Speeches 1981 - Thursday, 7 May 1981


Monday, 11 May 1981

Dear brothers and sisters from Sri Lanka,

It gives me great happiness to welcome you today. You have come a long distance, and yet you are still at home here in Rome, the centre of Christianity.

It is my prayer that your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul will bring you fresh strength and joy for your daily Christian lives. As baptized and confirmed members of Christ, you share with him his mission of salvation. But in order to be fully effective in making your particular contribution, you must yourselves walk “in newness of life”. God is constantly calling you to this newness of life; and the Risen Christ, by the power of his Paschal Mystery, makes it possible for you to respond with generous and faithful love.

May you return home renewed in your Christian vocation, and in your resolve to assist your brothers and sisters by prayer good example and various forms of selfless Christian service. Through you I send my greetings to all the members of the Church, to your Christian brethren, and to all your fellow-citizens in Sri Lanka. May the God of peace and love bless all of you.

                                                              October 1981



Monday, 5 October 1981

Dear Brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ,

1. You have formed yourselves into a united interterritorial Episcopal Conference – that of The Gambia, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and as such you have assembled here today. Trough this union among yourselves you find fraternal support, face common problems, and seek effective means to preach the Gospel of Christ. Over and above all this, on occasions like the present one, you are in a position to live the mystery of the Church’s unity as fully as possible among yourselves: Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum[1].

2. These same advantages apply also in a different way to your ad Limina visit. Here you and your local ecclesial communities find the support of the universal Church. Here you are assured of the personal interest and concern of the Bishop of Rome, who testifies before you to the love that the whole Church has for you. Here the Holy See endeavours to share with you the burdens of your office and your common problems; here you seek and receive among brothers the solidarity and support needed for fulfilling your mission of proclaiming Christ. In this regard, the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, and all those throughout the world who are associated with it in collaborating for the missions, assure you of their prayers, their esteem and their desire to assist you.

3. As Bishops, you have come to Rome to invoke the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and to find strength at their tombs. With them it is fitting to turn immediately to Jesus. With Peter you confess to Jesus and before the world “Your are the Christ, the Son of the living”[2]. And with Paul you reiterate your deep conviction that Jesus is for all of us “our wisdom, our righteousness, our sanctification and redemption”[3].

This conviction about Christ explains your whole ministry and all your efforts to bring his name before your people. It explains your desire to preach his Gospel of salvation. Your faith in the Son of God sustains you in the toil involved in gathering your people together by word and sacrament into one ecclesial family, one communion. Because you yourselves have accepted the mystery hidden for centuries and revealed in Christ, you are spurred on to communicate Christ to others, proclaiming the content of his revelation as the great original contribution of Christianity.

4. Because Jesus is our redemption and our all, your ministry is placed under the sign of hope. You hope in God’s word; you trust in his promises. You rely on his help each day, just as your missionary predecessors did before you. Your sentiments are indeed identical with those of the Apostle Paul: “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God”[4]. With this apostolic hope, dear Brothers, go forward zealously in your pastoral labours. Proclaim incessantly the mystery of Christ and his Church, in accordance with the lofty teaching of the Second Vatican Council, and in fidelity to all of its directives.

Continue in your ministry of forming Christ in the young generation and of offering to them the full challenge of his Sermon on the Mount. God will certainly reward you and all who have worked with you in promoting Catholic schools and the many services that these schools render to the Catholic community and to society in general.

Do not cease to present Christ’s teaching on justice and fraternal love to all men and women of good will at every level of society. By so doing you will promote the harmony and well-being of the nations themselves of which you are a part.

5. In a very special way continue to exercise your pastoral zeal in fostering religious and priestly vocations for Christ. “Cast all your anxieties on him”[5], and pray “the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest”[6]. Appeal to your people to understand how vitally necessary this is for the community, and how important is the contribution of the Christian family in fostering ecclesiastical vocations. Appeal to the people for the prayer and sacrifice that God requires of the community so that young people may receive the grace to persevere with pure and generous love in following Christ. Appeal especially to the sick and to the infirm to offer up their sufferings, in union with those of the Saviour, for this holy intention.

6. Through a concerted pastoral effort, you now have an inter-territorial seminary within the Vicariate Apostolic of Monrovia. This common apostolic initiative deserves your sustained interest and the full measure of your personal attention – your individual and collective attention. The seminary is of capital importance for the life of the Christian community and for the future of God’s people. In the seminary, God’s word must be authentically lived and faithfully transmitted in its integrity, in obedience to the command of Christ and for the well-being of every future generation of your people. Fidelity in transmitting the faith and diligence in training seminarians are pastoral activities of supreme importance for Bishops: the are expressions of deep pastoral love. Yes, it was with profound insight that the Second Vatican Council referred to the seminary as “the heart of the diocese”[7].

7. Dearly beloved Brothers, on this ad Limina visit, with all your heart, renew your confidence in Jesus Christ and in his Holy Spirit. In the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s word has been sown, has grown, and has already yielded a rich harvest for the Kingdom of God. Amid trials and difficulties the Holy Spirit has sustained your predecessors, yourselves and your clergy. He will continue to be with you and in you, and to work through you. I would now ask you to take back my Apostolic Blessing to all your people. In particular I ask that you convey to your priests, religious and other collaborators in the Gospel the message of Christian hope that we have celebrated together in Rome: “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God”[8].

And until the Lord comes in glory, may Mary, faithful Spouse of the Holy Spirit, be for the pilgrim people of God in your beloved lands “a sign of sure hope and solace”[9]. May the Mother of Jesus be close to you all with her maternal love.

[1] Ps. 132 (133), 1.

[2] Matth. 16, 16.

[3] 1 Cor. 1, 30.

[4] 1 Tim. 4, 10.

[5] 1 Petr. 5, 7.

[6] Matth. 9, 37.

[7] Optatam Totius, 5.

[8] 1 Tim. 4, 10.

[9] Lumen Gentium, 68



Friday, 9 October 1981

Dear Brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ,

1. After a long period of recovery, it is a joy for me to be back once again in the midst of my Brothers in the Episcopate. It was especially pleasing to me to resume the ad Limina audiences by beginning last week with the first group of Bishops from Tanzania, and in particular with Cardinal Rugambwa. During my visit to Africa I had the occasion to express publicly my deep esteem for him, recalling his long and faithful service as a Bishop and his two decades as a Cardinal. And with deep affection in Christ Jesus I welcome you today, and direct my words of fraternal support to you and to the whole hierarchy of your country.

I likewise take this occasion to send my respectful and cordial greetings to His Excellency the President of the Republic.

2. As zealous pastors of the flock you have come to Rome to offer your local Churches to Jesus Christ – to offer them to him in Catholic unity. You have come to entrust the destiny of your people “to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood”[1]. You bear the joys and burdens, the hopes and aspirations of thousands of individuals and numerous ecclesial communities. Be assured, dear Brothers, that your offering is pleasing to the Lord, who is for ever with his bride, the Church.

3. At the same time you have come to renew your own dedication as Bishops. As you do so, I want you to know that I am close to you in prayer. As Bishop of Rome, your brother and fellow servant in the Gospel, I wish to proclaim the great pastoral role that is yours, your lofty dignity as servant leaders of God’s people. I wish to offer words of praise for all the united efforts you have made, for everything you do in imitation of Jesus the Good Shepherd. I wish likewise to encourage you to continue steadfast in facing the pastoral problems of each day, seeking together realistic solutions in accordance with the reality of the word of God and its almighty power, knowing full well that “what is impossible with men is possible with God”[2]. Jesus himself has laid down the standards for our people; he gives the grace. It is up to us to offer his teaching in its fullness, waiting patiently for him to touch human hearts and to bring forth a good harvest. Indeed, we must be convinced that he who is “at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think”[3]. For us, failure consists in doubting the infinite power of Christ’s grace.

4. It is clear that we must maintain our evangelical priorities: those essential values that affect the very life of the Christian communities. In particular, I would ask you to continue to make every effort in promoting catechetical instruction, religious education and the proper training of your seminarians. As Bishops, show your pastoral interest in your priests and give to all of them the expression of your fraternal love, so that they in turn may be effective instruments in the ministry of salvation.

5. In everything you do, maintain a vision of the Church as a community gathered together in Christ, a communion built up by his holy word, nourished by his Body and Blood, and loved by his Father in heaven. The local Churches for which you give your lives are the communities of your own beloved people God’s pilgrim people – making up his Mystical Body and striving to live his very life amidst the customs of their own cultures – purified and uplifted by the salvific Gospel of Jesus – and amidst the events of daily life. This was my thought last year when I addressed the Bishops assembled in Nairobi and said: “By respecting, preserving and fostering the particular values and riches of your people’s cultural heritage, you will be in a position to lead them to a better understanding of the mystery of Christ, which is to be lived in the noble, concrete and daily experience of African life. There is no question of adulterating the word of God, or of emptying the Cross of its power[4], but rather of bringing Christ into the very centre of African life and of lifting up all African life to Christ. Thus, not only is Christianity relevant to Africa, but Christ, in the members of his Body, is himself African”[5].

To minister to Christ’s Body, to lead your people to full maturity in Christ – this is your vocation as Bishops. Yes, this is your ministry: to lift up all African life to Christ, who in his members has himself become African, and who continues in his Church to proclaim a Gospel that purifies and uplifts, that liberates and saves.

6. The criterion of your effective ministry – your effective episcopal ministry – is absolute fidelity to Jesus Christ and to his word. It is up to us to plant and to water; God himself will give the increase and make the seed of his word grow in his own good time. He demands our trust, our obedience in preaching his message, our patience in awaiting the full harvest of salvation. You have indeed come to Rome carrying in your hearts the hopes of your ecclesial communities and the aspirations of all your people. Today, as pastors, you and I offer all of this to Jesus Christ, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

7. May you always be close to your priests, sustaining them in generosity and fervour, and assuring them that the Pope loves them and urges them to give themselves fully for the flock. To the religious sisters and brothers I send the expression of my gratitude for their consecration to the Kingdom and for the service that they lovingly give in the name of Jesus. Tell the seminarians that Christ needs them and is counting on their collaboration and perseverance. Assure the Christian families that their vocation is blessed by God and that their fidelity renders immense glory to the grace of Jesus Christ. And before all the People of God uphold the command of Christ in all its fullness: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”[6]. This is truly your ministry as Bishops, servants of Christ’s Gospel, chosen to shepherd the Church “which he has acquired at the price of his own blood”[7].

Dear brother Bishops, together let us praise Jesus Christ, who has called us to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters, so “that they may have life, and have it abundantly”[8]. To him we renew the oblation of our lives; to him we make the offering and consecration of the holy Church of God. Praised be Jesus Christ!

[1] Apoc. 1, 4.

[2] Luc. 18, 27.

[3] Eph. 3, 20.

[4] Cfr. 1 Cor. 1, 17.

[5] Ioannis Pauli PP. II Allocutio ad Episcopos Kenianos in urbe «Nairobi» congregatos habita, 6, die 7 maii 1980: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, III, 1 (1980) 1223.

[6] Matth. 5, 48.

[7] Act. 20, 28.

[8] Io. 10, 10.




Saturday, 17 October 1981

Your Holiness,

It is with a heart full of joy that I extend a warm welcome to you, my revered Brother, and to those who accompany you today. The pleasure of receiving you here at Castelgandolfo reawakens all my gratitude for the expressions of sympathy you sent on the occasion of the sad events that afflicted me during this summer.

The close solidarity of so many brethren – itself an expression of Christian brotherhood – together with the prayers that they raised to God, provided an experience of the communion of life which springs from our common baptism and our faith in our one Lord Jesus Christ. I am therefore honoured by your visit and grateful for it.

But my joy becomes greater still as I reflect that this meeting of ours is part of a much wider spiritual movement, that common search among all Christians for growth together towards full unity.

Lack of knowledge of each other’s languages, very different historical circumstances, differences of outlook and culture – for these and other reasons our Churches came, as century succeeded century, to live apart. This in turn brought about a further obscuring of our understanding of each other. In calling Catholics to play an active part in the quest for full unity, the Second Vatican Council pointed out the need to form an accurate picture of other Christians as a necessary pre-requisite for full unity. Thus it was that the Decree on Ecumenism laid particular emphasis on the sacramental reality by which our Churches remain very closely linked, above all in virtue of apostolic succession, the priesthood and the Eucharist; it declared explicitly that “through the celebration of the Eucharist of the Lord in each of these Churches, the Church of God is built up and grows in stature”[1].

The heritage handed down by the Apostles has been lived by our Churches in different forms and ways, and it has had a varied development in accordance with the natural gifts and circumstances of life proper to each[2]. This has also led to different liturgical, disciplinary and theological expressions; in themselves, as long as this variety is complementary rather than contradictory, these different expressions are an enrichment for the life and the mission of the Church among all nations[3]. Hence unity of faith can be clothed with the particular cultural and spiritual contribution of each people and of each local Church.

The contacts which we have re-established are now enabling us to rediscover the profound and true reality of this existing unity. Even the real divergences between us are being seen more clearly as we gradually free them from so many secondary elements that derive from ambiguities of language.

This process requires – and this is indispensable – that we increase our direct contacts and develop our knowledge of each other. Theological conversations and dialogue will make an essential contribution to the clarification and definitive resolution of open questions, with a view to full reconciliation. The Catholic Church is very ready to initiate such direct contacts for the quest for full unity and to do all she can, in harmony with other Churches, to forward this search which corresponds, beyond all doubt, to God’s will for his Church.

In the process towards full unity it is necessary to bring about living contacts between the various communities, and to do this at different levels so as to involve all those who go to make up the varied life of the Church. Truly disinterested and cordial mutual collaboration sustained by common prayer can contribute not only to the obliteration of bitter memories of the past, but also to the consolidation of our present relationship and to its growth towards full unity. In this regard I would assure you of the desire of the Catholic Church in Ethiopia to pray and to work, in a spirit of fraternal love, so as to reach this goal, and, in the mean-while, to experience, as a gift of the Holy Spirit, some of the benefits of Christian unity.

Today the unity of Christians is more urgent than ever, both for the inner life of the Church and for its work of evangelising the modern world. Amidst the present changes mankind is experiencing, a common and united witness of all Christians can be the instrument of a more effective proclamation of the Gospel and also an active contribution to reconciliation among peoples and to the peace of the world.

Your Holiness, as I express the thoughts which are prompted by your welcome presence in Rome, I wish to assure you of my sentiments of brotherhood and solidarity with the whole Church of Ethiopia over which you preside and to state the Catholic Church’s readiness for ever closer contact and for that deeper dialogue which, fostered and sustained by prayer, will contribute to building up the unity willed by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

I also greet, in your person, all the people of Ethiopia and offer them my good wishes for a peaceful and constructive society and for fruitful prosperity.

[1] Unitatis Redintegratio, 15.

[2] Cfr. ibid. 14.

[3] Cfr. ibid. 14-17.



Friday, 30 October 1981

Dearly beloved Brothers,

1. We have assembled today in our Lord Jesus Christ, under the sign of hope. Indeed, our very presence here together is a celebration of "Christ Jesus our hope" (1Tm 1,1), and all our reflections are made in union with him.

2. The history of the Church in the Sudan is a history of hope. The evangelization of your people was conceived in hope, and the seed of God's word was sown in hope. It was hope that gave rise to the dawn of evangelization ; it was hope that inspired all subsequent apostolic endeavours. Missionaries, who themselves were "stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the Gospel" (2 Col 1, 23), carried this hope to your ancestors. They themselves hoped in the One whom they preached, and in whose name they came to serve. Among the heroes of hope in your land there was the Apostle of the Sudan, Bishop Daniele Comboni, the centenary of whose death we have commemorated during this month.

3. Although far from complete, and despite innumerable difficulties, the harvest has been rich. The name of the Lord Jesus has been preached, and the hope of salvation has been proclaimed. Through divine grace the process goes on, as successive generations are led to perceive and identify-even if only gradually-the One who is the term of all prophetic revelation, the Lord of Hope : "I see him – but not in the present ; I behold him – but not close at hand" (Nb 24,17).

4. The centenary of Bishop Comboni's death has itself become a symbol of hope in the Sudan. On that very day, three weeks ago, missionary hope found fulfilment as Archbishop Znbeir succeeded his beloved predecessor, Archbishop Baroni, as the Metropolitan of Khartoum. It is also a joy for me to note the various concrete projects that are being realized in conjunction with this important centennial celebration, as well as the zealous initiatives that your Episcopal Conference has sponsored in accordance with its pastoral plan of November 1979. And all these projects and initiatives are linked to the hope that is revealed in the Gospel of Christ. Further eloquent indications of hope and reasons for rejoicing are seen in the recent establishment of the Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and in the availability and assistance of other generous men religious.

5. Yes, dear Brothers, despite all the obstacles and tribulations that must be encountered on behalf of the Gospel, it is evident that the Paschal Mystery of Jesus is a perennial and effective source of hope for you and your people. Does not Saint Peter tell us that "we have been born anew to a living hope through the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead"? (1P 1,3)

6. The desire of my heart today is to confirm you in this "living hope", to assure you of my fraternal and prayerful solidarity in Christ Jesus, and to give witness to the love of the universal Church for those ecclesial communities over which you preside and for which you give your lives in loving pastoral service. My message is a message of hope motivated by love for you, love for your priests, your sisters, your laity. Through you and through all your people, united by word and sacrament as a community, the Lord Jesus wishes to keep alive the invincible hope of his Gospel. And at this juncture of history, you yourselves are called to shepherd your people, to lead them to place their hope in the merciful Saviour of the world, in the Redeemer of man. Yes, your pastoral service is to lead the flock entrusted to your care to hope in the efficacy of Christ's passion, in the power of his Resurrection, in the reality of his promises, in the love of his Person.

Beloved Brothers, your ministry and mine is to proclaim unceasingly the Incarnate Word of God, the Son of the eternal Father, "Christ Jesus our hope".

*A.A.S., vol. LXXIII (1981), n. 10, pp. 724-726

                                                              November 1981



Thursday, 12 November 1981

Dear Brothers in Christ,

1. Eighteen months have passed since we stood together on Ghanaian soil, celebrating the centenary of the implantation of the Church in your land. Those were days of joy for us as we perceived the Holy Spirit in our midst. In particular, in the Cathedral of Accra, dedicated to the Holy Spirit, we evoked his presence and his mission in the Church.

And today, we are once again keenly conscious of his presence, and we rejoice to celebrate his action in the Church. We praise the Holy Spirit for gathering us together in ecclesial communion as ministers of Christ, Bishops of his Church, men empowered to communicate by word and sacrament the life-giving message of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

2. Indeed, the purpose of my visit to Ghana was to proclaim with you Jesus Christ and his Gospel.

It was my hope to give, by God’s grace, a new impetus to evangelisation and to confirm you in your own mission as pastors of the flock. Our gathering here in Rome has the same aim. Together we are rededicating ourselves to the cause of the Gospel in fidelity to Christ, who instructed us to teach everything that he had commanded[1]. We are united in prayer with Mary, petitioning the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, so that we may perpetuate Christ’s own work of salvation. Through the word of God and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we intend to continue to build up the community of the faithful, urging them to bear witness to Christ by their lives, and to fulfil their mission of fraternal service in the world.

3. Through the personal contact that I was privileged to have with the Church in your land, and through your own reports, I know that the obstacles to evangelisation and catechesis are many. But we believe and are deeply convinced in the power of Christ’s grace in all areas of Christian living – even in those that are most difficult.

Since my pastoral visit to Ghana, the whole Church has worked and prayed for the success of the Synod of Bishops on the family in the modern world. Within a short time I hope to publish a document that will place the insights of that assembly at the pastoral service of all the Bishops of the Church, so that they may ever more fittingly minister to Christian families. It is my hope that it will be of assistance to you, the Bishops of Ghana, in your arduous mission of proclaiming and upholding the design of God from the beginning for his people, as confirmed by Christ his Son.

4. Be assured that I am close to you in the fraternal support that you are called to give to your priests, as well as in the encouragement that you must offer to the Religious. I am confident that you will continue, with God’s help, and with the collaboration of all sectors of your local Churches, to sustain those great apostolic causes that I earnestly endeavoured to promote, together with you, during my visit. In particular, I am thinking of the fostering of ecclesiastical vocations, the apostolate of the laity, the role of catechists and the constant enculturation of the Gospel message in the lives of God’s people. In all the responsibilities incumbent on us in our sacred ministry, let us trust firmly in him “who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think”[2].

5. Over and above all these and other pressing concerns of our ministry, beyond the collegial discussions and planning that we are expected to engage in, beyond the individual pastoral issues that touch our local Churches and the universal Church in general, there is yet another matter. It is the question of our own personal love for Jesus Christ and our fidelity to the promptings of his Holy Spirit. It is the question of our conformity to Christ, Priest and Victim; in other words, it is the question of our own holiness. Let us not forget the words of Saint Paul; they can be applied immediately to us: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification”[3]. In God’s plan, holiness is essential for all effective Church leadership; it is at the basis of all genuine pastoral concern and collegial activity. Yes, holiness is the great priority in our lives.

Permit me to recall words that I spoke to all of you that day in Kumasi: “...as Bishops let us call our people constantly to conversion of life, and by our example let us lead the way... as Bishops we are called to bear a consistent witness to Christ the High Priest and Pontiff of salvation by being signs of holiness in his Church. A difficult task? Yes, Brothers. But this is our vocation and the Holy Spirit is upon us. Moreover, the effectiveness of our pastoral ministry depends on our holiness of life. Let us not be afraid, for the Mother of Jesus is with us. She is in our midst today and always.

And we are strong through her prayers and safe in her care” (9 May 1980).

[1] Cfr. Matth. 28, 20.

[2] Eph. 3, 20.

[3] 1 Thess. 4, 3.


Friday, 13 November 1981

Mr. Chairman,
Mr. Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization,
Distinguished Delegates and Observers,

1. In keeping with a happy tradition established in previous years, I am pleased today to extend a warm welcome to all of you who make up the XXI Session of the FAO Conference. The importance of your Organization is self-evident, since its objective is to promote agricultural development and the provision of sufficient food for every human being. In this respect, the world situation today is far from satisfactory even though there are factors of hope. Famine and malnutrition are still all too real for millions of people.

The fight against hunger and malnutrition can and must be continued through the tenacious and harmonious efforts of all: of individuals, groups and volunteer associations, of private and public institutions, of governments and international organizations, especially those that carry out programmes and activities which are multilateral or even totally altruistic, for the sake of those countries which are the weakest and most in need of help.

As the absolute priority, the strenuous efforts of all should be directed to the elimination of “absolute poverty”, that poverty which afflicts the populations of many developing countries.

Absolute poverty is a condition in which life is so limited by lack of food, malnutrition, illiteracy, high infant mortality and low life expectancy as to be beneath any rational definition of human decency. The persistence of such degrading poverty, and especially the lack of the absolutely basic minimum of food, is a scandal of the modern world, in which one finds enormous contrasts of income and standards of living between rich countries and countries that are materially poor.

The conditions of under-development and real dependence which characterize developing countries cannot be attributed solely to a lack of will and commitment on the part of the populations concerned, nor to corruption and undue enrichment on the part of a few people within communities which have recently attained independence. For these conditions are also maintained and fostered by rigid and backward economic and social structures, both national and international, structures which cannot be changed suddenly, but which need to be changed through a long and gradual process, the fruit of a sustained and united effort following the criteria of justice in the relationships between the peoples of the entire world.

2. It should never be forgotten that the true purpose of every economic, social and political system and of every model of development is the integral advancement of the human person. Development is clearly something much more fundamental than merely economic progress measured in terms of the gross national product. True development takes as its criterion the human person with all the needs, just expectations and fundamental rights that are his or hers.

This is the central idea that I presented in my recently published Encyclical Laborem Exercens.
Its purpose is to highlight “the man who works” and who thus contributes to the economic development and the civil progress of his own country and of the whole world. Human work constitutes in fact the “essential key” of the whole social question. It is a fundamental criterion for a critical evaluation of the choices of internal and international politics which you are called upon to carry out at this General Conference of FAO. It is a criterion for the reform of economic relationships and systems at the worldwide level, always from the point of view of the good of man[1].

3. The present XXI Session of the Conference of FAO, among other agenda items, is examining and striving to put into effect the concluding resolutions of the World Conference on Land Reform and Rural Development. I have already had the opportunity of expressing my thoughts in this regard during a meeting held on that occasion[2].

At this moment I wish only to confirm, with the words of Laborem Exercens, that “In many situations radical and urgent changes are... needed in order to restore to agriculture – and to rural people – their just value as the basis for a healthy economy, within the social community’s development as a whole”[3].

Therefore I appreciate in a particular way the call which your Assembly intends to make for the recognition of the primacy of agricultural development and food production on a national, regional and worldwide level. This is particularly important at the present time, when we are seeking to devise a strategy for worldwide development in the Eighties.

Furthermore, great importance must be attached to present political planning for worldwide development, whereby it is desired to encourage developing countries to become self-reliant, and to define and put into effect their own national strategy for development, with a model adapted to actual conditions, capacities and the unique culture of each country. But this should not provide a convenient excuse for more prosperous countries to evade their responsibilities, as though they could leave the burden of development to the needy countries alone: on the contrary, these latter must be guaranteed adequate external support, of a kind which respects their dignity and autonomy of initiative.

4. There can be no doubt that the developing countries stand in need of technical and financial assistance in order to become self-sufficient in agricultural production and so be able to feed their own people.

A few developing countries are beginning to reach a level of self-sufficiency, at least in some basic products, often thanks to their own efforts aided by more prosperous countries. This is an encouraging sign; but there are many other countries with small resources and with serious food shortages, which need large-scale and urgent help in order to overcome their poverty.

The ever more obvious interdependence among the different countries of this world demands that differences of economic and political interests be overcome and that greater expression be given to the solidarity which binds all peoples in the one family.

But the demands of justice in world solidarity cannot be satisfied merely by the distribution of “surpluses”, even if these are adequate and timely. For the demands of solidarity call for an ever greater and more effective willingness to place at the disposal of all people, especially those most in need of help for their development, “the various riches of nature: those beneath the ground, those in the sea, on land or in space”[4]. The primary destination of the resources of the earth to the common good demands that the necessities of life be provided for all human beings before individuals or groups appropriate for themselves the riches of nature or the products of human skill.

Hence the need to bring about effective cooperation between highly advanced countries and countries that need their limited capacities and resources to be supplemented from outside.

Therefore forms of help must be sought which avoid a continuous recourse to investments obtained through burdensome loans from private sources, or from sources not as sufficiently disinterested as the multilateral methods of the Intergovernmental Organizations.

5. I wish above all to make the most earnest appeal possible to people’s moral conscience for the concrete affirmation of the objective criteria of justice which must govern relationships between the subjects of the civil community, whether they be individuals, or groups and enterprises, or sovereign countries. In this sense recognition must be given to the obligations which bind, in the first place from the ethical point of view, the more advanced countries such as those of the so-called “North” to the developing countries of the so-called “South”. Justice demands that each nation should assume its part of responsibility for the development of the needy nations in true international solidarity, aware that all peoples have equal dignity, and that, together, all the nations constitute a worldwide community. Hard decisions must be taken, with regard to the share that the economically rich nations will have to the structures that must jointly be set up in order to create new and just relationships in all areas of development. All nations have a claim on the solidarity of all others, but the nations that see the very existence and dignity of their people threatened have a priority claim. Responding to this claim is not a luxury. It is a duty.

In offering these thoughts to your reflection, I wish to assure you once again of my esteem for your persons and of my total support for your work. As one whose entire ministry is to represent Christ on earth – the historical compassionate Christ who was solicitous for the needy and who fed the hungry – I cannot but testify to my profound admiration for the contribution that you are making, through concerted efforts, to the cause of humanity. May Almighty God sustain you in your mission.
With reference to the agenda item dealing with energy in agriculture and for rural development, I have pleasure in offering to the Chairman of this Conference and to the Director General of FAO a copy of the preceding of the Study Conference convened by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in November 1980 on “Mankind and Energy”.

[1] Ioannis Pauli PP. II Laborem Exercens, 3.

[2] Eiusdem Allocutio, die 14 iul. 1979: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, II, 2 (1979) 50 ss.

[3] Eiusdem Laborem Exercens, 21.

[4] Ibid., 12.

Speeches 1981 - Thursday, 7 May 1981