Speeches 1988 - Saturday 20 February, 1988
I am very pleased to welcome all of you today: the Royal Naval Chaplains and those taking part in your ecumenical pilgrimage, as well as the officers and men of HMS Scylla presently docked at Naples. I am happy that it has been possible to arrange this meeting in response to your desire to see the Pope.
Whether you are on pilgrimage or simply on a brief visit, I hope that your stay in Rome, with its many past and present testimonies to Christian faith, will enable you to reflect on the role that Almighty God plays in your lives. May he strengthen and confirm your faith, especially during this Lenten season, so that you may celebrate this coming Easter with minds and hearts renewed. May he also hear the prayers of Christians everywhere who long to see overcome the obstacles to unity that prevent us from celebrating the Lord’s Resurrection in full communion with one another.
At his time you are dedicated to the service of your country in the armed forces. You should look upon yourselves not only as custodians of the security freedom of your countrymen, but also as servants of peace (Cfr. Gaudium et Spes GS 79). World peace begins with peace in our own hearts, founded on a right relationship with God and neighbour. We are commanded to love God above all things and our neighbour as ourselves. Only in this way can we hope to experience in any meaningful and lasting way the peace for which the world yearns. Justice and mercy must be our guides in promoting the good of others, both within the humble routine of everyday life and in the great affairs of nations and peoples.
I wish to assure you of my prayers for all your loved ones, especially those who may be in special need of God’s help. Upon them and all of you I invoke an abundance of divine blessings.
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. I cordially welcome you today on the occasion of your visit ad limina Apostolorum. Your presence here strengthens the bonds of unity, charity and peace that unite us in the Episcopal College. It is also a sign of the deep love and fidelity that the faithful of your Dioceses have for the Successor of Peter. Through you I wish to greet all of them, in particular the clergy, who are your faithful collaborators, and the Religious, whose consecration makes them a special sign in your midst of the Kingdom to come. I also wish to commend you, their pastors, for the vitality of ecclesial life in your local Churches and for the zeal with which you govern the flock entrusted to your care.
An important part of that ecclesial life is Catholic education, particularly Catholic schools. I know that concern for education has always marked the life of the Church in your Ecclesiastical Province and indeed throughout your country. The Second Vatican Council itself, in the Declaration on Christian Education, notes the work of the first Provincial Council of Westminster held in 1852 (Cfr. Gravissimum Educationis, adn. 25).
2. As the Second Vatican Council teaches, the primary responsibility for the education of children rests with their parents. Education begins in the home, where family life is meant to impart social virtues and a love for God and neighbour. At the same time the Council also recognizes that parents clearly need the help of society as a whole in order to fulfil their responsibility to educate their children. For her part, the Church has always provided this help to parents so that the lives of the faithful, from their earliest years, might be inspired by the spirit of Christ. It is the Church’s firm conviction that a complete education necessarily includes a religious dimension. If religion is neglected or set aside in the educational process that forms a nation’s heart and soul, then a morality worthy of man will not survive; justice and peace will not endure. It is also the Church’s belief that in providing Catholic education she is promoting “the full development of the human person for the welfare of earthly society and the building of a more human world” (Cfr. Gravissimum Educationis, adn. 3).
While this educative function takes many forms, the Catholic school is of outstanding importance to the Church’s mission. For this reason diocesan Bishops have a special right and responsibility to watch over and inspect Catholic schools in their territories, and to issue directives concerning the general regulation of these schools (Cfr. Codex Iuris Canonici CIC 806). At a time when radical revision of the educational system is under consideration in your country, and Catholic schools are facing new challenges of their own, I commend you for the leadership you are endeavouring to give, and for your vigilance in ensuring that Catholic schools not only survive but flourish, in accordance with all the principles of Catholic education described by the Council and enshrined in the history of Catholic education in Britain.
3. The challenges today are many, and they require co-operation both within society and within the Church for the sake of the common good. Catholic schools in particular are affected by the changing circumstances that have an impact on both human and financial resources. At this period of Catholic education in your country, your local Churches are engaged in a reorganization that entails some closures, mergers and transfers. It is understandable that parents become anxious for their children, and teachers become anxious for their jobs and future prospects. It is therefore essential that Bishops give proper leadership in this phase of reorganization in order to secure a Catholic education for as many of the Church’s young members as possible, and in order to ensure justice and wisdom in the location and allocation of schools and of teaching appointments within them. Everyone involved in the provision and management of Catholic schools is required to cooperate under the leadership of the Bishops so that these schools may fulfil their mission both now and in the future. For some people this will mean the sacrifice of personal preference in favour of the common good.
When difficult decisions must be made with regard to human and material resources, it is also necessary to keep in mind the words of “Gravissimum Educationis”: “Pastors of the Church and all the faithful are earnestly entreated to spare no sacrifice... in showing special concern for the needs of those who are poor in the goods of this world, or who are strangers to the gift of faith”. This special concern is fundamental to the Church’s firm commitment to promote a more just society. It is also fundamental to her mission of evangelization.
4. Bishops exercise their leadership not only by ensuring the provision of an adequate number of schools and their proper distribution, but also by promoting an understanding of the nature and importance of these schools. They must also safeguard their Catholic character, as well as promote and supervise the specifically religious teaching which is carried out in them.
The satisfactory progress of Catholic schools also requires that parents, teachers, priests, Religious and all those who are involved in the running of Catholic schools should keep informed about developments in civil legislation. I commend the many initiatives that have been taken in this regard, especially by your diocesan schools commissions. The commitment to continuing formation should not be limited to the study and application of developments common to all schools. It must also include the study and application of what is distinctively Catholic in the Church’s educational endeavours. In a pluralistic society, Catholic institutions must strive to make a contribution that is clearly and recognizably Catholic.
In order to play their crucial role in fulfilling these goals, Catholic teachers need their Bishops’ support and encouragement, and not only to improve their professional knowledge and skills. A relationship must be fostered which promotes the teachers’ understanding of Catholic education, ensures their appropriate pastoral care, and perfects their knowledge of the faith. Training is essential, and in this the Colleges of Education have a very important part to play to the extent that it is not only teachers whom they are forming but specifically Catholic teachers. It is also important to find ways of completing the formation of those who come from the universities, so that they may be truly Catholic teachers. I also encourage you to promote the vocation of Catholic teachers, and to recommend it to young people in the important years when they are considering and choosing a career.
5. Catholic schools should be excellent in every way, not only in the curriculum of regular studies and in the network of relationships that constitute them, but above all as communities of faith. Religious education is more than just one subject in the curriculum. In Catholic schools it is the core of the “core curriculum”. Nor can religious education be allowed to become only a superficial veneer. For as the Council reminds us, the aim of Catholic schools is “to create an atmosphere... enlivened by the gospel spirit of freedom and charity; to enable young people, while developing their own personalities, to grow at the same time as the new creatures they have become by Baptism; and... to so orient the whole of human culture to the message of salvation that the knowledge which students acquire of the world, of life and of mankind is illumined by faith” (Cfr. Gravissimum Educationis GE 8). These aims can only be realized by a living witness to the Catholic faith on the part of parents and teachers, priests and Religious, and all those associated with Catholic schools.
6. Dear Brothers: Catholic schools thrive best when there is good, sound partnership between home and parish, between parents and teachers, between ecclesiastical and civil authorities, and between all those directly engaged in the management of individual schools. I join you and your people in giving thanks to Almighty God for all that has been accomplished by Catholic education in your country, and in asking for God’s help in guiding the enterprise of Catholic schooling in the future.
With fraternal affection in our Lord Jesus Christ I impart to you and to all the faithful of your Dioceses my Apostolic Blessing.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, "The Lord be with you".
1. This greeting is a familiar part of our liturgical celebrations. It itself, it is a beautiful prayer that those whom we address may truly be filled with the Spirit of God and may truly reflect in their lives the grace of Jesus Christ.
The liturgical salutation reminds us of another greeting offered to the Blessed Virgin Mary by the Angel Gabriel: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" (Lc 1,28). Gabriel's greeting was not a prayerful hope, but the recognition of a fact: that the Lord truly was with Mary.
In this Marian Year, it is appropriate to recall with the members, consultors and staff of the Pontifical Commission for Social Communications during your annual plenary meeting that one of the most significant messages of all time was brought by the patron of communicators, the Angel Gabriel, to Mary - the news that she had been chosen by God the Father to be the Mother of his Son.
Let us examine the context and the content of that message to see what we can learn in our own work as communicators.
2. The Angel said, "Hail, full of grace!". By this greeting, he recognized the unique dignity of Mary as one who had been especially blessed by God. While it is true that only Mary had the privilege of being conceived free from sin and full of grace, it is equally true that every person is a child of God with a special destiny. Should not our communication and indeed all communication recognize the dignity and the transcendent destiny of every human being?
In all our work of communication, this means that we should tirelessly proclaim and defend the dignity of every person as a child of God destined for eternal life. We must join with all men and women of good will in defending the rights and dignity of every human being--the right to life from the moment of conception until natural death, the right to decent housing, education and a just wage for meaningful work, the right to practise and openly profess religious belief.
It is in the profession of religious belief, however, that we must go beyond the message offered by other persons of good will who do not share our faith, for we must publicly communicate the good news of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. The cost of proclaiming this message has always been great. Even in the infancy of Jesus, Simeon referred to him as a "sign that is spoken against" (Lc 2,34). Simeon likewise said to Mary: "A sword will pierce through your own soul also" (Ibid. 2, 35). The Apostles Peter and Paul paid the price of martyrdom for proclaiming the message of Jesus, and thereby have become models for thousands of followers of Christ throughout the ages who have offered their lives in witness to the Gospel. In this age, Blessed Titus Brandsma gave his life as a priest and as a journalist in defence of the rights and dignity of every person and in witness to his faith in Jesus Christ.
3. How should Catholic communicators imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Apostles and the martyrs in their witness to the faith?
First, every Catholic communicator, like every member of the Church, should be a model of personal integrity. Each of us should proclaim the Gospel in our daily life by seeking to be truly "full of grace". Every Catholic communicator should also be a model of professional competence, for without such expertise there can be little positive impact in the competitive and demanding world of the communications media.
Second, I would also hope that every Catholic in the communications media will be fearless in the presentation and defence of truth - even when that truth may be unpopular at a particular time or in a particular place. The number of children deliberately killed before birth remains a terrible scandal in a world which professes to be civilized. It is a scandal which can easily be ignored unless there are people in the communications media who will make known this continuing tragedy. The death and suffering of so many innocent people due to violence, hunger and disease are situations which must also be made known through the communications media, so that those in need may be helped. The persistent denial of essential human rights, including the right to profess and practise religion publicly, is likewise a subject which deserves to be brought before the attention of the world so that the power of public opinion may help to break the chains of oppression.
Third, Catholics in the communications media can help to tell the good news as it is lived by millions around the world. The compassionate love of the Blessed Virgin Mary in visiting her cousin Elizabeth at her time of need is reflected over and over again in the lives of those who care for the sick and the dying; who educate the poor and the handicapped, and who seek to be peacemakers in a troubled world. There are as many interesting stories as there are heroic but humble people in the world - and their unselfish lives will not remain hidden if there are communicators with the imagination and skill to bring their story to a world which needs examples of heroism and hope.
4. At the end of this year, we will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of that landmark document of the Second Vatican Council "Inter Mirifica". The communications media are there described as among the marvels of technology which God has destined human genius to discover in creation. The communications media have the wonderful power to bring the people of the world together. The media can be messengers of the Good News of Jesus Christ, as the Angel Gabriel was to Mary, and can proclaim that message not just to one person but to multitudes. The power of the communications media is undoubtedly very great, and it depends on us to guarantee that they will always be instruments at the service of truth, justice and moral decency.
The task is indeed a challenging one. The Angel Gabriel however, also said to Mary: "The Lord is with you!" (Lc 1,28). We have the assurance of the continuing presence and help of Jesus in all that we do to communicate his truth and his love, in all that we do together with his Blessed Mother to proclaim the greatness of the Lord.
As a sign of that continuing help of the Lord, and invoking the intercession of his Virgin Mother, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, your loved ones and all your associates in this important work of communications.
1. It gives me great pleasure to welcome you today to the Vatican, in the course of your visit to Rome for meetings with the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity and other departments of the Holy See. Your stay in Rome will no doubt include a visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, who shed their blood for Christ in this City and whose witness is part of the common heritage of all Christians. Their constancy in confessing Christ is a reminder to all the Lord’s disciples of the duty to make Jesus Christ the centre and criterion of our lives.
The Second Vatican Council constitutes a fundamental point of reference for the Catholic Church’s commitment to ecumenism. Since the time of the Council, Lutherans and Catholics have made much progress in overcoming the barriers of separation between us and in building visible bonds of unity. In theological dialogue significant work has been done in regard to matters on which we must achieve unity in faith, such as the Eucharist, ministry, and justification by faith, as also in facing other matters, including the mutual anathemas pronounced in the sixteenth century. Ways have been found to bear common witness on pressing social concerns. Such dialogue and collaboration must continue. I see the visit to Rome of the President, the General Secretary and other members of the Lutheran World Federation as a sign of your commitment to the deepening of our relationship, and for this I am very grateful.
2. In our work for unity, it is essential that our ecumenical efforts should have deep spiritual foundations. They must be, above all, Christ centred. Christ is the Saviour, the “one Mediator between God and men” (1Tm 2,5). His Cross is our source of strength, his Resurrection our hope. As we continue building bonds of unity, we do so as co-workers with Christ. For “unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.” (Ps 127,1).
It follows that our efforts must be directed towards conversion, an interior conversion to a deeper life in Christ, a conversion that enables us to see one another in a new light. According to the Council’s Decree on Ecumenism, conversion is that “change of heart and holiness of life” which, “along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians”, should be considered as “the soul of the whole ecumenical movement” (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 8).
3. Only by building our ecumenical hopes on this deeper relationship with Christ can we truly aspire to the goal of full communion. Because we already share bonds of unity in Christ through Baptism, we can never be satisfied with anything less than full communion. In the Catholic Church, the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops of 1985 reminded us that “the ecclesiology of communion is the central and fundamental idea” of the documents of the Second Vatican Council (SYNODI EXTR. EPISCOP. 1985 Relatio finalis, II C, 1), and consequently is the basis from which the Catholic Church “fully assumed her ecumenical responsibility” (SYNODI EXTR. EPISCOP. 1985 Relatio finalis, II C, 7) The deepening of this biblical and ecclesial sense of communion within our respective traditions is vital for further progress towards unity between Lutherans and Catholics. May the Holy Spirit lead us along this path!
In this Lenten season, as we look toward Easter, a passage from the First Letter of Peter is an appropriate way of acknowledging the great things that God has done for us, as we work to honour his name: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable”(1 Petr. 1, 3). May this be our prayer, and the conviction that sustains us!
Dear Brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ,
1. With this visit there begins the 1988 series of the ad limina visits of the American Bishops. Today I am very pleased to welcome all of you who make up the first group and who come from the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Dubuque, Kansas City, Omaha and Saint Louis. You represent a great cross-section of the Catholic people of the United States, bringing with you, as you do, the hopes and aspirations, the joys and difficulties of so many people – individuals, families and entire particular Churches within the States of Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri.
For all of us this is an hour of ecclesial communion that follows closely upon my second visit to the United States and especially our important meeting in Los Angeles. There is, moreover, a continuity between this present series of ad limina visits and that of 1983, which in turn was in continuity with my first visit to America in 1979. All of these encounters are likewise linked to the future of the Church in the United States, which I hope to be able to reflect on again next year in a meeting with American Bishops.
2. Because this present hour is one of ecclesial communion it is linked to our own salvation.The Church began her Lenten celebration proclaiming with Saint Paul: “Now is the acceptable time! Now is the day of salvation!” (2Co 6,2). Like all the other members of the Church we ourselves must approach our salvation in faith – faith in the mystery of Jesus Christ and his Church. As Bishops we put this faith into practice by actuating the mystery of our own hierarchical communion in the Church. By living this mystery of communion today, we are giving the response of faith to Christ as he holds up before us his design of unity for his Church and for all who make up the College of Bishops.
On this occasion, you and I, united in ecclesial communion as pastors of individual dioceses in America and as the Pastor of the universal Church respectively, have the task of offering to Jesus Christ, the Supreme Shepherd of the entire flock, the Church in the United States. This Church belongs to Jesus Christ by right. He loves her intensely and intends to possess her ever more fully and to purify her ever more deeply in every aspect of her ecclesial reality.
3. I wish to express once again sentiments of profound gratitude and satisfaction at having been able to visit for a second time the Church in the United States and to have experienced so many aspects of her life. Coupled with these sentiments are also those of admiration for everything that the grace of Christ has accomplished in the lives of God’s people in your land. The ecclesial reality in the United States is an expression of the power of Christ’s Paschal Mystery at work in the lives of countless individuals and numerous communities. Over and over again this ecclesial reality deserves our prayerful reflection.
During the course of my September visit to nine dioceses I was able to experience the life of faith which is lived in all 186 dioceses throughout the United States, which include twelve Eastern Rite dioceses and the Military Ordinariate. What was especially gratifying was to meet all the various categories that make up the one People of God: Bishops, priests, deacons, Religious, seminarians and Religious in formation, and the Catholic laity. All of these categories were present not only in special encounters arranged for me but in the large liturgical celebrations held in each diocese. Repeatedly I witnessed the faith of a Church that could address herself to God in the words of the Psalm: “I will give you thanks in the vast assembly; in the mighty throng I will praise you” (Ps 35,18). And again: “I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart in the company and assembly of the just. Great are the works of the Lord exquisite in all their delights” (Ps 111,1-2).
In every event in which I took part, the local Bishop was at my side. Together we experienced the Church as she is incarnate in the historical, geographical, social, economic, political and religious context of the United States of America. I saw. I listened. I was addressed. I spoke. And the Church prayed – Christ prayed in his Body, in us, the Church. And all of us entered into closer communion with each other and with him, the Supreme Shepherd.
4. My particular role throughout the whole visit was to proclaim Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Redeemer of man – every man, woman and child. At the same time I came to America in order to ask everyone to meet Jesus Christ and to give him the response of faith: to believe in his name, to accept his word, to be open to his love and the love of his Father and the Holy Spirit.
At the basis of all my exhortations to fraternal solidarity and love was that pivotal truth proclaimed by the Second Vatican Council: “By his Incarnation the Son of God united himself in a certain way with each human being” (Gaudium et Spes GS 22). The Incarnation as the expression of God’s love is the new foundation of human dignity for everyone. Hence I could not speak of God’s love without speaking of human dignity and what it requires. And so at the very beginning of my visit in Miami I stated: “I come to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all who freely choose to listen to me; to tell again the story of God’s love in the world; to spell out once more the message of human dignity with its inalienable human rights and its inevitable human duties” (IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Prima salutatio ad cives Civitatum Foederatarum Americae Septemtrionalis in aeronavium portu urbis "Miami", 2, die 10 sept. 1987: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, X, 3 (1987) 357).
5. All of us were in fact able to perceive a great response of faith, in so many ways, on the part of the people – everything being accomplished by the Lord, in accordance with the words of the Psalm: “Come! behold the deeds of the Lord, the astounding things he has wrought...” (Ps 46 Ps 845), 9). This response of faith was evident in the wonderful collaboration and hard work of preparation for my visit, in the understanding and acceptance of my role as the Successor of the Apostle Peter, in an openness to the proclamation of the Gospel message, and in our common worship. In so many ways the people expressed their faith in the Church as she exists by the will of Christ: both particular and universal.
One of the great riches of the Church in the United States is the way in which she herself incarnates universality or catholicity in her ethnic make-up, taken as she is “from every nation and race, people and tongue” (Ap 7,9). The Church in the United States has the advantage of being naturally disposed to live catholicity and to show solidarity with all those particular Churches where her people came from originally. The ethnic contributions to the various liturgies celebrated during my visit were not mere folkloric expressions; they were rather keys opening the door to a fuller understanding of the ecclesial reality of the Church in the United States.
In witnessing aspect after aspect of the Church in your land, I was conscious in each diocese of the mystery of the universal Church as she subsists in particular Churches that joyfully make their pilgrimage of faith, amidst obstacles and opposition, to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The ecclesial reality presented to me in each diocesan community was a portion of Christ’s flock, invested with his Spirit – as poured out through the Paschal Mystery – and living by that same Spirit. It was the Church of Christ living the mystery of Redemption in the modern world, being herself continually purified after her immersion into the bath of regeneration (Cfr. Eph Ep 5,26).
6. As the Church in the United States works to be faithful to her task of actuating the Kingdom of God in its initial stage, she strives earnestly to meet pastoral challenges all around her, the fundamental one of which is to be constantly converted or renewed in God’s love. Being convinced of the openness of the Church in the United States to challenge, of her good will, and, above all, of Christ’s grace active within her, I too challenged her in various ways, including setting before her the need to be open to renewal by God himself.
In effect, being renewed in God’s love has very concrete requirements for the whole Church, and hence for the Church in the United States. It means that she must live to the full her vocation to holiness. In the world she must be herself; she must always be what she is meant to be. the holy Body of Christ. In Chapter Five of “Lumen Gentium” the Church has given to all her sons and daughters a great gift in clearly enunciating the universal call to holiness: “All Christ’s followers therefore are invited and bound to pursue holiness and the perfect fulfillment of their proper state”. The application of this principle to married couples, Christian parents, widowed and single people is of extreme importance. The Church is truly the sacrament of holiness for everyone. The Council insisted “that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity”.
How important it was for the whole Church that the Council should so strongly present this challenge to the laity! Without this principle the full participation of the laity in the life and mission of the Church could never have been ensured. The universal call to holiness was also at the basis of the recent Synod of Bishops on the Laity.
Specific consequences of this principle have been spelled out in the Pastoral Constitution “Gaudium et Spes”, which does not admit “false opposition between professional and social activities on the one part, and religious life on the other” and which tells us that the “split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age” (Gaudium et Spes GS 43).
7. As the Church in all her own members endeavours to live her vocation of holiness, she is also mindful of her obligation to help all people to discover in Christ’s Redemption the full meaning of life in this world. This is another great challenge for the Church. At the beginning of my Pontificate I expressed it in my first Encyclical, saying: “The Church’s fundamental action in every age and particularly in ours is to awareness and experience of the whole of humanity towards the mystery of Christ, to help all people to be familiar with the profundity of the Redemption taking place in Christ Jesus” (IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Redemptor Hominis, RH 10).
This challenge to help all people to be open to the Redemption is linked with the Church’s missionary activity and therefore with her own missionary nature.The Church in the United States – like the universal Church – must be committed to this cause today and forever. During my visit to Phoenix I had the opportunity to touch upon this vital aspect of the Church’s life, citing also the American Bishops’ 1986 Pastoral Statement on World Mission. The question that I asked in Phoenix still requires further answers from the Church both in the United States and throughout the world: “Who will respond to God’s missionary call at the end of the twentieth century?”.
8. To bring the fullness of God’s word to people, to point their gaze to the mystery of Christ, to help them to understand human dignity and the meaning of life through the key of the Redemption is the supreme service of the Church to humanity. The Church renders this service in the name of Christ and through the power of his Spirit. At the same time she knows that, in consequence of the principle of the Incarnation – Christ’s union with every human being – she must constantly link with her missionary activity and all her work of evangelization a vast program to help meet other human needs. She is vitally interested in making her specific contribution to uplifting humanity to the level that corresponds to the rightful dignity already granted to it in the mystery of the Word made flesh.
The Church finds in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, the principle of her solicitude for humanity, for the future of humanity on earth and for the whole of development and progress. All of the Church’s motives are inspired by the Gospel of Christ.
The mission of solidarity, to which I have dedicated my latest Encyclical and on which there will be further opportunities for reflection, represents a specially grave responsibility for the Church today. During my visit to the United States I was able to see with what seriousness the local Churches have responded to the needs of their brothers and sisters, with what generosity they have striven to alleviate suffering and pain, with what alacrity they have shown their solidarity with humanity. Not only do I recall the panorama of charitable works and health care that was presented to me in San Antonio and Phoenix, and also efforts of many of your local Churches to respond to the farm crisis, but I know the commitment of all the People of God in America to carry out their vocation of Christian service.
This challenge of service, with its motivation in Christ and his Gospel, must accompany the Church in the United States during the whole length of her pilgrimage of faith. Acceptance of this challenge is extremely pleasing to God; failure to do so is fatal. The Second Vatican Council reminds us: “The Christian who neglects his temporal duties neglects his duties toward his neighbor and even God, and jeopardizes his eternal salvation”.
These and other challenges, dear Brothers, stand before the Church of God in the United States – a beloved Church living in the power of Christ’s Spirit and called to ever greater holiness of life, especially during this Marian Year of grace. As you rise up humbly with your people to meet these challenges, you have every reason to be filled with hope. In all your efforts to live worthily the mystery of the Church, you are supported by the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, “as a sign of sure hope and solace”, accompanies you on your pilgrimage of faith toward the final goal of eternal life in Christ Jesus. As you make your pilgrim way along this path, I ask you to take deep encouragement from the words of the Prophet: “The Lord God is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness and renew you in his love”.
In this love I send my Apostolic Blessing to all your local Churches, being especially mindful of all those who bear the Cross of Christ in pain and suffering.
Speeches 1988 - Saturday 20 February, 1988