Thursday, 12 January 1978
The visit that Your Excellency and the distinguished personalities accompanying you have paid us is given special prominence by the circumstances of the moment: a particularly intense phase of initiatives and discussions is in progress-in which you yourself are taking an active part-for bringing to a definitive settlement the long and painful conflict in the Middle East.
This meeting is therefore a propitious occasion for us to renew our fervent good wishes and to manifest once again our earnest hope that the impulse given to negotiation may prove decisive for a just peace, thanks to the courage and farsightedness of the leaders involved in the discussions and through participation by all the interested parties.
We think that in this way we are voicing the profound aspirations of all the peoples of the region and of all who look to the Middle East, not only as an area of great importance in and for the world, but also as a fountainhead of immense spiritual riches. We are also convinced that, in spite of the difficulties accumulated in the course of these highly critical years, it is possible to reach solutions that combine the basic demands of both security and justice for all the peoples of the area, and that lay the foundation for a peaceful future for those peoples.
As Your Excellency well knows, in the complex problem of the Middle East we have particularly at heart the question of Jerusalem and the Holy Places; and we fervently hope for a solution that will not only satisfy the legitimate aspirations of those concerned, but also take into account the preeminently religious character of the Holy City. We therefore trust that the proposal several times put forward by the Holy See, in view of the spiritual greatness of Jerusalem, will be seen as a positive contribution to such a solution.
Finally, Mr Minister, we would ask you to convey to the Israeli people and their leaders our warm good wishes for peace. We accompany these wishes with our prayers to the Most High for their well-being and their civil and spiritual progress.
*AAS 70 (1978), p.166-167;
Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, vol. XVI, p.22-23;
L’Osservatore Romano, 13.1.1978.
We are pleased to accept from you the Letters whereby Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II accredits you as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Holy See. The welcome we extend to you is indeed a cordial one. We would ask you to convey to Her Majesty our thanks for the expression of her goodwill and friendship, sentiments which we warmly reciprocate, together with the assurance of our prayers.
In response to your kind reference to our Message for the recent World Day of Peace, the eleventh such celebration, we cannot but emphasize once more our earnest desire and hope that the world will speedily come to appreciate that upon the priceless gift of peace in justice hangs the very destiny of humanity and indeed of the world as we know it. The Holy See does not fail to note with satisfaction all efforts and initiatives directed towards the solid establishment of peace and the abolition of violence in whatever form; only in this way can the dignity and rights of every individual human being be respected and fostered, and a better world be provided for the present generation and for all generations to come, a world inspired by mutual love and readiness to serve the needs of others. It is in this light that we view the efforts being made by your country in this regard.
In a similar way, greater cooperation by your country with the other countries of Europe cannot fail to consolidate true unity and mutual understanding between both the nations themselves and the individuals that go to make them up.
It is also a source of satisfaction for us to note your mention of the visit to us last year by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other leading figures of the Anglican Communion. It is our constant prayer that the Lord will hasten the day when there shall be attained full unity between Christians, in faith and discipline, in the manner in which the Lord himself will bring it about. In the meantime we watch and pray in confidence.
Your Excellency, on this happy occasion we assure you that the Holy See will ever be ready to assist you in the mission which you are about to begin, and we invoke divine blessings upon you and your family and upon the country which you represent.
*AAS 70 (1978), p.167-168;
Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, vol. XVI, p.24-25;
L’Attività della Santa Sede 1978, p.12;
OR 14.1.1978, p.1;
ORa n.4 p.12.
Peace be with you! Peace be with you all!
We are grateful to “All India Radio” for the opportunity to make our voice heard throughout your land-throughout the entire nation of India. We feel that we are once again with the beloved people of India, just as when we walked among you in Bombay. We experience once again the hospitality of your country, as our voice comes into your homes and institutions, and -above all-into your hearts.
Yes, our message is a message of Peace. It is Peace that we proclaim to the world, and we do so with fresh vigour on the occasion of your celebration of the World Day of Peace. And our appeal to all of you, to all men and women of good will is this : “No to violence, Yes to Peace”.
We believe that our words have special meaning today for the citizens of India, on this thirtieth anniversary of the death of Mahatma Gandhi. We associate ourself with all of you in rendering solemn honour to this herald of non-violence, to this man of peace.
And on this occasion we repeat: “No to violence”: to all violence-to everything that wounds, weakens and violates life; to everything that dishonours human dignity. At the same time we reiterate: “Yes to Peace”: to the peace that brings happiness to all, for it is based on fearlessness and truth; it is the work of justice and fraternal love.
To reject violence and to accept all the conditions and demands of Peace is an activity of the highest dignity; it is an expression of the truest patriotism. May God give his peace to India. May the love and peace of God abide in your hearts-for ever!
This year again we have the pleasure of welcoming you to the Vatican and of spending a few moments with your families. As always, it is a special joy to see the children. We are also pleased to have the opportunity to express some brief considerations that your presence evokes from us on the subject of peace. Yes, as we said in our Message for the World Day of Peace last year, we consider ourself “a messenger of a fixed idea”; and so we do not hesitate to bring you our “usual proclamation” of Peace.
Some of your have known personally the violence of war and its effects on families like your own, and this memory will certainly linger with you for life. All of you, by your occupation, are well aware of the possibilities of war, the dreadful consequences of modern war, and the frailty of peace in our day. At the same time we believe that you realize the need for creating a new mentality in regard to the relations between peoples-a mentality that does not admit recourse to war and weapons, but envisions civilization as the expression of justice and fraternal love.
On our part we are once more advocating “the universal mentality of human oneness” (PAUL VI, Message for the World Day of Peace 1975), and we earnestly hope that the young generation, symbolized and represented by the children here today, will be completely imbued with it. This new mentality rejects war outright, as well as all forms of violence and injustice, for they so methodically and effectively prepare the way for war.
Here this morning we see an expression of the harmony that can exist between peoples of different countries and different backgrounds; we experience together the oneness and peace of families in the greater family of humanity, under the fatherhood of God.
May these ideals motivate all your activities and sustain you in helping to build a better world for the children of today and of tomorrow.
*Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, vol. XVI, p.108-109;
OR 5.2.1978, p.1;
ORa n.7 p.11.
As we accept the Letters of Credence appointing you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of China to the Holy See, we thank you for the kind greetings you have conveyed on behalf of the President, the Government and people of the Republic.
We wish you success in your mission and, for its accomplishment, you may be assured of our benevolence and all necessary assistance on the part of the Holy See.
Your Excellency has rightly referred to the closeness of the ideals inherent in Chinese culture and tradition to principles propounded by the Catholic Church, and has also mentioned the emphasis placed in Chinese thought and teaching on the subject of peace.
Yes, peace is a topic that is particularly dear to us as well. Peace in every sphere of life and in all its aspects; peace in every heart and home, in every nation and continent; peace with all men and, above all, with God. It is with such sentiments of peace that our thoughts turn with love and affection towards the people of China, whose millennial history, so rich in renowned traditions, in natural sciences and human wisdom-much above and beyond historical and political contingencies and vicissitudes-commands the admiration and the respect of all. Wiewed in this perspective, it appears but natural that the seed of Christianity should have found-and should still find-fertile soil in Chinese culture and civilization. And, even if the fruits produced by that seed have not been equally abundant everywhere it was sown, no one can deny that, in many sectors, both the Church and society have reaped in large measure the harvest that has matured over the centuries, thanks to the patient and untiring labours of a whole array of able Christian workers, missionary as well as native Chinese.
For this reason, we are pleased to recall what we said, as Christ’s humble messenger of peace, in Hong Kong some years ago. As then, so also today-and, perhaps, more than ever today we are convinced and we proclaim that “Christ is a teacher, a shepherd and a loving redeemer for China too” (AAS 63 (1971) 80).
We avail out-self of this occasion to send a message of friendship to the beloved people of the Republic of China, while we assure them of our continued interest in their progress and welfare and pray Almighty God to bless them with true and abiding peace, and both spiritual and material prosperity.
*AAS 70 (1978), p.252-253;
Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, vol. XVI p.122-123;
L’Attività della Santa Sede 1978, p.49-50;
ORa n.8 p.3.
Venerable and dear Brothers in Christ,
It is a great pleasure for us to welcome you this morning. For one hundred years ago today, in what was in fact his first Apostolic Bull, “Ex Supremo Apostolatus Apice”, our predecessor Leo XIII restored the Hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Scotland -the Church that he referred to as a “beloved daughter of the Holy See”.
And today, in the unity of Jesus Christ, we celebrate together this important anniversary. As we do so, we recall with loving thanksgiving not only the event of a century ago, but also the ancient origins of faith in your land. Is was the providence of God that linked you to the See of Rome from the time of Saint Ninian, who preached to you the Gospel of salvation. And it is the power of God’s grace that has sustained your people throughout all the vicissitudes of centuries, and has brought forth abundant fruits of justice and holiness in Christian living.
Two years ago we offered to the honour of the universal Church “a glorious champion of your people, an ideal exemplar of your past history, a magnificent inspiration for your happy future” (PAUL VI, Homily, 17 October 1976). You remember it well; it was the canonization of John Ogilvie. On that occasion, as we shared “your pride and joy” (IDEM, Address to Scottish pilgrims, to 20 October 1976), our thoughts turned to all those at home. And today, once again, all the affection of our heart turns to the faithful of Scotland.
Through you we greet the clergy, the religious and the laity, who together with yourselves make up the one communion of the Church. We want them all to know of our paternal interest in them, and of our daily prayer for their wellbeing. Our special greeting goes to those who are remote from diocesan centres, to those who live in distant points of the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland-all of whom are close to us in the love of Christ.
We take this opportunity to speak a word about the role of the laity in the Church. Although much progress has been made in promoting the lay apostolate, the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council on this point is so rich that it deserves further reflection. Bishops must constantly recall to their people that the lay apostolate is “a sharing in the Church’s very mission of salvation. Through Baptism and Confirmation all are commissioned to that apostolate by the Lord himself”( Lumen Gentium LG 33). The realization of this fact by the laity can give them a profound sense of their Christian identity and inspire them with fresh energy to fulfil their proper role. Their task is a mighty one: to work for the sanctification of the world from within, in the manner of leaven (Cfr. Ibid. 31). Through the laity, the world must be “permeated by the spirit of Christ, and more effectively achieve its purpose in justice, charity and peace. The laity have a principal role in the universal fulfilment of this task” (Ibid. 36). Working closely together, the clergy and laity can gain deep insights into the particular application of these principles; and the whole Church will be the stronger to the extent that the laity live out the truth of their specific vocation.
And as you exercise your own personal task as shepherds of God’s people, make every effort to explain not only the great dignity of the laity but also the source of their strength. This brings us to our second point: the Eucharist. Here, not only do priests fulfil their role and find their inspiration, but so do all the members of the Church. Indeed, the full and active participation of all the people in the sacred liturgy is “the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful derive the true Christian spirit” (Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 14). From the Eucharist the faithful go forth to carry out their proper role at the service of the Gospel, and to give their witness as lay people to the Kingdom of God. From the Eucharist they draw strength for the evangelizing activity that is their own in the political, social, economic, cultural and scientific fields-in the arts, in international life, in the sphere of the mass media and in every dimension of secular human activity (Cfr. PAULI PP. VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 70). Thus the power of the Paschal Mystery transforms the world and advances the Kingdom of God.
But to emphasize the marvellous unity of God’s plan, let us not hesitate to state that because the laity depend on the Eucharist they therefore depend on the priesthood, in order to fulfil their ecclesial role. The Council has said this well: “For the distinction which the Lord made between sacred ministers and the rest of the people of God entails a bond between them, since pastors and the other faithful are united by a mutual relationship” (Lumen Gentium LG 32). And as you rightly give attention to proclaiming the dignity of the laity, we ask you to intensify your efforts in having your people pray for and promote vocations to the sacred priesthood. The need is great. The good of the whole Body of Christ is at stake. We ask you indeed to give priority and great personal attention to the preparation of students for the priesthood, to the doctrinal content of their courses and to all that touches the life of your seminaries.
Yes, Venerable Brothers: the laity, the Eucharist, vocations to the priesthood-these are the three principal subjects of our message to you today, as we confirm you in the faith of Peter and Paul: faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God and Saviour of the world.
With these reflections we assure you of our prayers for all your pastoral endeavours and we impart to you and to all your beloved people our special Apostolic Blessing.
Dear sons in Christ,
We have just come from the “ad limina” visit of your Bishops to us, and in their persons we have embraced in the unity and love of Christ the entire Church in Scotland. And now on this solemn occasion we wish to share our thoughts with all of you-the students of the Pontifical Scots College-and through you to send our message to all your fellow seminarians at home and at Valladolid.
First of all, we want you to know of our paternal love for you in Jesus Christ. In you we see a sign of the Church’s vitality, a proof that the Lord’s grace is active and victorious in this age as in every age. By the acceptance of Christ’s call, you are giving witness to the primacy of the supernatural. By generously committing your lives totally to Jesus Christ and to his Church, you are professing your faith in the power of the death and Resurrection of the Lord and of his Coming again in glory.
Indeed, your whole life in the priesthood will be directed to proclaiming the Paschal Mystery; your activities will reach their fulfilment and perfection in your sacramental ministry, through which the Christian people meet their Saviour and are drawn effectively into communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The very purpose of your vocation is to perpetuate the mediation of Christ the Priest.
And so, for you life will have no meaning apart from Christ. Like the Apostles, you must be his companions and his friends. In him you will discover “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1Co 1,24). In knowing the Lord Jesus you will really come to understand his brethren and to gain true insights into the needs of the world. From an intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ you will receive the inner conviction and energy necessary to make an impact on the world. For if you are looking for the key to the Gospels, for the secret of apostolic zeal, for the strength and vigour required to proclaim the Gospel of salvation and to persevere in the service of humanity, you will find them all in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Never forget the impact of Saint Paul-his contribution to the Church; never forget his words: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (Ibid. 2, 2).
In order, however, to deepen ever more your knowledge of Christ, you must pray. You must enter into the prayer life of the Church, and unite yourselves with te Sacrifice of Christ, adopting his attitude of loving obedience to his Father. Discipline, therefore, must also be part of your life-a discipline that sustains constant effort, abnegation, self-sacrifice. As young men called to intimate friendship with Christ, you must know that there is no substitute for the ross. Remember, then: prayer and discipline.
And as you explore and live the mystery of Christ, you must likewise, in the words of the Second Vatican Council, “be penetrated with the mystery of the Church”? (Optatam Totius OT 9) Christ is your example, and with him you must love the Church and give yourself up in sacrifice for her. For you, fidelity to Christ will always demand fidelity to the Church-fidelity to her unity and to the message of salvation that she announces “not in plausible word of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (Cor. 2, 4-5). Yes, the message that we preach is the seeming folly of the Cross, and it completely supersedes human wisdom. It is to this message, as proclaimed by the Church, that we owe complete fidelity.
Fidelity is the virtue of our times, and it is to fidelity that we exhort you today: in particular, fidelity to the Churchs’s Magisterium. We confirm this exhortation in the presence of your Bishops and before the entire Church of God. In following the authentic Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops in union with him, and in leading the people in this path of truth, you will not be deceived.
And if some day you are tempted to be moved by the claims of superior human wisdom against the real teaching of the Church, then reflect again on this fact that your faith rests on the wisdom and power of God: on Christ himself, who has promised the special assistance of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles and their successors, and who has solemnly said to his disciples: "He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me..." (Lc 10,16).
Yes, dear sons, those who accept Christ’s assurance will not be disappointed. The divine plan does not change. God’s word is not emptied of its meaning. In brief: “God is not mocked” (Ga 6,7). Why do we tell you these things? So that you may be strong in faith; so that your pastoral charity may be complete; so that your joy may be full. So that you and all those to whom you will minister “may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ” (1 Io. 1, 3).
In the name of Jesus we bless you.
Dear sons and daughters,
We are very happy today to welcome the Knights of Columbus and their families. We are indeed grateful for your sentiments of devotion and loyalty. You represent a Catholic organization with over a million members. And all of you and your families are now present in our thoughts and in our hearts. We look upon you as an immense force for good within the Church of Christ: lay people supported and assisted by the clergy, in union with the Bishops and with us.
On this occasion we wish to express our gratitude for the works that the Knights of Columbus have accomplished over the years. In particular, we thank you for your collaboration in our television apostolate. Assisted by your generosity, we have been enabled to proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ directly in millions of homes. Yes, the ideals of your Christian love and service have brought forth results worthy of the Gospel. With Saint Paul we can tell you: “We remember you in our prayers, for we are constantly mindful before our God and Father of the way you are proving your faith, and laboring in love... ” (1Th 1,2-3).
We rely on you-on each of you, on all of you, on the association itself, the Knights of Columbus-to bring holiness to the world, to live the Gospel values in your families, to transmit them to your children with the infectious conviction of joyful faith. Christ needs you to bring fraternal concern to your neighborhoods, to exemplify justice in your communities, to spread peace and truth in the world.
Yes, dear sons and daughters, in the name of Christ and with an ever increased realization of the importance of your calling, continue all your praiseworthy activities for the glory of God and the good of humanity: projects of charitable assistance, the promotion of Catholic education and of vocations, the spreading of Christ’s uplifting Gospel through the splendid possibilities of the mass media, and the incomparable service of defending life. Frequent opportunities for service are offered within your parish communities.
We think that your goals are very clear. The Church fortifies you with the word of God and with the sacraments. Jesus Christ is with you. He gives you his strength; he sustains you in his love; he calls you personally to share in his life and in his mission of salvation.
In the name of Jesus we bless you all: all the Knights of Columbus and their families.
Venerable and dear Brothers,
In the name of the Lord: “Peace be with you” (Jn 20,19).
We have looked forward to this day. And now, we welcome you all with joy, with great joy. For a brief moment you have returned to the center of ecclesial unity from the fields of your pastoral labors; in the apostolic tradition of the Church, you have come “to see Peter” (Ga 1,18). And with you, you bring the hopes and aspirations of over six million Catholics of New York State. In you, the Shepherds of the local churches, we embrace, in the love of the Savior, all the people of God. Indeed, by the will of Christ our Lord, all your faithful are also our sons and daughters in the communion of the universal Church, and with great paternal affection we wish to strengthen them all, together with you their Bishops, in faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God.
For us, your Dioceses are truly worthy of special honor, special pastoral attention. You are the heirs of a great tradition of holiness. The blood of North American Martyrs has sanctified your soil. Furthermore, Saint Frances Cabrini, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and Saint John Neumann all lived at one time in your midst. You are also heirs of great ethnic richness. How many immigrants- perhaps your own mothers or fathers-have found entrance to America in New York. We too remember with gratitude your hospitality.
By your visit here to us today you profess your belief in the Church as a communion of faith and love, built on Christ Jesus, and visibly united in the Successor of Peter. As we assemble today, we know that the Lord Jesus is with us. We are confident that, through the power of his Spirit, you will go out with renewed energy and fresh vigor to pursue your ministry of evangelization: to proclaim Christ, and to preach his Kingdom and his Coming.
For a few moments we would like to reflect with you on a fundamental aspect of the Gospel: Christ’s call to conversion. This theme of conversion was announced by John the Baptist: “Reform your lives ” (Mt 3,2). These words were later spoken by Jesus himself (Cfr. Ibid. 4, 17). And just as the Apostles had learned this message from the Lord, so they were instructed by him to make it the content of their preaching (Cfr. Luc Lc 24,27). On the very day of Pentecost, faithful to the command of Jesus, Peter proclaimed conversion for the forgiveness of sins (Cfr. Act. 2, 38). And Saint Paul also says clearly: “I preached a message of reform and of conversion to God” (Ibid. 26, 19)
Dear Brothers, this call to conversion has come down to us from the Lord Jesus: it is meant for our own lives, and for our incessant and fearless proclamation to the world. On a former occasion we said that conversion is a whole program linked with the renewing action of the Gospel (Cfr. PAULI PP. VI Allocutio in Audientia Generali habita, 9 novembris 1977). As such, conversion constitutes the goal to be achieved by our apostolic ministry: to awaken a consciousness of sin in its perennial and tragic reality, a consciousness of its personal and social dimensions, together with a realization that “grace has far surpassed sin” (Rm 5,20); and to proclaim salvation in Jesus Christ.
Today we wish to speak to you, your fellow Bishops and brother priests in America particularly about certain sacramental aspects of conversion, certain dimensions of the Sacrament of Penance or of Reconciliation. Six years ago, with our special approval and by our mandate, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith promulgated Pastoral Norms regulating general sacramental absolution. This document, entitled “Sacramenturn Paenitentiae”, reiterated the solemn teaching of the Council of Trent concerning the divine precept of individual confession. The document also acknowledged the difficulty experienced by the faithful in some places in going to individual confession because of a lack of priests. Provisions were made for general absolution in cases of grave necessity, and the conditions constituting this grave necessity were clearly specified (Sacramentum Paenitentiae, 3).
It was then reserved to the Ordinary, after consultation with other members of the Episcopal Conference, to judge whether the necessary conditions determined by the Apostolic See and specified in Norm 3 were in fact present. Ordinaries were not authorized to change the required conditions, to substitute other conditions for those given, or to determine grave necessity according to their personal criteria, however worthy. “Sacramenturn Paenitentiae” recognized in effect that the norms governing the basic discipline of the Church’s ministry of reconciliation were a matter of special concern to the universal Church and of regulation by her supreme authority. What is so important in the application of the norms is the general effectiveness of the basic ecclesial ministry of reconciliation in accordance with the intention of Christ the Savior. In the life of the Church general absolution is not to be used as a normal pastoral option, or as a means of confronting any difficult pastoral situation. It is permitted only for the extraordinary situations of grave necessity as indicated in Norm 3. Just last year we drew attention publicly to the altogether exceptional character of general absolution (Cfr. PAULI PP. VI Allocutio in Audientia Generali habita, 23 martii 1977).
Brethren, we also recall the words of our Bicentennial Letter to the Bishops of America: “We ask for supreme vigilance in the question of auricular confession” (PAULI PP. VI Epistola ad Foederatarum Americae Septemtrionalis Civitatum Episcopos, altero exeunte saeculo ab adepta civium libertate: AAS 68 (1976) 410). And today we add explicitly: we ask for faithful observance of the norms. Fidelity to the communion of the universal Church requires it; at the same time this fidelity will be the guarantee of the supernatural effectiveness of your ecclesial mission of reconciliation. Moreover, we ask you, the Bishops, to help your priests to have an ever greater appreciation of this splendid ministry of theirs as Confessors (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 30). The experience of centuries confirms the importance of this ministry. And if priests deeply understand how closely they collaborate, through the Sacrament of Penance, with the Savior in the work of conversion, they will give themselves with ever greater zeal to this ministry. More Confessors will readily be available to the faithful. Other works, for lack of time, may have to be postponed or even abandoned, but not the Confessional. The example of Saint John Vianney is not outmoded. The exhortation of Pope John in his Encyclical “Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia” is still extremely relevant.
We have repeatedly asked that the capital function of the Sacrament of Penance be safeguarded (Cfr. PAULI PP. VI Allocutiones in Audientiis Generalibus habitae, 3 aprilis 1974 et 12 martii 1975). And two years ago, when we beatified the Capuchin Father Leopold0 da Castelnovo, we pointed out that he reached the highest holiness through a ministry dedicated to the Confessional. We believe that conditions in the Church today-in your own Dioceses as elsewhere-are ripe for a more diligent and fruitful use of the Sacrament of Penance, in accordance with the “Ordo Paenitentiae”, and for a more intensive ministry on the part of priests, with the consequent fruits of greater holiness and justice in the lives of priests and faithful. But the full actuation of this renewal depends, under God’s grace, on your own vigilance and fidelity. It requires constant guidance on your part and strong spiritual leadership. Moreover, with regard to the practice of frequent Confession we ask you to recall to your priests and religious and laity-to all the faithful in search of holiness the words of our predecessor Pius XII: “Not without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was this practice introduced into the Church ” (AAS 35 (1943) 235).
Another important aspect of the penitential discipline of the Church is the practice of First Confession before First Communion . Our appeal here is that the norms of the Apostolic See be not emptied of their meaning by contrary practice. In this regard we repeat words we spoke last year to a group of Bishops during their ad limina visit: “The faithful would be rightly shocked that obvious abuses are tolerated by those who have received the charge of the ‘episcopate’ which stands for, since the earliest days of the Church, vigilance and unity” (AAS 69 (1977) 473).
There are many other aspects of conversion that we would like to speak to you about. But we shall conclude by urging you to take back to your people an uplifting message of confidence, which is: “Christ Jesus our hope” (1Tm 1,1). In the power of his Resurrection, through the strength of his word, exhort the faithful to continue the life-long process of conversion, well aware that: “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him” (1Co 2,9).
Venerable Brothers: we thank you deeply for your partnership in the Gospel and we ask the Lord Jesus to renew you in his love. And to all your priests and deacons, your religious and laity we send our greeting of peace and our Apostolic Blessing: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.