Speeches 1998 - Friday, 16 January 1998
1. I listened with interest, venerable brother, to what you said as dean of the Roman Rota, expressing the sentiments of the prelate auditors, the major and minor officials of the tribunal, the defenders of the bond, the Rotal advocates and the students of the Studio Rotale and their relatives attending this special audience for the opening of the judicial year. In thanking you for the sentiments expressed, I again wish to extend to you on this occasion my congratulations on your elevation to the dignity of archbishop, which is a sign of my esteem for you and my appreciation of the work accomplished by the centuries old tribunal of the Roman Rota.
I am very familiar with the skilled assistance that your tribunal offers the successor of Peter in fulfilling his responsibilities in the judicial realm. It is a valuable work, performed not without sacrifice by highly qualified people in the legal field, who act with constant concern to adapt the tribunal’s activity to the pastoral needs of our time.
The dean has dutifully recalled that in 1998 it will be 90 years since the constitution Sapienti consilio, by which my predecessor St. Pius X, in his reorganization of the Roman Curia, also provided for a redefinition of the function, jurisdiction and competence of your tribunal. He rightly recalled this anniversary, making it his starting point for a quick review of the past and especially for outlining your future obligations in view of anticipated demands.
2. Today I have the opportunity to offer you some reflections, first, on the structure and place of the administration of justice and, consequently, of the judge in the Church and, second, on some problems more concretely and directly related to your judicial work.
To understand the meaning of law and judicial power in the Church, in whose mystery of communion the visible society and the mystical body of Christ constitute one reality (cf. Lumen gentium LG 8), it seems fitting at today’s meeting to stress first of all the Church’s supernatural nature and her essential and inalienable purpose. The Lord established her as the continuation and realization down the centuries of his universal work of salvation, which also restores man’s original dignity as a rational being created in the image and likeness of God. Everything has meaning, everything has reason, everything has value in the work of Christ’s mystical body only if it is directed to and senses the goal of the redemption of all mankind.
In the life of communion of the ecclesial societas, a temporal sign of the eternal life that pulsates in the Trinity, the members are raised by a gift of divine love to the supernatural state, obtained and always reacquired through the infinite merits of Christ, the Word made flesh.
Faithful to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the Church is one because of her source, reminding us: “The highest exemplar and source of this mystery is the unity, in the Trinity of persons, of one God, the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit” (No. 813). But the same catechism also states: “If we continue to love one another and to join in praising the most holy Trinity - all of us who are sons of God and form one family in Christ -we will be faithful to the deepest vocation of the Church” (No. 959).
For this reason, the ecclesiastical judge, the authentic sacerdos iuris in the ecclesial society, cannot fail to be called to fulfill a true officium caritatis et unitatis. How demanding, then, is your task and at the same time how great is its spiritual importance, since you become the real practitioners of a unique diakonia for every individual and even more for the Christifidelis.
It is precisely the correct application of canon law, which presupposes the grace of sacramental life, that fosters this unity in charity, because in the Church, law can have no other interpretation, meaning or value without falling short of the Church’s essential purpose. No judicial activity conducted before this tribunal can be exempted from this vision and this ultimate goal.
3. This applies to everything from penal procedures in which the restoration of ecclesial unity means the re-establishment of full communion in charity to vital and complex procedures in contentious suits concerning one’s personal status and, above all, the validity of the marriage bond.
I need not remind you that even the modus in which ecclesiastical trials are conducted must be translated into forms of behavior suitable for expressing this spirit of charity. How can we not think of the image of the good Shepherd who bends over the lost, wounded sheep when we wish to describe for ourselves the judge who in the Church’s name deals with and judges the status of one of the faithful who turns to him in trust?
But it is basically the same spirit of canon law that expresses and realizes this goal of unity in charity: This must be kept in mind when interpreting and applying its various canons and above all - when faithfully adhering to those doctrinal principles which, as a necessary foundation, give the canons meaning and substance. In this regard, I wrote in the constitution Sacrae disciplinae leges, with which I promulgated the 1983 Code of Canon Law: “If, however, it is impossible to translate perfectly into canonical language the conciliar image of the Church, nevertheless the Code must always be referred to this image as the primary pattern whose outline the Code ought to express insofar as it can by its very nature” (AAS, 75 , p. XI).
4. Nor can my thoughts not turn, in this regard, especially to the cases which represent the majority of the proceedings submitted for examination to the Roman Rota and the tribunals of the whole Church: I am referring to cases of marital nullity.
In these cases the officium caritatis et unitatis entrusted to you must be carried out at both the doctrinal and the strictly procedural levels. In this area the specific function of the Roman Rota seems essential as the instrument of a wise and unambiguous jurisprudence to which the other ecclesiastical tribunals must conform as to their authoritative model. This is the same reason for the now timely publication of your judicial decisions, which concern matters of substantive law as well as procedural issues.
Rotal sentences, over and above the value of the individual judgments for the parties concerned, contribute to a correct and deeper understanding of marriage law. This is the reason why we find in them continual recourse to the indispensable principles of Catholic doctrine regarding the natural concept itself of marriage, with the obligations and rights proper to it, and even more regarding its sacramental reality when celebrated between the baptized. Paul’s exhortation to Timothy is helpful here: “Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season.... For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching” (2 Tm 4:2–3). This is certainly a sound warning for our day as well.
5. As a pastor, I am concerned about the distressing, critical problem experienced by those faithful whose marriage has failed through no fault of their own and who, even before receiving a possible ecclesiastical sentence legitimately declaring its nullity, enter into new unions that they wish to have blessed and consecrated before the Church’s minister.
I have already called your attention on other occasions to the requirement that no merely formal procedural norm should be an obstacle to the resolution, in charity and equity, of these situations: The spirit and letter of the current Code of Canon Law have this as their aim. But, with equal pastoral concern, I am mindful of the requirement that marriage cases be completed with the seriousness and swiftness required by their very nature.
In this regard and in order to encourage an ever better administration of justice from both the substantive and the procedural standpoint, I have established an interdicasterial commission charged with drafting an instruction on the conduct of trials concerning marriage cases.
6. Even with these indispensable demands of truth and justice, the officium caritatis et unitatis in which I have framed my reflections thus far can never mean a state of intellectual inertia, resulting in a conception of the person, the object of your judgments, which has been detached from historical and anthropological reality, and is limited and indeed marred by a vision culturally bound to one part of the world or another.
Problems concerning marriage, which the dean mentioned at the beginning require on your part, primarily of you who comprise this ordinary appellate tribunal of the Holy See, intelligent attention to progress in the human sciences in the light of Christian revelation, Tradition and the Church’s authentic magisterium. Reverently preserve everything of sound culture and learning bequeathed to us by the past, but accept with discernment everything good and right that, the present likewise offers us. Indeed, be guided always and only by the supreme standard of seeking the truth, without thinking that the correctness of solutions depends on merely preserving contingent human aspects or on the frivolous desire for novelties not in conformity with the truth.
In particular, the right understanding of “marital consent,” the foundation and cause of the marriage covenant in all its aspects and in all its implications, cannot be restricted in an exclusive way to now well-established models, doubtlessly still valid today but capable of improvement with the advances in the anthropological and juridical sciences. Even in its autonomy and its specific epistemological and doctrinal nature, canon law must especially today utilize the contributions of the other moral, historical and religious disciplines.
In this delicate, interdisciplinary process, fidelity to the revealed truth about marriage and the family, authentically interpreted by the Church’s magisterium, always serves as the definitive reference point and the true incentive for a profound renewal of this area of Church life.
Thus, the completion of 90 years of activity by the restored Rota becomes a source of new enthusiasm for the future in the high expectation that unity in charity will also be achieved in a visible way among the people of God, who are the Church.
May the Spirit of truth enlighten you in your momentous office, which is a service to the brothers and sisters who have recourse to you, and may my blessing, which I affectionately impart to you, be a wish and a pledge of God’s continual and provident assistance.
Dear Cardinal Ortega and Brother Bishops,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Dear Brothers and Sisters of Cuba,
1. I thank God, the Lord of history and of our personal destinies, that he has enabled me to come to this land which Christopher Columbus called "the most beautiful that human eyes have seen". Arriving on this island, where the cross of Christ was raised over 500 years ago — the same cross zealously treasured today in the parish church of Baracoa, in the extreme eastern part of the country — I greet everyone with warm affection.
This happy and long-awaited day has finally arrived, and I am able to answer the invitation which the Cuban Bishops made a long time ago, and which the President of the Republic had also made and personally reiterated on the occasion of his visit to the Vatican in November 1996. I am filled with happiness to be able to visit your country, being among you and sharing these days of faith, hope and love.
2. I am pleased to address my greetings in the first place to the President, Dr Fidel Castro Ruz, who has kindly come here to meet me and to whom I wish to express my thanks for his words of welcome. I likewise express my thanks to the other authorities present, to the Diplomatic Corps and to all who have had a part in preparing this Pastoral Visit.
I cordially greet my Brothers in the Episcopate; in particular Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, Archbishop of Havana, and each of the other Cuban Bishops, as well as those who have come from other countries to take part in the events of this Pastoral Visit and to renew and strengthen, as on so many other occasions, the close bonds of communion and love between their particular Churches and the Church in Cuba. In this greeting, my heart goes out with great affection also to the beloved priests, deacons, men and women religious, catechists and faithful, to whom I belong in the Lord as Shepherd and Servant of the Universal Church (cf. Apostolic Constitution Lumen gentium LG 22). In each one of them I see the reflection of this local Church, dearly loved and always present in my heart, with whose aspirations and legitimate desires I feel closely bound in solidarity. God grant that this visit which begins today may serve as an encouragement to each one in the task of making these expectations a reality, with the partnership of all Cubans and the help of the Holy Spirit. You are and must be the principal agents of your own personal and national history.
At the same time I cordially greet the entire Cuban people, and I address everyone without exception: men and women, old and young, adolescents and children; all those I will meet and those who for various reasons will not be able to take part in the different celebrations.
3. On this apostolic journey I come in the name of the Lord to confirm you in faith, to strengthen you in hope and to encourage you in love. I come to share your profound religious spirit, your endeavours, joys and sufferings, and to celebrate, as one big family, the mystery of divine Love, in order to make it more deeply present in the life and history of this noble people who thirst for God and for the spiritual values which in these 500 years of her presence on the island the Church has not ceased to dispense. I come as a pilgrim of love, of truth and of hope, with the desire to give a fresh impulse to the work of evangelization which, in the midst of difficulties, this local Church continues to sustain with apostolic vitality and dynamism, on her way to the third Christian millennium.
4. In fulfilling my ministry I have not ceased to proclaim the truth concerning Jesus Christ, the One who has revealed the truth about man, his mission in the world, the greatness of his destiny and his inviolable dignity. In this respect, the service of man is the path of the Church. I am here today to share with you my profound conviction that the message of the Gospel leads to love, commitment, self-sacrifice and forgiveness; a people that follows this path is a people with hope for a better future. Therefore, from the very first moment of my presence among you, I wish to say with the same force as at the beginning of my Pontificate: "Do not be afraid to open your hearts to Christ". Allow him to come into your lives, into your families, into society. In this way all things will be made new. The Church repeats this appeal, calling everyone together without exception — individuals, families, peoples — so that by faithfully following Jesus Christ all may find the full meaning of their lives, commit themselves to serving their neighbour, and transform the bonds of family, work and friendship. This will always redound to the benefit of the nation and of society.
5. The Church in Cuba has always proclaimed Jesus Christ, even if at times she has had a scarcity of priests and has had to do so in difficult circumstances. I wish to express my admiration for so many of the Cuban faithful for their fidelity to Christ, to the Church and to the Pope, as also for the respect they have shown for the more genuine religious traditions learned from their elders, and for the courage and persevering spirit of commitment demonstrated in the midst of their sufferings and ardent hopes. All this has been rewarded on many occasions by the solidarity shown by other ecclesial communities in America and throughout the world. Today, as ever, the Church in Cuba wishes to be in a position to continue serving all people in accordance with the mission and teachings of Jesus Christ.
Dear sons and daughters of the Catholic Church in Cuba: I well know how much you have looked forward to the moment of my visit, and you know how much I have desired it. Therefore my best wishes are joined with the prayer that this land may offer to everyone a climate of freedom, mutual trust, social justice and lasting peace. May Cuba, with all its magnificent potential, open itself up to the world, and may the world open itself up to Cuba, so that this people, which is working to make progress and which longs for concord and peace, may look to the future with hope.
6. With confidence in the Lord and feeling very close to the beloved sons and daughters of Cuba, I thank you with all my heart for this warm welcome with which my Pastoral Visit is beginning. I commend this visit to the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin of Charity of El Cobre. I cordially bless you all, especially the poor, the sick, the neglected and all those suffering in body or spirit.
Praised be Jesus Christ!
23 January 1998
Mr President of the Republic, thank you for your presence,
Your Eminences, Brother Bishops,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. It is a great joy for me to have this meeting with you in the revered setting of the University of Havana. To all of you I offer my affectionate greeting. In the first place I would like to express my thanks for the words of welcome which Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino has spoken in the name of all. I am grateful too for the friendly greeting of the Rector of the university who has received me in this Aula Magna where lie the remains of the great priest and patriot, the Servant of God Fr Félix Varela, which I have just venerated. Thank you, Rector, for gathering this distinguished group of women and men who have made their prime undertaking the promotion of the genuine culture of this noble Cuban nation.
2. Culture is the special way in which human beings express and develop their relationship with creation, with one another and with God. Thus they create the body of values which distinguish a people, and the characteristics which give it an identity. Understood in this way, culture is of fundamental importance for the life of nations and for fostering the most authentic human values. The Church, which accompanies human beings on life's path, opening to the life of society, seeking opportunities for her evangelizing action, embraces culture in her word and action.
The Catholic Church identifies with no particular culture, but approaches all in a spirit of openness. In respectfully proposing her own vision of the human being and human values, the Church contributes to the ever greater humanization of society. In this evangelization of culture, Christ himself is present, acting through his Church: Christ who, in his Incarnation, "enters into culture" and "brings to each time-conditioned culture the gift of purification and fullness" (Conclusions of Santo Domingo, n. 228).
"Each culture is an attempt to penetrate the mystery of the world and, in particular, of the human being: it is a way of expressing the transcendent dimension of human life" (Address to the United Nations, 5 October 1995, n. 9). Respecting and promoting culture, the Church respects and promotes the human person: the human person seeking to live a more human life and to approach, even if at times haltingly, the hidden mystery of God. In every culture there is a central core of religious convictions and moral values which constitutes, as it were, its soul. It is there that Christ wants to reach with the purifying power of his grace. The evangelization of culture is like a heightening of its "religious soul", imbuing it with a new and powerful dynamism, the dynamism of the Holy Spirit which empowers it to realize to the full its human potentialities. In Christ, each culture is profoundly respected, valued and loved, because each culture is always open, at the point of its deepest truth, to the riches of the Redemption.
3. Because of its history and geography, Cuba has its own distinctive culture, shaped by a dense synthesis of different influences: the Spanish influence, bringing with it Catholic Christianity, the African influence, its religious spirit permeated by Christianity, the influence of the various immigrant groups, and then the specifically American influence. It is right to recall the influence which the Seminary of St Charles and St Ambrose in Havana has had in the development of the national culture under the sway of figures such as José Agustín Caballero, called by Martí "father of the poor and of our philosophy", and Fr Félix Varela, the veritable father of Cuban culture. The superficiality or anti-clericalism of some at that time are not truly representative of what has most distinguished this people, which historically has seen the Catholic faith as the source of the rich values of Cuban identity. Expressed in turns of phrase, popular songs, peasant sayings and much used proverbs, this identity has a deep Christian matrix and still today is a rich resource and a constitutive reality of the nation.
4. A pre-eminent son of this land is Fr Félix Varela y Morales, considered by many to be the foundation-stone of the Cuban national identity. He is, in his own person, the best synthesis one could find of Christian faith and Cuban culture. An exemplary priest of Havana and an undeniable patriot, Fr Varela was an outstanding thinker who in 19th-century Cuba renewed the method and content of teaching in philosophy, law, science and theology. To generations of Cubans, he taught that to assume full responsibility for our existence we must first learn the difficult art of thinking in a right way and with our own mind. He was the first to speak of independence in these lands. He also spoke of democracy, judging it to be the political project best in keeping with human nature, while at the same time underscoring its demands. Among these demands, he stressed two in particular: first, that people must be educated for freedom and responsibility, with a personally assimilated ethical code which includes the best of the heritage of civilization and enduring transcendental values, so that they may be able to undertake decisive tasks in service of the community; and second, that human relationships, like the form of society as a whole, must give people suitable opportunities to perform, with proper respect and solidarity, their historic role giving substance to the rule of law, which is the essential guarantee of every form of human concourse claiming to be democratic.
Fr Varela realized that, in his time, independence was an as yet unattainable ideal. He therefore devoted himself to training people, men and women of conscience, who were neither high-handed with the weak nor weak with the powerful. From his exile in New York, he used a range of means to pursue his goal: personal letters, the press and what might be judged his finest work, Letters to Elpidio concerning impiety, superstition and fanaticism in relation to society, a true monument of moral teaching, his precious legacy to the young people of Cuba. In the last 30 years of his life, far from his teaching-post in Havana, he continued to teach from afar and so gave birth to a school of thought, a vision of human society and an attitude towards one's own country which even today should illumine all Cubans.
The entire life of Fr Varela was inspired by a profound Christian spirituality. This was his deep driving-force, the wellspring of his virtues, the root of his commitment to the Church and to Cuba: to seek the glory of God in all things. This led him to believe in the power of little things, in the creative force of seeds of truth, in the appropriateness of changes being made step by step towards great and authentic reforms. When he came to the end of his journey, moments before he closed his eyes to the light of this world and opened them to the Light which never ends, he fulfilled the promise which he had always made: "Guided by the torch of faith, I go to the tomb, on the edge of which I hope, with God's grace, to make with my last breath a profession of my firm belief and a fervent prayer for the good of my country" (Letters to Elpidio, volume 1, letter 6, p. 182).
5. This is the heritage which Fr Varela left. The good of his country still needs the undying light which is Christ. Christ is the way which leads man to the fullness of life, the way which leads to a society which is more just, more free, more human, more caring. The love for Christ and for Cuba which illumined Fr Varela's life is part of the indestructible root of Cuban culture. Consider the torch which appears on the coat of arms of this distinguished house of studies: it is not only a remembrance of things past, it is also a vision of things to come. The origin and purpose of this university, its history and its heritage, reveal its vocation to be a fountain of wisdom and freedom, an inspiration to faith and justice, a crucible where knowledge and conscience are fused, the teacher of a culture which is at once universal and Cuban.
The torch, lit by Fr Varela, which illumined the history of the Cuban people, was taken up, shortly after his death, by another striking figure of this country, José Martí: a writer and a teacher in the fullest sense of the word, deeply committed to democracy and independence, a patriot, a loyal friend even to those who did not share his political programme. He was above all an enlightened man, faithful to his ethical values and stirred by a spirituality the roots of which are outstandingly evangelical. He is regarded as the heir of the thought of Fr Varela, whom he called "the Cuban saint".
6. Today we are gathered in this university which preserves as one of its most precious treasures the remains of Fr Varela. Everywhere in Cuba I can also see the monuments which Cubans have erected in memory of José Martí. And I am sure that the Cuban people have inherited the human virtues, Christian in their origin, of both these men, since all Cubans share in common that culture which these men nourish. I know too that in Cuba one can speak of a fruitful cultural dialogue which ensures a more harmonious growth and continuing development of the creative initiatives of civil society. In this country, most of those who shape culture — Catholic and non-Catholic, believers and non-believers — are people of dialogue, prepared both to speak and to listen. I encourage them to pursue with vigour the search for a synthesis with which all Cubans can identify, and to foster a Cuban identity, both comprehensive and harmonious, which can unite the various national traditions which they represent. Cuban culture, if it is open to the Truth, will be ever more characteristic of this nation and ever more profoundly human.
The Church and the cultural institutions of the nation need to meet in dialogue and so work together to develop Cuban culture. They share a common path and a common goal: to serve the human being, to cultivate all aspects of the human spirit and to nourish from within all communal and social relations. What initiatives of this kind there are already should find support and encouragement in a pastoral plan in the field of culture in ongoing dialogue with individuals and institutions dedicated to the intellectual life.
Pilgrim as I am in a nation such as yours, with its rich inheritance both mestizo and Christian, I am confident that in the future Cubans will achieve a civilization of justice and solidarity, of freedom and truth, a civilization of love and peace which, as Fr Varela said, "may be the foundation of the great edifice of our happiness". To that end, I place once again in the hands of young Cubans the ever necessary and ever relevant legacy of the Father of Cuban culture, the mission which Fr Varela entrusted to his disciples: "Tell them that they are the sweet hope of the motherland and that there is no motherland without virtue and no virtue without piety".
Saturday 24 January 1998
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. In visiting this noble land, I could not fail to meet with the sick and suffering, because Christ is very close to all who suffer. I greet you with the deepest affection, beloved who are sick, especially those from the nearby Hospital of Dr Guillermo Fernández-Baquero, here today in this Shrine of St Lazarus, the friend of the Lord. In greeting you, I also greet those throughout Cuba who are most afflicted, the elderly who are alone, all who are suffering in body or in spirit. In the words I speak and the affection I feel, I want to reach out to all who heed the Lord's exhortation: "I was sick and you visited me" (Mt 25,34). You are accompanied by the tender love of the Pope, the solidarity of the Church and the fraternal warmth of all men and women of goodwill.
I greet the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, who work in this centre and in them I greet the other consecrated religious, belonging to various religious institutes, who work lovingly in other parts of this beautiful island to alleviate the sufferings of whoever is in need. The community of the Church is very grateful to you because this is your way of contributing to the concrete mission stemming from your particular charism — that "the Gospel come to life through charity, which is the glory of the Church and the sign of her fidelity to the Lord" (Vita consecrata VC 82).
I wish to greet also the doctors, nurses and other assistants, who with such competence and dedication use the resources of science to alleviate suffering and pain. The Church values your work because, stirred by the spirit of service and solidarity with your neighbour, it recalls the work of Jesus who "cured the sick" (Mt 8,16). I am aware of the great efforts being made in Cuba in the field of health care, despite the economic constraints which the country is enduring.
2. I come as a pilgrim of truth and hope to this Shrine of St Lazarus, as one who experiences in his own flesh the meaning and value which suffering can have when it is accepted by drawing near in trust to God who is "rich in mercy". This place is sacred to Cubans, because here grace is experienced by those who go in faith to Christ with the assurance we find in St Paul: "I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Ph 4,13). At this point, we can repeat the words with which Martha, the sister of Lazarus, expressed her confidence to Jesus and so obtained the miracle of the raising of her brother: "I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him" (Jn 11,22) and the profession she then made: "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world" (Jn 11,27).
3. Dear brothers and sisters, in one form or another all human beings experience pain and suffering in their lives and this cannot but lead them to pose a question. Pain is a mystery, often inscrutable to reason. It forms part of the mystery of the human person, which alone comes clear in Jesus Christ who reveals to man man's true identity. Christ alone enables us to know the meaning of all that is human.
"Suffering", as I wrote in the Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris, "can be transformed and changed with a grace which is not exterior but interior ... yet this interior process does not always develop in the same way.... Christ responds neither directly nor abstractly to human questioning about the meaning of suffering. Human beings come to know his saving response in so far as they share in the sufferings of Christ. The response which comes from this sharing is before all else a call. It is a vocation. Christ does not explain in some abstract way the reasons for suffering, but says first of all: 'Follow me', 'Come', with your suffering share in this work of salvation of the world, which is realized through my suffering, by means of my Cross" (n. 26).
This is the true meaning and value of suffering, of the pain which is physical, moral and spiritual. This is the Good News which I wish to pass on to you. To our human questioning, the Lord responds with a call, with a special vocation which is grounded in love. Christ comes to us not with explanations and reasons which might either anaesthetize or alienate us. Instead, he comes to us saying: "Come with me. Follow me on the way of the Cross. The Cross is suffering". "Whoever wants to be a follower of mine, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me" (Lc 9,29). Jesus Christ has taken the lead on the way of the Cross. He has suffered first. He does not drive us towards suffering but shares it with us, wanting us to have life and to have it in abundance (cf. Jn Jn 10,10).
Suffering is transformed when we experience in ourselves the closeness and solidarity of the living God: "I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last ... I shall see God my Saviour" (Jb 19,25-26). With this assurance comes inner peace, and from this a spiritual joy, quiet and deep, springing from the "Gospel of suffering" which understands the grandeur and dignity of human beings who suffer with a generous spirit and offer their pain "as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God" (Rm 12,1). This is why those who suffer are no burden to others, but with their suffering contribute to the salvation of all.
Suffering is not only physical. There is also suffering of the soul, such as we see in those who are isolated, persecuted, imprisoned for various offences or for reasons of conscience, for ideas which though dissident are nonetheless peaceful. These prisoners of conscience suffer an isolation and a penalty for something for which their own conscience does not condemn them. What they want is to participate actively in life with the opportunity to speak their mind with respect and tolerance. I encourage efforts to reinsert prisoners into society. This is a gesture of high humanity and a seed of reconciliation, a gesture which honours the authority promoting it and strengthens social harmony in the country. To all of you who are detained, to your families who suffer the pain of separation and long for your return, I send my heartfelt greeting, urging you not to succumb to pessimism or discouragement.
Dear brothers and sisters, Cubans need this interior strength, the deep peace and joy which spring from the "Gospel of suffering". Let this be your generous offering so that Cuba "may see God face to face", that Cuba may walk in the light of his face towards the eternal and universal kingdom, that all Cubans, from the very depths of their being, may say: "I know that my Redeemer lives" (Jb 19,25-26). This Redeemer is none other than Jesus Christ our Lord.
4. The Christian dimension of suffering reaches beyond its deeper meaning and its redemptive character. Pain is a call to love, which means that it ought to engender solidarity, self-giving, generosity in those who suffer and in those called to accompany and aid them in their distress. The parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10:29ff.), which puts before us the Gospel of solidarity with our suffering neighbour, "has become one of the essential elements of moral culture and of universally human civilization" (Salvifici doloris, n. 29). In effect, Jesus in this parable teaches us that our neighbour is anyone we meet on our way who is wounded and in need of help.He must be helped in an appropriate way in the evil that has befallen him, and we must care for him until he is fully recovered. Families, schools and other educational institutions, even if only for humanitarian motives, need to work perseveringly to awaken and refine this sensitivity to the suffering neighbour, whom the Samaritan of the Gospel symbolizes. The eloquence of the parable of the Good Samaritan, as of the entire Gospel, is in real terms this: human beings must feel personally called to witness to love in the midst of suffering. "Institutions are very important, indeed indispensable; but no institution can of itself substitute for the human heart, human understanding, human love, human initiative, when it is a question of going to meet the suffering of another" (ibid., n. 29).
This is true of physical suffering, but it is even more true of the many kinds of moral suffering, and when it is primarily the soul that is suffering. This is why when persons suffer in their soul, or when the soul of a nation suffers, the pain must be a summons to solidarity, to justice, to the building of a civilization of truth and love. An eloquent sign of this will to love in the face of pain and death, in the face of imprisonment or isolation, in the face of enforced family separations or the emigration which divides families, would be for each social agency, each public institution, as well as every person who holds responsibility in the field of health care and care for the needy and the re-education of prisoners, to respect and ensure respect for the rights of the infirm, the marginalized, the detained and their families, indeed the rights of all who suffer. To this end, pastoral work in the field of health care and prison ministry must be given the opportunity to perform its mission of service to the infirm, the imprisoned and their families.
Indifference in the face of human suffering, passivity before the causes of pain in the world, cosmetic remedies which lead to no deep healing of persons and peoples: these are grave sins of omission, in the face of which every person of goodwill must be converted and listen to the cry of those who suffer.
5. Beloved brothers and sisters, in the anguished moments of our personal, family or social life, the words of Jesus help us in our trials: "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want" (Mt 26,39). In faith, the poor who suffer encounter the strength of Christ who says to them through the mouth of St Paul: "Your grace is enough for me" (2Co 12,9). No suffering is lost, no pain is without significance. God takes it all to himself, just as he accepted the sacrifice of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
At the foot of the Cross, her arms cast wide and her heart pierced through, there stands our Mother, the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows and of Hope, who welcomes us in her motherly embrace, spreading grace and compassion. She is the sure way to Christ, who is our peace, our life, our resurrection. Mary, Mother of all who suffer, mercy for the dying, warming embrace for all who are disheartened: look upon your Cuban children who are passing through the difficult test of pain and show them Jesus, the blessed fruit of your womb! Amen.
Speeches 1998 - Friday, 16 January 1998