Sunday, 13 May 1990
Madam Prime Minister,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. As I prepare to return to Rome at the conclusion of this Pastoral Visit to CuraÁao, I wish to thank all of you for your kind welcome and generous hospitality. Although my stay among you has been very brief, I am indeed grateful to God for this opportunity to come to the Netherlands Antilles, to meet with numerous distinguished representatives of your political and religious life, and to celebrate the Eucharist with the Catholics of the Diocese of Willemstad. Throughout this afternoon and evening I have been privileged to experience the gentle warmth and solid virtue of this island people. I have sensed as well your desire to build a strong and vibrant society, a society of material prosperity and moral virtue, a society of which coming generations will rightly be proud. In all your efforts, may you never forget that the greatness of a people will never be measured by its wealth or power, but by the degree of its concern for the needs of others, especially the weakest and the least fortunate.
2. As you face the challenges which will determine the future of your society, do not be tempted to neglect the poor, the voiceless and the troubled in your midst. Scripture promises that " he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully " (2Co 9,6). These words express a profound truth which governs the lives of both individuals and entire peoples. To the extent that you respect the law of God and place your neighbourís good above your own, you will experience a wealth that far exceeds any material calculation. In the end, it will be this spiritual wealth that will guarantee to each of you and to your entire society a lasting stability and a steady growth in unity, prosperity and peace.
Assuring you all once again of my prayers, I commend you and your families to the "goodness and loving kindness of God" (Tt 3,4). May he bless you all! May he bless these islands with the peace that only he can give!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. It is with special pleasure that I welcome the distinguished men and women of science who have been taking part in the study week organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in conjunction with the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences on the subject of "Tropical Forests and the Conservation of Species". The topic you hare been studying is of immense importance. It is to the undeniable credit of scientists that the value of the biodiversity of tropical ecosystems is coming to be more and more understood and appreciated. However, the extent of the depletion of the earthís tropical biodiversity is indeed a very serious problem: it threatens countless other forms of life. Even the quality of human life, because of its dependence on the dynamic interaction of other species, is being impoverished.
2. Tropical forests deserve our attention, study and protection. As well as making an essential contribution to the regulation of the earthís climatic conditions, they possess one of the richest varieties of the earthís species, the beauty of which merits our profound aesthetic appreciation. Moreover, some plants and micro-organisms of these forests are capable of synthesizing unlimited numbers of complex substances of great potential to the production of medicines and antibiotics. Other plants possess value as sources of food or as a means of genetically improving strains of edible plants.
Unfortunately, the rate at which these forests are being destroyed or altered is depleting their biodiversity so quickly that many species may never be catalogued or studied for their possible value to human beings. Is it possible, then, that the indiscriminate destruction of tropical forests is going to prevent future generations from benefitting from the riches of these ecosystems in Asia, Africa and Latin America? Should a concept of development in which profit is predominant continue to disrupt the lives of the native populations which inhabit these forests? Should a lack of foresight continue to harm the dynamic processes of the earth, civilization and human life itself?
3. If an unjustified search for profit is sometimes responsible for deforestation of tropical ecosystems and the loss of their biodiversity, it is also true that a desperate fight against poverty threatens to deplete these important resources of the planet. Thus, while certain forms of industrial development have induced some countries to deplete dramatically the size of their tropical forests, foreign debt has forced other countries to administer unwisely their hardwood resources in the hope of reducing that debt. And likewise, the attempt to create lands for farming, pasture or grazing is sometimes an unfortunate proof of how inappropriate means can be used for good or even necessary aims. In this case the solution of an urgent problem can create another, equally serious one.
Population pressure is very often cited as a major cause of the destruction of tropical forests. Here though, it is essential to state that demographic expansion is not simply a matter of statistics; it is a cultural and profoundly moral issue.Indeed, not "all demographic expansion is incompatible with orderly development" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Sollicitudo rei socialis SRS 25). Besides condemning the pressures, including economic ones, to which people are subjected, especially in the poorer countries, in order to force them to submit to population control programmes, the Church untiringly upholds the freedom of couples to decide about children according to the moral law and their religious beliefs (Cfr. ibid.; Eiusdem Familiaris Consortio FC 30) .
4. Every kind of life should be respected, fostered and indeed loved, as the creation of the Lord God, who created everything "good" (Cfr. Gen Gn 1,31). But it is precisely the special value of human life that counsels, in fact compels us, to examine carefully the way we use the other created species. There is no doubt that man is entitled to make use of the rest of creation: the Creator himself gave to mankind, as well as to the animals, "all plants and seeds and fruit-trees" in order to sustain their lives in this world (Cfr. ibid. 1, 29-30). This gift, however, together with the command to "dominate the earth" (Cfr. ibid 1, 26), is subject to two limits set by God the Creator.
The first one is man himself. He must not make use of nature against his own good, the good of his fellow human beings and the good of future generations. That is why there is a moral dimension to the concept and practice of development which must in every case be respected.
The second limit is created beings themselves; or rather, the will of God as expressed in their nature. Man is not allowed to do what he wishes and how he wishes with the creatures around him. On the contrary, he is supposed to "keep" and "cultivate" them, as taught in the Biblical narrative of creation (Cfr. ibid 2, 15). The very fact that God "gave" mankind the plants to eat and the garden "to keep" implies that Godís will is to be respected when dealing with his creatures. They are "entrusted" to us, not simply put at our disposal. We are stewards, not absolute masters. For this reason, the use of created beings implies moral obligations (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Sollicitudo rei socialis SRS 34 et Eiusdem Nuntius scripto datus ob diem ad pacem fovendam dicatum pro a. D. 1990, 6 ss., die 8 dec. 1989: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XII, 2 (1989) 1466 ss.). Ecological commitment is not only a question of concern for natural beings and the atmosphere around them. It is a question of morality, and therefore of manís responsibilities within Godís designs. In this context, manís ultimate well-being may be summed up as "peace with God the Creator, peace with all of creation" (Eiusdem Nuntius scripto datus ob diem ad pacem fovendam dicatum pro a. D. 1990, 6 ss., die 8 dec. 1989: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XII, 2 (1989) 1463 ss.).
5. Today, the work of scientists such as yourselves is becoming more and more important. An intense programme of information and education is needed. In particular, your study and research can contribute to fostering an enlightened moral commitment, more urgent now than ever. I trust that the conclusions of your seminar, together with your personal work and responsible commitment as men and women of science, will help very much towards the attainment of such an aim. In this way, the present ecological crisis, especially grave in the case of the tropical forests, will become an occasion for a renewed consciousness of manís true place in this world and of his relationship to the environment. The created universe has been given to mankind not for selfish misuse but for the glory of God, which consists, as Saint Irenaeus said many centuries ago, in "the living man" (S. Irenaei Adversus Haereses, IV, 20,7).
I encourage you and invoke upon you Almighty Godís abundant blessings.
Friday, 25 May 1990
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
"Peace be with you". This is my greeting and prayerful wish for you and for all the people of Malta. "Peace be with you, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Cfr. Eph. Ep 6,23).
1. It is fitting that my first words on this visit to Malta should be spoken here in the magnificent Saint Johnís Co-Cathedral, an eloquent witness to a part of your history that has made your name known throughout the world. As one called to a universal ministry of service in the Church, I rejoice at the opportunity to visit this island of Malta, the island of Saint Paulís preaching, an island of faith, an island of heroism and devotion. Today I share the sentiments of Paul when he wrote:
"Being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us" (1Th 2,8).
Guided by divine providence, I have come to confirm the ancient faith that the Apostle of the Nations brought here at the dawn of Christianity. I also come as a pilgrim, to experience at first hand the vitality of your local Churches, to pay homage to the past and present accomplishments of all those who have responded generously to the Gospel and have brought forth works of faith, hope and love for the glory of God and the salvation of the world. And as the Church in Malta awaits the third millennium, I wish to offer encouragement and hope for an even more glorious future.
2. Beloved friends in the Lord: the Catholic faith has grown and flourished here, thanks to generous men and women who in every age have put their lives at the service of Christ and his Church, "not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering... but being examples to the flock" (1 Petr. 5, 2-3). I am happy that my first meeting is with you, the priests and religious, for you have an irreplaceable role to play in building up the Church so that all the members of Christís flock, from the greatest to the least, may attain the holiness of life which leads to salvation.
I am well aware that the Church in Malta is called to exercise her pastoral mission in a social and cultural situation which under certain aspects presents difficulties. In this context it is clear that the Church must be above all "the house of God" (Cfr. 1Tm 3,15), in which his family dwells (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 6), and where the members of the family, while enjoying the rightful freedom of the children of God (Cfr. Rom. Rm 8,21), are united in the bonds of faith and love: "Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est". I would encourage you, under the leadership of your Bishops, to continue along the path of authentic and profound renewal which the Holy Spirit, through the Second Vatican Council, has marked out for the whole People of God.
Furthermore, it cannot be denied that today your country is faced with ever increasing new problems. Your venerable traditions and your society are being subjected to the allurements of a secularized culture which has engulfed so much of the world. As men and women whose vocations have no meaning apart from God and his promises, you have no need to be afraid. It is by perseverance and fidelity in the face of challenges and trials that Godís power shines through human weakness. Never underestimate the hidden action of the Holy Spirit at work in human hearts to bring about the transformation, the metanoia, which lies at the core of the Gospel message (Cfr. Marc. 1, 15). I exhort you to hold fast to the strong faith which is your Catholic heritage as sons and daughters of Malta, so that the mighty deeds of God may continue to be manifested here both now and in the future.
Malta has been richly blessed with vocations and has been very generous in sending priests and religious abroad, to the great joy and gratitude of Catholic communities throughout the world. But there is also a need to be vigilant about the future. Do not be afraid to ask much of the young, to challenge them with a call to service and a way of life based on the radical demands of the Gospel. In order that your appeal may be effective, you must communicate it not only in words but also by an example that shows you to be committed, zealous, and joyful in the service of the Lord.
3. To all the priests of Malta I commend the words of Saint Peter: "Tend the flock of God that is your charge... And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory" (1 Petr. 5, 2. 4). Can there be a greater honour than this: that Christ has called each one of you by name to share in his ministry and has entrusted to you a portion of his flock? Can there be any greater encouragement than this: to serve, to labour and even to suffer with Christ, so that together with all the faithful you can be partakers in the glory that is to be revealed? Yes, dear brothers, it is both to ministry and to glory that the chief Shepherd has called you as priests.
What a grace it is that your ministry in Malta is marked by a genuine closeness to your people! As you live and work among them in imitation of Christ who came "not to be served but to serve" (Mt 20,28), strive always to develop a priestly heart, one that draws people to their ultimate, eternal good, to "the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God" (Col 3,1). Be accessible to everyone, with respect and genuine fraternal, concern. In your pastoral activity, "show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Iac. 2, 1). Each man and woman who knocks at your door, regardless of socio-economic status of political affiliations, should recognize in your words and actions the full truth of God offered in love and understanding. As "chosen from among men" (Cfr. Hebr. 5, 1), and "set apart for the Gospel of God" (Cfr. Rom. Rm 1,1), you have a special responsibility to embody that "compassion" which Jesus showed to all around him (Cfr. Matth. Mt 9,36).
You know that your ministry as priests can never be lived as an exclusively private affair. The "presbyterium" should clearly reflect the communion which is the very nature of the Church, the one Body of Christ (Cfr. 1Co 12,12). The Conciliar Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests speaks of the "intimate sacramental brotherhood" that unites priests as members of a single body under the Diocesan Bishop in a "bond of charity, prayer and total cooperation" (Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 8). Charity is required, lest we fail to practice among our brothers the very commandment of love we preach to others: a bond of prayer, so that no priest will be spiritually isolated in fulfilment of the ministry; and cooperation, for, as the same Decree tells us, "no priest is sufficiently equipped to carry out his own mission alone and as it were single-handed. He can do so only by joining forces with other priests, under the leadership of those who are the Churchís rulers" (Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 7). I urge you above all to be models of unity and harmony, so that the flock entrusted to you can likewise find inspiration to live in peace and work together as members of one family.
On the eve of the Synod of Bishops which will be devoted to the theme of priestly formation, I cannot fail to say something about your own continuing formation as priests. In order to grow as pastors, you will want to cultivate an ever deeper understanding of Scripture and the sacred sciences. As men of God you will also want to grow in grace through personal prayer and spiritual exercises, since it is only through the pursuit of holiness and intimacy with God that our knowledge and skills bear lasting fruit in the service of Godís people. I ask your prayers for the work of the Synod and for seminarians and priests everywhere, so that the Church may continue to be blessed with a worthy and zealous clergy as she seeks to preach the Gospel in todayís world.
Finally, I wish to encourage you to recognize and foster the proper role of the laity in the Churchís life, in accordance with the Councilís teachings, which have been further developed in the Apostolic Exhortation "Christifideles Laici". There is a complementarity between the role proper to priests and the role of the laity. Whatever your priestly work in Malta today, you will want to increase and strengthen the cooperation that exists between yourselves and the laity, so that every member of the Church may make his or her rightful contribution to the spiritual and material well-being of all. This includes the various lay institutes, associations and movements, with their specific contribution to the Churchís presence and mission in society.
My dear brothers in the priesthood, be always conscious of the ecclesial task that is yours in Christ: to "gather together Godís family as a brotherhood all of one mind and lead them in the Spirit, through Christ, to God the Father" (Lumen Gentium LG 28). May the Lord grant you perseverance in your "first enthusiasm", so that the whole People of God in Malta may benefit from your spiritual guidance and leadership, for a deepening of Christian life and a renewal of society from its roots.
4. Dear men and women religious: as I have said on many occasions, your greatest gift to the Church and the world consists above all in who you are. Your consecration is a powerful sign that in Christ humanity is called to be a new creation, to live no longer "in the flesh" but "in the Spirit" (Cfr. Rom Rm 8,9). By freely and joyfully embracing chastity, poverty and obedience for the sake of the kingdom, you bear witness to the very " style " of life that the Son of God chose for himself on entering the world.
How much todayís world needs the faith which makes your consecration possible, the faith which the Letter to the Hebrews defines as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen"! (Hebr. 11, 1). Modern life makes it so easy for people to forget God, to make idols of pleasure, material possessions and the exercise of power, none of which can bring lasting happiness or give true meaning to life. You who have vowed yourself to the evangelical counsels testify to what is imperishable (Cfr. 1Co 15,50 1Co 15,53). You show the world that it is by "losing oneís life" (Cfr. Matth. Mt 16,25), that one "finds it" in abundance, both now and in the world to come. You give expression to humanityís transcendent vocation, which can only be achieved by walking the road of the Cross in company with Christ. This is the work of a lifetime, one which involves a constant dying and rising with Christ as you seek to be "perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Ibid. 5, 48). As you walk this road, do not grow weary or discouraged. Remember that God is faithful. Having called you to the religious life, he will not fail to supply all you need in order to persevere and grow in its demands.
In Malta, where men and women religious have made a magnificent contribution to evangelization over the centuries, it is my hope that while you remain firm in the charism proper to each Institute, you will actively and consciously build up the local Church through the exercise of your various apostolates. I urge you to develop cooperation to the utmost, so that each local Church can truly be one around its Bishop in the rich diversity of its life and work, and beó in the motto chosen for this visitó of one heart with the Pope!
I wish to say a special word to those who have been called to the contemplative life. Your constant prayer and sacrifice is the Churchís heart of love. That heart beats unseen but unceasingly for the redemption of sinners, for the sanctification of the just, and for the spread of the Gospel. In keeping with Godís ways, which are not always in line with our human way of thinking, your withdrawal from the things of this world increases rather that diminishes your influence upon them and becomes a source of boundless blessings for the whole human family. Through the hidden apostolic fruitfulness which the reality of your consecration imparts to Christís Mystical Body (Cfr. Perfectae Caritatis PC 7), your silent and cloistered life has a profound effect on the "earthly city" whose foundation must be laid "in the Lord" lest those who build labour in vain (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 46). May God grant the Church in Malta many more vocations to the contemplative life, and may he keep each one of you in his peace and joy.
5. To every Priest, Sister and Brother present here today and to all the clergy and religious of Malta I wish to express the gratitude of the Church for your service of the Gospel. Like Saint Paul who brought the Christian faith here so long ago, I "always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfil every good resolve and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in him" (2Th 1,11-12). To all of you I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.
Friday, 25 May 1990
Mr Prime Minister,
Honourable Members of Government, of Parliament and of the Judiciary,
Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I am very pleased to have this opportunity to address you at the beginning of my Pastoral Visit to Malta. As the first Pope to set foot on these islands, I am conscious of the significance of my visit not only for the members of the Catholic Church but for the entire Maltese nation. At the dawn of the Christian era, you ancestors received the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the preaching of the Apostle Paul as he made his way to Rome. In the centuries that followed, the faith taught and professed in communion with the Successor of Peter took firm root in the life and culture of Maltaís people. It is my hope that the presence of the Bishop of Rome in your midst will recall the unique and lasting contribution which the Christian faith has made, and continues to make, in shaping your identity as a nation and fostering its growth.
I thank you most heartily, Mr President, for your kind words of welcome and for favouring the realization of this visit. I rejoice in this opportunity to pay homage to the faith of the Maltese people and to proclaim the Gospel and celebrate the Eucharist in communion with the Pastors and faithful of the Churches of Malta and Gozo. During my visit, I hope to encourage and support all those who, amid the challenges and opportunities of the present time, remain committed to the impressive heritage of Christian values which your nation has received from generations past and which remains the sure pledge of her continued development in the future. As the bearers of an ancient tradition of faith, Maltaís Catholics are increasingly required, on this eve of the Third Christian Millennium, to deepen their awareness of this tradition, applying its wisdom and insights to the task of building a modern society worthy in every way of their noble land.
2. In our time, there is a growing consensus that the social and political life of nations must be founded upon absolute respect for the inalienable dignity and rights of each human person, regardless of race, religious beliefs or political opinions. In two World wars, as well as in the great changes which are now taking place in Central and Eastern Europe, we have seen entire peoples reject structures of power which effectively denied or betrayed their legitimate aspirations to live in a social order marked by freedom, justice and peace. As you are well aware, the task of establishing such a social order requires great patience, clear vision and moral maturity.
Above all else, it demands of each individual and social group a firm commitment to the pursuit of the common good. Also required is a forthright resolve to encourage respectful dialogue among all sectors of national life, while promoting laws and policies which safeguard the freedom and dignity of every citizen, with particular regard for the underprivileged and the most vulnerable, for the rights of families and those of workers. In the end, a nationís commitment to these values will be gauged by its efforts to see them ensured through widespread participation in the democratic process, the fair administration of justice and the fostering of a strong sense of social solidarity.
I am confident that these values will continue to inspire the future development of your country. I likewise trust that the nationís leadersó legislators, public officials, members of the judiciary and politiciansó as well as private groups and individual citizens, will be vigilant so that these principles are never sacrificed to tendencies which may arise from the influx of ideas or patterns of behaviour alien to Maltaís Christian tradition.
3. Having always taken an active part in the life of the nation, the Catholic Church wishes to offer her proper contribution to the progress of the Maltese people. Drawing from her centuries-old experience of assisting both individuals and society, the Church in Malta is deeply aware of her obligation to interpret the signs of the times in the light of the Gospel and to respond to the opportunities and challenges of the present day in a manner consonant with her religious mission. As the Bishops at the Second Vatican Council had occasion to point out, the Church is motivated by no earthly ambition (Cfr. Gaudium et Spes GS 3), and " has no desire to become involved in the government of the temporal order "(Ad Gentes AGD 12). Instead, she is committed to carry on Christís work by faithfully labouring for the salvation of all mankind and each individual, " considered whole and entire, with body and soul, heart and conscience, mind and will " (Gaudium et Spes GS 3).
As she bears witness to the love of Jesus Christ, the Church strives to unite all people of good will in a spirit of mutual respect and effective solidarity (Ibid.). In her ministry, she " heals and elevates the dignity of the human person,... consolidates society and endows the daily activity of men with a deeper sense and meaning " (Ibid. 40). Indeed, by being faithful to her identity and proper mission, the Church is convinced that she " can contribute much to humanizing the family of man and its history through each of its members and its community as a whole " (Gaudium et Spes GS 40).
Consequently, it is in the interest of everyone that the Church in the first place, as well as all those who are genuinely concerned for the good of individuals and society, should strive to preserve the Churchís autonomy of action. It is important that the Church should enjoy freedom in the institutional and administrative spheres and that she should be free from all undue pressures, obstacles and manipulation. In a word, it is essential that the Church should be enabled to act effectively in fulfilling her mission to all people, showing herself to be what she truly isó the mother of all the baptized (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 64), and, in a certain sense, of all mankind. Following the indications of the Second Vatican Council, the Church, in solidarity with the entire human family, expresses her love for that family by entering into dialogue with it on all the problems that affect it (Cfr. Gaudium et Spes GS 3).
In this regard, I cannot fail to note positive results from the continuing talks between the Maltese Government and the Holy See, the latter acting in close cooperation with Maltaís Bishops. So far, these talks have borne fruit in agreements which express and promote values which are an essential part of Maltaís historical, cultural and institutional patrimony, while also enabling the Church to continue to offer her contribution to that patrimony in full accordance with her distinct character and the requirements of her universal law. I am confident that in matters of common interest and with respect for the highest principles of freedom, justice and democracy, further agreements will soon be concluded.
4. Within the international community, Malta is widely respected for its initiatives aimed at strengthening understanding, cooperation, peace, and well-being among peoples. I am pleased to express also the Holy Seeís appreciation for these initiatives.
The presence among us of the many diplomats accredited to the Republic of Malta reflects the high esteem which your nation enjoys within the international community. In thanking them for their kind presence both at my arrival and at this ceremony, I ask them to convey to their respective Heads of State, Governments and people my warm greetings and best wishes. Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps: it is my fervent hope that your efforts to promote harmonious and mutually beneficial relations between your nations and the Republic of Malta will make a lasting contribution to the security and progress both of the Mediterranean area and of the entire world.
Ladies and Gentlemen: I am deeply grateful for the kindness and hospitality with which you have welcomed me. As I continue my Pastoral Visit, I cordially invoke upon you and upon all the beloved people of Malta the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
Saturday, 26 May 1990
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. I am pleased to have this opportunity to meet the parents and relatives of the priests, religious and laity of Malta engaged in pastoral work abroad. The dedicated response of so many of Maltaís sons and daughters to the Lordís call is a cause for great rejoicing, and bears witness to the spiritual fruitfulness of the Christian faith which the Apostle Paul brought to these islands so long ago. In the name of the whole Church I thank each one of you for all you have done through your prayer, your encouragement and your own sacrifice to help these men and women to discern and embrace the will of God in their lives.
It is very fitting that we should come together in prayer at Mellieha, the oldest Marian Sanctuary on the island of Malta. At the Annunciation, the Virgin of Nazareth freely accepted Godís invitation to become the Mother of his Son (Cfr. Luc Lc 1,38). After our Lordís Ascension into heaven, Mary was united with the Apostles in prayer as they waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus had promised to send (Cfr. Act. 1, 14). In the mysterious unfolding of Godís plan of salvation, we know that the Mother of Jesus has a privileged part to play. Trusting in her maternal love and protection, we do not hesitate to commend to her prayers the intentions of those who have followed Christís command to "go into all the world and preach the Gospel" (Marc. 16, 15).
2. Dear friends: todayís gathering is an occasion for us to recall with gratitude the role of the Christian family in fostering the vocations of its members and in advancing the mission of the Church. The Second Vatican Council reminded us that the family can truly be called a "domestic Church" (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 11), since it reflects many aspects of the entire body of believers. As a community of faith, hope and love, the family ought to be, in a very special way, "a place where the Gospel is transmitted and from which the Gospel radiates" (PAULI VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 71).
Can it be said that one of the reasons why your families have given so many missionaries to the Church is that you have a lively sense of your dignity and mission as baptized members of Christís Body, sent forth to bring the Gospel message to all whom you meet? Each Christian can apply to himself the words of Saint Paul: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" (1Co 9,16). Even in a country like Malta, where the Catholic faith has flourished for centuries, there is a need in every generation for men and women who, amid the ordinary circumstances of daily life, make evident to their neighbours the mystery of Godís love as it has been revealed in Jesus Christ. May Christian families continue to bring the leaven of the Gospel to the whole of Maltese society!