Speeches 1995 - Pontifical Palace of Castel Gondolfo
Monday, 28 August 1995
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. I n the love of our Lord Jesus Christ I welcome you – the Pastors of the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Bhopal, Calcutta, Cuttack–Bhubaneswar, Delhi and Ranchi. Your visit "ad Limina Apostolorum" expresses the profound communion of charity and peace which links the particular Churches in India to this Apostolic See, hallowed by the martyrdom of Sts Peter and Paul. My recent Encyclical Letter "Ut Unum Sint" describes the mission of the Successor of Peter within the Episcopal College as that of a "sentinel" who confirms his brother Bishops so that "the true voice of Christ the Shepherd may be heard in all the particular Churches" (John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint UUS 94) I therefore thank the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for giving us this occasion to experience our "partnership in the Gospel" (Ph 1,5), in order to draw strength and encouragement from one another according to "the immeasurable riches of his grace" (Ep 2,7).
2. From her birth in the Upper Room at Pentecost, the Church is the visible sign and effective instrument of the communion of God with humanity. As Pastors of God’s Church in India you are called to perpetuate in your local Communities the grace of Pentecost and to foster from generation to generation the fidelity to the Gospel, the fraternal life and ardent prayer which characterized the Apostolic community (cf. Acts Ac 2,42). After two thousand years, the whole Church is still called to renew herself in the image of the first community of disciples. As I have written in the Apostolic Letter “Tertio Millennio Adveniente”, the best preparation for the new millennium must be a renewed commitment to apply, as faithfully as possible, the teachings of Vatican II to the life of every individual and of the whole Church (cf. John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 20) Herein lies the programme of our ministry, individually and as members of the College of Bishops. The Council contains riches of doctrine and spirituality, and directives for formation, pastoral activity and the practical organization of Church life, which must continue to produce many positive results of evangelization and service.
The years between now and the Great Jubilee should serve to incite all the Church’s members, in a special way her ministers, to open their hearts and minds to what the Holy Spirit is doing to lead us "into all the truth" (Jn 16,13).
3. One of the great achievements of the Second Vatican Council was the strengthening of episcopal collegiality, "that privileged expression of the pastoral service carried out by Bishops in communion with the Successor of Peter" (John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 19). The Church in India is especially graced because in it the traditions of East and West embrace, proclaiming before the world "the divinely revealed and undivided heritage of the universal Church" (John Paul II, Orientale Lumen, 1). I am convinced that the witness of harmony and communion between the different Rites in India is an important part of the realization of God’s mysterious and gracious will to draw ever more people of your great nation to the light of the Gospel. Whatever Rite the Bishop belongs to, he is first and foremost a son of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. For this reason, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, the principal forum through which your collegiality is exercised, is not weakened but enriched by bringing together the Bishops of the various Rites.
When misunderstandings or difficulties arise, solutions must be sought according to the mind of Christ, a mind which St Paul tells us is free from self–interest and pride, ever ready to look first to the welfare of others (cf. Phil. Ph 2,3-5). May the words of the First Letter of Peter echo in the hearts of all those who carry the burden of the episcopal office: "Have unity of spirit, sympathy, love of the brethren, a tender heart and a humble mind" (1P 3,8). I have every confidence that all the Bishops will realize that they are linked one to the other and that each one, in concert with his fellow Bishops, is responsible for the whole Church (cf. Christus Dominus CD 6).
4. In the beautiful expression of St Ignatius of Antioch, the Bishop is "the living image of God the Father" (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad. Trall., 3.1). You express this spiritual fatherhood most intensely by conferring the gift of the Holy Spirit in Ordination, thereby associating priests, both diocesan and religious, with your presbyterate. The Second Vatican Council affirms that "on account of this communion in the same priesthood and ministry, the Bishop should regard priests as his brothers and friends" (Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 7). In order to deepen the bonds of communion, you must take care to show genuine spiritual leadership, openness, compassion and co–operation with your brother priests, who share the burden of the ministry with you.
A clear sign of your local Churches’ vitality is the harvest of priestly and religious vocations which many of you are experiencing. Since this is a great blessing but also a responsibility, I can only encourage you to select with care the candidates whom you promote to the priesthood, to watch over the doctrinal soundness of the programme of studies, and to ensure the spiritual and pastoral formation of your seminarians. You will also invite Religious Superiors to do the same in relation to the members of their Institutes. While generously assisted by many others, the Bishop has a personal responsibility for the priestly formation of candidates from his own Diocese, a responsibility which he cannot neglect.
It is particularly important that future priests understand clearly and realistically the value of celibate chastity and its relation to the priestly ministry. In this way they will learn to "appreciate, love and live celibacy according to its true nature and according to its real purpose, that is for evangelical, spiritual and pastoral motives" (John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 50). Where a secularistic and materialistic view of life is advancing, all the Church’s ministers are called to be "signs of contradiction", particularly through the practise of the virtue of penance; this includes discipline, mortification, self–sacrifice and generosity towards others. Shared simplicity of life brings joy to the presbyterate and, when accompanied by mutual trust, facilitates the willing obedience which every priest owes to his Bishop. The unity of a local Church is strengthened when episcopal authority is exercised as selfless service, and priestly obedience is practised as ready co–operation.
5. The lay faithful too look to their Bishops for real and effective spiritual leadership. In the words of the Council: "In exercising his office of father and pastor, a Bishop should stand in the midst of his people as one who serves. Let him be a good shepherd who knows his sheep and whose sheep know him. Let him be a true father who excels in the spirit of love and solicitude for all" (Christus Dominus CD 16). Effective pastoral ministry requires a profound appreciation of the fact that the Spirit endows the members of the Church with different charisms "for building up the body of Christ" (Ep 4,12). Each has a gift of the Spirit to share; each has need of the gifts of others (cf. 1Co 12,4-31) I invite you and your priests to pray and work closely with the lay faithful so that each one will bring to fruition the good work which God has begun in him (cf. Phil. Ph 1,6).
6. Communion with God and others is intensified in your Churches when the Gospel is proclaimed with fidelity and the Sacraments are celebrated with faith and reverence, according to the liturgical norms in effect. Through these means Christ enables his Church to communicate the power of his Paschal Mystery. The Eucharist – the Sacrament of unity – is the heart of every parish’s life. This presence of the Lord in the community is "the living source for its upbuilding and the sacramental bond of its being in full communion with the whole Church" (John Paul II, Christifideles Laici CL 26). No one who "eats this Bread and drinks this Cup" can fail to hear the call to holiness and to the apostolate which lies at the core of the Gospel message.
Furthermore, at the Sacred Banquet the meaning of differences in race, nationality, culture, caste and social status is revealed in its true light. Here the "oneness in Christ Jesus" which characterizes all those who have been baptized (cf. Ga 3,27-28) is verified and deepened. Thus the Church resolutely holds that discrimination not only undermines the fundamental equality of all those created in God’s image and likeness and redeemed by his Son’s Blood, but also compromises the communion of those joined in the Body of Christ. It is necessary for us to name the evil of discrimination wherever it exists and to see it as a "structure of sin". Such "structures" are always "rooted in personal sin, and thus always linked to the concrete acts of individuals who introduce these structures, consolidate them and make them difficult to remove" (John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 36). Only a firm commitment to conversion and prayer for a "new heart" can eradicate the lingering influence of forms of discrimination within the ecclesial body.
7. Nourished by the Eucharist, Indian Catholics are called to bear witness to God’s love for all. True solidarity with one’s neighbour is rooted in the conviction that Christ has united himself with each and every person by means of his redemptive Incarnation (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 22). The Virgin Mary, who was so deeply imbued with the spirit of the Lord’s poor (cf. Lk. Lc 1,46-53), guides the Church into a growing awareness that "the truth about God who saves, the truth about God who is the source of every gift, cannot be separated from his love of preference for the poor and humble" (John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater RMA 37). I encourage your efforts to ensure that the vast network of Catholic educational and health institutions in India do effectively serve the marginalized and the most needy among you.
It is my fervent hope that the Catholics of the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Bhopal, Calcutta, Cuttack–Bhubaneswar, Delhi and Ranchi will continue to show that "love of preference for the poor" which is "a special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity, to which the whole tradition of the Church bears witness" (John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 42). When Christians practise the virtue of charity in the specific form of solidarity with the "least of the brethren", who bear the indestructible image of Christ (cf. Mt. Mt 25,46), the gratuity of that love calls forth God’s abundant blessings upon the local Church.
8. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate: When you return to your Dioceses, I ask you to convey my cordial greetings to all the priests, religious and lay people with whom and for whom you carry out your ministry. All together you are building up the Church of God in India, preparing for the great springtime of Christianity which lies ahead in the Third Millennium, and which will be an important theme of the Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of Bishops now being prepared. I entrust you to Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, and pray that through her maternal intercession the whole Family of God in India will be ready to meet the Lord who is coming. With my Apostolic Blessing.
Tuesday, 29 August 1995
Dear Mrs Glendon and Members of the Delegation of the Holy See
to the Fourth World Conference on Women,
As you prepare to leave for Beijing, I am happy to meet you, the Head of the Delegation of the Holy See to the Fourth World Conference on Women, and the other Members of the Delegation. Through you, I extend my best wishes and prayers to the Secretary General of the Conference, to the participant nations and organizations, as well as to the authorities of the host country, the People’s Republic of China.
My wishes are for the success of this Conference in its aim to guarantee all the women of the world "equality, development and peace", through full respect for their equal dignity and for their inalienable human rights, so that they can make their full contribution to the good of society.
Over the past months, on various occasions, I have drawn attention to the positions of the Holy See and to the teaching of the Catholic Church on the dignity, rights and responsibilities of women in today’s society: in the family, in the workplace, in public life. I have drawn inspiration from the life and witness of great women within the Church throughout the centuries who have been pioneers within society, as mothers, as workers, as leaders in the social and political fields, in the caring professions and as thinkers and spiritual leaders.
The Secretary General of the United Nations has asked the participating nations at the Beijing Conference to announce concrete commitments for the improvement of the condition of women. Having looked at the various needs of women in today’s world, the Holy See wishes to make a specific option regarding such a commitment: an option in favour of girls and young women.
Therefore, I call all Catholic caring and educational institutions to adopt a concerted and priority strategy directed to girls and young women, especially to the poorest, over the coming years.
It is disheartening to note that in today’s world, the simple fact of being a female, rather than a male, can reduce the likelihood of being born or of surviving childhood; it can mean receiving less adequate nutrition and health care, and it can increase the chance of remaining illiterate and having only limited access, or none at all, even to primary education.
Investment in the care and education of girls, as an equal right, is a fundamental key to the advancement of women. It is for this reason that today:
– I appeal to all the educational services linked to the Catholic Church to guarantee equal access for girls, to educate boys to a sense of women’s dignity and worth, to provide additional possibilities for girls who have suffered disadvantage, and to identify and remedy the reasons which cause girls to drop out of education at an early stage;
– I appeal to those institutions which are involved in health care, especially primary health care, to make improved basic health care and education for girls a hallmark of their service;
– I appeal to the Church’s charitable and development organizations to give priority in the allocation of resources and personnel to the special needs of girls;
– I appeal to Congregations of Religious Sisters, in fidelity to the special charism and mission given to them by their Founders, to identify and reach out to those girls and young women who are most on the fringes of society, who have suffered most, physically and morally, who have the least opportunity. Their work of healing, caring and educating, and of reaching to the poorest is needed in every part of the world today;
– I appeal to Catholic Universities and centres of higher education to ensure that, in the preparation of future leaders in society, they acquire a special sensitivity to the concerns of young women;
– I appeal to women and women’s organizations within the Church and active in society to establish patterns of solidarity so that their leadership and guidance can be put at the service of girls and young women.
As followers of Jesus Christ, who identifies himself with the least among children, we cannot be insensitive to the needs of disadvantaged girls, especially those who are victims of violence and a lack of respect for their dignity.
In the spirit of those great Christian women who have enlightened the life of the Church throughout the centuries and who have often called the Church back to her essential mission and service, I make an appeal to the women of the Church today to assume new forms of leadership in service and I appeal to all the institutions of the Church to welcome this contribution of women.
I appeal to all men in the Church to undergo, where necessary, a change of heart and to implement, as a demand of their faith, a positive vision of women. I ask them to become more and more aware of the disadvantages to which women, and especially girls, have been exposed and to see where the attitude of men, their lack of sensitivity or lack of responsibility may be at the root.
Once again, through you, I wish to express my good wishes to all those who have responsibility for the Beijing Conference and to assure them of my support, as well as that of the Holy See and the institutions of the Catholic Church, for a renewed commitment of all to the good of the world’s women.
Saturday, 16 September 1995
Dear President Mandela,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear South African Friends,
1. From the depths of my heart I thank Almighty God for bringing me once more to Africa, a Continent which holds a central place in my affections and concerns as Bishop of Rome and Successor of the Apostle Peter. I come to South Africa with profound esteem for its peoples and their cultures. I am fully confident that the bonds of friendship between the Republic of South Africa and the Holy See, which last year led to the establishment of diplomatic relations between us, will continue to grow and intensify. I also hope some day soon to come back on a Pastoral Visit to the Catholic communities in those places which I will not now be able to visit.
Everywhere we look, Africa is being transformed. We do not yet know where change will lead. We do know that the hopes and expectations of millions of human beings cannot be ignored. They constitute a moral challenge for us all. That is why my present journey holds particular significance, first for myself and the members of the Catholic Church, but also, I would hope, for all those who have Africa’s wellbeing at heart. The purpose of my visit in fact is to present the results of the Special Session for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, held last year in Rome. The Synod recommits the Church to working with all the means at her disposal for the spiritual and full human advancement of Africa’s peoples. The Catholic community throughout Africa will seek to be inwardly renewed in order to reach out in love to everyone, in the firm belief that by his Incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every human being (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 22).
2. Today my journey brings me to South Africa, to the new South Africa, a nation firmly set on the course of reconciliation and harmony among all its citizens. At the beginning of my visit, I wish to pay tribute to you, Mr. President, who, after being a silent and suffering "witness" of your people’s yearning for true liberation, now shoulder the burden of inspiring and challenging everyone to succeed in the task of national reconciliation and reconstruction. I remember our meeting at the Vatican in June 1990, shortly after your release from prison. In your kind words of welcome today I recognize the same spirit which sustained you then in the ideal of achieving a better life for the peoples of this Nation. To you and to former President F. W. de Klerk, joint recipients of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, we must all be grateful that you acted with wisdom and courage. And let us commend to God in our prayers all those who have worked and suffered and continue to strive for that day when everyone’s dignity will be fully acknowledged, respected and safeguarded throughout this land and all over this Continent.
3. South Africa refers to itself as a "Rainbow Nation", indicating the diversity of races, ethnic groups, languages, culture and religions which characterize it. And you have the extremely rich concept of UBUNTU to guide you, according to the saying that "People are made people through other people". Certainly, the Government of National Unity’s commitment to bring all the citizens of this land together in a united, fair and more prosperous society is shared by South Africa’s Religious leaders, Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu and Traditional, all of whom I greet with cordial esteem. By insisting on the things which unite, all believers can "build together", using their spiritual resources to keep alive the flame of hope on the horizon of humanity’s march towards a brighter future.
4. With particular joy I greet my Brother Bishops and the faithful of the Catholic Church of the whole southern part of this Continent. It has been my hope and prayer to celebrate our faith together here in the Republic of South Africa, and to encourage you in the task of helping to heal the wounds of past injustices and educate the moral conscience of individuals and peoples concerning the demands of their human dignity and of Christian service.
5. [Translation from Dutch]:
(I gladly extend the hand of friendship to the representatives of the other Christian Churches and Communities in Southern Africa. We must do all we can to ensure that the intense ecumenical contacts and cooperation already existing between us will continue to be a source of deep and abiding harmony and, at the deeper level of our common faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, will make us ever more convincing signs and instruments of the unity of the whole human family and of its intimate communion with God (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 1). Wherever I go I appeal to religious leaders and all men and women of good will to foster that understanding and dialogue which alone make it possible for us to know each other, to break down prejudices, and successfully to meet the serious challenges of our times).
6. The epochal change for which South Africa is striving will require the best that each one can give in the service of the common good. It will demand much hard work and many sacrifices. Eventual success will ultimately be a gift from the Almighty, the Lord of life and of human history. May He sustain you, President Mandela, with the Vice-Presidents and the members of your Government and all your fellow-citizens, in the great task before you! I make my own the prayer of the Psalm: "May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!" (Ps 29 :11).
God bless you all!
Sunday, 17 September 1995
Dear Brother Bishops,
Priests, Deacons and Seminarians,
Dear Religious Sisters and Brothers,
Members of the Laity,
Dear African Friends,
1. I lift my heart in praise and thanksgiving to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for bringing me to Africa in order to celebrate the providential gift that is the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. Here in Johannesburg in South Africa, in union with the whole Church in this southern part of the Continent, we are meeting to promulgate the Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in Africa" which contains the proposals made by the Synod Fathers at the end of the working session in Rome in April and May 1994. With the apostolic authority which belongs to the Successor of Peter, I present to the whole Church of God in Africa and Madagascar, the insights, reflections and resolutions of the Synod. I do so with the same spiritual joy and trust in the Lord which inspired the Bishops to call it "the Synod of Resurrection, the Synod of Hope" (Synod of Bishops, Special Assembly for Africa, Nuntius ad Populum Dei, 2: L'Osservatore Romano, 8 May 1994, p. 4). They knew in whom they had placed their trust: "Christ our Hope is alive; we shall live!" (Ibid.). Yes, Africa shall live!
2. After two thousand years, the proclamation of the Gospel of salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ remains the overriding and all-embracing objective of the Church’s life and mission. In the changing circumstances of time and place, the Holy Spirit guides and renews the ecclesial community to make known and communicate the newness of life in Christ Jesus (cf. Rom. Rm 6,4). The inspiration and renewal which the Spirit brought to the whole Church through the Second Vatican Council, he has now further clarified and enhanced for the special circumstances of Africa through the Synod. The Spirit impels the Church in Africa to be "a Church of mission which itself becomes missionary" (John Paul II, Ecclesia in Africa ).
In reflecting on the power of the Gospel to save (cf. Rom. Rm 1,16), the Bishops of the Synod for Africa have focused on truly important questions and have worked together to find appropriate responses. In this sense the fruits of the Synod set out in the Apostolic Exhortation constitute a kind of pastoral plan of action for the Church in Africa as she seeks to be faithful to her vocation and mission, and as she serves suffering humanity in this fluid and turbulent period of history.
3. At the Synod, the Bishops testified to the resilient faith and steadfast commitment of their communities. They described in vivid terms the conditions in which they and their helpers daily tend to the pastoral care of their people. Often, their personal experience obliged them to speak of the "particularly worrying situations" in which most Africans live: "the widespread deterioration in the standard of living, the insufficiency of means for educating the young, the lack of elementary health and social services with the resulting persistence of endemic diseases, the spread of the terrible scourge of AIDS, the heavy and often unbearable burden of international debt, the horror of fratricidal wars fomented by unscrupulous arms trafficking, the shameful and pitiable spectacle of refugees and displaced persons" (John Paul II, Ecclesia in Africa ). The Synod’s moral judgment on this situation is both compassionate and severe. Like Christ who had compassion on the multitudes, the Synod heard the anguished cry of the powerless and defenceless. Like Christ who showed his indignation at the money-changers in the Temple, the Bishops denounced the evil policies and actions which deprive so many of their brothers and sisters of their material and spiritual well-being, of their human dignity and rights, and not infrequently, of life itself.
The Synod Fathers clearly understood that the situation of dehumanization and oppression affecting their peoples presents the ecclesial community with a crisis – in the original sense of a "judgment" – and a challenge: the crisis of conversion, holiness and integrity, in order to be a credible witness; the challenge of developing the full potential of the Gospel message of divine adoption in order to free the men and women of our time from sin and the "structures of sin".
4. It is true that Africa has a long, sad history of exploitation at the hands of others (cf. John Paul II, Eucharistic Concelebration for the Opening of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Africa, 7 [10 April 1994]). Today this situation continues in new forms, including the crushing burden of debts, unjust trading conditions, the dumping of harmful wastes, and the overly demanding conditions imposed by structural adjustment programmes. Not only the Church, but also many international bodies, including the United Nations Summit for Social Development held in Copenhagen in March of this year, have called for aid programmes and economic policies to promote real social progress and development, through efforts to eradicate poverty, stimulate employment and help all sectors of society to take a more active part in the public debate on policies.
There is one other factor affecting Africa which needs serious attention: the international arms trade. I make my own the recommendations of the Synod, appealing to countries that sell arms to Africa to desist, and asking African governments "to move away from huge military expenditures and put the emphasis on the education, health and well-being of their people" (cf. John Paul II, Ecclesia in Africa ).
5. Com efeito, é antes de mais aos próprios Africanos que o Sínodo se dirige com a maior urgência e esperança, porque eles mesmos devem ser os principais arquitectos de um futuro melhor. Dentre os males que mereceram unânime condenação dos Padres Sinodais, sobressai um pela especial gravidade das suas consequências sobre os Africanos: as divisões e tensões étnicas, que, às vezes, levam a crimes nefastos, como aconteceu recentemente em Ruanda e no Burundi.
A Igreja em África está profundamente ciente do desafio de tais divisões, sentindo a premente responsabilidade de ajudar a remediar as suas consequências.
O Sínodo não poderia esquecer os milhões de refugiados, e o número ainda maior de deslocados em terra africana. Catástrofes naturais, carestias, guerras e erros humanos criaram uma multidão de pessoas que perderam tudo na vida, e cujos sofrimentos parecem não ter fim. Não é uma questão de estatísticas. Eles são nossos irmãos e irmãs. Eles necessitam da ajuda da comunidade internacional. Eles precisam ajuda da mesma África. E as causas da sua tragédia imensa têm de ser corrigidas.
Merecem toda a nossa gratidão aqueles que cuidam das necessidades dos refugiados. Penso sobretudo em tantos Religiosos e voluntários que, vencendo todas as adversidades, se prodigalizam em socorrer e em valer a essas pessoas infelizes.
Da mesma forma, com a viva consciência de que “muitos problemas do Continente são consequência de um modo de governar frequentemente viciado pela corrupção” (Ibid., 110), o Sínodo incita a Igreja em África a fazer todo o possível para despertar as consciências, e fomentar a determinação de mudar. De facto, o Sínodo elevou ao Céu preces por líderes honestos e capazes, sabendo que, “para conciliar profundas diferenças, superar antigos ressentimentos de natureza étnica e integrar–se numa ordem mundial complexa, se exige grande habilidade na arte de governar” (Ibid.). A pergunta que todos os responsáveis pela vida pública em África devem colocar a si próprios, relativamente às políticas por eles adoptadas, é esta: que consequências terão para o povo? E, especialmente, que consequências terão para o pobre? Um modelo de crescimento económico, que não seja capaz de satisfazer as reais e imediatas necessidades do povo directamente implicado, é uma violência contra o respeito devido à dignidade desse mesmo povo.
Uma característica do novo clima político e social, em grande parte da África, é a exigência crescente dos povos de maior respeito pela função da lei, e de maior participação democrática na vida dos seus próprios países. Certamente, isto representa um passo importante no justo caminho. É um processo que deve ser ajudado e estimulado com a educação da opinião pública para as responsabilidades da democracia com o apoio à necessária e pacífica transformação das instituições. Boa parte da esperança por um futuro melhor está pendente do modo como este processo conseguirá comprometer o povo em empenhar–se na edificação do seu destino nacional.
6. Africa challenges the Church, for it is her universal mission to enlighten, accompany and encourage peoples everywhere along the path of their complete liberation, to their salvation in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Redeemer of Man. Yes, only when the message of salvation – the "power of the Gospel to save" (cf. Rom. Rm 1,16)– takes root, through catechesis, prayer and worship, in the hearts of individuals and in the core of their culture will the ecclesial community effectively render a truly prophetic service to society. When the Synod Fathers called the Church in Africa to be ever more actively involved in "the struggle for the defence of personal dignity, for justice and social peace, for human promotion, liberation and integral human development of all people and of every individual" (John Paul II Ecclesia in Africa ), they were giving voice to the unbreakable link between evangelization and human advancement (cf. ibid., 68). There can be no dichotomy between the commandment to love the Lord God with our whole heart and soul, and the commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves, and therefore to engage in actions on behalf of justice and social transformation.
For the same reason the Special Assembly emphasized the importance of ecumenical dialogue with other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, as well as with African Traditional Religion and Islam (cf. ibid., 49). In this way the Church effectively contributes to promoting the fraternal coexistence of peoples, over and above ethnic, cultural, national, or social divisions.
7. Dear Brother Bishops, and members of the Church, the Family of God: I have wished to hold this celebration phase of the Synod on African soil in order to express the solidarity of the universal Church with the particular Churches of this Continent in the great challenges before you. My presence is meant to re-affirm the universal Church’s commitment to this Continent. I repeat what I said on a previous visit: "Christianity in some regions goes back to the very dawn of the Christian era. In other places it has arrived more recently. In every case, the Church has been actively involved in educating the young, in caring for the sick, in promoting the human and spiritual development of Africa’s peoples. She has done so, not to seek a position for herself, and much less to impose a foreign way of life on Africans. She continues today in her apostolate and good works in order to bear witness to the fundamental hope which sustains her: the hope that all mankind will grow in unity and reach an ever greater communion with God" (John Paul II, Farewell Ceremony at the International Airport of Khartoum, 3 [10 Feb. 1993]).
Africa! Giving voice to the Synod, I solemnly assure you that the Church, incarnate in the lives of your own sons and daughters, will continue to share the burden of your problems and the difficulties of your march towards a better future. She will not fail to sustain and encourage you in your search for greater justice, for peace and reconciliation, for an economic, social and political development that corresponds to the dignity of the human person. Above all, she will not fail to offer you the inscrutable riches of Christ, the "Light of the Nations". To him be the honour and the glory and the power, for ever and ever. Amen.
Speeches 1995 - Pontifical Palace of Castel Gondolfo