Mexico Visit 1999
Address to the Diplomatic Corps
Jan. 23, 1999
[Official Vatican Text]
Conversion of minds and effective, not just theoretical, solidarity are
On Saturday evening, 23 January, the Holy Father paid a courtesy visit to President
Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon at the Presidential Residence, "Los Pinos". After
a private meeting with the President, the Pope was introduced to the members of his family
and staff. The Holy Father was then conducted to the Adolfo Lopez Mateos Hall of the
Presidential Residence, where he met the Diplomatic Corps accredited to Mexico. Here is a
translation of his address, which was given in Spanish.
Mr. President of the Republic,
Your Excellencies, the Ambassadors and Heads of Mission
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. . I am very grateful to President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon for his kind words
introducing me to the Heads of diplomatic missions accredited to Mexico. Their
presentation to the Pope in your official residence of Los Pinos is a respectful gesture
which I warmly appreciate.
Within the context of this Pastoral Visit, I am very pleased to meet you who are
responsible for the relations of your respective States with Mexico, reinforcing them with
dialogue and cooperation, and testifying at the same time to this nation's importance in
the world. You also represent the international community with which the Holy See
maintains ancient and stable relations, confirming an age-old tradition that grows more
vigorous each day.
2. We live in a world. of both complexity and unity; the various communities of which
it is composed are drawing closer together, and the financial and economic systems on
which the integral development of humanity depends are more extensive and rapid. This
growing interdependency leads to new stages of progress, but at the same time includes the
risk of seriously limiting the personal and community freedom that belongs to all
democratic life. Therefore, a social system must be promoted which allows all peoples to
take an active part in furthering their integral progress; otherwise, many of these
peoples could find themselves prevented from achieving it.
The human person must be centre of every social system
Contemporary progress, unparalleled in the past, must enable all human beings to see
their dignity safeguarded and to be offered a deeper awareness of the greatness of their
own destiny. However, at the same time it exposes human beings - both the strongest and
those socially and politically weakest - to the danger of becoming just a number or a mere
economic factor (cf. Centesimus annus, n. 49). If this were the case, the human
being could gradually lose the awareness of his transcendent value. This awareness - at
times obvious, at others implicit - is what distinguishes man from all other beings in
3. Faithful to the mission received from her Founder, the Church tirelessly proclaims
that the human person must be the centre of every civil and social order, of every system
of technological and economic development. Human history cannot go against man. This would
be tantamount to opposing God, whose living image is the human being, even when he is
disfigured by error or transgression.
This is the conviction that the Church would like to put on the table of the United
Nations, or to express in the amicable dialogue she maintains with you, the members of the
Diplomatic Corps, and with the authorities you represent in various parts of the world.
From these principles can be deduced the important moral and civic values that were
stressed by the Bishops of America meeting at the 1997 Synod in Rome.
4 . Among these values, conversion of minds and effective solidarity between the
various human groups stand out as essential elements for contemporary social life at the
national and international level. International life requires a basis of common moral
values and common rules of collaboration. Certainly, the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, whose 50th anniversary we celebrated last year, and other documents of universal
value offer important elements in the search for this moral foundation, common to all
countries, or at least to a great many of them.
If we look at the world scene, we see that certain situations exist which are easy to
note. The power of the developed countries is becoming increasingly burdensome to the
developing countries. In international relations, priority is sometimes given to the
economy over human values, and as they are weakened, freedom and democracy are affected.
On the other hand, the arms race shows us that in many cases weapons are meant for
defence, but in others, they are truly offensive and used in the name of ideologies that
do not always respect human dignity. The phenomenon of corruption is regrettably making
inroads into large areas of the social fabric of some nations, without those who suffer
the consequences always having an opportunity to demand justice and accountability.
Individualism is also marring international life, with the result that the powerful
nations are able to grow more so each day, while the weaker ones become increasingly
Treat human situations with great respect and justice
5. In view of this situation, an appropriate conversion of minds and an effective, not
merely theoretical, solidarity are required among persons and human groups. This is what
the Latin American Episcopate, in union with the Pope, has been suggesting for decades.
This is what the Bishops of the American continent asked for at the Synod. In this regard
we should mention the many relief efforts for the peoples in neighbouring Central America
affected by Hurricane Mitch, in which Mexico generously participated together with other
nations, showing a shared sense of fraternity and solidarity.
America is a continent that includes large, technologically advanced nations and others
which are relatively small, with varying levels of development. Even in the same country,
very different social and human situations exist side by side, as in Mexico, situations
which must always be treated with great respect and justice, with tireless recourse to
dialogue and cooperation.
America forms a human and geographical unit that extends from the North Pole to the
South. Although its past is rooted in ancestral cultures such as the Mayan, Olmec, Aztec
or Incan - from contact with the old continent and with Christianity for over five
centuries, it has come to share a common destiny which is unique in the world. America in
itself is a particularly suitable place for promoting shared values that can guarantee an
effective conversion of minds, especially of those who have national and international
6. This continent could be the "Continent of Hope" if the human communities
and their ruling classes which comprise it were to adopt a common ethical foundation. The
Catholic Church and the other great religious confessions in America can contribute
specific elements to this common ethic, elements which free consciences from being limited
by ideas deriving from mere incidental consensus. America and all humanity need essential
reference-points for all citizens and their political leaders. "Thou shalt not
kill", "Thou shalt not lie", "Thou shalt not steal or covet thy
neighbour's goods", "Respect the basic dignity of the human person" in his
physical and moral dimensions: these are inviolable principles sanctioned in the Decalogue
common to Jews, Christians and Muslims, and similar to the norms of other great religions.
They are principles which bind every human being as well as the various societies.
Much remains undone in the area of human rights
These principles and others like them must form a bulwark against any attack on life,
from its beginning to its natural end; against wars of expansion and the use of weapons as
instruments of destruction; against corruption which erodes broad levels of society,
sometimes with transnational dimensions; against the abusive invasion of the private
sphere by authorities who approve obligatory sterilization or by laws restricting the
right to life; against deceptive advertising campaigns that compromise the truth and
determine the lifestyle of entire peoples; against monopolies that seek to block sound
initiatives and to limit the growth of whole societies; against the spread of drug abuse
which saps the strength of young people and even kills them.
7. Much has been done in this regard. International conventions aimed at limiting some
of these abuses are numerous. Groups of nations join forces to create economic spaces
where political, economic and social life may be properly oriented and better protected by
principles that are more just and in greater conformity with the rights of each citizen,
each people and each culture.
However, there is still much to be done. We are approaching the end of a century and a
millennium which, despite the great achievements of science and technology, have left an
obvious trail of scars that recall, sometimes tragically, the scant attention paid to the
moral principles mentioned above. Rather than seeing them further violated, their ethical,
morally binding force must be strengthened in the new century and the new millennium.
8. In sharing these thoughts with you, I am motivated by no other concern than to
defend human dignity, and by no other authority than the divine Word. This Word is not
mine, but comes from God, who became man so that human beings might become his children.
With no special interests, I offer you these reflections today in the hope that they can
help you in your diplomatic work and your personal life, in your desire to contribute to
building a world more human and just than the one we have been offered by the century and
millennium now drawing to close.
In the near future, may respect for the life, truth and dignity of every human being
prevail! This is the urgent task that awaits us. May God bless the work you are
accomplishing. May he bless Mexico and the countries you represent in this privileged city
where America and the world meet and dialogue. Thank you very much for your attention!