Speeches 1998 - 21 November 1998

The distinctiveness of a Catholic school, however, reaches beyond catechesis and religious instruction to touch every aspect of education, transmitting that true Christian humanism which springs from the knowledge and love of Christ. Such an education guides the young to appreciate the wonder of human dignity and the supreme value of human life. It helps them understand the truth upon which I reflected in my recent Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio: faith needs reason if it is not to wither into superstition, and reason needs faith if it is to be saved from endless disappointment. This is because the human person is made for a truth which is absolute and universal – in the end, the truth of God – a truth that can be known with certainty. Indeed it is only in knowing the truth that the human heart will find rest, all the more so in these deeply restless times when the young are often led to mistake entertainment for joy and information for wisdom. In the end, the distinctly Catholic identity of your schools ought to be visible, not only in external signs, important as these are, but above all in their success in teaching justice, solidarity and true holiness of life based on a deep and abiding love of Christ and his Church.

5. A necessary constructive difference can also be seen in the way the priestly and lay vocations are related in the life and mission of the Church; and this has important implications for seminary formation. A tendency to obscure the theological basis of this difference can lead to a faulty clericalizing of the laity and a laicizing of the clergy. It is of course possible for clergy to be separate in wrong and destructive ways, leading to a clericalism which is rightly to be rejected. But it is now clear that where the essential difference between the priestly and lay vocations is ignored, vocations to the priesthood all but disappear, and this is certainly not Christ’s will nor the work of the Holy Spirit – just as it was certainly not the Council’s intention when it encouraged greater lay involvement in the life of the Church. In the first place, what the Council called for was lay involvement in the world of the family, commerce, politics, intellectual and cultural life – which are the proper field of specifically lay mission. The Council therefore stressed the essential secularity of the lay vocation (Lumen Gentium LG 31, cf. also Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 70, Christifideles Laici, 17). This does not mean that lay people have no special place or work to perform in the life of the Church ad intra: in many pastoral, liturgical and educational tasks, they clearly have. But the main focus of the lay vocation should be engagement in the world, while the priest has been ordained to be pastor, teacher and leader of prayer and sacramental life within the Church. His grace and responsibility is above all to act in the sacraments in persona Christi.Through you I send warm fraternal greetings to your priests, and I invite them to “rekindle the gift of God that is within them through the laying on of hands” (cf. 2Tm 1,6), so that the passage to a new millennium will indeed signal a time of grace – a new springtime of the spirit – for themselves and the people they serve.

6. Structural and constructive difference is also a part of the relationship between the Catholic Church and other Christian Churches and Communities. A false irenicism can compromise the ecumenical task as it was envisaged by the Second Vatican Council when it acknowledged the impulse given by the Holy Spirit to the search for unity. It is of course important to stress what we share in common, but true ecumenical dialogue – the need for which I have so often stressed – demands that we enter the dialogue conscious of the differences that count, and prepared to state and discuss them as clearly and as charitably as we can. Again, a superficial approach can only lead to the opposite of what the Council had in mind; it cannot lead to the true and enduring unity for which Christ prayed (cf. Jn Jn 17,11). The greatest service which Catholics render to ecumenical dialogue is to remain faithful to their own distinctive identity. There is a paradox in this and at times it can demand difficult choices, as you well know from your own recent experience, but there is no other path which leads to the unity which has its roots in the life of the Trinity.

7. In the end, all our reflections on holiness, on the need for separation for the sake of service, on distinctiveness for the sake of dialogue, lead us to be ever more aware of the need for a renewed sense of prayer and contemplation. The new evangelization has its roots in a deepening of the spiritual life, at the centre of which is contemplation and adoration of the Most Holy Trinity – the great mystery of the Godhead in which distinction of Persons is perfect union: O Trinitas unitatis! O Unitas trinitatis! To the extent that the People of God have a clear sense of the mystery of God and of his saving presence in human affairs, they will feel the urgency of Christ’s command to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth (cf. Mt Mt 28,19). I encourage you to make a systematic effort in your dioceses and parishes to open new doors to the experience of Christian prayer and contemplation: all the baptized are called to be holy as God himself is holy. The contemplative communities already existing in New Zealand can be an example and an inspiration.

Dear Brother Bishops, faced with all the many responsibilities of your ministry, your confidence must ever rest in the Holy Spirit who comes to help us in our weakness (cf. Rom Rm 8,26). May the Spirit of God move over Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud, infusing the energies which the Church in New Zealand will need if she is to celebrate in truth and joy the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 and fulfil her unique mission of service to the people of your country. Entrusting the entire household of God in New Zealand to the loving care of Mary, Assumed into Heaven, I gladly impart to you and to the priests, religious and lay faithful my Apostolic Blessing.




24 November 1998

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am pleased to address a cordial greeting to all of you who have gathered in Rome on the occasion of the 52nd National Assembly of the Federation of the Institutes of Educational Activity (FIDAE), representing primary and secondary Catholic schools in Italy.

Your meeting is another step on the path you have been following for many years in the service of human and Christian values and authentic freedom of education in Italian schools and society. You intend to strengthen, within the context of the integrated public educational system, the distinctive identity of the Catholic school and its full involvement in the Church’s evangelizing mission.

In you I salute the careful, professional work of thousands of religious and lay teachers who collaborate with families in the integral formation of the younger generation. I thank you for your daily commitment and for your enthusiasm in serving children and young people, despite the difficulties and problems connected with the modern socio-cultural context and the vast changes taking place in schools. I extend my affectionate greeting in particular to the students of your institutes; I hope they will apply themselves in this essential period of their lives, to be competent and courageous leaders of society in the future.

2. Today education is often influenced by “forms of rationality” that are directed “towards the contemplation of truth and the search for the ultimate goal and meaning of life”, but towards “utilitarian ends, towards enjoyment or power” (Fides et ratio FR 47), with the resulting risk of tragic consequences for those who are starting out in life.

Catholic schools face a great challenge to which they must respond with a deeply Christian educational programme and then implement it in full collaboration with the family, the primary subject of every educational project. By calling especially on the skill and witness of their teachers, Catholic schools intend to offer young people a quality formation based on acquisition of the necessary knowledge and on appreciation of what man has achieved in the course of history, but especially on mature and convinced adherence to the great values of Italian tradition and the Christian faith.

3. Every school is called to be a laboratory of culture, an experience of communion and a training ground for dialogue. These aims find a particularly fertile ground in Catholic institutes: by basing their pedagogy on the spirit of love and freedom that should mark every community inspired by the Gospel, they become significant places in today's multiethnic society for human development and dialogue between the various religions and cultures.

However, the new frontiers of the school and its openness to cultural dialogue require of those who work in scholastic institutions constant care for their own pedagogical and spiritual identity, which remains the principal guarantee of a distinctive service to believers and non-believers alike.

In a society which sometimes seems to lack sensitivity to spiritual values and is often under the illusion of creating human prosperity and happiness through science and technology alone, Catholic schools are called to form the minds and hearts of the younger generation by taking their inspiration from the model of humanity offered by Christ. By the consistent witness of teachers and parents, students will be helped to embark on the great adventure of life in the company of Jesus the Redeemer, a true friend to rely on.

4. By encouraging respect for consciences, passion for truth and love of freedom in the context of professional service, Catholic schools offer a valuable opportunity for parents, who can choose the educational model best suited to their children. This is a sure guarantee of the effectiveness of that integrated public educational system which is an essential condition if the school is to be a modern and effective means of formation and a factor of progress for all society.

I hope that by studying these matters your assembly will help to improve the quality of the school and lead to an increased appreciation of the free school for the cultural growth and democratic development of Italian society. With these wishes, I entrust your educational mission and the work of your meeting to the motherly protection of Mary, Seat of Wisdom, and, as I invoke upon the students, families, teachers and administrators of Catholic schools the light and strength of the Spirit of truth, I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you all.




Saturday, 28 November 1998

Dear General Chaplain,
Dear Members of the Association Pro Petri Sede,

1. Faithful to a now well-established custom, you have come to meet the Successor of Peter to offer him the proceeds of the collection you organized in the Benelux countries. Thank you for this gesture which I greatly appreciate, because it expresses your devotion to the Pope and to his mission! To your generous offering you have added a very beautiful book of art as well as a volume of the periodical that presents your association’s activities. You know St Paul’s advice to the Christians of Corinth: “Each one must do as he has made up his mind ... for God loves a cheerful giver” (2Co 9,7). I am pleased to note your desire to live according to the Apostle’s words. A sense of sharing among brothers and sisters is an important witness to offer people, so that all may increase their sense of solidarity.

2. As your association’s name indicates, your concern is to work “for” the “See of Peter”, to help it fulfil its mission of charity throughout the world. In affirming your readiness to support this See, you share in the Church’s concern for those who need our help and you adhere to Christ more firmly. May faith in Christ and the desire to help establish his kingdom strengthen your work and make you men and women of action and contemplation!

3. Dear friends of Pro Petri Sede, be assured of the prayers of the Successor of Peter. May your stay in Rome enable you to return to your country strengthened in faith, hope and love! Once again you have been able to experience first-hand the universality of the Church and to become aware of the journey made by thousands of pilgrims who come here to pray in the place where the Apostle Peter gave his supreme witness to Christ, his Teacher and Lord. You have offered the witness of your generosity to his Successor.

May the Lord preserve you each day! As I entrust to Our Lady’s intercession each of you, your families and everyone in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg who has made a contribution to your collection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all.





Monday, 30 November 1998

Mr President of the Council of the Interparliamentary Union,


I welcome you here with joy and gratitude on the occasion of the conference you are holding in Rome, and I appreciate the spirit of your meeting and the information you have given me about your work. On the occasion of the Food Summit for Heads of State and Government organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization in 1996, the members of the Interparliamentary Union solemnly committed themselves to promoting the summit’s goals and, in particular, to ensuring that the number of those suffering from malnutrition would be reduced to one half by the year 2015.

They also stressed the need to set up legal frameworks to direct world agricultural development in a way that respects the environment. You have now gathered on the threshold of the third millennium to continue your examination of issues concerning food security and to analyze the obstacles and challenges that present themselves in this area.

Your agenda is divided into three concrete topics which are essential if we really wish to follow through on the commitments of the 1996 Summit: how to attain sustainable levels of food security that can keep pace with the growth in demand, and what to do so that different economic factors, such as production, distribution, international trade, scientific research and financial investments, are organized according to the objective of food security for everyone? How can we maintain an adequate basis of common resources (biodiversity, land, fishing, water, forests), and how can we promote the harmonious development of human, technological and financial capital? What parliamentary actions are needed to solve the immediate problems of food security, as well as the deepest causes of poverty?

This is a realistic programme, since it recognizes the interaction of so many political, social and economic elements in the development and possible solution of the problem of food security; but it is also an ambitious and generous programme, because it recognizes the human capacity for finding solutions to so many problems and firmly calls for your action and that of your colleagues to achieve these noble aims. I can only rejoice in these initiatives in the firm hope that they will bear abundant fruit in the form of proposals and concrete actions. It is not the role of the Catholic Church’s hierarchy to offer specific technical solutions, but its task is continually to support men and women of good will who freely contribute all their human resources to the search for solutions and accept the share of the responsibility that their role in society demands.

The Church also endeavours to inspire dialogue and co-operation so that everyone involved in social life, by mutual encouragement and the calm consideration of their different viewpoints, will find ways that lead to rapid and effective solutions. A proper perception of the international economy must allow the right to nutrition of each and every one of the earth’s inhabitants to be satisfied, according to the terms defined by various international instruments. The diverse circumstances connected with natural disasters, international conflicts or civil wars must never be an excuse for disregarding this obligation, which not only binds international organizations and the governments of countries experiencing a food emergency, but also, and most particularly, those States which through God’s mercy are custodians of abundant wealth and material means.

Permanent, universal food security depends on a great number of political and economic decisions which most often ignore completely those who are suffering hunger and, instead, are often connected with other political decisions taken in certain States according to considerations of national or regional power. On the contrary, international solidarity, properly understood, must ensure that all national and international decisions can take into account the country's interests and external needs, without becoming an obstacle to the development of others, but while still contributing to world progress, particularly that of the less developed countries.

In this context, how could we not mention the problem of the external debt of the poorest countries and the difficulty many other developing countries have in gaining access to credit under conditions that maintain and encourage balanced human and social development? Your working programme mentions financial issues and the debt problem as conditions of food security. May God enlighten the politicians of the more fortunate countries so that they will find generous ways to take care of the costs of international programmes to reduce this burden or cancel it outright, a burden so heavy that it crushes the neediest peoples in many of the world’s regions!

At the time when the Declaration of the 1996 Rome Summit and the Plan of Action accompanying it were published, the international community unanimously made a certain number of commitments in all areas of the national and international economy in order to achieve its objectives. During the two years following the Declaration of the World Food Summit, many other commitments were made and international projects devised to eliminate extreme poverty and to deal adequately with the financial burden of the poorest countries.

It is quite obvious that international policy statements, like multilateral legal instruments, have no effect if they are not backed by effective national legislation and the political will to implement them. This is why your dialogue and your sharing of experiences with legislative representatives of so many of the world’s nations and regions are an encouraging sign of hope. Knowledge and understanding of the realities in other countries or regions of the world can only contribute to the globalization of solidarity.

At the same time, with the help of almighty God, your meeting will also be an additional way to encourage a change in the deepest reasons behind political decisions, so that instead of being guided by a hedonistic life-style and by selfish and excessive consumerism the hearts of men and women will always be attuned to a clear perception of their social responsibilities, even towards the poorest of their brothers and sisters who live in the most remote and forgotten regions of the world.

As I ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in the service you are performing for mankind, I cordially grant my Apostolic Blessing to you and to all your loved ones.



HIS HOLINESS Bartholomew I

To His Holiness Bartholomew I
Archbishop of Constantinople
Ecumenical Patriarch

“Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ep 6,23).

The feast of the Apostle Andrew, brother of Peter, a feast which our Churches celebrate on the same day, is another joyful opportunity for me to extend my fraternal greeting to Your Holiness, to the Holy Synod and to all the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

The delegation I have sent for this happy occasion will join you in prayer to invoke, through the hymn of this day, the intercession of St Andrew, “the first-called of the Apostles and brother of their leader”, so that “the almighty Lord may grant peace to the world and great mercy to our souls” (Apolytikion).

The celebration of the Apostles reminds us of the commandment the Lord gave us to transmit the Gospel to all peoples and in all times, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28,20).

The apostolic faith, the apostolic tradition and the apostolic mission emphasize the urgent need to overcome the differences and difficulties which still prevent us from achieving full communion, so that we may offer the world a more striking witness of peace and unity. On the path to unity, which is sometimes rough and steep, we draw our strength from the Lord Jesus Christ’s prayer for his Church and from the power of the Holy Spirit, who always comes to help us in our weakness and gives us hope. However, these same difficulties can be an opportunity for spiritual growth and progress towards unity.

On the last Sunday of this month of November, the eve of the feast of St Andrew, the Church of Rome will enter the third year of preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. The Jubilee, in which we will commemorate the Incarnation of the Word of God, Lord and Saviour of the world, is a special moment for renewing our common commitment to proclaiming together to all men and women that Jesus Christ is Lord, as the Apostles did and with them the brothers, Peter and Andrew, Apostles and Martyrs.

With these sentiments of faith, charity, communion and peace, I assure Your Holiness of my fraternal affection in the Lord.

From the Vatican, 25 November 1998








To His Excellency Mr Didier Opertti Badán
President of the 53rd Session of the UN General Assembly

With this Message I am particularly pleased to join in the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights being held by the United Nations Organization, the guardian of one of the most precious and important documents in the history of law.

I do so all the more willingly since, in a solemn Constitution of the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church did not hesitate to affirm that she herself, “sharing the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the men of our time” (Gaudium et spes GS 1), also asks that “forms of social or cultural discrimination in basic personal rights ... be eradicated as incompatible with God’s design” (ibid., n. 29).

In proclaiming a certain number of fundamental rights which are common to all the members of the human family, the Declaration has made a decisive contribution to the development of international law, it has challenged national legislation and has allowed millions of men and women to live with greater dignity.

However, anyone who looks at today’s world cannot note: these fundamental rights, proclaimed, codified and celebrated are still the object of serious and constant violations. This anniversary is thus an appeal for an examination of conscience on the part of every State that willingly subscribes to the text of 1948.

In fact, the tendency of some to choose one or another right at their convenience, while ignoring those which are contrary to their current interests occurs too frequently. Others do not hesitate to isolate particular rights from their context in order to act as they please, often confusing freedom with licence, or to provide themselves with advantages which take little account of human solidarity. Without doubt, such attitudes threaten the organic structure of the Declaration, which associates every right with other rights, duties and limits required by an equitable social order. In addition, they sometimes lead to an exacerbated individualism which can lead the stronger to dominate the weak and thus attenuate the relationship between freedom and social justice which is firmly established by the text. As the years pass, let us make sure that this foundational text is not just a monument to be admired or a document to be archived!

This is why I wish to repeat what I said at my first visit to your organization’s headquarters on 2 October 1979: “If the truths and principles contained in this document were to be forgotten or ignored and were thus to lose the genuine self-evidence that distinguished them at the time they were brought painfully to birth, then the noble purpose of the United Nations Organization, for the good of your countries and of all humanity, could be faced with the threat of a new destruction” (n. 9; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 15 October 1979, p. 8). Thus you will not be surprised if the Holy See gladly supports the statement of the Secretary-General who recently said that this anniversary provides the opportunity to “ask not only how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can protect our rights, but how we can suitably protect the Declaration” (Kofi Annan to the Human Rights Commission, Geneva, 23 March 1998).

The struggle for human rights is still a challenge we must face and calls for the perseverance and creativity of all. If, for example, the 1948 text succeeded in relativizing a rigid conception of the State's sovereignty which would dispense it from accountability for its actions to its citizenry, we cannot deny at the moment that other forms of sovereignty have appeared. Today there are many individuals and organizations involved at an international level who actually enjoy a sovereignty comparable to that of a State and decisively influence the destiny of millions of men and women. It would thus be advisable to find the appropriate means to ensure that they also apply the Declaration’s principles.

Moreover, 50 years ago the political context in the post-war period did not permit the authors of the Declaration to provide it with an anthropological basis or explit moral references, but they knew well that the principles proclaimed would be rapidly devalued if the international community did not eventually seek to root them in the various national, cultural and religious traditions. Perhaps this is the task incumbent on us now, if we are faithfully to serve the unity of their vision and promote a legitimate plurality in the exercise of the freedoms proclaimed by this text, while at the same time assuring the universality and indivisibility of the rights with which it associates them.

To promote this “common understanding” to which the Declaration's Preamble refers and to enable it to become more and more the ultimate reference-point where human freedom and solidarity between individuals and cultures meet and are mutually enriching: this is the challenge to be met. That is why casting doubt on the universality, or even existence, of certain basic principles would be equivalent to undermining the whole edifice of human rights.

At the end of 1998, we see around us too many of our human brothers and sisters overwhelmed by natural disasters, decimated by illness, prostrate with ignorance and poverty, or victims of cruel and interminable wars. Next to them are others, more affluent, who seem protected from precariousness and sometimes ostentatiously enjoy the essentials and the superfluous. What has happened to everyone's right “to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized” (Art. 28)? Dignity, freedom and happiness will never be complete without solidarity. This is certainly what we are taught by the turbulent history of the past 50 years.

Let us therefore reap this precious legacy and above all make it bear fruit for the happiness of all and the honour of each of us!

As I pray fervently that brotherhood and peace will grow among the people you represent, upon everyone I invoke an abundance of God’s blessings.

From the Vatican, 30 November 1998.


December 1998




Tuesday, 1 December 1998

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. With the encouragement which is in Christ Jesus (cf. Phil Ph 2,1), I greet you, the Bishops who in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands watch over “the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth” (1Tm 3,15). You are here on your visit ad Limina Apostolorum, to the tombs of the Apostles where we are reminded of the great truth of Easter, that from the Cross of Jesus Christ the joy of new life is born. In these days of the Special Assembly for Oceania of the Synod of Bishops, you are reflecting on the newness of life in Christ, the Light of the Nations, and on the responsibility that is yours as Successors of the Apostles to communicate that life to the people entrusted to your pastoral care. I pray that this will be a time of spiritual renewal for each of you, in the grace and strength of the Holy Spirit.

Your presence is a reminder of the remarkable story of the plantatio ecclesiae in Melanesia. It is little more than thirty years since the first dioceses were established, and yet the story both before and since is one of heroic witness and work, in the first place on the part of missionary priests and men and women religious who left everything to preach Christ and serve the peoples of your region. From many different countries and institutes they came and, united in faith, they sowed a seed in the heart of your peoples which will yield an eternal harvest. Some died a martyr’s death, and for this sacrifice above all we give glory to God, “who will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Ap 7,17). Yet it was not only the foreign missionaries who gave their lives for Christ: there is also the unforgettable figure of Blessed Peter To Rot, the first fruit of the faith of your lands, offered now as an example of fidelity to God to the Church throughout the world.

2. The spiritual growth of your particular Churches gives joy to us all. Yet you also speak of the hardships of the faithful whom God has entrusted to you. There are the natural disasters, of which the tidal wave in West Sepik was the most recent and one of the most devastating, bringing death to thousands and leaving the country with an immense task of human and material reconstruction. I once again pledge the Church’s solidarity with those affected, and I renew the call to the world community to offer the assistance which is still urgently required.

We can do little to prevent natural disasters, but there are other sufferings caused by human beings and therefore subject to human control. Your Reports speak of a rising tide of violence and division, which makes it difficult to shape a society based on the notion and practice of the common good. The war in Bougainville may be over, but the wounds remain; and the process of healing will be long and complex. The threat of “rascalism” has become more relentless and serious, especially in the cities. Tribalism, with the spirit of vengeance it generates, also remains a problem which is deeply rooted and difficult to tackle. Corruption in its many forms is a another kind of violence, which is no less real and destructive because its symptoms are often less visible. And there is yet another kind of violence: spiritual violence in the divisiveness found in the religious sects which flourish in times of hardship and which feed off people’s expectations and fears.

3. The situation reflects a certain breakdown of the traditional ways of your cultures, with the consequent weakening of the structures and institutions which gave traditional societies their stability and transmitted the values which gave them life. Chief among these is the family, which has been placed under great pressure in recent times and which is always the point at which the symptoms of social malaise first appear. There is also widespread unemployment, which leaves many young people frustrated and angry, with low self-esteem and little hope for the future. But none of this is unknown to you, dear Brothers: indeed these are precisely the afflictions of your people which you bring to Christ every day in prayer and on which you are reflecting during the Synod. In a cultural situation as diversified as yours, it is never easy to overcome division and counter violence; yet the promotion of harmony and of a culture of the common good is deeply related to the truth of the Gospel and calls for your wise and energetic spiritual leadership.

In the face of violence and division, there is always the temptation to reply in kind, and it is precisely this logic which is creating many of the troubles now affecting your people. Violence and division seem to be strength and seem to win the day. But the Gospel of the Crucified Christ insists that in fact they are always weakness and always defeat. Saint Paul speaks of the logic of the Cross in all its paradoxical force: “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2Co 12,10). What Christ wants for Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands is true strength and true victory, the victory of grace over sin, of love over all that drives people apart.

4. The first phase of the evangelization of your lands was slow and involved great sacrifice; and the same is true of the new phase which is now unfolding. The present stage of evangelization calls for great attention to be given to catechesis and education, if it is to ensure that the roots of the Gospel go deep into the good soil of “God’s field” (1Co 3,9). This task involves a special effort particularly in three areas which are closely related: the family, the young, and community leaders.

Families need greater support in situations where they are under pressure, and this support involves not just a helping hand in times of crisis but a sustained education in the values and practices which shape the Catholic vision of marriage and family life. There was a time when, despite the persistence of polygamy, traditional values and practices ensured a certain stability of families in your cultures, but in urban situations especially that is no longer the case; and this can create a vacuum which unsettles the family and thus threatens the very foundation of society. At such a time you are called to organize a great effort of education in support of the basic cell of human society. This must be an education which begins in school, which has a point of special focus in preparation for marriage, and continues throughout married life and especially in connection with the Christian initiation of children. In this task, the institutions of the Catholic school and parish remain fundamentally important.

5. The young must be taught not just to be “a success”, but to live truly Christian lives: of grace and holiness in their relationship with God, and of truth and love in all human relationships. That this is possible is clearly shown by the figure of Blessed Peter To Rot. Young people must be made to feel that they have a role and responsibility in the Church’s life. They should be led little by little to sound knowledge of what the Church teaches – her faith and her moral teaching, especially as regards the common good. They should learn the supreme value of human life and the absolute dignity of the human person in a way that encourages a proper self-esteem. They should be taught to pray in a way that enables them to place their hope in God rather than in that which does not last. And all of this must be done in a way which takes account not only of the universal longings of the human heart but also of the particular cultural needs of your young people.

From such a training will come the vocations to the priestly and religious life which your dioceses need now more than ever as the next phase in the evangelization of your societies unfolds and the number of foreign missionaries dwindles. The task may seem daunting, but “the love of Christ impels us” (2Co 5,14). Everything that you do for the education of the young people of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands is of immense value to them, to the Church and to society as a whole.

6. Good education demands good teachers; and that is why the training of Church leaders – priests, religious and catechists – is so important to your particular Churches. In seminaries and religious houses of formation every effort must be made to ensure the best possible introduction to the priestly and religious life, drawing upon the resources of both the universal Church and the riches of the local cultures. In my recent Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio, I have made it clear that without a solid intellectual formation faith descends quickly into myth and superstition, which are always fertile ground for violence and division. Faith needs the work of reason if it is to flower into a culture of respect for human life and dignity, of justice and solidarity in human affairs, and of commitment to the common good. If this is true of initial formation, it is also true of the continuing education which is needed to sustain priests and religious in the midst of all the pressures which they face. In all cultures today priests and religious need a formation which is lifelong and properly adapted to the different stages of their journey. It is especially required where elements in popular culture make it more difficult to sustain a lifelong commitment to the celibate life.

7. Dear Brothers, we teach chiefly by our own witness: who and what we are is decisive. This is supremely true of the Bishop, but it is also true of all who teach in the name of Christ – parents, priests, teachers, catechists, youth leaders. The saints and martyrs are the great teachers of the Church, for they offer the witness which nothing can rival: they teach through their total self-giving, through their blood. The history of the Church in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands may be short, but the list of martyrs is long – some of them well known, others not known at all. They must not be forgotten, for they are the supreme witnesses of the wisdom of the Cross of Jesus Christ (cf. 1Co 1,18-25). Let their names be recorded and their stories told with new understanding and joy as the Church moves towards the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. These men and women are both the greatest glory of your past and the surest pledge of your future. In the same spirit, I also urge you to encourage and support the contemplative life in your particular Churches. Those who follow the path of contemplation in the monastic life live a kind of martyrdom, and in their silence and self-emptying they are teachers of a kind especially needed now. The task before the Church in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands is extensive and complex. But in our weakness the Holy Spirit comes to help us (cf. Rom Rm 8,26), moving over the deep of our hearts and creating us anew. May the fire of his love in the hearts of the faithful turn every affliction to joy and inspire the great hymn of praise which is always the song of the Church. May the Mother of Christ, Star of the Sea and Star of Evangelization, watch over you and guide you as you journey with your people to the haven of peace which God has prepared for his own. As a pledge of endless joy in Christ, who is always “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (Jn 14,6), I cordially impart to you and to your priests, religious and lay faithful my Apostolic Blessing.

Speeches 1998 - 21 November 1998