Speeches 1990 - St. Julien Church, Sliema
Sunday, 27 May 1990
Dear Young People of Malta,
Kuntent li qieghed fostkom
I am happy to be with you.
1. Si, Kuntent, Kuntent. I find the questions you put before me, through your representatives, are very kind, very positive and constructive. So, I am happy to be with you, and I shall try to give an answer to your questions.
I greet you all with great affection in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our gathering this morning is a wonderful gift of God to you and to me! In a certain sense, the Pope has come to Malta to challenge you with the very words we heard in the Scripture passage from the First Letter of Saint John. Are you "strong"? Does the "word of God abide in you"? Have you "overcome the evil one" (Cfr. 1 Io. 2, 14)? In the measure of that victory, your youth, your enthusiasm and your faith are a sign of great hope for the Church and for society.
As I listened to your kind words of welcome I could sense your desire to live according to Godís will and to take an ever more active part in the life of the Church in your country. You have also shared with me some of the hard questions which confront you and the difficulties which you experience in obeying the demands of the Christian life. In the time which we have together, I hope to give you some thoughts which come from my heart and are inspired by the faith which unites us in Jesus Christ our Lord.
2. More than one of your questions concerned the difficulty of doing what you know is God's will in the face of pressure from your peers and from certain trends in todayís society. I understand what you are saying. Sometimes, in answering Godís call, we do experience a kind of fear; we hesitate since we realize that obedience to God makes heavy demands on us. Like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, we feel " greatly distressed and troubled " (Marc. 14, 33), as we discover the immediate cost of obedience to the will of the Father. Our proud nature rebels against the thought of having to account for our lives and actions.
Yet, the idea of being accountable, of being personally responsible for the use of all the gifts that God has given to each one of us, is central to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You remember the story of the talents in the Gospel of Saint Matthew (Cfr. Matth. Mt 25,14-30). The master returned to settle the accounts with his stewards. To those who had been good administrators of his possessions he said: " Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master " (Ibid. 25, 21). But to the one who had done nothing to make his talent bear fruit, he said: " Take the talent from him... For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away " (Ibid. 25, 28-29).
Here the Lord is teaching a law that is at the heart of the Gospel message; something that young people everywhere easily understand.
Unless there is a deep commitment in life to what is true and good, unless there is a willingness to pay the price of victory, unless there is a determination to conquer self and really be helpful to others, life itself slips away in lack of direction and meaning. The great hopes of your youth may eventually disappear and die unless they are quickly translated into action, in other words, unless "you are strong" (Cfr. 1 Io. 2, 14).
3. On all sides we see young people full of the desire to make this world a better place, a kinder and more just place where all can find their home. These ideals are the fresh air that society desperately needs in order to renew itself continuously. But you yourselves know how strongly young people can also be absorbed by passing trends and short-lived goals; how they can be taken in by the promise of immediate happiness in irresponsible sexual behaviour, in drug addiction and alcohol, in the frivolous search for material things.
On the other hand, the programme of life that Jesus Christ offers leads to an authentic joy, a deep and lasting joy, a happiness that is rooted in the depths of the heart and lasts forever. You know that the joy of Easter, that joy which made the first disciplesí hearts burn within them (Cfr. Luc. Lc 24,32), does not come cheap. Christian joy involves accepting the mystery of the Cross. Did not Jesus teach us by his own example that only by losing our life do we find it? (Cfr. Matth. Mt 10,39).
Did he not say that the grain of wheat must fall to the earth and die if it is to bear fruit? (Cfr. Io. Jn 12,24). This is the Gospel law of life which Jesus presents once more to the youth of Malta. Are you strong enough to reject the false prophets and the merchants of death who have already made so many young people around the world think that there is no hope, nothing worth living for, no better world to work for even at great personal cost?
You asked me about temptations. All temptations are based on a lie, and are opposed to the truth which comes from God. They inevitably lead to disillusionment. As in the case of our first parents, temptation tries to make us believe that something other than Godís will can succeed in making us truly happy. Very often too, temptation is not a desire to do something that we know is wrong but to hold back from doing something we know is right, because we fear that we will not find the strength to follow it through. Again, the programme of life presented by Jesus involves a continuing struggle against temptation. There is nothing strange in this, and there is no need to be afraid: in Christ " you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one " (1 Io. 2, 14).
So, answering Jesusí call to follow him involves a life-long process of conversion. For most of you, conversion of mind and heart to Christ is more a matter of everyday decisions than the result of a sudden and emotion-filled moment. At the same time, certain decisions are very important, as for example when you decide to turn away from a pattern of behaviour that you know is sinful and destructive, or when you discern to which state in life God may be calling you: marriage, the priesthood or one of the many forms of consecrated life. But every decision you make, whether great or small, always remains an opportunity either to draw closer to God or to distance yourselves from him and from the truth which alone can set you free (Cfr. Io. Jn 8,32).
4. One of you has asked about difficult moments in my own life and what I learned from them. A very personal question! During the Second World War, at that time, you were not in this world, you were not yet the young citizens of this beautiful land of Malta. But the Second World War is a historical event, and some of us, myself also, have the experience of when my country was occupied, oppressed. It was not easy to work day after day in difficult circumstances. It was not easy to study at the university. It was not easy to see suffering and injustice on such a worldwide scale, and at the same time to continue to live the virtue of hope, trusting God and trusting other people. It was not easy to make room for the voice of the Lord calling me to a total self-giving in the priesthood and to study in secret under all kinds of limitations in preparation for that consecration. But no true vocation is easy!
What I learned in those and other "hard" moments was to judge all things in the light of Christ: the way, the truth and the life of every individual and of all peoples (Cfr. Io. Jn 14,6). The great Saint Paul warns us that there is only one proper foundation on which to buildĖ Jesus ChristĖ and each one of us must take care how we build on that foundation (Cfr. 1Co 3,10-11). Christ is the "bridegroom" (Cfr. Io. Jn 3,29), the "friend" (Cfr. ibid. 15, 14), the "companion" on the road of life, the one who fills our hearts with the same joy as he gave the disciples on the road to Emmaus! (Cfr. Luc. Lc 24,13-35). He is our "bread" (Cfr. Io. Jn 6,35), our "peace" (Cfr. Eph. Ep 2,14), the one who takes our burdens on himself and refreshes us in our fatigue (Cfr. Matth. Mt 11,28-30). And let us not forget, from the height of his Cross he gave us his own Mother to be our Mother (Cfr. Io. Jn 19,27), to comfort us and guide us in every trial and challenge. No, young people of Malta, you are never alone when you strive to do Godís will and obey his commandments (Cfr. ibid. 14, 21). When you experience doubts of difficulties, never be afraid to approach the Lord as he makes himself present to you in prayer and in the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. There you will not only find his loving forgiveness but you will also receive the strength you need to persevere in joyfully doing his will.
Giving Christ first place in your lives, however, not only involves a conversion of the heart; it also involves a continuous conversion of the mind. As disciples, you are called to judge all things in the light of Christ. At every moment of your lives, in every decision you make, you must ask yourselves: "Does my way of thinking and acting correspond to the mind of Christ?". It is important to remember this as you debate ideas and values which are common enough in modern society but which may well be in contrast with the liberating truth about man as we have learned it from Christ. For the authentic Christian, the Gospel is the criterion of every decision and every action. In a word, everything must be judged by Godís standards, not by those of man (Cfr. Marc. 8, 33).
5. You have shared with me some of the hurt which you feel at the divisiveness and hostility you see around you. You clearly recognize that these attitudes are contrary to the Gospel, and when they are tolerated or encouraged by those who profess to be followers of Christ the credibility of the Gospel itself is compromised. Here too you must be strong. Each of you is called to spread Christís reconciling love to those around you. The building of peace between individuals or within social groups requires great patience, respect for the convictions of others, and a sincere attempt to engage in a constructive dialogue aimed at discerning the truth and working together for the good of each other and all society.
The greatest contribution which you can make to healing the wounds of division, wherever they may be found, will come from your commitment to act with a mature Christian conscience. You must judge all things in the light of your faith in Christ. Realize that Christ has set you free! You are not bound by the mistakes, grudges and biases inherited from the past. God has given you the youth, the energy and the idealism to create new models of cooperation. Do not be afraid to use these gifts, and to apply your faith to each one of your relationships, to family life, to your work, to your involvement in society, to every area of your life! At home, at school and at work, be artisans of a new solidarity, one rooted in the generous Christianity which is Maltaís most precious inheritance from past generations!
Before coming to the conclusion, I shall repeat that you really asked me very kind questions. I shall say you found the questions in the Gospel, in the same source in which I am finding the answers.
Now during the introductory speech your representative maybe also gave half of my speech. He did my work.
6. Dear young people of Malta: I leave you with the assurance that you have a very special place in the Church of Christ as she strives to fulfil the mission of reconciliation and salvation which she received from the Lord. By receiving the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist, you have become full members of the Church. You share fully in her mission of sanctifying the world and imbuing all temporal realities with the spirit of Christ (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 31).
The Church needs you. She needs each of you individually, but she also needs the testimony of your parish communities, your associations and movements. She needs you to bear witness to the holiness, the justice, the loving service of the poor and the needy which are the mark of Christís true disciples. The Church needs you to be imbued with the spirit of Christ, strong in your commitment to building his kingdom. Today the Pope makes this appeal to you: never be afraid to give yourselves fully to God as you strive to live out the vocation he has given you in Christ! Never lose hope in Godís power to sustain you along the way, even when situations seem most hopeless! Be strong and overcome the evil one! Let the word of God abide in you! (Cfr. 1 Io. 2, 14). I am confident that from your generosity and youthful enthusiasm the Lord will bring forth rich fruits for the life of the Church and for the good of Malta.
I repeat my great affection to all of you, to every one of you, to the young people, and I commend you all to the loving prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a time when she, Mother of Christ, is praying with the apostles waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit, for Pentecost. She is praying also with us; she is praying with you, and to these loving prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary I commend all of you.
Sunday, 27 May 1990
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. It is a particular joy for me to have this opportunity of meeting members of the various Churches and ecclesial communities present in Malta. I greet you in the name of our one Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and I assure you of my gratitude for your presence here this afternoon.
We gather as Christians in response to the call of God. The ecumenical movement, which is a work not principally of man but of the Holy Spirit, is a grace for the times in which we live. It is a gift for which we may fittingly give thanks and praise to God. Throughout the decades of this century, our eyes have been opened and we see more clearly that the unity of Christians is truly the will of God, and that we are called to cooperate in bringing it about. The search for Christian unity requires us to rediscover our common heritage of faith and of moral values. It involves the exercise of a common memory whereby together we appropriate the great truths of faith and expose the wounds of the past to the healing love of our Risen and Glorious Saviour. Full communion of all people in faith and sacramental life is Godís plan for his family. That plan was revealed in Christ and is becoming progressively clearer to us under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
2. There is a special poignancy in our considering this challenge in the place where we are gathered today. Here in the Cathedral of Mdina, we are in the old city the "Vecchia Cittŗ" of Malta. According to popular tradition this Cathedral is built on the site of the palace of Publius, the "protos" of the island, who welcomed Paul of Tarsus when he suffered shipwreck on his way to Rome. The Acts of the Apostles recounts: "the island was called Malta. The inhabitants treated us with unusual kindness. They made us welcome and they lit a huge fire because it had started to rain and the weather was cold" (Act. 28, 1-2).
The figure of Saint Paul illuminates the ecumenical and missionary task that Christians face today. His writings put vividly before us the central message of the Gospel: that Jesus Christ is our only Saviour and that we find eternal life through faith in him. The work of Christ his saving Death and Resurrection is the centre of our faith. This is the Good News we have all received. It is a message that has been welcomed throughout the ages by the people of Malta. It has inspired them to follow in the footsteps of Saint Paul by proclaiming this Good News in many parts of the world, imitating his courage and zeal, and his willingness to make great sacrifices for the sake of the Gospel.
Today, as we approach the third millennium of the Christian era, it is incumbent, upon all of us who have been baptized into Christ to bear strong and ever more united witness to him. The differences which prevent us from enjoying the fullness of unity in faith and sacramental life which is the will of Christ for his followers should not distract us from the wonder of what we have in common: a personal Saviour who died and rose that we might live. The quest for Christian unity and the call to witness are intimately related. It should never be thought that missionary endeavour and ecumenical endeavour are somehow in competition, or that one develops at the expense of the other. Our very striving for unity itself bears witness to the healing and reconciling work of God. We seek ever deeper reconciliation with one another so that the world may see more clearly that "God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself" (2Co 5,19).
3. It is in the context of these reflections that I would take the opportunity of commending the work of the Catholic Ecumenical Commission. The Maltese people are almost entirely Catholic and the other Christians mostly come from overseas. Yet the Catholics of Malta have not failed to grasp that "the Catholic Church is committed to the ecumenical movement with an irrevocable decision and desires to contribute to it with all its possibilities" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Allocutio ad Patres Cardinales Romanaeque Curiae Praelatos et Officiales coram admissos, 10, die 28 iun. 1985: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, VIII, 1  1999).
The responsibility of carrying out this task does not lie only with those countries where there is a strong presence of Orthodox, Anglican, or Protestant Christians alongside the Catholic Church. On the contrary, those countries are in great need of the prayer, interest and support of countries with a large Catholic majority. When another Church or ecclesial community agrees to enter into dialogue with the Catholic Church, it enters into a new relationship with the whole of the Catholic Church. The Ecumenical Commission in Malta, recognizing this fact, has aimed at fostering an ecumenical spirit within the Catholic community. This has in turn created a cordial relationship between Catholics and the other Christians living here. The importance of your local work and of these good relations should not be underestimated.
4. Dear friends, over nineteen hundred years ago Malta received and warmly welcomed the great bearer of the message of reconciliation: the Apostle Paul. The Maltese received him in kindness and charity and his message has taken root in this land. I urge you all today to welcome once more the message of Paul that "God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself" (2Co 5,9). I urge you to enter deeply into the prayer of Christ: "May they all be one, Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me" (Jn 17,21).
To the representatives of the Muslim community I express my heartfelt greeting and thank you for your presence. I assure you that the Catholic Church looks to you with sentiments of brotherhood and esteem, trusting that much good in the service of humanity can come from increased understanding and dialogue between us. Indeed, it is important that all believers in the Merciful and Almighty God should strive together to promote and safeguard, for all mankind, social justice, moral values, peace and an effective and mutually applicable religious freedom (Cfr. Nostra Aetate NAE 3).
Let us all be fervent in prayer and strong in hope. May God who has begun the good work in us bring it to fulfilment. Amen.
Sunday, 27 May 1990
Mr Prime Minister,
Dear Archbishop Mercieca and Bishop Cauchi,
Beloved People of Malta,
1. Earlier today, at Rabat, I was privileged to spend a few moments in silent prayer at the ancient Grotto venerated as Saint Paulís dwelling during his stay in Malta. In that holy place, I gave thanks to God for the rich harvest of faith and good works which he has brought forth among you since the Apostle of the Gentiles first proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ to your forebears. I also thanked the Lord for the "unusual kindness" (Cfr. Act. 28, 2), with which, nineteen centuries later, another visitor, the Successor of Peter, was welcomed to Malta as he came to preach the same Gospel and to confirm his Maltese brothers and sisters in the same faith (Cfr. Luc Lc 22,32).
This evening, as I return to Rome, I wish to express my gratitude to all who have helped to make this Pastoral Visit possible. In the first place, I renew my thanks to you, Mr President, for your gracious welcome. I am also grateful to you. Mr Prime Minister, and to the Government and civil authorities who have so readily provided assistance in organizing the events of these past days. Of course, I cannot fail to express my deep gratitude to my Brothers Bishops and to the priests, religious and laity of the Churches of Malta and Gozo for the warm reception accorded me at every stage of my Visit.
2. Throughout my time in Malta, I have been impressed by the deep attachment of the Maltese people to their cultural and religious heritage. Your desire to be faithful to this precious legacy as you seek to promote your development for the good of all is certainly a sign of great hope for Maltaís future. Your traditions are a wonderful expression of your national character and identity. May they continue to guide your steps and strengthen your resolve.
During my Visit I have appealed to all who have the good of the nation at heartĖ political and social leaders, workers, intellectuals, the young people, as well as the members of other Churches and ecclesial communities: I have urged you to apply to the challenges of the present time the Christian vision which you have inherited from your past. In making this appeal, I have also expressed my confidence that you will work together generously and effectively to create a society inspired by the highest ideals of justice and peace, and marked by special attention to the needs of the less fortunate members of the community.
3. Beyond her own borders, Malta is esteemed for her efforts to promote dialogue and cooperation within the international community. Your efforts in this regard will be greatly strengthened by an equal commitment to see those values realized at home, within the social and political life of your nation. My parting wish for you is that unity, solidarity and mutual respect may ever lead you on as you strive for your countryís continued progress.
With renewed thanks to Almighty God for the many blessings we have shared during these days, I pray, in the words of Saint Paul, that "the Lord of peace will give you peace at all times in all ways" (Cfr. 2Th 3,16). May love and harmony always dwell in your hearts and in your homes.
God Bless Malta.
God bless you all.
Il-mulei Issŗwwab fuqkom il-barka tieghu
(The Lord bestows his blessing on you).
Dear Friends from Liverpool,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you here on the occasion of your pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi. Your presence brings to mind my visit to your city eight years ago. You have come from Great Britain in order to deepen your faith through prayer and reflection at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and at the places connected with Saint Francis, whose example and teaching have a special appeal throughout the Christian world and far beyond. As Catholics, Anglicans, and members of the Free Churches, your pilgrimage is also an ecumenical search for greater mutual understanding amid the divisions that have separated Christians in your country for over four hundred years.
I am confident that the experience of these days will not disappoint you. In Rome and Assisi you come into contact with a heritage which in a way belongs to all Christians. We have only to reflect on how the Gospel spread, beginning with the life and ministry of the Apostles, especially Peter and Paul, and the great martyrs, confessors and pastors who followed them, first in the Mediterranean world and then throughout Europe and elsewhere. It was from this city that my predecessor Pope Saint Gregory the Great sent Saint Augustine of Canterbury to England. His labours, together with those of other faithful heralds of Christís Gospel, left an indelible mark on your country: the mark of the Spirit, the sign of faith. As for Saint Francis of Assisi, he too bears witness to an age when, at least in the West, the Church remained united. I am sure that his example of Christian love and joyful self-giving will inspire you to ever greater efforts on the path towards the unity of all Christís followers.
But your reflection on the personages, deeds and monuments of the past would remain only a dead letter without the living presence of the Holy Spirit, whose descent at Pentecost we are about to celebrate this Sunday. He is the "Spirit of truth" who, as Christ promised, "teaches us all things" and remains with us "forever" (Cfr. Io. Jn 14,17 Jn 26,16). As the "giver of life" (Cfr. Symbolum Nicaenum), he can help us to heal the divisions introduced into the Church in the course of the centuries since the first Pentecost. It is our task "to do all in our power to cooperate with the grace of the Holy Spirit, who alone can lead us to the day when we will profess the fullness of our faith together" (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Allocutio in Cathedrali templo Cantuariensi habita, 3, die 29 maii 1982: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, V, 2  1935).
As you continue your journey, may the Holy Spirit be with you to transform your minds and hearts and give you an ever greater love and understanding. Upon each of you and your families may he bestow an abundance of joy and peace.
It is with great joy that I welcome Shaykh Abdulla and the other members of the Supreme Council of the Mandaean religious community on this your first visit to the Holy See.
There are many points of contact between your religion and the Christian faith. You believe in the One God, the Creator of all. The high regard which you have for John the Baptist and the honour in which you hold the person of Jesus, the cousin of John the Baptist, is the reason why you are pleased to call us "your cousins".
It is auspicious that your visit comes during the season of Pentecost, when Christians centre their attention in prayer on the Holy Spirit. For in your tradition, as in the Gospel account, when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit came down upon him in the form of a dove.
I am pleased to learn about the small but thriving community of Mandaeans living in Iraq and other nations. In your closely-knit community you place great emphasis on the family. At the present time, when the family is under threat from so many different quarters, this is a field of cooperation which could be very fruitful.
I am glad that you have been able to have conversations at the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and with other departments of the Roman Curia. I hope that the dialogue which you have begun will continue, and I pray to God that he will bless it with abundant fruit.
Saturday, 16 June 1990
My dear Brothers in Christ,
1. Once again, five years after your last ad Limina visit, we are gathered together in Godís love, which has been poured forth into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Cfr. Rom. Rm 5,5). It is that transcendent love which generates and sustains our consecration and dedication to the service of the Church, the Body of Christ. As Bishops of the Church in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, you have come to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul in order to bear witness to your faith and the faith of your peoples in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church founded on the Apostles and obedient to the one Lord, our Saviour Jesus Christ. "Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word" (2Th 2,16).
2. The particular Churches over which you preside in the service of the Gospel share many of the same spiritual joys and trials, and yet they differ from one another in the ethnic variety of your people, in the religious traditions they follow, and in significant aspects of the political and social circumstances in which they live. Some of the faithful have recently come into the Church, while others have a long tradition of Catholic life behind them. In the midst of this diversity, you, the Pastors, have a specific vocation to unity and an essential part in building up the unity of the Body, for "God has gathered together as one all those who in faith look upon Jesus as the author of salvation and the source of unity and peace... that for each and all the Church may be the visible sacrament of this saving unity" (Lumen Gentium LG 9).
As successors of the Apostles you are bound to one another, to the other members of the College spread throughout the world and to the Successor of Peter, in a deep and abiding hierarchical communion that is both an organic ecclesial reality and a specific experience of charity (Cfr. ibid., nota praevia explicat). Thus, your pastoral action in word and deed ought to be so marked by unity and love that the faithful will more easily sense their belonging to a Church that is a universal family, "the household of God in the Spirit... a holy temple in the Lord... a dwelling place of God" (Cfr. Eph. Ep 2,19-22).
To work at building up this unity and mutual solidarity between yourselves as Bishops and between your communities is to go to the very heart of the Christian mystery, to hear the prayer of Christ himself and to give it concrete expression in your lives and ministry: "that they also may be one in us, so that the world may believe" (Jn 17,21). In the final analysis, this is the call which Christ addresses to the Bishops, priests, religious and laity of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei; this is the programme of pastoral ministry to which your endeavours must tend; this is the motive behind your efforts to help and encourage one another, and to foster concrete forms of solidarity and cooperation between your particular Churches, "so that the world may believe".
3. One of our principal tasks during this ad Limina visit must be to give thanks to God for the vitality and growth of the Church in your region. You are a pusillus grex and you have many difficulties to face, but you are also witnesses of the working of grace in the hearts of your people. You see the laityís thirst for the word of God, for an increased knowledge of the faith, for greater responsibility in the daily life of their communities and in the Churchís mission, and you can testify to a new growth of prayergroups and movements capable of helping the faithful to deepen their spiritual life and the Christian witness. Groups such as the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, the Legion of Mary, Renewal in the Spirit and many others, as well as "basic communities", in so far as they are in genuine communion with the Church, are a source of present strength and a great hope for the future.
One of the main challenges of the present hour in your ecclesial communities in how to offer lay men and women the formation they need in order to take an ever more effective part in the task of evangelization and of inculturating the Gospel. Together with their generous and devoted Christian living, they also need a "totally integrated formation" in the faith and in the Churchís social doctrine (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Christifideles Laici CL 60), in order to avoid a separation of the Gospel from daily life. This "vital synthesis" of Gospel and life should be evident in the convincing testimony which the lay faithful give in every sphere of their activity, "where, not fear but the loving pursuit of Christ and adherence to him will be the factors determining how a person is to live and grow, and these will lead to new ways of living more in conformity with human dignity" (Ibid. 34).
4. The priests are your closest, cooperators in the ministry, and their daily labours reflect the compassionate love of the Good Shepherd for the flock. Engaged as they are in widespread and intensive pastoral activities, the members of the presbyterium need your encouragement and guidance in order to maintain a proper balance between spirituality and action, between their specific priestly ministry aimed at building up Godís kingdom and the many other related aspects of their service to their brothers and sisters. All that you do to promote a cordial personal relationship with your priests, as well as harmony and mutual assistance among the priests themselves, will undoubtedly be of advantage to your Dioceses, not only because all of this produces a positive environment for the ministry, but above all because the presbyterium should be a particular reflection of the " intimate sacramental brotherhood " that unites all who have received priestly consecration (Cfr. Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 8). In fact, the great sign of fidelity to Christ is the exercise of an effective and universal love without discrimination of persons, which, following the example of Jesus himself, entails at the same time a love of preference for the least of our brothers and sisters, the poor and the defenceless. I ask you to take my greetings to your priests and to assure them of my prayer that the Holy Spirit will fill their hearts with just such an evangelical love.
5. Ever since the Second Vatican Council a new emphasis has been given to the ecclesial nature of Religious life and to the strengthening of mutual relations between Bishops and the Religious Institutes and their members present in each Diocese. Each of you has much to be grateful for with regard to the life and work of the men and women Religious who are a "sign" in your particular Churches of the holiness of God and a "prophetic testimony" which calls to conversion and to the values of the kingdom (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 44). The increasing numbers of vocations, especially among Women Religious, and the attention being given to formation, not only brings encouragement and solidity to the Catholic community, but also makes the Churchís presence more widely felt in the community at large through the social, educational and health-care activities in which Religious are engaged, and which constitute "an increasingly clearer revelation of Christ" (Ibid. 46). In particular, the prayer and penance, solitude and silence of contemplative Religious "impart a hidden, apostolic fruitfulness" that plays an important part in making Godís people grow (Cfr. Perfectae Caritatis PC 7).
It is your pastoral task to support Religious in their persevering pursuit of a deeper configuration with the Death and Resurrection of Christ for the glory of the Father. With understanding of the nature of Religious life and with respect for the charism proper to each Institute, you are called to foster the growth of these communities and, as those responsible for the well-being of your Dioceses, to coordinate their pastoral action through dialogue and mutual agreement.
6. Dear Brother Bishops, I am aware of the special and not easy circumstances in which you exercise your ministry, and I share your concern at the problems confronting you in relation to the Churchís full freedom to carry out her religious mission. In Malaysia, the increasing Islamization of social and civic life has at times appeared to you and to other non-Muslim communities to encroach upon the fundamental right of individuals and groups to practise their faith without interference. This of course is a cause of deep concern to you. I am pleased to note that in a recent meeting between the Prime Minister and non-Muslim religious leaders assurances were given in this respect and I express the hope that all will work together in harmony in order to ensure their practical implementation.
I am also aware of the concerns which Archbishop Yong has opportunely expressed regarding the proposed "Maintenance of Religious Harmony Bill". I am confident that friendly discussions about these matters will benefit everyone. Experience shows that the honest confrontation of ideas and convictions among citizens has been an indispensable condition for maintaining harmony within society and for the development of civilization. At the same time, religious conviction cannot be separated from moral judgement, and morality applies not only to private and personal matters but to all that constitutes the structure and course of public life in society.
The right of individuals and communities to social and civil freedom in matters of religion is one of the pillars which support the edifice of human rights. Fortunately, throughout the world there is a growing awareness of the importance of fundamental rights in building just and stable societies capable of expressing the aspirations of peoples to live in dignity and freedom. Moreover, citizens who fear undue adverse reactions when they express their convictions cannot share fully in the construction of the society in which they live. The Second Vatican Council enunciated the principles which ought to govern cooperation between the public authorities and the Church: "In their proper spheres the political community and the Church are independent and self-governing, although, by a different title, each serves the personal and social vocation of the same human beings. This service can be more effectively rendered for the good of all if each works better for wholesome mutual cooperation... For man is not restricted to the temporal sphere. While living in history he fully maintains his eternal vocation" (Gaudium et Spes GS 76).
7. These are some of the thoughts which your visit suggests. They are meant above all to express my own concern for all the Churches and my desire to encourage you in your delicate task as Shepherds of the Lordís flock. I commend you and your Dioceses to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, that her protection may accompany the steps you take in order to preach the word of Truth and to gather together the whole People of God in faith and holiness of life. May the Lord Jesus Christ help you to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God (Cfr. 1Co 4,1), and courageous witnesses to the Gospel of grace (Cfr. Rom. Rm 15,16), and to Godís glorious power to make men just (Cfr. 2Co 3,8-9). The peace of God be ever with you!
Speeches 1990 - St. Julien Church, Sliema