U.S. Visit 1999
January 26, 1999
St. Louis Airport
[Official Vatican Text]
Dear People of St. Louis,
Dear People of the United States,
1. It is a great joy for me to return to the United States and to experience once more
your warm hospitality.
As you know, I have been in Mexico, to celebrate the conclusion of the Special Assembly
for America of the Synod of Bishops. The purpose of that important Meeting was to prepare
the Church to enter the new Millennium and to encourage a new sense of solidarity among
the peoples of the continent. Now I am happy to be able to bring this message to
Mid-America, on the banks of the Mississippi, in this historic city of St. Louis, the
Gateway to the West.
I am grateful to you, Mr. President, for your courtesy in meeting me on my arrival. I
likewise greet the Governor and authorities of the State of Missouri, as well as the Mayor
of St. Louis and the other officials of the City and surrounding areas. So many people
have offered their generous cooperation in preparation for this visit, and I am grateful
to them all.
2. As Pastor of the universal Church, I am particularly happy to greet the Catholic
community of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, with its rich spiritual heritage and its
dynamic traditions of service to those in need. I wish to say a special word of
appreciation to Archbishop Justin Rigali, who has been close to me since I became Pope
twenty years ago. I am looking forward to being with the priests, deacons, religious and
laity of this local Church, which has exercised such influence on the history of the
With deep thanks I greet the Cardinals and Bishops. Their presence gives me an
opportunity to send my good wishes to the whole Province of St. Louis and its
ecclesiastical Region, and to all the Dioceses of this country. Although St. Louis is the
only place I am able to visit at this time, I feel close to all the Catholics of the
I express my friendship and esteem for my fellow Christians, for the Jewish community
in America, for our Muslim brothers and sisters. I express my cordial respect for people
of all religions and for every person of good will.
3. As history is retold, the name of St. Louis will be forever linked to the first
transatlantic flight, and to the immense human endeavor and daring behind the name: the Spirit
of St. Louis.
You are preparing for the bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase made in 1804 by
President Thomas Jefferson. That anniversary presents a challenge of religious and civic
renewal to the entire community. It will be the opportunity to reassert the Spirit
of St. Louis and to reaffirm the genuine truths and values of the American
There are times of trial, tests of national character, in the history of every country.
America has not been immune to them. One such time of trial is closely connected with St.
Louis. Here, the famous Dred Scott case was heard. And in that case the Supreme Court of
the United States subsequently declared an entire class of human beings people of
African descent outside the boundaries of the national community and the
After untold suffering and with enormous effort, that situation has, at least in part,
America faces a similar time of trial today. Today, the conflict is between a culture
that affirms, cherishes, and celebrates the gift of life, and a culture that seeks to
declare entire groups of human beings the unborn, the terminally ill, the
handicapped, and others considered unuseful to be outside the
boundaries of legal protection. Because of the seriousness of the issues involved, and
because of Americas great impact on the world as a whole, the resolution of this new
time of testing will have profound consequences for the century whose threshold we are
about to cross. My fervent prayer is that through the grace of God at work in the lives of
Americans of every race, ethnic group, economic condition and creed, America will resist
the culture of death and choose to stand steadfastly on the side of life. To choose life
as I wrote in this years Message for the World Day of Peace
involves rejecting every form of violence: the violence of poverty and hunger, which
oppresses so many human beings; the violence of armed conflict, which does not resolve but
only increases divisions and tensions; the violence of particularly abhorrent weapons such
as anti-personnel mines; the violence of drug trafficking; the violence of racism; and the
violence of mindless damage to the natural environment.
Only a higher moral vision can motivate the choice for life. And the values underlying
that vision will greatly depend on whether the nation continues to honor and revere the
family as the basic unit of society: the family teacher of love, service,
understanding and forgiveness; the family open and generous to the needs of others;
the family the great wellspring of human happiness.
4. Mr. President, dear friends: I am pleased to have another opportunity to thank the
American people for the countless works of human goodness and solidarity which, from the
beginning, have been such a part of the history of your country. At the same time I know
that you will hear my plea to open wide your hearts to the ever increasing plight and
urgent needs of our less fortunate brothers and sisters throughout the world.
This too the spirit of compassion, concern and generous sharing must be
part of the Spirit of St. Louis. Even more, it must be the renewed
spirit of this one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all. God
bless you all! God bless America!