Speeches 1988 - Catholic Community Center, Maseru (Lesotho)





Maseru (Lesotho)

Friday, 16 September 1988

Your Majesty King Moshoeshoe II,
Your Majesty Queen ‘Mamohato,
Your Excellency, Chairman of the Military Council
and of the Council of Ministers,
My brother Bishops,
Members of the Military Council
and Ministers of the Government,
Mr Chief Justice,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Officials of the Government,
Beloved People of Lesotho,

To all of you I say: “Khotso! Pula! Nala!

1. It gives me great joy to be in Lesotho. Indeed, as the Psalmist says in the Bible, “This is the day which the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it!”[1]. Thank you, Your Majesty, for your words of welcome. I appreciate your kind invitation to visit your country and I am also grateful to the Catholic Bishops of Lesotho who have likewise invited me to come. My thanks go to all who have generously assisted in the preparation of this visit.

I extend cordial greetings to all the beloved people of this land. It is a pleasure to be with you. I come to you in a spirit of friendship and esteem, grateful to God for this opportunity of speaking with you and learning from you, desiring to be for every one of you a servant of unity and peace.

2. I also come as a servant of Jesus Christ, as the chief Pastor of the Catholic Church. In this service of our Lord, I desire to pray with my brothers and sisters in Christ, to confirm them in their faith and hope and to encourage them in their love for our Redeemer.

It has been a special joy for me to celebrate the beatification of Father Joseph Gérard, one of the first Catholic missionaries to the Basotho people and a man of great love for God and for your ancestors, a servant of Christ who sought to be the friend of all. He himself was befriended by the renowned founder of this nation, His Majesty King Moshoeshoe I.

The Catholic Church here has just commemorated the one hundred twenty-fifth anniversary of the arrival in Lesotho of Father Gérard and his companions. This event and the many blessings that the Lord has bestowed on the Church here in subsequent years manifest the providence and fidelity of God towards his people. And the memory of God’s loving providence in the past gives impetus to today’s followers of Jesus Christ in their efforts to be faithful to him. The beatification of Father Gérard is indeed an eloquent sign of the Church’s steady growth and vigour.

3. I am pleased at the efforts to promote understanding and communion which are being made by the Church in Lesotho. And I am happy that it has been possible for me to meet with the leaders of other Ecclesial Communities during the course of this visit. For if followers of Jesus Christ are to be servants of reconciliation in the world then they must make every effort to restore communion in faith and charity for which he himself prayed.

I know, too, that the citizens of Lesotho share this concern for unity and peace, for it is part of your national heritage, ever since the days of King Moshoeshoe I, a leader who chose as his means of governing the way of tolerance and forgiveness, dialogue and persuasion. These principles which continue to inspire you as a nation are indeed worthy of admiration and support. And I can assure you that the Church is always ready to do her part in strengthening this worthy tradition.

4. One of my goals, as chief shepherd of the Church, is to promote dialogue and understanding among peoples. It is one of the reasons I undertake visits to countries around the world, and one of hope in coming to Lesotho.

In fact, the Church as a whole desires to further dialogue among all men and women.

The warm welcome you have extended to me expresses your own openness and appreciation of dialogue. In these days of my visit, there have been opportunities to enjoy the fruits of dialogue, listening and speaking with one another. And we have engaged in the most important dialogue of all, the dialogue that is prayer – our conversation and communion with God.

5. I assure you of my deep interest in the culture of Lesotho. Your cordial welcome is an expression of your hospitality and goodness. And I pray that my visit will serve and encourage the well-being of all the Basotho people. In a special way, I offer my prayerful support to the poor and the sick, and those who have not been able to take part in the events of these days. May they know and experience the abundant mercy of God. And upon all the beloved people of Lesotho I invoke the gifts of peace and joy from the Lord our God.

[1] Ps. 118, 24




«Moshoeshoe I» Airport of Maseru (Lesotho)

Friday, 16 September 1988

Your Majesty King Moshoeshoe II,

Your Majesty Queen ‘Mamohato,
Your Excellency, Chairman of the Military Council,
Dear brother Bishops,
Members of the Military Council,
Ministers of the Government,
Mr Chief Justice,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Officials of the Government,
Beloved People of Lesotho,

1. The time has come for me to bid farewell to Lesotho. It was a shorter visit than had originally been planned, but one that has been filled with much prayer and activity, much joy and friendship. I now wish to express my profound gratitude for your warm reception and cordial hospitality.

I am grateful to Your Majesty, the King of Lesotho, to all the authorities of the nation, and to those who have been responsible for public order during my pastoral visit. I thank every one who contributed time and services to prepare for my coming and to make it such a memorable experience. In a particular way, I am grateful to all the Basotho people who have opened their hearts and mind to me, respectfully receiving me in friendship and helping me to learn firsthand about your own struggles and successes.

2. With fraternal love in Christ I express my heartfelt thanks to the Bishops of Lesotho and to the whole Catholic Church in this land I shall never forget the liturgy of Beatification of Blessed Joseph Gérard, nor the other occasions when we gathered in prayer to praise the Most Holy Trinity and to be renewed by the Holy Spirit in our faith, hope and charity.

The meeting with my brother bishops, the enthusiastic encounter with the young people yesterday afternoon, and the meeting with your clergy, religious and seminarians have shown me how firmly the seed of faith has taken root in this land and how abundant is its fruit. Surely, in heaven today, Blessed Joseph Gérard and all the saints are rejoicing at how the Gospel has been embraced by this beloved people and become for many the rule of daily life.

With the help of the prayers of Blessed Joseph Gérard and through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may you find the strength to carry on the great task of evangelization. In the words of Saint Paul I can confidently say: “I am quite certain that the One who began this good work in you will see that it is finished when the day of Christ Jesus comes”[1].

3. In his farewell message to his disciples, Jesus Christ said: “A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends”[2]. As I leave Lesotho this morning, I wish to recall again the wisdom of these words, the wisdom of seeking to act out of selfless love. What is needed in today’s world is “a civilization of love”, a kind of atmosphere in which the human mind thinks thoughts of peace and rejects the option of violence, where the heart is drawn to beauty and goodness and to the urgent needs of others, where people join hands as brothers and sisters to labour in solidarity for the rights and dignity of all, especially for the poorest and most defenceless members of society.

Yes, “a man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends”. That is the key to understand the life of Jesus Christ and of his faithful followers of every time and place. It is an accurate description of Blessed Joseph Gérard during the many years that he lived in this land. And even for those who do not believe in the Christian faith, these words about love ring true. For love is the most powerful force for changing the face of the earth.

Dear people of Lesotho: thank you for the love you have shown to me. As a parting gesture of my love and respect for you, I will kiss Lesotho soil. I will carry you today and always in my heart. May your homes be blessed with peace and love. And may the God of love keep you for ever in his care. God bless you all.

Khotso! Pula! Nala!

[1] Phil. 1, 6.

[2] Io. 15, 13.





Cathedral of Manzini (Swaziland)

Friday, 16 September 1988

Dear Bishop Ndlovu,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. It is a great joy for me to greet all of you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who laid down his life for us on the Cross and rose for our salvation. In his name, we come together in this cathedral church in order to glorify God and to thank him for the gifts of life and redemption that we have received through his Son.

Our hearts rejoice at the “good news” that we heard a moment ago: Happy are the poor in spirit, the gentle, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers. Happy are those who mourn, those who seek what is right, those who are persecuted[1].

We are filled with confidence and with hope because of these words spoken by God’s own Son. The Beatitudes proclaim God’s love of the vulnerable of this world, of those who are considered by some as second-class members of the human family or as being unable to lead a full life. The Beatitudes announce God’s love for those who hold fast to the Gospel in the face of every obstacle.

The Beatitudes, moreover, introduce the world to a deeper wisdom based on faith. They are inseparable from the Cross. When human efforts cannot undo the ravages of sin, we look to God in faith for an answer, and the answer is the crucified Christ. As Saint Paul tells us: “While the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God”[2].

This message applies to every Christian, but I know that it has a special meaning for many of you in this cathedral today. Who among the sick and handicapped can say that their heart has not been transformed by their experience of the Cross? Who among the clergy and religious have not seen the power and the wisdom of a crucified Christ at work in the world? The path of suffering, the path of service, can be transformed by God’s grace into a self-giving that is filled with redemptive love. This is the way of the Beatitudes; it is God’s way revealed in Christ.

2. Dear brothers and sisters who are sick or handicapped: the world is inspired whenever you overcome your physical limitations instead of being overcome by them. But the People of God cherish you all the more, because they recognize in you a tremendous source of spiritual power in the heart of humanity. God assures us that his power is at its best working in the midst of human weakness[3]. You can unleash a vast reservoir of love for the benefit of all those who are in special need of God’s mercy and help. You build up the Body of Christ in the Communion of Saints, that mysterious bond in which heaven and earth and purgatory are united in one great desire that God be “all in all”[4].

You share in a special way in the redemptive work of Christ. He has conquered the evil of sin, of suffering and death by the love he showed on the Cross. By lovingly joining your sufferings to his, you help to transform the world spiritually from within. You create a wider opening in the heart of humanity for God’s redemptive love to enter in.

For this reason the Church cherishes you and asks for your prayers, as I do today: pray for more forgiveness and peace in the world. Pray for those who are searching for God and need his mercy. Pray for the Church.

I know that, like the rest of humanity, you experience moments of sadness and discouragement. You too must struggle to overcome temptation, to conform your lives to the Gospel, and above all to persevere in faith. But you must never allow yourselves to doubt God’s love or the truth of what he has promised. You are not forgotten. You can take comfort from the example of Saint Paul, who in the midst of his heroic missionary labours wrote: “Though this outer man of ours may be falling into decay, the inner man is renewed day by day”[5].

3. I also wish to offer a special word of greeting and encouragement to the clergy and religious of Swaziland present here today, as well as to the visiting clergy and religious from other countries. The Servites, who first planted the seeds of the Gospel in Swaziland with patience and love, have now been joined by other religious communities. Let us not forget today the pioneers of the Kingdom of God in this the Kingdom of Swaziland, those who began the work, and those who have carried it on, including of course the first Bishops of Manzini and the first Swazi Bishop, Mandlenkosi Zwane. I am encouraged by the increasing number of Swazi vocations to both the diocesan priesthood and to the ranks of men and women religious.

For all of you we give thanks to God! You too can rejoice in the truth of the Beatitudes, which is always at work in your lives and ministries, as it has been throughout the entire history of missionary activity in Southern Africa.

Like Christ, who on “seeing the crowds” began to teach them the true path to happiness[6], you who are priests and religious also fulfil a prophetic mission. You invite people to put aside a worldly way of thinking and to seek the Kingdom of God. You invite them to put their faith in what is unseen. Those whom the Beatitudes call blessed already taste “the goodness of the Lord” in this life, but their total vindication is reserved for the kingdom to come.

That is why Saint Paul tells us that we walk “by faith, not by sight”[7]. And this applies to ourselves as well as to our people. As priests and religious we learn patience and humility from our labours. Like “the poor in spirit” we know that without God our efforts are in vain. By relying on his help, we can persevere in fulfilling the apostolic charge: “Proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, call to obedience – but do all with patience and with the intention of teaching”[8].

4. Our experience of faith teaches all of us – priests, religious and laity – how dependent we are on God. but the lesson does not end there. If faith gives us the firm conviction that “we are not forgotten”, it also teaches us that we in turn must not forget others especially the needy. We may be tempted to show respect only for the great ones of the earth, to reserve our love for those who are our own family and friends. But Christ teaches us that, for good or ill, what we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do to him[9].

Surely our love, like God’s, must encompass the human person in every dimension. Our concern is for the material and spiritual well-being of every member of the human family. The spiritually needy include those who have not heard the Gospel or who, after hearing it. have fallen away from the practice of their faith; those in need of catechesis or moral encouragement and guidance, especially young people and married couples. Christian love likewise embraces all those in physical or material need: the sick and disabled, the poor and unemployed, the homeless and hungry, the oppressed, the persecuted and the imprisoned.

There is also the serious plight of refugees. As I wrote in my recent Encyclical on social concerns, the refugee problem is a “festering wound” which deprives millions of people of “home, employment, family and homeland” and which “typifies and reveals the imbalances and conflicts of the modern world”[10]. I know that in Swaziland the Church, as well as the public authorities and non-governmental and international organizations, has worked hard to meet the needs of refugees. The government and people of Swaziland are to be commended for the hospitality and kindness extended to these people, and for all that is being done to resettle them, despite limited resources and the problem of unemployment. This national policy is a tribute to the memory of your late and revered King Sobhuza II, who initiated it. and to your reigning monarch, King Mswati III, who has followed his father’s example.

5. Dear brothers and sisters: we have reflected on the Beatitudes and their promise of future vindication for the poor and lowly. We have considered Christ’s Cross and its power to bring healing and redemption to the world. It is only fitting that we have done so in this cathedral named in honour of Mary’s Assumption, body and soul, into the glory of heaven.

As the Lord’s lowly “handmaid”[11], the Virgin of Nazareth was a model of all the Beatitudes. As the “Sorrowful Mother” she shared in a unique way in the redemptive death of her Son on the Cross.

Now, from her place in heaven, she testifies to the fulfilment of all God’s promises: “All generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me”[12].

As pilgrims who still walk “by faith, not by sight”, let us turn to the Mother of God for hope and comfort. Let us unite our joys and sorrows to her own. She will teach us the meaning of the Beatitudes. She will lead us into the mystery of redemption: into the mystery of redemptive love.

[1] Cfr. Matth. 5, 1-12.

[2] 1 Cor. 1, 22-24.

[3] Cfr. 2 Cor. 12, 9.

[4] 1 Cor. 15, 28.

[5] 2 Cor. 4, 16.

[6] Cfr. Matth. 5, 1.

[7] 2 Cor. 5, 7.

[8] 2 Tim. 4, 2.

[9] Cfr. Matth. 5, 1.

[10] Ioannis Pauli PP. II Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 24.

[11] Cfr. Luc. 1, 38.

[12] Luc. 1, 48-49.


Tuesday, 27 September 1988

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. It is a great joy for me to welcome you to Rome for your visit ad Limina Apostolorum.These visits have profound significance for the life of the Church and for our membership in the College of Bishops. By praying a the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, whose blood has consecrated this city, and by visiting the Successor of Peter, who is the “perpetual and visible source and foundation of unity” for the whole Church, you renew and strengthen the ecclesial communion which is at the heart of the Church’s life. This communion is manifested in the profession of one faith, in the common celebration of divine worship, especially the Eucharist, and in the fraternal harmony of God’s family. Our mutual encounter verifies the universal character of the Episcopal college and renews our awareness of that “solicitude for the whole Church” which every bishop must have at heart. Our meeting also serves to confirm and validate the life of your particular Churches within the Church universal.

2. This mystery of communion is rooted in God himself and in his work of creation. The fact that human beings are created in the “image and likeness” of God means not only that each one possesses an inalienable dignity and rights; it also means that each one is called to live in relationship to other human beings within the one human family. Thus the Second Vatican Council reminds us: “We cannot truly invoke God the Father of all if there are people created in the image of God whom we refuse to treat in a brotherly way. Man’s relation to God the Father an man’s relation to his fellowmen are so joined together that the Scripture says: ‘ He who does not love, does not know God ‘

Moreover, we know that God chose to share with us his own divine life. When in Adam humanity had fallen, God did not abandon us but held out the promise of salvation. In the “fullness of time” he sent his own Son, so that we might receive the gift of eternal life in a new creation, and might live in union with God and with one another. The Church is born out of this divine desire to “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad”, so that “they may have life, and have it abundantly”. As I stated in my Encyclical Letter “Sollicitudo Rei Socialis”: “Beyond human and natural bonds, already so close and strong, there is discerned in the light of faith a new model of the unity of the human race, which must ultimately inspire our solidarity. This supreme model of unity, which is a reflection of the intimate life of God... is what we Christians mean by the word “communion”. This specifically Christian communion, jealously preserved, extended and enriched with the Lord’s help, is the soul of the Church’s vocation to be a ‘ sacrament ‘”.

Hence the universal character of God’s plan of love is made visible in the Church Communion with our heavenly Father – through Christ and in the Holy Spirit – also means communion with all our brothers and sisters in the household of faith. This in turn must inspire our solidarity with all people, in keeping with the Church’s mission to be a “sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of the unity of the whole human race”.

3. Dear brothers, the ecclesial communion that you and your people bear witness to every day is a prophetic sign of God’s universal kingdom. Ecclesial communion respects the differences of geography, race, nation, history and culture – indeed it is enriched by them – but it also transcends these differences in a universal “kiss of peace”, in an embrace of unity, charity and peace. As Saint Paul reminds us with regard to Baptism: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. As bishops you foster a true spirit of ecclesial communion among the clergy, religious and laity of the particular Churches entrusted to you. Just as a strong sense of ecclesial communion does not diminish the importance of the particular Church, but opens it up to the universality of Christ and the Gospel, so too each individual believer will find his or her own Christian life broadened and deepened rather than diminished by an openness to this mystery.

4. Cette façon de comprendre la vie de l’Eglise et sa mission répond assurément “aux signes des temps”, c’est-à-dire aux aspirations des hommes d’aujourd’hui pour l’unité et la fraternité, pour la justice et la paix. Le monde nous paraît plus petit à cause des progrès de la science et de la technologie, notamment dans le domaine des transports et des communications, et aussi en raison d’une plus grande interdépendance politique et économique. Mais ces développements sont insuffisants pour assurer l’unité morale et spirituelle de la famille humaine. C’est seulement en chassant l’appréhension que nous ressentons souvent quand nous entrons en contact avec des personnes et des cultures étrangères à la nôtre, en surmontant notre indifférence aux besoins de ceux qui sont éloignés de nos préoccupations journalières, que nous pouvons espérer approcher d’une véritable “unité de la race humaine tout entière”, enracinée dans la Création et la Rédemption.

On peut dire aussi que les grands problèmes du monde d’aujourd’hui ont un caractère universel. Leurs conséquences, en bien comme en mal, ne sont plus limitées à un continent ou à une civilisation. Ces problèmes sont ceux de la guerre et de la paix, de l’environnement, du développement économique, du partage des “biens”, ceux liés aussi aux réalités humaines les plus fondamentales, comme la dignité et les droits de la personne humaine depuis la conception jusqu’à la mort, le mariage et la famille, et la signification du travail. Tous ces problèmes posent un défi à un développement authentique de l’humanité.

En tant que membres de l’Eglise, nous croyons que ces grands problèmes ont un caractère éthique, et qu’ils ne peuvent pas être résolus pour le bien de l’humanité sans référence à Dieu et à l’ordre moral qu’il a établi en créant et en rachetant le monde. Mais cette conviction qui est la nôtre ne se réduit pas à des mots. Nous devons aussi être des témoins et des exemples de communion et de solidarité, à la fois comme individus et comme communauté, en tant qu’Eglise.

5. La solidarité avec tous les enfants de Dieu se manifeste de différentes manières. Tout d’abord, il y a la solidarité avec ceux qui ont des besoins spirituals, c’est-à-dire le grand nombre de ceux qui, parmi nous ou au loin, n’ont pas entendu parler du Christ, ou qui ne cheminent plus avec lui, par indifférence ou parce qu’il leur est devenu étranger. Il y a tous ceux qui, dans des sociétés prospères comme la vôtre, font l’expérience d’un vide spirituel et ont faim et soif de Dieu. Etre solidaire spirituellement signifie également rejoindre ceux dont la vie personnelle ou familiale connaît des difficultés, ceux qui ne sont pas aimés, les malades de corps et d’esprit, tous ceux qui souffrent. Je sais que vos Eglises locales ne sont pas restées indifférentes à ces personnes. Par les initiatives organisées dans les diocèses, dans les groupes et les mouvements catholiques, et à travers le témoignage indispensable des membres du clergé, des religieux, des religieuses et des laïcs, l’amour du Christ pour ces personnes spirituellement dans le besoin est rendu visible dans votre société.

Ce genre de solidarité requiert un haut niveau de sensibilité personnelle et d’engagement; il est essentiel à toute autre forme de solidarité.

6. Solidarity also means a sharing of material goods with others, especially the world’s poor, towards whom we must show a preferential love. It is my convinction that “...this love of preference for the poor, and the decisions which it inspires in us, cannot but embrace the immense multitudes of the hungry, the needy, the homeless, those without medical care and, above all, those without hope of a better future. It is impossible not to take account of the existence of these realities. To ignore them would mean becoming like the “rich man” who pretended not to know the beggar Lazarus lying at his gate. Our daily life as well as our decisions in the political and economic fields must be marked by these realities”. True solidarity requires that we work to eliminate the roots of human misery, both at home and abroad, even if this means some personal sacrifice on our part: even if it touches our own “necessities” and not just our “surplus”. The people of Canada are well known for their generous response to the world’s poor and for their willingness to work for a more just world. As the leaven and “soul” of human society” the Church has a special obligation to deepen this generosity and concern on the part of all.

7. Solidarity also has a prophetic dimension. Love for humanity compels the Church to speak the truth about God and about man, as he has been created and redeemed. She does so without hesitation or fear when the very dignity and rights of the human person are threatened in modern society. Her only fear is to have failed to proclaim the truth with love, or to have failed to work and pray unceasingly that humanity will choose what is good and reject what is evil. I would repeat what I said during my visit to your country in 1984: “Of incalculable danger to all humanity is the rate of abortion in society today. This unspeakable crime against human life which rejects and kills life at its beginning sets the stage for despising, negating and eliminating the life of adults, and for attacking the life of society. If the weak are vulnerable from the time of conception, then they are vulnerable in old age, and they are vulnerable before the might of an aggressor and the power of nuclear weapons”. The Church also fulfils a mission of service when she upholds the dignity as well as the moral rights and duties that belong to marriage, the family, education and work.

8. Dear brothers, within the universal communion of the Church Bishops have the duty so simply yet so eloquently described by Pope Gregory the Great in a homily on Ezekiel. “Note”, he writes, “that a man whom the Lord sends forth as a preacher is called a watchman. A watchman always stands on a height so that he can see from afar what is coming. Anyone appointed to be a watchman for the people must stand on a height for all his life to help them by his foresight”. We who are shepherds must always strive for this higher and wider view of the human landscape, so that we can lead others to a deeper understanding of the Church’s universal communion and to a more active solidarity with the whole human race. May you always persevere in this ministry, so that through your vigilance and wisdom the Church may truly be a “sign and instrument” of Christ’s renewal and transformation of human society into the family of God.

Through you I send warm greetings to all the clergy, religious and laity of your dioceses. I pray that they too may always be faithful witnesses to God’s universal love. As a pledge of grace and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.
                                                           October 1988





Monday, 3 October 1988

Mr Ambassador,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Finland to the Holy See. I thank you for the greetings which you have conveyed on behalf of your President, His Excellency Dr Mauno Koivisto, greetings which I warmly reciprocate with the assurance of my esteem and prayerful best wishes.

Your presence and the thoughtful words you have just spoken bear witness to the longstanding ties of friendship and goodwill existing between the Holy See and your country. As you mentioned, the history of Finland is marked by the Christian presence which, to a great extent, has formed the outlook and cultural identity of the Finnish people. I look forward with anticipation to the visit which I propose to make to Finland in June of next year. Not only will it be an opportunity for me to meet the Catholic community which, certainly, is numerically small but rich in faith and good works, but it will also afford me an occasion to strengthen ties of fellowship with the members of the other Churches and communities with which we share real bonds of faith and Christian life. It will enable me moreover to gain a firsthand experience of your country and of its people, whom I hold in profound respect.

Finland today plays a role in international relations which does her honour. The name of your capital City is linked with one of the principal peaceserving Accords of our time: the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, signed in Helsinki on 1 August 1975. The thirty-five States which subscribed to that Act committed themselves to a process of consultation and collaboration, with internationally binding provisions, in matters of security, economy and environment, and the human dimension of cooperation between individuals and peoples. In this way, the thirty-five signatories assumed a certain number of obligations not only in relation to other States, but also with regard to their own citizens, whose specific rights are recognized in the Final Act.

By taking part in the Conference and signing that document, the Holy See expressed its full support for the “Ten Principles” enshrined therein, principles which constitute a kind of “decalogue” for international relations and conduct. As you know, the Holy See’s activity in this field is motivated not by political considerations but by the specific mission with which it is endowed. It is convinced that the spiritual and moral values which it proclaims and upholds stand at the heart of Europe’s culture and unity, and constitute the best safeguard of the legitimate rights and fundamental freedoms enunciated in the Helsinki Act. Consequently the Holy See has sought to be actively involved also in the follow-up meetings, including the one presently being held in Vienna, which serve to verify the application of the agreed obligations.

Of special though not exclusive concern to the Holy See is the question of freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, which is forthrightly recognized in the Seventh Principle of the Helsinki Accord. In this regard, the Holy See’s representatives in the various follow-up meetings already mentioned, seek to bring into focus the need for effective religious freedom such as exists in your country The principle is set forth in the Constitutions and legal charters of the various States, but its effective implementation leaves much to be desired. The Holy See continues to insist that freedom of religion entails, among other things, that believers be able to organize themselves according to their own structures, to select and train their own religious leaders and personnel, to give and receive an appropriate religious education, and to manifest their beliefs in the realm of public life, also in an associative way and through the use of the means of communication. While much still remains to be done in order to ensure that these rights are fully respected everywhere, it is comforting to note that in the years since the Helsinki Final Act religious freedom is more and more widely recognized as a basic civil and social right, rather than as a mere concession or privilege.

Mr Ambassador, you have reaffirmed Finland’s commitment to the aims of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. In this as in other matters there is ample room for collaboration between you, as your country’s distinguished representative, and the Holy See. Be assured of my prayerful support and the goodwill of all the Departments of the Roman Curia in the fulfilment of your lofty responsibilities. I wish you happiness in your task and I invoke God’s blessings upon you and your family, as well as upon the whole Finnish nation.





Speeches 1988 - Catholic Community Center, Maseru (Lesotho)