Speeches 1978 - ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER PAUL VI TO THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE UNITED NATIONS CHILDREN’S FUND*
Wednesday, 28 June 1978
Mr Executive Director,
with the approach of the International Year of the Child, we are indeed happy to have your visit. We welcome you as the Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund, knowing that your organization has been designated by the General Assembly as the lead agency for the International Year.
We wish to state at once how much we appreciate the great good that UNICEF has done over the years for the children of the world. We have wholeheartedly supported all your worthy activities aimed at providing for the basic needs of children, while at the same time we have repeatedly expressed our dissociation from any involvement in projects that may directly or indirectly favour contraception, abortion or other practices that do not respect the supreme value of life.
With regard to the International Year of the Child, it had been the concern of the Holy See that such an event should not be the occasion for multiplying initiatives that would have no direct bearing on the welfare of children. The Holy See is pleased to note that the same concern has been manifested by the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization in determining the general objectives of IYC, which speak of “enhancing the awareness of the special needs of children on the part of decision-makers and the public”, and which advocate “sustained activities for the benefit of children” (General Assembly Resolution A/31/169, of 21 December 1976, operative paragraph 2).
The interest of the Church in this event is in harmony with her constant solicitude throughout the centuries for children’s welfare. This solicitude is an expression of her fidelity to the programme enjoined on her by her Founder, Jesus Christ, who stated that “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Lc 18,17). Above all, Christ identifies the child with his own person: “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me ” (Marc.9, 37). For the Catholic Church, therefore, service to the child is not a transitory goal, but rather a permanent task invested with dignity and enduring priority.
A renewed concern for the real needs of children everywhere is furthermore dictated by a realistic awareness of the present situation of the world. Despite technological progress, children still suffer and die from lack of basic nourishment, or as victims of violence and armed conflicts that they do not even understand. Others are victims of emotional neglect. There are people who poison the minds of the young by passing on to them prejudices and empty ideologies. And today, children are exploited even to the point of being used to satisfy the lowest depravities of adults. A despicable aspect of this exploitation is the fact that it is often controlled by powerful forces motivated by financial gain.
Extending our gaze still further over the world situation, we see that there is another harmful discrimination to which the child is subject and which would worthily engage the full attention of IYC. In our time some people consider the child a burden and a restriction of freedom, rather than the living expression of the love of parents. Others deny to the child the fundamental right to have a mother and a father united in marriage. But all society must vigorously reply that the child indeed has the God-given right to be born, the right to a mother and father united in marriage, the right to be born into a normal family. It would be a form of contradiction if, on the occasion of the International Year of the Child, activities were to be promoted whose inspiration and purpose were to make children less welcome, or even to prevent them from being born into society.
In order to fulfil its aim, this Year is called to promote the inestimable value of the child in today’s world: the child as a child, as a human person, and not simply as a potential adult. Childhood is an essential phase of human life, and every child has the right to live childhood to the full and to make an original contribution to the humanizing of society and to its development and renewal. All of us personally know this contribution of children to the world. Who has not been struck by children’s simple, direct and innocent perception of situations, their open and loving generosity, their lack of prejudice and discrimination, their infectious joy and spontaneous sense of brotherhood, and also by their capacity for remarkable sacrifice and idealism?
The Church therefore stresses that every child is a human person and has the right to the integral development of is or her personality. The role of the family is irreplaceable in attaining this end, since the child cannot be understood and assisted apart from the family, which is the first educator towards physical, psychological, intellectual, moral and religious development. We also wish to encourage endeavours to extend services in favour of children, and to improve the quality of these services, especially on a permanent basis.
In all these efforts the child remains of central concern: each child and every child throughout the world. We are hopeful that new and revitalized projects will flourish to help needy children everywhere. And we are convinced that in this way the profound exigencies of the young and vulnerable human person will be met: in the first place the right to life, to truth, and to love.
We are pleased to note that many individual Catholics, Catholic organizations and local Churches are taking part in the preparation of IYC. Their effective contribution will be to rededicate themselves- in the spirit of fidelity to the Gospel message-to the needs of the child, and to develop appropriate programmes that will assist children in various aspects of their lives. We are confident that such programmes will give particular priority to the needs of disadvantaged children, the physically and mentally handicapped, those abandoned and those in special situations of distress and suffering.
With these sentiments we ask the blessing of God on all who labour to further these high ideals and we pray that the Lord will sustain you and all those who collaborate in this great work of human solidarity.
*Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, vol. XVI, p.515-518;
OR 29.6.1978, p.1, 2;
ORa n.27 p.12;
Paths to Peace p.358-359.
We welcome today with special joy the presence among us of scholars who have come from all parts of the world to our small State of Vatican City, to study the Spectral Classification of the Stars. We know that, in the spirit of collaboration, you will confer together on the topics proposed by the International Astronomical Union. We thank you for the honour of your presence, and we are glad of this opportunity to show our continued interest in Science and particularly in Astronomy; this interest leads us to maintain the Vatican Observatory and to support our esteemed Academy of Sciences.
Your presence also constitutes an honour to the memory of an illustrious astronomer, Father Angelo Secchi, of the Society of Jesus, who died in February 1878. At the same time, we believe that you share the profound respect with which we evoke the memory of another Jesuit, Father Patrick Treanor, Director of the Vatican Observatory and promoter of this meeting who died last February, almost exactly one hundred years after Father Secchi.
Your present work on Spectral Classification builds upon a truly glorious past, and promises an important extension of astronomical knowledge for the future. As we can see from your programme, you are beginning to explore the spectral features of stellar populations in the nucleus of our own and nearby galaxies, and you even use similar techniques to discover the very faintest Quasi Stellar Objects which seem to lie at the very limits of the presently observable universe.
In this work of Stellar Spectra, Father Secchi was truly a pioneer. A keen student of solar physics, and most skilled in the design and adaptation of scientific instruments, he was among the first to use a direct-vision spectroscope to study numerous “stellar rainbows”. In later years, he attached an objective prism to an astronomical telescope at the Collegio Romano, thus starting a type of research which has been pursued at the Vatican Observatory up to this time, and that we see from your programme figures prominently in all your plans for future work.
With the means at his disposal, limited the visual range, Father Secchi observed and recorded the spectral characteristic of more than four thousand stars, classifying them into the now famous four types named after him. This week, after one hundred years of zealous search, which covers the entire electromagnetic spectrum and draws upon the most modern data of space telescopes, you will be examining and reviewing many of those stars, to group them into new classification schemes that tell us so much more about their nature and evolution. It is our pleasure to recall here the great accomplishments in this field dating from the work done in 1943 by William Morgan, of our own Academy of Sciences, who, together with Professor Keenan, present with us today, has added a new dimension to this speciality by considering both the surface temperature and the true luminosity of the stars in a new system of classification.
Father Secchi, with true scientific honesty, knew well that he was standing “on the shoulders of giants”, and that his own work was only a small contribution to an immense task. He acknowledged how much he owed to Fraunhofer and Kirchoff and Donati of Florence, as well as to his contemporaries Rutherford and Huggins. He praised Huggins’ discovery of the gaseous nature of nebulae such as the one in Orion, when he wrote: “The field opened by these astronomers was immense, and I tried to glean ears in it” (A. SECCHI, Chemical News, 1868, vol. XVIII, p. 18).
And near the end of his work he stated: “There remain so many things to learn, because nature is inexhaustible in its wonders; and when we think we have arrived at the end, we find that it is only the beginning.. . God alone can perfectly comprehend his work in the universe. Fortunate it is that man can have a concept large enough for him to admire the grandeur and beauty of God’s handiwork ” (IDEM, Le Soleil IIème éd., Paris, Gauthier-Villars, 1877, vol. II, p. 483).
You, who work daily in scientific research, are undoubtedly moved by this same spirit, and like Father Secchi will desire to share the fruits of your exploration of God’s marvellous universe with your fellowmen. We wish to encourage you in your enthusiasm: as you share with each other during this week the details of your discoveries, we urge you to communicate the good news of the wonders of creation to all of us, who are surrounded by such beauty. Help us to lift our hearts and minds beyond the limited horizons of our daily toils, to compass the vast domain of stars and galaxies, and to find beyond them the magnificence and power of the Maker. Deum Creatorem, venite adoremus!
To His Grace The Most Reverend Dr Donald Coggan Archbishop of Canterbury
We have learnt with deep interest of the forthcoming eleventh Lambeth Conference of the Bishops of the Anglican Communion, to be held this year in the historic city of Canterbury.
Vivid memories of the Second Vatican Council enable us to appreciate the value of such a period of common reflection by Christian pastors, and we note with happiness that the theme which is to dominate the Conference is the place and function of the Bishop in the world of today. This theme has already been the subject of fruitful dialogue between Anglican and Catholic scholars, and we hope that the Conference on its part may serve to lead us closer together in fellowship.
We assure you of our prayers for the Conference and invoke God’s abundant blessings upon it.
From the Vatican, 18 July 1978.
it is always a joy to have visitors from Japan. And today we are especially pleased to welcome the representatives of the different religious traditions of your land.
We know that during these days you have had discussions with our Secretariat for Non-Christians and with other departments of the Holy See on subjects of vital importance for humanity: peace and the promotion of a religious spirit among people. We are grateful to you and invoke upon your efforts the blessing of God, who is the Father of us all.
You are aware of our own interest in these ideals, in which we have indeed a common interest. We are glad to note the priority that you give to the question of the purification of the heart, which is a key solution to every problem. One of the statements of our Lord Jesus Christ that is recorded in the Gospel says: “If your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light” (Mt 6,22). We are therefore convinced that there is no solution to the problems of freedom, social justice, integral development, and above all peace, unless the heart and the intentions of individuals are pure. And may God the Most High assist you in this search for a pure, noble and generous heart.
We ask you to take back our greetings and our blessing to your families, to your communities and to all the noble people of Japan.
The Holy Father asks you to communicate to the members of SECAM gathered in Nairobi that he is spiritually close to them as they prayerfully discuss the great theme of Christian Family Life in the context of Africa today. His Holiness invokes upon the assembled bishops the assistance of the Holy Spirit so that with pastoral sensitivity inspired by supernatural wisdom and in the communion of the universal Church they may lead their beloved people to an ever greater appreciation of the full teaching of Christ and his Church on the sacrament of Matrimony. He is convinced that every pastoral effort to proclaim clearly the holiness of Christian marriage as an expression of the faithful and permanent love of Christ for his Church is a contribution of immense value to the future of Africa. In the love of the Saviour the Holy Father sends to all the bishops his special Apostolic Blessing which he extends to all the clergy religious and laity whom they serve in Christ.
J. Card. VILLOT
Speeches 1978 - ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER PAUL VI TO THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE UNITED NATIONS CHILDREN’S FUND*