Speeches 1983 - Monday, 4 July 1983
I am pleased to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Philippines, and I thank Your Excellency for the courteous words of greeting and good wishes which you have just now spoken on behalf of the Philippine Authorities and in. your own name.
Your have referred to the warm and close relations existing between your country and the Holy See. I assure you that the Filipino people occupy a special place in my thoughts and in my heart. The existence of these close ties is a source of real joy. First, because they are an appropriate expression of the multiple bonds of faith, culture and history which unite so many of your fellow citizens to the See of Peter, the rock on which the Saviour built his Church. Secondly, because these relations are the expression of the Holy See’s affection and of its expectations with regard to the role of the Philippine nation in the social, cultural and religious development of the vast continent of Asia.
In the context of this simple ceremony with which you inaugurate your mission, I am pleased to recall a thought which I expressed in my message to the Second Special Session of the United Nations devoted to disarmament: “. . . peace . . . means the renewal of what is best in the heart of man, the heart that seeks the good of the other in friendship and love”. In its own way such a reflection can be applied to relations between the Holy See and the Philippines.
The Church, of her nature, is committed to the task of renewal in the hearts and minds of men and women everywhere. While she employs her own specific means for fulfilling this task, means which have been bestowed on her by her founder, she seeks to work alongside and in close collaboration with civil institutions at the service of peace and progress, and in harmony with all those men and women of good will in the various fields of human activity who have responsibility for the public life of the nations. In this perspective, diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the various Governments is part of the Church’s service to the human family, and indeed part of her ministry of peace.
The art of diplomacy, Mr Ambassador, is the art of peace and progress through dialogue and negotiation. In this respect your role as Ambassador of your country to the Holy See takes on a particular character: its object and exercise is closely connected with the promotion of’ the essential truths and values that constitute the foundation of just and harmonious relations between individuals and between nations, the truths and values related to the dignity of man and his fundamental inalienable rights, which must be universally respected if our world is truly to enjoy the benefits of peace and justice. May Divine Providence enlighten you in the fulfilment of your task!
As I welcome Your Excellency as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Philippines to the Holy See I gladly invoke the fullness of God’s graces upon the President and the other Authorities of your nation, and upon all the beloved and foundly remembered Filipino people.
Dear Brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ,
1. It is a very great joy for me to be with you today during this collegial meeting. You come from Dioceses stretching across your country: from Baltimore, the primatial See of the United States, to Fairbanks in Alaska. You bring with you the hopes and aspirations, the joys and the sorrows of a great number of the Catholic faithful of America. Sharing, as we do, a common pastoral responsibility for these local Churches of yours, we have at the same time the opportunity to offer them to Jesus Christ, the Chief Pastor of the universal Church. I ask him, by the power of his Resurrection, to sustain you all in the hope of your calling: to strengthen your priests, religious and laity - the whole People of God whom you serve with dedication, sacrifice and love.
In examining the many relevant topics which the Episcopal Conference offered to my consideration, and for which I thank you, I have noted one that concerns the celebration of Sunday - the strengthening of the Lord’s Day. And I am pleased to reflect briefly with you on this issue of such capital importance, and in particular on the Sunday Eucharistic celebration.I pray that you in turn may confirm your people in a matter that profoundly touches their lives as individuals and as a community. Throughout the United States there has been a superb history of Eucharistic participation by the people, and for this we must all thank God.
2. In the whole tradition of the Church, the Sunday Eucharist is a special expression of the Church’s faith in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is by virtue of the Holy Spirit that the Church calls the faithful together to proclaim their faith in this mystery, as well as in the mystery of their “birth unto hope which draws its life from the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Petr. 1, 13). The liturgical assembly built up around the Eucharist has always been, from its apostolic origin, the special mark of the Church’s celebration of the Lord’s Day, and the Second Vatican Council has reiterated the importance of Sunday Mass (Cfr. Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 106). It is in fact the whole Paschal Mystery that the People of God are called to celebrate and to participate in each Sunday: the passion and the glorification of the Lord Jesus.
3. The vitality of the Church depends to a great extent on the Sunday Eucharistic celebration, in which the mystery of salvation is made present to God’s people and enters into their lives. In the expression of Lumen Gentium, God wills to save and sanctify us as a people (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 9), and there is no moment in which we are more intimately united as a community than during Sunday Mass.
It is at this moment that the Eucharist builds the Church and is, at one and the same time, the “sign of community and the cause of its growth”- as you yourselves pointed out some time ago in your pastoral message “To Teach as Jesus Did” (“To Teach as Jesus Did”, 24).
The whole life of the ecclesial community is linked to the Sunday Eucharist. It is here that Jesus Christ prays with his people, who become with him a people of worship, adoring the Father “in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4,23). The aspect of worship is central to an understanding of the full dignity of the People of God. Jesus Christ presents his brothers and sisters to his Father as a worshipping people, a liturgical community. And in this role they fulfil the purpose of all liturgy, which the Second Vatican Council powerfully describes as being “above all the worship of the divine majesty” (Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 33).
I am convinced, venerable and dear brothers, that we can render a great pastoral service to the people by emphasizing their liturgical dignity, and by directing their thoughts to the purposes of worship. When our people, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, realize that they are called to be “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Petr. 2, 9), and that they are called to adore and thank the Father in union with Jesus Christ, an immense power is unleashed in their Christian lives. When they realize that they actually have a Sacrifice of praise and expiation to offer together with Jesus Christ, when they realize that all their prayers of petition are united to an infinite act of the praying Christ, then there is fresh hope and new encouragement for the Christian people. Young people have shown themselves particularly sensitive to this truth.
4. Essential to the whole liturgical renewal of this century, and confirmed by its experience, is the principle that the full and active participation by all the people in the liturgy is the “primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit” (Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 14). And from our own experiences yours and mine - we know how much our people are capable of doing, how great their Christian contribution to the world is, when the Lord Jesus touches their lives, when they themselves enter into his Sacrifice. Let us continue, dear brothers, to strengthen the understanding of the faithful and their appreciation of their role in Eucharistic worship. And let us continue to work to bring about that full and active participation, which the Church wills for everyone, but always according to the differing roles of the various members of the one Body of Christ.
5. In these differing roles of Eucharistic participation the unity of the whole Body is ensured, and the dignity of each one respected. For the laity it is a question of actuating the call to worship inherent in their Baptism and Confirmation. For priests, it is also a question of performing the irreplaceable service of making Christ’s Sacrifice present in the Church. For all the members of the Church, the Eucharist, and especially the Sunday Eucharist, is the source and summit of all Christian living. All the activities of our people - all their efforts to live the Gospel, to bear witness to Christ, to put his word into practice in their family life and in society - all of these efforts are ennobled and supported by the power of the Eucharist, in particular at the Sunday celebration.
All the striving of the laity to consecrate the secular held of activity to God finds inspiration and magnificent confirmation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Participating in the Eucharist is only a small portion of the laity’s week, but the total effectiveness of their lives and all Christian renewal depends on it: the primary and indispensable source of the true Christian spirit!
6. In promoting the participation of the faithful in the Liturgy of the Word and of the Eucharist, we are rendering an eminently pastoral service and contributing to so many aspects of the Church’s life: marriage and the family are fortified; evangelization is fostered; human rights find their confirmation in the liberating message of Jesus, which is fully proclaimed in the sacramental renewal of the Paschal Mystery. Through the proclamation of God’s word, zeal for catechesis is nurtured in the Christian people; vocations are offered by Christ; and light and strength are given to the faithful to meet human problems, even the most vexing and difficult ones. And all of this spells out the relevance of the Eucharistic mystery and its celebration for God’s people. All of this confirms the importance of the Sunday liturgy in the life of the community.
7. It is also extremely useful to recall that the Second Vatican Council, in its treatment of Christian education, emphasizes as one of the purposes of Christian education: “that the baptized may learn to adore God the Father in spirit and in truth” (Gravissimum Educationis GE 2). Education, too, like other Christian activity, is oriented to the worship of God.
8. I wish at this time to support you in all your efforts to help the faithful celebrate worthily their Christian dignity in the Sunday liturgy. May the People of God in America be led to an ever greater conviction of the sacredness of the Lord’s Day. Despite changes in society and different types of pressures, as well as various difficulties, may they continue to the full extent of their power to maintain that great tradition fostered in your land of sanctifying Sunday and the Holidays of Obligation. May each of the faithful realize the privilege that is his or hers to be part of the praying Church: to be able to say to God: “By your gift I will utter praise in the vast assembly” (Ps 22,26).
Besides the Eucharistic liturgy, the other aspects of the Sunday celebration - the Liturgy of the Hours, rest and freedom from work, the performance of charitable works and the broadcasting of religious radio and television programs where possible - contribute to the Christian dimension of society and help lift up people’s hearts to God the Creator and Redeemer of all.
Dear brothers, be assured that, in the charity of Christ, I am close to you and to all your brothers in the priesthood, who share with you the pastoral service of making God’s people ever more conscious of their dignity as a people of worship.
United with each other, and with the other bishops in America, and together with the universal Church, let us work with all our energy to encourage our people in their generous efforts to maintain unaltered the apostolic tradition of participating in the Sunday Eucharist. There are many other considerations that could complete these reflections. Let us, however, as pastors united with our people, proclaim without ceasing the faith of the Church that is the basis of every Sunday Eucharist: the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ from the dead. It is he whom we await in joyful hope; and it is in the name of the Risen Jesus that all our episcopal, pastoral and collegial ministry is exercised. Praised be Jesus Christ!
Dear young people of England and Wales,
1. Tonight, once again, the Pope belongs to you! We are united in Jesus Christ and in his Church, and you have come here to be with me, so that together we can proclaim in prayer the word of God. Yes, dear young people, you have come, above all, to pray, and to pray with me. And together we are praying with Christ to his Father. Do you remember those words I spoke to you in Cardiff: “I, John Paul II, came to Britain to call you to Christ, to invite you to pray!”?
2. And tonight our prayer is centred on God’s inspired word. In the Letter to the Thessalonians Saint Paul says: “. . . it was with the joy of the Holy Spirit that you took to the Gospel, in spite of the great opposition all around you” (1Th 1,6). What we are celebrating in prayer is joy - the joy that is yours in the Holy Spirit because you have “taken to” the Gospel, because you have received the word of God into your lives, despite all the obstacles and difficulties involved. Let us reflect on what this means.
God has given you a great gift; he has offered you his message of salvation in Jesus Christ. And Jesus has invited you to embrace his way of life; to live by his teaching - in a word, to accept, or “to take to” his Gospel. And not only has Jesus invited you, but he has given you the strength to accept. And in your acceptance he has given you the privilege of experiencing joy in the Holy Spirit. There is joy in your hearts precisely because you have accepted the message of Jesus, precisely because you have opted for his way of life, despite criticism and scorn from the world.
3. And tonight as we celebrate in prayer the joy of your acceptance, I want you to realize how much opposition there is, not that you should be fearful, but rather that you should face realistically and confidently the challenge that is yours as Christian young people living in today’s world. Precisely because of “the great opposition ail around you”, you must take the necessary means to stand firm, to persevere. You must pray. You must pray daily; you must pray alone with God, and together. You must pray in union with our Lord Jesus Christ, especially on Sundays - every Sunday - sharing in the Eucharistic offering of himself to his Father. You must invoke the power of his death and Resurrection, the power that he is ready to unleash when you ask him to do so, using those simple words “Give us this day our daily bread . . . deliver us from evil”. Yes, through prayer and the intercession of Mary the Mother of God, the grace of Jesus Christ inundates your hearts, giving you the strength to stand firm in your Christian vocation, which is to follow Christ, to accept his way, to live by his word, to apply his Gospel to all the real situations of your daily lives.
4. But this evening all of you are here to bear witness in prayer to the fact that there is joy - immense joy - in the Holy Spirit for those who embrace Christ’s word as it is proclaimed by his Church, and follow him with constancy. At the same time you must be prepared to admit that the opposition to Christ’s was is widespread. It is no surprise to you - the experience of your young lives has already confirmed it over and over again - that a thousand and one deceptive voices are telling you that there is another way to live: without Christ, apart from him, without effort, more naturally, more easily, more pleasurably. There is a current life style that is totally opposed to the truth of Jesus Christ. There is behaviour all around you in the world that is totally incompatible with the dignity of baptized Christians, children of God, brothers and sisters of Christ. Very often the world will try to convince you to conduct yourselves in a way that is foreign to the thinking of Christ. By some people you will be told, in effect, that the commandments of God are outmoded, that the beatitudes of Christ are irrelevant, and that the pleasure of permissiveness is the goal of your lives. In some other quarters you will be told that Christ’s teaching is an ideal, but that it is not geared to the real situations of today’s world, and hence not applicable to modern youth. But you yourselves have already experienced in your hearts, and you must continue to bear witness to the joy that comes from accepting the word of God, the joy that comes from saving “yes” to the Christ who knows so well what you are capable of accomplishing through his grace.
5. In his Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul says to you: “Do not model yourselves on the behaviour of the world around you” (Rm 12,2). You are being called to look steadfast at Jesus, to put your trust in his way of living and not in the life style of the world, no matter how much opposition you meet. And tonight I ask you to listen again to the message of Jesus. He tells you the exact opposite that you hear from the world. Jesus speaks of the value of effort, sacrifice and discipline. He is telling you again, how important it is to honour God in prayer, to lift up your hearts to the Lord periodically each day, to confess your sins, to assist at Mass. Jesus is repeating to you his commandment to love your brothers and sisters, to work hard to alleviate suffering and pain, to strive to dispel hatred and injustice and to be open to the needs of all your fellow human beings - even though much effort and sacrifice are involved.
And Jesus proclaims anew tonight the Christian virtues of humility, meekness and mercy, which the world will call “weakness”. Jesus proposes to you honesty and uprightness in all your dealings with others, and the world will say that you are “naïve”. Jesus calls you again, as young people, to chastity. He asks you to be open to others through all the dynamism inherent in your human sexuality, but he confirms the value of discipline and restraint as an essential part of God’s plan, and as a positive preparation for that total sexual self-giving that is meaningful and true in marriage alone. The world will call you “backward”, “benighted”, even “reactionary”, when you accept Christ’s command to be pure, and on its part will offer you the facile option of pre-marital sex. But God’s word and his truth are for ever, and Jesus will continue to hold out to you the value of chaste human relations and the real satisfaction that is found in Christian married love prepared for in purity. And that purity remains a positive expression of human sexuality and true love. Purity for young people is the opposite of selfishness, the opposite of escape.
6. Young people of England and Wales: you have a choice to make, a choice to renew, a choice to confirm. You have made it before, but you must make it again. I am talking about the choice for Christ and his way of life, and his commandment of love. It is the choice that Saint Paul has written about: “To take to the Gospel in spite of the great opposition all around you”.
Let us make this choice again, now, in the joy of the Holy Spirit. And let us make it together, bearing witness before the world to the grace that comes from our Lord Jesus Christ and is actuated in the mutual fraternal support of brothers and sisters in Christ. Young people, you have to tell the world - mainly through your actions, because they speak louder than words - that you freely choose Christ and that you really do believe in his commandment of love. And remember always that the Pope is with you, and with all the young people of England and Wales, and of the whole Church, as you face the opposition of the world, defy the allurements of the devil, and humbly and prayerfully strive repeatedly to overcome, through the power of Christ’s Redemption, the weaknesses of humanity and the effects of original sin.
But remember, above all, that Jesus Christ is with you and in you. And the power of his Redemption is stronger than all human weakness and sin put together. And it is he, Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world, the Incarnate Word of God, the Son of the Eternal Father and of Mary, who repeats to you tonight: Walk in path! Stand by my side! Remain in my love! Follow me.
Young people of England and Wales: Follow Christ! He is the way and the truth and the life! He is your way and your truth and your life! Follow Christ for ever!
Venerable and dear Brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ,
The experience of the whole post-conciliar life of the Church confirms just how much the renewal willed by the Second Vatican Council depends on the ministry of Bishops: on the way this ministry is conceived, on the way it is exercised. As Bishops gathered collegially in the Holy Spirit, let us reflect together on certain aspects of this ministry of ours.
1. It is clear that the Incarnational economy of salvation is continued through us as servant pastors chosen to lead God’s people to the fullness of life that exists in Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word of God. To understand the Church of the Incarnate Word, in which all grace is dispensed through the sacred humanity of the Son of God, is to understand how important it is for every Bishop in his own humanity to be a living sign of Jesus Christ (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 21). We who are invested with the mission of the Good Shepherd have to make him visible to our people. We must respond in a specific way to the cry that comes from every corner of the world: “We wish to see Jesus” (Jn 12,21). And the world wants to see him in us.
Our effectiveness in showing Jesus to the world - the final effectiveness of all our pastoral leadership - depends to a great extend on the authenticity of our discipleship. Our own union with Jesus Christ determines the credibility of our witness. Precisely for this reason we are called to exercise prophetically the role of holiness: to anticipate in our own lives that state of holiness to which we are striving to lead our people.
In order to be a living sign of Jesus Christ in holiness of life, we Bishops experience the need for personal conversion - deep conversion, sustained conversion, renewed conversion. And I, John Paul II, your fellow apostle and your brother Bishop in the See of Rome, in order to be faithful to the fullness of my mandate, to confirm my brothers (Cfr. Luc Lc 22,32), while being conscious of my own weaknesses and sins, feel the need to speak to you about conversion - the conversion to which Jesus invites you and me. And you, on your part, in the name of Jesus, while still desiring ever greater personal conversion, must call your people to conversion, especially in this Holy Year of the Redemption. I emphasized this in my address last April to the Bishops of New York and I pointed out its special relevance for Religious in the Letter that I wrote to all the Bishops of the United States at Easter. No one of us is exempt from this call, this invitation, this summons to conversion that comes from the Lord Jesus. Only through conversion and the holiness of our lives can we succeed in being living signs of Jesus Christ. Our whole humanity will communicate Christ only if we live in union with him, only if, through conversion, we “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rm 13,14).
2. In particular, the Bishop is a sign of the love of Jesus Christ: he expresses to all individuals and groups of whatever tendency - with a universal charity - the love of the Good Shepherd. His love embraces sinners with an easiness and naturalness that mirrors the redeeming love of the Saviour. To those in need, in trouble and in pain he offers the love understanding and consolation. In a special way the Bishop is the sign of Christ’s love for his priests. He manifests to them the love of friendship - just as he once liked to experience it from his Bishop - a friendship that knows how to communicate esteem, and through warm human exchange can help a brother priest even rise from moments of discouragement, sadness or dejection.
3. As a sign of Christ’s love, the Bishop is also a sign of Christ’s compassion, since he represents Jesus the high priest who is able to sympathize with human weakness, the one who was tempted in every way we are, and yet never sinned (Cfr. Hebr. 4, 15). The consciousness on the part of the Bishop of personal sin, coupled with repentance and with the forgiveness received from the Lord, makes his human expression of compassion ever more authentic and credible. But the compassion that he signifies and lives in the name of Jesus can never be a pretext for him to equate God’s merciful understanding of sin and love for sinners with a denial of the full liberating truth that Jesus proclaimed. Hence there can be no dichotomy between the Bishop as a sign of Christ’s compassion and as a sign of Christ’s truth.
The Bishop, precisely because he is compassionate and understands the weakness of humanity and the fact that its needs and aspirations can only be satisfied by the full truth of creation and redemption, will proclaim without fear or ambiguity the many controverted truths of our age. He will proclaim them with pastoral love, in terms that will never unnecessarily offend or alienate his hearers, but he will proclaim them clearly because he knows the liberating quality of truth.
Hence the compassionate Bishop proclaims the indissolubility of marriage, as did the Bishops of the United States when in their splendid pastoral letter "To Live in Christ Jesus" they wrote: "The covenant between a man and a woman in Christian marriage is an indissoluble and irrevocable as God’s love for his people and Christ’s love for his Church". The compassionate Bishop will proclaim the incompatibility of premarital sex and homosexual activity with God’s plan for human love; at the same time, with all his strength he will try to assist those who are faced with difficult moral choices. With equal compassion he will proclaim the doctrine of Humanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio in its full beauty, not passing over in silence the unpopular truth that artificial birth control is against God’s law. He will speak out for the rights of the unborn, the weak, the handicapped, the poor and the aged, no matter how current popular opinion views these issues. With personal humility and pastoral zeal the Bishop will strive to discern, not alone but in union with the universal Episcopate, the signs of the times and their true application to the modern world. With his brother Bishops he will work to ensure the participation of every category of people in the life and mission of the Church, in accordance with the truth of their calling.
This zeal will be manifested in supporting the dignity of women. and every legitimate freedom that is consonant with their human nature and their womanhood. The Bishop is called upon to oppose any and all discrimination of women by reason of sex. In this regard he must likewise endeavour to explain as cogently as he can that the Church’s teaching on the exclusion of women from priestly ordination is extraneous to the issue of discrimination and that it is linked rather to Christ’s own design for his priesthood. The Bishop must give proof of his pastoral ability and leadership by withdrawing all support from individuals or groups who in the name of progress, justice or compassion, or for any other alleged reason, promote the ordination of women to the priesthood.
In so doing, such individuals or groups are in effect damaging the very dignity of women that they profess to promote and advance. All efforts made against the truth are destined to produce not only failure but also acute personal frustration. Whatever the Bishop can do to prevent this failure and frustration by explaining the truth is an act not only of pastoral charity but of prophetic leadership.
4. In a word, the Bishop as a sign of compassion is at the same time a sign of fidelity to the doctrine of the Church. The Bishop stands with his brother Bishops and the Roman Pontiff as a teacher of the Catholic faith, whose purity and integrity is guaranteed by the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
Like Jesus, the Bishop proclaims the Gospel of salvation not as a human consensus but as a divine revelation. The whole framework of his preaching is centered on Jesus who states: “I say only what the Fathers has taught me” (Jn 8,28). Hence the Bishop becomes a sign of fidelity because of his sharing in the special pastoral and apostolic charism with which the Spirit of Truth endows the College of Bishops. When this charism is exercised by the Bishops within the unity of that College, Christ’s promise to the Apostles is actuated: “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Lc 10,16). Christ’s promise, by guaranteeing the authority of the Bishops’ teachings and imposing on the faithful the obligation of obedience, makes it crystal clear why the individual Bishop has to be a sign of fidelity to the doctrine of the Church.
And in this important task of proclaiming the Gospel in all its purity and power, with all its demands, the Bishop accepts willingly the apostolic challenge that Paul put to Timothy: “I charge you to preach the word, to stay with the task whether convenient or inconvenient - correcting, reproving, appealing - constantly teaching and never losing patience” (2Tm 4,2).
5. And because Episcopal teaching, guaranteed by a charism, must be nothing else that the word of God in its application to human life, the Bishop becomes for his people a sign of the certainty of faith. Called to proclaim salvation in Jesus Christ and to lead the flock effectively to this goal, the Bishop inculcates certainty in the people of God, who know that he will listen to them, accept their numerous insights into the truth of the faith, and impose no unnecessary burdens on their lives. And yet they know that the Church’s teaching which he announces is much more than human wisdom. The Church, through her Bishops, rejects all triumphalism; she publicly denies that she has ready - made solutions to all particular problems, but she definitely claims to possess the light of revealed truth - which transcends all human consensus - and she works with all her strength so that this light of faith will illumine the experiences of humanity (Cfr. Gaudium et Spes GS 33).
6. In communicating to the People of God the certainty of faith and the tranquillity that flows there from, the Bishop’s has a special role to play as a teacher of prayer. How closely the Bishop’s role is linked here to that of Jesus the teacher, who so zealously responded to the needs of the disciples to learn how to pray. Surely there are millions of voices rising up from every corner of your combined dioceses, directed to you and pleading: “Teach us to pray” (Lc 11,1). In giving the same response that Jesus gave, you open up to your people the immense treasures of the Our Father, initiating them into the dialogue of salvation, catechizing them in the mystery of their divine adoption, and bearing witness to the exquisite humanity of the Son of God, who knows more than anyone else the needs and aspirations of his brothers and sisters.
And through his own personal prayer the Bishop will convincingly communicate the value of prayer and he himself become more and more a living sign of the praying Christ, who submits all his pastoral initiatives to his Father, including the very choice of his Apostles (Cfr. ibid.6, 12-13).
7. The choice of Bishops, successors of the Apostles, is as important today for the Church as was the choice of the Twelve for Jesus. The recommendation and selection of every new Bishop deserves the greatest prayerful reflection on the part of all those associated with the process of the selection of candidates. In this regard, the Bishops themselves have a special role in proposing those whom they judge the most suitable, with God’s help, to be living signs of Jesus Christ - priests who have already proven themselves as teachers of the faith as it is proclaimed by the Magisterium of the Church, and, who, in the words of Paul’s pastoral advice to Titus, “hold fast to the authentic message” (Tt 1,9). As so many Bishops in this post-conciliar period lay down their pastoral charge and render account for their flocks, it is a great consolation of conscience for them to know that they have proposed to the Roman Pontiff as candidates for the Episcopal office only those priests who will be true shepherds in each aspect of the one pastoral mission of Jesus to teach, govern and sanctify God’s people.
8. It is important for the Episcopal candidate, as for the Bishop himself, to be a sign of the unity of the universal Church. The unity of the College of Bishops through collegialitas affectiva and collegialitas effectiva is an apt instrument to serve the unity of Christ’s Church. Never is the unity of the local Church stronger and more secure, never is the ministry of the local Bishop more effective than when the local Church under the pastoral leadership of the local Bishop proclaims in word and deed the universal faith, when it is open in charity to all the needs of the universal Church, and when it embraces faithfully the Church’s universal discipline.
The Bishop is thus called to be a sign of Catholic solidarity in the local Church, which is the miniature reflection of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, which really and truly does subsist in the local Church.
9. Finally, it is evident in all of this that the Bishop, a living sign of Jesus Christ, must vindicate to himself the title and accept the consequences of the fact that he is, with Jesus Christ, a sign of contradiction. Despite every dutiful effort to pursue the dialogue of salvation, the Bishop must announce to the young and old, to the rich and poor, to the powerful and weak the fullness of truth, which sometimes irritates and offends, even if it always liberates. The justice and holiness that he proclaims are born of this truth (Cfr. Eph Ep 4,24). The Bishop is aware that he must preach “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1Co 2,2), the same Jesus who said: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mt 16,24).
Precisely because he cannot renounce the preaching of the Cross, the Bishop will be called upon over and over again to accept criticism, to sacrifice popularity, and to admit failure in obtaining a consensus of doctrine acceptable to everyone. As a living sign of Christ, he must be with Christ a sign of fidelity and therefore a sign of contradiction.
10. Venerable and dear Brothers, these reflections, partial though they be, speak to us of the reality of the Episcopate of our Lord Jesus Christ in which we share. I offer them to you as the expression of our common strivings, and perhaps to some extent of our common failings. As your Brother in the See of Peter, humbled and repentant, I offer them as a challenge of grace in a moment of grace, a moment of collegiality, and a moment of fraternal love. I offer them to your apostolic responsibility and to your pastoral accountability to Jesus Christ, “the Chief Shepherd” (1 Petr. 5, 4), and to me, his servant Vicar. I offer them as a manifestation of deep gratitude for what you are and intend, with God’s grace, ever more to become: in Christ a sign of hope for the People of God, as strong and unbreakable as the sign of the Cross, becoming a living sign of the Risen Christ. It is the Risen Jesus, the Incarnate Word, who communicates through his humanity and ours the mystery of salvation in his name.
As I take leave of you today, my thoughts turn once again to one who is a close friend of many of us, your brother Bishop and mine, Cardinal Cooke. In his hour of suffering I have spoken to him and written to him to thank him for what he has been in the Church of God - a living sign of Jesus Christ, a faithful pastor and servant of his people, living and willing to die for the Church. A special friend, yes; an illustrious member of the Hierarchy of the United States, yes; a faithful collaborator of the Holy See, yes. And yet, simply one of so many holy American Bishops who live and die so that Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd may continue to lead his people to the newness of life and the fullness of salvation.
Dear Brothers, there is no deeper meaning in our lives as Bishops than to be living signs of Jesus Christ! May Mary the Mother of Jesus help us to realize fully this vocation.
Speeches 1983 - Monday, 4 July 1983