ADDRESS OF JOHN PAUL II
Thursday 17 May 2001
1. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (I Cor 1,3). It is special for me to greet you with these words of the Apostle Paul. I greet and thank Cardinal Camillo Ruini, your President, for his address to me and in particular for the birthday wishes, together with the other Italian Cardinals, the Vice-Presidents and the new General Secretary.
On this happy occasion of your general Assembly, I wish to express to you, and through you to the entire Italian Ecclesial Community, my sincere gratitude for the exceptional contribution you made to the successful outcome of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, which was an extraordinary season of grace for the whole Church. I especially intend to thank you for the generous efforts for the 15th World Youth Day: more than two million young people, of whom a large number were Italian, came to Rome in those unforgettable days, a testimony of how lively the faith is and of how deeply ecclesial belonging is felt among the new generations. The young people from other nations, they too arriving in huge numbers, experienced the capacity of the Italian Dioceses for hospitality nourished by love.
Brothers in the Episcopate, I thank God with you for the spiritual and pastoral dynamism that characterizes the Church in Italy, for the witness of fidelity and apostolic zeal offered by priests, who are so close to the individuals and families entrusted to their pastoral care, for the generosity with which many men and women religious live their specific vocation in contemplation, in evangelization, in education, in service to the sick and the marginalized. And how can we forget those Christian lay people, often gathered in associations and movements, who are developing a growing awareness of their baptismal vocation, taking on their own share of responsibility for the edification of the Church? With constant effort they strive to give life to authentic Christian families and to offer a convincing witness at work and pursuing studies, in social, economic and political activities.
However, the tendency to live "as if God did not exist" is widespread also in Italy, and is often emphasized and disseminated by the media, with serious risks for personal and collective moral formation. It is part of the Pastor's mission to teach right doctrine clearly in matters of faith and morals and to sustain and encourage all those initiatives which can be held out as a valid alternative to these tendencies. You know, Brothers in the Episcopate, that the Pope is at your side in the witness you bear to the truth and to the love of Christ. He is at your side in your efforts to foster and spread a Christian-inspired culture and lifestyle, also through the mass media.
3. The Pope shares with you an affectionate concern for the common good of this beloved nation that, after having passed through a decade of strong contrasts and changes, needs stability and concord to be able to express its great potential in the best way.
The commitment to the family is inseparable from the commitment to protecting human life, from conception to its natural end. Today, with the development of biotechnology, the frontiers are widening, which requires our watchful presence and courageous proposals for the truth about man. Brothers in the Episcopate, the accusations made to us today of defending positions already outdated are destined, sooner or later, to give way to the recognition that the Church has known how to look ahead and discern, in the light of Christ's Gospel, what is indispensable to true human progress.
Then it is impossible to build the common good without an outlook of concrete solidarity, primarily expressed in developing new job possibilities, especially in those geographical areas, mostly in the South, that are still heavily afflicted by the evil of unemployment. Faced with ever more acute situations of poverty, which involve many families who were previously able to lead a normal life, our ecclesial communities are called to be directly involved, while pressing for more diligent and concrete attention from public institutions. This applies in particular to that difficult but dutiful work of welcoming immigrants, for which many outstanding testimonies are offered by Christian volunteer organizations.
I thank you, moreover, for your constant generosity to the poorest countries and to those where the Church has suffered persistent persecution. In particular, I deeply appreciated the initiative you took to reduce the foreign debt of some nations, thus favouring enlightened decisions on the part of the Italian State.
Brothers, I assure you of my daily prayer for you and for the communities entrusted to your pastoral service. Through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Star of Evangelization, may they be strengthened in faith and grow in communion and in the courage of the mission. As a sign of my affection, that the Lord may grant you these gifts, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to all the Italian people.