Friday, 2 October 1992
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. I extend a cordial welcome to you, the Bishops of the Sudan, who have come to Rome for your quinquennial visit ad Limina Apostolorum. I am grateful to you, Archbishop Zubeir, for the kind words you have spoken on behalf of your brothers in the Episcopal Conference, of which you have just been elected President. I have looked forward to our meeting with an eager anticipation made all the sharper by my daily prayer for you and for your clergy, religious and lay faithful. Because of the trials which beset the Church in the Sudan and the courageous fidelity with which she responds, all of you have a particular place in my heart. In greeting you, dear Brothers, I warmly embrace the people of your dioceses and all the beloved Sudanese people. Please assure them all of my love and prayerful affection.
This meeting is a source of great gladness for me, because it is the first time I have been with you since God in his goodness gave me the joy of raising to the ranks of the Blessed your heroic countrywoman, Josephine Bakhita. How truly relevant she is to the Church in the Sudan today! "Hers is a message of heroic goodness modelled on the goodness of the heavenly Father. She has left us a witness of evangelical reconciliation and forgiveness, which will surely bring consolation to the Christians of her homeland... At this time of great trial, Sister Bakhita goes before (you) on the path of the imitation of Christ, of the deepening of Christian life and of unshakable attachment to the Church" (John Paul II, Homily for the Beatification of Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer and Josephine Bakhita, 17 May 1992). One of your own, a sister of the Sudanese people, she intercedes for you before God. May her memory sustain you and the faithful in your present sufferings.
2. The sad fact is that the whole life of the Church in your country is profoundly affected by the socio–political events taking place there. The civil war and the restriction of fundamental liberties have a negative effect on society, and particularly on the activities of the Catholic community. In these difficult conditions the Church is called by her Lord to carry on her mission with undiminished courage and an ever greater reliance upon him. The Holy See and the entire Catholic community around the world follow with apprehension and concern all that you are going through.
The terrible devastation caused by war is compounded by drought, famine and disease. Millions of Southern Sudanese have been displaced and are living in precarious conditions in camps either in neighbouring countries or in the desert. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are trapped while the battle rages around them. In this situation the Church in the Sudan seeks to alleviate as much suffering as possible, especially through the remarkable work of SUDANAID. The universal Church appreciates how much it costs the Catholics of the Sudan to persevere in obeying the Lord’s command to love one’s neighbour as oneself,(Cf. Mt. Mt 19,19) and she recognizes that this offering is made willingly in imitation of him who first loved us (Cf. 1Jn 4,19). Not only do you receive, but you are also called to give in a most eminent way. In the life of your communities we catch a glimpse of the Church’s "truest self ": the Bride totally dedicated to proclaiming the resplendent name of her Bridegroom and counting herself privileged to be able to sacrifice all for his Kingdom (Cf. Rev. Ap 19,7).
My heart, like yours, is deeply distressed by so much suffering. Once more, and with undiminished insistence, I appeal to those in whose hands lies the fate of the Sudan to put aside the arms of war and pursue the path of peace, and to make the eternal law of the all–just God the inspiration of their actions. The Almighty commands his children to respect the dignity and rights of every human person, especially the weak and the powerless. The roots of war lie in hearts which refuse to submit with docility to this demand of the divine will. I join my voice to yours in beseeching all concerned to embark on a sincere and truthful dialogue of peace. I appeal once more to the international community, and to those who direct international organizations, to make it their highest priority to aid the innocent victims of this terrible conflict.
3. Respect for the individual’s freedom to seek what is true and to respond to the moral imperatives of conscience is the "cornerstone of the structure of human rights" and "a point of reference of the other fundamental rights... inasmuch as it touches the most intimate sphere of the spirit" (John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1988). Any hindrance of the exercise of religious freedom, in that it calls into question the inviolable transcendence of the human subject, injures the cause of peace. There can be peace only where the social and political order is entirely committed to the good of the human person. Hence, any curbing of religious liberty in your country at this time is all the more troubling, since it results in the undermining of the very possibility of dialogue and peace.
In your defence of religious freedom, you have rightly pointed out the dangers to your country posed by the attempt to build the unity of the nation on one religion and one culture. This aim, along with the application of the Shariah to non–Muslims, has set the stage for the loss of many civil liberties. This is especially evident wherever there is discrimination in education, the harassment of priests, religious and catechists, the expulsion of missionaries, the obstruction of the legitimate expression of the faith, the lack of true freedom in conversions, and where the baptized are characterized as "foreigners" in their own ancestral homeland.
4. In keeping with the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Catholics of the Sudan are endeavouring to respond to these injustices in the spirit of the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Mt 5,9). God’s gifts of peace and reconciliation are, without any doubt, the spiritual goods which your nation most sorely needs after years of bitter violence. Your Pastoral Letter of last year, A Call to Reconciliation and Peace, rightly points out that in the grievous trials to which the Sudanese people are being subjected, the Church seeks above all to be an instrument for building up a society which is truly worthy of the human person. This does not mean that in the face of injustice you should not forthrightly speak the truth and claim your legitimate rights, as you did in the Pastoral Letter The Truth–Shall Make You Free. Your invitation to all men and women of good will to walk the path of mutual respect and reconciliation is a statement of your desire and commitment to join with all your Muslim fellow–citizens in building a society with the energy which flows from the worship of God.
5. The fact that your little flock has been able to face so many arduous challenges is a tribute to those who over the years have laboured to build up the Body of Christ in the Sudan. The zeal of so many priests and religious – those who are children of the Sudan and those who have come as missionaries – and the devotion of the catechists who work so generously beside them, show the force of God’s grace, which, as Saint Paul wrote, "is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think" (Ep 3,20). I wish to pay tribute to the missionary priests, and the Religious Sisters and Brothers, who share with you the pastoral burdens of your Dioceses. Their presence and generous dedication is surely a great source of encouragement to the faithful. They are a living sign of the Church’s universality and of the solidarity which characterizes the communion of the particular Churches.
It is especially heartening that in the midst of so many difficulties you try to give close attention to the formation of those who work in the Lord’s vineyard. I wish to encourage you to continue fostering vocations and training seminarians, in spite of so many difficulties. I recommend to your attention the recent Post–Synodal Exhortation, "Pastores Dabo Vobis". It is my hope that this latest document about priestly life and formation will help you and your priests and, seminarians to conform your hearts and minds ever more to the model of the Good Shepherd. May constant prayer, the worthy reception and celebration of the sacraments, and all manner of, good works be the mark of your priests’ life and ministry. The most senior priest no less than the youngest seminarian is called to strive every day to put on the Lord’s own pastoral charity (John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 57), the measure of which is a zeal that dedicates everything, even one’s life–blood, to the salvation of the flock. A Bishop’s role in all of this is not merely a matter of administration. It stems from his very consecration as a successor of the Apostles. "With his presence and by his sharing with candidates for the priesthood all that has to do with the pastoral progress of the particular Church, the Bishop offers a fundamental contribution to formation in the ‘sensus Ecclesiae’ " (Ibid., 65). I am confident that you will not neglect this vital aspect of ecclesial life.
6. Finally, I urge you to make your Episcopal Conference the useful instrument envisioned by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council: one wherein the sharing of ideas and the exchange of opinions leads to "a holy consortium of resources for the common good of the churches" (Christus Dominus CD 37). The growth of a true spirit of collegial cooperation and solidarity will strengthen each one of you for the tasks to which you are called in the service of the Church. In working together in mutual trust and fraternal love you can receive from one another the support you need in order to develop a common plan of pastoral initiatives to deal with the current grave challenges which are the responsibility of all: challenges such as that of–providing pastoral care in areas which have long been deprived of priests, of evangelizing and offering adequate catechesis and Christian formation, of promoting the celebration of the sacrament of matrimony among Christians and of strengthening family life. The Conference should effectively serve to coordinate efforts and to ensure a responsible administration of your own resources and of the help which comes from others.
7. Dear Brothers, your pilgrimage to Rome indicates that the bonds of communion in the Church transcend every regional or national boundary, and that the Bishop of Rome is the guarantor of her unity and the authentic interpreter of its demands. In this light certain practical aspects of your episcopal ministry find their fuller meaning. Your prompt and willing cooperation with the Holy See through the Apostolic Nunciature, despite pressing local concerns, will eloquently proclaim your faithfulness to the "rock" upon which Christ willed to build his Church (Cf. Mt. Mt 16,18).
I am confident that your ad Limina visit will result in a renewed sense of communion with the universal Church, built on the sure foundation which is Christ (Cf. 1Co 3,11), nourished by the testimony of the Apostles and sustained in every age and place by the action of the Holy Spirit. The faithful in the Sudan are fully a part of the Ecclesia Dei which, even from the first days after her birth at Pentecost, has faced opposition and hostility. Yet, "by the power of the risen Lord, she is given strength to overcome patiently and lovingly the afflictions and hardships which assail her from within and without" (Lumen Gentium LG 8). I pray that at the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles you yourselves will have experienced the confirmation of your fellowship with Peter, who, as the Acts of the Apostles tell us, rejoiced that he was "counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name" (Ac 5,41). May God make your hearts ever bolder as you echo the words of Saint Paul: "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2Co 12,10).
With the assurance of my heartfelt affection, I entrust you and your beloved priests, religious and lay faithful to the unfailing protection of Mary Help of Christians, and as a pledge of peace and charity in her divine Son I impart my Apostolic Blessing.
Monday, 19 October 1992
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to welcome to the Vatican the distinguished members of the World Business Council.I offer my good wishes for your efforts to promote understanding and cooperation between business and government leaders throughout the world. By reflecting together on the complex economic and ethical issues involved in international life, organizations like your own can promote the development of ever more adequate responses to the opportunities and challenges of the present time.
In her social teaching, the Church is guided by the principle that "man is the source, the focus and the end of all economic life" (Gaudium et Spes GS 63). The fundamentally ethical character of business decisions, social policies and models of development makes it imperative that leaders in these areas be guided by more than purely economic considerations. In the Christian view, the individual human person is the goal of all economic, social and political activity. Great efforts are needed to rethink material development in terms of service to the integral well–being of people.
Today, more than ever, there is an urgent need for generous cooperation between all forces in society in promoting the common good in a way that respects the dignity of individuals and social groups, while fostering an effective solidarity which transcends mere self–interest. It is my hope that within the international business community your Council will promote an ever clearer appreciation of the fact that, together with progress in economic production and social organization, there is also a need for "specific ethical and religious values, as well as changes of mentality, behaviour and structures" (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 60), if the human family is to realize its vocation to live in harmony, justice and peace.
Upon all of you, and upon your families, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
Saturday, 24 October 1992
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to greet you, the members of the Saint Paul Foundation, on the occasion of your visit to Rome. Your association seeks to promote the active involvement of individuals and groups in the life of the community, especially through charitable activities and programs aimed at responding to the social, educational and cultural needs of your neighbors. I would encourage you in all of this, since initiatives of this sort foster solidarity between different social groups, concern for the poor and disadvantaged, and responsibility for the future of society.
The Church’s activity in the various fields of social service is ultimately inspired by her conviction that "the person and society need not only material goods but spiritual and religious values as well" (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 61). All who are committed to building a society worthy of man are challenged to recognize the ethical dimensions of their decisions, and to work together in facing social issues with attention to their moral implications for the welfare of coming generations. May your own involvement in the life of your community always be guided by a deep concern to encourage the full development of each individual and of the whole community.
Upon all of you and your families I willingly invoke God’s abundant blessings.
Monday, 26 October 1992
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. As I welcome you, the Bishops of Tanzania, on the occasion of your ad Limina visit, it is fitting to acclaim our Saviour in a language rooted in the African soil: Tumsifu Yesu Kristu! (Praised be Jesus Christ!). In this way I wish to evoke the treasured memories of my Pastoral Visit to your country just over two years ago, and to renew my heartfelt thanksgiving to God for the growth of his Church in your midst.
I am grateful to you, Bishop Lebulu, for the sentiments of affection and loyalty expressed in the name of you all. To my dear Brother, Cardinal Rugambwa – the first son of black Africa to become a member of the College of Cardinals – I offer the Church’s immense gratitude for your many years of devoted pastoral zeal.
Your pilgrimage ad limina Apostolorum is a pre–eminently personal act for each of you. In coming "to see Peter" (Cf. Gal. Ga 1,18) you confess the apostolic faith before the world and proclaim that the Church is the Bride of the Divine Redeemer and his instrument for mankind’s salvation. In giving an account of your stewardship, you praise the Lord’s goodness for all that he has accomplished through you, you beg his mercy for human failings and ask his strength that you may return to your pastoral labours with renewed vigour.
2. Not long ago you celebrated the first centenary of the arrival of the Gospel in Tanzania. That event, a cause of much joy for all the faithful, helps us to recognize the generosity of God, who has already brought forth in your midst such abundant fruits of justice and holiness. Special tribute is due to the missionaries of the past who worked so tirelessly to build up the People of God in your land. In our own day they have worthy successors who have likewise left home and family in order to offer you their indispensable assistance in spreading the Kingdom of God (Cf. John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 65-66). The Gospel must still be preached to the millions among you who have not yet heard it, and it must be proclaimed anew to those who have already learned of Christ but have yet to allow his word to take deep root in their lives. It is fitting that responsibility for this noble task is passing ever more fully into the hands of Tanzania’s native clergy, Religious and laity, especially the catechists, and I share your joy in their readiness to be missionaries in their homeland.
3. The urgency of fulfilling Christ’s command to "make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28,19) is the basis for the mention in many of your quinquennial reports of the scarcity of labourers to take up the work of evangelization. Even the present abundance of Tanzanian vocations to the priesthood and religious life – for which I join you in thanking the Lord of the harvest – are not enough. You and your communities must continue to pray for this intention (Cf. ibid., 9:38) with sure confidence in the Lord, "who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1Tm 2,4).
One of your principal concerns must be to ensure that your co–workers in building up the Body of Christ are properly trained for this noble task. Not only must they have the necessary knowledge and skills, but above all they need to possess that depth of faith and Christian virtue which will enable them to be, in word and deed, credible witnesses to the new creation established by our Saviour.
In order to help you to solve the problem of how adequately to train an increasing number of seminarians, I wish to reaffirm the wisdom so often expressed by my predecessors and restated by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council: without hesitation send your best priests to serve in your seminaries (Cf. Optatam Totius OT 5). In every aspect of their seminary programmes, candidates for the priesthood must be shown the true identity of the priest–that he is configured to Christ the Good Shepherd and called to make present the Lord’s love for the flock (Cf. John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 21-23). In Minor Seminaries no less than in the years immediately preceeding Ordination the goal of formation must be to help each candidate to "put on" Christ (Cf. Gal. Ga 3,27) and to pattern his life on the example of the Redeemer. As the Council Fathers pointed out, the essential means for achieving this end is "special religious formation and above all... spiritual direction" (Optatam Totius OT 3).
A vital element of training for the priesthood is the practice of prayer and penance. The habit of daily meditation helps the seminarian and priest to grow in the knowledge and love of Christ, and in the resolve to imitate him in all things. A growing awareness of God’s goodness is the natural flowering of a life of prayer; it overflows into contrition for sin and gives rise to a firm resolve to love God even as he has first loved us (Cf. 1Jn 4,19). The practice of the virtue of penance leads to the worthy celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Priests who persevere in daily metanoia and who seal this in frequent and regular recourse to Confession will be the spiritual fathers whom the children of God long for and whom Christ ardently desires to send them. Priests whose lives are stamped with the grace of humble repentance will be an irresistible force for the renewal of the practice of the Sacrament of Penance among the lay faithful whom they serve.
The solid foundation laid in the seminary must be sustained after ordination by continuing formation (Cf. John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, chapt. VI). Without it, priests will find it more difficult to live up to their ideals and commitments. A Bishop must make the spiritual well–being of his priests his constant care, and give them particular attention in the first years after ordination (Cf. ibid., 76).
4. The evangelical counsels are a divine gift which the Church has received from her Lord, and religious communities not only stimulate the holiness of their own members but contribute marvellously to the welfare of the whole body of Christ (Cf. Lumen Gentium LG 43). Of this you have such clear evidence in the life and work of Religious in Tanzania, particularly the many women religious belonging to diocesan Congregations. Through your Conference, you can also foster greater cooperation among these Institutes. You can do much to encourage them to live their evangelical consecration ever more profoundly, especially by helping them to develop programmes of spiritual and apostolic formation and, in line with evangelical poverty, by assisting them to secure the necessary economic base for the proper functioning of their communities. Initiatives aimed at raising the standard of education of Religious are especially welcome. This in turn increases the ability of religious Sisters to appropriate at a deeply personal level the essential elements of consecrated life, and achieve the human and Christian maturity to which they are called in Christ. Thus prepared, they will be able effectively to serve the needs of the universal Church.
5. Changes in Tanzanian society are influencing the context in which the Church must fulfil her mission. The relative youth of the majority of the population, growing urbanization, the transition to new forms of political organization and the shifting composition of religious affiliation call for new responses from pastors and faithful. Problems such as poverty and unemployment, the lack of resources for education and health care, the spread of life–threatening diseases, the increase of materialism and the erosion of family unity present obstacles to the advance of God’s Kingdom – challenges which call for great trust in the power of the Risen Christ to triumph over every evil.
The task of enabling the lay faithful of Tanzania to exercise more perfectly their baptismal vocation in this social milieu has led you to provide ever more effective pastoral care for families and a sound Christian formation for young people.I note with particular interest that you have chosen to observe the twenty–fifth anniversary of the Tanzania Lay Council by conducting throughout the country seminars on the theme "Justice and Peace in the Family". This decision represents a clear recognition of the fact that a Christian marriage, because it is animated by a spirit of full mutual self–giving, is the proper "school" for educating the next generation in the moral virtues essential for social living (Cf. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio FC 37). Do not let yourselves become discouraged in the long struggle to teach the true nature of marriage and to sustain couples in the faithful observance of all the demands of the Christian marriage covenant. Take fresh heart from the knowledge that in every Christian family which obeys God’s law there is a luminous power inviting others to discover the richness of the Gospel message of life and love.
6. I am gratified to see that, in the context of the cordial relations between Church and State in Tanzania, Catholics are seeking to further the nation’s progress towards a development that is worthy of the human person. Dialogue with Christians of other Churches and ecclesial communities and mutual understanding with the followers of Islam are an essential part of this effort. Such exchanges enable the faithful to share with their neighbours the Church’s teaching on the nature of the common good and the right means to achieve it. Your Pastoral Letter of last June, "True Human Development", offers significant elements for a wide–ranging reflection on how society can best serve the needs of all its citizens and their inalienable dignity. You rightly point out that it is only by accepting the divine plan for the human person and for all creation that any attempt at development can really succeed.
Recognition of this truth is particularly important as the Government of Tanzania considers a "National Population Policy". An initiative of this kind needs to secure the inviolable freedom of married couples in the exercise of responsible parenthood. It should uphold the sacredness of life from conception to the moment of death, and – with due regard for the rights of parents in educational matters – should seek to foster in young people a sound understanding of the nature of human sexuality.
The Church in Tanzania can be proud that its long tradition of service in the areas of health care and education has prompted civil leaders to ask it to intensify its activities in these spheres. I am confident that you will make every effort to build on already existing bases in order better to serve the good of all, with the love which God has poured forth into your hearts (Cf. Rom. Rm 5,5). Christians’ care for the victims of AIDS and their support of those orphaned by it reveal in a tangible way the compassion of Christ for the suffering and inspire hope in the face of so much suffering.
7. Dear Brother Bishops, take back to your beloved homeland the assurance of my esteem and affection for all your people. Remind your priests, Religious and laity of my love in Christ Jesus, and tell them how in Rome "we always mention them in our prayers and thank God for them all" (1Th 1,2). Commending the Catholics of Tanzania to the loving intercession of Mary, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of unity and peace in her Divine Son.
Thursday, 29 October 1992
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. "Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord" (1Tm 1,2).
With great joy and fraternal affection I greet you, the Bishops of Scotland, who have come "to see Peter" (Ga 1,18) as an integral moment of your pilgrimage to the tombs of the holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, founders of this venerable See which is "foremost in the universal communion of charity" (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Romanos, prol). Ten years ago, when I visited your beloved country, I was moved by innumerable manifestations of fidelity to the Bishop of Rome. It was clear that the medieval title, Specialis Filia Romanae Ecclesiae, remains an apt description of the Church in Scotland today, and for this we must give sincere thanks to God, since communion with the Apostolic See is the guarantee of the catholicity of your faith and practice.
For centuries, tried in the crucible of suffering and persecution, you have been purified for the "great springtime of Christianity" (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 86) which the Lord is preparing for the Church as the third Millennium draws near. I rejoice with you for the blessings that the Lord lavishes upon your particular Churches, and I welcome today’s opportunity to encourage you in your faith and pastoral responsibilities (Cf. Acts Ac 20,28). In a special way I greet the Church in Glasgow, celebrating the five hundredth anniversary of its erection as a Metropolitan See by my predecessor Innocent VIII, and I give thanks for its faithfulness and missionary zeal.
2. One of your principal pastoral concerns is the increasing indifference to religion found in Scottish society. Throughout the Western world the Church confronts the challenges presented by practical atheism and by an ever more widespread individualism.
Even if most people today do not outrightly reject the Creator, many have either forgotten him or act in such a way that he holds little place in their lives (Cf. John Paul II, Christifideles Laici CL 4). A distorted individualism that exalts self–fulfilment as the primary purpose of human life and regards society only as a means to pursue this self–interest contradicts the call to exist "for others" that God has inscribed in the hearts of his creatures (Cf. John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem MD 7). Every style of life directed towards "having" rather than "being" (Cf. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 36) has pernicious repercussions for individuals, the family and the wider community. How distant is such a culture of selfishness from a civilization of love built upon communion and solidarity! Not surprisingly, this individualistic mentality leads to many tragedies, not least of which are the increased number of broken families and, within the Church, a decreased participation in her sacramental life, especially by the young. Among the priorities of the new evangelization must be a concerted effort to bring back to the practice of their faith so–called "nominal Catholics" who are sporadic in their worship and selective in their adherence to Catholic teaching in matters of faith and morals.
3. If the "signs of the times" alert us to these shadows on the horizon, they also present the Church in Scotland with numerous opportunities for preaching Christ crucified, "the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1Co 1,24). As authoritative teachers of the faith and "stewards of the mysteries of God" (Cf. ibid. 4:1), you must uncover in wounded human hearts the yearning for God that often manifests itself in indirect and confused ways. If you draw upon the Church’s traditional riches of teaching and devotion in proclaiming Christ unambiguously to the world, you will transmit a faith that reveals the true meaning of life and gives access to God’s saving and sustaining grace. Humbly bearing in mind that the witness of a holy life is the most convincing affirmation of the Gospel, you are called as shepherds to take the first step in reaching out to those who do not come to you (Cf. Lk. Lc 15,4-7).
In particular I urge you to continue with vigour to promote and foster associations and movements for young people, as integral to a pastoral plan for the youth apostolate.Where such organizations flourish they ensure that the next generation receives the spiritual and apostolic formation that is vital for the laity’s mission in the world. They are also a source of vocations to the priesthood and religious life (Cf. John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 68).
The importance of fostering vocations cannot be overlooked. Although "all the members of the Church, without exception, have the grace and responsibility to look after vocations, ...as the father and friend of his presbyterate, it falls primarily to the Bishop to be concerned about ‘giving continuity’ to the priestly charism and ministry, bringing it new forces by the laying on of hands" (Ibid.41). To combat a further decline in the number of priests it is necessary both to encourage prayer for vocations and to guide the young to a mature personal relationship with Christ. From their communion and friendship with him, they will gain strength to offer themselves wholeheartedly to the service of the Church and of suffering humanity. By agreeing to establish a National Seminary at Chesters College, you have taken a courageous and commendable step. I join you in praying that this Seminary, together with the Colleges in Rome and Salamanca, will provide an even better spiritual, doctrinal and pastoral formation for seminarians and strengthen the bonds of charity and friendship among the Scottish priests of the future.
4. A distressing isolationism marks contemporary society. To overcome this fragmentation the Church should encourage communities in which people can experience fellowship with Jesus Christ and with one another (Cf. 1Jn 1,3). Parishes should continue to explore ways in which they can respond to the great hunger for community felt by so many, where "the Catholic faith that comes to us from the Apostles" ("Eucharistic Prayer I") can be fully shared, strengthened and celebrated. More than a structure, a territory or a building, a parish should be "a fellowship inspired by the spirit of unity" (Lumen Gentium LG 28), a Eucharistic community making present the one and indivisible Church of Christ. Parishes must be centres of charity, open to the spiritual and material needs of the wider community. The time has come to commit the Church’s energies to a new evangelization (Cf. John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 3) beginning in the parish, a mission whose fruitfulness depends in no small measure upon the laity. Lay men and women play a vital role in bringing Christ to those who have forgotten him or who have yet to meet him (Cf. John Paul II, Christifideles Laici CL 34). Your efforts to extend and promote adult catechesis and lay formation are of major importance for the realization of the Church’s mission within Scottish society.
5. For more than seventy years the Church in Scotland, with much sacrifice and dedication on the part of Religious, lay teachers and parents, has built up an immense treasure in its system of Catholic schools. As the primary educators of their children, parents have the right to expect that the teaching imparted by their schools will be shaped by a Catholic world–view held by the believing community and taught by its Pastors. While pursuing academic excellence, the Catholic school must resist the crippling relativism of a secularized society, which views with suspicion any idea of revealed religion or objective moral truth. Catholic educators should never lose sight of their responsibility to help the young to be open to the Lord who stands at the door, knocks and waits patiently to be admitted (Cf. Rev. Ap 3,20).
Catholic primary and secondary schools depend for their survival and well–being on the support and choices of Catholic parents. Through you I wish to call upon parents to renew their sense of obligation to such schools. Home, parish and school – all imbued with a unified Catholic vision – should be a single formative influence on young Scots, leading them to the full stature of their maturity in Christ (Cf. Eph. Ep 4,13) and to a highly developed sense of solidarity and commitment to the common good.
6. As moral leaders, you must never grow weary of repeating, as you insisted last August at the Conference in Stirling, that the Church, the herald of the Gospel message of salvation in Jesus Christ, belongs "in the heart of the world." She continues his redemptive work, which "by its very nature concerns the salvation of humanity and also involves the renewal of the whole temporal order" (Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 5). In the midst of your flock as those who serve (Cf. Mc 10,45), the more you are immersed in the hopes and joys, the fears and pains of your people, the more attentively your preaching will be heeded.
Among those crying out for concrete signs of the Church’s solidarity today are the "outcasts" at our gates (Cf. Lk. Lc 16,20) whose dignity is so frequently threatened and undermined – the poor, migrants, the unemployed and the marginalized. To guarantee the Church’s presence, do not hesitate to encourage your people to take an active role in public life, so that they may effectively promote the inviolable dignity of each human person in every sector of society. The ecclesial community’s activity in favour of justice and development can be measured by the vitality of the associations and organizations through which Catholics fulfil their vocation of seeking the Kingdom of God "by engaging in temporal affairs and ordering these in accordance with the will of God" (Lumen Gentium LG 31). In this regard, your people are also to be commended for their generous contributions to the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, which promotes solidarity at home and abroad.
Above all, I give thanks to Almighty God for your zeal in defending the sacred right to life.As you have so vigorously demonstrated, a Bishop’s responsibilities are not confined to the sanctuary, pulpit or chancery.
He has a public role to discharge, especially speaking for those who have no voice. The unborn and the dying depend on the power of your voice to rescue them and to witness that the Church "believes that human life, even if weak and suffering, is always a gift of God’s goodness" (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio FC 30). Direct abortion and euthanasia are never morally justifiable, no matter what the laws of a country may permit. Take to heart Saint Paul’s urgent plea to Titus: "Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you" (Tt 2,15).
7. Since the 1910 World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, Christians in Scotland have laboured to restore unity among all those who confess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. The rancour and prejudices that sometimes marked past relations have, with God’s help, been replaced by a notable growth in mutual understanding. Your participation in ventures such as "Action for Churches Together in Scotland" testifies to the great progress that has been made. Thirty years after the opening of the Second Vatican Council, we must persevere in prayer and continue to work, with patience and renewed vigour, to re–establish full communion among Christ’s followers, a unity "which Christ bestowed on his Church from the beginning" (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 4).
8. Dear Brothers, as you continue to build up the Body of Christ in Scotland, relying on him whose power is at work within you (Cf. Eph. Ep 3,20), open wide the gates to Christ our Redeemer. Jesus Christ walks "with each person the path of life, with the power of the truth about man and the world that is contained in the mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption and with the power of the love that is radiated by that truth" (John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis RH 13). Place your trust completely in him, for he is ever faithful. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, will sustain you in all that he calls you to do for his people.
I pray that Our Lady, the Morning Star heralding the coming Millennium of hope, will intercede for you, for the priests who share in your ministry, for the Religious who dedicate themselves to prayer and spreading the Gospel, and for all the people of your beloved Scotland. With profound affection for each of you and as a sign of our communion in Jesus Christ, I impart my Apostolic Blessing.