Speeches 1983 - Saturday, 22 October 1983
Monday, 24 October 1983
It is a joy for me to be with you today. Your presence recalls the time I spent in your Diocese, my short stay at Gatwick Airport on my arrival in England. My visit then, the visit of the young people to me in August, and your visit now are all moments of ecclesial communion, howsoever brief. We are one in Christ and in his Church, united in the word of God, united in our holy Catholic faith.
In particular, you have come to Rome with your Bishop in order to celebrate with the universal Church the mystery of the Redemption. You have come with hearts open to Christ the Redeemer, asking to receive his forgiveness and his love in your own lives, asking mercy for the Church and for the whole world. At the same time your are called to give thanks to the Father of mercy and the God of all consolation who has called us all “out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Petr. 2, 9).
Your vocation during this Holy Year and always is to become ever more a people of prayer - prayer expressed in petition and praise, in reparation and adoration. And it is in the Eucharistic Sacrifice that your prayer will be united with Christ’s own prayer and be offered to the Father. In the Eucharistic Sacrifice the mystery of the Redemption is renewed and you enter into that mystery of grace.
Dear pilgrims from Arundel and Brighton in the prayerful celebration of Mass, open your hearts ever wider to Jesus Christ the Redeemer of the world.
Friday, 28 October 1983
Dear Brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ,
1. Once again I am very happy to share an intense experience of ecclesial communion with another group of American Bishops. You come from different regions of the United States and the pastoral situations of your individual local Churches vary greatly. And yet I am sure that in all your Dioceses there is a deep common interest in the topic that I would like to touch on today: Catholic education.
The very notion of Catholic education is closely related to the essential mission of the Church, to communicate Christ. It is linked to our own episcopal mandate to teach - to teach everything that Jesus commanded to be taught (Cfr. Matth Mt 28,20). And as teachers, we are called to bear witness by word and example to the Christ whom the Church is endeavoring to communicate. Simply put, the aim of Catholic education is to help people “to arrive at the fullness of Christian life” (Codex Iuris Canonici CIC 794, § 1). It is identified with the great ideal of Saint Paul who is not satisfied “until Christ if formed” (Ga 4,19) in the Galatians; he yearns to see this process completed.
2. The Second Vatican Council presented the aim of all Christian education in various aspects, which include “ensuring that the baptized . . . may grow ever more conscious of the gift of faith which they have received; that they may learn to adore God the Father in spirit and in truth (Cfr. Io Jn 4,23), especially through liturgical worship; and that they may be prepared to lead their personal lives according to a new nature, in justice and holiness of truth (Cfr. Eph Ep 4,22-24); so that they may reach perfect maturity . . . and make their contribution to the increase of the Mystical Body” (Gravissimum Educationis GE 2).
These are elements with far-reaching implications; they take into account the fact that Catholic education is indeed concerned with the whole person, with his or her eternal destiny and with the common good of society, which the Church herself strives to promote. In practice this requires that the physical, moral and intellectual talents of children and young people should be cared for, so that they may attain a sense of responsibility and the right use of freedom and take an active part in the life of society (Cfr. Codex Iuris Canonici CIC 795).
3. All of these elements have been promoted by Catholic education in your country. Indeed, Catholic education constitutes a privileged chapter in the history of the Church in America. Catholic education has been a very effective dimension of evangelization, bringing the Gospel to bear on all facets of life. It has involved different individuals and groups in the education process, and it has succeeded in making generations of people feel part of the ecclesial and social community. Despite limitations and imperfections, Catholic education in America can, under God’s grace, be credited to a high degree with forming the splendid Catholic laity of America. Catholic education has itself the foundation for understanding and accepting the teaching of the Second Vatican Council which was a consistent explication and development of principles that the Church has held and taught throughout the centuries. The blessings of the Council were effectively brought to bear on the lives of many because years of generous Catholic education had prepared the way.
Catholic education in your land has also fostered numerous vocations over the years. You yourselves owe a great debt of gratitude to that Catholic education which enabled you to understand and to accept the call of the Lord. Among other contributions of Catholic education is the quality of citizen that you were able to produce: upright men and women that contributed to the well-being of America, and through Christian charity worked to serve all their brothers and sisters. Catholic education has furnished an excellent witness to the Church’s perennial commitment to culture of every kind. It has exercised a prophetic role - perhaps modestly in individual cases, but overall most effectively - to assist faith to permeate culture. The achievements of Catholic education in America merit our great respect and admiration.
4. There is still, however, a debt of gratitude to be paid, before the witness of history, to the parents who have supported a whole system of Catholic education; to the parishes that have coordinated and sustained these efforts; to the Dioceses that have promoted programs of education and supplemented means of support, especially in poor areas; to the teachers - who always included a certain number of generous lay men and women - who through dedication and sacrifice championed the cause of helping young people to reach maturity in Christ. But, above all, gratitude is due to the religious for their contribution to Catholic education. In writing last Easter to the Bishops of the United States about Religious life, I stated: “Religious were among your pioneers. They blazed a trail in Catholic education at all levels, helping to create a magnificent educational system from elementary school to university” (IOANNIS PAULI PP. II, Epistula ad sacros Praesules Foederatarum Civiitatum Americae Septentrionalis missa, 2, die 3 apr. 1983: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, VI/1  892).
To women religious is due a very special debt of gratitude for their particular contribution to the field of education. Their authentic educational apostolate was, and is, worthy of the greatest praise. It is an apostolate that requires much self-sacrifice; it is thoroughly human as an expression of religious service: an apostolate that follows closely human and spiritual growth, and accompanies children and young people patiently and lovingly through the problems of youth and the insecurity of adolescence toward Christian maturity. How many married couples of your generation could - and did - point to women religious who influenced their lives and helped them to reach that stage of personal development in which their vocation to married love and parenthood could be realized? And how many priests, brothers and sisters found edification in the witness of sacrificial love exemplified in religious life, and the encouragement necessary for them to embark on the preparation for their own vocation?
5. Major factors in the Catholic education about which we have been speaking include: the Catholic teacher, Catholic doctrine and the Catholic school.
While the entire mission of Catholic education is essentially linked to the Church’s life of faith and as such forms part of the Bishop’s ministry, the first educators of individual children are the parents. In the new Code if Canon Law the whole treatment of education begins with the word “parents”. In the eyes of the Church, and before God, their obligations and rights are unique, as are the sustaining graces they receive in the Sacrament of Marriage. It is this sacrament that “gives to the educational role the dignity and vocation of being really and truly a ‘ministry’ of the Church” (IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Familiaris Consortio FC 38). But all Catholic teachers are invested with great dignity and are called to be “outstanding in true doctrine and uprightness of life” (Codex Iuris Canonici CIC 803, § 2). The whole structural system of Catholic education will have value to the extent that the formation and education given by the teachers conform to the principles of Catholic doctrine.
In religious education there is a new urgency to explain Catholic doctrine. Many young people of today look to Catholic educators, rightly saying: “You do not have to convince us; just explain well”. And we know that, in whatever forum God’s word is communicated, it has power to illuminate minds and to touch hearts: “Indeed, God’s word is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebr. 4, 12).
6. In the history of your country an extremely effective instrument of Catholic education has been the Catholic school. It has contributed immensely to the spreading of God’s word and has enabled the faithful “to relate human affairs and activities with religious values in a single living synthesis” (IOANNIS PAULI PP.II Sapientia Christiana, 1). In the community formed by the Catholic school, the power of the Gospel has been brought to bear on thought patterns, standards of judgment and norms of behaviour. As an institution the Catholic school has to be judged extremely favourably if we apply the sound criterion: “You will know them by their deeds” (Mt 7,16), and again, “You can tell a tree by its fruit” (Ibid.7, 20). It is easy therefore in the cultural environment of the United States to explain the wise exhortation contained in the new Code: “The faithful are to promote Catholic schools, doing everything possible to help in establishing and maintaining them” (Codex Iuris Canonici CIC 800, § 2).
Your Catholic school system has long enjoyed the esteem of the Holy See. Pius XII at the very beginning of his pontificate wrote to the American Bishops of that time, saying: “It is with good reason then that visitors from other lands admire the organization and system under which your schools of various levels are conducted” (PII XII Sertum Laetitiae, 8, die 1 nov. 1939). Years later, Paul VI, in canonizing Mother Seton, felt the need to praise the providence of God who raised up this woman to inaugurate in your country the work of the Catholic school (cf. PAULI VI, Allocutio Em. mis Patribus atque Praesulibus Americae Septentrionalis Foederatarum Civitatum, qui sollemni Canonizationi interfuerunt Beatae Elisabeth Annae Bayley vid. Seton, die 15 sept. 1975: Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, XIII  933-934). And two years later, in canonizing John Neumann, Paul VI spoke of the “relentless energy” with which he promoted the Catholic school system in the United States (PAULI VI, Homilia die Canonizationis Beati Ioannis Nepomuceni Neumann habita in Petriano foro, die 9 iun. 1977: Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, XV  614).
At every level of Catholic education the importance of the Catholic teacher and of Catholic doctrine is felt. At every level, up to and including the university level, there is the need for an institutional commitment of the Catholic school to the word of God as proclaimed by the Catholic Church. And this institutional commitment is an expression of the Catholic identity of each Catholic school.
7. The pastoral leadership of the Bishop is pivotal in lending support and guidance to the whole cause of Catholic education. It is up to the Bishop, together with his priests, to encourage all Catholic educators to be inspired by the great ideal of communicating Christ. Only the Bishop can set the tone, ensure the priority and effectively present the importance of the cause to the Catholic people.
At the same time, the Bishop’s zeal finds an endless challenge in providing pastoral care for students, realizing the special spiritual needs of students engaged in higher studies, inside and outside Catholic institutions, whose progress is very closely linked to the future of society and of the Church herself (Cfr. Gravissimum Educationis GE 10).
8. A particular dimension of Catholic education, which is at the same time a stage of evangelization, is the question of catechesis as it relates to Catholic institutions, as it is performed outside of Catholic schools, and as it is exercised directly by parents. From every viewpoint, catechesis involves “educating the true disciple of Christ by means of a deeper and more systematic knowledge of the person and message of our Lord Jesus Christ” (IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Cathechesi Tradendae, 19). Especially under this catechetical aspect of imparting Catholic doctrine in an organic and systematic way, the Catholic school remains a truly relevant instrument at the service of faith, assisting the young to enter into the mystery of Christ. For this reason and for the other reasons already given, I renew that prophetic appeal of Paul VI to the American Bishops: “Brethren, we know the difficulties involved in preserving Catholic schools, and the uncertainties of the future. And yet we rely on the help of God and on your own zealous collaboration and untiring efforts, so that the Catholic schools can continue, despite grave obstacles, to fulfill their providential role at the service of genuine Catholic education, and at the service of your country” (PAULI VI, Allocutio Em. mis Patribus atque Praesulibus Americae Septentrionalis Foederatarum Civitatum, qui sollemni Canonizationi interfuerunt Beatae Elisabeth Annae Bayley vid. Seton, die 15 sept. 1975: Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, XIII  934).
9. In all of these things our own ministry at the service of the word depends on the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is he, venerable and dear Brothers, whom we invoke today, asking him to assist you in your pastoral initiatives and to bring to fruition the efforts of so many dedicated priests, deacons, religious and lay people in the local Churches that you represent. He alone can actually enable us to communicate Christ; indeed, “no one can say: ‘Jesus is Lord’, except in the Holy Spirit” (1Co 12,3). Only through his action can Christian maturity be ensured and, hence, the aim of all Catholic education attained. As we proclaim the sovereignty of the sanctifying action of the Holy Spirit, let us ask him to submit our ministry totally to his will. And let us ask this grace of docility through the intercession of Mary, beneath whose heart the Word of God became man and was first communicated to the world.
Veni, Sancte Spiritus!
Thursday, 3 November 1983
Dear friends in Christ,
It is a joy to extend warm greetings to Bishop Welsh and to all the members of the pilgrimage from the Diocese of Allentown. I warmly welcome you to the Vatican in this Jubilee Year of the Redemption.
Pilgrimages provide an excellent opportunity for deepening of faith. Thus, I was pleased to learn that you have sought to make your pilgrimage a special time of prayer and reconciliation. When we pray, we open our hearts to our Redeemer, inviting him to come to us and to fill us with his light and peace. And when we seek reconciliation with God we also open our hearts to Christ, as we acknowledge our sins and need to be forgiven. Indeed, it is true to say that the Sacrament of Penance is an act of faith in Christ and in the power of his Redemption. When we turn to Christ in prayer or the Sacrament of Penance, we are professing our belief that his Cross and Resurrection are more powerful than sin and the source of freedom and life.
Saint Paul reminds us that “it was God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the work of handing on this reconciliation” (2Co 5,18). As you continue your pilgrimage, I pray that God will bless you abundantly with the grace of reconciliation. May he unite your hearts as one in the love of Christ our Saviour, and may he grant you strength for handing on to others the gift of reconciliation.
May the Lord be with you all.
Mr. Director General,
Distinguished Delegates and Observers,
1. I am very happy that so many expert representatives of the States belonging to FAO and to the International Organizations who have come from all over the world to take part in this Twenty-second Session of the Conference have accepted the invitation to a meeting which has become traditional from the very beginning of the presence of FAO in Rome. It is the second time that I personally have met you, in addition to my visit to the Headquarters of FAO in November 1979, an occasion which remains a happy memory.
I am glad to have the present opportunity to say once more how deeply I esteem the work being done by FAO, and how much I appreciate the recent documentation on the world food situation and on the work programmes and operational aspects of FAO. I am sure that you are more and more aware of the Holy See's very special interest in the problem of overcoming hunger and malnutrition, and of the fact of its close study of all undertakings and activities directed towards this humanitarian goal.
2. The right to have enough to eat is certainly an inalienable human right, and it imposes the obligation to ensure that everyone really does have enough food, It is obvious that the food problem cannot be considered from the point of view of occasional assistance or of the mere increase of production.
I know that the subject of food security is at the centre of the working programme of FAO and has been so especially during the last ten years since the World Food Conference of November 1974. But today a more detailed view of food security is rightly being built up. It includes three specific objectives: to guarantee sufficient production; to stabilize as far as possible the flow of resources, especially for meeting emergencies; to make all the resources necessary for continuous and organic development available to all those needing them.
In order permanently to guarantee adequate supplies for the whole world population, two things must be done: favour the production and availability of food, at accessible prices, for a population that is continually expanding; and, more immediately, face the difficulties and crises in particular countries and regions.
3. According to the evaluations provided by your documentation, over the last ten years food production has increased by a growth index higher than the increase of population. From the sum of many data on different aspects of production and consumption, there emerges a comforting affirmation of a global sufficiency of food in relation to the present and future demands of the world population, even though this latter is increasing. But with regard to individual countries or certain areas, one cannot remain silent about the seriousness of the present situation, which is also confirmed by the forecasts, for the coming decades, of the real problem of the imbalance between population and actual food availability.
Particular concern is caused by the ever more obvious divergence, in practically the whole of the developing countries, between the food production growth index and the rate of population growth. This is in particular contrast with the fact that, in the developed countries taken as a whole, food production will continue to increase, resulting in surpluses with respect to the internal demand of these countries with a stable population.
But it is important to note the statement contained in a study with which you are familiar: "The lands of the Developing World as a whole (excluding East Asia) are capable of producing sufficient food to sustain twice their year 1975 population and one and a half times their year 2000 population, even with low level of inputs". (FAO/UNFPA/IIASA Report FPA/INT/513).
4. This contradictory situation leads one to emphasize the moral duties deriving from the relationships between States and which must be borne in mind as criteria that should also inspire the decisions of your present Session of the Conference of FAO.
The reaffirmation of the primacy of agriculture and of the whole series of problems concerning the increase of food production certainly continues to be important. But it is clear that, over and above an increase of world production considered on a worldwide scale, what is urgently needed is to ensure an effective increase in the individual developing countries. It seems extremely significant that today emphasis is placed upon the objective of the food self-sufficiency of these countries, secured by their self-development, also with external support, but attained according to the now classical definition of self-reliance. Added to this is justified concern to avoid the aggravation of the phenomenon of the new form of dependence upon the developed countries, a phenomenon which has become more marked particularly in recent years, with the developing countries needing to import foodstuffs.
5. I therefore repeat a central subject of the Message which I sent for the third World Food Day: it is a fresh appeal for solidarity, addressed to the Governments and peoples of all the continents, and involving the "accelerated establishment of an international economic order that is truly more just and fraternal on the level both of production and the distribution of goods" (Message of 16 October 1983).
There remains the need to restate the duty of all countries to increase production: this holds good also for the most advanced. It must also be noted that the concentration of reserve stocks, which also exceed the limit considered by FAO as necessary for minimum security, is found in a restricted geographical area, in which a small number of countries hold almost a half of the world grain reserves. In addition, there are signs of a reduction of the area of cultivated land, not only as a result of erosion and the encroachment of deserts, but also through an artificial reducing of production. An effort must be made to avoid the situation whereby the abandonment of cultivation would lessen the capacity to provide needy countries with basic foodstuffs.
But it is clear that in this phase the most obvious objective is certainly that of distribution. This implies a distribution which is favourable to the developing countries, and an efficient control of commercial exchanges, above all with a reversal of protectionist tendencies.
6. Making foodstuffs available on acceptable conditions demands a reduction of excessive consumption in certain countries. It also requires an abandonment of the excessive defence of food prices by the high-production countries. Also called for are special measures in favour of countries with a low income and a food deficit, in order to assist ordinary importation of agricultural food products, and especially to facilitate imports required by emergency needs.
It is sad to have to note that in this phase there is a constant reduction in food aid.
One notes a contraction of the resources made available through the preferable multilateral means, while at the same time one does not see a corresponding increase of bilateral aid. Also with regard to reserves, one notes the praiseworthy favouring of the setting up of national reserves in the developing countries. But this does not mean an abandonment of the willingness to establish effectively international reserves placed at the disposal of multilateral organisms, or at least a system of coordinated national reserves.
But a fair distribution also calls for a wider access of all countries to all the factors, both proximate and remote, required for concrete development: these especially include loans on favourable terms to the poorer countries, thus bringing about an effective redistribution of income between the peoples. The stabilization of flows of resources, and technical assistance programmes, have become of primary importance.
7. In my Message of 16 October I explicitly stated: "It is clearly all the countries most advanced in their development, and their Governments, that are the first to be faced by the urgency of this international solidarity".
I would like to add that this also implies the acceptance of binding commitments. As in other matters, one cannot fail to call for renewed goodwill in patiently seeking Agreements and Conventions, if possible also on points that are clearly delineated but concretely fixed and put into practice. In this sense one repeats the invitation to resume the necessary initiatives in the appropriate forums, for renewing the Conventions on grain trade and on the connected food assistance programmes; or at least the adoption even in a partial form of the objectives for food security, as in the proposal formulated by FAO.
The remarks made so far hold good not only for the produce of the land but also, especially at the present moment, they concern the aspects of fish products, in connection with the acceptance and putting into practice of the international norms sanctioned in the Convention on the new law of the sea.
8. A recent proof of the Holy See's continuing willingness to collaborate in all suitable initiatives has been given on the occasion of the meeting of scientists of world renown on the relationship between science and the fight against hunger.
The Pontifical Academy of Science has borne and continues to bear witness to the Church's willingness, also on the level of science, to collaborate even in the specific objectives of agricultural and food development (cf. L'emploi des fertilisants et leur effet sur l'accroissement des récoltes, notamment par rapport à la qualité et à l'économie, P.A.S. Scripta Varia, 38, 1973; and Humanité et Energie, P.A.S. Scripta Varia, 46, 1981.
9. Among the points on the agenda of this Session of the Conference of FAO particular emphasis is given to the urgent need for more training: to develop the abilities of people to share in their own development, and to prepare competent professionals. In this sphere too I would like to repeat that the Church's institutions and associations are very willing to make available their various resources for assisting in teaching and formation.
I would also add that the Church is able to collaborate in the proper forming of public opinion, so that not only the developing countries but still more the advanced ones will be able to assume the sacrifices demanded by solidarity and will work together constructively, using the resources placed at their disposal.
As I express the hope that the present Session will favour the effective accomplishment of the work programme of FAO for the next two years, I invoke upon your labours the light and the enthusiasm that come from Almighty God, in whom "we live and move and have our being" (Ac 17,28).
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. We have come together, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to reflect on our pastoral mission as Bishops. And we do so within the context of the whole mystery of the Church of Jesus Christ which we are called to serve. When speaking last July to other Bishops from Australia, I mentioned that “much remains to be said about the laity and their shared responsibility for the proclamation of the Gospel”. And today I would like to pursue this theme of the laity in the Church.
2. The Second Vatican Council points out the consoling truth that Bishops “were not meant by Christ to shoulder alone the entire saving mission of Christ” (Lumen Gentium LG 30). Like the priests and the religious, the laity have a distinctive role to play, a specific contribution to make to this saving mission of Christ, which he shares with his Church. But their contribution depends on their living the mystery of the Church. For this reason it is so important that the laity should have an awareness of the greatness of their vocation, a sense of being an essential component of the ecclesial community, a sense of living in union with Christ. They must understand ever more the implications of Saint Paul’s words: “And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Ga 2,20). Indeed, the Council sees the success of the lay apostolate as depending “upon the laity’s living union with Christ” (Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 4).
3. For the Council, the whole spirituality of the laity is a sacramentally based and oriented spirituality, because the lay apostolate is conceived as a participation in the saving mission of the Church, to which the laity are commissioned by the Lord himself through Baptism and Confirmation (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 33)).
At the same time the Church recognizes the secular quality of a great part of the laity’s activities; she esteems their specific contribution to the renewal of the temporal order and proclaims the special part they have to play in “the birth of a new humanism, in which man is defined first of all by his responsibility towards his brothers and sisters and towards history” (Gaudium et Spes GS 55).
4. The Church acknowledges this distinctive Christian responsibility of the laity in many fields, including politics, the professional world, the social, economic and military spheres, the world of culture, science, the arts, international life and the extremely influential area of the mass media.
The laity are able to exert a great influence on culture and make a special contribution to its evangelization. This they can do particularly in the fields of science, literature and art. And if we take into account the words of Paul VI - “The split between the Gospel and culture is without a doubt the drama of our time” (PAULI VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 20) - then we can realize just how much the laity share responsibility for the Gospel and how much they can contribute to its advancement.
In all of this, the Church wishes to show her confidence in the laity’s specific charisms and in their ability to exercise them for the benefit of the entire community. In this sense, the Synod of 1971 spoke of “the laity’s maturity, which is to be valued highly when it is a question of their specific role” (The Ministerial Priesthood, Part Two, I, 2). In all their temporal activities, the laity find the support of faith and immense strength in the relevant exhortation of Saint Paul: “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col 3,17).
5. The gamut of the activities whereby the laity proclaim the Gospel by word and deed and advance the Kingdom of God on earth is very extensive. By reason of their vocation as lay people in the world, their secular activities have deep value in the eyes of God.
The entire sphere of human activity is sanctified by the grace of the Creator and Redeemer. Every worthy human labour falls under the principle that I enunciated in my Encyclical Laborem Exercens: “By enduring the toil of work in union with Christ crucified for us, man in a way collaborates with the Son of God for the redemption of humanity” (IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Laborem Exercens LE 27). The laity play a major role in defending the value of human work and in ensuring that the correct concept of human work is applied in the social and economic policies of nations.
6. The response of the laity to the challenges placed before them has been expressed in many splendid ways in Australia. The laity deserve honour and gratitude for their commitment in the area of education, for their involvement in promoting justice and peace and for their long and sustained contribution to charitable and relief work. But whether their worthy activities are religious or secular in nature, they all powerfully promote the Kingdom of God to the extent that they are motivated by charity and express the truth of the lay state, which is entered through Baptism. Every action performed by the laity that is consonant with their vocation and supported by grace is a sanctifying action, an authentic expression of the life of the Church. Christ is active in his members. The Father continues to love his Son, who is alive in his Body, the Church.
7. In the face of all the problems that affect the world, the laity are called to manifest the faith of the pilgrim Church with confidence and joy. Amidst the difficulties of daily living their voice expresses the serenity of the Church, who knows that the Lord is with her: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear” (Ps 27,1). In a thousand and one ways the laity are involved, even to the point of oppression, in the problems that afflict humanity, and in the dramatic search for means to alleviate the human suffering caused by the evils of the world. And yet they remain a people of strong hope.
By reason of their exposure, the laity are particularly vulnerable to suffering: when individuals and families are disturbed by ideologies opposed to the values of the Gospel; when inroads of drug abuse are made into communities; when social and economic problems cause loneliness, discouragement and alienation; when the effects of sin in the world weigh heavily on human hearts.
8. By reason of their position in the Church and because of their secular involvement, the laity have a special calling to defend the whole moral order by their conduct. Only through their corporate application of the principles of charity, justice and chastity can the members of the Church offer to the world a convincing witness to the teachings of Jesus, which will always be contested. The splendour of Christ’s Church is revealed in the life of the laity. The power of God’s grace is effectively attested to by the laity as they endeavour to apply the word of God to the situations of real life. They glorify God in rejecting the forces of secularization and in listening humbly but confidently to what the Apostle says: “Do not be conformed to this world” (Rm 12,2).
9. Although the laity have secular pursuits, they also belong to the one ecclesial community of which they are the greatest part. And this community is a community of worship and praise. Indeed, the Council declares it is as worshippers that the laity consecrate the world to God (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 34). The aspect of worship is central to an understanding of the full dignity of the laity as an essential category within the whole Church.
On the occasion of another ad Limina visit, I called attention to this fact: “When our people . . . realize . . . that they are called to adore and thank the Father in union with Jesus Christ, an immense power is unleashed in their Christian lives . . . When they realize that all their prayers of petition are united to an infinite act of the praying Christ, then there is fresh hope and new encouragement for the Christian people” (IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Allocutio ad Episcopos Foederatarum Civitatum Americae Septentrionalis, occasione oblata eorum visitationis ad limina coram admissos, 3, die 9 iul. 1983: vide supra, p. 47). Yes, worship and prayer are both a right and a responsibility for the laity and constitute the strength of their lives.
10. Any reflection on the laity must include a reflection on the need for adequate formation of the laity. Much has been done in this field since the Ecumenical Council, and yet much remains to be done. It is important to open ever wider to the laity the treasures of faith: the word of God as it is embodied in the Scriptures and in the full teaching of the Church, as well as in her sacramental life. This further formation will necessitate special educational projects - special initiatives - but we must never forget the incomparable value of systematic catechesis given in the parish through the faithful and persevering preaching of the word of God. Through a life of prolonged personal contact with God’s people, through the witness of their lives of faith, all priests have an excellent opportunity to help introduce the laity ever more in to the divine mysteries, including the special place that the laity occupy in the plan of God and in the heart of Christ.
11. Needless to say, in the pastoral spirit of our episcopal office, we must show a special interest in lapsed Catholics, searching them out with the aid of the laity and striving to help them have once again a vital share in the life of the Church.
12. As Bishops we have the great privilege of serving the laity and of proclaiming their dignity in the community of God’s people. Ours is a ministry of pastoral love, which includes support possible from the laity in the cause of the Gospel, but we know that this can happen only if they are living the mystery of the Church and are aware of their great Christian dignity. We join Leo the Great, whose feast we have just celebrated yesterday, in extolling the dignity of our people: Agnosce, Christiane, dignitatem tuam (S. LEONIS MAGNI Homilia in Nativitate Domini, 21, 3).
This is our aim: to reinforce Christian conviction, to foster new attitudes, so that in the profound awareness of their identity our people will exclaim: “We are strong in the name of the Lord our God” (Ps 20,8). This is our prayer, offered through Mary the Mother of Jesus: that all the faithful will experience what it means to be a people of worship, a people of hope - the People of God: “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God” (1Tm 4,10), through Christ our Lord.
Speeches 1983 - Saturday, 22 October 1983