Speeches 1995 - Saturday, 25 March 1995
Mr Ambassador, your presence here is one of the signals of the new era which is dawning for the Republic of Armenia. I am confident that, through your work in the diplomatic mission you are undertaking today, this new era will also include the deepening of the bonds of friendship and co–operation between your nation and the Holy See. I assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia will be ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties in any way they can. Renewing my good wishes for the success of your mission, I invoke the blessings of Almighty God upon you and upon the Government and people of Armenia.
I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican today and to accept the Letters of Credence by which His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej appoints you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Thailand to the Holy See. I am also happy to receive the kind greetings which you bring from His Majesty, and I would ask you to convey to him the assurance of my gratitude and my good wishes for his health.
Your Excellency has made reference to the long and cordial relationship existing between the Kingdom of Thailand and the Holy See. This friendship is sustained in large measure by your country’s tradition of religious freedom, a freedom of which the King is himself the guarantor. The Catholic Church for her part has a deep and abiding respect for the spiritual and cultural values which the world’s other great religions enshrine. In particular, I would like to reaffirm the Church’s highest regard for the followers of Buddhism, the majority religion in Thailand.
It is the rich spiritual patrimony of your people, their openness to all genuine religious belief and practice, which has enabled the Catholic Church to make many contributions to Thai society, especially in the fields of education, healthcare and the social services. The Church rejoices when all sectors of the population join hands and hearts in building a society truly sensitive to the dignity and rights of every human being, and effectively committed to the cause of justice, authentic freedom and solidarity.
It is certainly this kind of co–operation and unity which our modern world needs so desperately, not only in order to overcome the violence, bloodshed and injustices which still afflict and oppress individuals, groups and peoples round the globe (cf. John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1995, 1 [8 Dec. 1994 ]), but also to come to the assistance of those fleeing these unbearable conditions. One of my most moving memories of my visit to Thailand almost eleven years ago is of the Refugee Camp at Phanat Nikhom, where I met men, women and children who not only had had to abandon their homes, their livelihood and all that they possessed, but who had been deprived in a very real way of their dignity and self–esteem. Looking into the faces of so many thousands of suffering human beings, I thought of the millions more elsewhere in similar situations. And sadly this is still the case today; this is the heartbreaking drama which is being played out not only in South–east Asia but in Africa, Europe, and the Americas.
For many years now, Thailand has been the country of first asylum for thousands of refugees from neighbouring countries. The Government and citizens of Thailand have been particularly generous towards these people. It is my hope that Thailand and other countries which respond similarly to the plight of refugees will continue to offer practical solidarity to these people living on the verge of despair.
At the same time, the international community at large must focus its attention on long–range political solutions to this complex problem. Above all it is necessary to create genuine conditions for peace: trust and reconciliation between nations; harmony between the various economic, social and ethnic groups within nations; and unity within each of these groups themselves. There is a pressing need for the international community to work to build a secure future for all peoples: a future based on juridically guaranteed respect for the dignity and rights of every individual and on solidarity which goes beyond borders, races and ideologies.
The Holy See for its part willingly works with all men and women of good will towards this end. This is in fact an essential purpose of the Holy See’s presence and activity in the international arena and reflects the spirit in which formal diplomatic relations between the Holy See and national governments are established and maintained.
Mr Ambassador, as you begin your mission as the Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to the Holy See, I offer you my good wishes for success. I assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia will extend to you every consideration as you fulfil your duties. I am confident that the friendship and understanding which has been built up over the years will continue to grow, to the mutual benefit of the Church and your country. Upon yourself, upon Their Majesties the King and Queen and upon all the people of Thailand I cordially invoke abundant divine blessings.
Saturday, 25 March 1995
It is a pleasure for me to accept the Letters of Credence by which His Majesty King Moshoeshoe II appoints you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Lesotho to the Holy See. I take this opportunity to reaffirm my sentiments of esteem and friendship for the people of your nation. Indeed, I still remember their warm hospitality when I visited Lesotho some years ago, coming as a servant of unity and peace to promote dialogue and understanding among peoples (cf. John Paul II, Homily in the Pro-Cathedral of Roma [Lesotho], 1 and 4 [14 Sept. 1988]). It is in this same spirit that I ask you to convey to His Majesty, the Government and the people of Lesotho my prayerful good wishes.
Your Excellency has stated that the principles of justice and peace are the foundation upon which your people are seeking to build a truly democratic society. I appreciate these remarks, for they carry the important reminder that genuine human development is never merely a question of material progress but must always take into account the spiritual dimension of people’s lives. The transcendent dignity of the human person, who is the visible image of the invisible God, must never be neglected or disregarded. It is precisely this human dignity which makes man the subject of rights which may never be violated by any individual, group, or political power. No social or political majority may take it upon itself to violate these rights or deny them to others who belong to a different ethnic, cultural or religious group, by isolating, oppressing, or exploiting them (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 44).
Accordingly, when tensions rise and political division threatens, societies can either travel the road of dialogue and harmony in a framework of justice for all or they can decide to take the path of force and violence. In our day, we have witnessed too much of this second response, both in Africa and in many other parts of the world. Contempt for human dignity and the trampling of human rights can never lead to progress; rather, channels of communication must be kept open, enabling the different parties, in a secure atmosphere of mutual respect, to present their disputes and to seek truly just and lasting solutions to the problems which beset them. This is in fact the only viable course if human beings, complete in their dignity and with all their rights intact, are to be respected and supported. This, as Your Excellency has alluded, is the course which Lesotho has chosen in confronting the difficulties which it is facing.
I therefore offer my encouragement to your Government and people in their efforts in this regard. Only through dialogue and understanding can a truly democratic society prosper and grow, securing lasting benefits for all its members and ensuring the active participation of all citizens in making the political choices which affect their lives. In pursuing the path of peace and respect for human rights, Lesotho will be an example to other nations, a beacon of hope shining from the midst of Southern Africa.
An integral vision of the dignity of the human person is precisely what is at the heart of the Holy See’s relations with States in the international forum. The Holy See seeks to foster all that unites individuals and societies and all that works for their greater good. Its mission is to help create an "atmosphere in which the human mind thinks thoughts of peace and rejects the option of violence, where the heart is drawn to beauty and goodness and to the urgent needs of others, where people join hands as brothers and sisters to labour in solidarity for the rights and dignity of all" (John Paul II, Address at the Farewell Ceremony at the Moshoeshoe I Airport of Maseru [Lesotho], 3 [16 Sept. 1988]).
It is along these same lines that the Catholic Church in Lesotho has been able to make a specific contribution to development. Catholic schools and educational services have helped Lesotho to achieve one of the highest literacy rates in the whole of Africa, and the Church is also active in the country’s healthcare system. Moreover, she has developed programmes to provide practical help for the migrant workers in their many problems, and her attention to their spiritual and material needs also serves to increase awareness of the difficulties faced by this sector of the population.
Your Excellency, as you assume your responsibilities as the Representative of the Kingdom of Lesotho, I assure you of the full co–operation of the Roman Curia for the success of your mission. It is my hope that your service will further strengthen the already cordial relations between your Government and the Holy See. Upon yourself, and upon His Majesty, the leaders and people of the Kingdom of Lesotho, I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you today to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Cyprus to the Holy See. I am grateful for the greetings and good wishes which you have conveyed from His Excellency President Glafcos Clerides, and I gladly reciprocate with the assurance of my prayers for the peace and prosperity of all your fellow citizens.
You have referred to the very ancient and noble heritage of Cyprus which, like the whole Eastern Mediterranean, witnessed the emergence of those deeply–rooted human values and ideals which are at the basis of European civilization. Some of the inhabitants of Cyprus were also among the first people outside of the Holy Land to hear the Gospel, when St Paul, accompanied by Barnabas, a member of the Cypriot Jewish community (cf. Acts Ac 4,36), preached there in about 45 A. D. (cf. ibid., 13:4-13). The ancient humanism, ennobled and perfected by Christianity’s transcendent view of man and his destiny, eventually became the patrimony of all Europe.
Fifty years after the end of the Second World War, Europe has achieved a new degree of integration, built on and sustained by a solid network of transnational institutions whose purpose is to implement structures of economic, social and political cooperation for the benefit of all. At the same time, in that otherwise healthy body there have been outbreaks of a disease which has proved very difficult to cure. Longstanding ethnic rivalries and tendencies to individualism have given rise to new forms of separatism and discrimination, with their most terrible expression in the continuing bloody conflicts in the Balkans and the Caucasus.
And yet, we may well ask if the peoples themselves wanted these conflicts, or whether they have been obliged by their leaders to take the path of violence (cf. John Paul II, Address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See for the traditional exchange of New Year Greetings, 6 [15 Jan. 1994]) . If leaders listened to the real aspirations of their peoples they would recognize the yearning for true peace and justice which is present everywhere and which forms the stable basis on which to build a just and prosperous society.
Your Excellency has noted that Cyprus too remains divided. It is my ardent hope that this situation will be speedily resolved. Elsewhere, the courageous efforts of far–sighted men and women have led to realistic and just solutions to conflicts and situations of deep mistrust which for years had seemed insoluble. Mutual respect, a willingness to admit past mistakes and a desire to engage in sincere dialogue will eventually lead the parties involved to create a new climate of agreement and reconciliation. Whatever the difficulties, "dialogue and negotiation are the obligatory path to peace" (John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1989, 10 [8 Dec. 1988]).
While the Catholic Church in Cyprus is small in numbers, she is ever committed to promoting the good of society as a whole, through the witness of her faith, the contribution of her social doctrine and the activities of her members especially in the areas of education, healthcare and social assistance. Cypriot Catholics, in union with their Orthodox brothers and sisters, and inspired by the precious treasure of religious faith and ethical values, are eager to see their country advance and be able to occupy its rightful place in Europe and in the world community.
I gratefully acknowledge the spirit of friendship and harmony which characterizes relations between the Catholic community of Cyprus and the Church of Cyprus. It remains my fervent prayer that the coming Millennium will see the restoration of that full communion which existed between us for the first thousand years of Christianity.
Mr Ambassador, as you begin your mission as your country’s Representative to the Holy See it is my hope that the bonds of understanding and friendship between the Holy See and the Republic of Cyprus will be steadily strengthened. I assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia will always be ready to help you in carrying out your duties. Upon yourself and all the people of Cyprus I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
I am pleased to offer Your Excellency a cordial welcome as you present your Letters of Credence as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Norway to the Holy See. I ask you to thank His Majesty King Harald V for his good wishes, convey my own greetings and assure him of my prayers for all the citizens of your beloved Country.
As Your Excellency has pointed out, this year’s millennium celebration of the arrival of Christianity in Norway offers an occasion to recall the spiritual foundation upon which the splendid edifice of European civilization is built. In your nation, as throughout the continent, the Christian faith significantly shaped the entire life of society. The Christian message provided Europe’s diverse peoples with the inspiration to develop a culture based on a vision of man’s primordial place in God’s design, a vision which emphasizes each individual’s "essential dignity and with it the capacity to transcend every social order so as to move towards truth and goodness" (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 38). Thus Christianity transformed those peoples from within, according to the demands of the twofold commandment of love of God and neighbour (cf. Mk. Mc 12,30-31), demands which encompass those values to which Your Excellency has referred: respect for human rights, preservation of freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
Today the future of European civilization greatly depends on the resolute defence and promotion of the life–giving values which are the core of its cultural patrimony. As innumerable tragic events of the twentieth century have shown, whenever a society denies or disregards the providential design inscribed in the order of creation, reverence for human life and dignity is inevitably compromised. Until now, Western civilization has been deeply imbued with the firm conviction that respect for the natural law is the indispensable basis for building a just and free society, capable of caring in a special way for its weakest members. It was understood that only a society which recognizes certain norms of behaviour as valid always and for everyone can guarantee the necessary ethical foundation of social coexistence. In fulfilling her spiritual mission in the public sphere, the Church therefore cannot fail to invite all men and women of good will to take into account the inescapable moral dimension of political, social and economic policies and decisions, which are never exclusively technical and neutral but morally acceptable or objectionable according to whether they defend and promote human dignity or go against it.
Happily the recent World Summit for Social Development, held in Copenhagen, placed new emphasis on the principle that the human person is at the centre of sustainable development, and it underlined the fact that aid for social development will be effective only if it respects the religious, ethical and cultural patrimony of peoples, so as not to become a factor of social fragmentation. It is important to avoid building the economy, whether in developed or developing societies, on the basis of induced needs, fed by a consumerist mentality whereby people are dominated by a desire for material goods and a comfortable life, a tendency which has the effect of blinding them to the needs of others (cf. John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1993, 5 [8 Dec. 1992]). Genuine human development depends less on the quantity of goods available than on an increased level of education and training, on an increased capacity to arrive freely at the decisions which determine one’s existence, and on an increase of opportunities to share directly in the general life of the community and nation to which one belongs. If as a result of the Copenhagen Summit public opinion becomes more sensitive to the true nature of development and solidarity, there is reason to hope that a new era of co–operation for the integral well–being of the human family can begin. It is my confident hope that Norway, with its strong tradition of generous support to the developing world, will continue to promote just such a sensitivity in the international arena.
I also share the hope expressed by Your Excellency that the bonds between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Norway will grow ever stronger. I know that the Catholics of your Nation – inspired and guided by their faith – willingly take part in the many social and educational initiatives which mirror Norway’s millennial heritage of Christian values: care for the marginalized, the handicapped and the elderly, defence of the rights of women and minorities, solidarity with the poor and with refugees, and all those activities which serve to strengthen the family as the basic unit of society.
Mr Ambassador, as you begin your mission within the diplomatic community accredited to the Holy See, I offer you my prayerful good wishes. The various departments of the Roman Curia will always be ready to assist you in the carrying out of your duties. In renewing the expression of my esteem for His Majesty the King and for the people of Norway, I invoke upon your nation the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
Saturday, 25 March 1995
1. It gives me great pleasure to welcome you today to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of your respective countries: Armenia, Cyprus, Lesotho, New Zealand, Norway, Rwanda and Thailand. I take this occasion to reaffirm my esteem and friendship for the peoples which you represent, each one with its own history, its cultural and religious traditions, its aspirations and hopes in the face of the enormous challenges confronting individual nations and the whole of humanity at the end of the twentieth century. I extend a particular welcome to the first Representative accredited to the Holy See of the newly independent Republic of Armenia. For each one of you I pray that your term as Ambassador will be an opportunity to deepen your understanding of the Church’s inescapable commitment to serving the human family, a charge which she received from her Divine Founder Jesus Christ.
2. As diplomats you are keen observers of the changing international situation and of the direction which the world is taking. The tide of events of the last few years has certainly brought a lessening of tensions on a global scale. The international community could have an historic opportunity to use for better causes, especially for the cause of development and solidarity, the human and economic resources which, in a world divided into opposing blocs, had been directed to security and the arms race. Instead, we are witnesses of the sad fact that in every continent regional, ethnic and economic interests continue to kindle fires of hostility and outright conflict. The presence here of the Rwandan Ambassador reminds us of what immense suffering that country has been subjected to, and of the threat of further bloodshed which hangs over the peoples of the region. The international community has a greater need than ever for diplomatic expertise, for men and women who are committed to finding ways of stimulating and sustaining initiatives aimed at establishing trust and bringing about reconciliation between nations and peoples.
3. In the work for peace, development and progress, the Holy See has a role and competence which are unlike the responsibility exercised by civil society and political authorities. But there are innumerable points of contact and of mutual co–operation, starting with the fact that wherever the Church is active it is the same human beings whom she and the political community seek to serve. In fulfilling her spiritual mission, the Church is present in the temporal order to proclaim the dignity of the human person, and to educate consciences to the truths and values essential to building a just society that respects every individual’s transcendent worth and destiny. Through its presence in the international community the Holy See seeks to defend the very structure of human rights, including the fundamental right to religious freedom, to foster an ever greater awareness of the moral and ethical obligations of political, social and economic power, and to remind the international community of the needs and sufferings of the weak and unprotected.
4. In each of your countries, your Catholic fellow–citizens are led by their faith to love and esteem their homeland and their national heritage. In their faith they find inspiration to co–operate with all men and women of good will in serving the common good. In most cases the Catholic community is widely involved in educational, healthcare and social services for the benefit of all. Everywhere, the Church wishes to communicate a vision of hope: she believes that with God’s help the evil in human hearts can be overcome, the struggle against injustice can be won, and universal brotherhood – which does not mean uniformity but mutual understanding, respect and solidarity – can become a reality.
5. I dare to invite you, distinguished Ambassadors, even as you serve as your respective countries’ Representatives to the Holy See, to place yourselves, in a sense, at the service of all humanity. Your sensitivity to the major ills afflicting so many of our fellow human beings will make you more fully aware of what can and should be done by your countries and by international institutions for the genuine development and well–being of the peoples of the world. The recent Summit in Copenhagen was a significant step in that direction. May the Year 2000 see humanity more wisely and solidly embarked on the way of justice and peace!
Upon yourselves and your families, and upon the peoples which you represent, I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
Saturday, 22 April 1995
Dear Cardinal Law,
Dear Young Friends from the Archdiocese of Boston,
It gives me great joy to welcome you and I greet you with the words which our Risen Lord spoke to his disciples: "Peace be with you".
I know that your pilgrimage is already drawing to a close. As you prepare to leave Rome I would like to give you three words to take back with you to the United States, three words for you to live by always: look, love and witness.
First: look for Jesus. Seek his presence in your lives, strive to know him ever more intimately; and do not be afraid to make yourselves known to him. Bring your questions and fears to the Lord, for in him you will discover life’s true meaning and your own vocation in this world.
Then: love Jesus.Give yourselves to him in prayer, receive him in the Sacraments, worship him in the assembly of the faithful. Loving Christ is your answer to his love for you; it is to respond to what he says to you, especially in the Scriptures and in the teaching of the Church. In his love you will find the fulfillment of your deepest aspirations, and you will grow into full spiritual maturity.
Finally: bear witness to Jesus. Place your hope firmly in him, and let your words and deeds speak courageously of this hope to others. Serve Christ in your family and friends, and in all those you meet on life’s path.
Dear young friends, may the peace that the Lord promised at Easter fill your hearts. Take my greetings to your families, and as a pledge of joy and strength in the Lord Jesus, I gladly impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.
Wednesday, 26 April 1995
Dear Cardinal Krol,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At this Easter Season our thoughts turn continuously to the Risen Lord and his victory over sin and death, the basis of our Christian hope and commitment. Christ’s presence, through his Church and his grace in our hearts, is the never-ending fountain from which we draw strength and courage for the tasks which, as Christians, we are called to carry out on behalf of our sisters and brothers.
Principal among these tasks is that of bearing convincing witness to the Gospel through our striving for holiness and perfect love. May the Risen Lord’s words to his disciples: "Peace be with you" (Jn 20,19) re–echo in your hearts and bring you the serenity and confidence which you need to persevere in all the good works in which you are involved.
In this spirit I welcome the Trustees of The Papal Foundation on your yearly visit. Your presence is always a source of joy, for the very purpose of your Foundation is to support my ministry, the ministry of the Successor of Peter. I know that you do this inspired not only by reasons of faith and of love for the Church, but also with a deep sense of gratitude to God whose blessings you experience in your own lives and efforts.
The whole Church is becoming more acutely aware of the call and challenge contained in the approaching Jubilee, which will inaugurate the Third Christian Millennium.I am deeply convinced that this event, and the years leading up to it, are a time of abundant grace and great responsibility for us all. As I wrote in the Apostolic Letter "Tertio Millennio Adveniente", "special tasks and responsibilities with regard to the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 belong to the ministry of the Bishop of Rome" (John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 22). If anything, my ministry must be more intense and more universal. It must address the great questions facing the Church at this crucial moment, not least of which is the duty to search unceasingly for Christian unity, and the duty to foster peace in the world on the solid foundation of acknowledged and guaranteed respect for the human dignity and rights of all.
I am, of course, deeply appreciative of the support which the Papal Foundation gives me in this evangelical undertaking. With gratitude I ask the Risen Lord to send his Spirit upon you, for he is "the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory" (Ep 1,14). As a token of my closeness in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I gladly impart to you and your families my Apostolic Blessing.
Monday, 1 May 1995
Dear Cardinal Keeler,
Dear Friends in Christ,
I greet you in the peace and joy of the Risen Lord! You have come to Rome to accompany Cardinal Keeler, who yesterday took possession of his Titular Church, the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels. You are well aware that this ancient tradition indicates the special bond which unites your Cardinal to this See of Rome. I personally am grateful to Your Eminence for the wise and generous way in which you seek to foster all that strengthens unity and charity in the Church. Indeed, this is the invitation which I make to you all. In the words of Saint Paul: "If we live by the truth and in love, we shall grow in all ways into Christ" (Ep 4,15). This is the message that you must make known by word and deed, in the home, in the workplace, in the community, everywhere.
The Baltimore area is a leading center of academic and scientific research in the United States, particularly in the vast field of medicine. I urge you always to keep in mind as the supreme criteria of all your endeavors the unique value of every human life as God’s own possession, and the dignity of every human being. In this way you will build a civilization committed to life, against all that threatens the very significance of human life, endowed with a transcendent destiny.
I look forward to October when, with God’s help, I shall have an opportunity to visit your city and return the visit which you are making to me today. In this Easter season I ask our Lord Jesus Christ to send his peace upon you and your families, and I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing.
1. Fifty years ago, on 8 May 1945, the Second World War ended in Europe. The conclusion of that terrible calamity not only led people to hope for the return of the prisoners, deportees and refugees; it also awakened a desire to build a better Europe. The Continent could begin once more to hope in a future of peace and democracy.
Half a century later, individuals, families and peoples still retain memories of those six terrible years: memories of fear, violence, extreme poverty, death; tragic experiences of painful separation, endured in the absence of all security and freedom; recurring traumas brought about by the incessant bloodshed.
Speeches 1995 - Saturday, 25 March 1995