Speeches 1979 - Friday, 18 May 1979



18 May 1979

Mr Prime Minister! Gentlemen!

I thank you sincerely for your presence, and I thank you, Mr Prime Minister, for the noble words you have wished to address to me at the moment when I am about to visit these places sacred to human suffering and to Christian hope.

The Pope comes, in the first place, on a sad pilgrimage to pray and to remember those who shed their blood in this area during one of the most tragic periods of the second world war. There are thousands of them; they belonged to various nations, various races, and various religions: they were men, that is, sons of God and, therefore, brothers in Christ! Their relatives still mourn them, and ask themselves the reason for the violent end of these young men, who certainly dreamed of life, not death, of love, not hatred, of joy, not suffering, of peace, not war!

With the depth of my being as man, Christian, priest, Bishop and Pope, I come therefore to join in the ardent prayer, the agonizing memory and the still keen grief of those who were left with a great void that could not be filled in their hearts and in their homes.

But I come, too, to listen to and transmit to everyone the message of those who rest in this Polish military cemetery, as also in the British, German, Italian and French cemeteries. They tell us that the sacrifice of their young lives cannot have been useless; that their blood must have contributed to making men better, more open, more united in solidarity with others; that their extreme suffering, incomprehensible on the human plane, has acquired full significance since it was united with that of Christ, who took upon himself also pain and death.

I call upon everyone to join in my prayer for the souls of the soldiers buried under the soil of these cemeteries, but also for the soldiers who fell in all wars, doing their duty for their homeland, and who live, for ever, in God.

In this perspective, my stop at Monte Cassino Abbey takes on almost a symbolic meaning. Completely destroyed by the fury of war and reborn from its ruins, it continues to be for Europe and for the world a centre of spirituality and civilization. On this solemn day, in the name of God and in the name of man, I repeat to everyone: "Do not kill! Do not prepare destruction and extermination for men! Think of your brothers and sisters who are suffering hunger and misery! Respect each one's dignity and freedom!" (Enc. Redemptor Hominis RH 16).

To all, my Apostolic Blessing.



Friday, 18 May 1979

Beloved and revered Confrères of the Italian Episcopate!

I deeply desired to meet you again at the end of this General Assembly, not only for the pleasure that renewed contact or—more exactly—communion certainly gives me and you, but also and above all to express to you my sincere appreciation for the commitment each of you has shown in these laborious days. I have just returned from the visit to Monte Cassino, and also this circumstance, recalling fundamental memories that concern both the history of Christianity and Italic civilization, makes me feel more deeply the spiritual tie that binds me to you. And also I want to thank you for having patiently waited for me, aware as I am that not a few of you should have returned to your respective sees for urgent requirements of your ministry.

1. On my side, I have been careful to follow your work—as far as was possible. I noted, with great . satisfaction, its seriousness and clarity in the rightful and pre-eminent consideration you dedicated to the problem-theme of "Seminaries and Priestly Vocations", I have already spoken of this subject during the concelebration in the Sistine Chapel, but its intrinsic importance and the special contributions made by the, Rapporteurs prompt me to add some further considerations in this connection.

There is no doubt that the statistical data that have been presented, should offer the necessary reference point for an exact evaluation of the problem; but, as Pastors animated by living faith and prudent realism, we must always keep in mind that the most effective remedy, the adequate solution, lies in an incessant, courageous, and fervent vocational initiative. It is not permissible to think of the problem in numerical and bureaucratic terms or in the key of mere recruiting: vocation is and remains an elect gift from God, which, far from dispensing from human collaboration, rather presupposes it and stimulates it. Nor is it permissible to think of its solution by eliminating or weakening those typical characteristics of the priesthood which represent inseparably its nobility and its difficulty: it is not a question of lowering the line so that the obstacle can be cleared! It is necessary to respond to the height of the ideal with generosity of dedication and capacity of sacrifice.

Brothers, you understand that a coordinated pastoral effort is necessary for that reawakening of vocations which is desired not only by us gathered here but by the whole People of God, to whose evangelization we are assigned with the indispensable help of the priests. It is to this effort that you have dedicated observations and resolutions in the course of this Assembly. I make them my own, offering you my solidarity and most open collaboration.

2. I listened to the concluding Communiqué, drawn up at the end of your work. I am happy to express my convinced adherence to the indications contained in it. The intention that inspired you was to express collegially, in the riches of the contributions offered by you in these days, a unified operational line. In this way too—I think—the community awareness of the whole Episcopate is strengthened and increased, as likewise its capacity of indicating with due deliberation a clear position which, while considering the different circumstances, is responsibly binding on each of the members of the Conference. In such an important hour for the life of the nation, animated by a high sense of duty, you have opportunely pressed for the dignity and consistency of sound Christian conscience. And how could I fail to emphasize the importance and validity of such an approach, which—amid changing events or in the diversity of socio-cultural circumstances—assumes the value of a principle? Yours is an appeal which, objectively, deserves to be shared, and I hope it will be accepted and followed.

3. The fullness of the discussions, the seriousness of the subjects dealt with and capacity in deciding, which you have also shown these days, are an eloquent sign of your affection for the people that is entrusted to you; for this Italian people, to whom I feel driven—almost by a natural impulse—to address a due word of gratitude and praise. Yes, I wish to express public and well-deserved praise to the good and generous people, tenacious and laborious, who add to the recognized virtues of ancient times the dynamism and brilliant achievements of the modern age. These were my thoughts this morning during the journey that took me to the venerated Tomb of St Benedict, patron saint and a luminous example for the whole of Europe. Also when visiting the nearby cemetery where lie—beside those of so many other victims—the remains of the sons of my Poland who shed their blood in this land, I was thinking of the history of Italy which, at critical moments, has always called upon its innermost and admirable energies, finding in them the secret and the courage for recovery. And I was thinking, together with the Saint of Norcia, of Francis of Assisi and Catherine of Siena, a triad which draws the admiring eyes of the world, and not only the Christian world. And I was thinking of the multiform and symbolical relationship that throughout the centuries has marked the history of the Church and of Italy, so rich in admired testimonies of Christian faith. Beloved Brothers, this expression of praise bursts spontaneously from my heart, and I beg you to convey it to your priests and to your faithful when you return to your sees.

4. Allow me, finally, revered and dear Brothers, to touch now upon another matter, which is of fundamental importance for the very activity of your Conference.

a) Already some time ago, Cardinal Antonio Poma, who has filled the office of President of the Italian Episcopal Conference for ten years now, asked for his resignation from this post to be accepted. He had presented this request already to Pope Paul VI and then to Pope John Paul I; afterwards he turned to me, too, expressing the same desire. I asked him to remain in office for some time longer. We all know how important the presidency of the Cardinal Archbishop of Bologna was for the Episcopal Community of Italy during the years that witnessed the faithful and generous application of the norms issued by the Apostolic See in implementation of the provisions of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. I wish to say here before you all that Cardinal Poma has always been very close to me personally since the times of the Council, during which I was able to admire his high qualifications, his zeal, his prudence and his goodness. In this decade of his presidency there have also taken shape more and more clearly the structures, the sphere of competence, and the tasks of the Italian Episcopal Conference. It has assumed an increasingly organic, incisive and essential dimension, taking the opportune initiatives to increase the spiritual life of the country, in a view at once objective and hopeful, critical and stimulating, of the most serious problems on the plane of the overall apostolate. This is confirmed, among other things, by the interest that its decisions and its documents arouse in public opinion. Cardinal Poma's merits, though shrouded by his modesty, are certainly very great in the growing role taken by the C.E.I., and I am happy to acknowledge it today, publicly and with deep gratitude.

b) As a result of this resignation, I found myself up against a problem that we all consider very important.

The Statute of the C.E.I. lays down in article 25: "In consideration of the particular ties of the Italian Episcopate with the Pope, Bishop of Rome, the nomination of the President of the Conference is reserved for the Sovereign Pontiff."

Realizing that the aforesaid principle set a very difficult task on the Pope, who does not come from the circle of the Italian Episcopate, and, at the same time, wishing to act in a way that was not contrary to this norm, I considered it opportune—in view of the necessity of making provision for the nomination of the new President—to have recourse to the Presidents of the Regional Conferences, asking them to express their opinions to ensure Cardinal Poma's succession.

At the conclusion of these contacts, I decided to call upon Archbishop Anastasio Alberto Ballestrero of Turin, proposing to him to accept the office of President of the C.E.I., since he had been indicated by the majority of the Prelates consulted. Since Archbishop Ballestrero has accepted the nomination, I wish now to communicate to all of you present here that from today he is, for the period of three years—as laid down by the Statute—the President of that C.E.I.

I would like to express to him, therefore, my hearty congratulations and my brotherly wishes, certain that I am interpreting the feelings of all.

In the spirit of the Gospel word, which I wished to recall already during the recent concelebration, I renew to you a pressing invitation to trust and courage, in the certainty of the indefectible assistance of God, in whose name I willingly bless you, together with your faithful.



Saturday, 19 May 1979

Beloved Members of the Alpine Troops of Italy!

Welcome to this historic Square of St Peter's!

Celebrating your periodical Parade, pregnant with memories, nostalgia, poetry and friendship, in Rome this year, you also wished to meet the Pope.

Alpine soldiers of Italy! Veterans, survivors of so many battles, wounded, perhaps, and mutilated, rank and file, military Chaplains, decorated and well-deserving, young servicemen who belong to this generous and courageous corps, receive my most cordial greeting.

I thank you heartily for coming! I thank you in particular for your feelings of faith, esteem, goodwill and respect, and I would like everyone to feel in the depths of his heart how much the Church and the Pope love you; they love every man as he makes his pilgrim way on earth!

May today's meeting become for you all a joyful page of your life, may it be a comfort and spur for you and for your dear ones to be better and better.

But I would like you to take with you, besides the spontaneous and warm joy of the meeting, also the memory of the word of the Pope, who speaks to you in the name of Christ, man's Redeemer.

1. You men, steeled by the dramatic and painful vicissitudes of history, teach the world to see in events the hand of divine Providence guiding history.

The international situation, always precarious and unstable, the continual resurgence of political and social violence, the widespread sense of dissatisfaction and restlessness, the heavy concerns for the future of mankind, the bitter disappointments of many classes of society, the uncertainties that weigh on the future of everyone, and still other causes, can introduce the poison of pessimism and drive to escapism, indifference, sometimes to heedless and inert irony, and in certain cases even to despair!

Well, the difficult and glorious events of your lives teach people to have the courage to accept history. Fundamentally, this means loving one's own times, without vain regrets and without mythical utopias, convinced that each one has a mission to carry out, that life is a gift received and riches that must be bestowed, whether the times are serene or intricate, peaceful or troubled.

For this, however, the "pedagogy of will" is necessary. That is, training for sacrifice and self-denial, commitment in the formation of strong, serious characters, education to the virtue of inner fortitude to overcome difficulties, not to give in to laziness, to keep one's word and do one's duty faithfully.

Today particularly, the world needs tenacious and courageous men who look upwards, like the mountaineer who climbs the steep wall to reach the summit and neither the abyss of the precipice below nor the hard rock or inclement ice can stop him.

Today many people feel frail and confused; and it is also understandable, in view of the more concrete and immediate knowledge of human vicissitudes and the facile consumer mentality that progress has created. It is, therefore, all the more necessary to return and teach the spirit of sacrifice and courage.

2. But it is not enough to accept history: you teach us that it is necessary to "transform" history!

How many of you could narrate their adventures in peace and in war, now tragic and sad, now merry and serene!

And what can be drawn from this patrimony of real-life experience? Only one conclusion and only one imperative: history must be transformed by means of the "civilization of love" which was the constant concern of Pope Paul VI, of venerated and ever present memory.

And therefore, I say to you, members of the Italian Alpine troops, as I say to all men on earth: Love!

This is Christ's "new commandment": "Love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 15,12);

— love your family, your home, and remain faithful in love!

— love your country, your district, your city! Let each one make his contribution of commitment, service, and charity, especially for the suffering and needy, so as to create centres of solidarity, in order that no one will feel alone and excluded because of selfishness.

— love Italy, your dear homeland, which amid so many difficulties and conflicts, is still your country, rich in history, beauty, genius and goodness!

— love Europe, which for millennia has poured into history the incalculable riches of intelligence and feeling.

— love the whole world, because we are all brothers and each one must bear the whole of humanity in his heart! How many refugees, unemployed, victims of catastrophes, homeless and starving people are waiting for our love!

Let us recall a well-known figure in Italy and abroad: the Alpine Chaplain, Don Carlo Gnocchi! On his return from the terrible experience of the campaign in Russia, he committed himself to loving even more, and founded the Society for the assistance of maimed children and victims of polio!

3. Finally, I would like to add further: let us elevate history by means of faith in Jesus Christ!

For what reason did God become incarnate? Why did Jesus Christ, the Word of God, wish to take his place in our human history? Only to save it, by revealing the transcendent and ultramundane values of all our actions. This is the truth that makes our existence so sublime: we are destined for God, for eternity, for eternal happiness which depends on our free choices. Jesus came to bear witness to truth and to guarantee it (Jn 18,37).

In the introduction to his famous "Life of Jesus", the well-known French writer François Mauriac wrote: "It was necessary for God to immerse himself in humanity and, at a precise moment of history, at a determined point of the globe, for a human being, made of flesh and blood, to utter certain words, carry out certain acts, in order that I should throw myself on my knees... I believe only in what I touch, only in what I see, only in what is incorporated in my substance; and that is why I have faith in Christ" (F. Mauriac, La vita di Gesú, Ed. Mondadori, Milan, 1943).

To save man it is necessary to have faith in Christ! To elevate history, it is necessary to save men! And Christ says to us: "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest" (Mt 11,28). He alone has words of eternal life! He alone is man's salvation.

Members of the Alpine troops of Italy! Christ wants to make you, too, instruments of peace and salvation! Listen to his voice! Bear witness to his love!

May the Blessed Virgin, whom you call "Our Lady of the Alpine troops", assist you!

Let my propitiating Blessing, which I wish to extend to all your dear ones, to all your families, accompany you!



19 May 1979

Beloved Students,

I extend to you a warm welcome and my most cordial greeting. Theologians engaged in various ways in service of your Church, you have come to this City to specialize and, at the same time, to get to know directly the great effort of theological reflection and pastoral renewal carried out at all levels of the life of the Catholic Church, especially after the recent Council. An effort of spiritual deepening, purifying tension towards what is essential, increasingly dynamic and consistent faithfulness to our one Lord and to all aspects of his message of salvation, which we must announce to the men and women of today.

In this vast field of the mission of the Church in the modern world, the possibilities of collaboration between the Catholic Church and the venerable Orthodox Churches, to which you belong, are vast, since they spring from the communion which, although not yet full, already unites us. Then, too, it is just by endeavouring to live and present together the whole reality of the Gospel given to the Church and handed down to us, from generation to generation, that we will be able to dispel and overcome better the divergences inherited from the incomprehension of the past.

This collaboration is not only possible immediately, but it is necessary, if we really wish to be faithful to Christ. He wants our unity. He prayed for our unity. Today more than ever, in a world that demands authenticity and consistency, our division is an intolerable counter-testimony. It is as though we denied in our lives what we profess and proclaim.

I wished to communicate these thoughts to you, on receiving you here for the first time, to ask you to tell your Bishops and your Patriarchs my firm determination to collaborate with them to progress towards full unity, manifesting in the life of our Churches that unity that already exists among us. That charity without deception, in which we have found ourselves again and met again in recent years, must become inventive and courageous to find safe and rapid paths which will lead us to that full communion which will seal our faithfulness to our one Lord.

This is the message I ask you to transmit to those who have sent you to study in the various Institutes of the Church of Rome, the Church that presides over charity.

For you, dear students, I hope that this stay in Rome will be a fruitful one, above all for your growth in Christ under the action of the Holy Spirit. A strong personal spiritual life is the indispensable condition for all theological work and the spring at which every true ecclesial service must continually be nourished and renewed. And may this stay be fruitful also for your preparation for the tasks that will be entrusted to you in the future.



21 May 1979

Mr President and all of you from the "Alitalia" Company!

I am very happy to be able to meet you, this morning, in the cordial familiarity of this special Audience. Permitting me to see you again at close quarters, it reawakens, fresh and intact, in my mind the unforgettable emotions of the journey to Latin America.

I wish in the first place to express to you my sincere gratitude for all your attention to me and to the persons who accompanied me. The ability of the pilots and their perfect control of the complex apparatus on board, the delicate and attentive solicitude of the personnel of the magnificent I-Dyne "Dante Alighieri", which your Company had put at our disposal, made possible a swift, safe and comfortable flight to that distant continent in which a fellow-countryman of yours planted the cross of Christ for the first time, nearly five centuries ago.

A host of memories, images and emotions are present in my spirit when I recall the moment in which, with the anxiety of the missionary in my heart, I set foot on that land, in which the toil, the sacrifice, and the blood of so many generous proclaimers of the Gospel have brought forth abundant harvests, which are now "white for harvest" (Jn 4,35). The meeting with the ardent faith of those peoples and with their spontaneous and irrepressible enthusiasm was a unique experience for me which is stamped on my heart in indelible characters. The impetus, full of confidence, with which immense multitudes of persons flocked around Christ's humble Vicar—Christ who "is the centre of the universe and of history" (Redemptor Hominis, n. 1)—confirmed me in the conviction that the modern world is turning again to Christ "as the one who brings man freedom based on truth, frees man from what curtails, diminishes and as it were breaks off this freedom at its root, in man's soul, his heart and his conscience" (ibid. n. 12).

Well, the work you carried out with exceptional skill and indefatigable dedication was the precious mediation which enabled me to take a word, a wish, a hope to the Church which "simul orat et laborat", at once prays and works (Lumen Gentium LG 17), in Latin America. Renewing to you the attestation of my gratitude, I wish to assure you that there has been, and will be, a special place for you in my prayer. I know the difficulties of your work and I know that it requires, as well as thorough preparation and constant practice, exceptional mastery of one's nerves and a sound psychical balance which guarantee the capacity of lucid self-control even in unexpected and risky situations.

These are interior qualities which can find a precious and strengthening support in a mature faith and in a sincere moral commitment according to the dictates of ancient Christian wisdom. Moreover, familiarity with the boundless spaces of the sky and the possibility of keeping at a distance, so to speak, "the threshing floor which makes us wax so fierce" (Dante, Par 22:151), cannot but facilitate in the spirit of those who venture to those heights a clearer perception of the loving divine presence and a more serene and true view of the real values which make the life of a human being noble and worthy.

My wish is that the thought of God, Father of all men, Creator of the lands over which you fly, and Lord of the skies that you furrow, will accompany you constantly in the accomplishment of your duty, enlighten you and support you in difficult moments, always inspire in you the right "route" in the choices of life, so that this decisive journey, which has its stop beyond the frontiers of time, may safely reach its destination, which is God himself.

I confirm these wishes with a special Apostolic Blessing which I willingly extend to all members of the "Alitalia" Company and to your relatives, asking you to take it to them together with the assurance of my affectionate remembrance in prayer.


Monday, 21 May 1979

Dearly beloved in Christ,

AS BISHOP OF ROME I welcome you to this Apostolic See. It is especially gratifying to know that you have come for ecumenical consultation on the religious life. Your visit therefore is a propitious moment to reflect together briefly on this theme, and through this reflection to experience the joy of a common acceptance of so many great ideals of the religious life.

Among these ideals is the pivotal concept of religious life as a special consecration to our Lord Jesus Christ, as a means of adhering totally to his divine person and of fulfilling all the exigencies of Baptism in Christ. Religious life is the radical pursuit of the Beatitudes; the practical recognition of the absolute primacy of Christ in the Church and in the world. It is a free response of disciples to the invitation of the Lord Jesus: "Abide in my love"[1].

The Second Vatican Council looks upon religious life as being ordered to the greater holiness of the Church and to the greater glory of the Blessed Trinity, which in Christ and through Christ is the source and origin of all holiness[2]. It sees all the fruitful ecclesial service of religious as resulting from intimate union with Christ[3].

Any consideration of religious life as a new and special title of fulfilling the universal call of all God’s people to holiness brings us, moreover, of necessity to the ecclesial aspect of religious life. In the history of the Church, the ecclesiastical authority has guaranteed the authenticity of this life, and this life has constantly been viewed in its relationship to the entire Body of Christ, in which the activities of each member and of communities are advantageous to the whole Body by reason of the principle of dynamic union with Christ the Head.

Through God’s grace I am confident that your ecumenical consultation on such important subjects will bring forth fruit that will last. I pray that the Holy Spirit will himself shed light on your reflection of religious life, especially as it touches the question of Church unity – the perfect unity willed by Christ.

Who more than religious should experience in prayer the urgency, not only of manifesting unity, but also of living it in the fullness of truth and charity? And as we experience this urgency – an experience which is itself a gift of God – do we not likewise experience the need for that increased personal purification, for that ever greater conversion of heart that God seems to be requiring as a prerequisite for the restoration of the corporate unity of all Christians? And does not the spiritual freedom that religious endeavour to acquire in adhering totally to the Lord Jesus bind them ever more closely, in love, to pursue to the end the will of Christ for his Church? Are religious not called in a special way to give expression to the yearning of Christians that the ecumenical dialogue – which by its nature is temporary – should be brought to term in that full ecclesial fellowship which is "with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ"[4]? Should religious not be the first to pledge the fullness of their generosity before God’s salvific plan, each one repeating with Saint Paul: "What am I to do, Lord?"[5].

Dear brothers and sisters, this is a moment of joy, not founded in complacency, but in humble and repentant desire to fulfill the will of God. It is at the same time a moment of confidence "in Christ Jesus whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption"[6].To him we turn our hearts as we invoke the power of his merits to sustain us as we await, in generosity and sacrifice, the full revelation of his Kingdom, the consummation of our unity in Christ: "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done".

I would ask you to take back to your religious communities my greeting and encouragement to live deeply "by faith in the Son of God"[7]. With the expression of my friendship and esteem I send the assurance of my love in Christ Jesus our Lord.

[1] Io. 15, 9.

[2] Cfr. Lumen Gentium, 47.

[3] Cfr. Perfectae Caritatis, 8.

[4] 1 Io. 1, 3.

[5] Act. 22, 10.

[6] 1 Cor. 1, 30.

[7] Gal. 2, 20.



22 May 1979

Beloved sons,

Allow me to manifest to you, without circumlocutions or introductory periphrases, but with immediate spontaneity, the various feelings in my heart, at this meeting. It takes place in such a poetic setting of silence, peace, and prayer, during a limpid and serene evening in May, at the foot of the Grotto of Our Lady, or, better, close to the Heart of the Blessed Mother who looks at us and smiles to us from the grotto constructed in these Vatican Gardens, in devout and perennial memory of that place, near the Pyrenees, where she appeared, last century, as a heavenly vision, a messenger of hope and love for suffering and sinful humanity!

My first thought is of sincere satisfaction and deep gratitude for all those who have promoted and organized this meeting of ours. It could be defined a "family meeting", because we are all gathered round the Blessed Virgin for a simple, spontaneous and affectionate dialogue, as happens between children and their mother, who sees everything, even the deepest secrets; who understands everything, even the longest silences; who enlivens everything, even the most insignificant things.

Thanks to you all, for coming to visit the Pope. Thanks, again, for the delicate sentiments you harbour in your hearts for the Vicar of Christ and which you intend to manifest on this particular occasion. Thanks, finally, for your presence, which can be considered almost a "sacramental presence" of Christ! Yes, you are, in your wounded and painful flesh, the expression of Christ Crucified, and as it were the prolongation of his Passion, so that each of you can repeat with St Paul: "In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church" (Col 1,24); and again: "we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him" (Rm 4,17). Christ, therefore, chooses you, unites you and assimilates you to himself with the irreplaceable, ineffable means of suffering, through which he imprints in you his painful image and continues to carry out the work of Redemption.

What, then, is the value of our suffering? You have not suffered or do not suffer in vain. Pain matures you in spirit, purifies you in heart, gives you a real sense of the world and of life, enriches you with goodness, patience and endurance, and—hearing the Lord's promise re-echo in your heart: `"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Mt 5,4)—gives you the sensation of deep peace, perfect joy, and happy hope. Succeed, therefore, in giving a Christian value to your suffering, succeed in sanctifying your suffering, with constant and generous trust in him, who comforts and gives strength. I want you to know that you are not alone, or separated, or abandoned in your "Via Crucis"; beside you, each one of you, is the Blessed Virgin, who considers you her most beloved children: Mary, who "is a mother to us in the order of grace... from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross..." (Lumen Gentium LG 61-62), is close to you, because she greatly suffered with Jesus for the salvation of the world.

Look to her with full confidence and filial abandonment: she looks at you with a special glance, she smiles to you with motherly tenderness, she follows you with solicitous care!

May this sweet Mother assist you and protect you always. We pray to her for you, that she may be close to you, comfort you, give you peace and lead to fulfilment in you—for the good of the Church, for the spread of the Gospel, for the peace of the world—that plan of grace and love which unites you more closely to Jesus Christ and configures you to him. I am certain that you will pray for the Pope and offer your sufferings to the Lord also for him, won't you? In this way, our mutual cordial talk will continue beyond this very short space of time.

To all of you, finally, to your relatives, to the doctors and those who assist you and look after you continually and affectionately, I impart the Apostolic Blessing, as a forecast of abundant heavenly favours and a token of my fatherly benevolence.

To the members of the International Catholic Committee for the Blind:

I wish to greet also the members of the International Catholic Committee for the Blind, who are preparing their eleventh international Congress.

Dear friends, I know your efforts in the service of the blind, especially in the developing countries where life is even more difficult for them. Receive all my encouragement!

Certainly, nature revolts spontaneously before suffering and infirmity. Is it not necessary, moreover, to reject them in a way in order to succeed in transcending them, in living, in spite of them, as fully as possible? That is, in fact, the meaning of the social action of your Committee.

But faith in the Risen Christ opens to a deeper perspective. The Exultet of Easter tells us that he is "the light which knows no decline", "qui nescit occasum"! Seek this light of the soul. Through it, suffering united with that of Our Lord and of the Virgin Mary at the foot of the cross, opens the way to eternal life, for oneself and for others.

May your Congress, for the third age, work according to this double inspiration. Help the blind to live fully on the human plane. Help them also to progress generously towards this spiritual light "which knows no decline", which can illuminate and warm all old age, in spite of its sorrows, up to the last moment. May the Virgin of Light, who must be invoked every day, guide you herself in your apostolate. Be assured of my prayer for you and for all the blind persons you represent, and receive my blessing.

Speeches 1979 - Friday, 18 May 1979