The Holy See
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Your Eminence,

On behalf of the Holy Father, I am pleased to address a special greeting to those who are taking part in this solemn Public Meeting at which the Pontifical Academies' Prize is awarded. The Prize was set up by the Servant of God, John Paul II, to encourage young scholars and institutions to promote Christian humanism in the third millennium with their studies or cultural initiatives.

This important event, now in its 10th year, is also a significant moment of encounter and collaboration among the Pontifical Academies, gathered together in their Coordination Council. This body was established to give a new impetus to these Academies and urge them to greater commitment in the provinces of their competence.

His Holiness, spiritually present, first addresses his cordial thoughts to you, Your Eminence, in your office as President of the Coordination Council of the Pontifical Academies, and warmly thanks you and your collaborators for the care with which you follow the progress of the Pontifical Academies, which is directed to a precise goal: to encourage and sustain, in the Church and in the world of culture and the arts, a renewed and generous project of Christian humanism as an appropriate response to the cultural and religious challenges that the people of our time must face every day.
The Holy Father extends his greeting to the Cardinals, his venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, the Ambassadors, the priests, those in charge of the Pontifical Academies and to everyone present here.

The theme chosen for this solemn Public Meeting - Mary Immaculate, Mother of all men and women, icon of beauty and divine love - rightly means emphasizing the special participation in the mystery of God, a sublime mystery of beauty and charity, of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of all humankind.

The Triune God, who spreads his beauty and love throughout the world he created, communicates these qualities of his in particular to his human creatures, whom he moulds and sanctifies with the power of the Holy Spirit so that they may all be holy and blameless before him in love (cf. Eph 1: 4), through his Son, Jesus Christ, the most perfect Mediator.

Mary of Nazareth excels among all creatures as a radiant mirror of divine beauty. Having been "preserved" from original sin and filled "with grace", she was so enlivened and imbued with the love of the Holy Spirit that she became the prototype of the human person who, in the fullest possible way and without reserve, stayed close to the Son of God in the tragic hour of his Passion, as well as in the Resurrection.

Remaining deeply united to the Crucified and Risen Christ, Mary revealed herself as Mother of all humanity, and in particular, of all the followers of her Son.

In his first Encyclical Letter, Deus Caritas Est, referring precisely to the words Jesus spoke on the Cross, "Behold, your mother!" (Jn 19: 27), His Holiness said that here, beneath the Cross of her Son, "Mary has truly become the Mother of all believers. Men and women of every time and place have recourse to her motherly kindness and her virginal purity and grace in all their needs and aspirations, their joys and sorrows, their moments of loneliness and their common endeavours. They constantly experience the gift of her goodness and the unfailing love which she pours out from the depths of her heart. The testimonials of gratitude offered to her from every continent and culture are a recognition of that pure love which is not self-seeking but simply benevolent" (n. 42).

The Church, called in imitation of the Virgin Mary to welcome the Son of God into history and into the events of every people and culture by contemplating the unique and luminous figure of Mary, discovers and understands ever better her identity as mother, disciple and teacher.

This is why the Second Vatican Council "stressed that the Mother of the Lord is not a peripheral figure in our faith and in the panorama of theology; rather, she, through her intimate participation in the history of salvation, "in a certain way unites and mirrors within herself the central truths of the faith'" (Congregation for Catholic Education, The Virgin Mary in Intellectual and Spiritual Formation, n. 5; cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 65).

Thus, Mary becomes "fundamental for Christian "thinking'" (John Paul II, Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday, 25 March 1995, n. 2). Her mystery enlightens us on the mystery of the Church and vice-versa.

This solemn Public Meeting, which sees as protagonists the Pontifical Academy of the Immaculate and the Pontifical International Marian Academy, is a favourable opportunity of which the Supreme Pontiff avails himself to address warm encouragement to all lovers of Mariology, so that they may increasingly intensify their activity in the contexts of study centres and of academic publications, paying special attention to a methodology that respects the fruitful interaction between the via veritatis and the via pulchritudinis that are summed up in the via caritatis.

Lastly, by accepting the proposal formulated by the Council for Coordination between the Pontifical Academies at this formal Public Meeting, the Holy Father is delighted to award the Pontifical Academies Prize to the Section Africaine pour les Congrès Mariologiques, connected with the Pontifical International Marian Academy, and which came into being in the context of the International Mariological and Marian Congress in 2000. It consists of young scholars and lecturers in Mariology from various African countries, and is distinguished by important study projects that aim to contextualize Mariological thought in the African cultures.

Taking up the suggestion of the Council for Coordination itself, the Holy Father is also pleased, as a sign of appreciation and encouragement, to award a Medal of the Pontificate to Fr Fidel Stockl, O.R.C., a scholar of Filipino descent, for his work: Mary, Model and Mother of Consecrated Life. A Marian Synthesis of Theology of Consecrated Life Based on the Teachings of John Paul II.

To conclude, I am pleased to convey to all the Academicians, and especially to the Members of the Pontifical Academy of the Immaculate and the Pontifical International Marian Academy, the deep pleasure in its activities of the Holy Father, who also expresses the hope that all will commit themselves generously to promoting "verbo et opere", in their respective contexts of life and study, an authentic Christian humanism.

With these sentiments, the Holy Father willingly entrusts you, Your Eminence, the members of the Pontifical Academies, as well as the participants in the Public Meeting to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church, and warmly imparts a special Apostolic Blessing to everyone. I am pleased to add my personal greeting, assuring you of my remembrance in prayer.

I welcome this opportunity to confirm that I remain respectfully,
Yours devotedly in the Lord,

Card. Tarcisio Bertone
Secretary of State