Speeches 1989 - Archbishopric of Blantyre
Friday, 5 May 1989
Dear young Friends,
1. Thank you for your warm welcome! I am grateful to Bishop Mkhori and the Youth Representative for their cordial and sincere words which point to the grace of God at work in this country and the goodness that continues to flow from young hearts.
I am very happy to be with you in Blantyre on the second day of my pastoral visit to Malawi. Already I feel the vigour of your youth. It is infectious! Your song and dance are a tribute of praise to God the Father and I thank you for the beauty of that living prayer.
Yes, we are happy to be together, Gathered Together in Christ - this is the theme of our meeting. It is a very suitable one, because we already know that it is only in Christ that we find unity. It is only in him that we can experience the joy of our youth. It is Christ who keeps the Church youthful and he does so by pouring out his love on each one of us. Today, young friends, I would like to speak to you about the love of Christ which keeps us young and which binds us together in him.
2. Saint Paul once called upon the Christians at Colossae to “put on love” (Col 3,12). And today I repeat these words for you, young people: put on love! I say this to all the young people of Malawi. It is the basic message of my entire pastoral visit. I say this because love is such a powerful force; love can change the world. I say it also because love is such an important part of a young person’s life. It dominates so much of your thoughts and actions. Love could be compared to a river flowing through life, a river which enriches everything it touches and which keeps us going in time of difficulty. What a pity if that river dries up or becomes polluted! Even if we see much hatred, evil and violence around us, we can still keep the river of love flowing through life in a healthy state. It is possible today to live a life of loving service to Christ and to our brothers and sisters. “The river of God is full of water” (Ps 65,10) – it flows into our lives and is itself life-giving.
3. What can keep the river of love flowing through life? What is it that can keep the spirit of youth and the love of God alive in us? To answer these questions we need to go back to our reading from the Letter of Saint Paul.
First of all, Saint Paul tells us: “You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you” (Col 3,12). Yes, my dear young friends of Malawi, you are called to holiness. This is a real vocation and not just a pious wish. God has specially chosen you out of love to be his saints. He is calling you now as students, young workers, or seminarians. Even if you are unemployed and have little prospect of getting work, you are still chosen in love to be a saint. Even if you have experienced the darkness of great sin and have wandered into the desert of hopelessness, God is still calling you. He, better than anyone else, knows that there is a vast reserve of goodness in each of you, for he created you in his own image and likeness. But only you can say “Yes” to God, “Yes” to his love, “Yes”, to holiness.
4. Already I hear the questions you want to ask me: How can we become saints if there are so many obstacles in our way? How can we be honest if there is bribery and corruption around us? How can we become holy if the surest way to earn a living is to be mean and to exploit others? How can we become holy if we live in a world that cheapens true love or does not appreciate the beauty of chaste love? I hear these questions and many more besides. God the Father knows your difficulties, but he also knows that deep down you want to do the right thing; deep down you want to follow Christ because you know that he is “the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14,6).
Of course, the path to holiness is not easy, but that should not prevent us from facing the difficulties with courage. The path to holiness is a journey, sometimes a difficult journey involving an inner struggle against selfishness and sin. We must be properly equipped to make this journey. Saint Paul gives us a list of the “clothing” – the attitudes – necessary; he says: “You should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience” (Col 3,12).
5. My dear young friends of Malawi: I ask you to take to heart these words of Saint Paul and to think of them often. I know you want to be inspired by goodness, kindness and compassion. You want to see justice and tolerance extended to all. And so I say to you this evening: cultivate these qualities yourselves! Allow the seeds of goodness and mercy to grow in your own lives first. Allow your gentleness and patience to develop to the full. Take Christ as your model. To all young people he says: “learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Mt 11,29).
I know that you young people of Malawi love a challenge, and today I place before you the challenge which life in Malawi offers you at this time. Do not see present problems as the end of hope and the death of enthusiasm. Rather, see the whole of life as an opportunity for conversion, an opportunity through which God speaks to you and calls on you to contribute to the well-being of your country and its people in a way that is lasting.
You have a word, “Chitukuko”, meaning “self-help”. The Lord has blessed you with the strength, vitality and creativity of youth. He has blessed you with ways and means of achieving higher standards of living and education which were not available to your parents and grandparents. Use these talents to develop your own character and what is best in life. Malawi now needs people who are strong in character, who know the value of self-help and yet who have the humility to turn to Christ for the graces that they need.
Malawi is a developing country and you young people especially will have a decisive part to play in this process. At this stage in your lives your character is also developing and is exposed to various influences – social, political and religious. In “clothing” yourselves with the virtues necessary for holiness, you must learn to discern what is true from what is false; and in developing a strong character, you must be ready to put the things of God before the attractions of the world. You can show your love for Malawi by respecting the many positive cultural and traditional values which have been handed on to you – the values of hospitality, respect for the old, and care for the sick. Christ is the light of the nations; he is also the light of Malawi. You are chosen to be bearers of that light.
6. I am particularly happy to hear of your involvement in the life of the Church through parish youth groups and groups dedicated to helping the poor. I encourage you to continue being involved in the life of the Church. The Church has a special place for each one of you!
The vitality of the Church in Malawi depends to a great extent on the response you give to Christ now, on how committed you are to the gospel message. I know that your bishops, the chaplains, the Sisters and the catechists have given you every encouragement to offer yourselves freely and completely to Christ. Today I make that appeal my own. God’s Kingdom will be brought to fulfilment by your efforts, whether in university, schools, parishes, villages or outstations. It has to be brought to fulfilment first in your own lives, and then in the world around you. The world is looking for the signs of God’s Kingdom in your lives: it wants to see if you are clothed in his love. God alone is the ultimate basis of all values, of all that is good, noble and true. He is at the beginning and end of all your questions. He is the answer to life, its probings, its searching. Without reference to God, the world of created values remains in a vacuum. Without reference to him, the world itself remains an unanswered question (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Epistula apostolica ad iuvenes internationali vertente anno iuventiti dicoto, 4, die 31 mar. 1985: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, 8, 1  763 s.).
For this reason I invite all of you to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Mt 6,33). God is love, true love; and his love is alive in you. Reflect that love and those values so that people will say: “I have seen his kingdom”, because they have come to know you.
7. My dear young people: Christ is your friend and he loves you very much. He is your best friend. To discover this, you must spend time talking to him in prayer. Your relationship with him will grow only through conversation with him. And from that prayerful conversation, you will hear him say: “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (Jn 15,14). Follow the path marked out by your friend, Jesus. He wants to help you answer the difficult problems that life presents and he wants you to know as well that, is spite of unanswered questions and unsolved problems, he always loves you. Young people of Malawi: live in the knowledge of this truth. Let Christ lead you to the truth. Live in the peace and the love of Christ, and make that love known to others. “May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts... always be thankful” (Col 3,15).
God bless the youth of Malawi!
Friday, 5 May 1989
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. In your language you have the saying “Dziko ndi anthu”: “it is people who make the world”. The same can be said of the Church: “It is people who make the Church”. Together with your pastors, you are the Church here and now in this African land. It is therefore a great joy for me to meet with you – the lay leaders – during this pastoral visit, in order to confirm you in your Catholic faith, to encourage you to share in the Church’s life and mission, and to express my appreciation for all the good things that have been accomplished in Malawi through the generous response of the laity to the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
I see before me today a crossection of the laity of Malawi, particularly from among associations and movements. Members of parish and church councils are represented, as well as members of Small Christian Communities. To all of you I wish to apply the words of the Gospel we heard a moment ago: “You are the salt of the earth... You are the light of the world” (Mt 5,13-14). These images refer in a particular way to you, the lay faithful of Christ’s Church, because it is through you that the Gospel is preached every day in the ordinary circumstances of social and family life from which the fabric of human existence is woven (Lumen Gentium LG 31).
Here in Malawi we see fulfilled the positive and hopeful vision of renewal described by the Fathers of the 1987 Synod of Bishops on the vocation and mission of the laity; we see a new manner of active collaboration between priests, religious and the lay faithful; an active and widespread participation in the liturgy, in the proclamation of the word of God and catechesis; a wide variety of services and tasks entrusted to the lay faithful and fulfilled by them; a flourishing of groups, associations and spiritual movements as well as a lay commitment to the life of the Church; and a fuller participation of women in the development of society (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Christifideles Laici CL 2).
We likewise witness here in Malawi a growing desire on the part of the Church to meet her own needs without relying unduly on support from other particular Churches. The seed which was planted and lovingly tended by others has now taken root and is ready to bear fruit of its own within the universal communion of the Church. This too is a sign of vitality and maturity after a century of dedicated missionary work by many priests, religious and laity.
2. Dear brothers and sisters, I know that lay involvement has been an important part of the Church’s history in Malawi from the very beginning. But the lay apostolate here and throughout the world has been given fresh vigour and renewed meaning by the Second Vatican Council. In the spirit of the Council I urge all of you to continue growing in the knowledge of the new life of grace that is yours by Baptism, and to let that new life transform your thoughts, words and actions for the glory of God and the salvation of the world so that you may participate fully in the Church’s life and mission.
The heart and soul of this participation is the universal call to holiness, the perfection of charity, which is central to the Council’s teaching (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 5). Holiness is our vocation. Holiness is the fulfilment of our dignity as persons created in God’s image and likeness and redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. It is the saints who are the flowering of the Church and her greatest treasure. In every age God renews the Church “by raising up men and women out-standing in holiness, living witnesses of his unchanging love” (Cfr. Proef. II pro Sanctis).
Holiness is the fruit of “life in the Spirit” (Cfr. Gal Ga 5): a life which impels the baptized person to follow and imitate Christ by living the Beatitudes, by heeding God’s word, by taking part in the Church’s sacramental and liturgical life, as well as by personal prayer, and above all by practising the commandment of love and service, especially to the poor and suffering (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Christifideles Laici CL 16). “Life in the Spirit” touches every aspect of human existence, from the inner shrine of personal conscience to the most visible of public acts.
3. For the vast majority of the laity, who are married, the path of holiness passes above all through the family, which is the “cradle” of love and life for society. I share your concerns about marriage and family life in Malawi: the serious problems of irregular marriages, divorce, unmarried mothers, polygamy, contraception and abortion. The challenge is to make your homes schools of love and life, and to work together in the Church and in society to safeguard the values of marriage and the family. The family apostolate begun by your pastors is of crucial importance for the spiritual good and social welfare not only of Catholics but of all the citizens of your country.
Your representative has also voiced your concerns about the youth of Malawi. We recognize more and more that the task is not simply to minister to young people but also to invite their participation, to give them a sense of belonging, to engage their idealism and youthful energy in the task of transforming the world with the love of Christ. Yes, dear brothers and sisters, the Church has much to talk about with youth. If the dialogue is marked by cordiality, clarity and courage, then there can be a real exchange between generations for the benefit of all and for the building up of the Church and society despite all problems (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Christifideles Laici CL 46).
Christian witness in the family and among youth is part a greater challenge which the Church faces in different ways throughout the world. It is the challenge to evangelize culture, “to convert, solely through the divine power of the message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, and the lives and environment which are theirs” (Pauli VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 18). I urge you therefore to let Christ’s word shape your way of life as true Christians and true Malawians. Let the roots of the Gospel sink ever more deeply into your culture. For it is in and through culture that the Christian faith becomes a part of history and a maker of history.
4. Far from removing you from the world, the secular character of your vocation plunges you into its depths. As lay Christians you have a right and a duty to participate in public life – in the social, economic, legal, administrative and cultural areas that serve the common good. You must bear witness there to human and gospel values such as liberty, justice, solidarity, service, simplicity of life and a love of preference for the poor. In the providence of God every situation, activity and responsibility becomes an opportunity for you to practise faith, hope and love (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Christifideles Laici CL 42 CL 59). This challenge also applies to your daily work, however humble or important it may be. Ordinary work has great personal and social values. It is part of the path to holiness. Work not only makes it possible for you to provide for yourselves and your loved ones; it also unites you to other human beings in fellowship and mutual service, and enables you to participate in God’s work of creating and perfecting the world. What is called for on the part of workers is competence, honesty and a true Christian spirit. In the face of unemployment and similar social problems it is necessary to ensure that others share in the social and economic life of their country and thus enjoy a share of this world’s goods as a result of their labour (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Christifideles Laici CL 43).
5. Dear brothers and sisters, your dignity and mission as God’s sons and daughters in Malawi consists in this: to bring people to God through the attractiveness of your way of life; to be holy so that others may be inspired to holiness; to follow Christ so that others may seek him. Christian formation is essential for this mission. Since holiness is our rule of life, our formation consists in seeking an ever greater likeness to Christ. This is the true goal of spiritual and doctrinal formation and the reason for cultivating the virtues and skills that make us more effective witnesses to the Gospel. Formation is a lifelong process of discerning God’s will in our lives and of opening our hearts to fulfil the vocation entrusted to us. To discover God’s will we must listen to his word and to the Church; we must rely on prayer and sound spiritual direction; we must acknowledge our God-given talents and apply them in our concrete situation (Cfr. ibid.58).
With this in mind, I wish to thank the chaplains present today, and all those engaged in the formation of the laity, for the vital service they render to the Church. I particularly wish to mention the catechists, whose work is so important for the Church’s growth, and all the bishops, priests, and men and women religious for whom the laity of Malawi are the joy and crown of their labours.
Finally, dear brothers and sisters, I commend all of you to the intercession of Mary, the Mother of the Church. In this school dedicated to Our Lady of Wisdom, I pray for all the lay faithful throughout the world:
“O most Blessed Virgin Mary...
With you we give thanks to God...
for the exalted vocation and the many forms of mission
entrusted to the lay faithful...
fill their hearts with a gratitude and enthusiasm
for this vocation and mission...
Teach us to treat the affairs of the world
with a real sense of Christian responsibility
and a joyful hope of the coming of God’s Kingdom...
O Virgin Mother, guide and sustain us
so that we may always live as true sons and daughters
of the Church of your Son.
Enable us to do our part in helping to establish on earth
the civilization of truth and love,
as God wills it. for his glory. Amen” (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Christifideles Laici CL 64).
Friday, 5 May 1989
1. It is a great joy for me to meet you, the representatives and leaders of Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities, as well as the leaders of other Religions. This meeting gives me an opportunity to express my appreciation for the efforts you have made together with the leaders of the Catholic Church in promoting a spirit of understanding and brotherhood.
One of the reasons for my pastoral visit to this country is to celebrate the centenary of the coming of the first Catholic Missionaries to Malawi. I am fully aware that other ambassadors of Christ had already arrived in the region, and had begun the work of spreading the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. They preached and served the people with love and affection. Let us give thanks together for all that has been done in the time since then.
2. In recent years much progress has been made in the area of ecumenical collaboration. In particular, I am happy to note the cooperation in many areas of religious and social life between the Christian Council of Malawi and the Episcopal Conference. The joint initiatives which you implement, for example, through the Christian Service Committee and the Private Hospital Association, bear witness to your shared desire to manifest God’s love for your people. In all forms of ecumenical cooperation it is important for Christians not to forget the ultimate goal of their joint activity, namely, the search for full Christian unity, “that they may be one” (Jn 17,21).
The basis of our unity is already laid in our common Baptism. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ... for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Ga 3,27-28). Our Baptism therefore urges us to do all we can to remove the divisions that still exist between us, in order to respond fully to the will of Christ for the unity of faith of those he has called to be his followers.
3. As you are well aware, there is an essential relationship between the promotion of Christian unity and the proclamation of the Gospel. Divisions between Christians are an obstacle to the effective preaching of the Gospel and a scandal to the world, particularly when we appear to proclaim a “kingdom divided against itself” (Lc 11,17).
But despite those divisions it is still possible and necessary to offer a sincere though limited witness together, for the sake of the Gospel and in obedience to Christ’s will. In this sense I pray that our meeting will further encourage ecumenical relations among the Christians of Malawi.
4. We are all convinced that common prayer is not only fundamental to the search for Christian unity, but also important in nourishing the very ecumenical activity in which we engage. In prayer we learn to open ourselves to God and to others. In common prayer for Christian unity we experience the Christian identity arising from our common Baptism, but at the same time we experience the pain of division. In that very prayer, however, we are encouraged by the Spirit of Christ, who prays within us (Cfr. Rom Rm 8,26), to go forth and work together for the unity of all his followers. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and other occasions during the year offer wonderful opportunities for prayer leading to greater mutual understanding, esteem and love.
5. To the leaders of other Religions I wish to say how grateful I am for your presence and for this opportunity to meet you. I would assure you that the Catholic Church is committed to promoting unity and love among all peoples by giving priority “to what human beings have in common and to what promotes fellowship among them” (Nostra Aetate NAE 1). The Church is deeply interested in pursuing a dialogue of mind and heart with the members of other religious traditions for greater collaboration in the service of the human family. The meeting of many leaders of the world’s religions at Assisi in October 1986 not only showed the sensitivity of men and women of religion to the need to work together for peace, justice and progress in the world; it also showed the role of religion itself in creating a climate of peace and dialogue. Indeed, we are convinced that peace and human fulfilment are ultimately a gift from God, the Father of all, a gift which we must humbly implore from his loving mercy.
It is my hope that between you and Christians there will always be a strong bond of friendship and trust. There is so much that can be done in harmony for the growth and well-being of Malawi!
6. To all here present, both Christian leaders and the representatives of other Religions, I wish to express encouragement for your solidarity in promoting the dignity and rights of every person in this country, in caring for the sick and suffering, in supporting family life, in bringing about reconciliation and peace. It is my hope and prayer that your efforts to work together will continue to grow and prosper. I greet you with the words of the Apostle Paul: “Brethren, farewell... agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2Co 13,11).
Saturday, 6 May 1989
Your Excellency, President Banda,
Distinguished Members of the Government of Malawi,
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. As I leave Blantyre, I wish to express my deep gratitude to you, Mr President, and to all the civil and religious authorities of Malawi. I sincerely thank you for you invitation to spend this time with you.
On this last day of my visit to your lovely country, my thoughts turn to all the people of Malawi who have welcomed me as a friend and brother. I am grateful to all those who have worked so hard to make this visit possible. My thanks go to all men and women of good will – those whom I have been able to greet personally and those who have been close to me through the radio and the press. Your hospitality has been warm and filled with love. It has been truly African!
2. I came as a Brother in Christ, a pilgrim to God’s people in Malawi. I thank you for opening your hearts to hear the message of Christ’s love and for your desire to make that message a reality for all the world to see. I thank the bishops, priests, religious and seminarians for our meetings. I was happy to spend time with the young people, who are a sure beacon of hope for the future of this land; with the laity, who have such an important role to play in the life of the Church and society; and with the other Christians and members of other faiths, who took part in the various events of this visit. I have yet to perform the final act of my visit – the celebration of Mass in Lilongwe, the new capital of Malawi. For all these opportunities of listening, learning, sharing and praying, I express my lasting thanks.
It has been a great joy to witness the grace of God at work in the people of this land. The beautiful ceremonies and the wonderful spirit of celebration that accompanied them are special memories for me. I will treasure them. The Church in Malawi, like Malawi itself, is young and vigorous. She is eager to do great things for Christ and for the whole human family. May she be ever so!
3. I firmly believe in the goodness inherent in every human being, and so I preach respect and dignity for all, wherever I go. I believe in the message of conversion and life that I have held up to you. Be converted and live! This has been the theme of my visit. I believe in the truth and love that spring from conversion and lead to peace. Today, I am happy to say: I believe in the people of Malawi – in your ability to face the problems that beset your country, and to overcome them with courage and hope.
We have celebrated our unity in faith and love. May that faith and love grow stronger – may they be expressed in greater understanding, mutual respect, and above all in charity towards others.
People of Malawi: go forward with courage!
Accept the challenge of Christian love and service.
May Almighty God abundantly bless your beautiful country, its people and its future.
God bless Malawi!
Monday, 8 May 1989
I am pleased to welcome you here today.
The Quaket Oats Company which you represent has a long tradition of growth, not only in corporate or economic terms, but also in regard to humanitarian efforts. During the Great Depression of the 1930’s, your company showed genuine concern for those who were suffering hardship, and sought to provide for the financial stability of its many employees. In more recent years, the Quaker Oats Foundation has given generous support to various programs which seek to meet people’s needs, including many which have been sponsored by Catholic institutions, churches, schools, hospitals and other agencies. I wish to express my appreciation of this clear sense of social solidarity.
This humanitarian service reminds us that business enterprises have an important role to play in society, and in fostering those spiritual and moral values which lie at ist foundation. Those of you who are here today come from various Christian denominations and from Judaism. You are aware of the rich spiritual heritage which we have received from the Judeo-Christian tradition. That tradition calls us to reflect deeply upon the spiritual and moral aspects of all human activity. As men and women made in the image and likeness of God (Gn 1,26-27), we have been called to a responsible stewardship over all creation. Our faith in God not only provides us with a source of personal strength and integrity, but also challenges us to cooperate with the Creator in the development of a better world. Faith forms our conscience, and makes us realize that any success, in business or elsewhere, is God’s free gift. As the Psalmist once put it:
“Unless the Lord builds the house, / those who built it labor in vain” (Ps 127,1).
Faith thus gives us a perspective for all our activity. From our spiritual roots, too, come the strength and determination to confront the moral issues and crises of our time. Your work makes you sensitive to the tragic problem of world hunger, which in some places has reached catastrophic proportions. “In the modern world... starvation claims so many victims, especially among the very young” (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 44).
The past record of the Quaker Oats Company in meeting many human needs is in itself a stimulus and a challenge to future efforts. The growing awareness of the interdependence that unites individuals and nations in our time requires “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good, that is... to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all” (Ibid. 38). None of us can close our eyes to the conditions of the poor. None of us can close our ears to the cry of those who are innocent victims of economic disasters.
Dear friends: for the blessings we have received from the hand of God, let us be thankful. And let us pray that we may continue to share all that we have received with those in need. Let us make our own the prayer of the Psalmist:
“The earth has yielded its fruits / God; our God, has blessed us./ May God bless us, / and may all the ends of the earth fear him!” (Ps 67,7-8).
Indeed, may his blessings be with you and your families.
Speeches 1989 - Archbishopric of Blantyre