Thursday, 5 November 1992
In welcoming you, the members of the General Chapter of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, I am aware that you represent over six thousand Religious in more than thirty countries. Significant is the number of Delegates from the Provinces of Eastern Europe present at this Chapter and I welcome them with particular gladness. In 1985 I had the joy of beatifying your Foundress, Maria Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger, and now I join you in commemorating the centenary of the death of Mother Mary Caroline Friess, whom you consider as the foundress of the American part of your Congregation.
I pray that the spirit of Blessed Maria Theresa will live on in your evangelical witness and ecclesial service. The presentation and fruitfulness of this gift, which God has bestowed on the Church, is entrusted as a responsibility and a task to you, the recently re–elected Superior General and the members of the General Council.
Religious life is an ecclesial reality. It exists in and for the service of the Church, the body of Christ, a living organism in which each part has a specific role, but only in so far as it is united with the whole and receives its life from the true source, Jesus Christ our Redeemer (1Co 12,20-21). In the economy of grace, the effectiveness of all consecration and mission springs from union with Christ and his Church. I urge you to work for an ever greater communion of mind and heart with the Pastors of the Church, especially with this Apostolic See which is the guarantor of the catholicity of faith and mission.
Upon all the School Sisters of Notre Dame I invoke the loving intercession of Mary and the abundant gifts of the Holy Spirit
Dear Brothers in Christ,
I am pleased to welcome you, participants in an ecumenical pilgrimage of priests and pastors who have come to Rome to pray for Christian unity. Your pilgrimage bears witness to the fact that the Spirit of God is at work healing divisions among Christ’s followers. Unity is God’s gift. Let us then join our voices to pray "that all may be one" (1Jn 17,21).
Saturday, 7 November 1992
Dear Brothers in Christ,
1. I am very pleased to welcome the alumni of the Pontifical North American College, together with the Rector, faculty and students of the Seminary on the Janiculum Hill and the student priests of the Casa Santa Maria dell’Umiltà. During this year commemorating the five hundredth anniversary of the first preaching of the Gospel to the peoples of the Americas, you have returned to Rome, where you received the spiritual, doctrinal and pastoral formation which has nourished your own apostolate as ambassadors of Christ (2Co 5,20) and ministers of his Church. In this City, the communis patria of the Catholic faithful, it is appropriate that you give thanks for the abundant harvest of faith and good works reaped in the United States by the generations of priests who have gone before you. It is likewise fitting to beseech the Lord that the Catholics of your country will be granted the grace needed to carry out the new evangelization which is so essential in these last years of the second Christian Millennium (cf. John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 44).
2. In the years since 1859, when the Bishops of the United States, at the invitation of Pope Pius IX, first established your College in the old monastery of Our Lady of Humility, the advancement of the Church’s mission in American society has involved meeting ever new challenges and opportunities. During this time, the North American College has continued to serve its original purpose: to lead its students to intimate union with Jesus Christ, whose life and saving activity they are called to share as priests. As I recently noted in my Apostolic Exhortation "Pastores Dabo Vobis", it is precisely in this union with Christ that we as priests must discover "our identity, our true dignity, the source of our joy, the very basis of our life" (John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 18). Strengthened in their love of the Good Shepherd, the alumni of the College have contributed notably to the building up of the Church in their native land as faithful preachers of the Gospel and celebrants of the Sacraments, presenting with credibility and conviction the unchanging truths of the Faith, and drawing their people, often from widely differing ethnic and social backgrounds, into the unity of the Body of Christ.
Your College has fulfilled its mission primarily by enabling its students to experience in a unique way the catholicity of the Church and to partake in a living tradition which pervades every aspect of their priestly formation: from their theological studies done in contact with professors and students from all over the world, to their hours of quiet prayer and contemplation at the tombs of the martyrs and saints, to their closeness to the Successor of Peter and his solicitude for all the Churches (cf. 2Co 11,28). Today, when the circumstances of the apostolate demand above all that the priest be a "man of communion", deeply rooted in the truth and charity of Christ (John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 18), such a formative experience remains as valuable as ever. I pray that the North American College will continue to foster the growth of God’s people in your country by inspiring in young priests an ever deeper love for the Church as a mystery of communion embracing men and women of every time and place, and by enkindling a zeal to serve this mystery in every aspect of their priestly lives.
3. Dear Brothers, during these days of your annual reunion may you be renewed in the gift of the Holy Spirit which you received on the day of your Ordination. I hope that, in fidelity to your consecration as sharers in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, Head and Shepherd of the Church, you will cooperate ever more fully with the divine plan "to bring all things in the heavens and on earth into one under Christ’s headship" (Ep 1,10). Commending all of you to the loving intercession of Our Lady of Humility, Patroness of the College, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in Jesus her Son.
Friday, 13 November 1992
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Friends in Christ,
1. I am happy to meet the members of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, in the course of your Plenary Assembly.
In greeting you all I extend a special welcome to the new members among you. One of your number, Bishop Franjo Komarica of Banja Luka in Bosnia–Herzegovina, has not been able to come because of the tragic conflict affecting his Diocese. I am sure that you will join me in assuring him of our prayers for all the people in that area of immense human suffering.
2. Interreligious dialogue at its deepest level is always a dialogue of salvation, because it seeks to discover, clarify and understand better the signs of the age–long dialogue which God maintains with mankind. From the point of view of the Christian, it presupposes the desire to make Jesus Christ better known, recognized and loved, but it requires that this proclamation should be carried out in the Gospel spirit of understanding and peace. These ideas are amply discussed in the document, "Dialogue and Proclamation", issued by your Council in collaboration with the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (cf. Dialogue and Proclamation, 38, 77) . I avail myself of the occasion of your Plenary Assembly to recommend this document to all the Pastors of the Church. It addresses a question which has practical implications for the Catholic community in every part of the world, namely, the relationship between the Church’s mission to preach salvation in Jesus Christ the Son of God, and her mission to enter into dialogue with all men and women of good will, with profound respect for their outlook and experience. Both aspects of the one mission are legitimate and necessary. They are intimately related but not interchangeable (cf. ibid. 77). "Dialogue and Proclamation" indicates how unilateral emphases should be avoided lest the Christian message itself be distorted.
3. Since your last Plenary Assembly, another document has been issued which touches upon the subject of interreligious dialogue.
I refer to the Encyclical Letter "Redemptoris Missio", on the permanent validity of the Church’s missionary mandate. While affirming in this Encyclical that proclaiming the Gospel is the permanent priority of mission (cf. John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 44), I also stated that "interreligious dialogue is part of the Church’s evangelizing mission" (Ibid. 55), and that "each member of the faithful and all Christian communities are called to practise dialogue, although not always to the same degree or in the same way" (Ibid. 57). It should be evident to all that interreligious dialogue has taken on a new and immediate urgency in the present historical circumstances. We can only be deeply disturbed and saddened by the appearance or resurgence of prejudices and aggressive attitudes which are sometimes preached in the name of God but which have no basis in belief in the Almighty and Merciful Creator. Believers, while remaining faithful to their own religious convictions and without falling into false irenicism, can and should engage in a truthful, humble and frank dialogue with the followers of other religious traditions, in order to eliminate intolerance and misunderstanding (cf. Redemptoris Missio RMi 56). Genuine dialogue leads to inner purification and conversion (cf. ibid.), and it is only such a spiritual renewal which will save the world from further widespread sufferings.
I am happy to hear that you have been examining the reactions to these documents, both within the Church and among the followers of other religions. In re–affirming the validity of these teachings of the Magisterium, I encourage you to reflect on how to spread the message which is contained in them, a message of love and respect for our brothers and sisters of other traditions.
4. In my apostolic journey this year to West Africa I was able to see a particular instance of the benefits of interreligious dialogue. I am thinking of Senegal, The Gambia and Guinea, where Muslims and Christians and the followers of Traditional Religions live together in harmony. The spirit which sustains this harmony is one of mutual respect and of cooperation with one another in social and civic life. As long as different religious traditions foster this spirit, attention can be given to what people have in common and to what promotes fellowship among them (cf. Nostra Aetate NAE 1).
5. Contact with the religions of Asia, especially Hinduism and Buddhism, which are noted for their contemplative spirit, their methods of meditation and asceticism, can contribute greatly to the inculturation of the Gospel on that continent. A wise exchange between Catholics and the followers of other traditions can help in discerning points of contact in the spiritual life and in the expression of religious beliefs, without ignoring the differences. Such a discernment is all the more urgent where people have lost their roots in their own tradition and are looking to other sources for spiritual support and enrichment. The growth of so–called new or alternative Religious Movements is evidence of how widespread this trend is becoming. There is a challenge here to the Christian communities of Asia. I am happy that the Pontifical Councils for Interreligious Dialogue, for Promoting Christian Unity, for Dialogue with Non–Believers and for Culture are continuing to study this phenomenon together in order to provide pastoral guidance.
6. This leads to a further point: the importance of theological reflection on the doctrinal foundations of the Church’s efforts to promote interreligious dialogue. Catholic universities and faculties, seminaries and houses of formation, should be equipped to train leaders in the field of collaboration with other believers. I was therefore pleased to learn that your Council is preparing to hold a theological colloquium next August on "Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour, and the Encounter with Religions". I encourage you in your preparations for this meeting and I pray that it will give fresh impulse to efforts to improve relations between believers.
7. Your Plenary Assembly is surveying the various fields of the Pontifical Council’s activity since its foundation. This assessment will show where progress has been made and where there is room for further effort. It will help to specify more exactly the ways in which your Council can be of service to the particular Churches as they seek to promote more friendly relations with other believers in the circumstances of each place, each people and each culture.
Your evaluation comes at a time when the political geography of the world has changed, and is still changing. This has brought with it a new breath of freedom, including religious liberty, but it has also given rise to tragic and destructive conflicts. In this situation believers have an urgent responsibility to pray and work together for peace. In my Message for the World Day of Peace this year I noted that believers must not forget the efficacy of prayer, which is "par excellence the power needed to implore that peace and obtain it" (John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1992, 4) . Your Council can play an active part in encouraging Catholics to join with others in earnest prayer for peace, while at the same time recalling valid guidelines so that this joint prayer does not lead to religious indifferentism or a clouding of revealed truth. The truth is that "interreligious contacts, together with ecumenical dialogue, now seem to be obligatory paths, in order to ensure that the many painful wounds inflicted over the course of centuries will not be repeated, and indeed that any such wounds still remaining will soon be healed" (John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1992, 6).
8. Finally, I express my gratitude to you all for your Council’s generous sharing in my apostolic service to the Church throughout the world. Your work contributes to the fulfilment of what I have always considered a very important part of my ministry: the fostering of more friendly relations with the followers of other religious traditions. May the Lord, through the gift of the Holy Spirit and the intercession of Mary, reward you with light, strength and joy.
I am pleased to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Arab Republic of Egypt. I deeply appreciate the sentiments which you have expressed in the name of his Excellency President Mubarak and I ask you kindly to convey my own cordial greetings. Please assure him of my profound respect for the Egyptian people and of my prayerful best wishes for your country’s peace and welfare.
I am grateful for Your Excellency’s remarks concerning the Holy See’s activity within the world community. By its presence and action, the Holy See wishes to encourage the growth of dialogue and understanding among nations, a dialogue aimed at fostering respect for fundamental human rights and cooperation in eliminating the violence and poverty hindering development. The Church is convinced that the task of establishing justice and peace at all levels of social life is essentially a moral one, and that solving national and international problems is not just a matter of economic production or of juridical or social organization, but also calls for specific ethical and religious values (cf. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 60). In the end, only a firm commitment to effective solidarity will inspire the vision and change of mentality needed to overcome past tensions and to meet present and future challenges.
In this context, I am pleased to note the efforts of the Arab Republic of Egypt in fostering dialogue and mediation in Africa and the Middle East. Such efforts, pursued with perseverance and realism, represent the best hope for a resolution of conflicts which have lasted all too long. At a time when attempts are being made to address the political situation in the Middle East with new initiatives, Egypt can offer a specific contribution by patiently encouraging the positive prospects which have emerged, with attention to the rights of all parties involved. For its part, the Holy See trusts that the opening of channels of dialogue will lead to a just and fair solution of the many complex questions which need to be dealt with, especially with regard to the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people and the rightful desire of the other peoples of the region to live in peace and security.
Your Excellency has rightly called attention to the importance of cooperation between Egypt’s Muslim and Christian citizens in the pursuit of national unity. There is an urgent need to foster such cooperation between believers, a cooperation based upon rigorous respect for the inalienable human rights of freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. Cooperation between the followers of different faiths is a necessary condition for peace and a natural result of authentic religious commitment. Rather than being a source of divisiveness or conflict, religious belief is innately ordered to harmony, brotherhood and understanding. "Precisely because of their faith, believers are called – as individuals and as a body – to be messengers and artisans of peace" (John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1992, 1). As you are aware, Egypt’s Catholics wish to make their own contribution to the growth of the nation, by working together with their Muslim brothers and sisters in building a society which appreciates and respects its members’ different religious and cultural traditions.
Your Excellency, as you begin your mission to the Holy See I offer you my prayerful good wishes and assure you of the readiness of the various offices of the Roman Curia to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon you and your family, and upon all the beloved Egyptian people, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of the Most high God.
I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belize to the Holy See. I am grateful for the greetings which you have brought from Her Excellency the Governor–General and from the Prime Minister, and I ask you to convey to them and to all your fellow–citizens the expression of my good wishes that Belize, having begun its second decade as an independent and sovereign State, will always enjoy the blessings of freedom, prosperity and peace.
You have referred to your country’s commitment to fostering unity, understanding and democratic harmony in all aspects of national life. As I sought to emphasize during my visit to Belize in 1983, members of different religious traditions have their own role to play in building a society which reflects "God’s design for a world where justice, freedom and mutual respect are the authentic expression of a civilization of love" (John Paul II, Address of John Paul II to the Authorities of Belize, 1). A spirit of constructive dialogue and cooperation between all people of good will–both believers and those who profess no religion–is essential for building a society which proposes to serve the integral good of each of its members and to promote their active involvement in every aspect of civic life. Social questions have a profound ethical and moral dimension which must not be overlooked in determining public policy and concrete programmes of development. In this respect, the religious life of a nation is a fundamental factor of its authentic human progress.
Like many countries which have recently gained full independence, Belize is striving for a balanced and truly human model of development, one which will provide for the present needs of its people while laying the foundations for stable economic growth in the future. These two aspects of development remain inseparable: as recent changes in the international order have clearly demonstrated, a purely economic or materialistic understanding of development, one which fails to take into consideration the spiritual needs and aspirations of individuals and peoples, is ultimately incapable of building a just and peaceful society. Genuine development must take into account the full range of the needs of each member of society and the demands of the common good, within the framework of an effective solidarity that transcends merely individual, national or regional interests. Working for the authentic development of peoples must furthermore be recognized as "an imperative which obliges each and every man and woman, as well as societies and nations" (John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 32).
Belize has much to contribute to the important work of fostering reconciliation and peace throughout Central America. Your nation’s commitment to democratic principles can be a source of encouragement to other societies which are striving to establish a social order favouring individual initiative, respect for the rule of law, and concern for the poor and needy, the refugee and the stranger.
The Church in Belize, for her part, wishes to contribute to the growth of society through her various educational and charitable institutions. Inspired by faith in Christ, Catholics seek to be a source of harmony in your country’s multi ethnic society and to bring the wisdom of the Gospel to bear upon the challenges facing the nation.
Mr. Ambassador, as you assume your new responsibilities I offer you my prayerful good wishes and I assure you of the willing cooperation of the various offices of the Roman Curia. Upon yourself and upon all the beloved people of Belize I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
With pleasure I welcome you to the Vatican and accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of New Zealand to the Holy See. I ask you to convey my greetings to the Governor General, the Prime Minister and all the citizens of New Zealand and to assure them of my profound esteem and cordial good wishes.
In a movement that the Holy See hopes will continue, nations are increasingly recognizing that respect for the dignity of the individual must underlie all social policies (cf. John Paul II, Christifideles Laici CL 5). The more clearly we understand that the person is not an "object" to be used, but a "subject", endowed with conscience and freedom, the more solid the foundation we lay for justice and peace in the world. United with humanity in its pilgrimage through history, the Church sees herself as having the specific task of safeguarding the transcendence of the human person (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 55), and affirms that respect for man’s spiritual dimension is basic to authentic development and progress. Essential to her mission is an unceasing defence of the inherent rights that flow from every individual’s God–given dignity. For this reason the Holy See joins all men and women of good will in deploring every form of unjust discrimination–whether racial, economic, cultural or religious.
As Your Excellency has pointed out, the collapse of totalitarian regimes in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union has not rid the world of injustice, oppression and conflict. The role of the international community in guaranteeing world peace is now more crucial than ever. At a time when some nations are tempted to compromise the solidarity that should exist among them by reducing their international obligations, it is heartening to know that New Zealand remains committed to its responsibilities in the world community, especially in the South Pacific.
Although the possibility of nuclear war has diminished in recent years, weapons of mass destruction still exist in enormous quantities and continue to pose a threat for the future. Your country has been outspoken in its concern about continued nuclear testing and the further proliferation of nuclear armaments. I have repeatedly pointed out the dangers represented by the latter (John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 24) and have invited the world community to accept the grave moral responsibility of reducing their number (John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1986, 2).
As a land blessed by God with beauty and rich natural resources, New Zealand has taken a leading role in drawing the world’s attention to the ecological crisis. This particular threat to humanity can only be effectively addressed by solutions based on a morally consistent worldview which respects the dignity of the human person and the integrity of creation (John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1990, 6). Because the earth is "a common heritage, the fruits of which are for the benefit of all" (Ibid., 8), international cooperation in managing responsibly the world’s resources is to be encouraged and should be increasingly guaranteed in law, as a way of securing a safe and healthy environment.
The Catholic Church in New Zealand is committed to building a more just and caring society, in particular where human dignity is threatened by disregard for the gift of life, and by poverty, unemployment, or social marginalization. Her health–care and educational services, as well as her programmes of social assistance, all spring from the primary commandment of love which her Founder said would be the mark of his followers. As she seeks to play her part in fostering authentic development, the Church is aware that the questions facing humanity at the end of the twentieth century are above all moral questions. It is her ardent hope that society will engage in a wise and respectful dialogue about the ethical foundations of the public policies which are adopted, and she offers her social doctrine as a reasoned point of reference (cf. John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 41).
Mr Ambassador, I am confident that in the exercise of your mission you will further strengthen the cordial ties that link New Zealand with the Holy See. I offer you my good wishes and assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia will always be ready to assist you in fulfilling your duties. Upon you, your family and all the beloved people of New Zealand I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
I am pleased to accept the Credential Letters by which you have been appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Malawi to the Holy See. Please assure His Excellency the President, Ngwazi Dr H. Kamuzu Banda, that I appreciate his warm greetings. I express the hope that our shared desire for the strengthening of relations between the Holy See and the Malawi Government will be realized. At the same time I continue to pray that Almighty God will pour out in abundance the blessings of prosperity and peace upon the people of your nation.
Our meeting today rekindles the memories of my Pastoral Visit to Malawi in 1989. I came as a herald of the Prince of Peace, and I was welcomed with warmth and affection. Today, with no less fervour than when I said it three years ago, I declare myself to be "a friend of Malawi", one who "believes in the ability of her people to face the problems that beset their country and to overcome them with courage and hope" (John Paul II, Addresses at the Airport in Blantyre, 4 May 1989 and 6 May 1989). Because of this love and respect for the people of Malawi, I am particularly distressed that your nation, like many of her neighbours, is currently facing a serious food shortage. The lack of what is indispensable for the life and activity of the human person raises the spectre of immense suffering. It means delay in the further progress and development of your region. It is my ardent hope and appeal that the efforts of all parties in the area and cooperation on the international level will bring about a timely and adequate response to this threat.
The justice and the peace for which all peoples yearn can only exist when there is harmony and mutual respect among all sectors of society. Dialogue is the obligatory path to such concord. Dialogue "presupposes the search for what is true, good and just for every person, for every group and every society" (John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1983, 6) . As a shared quest to identify the true foundation upon which to build an enduring social order, its participants not only renounce violence of every kind but indeed welcome each other’s point of view in an objective light.
The Catholic pastors and faithful in Malawi are seeking to encourage just such a dialogue on significant issues facing their beloved nation, including the improvement of the educational system, the promotion of better health care for everyone, and the encouragement of participation in public life, all of which are needed in order to satisfy popular aspirations for greater equality and unity. The members of the Catholic Church intend to continue as trustworthy partners in this dialogue with believers of other faiths and with all men and women of good will. And in order to make their own indispensible contribution to their country, they are resolved to persevere in works of service such as Your Excellency graciously acknowledged in your remarks.
To the civic order, the Church offers the contribution of her teaching and experience, in the awareness that society will flourish only to the extent that it reflects the moral order established by God. Her expertise is the truth which she has received from her Lord about man and his transcendent destiny. It is for this reason that the Holy See speaks so insistently about respect for human dignity and about the pressing need for all peoples to work together ever more generously for authentic human development (cf. John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 41). For the achievement of this goal, the Holy See holds up as the essential means the virtue of solidarity – "a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself... to the good of all and of each individual" (Ibid.38).
The Church’s specific competence requires her to defend the whole range of human rights, especially the right to life and to religious liberty. And because of what she has learned about man, she can with full confidence say that "it is entirely in accord with human nature that political and juridical structures be devised which will increasingly and without discrimination provide all citizens with the genuine opportunity of taking a free and active share in establishing the juridical foundations of the political community, in determining the form of government and the functions and purposes of its various institutions, and in the election of the government" (Gaudium et Spes GS 75).
The Catholic community wishes to cooperate closely with civil authorities whenever they propose to achieve that "sum of conditions of social life which enables individuals, families and associations to reach their own perfection more completely and more readily" (Ibid., 74). This is a weighty challenge, one worthy of everyone’s best efforts. Since the time of the Apostles the Church has taught respect for "every human institution" (1P 2,13), while likewise enjoining that prayers be offered for those who govern (cf. 1Tm 2,2), so that they may in justice and truth "direct the energies of all citizens towards the common good" (Ibid.).
I assure you, Mr. Ambassador, that the Church will continue to do all in her power to be of service to the people of Malawi. I pledge the complete cooperation of the Holy See in the fulfilment of the mission entrusted to you, and it is my hope that during your term as Malawi’s Representative relations between your Government and the Holy See will be marked by ever increasing understanding. Upon Your Excellency and your fellow–citizens I invoke abundant divine blessings.