your Government and the Holy See. I offer you my best wishes for the success of your mission and I assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia will be ready to assist you in fulfilling your duties. Upon Your Excellency and all the people of Bangladesh I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of the Most High God.





Thursday, 24 April 1997

Mr Ambassador,

1. Welcome to the Vatican, where I have the pleasure of greeting Your Excellency for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Sudan to the Holy See.

I thank you for your greetings on behalf of President Omer Hassan Ahmed Elbashir and the Sudanese people. I would be grateful if you would kindly convey my best wishes to them for the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation. I pray to the Most High that he will inspire in everyone sentiments of mutual understanding and brotherhood, which will allow a society of greater justice and solidarity to be built, one based on the real recognition of the rights of all its members.

2. In your address you spoke of the efforts the Sudan has made to achieve peace and to guarantee each citizen his rights. It is indeed necessary that all nations truly recognize the basic rights of the person in the diversity of human and religious communities to which they belong. Differences, too often considered a burden or a threat to national unity, on the contrary show the richness and greatness of human nature, created by God so that all who share it might be part of a single human family. Peace is built on true solidarity between individuals and human groups.

3. Mr Ambassador, you have wished to acknowledge the Holy See’s contribution to peace. It is the Church’s duty tirelessly to recall the inalienable dignity of the human person, whatever his origin, race, sex, culture or religion. This also means that human communities, even when they are minorities, must be able to exist with their own characteristics, and that it is the duty of the State to recognize their legitimate place by respecting them and by ensuring that differences contribute to the common good. This right to existence includes that of the freedom to turn to the Creator according to one's conscience, to seek the truth and to be able to adhere to it without constraint, as well as to express one’s faith freely and publicly, and to have use of places of worship, education and social service in complete security. As I had the opportunity to state to the 50th Assembly of the United Nations, all human communities must be respected in their search to answer to the problem of human life. “Here we can see how important it is to safeguard the fundamental right to freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, as the cornerstones of the structure of human rights and the foundation of every truly free society. No one is permitted to suppress those rights by using coercive power to impose an answer to the mystery of man” (Address to the United Nations, 5 October 1995, n. 10; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 11 October 1995, p. 9).

4. The dialogue between believers of different religious traditions, to which Catholics are committed, must be each person's effort to create, in the truth, better understanding, so that peace and justice may be firmly established among all citizens. From this perspective, the Catholic Church keenly hopes that Christians and Muslims can work together for the development of their country in mutual respect for one another’s convictions and their free expression.

5. Your presence here testifies to your country’s desire to give an important place to the spiritual values necessary for building a truly human society. I hope that your mission will help reinforce relations of mutual understanding between the Sudan and the Apostolic See, for the good of all Sudanese, Christians and Muslims.

6. Through you, Mr Ambassador, permit me to greet the Sudan’s Catholic community, whose trials and courage I know well. United with its Pastors, may it stand firm in the faith and put its hope in the power of God who hears the calls of the weak and defenceless. I encourage Catholics to witness fervently to Christ’s love among their brothers and sisters, in the footsteps of BI. Bakhita. May they know that the entire Church is in solidarity with all who are suffering in body or soul!

7. As you begin your mission, I offer you my best wishes for its success. Be assured that you will always find here an attentive welcome and cordial understanding from those who work with me.

I invoke a great abundance of Blessings from the Most High on Your Excellency and on all the Sudanese people.




Thursday, 24 April 1997

Mr Ambasssador,

1. I welcome Your Excellency with joy on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Syrian Arab Republic to the Holy See.

I thank you, Mr Ambassador, for conveying to me the wishes of his Excellency Mr Hafez al-Assad, President of the Syrian Arab Republic. I would be grateful if you would reciprocate my respectful wishes for his person and for lengthy service to all his compatriots, as well as my best wishes for those who are responsible for serving the nation and the whole people of Syria.

2. You have recalled the importance of the traditional spiritual and moral values of your compatriots and the inhabitants of your region, marked by the history of St Paul, one of the pillars of the Church, who was tirelessly committed to developing these same values with the peoples he met. It is still essential today to give priority to these values which encourage authentic dialogue between the members of the monotheistic religions and put persons and different religious groups on an equal footing in society. As I recently recalled, the leaders of nations have the serious responsibility “to direct by their decisions harmonious living between different peoples, cultures and religions” (“Urbi et Orbi” Message, 30 March 1997, n. 5).

3. Dialogue, whose importance you have stressed, implies freedom of conscience and the religious freedom of persons and families. This basic freedom is a school of humanity and brotherhood for all believers (cf. Message on the 50th Anniversary of the End of the Second World War in Europe, n. 12, 8 May 1995). It contributes to building an increasingly welcoming society. In fact, through respect for their own spiritual identity, men and women feel that their person is better appreciated and are thus more capable of committing themselves to the social development of the country which they love, since it is their land of origin. This vision must inspire the regional situation, and each one must strive, despite difficulties, to support the search for a just and lasting world peace.

But, in all nations “peace cannot be just nor can it long endure unless it rests on sincere dialogue between equal partners, with respect for each other’s identity and history, unless it rests on the right of peoples to the free determination of their own destiny, upon their independance and security” (Address to the Diplomatic Corps, n. 3; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 13 January 1997, p. 6 ).

Like their Muslim brothers and sisters, Syrian Catholics draw their dynamism from religious practice, essential to their faith, in the heart of living communities called to gather regularly around their pastors. Although in your country they are sparse, they hope to be involved with their compatriots in the service of peace and in building the nation. You know, Mr Ambassador, that the efforts of the Church and of Christians are particularly oriented to the integral good of persons and peoples, by reason of the spiritual, religious and moral mission of the Church within the international community, a mission to which you have kindly referred.

4. I am particularly sensitive to your Government’s words of esteem for the Apostolic See's efforts to promote peace, justice and interreligious dialogue. Everywhere in the world, the Catholic Church strives to express her contemporaries’ thirst for dignity and justice, and to lead people on the way of peace; she acknowledges and greets the attention of the international community and the many actions undertaken in this domain in past years. But she also measures how far each people still has to go to rediscover its freedom without ambiguity, and each country, its full sovereignty (cf. Address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, n. 7, 12 January 1991; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 14 January 1991, p. 2).

In the cause of peace, the Church, which has a role distinct from that of the civil authorities, desires only to serve the common good (cf. Gaudium et spes GS 76).

Because of her special attention to man, without usurping the place of the country’s legitimate authorities, the Church and Christ’s faithful present in the different nations also desire to participate in educating consciences in the essential principles and fundamental values of social life, such as respect for the inalienable dignity of every human being, solidarity and brotherhood between all the human members of a nation.

5. At the beginning of your mission, I offer you my best wishes. Be assured that you will always receive from my co-workers an attentive welcome and cordial understanding, to help you succeed in your activities.

I wholeheartedly invoke the Almighty’s blessings upon Your Excellency, the leaders and the people of Syria.





Thursday, 24 April 1997

Mr Ambassador,

1. I am pleased to welcome your Excellency to the Vatican on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria to the Holy See.

I would be grateful if you would convey to President Liamine Zéroual and to the Algerian people my best wishes for the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation, as I pray to the Most High to grant them the gift of peace so greatly desired.

2. Mr Ambassador, you have stressed the need for respect of the beliefs of each person as well as for individual and collective freedoms, in order to establish a true State of law. To advance on the paths of progress and harmony, it is indeed indispensable to satisfy people’s just aspirations, opening future horizons founded on real solidarity between all citizens and on their mutual acceptance of different sensitivities. But the responses to these expectations cannot be limited to purely economic and material dimensions; they must take into account every aspect of human life, especially by permitting the essential spiritual and cultural needs of individuals and society to be legitimately satisfied.

3. I am pleased with what you said about your country’s commitment to partake in building a world of greater solidarity and justice. To reach stability and peace between nations, it is necessary today to promote understanding and co-operation. In this perspective, the efforts made by the Mediterranean countries to encourage a better mutual understanding and their peoples’ wellbeing must receive support. Dialogue between believers of different religious traditions must also allow a spiritual openness that favours fruitful collaboration in the service of the local peoples.

4. As we approach the third millennium, the Catholic Church hopes that nations and human communities will set out together “on a true pilgrimage of peace, starting from the concrete situation in which we find ourselves” (Message for World Day of Peace 1997; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 18/25 December 1996, p. 3). For too many people violence has become a tragic daily reality. The sufferings it causes appeal to the consciences of all people of goodwill and invite them to constantly seek the path of reconciliation. This path is difficult and strewn with obstacles; yet the culture of violence must give way to the “culture of peace”. Only the sincere will to reach effective reconciliation can enable resistance to be overcome, and the common good to be sought before individual interests.

By your presence here, your country is showing its desire to give an important place to the spiritual and moral values without which a society cannot be built to last. I hope that the long-standing ties between the Apostolic See and Algeria will allow an ever greater understanding that will contribute to harmony between the human communities.

5. Through you, Mr Ambassador, may I address an affectionate greeting to the small Catholic community in your country. In recent months it has several times been struck tragically by blind violence, thus sharing the condition of so many of your compatriots. I hope that the sacrifice of the Bishop of Oran, of the Trappist monks of Notre-Dame-del'Atlas, as well as that of several other men and women religious may be for your country a pledge of hope and faith in a future of justice and mutual respect. I repeat to the Bishops and Catholics of Algeria my encouragement in their generous witness to brotherhood with all the Algerian people. I remain close to them, and I pray God that the moment of reconciliation and peace will come quickly to this land which has suffered so many trials.

6. At the start of your mission, I offer you my best wishes for the noble task that awaits you. I assure you that you will always find an attentive welcome and cordial understanding among my co-workers.

I willingly invoke on Your Excellency and on all the Algerian people, an abundance of the Almighty’s blessings.



Friday, 25 April 1997

Mr President,
Dear Academicians,

1. I am pleased to meet you on the occasion of the plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, dedicated to a reflection on the theme of work, already begun last year. The choice of this theme is particularly appropriate, for human work “is a key, probably the essential key, to the whole social question” (Laborem exercens LE 3). The deep economic and social transformations we are experiencing make the theme of work more and more complex and it has serious human repercussions, for it gives rise to anxieties and expectations in many families and many persons, especially the young.

I thank your President, Professor Edmond Malinvaud, for his courteous words and for the availability he is showing to the very young Pontifical Academy. I renew my gratitude to you all for the generosity with which in this institution you put your expertise not only at the service of science, but also of the Church’s social doctrine (cf. Statutes, art. 1).

2. In fact the service which the Magisterium must give in this area has become more demanding today, because it must address a situation in the contemporary world that is changing with extraordinary speed. Of course, the Church’s social teaching, to the extent that she proposes principles based on the natural law and the Word of God, does not vary with the changes of history. However, these principles can be constantly clarified, especially in their concrete applications. And history shows that the corpus of social doctrine is continuously enriched with new perspectives and aspects in relation to cultural and social developments. I am pleased to stress the basic continuity and dynamic nature of the Magisterium in social matters at the time of the 30th anniversary of the Encyclical Populorum progressio, in which Pope Paul VI, on 26 March 1976 after the Second Vatican Council and on the way opened by Pope John XXIII, proposed a penetrating reinterpretation of the “social question” in its world dimension. How can we fail to recall the prophetic cry he uttered, making himself the voice of the voiceless and the most underprivileged peoples? Paul VI wanted in this way to awaken consciences and show that the objective to reach was integral development through the advancement “of every man and of the whole man” (cf. Populorum progressio PP 14). To mark the 20th anniversary of that document, I published the Encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis, in which I returned to the theme of solidarity and examined it in greater depth. During these last 10 years, many social events, especially the collapse of the communist systems, have considerably changed the face of the earth. Given the speed of social change, it is right today to verify and evaluate continously. This is the role of your academy which, three years after its foundation, has already made some enlightening contributions; its progress is particularly promising for the future.

3. In your current research, the detailed study of labour laws is of great interest, especially if one considers the current trend of “market instability”. This is a topic which the Magisterium has addressed several times. Personally, I reminded you last year of the moral principle according to which the demands of the market, deeply marked by competition, must not “go against the primordial right of every man to have work through which he can earn a living for himself and his family” (Address of 22 March 1996, n. 3; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, n. 14, 3 April 1996). Returning to this topic today, I would like to stress that when she enunciates this principle, the Church does not at all mean to condemn the deregulation of the market in itself, but asks that it be envisaged and implemented with respect for the primacy of the human person, to which economic systems must be subject. History amply demonstrates the failure of regimes characterized by planning that is harmful to civil and economic freedoms. But nevertheless, this does not justify models that are diametrically opposed to them. For, unfortunately, experience shows that a market economy, left to unconditional freedom, is far from bringing the greatest possible advantages to individuals and societies. It is true that the amazing economic vitality of certain newly industrialized countries seems to confirm the fact that the market can produce wealth and well-being, even in poor regions. But in a broader perspective, one cannot forget the human price of these processes. Above all, one cannot forget the persistant scandal of serious inequalities between the different nations and between persons and groups within each country, as you emphasized at your first plenary session (cf. The study of the tension between human equality and social inequalities from the perspective of the various social sciences, Vatican City, 1996).

4. There are still too many poor people in the world who have no access to the least portion of the opulent wealth of a minority. In the framework of the “globalization” of the economy, still called “internationalization” (cf. Centesimus annus CA 58), if the easy transfer of resources and production systems, effected only in virtue of the criterion of maximum profit and unbridled competition, increases opportunities for employment and well-being in certain regions, at the same time it ignores other less privileged regions and can aggravate unemployment in countries with a longstanding industrial tradition. The “globalized” organization of work, profiting from the extreme privation of developing peoples, often entails grave situations of exploitation that mock the elementary demands of human dignity.

With regard to these orientations, it is essential that political activity assure a balanced market in its classical form by applying the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, according to the model of the social State. If the latter functions moderately, it will also avoid a system of excessive assistance that creates more problems than it solves. On this condition, it continues to be an expression of authentic civilization, an indispensable tool for the defence of the most underprivileged social classes, often crushed by the exorbitant power of the “global market”. Indeed, today we profit from the fact that new technologies make it possible to produce and trade almost without restriction in every part of the world, to reduce unskilled manpower and impose on it numerous constraints, by relying, after the end of the “blocs” and the gradual disappearance of borders, on a new supply of poorly paid workers.

5. Moreover, how is it possible to underestimate the risks of this situation, not only according to the demands of social justice, but further, according to the broadest perspectives of civilization? In itself, a balanced and well-regulated world market can bring with prosperity the development of culture, democracy, solidarity and peace. But one can expect very different effects from an unbridled market which, under the pretext of competitiveness, prospers by exploiting man and the environment to excess. This type of market, ethically unacceptable, can only have disastrous consequences, at least in the long term. It tends to confirm, generally in the material sense, the living cultures and traditions of peoples; it eradicates fundamental and common ethical and cultural values; it risks creating a great void of human values, “an anthropological void”, quite apart from most dangerously compromising the ecological balance. So how is it possible not to fear an explosion of deviant and violent behaviour which would create powerful tensions in the social body? Freedom itself would be threatened, and even the market which had profited from the absence of hindrances. All things considered, the reality of “globalization”, viewed in a balanced way with its positive potential and the fears it raises, is a call not to postpone the harmonization of the “demands of the economy” with the demands of ethics.

6. It should nevertheless be recognized that within the framework of a “world” economy, the ethical and juridical regulation of the market is objectively more difficult. Indeed, to achieve it effectively the domestic political initiatives of the different countries do not suffice; what is needed is an “increased co-ordination among the more powerful countries” and the consolidation of a democratic global order with agencies where “the interests of the whole human family be equally represented” (Centesimus annus CA 58). Agencies, at the regional or world level, are not lacking. I am thinking in particular of the United Nations Organization and of its various agencies providing social assistance. I am also thinking of the role played by institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization. It is urgent that, in the field of freedom, a culture of “rules” should be reinforced which is not limited to a mere commercial function but takes charge, through reliable juridical tools, of the protection of human rights in all the parts of the world. The more “global” the market, the more it must be balanced by a “global” culture of solidarity, attentive to the needs of the weakest. Unfortunately, despite grand declarations of principle, this reference to values is increasingly jeopardized by the resurgence of selfishness among nations or groups, and at a deeper level, by a widespread ethical and cultural relativism, which is a threat to the perception of man’s very meaning.

7. But here — and the Church will never tire of repeating it! — is the Gordian knot to be cut, the crucial point on which economic and political perspectives must be focused, to explain their foundations and the possibility of their convergence. It is therefore right that you have included in your agenda, together with the problems of employment, those of democracy. The two problems are inevitably linked. In fact, democracy is only possible “on the basis of a correct conception of the human person” (Centesimus annus CA 46), which involves the recognition of the right of each person to take an active part in public life with a view to achieving the common good. But how can someone who is not properly protected at the economic level and even lacks the basic necessities be guaranteed participation in democratic life? When even the right to life from conception to its natural end is not fully respected as an absolutely inalienable right, democracy is undermined and the formal rules for participation become an alibi that conceals the tyranny of the strong over the weak (cf. Evangelium vitae EV 20 and 70).

8. Dear Academicians, I am most grateful for your reflections on these essential subjects. At stake is not only an ever more pertinent ecclesial witness, but the construction of a society that fully respects the dignity of man who can never be considered an object or a commodity, because he bears God’s image within him. The problems facing us are immense, but future generations will ask us to account for the way in which we have exercised our responsibilities. Further, we are accountable to the Lord of history. The Church therefore relies very much on your work, marked by scientific rigour, attentive to the Magisterium and, at the same time, open to dialogue with the multiple tendencies of contemporary culture.

I invoke an abundance of divine Blessings upon each one of you.

Speeches 1997 - Thursday, 24 April 1997