Speeches 1998 - Saturday, 30 May 1998





31 May 1998

This year the Marian feast of the Visitation coincides with the great Solemnity of Pentecost, by which it is absorbed in a way and illuminated. The yearly gathering at this picturesque grotto in the Vatican Gardens, to mark the end of Mary's month, offers us the happy opportunity of pausing in prayer with her in an atmosphere of family recollection, extending as it were our joy and wonder at the superabundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Today more than ever, Mary appears to us as a figure and model of the Church who, sustained by the Spirit, brings Christ the Saviour to the world. The biblical readings for the feast of the Visitation present the Blessed Virgin, who, bearing in her womb the Son of God newly conceived by the power of the Most High, goes to help her elderly cousin Elizabeth. She is the Ark of the New Covenant, who bears within herself the fulfilment of the messianic promises. The meeting between the two women and their unborn children takes place in the joy inspired by the Holy Spirit and culminates in the Magnificat, the song of hope for those who believe in the fulfilment of the Lord's words.

This year, dedicated to the Holy Spirit, we are called "to a renewed appreciation of the theological virtue of hope" (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 46). As today's Solemnity of Pentecost draws to a close, let us invoke Mary as our model and as the one who instils hope in the heart of the Church, as in the Upper Room of Jerusalem. To her intercession we entrust the evangelizing mission ad gentes, so that 2,000 years after her "yes", which opened the doors to Redemption, the Word who became flesh for our salvation may continue to be proclaimed and witnessed to in all the languages of the world and in every corner of the earth.

In particular, we implore the motherly protection of Our Lady for all who live and work in the Vatican, that they may be ever docile to the action of the Holy Spirit and carry out their service, wherever they may be, with humble willingness and generous fidelity.

O Mary, glorious Temple of the Holy Spirit, pray for us!

For the victims of the Afghanistan Earthquake:

You too have heard the news about the serious earthquake which struck Afghanistan a few hours ago, causing thousands of deaths. I wish to express to the sorely tried people of that region my affection and the assurance of my spiritual closeness. I invite you to join me in praying that God will receive the earthquake victims into his peace, give comfort to the relatives and survivors, and inspire everyone to come to their aid. Lastly, the Holy Father addressed a few words in Spanish to the Regnum Christi Movement. I am especially happy to greet the large Spanish- and English-speaking group from the Regnum Christi Movement. May the Blessed Virgin grant you the grace to pursue with faith and determination your apostolic task in the service of the Church.

To Spanish and English speaking members of Regnum Christe:

I am especially happy to greet the large Spanish- and English-speaking group from the Regnum Christi Movement. May the Blessed Virgin grant you the grace to pursue with faith and determination your apostolic task in the service of the Church.

June 1998




Thursday, 4 June 1998

1. “Gaude, felix Cracovia...”. A year has past since the day when I addressed this hope to my native city. It was a really joyful day — that of Queen Hedwig’s canonization. How can I forget that moment when whole centuries and entire generations seemed to have gathered in Blonia Krakówskie, to praise God for the gift of holiness of the one they venerated as “queen, zealous promoter of faith and charity, apostle of truth and goodness”? (cf. Collect of the memorial of St Hedwig). I often recall that solemn canonization mass, and give thanks to divine Providence for having to celebrate that act, awaited for six centuries. Today I am particularly full of this joy and gratitude, because in a certain sense they are engraved in the joy and gratitude of the entire community of the Church in Kraków, represented here by you who have come in such large numbers to the apostolic threshold.

I extend a cordial welcome to you all. I greet the beloved Metropolitan, Cardinal Franciszek, and thank him for his words. I greet the Bishops, the priests, the religious, the representatives of the authorities and of the individual cities and territories, H.E. the Ambassador to the Apostolic See and all the guests. I also warmly embrace your families, especially the sick and the elderly and those who were unable to come, who are united with us in thought and prayer. May God reward them for this visit.

2. Allow me to remember those days when, in a certain sense, St Hedwig guided me in my spiritual pilgrimage across the land of Kraków. May this remembrance revive in us all a spirit of thanksgiving for the countless gifts we have received from divine Providence.

I see vividly before my eyes those torches that lit up the silhouettes of the mountains and valleys of Podhale. It is hard to resist the rich symbolism of this fire. Is it not the sign of the Spirit of God who moved over the face of the waters when the Creator was making this beautiful earth? — of the same Spirit, who a thousand years ago descended upon it once more in the waters of Baptism, to enliven it with the breath of salvation? Moreover, the mountain people’s torches are a sign of vigilance, of readiness to defend their goods. As I did that evening, I also give thanks to God so that the fire of faith, hope and charity will stay alight in the land of Kraków, because the multitudes of its faithful are alert and ready to defend the treasure of the Gospel acquired at Baptism. I was moved when among the crowds at Zakopane I fixed my gaze on the cross on Mount Giewont which looks over Poland. At the time I could not but recall the Crucified One of Wawel, before which Hedwig knelt to hear the Lord say: “do what you see”. I pray to God without respite that the Exhortation “Sursum corda” may be fulfilled; that the faithful of the land of Kraków and of all Poland may follow Hedwig’s example and lift up their hearts to the Cross, drawing from it a personal and social project of life.

I am grateful to God because precisely in beloved Podhale, in the church of Our Lady of Fátima at Krzeptówki, I could renew my “Totus tuus”, entrusting my whole service to the universal Church to her who spared me at the moment of trial, the attempt on my life. I know I have not been the only one to make this act of entrustment. I was sustained by the prayer of those who had chosen Mary as their Mother and Patroness. I had the opportunity to see this when I visited the parishes of Zakopane, Holy Cross and Holy Family and especially when I was swept up in the age-old recitation of the Rosary prayer, at the feet of the Patroness of Podhale of Ludymierz. I thank you and all our compatriots for the prayerful support you give the Pope. I also ask you: never discontinue this prayer!

3. I directed my first steps in royal Kraków to the Shrine of Divine Mercy, St Hedwig could not have taken me anywhere else. In fact it was she who responded with her whole life to the Crucified One: “Jesus, I trust in you”, and made mercy to the most deprived the programme of her reign. The artist who set the figure of the merciful Christ in the 15th century triptych that adorns the altar of the Christ of Wawel did not forget this. How can we not thank God for his mercy? I am pleased that the devotion to divine Mercy is spreading on all the continents. I hear with joy that the Archdiocese of Kraków is endeavouring to enlarge the Shrine of Lagiewniki which is visited by faithful from all over the world. I hope that it will become a living centre of the apostolate of divine Mercy.

How magnificent and appropriate a setting for the canonization of Queen Hedwig were the celebrations to mark the 600th anniversary of the Jagiellonian foundation of the University of Kraków and, in the same context, the Faculty of Theology; thus making it appropriate to pay homage to the mother of Polish erudition, the “Alma Mater”. I give thanks to God because the time has come when all Polish athenaeums — represented by their respective rectors and professors — have been able to do so, with the Pope, in the university’s collegiate church of St Anne. We met in the name of our common love of the truth. I believe that this unitive love will bring blessed fruits to Polish learning. During those days I did not fail to remember the people who down the centuries created the scientific atmosphere of the Jagiellonian Alma Mater, of the city of Kraków and of Poland. The professors and students who in a certain sense gave their life to this university, especially during the occupation, cannot be forgotten. I pray today as I do every day for the eternal rest of those distinguished men and women of science.

I rejoice to have been able to visit once again the Collegium Maius — a place so dear to me. Nor can I forget Queen Hedwig Parish in Krowodrza.

At the end of the celebrations, the Queen led me to the hills of Wawel, to which I have been so strongly attached since my youth. For me personally, it was a special moment. Divine grace enabled me to relive the first experiences of my priestly ministry. Fifty years later I could present myself at the same altar in St Leonard’s Crypt where I celebrated the Eucharistic sacrifice for the first time. How grateful I am to God for this exceptional meeting with the whole Church gathered round the cathedral of Wawel, in which my priesthood is rooted, to which my Episcopal mission is linked and which, in a certain sense, prepared me for the Petrine service. I was deeply moved by the countless memories of our national history and the Christian tradition which this church contains. Among these visits, I could not miss an encounter with Queen St Hedwig’s black Crucifix.

4. “There is suffering in the Cross, there is salvation in the Cross, love is learned in the Cross. Those who once succeed in understanding you, O God, desire nothing and seek nothing”. This crucifix has deep roots in the religious tradition of Kraków. One can say that Kraków’s spirituality was formed by the Cross. Its mystery of the infinite love of God who gives himself without reservation for man’s salvation, is a strong exhortation to “Do what you see!”. It is impossible to give any other response than to follow Christ on the way of the Cross — on the way of the love of God and neighbour which knows no bounds. Therefore, today I would like to recall once again what I said on that memorable day in Blonia Krakówskie: “Divine Providence is putting a new task before us: to love and to serve. To love in deed and in truth. Queen St Hedwig teaches us that the fulfilment of freedom is love, thanks to which man is willing to entrust himself to God and his brothers and sisters, to belong to them She gave the whole nation the example of love of Christ and of man, of man who is hungry for faith and knowledge, as he is also for daily bread and clothing” (Mass for the canonization of Queen Hedwig, Blonia Esplanade, Kraków, 8 June; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 25 June 1997, p. 4). This is a great challenge. The Church of Kraków must continue to face it in the perspective of her own millennium, to be faithful to the path marked out by the Holy Lady of Wawel and by so many other “Krakóvian” saints.

“Our saint, Queen Hedwig, teach us today, on the threshold of the third millennium, that wisdom and love which you made your path to holiness. Lead all of us, Hedwig, to the Crucified One of Wawel, so that, like you, we may know what it means to love in deed and in truth, what it means to be truly free. Place under your protection your nation and the Church which it serves, and intercede for us with God, that our joy may never end” (ibid.).

With deep gratitude, I am thinking today of all those who in some way helped to make possible my meeting with the Church of Kraków last year. Once again, I would like to place my gratitude to the entire Archdiocese of Kraków in the hands of Cardinal Franciszek and in yours. I also thank you for this meeting. Please take my greetings and my blessing home: convey them to your loved ones and to the whole community of the Church of Kraków. May God reward you!

Before imparting his blessing, the Holy Father said:

You do well to sing “A hundred years”, because I was thinking precisely that His Eminence has listed many places — the shrines and parishes, but perhaps he did not remember the cemeteries, Kraków’s most beautiful cemeteries: the Rakowicki, the Salwatorski and obviously, the most important and monumental cemetery next to Wawel Cathedral. These are places where our faith in life is expressed: “I believe in life everlasting”. Now receive my blessing.





Friday, 5 June 1998

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. At the end of your annual general assembly you wished, as in the past, to meet me, and it gives me great joy to welcome you and extend my cordial greeting to you. I take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude for the intense, tireless work that you carry out in the service of the missionary Church. I first of all greet Cardinal Jozef Tomko, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, who expressed your common sentiments; Archbishop Charles Schleck, Adjunct Secretary of the Congregation and President of the Pontifical Mission Societies, the general secretaries, the advisers, the national directors, gathered here from many countries of the world, and the personnel of the general secretariats. With affection I again express my heartfelt, fraternal welcome.

2. Through each of you I would like to extend my greeting to your Ecclesial Communities of origin. Some of them have an ancient and glorious missionary tradition and have played a significant role in the spread of the Gospel. By generously sending missionaries and committing considerable economic resources, they have encouraged the birth and development of young Churches, many of which are celebrating in these years the centenary of their evangelization. But how could I not publicly express my appreciation also for those Dioceses which, although lacking both apostolic personnel and financial means, are likewise anxious to respond courageously to the missionary appeal, opening themselves to the needs of the universal call to salvation, as far as their limited resources allow. What a providential reality is the mutual exchange, between Churches, whereby each one shares with the other the gifts received from God! This is an impulse from the Holy Spirit, who opens the heart of every believer, through a significant apostolic experience, to the needs of the en- tire world. Thanks to the help of every baptized person, it is thus possible to spread the truth of the Gospel to an ever larger number of people.

Yes, it is the Spirit who spurs us to lift our eyes from our own immediate necessities and turn them towards the needs of those who are “like sheep with- out a shepherd” (Mc 6,34), and “wish to see Jesus” (Jn 12,21).

Dear national directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies, the role assigned to you in this work of evangelizing is an important one. May your desire to sensitise the members of the Christian communities to this task always be your first and foremost concern. Your work, as those responsible for these Societies, is in itself a service directed to the whole Church. A service that the four Societies, which “have the common purpose of fostering a universal missionary spirit among the People of God” (Encyclical Redemptoris missio RMi 84), fulfil in different and complementary ways.

While the Pontifical Society of the Holy Childhood has the objective of instilling an authentic missionary spirit in Catholics from an early age, the Pontifical Society of St Peter Apostle aims at the formation of seminarians and of men and women religious in recently established Churches. This work of increasing mission awareness must involve the entire People of God and become a need felt by everyone. It is above all the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith that is called to keep this apostolic yearning alive. Its objective is to involve families, basic communities, parishes, schools, movements, associations and religious institutes in the new evangelization, so that every Diocese acknowledges its universal missionary vocation (cf. Statutes of the Pontifical Mission Societies, Rome 1980, II, 9/a), not only with regard to fund-raising and spiritual co-operation, but also for the fostering of both temporary and lifelong missionary vocations.

I also thank the Lord for the work that the Pontifical Missionary Union is carrying out and I encourage it to concentrate on training leaders and formation personnel, thereby responding to its specific vocation. It is precisely for this reason that it was described as “the soul of the other Societies” (cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Letter Graves et increscentes).

3. Dear brothers and sisters, at the end of this meeting my heartfelt wish is that your apostolic ardour, nourished by constant prayer and filial devotion to Mary most holy, may accompany your daily work. May the icon of the Blessed Virgin recollected in prayerful contemplation in the Upper Room with the Apostles be the image of Christian communities who constantly listen to God and are ready to receive the strength of the Holy Spirit! Be guided by the Spirit of God! Co-operate with him in animating the entire Christian people, so that it may be faithful to Christ who wants it to be generously involved in building up his kingdom. “On all Christians”, the Second Vatican Council reminds us, “rests the noble obligation of working to bring all men throughout the whole world to hear and accept the divine message of salvation” (Apostolicam actuositatem AA 3).

This is the future of mission; this is your programme: “Today and Beyond the Year 2000”, as the title of your convention puts it so well.

While I entrust you to the merciful hands of Mary, Star of evangelization, I assure you of a constant remembrance in prayer and, as I urge you to continue on the path you have taken. I cordially give you a special Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to your co-workers in the tireless work of fostering mission awareness and collaboration.






Saturday, 6 June 1998

Mr Ambassador,

1. I am pleased to extend a cordial welcome to you at this ceremony for the presentation of the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mexico to this Apostolic See. With sincere gratitude I return the affectionate greeting that you have brought from the President of the Republic, Dr Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León, and I ask you to convey to him my best wishes for the prosperity and spiritual welfare of his person and of all the inhabitants of the beloved Mexican nation.

2. Your presence here is a pleasant reminder of my Pastoral Visits to your beloved country, during which I was able to see, in addition to the warm welcome, hospitality and many signs of affection, the great efforts being made to fulfil its historic vocation.

I am also thinking of my next journey to Mexico City to deliver the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation connected with the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, held in Rome in 1997. I will also have the welcome opportunity to walk again on Mexican soil, to meet its people and its authorities. For several days Mexico City will be the pastoral capital of the Americas and the privileged witness to a historic stage in the progress of the new evangelization on the American continent and throughout the world.

3. Because of Mexico’s geographical position on the American continent, which enables it to share in various cultural, scientific and economic trends that are often creative and open to the future, it is called to be an instrument of peace and dialogue between the peoples of the North and South, between developed and developing countries, between ancient and new cultures. To fulfil this task, Mexico can offer all the wealth of its spiritual and cultural heritage, which has deep Christian roots, and thus contribute to the progress of American society with development that takes into account the human dimension which is so necessary for guaranteeing a future truly worthy of the human person.

4. Mr Ambassador, in Mexico progress in strengthening and harmoniously promoting the human rights of all is conditioned, among other things, by economic imbalances and social crises, as in various areas of the American continent. This particularly affects people with limited material resources, who are also the most vulnerable to unemployment and often the victims of corruption and many other forms of violence. It must not be forgotten that economic imbalances contribute to the progressive decline and loss of moral values, which is apparent in the break-up of families, moral permissiveness and the lack of respect for life.

To reclaim these moral values, which are necessary for society as a whole, the priorities of the moment must include political and social measures that encourage dignified and stable employment for everyone, in order to overcome the material poverty that threatens so many inhabitants. It is al- so essential to de- vote special attention to the education of the new generations by developing an educational policy that strengthens and defends these fundamental values. This will contribute to the spiritual, cultural and material progress of the Mexican people, in an atmosphere of social justice and solidarity. The latter cannot be reduced to a vague emotional feeling or a word devoid of real content, but requires an active moral commitment, a firm and persevering de- termination to dedicate oneself to the common good, that is, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all (cf. Sollicitudo rei socialis SRS 38-40).

5. The Church in Mexico, along with her own work of evangelization, co-operates in building an increasingly open and participatory society, in which each individual feels fully accepted and respected in his inalienable dignity. As a mother and teacher, the Church makes human problems her own, clarifying them with the teachings of the Gospel and her social doctrine, proclaiming the priority of the individual over things and of conscience over exclusively utilitarian criteria, which sometimes obscure God’s image in man.

The indigenous peoples deserve special attention: their access each day to a better and more decent life, both qualitatively and quantitatively — in areas such as education, health care, infrastructure and other services — must be carried out with respect for their cultures, which are so worthy of esteem. In this regard, it should be pointed out that the Mexican Dioceses in which indigenous communities live are encouraging specific projects aimed at confirming these communities in the Catholic faith that their ancestors embraced and at promoting the recognition of their dignity as persons and as a people, fostering at the same time their full participation in the benefits of the progress achieved by the rest of the Mexican nation.

All these reflections help to lay the foundation for the Mexico which is now on the threshold of the third Christian millennium. For this reason it must go to the very roots of its identity, while remembering that “one cannot remain a prisoner of the past, for individuals and peoples need a sort of ‘healing of memories’, so that past evils will not come back again” (Message for the World Day of Peace, 1 January 1997, n. 3; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 18/25 December 1996, p. 3). In this way, to- day's Mexicans, men and women, will be able to live together, without detriment to the due appreciation of their traditions, both Western and indigenous, harmoniously combined in a united nation.

6. Before concluding this ceremony, I would like to express to you, Mr Ambassador, my best wishes that the mission you are beginning today will be rich in lasting fruit. I ask you to convey my sentiments and fervent hopes to the President and to the other authorities of the republic. At the same time, I invoke the abundant blessings of the Most High on you, on your distinguished family and your colleagues, as well as on all the sons and daughters of the noble Mexican nation, together with the constant and maternal intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Mother of all Mexicans.






6 June 1998

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. With great joy in the Lord I welcome you, the Pastors of the Church in the States of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, on your ad Limina visit. The theme of my reflections with the Bishops of your country this year is the duty, in view of the approaching new millennium, of renewed evangelization, for which the Second Vatican Council marvellously prepared the way. Today I wish to reflect on the laity in the Church’s life and mission. The new evangelization that can make the twenty-first century a springtime of the Gospel is a task for the entire People of God, but will depend in a decisive way on the lay faithful being fully aware of their baptismal vocation and their responsibility for bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to their culture and society.

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council gave special attention to the dignity and mission of the lay faithful, urging them “in the Lord’s name to give a glad, generous and prompt response to the impulse of the Holy Spirit and to the voice of Christ, who is giving them an especially urgent invitation at this moment” (Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 33). In order to restore the needed balance to ecclesial life, the Council dedicated an extremely rich chapter in Lumen Gentium to the role of the laity in the Church’s saving mission, and it further developed this theme in the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem ). With specific reference to contemporary circumstances, that mission was specified still more concretely in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes ). In these documents and others the Council sought to extend the great flourishing of the lay apostolate which had characterized previous decades. More and more lay people had taken to heart the stirring words of Pope Pius XII: "Lay believers are in the front line of Church life; for them the Church is the animating principle of human society. Therefore, they in particular ought to have an ever clearer consciousness not only of belonging to the Church, but of being the Church" (Discourse, February 20, 1946).

2. It was in this context of vigorous lay action that the Council could clearly affirm: “It is evident to everyone that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity” (Lumen Gentium LG 40); and the Council's Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity makes it clear that lay people are called to exercise the apostolate in the Church and in the world (cf. Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 5). Lay men and women have indeed responded to this call. Everywhere there has been a blossoming of various forms of lay participation in the Church’s life and mission. Much has also been done since the Council to explore more deeply the theological basis for the vocation and mission of the laity. This development reached a certain maturity in the 1987 Synod of Bishops on the role of the Laity, with the subsequent Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, published on December 30, 1988. The Synod indicated the concrete ways in which the Council’s rich teaching on the lay state could be further translated into practice. One of its principal achievements was to set the various ministries and charisms within the framework of an ecclesiology of communion (cf. Christifideles Laici CL 21). Thus it dealt with the specific role of the laity, not as an extension or derivation of the clerical and hierarchical role, but in relation to the fundamental truth that all the baptized receive the same sanctifying grace, the grace of justification by which each one becomes a “new creature”, an adopted child of God, a “partaker of the divine nature”, a member of Christ and co-heir with him, a temple of the Holy Spirit (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 1265). All the faithful - both ordained ministers and laity - together form the one body of the Lord: “Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all” (Col 3,11).

We are witnessing a return to the authentic theology of the laity found in the New Testament, where the Church, the body of Christ, is the whole of the chosen race, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, God’s own people (cf. 1P 2,9), and not a portion of it. Saint Paul reminds us that the growth of the body depends on every member playing its part: "If we live by the truth and in love, we shall grow in all ways into Christ, who is the head, by whom the whole body is fitted and joined together, every joint adding its own strength, for each separate part to work according to its function. So the body grows until it has built itself up, in love” (Ep 4,15-16). In preparing for the great ecclesial event that was the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII was so struck by these words that he declared that they deserved to be inscribed on the Council's doors (cf. Address on Pentecost Sunday, June 5, 1960).

In an ecclesiology of communion, the Church’s hierarchical structure is not a matter of power but of service, completely ordered to the holiness of Christ's members. The threefold duty to teach, sanctify and govern, entrusted to Peter and the Apostles and their successors, “has no other purpose except to form the Church in line with the ideal of sanctity already programmed and prefigured in Mary" (Address to the Roman Curia, 22 December 1987, No. 3). The Marian dimension of the Church is prior to the Petrine or hierarchical dimension, "as well as being supreme and pre-eminent, richer in personal and communitarian implications for the various ecclesial vocations" (ibid.). If I mention these well-known truths, it is because everywhere in the Church, and not least in your country, we see the spread of a fresh and invigorating lay spirituality and the magnificent fruits of the laity’s greater involvement in the Church’s life. As we approach the Third Christian Millennium it is of paramount importance that the Pope and the Bishops, fully conscious of their own special ministry of service in the Mystical Body of Christ, continue to “stir and promote a deeper awareness among all the faithful of the gift and responsibility they share, both in association and as individuals, in the communion and mission of the Church” (Christifideles Laici CL 2).

3. The liturgical renewal which the Council ardently desired and fostered has resulted in the more frequent and lively participation of the lay faithful in the tasks proper to them in the liturgical assembly. Full, active and conscious participation in the liturgy should give birth to a more vigorous lay witness in the world, not a confusion of roles in the worshipping community. Based on the will of Christ himself, there is a fundamental distinction between the ordained ministry arising from the Sacrament of Holy Orders, and the functions open to lay people, and founded on the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and, for most, Matrimony. The intention of the Holy See’s recent Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests has been to reaffirm and clarify the canonical and disciplinary norms regulating this area, by putting the relevant directives in relation to the theological and ecclesiological principles involved. I urge you to ensure that the liturgical life of your communities is led and governed by the grace of Christ working through the Church, which the Lord intended as a hierarchical communion. The distinction between the priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood must always be respected, since it belongs to “the constitutive form which [Christ] indelibly impressed on his Church” (Discourse at the Symposium on “The Participation of the Lay Faithful in the Priestly Ministry”, May 11, 1994, No. 3).

4. As the Fathers at the 1987 Synod on the Laity pointed out, it is an inadequate understanding of the role of the laity which leads lay men and women to become so strongly interested in Church services and tasks that they fail to become actively involved in their responsibilities in the professional, social, cultural and political field (cf. Christifideles Laici CL 2). The first requirement of the new evangelization is the actual witness of Christians who live by the Gospel: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Mt 5,16). Since lay people are at the forefront of the Church's mission to evangelize all areas of human activity - including the workplace, the worlds of science and medicine, the world of politics, and the diverse world of culture - they must be strong enough and sufficiently catechized "to testify how the Christian faith constitutes the only valid response ... to the problems and hopes that life poses to every person and society" (Christifideles Laici CL 34). As my predecessor Pope Paul VI put it: "Take a Christian or a handful of Christians who in the midst of their own community show their capacity for understanding and acceptance, their sharing of life and destiny with other people, their solidarity with the efforts of all for whatever is noble and good. Let us suppose that, in addition, they radiate in an altogether simple and unaffected way their faith in values that go beyond current values, and their hope in something that is not seen and that one would not dare to imagine. Through this wordless witness these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live: Why are they like this? Why do they live in this way? What or who is it that inspires them? Why are they in our midst? Such a witness is already a silent proclamation of the Good News and a very powerful and effective one" (Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 21). Through God’s grace, your particular Churches are all gifted with Catholic men and women eager to live a full Christian life and to work for Christ’s kingdom in the world around them. The Bishops must not fail them by a lack of pastoral leadership. In your ministry and governance you have to impress on everyone the importance of formation and adult catechesis, prayer and sacramental practice, a real commitment to the evangelization of culture and the application of Christian moral and social doctrine in public and private life.

5. The immediate and in many ways most important arena of the laity’s Christian witness is marriage and the family. Where family life is strong and healthy, the sense of community and solidarity is also strong, and this helps to build that "civilization of life and love" which must be everyone’s aim. But where the family is weak, all human relationships are exposed to instability and fragmentation. Today the family is under pressure from many quarters: "The family is placed at the center of the great struggle between good and evil, between life and death, between love and all that is opposed to love. To the family is entrusted the task of striving, first and foremost, to unleash the forces of good, the source of which is found in Christ the Redeemer of man" (cf. Letter to Families LF 23). At a time when the very definitions of marriage and family are endangered by attempts to enshrine in legislation alternative and distorted notions of these basic human communities, your ministry must include the clear proclamation of the truth of God’s original design. Since the Christian family is the “domestic church”, couples must be helped to relate their family life in concrete ways to the life and mission of the Church (cf. Familiaris Consortio FC 49). The parish should be a “family of families”, helping in every way possible to nourish the spiritual life of parents and children through prayer, the word of God, the sacraments, and the witness of holiness and charity. Bishops and priests should be eager to help and encourage families in every way, and should give their support to groups and associations which promote family life. While it is important that the local Church respond to the needs of people in problem situations, pastoral planning should also give adequate attention to the needs of ordinary families seeking to live up to their vocation. These families are the backbone of society and the hope of the Church: the principal promoters of Christian family life are couples and families themselves, who have a special responsibility to be servants of other couples and families.

6. This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the publication by my predecessor Pope Paul VI of the Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae. The truth about human sexuality, and the Church's teaching on the sanctity of human life and on responsible parenthood, must be presented in the light of the theological development which has followed that document, and in the light of the experience of couples who have faithfully followed this teaching. Many couples have experienced how natural family planning promotes mutual respect, encourages tenderness between husband and wife, and helps develop an authentic inner freedom (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 2370 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2370; Humanae Vitae HV 21). Their experience deserves to be shared, for it is the living confirmation of the truth which Humanae Vitae teaches. In contrast, there is a growing awareness of the serious harm caused to marital relationships by recourse to artificial contraception, which, because it inevitably thwarts the total self-giving implied in the conjugal act, at one and the same time destroys its procreative meaning and weakens its unitive significance (cf. Evangelium Vitae EV 13).

With courage and compassion, Bishops, priests and lay Catholics must seize the opportunity to propose to the sons and daughters of the Church, and to the whole of society, the truth about the special gift that is human sexuality. The false promises of the “sexual revolution” are now painfully obvious in the human suffering caused by unprecedented rates of divorce, by the scourge of abortion and its lasting effects on those involved. Yet the teaching of the magisterium, the development of the “theology of the body,” and the experience of faithful Catholic couples have given Catholics in the United States a uniquely powerful and compelling opportunity to bring the truth about human sexuality into a society that sorely needs to hear it.

7. The multi-cultural reality of American society is a source of enrichment for the Church, but it also presents challenges to pastoral action. Many Dioceses, because of past and continuing immigration, have a strong Hispanic presence. The Hispanic faithful bring their own particular gifts to the local Church, not least the vitality of their faith and their deep sense of family values. They also face enormous difficulties, and you are making great efforts to have priests and others appropriately trained to provide good pastoral care and needed services to minority families and communities. In the face of extremely active proselytism by other religious groups, instruction in the faith, the building up of living communities, attention to the needs of families and young people, the fostering of personal and family prayer, a spiritual and liturgical life centered on the Eucharist and genuine Marian devotion are all essential (cf. Address to Hispanics at Our Lady of Guadalupe Plaza, San Antonio, September 13, 1987). The Hispanic faithful should be able to feel that their natural place, their spiritual home, is in the heart of the Catholic community.

The same should be said about the members of the African-American community, who also are a vital presence in all your Churches. Their love for the word of God is a special blessing to be treasured. While the United States has made great progress in ridding itself of racial prejudice, continuous efforts are needed to ensure that black Catholics are fully involved in the Church's life.

In your Dioceses, as in other parts of the United States, there are not a few Native Americans, proud descendants of the original peoples of your land. I encourage your efforts to provide for their spiritual care, to support them as they strive to preserve the good and noble traditions of their culture, and to be close to them as they struggle to overcome the negative effects of the marginalization from which they have suffered for so long. In the one Church of Christ, every culture and race finds its home.

8. Finally, I wish to tell you of the great joy which I experienced last weekend in Saint Peter’s Square at the meeting of so many lay members of the various ecclesial movements and communities which represent a providential gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church of our time. These movements and communities share a strong commitment to the spiritual life and to missionary outreach. As instruments of conversion and authentic Gospel witness, they render a magnificent service in helping the Church’s members to respond to the universal call to holiness and to their vocation to transform worldly realities in the light of the Gospel values of life, freedom and love. They represent a genuine source of renewal and evangelization, and should therefore have an important place in your discernment and pastoral planning.

An extraordinary and surprising new springtime for the Church will blossom from the dynamic faith, living hope and active charity of the lay men and women who open their hearts to the life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit. As Bishops our task is to teach, sanctify and govern in the name of Christ, seeking always to bring to fruition the gifts and talents of the faithful entrusted to our care. I urge you to encourage everyone to take their proper place in the Church and to become ever more personally responsible for her mission. Devote special attention to strengthening family life, as the essential condition of the well- being of individuals and society. Draw on the spiritual resources of the various cultures present in the Church in the United States, and direct them to the genuine renewal of the whole People of God. Entrusting your episcopal ministry to the intercession of Mary, Help of Christians, I pray for the priests, religious and lay faithful of your Dioceses and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Speeches 1998 - Saturday, 30 May 1998