MEETING OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE
ADDRESS OF CARD. TARCISIO BERTONE
Ducal Hall, Apostolic Palace
I am pleased to welcome Your Excellencies at the time when I am beginning my new mission as Secretary of State, entrusted to me by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, to whom I renew my sentiments of deep gratitude.
Our first meeting is an important moment to which I have been looking forward; and I express the wish that one day soon, every country will have a representative to the Successor of Peter.
I wish to thank you personally for the messages you have sent me at the time of my appointment. I ask you kindly to convey my fervent gratitude to your Governments for their good wishes to me. These congratulatory messages were a support to me at the time when I was preparing to take up this office.
I also thank H.E. Prof. Giovanni Galassi, your Dean, for his courteous and friendly words on your behalf.
As attentive observers of the life and activity of the Holy See, you are familiar with the twofold aspect of the role of Secretary of State, who is responsible for assisting the Pope in his mission.
On the one hand, this role demonstrates the bond of unity with the Church and with the Holy Father's concern for the particular Churches, with very special attention to the life of the communities that exist in every part of the world which are engaged in proclaiming the Gospel and, with all the members of the different societies, in building an ever more fraternal world.
On the other hand, the Secretary of State is also bound to pursue, develop and foster relations with States and with International Organizations, for "promoting the good of the Church and of civil Society", as the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus of Pope John Paul II states (n. 46).
The Holy See hopes to contribute its support to international life in accordance with its own particular competence, so that everywhere in the world the values of respect and human dignity as well as of dialogue, solidarity, freedom, justice and brotherhood will be encouraged.
I am pleased to recall here my predecessors in the office of Secretary of State, especially Cardinal Agostino Casaroli and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, whom I have just succeeded and whom I thank for his work during the past 16 years. Today, it is my intention to follow in the wake of the long tradition of Secretaries of State.
In his Address to the Diplomatic Corps on 16 January 1982 Pope John Paul II asked himself what the Church could offer. He said on that occasion that she contributes to everyone an institution that gives priority to the lofty values of the human being. She feels no stranger to any problem of contemporary man and hopes to make her own contribution to solving the problems facing humanity (cf. L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 25 January 1982, pp. 1-4).
The passing times have of course brought about changes in some of the external aspects of diplomacy, but "the presence abroad of experienced men who really know the international scene, who are truly upright and have a sense of responsibility, is [still] absolutely necessary" (Address at Meeting with Diplomats Accredited to Switzerland, Fribourg, Switzerland, 13 June 1984, n. 2; ibid., 2 July, p. 9).
Your role as a diplomat is particularly important here. I would therefore like to express to you the high esteem in which I hold your noble task; and I will always be willing to receive you, as far as I am able, so that we can advance together on the path of dialogue to help build a society in which each individual and each family has a place and can live in peace, making their own contribution to the common good.
Your mission renders you attentive to the service that the Church carries out in the four corners of the earth. On political issues, it makes you, who are your countries' representatives here to the Apostolic See, privileged interlocuters of the Secretariat of State, whose members will always be prepared to help you in your office.
Our contemporaries expect diplomats, insofar as it is incumbent upon them, to contribute to founding and preserving "an international order, the art of establishing reasonable human relations among peoples" (Paul VI, Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 8 January 1968).
They also hope that diplomats will be peacemakers, "loyal servants of the interests of your peoples" (John Paul II, Address at Meeting with Diplomats, Fribourg, Switzerland, 13 June 1984, n. 2; ORE, 2 July, p. 9). They must be upright and logical, believe in sincere dialogue and engage to give a new impetus to solidarity between all peoples, especially with a view to reconsidering the question of the foreign debt of the poorest countries, so that individuals and especially children will never again die of hunger or of endemic diseases, never again be the innocent victims of war or local conflict and never again be abused for their convictions or beliefs.
We are in need of a universal commitment for the least privileged of this earth, the poorest, people who often seek in vain a livelihood so as to provide for their family.
Dignity, freedom and unconditional respect for every human being in his or her fundamental rights, particularly freedom of conscience and religion, must be among our most important concerns. We cannot abstain from showing solidarity with the destiny or future of our brothers and sisters in humanity, nor can we truly be at peace before the suffering that disfigures people and that every day we have before our eyes.
As diplomats, I know you are specially attentive to these sensitive issues everywhere in the world. I am thinking most particularly of violence in all its forms inflicted on women and on children, born and unborn. The defence of life, from conception to its natural end, and the defence of the family founded on marriage are also essential issues in social life.
Paul VI stressed further that diplomacy "has a more direct bearing on the real and concrete problems of social life, and first and foremost on that which, one can say, regulates them all: the problem of peace" (Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 8 January 1968).
As I said in a speech on 6 December 1986: "The Holy See's contribution to the issue of peace is particularly rich and demanding, for the key points of the Magisterium easily surpass the systemic and organic study of theologians.
"Profound ties, as the Popes have emphasized, exist between peace and the development of peoples, between peace and freedom and between peace and human rights, between peace and international solidarity. They have given new names to peace and have offered ways of reaching a true peace.
"These ways do not exclude but link up with one another: political and diplomatic ways that are followed by implementing agreements which foresee and forestall conflicts; juridical and institutional ways that give rise to new institutions, to guarantee peace and security; psychological and pedagogical ways", I say this as a Salesian, as a son of Don Bosco, "that aim to form a culture of peace through a wide range of educational institutions; then we have the way of witness of the great prophets of peace; the way of conscientious objection and alternative social service, and the way of non-violence.
"The crucial areas in which one cannot but see even more clearly the difficulty in the connection between the prophetic aspect and the material needs of life - which a human ethics must also consider, especially in a context of private and organized violence that is also marked by a multiplicity of clashing opinions - are the following:
- social protection to guarantee objective order and the defence of human rights;
"Research into these topics by intellectuals and reflection on them by Church bodies and Christian communities will never cease.
"In all these cases, the Documents of the Holy See and especially the texts of the enlightened Magisterium of the post-war Popes are neither texts to be skimmed through nor, even worse, to be ignored.
"They are texts that should be read with attention and meditated upon, so that their ideas can be expressed in practical action and the world can recognize the power and timeliness of the Christian message in the self-giving and courage with which Christians act, furthering peace for all humankind today".
I rejoice in the trusting mutual relations that exist between you and the Secretariat of State. They are principally concerned to serve peace and harmony between peoples, as well as to promote the human being in all his dimensions. You know that in your mission you will always be able to count on the welcome and collaboration of the members of the Secretariat of State.
At the end of our meeting, I would like to wish you yourselves, Your Excellencies, and your collaborators, a happy mission to the Holy See, as I assure you of my prayers for you and for your loved ones.