Speeches 1998 - SPEECH TO CATECHISTS AND ECCLESIAL MOVEMENTS
Representatives of the Government,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Brothers and Sisters,
1. I have reached the end of my Pastoral Visit to your beautiful country. The moment of departure has arrived. I give thanks to God for these three days spent in Croatia, in the exercise of my Petrine ministry. I am grateful to the Churches of Zagreb and Split-Makarska which have welcomed me, and to the whole Church which is in this country for the affection it has shown me. I thank the President of the Republic, the Head of the Government and the civil and military authorities, who have spared no efforts to ensure that this Visit would proceed in the best possible way. Many people have worked to bring this about and I thank all of them.
Before leaving your country and departing from you, I would like to address a heartfelt greeting to everyone: to families, parishes, Dioceses, religious communities, movements and ecclesial associations. The images of so many of the faithful of all ages, and especially the young, are imprinted in my memory: in Zagreb, Marija Bistrica, Znjan in Split and in Solin: crowds of people who have demonstrated their faith and rejoiced in full harmony of minds and hearts.
2. In Croatia, I have been able to meet a Church which is full of life, rich in enthusiasm and energy, despite the adversities and abuses of power which she has suffered; a Church which is looking for new forms of witness to Christ and his Gospel, to respond fully to the challenges of the present moment.
Countless are those in these lands who, from the earliest centuries, have borne witness to Christ in their daily lives; many have even faced the test of martyrdom for the sake of Christ. You are the heirs of this glorious multitude of saints, the majority of whom are known to God alone. I have seen your joy when I proclaimed Blessed Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac: the honour accorded to him redounds in some way on all of you. It is right that you should be proud of this. But, it is also right that you should feel committed to being worthy of this heritage, which honours you but also challenges you.
May this rich patrimony of faith, and that of other European peoples, become the common heritage of the entire Continent, so that the peoples living in it may rediscover in Christianity that spiritual unity and impulse which in past centuries inspired a true flourishing of works of thought and artistic masterpieces of absolute value for the whole of humanity.
3. My stay among you has enabled me to experience at first hand the recovery achieved in the past few years. I have seen a society which desires to build its present and future on solid democratic foundations, in complete fidelity to its own history, which is permeated by Christianity, in order to take its rightful place in the assembly of the other European Nations. With joy I recognize that yours is a country which, having recovered freedom and overcome the sad vicissitudes of war, is now reconstructing itself and renewing itself materially and spiritually with keen determination.
I call on men and women of good will throughout the world not to forget the tragedies suffered by these peoples in the course of history, and especially in our own century. May there be no lack of the concrete and generous help which individuals and families need in order to live in freedom and equality, with the dignity of active members of the human family. Europe has set out on a new stage of its journey towards unity and growth. In order for joy to be complete, no one must be forgotten on the path which leads to the common European house.
For her own part, Croatia must show great patience, wisdom, a willingness to make sacrifices and generous solidarity in order to overcome definitively the present post-war phase and attain the noble goals to which she aspires. Much has already been achieved and we now see the results. The difficulties which remain should discourage no one.
4. Your Nation is endowed with the resources needed to overcome adversity and you especially, citizens of Croatia, possess the talents which are indispensable in order to meet the challenges of the present moment. With the commitment of everyone, it will be possible to carry forward the difficult process of making society and its civil institutions more democratic. Democracy comes at a high price; the money to pay for it is minted from the noble metal of honesty, reasonableness, respect for others, the spirit of sacrifice, and patience. To claim that it can be bought with a different currency is to run the risk of bankruptcy.
After long years of dictatorship and the terrible experiences of violence which the peoples of this region have undergone, it is now necessary to make every effort to construct a democracy based on the moral values inscribed in the very nature of the human being.
By assisting the efforts of the social classes and political groupings, the Church will not fail to make her own specific contribution, especially by offering her social doctrine and making available her own structures for the education of the younger generation. She exhorts the faithful to work together in an effective way, as they have done from the beginning, in the present process of developing democratic institutions in the vast spheres of the social, cultural, political and economic life of the country, thus promoting the harmonious development of the whole of Croatian society.
5.Dear Brothers and Sisters, I return to Rome carrying in my heart many beautiful impressions of this Visit. They will accompany me in the prayers I shall offer on your behalf, for the sick and the old, for your children and for all your People.
May God grant Croatia peace, harmony and a persevering commitment to the common good!
Dear Croatian people, may God bless you! May the Virgin Mary, Advocata Croatiae, fidelissima Mater, watch over your present and future! I entrust to her all your plans for freedom and progress in solidarity; all your hopes and your commitment to human and religious values.
God bless Croatia!
Dear Priests and Brothers of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate,
1. I am pleased to welcome you to this special audience and, through you, to extend a cordial greeting to all the members of your institute, as well as to those in the Church who share the same charism of St Vincent Pallotti. For two weeks now you have been busy working at your General Assembly. This spiritual and ecclesial event is taking place in the second year of preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, dedicated to the Holy Sprit. Together with you, I invoke the divine Spirit to enlighten you in discerning the signs of the times and to help you maintain and develop the riches of your charism in our day.
You have fittingly wanted your assembly discussions to focus on the subject of fidelity, expressed in the saying: “Faithful to the future ... looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfector of faith (He 12,2)”. In fact, the theme expresses your desire to renew your fidelity to the apostolate, especially in view of the third millennium. This is a desire to be encouraged, remembering, however, that fidelity presupposes faith, on which the foundations of Christian life are based. Faith is the horizon for your spiritual and apostolic path. Indeed, it is Jesus who guides believers throughout their life, supporting them in their apostolic dedication and bringing all their good resolutions to fulfilment.
Dear friends, look with hope to the future and accept the challenges of the third millennium with confidence, knowing that Christ is beside you and is the same “yesterday and today and for ever” (He 13,8). He gives you his Spirit, who can guide you to the fullness of truth and love. May Christ be the reason for your hope: with him you will have nothing to fear, for he is the indestructible mainstay of all human life.
2. To live the faith means to share in Christ's life. In Jesus we can discover our true nature and fully appreciate our personal dignity. Proclaiming Christ so that the image of God may be restored to each person in all its fullness is the ultimate goal of the “new evangelization”. You, called in a particular way by your charism to revive faith and rekindle love in every situation, should be very clearly aware of the preferential option for the “image of God” that is waiting to be revealed in the life of every brother and sister. Recognize Christ’s face in everyone, appreciating every human being regardless of his condition or status.
This is what St Vincent Pallotti did, whose sole concern was the interior renewal of human beings for the sake of their sanctification. To imitate his apostolic zeal, you must first strive for personal holiness. Only in this way will you be able to foster it in others, by remembering the universal call to holiness clearly made by the Second Vatican Council. It is this awareness that must motivate your contribution to the work of the new evangelization. In this way you will be effectively prepared to enter the new millennium and will actively co-operate in fulfilling the mission that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ entrusted to the entire ecclesial community.
3. The commitment to personal holiness must be lived within your communities in the various parts of the world: work in unity and harmony to be authentic witnesses to the Gospel for those you meet in your daily ministry. In the Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata I wrote: “The Church entrusts to communities of consecrated life the particular task of spreading the spirituality of communion, first of all in their internal life and then in the ecclesial community, and even beyond its boundaries, by opening or continuing a dialogue in charity, especially where today’s world is torn apart by ethnic hatred or senseless violence” (n. 51). It is by witnessing to the fraternal life, understood as a life shared in love, that you become an eloquent sign of ecclesial communion (cf. ibid., n. 42).
This deep understanding among yourselves will help you live your “unity in Christ” and make you ready and willing to respond to each person’s spiritual and material needs. In this regard your founder loved to say over and over that “the gift of cooperating in the salvation of souls is one of the most divine” (Opere complete XI, p. 257). This gift should be shared with lay people, your daily co-workers in the apostolate, as well as within your institute. Involve them and welcome them into your life of communion. “Today”, I wrote in the above-mentioned Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata “many institutes have come to the conclusion that their charism can be shared with the laity” (n. 54). “The participation of the laity often brings unexpected and rich insights into certain aspects of the charism, leading to a more spiritual interpretation of it and helping to draw from it directions for new activities in the apostolate” (n. 55). In this way, the Society of the Catholic Apostolate, conceived and founded by St Vincent Pallotti, will allow you not only to co-ordinate the different resources of your communities, but also to be at the very heart of the Church’s apostolic mission in today's world.
May you find help in Mary, faithful and obedient handmaid of the Lord and an excellent example of fidelity to the apostolate. United in prayer with the disciples in the Upper Room of Jerusalem while awaiting the gift of the Holy Spirit, she offers you the example of constant prayer, willingness and active commitment to the Church’s mission. May God renew the marvels of Pentecost in you and in your institute through her motherly intercession.
As I again express my appreciation of your apostolic service to the Church, I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, which I willingly extend to all the members of the Pallottine communities.
1. Welcome to this meeting by which you have desired to express your affectionate devotion to the Vicar of Christ and your renewed fidelity to his Magisterium as the universal Pastor of the Church, at the end of your 17th General Chapter.
I greet Mother Adele Brambilla, whom I congratulate on her recent election as Superior General, expressing my best wishes for heavenly lights so that she can lead the Comboni Missionary Sisters to new heights of apostolic zeal and service to their poorest brothers and sisters.
I extend a special greeting to Mother Mariangela Sardi, the outgoing Superior General, and I express my deep appreciation of her generous and competent work, hoping that she will continue to serve the missionary cause and the Church with the enthusiasm and wisdom of those who have given their whole life to the Lord. Lastly, I greet all of you, who represent the commitment of the entire congregation to the poor and to those who do not know Christ. Thank you for all the good you do, thank you for being discreet and diligent builders of the civilization of love in the world!
2. “The love of Christ impels us” (2Co 5,14). One hundred years since the first General Chapter, the Apostle Paul’s words continue to ring out in your institute, motivating you “to work in every part of the world in order to consolidate and expand the kingdom of Christ, bringing the proclamation of the Gospel even to the most far-off regions” (Vita consecrata VC 78). In this century of history, your congregation has grown and spread to many nations in Africa, Asia, America and Europe.
Therefore, during these days of study and prayer, you have wished first of all to give thanks to the Lord for all the good you are doing in the world through your institute. Thanks to you, the joyous and liberating news of the Gospel is being proclaimed in many regions and the Lord’s merciful love is witnessed to and made visible through your involvement in education, health care and social development. Recently, the Lord has also wished to give you a special sign of his favour by calling some of your sisters, in particular those who work in Southern Sudan and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to share in the mystery of his Cross.
3. The invitation to go and proclaim salvation to every creature (cf. Mt Mt 28,19), which the Lord has extended to each one of you, opens to your hearts as women totally dedicated to the Gospel cause an horizon that is sometimes complex and full of suffering, but also rich in hopes and possibilities.
Insistent appeals come to you from the peoples who, on various continents and especially in Africa, still do not believe in Christ: from the masses of evacuees, immigrants, refugees, men and women crowded into the great urban outskirts of Third World countries, or children abandoned and alone, victims of shameful exploitation and hunger; from women who in so many developing countries are waiting for their dignity to be defended and to take a leading role in family, civil and ecclesial life.
How then can we fail to look at the problems of justice, peace and environmental protection, which in a way form a new mission frontier, or those arising from the urgent need for interreligious dialogue, especially in countries where Islam is the religion of the majority? And what are we to say of the tragedies caused by wars and ethnic conflicts?
4. These critical situations give you as many opportunities to examine what you have done so far and challenge you to find new ways for the mission ad gentes. By following Bl. Daniel Comboni’s example, may you be holy and daring, tireless and enthusiastic missionaries in the Church, looking to the future with hope and the burning desire to “make Christ the heart of the world”.
This attitude will help you experience the growing international and multicultural dimensions of your communities as a treasure to be accepted with gratitude and as an opportunity to bear witness, despite the selfishness that prevails, to the universal brotherhood that is born of faith in Christ. Thus your congregation will be able to face with tranquillity and hope the problems of decreasing numbers and ageing, and with courage and conviction invest its energy and resources in increasing mission awareness in the Church, in the continuing formation of the institute's members and in the pastoral care of vocations.
By entrusting yourselves totally to the One to whom “nothing is impossible” (Lc 1,37), and supported by the power of faith and love alone, you will be witnesses of solidarity for everyone you meet, and “making common cause” with the weakest, you will open many hearts to the demands of justice and peace.
5. In calling you the “Pie Madri della Nigrizia”, your founder, whom I had the joy of beatifying on 17 March 1996, wanted to entrust you with the task of being a privileged expression of the Church’s motherhood for the poor of Africa and throughout the world.
Dear Comboni Missionary Sisters, I invite you each day to learn from Mary how to live your charism with enthusiasm. May her moth-rly love sustain you in the labours and joys of your missionary commitment and help you to be for the lowly and the poor a luminous sign of God’s tenderness.
With these wishes, as I invoke Bl. Daniel Comboni’s protection, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to each of you, to the sisters living in difficult mission situations, to the young women in formation, to the sisters who are elderly and ill, and to the entire congregation.
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. With fraternal love in the Lord I welcome you, the Pastors of the Church in the Northwestern United States, on the occasion of your ad Limina visit. This series of visits by the Bishops of your country to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and to the Successor of Peter and his collaborators in the service of the universal Church, is taking place while the whole People of God is preparing to celebrate the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 and enter a new Christian Millennium. The two thousandth anniversary of the Birth of the Savior is a call to all Christ's followers to seek a genuine conversion to God and a great advance in holiness. Since the liturgy is such a central part of the Christian life, I wish today to consider some aspects of the liturgical renewal so vigorously promoted by the Second Vatican Council as the prime agent of the wider renewal of Catholic life.
To look back over what has been done in the field of liturgical renewal in the years since the Council is, first, to see many reasons for giving heartfelt thanks and praise to the Most Holy Trinity for the marvelous awareness which has developed among the faithful of their role and responsibility in this priestly work of Christ and his Church. It is also to realize that not all changes have always and everywhere been accompanied by the necessary explanation and catechesis; as a result, in some cases there has been a misunderstanding of the very nature of the liturgy, leading to abuses, polarization, and sometimes even grave scandal. After the experience of more than thirty years of liturgical renewal, we are well placed to assess both the strengths and weaknesses of what has been done, in order more confidently to plot our course into the future which God has in mind for his cherished People.
2. The challenge now is to move beyond whatever misunderstandings there have been and to reach the proper point of balance, especially by entering more deeply into the contemplative dimension of worship, which includes the sense of awe, reverence and adoration which are fundamental attitudes in our relationship with God. This will happen only if we recognize that the liturgy has dimensions both local and universal, time-bound and eternal, horizontal and vertical, subjective and objective. It is precisely these tensions which give to Catholic worship its distinctive character. The universal Church is united in the one great act of praise; but it is always the worship of a particular community in a particular culture. It is the eternal worship of Heaven, but it is also steeped in time. It gathers and builds a human community, but it is also “the worship of the divine majesty” (Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 33). It is subjective in that it depends radically upon what the worshippers bring to it; but it is objective in that it transcends them as the priestly act of Christ himself, to which he associates us but which ultimately does not depend upon us (ibid., 7). This is why it is so important that liturgical law be respected. The priest, who is the servant of the liturgy, not its inventor or producer, has a particular responsibility in this regard, lest he empty liturgy of its true meaning or obscure its sacred character. The core of the mystery of Christian worship is the sacrifice of Christ offered to the Father and the work of the Risen Christ who sanctifies his People through the liturgical signs. It is therefore essential that in seeking to enter more deeply into the contemplative depths of worship the inexhaustible mystery of the priesthood of Jesus Christ be fully acknowledged and respected. While all the baptized share in that one priesthood of Christ, not all share in it in the same manner. The ministerial priesthood, rooted in Apostolic Succession, confers on the ordained priest faculties and responsibilities which are different from those of the laity but which are at the service of the common priesthood and are directed at the unfolding of the baptismal grace of all Christians (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1547). The priest therefore is not just one who presides, but one who acts in the person of Christ.
3. Only by being radically faithful to this doctrinal foundation can we avoid one- dimensional and unilateral interpretations of the Council’s teaching. The sharing of all the baptized in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ is the key to understanding the Council’s call for “full, conscious and active participation” in the liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 14). Full participation certainly means that every member of the community has a part to play in the liturgy; and in this respect a great deal has been achieved in parishes and communities across your land. But full participation does not mean that everyone does everything, since this would lead to a clericalizing of the laity and a laicizing of the priesthood; and this was not what the Council had in mind. The liturgy, like the Church, is intended to be hierarchical and polyphonic, respecting the different roles assigned by Christ and allowing all the different voices to blend in one great hymn of praise.
Active participation certainly means that, in gesture, word, song and service, all the members of the community take part in an act of worship, which is anything but inert or passive. Yet active participation does not preclude the active passivity of silence, stillness and listening: indeed, it demands it. Worshippers are not passive, for instance, when listening to the readings or the homily, or following the prayers of the celebrant, and the chants and music of the liturgy. These are experiences of silence and stillness, but they are in their own way profoundly active. In a culture which neither favors nor fosters meditative quiet, the art of interior listening is learned only with difficulty. Here we see how the liturgy, though it must always be properly inculturated, must also be counter-cultural.
Conscious participation calls for the entire community to be properly instructed in the mysteries of the liturgy, lest the experience of worship degenerate into a form of ritualism. But it does not mean a constant attempt within the liturgy itself to make the implicit explicit, since this often leads to a verbosity and informality which are alien to the Roman Rite and end by trivializing the act of worship. Nor does it mean the suppression of all subconscious experience, which is vital in a liturgy which thrives on symbols that speak to the subconscious just as they speak to the conscious. The use of the vernacular has certainly opened up the treasures of the liturgy to all who take part, but this does not mean that the Latin language, and especially the chants which are so superbly adapted to the genius of the Roman Rite, should be wholly abandoned. If subconscious experience is ignored in worship, an affective and devotional vacuum is created and the liturgy can become not only too verbal but also too cerebral. Yet the Roman Rite is again distinctive in the balance it strikes between a spareness and a richness of emotion: it feeds the heart and the mind, the body and the soul. It has been written with good reason that in the history of the Church all true renewal has been linked to a re-reading of the Church Fathers. And what is true in general is true of the liturgy in particular. The Fathers were pastors with a burning zeal for the task of spreading the Gospel; and therefore they were profoundly interested in all the dimensions of worship, leaving us some of the most significant and enduring texts of the Christian tradition, which are anything but the result of a barren aestheticism. The Fathers were ardent preachers, and it is hard to imagine that there can be an effective renewal of Catholic preaching, as the Council wished, without sufficient familiarity with the Patristic tradition. The Council promoted a move to a homiletic mode of preaching which would, like the Fathers, expound the biblical text in a way which opens its inexhaustible riches to the faithful. The importance that preaching has assumed in Catholic worship since the Council means that priests and deacons should be trained to make good use of the Bible. But this also involves familiarity with the whole Patristic, theological and moral tradition, as well as a penetrating knowledge of their communities and of society in general. Otherwise the impression is given of a teaching without roots and without the universal application inherent in the Gospel message. The excellent synthesis of the Church’s doctrinal wealth contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church has yet to be more widely felt as an influence on Catholic preaching.
4. It is essential to keep clearly in mind that the liturgy is intimately linked to the Church’s mission to evangelize. If the two do not go hand in hand, both will falter. Insofar as developments in liturgical renewal are superficial or unbalanced, our energies for a new evangelization will be compromised; and insofar as our vision falls short of the new evangelization our liturgical renewal will be reduced to external and possibly unsound adaptation. The Roman Rite has always been a form of worship that looks to mission. This is why it is comparatively brief: there was much to be done outside the church; and this is why we have the dismissal “Ite, missa est”, which gives us the term “Mass”: the community is sent forth to evangelize the world in obedience to Christ’s command (cf. Mt Mt 28,19-20).
As Pastors, you are fully aware of the great thirst for God and the desire for prayer which people feel today. The World Youth Day in Denver stands out as evidence that the younger generation of Americans too yearns for a deep and demanding faith in Jesus Christ. They want to have an active role in the Church, and to be sent out in the name of Christ to evangelize and transform the world around them. Young people are ready to commit themselves to the Gospel message if it is presented in all its nobility and liberating force. They will continue to take an active part in the liturgy if they experience it as capable of leading them to a deep personal relationship with God; and it is from this experience that there will come priestly and religious vocations marked by true evangelical and missionary energy. In this sense the young are summoning the whole Church to take the next step in implementing the vision of worship which the Council has bequeathed to us. Unburdened by the ideological agenda of an earlier time, they are able to speak simply and directly of their desire to experience God, especially in prayer both public and private. In listening to them, dear Brothers, we may well hear “what the Spirit is saying to the Churches” (Ap 2,11).
5. In our preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the year 1999 will be devoted to the Person of the Father and to the celebration of his merciful love. Initiatives for next year should draw particular attention to the nature of the Christian life as "a great pilgrimage to the house of the Father, whose unconditional love for every human creature, and in particular for the ?prodigal son’, we discover anew each day" (Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 49). At the core of this experience of pilgrimage is our journey as sinners into the unfathomable depths of the Church’s liturgy, the liturgy of Creation, the liturgy of Heaven – all of which are in the end the worship of Jesus Christ, the Eternal Priest, in whom the Church and all creation are drawn into the life of the Most Holy Trinity, our true home. That is the purpose of all our worship and all our evangelizing.
At the very heart of the worshiping community, we find the Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church, who, from the depths of her contemplative faith, brings forth the Good News, which is Jesus Christ himself. Together with you I pray that American Catholics when they celebrate the liturgy will have in their hearts the same song that she sang: "My being proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit finds joy in God my Savior. . . God who is mighty has done great things for me, holy is his name” (Lc 1,46-50). In entrusting the priests, religious and lay faithful of your Dioceses to the Blessed Mother’s loving protection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. I am pleased to meet you on the occasion of the Congress on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees at which you have addressed the theme: “Migration at the dawn of the third millennium”. I warmly welcome you all and greet you with affection. I particularly thank Archbishop Stephen Fumio Hamao for his words on behalf of you all, and to each of you I express my best wishes for generous and fruitful ecclesial service. I am confident that the analyses made, the decisions taken and the intentions formulated during the congress will effectively encourage those in the Church and in society who share a common concern for migrants and refugees.
Migration is a problem whose urgency increases with its complexity. There is a tendency almost everywhere today to close borders and to tighten controls. However, people are talking more than before about migration and in ever more alarming tones, not only because the closing of borders has led to uncontrolled waves of illegal immigrants, with all the risks and uncertainties inherent in this phenomenon, but also because the harsh living conditions which are at the root of this growing migratory pres-ure show signs of further deterioration.
2. In this context it seems appropriate to stress that it is a basic human right to live in one's own country. However this right becomes effective only if the factors that urge people to emigrate are constantly kept under control. These include, among others, civil conflicts, wars, the system of government, unjust distribution of economic resources, inconsistent agricultural policies, irrational industrialization and rampant corruption. If these situations are to be corrected, it is indispensable to encourage balanced economic development, the elimination of social inequalities, scrupulous respect for the human person and the smooth functioning of democratic structures. It is also indispensable to take timely measures to correct the current economic and financial system, dominated and manipulated by industrialized nations at the expense of developing countries.
Indeed, the closing of borders is often caused not merely by a reduced or no longer existing need for an immigrant work-force, but by a productive system based on the logic of labour exploitation.
3. Until recently, the wealth of the industrialized countries was locally produced, with the contribution of numerous immigrants. With the displacement of capital and business activities, a major part of that wealth is now produced in developing countries, where cheap labour is available. In this way the industrialized countries have discovered how to benefit from a cheap labour supply without having to bear the burden of immigrants. Thus these workers run the risk of being reduced to new “serfs” bound to movable capital which, among the many situations of poverty, choses from one time to the next those circumstances where manpower is cheapest. It is clear that such a system is unacceptable: in practice it ignores the human dimension of work.
Serious reflection is needed on the issue of hunger in the world, so that solidarity will overcome the quest for profit and those market laws which do not take into account the dignity of the human person and his inalienable rights.
We must deal firmly with the causes, by seeking international co-operation to foster political stability and eliminate underdevelopment. This challenge must be met with the awareness that it is a question of building a world in which all human beings, regardless of race, reli- gion or nationality, can live a fully human life, free from slavery to others and from the nightmare of having to spend their life in misery.
4. Immigration is a complex question, which concerns not only individuals searching for more secure and dignified living conditions, but also the population of the host countries. In the modern world, public opinion is often the chief rule that political leaders and legislators prefer to follow. The danger is that information, filtered only according to a country’s immediate problems, will be reduced to absolutely inadequate aspects, far from expressing the tragic reality of the situation. “In the search for a solution to the problem of migration in general and illegal migrants in particular”, I wrote for World Migration Day in 1996, “the attitude of the host society has an important role to play. In this perspective, it is very important that public opinion be properly informed about the true situation in the migrants’ country of origin, about the tragedies involving them and the possible risks of returning” (n. 4; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 13 September 1995, p. 3).
The duty of information is therefore to help the citizen to form a true picture of the situation, to understand and respect the basic rights of others and to assume his share of responsibility in society and at the level of the international community.
5. In this context, Christians are asked to assume their responsibilities in the Church and in society with greater clarity and determination. As citizens of an immigrant country who know the demands of their faith, believers must show that Christ’s Gospel is at the service of the welfare and the freedom of all God’s children. As individuals and as parishes, associations or movements, they cannot refuse to support those who are marginalized or powerless.
Immigration is a never-ending subject of debate which is brought up again and again. Christians must participate in it, by making suggestions for creating real prospects to be implemented at the political level as well. Merely denouncing racism or xenophobia is not enough.
In addition to engaging in projects for defending and promoting the immigrant’s rights, the Church “must assume ever more fully the Good Samaritan's role, making herself ‘neighbour’ to all the rejected” (Address to the Plenary Meeting of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, 26 October 1995, L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 8 November 1995, p.2).
6. “Migration at the dawn of the third millennium”.
The imminence of the Jubilee invites us to await the dawn of a new day for migration by calling on the “Sun of Justice”, Jesus Christ, to dispel the darkness gathering on the horizon of the countries so many are forced to leave. Christians dedicated to helping and caring for migrants find in this hope a further reason for involvement. I would like to recall here what I have already urged in my Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente: “... in the spirit of the Book of Leviticus (25:8-12), Christians will have to raise their voice on behalf of all the poor of the world, proposing the Jubilee as an appropriate time to give thought, among other things, to reducing substantially, if not canceling outright, the international debt which seriously threatens the future of many nations” (n. 51). It is well known that these nations coincide precisely with those having the greatest and most relentless rate of migration today.
The commitment to justice in a world like ours, marked by intolerable inequalities, is an essential aspect of the preparation for celebrating the Jubilee. A significant gesture would certainly be one in which reconciliation, a genuine dimension of the Jubilee, is expressed in a form of amnesty for a broad group of these immigrants who suffer the tragedy of precarious and uncertainty more than others, namely, illegal immigrants.
In preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the Church has dedicated this year in particular to the Holy Spirit. Let us ask him to instil in us the same sentiments, desires and concerns as those in Christ's heart.
May the Virgin Mary, whose human life was marked by the pain of exile and migration, comfort and help those who are living far from their homeland, and inspire in everyone feelings of solidarity and acceptance towards them.
With this vision, dear brothers and sisters, as I encourage you to persevere in your valuable work, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you as a sign of affection, and willingly extend it to all your loved ones.
Speeches 1998 - SPEECH TO CATECHISTS AND ECCLESIAL MOVEMENTS