XVI's Evaluation of 2006
Address to the Roman Curia
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is
Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's address, delivered Dec. 22, to
cardinals, archbishops, bishops and superior prelates, in which he
evaluated the year 2006.
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ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO THE ROMAN
OFFERING THEM HIS CHRISTMAS GREETINGS
Friday, 22 December 2006
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the
Presbyterate, Dear Brethren,
I meet you today with great joy and address my
greeting to each one of you. I thank you for being present at this
traditional appointment held close to holy Christmas. I especially
thank Cardinal Angelo Sodano for the words with which he has expressed
the sentiments of everyone here, inspired by the central theme of the
Encyclical Deus Caritas Est. On this important occasion I would like to
express my gratitude to him once more for the service to the Pope and
to the Holy See that he has carried out for so many years as Secretary
of State, and I ask the Lord to reward him for the good that he has
done with his wisdom and his zeal for the Church's mission.
At the same time, I desire to offer a special
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone for the new task that I have entrusted to
him. I gladly extend these sentiments to all those who have entered the
service of the Roman Curia or of the Governorate this year, while we
remember with affection and gratitude those whom the Lord has called
from this life to himself.
The year that is coming to an end, as you have
Eminence, lives on in our memory; deeply impressed upon it are the
horrors of the war near the Holy Land as well as the general danger of
a clash between cultures and religions - a danger that hangs
threateningly over our time in history.
The problem of ways towards peace has thus become a
challenge of primary importance for all who are concerned about
humankind. This is true in particular for the Church, for which the
promise that accompanied her at the outset also means a responsibility
and a task: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men
with whom he is pleased" (Lk 2: 14).
The Angel's greeting to the shepherds on the night
Christ's birth in Bethlehem reveals an unbreakable link between the
relationship of men and women with God and their own mutual
Peace on earth cannot be found without
reconciliation with God, without harmony between Heaven and earth.
This correlation of the theme "God" with the theme
was the decisive aspect of my four Apostolic Journeys this year: I
would like to review them here. First of all was my Pastoral Visit to
Poland, the Country in which our beloved Pope John Paul II was born.
For me, the journey to his Homeland was an intimate duty of gratitude
for all that he gave to me personally and above all to the Church and
to the world during the quarter century of his service.
His greatest gift to all of us was his steadfast
the radicalism of his dedication. His motto was "Totus tuus". It
reflected his whole being. Yes, he gave himself without reserve to God,
to Christ, to the Mother of Christ, to the Church: to the service of
the Redeemer and to the redemption of man. He held nothing back. He let
the flame of faith consume him to his inmost depths. He showed us how,
as people of today, it is possible to believe in God, the Living God
who made himself close to us in Christ. He showed us that a definitive
and radical dedication of one's whole life is possible, and that,
precisely in giving oneself, life becomes great and immense and
In Poland, everywhere I went I encountered the joy
faith. "The joy of the Lord is your strength" -- this word which amid
the wretchedness of the new beginning, the scribe Ezra cried out to the
People of Israel who had just returned from the Exile (Neh 8: 10), can
be experienced tangibly here. I was deeply struck by the great
cordiality with which I was welcomed everywhere. The people saw in me
the Successor of Peter to whom is entrusted the pastoral ministry for
the entire Church.
They saw the one to whom, despite all his human
the word of the Risen Lord is addressed then as today: "Tend my sheep"
(cf. Jn 21: 15-19); they saw the Successor of the one to whom Jesus had
said, in the district of Caesarea Philippi, "you are Peter and on this
rock I will build my Church" (Mt 16: 18). Peter, on his own, was not a
rock; he was a weak and unsteady man. Nonetheless, the Lord wished to
make Peter himself a rock, to show that through a weak human being, he
himself firmly sustains his Church and keeps her united.
Thus, the Visit to Poland was for me a celebration
catholicity in the deepest sense. Christ is our peace and reunites the
separated: over and above all the differences in the historical epochs
and cultures, he is reconciliation. Through the Petrine Ministry we
experience this unifying force of faith which, starting from many
peoples ever anew, builds the one People of God. We truly experienced
with joy that, coming from many peoples, we form the one People of God:
his Holy Church.
For this reason the Petrine Ministry can be the
sign that guarantees this unity and forms a concrete unit. Once again,
I want to thank the Church in Poland explicitly and with all my heart
for this moving experience of catholicity.
My travels in Poland could not omit a visit to
Auschwitz-Birkenau, to that place of the cruelest barbarities, the
attempt to wipe out the People of Israel, and thus render their
election by God vain and indeed, to banish God himself from history.
It was a source of great comfort to me at that
see a rainbow appearing in the sky as, before the horrors of that
place, I cried out to God like Job, shaken by the dread of his apparent
absence but at the same time supported by the certainty that even in
his silence he does not cease to be and remain with us. The rainbow
was, as it were, a response: Yes, I exist, and the words of the
promise, of the Covenant which I spoke after the flood, are still valid
today (cf. Gn 9: 12-17).
The Visit to Valencia, Spain, was under the banner
theme of marriage and the family. It was beautiful to listen, before
the people assembled from all continents, to the testimonies of couples
-- blessed by a numerous throng of children -- who introduced
themselves to us and spoke of their respective journeys in the
Sacrament of Marriage and in their large families.
They did not hide the fact that they have also had
difficult days, that they have had to pass through periods of crisis.
Yet, precisely through the effort of supporting one another day by day,
precisely through accepting one another ever anew in the crucible of
daily trials, living and suffering to the full their initial "yes",
precisely on this Gospel path of "losing oneself", they had matured,
rediscovered themselves and become happy. Their "yes" to one another in
the patience of the journey and in the strength of the Sacrament with
which Christ had bound them together, had become a great "yes" to
themselves, their children, to God the Creator and to the Redeemer,
Jesus Christ. Thus, from the witness of these families a wave of joy
reached us, not a superficial and scant gaiety that is all too soon
dispelled, but a joy that developed also in suffering, a joy that
reaches down to the depths and truly redeems man.
Before these families with their children, before
families in which the generations hold hands and the future is present,
the problem of Europe, which it seems no longer wants to have children,
penetrated my soul. To foreigners this Europe seems to be tired,
indeed, it seems to be wishing to take its leave of history. Why are
things like this? This is the great question. The answers are
undoubtedly very complex. Before seeking these answers, it is only
right to thank the many married couples in our Europe who still say
"yes" to children today and accept the trials that this entails: social
and financial problems, as well as worries and struggles, day after
day; the dedication required to give children access to the path
towards the future. In mentioning these difficulties, perhaps the
reasons also become clearer why for many the risk of having children
appears too great.
A child needs loving attention. This means that we
give children some of our time, the time of our life. But precisely
this "raw material" of life -- time -- seems to be ever scarcer. The
time we have available barely suffices for our own lives; how could we
surrender it, give it to someone else? To have time and to give time -
this is for us a very concrete way to learn to give oneself, to lose
oneself in order to find oneself.
In addition to this problem comes the difficult
calculation: what rules should we apply to ensure that the child
follows the right path and in so doing, how should we respect his or
her freedom? The problem has also become very difficult because we are
no longer sure of the norms to transmit; because we no longer know what
the correct use of freedom is, what is the correct way to live, what is
morally correct and what instead is inadmissible.
The modern spirit has lost its bearings, and this
bearings prevents us from being indicators of the right way to others.
Indeed, the problem goes even deeper. Contemporary man is insecure
about the future. Is it permissible to send someone into this uncertain
future? In short, is it a good thing to be a person? This deep lack of
self assurance -- plus the wish to have one's whole life for oneself --
is perhaps the deepest reason why the risk of having children appears
to many to be almost unsustainable. In fact, we can transmit life in a
responsible way only if we are able to pass on something more than mere
biological life, and that is, a meaning that prevails even in the
crises of history to come and a certainty in the hope that is stronger
than the clouds that obscure the future.
Unless we learn anew the foundations of life -
discover in a new way the certainty of faith -- it will be less and
less possible for us to entrust to others the gift of life and the task
of an unknown future.
Connected with that, finally, is also the problem
definitive decisions: can man bind himself for ever? Can he say a "yes"
for his whole life? Yes, he can. He was created for this. In this very
way human freedom is brought about and thus the sacred context of
marriage is also created and enlarged, becoming a family and building
At this point, I cannot be silent about my concern
the legislation for de facto couples. Many of these couples have chosen
this way because -- at least for the time being -- they do not feel
able to accept the legally ordered and binding coexistence of marriage.
Thus, they prefer to remain in the simple de facto state. When new
forms of legislation are created which relativize marriage, the
renouncement of the definitive bond obtains, as it were, also a
In this case, deciding for those who are already
it far from easy becomes even more difficult. Then there is in
addition, for the other type of couple, the relativization of the
difference between the sexes.
The union of a man and a woman is being put on a
the pairing of two people of the same sex, and tacitly confirms those
fallacious theories that remove from the human person all the
importance of masculinity and femininity, as though it were a question
of the purely biological factor.
Such theories hold that man -- that is, his
his desire -- would decide autonomously what he is or what he is not.
In this, corporeity is scorned, with the consequence that the human
being, in seeking to be emancipated from his body -- from the
"biological sphere" -- ends by destroying himself.
If we tell ourselves that the Church ought not to
interfere in such matters, we cannot but answer: are we not concerned
with the human being? Do not believers, by virtue of the great culture
of their faith, have the right to make a pronouncement on all this? Is
it not their -- our -- duty to raise our voices to defend the human
being, that creature who, precisely in the inseparable unity of body
and spirit, is the image of God? The Visit to Valencia became for me a
quest for the meaning of the human being.
In our minds let us travel to Bavaria -- Munich,
Altötting, Regensburg and Freising. There, I was able to live
unforgettably beautiful days of encounter with faith and with the
faithful of my Homeland. The great theme of my Journey to Germany was
God. The Church must speak of many things: of all the issues connected
with the human being, of her own structure and of the way she is
ordered and so forth. But her true and -- under various aspects -- only
theme is "God".
Moreover, the great problem of the West is
of God. This forgetfulness is spreading. In short, all the individual
problems can be traced back to this question, I am sure of it.
Therefore, on that Journey, my main purpose was to
clear light on the theme "God", also mindful of the fact that in
several parts of Germany there are a majority of non-baptized persons
for whom Christianity and the God of faith seem to belong to the past.
Speaking of God, we are touching precisely on the
which, in Jesus' earthly preaching, was his main focus. The fundamental
subject of this preaching is God's realm, the "Kingdom of God". This
does not mean something that will come to pass at one time or another
in an indeterminate future. Nor does it mean that better world which we
seek to create, step by step, with our own strength. In the term
"Kingdom of God", the word "God" is a subjective genitive. This means:
God is not something added to the "Kingdom" which one might even
God is the subject. Kingdom of God actually means:
reigns. He himself is present and crucial to human beings in the world.
He is the subject, and wherever this subject is absent, nothing remains
of Jesus' message.
Therefore, Jesus tells us: the Kingdom of God does
come in such a way that one may, so to speak, line the wayside to watch
its arrival. "The Kingdom of God is in the midst of you!" (cf. Lk 17:
It develops wherever God's will is done. It is
wherever there are people who are open to his arrival and so let God
enter the world. Thus, Jesus is the Kingdom of God in person: the man
in whom God is among us and through whom we can touch God, draw close
to God. Wherever this happens, the world is saved.
Two topics made an impression during the days of my
to Bavaria. They were and are linked to the theme of God: "the
priesthood" and "dialogue". Paul calls Timothy -- and in him, the
Bishop and in general the priest -- "man of God" (I Tm 6: 11). This is
the central task of the priest: to bring God to men and women. Of
course, he can only do this if he himself comes from God, if he lives
with and by God. This is marvelously expressed in a verse of a priestly
Psalm that we -- the older generation -- spoke during our admittance to
the clerical state: "The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup, you hold
my lot" (Ps 165).
The priest praying in this Psalm interprets his
the basis of the distribution of territory as established in
Deuteronomy (cf. 10: 9). After taking possession of the Land, every
tribe obtained by the drawing of lots his portion of the Holy Land and
with this took part in the gift promised to the forefather Abraham.
The tribe of Levi alone received no land: its land
himself. This affirmation certainly had an entirely practical
significance. Priests did not live like the other tribes by cultivating
the earth, but on offerings. However, the affirmation goes deeper. The
true foundation of the priest's life, the ground of his existence, the
ground of his life, is God himself.
The Church in this Old Testament interpretation of
priestly life -- an interpretation that also emerges repeatedly in
Psalm 119 -- has rightly seen in the following of the Apostles, in
communion with Jesus himself, as the explanation of what the priestly
mission means. The priest can and must also say today, with the Levite:
"Dominus pars hereditatis meae et calicis mei". God himself is my
portion of land, the external and internal foundation of my existence.
This theocentricity of the priestly existence is
necessary in our entirely function-oriented world in which everything
is based on calculable and ascertainable performance. The priest must
truly know God from within and thus bring him to men and women: this is
the prime service that contemporary humanity needs. If this centrality
of God in a priest's life is lost, little by little the zeal in his
actions is lost. In an excess of external things the centre that gives
meaning to all things and leads them back to unity is missing. There,
the foundation of life, the "earth" upon which all this can stand and
prosper, is missing.
Celibacy, in force for Bishops throughout the
Western Church and, according to a tradition that dates back to an
epoch close to that of the Apostles, for priests in general in the
Latin Church, can only be understood and lived if is based on this
The solely pragmatic reasons, the reference to
availability, is not enough: such a greater availability of time could
easily become also a form of egoism that saves a person from the
sacrifices and efforts demanded by the reciprocal acceptance and
forbearance in matrimony; thus, it could lead to a spiritual
impoverishment or to hardening of the heart.
The true foundation of celibacy can be contained in
phrase: Dominus pars -- You are my land. It can only be theocentric. It
cannot mean being deprived of love, but must mean letting oneself be
consumed by passion for God and subsequently, thanks to a more intimate
way of being with him, to serve men and women, too. Celibacy must be a
witness to faith: faith in God materializes in that form of life which
only has meaning if it is based on God.
Basing one's life on him, renouncing marriage and
family, means that I accept and experience God as a reality and that I
can therefore bring him to men and women. Our world, which has become
totally positivistic, in which God appears at best as a hypothesis but
not as a concrete reality, needs to rest on God in the most concrete
and radical way possible.
It needs a witness to God that lies in the decision
welcome God as a land where one finds one's own existence. For this
reason, celibacy is so important today, in our contemporary world, even
if its fulfillment in our age is constantly threatened and questioned.
A careful preparation during the journey towards
and persevering guidance on the part of the Bishop, priest friends and
lay people who sustain this priestly witness together, is essential. We
need prayer that invokes God without respite as the Living God and
relies on him in times of confusion as well as in times of joy.
Consequently, as opposed to the cultural trend that seeks to convince
us that we are not capable of making such decisions, this witness can
be lived and in this way, in our world, can reinstate God as reality.
The other great subject linked to the theme of God
of dialogue. The inner circle of the complex dialogue which today
requires the common commitment of all Christians to unity became clear
in the Ecumenical Vespers in the Regensburg Cathedral, where, in
addition to the brothers and sisters of the Catholic Church, I was able
to meet many friends of Orthodoxy and Evangelical Christianity. We were
all gathered together to recite the Psalms and listen to the Word of
God, and it is no small thing that this unity was granted to us.
The meeting with the University was dedicated -- as
befitted the place -- to the dialogue between faith and reason.
On the occasion of my meeting with the philosopher
Habermas a few years ago in Munich, he said that we would need thinkers
who could translate the encoded convictions of the Christian faith into
the language of the secularized world to make them newly effective.
In fact, the world's urgent need of the dialogue
between faith and reason is becoming ever more obvious.
Immanual Kant, in his day, saw the essence of
expressed in the so-called "sapere aude": in the courage of thought
that does not allow itself to be embarrassed by any prejudice.
Well, since then, the cognitive capacity of the
being, his dominion over matter by the power of thought, has made
progress that would have been inconceivable at the time.
However, the power the human being holds in his
which science has increased, is increasingly becoming a danger that
threatens the human being himself and the world.
Reason oriented totally to taking the world in
longer accepts limits. It is already on the point of dealing with the
person merely as matter of its own production and power.
Our knowledge is growing but at the same time, a
progressive blinding of reason with regard to its own foundations and
the criteria that give it direction and meaning is being recorded.
Faith in that God, who is in person the creative
the universe, must be accepted by science in a new way as a challenge
and a chance.
Reciprocally, this faith must recognize anew its
immensity and its own reasonableness. Reason needs the Logos which was
at the beginning and is our light. Faith, for its part, needs the
conversation with modern reason to take stock of its own greatness and
to correspond to its own responsibilities. And this is what I sought to
highlight in my lesson at Regensburg. It is a matter which is certainly
not solely academic: it addresses the future of us all.
In Regensburg the dialogue between the religions
marginally touched on and in a twofold perspective. Secularized reason
is unable to enter into a true dialogue with the religions. It remains
closed to the question of God, and this will end by leading to the
clash of cultures.
The other perspective concerned the affirmation
religions must encounter one another in the common task of putting
themselves at the service of the truth and thus, of the human being. My
Visit to Turkey afforded me the opportunity to show also publicly my
respect for the Islamic Religion, a respect, moreover, which the Second
Vatican Council (cf. Declaration "Nostra Aetate," n. 3) pointed out to
us as an attitude that is only right.
I would like here to express once again my
the Authorities of Turkey and to the Turkish People, who welcomed me
with such immense hospitality and offered me unforgettable days of
In a dialogue to be intensified with Islam, we must
in mind the fact that the Muslim world today is finding itself faced
with an urgent task. This task is very similar to the one that has been
imposed upon Christians since the Enlightenment, and to which the
Second Vatican Council, as the fruit of long and difficult research,
found real solutions for the Catholic Church.
It is a question of the attitude that the community
faithful must adopt in the face of the convictions and demands that
were strengthened in the Enlightenment.
On the one hand, one must counter a dictatorship of
positivist reason that excludes God from the life of the community and
from public organizations, thereby depriving man of his specific
criteria of judgment.
On the other, one must welcome the true conquests
Enlightenment, human rights and especially the freedom of faith and its
practice, and recognize these also as being essential elements for the
authenticity of religion.
As in the Christian community, where there has been
search to find the correct position of faith in relation to such
beliefs -- a search that will certainly never be concluded once and for
all --, so also the Islamic world with its own tradition faces the
immense task of finding the appropriate solutions in this regard.
The content of the dialogue between Christians and
will be at this time especially one of meeting each other in this
commitment to find the right solutions. We Christians feel in
solidarity with all those who, precisely on the basis of their
religious conviction as Muslims, work to oppose violence and for the
synergy between faith and reason, between religion and freedom. In this
sense, the two dialogues of which I have spoken penetrate each other.
In Istanbul, lastly, I was once again able to live
hours of ecumenical closeness in my meeting with the Ecumenical
Patriarch Bartholomew I. Some days ago he wrote me a letter in which
the words of gratitude welling up from the depths of his heart reminded
me very vividly of the experience of communion of those days.
We felt we were brothers, not only on the basis of
and historical events, but from the depths of the soul; that we were
united by the common faith of the Apostles ever in our thoughts and
We experienced a profound unity in faith, and we
the Lord yet more insistently that he will quickly also grant full
unity in the common breaking of the Bread.
My deep gratitude and fraternal prayers are
this time to Patriarch Bartholomew and his faithful, as well as to the
various Christian communities which I was able to meet in Istanbul. Let
us hope and pray that religious freedom, which corresponds with the
intimate nature of faith and is recognized in the principles of the
Turkish Constitution, may find in suitable juridical forms, as well as
in the daily life of the Patriarchate and the other Christian
communities, an increasingly practical fulfillment.
"Et erit iste pax" -- this will be peace, the
Micah says (5: 4) about the future ruler of Israel, whose birth in
Bethlehem he announces. The Angels said to the shepherds grazing their
flocks in the fields around Bethlehem: "on earth peace among men", the
expected One has arrived (Lk 2: 14).
He himself, Christ, the Lord, said to his
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you" (Jn 14: 27). It is
from these words that the liturgical greeting developed: "Peace be with
This peace that is communicated in the liturgy is
himself. He gives himself to us as peace, as reconciliation beyond all
frontiers. Wherever he is welcomed, islands of peace develop. We human
beings would have liked Christ to banish all wars once and for all, to
destroy weapons and establish universal peace. But we have to learn
that peace cannot be attained only from the outside with structures,
and that the attempt to establish it with violence leads only to ever
We must learn that peace -- as the Angel of
Bethlehem said -- is connected with eudokia, with the opening of our
hearts to God.
We must learn that peace can only exist if hatred
selfishness are overcome from within. The human being must be renewed
from within, must become new and different. Thus, peace in this world
always remains weak and fragile. We suffer from this. For this very
reason we are called especially to let ourselves be penetrated within
by God's peace and to take his power into the world. All that was
wrought in and through the Sacrament of Baptism must be fulfilled in
our lives: the dying of the former self, hence, the rebirth of the new.
And we will pray to the Lord insistently over and over again: Please
move hearts! Make us new people! Help the reason of peace to overcome
the irrationality of violence! Make us bearers of your peace!
May the Virgin Mary, to whom I entrust you and your
obtain this grace for us. I extend to each one of you present here and
to all your loved ones, my most fervent good wishes, and as a sign of
our joy, tomorrow will be a free day for the Curia to prepare well,
physically and spiritually, for Christmas. I impart my Apostolic
Blessing with affection to the collaborators of the various Dicasteries
and Offices of the Roman Curia and of the Governatorate of Vatican City
State. Merry Christmas and very many good wishes also for the New Year!
Pope's 2007 Address on State of
"An Opportunity to Strengthen Our Hope and Deepen Our Commitment"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the Vatican
translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered in the Vatican
Apostolic Palace to members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to welcome you here today, for this traditional ceremony
in which we exchange greetings. Although it is an annual event, it is
by no means a mere formality; rather, it is an opportunity to
strengthen our hope and to deepen our commitment to serve the cause of
peace and the development of individuals and peoples.
Firstly, I should like to thank the Dean, Ambassador Giovanni Galassi,
for the kind words that he has addressed to me on your behalf. I also
extend a particular greeting to the Ambassadors who are present at this
meeting for the first time. To all of you I offer my most cordial good
wishes and I assure you of my prayers that the year 2007 will bring
happiness and peace to you and your families, to your staff and to all
peoples and their leaders.
At the start of the year, we are invited to turn our attention to the
international situation, so as to focus upon the challenges that we are
called to address together.
Among the key issues, how can we not think of the millions of people,
especially women and children, who lack water, food, or shelter? The
worsening scandal of hunger is unacceptable in a world which has the
resources, the knowledge, and the means available to bring it to an
end. It impels us to change our way of life, it reminds us of the
urgent need to eliminate the structural causes of global economic
dysfunction and to correct models of growth that seem incapable of
guaranteeing respect for the environment and for integral human
development, both now and in the future. Once again I invite the
leaders of the wealthiest nations to take the necessary steps to ensure
that poor countries, which often have a wealth of natural resources,
are able to benefit from the fruits of goods that are rightfully
theirs. From this point of view, the delay in implementing the
commitments undertaken by the international community during the last
few years is another cause of concern. So it is to be hoped that the
trade negotiations of the "Doha Development Round" of the World Trade
Organization will be resumed, and that the process of debt cancellation
and reduction for the poorest countries will be continued and
accelerated. At the same time, these processes must not be made
conditional upon structural adjustments that are detrimental to the
most vulnerable populations.
Equally, in the area of disarmament, symptoms of a developing crisis
are multiplying, linked to difficulties in negotiations over
conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction and also to the
rise in global military expenditure. Security issues -- aggravated by
terrorism, which is to be utterly condemned -- must be approached from
a global and far-sighted perspective.
As far as humanitarian crises are concerned, we should note that the
organizations dealing with them need greater support, so that they can
be equipped to provide protection and assistance to the victims.
Another concern which looms ever larger is that of the movement of
persons: millions of men and women are forced to leave their homes or
their native lands because of violence or in order to seek more
dignified living conditions. It is an illusion to think that migration
can be blocked or checked simply by force. Migration and the problems
to which it gives rise must be addressed humanely, with justice and
How can we not be alarmed, moreover, by the continuous attacks on life,
from conception to natural death? Such attacks do not even spare
regions with a traditional culture of respecting life, such as Africa,
where there is an attempt to trivialize abortion surreptitiously, both
through the Maputo Protocol and through the Plan of Action adopted by
the Health Ministers of the African Union -- shortly to be submitted to
the Summit of Heads of State and Heads of Government. Equally, there
are mounting threats to the natural composition of the family based on
the marriage of a man and a woman, and attempts to relativize it by
giving it the same status as other radically different forms of union.
All this offends and helps to destabilize the family by concealing its
specific nature and its unique social role. Other forms of attack on
life are sometimes committed in the name of scientific research. There
is a growing conviction that research is subject only to the laws that
it chooses for itself and that it is limited only by its own
possibilities. This is the case, for example, in attempts to legitimize
human cloning for supposedly therapeutic ends.
This overview of matters of concern must not distract our attention
from the positive elements characteristic of the modern age. I should
like to mention first of all the growing awareness of the importance of
dialogue between cultures and between religions. This is a vital
necessity, particularly in view of the challenges we all face regarding
the family and society. I want to draw attention, moreover, to numerous
initiatives in this area aimed at building common foundations for
It is also timely to note the growing awareness shown by the
international community of the enormous challenges of our time, and the
efforts made to transform this awareness into concrete action. Within
the United Nations Organization, the Council for Human Rights was
established last year, and it is to be hoped that this will focus its
activity on defense and promotion of the fundamental rights of the
person, especially the right to life and the right to religious
freedom. Speaking of the United Nations, I feel I must mention with
gratitude His Excellency Mr Kofi Annan for the work accomplished during
his time in office as Secretary-General. I also express my best wishes
for his successor, Mr Ban Ki-moon, who has recently assumed his new
Within the framework of development, various initiatives have been
undertaken to which the Holy See has not failed to pledge its support,
at the same time reiterating that these projects must not supplant the
commitment of developed countries to devote 0.7% of their gross
domestic product to international aid. Another important element in the
collective struggle to eliminate poverty, in addition to aid -- which
one can only hope will expand -- is a greater awareness of the need to
combat corruption and to promote good governance. We must also
encourage and continue the efforts that have been made to guarantee
human rights to individuals and peoples, for the sake of more effective
protection of civilian populations.
In considering the political situation in the various continents, we
find even more reasons for concern and reasons for hope. At the outset,
we note that peace is often fragile and even mocked. We cannot forget
the African Continent. The drama of Darfur continues and is being
extended to the border regions of Chad and the Central African
Republic. The international community has seemed powerless for almost
four years, despite initiatives intended to bring relief to the
populations in distress and to arrive at a political solution. Only by
active cooperation between the United Nations, the African Union, the
governments and other interested parties will these methods achieve
results. I invite all those concerned to act with determination: we
cannot accept that so many innocent people continue to suffer and die
in this way.
The situation in the Horn of Africa has recently become more serious,
with the resumption of hostilities and the internationalization of the
conflict. While calling upon all parties to lay down their arms and to
enter negotiations, I should like to invoke the memory of Sister
Leonella Sgorbati, who gave her life in the service of the least
fortunate, and prayed that her murderers be forgiven. May her example
and her witness inspire all those who truly seek the good of Somalia.
With regard to Uganda, we must pray for the progress of negotiations
between the parties, in order to hasten the end of that cruel conflict
which has even seen numerous children enlisted and forced to become
soldiers. This would allow the many displaced persons to return home
and to resume a dignified way of life. The contribution of religious
leaders and the recent appointment of a Representative of the
Secretary-General of the United Nations augur well. I repeat: we must
not forget Africa with its numerous situations of war and tension. We
must remember that only negotiations between the various protagonists
can open the way to a just settlement of the conflicts and offer a
glimpse of progress towards the establishment of lasting peace.
The Great Lakes Region has seen much bloodshed over the years through
merciless wars. Recent positive developments are to be welcomed with
interest and hope, especially the conclusion of the period of political
transition in Burundi and, more recently, in the Democratic Republic of
Congo. Yet it is urgent that these countries commit themselves to
restoring the proper functioning of the rule of law, in order to disarm
the warlords and allow society to develop. In Rwanda, I pray that the
long process of national reconciliation after the genocide may finally
result in justice, but also in truth and forgiveness. The International
Conference on the Great Lakes Region, with the participation of a
delegation from the Holy See and representatives of numerous national
and regional Episcopal conferences of Central and Eastern Africa,
affords a glimpse of new hopes. Finally, I should like to mention the
Ivory Coast, urging the embattled parties to create a climate of mutual
trust that can lead to disarmament and peace. And I should like to
speak of Southern Africa: in the countries of this region, millions of
people are reduced to a situation of great vulnerability that clamors
for the attention and the support of the international community.
Among the positive signs for Africa is the wish expressed by the
international community to keep its attention focused on this
continent. Likewise, the strengthening of Africa's continental and
regional institutions bears witness to the desire of the countries
concerned to take increasing charge of their own destiny. Moreover, we
must pay tribute to the laudable attitude of the people who commit
themselves with determination every day, on the ground, to promote
projects which contribute to the development and the organization of
economic and social life.
The apostolic journey that I shall undertake next May to Brazil gives
me the opportunity to turn my attention towards that great country,
which awaits me with joy, and towards the whole of Latin America and
the Caribbean. The improvement in certain economic indicators, the
commitment to combat drug-trafficking and corruption, the various
processes of integration, the efforts to improve access to education,
to fight unemployment and to reduce inequalities in the distribution of
revenues -- these are all signs to be viewed with satisfaction. If
these developments are consolidated, they will be able to make a
decisive contribution to overcoming the poverty that afflicts vast
sectors of the population and to increasing the stability of
institutions. In the light of the elections that took place last year
in several countries, it should be emphasized that democracy is called
to take into account the aspirations of the citizens as a whole, and to
promote increasing respect for all the components of society, according
to the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity and justice. Yet the
practice of democracy must not be allowed to turn into the dictatorship
of relativism, by proposing anthropological models incompatible with
the nature and dignity of the human person.
My attention is focused in a special way on certain individual
countries -- notably Colombia, where the long internal conflict has
provoked a humanitarian crisis, especially as far as displaced persons
are concerned. Every effort must be made to bring peace to the country,
to return to families their loved ones who have been kidnapped, to
restore security and normal life for millions of people. Such signs
will give confidence to everyone, including those who have been
implicated in the armed struggle. Our attention is also turned towards
Cuba. In voicing the hope that all of its inhabitants may realize their
legitimate aspirations, amid concern for the common good, I should like
to renew the appeal made by my venerable Predecessor: "Let Cuba open
itself to the world, and let the world open itself to Cuba." Mutual
openness to other countries can only bring benefits to all concerned.
Not far away, the people of Haiti continue to live in great poverty
surrounded by violence. I pray that the interest of the international
community -- manifested among other things by the conferences of donors
that took place in 2006 -- will lead to the consolidation of
institutions and will allow the people to become the architects of
their own development, amid a climate of reconciliation and harmony.
The Asian continent includes countries characterized by very large
populations and significant economic development. I am thinking of
China and India, countries that are in rapid expansion, and I hope that
their growing presence on the international stage will bring with it
benefits for their own populations and for other nations. Likewise, I
pray for Vietnam, recalling its recent entry into the World Trade
Organization. My thoughts go out to the Christian communities. In most
Asian countries, they tend to be small but lively communities, with a
legitimate desire to be able to live and act in a climate of religious
liberty. This is not only a primordial right but it is a condition that
will enable them to contribute to the material and spiritual progress
of society, and to be sources of cohesion and harmony.
In East Timor, the Catholic Church intends to continue making her
contribution, notably in the fields of education, healthcare and
national reconciliation. The political crisis experienced by this young
State, and by other countries in the region, highlights a certain
fragility in the processes of democratization. Dangerous sources of
tension are lurking in the Korean Peninsula. The goal of reconciling
the Korean people and maintaining the Peninsula as a nuclear-free zone
-- which will bring benefits to the entire region -- must be pursued
within the context of negotiations. It is important to avoid gestures
that could compromise the talks, and likewise to avoid making their
results a condition for the humanitarian aid destined for the most
vulnerable sectors of the North Korean population.
I would like to draw your attention to two other Asian countries that
give cause for concern. In Afghanistan, in recent months, we can only
deplore the notable increase in violence and terrorist attacks. This
has rendered the way out of the crisis more difficult, and it weighs
heavily on the local population. In Sri Lanka, the failure of the
Geneva negotiations between the Government and the Tamil Movement has
brought with it an intensification of the conflict, causing great
suffering among the civilian population. Only the path of dialogue can
ensure a better and safer future for all.
The Middle East is also a source of great anxiety. For this reason I
decided to write a Christmas letter to the Catholics of the region,
expressing my solidarity and spiritual closeness to them all, and
encouraging them to remain in the region, as I am sure that their
witness will be of assistance and support for a future of peace and
fraternity. I renew my urgent appeal to all parties involved in the
complex political chessboard of the region, hoping for a consolidation
of the positive signs noted in recent weeks between Israelis and
Palestinians. The Holy See will never tire of reiterating that armed
solutions achieve nothing, as we saw in Lebanon last summer. In fact,
the future of that country depends upon the unity of all its
components, and upon fraternal relations between its different
religious and social groupings. This would constitute a message of hope
for all. It is no longer possible to be satisfied with partial or
unilateral solutions. In order to put an end to the crisis and to the
sufferings it causes among the population, a global approach is needed,
which excludes no one from the search for a negotiated settlement,
taking into account the legitimate interests and aspirations of the
different peoples involved. In particular, the Lebanese have a right to
see the integrity and sovereignty of their country respected; the
Israelis have a right to live in peace in their State; the Palestinians
have a right to a free and sovereign homeland. When each of the peoples
in the region sees that its expectations are taken into consideration
and thus feels less threatened, then mutual trust will be strengthened.
This trust will grow if a country like Iran, especially in relation to
its nuclear program, agrees to give a satisfactory response to the
legitimate concerns of the international community. Steps taken in this
direction surely help to stabilize the whole region, especially Iraq,
putting an end to the appalling violence which disfigures that country
with bloodshed, and offering an opportunity to work for reconstruction
and reconciliation between all its inhabitants.
Closer to us, in Europe, two new countries, Bulgaria and Romania,
nations with a long Christian tradition, have joined the European
Union. As the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty of
Rome approaches, some reflection on the Constitutional Treaty would
seem appropriate. I hope that the fundamental values that are at the
basis of human dignity will be fully protected, particularly religious
freedom in all its dimensions and the institutional rights of Churches.
Likewise, one cannot ignore the undeniable Christian heritage of the
continent, which has greatly contributed to the formation of European
nations and European peoples. The fiftieth anniversary of the rising of
Budapest, celebrated last October, calls to mind the dramatic events of
the twentieth century, and it prompts all Europeans to build a future
free from oppression and from ideological conditioning, to establish
bonds of friendship and fraternity, and to show concern and solidarity
towards the poor and the weak. Likewise, the tensions of the past must
be purified by promoting reconciliation at all levels, since this alone
opens the way to the future and gives hope. I also appeal to all those
on European soil who are tempted by terrorism, to cease from all such
activity: actions of this kind only lead to more violence and create
fear among populations -- they are simply a dead end. And I must also
mention the various "frozen conflicts" and today's recurring tensions
linked to energy resources, in the hope that they will find a rapid and
I pray that the Balkan region will arrive at the stability so ardently
desired, particularly through the integration of the nations concerned
into continental structures with the support of the international
community. The establishment of diplomatic relations with the Republic
of Montenegro, which has recently entered peacefully into the family of
nations, and the Fundamental Accord signed with Bosnia-Hercegovina are
signs of the Holy See's constant concern for the Balkan region. As the
moment approaches in which the statute of Kosovo will be defined, the
Holy See asks all concerned to strive with far-sighted wisdom,
flexibility and moderation, so that a solution may be found which
respects the rights and legitimate expectations of all.
The situations I have mentioned constitute a challenge that touches us
all -- a challenge to promote and consolidate all the positive elements
in the world, and to overcome, with good will, wisdom and tenacity, all
that causes injury, degradation and death. It is by respecting the
human person that peace can be promoted, and it is by building peace
that the foundations of an authentic integral humanism are laid. This
is where I find the answer to the concern for the future voiced by so
many of our contemporaries. Yes, the future can be serene if we work
together for humanity. Man, created in the image of God, has an
incomparable dignity; man, who is so worthy of love in the eyes of his
Creator that God did not hesitate to give his own Son for him. That is
the great mystery of Christmas, which we have just celebrated, and
which continues to spread its joyful atmosphere over our meeting today.
In her commitment to serve humanity and to build peace, the Church
stands alongside all people of good will and she offers impartial
cooperation. Together, each in his place and with his respective gifts,
let us work to build an integral humanism which alone can guarantee a
world of peace, justice and solidarity. In expressing this hope, I also
pray to the Lord for all of you, for your families, for your staff, and
for the peoples that you represent.