Speeches 1984 - Memorial University
Friday, 14 September 1984
Dear Friends, and beloved Children at Izaak Walton Killam Hospital,
1. As we begin this new day, a day when the Church throughout the world celebrates the Triumph of the Holy Cross, I am very pleased to pay you a visit at this hospital. I greet you all in the name of Jesus Christ. I greet the doctors, nurses and staff, the handicapped and the sick, the children and their families. I am grateful to God for the opportunity of being with you. I come as a Pastor and friend, wishing to assure you of the great affection which the Church has for you. You have a special place in my heart. And my prayers of the whole Church are with you, particularly when you feel most helpless and weak.
2. I would like to recall, at this time, the special love which Jesus has for the handicapped and the sick, for children and all who suffer. For example, we find the following passage in the Gospel according to Saint Mark: "People were bringing little children to him, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it’. Then he put his arms around them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing" (Marc. 10, 13-16).
What a striking illustration of the tender love of Jesus for children! And at the same time, a model of loving service which we, the Church, seek to imitate in our own day. We, too, wish to assure all children, and all those who are sick or handicapped, of our deep concern and support. We wish to bless them and lift them up to the Lord in prayer.
3. And now, I would address a few words to the doctors, nurses, parents and all who care for the sick and handicapped. I wish to thank you first of all, and commend you for your dedicated labours, for the countless hours of care and concern which you direct to these, God’s little ones in need.
Jesus, during his life on earth, not only had a special love for children and for those who are ill or disabled. He even identified himself with them when he said: "I was sick and you visited me . . . as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25,36 Mt 25,40). These words recorded by Saint Matthew show the dignity and value of your work on behalf of these little ones. Your loving devotion, your generous service, your medical and professional expertise - all these are acts of love for the child or the patient, and are acts of love for Christ who is mysteriously present in them. And your charity and devoted care bear witness to the dignity and worth of every human being, even the tiniest and most helpless baby. May God bless you and sustain you with his grace.
With these few words, then, I assure all of you of the love and concern Or the Church and of my own pastoral affection in Christ. And I ask God to bless you with his gifts of peace and joy. May the Lord of life be with you all.
Nathan Philips Square
Friday, 14 September 1984
Dear Brother Priests,
1. I am pleased that the first major meeting of my pastoral visit to the Church in Toronto finds me here with you. I want you to know the joy I experience and how much I appreciate all that you do for God’s holy people. Happily our gathering occurs on the feast of the Triumph of the Cross. The significance of this celebration is outlined for us in today’s liturgy. Here we find a rich source of inspiration for reflecting on the meaning which the Cross has for the Priesthood of Jesus and, consequently, the meaning that it has for our own priestly lives.
2. The Cross represents the culmination of Jesus’ priestly service. On it he offers himself as the perfect sacrifice of reparation to the Father for the sins of humanity; thereby he establishes a new and lasting covenant between God and man. This wonderful covenant is renewed in every Eucharist that we celebrate; and in every Eucharist, the Church reaffirms her identity and her calling as the Body of Christ.
In turning to the Gospel passage from Saint John which we have just listened to, we find Jesus in discussion with Nicodemus, a ranking Jewish leader of his time, who "came by night", under the cover of darkness, to be enlightened by him who is "the light of the world". By his questions Nicodemus indicates that he is in search of the truth about God and that he desires to know the right direction that his life should take. Jesus does not disappoint him. His response is clear and direct. In answering Nicodemus, Jesus goes to the very core of the Gospel message: "God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life" (Jn 3,16).
The lifting up of the Son of Man on the Cross is a sign of the Father’s love. Jesus confirms this when he says: "The Father loves me because I lay down my life in order to take it up again" (Ibid. 10, 17). At the same time the Cross demonstrates Jesus’ loving filial obedience to the Father’s will: "My food is to do the will of the one who sent me, and to complete his work" (Ibid. 4, 34). The Cross is truly a sign of divine love - but a divine love that the Son shares with humanity.
This love symbolized by the Cross is profoundly pastoral, for by it everyone who believes in Christ gains eternal life. Upon the Cross the Good Shepherd "lays down his life for the sheep" (Ibid.10, 11). Jesus’ act of dying on the Cross is the supreme ministerium, the highest act of service to the community of believers. The Sacrifice of Jesus expresses more eloquently than human words the pastoral nature of the love that Christ has for his people.
The Cross represents the will of the Father to reconcile the world through his Son. Saint Paul summarizes for us the reconciling mission of Christ when he writes: "God wanted all perfection to be found in him and all things to be reconciled through him and for him, everything in heaven and everything on earth, when he made peace by his death on the cross" (Col 1,19-20).
The Cross not only stands over the ecclesial community that is gathered in faith, but its sphere of influence extends to "everything in heaven and on earth". The power of the Cross is the reconciling force that directs the destiny of the whole of creation. Our Lord reveals the centre of that reconciling power when he says, "And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men to myself" (Jn 12,32). The reality of the Cross profoundly affects our contemporary society with all its technological skills and scientific achievements. It is through the Priesthood of Christ that this society will reach its ultimate destiny in God.
3. As the meaning of Christ’s Priesthood is discovered in the mystery of the Cross, so too the life of the priest derives its sense and purpose from this same mystery. Since we share in the Priesthood of the Crucified Jesus, we must realize more and more each day that our service is marked by the sign of the Cross.
The Cross reminds us priests of God’s great love for humanity and of God’s personal love for us. The greatness of that love is communicated first of all in the gift of new life that each Christian receives through the saving waters of Baptism. This wonderful expression of divine love continually fills the believer with gratitude and joy.
And how marvellous is that gift which Jesus offers to certain men - for the benefit of all - of sharing in his ministerial priesthood. Which of us priests cannot but find in that call an expression of God’s deep and personal love for him and for the whole Church that he is called to build up through a specific ministry of word and Sacrament?
Knowing that we have been called to join our lives to the redeeming mission of Jesus, each of us senses his own unworthiness in being ordained a "man of God" for others. This realization leads us to seek a greater dependence on God in prayer. In union with Christ in prayer, we find the strength to accept the Father’s will, to respond joyfully to Christ’s love and thereby to grow in holiness. In this process, the shadow of the Cross falls across our whole existence as priests, urging us to imitate Christ himself with ever greater generosity. Throughout this struggle, the words of Saint Paul constantly echo in our hearts: "Life to me, of course, is Christ" (Ph 1,21).
4. As priests we also see in the Cross a symbol of our own pastoral service to others. Like the High Priest in whose name we act, we are called "not to be served but to serve" (Mt 20,38). We are charged with shepherding the flock of Christ, to lead it "it paths of righteousness for his name’s sake" (Ps 23,3).
Our primary service as priests is to proclaim the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ. We communicate this message, however, not "in terms of philosophy in which the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed", but through "the language of the cross", which is "God’s power to save" (1Co 1,17-18). Effective preaching requires that we be imbued with the mystery of the Cross through study and through daily reflection on God’s word.
Our priestly service finds its most sublime expression in the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Indeed, the Eucharistic Sacrifice is the sacramental proclamation of the mystery of salvation. In this sacred action we make present, for the glory of the Most Holy Trinity and for the sanctification of the people, Christ’s Sacrifice on the Cross. The Eucharist brings the power of Christ’s death on the Cross into the lives of the faithful: "Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup you are proclaiming his death" (Ibid. 11, 26).
The Eucharist is the very reason for the priesthood. The priest exists in order to celebrate the Eucharist. In the Eucharist we find meaning for everything else we do. We must, therefore, be attentive to this great gift entrusted to us for the good of our brothers and sisters. We must reflect deeply on what it is we do as we celebrate the Eucharist, and how this action affects our whole lives.
For Holy Thursday 1980, I shared this thought with the Bishops of the Church in a letter addressed to them: "The priest fulfils his principal mission and is manifested in all his fullness when he celebrates the Eucharist, and this manifestation is more complete when he himself allows the depth of that mystery to become visible, so that it alone shines forth in people’s hearts and minds through his ministry" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II, Dominicae Cenae, 2, die 24 febr. 1980: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, III, 1 (1980) 583).
Through his love for the Eucharist the priest inspires the laity to exercise their own distinctive and important role in liturgical worship. He also makes this possible by actuating the charism of his own ordination. In his pastoral letter on the Priesthood, Cardinal Carter describes this aspect of the priest’s role: "Its function is to summon the People of God to their own high responsibility . . . to offer that sacrifice of praise which should leaven their lives and through them the world. This the priest must do in persona Christi" (Card. Carter, Epist. Past., V, 7).
In a word, priests lift up Christ in the midst of the assembly so that, under the sign of the Cross, the assembly may be built up in unity and in love and give witness to the world of Christ’s redeeming love.
5. Under the sign of the Cross, we know that certain sacrifices will be demanded of us. This does not surprise us because Christ’s way of performing pastoral service is the way of the Cross. At times we may encounter discouragement, loneliness, even rejection. We may be asked to give of ourselves to a point that we feel completely depleted of our energy. We are regularly asked to be understanding, patient and compassionate with those with whom we may disagree and with everyone we encounter. Yet we accept these demands, with whatever sacrifices they may involve, in order to be "all things to all men in order to save some at any cost" (1Co 9,23). And we accept what is demanded, not begrudgingly, but willingly, yes, joyfully.
Our priestly commitment to live a celibate life "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven" is likewise embraced for the benefit of others. Allow me to repeat what I wrote to the priests of the world in my Holy Thursday letter of 1979: "Through his celibacy, the Priest becomes the ‘man for others’, in a different way from the man who, by binding himself in conjugal union with a woman, also becomes, as husband and father, a man ‘for others’ . . . The Priest, by renouncing this fatherhood proper to married men, seeks another fatherhood and, as it were, even another motherhood, recalling the words of the Apostle about the children whom he begets in suffering. These are children of his spirit, people entrusted to his solicitude by the Good Shepherd . . . The pastoral vocation of priests is great . . . The heart of the priest, in order that it may be available for this service, must be free. Celibacy is a sign of a freedom that exists for the sake of service" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II, Epistula ad universos Ecclesiae Sacerdotes, adveniente Feria V in Cena Domini, 8, die 8 apr. 1979: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, II (1979) 854 s.).
6. Et nous prêtres, nous reconnaissons aussi dans le mystère de la Croix la puissance de réconciliation que le Christ exerce sur toute la création. Nous croyons que la Croix du Christ présente à la société contemporaine - avec ses découvertes scientifiques et son progrès technologique, avec son aliénation et son désespoir - un message de réconciliation et d’espérance. Quand nous présidons l’assemblée eucharistique, qui est la source de la réconciliation et de l’espérance pour l’Eglise, nous portons la responsabilité d’aider les chrétiens à humaniser le monde grâce à la puissance du Seigneur crucifié et ressuscité.
Chers Frères dans le sacerdoce, le Christ nous appelle à proclamer son message de réconciliation et d’espérance d’une manière toute particulière, d’une manière que la Providence de Dieu nous a réservée, à nous seuls. Proclamer la réconciliation et l’espérance, cela veut dire non seulement insister sur la grandeur du pardon de Dieu et de son amour bienveillant au regard du péché, mais aussi permettre aux fidèles de bénéficier de l’action du Christ qui pardonne par le Sacrement de Pénitence.
A mainte reprise j’ai demandé à mes frères dans le sacerdoce et aux évêques de donner une priorité particulière à ce Sacrement, afin que le Christ puisse rejoindre ses frères et ses soeurs dans cette rencontre personnelle d’amour. Notre ministère sacramentel, qui inscrit au coeur de la vie des fidèles le don de la Rédemption, est un acte d’étroite collaboration avec le Sauveur du monde. C’est par la conversion personnelle réalisée et scellée par le Sang de Jésus que le renouveau et la réconciliation pénétreront finalement toute la création.
A cette occasion, je voudrais rappeler ce que j’ai dit en septembre dernier à un groupe d’évêques canadiens à Rome. C’était un appel lancé dans le cadre de la préparation à ma visite pastorale. Espérant que désormais il servira de prolongement à ma visite, je vous adresse ce même appel “à inviter tous les fidèles du Canada à la conversion et à la confession personnelle. Pour certains, ce sera faire l’expérience de la joie du pardon sacramentel pour la première fois depuis bien des années; pour chacun, ce sera une expérience de la grâce . . . Appeler à la conversion, c’est aussi appeler à la générosité et à la paix. C’est un appel à accueillir la miséricorde et l’amour de Jésus-Christ” (23 septembre 1983). Chers Frères, proclamons au monde la réconciliation et l’espérance dont nous faisons nous-mêmes l’expérience par le Sacrement de Pénitence.
The vocation to which Christ has called us is truly a challenge to our love. In the words of the Letter to the Hebrews: "Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which was still in the future, he endured the Cross" (Hebr. 12, 2).
As we renew our priestly commitment today, let us offer ourselves to Christ along the way of the Cross. And let us do so in union with Mary, his Mother and ours.
Friday, 14 September 1984
Dear Friends in Christ,
1. I am deeply pleased to join in the prayer of praise and petition with all of you who represent the different Churches and Christian Communions throughout Canada. With deep respect and love I greet you all in the words of the Apostle Paul: "Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (2Th 1,2).
In the Gospel according to Saint Matthew we are told that Jesus "went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them" (Mt 5,1-2). We, too, are disciples of Jesus, and together we go to him. We go to listen to his word so that he may teach us as he once taught the crowd that gathered round him on the mountain. We wish to be instructed and inspired by his message of salvation. We also wish to pray together for the gift of unity among all Christians and to unite our hearts in praise of God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
2. It is very good to be with you. I want you to know how deeply grateful I am for the Ecumenical Pastoral Letter which was addressed to Christian congregations and parishes throughout Canada prior to my pastoral visit. It was heart-warming to be assured of the prayerful support and fraternal interest of so many Christian brothers and sisters. I deeply appreciate the warm welcome which you have extended to me, and I am very pleased that you have seized this opportunity to affirm the necessity of the ecumenical movement, to point out many of the important steps towards full unity which have already been taken, and to encourage fresh initiatives and continued prayer for the achievement of that goal for which we so greatly long.
3. Exactly twenty years ago today, on September 14, 1964, my predecessor Paul VI addressed those taking part in the Second Vatican Council as they gathered to begin the Third General Session, which was to promulgate the Constitution on the Church and the Decree on Ecumenism. Towards the end of his address he spoke directly to the Observers from other Churches and ecclesial Communities, saying: "We wish to assure you once more of our aim and hope to be able one day to remove every obstacle, every misunderstanding, every suspicion that still prevents us from feeling fully ‘of one heart and one soul’ (Act. 4, 22) in Christ and in his Church . . . This is something of the greatest importance, having its roots in the mysterious counsels of God, and we shall strive, in humility and piety, to dispose ourselves to be worthy of so great a grace".
In the twenty years that have elapsed since these words were spoken, we can rejoice to see the great strides that have been made, for indeed many obstacles, misunderstandings and suspicions have been removed. For all of this we give thanks to God. At the same time, I am grateful for this occasion, and others such as this, which give us the opportunity to appreciate more fully what God’s grace has wrought in our midst, and which give us renewed strength and courage for pursuing together the path which still lies ahead.
4. In my first Encyclical letter, "Redemptor Hominis", written shortly after my election to the See of Peter, I stated: "In the present historical situation of Christianity and the world, the only possibility we see of fulfilling the Church’s universal mission with regard to ecumenical questions is that of seeking sincerely, perseveringly, humbly and also courageously the ways of drawing closer and of union. Pope Paul VI gave us his personal example for this. We must therefore seek unity without being discouraged at the difficulties that can appear or accumulate along that road; otherwise we would be unfaithful to the word of Christ, we would fail to accomplish his testament" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II, Redemptor Hominis RH 6). The experience of the past six years since my election has confirmed even more in my heart the evangelical obligation "of seeking sincerely, perseveringly, humbly and also courageously the ways of drawing closer and of union".
5. We cannot turn back on this difficult but vital task, for it is essentially linked with our mission of proclaiming to all humanity the message of salvation. The restoration of the complete unity of Christians, for which we so greatly yearn and pray, is of crucial importance for the evangelization of the world. Millions of our contemporaries still do not know Christ, and millions more who have heard of Christ are hindered from accepting the Christian faith because of our tragic division. Indeed, the reason Jesus prayed that we might be one was precisely "so that the world might believe" (Jn 17,21). The proclamation of the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ is greatly obstructed by doctrinal division among the followers of the Saviour. On the other hand, the work of evangelization bears fruit when Christians of different communions, though not yet fully one, collaborate as brothers and sisters in Christ, to the degree possible and with respect for their particular traditions.
As the third millennium of Christianity approaches, we are faced with a rapidly expanding technology which raises numerous opportunities as well as obstacles to evangelization. While it engenders a number of beneficial effects for humanity, it has also ushered in a technological mentality which challenges Gospel value. The temptation exists of pursuing technological development for its own sake, as if it were an autonomous force with built-in imperatives for expansion, instead of seeing it as a resource to be placed at the service of the human family. A second temptation exists which would tie technological development to the logic of profit and constant economic expansion without due regard for the rights of workers or the needs of the poor and helpless. A third temptation is to link technological development to the pursuit or maintenance of power instead of using it as an instrument for freedom.
To avoid these dangers, all such developments need to be examined in terms of the objective demands of the moral order and in the light of the Gospel message. United in the name of Christ, we need to ask critical questions and assert basic moral principles which have a bearing on technological development. For instance, the needs of the poor must take priority over the desires of the rich; the rights of workers over the maximization of profits; the preservation of the environment over uncontrolled industrial expansion; production to meet social needs over production for military purposes. These challenges present us with important areas of ecumenical collaboration and form a vital part of our mission of proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. And before all of this we lift up our hearts to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I know that major efforts of ecumenical collaboration have been taking place in Canada for a number of years; in more recent years there have been an increasing intensity and a growing longing for complete union in Christ. The various theological dialogues between the Churches have been very significant, and several inter-church coalitions for social justice and human rights have proven to be particularly important in view of the special problems of our technological age. I deeply admire the Christian spirit which has produced these generous efforts. And I urge you to continue, despite incomplete results, and despite the unfair criticisms which you may at times encounter on the part of those who do not understand the importance of ecumenical activity. I willingly reiterate the position of the Catholic Church that all worthy efforts for promoting unity among Christians are a response to the will of God and the prayer of Christ. They are an essential part of our mission to live the truth in charity and to proclaim the Gospel of Christ.
6. La collaboration oecuménique, comme nous l’avons constaté, peut prendre bien des formes: travailler ensemble dans des programmes d’entraide, entreprendre le dialogue théologique et essayer en commun de comprendre notre passé tourmenté, coopérer dans l’action pour la justice et pour l’humanisation de la société technologique, et bien d’autres actions encore. Toutes ont une grande valeur et il faut les poursuivre avec ardeur, en particulier celles qui font avancer la vérité et nous aident à croître en charité fraternelle. En même temps, il faut que nous nous rappelions la primauté des activités spirituelles que le second Concile du Vatican considérait comme l’âme même du mouvement oecuménique (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 8). Je pense à la pratique fidèle de la prière publique et privée pour la réconciliation et l’unité, et à la recherche de la conversion personnelle et de la sainteté de vie. Sans cela, tous les autres efforts manquent de profondeur et n’ont pas la vitalité de la foi. Nous aurions vite oublié aussi que saint Paul nous dit clairement: “Tout vient de Dieu, qui nous a réconciliés avec lui par le Christ et nous a confié le ministère de la réconciliation” (2Co 5,18).
Il ne peut y avoir parmi nous de progrès vers l’unité s’il n’y a pas d’approfondissement de la sainteté de la vie. Dans les Béatitudes, Jésus montre le chemin de la sainteté: “Heureux les pauvres de coeur . . . Heureux les doux . . . Heureux ceux qui pleurent . . . Heureux ceux qui ont faim et soif de la justice . . .” (Mt 5,3 ss.). Si nous cherchons à nous trouver parmi ceux qui sont déclarés “heureux”, nous grandirons nous-mêmes en sainteté; mais en même temps nous apporterons notre contribution à l’unité de tous les disciples du Christ, et ainsi nous participerons à la réconciliation du monde. La vraie sainteté de la vie, qui nous rapproche du coeur du Sauveur, fortifiera nos liens de charité avec tous, et spécialement les autres chrétiens.
Let us, then, strive to be counted among these "blessed ones" of the beatitudes, "hungering and thirsting for righteousness" in a technological age, praying for unity with one another and with all who believe in Christ, yearning in hope for the day when "there will be only one flock and one shepherd" (Jn 10,16).
Saturday, 15 September 1984
1. I am happy to be with you this morning at the Martyrs’ Shrine in Huronia. My pastoral visit to Canada would be incomplete without meeting the sick and elderly who are so close to my heart. When I think of you, I am reminded of the words, of the Lord spoken through the prophet Isaiah: "You are precious in my eyes, because you are honoured and I love you" (Is 43,4). Indeed you are precious in the eyes of the Lord and in the eyes of the Pope. You hold a place of honour in the Church for, in a particular way, you share in the mystery of the Cross of Christ, the Cross which in faith we know to be the Tree of Everlasting Life.
2. Suffering and sickness, and death itself, are part of the mystery of life. But while they remain a mystery, they need not be without meaning. In Christ and through his Passion and Resurrection, all creation has been redeemed, including all human experience. In fact, in his Passion Christ used suffering and death to express in the fullest way his obedient love for the Father. And now, in union with Christ our sufferings can become an act of love for the Father, a loving act of surrender to the providence of God.
3. People often tell me that they are offering their prayers and sacrifices for me and my intentions. I am deeply grateful for this gesture of solidarity and devotion, and I am humbled by the goodness and generous love of those who suffer. May you never doubt that the willing acceptance of your suffering in union with Christ is of great value for the Church. If the salvation of the world was accomplished by the suffering and death of Jesus, then we know that important contributions to the mission of the Church are made by the sick and elderly, by persons confined to hospital beds, by invalids in wheelchairs, by those who fully share in the Cross of our saving Lord. As Saint Paul said of his own sufferings: "In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions" (Col 1,24).
Saint Paul words are especially true of the Martyrs whom we honour at this Shrine. For these Martyrs gladly accepted suffering, and even death, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through the shedding of their blood, they bore witness to the power of God’s grace shining through our human weakness. By their prayers and courageous example, we receive inspiration and strength for our lives.
4. Once when Jesus was addressing a large crowd, he said to them: "Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Mt 11,28-29). These words are intended for all of us, but they have a particular significance for the sick and elderly, for whoever feels "overburdened". We note, with consolation, Jesus’ promise that our souls will find rest - not our bodies but our souls. Jesus does not promise to remove all physical suffering from our lives during our earthly pilgrimage, but he does promise to refresh our spirits, to lift up our hearts, to give rest to our souls. Come to the Lord, then, with your weariness and pain, your burdens and sorrows, and "you will find rest for your souls". For Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the shepherd who leads his sheep to green pastures of consolation, to fresh waters of peace.
While I know that you pray for me, I also want you to know that I pray for you. I pray that you will have the spiritual strength to accept your difficult crosses and not to lose courage. Dear brothers and sisters: may the Lord Jesus make you strong in faith and hope and fill your hearts with peace and joy.
Tuesday, 18 September 1984
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
I know that you all would understand the suffering that I feel at this time, the suffering of keen disappointment. With these sentiments I wish to read you the message that I have prepared for you for my visit.
"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (2Co 1,2).
1. From the bottom of my heart I want to tell you how happy I am to be with you, the native peoples of Canada, in this beautiful land of Denendeh. It is, indeed, an honour for me to be invited to join with you in this deeply moving spiritual celebration, in which many of you taking part are not Catholics.
In you I greet, with esteem and friendship, descendants of the first inhabitants of this land, who have lived here for centuries upon centuries. To greet you is to render respectful homage to the beginnings of human society in this vast region of North America. To greet you is to recall with reverence God’s plan and Providence as they have unfolded in your history and brought you to this day. To greet you in this portion of your land is to evoke the events of human living that have taken place on the scene of God’s original creation of majestic nature in these parts. At the same time my coming among you looks back to your past in order to proclaim your dignity and support your destiny.
I realize that many of you made this pilgrimage from all parts of Canada - from the frozen Arctic and the prairie plains, from the forests and the lakehead regions, from the great mountains and coastal waters - from East and West, North and South. I am very pleased that nothing has deterred you from coming to this meeting.
I understand that the major aboriginal organizations - the Assembly of First Nations, the Native Council of Canada, the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, the Métis National Council - collectively decided to plan this spiritual event in this northern homeland setting. This kind of cooperation, given the diversity of cultural and religious traditions that exist among you, is a sign of hope for building solidarity among the aboriginal peoples of this country.
You have chosen as your general theme for this celebration: "Self-determination and the rights of aboriginal peoples". On my part I am pleased to be able to reflect with you on issues that so closely touch your lives.
2. My presence in your midst today is intended to be another expression of the deep interest and solicitude which the Church wishes to show for the native peoples of the New World. In 1537, in a document entitled Pastorale Officium, my predecessor Paul III proclaimed the rights of the native peoples of those times. He affirmed their dignity, defended their freedom, asserted that they could not be enslaved or deprived of their goods or ownership. At the same time my presence marks yet another phase in the long relationship that many of you have had with the Church. It is a relationship that spans four centuries and has been especially strong since the mid-nineteenth century. Missionaries from Europe, not only from the Catholic Church but from other Christian traditions, have dedicated their lives to bringing the Gospel message to the aboriginal peoples of Canada.
I know of the gratitude that you yourselves, the Indian and Inuit peoples, have towards the missionaries who have lived and died among you. What they have done for you is spoken of by the whole Church; it is known by the entire world. These missionaries endeavoured to live your life, to be like you in order to serve you and to bring you the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Whatever faults and imperfections they had, whatever mistakes were made, together with whatever harm involuntarily resulted, they are now at pains to repair. But next to this entry, filed in the memory of your history, is the record, with endless proofs, of their fraternal love. Jesus himself tells us: "A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends" (Jn 15,13).
The missionaries remain among your best friends, devoting their lives to your service, as they preach the word of God. Education and health care among you owe much to them, especially to devoted women such as the Grey Nuns of Montreal.
That marvellous rebirth of your culture and traditions which you are experiencing today owes much to the pioneering and continuing efforts of missionaries in linguistics, ethnography and anthropology. Indelibly inscribed with gratitude in your history are names like Lacombe, Grollier, Grandin, Turquetil. The list is long.
3. Today I wish to pay a special tribute to Bishop Paul Piché, who celebrates this year his twenty-fifth anniversary as Pastor of this vast Diocese. Bishop Piché, the Church thanks you and your confreres - as do your people - for the communities that you have built by the word of God and the Sacraments. Through you I thank all the heroic Oblate missionaries whom the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ inspired to serve the peoples of the North.
Yes, dear Indians and Inuit, the missionaries have always shared in your cultural and social life. In keeping with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, they have striven with greater awareness to show you, as the Church earnestly desires, ever greater respect for your patrimony, your language and your customs (Ad Gentes AGD 26).
4. It is in the context of esteem and love that they bring you the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, along with its power to solidify your traditions by perfecting them and ennobling them even more. Their evangelization brought with it the proclamation of "the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the Kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God" (Pauli VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 22).
It was the Church herself who sent the missionaries to you, so that you might receive the life-giving and liberating message of Jesus. This message has taken root in your hearts and become incarnate in your society, just as Christ himself has become Indian and Inuit in you, his members. I spoke about this important topic last week, both at Ste. Anne de Beaupré and at Midland.
As they preach the Gospel to you, the missionaries desire to remain close to you in your struggles and problems and in your rightful striving to obtain the full recognition of your human and Christian dignity as aboriginal peoples, as children of God.
5. On this occasion, as I extol the missionary contribution that has been made over the years, I appeal to the whole Church in Canada to be ever more sensitive to the needs of the missionary North. The Spirit of God is calling the Church throughout this land to exercise the full measure of shared responsibility for the needs of God’s people in the vast region of the North. The power of Christ’s Paschal Mystery that has sustained the missionaries of the past and present in total generosity will not desert the young people of today. It is the Lord Jesus himself who is asking the whole Church in Canada to be faithful to her essential missionary character - without which she cannot exist as the Church of God.
I appeal to the youth among the native peoples to be open to accept leadership roles and responsibilities. I likewise appeal to the Catholic youth among you to be open to God’s calling to the priesthood and religious life, and I ask all their Catholic elders, leaders and parents to look with honour upon these special vocations and to support and encourage all those who freely wish to embrace this way of life.
6. Today I have come to the beloved native peoples to proclaim anew the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to confirm its requirements. I have come in order to speak once again about your dignity and to renew to you the Church’s friendship and love - a love that is expressed in service and pastoral care. I have come to assure you, and the whole world, of the Church’s respect for your ancient patrimony - for your many worthy ancestral customs.
And yes, dear brothers and sisters, I have come to call you to Christ, to propose again, for you and all Canada, his message of forgiveness and reconciliation. It is clear from the historical record that over the centuries your peoples have been repeatedly the victims of injustice by newcomers who, in their blindness, often saw all your culture as inferior. Today, happily, this situation has been largely reversed, and people are learning to appreciate that there is great richness in your culture, and to treat you with greater respect.
As I mentioned in Midland, the hour has come to bind up wounds, to heal all divisions. It is a time for forgiveness, for reconciliation and for a commitment to building new relationships. Once again in the words of Saint Paul: "Now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation" (2Co 6,2).
7. My predecessor Paul VI explained very clearly that there are close links between the preaching of the Gospel and human advancement. And human advancement includes development and liberation (Pauli VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 30-31). And so today, in speaking to you, I present to you the Gospel message with its commandment of fraternal love, with its demands for justice and human rights and with all its liberating power.
Saint Paul wanted us all to understand the importance of Christian freedom - freedom from sin and from whatever would enslave us. It is Saint Paul who continues to cry out to the world: "When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free" (Ga 5,1). At the same time both he and Saint Peter propose to us the principle that freedom must not be an excuse for license (Ibid. 5, 13; 1 Petr. 2, 16).
Today I want to proclaim that freedom which is required for a just and equitable measure of self-determination in your own lives as native peoples. In union with the whole Church I proclaim all your rights - and their corresponding duties. And I also condemn physical, cultural and religious oppression, and all that would in any way deprive you or any group of what rightly belongs to you.
8. It is clearly the position of the Church that peoples have a right in public life to participate in decisions affecting their lives: "Participation constitutes a right which is to be applied both in the economic and in the social and political fields" (Iustitia in mundo, 1; Gaudium et Spes GS 75).
This is true for everyone. It has particular applications for you as native peoples, in your strivings to take your rightful place among the peoples of the earth, with a just and equitable degree of self-governing. For you a land-base with adequate resources is also necessary for developing a viable economy for present and future generations. You need likewise to be in a position to develop your lands and your economic potential, and to educate your children and plan your future.
I know that negotiations are in progress and that much good will has been shown by all parties concerned. It is my hope and prayer that a totally satisfactory outcome will be had.
9. You yourselves are called to place all your talents at the service of others and help build, for the common good of Canada, an ever more authentic civilization of justice and love. You are called to responsible stewardship and to be a dynamic example of the proper use of nature, especially at a time when pollution and environmental damage threaten the earth. Christ’s teaching of universal brotherhood and his commandment of fraternal love is now and for ever part of your heritage and your life.
10. Chers amis, vous les plus anciens habitants du Canada, tandis que vous réfléchissez à votre histoire, tandis que vous travaillez, en collaboration avec fos frères et soeurs, à modeler votre destinée et à assumer votre rôle pour le bien commun de tous, rappelez-vous toujours que votre relation filiale à Dieu se traduit par l’observation de ses commandements. Ils sont écrits dans vos coeurs, et saint Jean les résume quand il dit: “Voici son commandement: avoir foi en son Fils Jésus-Christ, et nous aimer les uns les autres comme il nous l’a commande. Et celui qui est fidèle a ses commandements demeure en Dieu, et Dieu en lui; et nous reconnaissons qu’il demeure en nous, puisqu’il nous a donne son Esprit” (1 Io. 3, 23-24). C’est l’Esprit qui nous permet de croire en Jésus et de nous aimer les uns les autres.
Your greatest possession, dear friends, is the gift of God’s Spirit, whom you have received into your hearts and who leads you to Christ and, through Christ, to the Father. With great love for all of you, my Indian and Inuit brothers and sisters, I bless you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Speeches 1984 - Memorial University