Speeches 1978 - Friday, 10 November 1978
Saturday, 11 November 1978
I am counting on you, I am counting on the Pontifical Commission "Iustitia et Pax", to help me and to help the whole Church to repeat to the men of this time, with pressing insistence, the appeal which I addressed to them on beginning my Roman and universal ministry, on Sunday 22 October:
"Do not be" afraid! Open, yes, fling the doors wide open to Christ! Open to his power of salvation the frontiers of States, economic and political regimes, the immense fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid! Christ knows what there is in man! And he is the only one who knows it."
We are living in times in which everything should urge us to break down partitions: the keener perception of the universal solidarity of men and peoples: the necessity of safeguarding the common environment and inheritance of mankind; the necessity of reducing the weight and the deadly threat of armaments; the duty of rescuing from want millions of men who would find again, with the means of leading a decent life, the possibility of bringing new energies to the common effort. Now, before the amplitude and the difficulties of the task, we can see nearly everywhere a reflex of hardening. At the source, there is fear; fear above all of man and his responsible freedom, fear which is often increased by the concatenation of violence and repression. And, finally, fear of Jesus Christ, either because people do not know him, or because, among Christians themselves, the experience—demanding, but life-bringing—of an existence inspired by his Gospel is no longer sufficiently lived.
The first service that the Church must render to the cause of justice and peace is to call upon men to open up to Jesus Christ. In him they will learn again their essential dignity as children of God, made in God's image, endowed with unsuspected possibilities which make them capable of facing up to the tasks of the hour, bound to one another by a brotherhood which has its roots in God's fatherhood. In him they will become free for a responsible service. Let them not be afraid! Jesus Christ is not an alien or a competitor. He does not offend anything that is authentically human, either in persons, or in their different scientific and social achievements. Nor is the Church an alien or a competitor. "The Church", says the Constitution Gaudium et Spes, "by reason of her role and competence, is not identified with any political community nor bound by ties to any political system. It is at once the sign and the safeguard of the transcendental dimension of the human person." (Gaudium et Spes GS 76). Opening man up to God, the Church prevents him from shutting himself up in any ideological system whatsoever; it opens him up to himself and to others and makes him available to create something new in the dimensions of the present requirements of the evolution of mankind.
With the central gift of Jesus Christ, the Church brings to the common work, not a prefabricated model, but a dynamic inheritance—doctrinal and practical—which developed in contact with the changing situations of this world, under the impulse of the Gospel as the source of renewal, with a disinterested will for service and attention for the poorest (cf. Paul VI, Octogesima Adveniens, 42). The whole Christian community takes part in this service. But the Council opportunely desired, and Paul VI effected with the Pontifical Commission "Iustitia et Pax", the creation of an "organization of the universal Church whose task it would be to arouse the Catholic community to promote the progress of areas which are in want and foster social justice between nations" (Gaudium et Spes GS 90).
It is to this universal service that you are called, beside the Pope and under his guidance. You exercise it in a spirit of service and in a dialogue—which it will be necessary to develop—with the episcopal Conferences and different organisms which, in communion with them, are pursuing the same task. You exercise it in an ecumenical spirit by tirelessly seeking and adapting the forms of cooperation calculated to further the Unity of Christians in thought and in action.
Without prejudice to the numerous questions to which the Commission gives its attention, you have dedicated this general Assembly to the subject of the development of peoples. The Church has been present from the outset at this immense effort and she has followed its hopes, difficulties and disappointments. A serene appreciation of the positive results, even when insufficient, must help to overcome the present hesitations. You have made a point of studying the whole range of problems which the necessary pursuit of the work begun raises at the level of the international community, in the internal life of each people, at the level also of elementary communities, in the way of conceiving and realizing new ways of life. In order that the Church may be able to say the word of hope which is expected of her and to strengthen the spiritual and moral values, without which there cannot be any development, she must listen, patiently and with sympathy, to the men and institutions that are working hard at the task at all levels, and measure the obstacles to be overcome. There can be no trickery with the reality which it is desired to change.
Priority attention for those who are suffering from radical poverty, for those who are suffering from injustice, certainly coincides with a fundamental concern of the Church; similarly the concern to conceive models of development which, in order to ask for sacrifices, are careful not to sacrifice essential personal and social freedoms and rights, without which, moreover, they would soon condemn themselves to a dead end. And Christians will want to be in the vanguard in order to bring forth convictions and ways of life which will break decisively with a frenzy for consumption, so exhausting and joyless.
Thank you, Lord Cardinal, for the words through which you expressed to me the filial and devoted sentiments of the whole Commission. Your presence at the head of this organism is a pledge that peoples that are poor, but rich in humanity, will be at the heart of its concerns. Thank you, brother bishops, thank you all, dear friends, who bring to the Commission and to myself your human and apostolic competence and experience. Thank you, all members of the Curia present here: due to you, the dimension of human and social advancement can better penetrate the activity of the other Congregations and Departments; in return, the activity of the Commission "Iustitia et Pax" will be able to be integrated better and better in the Church's overall mission.
You know, in fact, to what extent the Council and my Predecessors took it to heart to set the action of the Church in favour of justice, peace, development, and liberation, in the frame of reference of its evangelizing mission. Against confusion which is always springing up again, it is important not to reduce evangelization to its fruits for the earthly city: the Church owes it to men to give them access to the source, to Jesus Christ. So the dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium remains the "magna carta" of the Council: in its light all the other texts take on their full dimension. The pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes and everything it inspires are not minimised, but strengthened, by it.
In Christ's name, I bless you, yourself and your collaborators, those who are dear to you and your beloved countries, and especially those who are sorely tried. Turning again to the subject of the audience last Wednesday, may the Lord help us, may he help all our brothers to set out along the ways of justice and peace!
Sunday, 12 November 1978
I am sincerely grateful to you for the noble expressions you have just addressed to me; and I thank with you the whole civil Administration, to which I am happy and honoured to extend my cordial greeting.
This first meeting with those on whom it falls to interpret, protect and serve the interests of a city like Rome—whose glorious and mysterious destiny is so closely interwoven with the events of the Church of Christ, which has here, by providential disposition, her visible centre—arouses in me a surge of feelings, of memories, of solemn and weighty thoughts, difficult to restrain. In this City, which was the sovereign ruler of peoples, an admirable teacher of civilization, an unequalled maker of wise laws, there once arrived the humble fisherman of Galilee, the Apostle Peter. He was ill-equipped and defenceless on the human plane, but inwardly sustained by the strength of the Spirit who made him the courageous bearer of the Glad News, destined to conquer the world. In this same City there has now arrived a new Successor of Peter, also marked by so many human limitations, but trustful in the indefectible help of grace, and coming from a country of which you, Mr Mayor, have kindly spoken with sympathy and cordiality.
Today the new Pope officially begins his ministry as Bishop of Rome and Pastor of a diocese which has no equal in the world. I feel deeply the responsibility deriving from the complex problems that the pastoral care of a community, which has expanded at a bewildering speed in the last few years, brings with it. And I cannot but look with sympathy on those who, bearing the honour and the weight of the civil administration of the City, are doing their utmost to improve the environmental conditions, to overcome inadequate social situations, and to raise the general living standards of the population.
Hoping that these goals, at which this important service of the citizens aims, will be successfully reached, I also express the wish that the Administration, adopting a view of the common good which includes all true human values, will give open and cordial attention also to the requirements raised by the religious dimension of the City, which, owing to the incomparable Christian values which characterize its features, is a centre of attraction for pilgrims from all over the world.
With these sentiments, I invoke God's blessing on this City, which I now feel mine, and I wish to you, Mr Mayor, to your Collaborators, and to the whole large family of the Roman people, serene prosperity and civil progress in hardworking concord, mutual respect and sincere aspiring to a peaceful, harmonious and just society.
Dear Brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ,
I SHALL ALWAYS be grateful to God for having given me the opportunity to visit New Zealand. Even though my stay among you in 1973 was a brief one, it gave me great joy. Be assured that my memories of these days are still vivid, and that they constitute one more reason for me to do everything in my power to be of service to your beloved people in the Gospel of Christ. And today it is my hope, with God’s grace, to fulfil my papal ministry towards you, my brother Bishops as Successor of Peter I desire to confirna you in the Apostle’s profession of faith, so that you in turn may continue with fresh vigour and new strength to preach Jesus Christ the Son of the living God, and to assist your people to realize to the full their Christian dignity and to attain their final destiny
The Second Vatican Council wanted to avoid every semblance of triumphalism in the Church. In this regard it pointed out that Christ calls his Church “to that continual reformation of which she always has need, insofar as she is an institution of people here on earth”. The Council never had any intention of claiming that the Church always has at hand facile solutions to individual problems; it did, however, positively wish to emphasize the teaching role of the Church: the fact that she is endowed with light from God, in order to offer solutions to problems that affect humanity. The Council desired that through the preaching of the Gospel all people would be illumined by the light of Christ that shines on the face of the Church.
The Church truly reflects the light of Christ, and from Christ she has received a message that answers the fundamental aspirations of the human heart. In the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the modern world we are reminded that " Bishops, who are assigned the task of ruling the Church of God, should, together with their priests, so preach the message of Christ that all the earthly activities of the faithful will be bathed in the light of the Gospel". As Bishops, you are constantly trying to fulfil this role of pastoral service: to bring the treasure of God’s word to bear relevantly on the life of each member of the flock, to bring the light of Christ into the lives of individuals and communities.
I wish to assure you today that I am deeply aware of the bonds that unite us in the Church and in her hierarchical communion. You have my prayers and support for all your apostolic labours. In particular, I am at one with you in your mission of defending human life in all its stages. In all your catechetical endeavours, in all your work for Catholic education, you can count on the solidarity of the universal Church. What an important work it is to provide children with Catholic schools, in which they can "grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ"! What a great challenge it is for a Bishop to guard the deposit of Christian doctrine, so that each new generation can receive the fullness of the apostolic faith! And to what deep paternal sensitivity and spiritual leadership the Bishop is called, in order effectively to associate the whole Diocese with himself in exercising the collective vigilance that is needed for maintaining true Catholic education! Through word and example and prayer, the Bishop must inspire each member of the Christian family to do his or her part, so that the light of Christ will touch all people in each vital aspect of modern living.
Despite difficulties and obstacles we must never falter in our commitment to work for the re-establishment of Christian unity, according to the ardent desire of the heart of Christ. The orientation of the Ecumenical Council is decisive, and its call for conversion and holiness of life is even more imperative today than it was fourteen years ago when this appeal was made: "Let all Christ’s faithful remember that the more purely they strive to live according to the Gospel, the more they are fostering and even practising Christian unity". The great ecumenical heritage of the Council was succinctly summarized by Paul VI in the closing lines of his testament, which I propose once again to your prayerful meditation and to that of the whole Church: "let the work of drawing closer to our separated Brethren be carried on, with much understanding, with much patience, with great love; but without deviation from the true Catholic doctrine". This delicate work is beyond human power; only the Holy Spirit can bring it to completion. With the intensity of love we must pray to the Father: "thy Kingdom come, thy will be done".
With these reflections I reiterate my affection in Christ Jesus for all the Catholic people and for all your fellow-citizens in New Zealand. My special love is with the poor, the sick, the suffering. I send a particular greeting to the Maori people, encouraging them to remain strong in faith and fervent in love.
My Apostolic Blessing "to all of you that are in Christ".
Dearly beloved in Christ,
LATER ON THIS MONTH, Cardinal Joseph Parecattil will commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of his Episcopal Ordination, and it is a pleasure for me to celebrate this event by receiving a group of the faithful of Ernakulam.
Your presence here is in fact a representation of the entire Archdiocese clergy, religious and laity gathered around your Archbishop, united in the communion of faith and love with the universal Church, under Jesus Christ the “chief Shepherd”. The sublime mystery of the local Church is enacted here in all its beauty, and the Bishop of Rome finds ioy in your presence and immense spiritual support in the filial love that you show to him as Successor of Peter
My earnest hope is that your visit to this See of Peter and the renewal of your act of faith at his tomb in the Basilica will have a lasting meaning for the rest of your lives The vhole fabric of the Church is linked to Peter’s profession of the divinity of the Lord Jesus: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God". Our entire ecclesiology draws meaning from this great reality; our vocation as Christians is to proclaim by due authenticity of our lives what we accept by faith.
A bishop is called in a particular way to give testimony to faith in Jesus Christ, true God and true man, Son of God and Son Mary. Cardinal Parecattil has done this for a quarter of a century and I wish today, in the presence of all of you, to render honour to him and to the Episcopacy, which is God’s great gift for ensuring that the faith of his Church will be transmitted, sustained and nurtured.
My greeting goes back with the Cardinal and all of you to Ernakulam. In the love of the Saviour I embrace all the members of the ecclesial community, especially those who are suffering or afflicted in any way. I assure you that the Church is grateful for the priestly and religious vocations that have arisen in your midst, and for all the fruits of justice and holiness that you have shown in Christian living.
Fortified by God’s grace and heeding the exhortation of the Scriptures. " Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection" This is my prayer for Ernakulam on this ioyful occasion and always. With my Apostolic Blessing.
Today, too, this Patriarchal Vatican Basilica is thronged with joyful young people, who offer my eyes and above all my heart a grand and exalting spectacle.
I thank you, dear boys and girls, and dear young people from the schools, parishes and Catholic associations, for the joy and the comfort you give me with your numerous presence. It confirms how deeply you feel the religious-moral problem, as an answer to deep aspirations of the spirit.
I wish to assure you that I follow your problems and your difficulties; I share your expectations; I wish to accompany you on your way. .
I have already repeated on various occasions: you young people are the hope of the Church and of society. This affirmation, however, so evident at first sight, requires, perhaps, a pause for reflection.
In the first place: are adults, parents, educators, men responsible for the Church or for civil society, really convinced of the hope you represent? The reasons for anxiety derived from some expressions of life among youth today, might have weakened this confident certainty, the source of intelligent and intense activity, in view of your formation
And you, dear young people, do you really feel, deeply, that you are the hope and the joyful promise of tomorrow? Certainly, awareness of youthfulness is not sufficient to give the sense of that inner confidence, which alone makes it possible to look to the future with the calm certainty of being able to change the forces operating in the world, for the construction of a society really worthy of man.
To be young means living within oneself an incessant newness of spirit, nourishing a continual quest for good, releasing an impulse to change always for the better, realizing a persevering determination of dedication. Who will make all this possible for us? Does man have within himself the strength to face with his own forces the snares of evil, selfishness and—let us say so clearly—the disintegrating snares of the "prince of this world", who is always active to give man, first, a false sense of his autonomy, and then to bring him, through failure, to the abyss of despair?
All of us, the young and adults, must have recourse to Christ, the eternally young, Christ the conqueror of every expression of death, Christ who rose again for ever, Christ who communicates in the Holy Spirit the continuous, irrepressible life of the Father; we must do so in order to found and ensure the hope of tomorrow, which you will build, but which is already potentially present today. Christ Jesus must conquer; whenever his grace defeats in us the forces of evil, he renews our youth, widens the horizons of our hope, and strengthens the energies of our confidence.
Christ's victory in our hearts calls for the exercise of the virtue of fortitude, the third cardinal virtue, which is the subject chosen for the General Audience today.
This virtue, which enables us to face dangers and bear adversity—as St Thomas Aquinas states—permits man to fight courageously, to "agere contra" for the ideals of justice, honesty and peace, by which you feel deeply attracted. It is not possible to think of constructing a new world without being strong and courageous in overcoming the false ideas of fashion, the world's principles of violence, the promptings of evil. All that requires us to go beyond the barriers of fear in order to bear witness to Christ and offer at the same time—the two realities are superimposed on each other—an image of the true man, who expresses himself only in love, in the gift of himself.
I wish to point out to you, too, the example of fortitude of a young eighteen-year-old, St. Stanislaus Kostka, the patron saint of the young, who, to follow his vocation to the religious state, though of a frail constitution and sensitive nature, faced the opposition of his circle, fled from the pursuit of his relatives, and travelled on foot, secretly, from Vienna to Rome, in order to enter the novitiate of the Jesuits and thus answer the Lord's call. His tomb, in the church of S. Andrea al Quirinale, is the goal of pious visits of hosts of young people, especially during this month.
You see, dear young people, to follow Christ, to build up the man in yourselves and to strive to help others to do so, entails courageous resolutions and the tenacious strength to put them into practice, sustaining one another also with forms of association, which make it possible to unite your efforts, deepen your convictions mutually, and encourage one another with reciprocal and loving help.
Entrust yourselves to the grace of the Lord who cries within us and for us: courage!
Victory over the world will be Christ's. Do you want to take his side and face with him this battle of love, animated by invincible hope and courageous fortitude?
You will not be alone; the Pope is with you. He loves you and bless you.
Wednesday, 15 November 1978
Dear young men,
I willingly acceded to the desire expressed to me by your Superiors to meet you, the Cadets of the Fire Brigade Schools in Rome, in this Courtyard of St Damasus in order to address to you, however briefly, my word of satisfaction and approval of what you are and what you do.
— You are enthusiastic and generous young men who wish to testify to the new Pope, as your elder companions did in past years with my venerated Predecessor, Pope Paul VI, your faith in God and your confidence in the Church. For this reason I thank you and express to you all my sympathy and solidarity.
— You do training, in discipline of the body and of the spirit, in order to render the community a precious service for the defence and safety of the citizens, even at the risk of serious dangers. Well, know how to unite with the exercise of human virtues, characteristic of your future profession, the noble and ennobling ideal which makes you see Christ himself in your brother in danger or in need (cf. Mt Mt 25,31-46).
I also hope that, on returning to your homes, at the end of your training, you will be able to fulfil all these good intentions of yours in private and in public life: in the formation of your future family, of which you already dream, and in your integration into society as worthy, upright citizens, lovers of progress, justice, peace and mutual respect.
With these wishes, I greet and thank again the commanding Officers, the Head Chaplain and all of you dear young men, who are the hope of the Church and of society, and I impart to you all my Blessing, which I wish to extend to your friends, your relatives and the dear members of your family.
Thursday, 16 November 1978
"Ecce quam bonum et iucundum habitare fratres in unum ... " You love this psalm and you are living it at this moment. The time when Religious Congregations met but little, for geographical reasons and others perhaps, is practically over. God be praised! And congratulations to you, too, my Sisters: you bear witness, in various ways, to one treasure entrusted by Christ himself to his Church, the incomparable treasure of the evangelical counsels!
Certainly, your International Union of Mothers General is just emerging from infancy. It is only thirteen years old! But it has already yielded good fruit. The new Pope, like his very deserving predecessor Paul VI who received you so many times, would like it to yield even more. The famous parable of the vine and the vinedresser must often be present to my spirit and yours (Jn 15,1-8).
Your meeting had as its subject "Religious life and new mankind". It is a fundamental subject, a very old one and very relevant today. Though the whole people of God is called to become a new mankind in Christ and through Christ (Lumen Gentium, ch. 5), the ways of access to this new mankind, in other words to holiness, are different and must remain so. Precisely chapter six of Lumen Gentium, without making the least discrimination among members of the People of God which would contradict the redeeming plan of Christ Jesus—a plan of holiness and unity for the world—always illumines your way.
Since the Council, the Religious Congregations have in fact multiplied the times and the means of deepening essential religious values. They have rightly put them back into the wake of the primary, ontological, ineffaceable consecration which is baptism. And all Sisters have, as it were, conveyed, to one another a password: "Let us first be Christians!", a certain number preferring or adding the following: "Let us first be women!". It is evident that the two do not exclude each other. These striking formulas have found a favourable echo in a large part of the People of God. But the positive side of this awareness cannot dispense from continuous and prudent vigilance. The treasure of the evangelical counsels and the commitment—taken after mature reflection and irrevocable—to make them the charter of a Christian existence cannot be relativized by public opinion, even if it were ecclesial. The Church and, let us say, the world itself need, more than ever, men and women who sacrifice everything to follow Christ in the way of the apostles. And to such an extent that the sacrifice of conjugal love, of material possessions, of the completely autonomous exercise of freedom, becomes incomprehensible without love of Christ.
This radicalism is necessary to proclaim prophetically, but always very humbly, this new mankind according to Christ, completely available for God and completely available for other men. Every woman religious must bear witness to the primacy of God and must dedicate a sufficiently long period of time every day to stand before the Lord, to tell him her love, and above all to let herself be loved by him. Every woman religious must signify every day, by her way of life, that she chooses simplicity and poor means for everything that concerns her personal and community life. Every woman religious must do God's will and not her own every day, to signify that human plans, hers and those of society, are not the only plans in history, but that there exists a plan of God which calls for the sacrifice of one's own freedom. This real prophetic element of the evangelical counsels, lived day after day, and altogether possible with the grace of God, is not a proud lesson given to the Christian people. It is a light absolutely indispensable for the life of the Church—which is sometimes tempted to have recourse to the means of power—and even indispensable for mankind wandering along the alluring and disappointing paths of materialism and atheism.
And if your consecration to God is really such a deep reality, it is not unimportant to bear permanently its exterior sign which a simple and suitable religious habit constitutes: it is the means to remind yourselves constantly of your commitment which contrasts strongly with the spirit of the world; it is a silent but eloquent testimony; it is a sign that our secularized world needs to find on its way, as many Christians, moreover, desire. I ask you to turn this over carefully in your minds.
That is, my Sisters, the price of your realistic participation in the proclamation and the building up of this "new mankind". For man cannot be fully satisfied—beyond earthly goods, necessary for his life and, alas!, so badly shared out—except by knowledge and love of God, inseparable from acceptance and love of all men, especially the poorest on the human and moral plane. All the efforts, all the transformations of your Congregations, must be carried out in this perspective, otherwise you are working in vain!
All that, my Sisters, is the ideal towards which you are striving personally, and towards which you draw along your companions of the evangelical way in a motherly and firm manner. In practice, you know it better than others, from time to time you come up against unavoidable contingencies: either the rapid social changes in a country, or the small number and aging of your subjects, or again the wind of interminable researches and experiments, the requests of the young, etc.... Accept all these realities. Take them seriously, never tragically. Seek calmly for progressive, clear, and courageous solutions. While remaining yourselves, seek with others. Above all, be daughters of the Church, not only in words but in deeds! In ever-renewed faithfulness to the charism of their founders, the Congregations must, in fact, endeavour to meet the expectations of the Church and the commitments which the Church, with her Pastors, considers most urgent today in order to face up to a mission which needs skilled workers so much. A guarantee of this exemplary love of the Church—inseparable from love of Christ Jesus—is your dialogue with those in charge of your local Churches, with a resolution of faithfulness and devotion to these Churches; also a guarantee are your trustful relations with our Congregation for Religious and for the Secular Institutes. Dear Sisters, the capital of generosity of your Congregations is immense. Use these forces responsibly. Do not allow them to be scattered thoughtlessly.
I ask you to express to each of your Sisters, whatever her place may be in the Congregation for which you are responsible, the Pope's affection but also the hope that he sets in her for the renewal of an exacting practice of the evangelical counsels, for the significant witness of all religious communities whose ardent faith, apostolic inspiration and, of course, interpersonal relations would make those who are seeking new ways in our society harassed by materialism, violence and fear, say: "we have found a model to imitate ... " Yes, my Sisters, in the Church herself, in the footsteps of St Catherine of Siena and of St Theresa of Avila, among so many others, you can show the place that is due to woman.
May the Holy Spirit act powerfully in you! With Mary, who was perfectly docile to him, live listening to God's Word and put it into practice, unto the cross. May your complete gift to Christ always be a source of joy, dynamism and peace! To all of you, to all of those whom you represent, our Apostolic Blessing.
Speeches 1978 - Friday, 10 November 1978