Your Eminence, Lord Coggan, Bishop Ablondi,
Dear friends in Christ,
Today I joyfully thank the Lord with you for the courage and consolation he unfailingly gives us through his Holy Spirit, making us ever more generous servants of the word of salvation.
The example and the memory of Cardinal Augustin Bea, the nineteenth anniversary of whose death we keep today, has quite properly been recalled just now by Cardinal Willebrands. For very many people, Cardinal Bea was a sure and learned mentor in the important and difficult years that followed the Second Vatican Council. His reliable guidance was especially felt in the sphere of biblical cooperation. Even before the promulgation of the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Cardinal Bea welcomed the desire for such cooperation expressed by the then Secretary of the United Bible Societies, Oliver Béguin. After some preliminary discussions, he proposed this collaboration to my predecessor Paul VI, who immediately approved it.
Then the United Bible Societies together with Catholic experts proceeded to the preparation of "Guiding Principles" with a view to helping people all over the world to become familiar with Holy Scripture and to be imbued with its spirit (Cfr. Dei Verbum DV 25). This is the concern which for centuries now has motivated the members of your Union as they laboured so strenuously and diligently in this field.
I am especially happy to greet you, Lord Coggan and your collaborators. I am pleased that the new revised edition of the "Guidelines" is now ready. It will make possible a fuller cooperation between the Bible Societies in different countries and local Catholic Churches in the preparation and distribution of editions of Holy Scripture.
This collaboration, as well as providing spiritual nourishment for Christian people, also contributes greatly to our understanding of one another. It brings Christians closer together and so advances the cause of unity.
This is the spirit in which collaboration with the World Catholic Federation for the Biblical Apostolate has grown up. Working in harmony with the hierarchy of the Church, it has responded generously to the huge conciliar programme contained in the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, which states:
"It devolves on the Bishops, ‘who have the apostolic teaching’, to give the faithful entrusted to them suitable instruction in the right use of the divine books, especially the New Testament and above all the Gospels, through translation of the sacred texts. Such versions are to be provided with necessary and fully adequate explanations so that the sons and daughters of the Church can safely and profitably grow familiar with the Sacred Scriptures and be penetrated with their spirit.
Furthermore, editions of the Sacred Scriptures, provided with suitable comments, should be prepared also for the use of non-Christians and adapted to their situation. Both pastors of souls and Christians generally should see to the wise distribution of these in one way or another" (Dei Verbum DV 25).
I wish to encourage your worthy efforts to spread the knowledge of the word of God. As the Council teaches, the force and power of that word sustains the Church and gives nourishment to every soul (Cfr. ibid. 21). "For the Word of God is living and active" (Hebr. 4, 12). It can "build you up and give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified" (Act.20, 32).
God bless you in your noble work.
1. I greet you today with affection in our Lord Jesus Christ. Through you I also wish to greet the clergy, religious and laity of the local Churches which constitute the Province of Birmingham in England and the Province of Cardiff in the Principality of Wales. It is my special joy to welcome you here on the occasion of the beatification of eighty-five martyrs from England, Wales and Scotland. Their witness to the Catholic Faith is part of a long history of fidelity to the See of Peter, which is confirmed by your own visit ad limina Apostolorum.
These martyrs bear witness to the profound mystery of ecclesial communion that unites us.In honouring them, we reaffirm and celebrate that communion of life, charity and truth established by Christ himself and used by him as an instrument of redemption for all (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 9). The majority were priests and their lay collaborators. They were martyred for seeking to bring the word of God and the sacraments to their Catholic fellow-countrymen who shared their conviction that the bonds of full ecclesial communion were important enough to risk punishment and even death in that troubled time. We rejoice today with the other Christian brothers and sisters in your land that after so many centuries we are now able to seek full communion together with mutual respect and esteem.
In death these martyrs bear heroic witness to that all consuming love which has its origin in Christ and which is always at work in his Body for the salvation of the world. As Saint Paul teaches, "caritas Christi urget nos" (2Co 5,14), the love of Christ impels us. Believers must be solicitous not only for their own salvation, but for the salvation of all their brothers and sisters and of all humanity. This outgoing love is ordered to the communion of which I have spoken: communion with God and communion with one another, a “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ep 4,3).
2. Today, in particular, this love impels us to have a special concern for those Catholics who have fallen away from the practice of the Faith for which the martyrs gave their lives. Throughout the world we find people who do not take an active part in the ecclesial communion to which they have been called by their Baptism, or who no longer live according to the Church’s teachings. In countries such as your own, practising the faith no longer involves risking one’s life. Rather, it is a matter of persevering in faith amidst all the pressures of modern living, which tempt people to abandon their faith. Some would seek to justify themselves by claiming that one can be a good Christian apart from the Church. With Scripture and Tradition, however, we must insist on the unbreakable bond that exists between Christ and his Church, between the bridegroom and his bride, between the head and the members, between the Mother and her spiritual children.
In order to understand the situation of some of our brothers and sisters, we must turn to the parable of the sower in the Gospel, as it is explained to the disciples by Our Lord himself when they ask him the significance of the seed falling on the path, on rocky ground, among thorns, or on good ground (Cfr. Matth Mt 13). Christ tells them that the seed is the word of God which, for want of understanding, can be snatched away by the devil; or one can fall away when tribulation or persecution arises on account of that word; or yet again, the cares of the world and the delight in riches can choke the word, and it proves unfruitful (Ibid. 13, 18-23). This teaching provides a timeless insight into our weak and sinful condition, and should serve as a reminder of the need for vigilance, perseverance, and constant conversion of heart on the part of us all.
3. In our own day we must "read" the society of which we are a part in the light of this parable. It is in many aspects a dechristianized society, which can never hope to endure in any truly fruitful or moral way apart from the biblical foundation upon which it was built. Yet atheistic or agnostic secularism and an impoverished humanism surround believers with unbelief. The saving truths of revelation embodied in doctrine and sacramental communion are often replaced by individual religious sentiment or a vague and illusory search for the divine or the sacred. This is the situation of many today who have fallen away from the practice of their faith. The seed of God’s word, to use the imagery of the parable, continues to fall along the path, on rocky ground and among thorns, as well as on good ground.
For others, the abandonment of active participation in the Church is the result of an alienating or hurtful experience, whether deliberate or unintentional, on the part of some member of the Church community or one of its ministers. For still others, a lack of understanding or acceptance of developments in the Church since the Second Vatican Council is a cause for alienation or even hostility. Nor can we fail to mention the many who simply drift away through inertia or indifference.
4. Dear brothers and spiritual heirs of the martyrs who gave their lives so that others might practise their Catholic faith: in imitation of Christ the Good Shepherd, we who are shepherds must go in search of these sheep. I know that you share this concern of mine, which I have expressed in the form of an appeal to fallen away Catholics during my pastoral visits. I encourage you to continue the efforts which you and many of your brother bishops have made in this regard. For those of us whom the Lord has appointed pastors, this obligation is especially important. The rite of episcopal ordination makes this clear, when the Bishop-elect is questioned about his resolve as a good shepherd to seek out the sheep who stray and to gather them into the fold of the Lord. Although our expectations may sometimes be disappointed, we should rejoice in the Lord’s assurance that " there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Lc 15,7). What greater joy can be ours as pastors than to see brothers and sisters return to the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, and once again "devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Act. 2, 42).
5. At the same time, we recall that the work of evangelization, which extends to non-practising Catholics, is a fundamental duty of the whole People of God (Cfr. Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 35). It is the whole Church that evangelizes; every effort at evangelization is ecclesial in nature (Cfr. Pauli VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 60). And so, dear brothers, we are not alone. Our concern for the non-practising is shared by our clergy, who witness firsthand their absence and the diminishing effect of this absence on the local community. It likewise affects the faithful, many of whom suffer deeply because their spouse, relations, friends, and their children in particular, have fallen away.
So many of our brothers and sisters ask me to pray that their loved ones will return to the Church, and rightly so, for prayer is the most hearts with the grace of God. I urge you to join me in encouraging the sick and suffering, whose prayer is so powerful with the Lord, to pray for this intention. To our prayers we must add an active zeal filled with charity and a spirit of reconciliation, so that a path home may be cleared for the stray sheep. If our ecclesial communion is not a loving and inviting one, then we fail in our mission to be the visible sacrament of unity and of peace in the world (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 9). We may be confident, however, that despite our weaknesses God will not fail to bless our efforts as we search for straying hearts and minds and lead them back to full and active communion with Christ and his Church.
I would also like to make special mention o four priests, who are our necessary helpers and counsellors in the ministry, our brothers and friends (Cfr. Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 7). They may sometimes feel a sense of helplessnes, especially if they work alone in isolated parishes. It is important that they also should experience the fraternal support of their bishop and the entire presbyterate for their ministry. However humble or apparently isolated that ministry may be, it is truly an ecclesial one, “attached to the evangelizing activity of the whole Church by institutional relationships, but also by profound invisible links in the order of grace” (Pauli VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 60). May they take heart from the example of the martyrs whom we are honouring, whose zeal and self-sacrifice still speak to us over the centuries.
Dear Brothers, may these martyrs and all the saints of England and Wales intercede for you and for your clergy, religious and laity. May Mary, Mother of the Church, be a guiding star for you on your pilgrimage of faith. May Christ the Good Shepherd strengthen you in your love for one another and for all his sheep, especially those who are far from their spiritual home. As a pledge of his joy and peace I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.
Monday, 23 November 1987
Your Eminence, Your Graces, My Brothers in the Episcopate,
Brothers and Sisters,
It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you, pilgrims and visitors from Great Britain, on the occasion of the Beatification of George Haydock and his eighty-four companion Martyrs. In a particular way I greet all the Bishops from England, Scotland and Wales who this year are making their ad Limina visit. This happy coincidence serves to manifest even more clearly the communion of faith and love which links your beloved land to the Apostolic See.
You come from every Diocese of England and Wales, and among you are members of the Martyrs’ own families. There are likewise pilgrims from Scotland and Ireland. To all of you I express a cordial greeting. I extend a warm welcome also to the Anglican Bishop of Birmingham, the representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion.
Your presence here in Rome immediately brings to mind my visit to Britain in 1982, the first time a Bishop of Rome had set foot on British soil. I well remember the warmth of the welcome I received. The words I spoke in Westminster Cathedral on that occasion seem fitting for this happy day: "The roll of your saints and of your great men and women, your treasures of literature and music, your Cathedrals and Colleges, your rich heritage of parish life speak of a tradition of faith. And it is to the faith of your fathers–living still–that I wish to pay tribute" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II, Homilia in Ecclesia Cathedrali Vestmonasteriensi, 1, die 28 maii 1982: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, V/2  1895).
The glorious Catholic tradition of your countries has known many moments of splendour and vitality. Above all, there have been men and women in every age who have reflected admirably the figure of Christ. Your saintly monks and bishops, rulers and scholars, missionaries and martyrs, as well as the unknown multitudes of ordinary Christian people who have passed the faith on from generation to generation, all of these are an essential part of your history. The Christian tradition is at the very core of your heritage.
Today, that tradition of faith is being challenged in new ways, but just as intensely as in the age of the Martyrs. Christians are being called upon to bear witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ at a time when the human family, in the words of the Second Vatican Council, "nourishes higher hopes but also looks anxiously upon many contradictions which remain to be resolved” (Gaudium et Spes GS 56).
It is my ardent hope, which I am sure you share with me, that the recognition being given to the Martyrs of England and Wales and Scotland will serve to draw attention to the importance of conscience and religious faith in our lives. The Martyrs placed their whole trust in Christ. In him they found the courage to put God above all, in life and in death; to love him above all else. This is their message for our time.
Our encounter with Christ in faith demands a conversion of our way of thinking, a new sensitivity and a new way of judging things. The Lord calls us to be renewed in our mind, “that (we) may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rm 12,2). This is the renewal in outlook that society needs. Just as the fidelity of the Martyrs challenged the consciences of their contemporaries, so our complete fidelity to the Gospel of grace and peace must challenge today’s world. May the memory of your Saints and Martyrs sustain you in this.
I thank you for having taken part in the Beatification ceremony, for your devotion to these champions of our faith. I ask you to take my greetings to your families at home, especially the children, the old and the sick. Your country has for centuries been called " the Dowry of Mary ": in this Marian Year let us together call on Mary that through her prayers, joined with the prayers of these Blessed Martyrs, we may all grow in holiness of life and fidelity to Christ our Lord and King.
May God bless you all.
Dear brother Bishops,
1. In meeting you today I embrace in the unity of our Lord Jesus Christ all the faithful of the countries that you represent: the Republic of South Africa, the Republic of Botswana, the Kingdom of Swaziland and Namibia. Your very presence here today evokes praise for God, whose providence has been manifested in the history of your evangelization, and whose love and power have sustained your people throughout all the vicissitudes of their past.
In reflecting on the role of Bishops, the Second Vatican Council offers us this splendid summary of what they are about: “In the Bishops... our Lord Jesus Christ, the supreme High Priest, is present in the midst of those who believe” (Lumen Gentium LG 21). Precisely because of this, because you represent Jesus Christ in the midst of your people, you are for them living signs of Christ, living signs of Christian hope. The hope that you embody and express is linked to the Paschal Mystery, which is constantly renewed in the Church.
To all who have some understanding of the complex reality of Southern Africa it is obvious that this aspect of your mission is extremely important: proclaiming, guaranteeing and bearing witness to a hope that “does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Rm 5,5). And today I express my full solidarity with you in that hope which springs from the victory of the crucified and risen Christ-that hope which is invincible.
2. During these past years you have borne witness to hope in many ways, thus showing your people the relevance of Christ’s Paschal Mystery for their lives. Year in, year out, you have stood with your people in their needs, and at the same time you have withstood much unjust criticism in transmitting to them the uplifting message of the Gospel. In statements that have spanned decades you have insisted on justice and the need for true reconciliation, proclaimed the commandment of love, and invited your people to prayer and to universal fraternal solidarity. In particular, you have raised your voices on human rights, the fundamental equality of all persons, the defence of the oppressed, and the concrete exigencies of justice throughout your region.
For its part, the Holy See has been firm in its own proclamation of human dignity. Eighteen years ago, in Africa itself, Paul VI stated: “We deplore the fact that . . . there persist social situations based upon racial discrimination and often willed and sustained by systems of thought; such situations constitute a manifest and inadmissible affront to the fundamental rights of the human person..." (Pauli VI, Ad honorabiles Viros e publico Legumlatorum Coetu Reipublicae Ugandensis, die 1 aug. 1969: Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, VII  552s.). In 1974, in his Address to the United Nations Special Committee on Apartheid, Paul VI appealed once again for the banishment of systematic discrimination. In so doing, he expressed his conviction that "the cause is urgent and the hour is late” (Pauli VI, Ad Membra Consilii Nationum Consociatarum versantis in quaestione «Apartheid», die 22 maii 1974: Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, XII  460).
Since then the events of history have confirmed this judgement. At the same time, reason itself still pleads that violence not be accepted as the solution to violence, but that it "must give way to reason, mutual trust, sincere negotiations and fraternal love” (Pauli VI, Ad Membra Consilii Nationum Consociatarum versantis in quaestione «Apartheid», die 22 maii 1974: Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, XI  460). In the present context of apartheid, a call to conversion becomes ever more relevant and necessary for your people. The only adequate solution to the problem is the conversion of hearts.
3. At this time you are re-examining your own role as pastors, re-evaluating your specific priorities and methods in the light of the needs of the hour, with a clear view to fulfilling your aims. You are again asking yourselves what is to be accomplished and how it is to be done. You are asking your people to compare the situation of their lives and their society with the Gospel and its transforming power.
By the grace of God and the action of the Holy Spirit it is becoming clearer and clearer to many that the Church’s role in the world is to work for the Christian transformation of society through changes that are in accord with the Gospel message. In all these changes it is the Lord Jesus himself who is active and who works through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Everything that is related to the change of structures is linked to the change of hearts. For this reason, as Bishops, you are concerned with insisting on the enormous power of love. You are convinced that your own experience of unity, together with prayer, will truly contribute to the goal that must constantly be reaffirmed: the Christian transformation of society. The power of love in which you place your trust is not primarily human love, but rather divine love-the love of God for all those who are poor and oppressed, the love of God poured out in the heart of Christ, who in the act of revealing love also teaches us to love, to pardon, to be just, and to be reconciled. The constant proclamation of God’s love together with daily witness to this love, has an effectiveness yet undiscovered in evoking the response of human love. Through the Eucharistic Sacrifice, prayer, the preaching of the word and reflection on it, the power of divine love is unleashed in society.
4. The needs of the hour will continue to require insistence on human dignity and the foundation of human dignity in the mysteries of Creation and Redemption. The needs of the hour will still require appeals to all who hold power to recognize the rights of the oppressed, as well as the role of society and the function of public authority in their relationship to the common good and to the whole of God’s plan for humanity. But the "hour" which Paul VI in 1974 characterized as "late", now requires more than ever, in addition to prophetic statements and appeals, the mobilization of the whole ecclesial community, in the spirit of the Gospel -which is the spirit of conversion of individual hearts-with the weapons of the Gospel, to bring about in the power of the Gospel the Christian transformation of society. Needed at this point is indeed a special kind of Christian education that teaches the full scope of Christian liberation and justice, and takes into account the whole saving reality of Christ’s Death and Resurrection.
In telling us to stand firm in the Christian struggle, Saint Paul specifically describes the weapons of the Gospel. Among these he speaks of “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ep 6,17). This sword, which is capable of "discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebr.4, 12), is the great weapon at the disposal of the Christian community in its combat with the evils of society. When the community of the Church assembles in prayer to reflect on the word of God, the Holy Spirit himself pours out God’s love on his people and gives them that hope which does not disappoint (Cfr. Rom Rm 5,5). With this hope and this love, and with reliance on the word of God, it is possible to achieve what human means never can succeed in achieving. Dear Brothers: Jesus assures us: "What is impossible with men is possible with God" (Lc 18,27).
5. All the efforts which the Church makes to help promote the Christian transformation of society are within the context of her obedience to the Gospel of Christ. They are conditioned by her understanding of evangelization as the proclamation of the gift of salvation given to humanity through the Paschal Mystery of Christ. The Church wishes all her members to understand "the profound links that exist between evangelization and human advancement” (Pauli VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 31).
Human advancement on its part includes both integral human development and Christian liberation. In this sense Paul VI asked: “How in fact can one proclaim the new commandment without promoting in justice and peace the true, authentic advancement of man?” (Ibid.).
The human being who is created and redeemed by God is worthy of a total and radical liberation-liberation not only from structures that violate human dignity, but liberation from sin itself. It is extremely necessary to make sure that when it is a question of dismantling those structures they are not replaced by other structures that would perpetuate, in a different form, conditions unworthy of the children of God, deny freedoms necessary for Christian liberation, and be opposed to the fundamental values of the Gospel. The triumph of the Gospel is the universal triumph of love over hatred, through the conversion of hearts. In this triumph is found the true Christian transformation of society according to the Gospel. Intransigence, the prospect of inevitable conflict, old and new violence-all this must yield before " the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God".
The Church in your region is very clearly called at this time to place all her trust in the word of God and in the power of him who "is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask and think” (Ep 3,20).
6. Regarding the mission of the laity in your local Churches, I am convinced that the recent Synod of Bishops has furnished you with many reflections that will be useful in your pastoral planning. A heightened realization by the laity of their dignity and their call to contribute actively to the mission of Christ and his Church has generated a new enthusiasm that is pervading the Church under the action of the Holy Spirit. It is another gift of the Lord, which I pray will be a further help to the Church in Southern Africa, to fulfil the needs of this hour.
In treating of evangelization, Paul VI stated that “the first means of evangelization is the witness of an authentically Christian life” (Pauli VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 41). These words become a special challenge in the present situation to all the Religious of your dioceses. Yes, we must all be convinced that the witness of consecrated love has a supernatural effectiveness that far surpasses the power of external edification. In this area Religious have a special part to play, as witnesses to God’s love, in furthering the Gospel message.
Your priests, too, together with the seminarians, must realize that their contributions to the solutions to all the problems of freedom and justice must be rooted in their own conversion of heart and in their own fidelity of love.Proclaiming the word of God to the faithful, listening to it in their hearts and applying it to their own lives, they will be ever more effective as peacemakers and reconcilers of God’s people.
Dear brother Bishops: your own contribution of unity among yourselves, your experiencing together the love of Christ, and your bearing witness to this love are themselves splendid acts of episcopal leadership - a pastoral contribution to the local Churches over which you preside and which you love and serve.
7. There are many particular problems that are the object of our attention but cannot be adequately commented on at this time. One of these is the very important question of Namibia. Be assured that the Holy See is following this issue in all its details with deep concern and keen solicitude for the well-being of the people themselves.
My last word to you, dear Brothers, is one of hope. With great love in our Lord Jesus Christ, I send my message of hope to all your beloved priests, Religious and laity. Remember always that Christ is with you. His Spirit dwells in you, and his word strengthens you. Christ never abandons his disciples, and to all of you he repeats: “Take courage! I have overcome the world” (Jn 16,33).
It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican and to receive the Letters accrediting you have conveyed from His ordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Malawi. I thank you for the good wishes you have conveyed from His Excellency Ngwaza Dr H. Kamuzu Banda. I would ask you kindly to extend my warmest greetings to him and to assure him of my prayers for all the people of your country.
As you have pointed out, the Holy See has a special interest in upholding moral and spiritual values. Such values are essential for integral human development and they correspond to the deepest longings of the human heart. The well-being, not only of individuals and of the family as the primary cell of society, but also of nations themselves and, indeed, of all mankind is intimately connected with right conduct in human affairs. A sense of responsibility, solidarity, truthfulness, respect for the legitimate rights and freedoms of others - these are some of the necessary ethical building blocks of a just and harmonious society.
On the other hand the weakening of these values threatens the dignity and rights of persons and erodes the very fabric of society. Very often the tensions that disrupt peace and hinder development in the world are due to individual and collective selfishness, and thus, in the ultimate analysis, they spring from the human heart and from an insufficient commitment to the common good. Hence, people’s moral goodness is a major factor in the development of justice and peace. In this the Church has a specific contribution to make. This is an important part of the service she renders to the human family.
At the same time, the Church is far from indifferent to basic and primary human needs. That is why, as you recalled, the Holy See has appealed to the richer nations of the world to help alleviate the problems faced by developing countries. It also explains the reason for the Church’s efforts in your own nation and throughout Africa, to provide health care, education and other services, while she also carries out her principal role of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In this respect I thank you, Mr Ambassador, for your kind words about the contribution that the Church is making to the improvement of the lives of the people of Malawi.
There are many ways in which the political community and the Church can and should collaborate in serving the social body. The Second Vatican Council reminds us that "this service can be more effectively rendered for the good of all, if each (the political community and the Church) works better for wholesome mutual cooperation" (Gaudium et Spes GS 76).
In this process the Church shows respect for the political freedom and responsibility of citizens and fosters these values among them. In this context, dialogue has a pivotal role to play. It enables people to come to know each other and to discover the values and traditions peculiar to each community and nation. It is capable of opening doors that have been closed by misunderstanding and prejudice. It is a path of moral and spiritual enrichment. And for yourself, as a diplomatic representative, dialogue is one of the primary ways in which you are able to contribute to the progress of our country.