Speeches 1991 - Monday, 28 January 1991
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am especially pleased to welcome the participants in the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, on the occasion of your visit to Rome. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Ph 1,2).
In the Graduate School, during the last few months, you have reflected on the theme: "Come Holy Spirit— Renew the Whole Creation", which is also the theme of the Seventh Assembly of the World Council of Churches now taking place in Canberra. The Holy Spirit, "the Lord and Giver of Life", as we profess in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, is indeed the One who vivifies, animates and renews the whole of creation. The Psalmist describes this with awe and hope when he exclaims: "You hide your face, they are dismayed; you take back your spirit, they die, returning to the dust from which they came. You send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the earth" (Ps 104 , 29-30).
The Spirit is also the source of all that the Father communicates through the Son for the salvation of the world. In a special way his work is directed to the confirmation of God’s people in the truth. We read in the Gospel of John: "When the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth" (Jn 16,13).
Because of this, the Holy Spirit is the primary agent of Christian unity. He inspires all genuine efforts to increase understanding, cooperation and unity among Christ’s disciples. In a particular way, he opens the path to reconciliation, not only among people but throughout creation. That is why it is possible to pray: "Come Holy Spirit - Renew the Whole Creation".
In the recent Encyclical which I devoted to the theme of the Church’s missionary activity, I recalled that "efforts towards (Christian) unity are themselves a sign of the work of reconciliation which God is bringing about in our midst" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Redemptoris Missio RMi 50). We must be convinced that the most urgent and impelling part of the divine plan to reconcile all things in Christ relates, in a pre-eminent way, to the unity of all who have been buried with him in Baptism (Cfr. Col. Col 2,12).
Your study and prayerful reflection at Bossey will surely have inspired you to thank God for all that you have received from him through the Holy Spirit. Your visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul here in Rome has perhaps brought to your mind the wonderful way in which the Spirit worked through their ministry in the early community of believers, as described in the Acts of the Apostles. As you return to your own communities, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope" (Rm 15,13).
Thursday, 28 February 1991
Dear Archbishop Mahony,
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I am very pleased to welcome you on the occasion of the Board Meeting of Serra International. My special greeting goes to your Episcopal Advisor and to your International President. I pray that God will abundantly bless your deliberations during these days, so that Serra International may further the spiritual growth of its members and persevere in its important goal of fostering vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
The promotion of these special vocations is indeed essential for the Church’s life and mission. While it is true that all the baptized have a role to play in the salvation of the world, it is the ordained priest who makes possible the Church’s sacramental communion around the Eucharist, "the source and summit of Christian life" (Lumen Gentium LG 11). At the same time, the life of consecration according to the evangelical counsels is the radical sign within the Church that the demands of the Gospel are being met in the total gift of self to God and his Kingdom as exemplified in the life of Christ.
An increase of vocations to the priesthood and religious life is needed today in order to strengthen the whole Church and each of her members for the universal mission which has been entrusted to her: that all may believe and be saved. This is God’s work, not our own; we are his servants, the instruments of his loving plan. In obedience to Christ’s command, we "pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest" (Lc 10,2), because we recognize that the initiative for every vocation rests with God and not ourselves. Hence the importance of prayer, so earnestly promoted by Serra International, that God will bless his Church with many more holy and dedicated priests and religious.
At the same time we also recognize that an environment must be created in which God’s call can be heard, understood and accepted. By cherishing the ideals and the necessity of priestly and religious life in the face of widespread neglect or indifference, your organization tends the seedbed of God’s planting, his gentle summons to respond to these special vocations within the context of the family, the local community, the parish and the diocese.
Dear brothers and sisters, on behalf of the whole Church I thank you and all the members of "Serra International" for the efforts you are making to foster vocations through your prayers and activities. We must be confident that however great the Church’s needs, the "Lord of the harvest" will not fail to heed our prayers or to make our efforts fruitful, in his own time and in his own way. I invoke upon you the intercession of your patron, Blessed Junipero Serra, and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and your families.
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. I am pleased to meet once more the members and staff of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, on the occasion of your annual Plenary Assembly. At these meetings in the past I have often referred to the providential nature of the Second Vatican Council’s attention to the means of social communication. Their importance for "the spread and strengthening of God’s kingdom", as well as for "the advancement of the human family as a whole", gives them a special place in the Church’s mission and missionary endeavours (Inter Mirifica IM 2).
2. In the recent Encyclical "Redemptoris Missio", I compared the world of communications to the first "Areopagus of the modern age", taking the Areopagus where Saint Paul preached in Athens (Act. 17, 22-31)as a symbol of the new sectors in which the Gospel must be proclaimed (Ioannis Pauli PP. II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 37). The fact that the means of social communication have become the chief sources of information and education, of guidance and inspiration, at the level of individual, family and social behaviour, invites the members of the Church clearly to recognize their importance. Not only is the Church’s presence needed in the media in order to strengthen the preaching of the Gospel, but it is especially necessary in order to ensure that the Gospel message is integrated into the "new culture" being created by modern communications. This task is all the more urgent in so far as the world of the communications media often affords an example of the split between the Gospel and culture, which Pope Paul VI called "the tragedy of our time" (Pauli VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 20).
I recall these reflections in order to underline the relevance and significance of your responsibilities within the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and the Council’s role in the Church’s evangelizing and missionary tasks. I wish to encourage you to continue to give the best of your commitment and talent to meeting the challenges facing the Church in this field.
3. Your present Plenary Meeting commemorates the Twentieth Anniversary of the Pastoral Instruction "Communio et Progressio", which was published in response to an explicit request of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council (Inter Mirifica IM 23). You have been completing the work of updating that Document, an "aggiornamento" aimed at responding to new situations and new technologies. At the same time, you have seen that the basic principles of "Communio et Progressio" remain as valid and as vital today as they where two decades ago.
The changes in technology and indeed in society to which you are addressing yourselves include the fact that the media now make it possible for people everywhere to witness events as they occur. Nevertheless, the way in which events are perceived often depends on the views of those who control the flow of information and possess the technical means to broadcast it. In this area, "Communio et Progressio" offered guidelines that are of great value for society in the use of the communications media.
Recalling that "modern man cannot do without information that is full, consistent, accurate and true" (Pontificii Consilii de Communicationibus Socialibus, Instr. pastoralis Communio et Progressio, 34), the Pastoral Instruction asserts that "society, at all levels, requires information if it is to choose the right course . . .; (information) is essential to the public interest" (Ibid. 35). Appropriately, in view of the ethical principles involved, the Pastoral Instruction goes on to state: "The right to information is not limitless. It has to be reconciled with other existing rights. There is the right of truth which guards the good name both of men and of societies. There is the right of privacy which protects the private life of families and individuals. There is the right of secrecy which obtains if necessity or professional duty or the common good itself require it. Indeed, whenever public good is at stake, discretion and discernment and careful judgment should be used in the preparation of news" (Ibid. 42).
4. All of this takes on particular relevance against the background of the grave situation of the Middle East. It can well be said that the current conflict has been waged not only with the weapons of war but also, to some degree, through the media. While the means of social communication have been instrumental in keeping the world informed of events, we have also seen that where respect for the truth is lacking they can be a powerful force for injustice.
In relation to all situations of violence, it is timely to recall, twenty years after they were written, certain words of concern contained in "Communio et Progressio" about the difficult and responsible role of men and women of the media. "The safety of such correspondents", the Pastoral Instruction says, "should be man’s right to know about what is happening. This is particolarly true in the case of wars - which involve and concern the whole human race. So the Church utterly condemns the use of violence against newsmen or against anyone involved in the passing on of news. For these persons vindicate and practise the right of finding out what is happening and of passing on this information to others" ((Pontificii Consilii de Communicationibus Socialibus, Instr. pastoralis Communio et Progressio, 34).
The reporting of war, and the dramatic scenes of human suffering and material destruction which accompany it, ought to spur us to pray unceasingly for the advent of a just peace and lasting reconciliation between all the parties involved in the Middle East crisis. The instability which war necessarily leaves in its wake should move all believers to implore more intensely still from Almighty God the gift of that peace which the world cannot give (Jn 14,27).
5. Dear Brothers and Sisters, in concluding, I cannot but express my appreciation for the Pontifical Council’s work in coordinating the worldwide satellite transmission of religious ceremonies which take place here in the City of the Apostles Peter and Paul. These telecasts have made it possible for the people of many nations to be united in prayer. They have helped to heighten the awareness of the universal nature of the Church, by making her members present to each other and by transmitting round the globe knowledge of the magisterium of the Successor of Peter. Your work in this field is surely a true apostolate and a magnificent form of service to God’s kingdom.
With the prayer that your efforts to promote a better use of the means of social communication in the Church and in society will continue to bear fruit in peace, justice and unity, I commend you to the loving protection of Mary, Mother of the Church, and I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing.
I am pleased to have the opportunity of greeting the newly ordained Deacons of the Pontifical North American College, together with your families and the Rector and the faculty members responsible for your formation.
At your Ordination yesterday each new Deacon received a precious spiritual gift, namely, the imposition of hands "unto a ministry of service" (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 29). Like all God’s gifts, this sacramental grace will help you to attain a more fruitful union with the Lord and to live fully the particular vocation which you have received in the communion of the Church. You have been chosen to preach the Gospel and to lead others to the "obedience of faith" in Christ Jesus (Cfr. Rom. Rm 16,26). How essential it is, then, that you constantly deepen your own faith in Christ and your oneness of mind and heart with his Church! Since "the witness of a Christian life is the first and irreplaceable form of mission" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Redemptoris Missio RMi 42), the effectiveness of your ministry will greatly depend upon how clearly your lives reveal the freedom and joy which you have found in Christ. Never doubt that in responding to the Lord’s call with an undivided heart you will become a challenging sign to others of the power of his grace and the saving truth of his word.
Most probably it was through your parents and the members of your families— many of whom are present hare— that you first came to know the divine gifts of faith and love. May the Lord reward the Christian witness and generous support of all those who have accompanied you on the journey you are making towards the priesthood. In the end, your fidelity and zeal in fulfilling the charge you have received will be the best and most lasting way for you to express your thanks to them.
I assure you of my prayers as you take up the "ministry of Liturgy, word and charity" (Lumen Gentium LG 29), and I ask the Risen Lord to strengthen you always in joyful service of his People. May Mary, Mother of the Church and Patroness of your College, accompany you and guide you in that new life which Jesus her Son has won for us by his glorious Resurrection from the dead. As a pledge of Easter joy, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. I am pleased to have the opportunity to meet such a large number of Superiors and Moderators of Institutes of Consecrated Life having their origin in the missionary charism of Bishop de Mazenod and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. This flowering of Religious Families is one more sign of the greatness of the Blessed Bishop of Marseilles, whom my predecessor Pope Paul VI once described as "passionné de Jésus Christ et inconditionnel de l’Église" (Pauli VI Homilia occasione sollemnis Beatificationis Episcopi Eugenii de Mazenod, die 19 oct. 1975: Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, XIII  1145). In addition to the Sisters of the Holy Family, who are affiliated with the Oblates, and the Work for Youth founded by Father Timon-David, more than forty Communities of consecrated persons have grown up around the Institute of the Oblates or as a result of their work.
Your foundations have become specific responses to the Church’s missionary needs, offering not only new forms of apostolate but at times new ways of being missionaries as well. The contemplative Communities have borne witness to the need for prayer and for full consecration to God as the irreplaceable soul of all missionary activity. The Secular Institutes have expressed the importance of a new Christian presence in the world. And other foundations have given abundantly of themselves in order to provide spiritual enrichment for priests and other members of the Church.
The goals of your Institutes express some of the many ways in which the Church’s one mission is carried out: through prayer and contemplation, as well as through evangelization and missionary proclamation, the formation of young people, service of the poor, works of charity and education, and the various forms of involvement in the work of justice and peace. At the same time, they express a great adaptability to the requirements of the places where they have spread and where they are providing pastoral service. Thus, the Oblate ideal is expanding throughout the world with creativity and originality.
The idea of holding this meeting, sponsored by the current Superior of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, is a source of satisfaction, and I hope that it will lead to an increase of communion and collaboration between the different Families, for a deepening of your common charism.
2. A first characteristic of your common identity and the deepest source of the special bond that unites you in the Oblate Family is your consecration to God and to the spreading of his kingdom. Nothing in your personal and community lives makes sense if it is separated from your condition as persons consecrated to Christ through the profession and practice of the evangelical counsels. Your pursuit of the "perfection of charity" (Cfr. Perfectae Caritatis PC 1), constitutes the basic path and obligation of all your Institutes. Holiness and the witness of Christian life remain your first common duty; as General Moderators, your have a special responsibility to guide the members of your Institutes— in the words of the Second Vatican Council— "to persevere and make greater progress in the vocation to which God has called (you), for the richer holiness of the Church and the greater glory of the one and undivided Trinity, which in Christ and through Christ is the source and origin of all holiness" (Lumen Gentium LG 47).
3. Le deuxième caractère commun à toutes vos familles est la mission. Vos Instituts, qui ont vu le jour en général dans des pays de mission pour répondre aux défis missionnaires des divers milieux culturels et religieux, sont destinés à vivre intensément leur engagement à annoncer le Christ à ceux qui ne le connaissent pas. La mission est toujours d’une très grande actualité aujourd’hui; elle est la tâche principale de l’Église; elle est une nécessité urgente pour notre temps. Vous qui êtes réunis ici, vous exprimez, en quelque manière, la variété des voies missionnaires, tandis que par les dons particuliers de votre vie consacrée, vous illustrez dans l’Église les multiples visages de la charité et de la contemplation, de l’annonce de l’Évangile et de la promotion de la personne humaine, du dialogue et de l’inculturation. "On ne peut témoigner du Christ sans refléter son image, qui est rendue vivante en nous par la grâce et par l’action de l’Esprit... Celui qui a l’esprit missionnaire éprouve le même amour que le Christ pour les âmes et aime l’Église comme le Christ" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Redemptoris Missio, RMi 87 et 89).
4. Tout charisme vient de l’Esprit et se développe dans l’Église, en contribuant a répondre aux nouveaux défis de la mission (Cfr. Mutuae Relationes, 11). La mission parmi les non chrétiens, la nouvelle évangélisation de ceux qui ne sont plus chrétiens, et l’approfondissement de la foi des chrétiens qui vivent dans un monde en profonde mutation (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Redemptoris Missio RMi 33), sont des défis considérables et liés entre eux pour l’Église entière. Les personnes consacrées sont en mesure d’apporter une contribution spécifique aux nouveaux engagements de l’Église en vertu de la qualité de leur vie et de la variété de leurs charismes.
C’est pourquoi je désire vous redire à vous aussi, et d’une façon particulière, ce que j’ai demandé instamment à toute l’Église: appliquez-vous sans cesse, spécialement vous, les personnes consacrées, à vous demander d’un coeur ouvert et généreux si vous pouvez faire davantage encore pour la diffusion de l’Évangile. Je vous le redis aujourd’hui et je souligne à nouveau que l’appel à la mission est l’appel à la sainteté.
5. Qu’une dévotion ardente envers la Vierge Immaculée, protectrice spéciale de toutes vos familles religieuses, soutienne votre zèle et votre espérance dans votre cheminement spirituel et dans votre ministère. La Mère de Jésus est un modèle de vie pour tous les croyants, et en particulier pour vous qui lui êtes consacrés. Appelés à suivre le Christ de plus près avec un amour ardent et sans partage, vous pourrez lui rendre témoignage dans le monde par votre vie, avant même de le faire par vos paroles. Que la protection de la Vierge, l’intercession de vos nombreux Fondateurs et Fondatrices, de tant de confrères missionnaires, sanctifiés par le ministère et par le martyre, obtienne à vos divers Instituts de se renouveler spirituellement et d’augmenter en nombre!
En vous offrant ces voeux, je vous donne ainsi qu’à vos Communautés respectives ma Bénédiction Apostolique.
1. Gud välsigna Sverige!
With this prayerful wish I welcome Your Majesties to the Vatican and assure you of the particular joy which this visit brings me. It was with this prayer on my lips that I set foot on Swedish soil on 8 June 1989. Our meeting here today brings back vivid memories of that moment and, for my part, it is an occasion filled with sentiments of esteem and friendship for the beloved Swedish people.
The cordial relationship between your country and the Holy See is a source of great satisfaction. I gladly recall that diplomatic relations between Sweden and the Holy See were re-established in 1982, during my own Pontificate, thus resuming traditional contacts of this kind which date back to the sixteenth century. However, in a broader sense, ties between Sweden and the Holy See go back over a thousand years, to the presence of the first missionaries, led in particular by Saint Ansgar. The flourishing of the Christian faith was intimately linked with the development of the sense of nationhood. The memory of those contacts, though, is especially connected with the person and work of the great Swedish woman Saint Birgitta, who lived and died in this City. It was she who, together with Saint Catherine of Siena, was instrumental in convincing the Popes to return from Avignon to their own See, close to the tomb of Saint Peter. Her memory lives on in this City in her spiritual daughters, the members of the Order of the Most Holy Saviour and Saint Birgitta, in the home where she lived and died, which became the Hospice "of the Goths", a place of welcome for the many pilgrims who came here from your land and which many Swedish pilgrims still visit.
2. As Your Majesties are aware, preparations are well under way for this year’s special celebration to mark the Sixth Centenary of the canonization of Saint Birgitta. I am looking forward to taking part in a solemn ecumenical encounter in Saint Peter’s Basilica next October, with the attendance of the Lutheran Archbishop of Uppsala, Bertil Werkström who is here today, and of Archbishop John Vikström, Primate of the Lutheran Church in Finland, as well as of Catholic Bishops from Scandinavia. Birgitta, who was canonized by my predecessor Boniface IX in 1391, represents a common legacy of both Churches. Her mortal remains at Vadstena and her relics here in Rome are signs of a spiritual bridge as it were, a bond of grace between this See and Sweden.
In her day Saint Birgitta fought for the spiritual renewal of the Church. Her love for the Church can inspire us today in our search to obey the Lord’s will and to restore the bonds of unity in faith among divided Christians. On the anniversary of her canonization our common prayer will be for the well-being of the nation and for further progress in the already cordial relationship between the Catholic Church and the Swedish Lutheran Church.
3. My visit to your country enabled me to experience at first hand Sweden’s rich historical, artistic and cultural heritage. In Stockholm, Uppsala, Vadstena and Linköping I was reminded that for over a thousand years the Christian faith has been a deep and fruitful source of the nation’s life and achievements. The names of Saints Ansgar, Erik and Birgitta, to mention only these, stand out boldly not only in the history of your own country but in the history of the whole of Europe. Today, that patrimony of Christian thought, life and service constitutes a solid basis for your society’s unity and harmony, and for a spiritual renewal which will benefit all its members.
Europe and the world are in the process of adapting to a new economic and political situation. We must hope that our societies will also experience a renewal of cultural life, capable of producing a genuine uplifting of the human spirit. Above all, we must hope that the younger generations will rediscover the perennial truth contained in their Christian heritage, and that from this they will derive a consistent ethical and moral vision fully capable of defending the inviolability of the human person, with a special sense of responsibility towards the weakest members of society. This is the prayer I offer for Sweden, conscious as I am of the enormous contribution which she can continue to make to the cause of human development and the promotion of a civilization fully respectful of human rights.
4. During the course of my meeting two years ago with the Swedish University community at Uppsala, I reflected on the link between the Christian heritage of Europe and the fundamental values of our contemporary civilization. Among these values I mentioned "the dignity of the person, the sacred character of life, the central role of the family, the importance of education, the freedom to think, to speak and to profess one’s own convictions or religion, the legal protection of individuals and groups, the cooperation of all for the common good, the concept of work as a sharing in the Creator’s own work, the authority of the State, itself governed by law and reason" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Upsalae, allocutio ad academicas Auctoritates, docentes alumnosque perinsignis Universitatis, 4, die 9 iun. 1989: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XII, 1  1611). Today, the importance of these values is not always clearly perceived, but there is no doubt that they have been the inspiration behind Sweden’s well-known commitment to the goals of social justice and respect for human rights everywhere, of international cooperation, disarmament and peace, of effective solidarity with the needs of less fortunate peoples. May your fellow countrymen continue to demonstrate such solidarity in willing acceptance of refugees and immigrants, and in your generous assistance to many Third World countries. In fulfilling her spiritual mission, the Catholic Church in Sweden is happy to be able to cooperate in this worthy humanitarian activity.
In the Encyclical "Centesimus Annus" which I have just published. to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the famous Encyclical on social problems, "Rerum Novarum", I have made an appeal to the developed countries not to slacken their efforts to sustain and assist the countries of the Third World. Such an appeal seems necessary in the light of the new situation which has arisen in Central and Eastern Europe. The consequent urgent need for economic anti technological assistance in these countries may lead to a neglect of even more serious and long-standing conditions of poverty and want in other parts of the world. Your country’s openness to all of these needs speaks highly of your people’s sense of universal brotherhood. The Holy See appreciates Sweden’s commitment in this area which is of great importance to the cause of peace among the peoples of the world.
5. In concluding, I thank Your Majesties for this visit. In you I greet and pay tribute to the whole Swedish people. I renew my sentiments of esteem and appreciation for their efforts to build a more just and caring society for themselves and their children. I pray that in doing so they will be sustained by a culture which enables the individual to exercise his creativity, intelligence, and knowledge of the world and of people; to display his capacity for self-control, personal sacrifice, solidarity and readiness to promote the common good; a culture which expresses and upholds a true and lofty idea of the person as created in the image and likeness of God, and redeemed through his grace (Cfr. ibid. 52).
I gladly invoke abundant divine blessings upon Your Majesties and your children. May Almighty God protect and guide your beloved people and help them to achieve their highest and noblest aspirations. Gud välsigna Sverige!
Thursday, 16 May 1991
1. This meeting, during the course of the biennial assembly sponsored by the International Union of Superiors General, gives me the opportunity to welcome the Superiors General and General Counselors of a great number of Religious Congregations of women. You come from sixty-three countries on five continents. Through you I send cordial greetings to the members of your respective communities throughout the world, and I praise God for all that is achieved through the testimony of your religious consecration and your generous dedication to the apostolate, for the good of his Church and the coming of his kingdom: "I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints" (Ep 1,16-18).
I greet Cardinal Hamer, who shares my pastoral responsibility for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life. I thank Sister Helen McLaughlin, Superior General of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and President of your Union, for her kind words on your behalf. Above all I am heartened by your manifest resolve to go on fulfilling with ever greater competence and commitment the unique and indispensable role which women Religious exercise in the Church’s mission of evangelization and service.
2. The theme of your meeting, "Religious Women, Partners in Evangelization", has led you to reflect on the question of how to bring the contemporary world into contact with the life-giving power of the Gospel. The Gospel and the world: these have been the two poles of your study days, just as they are the essential reference points of your religious consecration itself. For religious consecration flows from the Gospel, from "the words and example of the Lord" (Lumen Gentium LG 43), and constitutes a special sign of God’s dominion over his creation, a special sign of the presence of the kingdom of his Son in the world. The Gospel and the world: the Lord himself has called you to be prophetic witnesses to the Gospel, "the power of God for salvation" (Rm 1,16), and thus to render the greatest possible service to the world, to lead it back to its Creator and Redeemer.
Although your religious consecration is expressed in a multitude of specific charisms and apostolates, it has one essential purpose: "the fervour of charity and the perfection of divine worship" (Lumen Gentium LG 44). By keeping this superior goal in mind, you will be better able to assist the members of your Congregations to appreciate ever more fully the special link which binds them to the mystery of Christ and the mystery of his Church, avoiding a sterile reduction of the religious life to the level of merely temporal endeavour or purely humanitarian activity. My pilgrimage a few days ago to Fatima was a profession of faith in the spiritual and transcendent nature of our Christian life. For me, it was an opportunity to thank the Blessed Virgin Mary for her protection ten years ago. It also gave me encouragement to continue my ministry after the example of Mary, "the model of that maternal love which should inspire all who cooperate in the Church’s apostolic mission for the rebirth of humanity" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Redemptoris Missio RMi 92).
3. Evangelization is a complex enterprise, and no partial or fragmentary definition can do it justice (Cfr. Pauli VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 19-24). It consists in carrying the Good News to every person and to all peoples, and through its impact it aims at giving rise to a "new humanity". It is directed to "the multitudes - the millions and millions of men and women who as yet do not know Christ the Redeemer of humanity" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Redemptoris Missio RMi 31). Evangelization embraces different cultures in order to purify them and ennoble them, and in order to receive from them means by which to spread and preach the message of Christ to every nation, to understand it better and express it better in the liturgy and daily life of the Christian faithful. In its course, evangelization succeeds in "affecting and as it were upsetting, through the power of the Gospel, mankind’s criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life which are in contrast with the world of God and the plan of salvation" (Pauli VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 19).
In my recent Encyclical on the Missions, I recalled that the task of Christ the Redeemer, entrusted to the Church, is still far from being completed, and that we must all give it our full attention and energy. I wished to reaffirm the value of the vocation of missionaries ad gentes. They, especially in Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, constitute as it were "the model of the Church’s missionary commitment, which always stands in need of radical and total self-giving, of new and bold endeavours" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Redemptoris Missio RMi 66). The Church would not in fact be true to her essentially missionary nature if she did not continue to send men and women whose commitment to the mission involves their whole person and their whole life, all their energies and all their time.
In this sense it is impossible to think of the worldwide task of evangelization without the vital and specific contribution of women Religious. The witness of your religious consecration is a source of abundant new life in the younger Churches and a necessary antidote to the "secularization of salvation" which too often occurs in more developed societies (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Redemptoris Missio RMi 11). To this urgent task you bring the deep inner experience of your following of Christ in sponsal love and your complete readiness to serve the human family through "all the manifestations of the feminine ‘genius’..., all the charisms which the Holy Spirit distributes to women... the victories which (the Church) owes to their faith, hope and charity" (Eiusdem Mulieris Dignitatem MD 31).
4. My second Encyclical of recent months, "Centesimus Annus", offers a reflection on the Church’s social doctrine, on her involvement in the world in defending the human person and safeguarding human dignity (Cfr. Eiusdem Centesimus Annus CA 3). In this sense it is a meditation on the world in all its perfectibility and need of redemption, in its need for the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here, I have an earnest invitation to address to women Religious: that in your search for justice and genuine liberation you will not lose sight of the truth which inspires the Church’s pastoral, social and charitable activity, namely, the truth that our destiny is transcendent, our identity is only fully revealed through faith, and consequently all works of the apostolate are in one way or another aimed at helping man on the path of salvation (Cfr. ibid. 54). As we come to the end of the twentieth century and approach the Third Christian Millennium, the world stands in need of a religious and spiritual witness that is clear and does not compromise with the forces of evil and the "pride of life" (1 Io. 2, 16). It is my prayerful hope that the women Religious of the world, continuing a vocation which they have often dramatically fulfilled in the past, will constantly remind the Church of the pre-eminence of grace and the priority of love in the cause of evangelization, which is the source of authentic liberation.
5. Religieuses, partenaires dans l’évangélisation, vous l’êtes en tant que femmes. Vous l’êtes comme les femmes qui, avec les Douze, suivaient Jésus et l’assistaient de leurs biens (Cfr. Luc. Lc 8,1-3). Vous l’êtes surtout comme Marie-Madeleine, apostola apostolorum, manifestant comme elle, dans un rapport privilégié avec Jésus, votre accueil de sa parole et votre fidélité a son message. Vous l’êtes comme la Samaritaine, qui porte elle-même la bonne nouvelle, après avoir reconnu en Celui qui parle le Messie attendu.
Partenaires dans l’évangélisation, vous l’êtes selon ces "deux dimensions particulières où se réalise la personnalité féminine", la virginité et la maternité (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Mulieris Dignitatem MD 17), deux dimensions qui s’expliquent e se complètent l’une l’autre dans la vocation de la femme. Si "la maternité de la femme dans son sens bio-physique montre une apparente passivité, ... en même temps, au sens personnel et éthique [elle] manifeste une créativité très importante" (Ibid. 19). C’est cette créativité que les religieuses sont appelées a déployer au service de l’évangélisation. La maternité d’ailleurs, telle que l’Évangile nous la révèle, <<n’est pas seulement "de chair et de sang": enelle, s’exprime la profonde "écoute de la parole du Dieu vivant" et ladisponibilité a "garder" cette parole qui est "la parole de la vie éternelle" (Ibid)>>.
Quant a la virginité, que l’on ne peut comprendre correctement sans faire appel a l’amour sponsal, c’est-a-dire un amour dans lequel la personne devient don pour l’autre (Cfr. ibid. 20), elle ouvre a l’expérience d’une maternité dans un sens nouveau: la maternité "selon l’Esprit" (Cfr. Rom. Rm 8,4 Ioannis Pauli PP. II Mulieris Dignitatem MD 21). Nous ne pouvons oublier, en effet, que saint Paul lui-même ressent le besoin de recourir à ce qui est par nature féminin pour exprimer la vérité de son service apostolique, quand il s’adresse aux Galates comme à ses "petits enfants, vous que j’enfante à nouveau dans la douleur" (Ga 4,19). Bien d’autres aspects pourraient être évoqués pour mettre en relief la dignité de la femme et sa vocation, mais j’ai voulu simplement évoquer ceux qui me paraissent se rapporter plus étroitement au service de l’évangélisation.
6. Je vous encourage donc, mes Soeurs, à poursuivre dans l’espérance la mission que l’Église vous a confiée, et dont une part essentielle consiste dans le témoignage de votre vie consacrée. J’invite celles d’entre vous qui seraient tentées de se laisser abattre par le manque de vocations et le vieillissement de leurs soeurs à se rappeler la parole de Jésus: "Sois sans crainte, petit troupeau, car votre Père s’est complu à vous donner le Royaume" (Lc 12,32). Je souhaite enfin que les Instituts qui accueillent des candidates nombreuses préparent les formatrices qui les accompagneront avec compétence, patience et efficacité tout au long de leur formation initiale et permanente.
Je prie le Seigneur Jésus, par l’intercession de la Vierge Marie, de soutenir vos efforts, de nourrir votre espérance et d’accomplir dans chacune de vos familles religieuses l’oeuvre de grâce qu’il a commencée depuis leur fondation, afin que les Instituts de vie consacrée et les Sociétés devie apostolique demeurent des instruments privilégiés au service de l’évangélisation.
Et je vous donne de tout coeur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.
Speeches 1991 - Monday, 28 January 1991