Speeches 1993 - Thursday, 11 November 1993
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. I gladly welcome you – the Bishops of Ontario – and rejoice "when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have" (Phm 4-5). Your "ad limina" visit affords us the opportunity to meditate together on "the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties" (Cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 1) of the faithful for whom you are vicars of the Chief Shepherd (Cf. 1Pt. 1P 5,4).
When the Lord challenges us with the question which one day he addressed to Peter: "Do you love me?" (Cf. Jn. Jn 21,15-17), he makes an almost overpowering demand on us. He calls us to an inexpressible union of love with himself. Having first loved us, he asks of us – his "stewards" and "friends" – a steady, ardent and heroic heart from the depths of which we can respond: "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you" (Jn 21,15-17). Our fidelity to "the Shepherd and Guardian" of our souls (1P 2,25) will then be displayed in a profound and self-giving love for the Church, for which Christ "gave himself up... that he might sanctify her" (Ep 5,25-26). This evangelical love, which the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts (Cf. Rm 5,5), must be the force animating all our pastoral activity on behalf of God’s people. I pray that your visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul will strengthen and encourage you in your ministry, and that you will return to your Dioceses renewed in pastoral charity.
2. Having spoken with previous groups of Canadian Bishops about holding firm to the sure word of truth (Cf. Titus Tt 1,9) and nourishing the people of God with the life of divine grace through the sacraments, our thoughts turn today to our duty to teach "the faithful the things which lead them to God, just as the Lord Jesus did" (John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor VS 114). At a time when the ethical roots of grave social problems are not always evident, it is more essential than ever that we, the Church’s Pastors, should zealously support and guide the laity’s efforts to play an active part in the harmonious and integral development of a just and caring society. When the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World speaks of the faithful’s duties towards society, it exhorts Christians to give a conspicuous example of service to the advancement of the common good: "Prudently and honourably let them fight against injustice and oppression... and lack of tolerance. Let them devote themselves to the welfare of all sincerely and fairly, indeed with charity and political courage" (Gaudium et Spes GS 75).
The diffusion of the Church’s social doctrine is therefore "part of the Church’s evangelizing mission", which should result in all the Church’s members having a deep "commitment to justice" (John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 41). Bishops have a duty not only to speak out against injustice, but above all to bring to bear the principles of the Church’s social teaching on the problems confronting their people, with particular attention to the poor and the victims of society’s imbalances. This you have in fact done recently in the document Widespread Unemployment: A Call To Mobilize, in which you remind your fellow-citizens that unemployment, because it undermines human dignity and stability, cries out for a just solution. Justice in this case involves humanizing the economy and rebuilding it in such a way that the social and moral disorder of unemployment can be overcome (Cf. Widespread Unemployment: A Call To Mobilize, n. 20, 14 April 1993).
3. Inspired and motivated by living faith, the laity should assume responsibility for making the Church’s social teaching their own and for implementing it in everyday life. In a recent Pastoral Message you asked your people to discern in what concrete way God calls them to show solidarity with all the members of the human family residing in Canada, as well as with those in other countries where individuals or groups are unable to meet their most basic needs (Cf. A Prophetic Mission for the Church, n. 2, 16 March 1993). Living in a nation richly blessed in human and natural resources, Canadians have generally taken to heart their responsibilities to the less fortunate, especially the poor, the homeless, immigrants and refugees. This tradition of solidarity, generosity and Christian hospitality now needs to be consciously nourished, taught and spread, so that Canada may continue to be a voice for justice and solidarity in the international community, and so that Canadian Catholics will continue to be deeply concerned about the needs of the disadvantaged. Your Conference deserves recognition for the ways in which it fosters ecclesial communion and solidarity: through the generosity of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, which recently celebrated its XXV anniversary; through your commitment to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe; and through your constant teaching, particularly in your recent pastoral Letter Toward a New Evangelization, which affirms that the creation of a truly just society in your country requires that more efforts be made to transform the economic, political and social situation of the Native Peoples (CCCB, Toward a New Evangelization, n. 19, 23 September 1992).
4. The Church is well aware that the longed – for renewal of social and political life has its foundation in the moral order revealed through creation (Cf. Rom. Rm 2,15) and illuminated by the mystery of Christ, in whom "all things hold together" (Col 1,17). The dechristianization of society involves not only an increasing indifference to religion, a loss of faith, but also an obscuring of the moral sense. As Pastors, we have a duty – a task integral to the new evangelization – to rekindle awareness of fundamental moral truths as the necessary ethical foundation for a society worthy of man. By reaffirming the universality and immutability of those truths, you render a vital service to the community, for whenever there is confusion about what is good and evil it is impossible to preserve and build up the moral order (CCCB, Toward a New Evangelization, n. 93, 23 September 1992).
Yours is a country which for over 125 years has prized its nationhood and respected the enriching diversity of its cultural, ethnic and linguistic traditions. The continuing search for what is true, good and just for every person and group always involves an honest and respectful dialogue, and an overriding concern for the common good. Because the Church respects the legitimate autonomy of the political community (Cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 76), she does not identify herself with any particular political theory or solution: "Her contribution to the political order is precisely her vision of the dignity of the person revealed in its fullness in the mystery of the Incarnate Word" (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 47).
Pastors contribute to national and social life by helping the faithful to understand that their debates and decisions should be illumined by "the word of the truth, the Gospel" (Col 1,5). A grave risk for modern democracies is the raising of ethical relativism to the level of a governing principle. Both reason and experience show that the idea of a "social consensus" which ignores the underlying objective truth about man and his transcendent destiny is insufficient as a basis for an honest and just social order. "ln every sphere of personal, family, social and political life, morality – founded upon truth and open in truth to authentic freedom – renders a primordial, indispensable and immensely valuable service not only for the individual person and his growth in the good, but also for society and its genuine development" (John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor VS 101). The teaching of objective, binding and concrete moral demands should be a central part of all education, catechesis and preaching in your Dioceses.
Likewise, the moral principles guiding the laity’s activity in public life should be entirely in harmony with those governing their private lives. The Second Vatican Council emphasized the need for consistency between public and private morality: "The layman, at one and the same time a believer and a citizen of the world, has only a single conscience; it is by this that he must be guided continually in both domains" (Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 5). Catholics in public life should be helped to work out the relationship between their faith and their political commitment. I encourage you to provide appropriate leadership in this important area.
5. Parmi les signes de réel déséquilibre qui apparaissent dans la société – et que la communauté ecclésiale devrait s’attacher à corriger –, on relève l’incapacité d’apprécier la vie humaine comme “un magnifique don du Dieu de bonté” (Jean-Paul II, Familiaris Consortio FC 30). Devant certains événements récents au Canada, vous avez courageusement dénoncé les tentatives pour convaincre les gens que, dans le cas des malades en phase terminale qui le demandent, l’aide au suicide ou l’euthanasie sont moralement acceptables. En tant qu’Evêques, vous ne pouvez manquer d’enseigner qu’une attitude responsable devant la vie exclut qu’aucune personne puisse jamais avoir l’intention explicite de provoquer sa propre mort ou la mort d’une autre personne innocente, par action ou par omission (Cf. Catéchisme de l'Église Catholique, n. 2276-2279). Effacer la distinction entre guérir – en faisant appel à tous les moyens ordinaires disponibles – et tuer constitue une grave menace pour la santé morale et spirituelle d’une nation, et cela expose les plus faibles et les plus vulnérables à des risques inacceptables. Il est nécessaire de rappeler à ceux qui demandent la légalisation du soi-disant “droit à mourir dans la dignité” qu’aucune autorité ne peut légitimement recommander ou permettre une telle offense à la dignité de la personne humaine (Cf. Congrégation pour la Doctrine de la Foi, Déclaration sur l'Euthanasie, II ). Une législation qui contredit des vérités morales essentielles au sujet du don suprême de la vie ouvre la voie à ces formes modernes du totalitarisme qui, par la négation de la vérité transcendante, détruisent la dignité humaine authentique (Cf. Jean-Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 44).
6. L’Eglise au Canada est justement fière de ses très nombreux établissements hospitaliers. Fondés pour la plupart par des communautés religieuses, ils rendent un témoignage exemplaire par la défense du respect de la vie, depuis la conception jusqu’à la mort naturelle, et par le soutien apporté dans la foi aux personnes qui connaissent toutes sortes d’épreuves (Cf. Mt. Mt 25,40). Dans votre pays, vous avez connu une longue et fructueuse coopération de l’Eglise et du gouvernement pour organiser les services de santé. Ce partenariat suppose que l’Eglise conserve le droit exercé ordinairement par l’action des instituts religieux, d’administrer librement les hôpitaux en accord avec son enseignement moral. Il importe que vous poursuiviez inlassablement vos efforts pour maintenir l’identité catholique de toutes les institutions ecclésiales, afin que leur fidélité au Christ et aux enseignements du Magistère soit assurée.
7. Tandis que ce millénaire approche de son terme, l’Eglise avance dans son pèlerinage; elle veille et elle attend son Seigneur, l’Alpha et l’Oméga, Lui qui fait toutes choses nouvelles (Cf. Ap. Ap 21,5). En achevant nos entretiens à l’occasion des visites “ad limina”, je voudrais inviter toute l’Eglise au Canada à demander au “Père des miséricordes” (2Co 1,3) la grâce de l’Esprit, afin de “ne pas se modeler sur le monde présent” (Cf. Rm. Rm 12,2) mais d’être de plus en plus “l’image de son Fils” (Cf. ibid. 8, 29). Que la Croix de Jésus-Christ, plantée en terre canadienne par Jacques Cartier il y a plus de 450 ans, déploie dans une lumière toujours plus vive sa puissance de salut auprès des prêtres, des religieux, des religieuses et des laïcs de votre pays! En confiant chacun des diocèses canadiens à l’intercession de votre patron saint Joseph et à la bienveillance aimante de Marie, Mère de Dieu et Mère de l’Eglise, je vous accorde cordialement ma Bénédiction Apostolique.
Dear Brother Bishops,
With affection I greet you, "beloved in God the Father... May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance" (Gd. 2: 3).
1. It is a great joy to welcome you – the Bishops of California, Nevada and Hawaii – and to celebrate the faith and charity which unites us in the College of Bishops (Cf. Lumen Gentium LG 23). Within the Body of Christ which is the Church there is a constant exchange of spiritual gifts from one particular Church to another, and between the particular Churches and the Church universal. In this context, your "ad limina" visit is an expression of the mystery of grace by which "the Holy Spirit has placed us to shepherd the Church of God... as teachers of doctrine, priests of sacred worship, and ministers of governance" (Lumen Gentium LG 20). With God’s grace your visit will mutually encourage and enrich us as we seek to continue the work of Christ, the Eternal Pastor, the Shepherd of our souls (Cf. 1Pt. 1P 2,25).
Yours is the last in this series of "ad limina" visits by the Bishops of the United States. These visits to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul have enabled us to reflect on the moment that the Church is living in your country, and on the responsibilities of the Bishops before the Lord in carrying out the evangelical command to preach the Gospel to all peoples, to sanctify the faithful in the truth and to nourish them with the divine life of grace. Though your task is never easy, I remember the words of Archbishop Keeler, the President of your Conference, in Denver last August, when he pointed out that the Church in the United States is very much alive and growing, and mentioned that last year alone one million new members were added to its number. The vast majority of priests, Religious and laity sustain you through their fervent faith and steadfast witness of Christian life and love.
2. Indeed, the World Youth Day in Denver offered us all a confirmation of the vitality of the Catholic community in the United States. The young especially are a lively and promising sign of God’s life-giving presence in the heart of the world.
The Holy Spirit is awakening in the Church’s members a longing for transcendence, stirring up in their hearts a desire for an intimate, personal relationship with the Triune God. People are increasingly asking: "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mc 10,17). Individually and as a group, the Bishops of the United States are being challenged to respond to that spiritual thirst by making available to everyone the fullness, relevance, and unifying force of the mystery of Christ (Cf. Col. Col 1,27).
As shepherds after the Lord’s own heart (Cf. Jer. Jr 3,15), one of your principal tasks and joys is to lead your communities in worship and prayer. The "Catechism of the Catholic Church" reminds us that prayer is that "enthusiasm of the heart" (Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 2558), which is the fruit and lifeblood of the mystery of salvation – founded on faith, strengthened by the sacraments and active in charity. In our prayer we must be careful to safeguard divine transcendence and to purify our hearts of false images (Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 2779). Our prayer must always reflect the Church’s true faith. The core of Christian prayer is the revelation of the Father to the "little ones" (Cf. Mt. Mt 11,25), his adopted children (Cf. 1Jn. 1Jn 3,1-2). In union with the Son through the Holy Spirit we are able to approach the Father and say "Abba! Father" (Rm 8,15). Not to teach this sublime truth or to teach anything less would be to fail in our responsibility to be true spiritual guides, offering the solid food of genuine Christian spirituality and helping the members of the Church to grow into full maturity in Christ (Cf. Eph. Ep 4,13).
You are presently involved in a revision of some liturgical texts, and this has been on the agenda of the recent Plenary Meeting of your Conference. One of your responsibilities in this regard, as stewards of the grace of the supreme priesthood (Cf. Lumen Gentium LG 26), is to make available exact and appropriate translations of the official liturgical books so that, following the required review and confirmation by the Holy See (Cf. Code of Canon Law CIC 838,2-3), they may be an instrument and guarantee of a genuine sharing in the mystery of Christ and the Church: lex orandi, lex credendi.
The arduous task of translation must guard the full doctrinal integrity and, according to the genius of each language, the beauty of the original texts. When so many people are thirsting for the Living God () – whose majesty and mercy are at the heart of liturgical prayer – the Church must respond with a language of praise and worship which fosters respect and gratitude for God’s greatness, compassion and power. When the faithful gather to celebrate the work of our Redemption, the language of their prayer – free from doctrinal ambiguity and ideological influence – should foster the dignity and beauty of the celebration itself, while faithfully expressing the Church’s faith and unity (Cf. John Paul II, Vicesimus Quintus Annus, 9 and 21).
3. From a profound spiritual renewal, from the holiness of her members and communities, the Church in the United States will draw inspiration and strength for the new evangelization and the myriad forms of service to society which she exercises in response to the Gospel commandment of love. American Catholics have always been noted for the generous way in which they express their faith through works of justice, charity and solidarity. Far from diminishing, the situations calling for an effective response seem daily to increase, especially in view of growing poverty, homelessness and unemployment, as well as the crisis of values which often brings increased self-centredness, fragmentation and aggressiveness in human relations. I can only encourage you to continue to inspire the lay faithful to imbue America’s political, social and cultural institutions with the spirit and virtue of genuine social solidarity.
To embody the Church’s social teaching in the fabric of society requires both rigorous fidelity to the Gospel and courageous creativity – a daring that knows no fear (Cf. Hebr. 13: 6) in proclaiming the kingdom of God openly and unhindered (Cf. Acts. Ac 28,31). Christian consciences must be awakened to a true sense of concern for the poor and oppressed, the weak and defenseless – who cannot be excluded from their share in the universal destination of the earth’s goods (Cf. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 31). "There is a duty to safeguard carefully the importance of ‘the poor’ and of ‘the option in favour of the poor’ in the word of the living God" (John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater RMA 37). From this there follows the task of promoting the genuinely Christian meaning of freedom and of the liberation of humanity and of the universe (Cf. ibid.). I repeat the appeal made in my Encyclical Letter on the Church’s missionary mandate, in which I exhorted "the disciples of Christ and all Christian communities – from families to dioceses, from parishes to Religious Institutes – to carry out a sincere review of their lives regarding their solidarity with the poor" (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 60). If this examination is everywhere carried out, the Church’s efforts to promote social justice will gain credibility. Since the love of Christ impels the Church to see her Spouse especially in the weak (Cf. 2Cor. 2Co 5,14 Mt 25,31-46), she must ever be alert to ensure social justice and solidarity among her own members and in her own institutions.
4. In your pastoral ministry you are often challenged by manifestations of a persistent racism which undermines the foundations of a just and democratic society. Racism is an intolerable injustice by reason of the social conflicts which it provokes, but even more so by reason of the way in which it dishonors the inalienable dignity of all human beings, irrespective of their race or ethnic origin. Your frequent declarations on these matters, and the great variety of pastoral activities directed to the various ethnic groups present in your Dioceses, far from avowing separation or isolation among groups and communities, aim to implement the Church’s vocation as the sign and instrument of the wider unity of the whole human family.
With another group of Bishops I spoke about the needs and the special contribution to the Church’s life of the large Hispanic communities in your dioceses (Cf. John Paul II, Address to the Bishops of the United States of America on their "ad Limina" visit, 6, 2 October 1993). In supporting a National Black Catholic Pastoral Plan (Cf. Here I Am, Send Me, 9 November 1989) you have shown your esteem and support for the faithful who wish to be "truly black and authentically Catholic". I also acknowledge your pledge to foster solidarity with the Native American community, especially regarding social justice in the areas of health, housing, employment and education (Cf. Time for Remembering Reconciling and Recommitting Ourselves as a People, 17 December 1991). The success of all of this depends greatly on efforts aimed at renewing family life, parochial schools, ministry to alienated youth, and on promoting priestly and religious vocations among the various groups.
5. Before ending this series of meetings with the United States Bishops I wish to refer, if only briefly, to your efforts on behalf of ecumenical understanding and cooperation.
With thankfulness to God, the Church recognizes that the Holy Spirit, "who points out the ways leading to the union of Christians" (John Paul II, Dominum et Vivificantem DEV 2), has brought about new attitudes between divided Christians. Guided by your country’s long struggle to implement religious freedom and tolerance, American Catholics have enriched the Church’s ecumenical commitment with the fruits of their experience.
However, after the rapid improvements made in ecumenical relations following the Second Vatican Council, some are now discouraged by the seemingly slower progress in this more mature stage of ecumenical endeavors. Because the Church is irrevocably committed to the search for Christian unity, there can be no lessening of efforts to promote common prayer, dialogue and cooperation. As Pastors you will reassure those who are disheartened, moderate those whose enthusiasm leads to doctrinal or disciplinary confusion, encourage new initiatives, and ensure that all ecumenical activity in your Dioceses is in harmony with the Church’s faith and discipline (Cf. Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism, n. 30, 25 March 1993). One especially relevant area of dialogue is that which concerns the ethical and moral truths necessary for the renewal of society (Cf. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor VS 36). Christians ought to give a united witness to those moral truths which render "a primordial, indispensable and immensely valuable service not only for the individual person and his growth in the good, but also for society and its genuine development" (John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor VS 101).
6. Dear Brother Bishops, the present season of Advent speaks to us of "the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!" (Ap 4,8). While reminding us that Christ will come again in glory, these weeks of preparation for Christmas also lift our hearts to the "new time of advent" (John Paul II, Dominum et Vivificantem DEV 56) – the years of preparation for the great Jubilee commemorating the redemptive Incarnation of the Eternal Son. It is my prayer that the Church in America will prepare for that event – "as a continuation and further development of the ‘fullness of time’ that belongs to the ineffable mystery of the Incarnation of the Word" (John Paul II, Redemptoris Custos, 32). With confidence I pray that under your zealous, firm and loving care each of your particular Churches will experience the "great springtime for Christianity" which God is preparing for his Church (Cf. John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 86).
The thoughts which I have shared with the United States Bishops during this year’s "ad limina" visits have been guided by the outline and content of the "Catechism of the Catholic Church". In your hands the Catechism will be an extremely effective help in making available to all the faithful the inexhaustible riches of what the Church believes, prays, celebrates and lives.
Precisely at this stage of the Church’s pilgrimage the Holy Spirit has anointed us as high priests to bring the good news to the poor and heal the broken – hearted, to proclaim release to the troubled and oppressed (Cf. Lk. Lc 4,18-19). Sound teaching, fervent celebration of the sacraments and vigorous pastoral activity are the "treasures" we have to offer to a waiting world. With ardent hope and confidence I ask that same Holy Spirit to pour out the fullness of his gifts upon the Church in the United States. Entrusting all her members to the intercession of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of your country, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I gladly welcome you, the members of the International Commission for Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Disciples of Christ (Christian Church). Your visit comes at the end of a ten year period in which you have been reflecting on the theme, "The Church as Communion in Christ". While the results of that work are being studied, you are now ready to begin a third phase of your dialogue, centred on the theme, "The Individual and the Church". You intend to give close attention to a very important factor of all ecumenical discussion, namely the relationship between the individual and the community in the appropriation of the faith of the Church down the ages.
I cordially encourage your persevering efforts. As your meeting is taking place at this time of preparation for the celebration of the Saviour’s birth, it is my hope that the sense of expectation which marks our prayer during these days will sustain your confidence in the guiding light of the Holy Spirit who is at the heart of all ecumenical endeavour.
It is the will of our Lord Jesus Christ that we continue to seek the unity for which he prayed before his return to the Father (Cf. Jn. Jn 17,21). That unity is intimately connected with the fulfilment of the great commandment of love which the Lord also bequeathed to his followers at the Last Supper (Cf. ibid. 13: 34). May the season of Christmas increase in our hearts the desire to be faithful to all that the Saviour asks of us in our relations with one another. May God bless you abundantly.
Dear Friends in Christ,
I am pleased to greet the students of the Pontifical North American College about to be ordained deacons. My warm welcome also goes to your families and friends who have supported you with their prayers during your preparation and who now join you for your ordination. To the Rector and Faculty of the College I express my gratitude for the help they have given you in answering the Lord’s call "to serve the People of God in the ministry of the Liturgy, of the word, and of charity" (Lumen Gentium LG 29).
By the grace of ordination to the diaconate, you will be spiritually conformed to Jesus Christ, the obedient servant of the Father, who did not hesitate to lay down his life (Cf. Jn. Jn 15,13) for our Redemption. Strive always to make the image of Christ the Servant shine forth in every aspect of your life and ministry! As deacons you will preach the Gospel, assist the priest at the altar of Christ’s Sacrifice, administer the Sacraments of Baptism and Marriage, instruct the faithful and carry out works of charity in the name of the Church. Never forget that the ultimate fruitfulness of this ministry will flow from your constant union with the Lord, sustained by prayer and reverent contemplation of the mysteries of grace which you proclaim and celebrate.
Your lives must be deeply inspired and directed by that pastoral charity which is a sharing in the sacrificial love flowing from the heart of the Crucified and Risen Christ. Following the example of the Lord himself (Cf. Eph. Ep 5,25), you are called to give yourselves completely to the Church, the beloved Bride of Christ (Cf. John Paul, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 23), and to show generous concern for the least of your brothers and sisters. Your lives of celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom will bear powerful witness to your unfailing hope in the power of Christ’s grace and your firm trust in the fulfilment of his promises.
Dear brothers in Christ, I commend you and your families to the loving intercession of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of your country and of your College. To all of you I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. It is a great joy for me to welcome you, the members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, here in Rome for your visit "ad Limina Apostolorum". I have been looking forward to our meeting as an occasion to celebrate and strengthen the bonds of our fraternal and ecclesial communion. I offer a particular word of welcome to those of you who are making your first quinquennial visit, with special congratulations to Bishop Obinna and Bishop O’Donnell, who were only recently ordained. The establishment of five new Dioceses and two Missions sui iuris since your last "ad Limina" visit are sure signs that Christ is building up his Church in your nation. For this we praise and bless his holy name.
A significant event in the life of the Church in Nigeria was last year’s National Eucharistic Congress. This important gathering, with its theme of "The Eucharist and Evangelization", was an opportunity to confirm and increase that love and devotion for the Blessed Sacrament which is such an outstanding characteristic of Nigerian Catholics. The divine life which Christ pours out into his Church in the Eucharist is too great to be contained. It must be offered with loving urgency to all the world.
2. As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council said with eloquent simplicity, the Church is "missionary by her very nature" (Ad Gentes AGD 2). This essential ecclesial quality must shine forth with unobscured brilliance in each of the particular Churches, because, by a special relationship of mutual interiority, the Universal Church is present in each of them with all her essential elements (Cf. Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith, Communionis Notio, 7-9). In the particular Churches of Nigeria the memory of the first evangelization is still fresh, stimulating you to continue that work unabated. In some regions only a small number of the people have come to know and accept the merciful love of the Saviour, while in other places the Church has taken firm root within a remarkably short time, and has already brought forth a marvelous abundance of fruit-not least the many vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Such striking proof of God’s power at work in your midst should encourage you and the faithful to spare no effort in spreading the Gospel’s light, so that what Christ once accomplished for the salvation of all may in the course of time come to achieve its effect among all peoples (Cf. Ad Gentes AGD 3). How can we not be deeply grateful at the fact that the Church in Nigeria is already engaged in missionary activity through the work of many Diocesan and Religious priests, as well as the many Sisters and Brothers, in all parts of your own country and in other countries of Africa and beyond? In particular, let us thank God for the positive contribution of the Missionary Society of Saint Paul, sponsored by your Conference.
To show ardent zeal for spreading the word of God is to stand steadfast in the heritage established by those courageous missionaries who first brought the Good News to Nigeria. Even today there are many generous men and women from abroad who have left home and family in order to serve the Gospel in your country. In view of the incomparable service they give to the Nigerian people, we must hope that your efforts to remove the legal obstacles to their residence will soon succeed.
Speeches 1993 - Thursday, 11 November 1993