Speeches 1986 - Friday, 23 May 1986

All of your worthy humanitarian activities and programs are immensely ennobled by your faith in Jesus Christ and by the virtue of supernatural charity that the Holy Spirit infuses into your hearts. Your faith and charity are constant incentives for you not only to persevere in rendering service to humanity but also to discover with ever new creativity what you can do for the Church and for the world.

As lay people in the Church you are concerned with the right ordering and just management of temporal affairs. But this vocation of yours is at the very heart of the mystery of Christ, who saves and uplifts humanity and who is alive in you and desires to love and serve through you.

Dear friends: on this occasion, as you gather in Rome to reflect on your activities and your possibilities for service, and even more on your Christian vocation, be conscious of the great challenge of Saint Paul "Whatever you do... do it in the name of the Lord Jesus. Give thanks to God the Father through him" .

June 1986



Monday, 9 June 1986

Dear Friends,

I am happy to meet you, pilgrims from far-away Indonesia. I welcome you to the Vatican and I appreciate your desire to have this opportunity to manifest your spiritual union with the See of Peter.

I wish to encourage you to cooperate actively and joyfully with your pastors and teachers in the faith in the task of building up the Church as a true community of grace and fellowship. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the cornerstone . Your first great work, then, is to open your hearts to him in prayer and through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance. In this way Christ himself will be the source of peace and strength for you and your families, and for your parish, through the Holy Spirit whom he pours into your hearts .

You need this strength in order to fulfil the mission which Christ entrusts to you: to bear witness to him by authentic Christian living, that is, to imbue your family and social lives with the spirit of the Gospel.

I gladly commend you to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, who is our outstanding example of faith and discipleship. May she accompany you and watch over you always.

And may Almighty God send his blessings upon you and upon your country.


Friday, 20 June 1986

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. Not many months have passed since our heavenly Father enabled me to celebrate the Eucharist with you and with representatives of your respective Dioceses at Shillong. Together we listened to the word of God and shared in the breaking of bread and in prayers .

As you, the Bishops of the North Eastern region of India, are making your ad limina visit, it is a source of profound joy for me to recall the beauty of the North-East hills and plains, the rich variety of your peoples’ ethnic and cultural heritage, and the vitality of your local Churches. The words of Saint Paul to the Corinthians echo my sentiments: "I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus" .

The grace of God was given you in Christ Jesus. The work of evangelization which was begun in your area only a hundred years ago, the work over which you preside today, is a gift of God to the people of your land. The word that has been preached is the word of God. The sacraments which have nourished the life of your communities are the efficacious signs of Christ’s grace at work among you. The Christian life which has steadily grown among the various ethnic groups of the region is indeed a treasured gift of God.

The men and women who have planted the seed and nourished it with care have been the faithful "servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart" . Today in that same field you and your collaborators are "God’s fellow workers" . This is your privilege and your great responsibility.

2. My visit took place within a context of particular significance for the Church in North-East India. Your Dioceses are now in the sixth of a Novena of years of preparation for the celebration in 1990 of the centenary of the establishment of the Church in your region. When I was among you at Shillong I spoke briefly of the history of the Assam mission and of the dedicated men and women who were the apostles of the Gospel of Christ to your peoples. Again today we give thanks to God for them. Inspired by their example, may all who exercise the various degrees of responsibility in your local Churches renew their resolve to carry forward in diligence and joy the work begun almost a hundred years ago.

In preparation for the centenary, each year you have issued a Joint Pastoral Letter on a theme of fundament al importance for the life of your communities. Thus you have written on the Church, Christian living, Evangelization, Catechesis, Christian Marriage and the Family, and most recently, on the theme of Youth. This is a subject particularly close to your hearts, since your young people play a vital role in the Church’s growth in North-East India.

In these Pastoral Letters you have focused attention on aspects of the Church’s life on which the Second Vatican Council offered authoritative teachings und valuable pastoral insights. Thus the extraordinary grace of renewal which the Council represented for the entire ecclesial body is being assimilated into the minds and hearts of the faithful; in the first place into the minds and hearts of the priests, religious and committed lay persons who labour with you in building up the Churches entrusted to you.

As your Brother in the episcopal ministry, sharing with you the responsibility of caring for the Church of God , I wish to commend you for the timeliness of your initiative. As Saint Paul encouraged the elders of the Church of Ephesus: "I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance" . Let us pray that the Lord of the harvest, who alone gives the growth , may bless the opening of the second century of the Church’s presence among your peoples with a further flourishing of Christian life.

3. Within your communities you, the pastors, have a specific mission entrusted to you by the Lord himself: that of spreading his Church, ministering to it under his guidance and shepherding it until he comes again .

There is one aspect of your pastoral mission about which I wish to reflect with you, and indeed with all who have a share in the Church’s service to the human family. It is the question of the centrality and primacy of the person in relation to every aspect of the Church’s activity.

This reflection applies first of all to the very content of evangelization. The heart of your pastoral ministry is the preaching of the Good News of salvation in the person of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. The message is not merely a theory or doctrine, however sublime. The first obligation of the apostle is to bear witness to the person of our Lord and Saviour: "that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you" .

The basic content therefore of evangelization and catechesis is not an abstract lesson for living, but the reality of the Son of God and Son of Man, our Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, "to evangelize is first of all to bear witness in a simple and direct way to God revealed by Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit: to bear witness that in his Son God has loved the world – that in his Incarnate Word he has given being to all things and has called men to eternal life" .

In the earliest days of the Church the Apostles gave pride of place to the kerygmatic announcement of the Redemption worked by the Death and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth: "they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead" . Paul too made the person of Christ the special object of his preaching: "I decided to know nothing among you except Christ Jesus and him crucified" . The Church has never ceased to proclaim the one in whom "the fullness of God was pleased to dwell" .

4. Today in your local Churches you are the witnesses to Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God . In the words I used when speaking to all the Bishops of India gathered at New Delhi: "You are called to proclaim salvation, mercy and compassion in the name of God who ‘so loved the world that he gave his only Son’” .

In relation to catechesis you yourselves have written: "To acknowledge Christ as the centre of catechesis would imply that we teach about him, that whatever we say or do will have a reference to him, and above all, that he himself is the Teacher" .

I wish to encourage you never to lose sight of the centrality of the person of Jesus Christ in every activity aimed at building up the Christian community. The servants of the Gospel must always be careful not to teach a message deprived of its substance or to transform the message of salvation into a mere theory of social and economic justice. The fervour and resourcefulness of your Churches depend on the measure in which the person of our Lord remains the focal point of your lives and endeavours. The importance you give to the Bible in the formation of your communities offers the assurance that their prayer and spiritual life will be founded on the solid basis of the word of God. I gladly note that you have implemented various initiatives in this field.

5. I also wish to refer briefly to the primacy of the person in relation to the planning and execution of programmes of evangelization and human advancement. The object of the Church’s care is the human person made in the image of God and called to live, act and, in turn, be treated according to the supreme commandment of love.

In the concrete circumstances of your Churches, evangelization embraces many forms of service of your peoples’ well-being and development – spiritual, social and material. As the Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Nuntiandi" points out, "between evangelization and human advancement – development and liberation – there are in fact profound links" . These links are anthropological and theological. The people to whom evangelization is directed live and act within particular social and economic structures, which themselves are destined to be influenced by the Gospel message of liberation. Indeed, the plan of Redemption "touches the very concrete situations of injustice to be combatted and of justice to be restored" . There is no doubt therefore that the Church’s activity is directed to the progress and advancement of people at every level of their existence. Your own ministry embraces a multitude of concerns, as manifested in the great variety of educational, charitable and social works which you promote and encourage.

The Social Doctrine of the Church which guides your endeavours to promote the integral development of your people is entirely built on the value of the human person and the demands of his dignity in the context of God’s plan for the human family. In the Church’s pastoral mission, "what matters is to evangelize man’s culture and cultures... always taking the person as one’s starting-point and always coming back to the relationships of people among themselves and with God" .

This truth needs to be constantly repeated today when so many individuals tend to be submerged in the anonymity of living or feel that they are being considered merely as part of a category in terms of political and social planning and action.

6. By underlining the centrality of the person in the Church’s mission we avoid the danger of losing contact with the very men and women, young and old, to whom the Lord sent us. The command to "feed my lambs, feed my sheep" which Jesus addressed to Peter remains for ever the paradigm of pastoral action.

To have said this is not to have solved the many questions which you face each day in your ministry. It is only to have recalled together the path of the Church’s service. My prayer is that Christ’s love for every man and woman will ever fill your hearts and the hearts of all your collaborators. In this way the necessary work of development, justice and freedom will be in fact the evangelical work of salvation and the construction of a true "civilization of love".

7. Through you, I wish to send my warmest greetings to the priests, the men and women religious and the catechists whom you are representing here. I ask you to take my goodwill and encouragement to your young people, to the children, the old and the sick.

May Mary, Mother of the Church, sustain you all by her prayer and example. She will remind you always to make Jesus the centre of your lives and of your actions.

May the Lord give you joy and peace in his service.


Friday, 20 June 1986

Mr President,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is a pleasure to receive today those taking part in the Study Week organised by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, on the subject of "Remote Sensing and Its Impact on Developing Countries".

An ever deeper knowledge of the earth, and in particular of its poorest zones, is the purpose for which the Pontifical Academy and its distinguished President have brought you together in order to study this theme.

1. The new technique of remote sensing makes it possible to survey anything from a few square metres to huge expanses of the earth’s surface. Certain areas, the home of hundreds of thousands of people, are being affected by the terrible phenomenon of desertification, with consequent famine and disease. The causes of this phenomenon vary from unsuitable methods of farming to climatic factors such as cyclones and other atmospheric disturbances.

Surveys carried out with the aid of satellites linked with a network of ground tracking stations can provide a detailed and exact picture of crops, including their increase or deterioration, and can offer the chance of using technical means of combating the encroaching desert, which imperils the livelihood of a high percentage of the world’s population.

With the help of remote sensing, it is possible to give useful advice for many schemes. These latter include the improvement of soil condition, forecasting and increasing the development of crop harvesting both in quantity and quality, the introduction of new crops, the prevention of the destruction of forested areas needed for ecological balance, and the taking of measures to meet possible atmospheric conditions, both harmful and beneficial.

By means of remote sensing it is likewise possible to detect the presence of concealed sources of energy, both renewable and non-renewable, as also the presence of food resources on the seabed and in rivers and lakes, together with the mineral wealth lying in the subsoil.

2. Your meeting has highlighted the possibility of aiding all peoples, with the help of advanced technological methods, to attain a more just form of world-wide coexistence, so that the earth’s resources, which are the patrimony of all, may be fairly distributed and shared. This is in accordance with the will of the Creator who made man and woman in his own likeness and said to them, "...have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth... I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food" .

The resources of science make it possible to feed the whole human family, with the remedying of past and present mistakes and shortcomings. Nevertheless, one cannot help noting that there is still a lack of firm determination in political circles to make proper u se of the technological means which you have been examining during these days of study and of service to human welfare. We know that progress must not be the exclusive privilege of the favoured few. We should not forget the words of Pope Paul VI who said that development is the new name of peace.

3. It is a source of satisfaction that the conclusions of your previous Study Week, held in October of the year before last, on the subject of "The Impact of Space Exploration on Mankind”, have been adopted by the United Nations Organisation and sent to all member States. This is indeed a sign of profound respect for the relevance and importance of the work being done by the Pontifical Academy.

It is my hope that by means of joint agreements and commitments all Governments will promote the peaceful uses of space resources, for the sake of the unification of the human family in justice and peace. I take this occasion to express once more my conviction that national and international economic powers should serve all peoples and every individual, but with special preference for those whose lives are particularly threatened and who need assistance for securing their very survival and the means of living in a manner consonant with human dignity.

May the Lord of heaven and earth look kindly upon you and grant to you and your families the abundance of his blessings.


Saturday, 21 June 1986

Mr Ambassador,

I am happy to welcome Your Excellency on this occasion as you present the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Fiji. My pleasure in accepting your credentials at the start of your diplomatic mission to the Holy See is enhanced by the greeting and good wishes that you expressed on behalf of the Government and people of your country. I am most grateful for the kind and courteous sentiments that they reflect. It is my fervent hope that the diplomatic relations initiated between Fiji and the Holy See some three years ago will continue to exemplify the mutual trust, understanding and spirit of co-operation which have marked them from the outset.

I wish to assure you, Mr Ambassador, that I very much look forward to visiting your country later this year. I will come to Fiji primarily to fulfil my pastoral mission in the Church, grateful to Almighty God that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has taken firm root in the islands of the South Pacific. I note with satisfaction your remark that the Christian Gospel of love, tolerance and brotherhood is predominant in all the aspects of daily life.

Christianity is very well established in your nation, and at the same time, as you say, there are many adherents of Hinduism and Islam. My visit to Fiji will therefore offer me yet another opportunity to manifest the Catholic Church’s respect for other religious traditions. The Church’s teaching, as expressed in the Second Vatican Council, is that the dignity and freedom of conscience of every person is to be respected, regardless of race or creed. With this in mind, I praise the peace and harmony that exists between the different racial, religious and cultural sectors of your society. While maintaining its own individuality each group makes its own special contribution to the common good of all, being continually challenged to collaborate with the other races and religions in a spirit of mutual and social harmony.

I am most appreciative, Mr Ambassador, of your reference to my appeal during this International Year of Peace to turn the tensions of North and South, East and West into new relationships of solidarity and dialogue. It is indeed necessary to establish new types of international relations which will ensure justice and peace on the stable foundation of universal brotherhood. It is of course impossible simply to impose such international agreements from outside without a change of people’s attitudes, for the roots of the tensions that threaten peace are found in the human heart. This conversion of heart will come primarily through dialogue which enables people to overcome their prejudices and to discover one another as members of the one human family, sharing the same hopes for peace. In this regard I gladly acknowledge your nation’s active presence in the regional bodies as well as its contribution to the cause of peace.

Your Excellency, I trust that your mission here will produce many good results. As you fulfil your responsible service I wish to assure you of the Holy See’s complete co-operation. I would ask you to convey my good wishes to the Governor-General, to the Prime Minister and to the members of the Government. And upon yourself and all the people of Fiji I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.


Monday, 23 June 1986

Mr Ambassador,

With great pleasure I welcome you to the Vatican and I gladly accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Denmark to the Holy See. I am grateful for the greetings which you have transmitted from Her Majesty Queen Margrethe and I would ask you to convey to Her Majesty the assurance of my appreciation and high regard.

You are the second Ambassador to represent your country since diplomatic relations were restored between the Kingdom of Denmark and the Holy See after a long period without official and direct contact. Your presence here today speaks of the firm resolution of both parties to maintain and further develop the excellent relations which we now enjoy.

I note with pleasure that in your speech, Mr Ambassador, you made reference to some areas of concern in which your country and the Holy See share a common interest and a common de sire to collaborate in the search for adequate solutions. Among these great questions are the urgency of working for the cause of peace, the defence of human rights, the promotion of fundamental freedoms, the cause of justice at every level of relations between people and between nations, or groups of nations. You have also made reference to the vital task of feeding the hungry and of promoting appropriate development in regions still labouring under intolerable need.

The Holy See highly appreciates the readiness of your Government and of your people to respond to the needs of less developed nations. In this you manifest a sensitivity and humanitarian outlook which honours you and is in harmony with Denmark’s millenary Christian tradition.

In this year’s Message for the World Day of Peace I sought to underline the fact that, in the present world situation and in the face of grave dangers threatening peace, leaders with responsibility for political and social life need to consider the common good of the entire family of nations as well as the particular common good of a given country . Only by looking at the world with an acute sense of realism and with a sincere desire to satisfy the legitimate aspirations of peoples to freedom, human dignity and a just share of the world’s goods, can existing tensions and inequalities be resolved.

Here and there "an awareness is gaining ground of the fact that reconciliation, justice and peace between individuals and between nations given the stage that humanity has reached and the very grave threats that hang over its future – are not merely a noble appeal meant for a few idealists but a condition for the survival of life itself" . Public opinion is at times shocked into realising that events which take place is one place or country sometimes extend beyond political frontiers and become the concern of the human family in its entirety. Some policies are such that their effects go beyond the present generation and will endure for many generations to come. All of which points to the need for an acute sense of responsibility and a heightened sensibility to the ethical implications of public policies and decisions.

In that Message I emphasised that "any new international system capable of overcoming the logic of blocs and opposing forces must be based on the personal commitment of everyone to make the basic and primary needs of humanity the first imperative of international policy." What is required is a new mentality, radically different from the self-interest which often prevails in relations between nations. There is need of a vibrant sense of brother-hood and solidarity at every level of human relations and political engagement. Barriers must be removed and replaced with trust built on truthfulness and on the will to collaborate for the general good of all.

It is particularly to the cultural, ethical and moral values present in human affairs that the Holy See seeks to draw the attention of public opinion and of the various international agencies operating for the stability and progress of peoples. In this respect I sincerely welcome your reference to occasions of collaborations between Denmark and the Holy See in the context of international organisations and humanitarian agencies.

In relation to another matter, Mr Ambassador, you are aware that the Catholic Church as a whole is irrevocably committed to the task of promoting the restoration of unity among all Christians through the ecumenical movement. In Denmark the number of Catholics is small, but they live in a close relationship of harmony and dialogue with the members of other religious traditions, in particular with the members of the Lutheran Church to which the majority of the population belongs. It is our hope that this privileged forum of dialogue will also contribute to strengthening the climate of mutual understanding and openness in which the Churches will feel drawn to ever increasing collaboration in responding to the challenges of our times. I think with affection of the "little flock" of Danish Catholics, and I express my heartfelt sentiments of good will and esteem towards the members of the other Christian denominations. May the ecumenical path we have begun together lead quickly to our meeting in full unity of faith in Christ Jesus.

Mr Ambassador, I give you the assurance of my prayerful best wishes for your happiness in the fulfilment of your lofty mission on behalf of your country, and I gladly invoke God’s blessings upon Her Majesty the Queen and upon all your fellow citizens.


Friday, 27 June 1986

Mr. Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you here today and to accept the Letters of Credence accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Iraq to the Holy See. I am grateful for the greetings which you have conveyed from His Excellency President Saddam Hussein, and I would ask you to assure him of my continuing prayers to the Most High God for the well-being of the Iraqi people.

In the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World of the Second Vatican Council, which was promulgated some twenty years ago but whose message remains just as relevant for today, we read that "Peace is more than the absence of war: it cannot be reduced to the maintenance of a balance of power between opposing forces... It is the fruit of that right ordering of things with which the Divine Founder has invested human society and which must be actualized by men as they thirst after ever greater justice".

It is in this light that I renew, Mr Ambassador, my appeal for reconciliation in your region. I do not lose hope that Almighty God will bring all concerned to pursue every possible means for negotiating a true and lasting peace based upon justice and sustained by fraternal love and respect.

Mindful of the sufferings of those caught up in the present hostilities, I wish to assure you of my concern for all your people. In this regard, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray’s humanitarian mission to the prisoners of war from both sides in December and January last gave expression to my heartfelt concern for those who in any way are suffering the consequences of war or as a result of it are separated from their home and family. It is my ardent prayer that the world will have an ever increasing aversion to the terrible injustices which necessarily accompany every situation of armed conflict, and that in this way the path of negotiation and dialogue will appear ever more urgent and appropriate.

On this occasion my thoughts turn also to the members of the Iraqi Catholic community. Together with their Muslim fellow countrymen, the Iraqi Christian devote themselves to working for harmony. Their Christian faith and religious values inspire them to cultivate a spirit of mutual respect, with pride in their national identity and concern for the progress and common good of their country. In this context I wish to say once more that today dialogue between Christians and Muslims is more necessary than ever. The Catholic Church declares that all men and women must respect one another, rise above all discrimination and serve the universal brotherhood. Similarly it is the responsibility of every government to ensure that the equality of all its citizens before the law is never violated for religious reasons, whether openly or covertly.

Mr Ambassador, as you assume your diplomatic functions as the representative of the Republic of Iraq to the Holy See, I assure you of the full co-operation of the Holy See for the successful accomplishment of your mission. I invoke the blessings of Almighty God upon Your Excellency that you may always have the divine assistance in your endeavours and experience fulfilment in your duties and responsibilities on behalf of your Government. May your activities help to bring about the longed-for peace in your region.


Monday, 30 June 1986

Dear Friends,

1. I am pleased to greet the participants in the Vatican Observatory Summer School in Observational Astronomy and Astrophysics which is meeting at Castel Gandolfo. You have come from many different lands and cultures. You come as students, as learners, as future scholars. You come, at the invitation of the Vatican Observatory, in order to study some of the aspects of modern astrophysics and observational cosmology.

This is the first time, through the initiative of the Vatican Observatory, that the Holy See has invited young students to a school at which they will follow lectures given by an eminent faculty on some of the most important topics of modern astrophysics. I am very happy to sponsor this school and thus to follow in the footsteps of my predecessor Leo XIII, the founder of the Vatican Observatory, who wished all to know that, far from being opposed to authentic scientific research, the Church desires to support and further such endeavours.

2. The historical roots of these works of the Church can be traced to the Cathedral Schools which arose at the dawn of the post-Roman era in Europe. In those schools, closely linked to the earliest Christian places of worship, young scholars like yourselves found the leisure, security and inspiration needed for successful study. Through their dedication to the liberal arts, which included astronomy, they came to love and respect things of the mind and spirit, and their intellectual pursuits gave rise to the first great universities such as Paris, Bologna, Oxford, Padua and Salamanca.

3. In your course in Observational Astronomy and Astrophysics you are being given an introduction to scientific inquiry into the wonders of God’s universe, and you do this at an Observatory which has a long and rich history of observational research, extending from the work of Fathers Clavius, Secchi, Denza, Lais and Hagen up to the present day. It is fitting, that which such a long tradition of research, the Vatican Observatory should offer you this opportunity.

I hope that some of you will indeed be in a position to develop the calling to be research scientists and that you will one way join the ranks of those who seek to examine, test, classify and ultimately explain to others the interaction between matter and energy over vast distances and years. You are truly fortunate, and I know that you are grateful, as I am, to those who are providing you with such marvellous opportunities. We should particularly thank Father McCarthy, the Dean of the School, and the guest faculty who have volunteered their services for this worthy undertaking.

4. I only ask that you would share the good things which you receive. Each day of your school, try to find time to reflect on the fact that peace is essential for true progress in your science. Be men and women of peace, and let the peace in your minds and hearts become the peace reflected in your lives and daily work. I pray that this will be among the lessons that you will take away from this school.

Deum Creatorem, venite, adoremus. Come let us adore God the Creator. May he bless you all.
July 1986





Speeches 1986 - Friday, 23 May 1986