Speeches 1995 - TO THE TRIBUNAL OF THE ROMAN ROTA
Dear Cardinal Shirayanagi,
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. It is a source of deep satisfaction for me to meet the Bishops of Japan on the occasion of your ad limina visit, a visit which has the purpose of manifesting and strengthening the bonds of hierarchical communion between the Pastors of the particular Churches and the Successor of Peter in the service of the Gospel, "the source of all life for the Church" (Lumen Gentium LG 20). Through you, I greet all the Catholic faithful of your country, whom I encourage in the Lord Jesus, "in whom we have boldness and confidence of access through our faith" (Ep 3,12). In a special way over the last few weeks I have prayed for all those affected by the earthquake which devastated the area of Kobe. In union with the Church throughout the world, I have commended the victims to God and invoked his comfort and strength upon the survivors, that with the support of the whole nation they may soon overcome the effects of that terrible tragedy.
2. Still fresh in my mind is the memory of my recent pastoral visit to Asia and the Far East. In Manila, the World Youth Day clearly showed the extraordinary capacity of young people to take their own important place in the Church’s evangelizing mission. Young people are especially sensitive to the idea and reality of God’s pilgrim people, which makes its way through human history, meeting the difficulties and challenges of every age and every place, until it reaches the fullness of life in Christ (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 9). At each of the World Youth Days, young people have shown that they are ready to respond to the call of Christ. They are eager to journey together in faith along the path of life, in service to their brothers and sisters. I am confident that young Japanese Catholics too, under your guidance and leadership, will benefit from opportunities to meet one another in order to reflect together on the demands of the Gospel for their lives.
As Pastors you are conscious of the enormous challenge, in a culture such as your own, of inspiring individuals and society as a whole to give attention to the deeper questions about life and its meaning. In particular you are very aware of the difficulty of passing on the faith to the younger generation. In your pastoral activity you often meet cases in which the Christian life is a one–generation experience, in the sense that adults who are themselves converts to the faith, and who live that faith with conviction and generosity, nevertheless find it very difficult to pass it on to their children. I encourage you both to revitalize the ordinary, proven channels of catechetical instruction and Christian formation, and to find new and creative ways of involving young people more fully in the life of the ecclesial community.
3. An ever–present priority of your episcopal ministry is the renewal of the Catholic community in faith and holiness of life. This renewal is nothing other than a more fervent conversion to Christ, a deeper knowledge and love of his person and message, an ever increasing fidelity of the Church’s members to the demands of the Gospel. Beginning with the Bishops and priests, and sustained by the men and women Religious, the Catholic community in Japan is called, together with the whole Church, to prepare for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. This involves a more complete formation in the faith with the help of the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" a revitalized practice of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a reemphasizing of the importance of prayer in the Christian life, and a more intense liturgical and devotional life. The whole purpose of celebrating the Jubilee is to "rejoice in salvation" (cf. John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 16). For this reason, it is necessary for Christ’s followers to be renewed in mind and heart, that their joy may be deep, sincere and complete. Many practical aspects of this ecclesial renewal have already been identified in the National Incentive Conference for Evangelization, first held at Kyoto in 1987 and then at Nagasaki in 1993, at which meeting you paid special attention to the family as the domestic church and the primary missionary unit. I encourage you to continue to call the faithful to a heightened awareness of their personal duty to advance the Church’s mission. I would repeat St Paul’s exhortation: "Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1Co 15,58).
4. The Church’s evangelizing mission includes many aspects: preevangelization or activities aimed at arousing interest in religious questions and disposing people to hear the Christian message; proclamation of salvation in Jesus Christ; catechesis which transmits knowledge and instruction in the faith. In all of these activities the laity have their own specific role and responsibility, and it is your task and the crown of your ministry to inspire them to live fully Christian lives, so that more by example than by words alone they will bear witness to Christ before their fellow citizens. A re–reading of "Christifideles Laici" will show that the laity have a special task of demonstrating how Christian faith constitutes the only fully valid response to the questions and hopes that life poses to every individual and to society (cf. John Paul II, Christifideles Laici CL 34). "In fact", as I said to the members of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences gathered recently in Manila, "when we try to imagine the future of evangelization on this continent, do we not see it as the irradiation of a vibrant, living faith practiced and declared by individual Christians and Christian communities... which, with few exceptions, form a pusillus grex in the midst of numerically superior ‘hearers’ of the word?" (John Paul II, Address to the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, 4 [15 Jan. 1995].
5. The particular Churches over which you preside in love are undergoing a profound transformation, due to the arrival in your midst of large numbers of immigrant workers, many of whom are Catholics. The Statement of your Conference’s Committee for Social Activities, of November 5, 1992, has highlighted the many human and social problems connected with this phenomenon, as well as the pastoral opportunities which it brings. The presence among you of so many brothers and sisters from other cultural backgrounds should be seen by Japanese Catholics as an opportunity to give fuller expression to the universality and catholicity of the Church. Paradoxically, while these immigrants face great difficulties and are sometimes subjected to unjust treatment, their situation is making many people more aware of the demands of justice and the implications of respect for universal human rights.
6. On a different plane, modern Japan offers many opportunities for a serious and fruitful interreligious dialogue with the followers of other religions, especially Shintoism and Buddhism. Catholics must be concerned to promote this dialogue, both because we all have a common origin as God’s chosen creatures and a common destiny in his eternal love, and because the Church’s mission in the world is one of solicitude for the whole human family, especially in its search for truth, happiness and solidarity with all who suffer or are in want. Of vital importance is the dialogue of life between Catholics and the followers of other religious traditions, a dialogue which springs naturally from the presence of the Church’s members in the social sphere, primarily in education, social works and communications. The laity in particular should be conscious of the importance of their witness and example in fostering understanding and cooperation among all people of good will. On your part, as Pastors, there is need for further reflection on the difficult but vital questions raised by the inculturation of the faith. It is a question of continuing along the lines of what you have already taught in the booklet entitled Guidelines for Catholics with Regard to Ancestors and the Dead.
Perhaps interreligious dialogue is the proper context in which the Church in Japan can give attention to the widespread "crisis of civilization" which, as I wrote in the Apostolic Letter "Tertio Millennio Adveniente", is becoming more and more apparent in societies which are highly developed technologically but which are interiorly impoverished by the tendency to forget God or to keep him at a distance (John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 52). Many people are beginning to reconsider their single–minded devotion to economic success at all costs, realizing its price in human and spiritual terms. In your quinquennial reports you have referred to the spiritual emptiness which prompts people to seek new religious experiences, sometimes in groups which do not have a solid basis in Christianity. Herein lies a twofold challenge for the Catholic community: to be easily accessible and available to those who show a sincere interest in the Church’s message, and to co–operate with other believers in building the civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice and liberty, which find their full realization in Christ.
7. Fifty years have passed since Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by the most lethal weapons ever used. Even today the scars of those terrible moments are still perceptible in the lives of many Japanese. I am sure that the Church in Japan will help to keep alive among your fellow–citizens, as they remember those sad events, the need to continue to work for a world committed to peace, and therefore to justice and solidarity in relations between peoples and nations. As I said when I visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in 1981, "to remember the past is to commit oneself to the future... (in the) conviction that man who wages war can also make peace" (John Paul II, Address at the Peace Memorial of Hiroshima, 1-2, [25 Feb. 1981]). With the persistence of tensions and conflicts in various parts of the world, the international community must never forget what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as a warning and an incentive to develop truly effective and peaceful means of settling tensions and disputes. Fifty years after the Second World War, the leaders of nations cannot become complacent but rather should renew their commitment to disarmament and to the banishment of all nuclear weapons. It is more than ever urgently necessary for the international community to devise a workable system of negotiation, even of arbitration, on the basis of a universal respect for human life and for the dignity and rights of every human being.
8. Dear Brother Bishops, these are some of the thoughts which your visit suggests. I cordially urge you to go on serving the Church with zeal and dedication. I ask you to take my warmest greetings to your priests, your closest co–operators in the pastoral ministry. I express my prayerful support of the men and women Religious who, through their witness and their various apostolates, play such an important part in the life of your particular Churches. I pray that the whole Japanese Catholic community will become more conscious of the need to pray for and to foster vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. In all things "be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love" (1Co 16,13-14). With my Apostolic Blessing.
Tuesday, 14 March 1995
Dear Friends in Christ,
1. It gives me great pleasure to meet the participants in the Conference on Catholic–Lutheran Relations which has been taking place at the International Bridgettine Centre at Farfa. I am happy to greet Cardinal Ratzinger and Cardinal Cassidy, Bishop Jonas Jonson of the Lutheran Church of Sweden, the members of the Scientific Board of the Farfa Centre with its chairman Professor Peder Nörgaard–Höjen, and Mother Tekla, Abbess General of the Order of the Most Holy Saviour. For three days you have been reflecting on the Catholic–Lutheran dialogue as it has developed during the last three decades since the end of the Second Vatican Council, on the progress made so far, on the challenges still to be faced, and on future prospects.
2. Certainly we must be grateful to Almighty God that during the last thirty years much has been done to overcome the barriers of separation and to strengthen the substantial, constitutive bonds of unity already existing between us. This is the fruit of theological dialogue and practical co–operation. Your Conference has been an opportunity to examine the specific achievements of this process of rapprochement. A very fundamental stage of dialogue was reached when the doctrine of justification became the central issue, and we must look forward with confidence to the document on which Lutherans and Catholics are now hard at work and which aims at expressing a common understanding of this central theme of our faith.
3. All these developments are a strong indication of the fact that what we have in common is much more than what divides us. And yet, we are all conscious of how difficult it can be in practice to give their just weight to the realities which unite us and to put aside deeply rooted habits of emphasizing the points, important as they are, which continue to stand in the way of full, visible unity. In view of the approaching new Christian Millennium, I wish to encourage you to redouble your efforts to advance along the path of authentic ecumenical understanding, "so that we can celebrate the Great Jubilee, if not completely united, at least much closer to overcoming the divisions of the second millennium" (John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 34).
4. Our meeting today gives me the opportunity to thank all of you, and all those who at different levels and in various ways are working to achieve this goal, putting their time, ideas and theological knowledge at the service of Christian unity. When we look at what has already been achieved, we have every reason to face the future with confidence grounded in faith. Such confidence is justified because we trust that the Lord himself who has begun the good work within us will bring it to completion (cf. Phil. Ph 1,6). May his peace and love be with you!
Thursday, 16 March 1995
I am happy to extend a warm welcome to the members of the Europe–Middle East Regional Committee of the United Bible Societies. The fact that you are gathered here in Rome gives us this opportunity to meet and to reaffirm the importance of the service you render to the Biblical apostolate.
Your presence brings to mind what the Second Vatican Council said regarding the role of the Word of God in relation to Christian unity. The Council’s Decree on Ecumenism tells us that the Scriptures are "a precious instrument in the mighty hand of God for attaining to that unity which the Saviour holds out to all humanity" (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 21). Since the preparation and distribution of suitable editions of the Bible is a prerequisite to the hearing of the Word, the Catholic Church willingly co–operates with you in this field. The joint publication, Guidelines for Inter–confessional Co–operation in Translating the Bible, confirms and illustrates this. The good relations which exist between the United Bible Societies and the Catholic Biblical Federation is also very encouraging. In Europe and the Middle East, the area of immediate concern to your Committee, the participation of Orthodox Christians in the United Bible Societies’ activities is a most significant and promising step forward on the path of ecumenical cooperation. For all that has been achieved so far, let us give thanks to God who "spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere" (cf. 2Co 2,14).
It is almost a year since the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity published the revised Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism.There we read: "Veneration of the Scriptures is a fundamental bond of unity between Christians... Everything that can be done to make members of the Churches and ecclesial Communities read the Word of God, and to do that together when possible... reinforces this bond of unity that already unites them, helps them to be open to the unifying action of God and strengthens the common witness to the saving Word of God which they give to the world" (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism, 183)
As we approach the Third Christian Millennium, the immense needs of humanity impel us to build on the solid rock of divine revelation, the Gospel, which is "the power of God leading everyone who believes in it to salvation" (Rm 1,16). Since the lack of unity among Christians continues to hinder the growth of God’s Kingdom, we must work all the harder to bring about the realization of the Lord’s prayer "that all may be one" (Jn 17,21). The same Holy Spirit who urges us to listen to the Word of God with reverence and to proclaim it confidently (cf. Dei Verbum DV 1) is also the One who kindles in the hearts of Christ’s disciples an ever more intense yearning for unity. May that be our goal, our prayer and our certain hope! May God abundantly bless you and the dedicated work which you do to spread his Word!
Friday, 17 March 1995
Dear Friends in Christ,
1. It is always a pleasure for me to meet the members of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications on the occasion of your Plenary Meeting I greet your President Emeritus, Cardinal Deskur, and I thank Archbishop Foley for his words of presentation. Your Council, as one of the first visible fruits of the Second Vatican Council, merits particular gratitude on my part. The Pontifical Council has rendered a great service to the ministry of successive Popes during the last three decades by making it possible for papal teaching and the pastoral initiatives of the Pope to reach a wide and international audience, Catholic and otherwise. But even more significantly, appreciation is due for the guidance and incentive which the Pontifical Council gives to individual Catholics and institutions involved in the vast and complex world of the communications media.
Indeed, since the Church exists to proclaim the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ, she cannot fail to pay close attention to the marvellous instruments of mass communication which human genius has produced and which, because they have an extraordinary bearing on the human spirit, can and should be highly effective means of spiritual and cultural advancement (cf. Inter mirifica IM 1).
2. This year, a significant anniversary offers elements of reflection for your Plenary Meeting. I refer to the centenary of cinematography. As you are well aware, this centenary provided the theme for this year's World Communications Day: "Cinema: communicator of culture and of values". This commemoration has special importance for you, not only because your Council has responsibility for the Vatican Film Library but also and especially because you have a specific role in fostering the Church's presence in the world of cinema.
Since the first public audience in Paris viewed the moving pictures prepared by the Lumière brothers in December 1895, the film industry has become a universal medium exercising a profound influence on the development of people's attitudes and choices, and possessing a remarkable ability to influence public opinion and culture across all social and political frontiers. The Church's overall judgment of this art form, as of all genuine art, is positive and hopeful. We have seen that masterpieces of the art of film making can be moving challenges to the human spirit, capable of dealing in depth with subjects of great meaning and importance from an ethical and spiritual point of view. Unfortunately though, some cinema productions merit criticism and disapproval, even severe criticism and disapproval. This is the case when films distort the truth, oppress genuine freedom, or show scenes of sex and violence offensive to human dignity. It is a fallacy for film-makers to do this in the name of free artistic expression.
Freedom is an indivisible human good; it cannot be invoked to justify moral evil or absolve degrading behaviour, particularly in view of the uncritical way in which most people accept the cinema's powerful and persuasive influence. In encouraging and recognizing films which strengthen and uplift the human spirit and in discouraging the production and viewing of films which depict and appear to sanction human depravity, the Church is not seeking to limit creativity but to liberate creative talent and challenge it to pursue the highest ideals of this art form.
3. Genuine art is about truth, goodness and beauty. Its purpose must be to serve the integral well-being and development of those to whom it is directed. I remember the words which the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council addressed to artists at its closing session: "This world in which we live needs beauty in order not to sink into despair. It is beauty, like truth, which brings joy to people's hearts and is that precious fruit which resists the wear and tear of time, which unites generations and makes them share things in admiration". While we must hope that the centenary of the cinema will somehow cause the film industry worldwide to reflect on its potential and assume its serious responsibilities.
The Church, which has always been a patron of the best in art and culture, has an obligation to foster the moral quality of what is perhaps the most immediately influential of all art forms. You, as members of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, as well as the members of the international Catholic communications organizations, have the task and responsibility of encouraging and promoting the moral vision which gives genuine content and inspiring expression to this art. In this way the cinema will be a more and more positive factor in the development of individuals and a stimulus for the conscience of society as a whole, as it has been in the case of many worthwhile productions during the first hundred years of its existence.
4. Your Plenary Meeting is also focusing on other important questions, in particular the role and responsibilities of dedicated lay men and women involved in press, radio, cinema and television, as well as in the swiftly evolving sector of electronic communications. A vital part of your efforts must be directed to encouraging and guiding such Catholic professionals, and to helping the Church to minister to them in an ever more effective way as they face the daily challenge of being true communicators of culture and of values.
5. In concluding, I note that this year also marks the twentieth year of the worldwide telecasts via satellite of papal ceremonies at Christmas and Easter, organized by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and made possible through the generosity of the Knights of Columbus. In expressing my own gratitude, I pray that God will reward the efforts of all who have supported this important apostolate.
May Almighty God strengthen your resolve to serve the Gospel of life and love through your activities in the sphere of social communications. May your efforts bring forth abundant fruits of truth, goodness and solidarity in that particular area of the Church's evangelizing mission. I commend you all to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, and of your Patron Saint Francis de Sales. As a token of my esteem and spiritual closeness, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing.
I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed New Zealand’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See. I ask you kindly to assure the Governor General, Prime Minister and all New Zealanders of my continued esteem and good will. The defence of human rights, the promotion of peace and generous assistance to the world’s needy peoples mark your nation’s life and its contribution to the international community, and I pray that these noble traditions will continue to flourish and bear fruit.
You have noted the importance of the United Nations in restoring and securing peace wherever it is threatened. From that Organization’s beginning fifty years ago, the Holy See regarded it with hope, as a means of strengthening understanding and co–operation among the world’s peoples. Now, as it celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of its founding, we cannot fail to want the Organization to become ever more the instrument par excellence for promoting and safeguarding peace (cf. John Paul II, Address to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, 9 [9 Jan. 1995]). The achievement of this goal requires a firm commitment on the part of its member States to guarantee, in principle and in practice, genuine respect for human dignity and human rights. This is the foundation which can ensure that the human person is always the focus and the end of all social institutions (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 25). In fact, peaceful and democratic life within and between States can only be built on the recognition of the transcendent dignity of the human person as the subject of inviolable rights.
Your Excellency has also mentioned New Zealand’s interest in ecological issues and listed some of the initiatives it has taken both at home and in the international forum to protect the environment. Individuals and nations must be committed to exercising responsible stewardship over the planet which the Creator has placed at the service of man’s integral development. The widespread destruction or misuse of natural resources, which in some places has reached the level of a veritable ecological crisis, constitutes a problem with an inescapably moral character. The moral question arises from the fact that "there is an order in the universe which must be respected, and that the human person, endowed with the capability of choosing freely, has a grave responsibility to preserve this order for the well–being of future generations" (John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1990, 15 [8 Dec. 1989]). This aspect must always be taken into account if effective solutions are to be found.
Another matter on the international horizon which is still causing great concern, and which also has profound moral implications, is the continuing use of immense resources, economic and technological, in the production and sale of ever more lethal arms. New Zealand’s stance with regard to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is well known and esteemed within the international community. Unfortunately, despite the important changes that have come about in global politics, we still see the transfer of significant quantities of sophisticated arms to highly volatile regions, often in violation of international conventions. More than ever a lofty moral vision and patient determination are needed, if ways are to be found of preventing tensions from degenerating into destruction and bloodshed, as is sadly happening in so many parts of the world.
Your presence, Mr Ambassador, cannot but bring to mind the beloved Catholic community in New Zealand. Following the teaching and example of her Divine Founder, who came "not to be served but to serve" (Mc 10,45), the Church in your country, as an integral part of her spiritual mission, is extensively engaged in works of education, healthcare and social service. By teaching the value and transcendent destiny of every human life, she helps to strengthen the very basis of society’s existence as a community firmly oriented and committed to the common good of all its members. She offers the insights of her social doctrine and the wisdom of her moral teaching as means which can effectively contribute to consolidating society in justice and in harmony between peoples of different ethnic origins and religious persuasions.
Mr Ambassador, I offer you cordial best wishes as you begin your mission as New Zealand’s Representative to the Holy See, and I assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia will gladly welcome you and assist you in carrying out your lofty responsibilities. May Almighty God bless you and all your fellow citizens.
It is my pleasure to welcome you today to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which His Excellency President Levon Ter–Petrossian appoints you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Armenia to the Holy See. I am grateful for the greetings you bring from the President, and I would ask you to relay to the leaders and people of Armenia the assurance of my prayers for the harmony and prosperity of your country in this new stage of its national life. This is a significant occasion, as you are the first Ambassador of the newly independent Republic of Armenia to be officially accredited to the Holy See; in a special way, therefore, I wish to offer you my cordial good wishes for the success of your mission.
The Catholic Church looks with great respect at the long Christian tradition of the Armenian people and nation, which in the year 2001, as Your Excellency has pointed out, will celebrate the 1700th anniversary of their acceptance of Christianity. As the Armenian Church prepares to elect the new Catholicos of All Armenia, my thoughts turn to the meeting of my predecessor Pope Paul VI with Armenian Catholicos Vasken I. In that historic moment of common prayer and fraternal dialogue, Paul VI marvelled at how completely the Christian faith, "the light of the Gospel", had permeated Armenian culture, serving as a source of unfailing courage for the Armenian people as they endured numerous trials (cf. Paul VI, Meeting with the Armenian Catholicos Vasken I in the Sistine Chapel, 9 May1970).
The memory of the tragedy visited upon your people at the close of the last century and in the first decades of our present century, as well as the awareness of similar atrocities being committed in various parts of the world today, must serve to strengthen the conviction that violence is never a valid way of solving the disputes which arise between peoples; force can never provide lasting solutions of justice and peace.
It is in this light, and with a heavy heart, that I turn my thoughts to the present confrontation between your country and the Republic of Azerbaijan concerning the region of Nagorny–Karabakh. I express the hope that both parties will spare no effort in arriving at a negotiated settlement and that everything will be done to ensure an immediate response to the urgent humanitarian needs of the affected populations. The conflicts now in course in the Caucasus region, as well as those in the Balkans, pose serious questions regarding what means may be used to ensure harmonious coexistence between different peoples. Clearly the way of negotiation, with the help of international institutions if necessary, is the only way to ensure that the legitimate demands and aspirations of all parties will be given their proper weight and attention.
As the Armenian people and Government press on with the democratic reforms and economic restructuring which their refound independence requires, the Catholic Church too will continue to offer whatever assistance and support is possible in accordance with her specific nature and mission. Just as the Church was able to respond to the disastrous 1988 earthquake in Armenia with humanitarian aid, including the donation of the Hospital "Redemptoris Mater" in Ashotzk, so she wishes to contribute to the life of the nation through her works in the fields of education, healthcare and social service. This is the Church’s way of fulfilling her mission of service in the world, working for the transformation of society according to the teachings and example of her Divine Founder.
Accordingly, it is not the Church’s desire that she should enjoy special privileges from the Armenian Government, but that she should enjoy the freedom to act according to the Gospel mandate which has been given her. This involves the freedom to organize herself at the local and national levels in order better to meet the spiritual needs of the Catholic faithful and to be able to extend compassion and help where required. The faithful too must be free to form communities of faith and service under the local Church leadership, while a just solution should be sought to the Armenian Catholic community’s existence in relation to the law on religious freedom and according to international standards.
Speeches 1995 - TO THE TRIBUNAL OF THE ROMAN ROTA