Speeches 1979 - Monday, 26 April 1979



26 April 1979

Lord Cardinal, Monsignor Secretary, my dear friends,

Five years ago, my venerated predecessor Pope Paul VI wished to address to you his encouragement on the occasion of the first plenary session you held after he had given you new norms of organization in the Motu proprio "Sedula cura". It is also a very special joy for me to receive you in my turn today on the occasion of the first meeting of this new five-year period, and to greet particularly your new members.

This is not the moment to dwell on your responsibility to God and the Church; you are well aware of it. In fact, in spite of the growing technicality and complexity of biblical studies, their purpose always remains to open to the Christian people the springs of living water contained in the Scriptures, and the subject which you are studying this year, dealing with the cultural integration of revelation, gives a new testimony of this.

The subject you are dealing with is of great importance; it concerns, in fact, the very methodology of biblical revelation in its realization. The term "acculturation", or "inculturation" may well be a neologism, but it expresses very well one of the elements of the great mystery of the Incarnation. As we know, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1,14); thus, on seeing Jesus Christ, "the carpenter's son" (Mt 13,55), we can contemplate God's own glory (cf. Jn Jn 1,14).

Well, the same divine Word had previously become human language, assuming the ways of expression of the different cultures which, from Abraham to the seer of the Apocalypse, offered the adorable mystery of God's salvific love the possibility of becoming accessible and understandable for successive generations, in spite of the multiple diversity of their historical situations. Thus, "in many and various ways" (He 1,1), God was in contact with men and, in his benevolent and immense condescension, he dialogued with them through the prophets, the apostles, sacred writers, and above all through the Son of Man.

God always communicated his marvels using the language and experience of men. The Mesopotamian cultures, those of Egypt, Canaan, Persia, the Hellenic culture and, for the New Testament, Greco-Roman culture and that of late Judaism, served, day after day, for the revelation of his ineffable mystery of salvation, as your present plenary Session clearly shows.

These considerations, however, as you know, bring up the problem of the historical formation of the language of the Bible, which is connected in some way with the changes that took place during the long succession of centuries in the course of which the written word gave birth to the sacred Books. But it is precisely here that there is asserted the paradox of the revealed proclamation and of the more specifically Christian proclamation according to which persons and events that are historically contingent become bearers of a transcendent and absolute message. The clay vessels may break, but the treasure they contain remains complete and incorruptible (cf. 2Co 4,7).

Just as the redeeming power of God unfolded itself in the weakness of Jesus of Nazareth and his Cross (cf. 2Co 13,4), so there is revealed in the fragility of the human word an unsuspected effectiveness which makes it "sharper than any two edged sword" (He 4,12). That is why we receive from the first Christian generations the whole of the Canon of Holy Scripture, which has become the point of reference and the norm of the faith and the life of the Church of all times.

It falls, of course, to biblical science and to its hermeneutical methods to establish the distinction between what is obsolete and what must always keep its value. But that is an operation which calls for extremely keen sensitivity, not only on the scientific and theoretical plane, but also and above all on the plane of the Church and of life.

Two consequences are derived from all that, which are at once different and complementary. The first concerns the great value of cultures. If the latter, in biblical history, have already been judged capable of being the vehicles of the Word of God, it is because there is inserted in them something very positive, which is already a presence in germ of the divine Logos. Likewise, today, the proclamation of the Church is not afraid of using contemporary cultural expressions: thus they are called, so to speak, through a certain analogy with the humanity of Christ, to participate in the dignity of the divine Word itself.

It must be added secondly, however, that there is manifested in this way the purely instrumental character of cultures, which, under the influence of a very marked historical evolution, are subjected to deep changes: "The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever" (Is 40,8). To state the relations that exist between the variations of culture and the constant of revelation is precisely the task, a difficult but exalting one, of biblical studies as of the whole life of the Church.

In this task you have certainly, beloved Brothers and sons of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, a preponderant part, and you are closely associated with the Magisterium of the Church. That leads me to call your attention particularly to one point. The Motu proprio "Sedula cura" specifies, when it deals with the purpose of your Commission, that it must bring the contribution of its work to the Magisterium of the Church. It is my very special wish that your work may be the opportunity to show how the most precise, the most technical research does not remain enclosed within itself, but can be useful for the organs of the Holy See which have to cope with the very difficult problems of evangelization, that is, with the concrete conditions of the integration of the evangelical ferment in new mentalities and cultures.

In this perspective, the fundamental obligation of faithfulness to the Magisterium takes on its whole amplitude. "God entrusted Holy Scripture to his Church and not to the private judgment of specialists" (cf. Motu proprio "Sedula cura", par. 3). It is a question, in fact, of faithfulness to the spiritual function given by Christ to his Church; it is a question of faithfulness to the mission. Exegetes are among the first servants of the Word of God. I am certain, my dear friends, that your example will manifest eminently the union of the scientific competence that you are recognized by your peers as having and of the sharpened spiritual sense which makes one see in the Scriptures the Word of God entrusted to his Church.

May the Lord himself guide your efforts; may the Spirit enlighten you! As for me, telling you of my trust, and of how much the Church relies on you, I willingly give you the Apostolic Blessing.




Friday, 27 April 1979

Your Excellency,
Dear Professors,

Allow me first of all to express the great joy I feel today on receiving you here today for the official presentation of the Typical Edition of the New Vulgate version of the Bible. Mine is the same joy as is felt by one who can at last gather an abundant harvest, which was the object of long and loving care.

At this moment, my thought cannot but go to the figure of the unforgettable Pope Paul VI, to whom is due all the merit and the honour for having undertaken this initiative, happily completed today, with the definitive publication, and for having followed and encouraged it, leading it to the threshold of its fulfilment. As a result of his sudden death and the even more unexpected death of the late Pope John Paul I, it has fallen upon me to promulgate for the whole Church the result of a labour which entirely preceded my pontificate.

In any case, let our thanks go to the Lord, who never leaves his works unfinished.

But special thanks go to you, leaders and members of the Pontifical Commission for the New Vulgate, and to all those who have put their competence, their time, their love, at the service of this enterprise, which is both a scientific and a pastoral one. You have long lavished your specialized knowledge and your indefatigable energies on behalf of a work, which will certainly remain for a long time as an eloquent sign of the careful solicitude of the Church for that written Divine Word, "from (whose) fullness have we all received" (Jn 1,16), since it is "the message of salvation" (Ac 13,26).

With the New Vulgate, the sons of the Church have now in their hands an additional instrument which, especially in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, will encourage a more certain and more precise approach to the sources of Revelation, offering itself also to scientific studies as an impressive new point of reference.

If you allow me, I like to think that St Jerome also is pleased with this labour! The New Vulgate, in fact, is not only in the line of continuity more than of surpassing the work he carried out, but is also the product of an equal precision and an equal passion. Furthermore, the new linguistic and exegetical knowledge confer on the new version a stamp of reliability certainly not inferior to St Jerome's version, which stood the test of a millennium and a half of history.

Certainly Jerome remains a master of doctrine and also of the Latin language, as well as of the spiritual life. He who, on the instructions of Pope Damasus, dedicated his whole life to study and meditation of the sacred text, certainly knows how much it costs, but also how exalting it is, to study the Scriptures lovingly. And it is certainly to be hoped that there will take place for many Christians what happened to him, and certainly also to you, according to his words to the virgin Eustochium: "Tenenti codicem somnus obrepat, et cadentem faciem pagina sancta suscipiat!" (Epist. 22, ad Eust).

My wish is that this work which you have completed will be really fruitful for the life of the Church and that it will encourage more and more the salutary meeting of the faithful with the Lord, helping to satisfy that "thirst for the word" of which the prophet Amos speaks (8:11) and which seems particularly acute in our days.

Let my cordial Apostolic Blessing accompany all of you as a sign of renewed gratitude and benevolence, and as a token of the abundant favours of the Lord, who knows how to reward his servants adequately.



Friday, 27 April 1979

Dearly beloved in Christ,

IT GIVES ME great pleasure to meet you, the Cardinals and Bishops from various countries who are Members of the Secretariat for Non-Christians, and the Consultors who are experts in the major world religions, as you gather here in Rome for your first Plenary Assembly.

I know that you planned to hold this meeting last autumn, but that you were prevented by the dramatic events of those months. The late Paul VI, who founded this Secretariat, and so much of whose love, interest and inspiration was lavished on non-Christians, in thus no longer visibly among us, and I am that some of you wondered whether the new Pope would devote similar care and attention to the world of the non-Christian religions.

In my Encyclical Redemptor Hominis I endeavoured to answer any such question. In it I made reference to Paul VI’s first Encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam, and to the Second Vatican Council, and then I wrote: “The Ecumenical Council gave a fundamental impulse to forming the Church’s self-awareness by so adequately and competently presenting to us a view of the terrestrial globe as a map of various religions... The Council document on non-Christian religions, in particular, is filled with deep esteem for the great spiritual values, indeed for the primacy of the spiritual, which in the life of mankind finds expression in religion and then in morality, with direct effects on the whole of culture”[1]. The non-Christian world is indeed constantly before the eyes of the Church and of the Pope. We are truly committed to serve it generously.

It is also good to recall that it will shortly be the fifteenth anniversary of Paul VI’s solemn announcement in Saint Peter’s Basilica on Pentecost Sunday 1964 of the setting up of this Secretariat. With God’s blessing, the seed sown on that day has now grown to be a clear, definite sign which, through a network of local organizations, is operative practically throughout the world, wherever the Church is.

The Secretariat is the symbol and expression of the Church’s will to enter into communication with every person, and in particular with the multitudes of those who seek in the non-Christian religious traditions meaning and guidance for their lives. A Christian finds it of the highest interest to observe truly religious people, to read and listen to the testimonies of their wisdom, and to have direct proof of their faith to the point of recalling at times the words of Jesus: "Not even in Israel have I found such faith"[2]. At the same time the Christian has the tremendous responsibility and the immense joy of speaking to these people with simplicity and openness (the parrhesia of the Apostles!) of "the mighty works of God"[3], of what God himself has done for the happiness and salvation of all at a particular time and in a particular man, whom he raised up to be our brother and Lord, Jesus Christ, "descended from David according to the flesh... Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness"[4].

I am happy to see that the Secretariat has adopted as its own this will to enter into communication, which is characteristic of the Church as a whole, and that is has put this communication into practice through what Paul VI called "the dialogue of salvation". At the same time, the Secretariat has sought out methods and forms of this dialogue that are suitable for the particular "circle" of people for which it is intended.

It is right that I should make mention at this point of the wise work of Cardinal Paolo Marella as President of the Secretariat for its first nine years, guiding its earliest steps, as the Pope called him to do, in nomine Domini. I am likewise happy to render a public expression of gratitude to Cardinal Sergio Pignedoli, who, together with Monsignor Rossano and the rest of his devoted staff, gives witness through sustained work and cordial and respectful contacts to the Church’s deep interest in our non-Christian brethren.

Nearly fifteen years of experience has taught many things, and with clear vision your Plenary Assembly is able to describe the present state of dialogue with non-Christians in the various cultural areas, identifying the difficulties, problems and result attained in each area, and deciding short-term and long-term programmes for the coming years.

It is my hope and my desire that commitment to the dialogue of salvation should be strengthened throughout the Church, including the countries where there is a Christian maiority. Education for dialogue with followers of other creeds should form part of the training of Christians, especially young Christians.

In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, Paul VI wrote that the encounter with the non-Christian religions "certainly raises complex and delicate questions that must be studied in the light of Christian tradition and the Church’s magisterium, in order to offer to the missionaries of today and of tomorrow" – and I would like to add: and to all Christians – "new horizons in their contacts with non-Christian religions"[5].

You are aware that your work is a delicate one. It must be pursued with generosity and joy, and without fear, but also with the luminous conviction that dialogue is, in the words of Paul VI, "a method of accomplishing the apostolic mission; it is an example of the art of spiritual communication"[6].

Respect and esteem "for the other" and for what he has in the depths of his heart is essential to dialogue. To this must be added discernment and a knowledge that is sincere and profound. This last cannot be gained from books alone. It calls for fellow-feeling and identification. Long before these conditions for dialogue were given modern philosophical formulation, Saint Paul wrote of his readiness to become all things to all men "for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings"[7].

In dialogue, as Saint Paul again shows us, speech does not become constructive and fruitful without love. Speech and love are the true vehicle of communication. The only truly perfect speech is that spoken in love. And precisely because speech must be joined to love in order to be effective, it is necessary and urgent, as I wrote in my Encyclical, that mission and dialogue with regard to non-Christians should be carried out by Christians in communion and collaboration with each other[8]. I am therefore happy to see present at this Plenary Assembly of the Secretariat qualified representatives of the Greek Orthodox Church and of the World Council of Churches.

You are indeed welcome, and may God bless this collaboration. To all of you, my dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the priesthood, and to all the experts and collaborators of the Secretariat for Non-Christians, I extend my prayerful good wishes, invoking on you the blessing of Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, " the Redeemer of man... the centre of the universe and of history".

[1] Ioannis Pauli PP. II Redemptor Hominis, 11.

[2] Matth. 8, 10.

[3] Act. 2, 11.

[4] Rom. 1, 4.

[5] Pauli VI Evangelii Nuntiandi, 53.

[6] Eiusdem Ecclesiam Suam: AAS 56 (1964) 644.

[7] 1 Cor. 9, 23.

[8] Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Redemptor Hominis, 6, 11.



Saturday, 28 April 1979

Dear Brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ,

AS WE ASSEMBLE in the unity of the Episcopate, our thoughts turn spontaneously to Jesus Christ. We are supremely conscious of the urgency which pervaded his soul, and which he expressed in the words: "I must proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God... because that is what I was sent to do"[1].

In reflecting on this mission of Christ, we understand the evangelizing nature of his Church; at the same time we obtain new insights into our own mission as Bishops communicating the word of God.

At the centre of the Good News that we are called to proclaim is the great mystery of Redemption and, especially, the person of the Redeemer. All our efforts as Pastor of the Church are directed to making the Redeemer better known and loved. We find our identity as Bishops in preaching " the unsearchable riches of Christ"[2], in trasmitting his salvific message of revelation.

Absolute fidelity to the special evangelizing task inherent in our episcopal office becomes the aim of our daily lives. The following words of my recent Encyclical apply above all to us Bishops: "We perceive intimately that the truth revealed to us by God imposes on us an obligation. We have, in particular, a great sense of responsibility for this truth. By Christ’s institution the Church is its guardian and teacher, having been endowed with a unique assistance of the Holy Spirit in order to guard and teach it in its most exact integrity"[3].

For this reason, we are intent on maintaining the purity of the Catholic faith; we are vigilant that the content of evangelization corresponds to the message preached by Christ, transmitted by the Apostles, and authenticated by the Church’s Magisterium over the centuries. Day after day we speak to our people about the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the Kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. We clearly and explicitly proclaim before the entire world that salvation is a gift of God’s grace and mercy, and that it is offered to all in Jesus Christ the Son of God, who died and rose from the dead. We preach a transcendent and eschatological salvation begun in time but to be fulfilled only in eternity.

At the same time evangelization involves an explicit message about the rights and duties of every human being. The Gospel message is necessarily linked to human advancement under the aspects of both development and liberation, since it is not possible to proclaim Christ’s new commandment of love without promoting in justice and peace the well-being of man.

Our efforts, moreover, to bring this universal message into the lives of each ecclesial community, and to transpose it into language that is readily understood, must be made in close harmony with the whole Church, for we know that to adulterate the content of the Gospel, under the pretext of adapting it, is to dissipate its power. Ours is a grave responsibility, but one that we face with serenity and confidence, convinced as we are, in accordance with the Lord’s promise, that the Spirit of truth guides us, provided we remain faithful to the communion of Christ’s Church.

It is also significant to note in Paul VI’s great treatise on evangelization how forcefully he insists that effective evangelization depends on holiness of life[4]. The Gospel must be proclaimed by witness, the witness of a Christian life lived in fidelity to the Lord Jesus. And just as all categories of people in the Church are invited to fulfil their role in the task of evangelization, so also everyone is earnestly exhorted to true holiness of life.

In reflecting on evangelization, it is fitting to dwell also on that unity which Jesus came to effect. In transmitting to his disciples the words that his Father gave him, Jesus prayed that they would be truly one[5]. By his Gospel, Christ overcame the divisions of sin and human weakness, reconciling us to the Father, and leaving us as a legacy his new commandment of love. He was to die in order "to gather in unity the scattered children of God"[6].

This unity among ourselves and among our peoples is the proof of our discipleship, the gauge of our fidelity to Jesus. The unity to which we are summoned is a unity of faith and love, which supersedes alienation among brethren and overcomes human divisions. The unity enjoined by Jesus also guarantees the effectiveness of our witness to the world: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another"[7].

The same evangelizing Christ who tells us that he must proclaim the Good News also tells us that "the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve"[8]. Christ thus invites us his members to share his role of kingly service; Christ calls his Church to the service of man. This element I also endeavoured to emphasize in Redemptor Hominis: "Inspired by eschatological faith the Church considers an essential unbreakably united element of her mission this solicitude for man, for his humanity, for the future of men on earth and therefore also for the course set for the whole of development and progress. She finds the principle of this solicitude in Jesus Christ himself, as the Gospel witness"[9].

As an expression of her understanding of the Gospel, the Church mobilizes herself in renewed charity for service to the world. She freely commits herself in all her members to exercise the charity of Christ. And one of the most important services that Christians can render is to love their brethren with the love with which they have been loved: a personal love manifested in understanding, compassion, sensitivity to need, and a desire to communicate the love of Christ’s heart. In speaking of the human dimension of the Redemption, I wrote: “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not participate intimately in it”[10].

Understanding this, we see that there is immense room in the world for the charity of Christ. The service of our love is without limits. We are constantly called to do more, to serve more, to love more.

Dear Brothers, besides these brief reflection on evangelization and service – which care not meant to be complete – there are many other things I would like to talk to you about, in order to encourage you in your pastoral mission, so that you in turn may encourage your priests, religious, seminarians and lay people. But I am sure that in our ecclesial communion itself you will find strength and inspiration to pursue your ministry, building up, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the communities of the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care.

I commend you to the intercession of Mary, the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, asking her to sustain you in fidelity and joy. I send my Apostolic Blessing with you to your people, into the churches and into the homes of Sri Lanka – "the Pearl of the Indian Ocean" – to the old and to young, to all in suffering and in need. My love is with you all in Jesus Christ and in his Gospel.

[1] Lk 4:43.

[2] Eph 3:8.

[3] Redemptor Hominis, 12.

[4] Cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 21, 26, 41, 76.

[5] Cf. Jn 17:8, 11.

[6] Jn 11:52.

[7] Jn 13:35.

[8] Mt 20:28.

[9] No. 15.

[10] Redemptor Hominis, 10.



28 April 1979

Beloved Brothers in Christ,

Here, beside the Pope, you have desired to conclude this second week of Easter, during which you have gathered in Rome to examine yourselves thoroughly and to reflect on the realities and requirements of religious life at the present time, with a view to the preparation of the General Chapter.

I wish, therefore, to congratulate you all the more in that this visit enables me to express to you not only my participation in your ecclesial concerns but also my cordial affection for the Order of Augustinian Recollects and all its members.

Undoubtedly, these have been days of true meditation, days lived in familiar intimacy, praising God and conferring together, feeling joyfully close in thought and in heart with the spirituality and the lifestyle inherited from the Bishop of Hippo, St Augustine.

Through communion of mind and of spirit with this great Father and Doctor of the Church, whose attractive human and religious personality offers itself, still imperishable, to us centuries afterwards, you know very well with whom you are in harmony: with the Word and the Love of God, with Christ. It is he and no one else who looks for you, who calls upon you insistently to choose at every moment to commit yourself to an adventure that is at once demanding and appealing, that ultimate reality that St Augustine confessed: "fecisti nos, Domine, ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te" (Confessions 1.1).

May this eminently contemplative feature of the "sequela Christi" never be distorted in your spiritual character. Contemplation, "the noblest occupation of the soul", is also a characteristic of your religious family. Let this particular experience be, in the expression of St Augustine himself, a dedication, body and soul, to the eternal: it is not idleness, but rest of the spirit, since the soul is invited to the rest of contemplation.

This union with God, which springs from an attitude of complete and unconditional giving, must be the core from which you prepare to give your religious life its full meaning, as ambassadors of Christ in the midst of this world (cf. 2Co 5,20), according to the Spirit who has been given to you.

I would like to repeat to you today with the Apostle St Paul: "Do not quench the Spirit" (1Th 5,19), let yourselves be transported by his impetus, beg him to let you experience his grace day by day. Only in this way will you renew yourselves in the depths of your being, assimilating the action of God, which is dispensed not only through his knowledge and power, but is in its turn a gift of faithfulness, service, self-sacrifice, peace: in a word, of love. And only in this way will you arrive also at an exterior renewal which is true and fruitful, in line with the directives of the Council.

Beloved Brothers and Sons: two days ago you celebrated the feast of the Virgin of Good Counsel, who has a noble place in your Institute and in your hearts.

In this hour of reflection and ecclesial renewal, let yourselves be enlightened and guided by the Mother of Christ, the Mother of the Word become flesh. Ask for her help so that, in union of faith and sentiments, the work begun by St Augustine long ago will be a living force in the Church today and will indicate to all men that Christ, who died and rose again, is the true "way, truth and life".

Receive my Blessing which, with sentiments of affection, I cordially extend also to all your brothers



29 April 1979

Beloved Sisters in the Lord!

Great is my joy in being with you this evening! It was important that this meeting, with the Vicar of Christ should take place!

On the occasion of the tenth National Congress called by the Italian Professional Association of Family Collaborators, which will be held at Frascati in these days, you wanted this Audience to start your discussions on the subject: "Domestic work in the Italian economy and in the family".

Grateful for this devoted thought of yours, I bide you a hearty welcome and address a most affectionate greeting to you, and I greet in you, all your colleagues and friends, family collaborators in Italy and all over the world! I express my sincere thanks to the National Presidency of the Association together with the Roman Presidency for the opportunity of talking to you, to hear your problems as a group, your personal difficulties, your ideals, the aims you wish strive for.

Each of you represents hidden work that is necessary and indispensable; work of sacrifice, not exciting, which does not win applause and sometimes does not even have recognition and gratitude; the humble, repeated, monotonous and therefore heroic work of an innumerable host of mothers and young women, who with their daily labour contribute to the budget of so many families and solve so many difficult and delicate situations, helping distant parents or brothers in need.

And the Pope, who has known the hardships of life, is with you, understands you, esteems you, accompanies you in your aspirations and desires, and hopes with all his heart that the Congress at which your problems will be dealt with, will cause your rightful demands and your irrevocable responsibilities to emerge more and more. But you have come here, to the Father's house, also to have a particular exhortation from the Vicar of Christ and I, with simple familiarity, but with sincere affection, will say to you some words that can encourage you during the Congress and then also throughout your lives.

1. First of all I say to you with the concern of my apostolic ministry: let faith in Jesus Christ be of comfort to you!

There are so many fine human consolations in life, and progress has increased and perfected them, and we must know how to evaluate them and enjoy them in a rightful and holy way. But the supreme consolation is and must be, still and always, the presence of Jesus in our lives. Jesus, the Divine Redeemer, penetrated into human history, put himself at our side, to walk with us in every path of existence, to gather our confidences, to enlighten our thoughts, to purify our desires, to console our sadness.

It is particularly moving to meditate on the attitude of Jesus to woman. He showed himself to be bold and surprising for those times in which woman was considered in paganism an object of pleasure, of possession and of labour, and was subordinated and humiliated in Judaism.

Jesus always showed the greatest esteem and the greatest respect for woman, for every woman, and in particular he was sensitive to female suffering. Going beyond the religious and social barriers of the time, Jesus re-established woman in her full dignity as a human person before God and before men. How could we fail to recall his meetings with Martha and Mary (Lc 10,38-42), with the Samaritan women (Jn 4,1-42), with the widow of Naim (Lc 7,11-17), with the adulterous woman (Jn 8,3-9), with the woman who suffered from a haemorrhage (Mt 9,20-22), with the sinner at the house of Simon the Pharisee (Lc 7,36-50)? A mere enumeration of them stirs our hearts. And how could we fail to recall, above all, that Jesus willed to associate some women with the twelve (Lc 8,2-3). They accompanied him and served him, and were of comfort to him during the painful way to the Cross?

And after the resurrection Jesus appeared to the holy women and to Mary Magdalen, bidding her announce his Resurrection to the disciples (Mt 28,8).

Jesus, wishing to become incarnate and enter our human history, willed to have a Mother, Mary, and thus raised woman to the highest and most wonderful peak of dignity, the Mother of God Incarnate, Mary Immaculate, Our Lady of the Assumption, Queen of Heaven and of Earth. Therefore, you Christian women, like Mary Magdalen and the other women of the Gospel, must proclaim, testify that Christ really rose again, that he is our only true consolation! So look after your interior life, reserving every day a little oasis of time to meditate and pray.

2. Secondly I say to you: let your ideal be the dignity of woman and of her mission!

It is sad to see how woman has been so humiliated and ill-treated in the course of the centuries. Yet we must be convinced that the dignity of man, as of woman, is only found completely and exhaustively in Christ!

Speaking to Italian women in the immediate postwar period, my revered Predecessor Pius XII said: "In their personal dignity as children of God, man and woman are absolutely equal, as also with regard to the ultimate purpose of human life, which is eternal union with God in the happiness of heaven. It is the eternal glory of the Church that she highlighted and honoured this truth once more, freeing woman from a degrading slavery contrary to nature". And, going on to the particular, he added: "Woman has to contribute with man to the good of the "civitas", in which she is in dignity equal to him. Either sex must take the part that belongs to it according to its nature, characteristics, physical, intellectual and moral attitudes. Both have the right and the duty to cooperate for the total good of society. However it is clear that if man is by temperament more inclined to deal with exterior affairs, public activities, woman has, generally speaking, greater insight and finer tact to know and solve the delicate problems of domestic and family life, the basis of all social life; which does not prevent some women from showing great skill also in every field of public activity" (Ad-dress, 21 October 1945). Such was also the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and the continual haunting Magisterium of Paul VI (cf. e.g. the interventions for the International Year of Woman—A.A.S. 67 [1975]; A.A.S. 68 [1976] ). This doctrine, so clear and well-balanced, gives the cue to confirm also the value and dignity of domestic work.

Certainly, this work must be seen not as an implacable and inexorable imposition, a form of slavery, but as a free choice, responsible and willed, which completely fulfils woman in her personality and her requirements. Domestic work, in fact, is an essential part in the smooth running of society and has an enormous influence upon the community. It calls for continual and complete dedication, and therefore is a daily ascetical exercise, which calls for patience, self control, far-sightedness, creativity, spirit of adaptation, courage in unexpected occurrences; and it also collaborates to produce income and wealth, prosperity and economic value.

This gives rise also to the dignity of your work as family Collaborators: your commitment is not a humiliation, but a consecration! In fact, you collaborate directly in the smooth running of the family; and this is a great task, one would say almost a mission. For this, adequate preparation and maturity are necessary, in order to be competent in the various household activities, to rationalize work and get to know family psychology, to learn the so-called "pedagogy of fatigue" which makes it possible to organize one's services better, and also to exercise the necessary educating function. It is a whole world, extremely important and precious, that opens up to your eyes and to your responsibilities every day. I praise, therefore, all women engaged in domestic activity, and you, family Collaborators, who give your ability and your labour for the good of the home!

3. Finally, I say to you: be sowers of goodness.

After so many years of just demands and of increased respect for the person, you have seen your rights recognized; standards have been fixed for remuneration, accommodation, care and assistance in illness, social security, weekly and annual rest, rightful allowances, certificate of work, etc. Many things still remain to be done, many realities to be tackled; and you will study them at your congress, especially for the defence of the rights and personality of collaborators coming from abroad. But I would like to urge you to work above all with love in the families in which you are engaged. We are living in difficult and complicated times. Grandiose phenomena, which cannot be eliminated, such as industrialization, urbanism, culturation, the internationalization of relations, social instability, intellectual affectation, have caused confusion in families; so you can bring with your presence serenity, peace, hope, joy, comfort, encouragement to good, especially where there are elderly, sick, and suffering persons, handicapped children, young people who have been led astray or are confused. There is no law which lays it down that you must smile! But you can make a gift of your smile; you can be the leaven of kindness in the family. Remember what St Paul wrote to the first Christians: "Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col 3,17). "Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward" (Col 3,23-24). Love your work. Love the persons with whom you collaborate! From love and goodness there will spring also your joy and your satisfaction.

May you be assisted by St Zita, your heavenly Patroness, who was sanctified by serving humbly with loving and complete dedication.

May you be helped and comforted above all by Mary, who dedicated herself completely to care of the family, setting an example and teaching where true values are.

May my Apostolic Blessing be with you.

                                                                   May 1979

Speeches 1979 - Monday, 26 April 1979