Speeches 1988 - Saturday 2 July, 1988
Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas
En nuestra solemne celebración de ayer la Iglesia entonó un canto de júbilo y de alabanza al Señor al proclamar Santo a Fray Simón de Rojas, miembro preclaro de la Orden de la Santísima Trinidad, fundada por San Juan de Mata va a hacer casi ochocientos años.
Para asistir a la canonización de este sacerdote vallisoletano, gloria de la amada España, tierra de santos, vosotros habéis venido a Roma, centro de la catolicidad, procedentes de varios países europeos, así como de Canadá, de América Latina, de Madagascar, de la India y de Papua Nueva Guinea. A todos doy de corazón mi cordial bienvenida: obispos, sacerdotes, religiosos, religiosas y fieles.
Mi saludo particular se dirije a la gran familia Trinitaria, aquí representada por tantas personas, que con su particular consagración y dedicación a Dios y a la Iglesia, hacen vivo y actual el carisma de la Orden Trinitaria en el mundo de hoy.
En esta circunstancia, deseo alentaros a un renovado empeño en vuestra fidelidad a las exigencias que comporta vuestra particular consagración a la Trinidad Santísima y a la misión liberadora y misericordiosa que ha caracterizado vuestra espiritualidad y apostolado.
Siguiendo el ejemplo de San Simón de Rojas, haced de vuestras vidas un canto de alabanza al Padre, en Cristo Redentor, animados por la fuerza del Espíritu. Que la oración, el trato sereno e íntimo con Dios, sea la fuente de donde dimane ese servicio redentor y misericordioso que ha de distinguir a los miembros de la familia Trinitaria. Cultivad, como el “Padre Ave María”, vuestra devoción mariana, encontrando en la Virgen un modelo y un estímulo en el modo de entender y de vivir vuestra vocación y vuestra consagración. Comprometeos con verdadero espíritu evangélico en el servicio a los hermanos más necesitados, a los pobres, a los “cautivos” de nuestro tiempo “a causa de su fe en Cristo”, como dice vuestra Regla primitiva.
El nuevo Santo ha de ser para todos vosotros testigo excepcional de orante, de vida mariana, de vivencia en unidad del amor a Dios y al prójimo.
No quisiera terminar estas palabras sin encomendaros un encargo que estoy seguro que haréis con especial agrado: llevad el saludo afectuoso del Papa a las Religiosas Trinitarias de clausura, que no han podido participar en nuestras celebraciones, aunque sí han estado muy unidas en el espíritu y en la plegaria.
A todos los participantes y a vuestras respectivas familias imparto de corazón una especial Bendición Apostólica.
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I am happy to greet all the pilgrims who have come to Rome for this joyful occasion. The canonization of Rose Philippine Duchesne is a special moment in the history of the Church, a time when we see more clearly the loving Providence of God guiding the course of human events, bringing about in his inscrutable ways the victory of love over sin and death. It is one of those moments when we gladly declare in the words of Saint Paul: “Glory be to him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine, glory be to him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever” (Ep 3,20-21).
Saint Rose Philippine was a woman of lively faith and constant prayer, a woman full of zeal for the missionary needs of the Church. Her love, which knew no limits, was always eager to reach out to those in need in countries and cultures different from her own. By the time she got to her long-awaited mission among the American Indians, she could write to Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat that “to go to teach the Indian children is a grace – a gift of God, not just a service”. And her enthusiasm never wavered. Even beyond the age of seventy she was still a valiant pioneer of the Gospel, traveling across the plains of Missouri and Kansas in North America to establish a school for girls of the Potawatomi Indian Tribe.
How does one account for such untiring zeal, such constant dedication to the Church’s missionary efforts? Surely, it could only be the result of a heart on fire with love of God, a heart that was always in loving harmony with the Sacred Heart of Jesus the Lord.
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A vous aussi, chers pèlerins de langue française, vont mes salutations pleines de joie et de reconnaissance. Sainte Rose-Philippine Duchesne est née et a vécu presque cinquante ans sur la terre de France. Je salut cordialement sa famille humaine: les descendants des Duchesne-Perier sont venus nombreux avec les Religieuses du Sacré-Coeur de Mère Barat. Je me tourne aussi vers les diocésains de Grenoble, de Lyon, de Paris. En cette brève rencontre, il me tient à coeur de faire entendre – pour le bien de tous et de chacun – les appels toujours actuels qui jaillissent de l’admirable existence de la nouvelle sainte.
Avec elle, avançons plus résolument sur les chemins de la confiance sans borne dans le Seigneur. Partie en Amérique du Nord sans rien connaître des lieux et des populations à soulager et évangéliser, elle ne cessa de jeter tous ses soucis dans le coeur de Dieu. Son esprit de contemplation nous interpelle tout autant. Pendant trente-quatre ans d’activités intenses, remplies de préoccupations de toute sorte et non dépourvues d’échecs, elle s’appliqua à voir toute chose et toute personne avec le regard du Christ. Cette dimension spirituelle a-t-elle suffisamment de place dans nos existences débordées? Un autre signe de sainteté chez Mère Duchesne est à retenir et à imiter. Nous savons qu’elle connut la barrière des langues. Elle la contourna magnifiquement par le témoignage concret et quotidien de sa vie. Dans notre civilisation, qui porte facilement à user et abuser du discours, il est indispensable de vérifier souvent si notre existence habituelle est suffisamment silencieuse, transparente, bienfaisante dans son simple déroulement. Enfin, dans son action missionnaire, sainte Rose-Philippine, sans théoriser sur l’inculturation de l’Evangile, manifesta toujours un profond respect à l’égard des cultures rencontrées. N’est-ce pas une lumière et un encouragement pour l’Eglise contemporaine, pour les Instituts missionnaires? Que sainte Rose-Philippine Duchesne nous entraîne tous et chacun sur les chemins évangéliques qu’elle a ardemment suivis, afin que là où la Providence nous a fait signe de servir nous travaillions sans relâche à l’expansion du Règne de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ! Chers pèlerins de France, je vous bénis de tout coeur.
Dear Brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ,
1. Your welcome presence here today evokes the remembrance of all those events that we celebrated together in the Provinces of Los Angeles and San Francisco during my Pastoral Visit last September.
Each event not only concerned the local Church but involved the participation of many other people. Besides, there was the extensive spiritual presence of millions of the faithful. In this way, for example, I could address from San Francisco the whole Catholic laity and all the Religious of the United States. The previous events in Los Angeles and Monterey likewise had a great significance for the direction that the Catholic Church must take in her own life and in her service to humanity, as she moves, under the action of the Holy Spirit, toward the purification so necessary for a proper celebration of the Millennium. It would take a great deal of time to recall in detail all the events that we lived together in California. Although it is not possible to do so at this moment, I would request the Church in the United States to re-live the commitment of those days and also renew her openness to the word of God as proclaimed by the Successor of Peter in those situations. This attitude is necessary to ensure the success of an overall pastoral plan that must wisely guide the Church in your country in the years ahead.
2. One event of those days has a very special relevance now. It is the visit that I made to the Basilica of Carmel and to the tomb of Fray Junipero Serra. In less than three months from now, some of us will gather again here as the Church beatifies him, officially proclaiming him worthy of honour and imitation by all. In venerating “the Apostle of California” at his tomb I spoke of his contribution, which was “to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ at the dawn of a new age” (IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Allocutio in loco v.d. 'Missione di San Carlo Borromeo' in urbe 'carmel', ubi veneratur sacellum Fratris Junipero Serra, 1, die 17 sept. 1987: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, X, 3 (1987) 604 s). I also endeavoured to present his essential message, which is the constant need to evangelize.In that context I stated: “Like Father Serra and his Franciscan brethren, we too are called to be evangelizers, to share actively in the Church’s mission of making disciples of all people”.
Initial evangelization and continuing evangelization are pressing needs in the world today. As the Church pursues this task of hers – striving to relate the mystery of man to the mystery of God – she needs to have very clear ideas of her goal and the means by which she proposes to attain it. Of great help in all of this are the guiding principles and succinctly formulated intuitions of the Second Vatican Council. One of these truths so forcefully expressed by the Council is “that only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light” (Gaudium et Spes GS 22). To understand humanity fully, including its dignity and its destiny, the world must understand Christ. Christ not only reveals God to man but he also reveals man to himself. The mystery of humanity becomes comprehensible in the Incarnate Word. This principle becomes a guiding force for the Church in all her activities which are directed to clarifying the mystery of humanity in the mystery of Christ.
3. Above all, this is true in catechesis, where the Church endeavours to lead the individual to a greater self-understanding through, in, and with Christ. To reach God, man must understand himself, and to do this he must look to Christ. The human being is created in the image and likeness of God. The full image of God is eternally found in Christ, whom Saint Paul calls the “image of the invisible God” (Col 1,15).
As a creature, man is also a social being called to live in community with others. The highest form of community and interpersonal relation is that lived by Christ in the communion of the Most Holy Trinity.
The human being further understands himself as made up of body and soul intimately united in one person. In Christ there are hypostatically united in the one divine person both the human and the divine natures. Man’s wonderful destiny is to share, through Christ’s humanity, in his divine nature (Cfr. 2 Petr. 1, 4). Man is called to glorify God in his body and treat his body in a way worthy of its dignity (Cfr. Col Col 2,9). In Jesus himself there dwells, bodily, the fullness of divinity. Through his intellect man surpasses the whole of the material universe and comes into contact with the divine truth. Jesus as the Incarnate Word claimed in all exactness to be identified with that truth, when he said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14,6).
By the action of the Holy Spirit man is in a position to know the plan of God, as regards both creation and redemption. Jesus himself is that plan of God: “Through him all things came into being, and apart from him nothing came to be” (Ibid.1,3). Moreover, we know that God has made him “our wisdom and also our justice, our sanctification and our redemption” (1Co 1,30).
In coming to know himself, man detects in the depth of his conscience a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him in obedience (Cfr. Gaudium et Spes GS 16). Jesus himself reveals the fullness and essence of all law, which is summarized in the love of God and the love of neighbour (Cfr. Matth Mt 22,37-40). To love in the way which Jesus commands in the only way to satisfy fully the human heart.
Authentic freedom is a special sign of God’s image in man. Jesus the man embodies the highest form of human freedom, by which he consecrates his life and his death to his Father and lives totally according to his will. He declares that his freedom is for his Father when he says: “I always do what pleases him” (Jn 8,29). At the same time Jesus destroys what is opposed to freedom in the human person. His mission is to cast out the one who holds man’s conscience in bondage.
The final riddle for human beings is death. In looking to Christ man learns that he himself is destined to live. Christ’s Eucharist is the pledge of life. The one who eats Christ’s flesh and drinks his blood already has eternal life (Cfr. Ibid., 6, 54). Finally, in conquering death by his Resurrection Christ reveals the resurrection of all; he proclaims life and reveals man to himself in his final destiny, which is life.
4. Of supreme relevance for the Church today is the presentation of the person of the Incarnate Word as the centre of all catechesis. Some years ago, in 1971, in accord with the Council’s Decree “Christus Dominus” the Congregation for the Clergy issued the General Catechetical Directory for the Church. Its aim was to promote a Christocentric catechesis for all the People of God. In doing this it stated: “Catechesis must proclaim Jesus in his concrete existence and in his message, that is, it must open the way for man to the wonderful perfection of his humanity” (CONGR. PRO CLERICIS Directorium Catechisticum Generale, 53).
Eight years laser I endeavoured to give impetus to this Christocentric approach to catechesis by the publication of “Catechesi Tradendae”. In this document I said: “At the heart of catechesis we find, in essence, a Person, the Person of Jesus of Nazareth... The primary and essential object of catechesis is... “the mystery of Christ”. Catechizing is a way to lead a person to study this Mystery in all its dimensions... It is therefore to reveal in the Person of Christ the whole of God’s eternal design reaching fulfilment in that Person... Accordingly, the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ” (IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Catechesi Tradendae CTR 5).
This important effort toward Christocentric catechesis, so fully dealt with in the Synod of 1977 and in the Apostolic Exhortation to which I have alluded, has also become the guiding principle in the preparation of a universal catechism for serving the common needs of the Church. This document is meant to be a point of reference for all the catechetical efforts at the national and diocesan levels, and also for catechisms of a general and special nature which the Bishops may subsequently draft with the purpose of imparting proper knowledge of the content of the Catholic faith. At the centre of this effort is the profound conviction that the mystery of the Incarnate Word sheds light on all life and human experience and that he himself is in a position personally to communicate the truth that he is. Once again, in the words of “Catechesi Tradendae”: “We must therefore say that in catechesis it is Christ the Incarnate Word and Son of God who is taught – everything else is taught with reference to him – and it is Christ alone who teaches – anyone else teaches to the extent that he is Christ’s spokesman, enabling Christ to speak with his lips” (Ibid. 6).
What Christ teaches is the truth that he is, in himself and for us. He reminds us: “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me” (Jn 7,16). He speaks as the revelation of the Father, the blueprint of all creation, the creating Word of God. In revealing the Father to humanity, Jesus reveals in himself how the Father looks upon humanity. He reveals God’s plan for human nature in all its expressions and applications. Human love and human work participate in the divine model of uncreated and creating love. Procreation is a special participation in that divine prerogative. The authenticity and finality of human sexuality, justice and freedom are found in the eternal plan of God expressed in Christ.
5. As Pastor of the Church you are daily experiencing, especially in the case of migrants and immigrants, the tragic and pressing problems of poverty. You have repeatedly called your people to a sense of solidarity with those in need. You have stood by all those who are struggling to live in a way consonant with their human dignity. You are able to affirm from personal knowledge that “the powerful and almost irresistible aspiration that people have for liberation constitutes one of the principal signs of the times which the Church has to examine and interpret in the light of the Gospel” (CONGR. PRO DOCTR. FIDEI Instr. Libertatis Nuntius de quibusdam aspectibus theologiae liberationis, die 6 aug. 1984, I, 1). At the same time you have experienced how the quest for freedom and the aspiration to liberation, which are universal and yet differ in form and degree among peoples, have their source and impetus in the Christian heritage. In 1979, in the context of Puebla, I proposed three basic truths to orient all the efforts of the Church aimed at liberating and uplifting those in need. These are the truth about Jesus Christ, the truth about the Church, the truth about humanity. In effect, however, the truth about the Church and humanity is to be pondered in the light of the mystery of Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word.
The same can be said of all dimensions of the human and Christian life. God’s providence is understood only in conjunction with the eternal destiny of the human person as revealed by the Incarnate Word. The full meaning of human progress or development must take into account Christ’s teaching: “Not on bread alone is man to live but on every utterance that comes from the mouth of God” (Mt 4,4 cfr. Deut Dt 8,3). The imperfections of human justice and the inadequacy of all earthly fulfilment are ultimately linked to God’s design revealed in Christ that “here we have no lasting city, but seek one that is to come” (Hebr. 13, 14). The question of physical and spiritual suffering on the part of the innocent requires an explanation that only the Incarnate Word could give. And in order to give it as effectively as possible, he gave it from the Cross.
6. In your ministry as Bishops you constantly come across the complicated phenomena of agnosticism and atheism. You are rightly convinced of the need for sustained dialogue and fraternal collaboration in projects of service to humanity. You and your local Churches are committed to giving an explanation for the hope that is in Christianity every time you are asked. You rightly count on the power of example and prayer; you know the need for patience and persevering trust. The great illuminating force, however, for all doubting and denying consciences is only the light of the Incarnate Word which is for them too like “a lamp shining in a dark place until the first streaks of dawn appear and the morning star rises” (2 Petr.1, 19).
In facing atheism, which the Council says is “among the most serious problems of this age” (Gaudium et Spes GS 19), and which is manifested in phenomena which are quite distinct from one another, the Church must also accept the judgment of the Council that “believers can have more than a little to do with the birth of atheism” (Ibid.). This is so to the extent that they fail to reveal the authentic face of God and religion – which is found in the Incarnate Word.
7. In directing the minds and hearts of the faithful to the mystery of the Incarnate Word, the Church ardently desires to bring this mystery to bear on all human activity, all human culture. The Church in effect desires the birth of a new humanism, profoundly Christian in its inspiration, in which earthly reality in its totality will be elevated by the revelation of Christ. One of the first characteristics of this new humanism is that it marks the community by a sense of interdependence expressed in solidarity. This is in accordance with Christ’s intention to save humanity not merely as individuals, without mutual bonds, but to gather them into a single people. The Second Vatican Council already perceived the existence of this reality when it stated: “Thus we are witnesses of the birth of a new humanism, one in which man is defined first of all by his responsibility towards his brothers and sisters and towards history” (Gaudium et Spes GS 55). Only with a consciousness of interdependence – pushed to a worldwide dimension – will communities unite to cultivate those natural goods and values that foster the well-being of humanity and constitute its basic culture.
The response of every community, including those in the Church, to a consciousness of interdependence is the exercise of solidarity, which is “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good” (IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 38). In turn this solidarity or determination is expressed in a new moral concern for all the problems faced by humanity. Two extremely relevant problems faced by millions of our brothers and sisters throughout the world are development and peace (Cfr. ibid. 26). The outcome of these issues is profoundly affected by the way these realities are conceived in the context of a true Christian humanism.
The specific contribution of the Church – of her members and of her individual communities – to the cause of a new humanism, of true human culture, is the full truth of Christ about humanity: the meaning of humanity, its origin, its destiny, and, therefore, its incomparable dignity.
8. Dear brother Bishops: yours is a great task to guide, in union with the universal Church, your local Churches in the way of salvation and with fraternal and paternal love to help the different categories of the faithful to fulfil their duty and privilege of bearing witness to Christ in the world. But you must also remember – and this will bring you great joy – that you are the principal communicators of Christ the principal catechists of your people, the principal heralds of the mystery of the Incarnate Word. To you and to all your brothers in the College of Bishops, united with the Successor of Peter, there has been entrusted, in a unique way, for faithful custody and effective transmission, the truth of the Gospel. This truth we proclaim not only as salvation and deliverance from evil, but also as the basis of that new humanism which will speak to the whole world about universal solidarity and loving concern for all human beings.
All of this stems, dear Brothers, from that profound conviction and principle enunciated by the Second Vatican Council: “The truth is that only in the light of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light”. In the footsteps of your own Apostle of California, and in solidarity with all your evangelizing predecessors, may you continue to proclaim confidently up and down El Camino Real, and beyond, the mystery of the Incarnate Word. In his love I send my blessing to all the priests, deacons, Religious, seminarians and laity of California, Hawaii and Nevada. “Peace to all of you who are in Christ” (1 Petr. 5, 14).
Tuesday 23 August, 1988
Dear Brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ,
1. I am pleased to welcome you, the members of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, on this joyous occasion of your ad Limina visit. We are gathered here in the fellowship of the Holy spirit and in the grace and peace of Christ, who remains for ever the chief cornerstone of the Church (Cfr. Eph Ep 2,20). Our assembly, while witnessing to the communion which we share in the Church, also serves to strengthen ever more our bonds of unity and charity in the College of Bishops (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 22).
Your presence here bears eloquent testimony to the truth that Christ chose to build his Church on Peter (Cfr. Matth Mt 16,19), that he commissioned him to confirm his brothers in the faith (Cfr. Luc Lc 22,32), and to shepherd them in perfect unity (Cfr. Io Jn 21,15-17). Our coming together today enables us to renew once again Peter’s profession of faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God (Cfr. Matth Mt 16,16).
2. Each of you represents your own local Church and thus I wish to offer through you my heartfelt greetings and the assurance of my spiritual closeness to all the People of God in Malawi. As the pastors of these Churches you bring with you the hopes and joys, the trials and sufferings of your people. You bring with you their strong and enthusiastic faith, which was first preached there a century ago and has taken root in their hearts and continues to spread. Together with this faith of your people I know that you bring their profound respect for the mystery of Peter’s role in God’s plan for the universal Church. It is with deep affection that I wish to strengthen them all, and you their Bishops, in faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. It is my fervent hope to confirm you in your mission as pastors of the flock and thus to give a new impetus to evangelization in Malawi.
I am filled with a deep and abiding hope for the future of the Church in your country. I take this opportunity to praise the many courageous initiatives that you continue to undertake for the proclamation of the Gospel in your society. Together with the missionaries, and with your local clergy, religious and lay catechists, you have dedicated yourselves to the Church’s mission of evangelization, “the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity” (PAULI VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 14). By announcing Jesus Christ and his Gospel to the many who have not yet heard or accepted them, you have been, in the words of Simeon, “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Lc 2,32). You have been faithful to the command of Christ (Cfr. Matth Mt 28,19-20) and carried on the fundamental programme of the Church begun on Pentecost.
As you are well aware, the Church’s great task of evangelization consists first of all in allowing the Gospel to permeate our own lives so that we in turn may bring it to others. Thus it is important to recall that evangelization involves conversion, that is, interior change.
The process of purification inherent in evangelization means the acceptance of Christ’s call to “repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Marc. 1, 15). As a consequence of this conversion unto salvation not only the individual but the entire ecclesial community is changed, becoming ever more an expression of living faith and charity.
3. It is your particular responsibility, my Brothers, to adopt the most appropriate means for proclaiming the message of salvation in your society. The Church does not hesitate to show her respect and esteem for non-Christian religions, for “they are the living expression of the soul of vast groups of people” (PAULI VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 53). Since all those who acknowledge the Creator are in some way included in the plan of salvation there exists between Christians and non-Christians a profound basis for mutual love and understanding and peaceful coexistence. The Church maintains that her commitment to dialogue with non-Christians does not preclude her essential mission of proclaiming Jesus Christ. As Catholics we are called even in difficult situations to proclaim the Gospel by the witness of our lives. And I hasten to add that Christian witness through personal example also needs to be accompanied by speaking of God, who is the foundation of our faith, the reason of our hope, and the source of our love (Cfr. IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Allocutio iis qui plenario coetui Secretariatus pro non christianis interfuerunt, die 28 apr. 1987: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, X, 1 (1987) 1449 ss).
I am pleased to have learned of the various ecumenical contacts between the Christian Communions in Malawi. As the Second Vatican Council teaches, there are many ways in which the Church is linked to those who have been baptised and bear the name of Christian (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 15). These common bonds which unite Christians need to be more fully appreciated. Common prayer and collaboration in social action should always characterize our relations with other Christians, as well as discussion on the theological level by those qualified to present the Church’s teaching in matters of faith and morals.
4. My dear Brothers: as we reflect together on the activity of the Church in Malawi I wish to acknowledge in particular the vital contribution that your priests are making to the proclamation of the Gospel and to the social progress of your people. I wish to express my fraternal love for all the priests who collaborate with you in shepherding the flock of Christ entrusted to your care.
The ministry to the People of God which our brother priests share with us not only requires their loyalty to us, but also calls for us, who are aware of their achievements and their difficulties, to be true brothers to them, showing them compassion and understanding at all times. Each brother priest is meant to be with us, in the words of Saint Paul, “a servant of Christ... set apart... to proclaim the Gospel of God” (Rm 1,1).
An essential aspect of our apostolic charge is to confirm our brother priests in their identity and commitment. It is the ministry of both the Word and the Eucharist which clearly define the priest’s role. Thus we read in the Acts of the Apostles that the apostolic priorities are “to concentrate on prayer and the ministry of the word” (Act. 6, 4). Let us never fail to remind our brother priests that in the Eucharist, which is itself “the source and summit of the whole work of evangelization” (Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 2), they find the source of their pastoral charity (Cfr. ibid. 14). Moreover it is in the Eucharist and in the frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance that they will find the strength to make the daily offering of their lives as well as the grace needed to remain faithful to their promise of celibacy.
5. Truly a great blessing for the Church in Malawi is that the number of candidates for the priesthood continues to increase and thus offers much encouragement for the years ahead. Nevertheless, it is the careful attention which you yourselves give to each of your seminarians and to the programmes of priestly formation in your local minor seminaries and two major seminaries which will ensure the spiritual, academic and pastoral training of your future priests. An essential requisite for a solid programme is the presence of well-qualified priests to serve as spiritual directors and professors on the theological and philosophical faculties of your seminaries. Every effort must be made in order to provide suitable priests for this important task of preparing seminarians even if you need to rely on assistance from outside of your local Churches. I wish to offer each of you my prayer full support in this vital task of priestly formation.
Of great importance for the evangelization of your people over the past century has been the invaluable contribution made by the missionary priests, Sister and Brothers. With great dedication and holiness they have planted the seeds of the faith in the hearts of your people. May their example always be an inspiration to those who labour in the service of the Gospel and seek to further the growth of the Kingdom of God in Malawi.
I note that like the candidates for the diocesan priesthood there has also been a steady growth in the number of vocations to the religious life. The contribution which the members of the Institutes of Consecrated Life are making to the whole work of evangelization in your country is seen especially in the spheres of health care and teaching.
In your work with religious I encourage you to renew your efforts to manifest the great esteem and appreciation which the Church has for them in their vocation of consecrated love, urging them always to reflect ever more their specific charism in appropriate forms of apostolic work. As you well know, the very presence of religious in the life of the ecclesial community offers to the world a leaven of authentic Christian living. Their fidelity in following the Lord Jesus in a spirit of joy and self-sacrifice is a particularly effective means of proclaiming the Gospel.
6. It is with much satisfaction that I have learned of the ever increasing role that the laity of your country are assuming in the Church’s activities. Among the many movements which are animating the lay people there are the Legion of Mary, Catholic Women’s Organization, Franciscan Third Order, Young Christian Students, Young Christian Workers and the Family Apostolate. Each of these lay organization is making a significant contribution to evangelization in Malawi. I am pleased that the laity are a true force in providing a number of pastoral workers for the Church’s life and mission. I refer to the presence of lay people as catechists, leaders of communities, teachers and those responsible for small communities.
The specific field for lay people in spreading the Gospel includes their daily work. In the case of the married, their role as parents entrusts them with the primary responsibility for the Christian education of their children (Cfr. Gravissimum Educationis GE 3). I wish to encourage you in all your initiatives to support the religious education of your country’s youth. In order to grow to maturity in Christ, they need a systematic presentation of the whole of Christian teaching. In every age the teaching of the truths of the faith remains a fundamental task of the Church. We must ensure that our young people receive an adequate formation in all that Jesus commanded to be taught (Cfr. Matth Mt 28,20), the whole doctrinal and moral content of the Gospel.
7. The large number of your faithful who participate in the celebration of the Sunday liturgy and make frequent use of the sacraments is to be greatly commended. I join you, however, in your pastoral concern for the practice of polygamy, the irregular marriages, and the growth in the number of divorces. Other serious problems affecting the family and society include the practice of artificial contraception and recourse to abortion. Against the background of every breakdown of family life the Church must continue to proclaim as effectively as possible the meaning and value of Christian love and the dignity of Christian life. We must do everything to help our people understand the teaching of the Second Vatican Council that marriage is “mutual gift of two persons”, and that “this intimate union... as well as the good of children, imposes total fidelity on the spouses and requires an unbreakable oneness between them” (Gaudium et Spes GS 48). With this in mind the Church must continue to devote herself to the special mission of protecting the sacredness and dignity of marriage, for she knows that the love of husband and wife is a sharing in the mystery of the life and love of God himself.
8. Finally, I cannot fail to mention the large number of refugees who have come to your country in recent years seeking safety, food and shelter. I have been told that they have come principally from Mozambique and that their number continues to increase. I encourage you in all your endeavours to alleviate their sufferings and to help provide for their physical and spiritual well-being. Since many of these people are Catholic, your local Churches should be assisted in so far as possible by priests and religious from other communities in your efforts to respond to their spiritual needs. It is my fervent prayer that the international community will continue to provide aid in the difficult problem of refugees in your region.
My dear Brothers: as you pursue your pastoral labours be assured that I am with you in the love of Jesus Christ. Together we have a single purpose: to prove faithful to the pastoral trust committed to us by the Lord namely, to lead the People of God in the way of salvation. May Mary who is “a sign of sure hope and solace for the pilgrim People of God” (Lumen Gentium LG 68), intercede for you and all the beloved people of Malawi. The peace of Christ be with you always. With my Apostolic Blessing.
Speeches 1988 - Saturday 2 July, 1988