Speeches 1983 - Friday, 11 November 1983
I am happy to extend a cordial welcome to Your Excellency as I receive from you the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Republic of Tanzania. It is a pleasure for me to receive the courteous greeting that you bring from His Excellency President Nyerere, and I willingly reciprocate those good wishes.
Prompted by the words of your address, I wish to state once again the Catholic Church’s perennial concern for proclaiming in word and deed the message of truth and freedom, of justice and peace, with which she has been entrusted by her Divine Founder. Her service to humanity is one that complements the work of governments which labour to ensure the common good. The Church seeks to promote moral progress and spiritual growth at every level of society, so that every individual may enjoy to the full that noble human dignity which has Almighty God as its author. Thus the Church bears witness to the true meaning of existence and, in so doing, seeks to be an agent of justice, reconciliation and peace among all people.
In this context, I deeply appreciate what you have said of your country’s resolve to pursue the goals of peace, freedom and justice, at both the national and international levels. I hold the conviction that peace is possible precisely because every man, woman and child shares a common history and pursues the same goal of happiness.
Those who aspire to be peacemakers today must accept the challenge of endeavouring to foster attitudes which choose peace instead of violence and which promote respect for every individual’s spiritual dignity.
Mr Ambassador, in undertaking your responsibilities your will have a unique opportunity to promote harmony, peace and understanding among nations. Your special charge will be to nurture the relationship of friendship and cooperation that exists between Tanzania and the Holy See. As you carry out this task, you may be assured of my prayers for the success of your mission.
May God bless you and your work.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to welcome today you who have taken part in the 29th Annual Assembly of the Atlantic Treaty Association. I am pleased to have this occasion to greet you, together with the members of your families. As distinguished personalities of your respective Nations you have gathered to discuss a matter of grave importance for the world at large. Your deliberations and reflections on the topic of peace augur well for the future of your activities, and shed a ray of hope on a subject which all too often remains over-shadowed by discouragement and dismay.
While Nations are naturally preoccupied with the requirements of their own defence, the seemingly endless instances of discord and unrest in the world, and especially the frightening spectre of nuclear holocaust, are powerful incentives to continue the unrelenting search for practical and enduring means of achieving peace.
The Holy See continually seeks out opportunities to cooperate in the urgent task of promoting peace, not only because it occupies a special place within the international community, but also because of its role in accomplishing the very mission of the Church, which is that of proclaiming the saving message entrusted to her by Jesus Christ.
In order that this divine message may be effectively made known, the Church fosters the conditions which enable all men and women to attain their integral development; and thus she strives to participate in and to encourage those endeavours which correspond to one of the highest aspirations of the human spirit, namely, the establishment of true and lasting peace. The Church engages in this pursuit, furthermore, not in a secondary or extraneous way, but in faithful compliance to the exhortation of the Lord himself, who said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Mt 5,9).
The Church, and the Holy See in particular, looks to every competent international organism, as well as to humanity as a whole, to bring to bear the vast resources of intelligence and will for the effecting of carefully measured, concrete steps towards fulfilling that universal desire of people everywhere: peace and security in a well-ordered world.
I wish to encourage you to be steadfast in this quest. And be assured of my constant prayers, so that one day we may all come to the lasting joy of that peace which surpasses all understanding.
God bless you.
I am happy to receive from Your Excellency the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Australia. My pleasure in welcoming you to the Vatican derives, in great part, from the bond of friendship that characterizes the cordial diplomatic relations between your country and the Holy See.
I am grateful for your reference to my message of last New Year’s Day. In it I shared with the leaders of the nations and with the citizens of every country my heartfelt conviction that true dialogue is an essential condition for peace in the world. Prompted by the observations that you have made, I would emphasize once again the necessity and indeed the urgency of this challenge for our time. In so doing I am sure that this call for dialogue echoes the hopes of countless men and women in our society, who desire to see not only a genuine commitment on the part of all nations to eliminate the threat of war through a progressive reduction of both nuclear and conventional arms, but above all to witness the establishment of an atmosphere of peace wherein the spiritual and economic welfare of humanity will be of primary concern.
I truly believe that peace is possible, because I have confidence in man’s capacity to sense what is reasonable, what is right and just, and to recognize that the promotion of the common good benefits the well-being of each individual.
I know besides that this is truly the conviction of Australia which, conscious of its Christian inheritance and of its role in the region, is striving through an open and realistic diplomacy to make its own contribution to the noble cause of peace and to resolving some of the problems in this area of the world.
In this context, I note with satisfaction your reference to the contribution that the Government and people of Australia have made to alleviating the plight of the many refugees who have sought asylum in your country. The respect, the hospitality and the willing acceptance extended to them express more clearly than mere words the real possibility of building a climate of peace by reaching out with compassion and understanding to those in need.
Mr Ambassador, in fulfilling the task that has been assigned to you, you participate in a noble profession of human discourse which, by its very nature, is intended to contribute to a dialogue for peace. It is a work requiring patience and perseverance, but however demanding it may at times become it has the potential for doing incalculable good.
I ask you to convey to the Government and people of Australia my greetings and good wishes. I join you in praying for the successful outcome of your mission. May Almighty God bless you and your fellow citizens with his abundant favours.
Dear Brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ,
With deep fraternal affection I extend to you a cordial welcome to the See of Peter and willingly share with you this special hour of collegial unity and ecclesial communion. Through you I send my greetings of love and peace to the local Churches that you represent and serve: to all the priests, deacons, religious, seminarians and lay people, who under your pastoral leadership are striving to live to the full the mystery of Christ and his Church. And in your persons I desire to honour Jesus Christ, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls (Cfr. 1 Petr. 2, 25).
1. I have already had the occasion to speak to another group of American Bishops about the Church’s celebration of Sunday, and hence in particular about the Sunday Eucharistic celebration. Today I would like to make reference in a wider context to the sacred liturgy and prayer as they relate to the ministry of Bishops and to the life of the Church. Immediately before his Ascension, Jesus assured his Apostles that they would receive Holy Spirit and be clothed with power. As they awaited the fulfilment of Christ’s promise, “they were to be found in the temple constantly, speaking the praises of God” (Lc 24,53)). As Successors of the Apostles, the Bishops are called upon to continue through the liturgy of the Church the great apostolic activity of praising God. Especially in the liturgy each Bishop is a sign of the praying Christ, a sign of the Christ who speaks to his Father, saying: “I offer you praise, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth” (Ibid.10, 21). The liturgy is the greatest instrument of praise, petition, intercession and reparation that the Church possesses. At no other moment in the ministry of the Bishop is his activity more relevant or useful to God’s people than when he offers the Church’s Sacrifice of praise.
As a pastor of Christ’s flock, the Bishop experiences personally the need to thank God for the mystery of Christ’s Cross and Resurrection as it is actually lived each day in the pilgrim Church over which he presides and which he serves. The Bishop praises and blesses “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Petr. 1, 3) for the marvels of grace that have been accomplished in the Christian people through the blood of Christ: for the fidelity to Christ that is lived by so many priests and religious and by countless families in the world; for the splendid efforts made by young people to follow Christ’s teaching; for the gift of conversion constantly given to the faithful in the Sacrament of Penance; for every vocation to the priesthood and religious life; for the paschal combat and for the victory over evil that the Lord continually effects in his Body, the Church; for the good that is accomplished every day in the name of Jesus; for the gift of eternal life that is given to all who eat Christ’s flesh and drink his blood, and for everything that God has given to his people in giving them his Son.
2. The liturgy occupies a place of capital importance in the life of the Church. The full and active participation in the liturgy has so rightly been pointed out by the Second Vatican Council as “the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit” (Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 14). This principle is vital for a proper understanding of conciliar renewal, and deserves repeated emphasis. Equally vital is an understanding of the liturgy as being “above all the worship of the divine majesty” (Ibid. 33). As such, it must be approached by our priests and people with that sense of profound reverence which corresponds to the deepest instincts of their Catholic faith. The liturgy in itself contains a special power to bring about renewal and holiness, and the people’s awareness of this power - its contemplation in faith - actuates it even more. I recently expressed this to the Bishops of America in this way: “When our people, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, realize that they are called to be ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation’ (1 Petr. 2, 9), and that they are called to adore and thank the Father in union with Jesus Christ, an immense power is unleashed in their Christian lives. When they realize that they actually have a Sacrifice of praise and expiation to offer together with Jesus Christ, when they realize that all their prayers of petition are united to an infinite act of the praying Christ, then there is fresh hope and encouragement for the Christian people” (IOANNIS PAULI PP. II, Allocutio ad quosdam episcopos e Foederatis Statibus Americae Septemtrionalis occasione oblata “ad Limina” visitationis coram admissos, 3, die 9 iul. 1983).
3. The true Christian spirit that the faithful derive from the liturgy ensures the building up of the Church in many ways. Through the acquisition by her members of this Christian spirit, the Church becomes ever more a community of worship and prayer, conscious of “the necessity of praying always and not losing heart” (Lc 18,1). This characteristic of constant prayer, as befits the Body of Christ, is manifested in the official prayer of the liturgy: in the Eucharist, in the celebration of the other sacraments and in the Liturgy of the Hours. In all these actions, the mediation of Christ the Head continues, and the whole Church is offered to the Father: the entire Body of Christ intercedes for the salvation of the world.
At the same time the Church realizes that her vital activity and hence her duty to pray is not restricted to liturgical prayer. The Council has explicitly stated: “The spiritual life however is not confined to participation in the liturgy” (Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 12). Christ still asks individual prayer from all of us his members, repeating his injunction: “Pray to your Father in private” (Mt 6,6). Among non-liturgical forms of prayer, one that is worthy of special esteem is the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In addition, every effort to make the Christian family a place of prayer deserves our full encouragement and support.
4. The liturgy is eminently effective in rendering the Church an ever more dynamic community of truth. In the liturgy, the truth of God is celebrated and his word becomes the sustenance of the people that glories in his name. By its power, the liturgy helps us to assimilate what is proclaimed and celebrated in our midst. In the words of the prophet Jeremiah: “When I found your words, I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart, because I bore your name, O Lord, God of hosts” (Ier.15, 16). Through the sacred liturgy the People of God receive the strength to live God’s word in their lives: to be doers of that word and not hearers only (Cfr. Iac. 1, 23).
5. The sacred liturgy, and in particular the Eucharistic Sacrifice, is the source of the Church’s internal unity - “that unity which is tarnished on the human face of the Church by every form of sin, but which subsists indestructibly in the Catholic Church (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 8 Unitatis Redintegratio UR 2,3)” (IOANNIS PAULI PP. II, Allocutio ad sacros Praesules Conferentiae Episcopalis Foederatorum Statuum Americae Septemtrionalis, in Seminario habita, 8, die 5 oct. 1979: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, II/2  639). And while the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass and participation in the Supper of the Lord already require this Catholic unity, it is through them that we pour out to God our earnest desire for that complete unity in faith and love that Christ desires for all his followers. In the Eucharist the Church declares her desire for perfect conformity to Christ’s will: for ever greater purification, conversion and renewal.
6. The relationship of worship and prayer to service and action has a deep meaning for the Church. The Church considers herself called from worship into service; at the same time she looks upon her service as related to her prayer. She attaches extreme importance to the example of Christ, whose actions were all accompanied by prayer and accomplished in the Holy Spirit. For all Christ’s disciples the principle is the same and, as Bishops, we must help our people never to forget this essential aspect of their service; it is a specifically Christian and ecclesial dimension of action.
It is indeed in prayer that a social consciousness is nurtured and at the same time evaluated. It is in prayer that the Bishop, together with his people, ponder the need and exigencies of Christian service. Seven years ago, in his message to the Call to Action Conference in Detroit, Paul VI formulated important principles, stating: “The Lord Jesus does not want us ever to forget that the mark of our discipleship is concern for our brethren . . . Yes, the cause of human dignity and of human rights is the cause of Christ and his Gospel. Jesus of Nazareth is forever identified with his brethren”. Through prayer the Church realizes the full import of Christ’s word: “This is how all will know you for my disciples: your love for one another” (Jn 13,55). It is in prayer that the Church understands the many implications of the fact that justice and mercy are among “the weightier matters of the law” (Mt 23,23). Through prayer, the struggle for justice finds its proper motivation and encouragement, and discovers and maintains truly effective means.
Only a worshipping and praying Church can show herself sufficiently sensitive to the needs of the sick, the suffering, the lonely - especially in the great urban centres - and the poor everywhere. The Church as a community of service has first to feel the weight of the burden carried by so many individuals and families, and then strive to help alleviate these burdens. The discipleship that the Church discovers in prayer she expresses in deep interest for Christ’s brethren in the modern world and for their many different needs. Her concern, manifested in various ways, embraces - among others - the areas of housing, education, health care, unemployment, the administration of justice, the special needs of the aged and the handicapped. In prayer, the Church is confirmed in her solidarity with the weak who are oppressed, the vulnerable who are manipulated, the children who are exploited, and everyone who is in any way discriminated against.
The Church’s service in all these fields must take on specific and concrete forms, and this requires understanding and competence on the part of the various members of the ecclesial community. But the whole program of diakonia must be sustained by prayer, by vital contact with the Christ who insists on linking discipleship with service. For this reason Paul VI concluded his message to the Detroit Conference with these insights: “In the tradition of the Church, any call to action is first of all a call to prayer. And so you are summoned to prayer, and above all to a greater sharing in Christ’s Eucharistic Sacrifice . . . It is in the Eucharist that you find the true Christian spirit that will enable you to go out and act in Christ’s name”.
7. There is moreover a real relationship between the peace that is proclaimed and actuated in the Eucharist and all the initiatives of the Church to bring Christ’s peace to the world. Your own dedicated efforts to promote peace and to help establish in the world those conditions that favour peace are, like peace itself, totally dependent on God’s grace. And this grace, this strength, this help is God’s gift to us, given freely, but given also because it is sought in the name of Jesus, through prayer, through the Eucharist. Your local Churches are called to be communities promoting peace, living peace, invoking peace.
8. In every other sector, too, of Christian life, the Church lives out her nature and reaches her aims by prayer and worship. Indeed, it is in this way that she becomes ever more a communion of love. And we, as Bishops in the Church of God, are called to make our specific contribution to the building up of the communion of love by our own practice of collegiality, by every personal effort that we expend to promote, defend and consolidate the unity of faith and discipline between the local Churches and the universal Church. And all of these efforts are conceived in prayer and effected through union with the praying Christ. It is supremely significant that in the very act - the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice - in which your local Churches attain their deepest identity as a community of worship and a communion of love, you and I are mentioned by name. The identity of our Catholic people and the authenticity of their worship are forever linked to our own ministry, which is none other than the ministry of Jesus Christ, through whom and with whom and in whom all glory and honour is given to the Father and every prayer attains its efficacy.
The worship that animates your local Churches, the inspiration for diakonia and the whole true Christian spirit that derives from the Church’s liturgy are by their essence Christocentric, and directed to the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, every prayer we offer for our people is made with Christ the Lord and High Priest of our salvation. And because our prayer as Bishops is also apostolic, we make it together with Mary the Mother of Jesus (Cfr. Act. 1, 14).
Dear brother Bishops, in praying with Mary we shall discover ever more clearly the meaning of our pastoral ministry of worship, of prayer and of service to Christ’s Church and to the modern world.
I am pleased to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Belize, and I thank you for the warm greetings which you have conveyed on behalf of the Government and people of your country.
Our meeting marks another important moment in the life of your young Nation, which has only recently achieved its independence. You are the first Ambassador of Belize to the Holy See. And your presence here today is a sign of the mutual respect which exists between us; at the same time, it expresses our common intention to deepen the bonds of understanding and trust which we enjoy, and to collaborate in the promotion of peace and justice through fruitful dialogue and dedication to the pursuit of truth.
It was a joy for me to visit Belize earlier this year, and, by doing so, to give expression to the esteem which I bear toward the beloved people of your land. The warm reception accorded to me on that memorable occasion will always remind me of the cordial hospitality and good will of Belizeans.
You have made reference, Mr Ambassador, to the good relations which exist between the Catholic Church and the Government of Belize and to the special contribution which the Church has made to the human and spiritual development of your people. I am happy that this has been the case, and I assure you of the Church’s desire to continue to contribute to the promotion and development of your country.
In welcoming Your Excellency as the first Ambassador of Belize to the Holy See, I assure you of the full cooperation and assistance of the Holy See in the fulfilment of your mission. I ask you to convey my best wishes to Her Excellency Dr Minita Gordon and the other authorities of your country. And I invoke the blessings of Almighty God upon you and your fellow-citizens.
It is a pleasure for me to welcome Your Excellency as I accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Fiji. My satisfaction in extending this greeting is made even greater by the fact that you come as the first Ambassador of your country which only thirteen years ago achieved its Independence. Indeed this special occasion is a sign of the friendly relations and mutual esteem which exist between Fiji and the Holy See. And I am confident that through these diplomatic relations an even deeper understanding and cooperative spirit of dialogue will be fostered.
I am appreciative of the reference which you make to the cause of peace and to efforts which are being made to bring an end to conflict and to promote concord in areas of tension and strife. One of the means of promoting peace, and of restoring it when it is broken, is dialogue and a willingness to negotiate. And this is the special work of diplomats, the particular contribution which they can make to the betterment of humanity. The establishment of diplomatic relations, then, gives expression to the desire of countries to promote peace through mutual knowledge and fruitful cooperation.
I have noted with pleasure your remarks concerning the multiracial and multi-religious composition of the population of your Nation, and the way the different people are able to work together in concord for the betterment of society. The Catholic Church has great respect for other worthy religious traditions, and she upholds the dignity and freedom of conscience of every person, regardless of race or creed. I can assure you, therefore, that the Church in Fiji will always seek to collaborate with all races and religions in efforts to further the common good and the welfare of all, while at the same time she pursues her specific mission of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Mr Ambassador, I trust that your mission here will be a fruitful one. You will, I assure you, receive the cooperation of the Holy See as you fulfil it. I ask you to extend my good wishes to the Governor-General, to the Prime Minister and to the members of the Government. And upon you and all the people of Fiji I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
Dear Brothers in Christ,
I am happy to greet you today - you who have come to Rome to participate for several weeks in a program of renewal, through the Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the North American College. I am aware that, in addition to your academic study, this period offers you time for spiritual reflection and personal renewal, all of which will be of assistance to you as you share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
Concerning the Lord’s mission, Saint Paul tells us: “in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself . . . and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2Co 5,19). As priests, we are charged with being Christ’s ambassadors of reconciliation, allowing him to make his saving appeal to the world through us. But, in order to fulfill this role effectively, we must first embrace that message ourselves and permit it to take root in our very being. We cannot preach the message of reconciliation to others, unless we are convinced of its saving truth for our own lives.
In your pastoral ministry, there are numerous ways in which you are able to bring the Lord’s reconciling love to his people, but perhaps one of the most enriching is found in the celebration of the sacrament of Penance. Here, in allowing penitents the opportunity personally to confess their sins to the Lord, you mediate one of the most profoundly religious moments of forgiveness and joy. In this sacramental encounter - an experience so deeply intimate - we find Christ forgiving, strengthening and leading each person back to the fullness of life. And he has chosen us, his priests, to be the only ones to forgive sins in his name. This ministry, therefore, is uniquely ours and it is one to which we must give priority.
My brothers, as you return to your respective Dioceses, I trust that you will bear witness to this message of reconciliation with new strength and enthusiasm. Encourage your people to have deep confidence in the Lord’s merciful love. Offer the needy, the suffering, and those in trouble the comfort of Christ’s understanding and consolation. And encourage all to experience the depth of his forgiveness, as well as the hope of his new life which is available in a unique and marvellous way through the sacrament of Penance.
May God sustain you in this work and may he grant to you and your loved ones an abundance of his blessings.
Speeches 1983 - Friday, 11 November 1983