Speeches 1997 - Saturday, 18 October 1997
7. To my joy I have learned that not only with regard to religious instruction, but also concerning other burning issues the Christian confessions in Germany have made joint statements, which are now and then followed by concrete actions. Along with the jointly planned and already repeated "Week for Life", whose goal is to make consciences more aware of the "culture of life", they have spoken together particularly on the economic and social situation in Germany, and have made statements on ethics in the media and on compliance with and acceptance of policies regarding migration and foreigners. These initiatives show clearly that ecumenism is not dead, but is alive wherever Christians of different Churches are conscious of their common mission of contributing to the fundamental unity of society.
8. This mission of Christians becomes even more important as the unity of Europe draws nearer. The problems of German unity are new, although the answers to the questions about European unity are still being sought. The Holy See imposes Christian truth on no individual, State or European people. However, it will continue to point out that no material or economic progress — regardless of how desirable it is — should be allowed to take the place of God. With this truth nothing exclusively Christian is at stake; it is rather a question of what is specifically human. It involves the humanum, the humanity of the person. Therefore it concerns everyone, regardless of the religious group to which he or she belongs, and it is valid for all peoples. Thus the Church has an even more important duty of introducing this truth into the house being planned for Europe. Otherwise it will be built on sand. To this end every political power will find a loyal, trustworthy partner in the Church, if only it is prepared to build Europe on stable rock, so that in the house, which the European family of nations must build, we and the following generations can feel safe and secure, free from all fear of being buried again under its rubble.
9. Mr Ambassador, in our common responsibility for the service of unity, which since the restoration of freedom is the duty of Church and State, I want to express to you my conviction that the friendly relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Holy See will become more and more harmonious. As I ask you to return the greetings which you conveyed to me from the Federal President and the Government, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, Mr Ambassador, to your distinguished family and to your esteemed colleagues at the embassy.
Dear Young People of Italian Catholic Action,
1. Welcome to St Peter’s Square!
You have wanted to visit the Pope at the end of your national convention. Thank you for coming: you bring joy and enthusiasm.
I have come among you to greet you and to bless you all. I know that you come from all over Italy: I also send a greeting to your relatives, who are with us in spirit at this moment.
I particularly thank your National President, Mr Giuseppe Gervasio, the General Chaplain, Archbishop Agostino Superbo, and the National Director and Assistant of Catholic Action Youth. They have organized this happy event and, together with your two representatives, have wished to express to me the sentiments of you all.
I greet your teachers, who generously contribute to the human and Christian, ecclesial and missionary growth of the children and young people given to the Church by divine Providence through the apostolic experience of the ACR. I greet the chaplains and women religious present, the teachers of Gospel life in the guidance of both children and educators on the way of faith. I also address a cordial greeting to Minister Rosi Bindi, to the Mayor of Rome and to the President of the Lazio Region, and thank them for coming.
2. Dear young people, you are keeping this appointment, long awaited and prepared for, under the festive and joyful banner: "There is more fun together". This is the motto you have adopted and it aptly summarizes the message of your national meeting. You visibly express in it the journey of the whole Church towards the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 and, in a certain way, you anticipate an important aspect of it by telling everyone that celebrations are only authentic if they are experienced "together".
We are referring to the Christian celebration which always arises from a personal encounter with Christ Jesus, welcomed into the Church’s concrete experience as friend and Lord. You do this in your groups and in your parishes.
It is he, the Lord Jesus, who fills the heart with joy, with his full and lasting joy, and thus makes it possible to celebrate in brotherhood and solidarity with others.
In following Jesus, the one true Saviour of the world, you young people are invited to grow in knowledge and love of the heavenly Father, and to perform concrete acts of love and hope in the course of everyday life. Thus your commitment to making peace possible will continue, starting in the places where you spend your days: home, school, the parish, the town, the city, Italy.
Your commitment to peace then spreads to your peers who are living in less favourable situations in other nations of Europe and the world. I am thinking, for example, of Sarajevo and of the very beautiful bridge of friendship you have built with the young people of Bosnia-Hercegovina.
In an ever more intense friendship with Jesus Christ you are increasing the Church’s communion; with your talents and according to your valuable abilities, you are putting yourselves at the service of Christian communities so that they may be ever more faithful to the Gospel.
3. Young people of Italian Catholic Action, the Pope has confidence in you! This is why he does not hesitate to suggest that you follow Jesus by imitating the example of the saints. Today the Church is celebrating the liturgical feast of St Luke the Evangelist. You are certainly very familiar with his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Meditate deeply on God’s Word, in private and together. It will help you to understand your vocation ever better and to become fearless witnesses to Jesus.
A few days ago, we commemorated St Francis of Assisi, patron of Italy and of Italian Catholic Action. What a teacher of the evangelical life, what a sound model of an apostle of Christ is this great saint, who is known and venerated all over the world!
In addition to him, who gave up everything for love of the Lord, I would like today to present another saint to you, who died when she was only 24, exactly 100 years ago: St Thérèse of the Child Jesus, who tomorrow I shall proclaim a doctor of the Church. Little Thérèse would of course have been an excellent member of the ACR, at least before entering Carmel! She was full of vitality, faith and enthusiasm for Jesus and the Gospel. She wanted to belong completely to God, and chose to become a Carmelite nun. Her short life was totally consumed by love of God and by the desire to make him loved by the whole world. Thérèse has bequeathed to us as her testament the simple and secure way of love filled with trust in God. She called it the "little way", because it is open to those who, as Jesus says, can become "little", that is, humble and simple. In fact it is the way of trustful abandonment into God’s hands, relying more on him than on one’s own strength. Young people, develop your personality and become strong and mature, but do so in a way that your heart remains humble, pure and "little" before God, ever ready to love your brothers and sisters: only in this way does one enter the kingdom of heaven, where the greatest is the one who is smallest, and the most important is the servant of all.
4. I would now like to ask you to express publicly and to repeat together, in unison, the pledges to the Christian life and mission which you make every year as members of the ACR.
Dear young people, you know you have become, by Baptism, children of God and living stones of the Church:
— Do you want to foster intimacy and friendship with Jesus Christ in prayer and in the sacramental life?
(The young people say: Yes!)
You know you are called by the Lord Jesus to become apostles of joy and builders of hope in the Christian community:
— Do you want to make your own contribution, individually and as a group, to building up the Church in the communities to which you belong?
(The young people say: Yes!)
You know you are called, even at your young age, to be generous witnesses to the newness of Christianity:
— Do you want your peers, your friends, your families, your towns and cities to be touched by the joy of the Gospel and the love of Christ?
(The young people say: Yes!)
5. Dear young people, may the Holy Spirit, gift of the heavenly Father and of Christ his Son, help you to remain faithful to these commitments and to grow in the joy of Christian friendship, allowing the Lord to work great things in you. He also wants to make you a gift to the Church and to all humanity.
This is why I entrust you to Mary, the gentle young girl of Nazareth, the Mother of the Lord and of us all, that she may watch each day over your progress on the paths of truth and peace.
Together with Christ, with Mary, with the saints and with the ACR, there really is more fun!
A special blessing to all of you and to your families.
Dear young people, you have filled St Peter’s Square as it seldom is. I thank you and hope you have a nice Sunday.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. Yesterday gave you an opportunity to take part in a ceremony rare in the Church's life but richly meaningful: the proclamation of a doctor of the Church. I cordially greet each of the pilgrims who are here this morning, especially Bishop Pierre Pican of Bayeux and Lisieux, Bishop Guy Gaucher, his Auxiliary, and Archbishop Georges Gilson of Sens, Prelate of the Mission de France. You have wished to come and learn from her who embodies for us the "little way", the royal way of Love. St Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face belongs to that group of saints whom the Church recognizes as teachers of the spiritual life. She teaches as a doctor, for although her writings were not of the same nature as those of theologians, for each of us they are a powerful help in understanding the faith and the Christian life.
2. I turn to the representatives of the Order of Carmel and warmly greet them, because this proclamation of St Thérèse of Lisieux as a doctor is a special celebration for them. I cordially greet all the consecrated persons and members of spiritual movements who place themselves under the patronage of St Thérèse of Lisieux. I encourage you to stay faithful to the message she gives to the Church: she gives it through you, living witnesses to her teaching. Be eager to listen constantly to her message and to spread it among those around you by your word and example.
3. For our time Thérèse is a powerful and accessible witness of an experience of faith in God, the faithful and merciful God, who is just by his very Love. She lived deeply her membership in the Church, the Body of Christ. I think that young people really find in her an inspiration to guide them in the faith and in ecclesial life, at a time when their way can be crossed by trials and doubts. Thérèse experienced all kinds of trials, but it was granted to her to remain faithful and trusting; she bears witness to that fact. She supports her brothers and sisters on all the paths of the world.
4. Thérèse, in her simplicity, is the model of a life offered to the Lord even in its smallest details. In fact she wrote: "I want to sanctify my heartbeats, my thoughts, my simplest actions, uniting them to his infinite merits" (Prayer n. 10). And it was in this same spirit that she one day addressed her Lord and Master, saying: "I beg you to be yourself my sanctity" (Act of Oblation to Merciful Love; Prayer n. 6).
From union with Christ come the fruits of love that we must also allow to mature within us. Thérèse had well understood that the origin of a love open to others is found precisely here: "When I am charitable, it is Jesus alone who is acting in me, and the more I am united to him, the more also do I love my sisters" (Ms C, 12vº). In the difficulties which necessarily occur in daily life, she never demanded her rights, but was ever ready to yield to her sisters, even at great interior cost. This is an attitude which, in every era of the Church's life, must be imitated by the baptized of whatever age or state. Only the virtue of humility, which Thérèse insistently asked of Christ, makes true concern for others possible.
5. United to Christ and devoted to others, Thérèse felt a natural inclination to extend her love to the whole world. My Precedessor, Pope Pius XI, highlighted this aspect of her spiritual doctrine when he proclaimed her "patroness of the missions" in 1927. Based on the love that united her to Christ, she began to identify herself with the Beloved in the Song of Songs: "Draw me after you" (Sg 1,4). She later understood that through her the Lord was attracting a multitude of people, since her soul had an immense love for them. "All the souls whom she loves follow in her train" (Ms C, 34rº). With marvellous daring and spiritual sensitivity Thérèse made her own the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, saying that she too belonged to the great movement by which the Lord draws all men and leads them to the Father: "Your words, O Jesus, are mine, then, and I can make use of them to draw upon the souls united to me the favours of the heavenly Father" (Ms C, 34vº).
Dear brothers and sisters, dear friends, it is up to you daily to live this doctrine which is now publicly offered to the whole Church. You will be eager to make it your own, to make it better known. Like Holy Scripture — which Thérèse loved to quote — it is never so difficult as to be repelling, and never so easy as to be exhausted: "It is not so deterring as to become discouraging, nor so accessible as to become banal. The more familiar one is with it, the less one tires of it; the more one meditates on it, the more one loves it" (St Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job, XX, 1, 1).
As I wish you the many discoveries and joys to be found in the school of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, doctor of the universal Church, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and extend it to everyone you represent and who is with you in spirit.
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. In the love of the Lord Jesus I welcome you - the Bishops of England and Wales - on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum, and I extend cordial greetings to the priests, deacons, religious, and lay faithful of the particular Churches over which you preside in love. This year marks the 1400th Anniversary of the arrival in Britain of Saint Augustine, the Apostle of the English, whose work among the Anglo-Saxons laid the foundation for the later growth of Christianity in your land. In a very real way our present meeting is linked to those events of fourteen centuries ago. The bonds of ecclesial communion which were then set in place between the Apostolic See and that part of the universal Church in your care have survived the vicissitudes of history and are vividly expressed and renewed through your visit, which has one of its main moments in your profession of faith at the tombs of the Princes of the Apostles, Peter and Paul. You have come "to see Peter" (cf. Gal Ga 1,18) in the person of his Successor in the See of Rome, this "greatest and most ancient Church" (Saint Irenaeus, Adv. Haer., III.3.2). Thus your visit bears witness to the unique ministry of unity which the Bishop of Rome discharges for the benefit of the whole of Christ's flock (cf. Jn Jn 21,15-17), just as it speaks of the shared responsibility we have as Bishops "for all the Churches" (2Co 11,28).
The image of the first Christian community as described in the Acts of the Apostles - "devoted to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (2:42) - is a reminder that the Church is a loving communion of believers gathered around the Apostles and their Successors and constantly being formed into a unity of faith, discipline and life in the power of the Holy Spirit. In a particular way the Lord has entrusted to the College of Bishops the task of building up the koinonia, and therefore we must never cease to encourage God's People to be "of one heart and soul" (Ac 4,32). It is important that in the eyes of the Church and of the world we, the Shepherds, be seen to be "united by the bonds of unity, charity and peace" (Lumen Gentium LG 22) in leading the faithful to an ever deeper union with the Triune God (cf. 1Jn 1,3) and communion with one another in the Body of Christ (cf. 1Co 10,16). In a spirit of evangelical trust we must endeavour to make our communion ever more profound and cordial.
2. The approaching Great Jubilee constitutes a pressing invitation to the Church's Pastors to guide the communities entrusted to them on a spiritual pilgrimage to the very heart of the Gospel. Our journey to the Year 2000 should take the form of a genuine pursuit of conversion and reconciliation by purifying ourselves of past errors and instances of infidelity, inconsistency, and slowness to act (cf. Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 33). Certainly, it is not enough to make public statements of sorrow for past wrongs. We must remind ourselves and the faithful of the radically personal nature of the repentance and conversion required. The joy of the Jubilee is "above all a joy based upon the forgiveness of sins, the joy of conversion" (ibid., 32). In this sense, it is an occasion to help the faithful recover the true "sense of sin" (cf. 1Jn 1,8), leading to a renewed appreciation of the beauty and joy of the Sacrament of Penance (cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 48). There will be a renewal of sacramental practice if there is a determined emphasis on the Sacrament of Reconciliation in preaching, catechesis, diocesan pastoral programmes and planning. The best catechist of Reconciliation is the priest who himself regularly has recourse to this sacrament. Priests who are dedicated to the ministry of reconciliation know that it is a demanding and often exhausting task, yet "one of the most beautiful and consoling"of the priest's life (Reconciliatio et Paenitentia RP 29). On the other hand, the faithful in a sense have a right to have scheduled times for Penance at their parish and to find their priests always ready to receive the person who comes looking for Confession.
3. The parish remains the place where the faithful normally gather as one family to hear the saving word of God, to celebrate the sacraments with dignity and reverence, and to be inspired and strengthened in their mission to consecrate the world in holiness, justice and peace. The parish makes present the mystery of the Church as an organic community, in which "the pastor - who represents the diocesan Bishop - is the hierarchical bond with the entire particular Church" (Christifideles Laici CL 26). Other institutions, organizations and associations are signs of vitality, instruments of evangelization and a leaven of Christian life as long as they contribute to building up the local community in the unity of faith and ecclesial life. Every community in which the faithful gather for spiritual nourishment and works of ecclesial service must be fully open to "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ep 4,3) - a unity which entails an organic connection with the particular Church in which that community's ecclesial character is guaranteed and its charisms activated.
Pastors have a duty to foster the "charisms, ministries, and different forms of participation by the People of God, without adopting notions borrowed from democracy and sociology which do not reflect the Catholic vision of the Church and the authentic spirit of Vatican II " (Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 36). In the document The Sign We Give approved by your Conference in 1995, you recognized the need to strengthen "collaborative ministry" among Bishops, priests, religious and lay people, so that an authentic communion in mission would be ever more evident in diocesan and parochial life. Working together in a genuine "partnership in the Gospel" (Ph 1,5) involves much more than a distribution of tasks driven by practical necessity. It has its foundation in the Sacraments of Christian Initiation (cf. Christifideles Laici CL 23) and requires an awareness of the diverse gifts which the Spirit entrusts to the whole Body of Christ (cf. 1Co 12,4-13). Precisely for this reason it also calls for theological and practical clarity regarding what is specific to the ministerial priesthood. Is it not true that the more the laity's own sense of vocation is deepened, the more they recognize the priest's sacramental consecration and his specific role in promoting "the baptismal priesthood of the entire People of God, leading it to its full ecclesial realization" (Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 17)?
4. Your priests are the great work of your episcopal ministry. In every aspect and phase of their priestly lives, they must be the subject of your prayer and the object of your affectionate care. Since your last ad Limina visit the Apostolic Visitation of the seminaries of England and Wales has been completed and has confirmed that today, more perhaps than in the past, candidates need guidance in the area of their human development and formation, especially with regard to interpersonal relations in general, to chastity and celibacy, and to the whole range of attitudes and qualities that will lead them to become mature and well-balanced human beings, gifted in their dealings with others and psychologically equipped for the demands of their priestly life and work. They need a deeply assimilated human, spiritual, academic and pastoral training if they are to prepare for the priesthood according to the mind of Christ and his Church. It is significant that your Conference is revising the Charter for Priestly Formation, a revision which will take into account the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis and the relevant documents of the Holy See in its desire to present the Church's understanding of the sacred ministry as a sacramental configuration to Jesus Christ, enabling the priest to act in persona Christi Capitis and in the name of the Church.
The Visitation also took note of the specific cooperation of members of the laity, both men and women, in the training of priests. This cooperation will bear the hoped for results, "provided it is suitably coordinated and integrated" with the work of those primarily responsible for the formation of seminarians (Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 66). It is always necessary to distinguish between the specific training of seminarians preparing for Holy Orders, and the courses offered to those who will exercise other ministries in the Church. Priestly training is not only or primarily a matter of developing pastoral skills but of forming the attitudes - the very heart and mind - of Christ Jesus (cf. Phil Ph 2,5) in those who will represent the Eternal High Priest.
And how can we fail to mention the importance of fervent and continuing prayer, especially in families and parishes, for an increase of vocations to the priesthood and religious life? The apostolate of vocations depends greatly on the apostolate of prayer. Like the disciple Andrew who brought his brother Simon to Jesus (cf. Jn Jn 1,40-42), the Bishop has a personal responsibility for promoting new vocations to the Lord's service. While he should encourage priests and religious to do all they can in this field, he should also support specific programmes aimed at bringing young people into contact with the seminary and with the different forms of the consecrated life. In this it is essential to have the cooperation of priests and consecrated persons who effectively project a positive image of their calling.
5. The faithful look to you, as individual Bishops and as a Conference, to provide the spiritual and moral leadership which will help them to respond to the complex questions facing them and their families in today's society. They expect their spiritual guides to be able to share with them "reasons for hope" (cf. 1P 3,14): the hope which derives from the truth about man as God's beloved creature, redeemed by the blood of Christ and destined for eternal communion with him in heaven; the truth about man's dignity and therefore about his responsibility for life and for the world in which he lives.
Today, human life itself tends to be considered in terms of a "consumer mentality". Life is valued only if it appears to be useful in some way, or can bring satisfaction and pleasure. Suffering is rejected as a meaningless evil to be avoided at all costs. Influential elites seek to move public opinion to endorse abortion and euthanasia as morally acceptable solutions to life's problems. To those now seeking legal backing for the so-called "right to die with dignity" the Church cannot but reply that Christians have a clear obligation to oppose legislation which jeopardizes human life or repudiates its dignity (cf. Evangelium Vitae EV 72). As Bishops, we must teach that responsible stewardship over life demands that everyone respect the medical, moral and ethical difference between healing - using all the ordinary means available to care for life from natural conception until its natural end - and killing. In the face of recent developments in biotechnology, with extremely delicate moral implications, the whole Church, guided by the College of Bishops in union with the Pope, must firmly and clearly proclaim that scientific research remains true to itself as a human activity only if it respects the ethical order inscribed by the Creator on man's heart (cf. Rom Rm 2,15).
6. Likewise, when you speak out against injustice and encourage the lay faithful to be the "salt of the earth" (cf. Mt Mt 5,13), you are saying that the authentic renewal of social and political life is based on the moral order revealed in creation (cf. Rm 2,15) and illuminated by the mystery of Christ, in whom "all things hold together" (Col 1,17). The diffusion of the Church's social doctrine is indeed "part of the Church's evangelizing mission" (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 41). The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 brings with it the challenge "to raise our voices on behalf of the poor of the world" (Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 51), and offers the Church in England and Wales the occasion to make a new covenant with the poor - with those who are needy, suffering, abandoned, and especially with those whose lives are threatened in their mother's womb or who are neglected and made to feel burdensome in their declining years. I urge you to insist with the faithful and with society as a whole on the duty to see in each and every person "a manifestation of God in the world, a sign of his presence, a trace of his glory" (Evangelium Vitae EV 34).
7. Your service of ecclesial communion necessarily leads you to a loyal and respectful dialogue with those who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church. You have welcomed the urgent appeal of the Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint, in which I said that the re-establishment of the full visible unity of all Christians, is "an organic part of [the Church's] life and work, and consequently must pervade all that she is and does" (No. 20). The ecumenical journey is not without difficulties and apparent setbacks, among which must be included the decision by the Church of England to admit women to the ordained ministry. While continuing to seek with the members of other Christian bodies a deeper understanding of the nature of ministry and of the Church's teaching authority, you are called on to explain the reasons why the Catholic Church holds that she has no authority to change something so fundamental in the whole of Christian tradition (cf. Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, 4). The faithful should be helped to see that this teaching does not discriminate against women, since the priesthood is not a "right" or a "privilege", but a vocation which one does not take upon oneself but to which one is "called by God, just as Aaron was" (He 5,4). On the other hand, it is incumbent on the ecclesial community to foster greater appreciation of women's specific gifts and to enable them to be more actively involved in roles of responsibility in the Church (cf. Letter to Women, 11-12). We must all make efforts in this regard, confident that the Church in the Third Millennium will bring forth new ways in which "the genius of women" will build up the Body of Christ.
8. Dear Brothers in the Episcopacy, it is my fervent prayer that your visit to the tombs of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul will encourage you to persevere in the work of Christ, the Eternal Priest, the Shepherd and guardian of our souls (cf. 1P 2,25). "I hold you in my heart, you who are all partners with me in grace ... and in the defence and confirmation of the Gospel" (Ph 1,5). As Bishops, in obedience to the truth which alone will make us free (Jn 8,32), we are often called upon to repeat the "hard sayings" (Jn 6,60) and indicate the "narrow gate and the hard way that leads to life" (cf. Mt Mt 7,14). We try to do so with compassion and with respect for every person. We must walk with our brothers and sisters, encompassing with love all those who are afflicted with human weakness and recognizing in the poor and the suffering the likeness of our poor and suffering Lord and Master (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 8). Always, our hope and confidence are founded on the power of the Risen Lord. Invoking upon you and upon those entrusted to your pastoral care an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit, I commend you to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. It is a great joy for me to meet you at the end of your plenary assembly. In this way I can express my feelings of deep gratitude to you and my warm appreciation of the work your dicastery carries out in service to the ministry of unity, entrusted in a special way to the Roman Pontiff, and which is expressed primarily as unity of faith, sustained and constituted by the sacred deposit whose first guardian and defender is the Successor of Peter (cf. Apost. Const. Pastor Bonus ).
I thank Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger for his cordial words which he also addressed to me on your behalf and for his description of the topics you have examined during your plenary assembly.
It was particularly concerned with a study of the categories of truth mentioned in the conclusion of the New Formula of the Profession of Faith, published by this Congregation in 1989, and to a reflection on the anthropological and Christological foundation of morality, in the light of the principles confirmed in the Encyclical Veritatis splendor.
I would also like to express my satisfaction that the revision of the text of the Agendi ratio in doctrinarum examine has been brought to a positive conclusion. It is certainly an effective means of providing an ever more suitable structure for the procedure of examining writings that appear contrary to the faith.
2. Now I would like to reflect briefly on the principal subjects discussed at your meeting. Studying the order of the categories of truth of Christian doctrine, the type of assent that is owed, and the formulas for proposing adherence to them is in continuity with the theme you considered at the last plenary assembly: the value and authority of the teachings of the Church’s Magisterium in service to the truth of the faith and as the firm foundation of theological research.
On that occasion, I recalled that "for a community based essentially on shared adherence to the Word of God and on the resulting certainty of living in the truth, authority for determining the content to be believed and professed is something that cannot be renounced. That this authority includes various degrees of teaching has been clearly stated in two recent documents of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: the Professio Fidei and the Instruction Donum veritatis. This hierarchy of degrees should not be considered an impediment but a stimulus to theology" (Address, 24 November 1995, n. 5; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 29 November 1995, p. 3).
Taking up this theme again with special attention contributes to a more in-depth explanation of the various degrees in which the faithful adhere to the doctrines taught by the Magisterium, so that their primary meaning and significance will always be received and preserved in their entirety. At the same time it helps to bring out ever more clearly the connection between the various truths of Catholic doctrine and the foundation of the Christian faith.
Thanks also to the clarification you have worked out in this regard, a task which has occupied your Congregation in these days, the Bishops, who inherit from the Apostles the role of "teachers and pastors", to be always exercised in communion with the Roman Pontiff (cf. Lumen gentium LG 22), will have at their disposal a further means of preserving and promoting the deposit of faith to the benefit of the entire People of God.
3. You also put exceptional stress on moral questions, whose horizon covers the whole span of human life.
In this regard, I have already said in my first Encyclical Letter Redemptor hominis that "the Church cannot abandon man, for his ‘destiny’, that is to say, his election, calling, birth and death, salvation or perdition, is so closely and unbreakably linked with Christ" (n. 14).
The weighty problems calling, with ever more pressing urgency, for an answer in accordance with truth and goodness can find a genuine solution only if the anthropological and Christological foundation of the Christian moral life is recovered. Indeed, the incarnate Son of God is the universal and concrete norm of Christian conduct: "he himself becomes a living and personal Law, who invites people to follow him; through the Spirit, he gives the grace to share his own life and love and provides the strength to bear witness to that love in personal choices and actions (cf. Jn Jn 13,34-35)" (Veritatis splendor VS 15). By grace, then, every individual is made to share in truth and goodness in the One who is the image of the invisible God (cf. Col Col 1,15), and in fidelity to following him he is enabled to act in accordance with the freedom of a son.
The service your dicastery offers to the Successor of Peter and the Church’s Magisterium helps to ensure that freedom remains always and solely "in the truth", aiding the consciences of all people, particularly the disciples of Christ, not to stray from the path that leads to man’s authentic good.
The good of the human person is to be in the truth and to do the truth in love. This essential bond of "truth-goodness-freedom" seems to have been lost in large part by contemporary culture and, therefore, to lead man back to discovering it is today one of the requirements proper to the mission of the Church, called to work for the salvation of the world.
By committing yourselves to making ever clearer the essential anthropological and Christological foundation of the moral life, you will certainly help foster the conscience formation of many of our brothers and sisters, in accordance with what the Second Vatican Council taught in the Declaration Dignitatis humanae: "In forming their consciences the faithful must pay careful attention to the sacred and certain teaching of the Church. For the Catholic Church is by the will of Christ the teacher of truth. It is her duty to proclaim and teach with authority the truth which is Christ and, at the same time, to declare and confirm by her authority the principles of the moral order which spring from human nature itself" (n. 14).
4. Today I am particularly pleased to conclude this meeting with you by recalling St Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, whom I had the joy of solemnly proclaiming a doctor of the Church last Sunday.
The witness and example of this young saint, patroness of the missions and doctor of the Church, help us to understand the intimate unity between the task of understanding and comprehending the faith and the properly missionary one of proclaiming the Gospel of salvation. By its very nature faith seeks to make itself understandable and accessible to all. Therefore, the Christian mission always strives to make the truth known, and true love of neighbour is shown in its most profound and complete form when it seeks to give its neighbour what man most radically needs: knowledge of the truth and communion with it. And the supreme truth is the mystery of the Triune God definitively and unsurpassably revealed in Christ. When missionary ardour risks growing cold, the primary reason is the loss of passion and love for the truth which the Christian faith presents.
On the other hand, knowledge of Christian truth inwardly requires and interiorly demands love for him to whom it has given its assent. The sapiential theology of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus shows the high road for all theological reflection and doctrinal research: the love on which "depend all the law and the prophets" is a love which strives for the truth and is thus cherished as authentic agape for God and man. It is important for theology today to recover the spiritual dimension that integrates the intellectual and scholarly aspect with holiness of life and the contemplative experience of the Christian mystery. Thus St Thérèse of Lisieux, doctor of the Church, with her wise reflection nourished by the sources of Sacred Scripture and divine Tradition, in complete fidelity to the teachings of the Magisterium, shows contemporary theology the way to reach the heart of the Christian faith.
Dear brothers and sisters, in congratulating you on your commitment and on the valuable ministry you carry out in service to the Apostolic See and for the sake of the entire Church, I invoke upon each of you the special protection of Mary, Seat of Wisdom, and of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. And I cordially give you all my Blessing as a pledge of affection and gratitude.
Speeches 1997 - Saturday, 18 October 1997