Speeches 1987 - Friday, 15 May 1987
Dear Brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ,
1. I cordially welcome you on the occasion of your ad limina visit. Your presence here is a reminder of the universality and diversity of the People of God, and serves to strengthen the bonds of unity, charity and peace which link us together in pastoral concern for the universal Church as well as for your local Churches (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 22).
During this time of preparation for the coming Synod of Bishops, our thoughts naturally turn to the role and mission of the laity of your dioceses. I know them to be people who are strongly rooted in their Catholic faith and in devotion to the See of Peter. That faith is built upon the witness of martyrs, like those who are to be beatified next November. It is also a faith that is deriving new energy from the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. The vibrant life of your Churches is a tribute to the good example and hard work of you the bishops and of your clergy: you have taken to heart the admonition of the Council to "recognize and promote the dignity and responsibility of the laity in the Church" (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 37). I commend you for this leadership, which has earned you the love, respect and ready collaboration of your people.
2. The dignity and responsibility of the lay apostolate are intimately joined to the purpose of the Church’s mission as it is described in the Conciliar Decree Apostolicam Actuositatem, namely, "to spread the kingdom of Christ over all the earth for the glory of God the Father, to make all men and women partakers in redemption and salvation, and through them to establish the right relationship of the entire world to Christ" (Cfr. Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 2). The Decree goes on to say that this mission embraces both our eternal salvation and the renewal of the whole temporal order (Cfr. Ibid.5).
This fundamentally religious missions fruitful only to the extent that it is rooted in Christ, who says: "I am the vine, you are the branches... apart from me you can do nothing" (Cfr. Io Jn 15,5). Union with Christ is initiated in Baptism and is sustained by the other sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and by prayer, self-denial and the practice of the virtues. It is likewise sustained by the devotional practices that have been such an important part of the Church’s life. Prayers like the Rosary and Stations of the Cross, together with pilgrimages and popular devotions which express our love for God, the Blessed Virgin and the angels and saints – all of these enrich our spiritual life and should be encouraged in harmony with the reform of the sacred liturgy. The coming Marian Year provides a special opportunity to express and to renew the devotional life of the local Churches.
3. It is Christ’s will that the life of a true disciple be marked by an active love and service of neighbour. This love can bring about a transformation of the world, and it stands as a sign of the Kingdom to come. The people of your dioceses manifest this love and service of others by their generous performance of family, social and professional duties and by active involvement in the development of society, as well as more direct forms of Church work. Individually, some of them are prominent in public life. Collectively, as a Church community, they work in harmony with their pastors to bring Christ to the world of work and to those in special need, the poor and suffering, and nowadays especially the unemployed and ethnic minorities. They are generous in providing social and charitable assistance both at home and abroad, by supporting the foreign mission as well as their own parishes and schools. Under your leadership and guidance they are reaching out to other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, especially their Anglican brothers and sisters. At this is undertaken with an effectiveness that belies their actual numbers. They are truly like a leaven in the society of which they are a part (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 31).
4. Given the great dignity and responsibility attached to the apostolate of the laity in the world, it is especially important that we who are pastors seek ways to deepen the faith of lay people and to encourage them to persevere in living the Christian life. The faithful are "salt and light" for the world (Cfr. Matth Mt 5,13-14) to the extent that they themselves have a solid understanding of the saving truths of revelation believed and taught by the Church, and an ever deeper awareness of the spiritual dimension of their ordinary activities in the temporal sphere, whether exalted or humble. It is a matter of recognizing the trascendent in the otherwise mundane activities of home and parish, of the workplace and school – a matter of recognizing that all we say and do as believers has one supreme goal, namely, holiness. Lumen Gentium describes it in the following way: "... all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love, and by this holiness a more human manner of life is fostered also in earthly society" (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 40). In a materialistic and secularized world, it is easy for this supreme goal to be forgotten if faith is not constantly nourished by preaching and instruction and doctrinal maturity and clarifies our sense of mission.
5. For this reason, I wish to encourage you in your efforts to provide Christian formation, pastoral guidance, and training for the apostolate. These begin in the home with the family and continue on the parochial and diocesan levels. They involve education programmes and opportunities for spiritual reflection and renewal. I commend you and your people in particular for the pastoral care extended to those preparing for marriage, to families, single parents, and to youth.
I also wish to mention the Catholic schools and all those associated with them. These schools have a special mission to provide formation and training which is truly Catholic and which reflects the Church’s supreme goal of personal holiness for the sanctification of the world. Young people should be the object of our special pastoral concern since today society and culture offer them so many empty promises and so little guidance for living a fruitful life. They must be able to find Christ and his Gospel within the Church as a convincing yet challenging answer to their questions.
Certainly, the increased number of the faithful who are exercising non-ordained ministries in parishes and ecclesial communities reflects their desire to participate more actively in the spiritual and sacramental life of the Church. It is important, however, not to obscure the specific vocation of the laity, which is to bear witness to the Gospel in the heart of society and culture. Where these non-ordained ministries are effective in building up the local Church in faith and service, their growth should be properly programmed and they should always be preceded by adequate training of those involved.
6. As Apostolicam Actuositatem reminds us, with the passing of the years the grace of God increases and so allows each one of us to gain a clearer view of the talents which he has given us, and to exercise even more effectively the charisms we have received for the good of our brothers and sisters (Cfr. Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 30). We who are bishops, together with our clergy, are ourselves called to lifelong Christian formation. Through conversion we too must grow to the fullness of maturity in holiness of life.
Dear brothers: I rejoice with you at all the gifts which God has given to your local Churches.I also share your concerns as shepherds who "tend the flock of God that is your charge" (Cfr. 1 Petr. 5,2). May the Lord continue to bless you and your clergy, religious and laity, as you seek to grow in holiness for your own salvation and the salvation of the world. Commending you all to Mary, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.
I am pleased to welcome Your Excellency as you present the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Liberia to the Holy See. I acknowledge with gratitude the good wishes which you have conveyed to me from your President, and I would ask you in turn to assure him of my prayers for the peace and progress of all the citizens of your country.
On this occasion I recall with satisfaction the cooperation and understanding that have characterized the diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Liberia over the years, and I trust that your mission will serve to strengthen ever more the already existing bonds of friendship.
As you have stated, the presence of the Church in Liberia dates from the outset of your nation’s history. Beginning with the activity of the first missionaries who preached the Gospel among your people, the Church, in the words of the Second Vatican Council, has sought to serve "as a leaven and as a kind of soul" (Gaudium et Spes GS 40) in the challenging task of building the nation on principles of justice and respect for the human rights of all. The Council also says of the Church in society that "through her individual members and her whole community, she believes she can contribute greatly towards making the family of man and its history more human" (Cfr. Ibid.). In this respect there are many areas of necessary and ever more effective collaboration between the Church and the State.
I note your reference to the contribution being made by the Church in your country in the area of education. I am pleased that the Catholic schools of Liberia enjoy a reputation for excellence and that they are helping to make the Christian Gospel better known and accepted. In dedicating herself to providing a quality education, the Church "offers her services to all peoples by way of promoting the full development of the human person, for the welfare of earthly society and the building of a world fashioned more humanly" (Cfr. Gravissimum Educationis GE 3).
I take this opportunity to express once again the Church’s dedication to work for the welfare of society. To quote the words of the Second Vatican Council, this welfare "consists chiefly in the protection of the rights, and in the performance of the duties, of the human person" (Dignitatis Humanae DH 6). And as you will agree, "the protection and promotion of the inviolable rights of man ranks among the essential duties of government" (Ibid.). It is with this in mind that I reiterate the Church’s concern that in every country respect for the human rights and democratic freedoms of all citizens should be properly respected. Such respect for the dignity and welfare of every individual is best safeguarded by a public administration guided by honest concern for the common good. Similarly, the inviolable rights of the individual are promoted by ever closer cooperation between all the sectors of society, including the members of religious bodies. Thus the moral foundations of a social progress that is truly complete and at the service of man are firmly secured.
Mr Ambassador, I encourage your Government in its efforts to further good relations with all the peace-loving nations of the world. The Holy See’s own work for world peace is based upon the Church’s conviction of the equality and dignity of every human person formed in the image and likeness of God. This common dignity demands that we live in harmony, that we not only respect one another but that we constantly work for one another’s good.
In my Message this year for the celebration of the World Day of Peace, I reflected upon the important realities of solidarity and development as keys to peace. Addressing the whole human family, I said: "My hope is that this Message may be an occasion for each one to deepen his or her commitment to the oneness of the human family in solidarity. May it be a spur encouraging us all to seek the true good of all our brothers and sisters in an integral development that fosters all values of the human person in society". This is precisely a vital element of the diplomatic work with which you have been entrusted in the service of your country.
As you take up your duties, Mr Ambassador, I assure you of my prayers for the successful and happy fulfilment of your mission. The Holy See is always ready to assist you in the accomplishment of your responsibilities. Upon Your Excellency and the President, Government and people of Liberia I invoke God’s abundant blessings.
Dear Brothers in Christ,
1. "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope" (Cfr. Rom Rm 15,13). These words of Saint Paul express my own prayerful sentiments for each of you on the occasion of your ad limina visit. They also capture the spirit of the present season. During these days preceding the Solemnity of Pentecost, we are invited to experience personally and liturgically the Church’s sense of eager expectation of the coming of the Holy Spirit with power from on high. At the same time it is an expectation which we know is always being fulfilled in history as "God’s Spirit... with wondrous providence directs the course of time and renews the face of the earth" (Gaudium et Spes GS 26). It is an expectation of the Church’s renewal in every age so that she may bear universal witness to the truth until the end of time.
I rejoice with you today, as I did on the occasion of my Pastoral Visit to Scotland five years ago, at the gifts of the Holy Spirit which are at work in your local Churches. At that time I expressed my admiration and satisfaction at the intense programme which the Scottish Bishops proposed for the spiritual renewal of the Catholic community, so as to help ensure that the effects of my visit would produce enduring fruit (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Homilia in magnis hortis vulgo Bellahouston cognominatis, apud Glasguam, habita, die 1 iun. 1982: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, V, 2 (1982) 2064 ss.). I join with you in giving thanks that through the power of the Holy Spirit those hopes have not been disappointed. The Church in Scotland has taken to heart the exhortation of the Second Vatican Council to seek "purification and renewal to that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the Church" (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 15 cfr. etiam Gaudium et Spes GS 43).
2. Fundamental to this purification and renewal is the daily sacramental life of the Church, especially the Holy Eucharist. From their participation in these mysteries, and from personal and group prayer, the faithful of your dioceses draw the strength they need for their part in the Church’s mission.
At the same time, as the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium reminds us, "it is not only through the sacraments and ministrations of the Church that the Holy Spirit makes holy the People, leads them and enriches them with his virtues. Allotting his gifts according as he wills (Cfr. 1Cor 1Co 12,11), he also distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank. By these gifts he makes them fit and ready to undertake various tasks and offices for the renewal and building up of the Church, as it is written, ‘to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (Cfr. Ibid.12, 7)’ (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 12)".
I know that in your dioceses much reflection is being given to the gifts conferred upon all by the Holy Spirit for the renewal of the Church. The aim is greater participation in the Church’s life and mission on the part of all the faithful, for their own sanctification and the sanctification of the world. As pastors, you are to be commended for your encouragement of lay participation and spiritual renewal among all the faithful. These have now reached a level which calls for further evaluation so that people will continue to grow in their understanding and practice of the faith and in their sense of belonging to the Church. As you know, the forthcoming Synod of Bishops will also make a contribution to this process of reflection and evaluation in the light of developments since the Second Vatican Council. The Conciliar Decree Apostolicam Actuositatem,, in particular, exhorts those of us who are pastors to remember "that the right and duty of exercising the apostolate are common to all the faithful... and that in the building up of the Church the laity too have parts of their own to play. For this reason (pastors) will work as brothers with the laity in the Church and for the Church" (Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 25).
3. At the same time, the renewed participation of the laity is not of course meant to detract in any way from the importance of the ordained ministry. As I reminded the priests of Scotland during my pastoral visit, by sharing in the one priesthood of Christ the High Priest, they are "appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins" (Cfr. Hebr. 5, 1). In priests we recognize "the good shepherd, the faithful servant, the sower who goes out to sow the good seed, the labourer in the vineyard, the fisherman who launches his net for a catch" (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Edimburgi, allocutio ad religiosos et religiosas Scotiae habita, 2 die 31 maii 1982: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, V, 2 (1982) 2028).
I know that you and your clergy and people share the present concern for priestly vocations as well as vocations to the religious life. The appointment of vocations directors on the national and regional levels is an important step in providing the human resources that are essential if more young people are to be encouraged to consider the possibility that the Lord may be calling them to the priesthood or religious life.
4. For the vast majority of Scottish Catholics, the renewed sense of belonging to and sharing in the Church’s life is felt particularly within the local parish. But there is also an appreciation of the wider ecclesial communion which unites the faithful to their dioceses, to other local Churches, and in a special way to the Church in Rome. In this regard, mention must be made of those dioceses which are the material needs of their brothers and sisters abroad, and in supporting activities which bear practical witness to the Church’s faith and promote her religious mission. The Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) is an outstanding example of this generosity, particularly to the people of Africa and Latin America. Of equal importance is the willingness on the part of those dioceses which are able to do so to send priests and lay missionaries to sister Churches in developing countries. The sense of communion is also strengthened by your own commendable spirit of collegiality, close cooperation and fraternity as Bishops in union with Peter.
5. Christian love - the ultimate measure of all authentic renewal - is also practised closer to home. Those who are needy or troubled, poor or alone, have a special claim to that love. As with every modern society, Scotland is experiencing social and economic changes which leave in their wake many such people, and it is to them that you have increasingly directed your pastoral care. I am thinking especially of your concern for the unemployed, and your support of drug rehabilitation. Both of these problems, which in different ways threaten the common good as well as the dignity of the human person, deserve the continued attention of the Church. In addition to these particular concerns, there are the sick, the poor and those with special needs such as the elderly who receive care from the many Catholic institutions of your country. We may look to the shining example of Saint Margaret of Scotland for confirmation that what is done for the least of our brothers and sisters in done for Christ himself (Cfr. Matth Mt 25,31-46).
The challenges of modern life also create great tensions for the family, especially for young people. I am confident that your concerted efforts to strengthen marriage and family life will bear fruit for the good of the Church and of Scotland, and that your guidance and encouragement of the young will help them live a Christian life in close conformity with the Gospel. I understand that the Scout and Guide Movement is one of the ways in which young people receive sound direction in life. May God bless every effort which promotes Christian values among youth.
6. During my Pastoral Visit in 1982 I spoke of the Scottish Education Act of 1918, whereby Catholic schools are a constituent part of the State system with essential guarantees covering religious education and the appointment of teachers (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Allocutio in «Saint Andrew's College» in loco «Beardsen» habita, 2, die 1 iun. 1982: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, V, 2(1982) 2051). This arrangement respects the religious diversity of your country and makes possible a Catholic education for your children and young people. The presence of Catholic chaplains in institutions of higher learning and the careful training of future religious teachers are also important to the success of the Church’s educational mission.
7. Finally, I rejoice with you at the progress that has been made in ecumenical relations since my visit. On that occasion I expressed to those of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities the wish that, amid the religious diversity of your country, our earthly pilgrimage be made together, walking hand-in-hand (Cfr. Eiusdem Homlia in magnis hortis vulgo Bellahouston cognominatis, apud Glasguam, habita, die 1 iun. 1982: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, V, 2 (1982) 2064ss). I am pleased to note the numerous fruitful contacts which have been made and the shared endeavours which have begun since that time. These include the Saint Andrew’s Conference with the theme "Not Strangers but Pilgrims", which considered questions on the nature of the Church; the ecumenical pilgrimage of Church Leaders to Iona, a place intimately connected with the early Celtic origins of the Church in Scotland, and, together with Whithorn, a cradle of Christianity in your country; and the ecumenical character of both the 850th anniversary celebration of Melrose Abbey and of the annual Marian pilgrimage to Haddington.
These efforts are a part of both corporate and personal renewal. The Conciliar Decree Unitatis Redintegratio reminds us that "Church renewal has notable ecumenical importance. Renewal in various spheres of the Church’s life... should be considered as promises and guarantees for the future progress of ecumenism" (Cfr. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 6). Likewise, "there can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without interior conversion" (Cfr. Ibid. 7). We must always remember that " this change of heart and holiness of life, along with public and private prayer for the unity of Christians, should be regarded as the soul of the whole ecumenical movement" (Cfr. Ibid, 8).
8. Dear Brothers, this year’s celebration of the Solemnity of Pentecost has an added dimension in that it inaugurates the Marian Year.This serves as a reminder of Mary’s spiritual motherhood. It is, as I have written in my Encyclical Letter "Redemptoris Mater", " motherhood in the order of grace, for it implores the gift of the Spirit who raises up the new children of God, redeemed through the sacrifice of Christ: that Spirit whom together with the Church Mary too received on the day of Pentecost" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II, Redemptoris Mater RMA 44). I commend you and your clergy, religious and laity to the Mother of the Redeemer who is also our Mother. May she be a model of Christian faith and holiness, and a sure sign of hope and solace on this earthly pilgrimage, not only for you, but "for all those who, in fraternal dialogue with you, wish to deepen their obedience of faith" (Ibid. 33). Invoking her maternal intercession, and with affection in the Lord Jesus, I impart to you and to all the clergy, religious and laity of Scotland my Apostolic Blessing.
1. With fraternal affection in our Lord Jesus Christ I welcome you today, on the occasion of your ad limina visit. This visit is meant to strengthen and celebrate the bonds of communion which unite the local Churches of Malta and Gozo with the Bishop of Rome and the Universal Church. It also provides an opportunity for me to support you in the exercise of your episcopal ministry, so that together as shepherds we may encourage both the clergy and the laity to grow in the love of God and in loving service to their neighbour.
The Christian faithful of your country are well known for their devotion to the See of Peter and for the vitality of their ecclesial life. This can be seen in the strong religious traditions of Malta; the frequency with which the faithful participate in the Eucharist and the other sacraments; the many thriving institutions devoted to the apostolate, to education, charity and social services; the presence of new movements which promote Christian life; the relatively large numbers of clergy and religious, and their zeal in serving their own Dioceses as well as other countries, especially the missions; and the generous commitment of the laity in bearing witness to the Gospel. We give thanks to God for this great "spiritual house made of living stones" (Cfr. 1 Petr. 2,5).
2. At the same time, like every other ecclesial community, the Church in Malta is called to constant renewal. She is called to constant renewal. She is called to discern, in the light of the Second Vatican Council and with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of God as well as the hopes and needs of the society in which we live at this moment in history. She is called to continued conversion and purification for the sake of the mission which the whole Church has received from her Lord: to be a "sacrament of salvation" for all people until the end of time. This mission is one of evangelization, which my predecessor Paul VI described so eloquently in Evangelii Nuntiandi. Evangelization is not only the Church’s mission to preach Christ to those who do not know him or no longer walk with him. It is also, as "Evangelii Nuntiandi" states, the task of "deepening, consolidating, nourishing and making ever more mature the faith of those who are already called the faithful or believers" (Pauli VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 54). This in turn will lead to their committed involvement in the evangelization of society and culture.
3. Essential to this evangelizing mission is the effective preaching of the word, for as we are reminded by Saint Paul, Malta’s first preacher and teacher, "faith comes from what is heard" (Cfr. Rom Rm 10,17). Preaching is effective when, in the words of Evangelii Nuntiandi, it is "simple, clear direct, well-adapted, profoundly dependent on Gospel teaching and faithful to the Magisterium, animated by a balanced apostolic ardour... full of hope, fostering belief, and productive of peace and unity" (Pauli VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 43). We and our clergy must constantly seek to preach in such a way that the timeless message of the Gospel touches the minds and hearts of our people with their hopes and struggles and with the questions and concerns that modern life sets before them. Effective preaching is an important part of the constant evangelization which deepens and nourishes the life of faith received in Baptism. It is also a primary means of renewing both sacramental worship and popular piety and devotion so that they may truly reflect the teaching of the Council.
4. Nor should we fail to mention catechetical instruction, which has been vigorously carried out in your dioceses for many years, in particular through the devoted efforts of priests, religious and laity, individually or in groups. Among the latter I would mention the Society of Christian Doctrine, which is celebrating this year the Eightieth Anniversary of its foundation. As with preaching, the content of catechesis must be solidly based on the revealed word of God and always in accord with the authentic teaching of the Church; it must likewise reflect an awareness of sound modern biblical, theological and liturgical scholarship. Its methodology must be truly effective so as to serve the needs of those for whom it is intended.
Catechetics and general education should work in harmony, so that young people receive a Christian understanding of human life and values. In this respect, the right of children and young people to an adequate catechetical training is matched by the duty on the part of schools, including State schools, to enable them to receive this training and thus to reach a higher synthesis which integrates and unifies their various fields of study with the Christian outlook which is so much in harmony with the cultural and historical roots of the Maltese people. The Church schools of Malta too continue to provide a great and necessary service to both the Church and the country, thanks to the generous commitment of so many priests, religious and lay men and women, and thanks also to the material support offered by parents as well as all the Catholic faithful. It is important that these schools should coordinate their activities and decide the criteria of their action in close union with you, the Bishops, who have the pastoral responsibility of watching over all aspects of the life of the Catholic community in your dioceses. I share your interest and concern that under your pastoral guidance these schools should continue to flourish, in harmony with their special character and history.
5. Thus far I have spoken of evangelization in terms of the Church’s inner life: her preaching, catechesis and educational goals. That inner life must in turn be directed towards the service of Christ and his Gospel within the entire community. This wider sense of evangelization begins with the family, which plays an important role both as a "domestic church" and as the primary cell of society. The family is the place where witness to the Gospel receives concrete application and then extends to neighbours and others. The way in which believing families live – that is to say, their values, their work and leisure, and what they teach their children – bears witness to the real meaning of love, self-giving, service, dialogue, freedom, concern for the common good, prayer, and so many fundamental truths about life which are threatened today by materialism, consumerism, and pleasure-seeking. Christian families are called to be "apostles" to each other, showing true compassion and love to families in need, and being open to society as a whole in genuine solidarity.
I know that, with the help of expert clergy and laity, the Bishops of Malta have sought to uphold the reverence due to the family by means of marriage preparation and by helping families to meet challenges in ways that are faithful to the Gospel and Church, with respect for the nature of marriage and its indissolubility. I commend you for these efforts and I encourage you to persevere with the evangelization of families so that they may serve the gift of life in all its dimensions, both physical and spiritual. May Malta always be exemplary in its esteem for family life!
Speeches 1987 - Friday, 15 May 1987