Dear Brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ,
IT IS A RICH source of pastoral strength to assemble together in the name of Jesus and in the unity of his Church. For me personally, it is a real joy to welcome you as Brothers in the Episcopate, partners in the Gospel, pastors of a great section of the People of God in Canada. Your Dioceses are immensely important for the universal Church, and for me, whom the inscrutable design of God has now placed in the See of Peter to be the Servant of all.
According to the Second Vatican Council the very notion of a Diocese is "a portion of God’s people entrusted to a Bishop to be guided by him with the assistance of his clergy, so that, loyal to its pastor and formed by him into one community in the Holy Spirit through the Gospel and the Eucharist, it constitutes one particular Church in which the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and active". This is the mystery of God’s love that we are reflecting on today: the Bishop as pastor of a particular Church in which Catholic unity abides.
This unity is effected and ensured by the Gospel and the Eucharist. Indeed the Council reminds us: " Among the principal duties of Bishops, the preaching of the Gospel occupies an eminent place". The Bishop finds his identity in evangelizing, in being a herald of that Gospel which Saint Paul assures us is "the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith". At the highest level of our ministry of evangelization is the Eucharist, which we faithfully acknowledge with the Council as "the source and summit of all evangelization ".
From God’s word and its supreme enactment in the Eucharist we draw gladness and strength in order to be father and brother and friend to our priests, who have the vital task of collaborating with us in communicating the mystery of Christ. May the joy that the Gospel generates in our own lives be contagious for the ministry of our priests, and help them to realize how much Christ needs them in his mission of salvation. At the tomb of Peter we are also humbly seeking grace to fulfil our responsibility to our entire flock with renewed fortitude and even greater pastoral love. It is with the power of the Gospel of Christ that we confront all the pastoral situations and problems linked to our ministry. Only on this basis can we build the Church, which is the germ and beginning of God’s Kingdom on earth and the leaven of all society. Through the power of God’s word we find energy to promote justice, witness to love, uphold the sacredness of life and proclaim the dignity of the human person and his transcendent destiny. In short, with the power of the Gospel we go forth serenely and confidently to proclaim “the unsearchable riches of Christ”. Because of the centrality of God’s word, we are called to give absolute pastoral priority to the ever more effective guarding and teaching of the deposit of faith. In this regard Saint Paul challenges us constantly to apostolic vigilance: “Before God and before Jesus Christ who is to be judge of the living and the dead, I put this duty to you, in the name of his Appearing and of his kingdom: proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, call to obedience – but do all with patience and with the intention of teaching”.
At the same time, as Bishops we are urged to a deep pastoral concern for the sacred discipline common to the whole Church. This brings with it a need for a sensitivity to the delicate and sovereign action of the Holy Spirit in the life of our people, and a humble realization that this action is accomplished in a special way through the ministry of the Bishops who, united with the entire Episcopal College and with Peter its head, are promised the assistance of the Holy Spirit, so that they may effectively lead the faithful to salvation.
At this moment in the life of the Church there are two particular aspects of sacramental discipline that are worthy of the special attention of the universal Church, and I wish to mention them, in order to assist Bishops everywhere. These matters form part of that general discipline of which the Apostolic See has prime responsibility, and in which the Pope wishes to sustain his Brethren in the Episcopate and to offer a word of encouragement and pastoral orientation for the spiritual wellbeing of the faithful. These two matters are the practice of first Confession before first Communion and the question of general absolution.
After some initial experimentation had been conducted, Paul VI in 1973 reiterated the discipline of the Latin Church in regard to first Confession. In a spirit of exemplary fidelity, numerous Bishops, priests, deacons, religious, teachers and catechists set out to explain the importance of a discipline which the supreme authority of the Church had confirmed, and to apply it for the benefit of the faithful. Ecclesial communities were comforted to know that the universal Church gave renewed assurance for a pastoral matter in which, previously, honest divergence of opinion existed. I am grateful to you for your own vigilance in this regard and ask you to continue to explain the Church’s solicitude in maintaining this universal discipline, so rich in doctrinal background and confirmed by the experience of so many local Churches. With regard to children who have reached the age of reason, the Church is happy to guarantee the pastoral value of having them experience the sacramental expression of conversion before being initiated into the Eucharistic sharing of the Paschal Mystery.
As Supreme Pastor, Paul VI manifested similar deep solicitude for the great question of conversion in its sacramental aspect of individual Confession. In an ad limina visit earlier this year he referred at some length to the Pastoral Norms governing the use of general absolution, showing that these norms are in fact linked to the solemn teaching of the Council of Trent concerning the divine precept of individual confession. Once again he indicated the altogether exceptional character of general absolution. At the same time he asked the Bishops to help their priests "to have an ever greater appreciation of the splendid ministry of theirs as Confessors... Other works, for lack of time may have to be postponed or even abandoned, but not the Confessional". I thank you for what you have done and will do to show the importance of the Church’s wise discipline in an area that is so intimately linked with the work of reconciliation. In the name of the Lord Jesus, let us give assurance, in union with the whole Church, to all our priests of the great supernatural effectiveness of a persevering ministry exercised through auricular confession, in fidelity to the command of the Lord and the teaching of his Church. And once again let us assure all our people of the great benefits derived from frequent Confession. I am indeed convinced of the words of my predecessor Pius XII: " Not without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was this practice introduced into the Church".
Our Lord Jesus Christ himself insisted on the essential indissolubility of marriage. His Church must not allow his teaching on this matter to be obscured. She would be untrue to her Master if she did not insist, as he did, that whoever divorces his or her marriage partner and marries another commits adultery. The unbreakable union between husband and wife is a great mystery or sacramental sign in reference to Christ and the Church. It is by preserving the clarity of this sign that we will best manifest the love that it signifies: the supernatural love that unites Christ and the Church, that binds together the Savior and those whom he saves.
And in all your apostolic activities be assured of my fraternal love. I am at one with you and your clergy – for whom I pray daily – in thanking God for the many graces bestowed on the people of your Dioceses: for their renewed sense of collective solidarity in the mission of the Church, for fresh signs of spiritual awakening, for increased devotion to God’s word, for deeper understanding of social responsibility, and for the fortitude of the young in responding to the call of Christ. May the renewal that we all desire also include a preserva tion and strengthening of the great Canadian heritage of evangelical service, especially in furnishing missionaries in large numbers throughout the Church, in order to preach the Gospel of Christ. May the joy and peace of Christ Jesus be powerfully communicated through your pastoral ministry and through that of your beloved priests. And may all of us find encouragement and perseverance in realizing fully that " our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ".
Mettant joyeusement vos pas dans les pas de vos Prédécesseurs, vous êtes venus, chers Frères, vous agenouiller sur la tombe de l’Apôtre Pierre, comme je l’ai fait moi-même tant de fois, venant de Cracovie.
Cette démarche personnelle et communautaire, toujours émouvante, comporte un sens très profond, un engagement extrêmement exigeant. Nous savons tous qu’en dépendance du Christ, qui est la seule Pierre angulaire, l’humble pêcheur de Galilée a été appelé par Jésus lui-même le Roc de l’Eglise. C’est ce Roc qui permet au Peuple de Dieu de grandir à travers le temps et l’espace sur des bases solides, c’est-à-dire sur la foi essentielle, de demeurer en lien profond et permanent avec le Christ Source de Vie, de maintenir et de reconstruire l’unité entre les disciples, de résister à l’usure du temps et aux courants extérieurs – et parfois internes – de dissolution et de désagrégation. Oh! certes, l’Esprit Saint est toujours à l’oeuvre, et je me réjouis avec vous des renouveaux inattendus, des approfondissements réels que vous constatez dans vos communautés. Ils sont les fruits de l’Esprit Mais les Pasteurs que nous sommes doivent demeurer vigilants, clairvoyants, dans l’espérance et l’humilité. Les forces de dissolution et de désagrégation sont aussi à l’oeuvre. La parabole du bon grain et de l’ivraie est toujours actuelle. C’est pour cela que nous devons, nous d’abord, les Pasteurs, professer haut et clair la foi, la doctrine de l’Eglise, toute la doctrine de l’Eglise. C’est pour cela qu’il nous faut adhérer et entraîner hardiment l’adhésion des fidèles à la discipline sacramentelle de l’Eglise, garante de la continuité et de l’authenticité de l’action salvatrice du Christ, garante de la dignité et de l’unité du culte chrétien, et finalement garante de la véritable vitalité du Peuple de Dieu. Voilà ce que requiert le service – qui nous est commun – du salut des âmes. Voilà ce qu’implique avant tout la visite “ad limina Apostolorum”.
Que le Seigneur Jésus vous aide lui-même à devenir, avec Pierre, le roc sur lequel s’édifient vos communautés.Mon service, à moi, est de contribuer à vous affermir. Je vous accompagnerai par la prière dans votre ministère. Priez aussi pour moi. Et bénissons ensemble toutes vos chères communautés diocésaines.
Saturday, 18 November 1978
Dear Brothers in the episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It strikes me as very significant that, hardly a month after my accession to the See of Rome, I am able to receive you, who have come from five continents to take part in the plenary meeting of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity.
The restoration of unity among all Christians was indeed one of the principal aims of the Second Vatican Council (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 1) and since the moment of my election I have formally engaged myself to promote the carrying out of its guiding principles and directions, seeing this as one of my first duties. Hence your presence here today has a symbolic value. It shows that the Catholic Church, faithful to the direction taken at the Council not only wants to go forward on the way that leads to the restoration of unity, but is anxious, according to its means and in full submission to the promptings of the Holy Spirit (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 24), to strengthen at every level its contribution to this great movement of all Christians (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 4).
A movement does not stop, should not stop before reaching its goal. We have not reached it, even though we have to thank God for the road we have covered since the Council. You have been meeting precisely to take stock, to look where we are. After these years of many-sided efforts, animated by immense good will and untiring generosity, nourished by so many prayers and sacrifices, it is good to survey the ground so as to assess the results obtained and make out the best routes for further progress. For it is this we are concerned with. As the apostle tells us, we should be "straining forward to what lies ahead" (Ph 3,13) with a faith which knows no fear because it knows what it believes in and who it counts on. But our haste to get there, the eagerness to put an end to the intolerable scandal of Christian divisions, means that we must avoid "all superficiality, all rash enthusiasms which might hinder the progress towards unity" (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 24)
You do not heal a sickness by giving painkillers but by attacking its causes. In particular I would like to remind you here that the Council was persuaded that the Church is chiefly manifest in the assembly of all its members for the celebration of the same eucharist at the one altar where the bishop presides surrounded by his presbyterium and his ministers (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 41). Even if it is rarely that we can have such a solemn eucharistic celebration in our modern world, it remains true that in every eucharist it is the whole faith of the Church that comes into play; it is ecclesial communion in all its dimensions that is manifested and realised. We cannot arbitrarily separate its component parts. To do so would be to fall into that superficiality the Council tells us to guard against. It would be a failure to perceive the close relations between eucharist and church unity, their richness, the demands they make on us. I know that the more we find how we are brothers in the charity of Christ, the more painful it is for us not to be able to take part together in this great mystery. Have I not said that the divisions between Christians are becoming intolerable? This suffering should incite us to overcome the obstacles which still hold us back from unanimous profession of the same faith, from the reunification of our divided communities by means of the same sacramental ministry. We cannot escape the obligations of solving together those questions which have divided Christians. It would be a very unenlightened charity that expressed itself at the expense of truth. The first president of the Secretariat, the venerated Cardinal Bea, whose tenth anniversary you have celebrated this week, was fond of repeating the principle: seek the truth in charity.
For thirteen years, in close and trusting collaboration with our brethren of other Churches, the Secretariat has been devoting itself to this search for agreement on points which still divide us, at the same time trying to promote throughout the Catholic Church a mind and spirit loyally at one with the wishes of the Council—something without which the positive results achieved in the various dialogues could not be received by the faithful. Here it should be remembered that the Council demanded a particular effort in teaching theology and forming the outlook of future priests. (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 10). This is especially important now, when this teaching must take account of the work of the dialogues which are in progress. Once they are engaged in the ministry, how will priests be able under their bishops' direction to find judicious and pastorally responsible ways of informing the faithful about the dialogues and their progress, if they have not been initiated into them during their training? Indeed there should be no loosening of the bond, still less opposition, between the deepening of the Church's unity by renewal and the search for restoration of unity among divided Christians. Both are aspects of the same unity for which Christ prayed and which is brought about by the Holy Spirit; there should therefore be an unceasing interaction between them as between two manifestations of a single pastoral effort which must come from the whole Church. You know this, you who come from your dioceses to help us to work out, in the light of your experience, all that is implicit in the Council about unity, and to face up to the demands created by new circumstances and the progress of the ecumenical movement itself. I thank you most warmly for coming and for having given me some of that time which I know is very precious.
To those who carry out their service to unity as members of the Secretariat I want to express my gratitude very particularly, and my hope that you will, in your dioceses and episcopal conferences, be thoughtful and ardent promotors of local and regional ecumenical commitment. The constant efforts and vigilance of all are needed to foster and deepen continually that unity which is at the heart of the Church's ministry. We know that "By her relationships with Christ, the Church is a kind of sacrament or sign of intimate union with God, and of the unity of all mankind" (Lumen Gentium LG 1). To serve the Church is to serve Christ in his design "to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad" (Jn 11,52), to renew and gather up everything in himself so that he may offer all to the Father and we may in the Spirit be eternally in praise of his glory. This is a grand service! It deserves all our energies. It is in truth beyond our own strength. It demands our continual prayer. May the Lord inspire and strengthen us. In his name I bless you.
Wednesday, 22 November 1978
This weekly meeting of the Pope with the young and adolescents—so enthusiastic and so lively—is really a sign of joy and hope. A sign of joy, because where there are young people, adolescents, children, there is the guarantee of joy, since it is life in its most spontaneous and most exuberant bloom. You possess this "joie de vivre" abundantly and bestow it generously on a world that is sometimes tired, discouraged, disheartened, disappointed. This meeting of ours is also a sign of hope, because adults, not only your parents, but also your teachers, professors and all those who collaborate in your physical and intellectual growth and development, see in you those who will attain what they, perhaps—owing to various circumstances—have not been able to achieve.
Therefore a young person without joy and without hope is not a real young person, but a man who has dried up and aged prematurely. For this reason the Pope says to you: Bring, transmit, radiate joy and hope!
The subject of today's Audience is deeply connected with what I have recalled so far. On preceding Wednesdays, continuing the plan left almost as a testament by my late Predecessor John Paul I, I spoke of the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice and fortitude. Today I wish to speak to you briefly about the fourth cardinal virtue: temperance, sobriety. St Paul wrote to his disciple Titus, whom he had left as Bishop in the island of Crete: "Urge the younger men to control themselves" (Tt 2,6). Following the call of the Apostle of the Gentiles, I would like to say first that man's attitudes, deriving from the individual cardinal virtues, are interdependent on one another and united. It is not possible to be a really prudent man, or an authentically just one, or a truly strong one, unless one possesses the virtue of temperance. This conditions all the other virtues indirectly; but the latter too, are indispensable in order that man may be "temperate" or "sober". "Temperantia est commune omnium virtutum cognomen"—St John Climacus wrote in the sixth century (Ladder to Paradise, 15)—that is, we could translate, "temperance is the common denominator of all other virtues" .
It might seem strange to speak of temperance or sobriety to young people and adolescents. Yet, beloved children, this cardinal virtue is particularly necessary for you, who are in the marvellous and delicate period in which your biopsychical reality grows to perfect maturity in order to be capable, physically and spiritually, of facing up to the vicissitudes of life in its most diverse requirements.
A temperate man is one who does not abuse food, drinks, pleasures; who does not drink alcoholic beverages to excess; who does not deprive himself of consciousness by using drugs or narcotics. We can imagine within us a "lower self" and a "higher self". In our "lower self" our "body" is expressed with its needs, its desires, its passions of sensible nature. The virtue of temperance guarantees every man the control of the "lower self" by the "higher self". Is it a question, in this case, of a humiliation, a disability, for our body? On the contrary! This control gives it new value, exalts it.
A temperate man is one who is master of himself; one in whom passions do not prevail over reason, over will, and even over the heart. We understand, therefore, how the virtue of temperance is indispensable in order that the person may be fully man, in order that the young person may be truly young. The sad and degrading spectacle of an alcoholic or a drug addict makes us understand clearly that "to be a man" means, before everything else, to respect one's own dignity, that is, to let oneself be guided by the virtue of temperance. To control oneself, one's passions, sensuality, does not at all mean becoming insensitive or indifferent; the temperance of which we are speaking is a Christian virtue, which we learn from the teaching and the example of Jesus, and not from so-called "Stoic" morality.
Temperance requires from each of us specific humility with regard to the gifts that God has placed in our human nature. There is "the humility of the body" and that "of the heart". This humility is a necessary condition for man's interior harmony, for his interior beauty. Think it over carefully, you young people, who are just at the age in which one is so eager to be handsome or beautiful in order to please others! A young man, a young woman, must be beautiful first and foremost inwardly. Without this interior beauty, all other efforts aimed only at the body will not make—either him, or her—a really beautiful person.
And my wish for you, beloved children, is that you will always be radiant with interior beauty!
Thursday, 23 November 1978
Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate,
After the individual meeting with each of you, today I have the pleasure of receiving collectively all the members of the Episcopate of Honduras, in the framework of the visit "ad limina Apostolorum" which you are carrying out in these days.
If during our preceding contact, we spoke of particular aspects of each of your dioceses, now I would like to deal with some subjects that affect the life of the Church in Honduras as a whole.
Through your words and the reports presented, I saw to my joy that evangelization work in Honduras has been intensified in the last few years and that religious practice has increased with it, while at the same time the religious formation of the people, particularly in certain sectors, has improved. These are reasons for hope, which at the same time make us think of the main difficulty that the Church meets with in your country, due to the scarcity of priests.
I am well aware that the Catholic laity of Honduras, God be thanked, has been becoming more and more aware of its responsibility within the Church, and is contributing positively to the ecclesial task of spreading the Gospel message. This contribution, which denotes a new maturity of Christian awareness in the laity, is very praiseworthy, and must continue and be intensified as far as possible.
But it must not make us forget the irreplaceable and specific place that priests have in the sanctification of the people of God, appointed as they are by the Lord "to hold in the community of the faithful the sacred power of Order, that of offering sacrifice and forgiving sins, and to exercise the priestly office publicly on behalf of men in the name of Christ" (Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 2).
It is a question of vital importance for the Church. From it is derived the precise duty of giving absolute priority to the fostering of vocations to the priesthood, and likewise to the consecrated life. It is a great task which must be undertaken with all diligence, with the subsequent training of those who have been called, to a strong sense of faith and service for the world today.
To create an environment propitious to the flourishing of vocations, the ecclesial community will have to offer a testimony of life in conformity with the essential values of the Gospel. In this way they will be able to arouse generous souls, directed towards complete commitment to Christ and others. With confidence in the Lord and in the reward promised to those who serve him faithfully.
Thinking of your priests, I wish to urge you with special interest to dedicate particular pastoral care to your collaborators, so that they may always keep alive their own priestly identity and the ecclesial donation they have made. Help them with your example and words to be well aware of the greatness of their task as continuers of Christ's mission of salvation, and of the necessity of adapting themselves better and better to it.
That will require a constant effort not to conform to this world (cf. Rom Rm 12,2), in order to revive every day the grace they possess by means of the imposition of hands (cf. 2Tm 1,6), and to live for Christ, who lives in them (cf. Gal Ga 2,20). Only in this spirit of faith will priests be fully conscious of the sublime value of their state and mission.
In the exercise of the sacred ministry, to give full efficacy to the work of evangelization, it is essential to maintain close communion between bishops and priests. The former, in a spirit of true charity and exercising their authority in a attitude of service (cf. Mt Mt 20,28); the latter, in faithfulness to the guidelines received from their Ordinary, aware that they form "one family of which the bishop is the father" (Christus Dominus CD 28). For that reason I call on your priests to realize that nothing stable or constructive can be obtained in their ministry, if they claim to exercise it outside communion with their own bishop; far less, if against him. Not to mention the harm and confusion that such attitudes create among the faithful.
Beloved Brothers: I would like to be able to deal here with so many other questions. Let my word of encouragement in your pastoral action suffice for the present. On returning to your country, transmit this word of the Pope's encouragement to priests and seminarians, to religious priests and brothers—such an important part of your collaborators—to Sisters and to the laity. Take to them the affectionate greeting of the Pope, who remembers them in his prayers, encourages them in their respective ecclesial commitment, and willingly blesses them.
Dear brothers, sharers in the episcopal ministry to the Church of Christ,
WE GREET YOU with deep respect and affection. The Christian faithful whom you serve are citizens of a nation that is still young, yet they are heirs of two of the ancient traditions that enrich the one Catholic Church. In welcoming you we therefore embrace also the Churches in your charge, expressing our heartfelt veneration and our love for them.
The Church is indeed enriched by such venerable traditions and would be much poorer without them. Their variety contributes in no small measure to her splendor. They enshrine many great artistic and cultural values, the loss of which would be sorely felt. Each of them is in itself worthy of great admiration and wonder.
Yet these traditions are no mere adornment of the Church. United in brotherhood, they are important means at the disposal of the Church for displaying to the world the universality of Christ’s salvation and fulfilling her mission of making disciples of all nations.
The variety within brotherhood that is seen in the Catholic Church, far from being detrimental to the Church’s unity, rather manifests it. showing how all peoples and cultures are called to be organically united in the Holy Spirit through the same faith, the same sacraments, and the same government.
Each tradition must value and cherish the others. The eye cannot say to the hand: "I have no need of you"; for, if all were a single organ, where would the body be? The Church is Christ’s body and the various parts of the body are intended to serve the good of the whole and to collaborate with each other for that end.
Each individual tradition has its own contribution to make to the good of the whole. Each one’s understanding of the faith is deepened by the doctrine contained in the works of the Fathers and spiritual writers of the others, by the theological riches stored in the others’ liturgies as they have developed over the centuries under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and of legitimate ecclesiastical authority, and by the others’ ways of living the faith that they have received from the Apostles. Each one can find support in the examples of zeal, fidelity and holiness that are provided by the others’ history.
The Second Vatican Council declared that " all should realize that it is of supreme importance to understand, venerate, preserve and foster the exceedingly rich liturgical and spiritual heritage of the Eastern Churches, in order faithfully to preserve the fullness of Christian tradition". The Council also declared that the Eastern Churches "entire heritage of spirituality and liturgy, of discipline and theology, in their various traditions, belongs to the full catholic and apostolic character of the Church".
My brother bishops, I do most heartily respect and appreciate the venerable traditions to which you belong, and I desire to see them flourish.
I would wish every member of the Catholic Church to cherish his or her own tradition. "It is the mind of the Catholic Church that each individual Church or rite retain its traditions whole and entire, while adjusting its way of life to the various needs of time and place". You and the Churches over which you preside should accordingly treasure your heritage and take care to hand it on in its integrity to future generations.
I would also wish each members of the Catholic Church to recognize the equal dignity of the other rites within her unity. Each rite is called to assist the others, working together in harmony and good order for the good of the whole and not for its own particular welfare.
I give assurance of my prayers for all the members of your Churches in the United States of America. I pray also for your fellow citizens and for your brethren in the countries from which your ancestors came. For most of you those countries are close to my own native land. For one of you it means one of the most sorely tried areas in the world today, namely Lebanon, an area that deserves from all of us special prayers for the ending of enmity and oppression within it. in order that its inhabitants may be able to dwell there in peace and understanding.
Let us join in invoking on all your people the blessing of Almighty God.