Speeches 1979 - 17 March 1979
I wish to express my satisfaction with you, dear Pupils of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, gathered here—led by your President, Mons. Cesare Zacchi—to manifest to the Vicar of Christ sentiments of devotion and your priestly promise of faithfulness.
I thank you for the generous gift of your youth to the Church and to her visible Head, and I am happy to talk to you, dear priests, like a father among his sons, in an atmosphere of cordiality and simplicity to you who have begun or have completed the courses of preparation for service of the Holy See in the Pontifical Representations. It is natural that the Pope should love to express to you his expectations and hopes, and want to encourage you vigorously to undertake, in a spirit of faith and trusting abandonment in the Lord, the apostolic labours that are waiting for you.
Yours, in fact, will be an eminently pastoral service, a direct "diakonia" for the good of the local Churches, with a view to making their union with the Apostolic See more and more operative. The Pontifical Representative and his Collaborators must be, in the different countries, the visible testimony, as it were, of the presence of him who has been chosen, in Peter's succession, to be the foundation of unity and the centre of cohesion of the whole Church, and has received the charism of strengthening his brothers (Lc 22,32).
Therefore, in the accomplishment of your work, which is not without sacrifices, nearly always hidden, and sometimes not sufficiently appreciated, keep in mind that you are "servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God" (1Co 4,1) in the specific and delicate task of giving a perceptible voice, in the different parts of the world, to him whom Jesus willed to be the rock of the Church.
It is easy to understand, then, how the Holy See follows with solicitude your cultural preparation, with the intention of ensuring for you easy possession of all those instruments, notions, and knowledge which will be necessary for the exercise of your apostolate. However, what is important above all, for the Pope and for this Apostolic See, is your sanctification; your exemplary priestly life, animated by deep convictions of faith, by a vision of the world and of history that is always theological, because the priest, as I said recently to the Parish Priests and Clergy of Rome, "is, placed at the very centre of the mystery of Christ, who constantly embraces humanity and the world, the visible and invisible creation". You will not be able to carry out your particular ministry fruitfully if your heart is not full of the dedication of Christ, in order to act, you too, "in persona Christi", for the salvation of brothers. Human knowledge, necessary though it is, of the languages, the customs, the traditions and the history of the peoples whom you approach, would be vain and ineffective, if you did not bring in your heart the spirit of Christ who, in adherence to the Father's plan of salvation, gave himself for us.
I wish to address a special wish to those of you who are about to leave the Academy to assume, before long, their first office in the various Pontifical Representations. May the Lord sustain your work with his grace; the Pope, be certain, accompanies you with his benevolence, his affection and his prayer.
Invoking on all the protection of the Blessed Virgin, I willingly and gratefully bless your beloved President, his collaborators, the whole teaching staff and each of you, with particular warmth, together with your families, as a token of abundant heavenly gifts and consolations.
18 March 1979
Dear Young Torch-bearers!
Welcome to the house of the Pope who now receives you with great sympathy and good will, together with your zealous Archbishop, Monsignor Alberti, the Abbot of Subiaco, Father Stanislao Andreotti, the Civil Authorities and all those, ecclesiastics and laity, who constitute the Committee for the Celebrations of the fifteenth Centenary of the birth of St Benedict, Abbot, and of his sister St Scholastica—illustrious and venerated children of the noble Umbrian land, the elect country of Saints.
I am very grateful to Mr Mayor of Ascoli Piceno for the words he kindly addressed to me, and to all of you for the delicate thought of coming here to receive my blessing, before beginning the march of the "Benedictine Torch". This, carried by you, will pass through so many towns of Latium and Umbria, finally reaching Norcia, where it will remain lit for the whole time of the celebrations in honour of the two Saints born in that place.
Lighting and blessing this meaningful torch, I formulate the wish that, in every town and village through which it passes, it will bring forth sentiments of brotherhood, friendship and peace. Of these, St Benedict was the indefatigable apostle in the midst of the peoples of Europe, who saw him engaged in evangelical action for a Christian awakening under the sign of the Cross and the plough and the emblematic motto "Ora et labora".
In the bright light of this torch may all those whom you meet along the ways of your caravan feel that they are brothers, and settle the reasons for the disagreements and conflicts which make men enemies, and may they become capable of mutual forgiveness, respect, harmony and collaboration! May yours really be the torch of light and peace, in a moment in which egoism and violence as has been mentioned make us realize more than ever the need of growing awareness of these inestimable Christian and social values.
And to you, dear young athletes who bear, with a pride that is both religious and sporting, this Benedictine torch, I cannot but address a special thought of satisfaction at the generosity with which you carry on and honour the Christian tradition of your land, and put it into practice even in the unusual and important field of sport, no less than in that of Christian virtues. The latter are described in a masterly way by St Benedict when, in Chapter IV of his Rule, he urges the monk and therefore every Christian "not to be proud, violent, a big eater, half-asleep, a sluggard, a grumbler, a detractor, but chaste, meek, zealous, humble and obedient". Try to know a little better, and a little more, the roots from which there comes such a fine way of living and bearing witness to one's religious faith. Continue along this track clearly laid down by the Saint from your region and make the contribution of your person and your work.
This is the wish I form for you with all my heart, praying for you and with you to your and my St Benedict, that he may always protect you with his powerful intercession. I strengthen these wishes with the Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly impart to you all and to your families.
21 March 1979
This meeting of yours with the Pope, dear boys and girls, seems to take on a particular meaning today because of the circumstance in which it takes place: the coming of spring! This circumstance confers on my greeting of "welcome", which I address to each of you with fatherly affection, a more lively and varied tonality, because it recalls your condition to the mind: you are the spring of life, the spring of the Church, the spring of God! May you appreciate then, my greeting and my good wish, as it is suggested to me by the Holy Book: "Bud like a rose growing by a stream of water; send forth fragrance like frankincense, and put forth blossoms like a lily. Scatter the fragrance, and sing a hymn of praise; bless the Lord for all his works" (Si 39,13-14).
In order that this wish may not remain a mere verbal expression but may be changed into consoling reality, keep in mind that nature does not grant anything beautiful without effort and without work. The Lenten time teaches us, precisely, what must be the generous activity of the Christian in order that the spring of the spirit may occur, the blooming of good, the rising to new life with Jesus and in Jesus. The Church, a wise and loving Mother, indicates suitable means to attain this admirable purpose, these are, precisely, prayer, fasting, and almsdeeds. With a prayer one contacts and establishes a living and interesting dialogue with the Lord.
Fasting, to which I intend to draw your attention briefly today, is the second element necessary for the spring of the spirit. More than mere abstinence from nourishment or material food, it represents a complex and deep reality. Fasting is a symbol, a sign, a serious and stimulating call to accept or to make renunciations. What renunciation? Renunciation of the "ego", that is, of so many caprices or unhealthy aspirations; renunciation of one's own defects, of impetuous passion, of unlawful desires. Fasting is being able to say "no", bluntly and firmly, to what is suggested or asked by pride, selfishness, and vice; listening to one's own conscience, respecting the good of others, remaining faithful to God's holy Law.
Fasting means putting a limit on so many desires, sometimes good ones, in order to have full mastery of oneself, to learn to control one's own instincts, to train the will in good. Acts of this kind were once known as "fioretti" (small acts of sacrifice). The name changes, but the substance remains! They were and remain acts of renunciation, carried out for love of the Lord or of Our Lady, with a noble purpose to attain. They were and are a "sport", and indispensable training in order to be victorious in the competitions of the Spirit! Fasting, finally, means depriving oneself of something in order to meet the need of one's brother, becoming, in this way, and exercise of goodness, of charity.
Fasting, understood, put into practice, lived in this way, becomes repentance, that is, conversion to God. For it purifies the heart from so much dross of evil, beautifies the soul with virtues, trains the will to good, dilates the heart to receive the abundance of divine grace. In this conversion faith becomes stronger, hope more joyful, and charity more active!
Be converted to God, fill yourself with the Spirit of the Lord, and you will have in your heart a real, deep, and irrepressible joy; you will show a genuine, winning smile; you will see your youth as a stupendous gift, worthy of being lived in fullness and authenticity of human and Christian life.
With these brief considerations, which I hope will find a deep echo in your spirit and in your behaviour, receive, as testimony of great good will and a token of abundant heavenly graces, my fatherly Blessing, which I willingly extend to your families and to all the persons dear to you.
On the occasion of your meeting in Rome, you expressed the desire for this visit. I am happy to receive you.
As leaders and members of the economic and social Committee of the European Communities or of the economic and social Councils of the member States, you are making an important contribution to this part of West Europe which is trying to live in a deeper symbiosis, at the level of its productions and its economic exchanges, its cultural heritage, its social realities and its juridical and political institutions. This articulation is a great project which merits esteem and encouragement and which gives rise in many people to hopes of progress, while at the same time raising difficult problems, which have deep repercussions on the life of the peoples. Those on whom decisions rest must clearly have at their disposal studies, opinions, suggestions, the advice of far-seeing experts. And you contribute to this to a great extent. What seems to me very appreciable is your concern and your possibility of associating the various responsible groups: entrepreneurs, workers, representatives of great economic and professional sectors.
The Catholic Church, as such, has no competence in these technical fields. She rejoices to see brotherhood extend and the community take shape, in respect of the identity and freedom of each one. She wishes above all that the protagonists will not neglect any aspect of this vast human complex, that their ethics will be equal to their economic and social projects, that the rights of all parties will be taken into consideration, and that the fundamental institutions which guarantee social justice, family life, human and spiritual progress, will be promoted.
It is in this spirit that I call the blessings of God on your work and on your persons.
Mr President, Madam, Gentlemen,
I thank you heartily for your visit! It is a mark of deference to the pontifical ministry which has recently been entrusted to me, and an opportunity to stress the efforts that your Institute and the Holy See are making, at different levels, of course, and according to specific competences, to promote respect and the practical exercise of the fundamental rights of the human person.
At this short meeting, I am happy to express my esteem to the International Institute for Human Rights, founded nearly ten years ago by Mr René Cassin. The three great directions fixed for your patient work are plainly of topical interest: to teach human rights wisely and perseveringly, to promote researches in this field, to arouse the awareness of public opinion, tactfully and opportunely.
Your work interests the Catholic Church and, I must say, it interests all Christians who are clearly conscious of the sacred character of every human person, so strongly emphasized from the first pages of the Bible: "God created man in his own image" (Gn 1,27).
In these days of the fortieth anniversary of the election of Pius XII to Peter's See, allow me to stress that this Pope incessantly urged Catholics to collaborate actively with men of good will in organizations called to protect human rights, such as the United Nations and so many other well-deserving institutions. Speaking of "the world community in formation" to participants in the eleventh Plenary Assembly of "Pax Romana" on 25 April 1957, he declared: "A Christian cannot remain indifferent to the evolution of the world... Not only can he, but he must work at the coming of this community." Impartial history obliges us to recognize that, in twenty years, Pius XII brought about considerable progress in the reflection of the Church on the inviolable character of the person, the dignity of the family, the prerogatives and limits of public authority, the rights of ethnic minorities, the right to public expression of opinions, the right to political freedom, the right of refugees, prisoners, the persecuted, the right to a religious education, the right to private and public worship of God (cf. Christmas Broadcast 1942, AAS 35, 1943, p. 9). It emerges from his messages that the human person can never be sacrificed to a national or international political interest, whatever it may be.
John XXIII then developed these themes widely, in his admirable encyclicals Mater at Magistra and Pacem in terris, among others. Paul VI took them up again and studied them deeply in innumerable documents which characterize his pontificate: let it be enough to mention his address to the Diplomatic Corps on 14 January 1978, and also the message he published on 26 October 1974, together with the Synod Fathers, dedicated to the Church's commitment in the defence and promotion of human rights. Such a commitment springs from the Gospel, where there is the deepest expression of man's dignity and the most pressing motive for efforts to promote his rights. And the Church, as you know, conceives this task in the framework of her mission in the service of the full salvation of man, redeemed by Christ, as I have just set forth in my first encyclical Redemptor Hominis.
May these few words be light and comfort for you! It is good to tell one another again that priority attention of minds and hearts to the dignity of the whole human person, on the plane of teaching and concrete and multiform action, is a work which should cause increasing unanimity of all men of good will.
Friday, 23 March 1979
BE ASSURED that the good wishes you bring from the President, the Government and people of the Gambia are much appreciated. I ask you to take back to His Excellency Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara my own cordial and respectful greetings. Less than a year ago he was received here by my predecessor Paul VI, and thus firsthand he knows the willingness of the Holy See to be of assistance in the great questions of basic needs and human dignity.
You have kindly spoken of "the relentless efforts of the Church" in the sphere of peace and harmony, of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Through your public attestation it is also gratifying to know just how much the contribution of the Catholic Church, from the time of the first missionaries, is appreciated by the Gambian people. Solicitude for the total wellbeing of man will always characterize the Church’s activity. Just recently in my first Encyclical I endeavoured to emphasize this fact before the world. In this document I stated that "the Church considers an essential, unbreakably united element of her mission this solicitude for man, for his humanity, for the future of man on earth and therefore also for the course set for the whole of development and progress". In setting forth this principle I thereby intended to maintain absolute fidelity to the Second Vatican Council and continuity with its teaching, wherein man is presented as the centre and summit of all creation.
Thus, Your Excellency will constantly find the Church profoundly solicitous for the destiny of your people and for their true progress. And the motivation of the Church in all her activity was likewise publicly expressed in the words of the Encyclical: "Sine finds the principle of this solicitude in Christ himself". This is why the Church is irrevocably committed to this lofty service of man; this explains why she cannot reverse her course in history.
With the earnest hope that through your new tasks at the Holy See you will indeed render outstanding service to your country, I assure you of my prayers, invoking upon the authorities and citizens of the Gambia the uplifting blessings of integral development and lasting peace.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters of the Archdiocese of Naples!
Listening to the voice of your Christian heart and to the invitation of your revered Pastor, Cardinal Corrado Ursi, and of your priests, you have come to the Pope with a majestic pilgrimage which moves me. Welcome all of you, workers and faithful crowding this incomparable Basilica.
And welcome also, you students and young people who, in Paul VI Hall, are listening to my voice and whom I will have the pleasure of meeting shortly. As I speak, I feel you close to us here, even though the Vatican Basilica could not hold you all.
What shall I say to you, if not thank you for your kindness? What shall I express to you, if not praise for your faith?
Yes, beloved faithful of Naples! Religious faith and kindness of heart are magnificently united in your Christian traditions and in your way of living! And I address to you present here and to all your fellow citizens my most sincere and cordial greeting: to the religious and civil Authorities; to the men of study, of technique, of work; to the mothers of families; to the old; to the boys and girls appearing at the horizons and responsibilities of life; to the youngsters and children who bring joy to families with their joyful confidence; to the sick and suffering and to all those who, for any reason, have some sorrow in their heart! Let all receive the greeting of the Vicar of Christ!
Your Naples, so poetic with the stupendous spectacle of the sky and the sea full of light and blue, is a faithful city. It is a good city, and it is also a suffering city for so many reasons, not least because of the insidious and deadly disease which has snatched so many children from the love of their dear ones. And I, as Pastor and Father, delighting in your faith and joining in your grief, intend to gather in my heart all your joys and all your concerns, saying with the Psalmist: "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!" (Ps 133,1).
In the early times of the Church, at Jerusalem, Antioch, and Rome, the Christians used to go to meet Peter to hear his word, to listen to his experiences, to bring back courage and spiritual fervour. In this way you, too, have come to hear from his Successor a word of love and life. And I, starting from the Lenten period, which we are going through, and from my first Encyclical Letter, will speak to you briefly of the presence of Christ the Redeemer in our daily life.
1.—Jesus is first of all the support of our suffering.
Suffering is a reality that is terribly real and sometimes even atrocious and heart-rending. Physical, moral, and spiritual pain torments poor mankind at all times. We must be grateful to science, technique, medicine, and social and civil organizations which try in all ways to eliminate or at least assuage suffering; but it always remains victorious and the defeat weighs on afflicted and helpless man. It almost seems, in fact, that to greater social progress there corresponds a moral decline, with the consequence of other sufferings, fears, and concerns.
Suffering is also a mysterious and overwhelming reality.
Well, we Christians, looking at the crucified Jesus, find the strength to accept this mystery. The Christian knows that, after original sin, human history is always a risk. But he also knows that God himself willed to enter our grief, feel our pangs, pass through the agony of the spirit and the torment of the body. Faith in Christ does not take away suffering, but illuminates it, raises it, purifies it, sublimates it and makes it efficacious for eternity.
In any pain of ours, moral or physical, let us look at the Crucified! Let the Crucified reign, clearly visible and venerated, in our houses. Only he can comfort and reassure us! Let us love the Crucified, as your great theologian and doctor of the Church, St Alphonsus Liguori, desired.
2.—In the second place, Jesus is the foundation of our joy.
Christian joy is a reality that is not easy to describe, because it is spiritual and also belongs to the mystery. He who really believes that Jesus is the Word Incarnate, the Redeemer of man, cannot but feel within himself a sense of immense joy, which is consolation, peace. abandonment, resignation, bliss. The Psalmist said: "O taste and see that the Lord is good!" (Ps 33,9). And the French philosopher and scientist, Blaise Pascal, on the famous night of his conversion wrote in the Testament, "Joy! Joy! Tears of joy!". Do not extinguish this joy which springs from faith in Christ, the crucified and risen Christ! Bear witness to your joy! Educate to enjoyment of this joy!
— It is the joy of interior light on the meaning of life and history;
— It is the joy of God's presence in the soul, by means of "grace";
— It is the joy of God's forgiveness, by means of his priests, when one has, unfortunately, offended his infinite love, and, having repented, returns to his Father's arms;
— It is the joy of the expectation of eternal happiness, as a result of which life is understood as an "exodus", a pilgrimage, committed though we are in the affairs of the world.
To you, too as to the Apostles, Jesus says: "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full" (Jn 15,11). "No one will take your joy from you" (Jn 16,22).
3. —Finally, Jesus is the guarantee of our hope.
Man cannot live without hope; all men hope in some one and in something.
But there are, unfortunately, so many disappointments and, sometimes, even the abyss of despair appears. But we know that Jesus the Redeemer, who died crucified and rose again gloriously, is our hope! "Surrexit Christus spes mea!"
Jesus tells us that, in spite of the difficulties of life, it is worth while committing oneself with a tenacious and charitable will in the construction and improvement of the "earthly city", with one's spirit always straining towards the eternal one. The Christian makes every effort to realize the common good concretely; he overcomes his own selfishness with the sense of solidarity and in the commitment for the promotion of everything that serves for the dignity and integrity of the human person. The Church is a community of "servants" and every Christian must feel called to make his own city more and more beautiful, united, and just.
4.—Addressing you particularly, dear workers, who are gathered here fervently in such large numbers, I say to you: shed the light of charity and Christian hope on your work! What is work, in fact, but collaboration with God's power and love in order to maintain our life and make it more human and more in keeping with God's plan?
And so, take your serenity and your Christian confidence to your place of work! Raise your spirits and offer your labour to God.
The Pope is particularly close to you workers, he participates in your concerns and your problems, he loves you with sincere affection, and encourages all initiatives aimed at promoting your legitimate aspirations.
To you workers, Jesus stretches out his hand as friend, brother and Redeemer! May he always be a light, support, and consolation for you.
With these wishes, we invoke the Blessed Virgin at this liturgical solemnity of the Annunciation. May Holy Mary, venerated at Pompei with such devotion by immense multitudes, be your Mother and your Queen and make you more and more convinced and consistent Christians!
Let my Apostolic Blessing, propitiating and comforting, reach you all
24 March 1979
You have come in large numbers, full of life and joy, to find the Pope, And the Pope receives you with deep cordiality and sincere friendship, because he knows that you young people are the precious seed which will give its fruit tomorrow in the Church and in society; he knows that you are the future, and that the destiny of mankind is in your hands and in your hearts.
The Pope wishes, therefore, that now and always you will be the good grain among the weeds, which—as the Gospel warns with wise realism—will continue, unfortunately, to grow in the field of history. Expressing to you, therefore, my gratitude for this visit of yours, such a fine and welcome one, I am happy to address you with a word of the Apostle Peter. May it remain in your hearts as a memory and an order: "Be firm in your faith" (1P 5,9).
1. Be so in the first place by means of thorough and gradual knowledge of the content of Christian doctrine. It is not enough to be Christians because of the Baptism received or because of the historico-social conditions in which you are born and live. As you grow in years and culture, new problems and new requirements of clarity and certainty come into consciousness. It is then necessary to set out in a responsible way in search of the motivations of your own Christian faith. If you do not become personally aware and do not have an adequate understanding of what must be believed and of the reasons for this faith, at a certain moment everything may inevitably collapse and be swept away, in spite of the good will of parents and educators.
Therefore, today is specially the time for study, meditation, and reflection. I say to you therefore: use your intelligence well, make an effort to reach correct and personal convictions, do not waste time, deepen the motives and foundations of faith in Christ and in the Church, so as to be firm now and in your future.
2. One is firm in the faith, furthermore, by means of prayer.
St Paul already recommended: "Pray constantly" (1Th 5,17). It is possible, in fact, to know Holy Scripture perfectly, it is possible to be learned in philosophy and in theology, yet not have faith, or fail in faith; because it is always God who calls first to know him and love him in the right way. It is necessary, therefore, to be humble before the Almighty.
It is necessary to maintain the sense of mystery, because there always remains the infinite between God and man. It is necessary to remember that before God and his Revelation it is not so much a question of understanding with one's 'own limited reason, but rather of loving.
For this reason Jesus said, "I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will" (Mt 11,25-26).
This, beloved young people, is the thought that the Pope entrusts to you this morning: may it be a guide and a support in your generous commitment. With my Apostolic Blessing.
Welcome, beloved sons! Your visit is a particularly welcome one: you come from Florence, a city well known and loved all over the world for the nobility of its traditions and the splendour of its art. Your presence reawakens in my heart the deep emotions impressed on it in the past, when I had the opportunity to contemplate the architectural marvels, revealed to the eyes of the admiring tourist; or when I was able to stop, mingling with the visitors, in front of the frescoes of churches, the altarpieces, the paintings preserved in the art galleries; or when I wore myself out observing with ever new wonder the sculptures that adorn the squares and enrich the museums; or, finally, when I went up to Piazzale Michelangelo to enjoy the sight of the city stretched on the banks of the Arno, in the circle of the hills fading in the twilight of evening.
Florence is a city unique in the world; those who have the honour of living there must be aware of the commitment this involves: the priceless riches of history, art, and faith with which the inhabitants of ancient times enriched temples, buildings, quarters, remain for succeeding generations, and therefore also for yours, as a perennial call to a stimulating and creative confrontation. The nobility of sentiments, the generosity of spirit, the courtesy of manners, which distinguished the best citizens of those glorious times, must be a binding order also for the present inhabitants of Florence.
This holds good particularly for those who, like you, employed in State Monopolies, carry out a service that entails assiduous contact with the heterogeneous public of tourists; and it applies in a very special way to you, who are employed in the Street-cleaning Service, and who have the task of renewing, every day, all the freshness of its fascination, the marvellous face of the city. Who can fail to recognize, in fact, the beneficial influence that decorum, order and good taste have on the spirit of man, especially when they contribute to ensuring the perfect order of an environment which is the setting for priceless treasures of beauty? Familiarity with these values becomes for man a kind of school which educates him and, gradually, opens him up to perception of a world of higher values, which, transcending sensible realities, introduce him to contemplation of absolute Beauty, which shines forth on God's own face.
The Pope's wish is that this awareness will guide and sustain your daily toil. I entrust these wishes of mine to the motherly protection of her whom we venerate today in the mystery of her Annunciation. This is a mystery particularly dear to the Marian soul of your city which, in ancient times, even made the beginning of the year coincide with this central day of the mystery of salvation. What immortal masterpieces have sprung from the inspired brush of your painters, when they tried—and how often they did so—to express in the magic of lines and colours the emotions felt in the presence of that dialogue, in which the fate of the whole of humanity was decided! Renewing to the Blessed Virgin the expression of our common gratitude for that "fiat", which restored joy and hope to us all, I willingly grant to you and to your families my Apostolic Blessing, a token of fatherly benevolence and an auspice of the choicest gifts of Heaven.
Beloved sons of the land of Belluno,
Speeches 1979 - 17 March 1979