Speeches 1982 - Saturday, 16 October 1982
Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I desire to express to you my deep gratitude for your visit and to present my best wishes for your activities, of which Professor Chagas has spoken. Permit me, first of all, to offer my felicitations to the President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences for the intense work performed in various areas of science and for the initiatives undertaken for the well-being of all humanity, such as the recent appeal against nuclear war, endorsed by approximately forty Presidents of Academies throughout the world and by other scientists who gathered on 23-24 September last in the Casina Pio IV, the headquarters of our own Academy.
2. The work which you have accomplished during these days, besides having a high scientific value, is also of great interest for religion. My predecessor Paul VI, in his discourse to the United Nations Organization on 4 October 1965, spoke from the viewpoint of being an “expert in humanity”. This expertise is indeed linked with the Church’s own wisdom, but it likewise comes from culture, of which the natural sciences are an ever more important expression.
In my talk to UNESCO on 2 June 1980, I mentioned, and now I wish to repeat it to you scientists, that there exists “an organic and constitutive link between culture and religion”. I must also confirm before this illustrious assembly what I said in my address of 3 October 1981 to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, on the occasion of the annual Study Week: “I have firm confidence in the world scientific community, and in a very particular way in the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, being certain that, thanks to them, biological progress and research, as also all other scientific research and its technological application will be accomplished in full respect for the norms of morality, safeguarding the dignity of people and their freedom and equality”. And I added: “It is necessary that science should always be accompanied and guided by the wisdom that belongs to the permanent spiritual heritage of humanity, and which is inspired by the design of God inscribed in creation before being subsequently proclaimed by his Word”.
3. Science and wisdom, which in their truest and most varied expressions constitute a most precious heritage of humanity, are at the service of man. The Church is called, in her essential vocation, to foster the progress of man, since, as I wrote in my first Encyclical: “. . . man is the primary route that the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission: he is the primary and fundamental way for the Church, the way traced out by Christ himself” (IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Redemptor Hominis RH 14). Man is also for you the ultimate term of scientific research, the whole man, spirit and body, even if the immediate object of the sciences that you profess is the body with all its organs and tissues. The human body is not independent of the spirit, just as the spirit is not independent of the body, because of the deep unity and mutual connection that exist between one and the other.
The substantial unity between spirit and body, and indirectly with the cosmos, is so essential that every human activity, even the most spiritual one, is in some way permeated and coloured by the bodily condition; at the same time the body must in turn be directed and guided to its final end by the spirit. There is no doubt that the spiritual activities of the human person proceed from the personal centre of the individual, who is predisposed by the body to which the spirit is substantially united. Hence the great importance, for the life of the spirit, of the sciences that promote the knowledge of corporeal reality and activity.
4. Consequently, I have no reason to be apprehensive for those experiments in biology that are performed by scientists who, like you, have a profound respect for the human person, since I am sure that they will contribute to the integral well-being of man. On the other hand, I condemn, in the most explicit and formal way, experimental manipulations of the human embryo, since the human being, from conception to death, cannot be exploited for any purpose whatsoever. Indeed, as the Second Vatican Council teaches, man is “the only creature on earth which God willed for itself” (Gaudium et Spes GS 24). Worthy of esteem is the initiative of those scientists who have expressed their disapproval of experiments that violate human freedom, and I praise those who have endeavoured to establish, with full respect for man’s dignity and freedom, guidelines and limits for experiments concerning man.
The experimentation that you have been discussing is directed to a greater knowledge of the most intimate mechanisms of life, by means of artificial models, such as the cultivation of tissues, and experimentation on some species of animals genetically selected. Moreover, you have indicated some experiments to be accomplished on animal embryos, which will permit you to know better how cellular differences are determined.
It must be emphasized that new techniques, such as the cultivation of cells and tissues, have had a notable development which permits very important progress in biological sciences, and they are also complementary to experimentation done on animals. It is certain that animals are at the service of man and can hence be the object of experimentation. Nevertheless, they must be treated as creatures of God which are destined to serve man’s good, but not to be abused by him. Hence the diminution of experimentation on animals, which has progressively been made ever less necessary, corresponds to the plan and well-being of all creation.
5. I have learned with satisfaction that among the themes discussed during your Study Week you have focused attention on in vitro experiments which have yielded results for the cure of diseases related to chromosome defects.
It is also to be hoped, with reference to your activities, that the new techniques of modification of the genetic code, in particular cases of genetic or chromosomic diseases, will be a motive of hope for the great number of people affected by those maladies.
It can also be thought that, through the transfer of genes, certain specific diseases can be cured, such as sickle-cell anaemia, which in many countries affects individuals of the same ethnic origin. It should likewise be recalled that some hereditary diseases can be avoided through progress in biological experimentation.
The research of modern biology gives hope that the transfer and mutations of genes can ameliorate the condition of those who are affected by chromosomic diseases; in this way the smallest and weakest of human beings can be cured during their intrauterine life or in the period immediately after birth.
6. Finally, I wish to recall, along with the few cases which I have cited that benefit from biological experimentation, the important advantages that come from the increase of food products and from the formation of new vegetal species for the benefit of all, especially people most in need.
In terminating these reflections of mine, which show how much I approve and support your worthy researches, I reaffirm that they must all be subject to moral principles and values, which respect and realize in its fullness the dignity of man. I express the hope that the scientists of those countries which have developed the most advanced modern techniques will take into sufficient account the problems of developing nations and that, outside of every economic or political opportunism which reproduces the schemes of an old colonialism in a new scientific and technical edition, there can be had a fruitful and disinterested exchange. This exchange must be that of culture in general and of science in particular, among scientists of nations of different degrees of development, and may there thus be formed, in every country, a nucleus of scholars of high scientific value.
I ask God, who is the merciful Father of all, but especially of the most abandoned and of those who have neither the means nor the power to defend themselves, to direct the application of scientific research to the production of new food supplies, since one of the greatest challenges that humanity must face, together with the danger of nuclear holocaust, is the hunger of the poor of this world.
For this intention and for the overall genuine progress of man, created in the image and likeness of God, I invoke on you and on your scientific activities abundant divine blessings.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. It gives me great pleasure to be with you today, as you take part in the World Congress of the Apostleship of the Sea. Your meeting bears witness to the deep pastoral concern which the Church has for the seafarers of the world and for their families. I am pleased that you have chosen as the theme of the Congress that very important moment in the whole process of evangelization which is known as catechesis; and in particular, that you have focused your attention on the catechesis of seafarers within the twofold context of their maritime life and their family life.
2. The Church wishes to bring all the baptized to a fuller and more systematic knowledge of the person and message of Jesus Christ. In fulfilling this mission to seafarers, you face a most challenging and difficult task. You are dealing with people who live in a dispersed milieu. They face painful problems, such as separation from family and friends, and the resulting feelings of isolation and loneliness; for extended periods of time they live and work at a great distance from a territorial parish. In a real sense, the seafaring world has become a missionary world.
Remember that you are not alone in this awesome task. The whole Church is one with you in solicitude and prayer. Furthermore, the responsibility for catechesis rests upon the intire people of God, working together with the hierarchy, in harmony and according to the diverse roles and gifts of each person. For this reason, I am very happy to see before me today men and women from round the world, Bishops and priests, religious and laity, all collaborating in the same important work for Jesus and the Gospel.
3. The local Churches have a special role to play in the pastoral care of seafarers and other migrant groups. In this regard, I am pleased to see how some Episcopal Conferences and local Bishops, as well as some Institutes of men and women religious, have taken special initiatives to meet the new and urgent needs of our day. The responsibility for catechesis also rests upon believing seafarers themselves who, by reason of their Baptism have the privilege and duty of bringing their brothers and sisters to a deeper knowledge of Christ and to a closer intimacy with him. Great help is provided to them by “Stella Maris” seafarers’ reception centres and by the formation of Christian communities which are especially adapted to the mobility of the maritime world.
As you examine the problems and obstacles, and as you see more clearly the resources and means available for this vital work in the Church, may you be filled with renewed courage and zeal. May the Spirit of Truth and Love enlighten your minds and hearts and fill you with abiding hope. To all of you, to your families and friends, to your collaborators in your various countries, and especially to the men and women on the seas and oceans of the world who are one with us in Christ, I impart my Apostolic Blessing.
Friday, 29 October 1982
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. For me, Pentecost 1982 will always be linked with Liverpool, Manchester and York - indeed, with all the local Churches that make up the Northern Province of England, and which you worthily represent as Pastors of God’s people. With deep affection in our Lord Jesus Christ I welcome all of you, the Ordinaries and Auxiliary Bishops of Liverpool, Lancaster, Salford, Leeds, Middlesbrough and Hexham and Newcastle. My greeting of peace in the Lord goes also to Bishop Moverley of Hallam, who is prevented by illness from being here with us today, and to the Bishops of Shrewsbury and Portsmouth.
2. Pentecost 1982 found us all united in prayer, with Mary the Mother of Jesus, invoking the Holy Spirit, asking him to renew his wonders of grace throughout the Church. We asked him to abide with us, to renew our hearts and minds, our homes and families, our cities, towns and villages. We asked him to sustain our people in their magnificent efforts to follow Christ in the concrete circumstances of daily life, with its problems and difficulties, such as unemployment, poverty and sickness. We asked the Holy Spirit to come and to renew the face of the earth.
3. But Pentecost 1982 also evokes another Pentecost, a continuing Pentecost - that new Pentecost foreseen and ardently desired by my predecessor John XXIII. Just yesterday we commemorated the anniversary of his election to the Papacy, and this circumstance too draws our attention to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Church in our day. His whole Pontificate was aimed at fostering genuine renewal in the Church, through docility to the Holy Spirit always prompting total fidelity to all the requirements of the Gospel. He repeatedly proclaimed the need for renewal in the Church. In his first Encyclical, Ad Petri Cathedram, he spoke of the need for a deeper recognition of truth, a salutary renewal of Christian morals and the restoration of unity, harmony and peace. Subsequent Encyclicals he devoted to individual key issues: the priesthood, the missions, the necessity of penance as a condition for true renewal, the blessing of peace in the world, and, finally, the Church’s Social Teaching. In all of his pronouncements he showed deep human concern and keen pastoral sensitivity. His heart was with the poor, the destitute, those in trouble, affliction, suffering or sin - the whole People of God, fallen but redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, making their pilgrim way to the Father, through Christ and with Christ and in Christ.
4. In this context John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council, knowing that what was really needed was a Council of a pastoral nature that would speak of the mercy and love of God for his people, and would inaugurate a new era of hope for mankind. But precisely because every genuine pastoral initiative needs a strong doctrinal basis, precisely because there can be no dichotomy between God’s word and man’s true well-being and happiness, John XXIII, on the opening day of the Council, 11 October 1962, made the following statement: “The greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be more effectively guarded and taught”.
Commenting on these words to a group of Bishops, I once mentioned that “this explains Pope John’s inspiration; this is what the new Pentecost was to be: this is why the Bishops of the Church - in the greatest manifestation of collegiality in the history of the world - were called together: so that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be more effectively guarded and taught’ . . . And what John XXIII considered to be the aim of the Council, I consider as the aim of this postconciliar period” (IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Allocutio ad Episcopos Foederatum Statuum Americae Septemtrionalis, 4, die 5 oct. 1979: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, II 2 (1979) 633-634).
5. In diligently guarding and teaching this sacred deposit of God’s word, the Church has the means also of making a contribution to numerous fields of human activity. In your local Churches you yourselves bear witness to the fact that the spiritual renewal enkindled by the light of faith is deeply solicitous for all the needs of the human person. It is with the profound conviction of faith, rooted in the word of God, that we proclaim: “If any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 Io. 3, 17).
If it is true - and it is - that our pastoral solicitude must embrace our people in all their needs, it is also true that our greatest contribution to them is the proclamation of God’s word in all its fullness and power. As we transmit the word of God with pastoral fidelity, the world will often rebel; it may accuse us of intransigence or irrelevance. But our criterion remains fidelity to Christ’s word, which, in turn, is synonymous with the true welfare of our brothers and sisters.
6. As we ourselves pursue in the modern world the delicate mission of guarding and teaching the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine, Jesus himself gently challenges us, saying: Trust me; trust my word; trust the power of my word to attract hearts, to convince consciences, to dissipate doubts, to soothe pain; trust the truth of my word to prevail over deception, to refute error, to destroy falsehood and to ensure authentic Christian freedom. Jesus long since assured the Church: “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (Jn 8,36). Without the presence of Jesus in our midst, and without his Holy Spirit guiding the Magisterium of the Church, we could never fulfil our apostolic mandate and our pastoral charge. But because of the assistance that the Lord gives us, I can repeat to you with the Apostle Peter: “Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares for you” (1 Petr. 5, 7). And Jesus himself says: “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me” (Jn 14,1).
This total trust in Christ and in his word, venerable and dear Brothers, is the object of my prayer for you and for all my Brothers in the Episcopate. It is a total trust that is fostered in prayer and that cannot exist except in holiness of life. It is manifested in pastoral serenity and in deep personal peace. It is, above all, a gift of the Holy Spirit. And it is this total trust in Jesus Christ and in his word that I ask for you today, through the loving intercession of Mary the Mother of Jesus.
And with this total trust in our Lord and Saviour, let us continue to beseech the Holy Spirit to prolong the new Pentecost and to assist us, as Pastors of the flock, to guard and teach ever more effectively the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your Bishops, and you shall renew the face of the earth!
Dear Brothers in the Lord,
1. I welcome you today as brother Bishops who have come to Rome from the Principality of Wales. You have come here to renew your commitment to the Gospel, to profess your holy Catholic faith at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and to offer anew to Jesus Christ the local Churches of which you are the zealous pastors. You come bearing witness to centuries of Christian history, culture and tradition, with which I was privileged to make personal contact during my recent visit to your country. And so your ad Limina visit this morning evokes in me the memory of my being among you, of celebrating the Eucharistic Sacrifice in your midst, of meeting your youth and the youth of England, and of greeting the esteemed group of fellow Christians who honoured me by their presence at Cardiff Castle. Yes, I recall the hours we spent together, servants of God’s people, united in a pastoral and collegial ministry of service to our common flock. I am pleased to have this occasion to renew my greeting to all your people, and to him who bears the illustrious title, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at Canterbury.
2. During my pastoral visit to Wales I was able to speak to the great assembly at Pontcanna Fields about the Eucharist. Then at Ninian Park, my last main discourse in Britain was on the value of prayer. And today, as a continuation of this theme, I would like to reflect with you briefly on the importance of the word of God, especially as it is recorded in the Sacred Scriptures. As I mentioned in Cardiff, the peoples of Wales have sought, from the earliest times, to express their love for Christ through “fidelity to the word of God”.
3. The word of God, as handed down by the Church and recorded in Sacred Scripture, is indeed a great treasure for the faithful; because of its supreme importance, the word of God deserves our very special attention. The Sacred Scriptures contain the revelation of God; they reveal his love for mankind; they reveal the redeeming Paschal Mystery of his Son Jesus Christ. Saint Paul explained to Timothy that the Sacred Writings have an inner power and that they “are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2Tm 3,16). The words of Jesus have a particular meaning for us and exert a special power over us. I mentioned to the young people at Cardiff that in praying they discover the secrets of God’s words: “Through prayer you come to experience the truth that Jesus taught: ‘the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life’ (Jn 6,63)”. In prayer, all of us understand just how important the word of God truly is.
4. Besides the value of God’s word in itself, it also is the perennial basis for all true ecumenism. The cause of Christian unity is intimately bound up with the word of God in all the latter’s efficacy and with all its exigencies. The common acceptance of the Scriptures is a common acceptance of the God who reveals himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and of the apostolic Church of Christ that bears witness to this revelation and authenticates its written expression. The common acceptance of the Scriptures entails a common commitment to proclaiming the One about whom all the Scriptures speak: Jesus Christ the Son of God and Saviour of the world. The Sacred Scriptures supply, moreover, so many common formulas with which Christian brethren of many lands - and often Christian and Jewish brethren - offer praise to a common Father in heaven. The words of the Psalm continue to invite the sons and daughters of Wales to praise God in song and with their own national instrument: “Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands . . . Sing praise to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and melodious song” (Ps 98,4-5). The word of God unites fellow Christians in a common discipleship that never grows tired of being challenged to love Christ in the least of his brethren. It is the common word of God that requires all of us to build the structures of all society on the foundations of truth and justice, and of fraternal respect, esteem and love. It is the word of God that records the great challenge for all ecumenism: the prayer of Christ for the perfect unity of all his followers. In presenting us with this challenge, the word of God leads us by its power to work and pray with Christ for what he so ardently desires.
5. The word of God is, finally, a whole programme for the Church today. In the words of the Second Vatican Council: “The Church has always regarded, and regards, the divine Scriptures together with Sacred Tradition as the supreme rule of faith” (Dei Verbum DV 21). The word of God gives meaning to all the Church’s activities; it is the criterion for all her actions, and for her whole programme of life.
Just as prayer leads us to the Sacred Scriptures, so the Scriptures nourish prayer. For this reason we can never cease recommending the Sacred Scriptures to our priests, seminarians and laity; they are at the core also of consecrated religious life. Worthy of special mention is the wonderful practice emphasized by my predecessor Pius XII in his renowned Encyclical “Divino Afflante Spiritu”: the daily reading of the Bible in Christian families.
The benefits of Bible meditation and study are incalculable. The Scriptures remain the basis for our preaching. It is the power of God’s word proclaimed in the Holy Spirit that gives authority and eloquence to the sacred preacher and enables him to touch human hearts: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword . . .” (Hebr.4, 12).
In the Sacred Scriptures the Church has contact with Christ, about whom all the sacred authors wrote - the Christ who becomes for us our wisdom and righteousness, our sanctification and redemption (Cfr. 1Co 1,30). Through the pages of the Sacred Writings and in their proclamation Jesus Christ lives with and for his people and communicates his life-giving message of salvation. At the centre of all Scripture there is the person of Jesus Christ, eternal Son of God, Incarnate Word of the Father and Son of the Virgin Mary. Through the Scriptures, Christ belongs to us, in the words of Saint Jerome: “To be ignorant of the Scriptures is not to know Christ” (S. HIERONYMI In Isaiam, Prolog.).
Venerable and dear Brothers, may all the clergy and people, of Wales, together with you their Bishops, find renewed joy and consolation for daily living, as well as fresh strength and hope for their ecclesial mission, in the service of God’s holy word.
With deep faith and love let us all, with Peter, in the unity of Christ’s Church, say to Jesus: “You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6,68). This is the message of love, obedience and zeal for God’s word that I send to all the Church throughout Wales, with my Apostolic Blessing and with my love in Christ Jesus.
It is indeed a pleasure for me to welcome Your Excellency as I accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. My satisfaction in extending this greeting derives, in great part, from my firm belief that the cordial diplomatic relations between your country and the Holy See enable us to join in a cooperative spirit of dialogue which, I feel, fosters deeper understanding and a genuine sense of esteem for one another.
I ask you to reciprocate the good wishes of His Excellency President Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq, whom I assure of my high regard for all the people of Pakistan.
I am grateful for your reference to my visit to your nation in February 1981. While admittedly my stay was brief, it nevertheless provided an excellent opportunity for me to experience the warm hospitality and animated vigour of your people. Having been in their midst, I am all the more conscious of their hopes and aspirations for the betterment of human life. These desires, which reflect the noble yearnings of the heart, must be cherished, aided and encouraged. At the same time, I also noted the deep commitment of various religious groups to the promotion of the material, as well as the spiritual, well-being of your country’s citizens. This cooperation among the members of different faiths, founded as it is on a common belief in the love of Almighty God, serves as the basis of a common vision of society.
I am happy that you alluded to the initiatives that have been undertaken to achieve greater harmony among the nations of the world. Global coexistence cannot be properly maintained without a firm dedication to peace. This is a labour that requires patient perseverance, as each gesture of conciliation and good will calls forth a positive response. Truly this is a challenge befitting man’s highest dignity.
Your reference to the plight of the refugees who have taken asylum in your nation reflects an abiding and heartfelt concern of my own. I have followed the efforts which your Government has undertaken in assisting these displaced persons. I commend these actions, which have been prompted by a humanitarian concern for neighbour. I assure you that the Catholic Church will continue, to the extent that she is able, to collaborate with your Government in this work.
At the same time, Catholic institutions of education, health care and social assistance seek not only to advance the welfare of the Catholic population of your country, but intend also to be of benefit to the whole of society. As conscientious citizens who demonstrate concern for their own country, Catholics wish to do their part to promote honesty, integrity and courage of convictions throughout the social environment in which they live and work and pray. In this regard, I am hopeful that the Government will always safeguard religious freedom and ensure that those who labour for the wellbeing of others will not be impeded.
Your Excellency, I trust that your stay here will be an enjoyable and fruitful one. You will indeed receive the cooperation of the Holy See as you fulfil your mission. Upon you and upon the noble nation which you represent I invoke the abundant favours of Almighty God.
Dear Brothers in Christ
1. There is no more appropriate time for us to assemble to celebrate our unity than on this feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle of Jesus Christ, brother of Simon Peter and Patron of Scotland. And as we celebrate the unity that is ours in Christ and in the Church, there also come to mind many memories of events that took place during my pastoral visit to your country; at the same time we look to Saint Andrew himself for a fresh inspiration for our episcopal ministry.
At the very centre of your ad Limina visit today is Jesus Christ, whom John the Baptist points out as the Lamb of God (Cfr. Io Jn 1,29 Io Jn 1,36), and to whom Andrew bears witness with that wonderful announcement made to his brother: “ We have found the Messiah ” (Ibid. 1, 41). The encounter that took place between Andrew and Peter prefigures and summarizes vital stages of our own ministry: Andrew finds Jesus? he leads Peter to Jesus, and then Jesus leads Peter - and with him all of us - to the Father. Andrew thus proclaims to the world the One who was awaited for centuries: “ We have found the Messiah ”.
2. Our own episcopal ministry also consists in proclaiming Jesus Christ the Messiah in the fullness of his identity as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and as the Son of the Eternal Father. We are called to proclaim him to so many people who still await his coming into their hearts and into their lives. Like Andrew, we have, by God’s grace, discovered the Messiah and the meaning of his message, which is a message of hope to be transmitted to our people.
3. It is my hope that my pastoral visit will indeed prove to have been a new beginning in the ecclesial life of Scotland - a new beginning especially for evangelization and ecumenism. The Lord himself is constantly inviting us to newness of life, in expectation of that final moment when he will definitively proclaim: “Behold, I make all things new” (Ap 21,5).
Having been led to Christ and having found him, the Church in Scotland is called to lead others to Christ. In a very special way this task belongs to the Bishops: to proclaim Jesus Christ. To lead every category of people to Jesus Christ: the young and the old, the sick and the handicapped, families, schoolchildren, men and women religious, and the very priests who collaborate with them in the ministry of the Gospel. To each group the Bishop must offer Jesus Christ in all the relevance of his Gospel, which is “the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith” (Rm 1,16).
4. Realizing also how Christ’s message is a “message of reconciliation” (2Co 5,20), and how we have been entrusted with a “ministry of reconciliation” (Ibid. 5, 18), we are moved to ask God to maintain for Scotland her new beginning in ecumenical relations. Jesus came, breaking down, through his own blood, barriers of hostility (Cfr. Eph Ep 2,14). So too, our ministry of reconciliation must continue to reach out to all our Christian brethren. On my part I recall once again my meeting with the various Church leaders in your country, and in particular with the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, to whom I send once more my greetings of respect and love in Christ Jesus. As I mentioned in Edinburgh, despite the need still to resolve important doctrinal issues, our mutual love and our common will for unity can indeed be a sign of hope to a divided world.
As I stated on that same occasion, ours is a sincere desire “to follow the ways by which God is leading us to that full unity which he alone can give”. I believe that the lofty Christian sentiments expressed by the Moderator of the General Assembly give evidence to the same sincere desire to foster the spirit of reconciliation and to have further dialogue, as he stated, “not just on subjects of disagreement but also on the joint themes on which we agree”.
We beg God to let us under stand ever more that Christian unity is his gift. It is to be sought in prayer, with the same earnestness with which Christ entreated his heavenly Father. At the same time, God is the sole dispenser of his gifts; he does not commit himself to human timetables. Hence the gift of perfect unity must be yearned for in love and penance, but it must be awaited with patience. The need for patience does not imply that we should not work and pray together; nor does it imply that God’s word is not exigent in calling for concrete compliance. Rather, we know that no human effort is commensurate with those effects that can only be brought about by the sovereign action of the Holy Spirit.
Speeches 1982 - Saturday, 16 October 1982