Speeches 1993 - Saturday, 18 December 1993

3. The first proclamation of the Gospel, which through the Holy Spirit’s gentle action in the hearts of those who hear it leads to conversion and Baptism, finds its complement and perfection in catechesis. Faith grows more mature, as Christ’s disciples are educated and formed in a thorough and systematic knowledge of his person and message (Cf. John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae CTR 19). The popularity of Bible-study in so many of your parishes and communities testifies to the great thirst of the faithful for the word of God. This direct contact with the sacred text itself, accompanied by devout prayer (Cf. Dei Verbum DV 25) and supported by a clear exposition of doctrine as found in The Catechism of the Catholic Church, will ensure that the members of the Church will be secure in their faith and prepared to implement its demands in all the circumstances of their life and activity.

Furthermore, as they are confirmed in the revealed truth, the faithful will be able to respond to the objections raised with increasing frequency by the followers of sects and new religious movements. Catechesis is especially important for young people, for whom an enlightened faith is a lamp to guide their path into the future. It will be their source of strength as they face the uncertainties of the political and economic situation now evolving in Africa. Firm and humble submission to the word of Christ, as authentically proclaimed in the Church, also forms the basis for your relationship with other Churches and ecclesial communities, and for the dialogue which you seek with the followers of Islam and African traditional religion. By your continued study of all that is good, true and noble in your peoples’ cultures, it will become clearer how evangelization can spread deeper roots among them.

4. At this crucial moment in the history of Nigeria, it is vital that Catholics should continue to work wisely and courageously for the common good. In a special way they should show, by mutual love and respect, that ethnic antagonism and clannishness have no place in the Christian community. Sustained by you, their Pastors, the faithful will be able to bear witness to the transcendent dignity and worth of every human person, and to the right of everyone to participate in all aspects of national life. These fundamental values, and the universal and unchanging moral norms which serve to guard and protect them, "represent", as I pointed out in the Encyclical Letter "Veritatis Splendor", "the unshakable foundation and solid guarantee of a just and peaceful human coexistence, and hence of genuine democracy" (John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor VS 96).

It is this moral law which you have proclaimed in your recent appeals for respect for the religious liberty of all Nigerians, for an end to corruption in the conduct of civil affairs, and for the observance of sound ethical norms in the transmission of human life. Your Episcopal Conference has earned the respect of many of your fellow-citizens by forthrightly applying the Church’s moral and social teaching to the present situation. In response to events earlier in the year, you have reaffirmed that respect for the will of the people and love for the nation, together with honesty and justice, must be the basis for decisions about the country’s future. The more you give evidence of unity within the realm of your Conference, the more you will build up unity in the Church and win greater credibility as witnesses of Christ and teachers of Catholic doctrine in your vast country. Likewise, the building of unity goes beyond your national frontiers. The Catholic Institute of West Africa, for example, by offering a solid formation and fostering theological reflection, should be a catalyst of ever deeper ecclesial communion and increasing pastoral cooperation throughout English-speaking West Africa.

5. Turning now to your helpers in the pastoral ministry, I wish to encourage you, in the words of the Council, always to welcome priests with a special love and to regard them as sons and friends (Cf. Christus Dominus CD 16). At ordination, priests receive a share in the consecration and mission of Jesus Christ, Head and Shepherd (Cf. John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 16). The Holy Spirit reshapes their hearts according to the pattern of the heart of Christ the Priest, so that with his own compassion they will be ready to put aside all earthly ambition in order to bring to the poor, the weak and the defenceless the protection and support of the truth of the Gospel (Cf. Mt. Mt 9,35-36). Filled with the very love which Christ himself has for his flock, they will gladly go in search of one lost sheep, one stray sinner in need of the light of life (Cf. ibid. 18: 12-14; cf. John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 22-23).

The priest is not the mere caretaker of an institution; he is an evangelist and doctor of the human soul. All of his talents and education and accomplishments are rightly directed only to this end. In order to carry out faithfully their sublime mission, your priests – especially the newly ordained – must have your fatherly and fraternal support. They rely on your friendship, as well as on that of their brother priests (Cf. Lumen Gentium LG 28).

As they grow in appreciation of the incomparable privilege of acting in the person of Christ, it will become easier for them to devote themselves completely, in chastity and simplicity, to their ministry, and they will find immeasurable joy and peace in their work.

The dispositions of a true shepherd must be nurtured in the heart of a priest long before the day of his ordination. This is the purpose of the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation provided in the seminary. In your quinquennial reports you have expressed a great solicitude for your seminaries. It is my hope that the Post-Synodal Exhortation "Pastores Dabo Vobis", together with the "Guidelines" from the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, will direct you in evaluating and improving these institutions. I would like to take this occasion to urge you once more to give your best priests to the work of priestly formation, even if it means sacrifice in other areas; and it goes without saying that it is especially important that every candidate should be in contact with an exemplary spiritual director.

6. In the life of the People of God, Religious and Missionary Institutes have historically offered outstanding service in the spread of the faith and the formation of new local Churches (Cf. John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 69-70). This is certainly the case in Nigeria, today as yesterday. While respecting the legitimate autonomy established for religious communities, it is a Bishop’s duty to help them fulfil their obligation to bear witness to Christ’s Kingdom and to proclaim the Good News. This includes encouraging superiors to discern carefully the suitability of those who seek admission, and helping them to provide a solid spiritual and intellectual formation both before and after profession. The more faithfully and devotedly the Religious in your midst live out their consecration to Christ in chastity, poverty and obedience, the more clearly will the men and women of your country see that "the Kingdom of God has come near" (Lc 10,9).

7. From the earliest days of the planting of the Church in Nigeria, the lay faithful, especially in the respected figure of the catechist, have played a significant role; and justly so, for as full members of the Church they "have the vocation and mission of proclaiming the Gospel" (John Paul II, Christifideles Laici CL 33). Your local Churches are blessed with gifted cooperators in the evangelization of society and culture. Receiving from their Pastors the formation and encouragement they need, they are truly a leaven for renewal. Of particular importance is the task of transforming marriage and family life according to the Creator’s original design, for part of the new covenant in Christ is the recovery for mankind of this fundamental good (Cf. Mc 10,6-12).

8. Dear Brothers, on the occasion of the Eucharistic Congress in Owerri, your people used a special prayer, entrusting to our Eucharistic Lord all their hopes and expectations, their cares and anxieties. Their concerns are not unlike those which Christians throughout Africa daily pour out in supplication to our Heavenly Father: the safety of their children and the protection of their homes, a longing for peace and reconciliation, the spread of the Gospel, a hunger for holiness and for the presence of God. In the months to come, you and I, together with our Brother Bishops of Africa, will be ever more mindful of the prayerful support of the whole Church as we prepare for the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to continue to bless and make fruitful our preparations for this important ecclesial event. Commending you and your priests, Religious and lay faithful to the loving protection of Mary Queen of Africa, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and communion in her Divine Son.




Vatican Basilica

Friday, 31 December 1993

Chers amis,
Chers jeunes,

1. C’est avec joie que je vous retrouve, au cours de ce XXVIème Congrès de la Fédération internationale des “Pueri Cantores”. Vous êtes réunis à Rome parce que votre action s’enracine dans la foi et dans la mission de l’Eglise, dans la foi des Apôtres Pierre et Paul qui ont donné leur vie pour le Christ, en ces lieux-mêmes, voici déjà deux mille ans. Cette conviction profonde fut celle de votre fondateur, Monseigneur Maillet, de ses successeurs et, notamment, celle de votre ancien Président, Monseigneur Joseph Roucairol, dont je tiens à évoquer la mémoire.

Soyez donc les bienvenus à Rome! En vous voyant, je pense, aujourd’hui plus que jamais, à la jeunesse éternelle de l’Eglise. Vous êtes l’avenir de l’Eglise qui a reçu de Dieu la promesse de ne jamais mourir! Vos voix le chantent, vos chants le répètent: sur la pierre que constitue le roc des Apôtres, le Seigneur a bâti son Eglise. Les puissances de la mort ne l’emporteront jamais sur elle.

Faites donc de votre vie un immense chant d’amour et de louange! Quelle a été la première réaction des anges à Noël? Ils ont loué Dieu! (Cf. Luc. Lc 2,13) Ils ont chanté la gloire de Dieu et la paix qu’il promet aux hommes. Le temps de la Nativité du Seigneur est, plus qu’aucun autre, le temps de la louange, de la louange à Dieu qui a voulu devenir l’un d’entre nous pour nous apporter la Bonne Nouvelle du salut. Pourquoi louer Dieu, sinon pour la paix qu’il veut mettre en nos coeurs, alors que les hommes se déchirent et s’entretuent dans de nombreux pays du monde?

Votre Congrès est international: que votre louange de Dieu transcende les frontières! Vous savez que le mot “anges” signifie “envoyés”. Vous êtes, à votre manière, “envoyés” pour répandre la joie de Dieu et montrer, par votre chant, que la foi est plus forte que le doute, que l’espérance est plus forte que le désespoir, que l’amour est plus fort que la mort. A Noël, les anges ont été envoyés par Dieu pour dire aux bergers que le Sauveur était né, que des temps nouveaux commençaient, que la joie de quelques-uns serait la joie de tout le peuple; vous êtes déjà des milliers, mais vous avez devant vous un immense champ d’action: comme l’a voulu Monseigneur Maillet, unissez-vous pour que tous les enfants du monde chantent la paix de Dieu!

2. Euer Gesang, liebe ”Pueri Cantores“, gehört, wie das Musizieren überhaupt, zu den Grundformen menschlichen Selbstausdruckes. Musik und die menschliche Stimme sind eines der kostbarsten göttlichen Geschenke, die dem Menschen verliehen sind, um seinen tiefsten Befindlichkeiten hörbaren Ausdruck zu verleihen. Gesang und das Musizieren auf Instrumenten gehören nahezu unlösbar zur Gottesverehrung in der jüdisch-christlichen Tradition (cf. Ps Ps 5 Ps 2 Par Ps 29, 27s.; Eph Ep 5,19). Umgekehrt wird ihr Verstummen als untrügliches Zeichen der anbrechenden Endzeit verstanden (Cf. Apoc Ap 18,22). Dabei verlangt die Wahrung und Fortentwicklung des reichen Schatzes der kirchenmusikalischen Tradition, wie es das jüngste Konzil in Erinnerung gerufen hat (Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 112-121), befähigte Künstler, Sänger und Musiker, die sich mit all ihren Kräften und Fähigkeiten der Entfaltung dieser künstlerischen Ausdrucksform widmen.

Mit Fleiß und intensiver Arbeit vermögt Ihr die Schönheit dieser Ausdrucksform herauszuarbeiten; Ihr geht dabei in die Schule alter und neuer Meister, um auf anspruchsvollem fachlichem und geschmacklichem Niveau den heutigen Menschen aus dem Herzen und ebenso in ihr Innerstes hinein zu sprechen. So könnt Ihr Euch und Eure Zuhörer kraft Eurer Kunst öffnen und mithelfen, ihnen die tiefsten Dimensionen des menschlichen Seins zu erschließen.

3. Toda actividad musical, queridos “Pueri Cantores”, requiere gran entrega. Se trata de un esfuerzo gratificante que eleva el ánimo, haciéndolo más sensible a los valores espirituales, especialmente cuando con vuestros cantos, en las celebraciones litúrgicas, favorecéis en los fieles un mayor acercamiento e intimidad con Dios.

El canto sacro acerca a las personas entre sí y les hace sentirse comunidad orante. Es una forma de ministerio con el cual se ayuda a los creyentes a alabar al Señor. Para ejercerlo debidamente es necesaria no sólo una buena formación técnica sino, sobre todo, una preparación espiritual mediante una relación personal con Cristo.

Asimismo, con vuestras voces, unidas armoniosamente a las de los demás, expresáis maravillosamente alegría, arrepentimiento, confianza y amor. En efecto, el canto es un lenguaje superior que favorece la comunión de los corazones. “Quien canta reza dos veces”, decía san Agustín. Por eso, os animo a que con vuestros cantos y melodías, superando todo tipo de fronteras, avancéis por el mundo llevando a los demás un mensaje duradero de paz y fraternidad.

4. I also wish to express my gratitude to the choir directors and other musicians who devote themselves with such generosity and love to training these young singers. Your work demands long hours of practice and great patience, as you strive to foster the natural talents which God has given your pupils, encouraging them to develop and use those talents for his greater glory and for the service of others. Yours is a true mission of education which is deeply appreciated by the Church! Do not the Fathers of the Church frequently use the image of a choir when they describe the splendid variety of the gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit for building up the Body of Christ in unity and holiness? May your choirs always be schools of the Gospel, where young people learn to sing God’s praises with one voice and one heart, and learn to express the beauty and truth of the texts they sing in the tenor of their lives.

5. Carissimi “Pueri Cantores”! Sono lieto di salutare con affetto in tutti voi dei veri messaggeri di armonia e di pace. Domani la Chiesa ricorda la solennità di Maria Santissima Madre di Dio e celebra, come sapete, la “Giornata Mondiale della Pace”.Pregheremo intensamente per la pace nel mondo, invocando dalla nostra Madre celeste che ci insegni a viverla prima di tutto dentro e attorno a noi. La pace è anzitutto un dono che nasce nei cuori capaci di amare e di fare spazio agli altri nella verità, nella giustizia e nella generosità. Anche voi siete chiamati a costruire un mondo di concordia e di reciproco rispetto nelle scuole, e nei concerti ai quali prendete parte, nei doveri di ogni giorno e nelle vostre case. Siamo all’inizio dell’“Anno della Famiglia” e vorrei ripetere a voi quest’oggi quanto ho scritto ai giovani del mondo intero nel Messaggio per l’imminente “Giornata Mondiale della Pace”. “Voi, figli, proiettati verso il futuro con l’ardore della vostra giovane età, carica di progetti e di sogni, apprezzate il dono della famiglia, preparatevi alla responsabilità di costruirla o di promuoverla, a seconda delle rispettive vocazioni, nel domani che Dio vi concederà. Coltivate aspirazioni di bene e pensieri di pace” (Giovanni Paolo II, Messaggio per la celebrazione della Giornata Mondiale della Pace, 1994, 6, 8 dicembre 1993). Da adulti, potrete così testimoniare nelle vostre professioni quell’armonia che ora così degnamente riuscite ad esprimere con le vostre voci.

Con questi auspici imparto a voi, qui presenti, ai vostri insegnanti ed a tutti i vostri cari la mia Benedizione.

Buon Anno!

Speeches 1993 - Saturday, 18 December 1993