I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of India to the Holy See. Your presence revives the memories of my visit to your country in February 1986, which was above all a spiritual journey of good will and peace. These are sentiments which I now renew towards your President, the Government and the people of India.
One special moment of that journey was my visit to Raj Ghat, dedicated to the memory of the Father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi. There I paid tribute to the power of truth which leads us " to recognize with Mahatma Gandhi the dignity, equality and fraternal solidarity of all human beings, and ... prompts us to reject every form of discrimination ... (showing) us once again the need for mutual understanding, acceptance and collaboration between religious groups in the pluralist society of modern India and throughout the world "(Ioannis Pauli PP. II Allocutio Delii, prope monumentum Gandhi vulgo "Raj Ghat" cognominatum, 2, die 1 febr. 1986: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, IX, 1  247). Your own words here today, Mr Ambassador, have repeated India’s position of non-discrimination and equal respect for all religions. It is in this framework that the Catholic Church in your country can continue to fulfil her religious and humanitarian mission, notwithstanding some difficulties, for the advancement of those essential values and freedoms which alone safeguard the inalienable dignity of every human being.
A political society exists to promote the establishment of justice, the advancement of the common good and participation by all its members in the processes which sustain and guide the life of the community (Cfr. Eusdem Nuntius ob diem ad pacem fovendam dicatum pro a. D. 1982, 9, die 8 dec. 1981: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, IV, 2  1191). In a world which daily grows more interdependent, individual countries, as they strive to meet these demands within their own borders, cannot fail to be actively concerned for the promotion of peace, and the conditions for peace such as development and disarmament, on a global level. Without international agreement and cooperation these grave questions will remain without an adequate solution. I take this occasion therefore to recall India’s activity in some areas of international endeavour and to express the hope that the religious thought and quest, so much a part of Indian culture, will favour a further strengthening of cooperation between your country and the Holy See in that sphere.
Indeed, religious belief and practice, as well as dialogue between the great religions present in India, are not unconnected with or alien to efforts to meet major challenges affecting the course of present and future development. Public opinion is becoming increasingly aware that development is not just a matter of applying science and technology to questions facing individuals and societies. All such activity has a moral dimension, which cannot be neglected without serious negative consequences for the common good. By drawing their members into communion with the Creator and by teaching responsibility for life and the world in which we live, religions play a vital role in stimulating genuine development and ensuring that the voice of wisdom is heard in the market-place as well as in the temple.
Speaking to representatives of the religious, cultural and social life of India, in New Delhi on 2nd February 1986, I recalled that " to pursue integral human development it is necessary to take a stand on what is greatest and most noble in man: to reflect on his nature, his life and his destiny. In a word, integral human development requires a spiritual vision of man " (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Allocutio Delii, ad homines cultura excultos atque in re sociali, oeconomica et politica peritos habita, 4, die 2 febr. 1986: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, IX, 1  280). I expressed the conviction that " India’s mission in all of this is crucial, because of her intuition of the spiritual nature of man. Indeed, India’s greatest contribution to the world can be to offer it a spiritual vision of man. And the world does well to attend willingly to this ancient wisdom and in it to find enrichment for human living " (Ibid). As the world undergoes radical transformation, that spiritual insight and wisdom are all the more necessary if the human family is to progress along the path to true peace and well-being.
As you pointed out, Mr Ambassador, the existence of Christianity in India is coeval with its presence in Europe; that is, its presence in your country goes back to the time of its origins, to Apostolic times. The Church today is engaged in many different forms of service to the national community. It is my earnest hope that a spirit of understanding and cooperation will help all sections of the population to view the Church’s educational, health-care and social activities for what they truly are: a manifestation of love for human beings, children of God, and a form of profound human solidarity, especially towards those most in need.
Mr Ambassador, I am confident that in the exercise of your lofty mission you will endeavour to strengthen friendship and understanding between your Government and the Holy See. I pray that you will be successful in your task. May Almighty God bless you and your country.
In welcoming you to the Vatican at the beginning of your mission as Ambassador of United Republic of Tanzania to the Holy See, I am pleased to accept your Letters of Credence. At this time, I extend to you my good wishes for the success of the mission that has been entrusted to you. I ask to convey my greetings to the President of the United Republic, His Excellency Ali Hassan Mwinyi, together with the assurance of my prayers for the peace and prosperity of all the Tanzanian people.
Your Excellency has made mention of my forthcoming Pastoral Journey to Tanzania. I gladly look forward to the opportunity of visiting your country and meeting her leaders and people. As is always the case, the primary purpose of my Visit will be to confirm my Catholic brothers and sisters in their faith. At the same time I hope to encourage all men and women of good will, whatever their religious beliefs, to commit themselves to building up a society in which justice, harmony and peace will provide the framework for the integral human development of all your fellow citizens. The pursuit of that noble goal has guided Tanzania’s development throughout her twenty-five years of existence as a nation and in many ways your country’s example has proved an inspiration and encouragement to many of her neighbours in East Africa.
Today, the attention of the world is increasingly focused on the longing of individuals and entire peoples for authentic freedom and for the dawn of a new era marked by sincere dialogue and cooperation for the good of all. The young nations of Africa have a vital contribution to make in this regard. By drawing upon the profound human values of their traditional cultures, these nations can help to foster the growth of what the Second Vatican Council has called "a new humanism - one in which man is defined first of all by his responsibility towards his brothers and towards history" (Gaudium et Spes GS 55).
Within the international community, the Holy See has sought to encourage every initiative which promotes the growth of collaboration and solidarity among individuals, nations and social groups. The Church, in the light of her Christian faith, firmly believes that such solidarity is the sure path to true peace in our world. As I have had occasion to observe, "the goal of peace... will certainly be achieved through the putting into effect of social and international justice, but also through the practice of the virtues which favour togetherness and which teach us to live in unity so as to build in unity, by giving and receiving, a new society and a better world" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 39).
Such unity and solidarity are inseparable from the moral duty to respect the dignity of the human person in all dimensions of existence, including the cultural and religious dimensions. For this reason, from the very beginning of my Pontificate I have sought to draw attention to the need to safeguard the fundamental human rights of freedom of conscience and of religious practice. The exercise of these rights is essential for the authentic development of individuals, nations and the entire human family. I have noted that it is " from the deepest resources of a right conscience " that religious believers can draw " higher incentives for the task of building a more just and more humane society " (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Nuntius ob diem ad pacem fovendum dicatum pro a. D. 1988, 3, die 8 dec. 1987: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, 3  1337).
Tanzania’s Catholics are a minority among their fellow-citizens. But this does not impede them from contributing to their Nation’s progress along the path of authentic social development. They appreciate their Government’s respect for their experience and convictions. For example, by taking part in the national dialogue on population they have sought to contribute to the formulation of policies that are in full accord with the moral law and with the best traditions of the African peoples. I wish to commend the Tanzanian government for listening to their voice on this issue which directly concerns the integral truth of the human person, the dignity of individuals and the ultimate good of society at large.
Mr Ambassador, as your government seeks to promote the building up of a society marked by brotherhood, respect and dialogue, I am confident of the continued and willing cooperation of your Catholic fellow-citizens. In renewing my good wishes at the beginning of your mission as Ambassador to the Holy See, I assure you of the ready assistance of the Roman Curia. May the Most High God shower his abundant blessings upon you and upon all the beloved people of Tanzania.
It is with pleasure that I welcome you to the Vatican at the beginning of your mission as Ambassador of the Republic of Zambia to the Holy See. In accepting your Letters of Credence I ask you to convey my warm greetings and best wishes to Dr Kenneth David Kaunda, President of the Republic, and to all the Zambian people. I trust that your stay in Rome will serve to strengthen the good relations which Zambia and the Holy See have come to enjoy.
My Pastoral Journey to your Nation last year happily coincided with the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of Zambia’s independence. I had the opportunity to view at first hand the many challenges and the opportunities facing your fellow citizens. I was able to appreciate the progress which your country has made towards realizing those noble goals which have inspired her growth as an independent and free Nation. As a friend, I wished to encourage all those who strive to make Zambia " a place of authentic freedom brotherhood and solidarity " (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Allocutio in aeronavium portu Lusacae, die 2 maii 1989: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XII, 1  1081).
My Visit also coincided with the celebrations marking the centenary of the presence of the Catholic Church in your land. Through the various activities which she has undertaken in these past hundred years, the Church has always endeavoured to serve God by working for the authentic good of the people. During the last twenty-five years in particular, she has sought to play her own part in Zambia’s development as a modern society founded upon respect for the dignity and freedom of every human person. The Church’s contribution will always, of course, be an expression of the faith she professes. She is firmly convinced that the Gospel message provides a solid and enduring basis for the promotion and protection of human dignity. In fidelity to Christ’s teaching, the Church wishes to cooperate with all those who are committed to preserving the truths and moral values which are essential to the building of any truly humane society.
The evangelical principles which guide the local Churches also inspire the presence of the universal Church within the international community. Through its diplomatic activity, the Holy See strives to foster the growth of peace and an increased respect for the human person, to safeguard the fundamental rights of individuals and nations, and to advance dialogue and cooperation among peoples. I am sure, Mr Ambassador, that in the course of your mission to the Holy See you will find many opportunities to support these goals.
You have expressed your confidence that Zambia has a special role in the continuing development of Africa and its peoples. During my visit, I expressed my own conviction that your country’s contribution to the future cannot be separated from her commitment to the profoundly human values which have found expression in her public policy. A firm and convinced witness to those values within the context of Africa’s changing political and social situation may prove to be one of Zambia’s most lasting achievements. Such a witness will require sacrifice, as your Nation faces the serious difficulties to which you have made reference. Yet, for the good of all Africans, "the difficulties of the present moment must not lead to a lessening of your commitment to protect and promote each individual’s rights " (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Allocutio in aeronavium portu Lusacae, die 2 maii 1989: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XII, 1  1082).
In a particular way, the presence of so many refugees within your borders represents a great challenge to Zambia’s generosity and to her sense of solidarity. In effect, she has been called, at a critical moment in her growth as a Nation, to share her own resources with vast numbers of truly needy people. Your Government’s efforts to assist these victims of conflict and economic imbalance, whatever the immediate sacrifices involved, highlight those principles and virtues which can provide a sure basis for the authentic development of the whole region.
Your Excellency has also recalled the problems posed by racial conflict and the unacceptable system of apartheid. It is my hope that Zambia will continue to foster constructive dialogue and reconciliation among all groups involved in the promotion of justice and peace in Southern Africa. Here too, fidelity to the principles underlying your own Nation’s growth will help to inspire confidence in solutions that guarantee respect for the equal dignity of every person as a member of the human family and a child of God. Zambia can thus give evidence of her conviction that a society of peace and harmony will never emerge from violence and hatred, but rather must be founded on respect for all, regardless of race, colour or creed.
Mr Ambassador, in assuring you of the ready assistance and cooperation of the various offices of the Holy See in the fulfilment of your mission, I take this opportunity to renew my good wishes to you and to the President and the people of the Republic of Zambia. May Almighty God bless you and your fellow citizens with abundant heavenly gifts.
In welcoming you to the Vatican and accepting the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ireland, I am pleased to have this occasion to add further to the already solid edifice of close and friendly relations between your beloved country and the Holy See. Faith and history have combined to forge a special bond between the Irish people and the Successor of Peter, a bond which is entrusted to the responsibility of each succeeding generation and for which we should never tire of giving thanks to God who is the Good Shepherd of his Church and the Lord of the history of individuals as well as of nations.
I am grateful for the kind words you have expressed on behalf of President Hillery, to whom I ask you to convey the assurance of my goodwill and of my prayers for Ireland and her people.
The beginning of your diplomatic mission, Mr Ambassador, coincides with Ireland’s term of Presidency within the European Community. This is also a time of extraordinary ferment and change in Europe itself. A new era seems to be dawning, marked by a great hope of freedom, of responsibility, of solidarity, of spirituality (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Allocutio ad eos qui plenario coetui Pont. Consilii de Cultura interfuerunt coram admissos, 2, die 12 ian. 1990: vide supra, p. 59). People every where are looking with intense yearning towards a more peaceful and productive future. Old ways of thinking about development, defence, unity, and even the environment often seem inadequate to the new situations arising with increasing rapidity. But at the same time no one can overlook the fact that former uncertainties and threats have been replaced by other equally challenging and potentially destabilizing tendencies which those responsible for the life of nations are called upon to meet with intelligence and foresight.
Political processes and economic development have a moral dimension which cannot be overlooked if they are to contribute to people’s authentic and integral well-being. The peoples of Europe today demand that their governments provide laws and political policies that are eminently worthy of man and that effectively uphold the inalienable dignity of each individual and the exercise of fundamental rights, including freedom of conscience and religious practice. Both in the East and in the West, the peoples of Europe want an international order based on trust and solidarity, one that is no longer built on force or fear.
That the peoples of Europe have deeply-felt aspirations which they experience as their natural ethos and their inalienable right is clearly evidenced in their irrepressible search for justice, freedom and spiritual fulfilment. In this context, the idea of Europe’s common destiny, strengthened by the current processes of democratization, is closely connected with the growing awareness of sharing the same spiritual roots (Cfr. EIUSDEM Allocutio ad Patres Cardinales et Praelatos Familiae S. P. Romanaeque Curiae, imminente Nativitate D.N.I.C., 4, die 22 dec. 1989: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XII, 2  1592). Based on those Christian roots, Europe has an identity and a vocation all its own: "that of joining together diverse cultural traditions in order to establish a humanism in which respect for the rights of others solidarity and creativeness may allow all to realize their most noble aspirations" (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Allocutio ad Patres Cardinales et Praelatos Familiae S. P. Romanaeque Curiae, imminente Nativitate D.N.I.C., 4, die 22 dec. 1989: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XII, 2  1591). Perhaps as never before, there exists an opportunity to pursue those goals in a new context of openness and mutual sharing.
Since the history of the formation of European nations goes hand in hand with that of their Christian evangelization, to the extent that the frontiers of Europe coincide with those of the spreading of the Gospel (Cfr. ibid), then Ireland can recall and be rightly proud of the part she played in the historical development of this continent. At the very time when the stability of its peoples was being consolidated, Irish monks brought the light of faith and learning to a great part of Europe. That bright page of Irish history should be remembered so that the best energies of the present generation of Irish men and women may be directed in a similar way to the material, cultural and spiritual development of the "common house" (Cfr. ibid. 4: l. c., p. 1592). Ireland now has the opportunity to renew and share with others to rich humanism which characterizes her people and which springs in the first place from her fidelity to her Christian traditions.
Mr Ambassador, you have mentioned two areas of conflict which seem to give the impression of being somehow less open to the positive political processes taking place elsewhere. One is Lebanon, which has been a frequent subject of my prayers and appeals, especially in recent months. The other is the tragedy of Northern Ireland, where violence continues to reap death, injury and destruction, as well as untold material and spiritual privation for the members of both communities in that Province. The Holy See expresses ready support for those steps being taken by the Governments involved to bring about the conditions required for peace: especially the elimination of injustice and discrimination, which you have already mentioned. We can only hope that the people of Northern Ireland themselves will urge their representatives to engage in dialogue about the situation as it really is, a dialogue without partisan constitutional or political prejudice and without exclusion. There too, new was of thinking are needed, more fully centred on achieving the integral well-being of all sectors of the population. I express to you the hope that the steps towards greater harmony and cooperation being taken in Europe will become ever more a reality in Northern Ireland as well.
Mr Ambassador, having represented your country in other important posts you now begin your mission as Ireland’s diplomatic representative to the Holy See. You follow a long line of distinguished Irish Ambassadors. I assure you of my prayers for the success of your mission, for your family and for the people of Ireland whom you serve. May God bless your noble land!
I am happy to welcome the participants in the Graduate School of the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, on the occasion of your pilgrimage to Rome. I greet you with the prayer of the Apostle Paul: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (2Co 13,13).
Over the past four months you have been reflecting on the theme: "The Holy Spirit and the Prophetic Witness of the Church". The very name of the Holy Spirit draws our thoughts to the unsearchable mystery of the Triune God and to the reality of the Church, the visible communion of those who have received "God’s love (which) has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Rm 5,5). In the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, the Church professes her faith in the Holy Spirit as "the Lord, the Giver of Life ... who has spoken through the Prophets". Your studies will surely have inspired you to praise God for the immensity of his gift to the Church and to each of you in particular.
From the beginning the Christian community experienced the power of the Holy Spirit, and that power led the Apostles and disciples to bear witness to Christ with courage and strength, even in the face of violent opposition. The Church’s prophetic witness in every age is the proclamation of the saving event of Jesus Christ, and of his Paschal Mystery, the mystery of the Crucified and Risen Lord (Cfr. Act. 2, 14-36). In bearing witness to Christ, the Holy Spirit convinces the world of sin, namely, the " disobedience " that turns men and women away from God. Hence, the Church’s witness is always a call to conversion and repentance, to peace and reconciliation. The Holy Spirit, the Love of the Father and the Son, is the divine principle of that profound reconciliation and communion. May we all, as Christ’s disciples, heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth, and therefore into harmony and unity.
I am pleased that your stay in Rome has offered you the opportunity of meeting with members of the Pontifical Council for promoting Christian Unity for discussions on themes of fundamental ecumenical interest. As well as coming to know the Catholic Church better, you will have perceived the unshakable nature of her commitment to the ecumenical task.
In my prayers I ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with his gif for an ever increasing service of the unity and fellowship that are Christ’s will for his followers. As you return to your own countries may the same Spirit strengthen you and make you evermore effective witnesses to the Father’s love. God be with you!
I am happy to welcome the delegation of the World Islamic Call Society, headed by your distinguished Secretary General, Dr Muhammad Ahmad Sherif, and accompanied here by Cardinal Arinze and the other Catholic participants in the dialogue on " Mission and Da’wah ". The visit of representatives of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue to Tripoli last March, and this return visit on the part of the World Islamic Call Society, offer us the hope of strengthening good will and cooperation between Christians and Muslims.
The topic of your discussion is a timely one. Since we are believers in God - who is Goodness and Perfection - all our activities must reflect the holy and upright nature of the One whom we worship and seek to obey. For this reason, also in the works of mission and da’wah, our actions must be founded upon a respect for the inalienable dignity and freedom of the human person created and loved by God. Both Christians and Muslims are called to defend the inviolable right of each individual to freedom of religious belief and practice.
There have been in the past, and there continue to be in the present, unfortunate instances of misunderstanding, intolerance and conflict between Christians and Muslims, especially in circumstances where either Muslims or Christians are a minority or are guest workers in a given country: It is our challenge as religious leaders to find ways to overcome such difficulties in a spirit of justice, brotherhood and mutual respect. Hence, by considering the proper means of carrying out mission and da’wah, you are dealing with an issue which is important both for religious and for social harmony.
You have also been addressing the difficulties faced today by those who believe in God in their efforts to proclaim his presence and his will for mankind. As believers, we do not deny or reject any of the real benefits which modern developments have brought, but we are convinced nevertheless that without reference to God modern society is unable to lead men and women to the goal for which they have been created.
It is here too that Christians and Muslims can work together, bearing witness before modern civilization to the divine Presence and loving Providence which guide our steps. Together we can proclaim that He who has made us has called us to live in harmony and justice. May the blessings of the Most High accompany you in your endeavours on behalf of dialogue and peace!
Dear Brothers Bishops of Japan,
1. It is a great joy for me to welcome you to Rome on the occasion of your ad Limina visit. Through you I wish to greet with esteem all the beloved Catholic people of Japan, whose faith and devotion were so evident to me during my Pastoral Visit to your country in 1981. As a brother Bishop who has been charged in a particular way with solicitude for all the Churches (Cfr. 2Co 11,28), I pray with you that the faithful of Japan will truly "grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love" (Ep 4,15-16).
These words from the Letter to the Ephesians help us to reflect more deeply upon the meaning of your visit to this City. By praying at the tombs of the two "pillars" of the Church of Rome, Saints Peter and Paul, and by meeting with Peter’s Successor, you bear witness to the unity in which the Body of Christ is "joined and knit together". Your journey to Rome manifests the catholicity of the one Church of Christ and invites you to a deeper communion with all other local Churches as well. The ad Limina visit is also an occasion to share the experiences and insights, as well as the challenges of the Church in Japan with the Pope and with those who assist him in his universal ministry. Through your affection for him, your solidarity with him in upholding the Church’s doctrine and discipline, and through your ready cooperation with his collaborators, the Church’s universal communion is concretely expressed and strengthened.
2. To speak of the growth and upbuilding of Christ’s Body is to speak of the forward movement of the People of God on its earthly pilgrimage. It is to speak of the commission which the Church has received from her Risen Lord "to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Mt 28,19-20). As the Second Vatican Council taught, "the pilgrim Church is missionary by her very nature" (Ad Gentes AGD 2), and hence the task of evangelization will always remain her "grace and vocation, her deepest identity" (Cfr. Pauli VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 14). Indeed, we can say, in the words of my predecessor Pope Paul VI, that the Church exists "in order to evangelize" (Ibid).
For this reason, I join you in praising God for the great gift to the Church in Japan that was the "National Incentive Convention for Evangelization", held in Kyoto in November of 1987. This significant ecclesial event followed an intense preparation on the part of all the clergy, religious and laity, and represented an unprecedented opportunity for the faithful to reflect on their vocation to be evangelizers within the society to which they belong. Following the teaching of the Council, the Convention recognized that all the baptized have "the exalted duty of working for the ever greater spread of the divine plan of salvation to all people, of every epoch and all over the earth" (Lumen Gentium LG 33). And as the "universal sacrament of salvation" (Lumen Gentium LG 48), the Church as a whole is called " to be a leaven and, as it were, the soul of human society in its renewal by Christ and transformation into the family of God " (Ibid. 40).
A deepening awareness of God’s call to proclaim the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ should penetrate every aspect of the Church’s life in Japan. Although your local Churches form a small minority, they must nonetheless strive to make the light of Christ shine brightly, so as to help non-Christians to see this light, to accept it, and to be transformed by it through faith and Baptism. No believer may be dispensed from the task of making Christ’s love known to all. For if, with Saint Paul, we can say: "the love of Christ compels us" (2Co 5,14), we must likewise add, as he does: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" (1Co 9,16). As the Conciliar Decree "Ad Gentes" reminds us: "It is not sufficient for the Christian people to be present or established in a particular nation, nor sufficient that it should merely exercise the apostolate of good example; it has been established and it is present so that it might by word and deed proclaim Christ to non-Christian fellow countrymen and help them towards a full reception of Christ" (Ad Gentes AGD 15).
3. One of the hopes of the National Incentive Convention was that the faithful be inspired to read the "signs of the times" so that in union with their Pastors they can identify and respond to a number of Japan’s social problems in the light of the Gospel.Some of these problems are unique to Japan. Others, such as environmental pollution, can be said to pose a threat to people everywhere, as I had occasion to recall in this year’s World Day of Peace Message. When the Church works for a solution to human problems, "she is not going beyond her mission. She is however concerned that this mission should not be absorbed by preoccupations concerning the temporal order or reduced to such preoccupations. Hence she takes great care to maintain clearly and firmly both the unity and distinction between evangelization and human promotion: unity, because she seeks the good of the whole person; distinction, because these two tasks enter, in different ways, into her mission" (Congr. Pro Doctrina Fidei Libertatis Conscientia, 64).
Among the social issues faced by the Church in Japan, particular mention must be made of the many people, especially among the young, who migrate to the cities for economic reasons and who therefore feel a special need to be accepted and to belong within their new environment. In trying to help these people, the Church has an opportunity to demonstrate her profound solidarity with those who risk being separated from their spiritual roots. At the same time, she is able to make present the generous love of the Good Shepherd for all those who are lost and in need. By extending a Christian welcome, local parishes and Catholic groups fulfill the Lord’s commandment of love of neighbor and can build up relationships that lead others to Jesus, thus inviting them to open themselves to the greatest of all gifts, the gift of faith itself. The presence of foreign workers in Japan, many of whom are Catholics, poses a somewhat similar challenge. The efforts which your particular Churches make on behalf of these brothers and sisters will not only be aimed at ensuring their material well-being, but will also seek to strengthen them in their faith by providing much needed spiritual assistance in difficult circumstances.
Another area of utmost importance for the life of the Church and of society is marriage and family life. In Japan, as elsewhere, the stability and fruitfulness of marriage are threatened by divorce and the practice of artificial contraception. Catholics who marry non-Catholics often face serious challenges to their perseverance in the faith. As Pastors, you exercise a sacred charge by confirming your people in Christian living, lest, for lack of roots, "they believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away" (Lc 8,13). Discerning the "signs of the times" requires that the Church be attentive to people and their problems, but it also demands that she be faithful to the Gospel. The Good News calls people of every time and place, including ourselves, to repentance and faith, to a change of heart, to a new way of thinking and acting in accordance with God’s plan of salvation, as it was perfectly fulfilled in the Crucified and Risen Christ.
4. The mission of evangelization carried out by the faithful of Japan depends in great part of the formation which they receive. As Bishops you exercise an essential role as teachers, assisted by your priests. Great pastoral wisdom and charity must be developed among the clergy through a life-long commitment to prayer, reflection and study, so that they in turn can impart a more through Christian formation to the laity. As you are aware, the issue of priestly training and continuing education, so crucial for the authentic renewal of the priesthood in our day, will be the subject of the forthcoming Synod of Bishops. Continuing formation is also important for the men and women Religious who have long played a significant role in Japan. I rejoice with those of you whose local Churches have experienced an increase of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and I join all of you in asking the Lord of the harvest for a still greater increase, especially in those places where vocations are lacking.
In seeking to provide for the spiritual growth of the laity, you have established the Japan Catholic Formation Center. If formation is to bear fruit in the field of evangelization, it must not only match the laity’s level of general education, but must also be deeply spiritual. It must touch people’s minds and hearts, stir their consciences, and engage all their energies as they strive to live out the state in life to which God has called them. When Christians come to realize that there is an unbreakable bond between their faith and daily life, they become powerful instruments of the Holy Spirit in transforming the world from within. When the imperatives of faith are truly interiorized through communion with God in the liturgy and personal prayer, their application to life is clearly perceived as a personal responsibility. In the words of "Evangelii Nuntiandi": "Evangelizing zeal must spring from true holiness of life, and, as the Second Vatican Council suggests, preaching must in its turn make the preacher grow in holiness, which is nourished by prayer and above all by love for the Eucharist" (Pauli VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 76).
5. The goal of formation is to make all the baptized active shares in the Church’s life and mission. As we read in "Ad Gentes": "The Church is not truly established and does not fully live, nor is a perfect sign of Christ unless there is a genuine laity existing and working alongside the hierarchy. For the Gospel cannot become deeply rooted in the mentality, life and work of a people without the active presence of lay people"(Ad Gentes AGD 21).
This active involvement begins with the formation process itself, in which lay catechists can play an invaluable role. I urge you to make the recruitment and training of catechists a pastoral priority so that the Church in Japan will benefit from the dedication they bring to the work of evangelization. Besides the renewal of the parish - that perennially vital center of Catholic lay involvement - encouragement should also be given to founding or strengthening associations and movements, in as much as these have often proved to be effective channels for the formation and apostolic fervor of the laity.
I also wish to say a word about the many lay men and women involved in Catholic education who are especially deserving of our gratitude and encouragement. It is essential that they too see their work as a crucial part of the Church’s evangelizing mission. Your numerous Catholic schools and universities, which are highly esteemed throughout Japan, can be powerful means of bearing witness to the Gospel. Of course it is not a question of imposing Catholic belief on the many non-Catholic students who attend these centers of learning. Rather it is a matter of proposing to their consciences explicitly and directly but without coercion or undue pressure, the truth of the Gospel and salvation in Christ (Cfr. Pauli VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 80).
The "active presence" of the laity of which the Council speaks takes many other forms as well. As we noted earlier, it includes good example and an explicit proclamation of Christ in word and deed (Cfr. Ad Gentes AGD 15), but it also calls for something more. If the faith of Japanese Catholics is to be reflected in the "mentality, life and work" of their nation, then they must not be afraid to take an active role as Catholics in the building up of a more human society. The connection between faith and life applies not only to their personal conduct; it also means that they will bring the Gospel to bear on civic activities, on economic and political decisions, and on national and international endeavors. As followers of Christ they will want to defend and promote the spiritual and material well being of all people, especially the poor (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 47). The Christian vision of man created and redeemed by God, which is so richly developed in the Church’s social teaching, provides the foundation as well as the inspiration for the Church in Japan to conduct a ministry of evangelization in keeping with man’s earthly and transcendent vocation.
6. Dear brothers: I know that the history and culture of your ancient land presents unique challenges to the task of evangelization. I know too that the small number of Japanese Catholics in the midst of a vast population may tend to temper enthusiasm as to what can be accomplished. Like the first Apostles, who were commanded to feed a multitude with little, you too may ask the Lord "What are these among so many?" (Cfr. Io. Jn 6,9). Yet as the same Gospel shows us, despite the meagerness of the resources at the Apostles’ disposal, that same small band of twelve men was eventually able to transform the world through the power of the Holy Spirit at work within them.
It is my fervent hope and prayer that as you strive with perseverance and love to build up the Church in Japan, you will ever remain "steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1Co 15,58). To all of you I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.