Speeches 1997 - Thursday, 4 September 1997
In receiving the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Italian Republic to the Holy See, I am pleased to extend a respectful and cordial greeting to the President of the Republic, the Honourable Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, and to the whole nation.
There are many States represented at this Apostolic See, but the relationship with the country which has been so close to the original seat of the Successor of Peter for 2,000 years is very special. Truly the Pope has never been a stranger in the "beautiful country that the Apennines divide, the sea and the Alps surround": he has not and is not a stranger because of his office as Bishop of Rome, which specifies and incarnates here his role as Pastor of the universal Church.
Even ó especially ó in the most difficult hours, in dark and complicated situations, the love of the Supreme Pontiff for this dear people was not lacking nor was his commitment to their protection and welfare. From the time of the invasions and migrations of peoples to the bombardments and destruction of the last world war, the Successors of Peter ó in the changing conditions of the time ó did everything possible for the people whom nature and history had placed around their Chair. Even in our time, with an extraordinary "Great Prayer for Italy", I wished to call the attention of everyone to the problems that the events of the '90s have raised in this beloved country, in order to awaken new energies and creative fidelity in the light of an ancient and still flourishing tradition of commitment and sacrifice for the common good, as a response to Christian truth.
In particular, the century about to end has been marked by a growth in mutual understanding between Italy and the Holy See. The misunderstandings and difficulties of the previous century were soon overcome. The Conciliation of 11 February 1929 fulfilled the dream of the best spirits who wanted to "give Italy back to God and God back to Italy", showing likewise that nothing irreparable had ever happened between the country and the Successors of Peter. It now seems clear to everyone that the Holy See's reservations regarding certain aspects of the unification were not dictated by ambitions for property, much less for earthly power, but by the just defence of absolute independence from the surrounding territorial sovereignty.
Then, when the wounds of totalitarianism and war were still open, the wisdom of many wished to insert into the Constitution of the nascent and free Republic the principle of the independence and sovereignty of each order, while nobody questioned any longer the small and almost symbolic space necessary for the Apostolic See to carry out its mission throughout the world.
Again, with the Revision Agreement of 1984, the same spirit presided over the updating, by mutual consent, of the Lateran Treaties, stating clearly, as had already been expressed by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, that between Church and State there is no oppositon but sharing and co-operation in protecting the human person in his individual and social expressions.
The relations between the Holy See and the Italian Republic, we can safely say on the basis of well-established historical experience, truly crown a web of relationships, an indisputable mode of discussion, rich in results and potential. The Church, for her part, has a wealth of truth which she tirelessly proposes to man in the various aspects of his social structures. It is above all in the family that Christian and moral doctrine recognize the first and natural environment for welcoming life from its conception. The family, born from the love of a man and a woman, which traditions and the law hallow as the basic cell of society, expects the dictate of the fundamental law of the Republic to be fully applied where it "recognizes the rights of the family as a natural society based on marriage" (art. 29). The family, therefore, has a basic function in the organization of society, and it must be encouraged and protected, even in its economic and fiscal aspects. It cannot be abandoned to the corrosion of relativism, because life and the very future of the country are in its bosom.
In this regard many voices have already been raised with distress at seeing Italy relegated to a low birth rate. In this we can see a closed-minded attitude, a distrust in the future of national society and perhaps a selfish tendency. It is a common hope that life will be helped to grow and flourish with all the benefits that can be contributed to it.
The school, in a similar perspective, has an essential role in building the Italy of tomorrow. Old barriers, even of a psychological nature, are collapsing, but the same principle that calls all citizens to make their contribution to the common good through the widest and most active participation demands the full and mature freedom of the school and in the school. Culture requires dialogue and discussion; citizens and families expect from the State that reasonable assistance which makes possible the effective and indisputable exercise of the right to choose their cultural horizon without discrimination and burdens that are even economically unsustainable.
But everything would be in vain if there were no work. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council had already put forth the concept of participating in creation which is inherent in daily work, and I confirmed this in several Encyclicals. Now young people particularly fear the lack of stable and stimulating employment. Public authorities, economic forces, trade unions and all individuals have the serious task of creating the conditions for genuine employment opportunities, such as can deter young people from the temptations of laziness, easy gain or even criminal activities.
The Catholic community can make its own contribution to these developments, and much is already being done, from volunteer work to the "cultural project" that the Italian Episcopal Conference is preparing. All this reconfirms a truth that cannot be denied: the faithful and the Church are not strangers in this country. They are fully part of it. From their very long, and perhaps unique, tradition, from the teaching of the Magisterium, from Revelation itself, they find ideas for remedying the evils as well as the needs of the country, and research continues to make new contributions. It is certainly not by chance that the country's true and profound identity is unequivocally revealed in Christianity.
With the fall of so many borders and the birth of a new Europe, the duty to enrich the continent with Italy's specific charism becomes increasingly urgent. To the glories of its past, to the creative initiative of its present, are added the basic features of its Catholic identity, which has been and continues to be so evident in art, in social activities and in so many journeys of faith and culture. The soul of Italy is a Catholic soul, and in this regard there are great expectations for what it can express among its sister nations, now finally at peace óexpectations that are further destined to be proved true in the exhilarating and hope-filled perspective of the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, which you so opportunely mentioned. This event is destined to be a time of human, civil and spiritual growth for the beloved Italian nation as well. May the existing co-operation between the Holy See and Italy help to promote its complete success.
It is with these hopeful words that I extend to Your Excellency my most fervent wishes for the successful accomplishment of your mission, and I cordially impart to you my Apostolic Blessing and willingly extend it to the persons accompanying you, to your family and to the beloved Italian nation
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. I am particularly pleased to have this meeting with you. I extend my most cordial greeting to you, with a special affectionate thought for those who, coming from very distant places, faced the discomfort of the journey rather than miss this appointment.
This year you are commemorating the 50th anniversary of your worthy association, founded in Rome by the Servant of God Mons. Luigi Novarese, assisted by Miss Elvira Myriam Psorulla, whom I thank for her words expressing the sentiments of all those present. She wished to confirm the resolution of the whole sodality to serve Christ in those who suffer through a particular work of evangelization and catechesis, which highlights the personal and direct work of the disabled themselves.
Mons. Novarese, spiritually present among us, is certainly accompanying from heaven this work which sprung from his priestly heart. And with him, spiritually close to us are all the "volunteers of suffering" who, over this half century, have departed from this world, bringing with them the viaticum of sharing in the mystery of Jesus' Cross.
2. Your association had as its original nucleus the Priestly Marian League, founded in 1943. Mons Novarese wanted to respond with this initiative to the Virgin's request in the apparitions at Lourdes and Fatima. He also wanted to follow the invitation of my venerable Predecessor Pius XII concerning the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
He was aware that Mary herself, united with her divine Son at the foot of the Cross, teaches us to endure suffering with Christ and in Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit's love. Mary is the first and perfect "volunteer of suffering", uniting her own sorrow to her son's sacrifice, so that it may acquire redemptive meaning.
It is from this Marian matrix that you, dear "Volunteers of Suffering", were born. You carry out an extremely valuable apostolate in the Christian community. You form part of that great movement of ecclesial renewal that, faithful to the Second Vatican Council and attentive to the signs of the times, has found new energy for working courageously in the field of evangelization in an area, such as suffering, that is certainly not easy and is so full of questions.
Your pastoral orientation found its explicit confirmation in the Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici, which, with regard to the "pastoral activity for and with the sick and suffering", states: "The sick person, bearer of a disability, or the suffering individual, [must not be considered] simply as an object of the Church's love and service, but as an active and responsible participant in thework of evangelization and salvation" (n. 54).
On the occasion of the Holy Year of Redemption, I myself wished to offer to the Church, with the Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris, a reflection on the salvific value of human pain (cf. AAS 76, 1984), and I thank you because you helped to spread this message, not only verbally but by the silent witness of your lives.
3. Dear brothers and sisters, your leader, in expressing the attitude that your founder would have today, has promised to co-operate intensely with prayer and sacrifice in the preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.
The word Jubilee suggests the idea of joy, of exultation, and therefore could at first sight appear in contrast with the condition of those who suffer. Actually it would be so, if we confined ourselves to a purely human consideration. But in the light of faith, we understand that that there is no Resurrection without the Cross. We understand then that not only can suffering be in harmony with joy, but, indeed, that it is only in the sign of the Cross that we can attain true, consoling Christian joy. There can be no authentic Jubilee preparation unless we include the experience of suffering in its various forms in our spiritual journey.
4. The great goals the Church proposes to us for these three years of journey towards the Great Jubilee cannot be reached without the personal and community sacrifice of Christians, in union with Christ's one redeeming sacrifice. In this regard, your association can make its own specific contribution by helping the faithful who suffer not to feel excluded from the spiritual journey towards the Year 2000, but, on the contrary, to walk in the front line, carrying the glorious Cross of Christ, the only hope of life for humanity in every age.
An extraordinary example of this silent mission of love, which is born from constant contemplation of Jesus on the Cross, is Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who yesterday returned to the Father's house. This morning I celebrated Holy Mass for her with deep emotion. She was an unforgettable witness to a love expressed in concrete and unceasing service to our poorest and most marginalized brothers and sisters. In the face of the destitute she saw that of Jesus who from the Cross implores: "I thirst". And she took up this cry with generous dedication from the lips and hearts of the dying, of abandoned children, of men and women oppressed by the burden of suffering and loneliness.
Tirelessly traveling the streets of the whole world, Mother Teresa has marked the history of our century: she courageously defended life; she served all human beings by always promoting their dignity and respect; she made "life's losers" feel the tenderness of God, the loving Father of all his creatures. She witnessed to the Gospel of love, which is nourished by the generous gift of self until death. This is how we remember her, while invoking for her the prize that awaits every faithful servant of the kingdom of God. May her shining example of love comfort and inspire her spiritual family, the Church and all mankind.
Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you once again for this festive meeting and I hope that the activity of your association may draw benefit from its 50th anniversary. In imploring the Virgin Mary's maternal protection, I sincerely impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you here present and to all the Volunteers of Suffering, as well as to the Silent Workers of the Cross and to the members of the Priestly Marian League.
Apostolic Palace of the Castel Gandolfo
Saturday, 6 September 1997
With heartfelt sympathy I join the Students of the University of Dallas who are here to pray for the eternal rest of their classmate. I commend your friend to our Heavenly Father's eternal love, and I ask the Lord to comfort his family and all who mourn him with an increase of faith in the power of Jesus' resurrection.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. With todayís solemn ceremony I would like officially to present to the Church and to the world the Latin typical edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which on 15 August last, the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Maryís Assumption into Heaven, I approved and promulgated with the Apostolic Letter Laetamur magnopere.
I first express a deep sense of gratitude to almighty God, who, with the enlightening and strengthening assistance of his Spirit, has guided and supported the process of preparing the Catechism, which began over 10 years ago and now has finally been completed.
I warmly thank the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops who are members of the various Commissions that worked on this project and today are reaping with me the fruits of this intense and productive labour. My especially heartfelt thanks go to dear Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who has just expressed the sentiments of all present and, during these years, has presided over the work, guiding and co-ordinating it with commendable wisdom right to its successful conclusion.
I now entrust this definitive and normative text to the whole Church, particularly to the Pastors of the various Dioceses throughout the world: they in fact are the ones for whom this Catechism is primarily intended. In a certain sense Paulís expression could be rightly applied to this occasion: "I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you" (1Co 11,23). Todayís ceremony in fact is a point of arrival, but at the same time it marks a new "point of departure", since the Catechism, now completed, must be better and more widely known, received, disseminated and, above all, become a valuable, daily tool in pastoral work and evangelization.
2. The use to which this text can and should be put is varied and complementary, so that it will become more and more a "reference point" for all the Churchís prophetic activity, especially at this time when we note a strong and urgent need for a new missionary effort and a relaunching of catechesis.
The Catechism in fact helps "deepen understanding of faith ... [and] is oriented towards the maturing of that faith, its putting down roots in personal life and its shining forth in personal conduct" (CEC 23) for all the Churchís members. It represents a sound, reliable tool for priests in their continuing formation and preaching; for catechists in their remote and proximate preparation for the service of the Word; for families in their growth towards the full realization of the potential inherent in the sacrament of marriage.
Theologians will be able to find in the Catechism an authoritative doctrinal reference for their tireless research. They are called to provide a valuable service for the Catechism, by deepening the understanding of the content set forth there in an essential and concise way, by further explaining the reasons underlying the doctrinal assertions, and by pointing out the deep connections linking the various truths, so as to highlight more and more "the wonderful unity of the mystery of God, his saving will, as well as the central place of Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, sent by the Father, made man in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, to be our Saviour" (Apostolic Constitution Fidei depositum, n. 3).
The Catechism is also offered as a valuable aid for the systematic updating of those working in the varied fields of ecclesial activity. More generally, it will be very useful for the continuing formation of every Christian, who by consulting it frequently or occasionally will be able to rediscover the depth and beauty of the Christian faith and will be led to exclaim in the words of the baptismal liturgy: "This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rite for the Celebration of Baptism).
In addition, there are many who have already found in this Catechism a valuable tool for personal and community prayer, for promoting and identifying the various complementary journeys of spirituality and for giving new vigour to their faith life. Nor should we fail to mention the ecumenical value of the Catechism. As many positive testimonies from Churches and Ecclesial Communities already attest, it can "support ecumenical efforts that are motivated by the holy desire for the unity of all Christians, show carefully the content and wondrous harmony of the Catholic faith" (cf. Apostolic Constitution Fidei depositum, n. 4). But for those asking questions or experiencing difficulty with their faith, or for those who do not believe at all or who no longer believe, the Catechism can offer effective help by explaining what the Catholic Church believes and seeks to live, and by providing an enlightening stimulus in their quest for the Truth.
3. The Catechism of the Catholic Church must serve in particular as a sure and authoritative reference text for writing various local catechisms (cf. ibid., n. 4). In this regard Bishops and entire Episcopal Conferences have made praiseworthy efforts in preparing local catechisms, using the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a "reference point". Progress should be made in this direction with watchful attention and tireless perserverance.
As I have done on other occasions, here I again offer my fervent encouragement that the Episcopal Conferences will undertake, with prudent patience but also courageous resolution, this imposing task, which must be carried out in accord with the Apostolic See. It is a question of drafting catechisms that are faithful to the essential content of Revelation and up-to-date in their methodology, and can educate the Christian generations to come in a solid faith.
Even if, in particular cases, the Catechism of the Catholic Church can be used as a national and local catechetical text, it is still necesssary, where this has not yet occurred, to start preparing new catechisms, which, while presenting faithfully and completely the doctrinal content of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, will favour educational programmes diversified and structured according to the expectations of the recipients. These catechisms, making use of the valuable directions furnished by the new General Directory for Catechesis, soon to be published, are called to provide that "adaptation of doctrinal presentations and catechetical methods required by the differences of culture, age, spiritual maturity, and social and ecclesial condition among all those to whom [catechesis] is addressed" (CEC 24). In a way, then, the marvellous experience of the apostolic era will be repeated, when every believer heard the mighty works of God being told in his own tongue (cf. Acts Ac 2,11) and, at the same time, the catholicity of the Church will be made even more tangible by the proclamation of the Word in the various languages of the world, forming "a melodious chorus sustained by the voices of unnumbered multitudes, rising in countless modulations, tones and harmonies for the praise of God from every part of the globe, at every moment of history" (Encyclical Slavorum Apostoli, n. 17). Therefore, far from discouraging or even replacing local catechisms, the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls for, encourages and guides their preparation.
4. I invite the clergy and faithful to make frequent and assiduous use of this Catechism, which I entrust in a special way to Mary most holy, the feast of whose Birth we celebrate today. And I pray that as the Blessed Virginís birth was, at the beginning of the new era, a fundamental moment in the plan foreordained by God for the Incarnation of his Son, so may this Catechism, prepared on the threshold of the third millennium, become a useful tool for leading the Church and every member of the faithful to an ever deeper contemplation of the mystery of God made Man.
With these sentiments, as I thank those who had a share in editing and translating the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to each of you and to all those for whom this text is intended.
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. It is a great joy for me to welcome you, the Bishops of the Church in Ethiopia and Eritrea, on the occasion of your visit ad limina Apostolorum: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rm 1,7). The ancient practice of "coming to see Peter" is reminiscent of the Apostle Paulís visit to Jerusalem, to spend time with Cephas (cf. Gal. Ga 1,18) whom the Lord had constituted the "rock" upon which he would build his Church. In the fraternal embrace of Peter and Paul the early Christian community recognized Paulís Gentile converts as true brothers and sisters in the faith, and in Paulís account of the abundant outpouring of grace upon these new believers the entire community found ever greater reason to praise Godís boundless mercy (cf. Acts 15:16ff.). In like manner, our coming together today reaffirms the communion of your particular Churches with the Successor of Peter and with the Church universal, and in intimate union of heart our voices join in the song of the psalmist: "Let Ethiopia stretch out her hands to God. Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth; sing praises to the Lord" (Ps 68,31-32).
2. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, both of your countries have undergone vast political and cultural changes in recent years, the most notable being the emergence of democratic forms of government and the attempts being made to bring economic growth and technological progress to your traditional societies. I share your pastoral concern for the peaceful development of your peoples, not only in terms of material progress, but especially in genuine political freedom, ethnic harmony and respect for the rights of all citizens, with particular attention to the situation of minorities and the needs of the poor. The question before you at this time, and the situation which you yourselves addressed in your pastoral letter Thy Kingdom Come published earlier this year, is: how can the Gospel be incarnated in these emerging circumstances? How can the Church and individual Christians best deal with the important issues which they must face if they are to build a better future for themselves?
An answer to these questions can be found in the very goals which, as Pastors of the local Churches of Ethiopia and Eritrea, you have set for yourselves: to transform humanity from within, to renew the innocence of menís hearts, and, as recommended by the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, to build up the Church as family (cf. Thy Kingdom Come, Pastoral Letter of the Ethiopian and Eritrean Catholic Bishops, n. 6). It is this latter element which holds an important key to the first two: for, as the Synod Fathers acknowledged, the Church as Godís family "is an expression of the Churchís nature particularly appropriate for Africa. For this image emphasizes care for others, solidarity, warmth in human relationships, acceptance, dialogue and trust" (Ecclesia in Africa ). In fact, when evangelization succeeds in building up the Church as family, authentic harmony between different ethnic groups is made possible, ethnocentrism is avoided and reconciliation encouraged, greater solidarity and a sharing of resources among people and between the particular Churches becomes a reality.
3. The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, which forms a kind of general pastoral plan for your continent, emphasizes the importance of effectively involving the laity in the life of the parish and Diocese, in pastoral and administrative structures (cf. n. 90). In fact, "because of their baptismal state and their specific vocation, in the measure proper to each person, the lay faithful participate in the priestly, prophetic and kingly mission of Christ" (Christifideles laici CL 23). It is necessary, then, that the laity receive adequate formation in order to be able to meet effectively the enormous challenges facing them as followers of Christ and as citizens of countries striving for development.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a most precious instrument for this formation and for evangelization in general. Now that you have seen to its translation into Amharic, and even as you continue to work on the Tigrinya translation, I encourage you to ensure that as many people as possible have access to it, and that copies be made available especially to the small Christian communities which contribute so much to the strength of ecclesial life. Indeed, the Synod Fathers recognized that "the Church as family cannot reach her full potential as Church unless she is divided into communities small enough to foster close human relationships" (Ecclesia in Africa ). In the Ethiopic tradition, the "Mehaber" associations are a most valid expression of such communities and, as you yourselves acknowledged in your pastoral letter, the value and dynamism of these groups "can have a very positive influence on the evangelization of ... families, villages and parish communities" (n. 32).
4. In the context of meeting the challenges of the future, attention to young people remains of paramount importance and must continue to occupy a pre-eminent place in your pastoral ministry. "The future of the world and the Church belongs to the younger generation.... Christ expects great things from young people" (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 58). The recent celebration of the Twelfth World Youth Day in Paris was a clear confirmation of the capacity of young people to commit their energies and their zeal to the demands of solidarity with others and to the search for Christian holiness. The whole Catholic community must work to ensure that the younger generations are properly trained and adequately prepared to fulfil the responsibilities which will be theirs, and which in some ways already are theirs. This you are already doing through a strong commitment to the formation of youth, particularly in the noteworthy efforts of your Catholic schools and in other forms of social service and health care. Your support of schools involves great sacrifice on your part. But it is a task which is essential to the life of the Church, and of capital benefit to families and to society itself. It is important to continue to seek ways to bring the benefit of sound moral and religious teaching also to the public schools, as is already being done in Eritrea, and to promote in public opinion a consensus regarding the importance of such training. This service, which can result from closer co-operation with your respective governments, is a significant form of active Catholic participation in the social life of your countries, especially as it is provided without religious or ethnic discrimination and with respect for the rights of all.
In fact, the universality which is an essential sign of the Church (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 811 and 830 ff.) and which prompts a sharing of goods, both material and spiritual, is a condition of the effectiveness of your ministry. This universality and sharing can be seen very clearly in the exchange of religious personnel: Ethiopian and Eritrean priests and religious lending pastoral assistance to their brothers and sisters in foreign lands, and priests and religious from foreign lands bringing their talents and solidarity to Ethiopia and Eritrea adapting themselves to a Church which is justly proud of its ancient traditions and culture. The Constitutions of both countries recognize the fundamental right to freedom of religion and of religious practice. I am confident that further dialogue with the civil authorities to clarify the juridical basis of the Churchís presence and activity will greatly benefit everyone, and I dare to hope that the co-operation of missionaries, who contribute so effectively to the welfare and advancement of your peoples, will be made easier.
5. The Catholic communities which you shepherd live side-by-side and in a very close relationship with their brothers and sisters of the majority Ethiopian Orthodox community. Both communities share common roots and a common spirituality deriving from the very ancient and rich Christian tradition present in your lands. The prospect of the 2,000th anniversary of the Birth of the Saviour should serve as an invitation to all to make this common Christian patrimony, which should be a source of mutual respect and understanding, the subject of more extensive dialogue and wider co-operation. As brothers and sisters in the one Lord, you must constantly seek to build communion in order to bear united witness to the mystery of Christ and his Church. A wise and ordered inculturation "should be carried out so that the faithful can better understand and live liturgical celebrations" (Ecclesia in Africa ). Efforts to gain a deeper understanding of the history and development of the Alexandrian rite should continue, so that the common Christian tradition of the region can contribute to the journey to unity, both within the Catholic community and with the other Churches.
At the same time, the missionary aspect of the Church, which is not a question of rite but is rooted in the Gospel, must be renewed in the dynamism of proclaiming Christ to those who do not yet know him. The duty to evangelize is part and parcel of the Catholic identity and ought not to be compromised by an incomplete understanding of inculturation or ecumenism. The Synod recognized the urgency of bringing the Good News to the millions of Africans who have not yet been evangelized. The Church certainly respects and esteems the non-Christian religions professed by many Africans, but, in the words of my Predecessor Pope Paul VI: "The Church holds that these multitudes have the right to know the riches of the mystery of Christ (cf. Eph Ep 3,8) ó riches in which we believe that the whole of humanity can find, in unsuspected fullness, everything that it is gropingly searching for concerning God, man and his destiny, life and death, and truth" (Evangelii nuntiandi EN 53).
6. As your local Churches seek to fulfil this missionary mandate given by the Lord himself (cf. Mt 28,19), we cannot fail to give thanks for the many vocations with which you are blessed. I exhort you to ensure that your vocational programmes zealously foster and protect this gift of God. Young candidates must receive a proper spiritual and theological formation which firmly roots them in the Ethiopian spiritual tradition and prepares them to meet the complex pastoral, social and ethical problems which the modernization of society presents. I encourage you to continue your efforts to provide qualified personnel to staff the three major seminaries. In this way they will truly be centres of theological study and research capable of illuminating the pastoral and evangelizing mission of the Church in both your countries. The communities of men and women religious among you have also developed systematic courses of formation. They look to you for support and guidance, for religious too are the object of your pastoral care and concern as shepherds of the flock which Christ has entrusted to you (cf. Lumen gentium LG 45 Christus Dominus CD 15 CD 35).
You well know that among the many demands on your episcopal ministry, the continuing formation ó human, spiritual and intellectual ó of your priests is one of your principal tasks. In order to carry out their sublime mission as teachers and doctors of the human soul your priests must have your fatherly and fraternal support (cf. Christus Dominus CD 16); they rely on your friendship and on that of their brother priests (cf. Lumen gentium LG 28). As they grow in appreciation of the unique privilege of acting in persona Christi, they will come to devote themselves ever more completely, in chastity and simplicity of life, to their ministry, and their work will be a source of immeasurable joy and peace.
7. I am pleased to note further that, prompted by the recommendation of the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, your Conference has established a Peace and Justice Commission to deal with fundamental questions facing your developing democracies, including human rights, honesty in public administration and the role of women in society. Indeed, the Church has a special role to play in this area and can lend support to the process of building a society in which all citizens, independent of their ethnic, cultural and religious affiliation, can feel at home and be justly treated. Thus, the Church in Ethiopia and Eritrea is called to exercise courage and far-sighted wisdom in carrying out a great mission, a mission stemming from her very nature as sacrament of union with God and of the unity of all the members of the human family (cf. Lumen gentium LG 1). The search for peace and harmony must also be pursued within the Church, where differences are not seen as a reason for conflict or tension, but as a source of strength and unity in legitimate diversity. Harmony and generous co-operation among the faithful, and especially among the priests and among you, the Bishops, will be a powerful incentive in fostering corresponding goodwill and solidarity in society as a whole. "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father" (Mt 5,16).
8. Dear Brothers, these are some of the thoughts which your visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul have brought to mind. I pray that your pilgrimage will give you renewed strength for your ministry, so that you may never grow weary of preaching Godís word, celebrating the sacraments, guiding the flock given over to your care and seeking out the lost sheep who has strayed. I invite you to set your faces resolutely towards the Great Jubilee which, because of the sublime mystery which it commemorates, involves a clarion call to Christian joy (cf. Ecclesia in Africa ). May this joy become a reality for your peoples as a result of the strengthening of faith and holiness of life. I join you in interceding for the Church in Ethiopia and Eritrea, and I commend you, your clergy, religious and laity to the loving protection of Mary, Star of Evangelization and Queen of Africa. As a pledge of grace and communion in her divine Son I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.
Speeches 1997 - Thursday, 4 September 1997