Wednesday, 7 February 1979


1. The third General Conference of the Latin-American Episcopate is an event on which the attention of the whole Church is concentrated. It arouses great interest even in circles outside the Church. The fact that this is already the third Conference testifies that its history, though short, is, however, very significant and fruitful.

In 1955 Pope Pius XII decided to convoke the first General Conference of the Latin-American Episcopate—which was celebrated at Rio de Janeiro from 25 July to 4 August 1955—to examine the religious problems which, even then, were causing great concern in the whole Continent. It was a kind of scrutinizing of the signs of the times, in order to draw indications of more and more suitable ways for the renewal and strengthening of the apostolic activity of the Church. In particular, the shortage of clergy, which emerged with dramatic obviousness, showed the necessity of seeking closer collaboration at the continental level, the instrument of which was to be a council representing all the national Episcopates. The institution of CELAM was the first and most important result of the Conference: a dynamic result, open to developments which took on growing importance and an increasingly rapid tempo.

In 1968 Pope Paul VI, in order to be able to adapt the mission of the Church better to the needs of Latin America in the light of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, convoked the second General Conference of the Latin-American Episcopate, celebrated at Medellin from 24 August to 6 September (1968). The main purpose of the meeting was study of the subject: "The Church in the present transformation of Latin America in the light of the Second Vatican Council".

The details indicated above give sufficient information about the way in which, in the course of the decades, this splendid organ of collegiality of the present Episcopate in the Latin-American Continent was formed and developed. At this moment it is the principal subject of the event called "Puebla" for short.

2. This abbreviation, as is known, comes from the name of the Mexican city in which the third General Conference of the Latin-American Episcopate is taking place. I had the great fortune to be able to open it personally, presiding, on Saturday 27 January, over the concelebration in the sanctuary of the Mother of God at Guadalupe, and delivering, on Sunday 28 January, an address at the beginning of the work, in the building of the Major Seminary at Puebla.

In any case, I would like to call attention particularly to the method of work and to the insight and precision with which the Conference was prepared.

Before arriving at the formulation of the principal texts contained in the "Documento de trabajo" (back-ground document), which consists of 172 pages altogether, the individual Episcopal Conferences of Latin America, following the general plan of the "Documento de consulta" (consultation document), worked at preparing their own opinions, remarks, and proposals with regard to the subject of the third Conference, which was formulated as follows: "Evangelization in the present and future of Latin America". It is clear that the sources of this subject were sought mainly in the work of the ordinary Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops which took place in Rome in the years 1974 and 1977. We recall that the subject of those Assemblies was respectively "Evangelization in the modern world" and "Catechesis with particular regard to the young".

The fruit of the exchange of experiences, proposals, and suggestions of the 1974 Synod of Bishops was Paul VI's Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi, one of the most characteristic, significant, and fruitful documents of his pontificate.

Such is the genesis of the present Conference of CELAM, as regards its subject. As can be seen, it is very limpid. The initiative of dealing with this subject of a universal-ecclesiastical character, that is, "Evangelization" with reference to Latin America, goes back to the year 1976. In any case, the whole cycle of preparation took two whole years. In this period, the National Episcopal Conferences, setting great store also by the suggestions offered by individual members of the local ecclesial communities, prepared their contribution for the drawing up of the "Background Document"; that is, the Document which was to serve as a reference point for the work of the Puebla Conference, and which was to serve as a basis for the exchange of experiences, proposals and suggestions. This is just what is now being done at Puebla.

The individual Episcopal Conferences, as well as being represented by their respective Presidents, have nominated a number of delegates, in proportion to the global number of bishops belonging to the Conference. Furthermore, representatives of the various members of the People of God, priests, men and women religious, deacons, and laity, have been invited to Puebla.

9 3. The above particulars regarding the Puebla Conference are perhaps already known to some of my listeners today. I thought it opportune, however, to summarize them now for two reasons.

First, out of consideration for the importance of the event which bears the name "Puebla". At the same time, to express my joy at seeing the teaching on the collegiality of the Episcopate, recalled by the Second Vatican Council, become incarnate in life in such a splendid way and bear fruit in our days.

It would be worthwhile to open again here the text of the dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium at chapter three, and re-read all its sections carefully.

It would be necessary to recall to mind many passages of Christus Dominus, the decree on the pastoral duties of bishops.

Let us dwell on some sentences: "Just as, in accordance with the Lord's decree, St Peter and the rest of the apostles constitute a unique apostolic college, so in like fashion the Roman Pontiff, Peter's successor, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are related with and united to one another. The very ancient discipline whereby the bishops, installed throughout the whole world, lived in communion with one another and with the Roman Pontiff in a bond of unity, charity, and peace; likewise the holding of councils in order to settle conjointly, in a decision rendered balanced and equitable by the advice of many, all questions of major importance; all this indeed points clearly to the collegiate character and structure of the episcopal order, and the holding of ecumenical councils in the course of the centuries bears this out unmistakably" (Lumen Gentium
LG 22).

The Council is the fullest expression of the collegiality of the episcopal office in the Church. Its other manifestations do not have such a fundamental significance. However, they are very necessary, useful, and sometimes absolutely indispensable. This applies both to collegial institutions—among the latter, it is the Episcopal Conferences that are developing mainly in the Western Church now—and also to the various forms of collegial activity.

The present Conference at Puebla is just this form of collegial activity of the Latin-American Episcopate. Certainly, both the individual collegial institutions and also the forms of collegial activity of the Episcopates correspond particularly to the requirements of our times.

4. The dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium, speaking of the collegiality of the Bishops, also uses the expression "episcopal body" (corpus episcopate). This seems to contain an even deeper analogy with regard to the whole Church, which St Paul, as we well know, called "the body of Christ" (cf. Rm 12,5 1Co 1,13 1Co 6,12-20 1Co 10,17 1Co 12,12 1Co 12,27, Ga 3,28 Ep 1,22-23 Ep 2,16 Ep 4,4 Col 1,4 Col 3,15). As regards this analogy, we are already entering deeply into the intimate mystery of the Church: the union of life, which she draws from Christ.

The "corpus episcopate" concerns the most important exterior structure of the Church: her hierarchical unity. In any case, this exterior structure remains in the service of the interior mystery of the Church, of the Mystical Body of Christ. Just for this reason and for this purpose it, that is, this structure, is also a "body": the episcopal body or college.

In the period in which this college, that is, the "body", is dedicating its work to the problem of the evangelization of the South-American continent "in the present and in the future", it must be hoped that the Lord Jesus himself is present in the midst of its members and through them. For we read in the above-mentioned constitution Lumen Gentium as follows:

"In the person of the bishops, then, to whom the priests render assistance, the Lord Jesus Christ, supreme high priest, is present in the midst of the faithful. Though seated at the right hand of God the Father, he is not absent from the assembly of his pontiffs; on the contrary, indeed, it is, above all, through their signal service that he preaches the Word of God to all peoples, and administers without cease to the faithful the sacraments of faith; through their paternal care (cf. 1Co 4,15) that he incorporates, by a supernatural birth, new members into his body; finally, through their wisdom and prudence, that he directs and guides the people of the New Testament on their journey towards eternal beatitude." To them, in fact, "is entrusted the duty of affirming the Gospel of the grace of God" (cf. Rm 15,16 Ac 20,24) and the glorious ministry of the Spirit and of justice (cf. 2Co 3,8-9) (Lumen Gentium LG 21)

My Apostolic Blessing to you all.

Wednesday, 14 February 1979

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. "Evangelization in the present and future of Latin America": this is the subject on which the third General Conference of the Episcopate of that Continent worked from 27 January to 13 February of this year. Yesterday the Conference concluded its work. Today, together with my Brothers in the Episcopate who took part in that Conference, with all the Episcopates of the whole Latin-American continent, I wish to thank the Holy Spirit for the whole of that work. I wish to thank the Spirit of Our Lord Jesus Christ and his Mother, the Bride of the Holy Spirit. Precisely at her feet, in the Sanctuary of Guadalupe, we began the third Conference together.

When we hear the word "evangelization", there comes into our mind the words of St Paul: "For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" (
1Co 9,16). These words, which spring from the depths of the Apostle's soul, are the cry of the Church of our time. They became the testament of Paul VI, which found its expression in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi. Now they become the words of faith, hope, and charity of the Latin-American Episcopate. For faith, hope, and charity must be expressed in a language of responsibility for the Gospel, for its proclamation, as the Apostle St Paul put it.

2. Evangelization in the American continent is in the first place the heritage of the centuries. If we speak of the present and the future of this evangelization, we cannot forget its "yesterday", its past. I spoke of this in my first homily, which I delivered at the Mass concelebrated at Santo Domingo during the recent journey. "From the first moments of discovery", I said, "the concern of the Church is manifested in making the kingdom of God present in the hearts of the new peoples, races and cultures... The soil of America was prepared to receive the new Christian seed by movements of spirituality of its own."

That "yesterday" of the evangelization of the men and peoples of the Latin-American continent could be noticed constantly during my visit in Mexico, and formed a characteristic of the whole journey. Everywhere, I found splendid temples which recalled the first generations of the Church and of Christianity in that land. But above all, I met the living men, who accepted as their own the gospel proclaimed to them in the new world, by missionaries from the old world, and made it the substance of their own lives. Certainly, that meeting of the new arrivals from Europe with the natives was not an easy one. One has the impression that the latter did not completely accept what is European; that, in a certain way, they tried to hide in their own tradition and in their native culture. But, at the same time, one has the impression that they accepted Jesus Christ and his Gospel; that in that community of faith a meeting of the "old" with the "new " took place, and that this is at the basis not only of the life of the Church but of Mexican society itself. That continuity of faith, as we all know, went through serious tests and hard examinations. It is difficult to resist the impression, which strikes one insistently, that in the crucible of those tests and examinations the community was strengthened and deepened. It bears the signs of a great simplicity and of the spiritual victory of faith, in spite of the circumstances which might bear witness to the contrary and which, considering things from the human point of view, might sadden us.

11 3. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever!" (He 13,8).

The representatives of the Episcopate gathered in Puebla, thinking of evangelization in the present and future of Latin America, were aware of the fact that the Church as the Body of Christ and his faithful Bride, the Church as the People of God, can never break with the past, with tradition. But neither can it be content to look only to the past: the ecclesia "retro-oculata" must always be, at the same time, the Church that looks to the future (ecclesia "ante--oculata"). To this future, to the men who already exist and those who will come, the Church must always reveal Jesus Christ, the full and not diminished mystery of Salvation. This mystery is an eternal mystery in God, who wants all men to be saved and to arrive at knowledge of the truth. The mystery that became in time a Divine-Human Reality, which bears the name of Jesus Christ.

It is a historical Reality, and at the same time he is above history. He "is the same yesterday and today, and for ever." (He 13,8).

It is a Reality which does not stop outside man; the reason for its existence is to be and operate in man; to construct the source and ferment of new life in every man.

To evangelize means acting in this direction, in order that the source and ferment of new life may shine forth in men and in the ever-new generations.

To evangelize does not mean just telling "about Christ". To proclaim Christ means getting the man—the one to whom this proclamation is addressed—to "believe", that is, to see himself in Christ; to find again in him the adequate dimension of his own life; simply, to find himself again in Christ.

The one who carries out this work is the man who evangelizes, who proclaims Christ; but, above, all, it is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ. The Church, which evangelizes, remains the handmaid and instrument of the Spirit.

The fact of finding oneself again in Christ, which is precisely the fruit of evangelization, becomes man's substantial liberation. Service of the Gospel is service of freedom in the Spirit. The man who has found himself in Christ, has found again the way to the consequent liberation of his own humanity through the overcoming of all his limitations and weaknesses; through liberation from his own situation of sin and from the multiple structures of sin which weigh upon the life of society and of individuals.

To this truth, so strongly expressed by St. Paul, we must refer with no less clarity in the evangelizing mission in the American continent and everywhere.

12 4. The future of evangelization is identified with the implementation of the great and multiple programme outlined by the Second Vatican Council.

The Church, in order that she may carry out her mission with regard to the "world", must strengthen herself, deeply in her own mystery, and must construct thoroughly her own community, the community of the People of God, based on the apostolic succession, on the hierarchical ministry, on the vocation to exclusive service of God in the priesthood and in religious life, and on the laity aware of its own apostolic tasks.

The Latin-American world is waiting for the Church to carry out her own mission with regard to it. It is waiting for it even when it shows contestation and indifference with regard to the Church and the Gospel.

All this must not discourage the apostles of Christ and the servants of the Gospel of his love.

My dear brothers in the Episcopate of the Latin-American Continent are bearing witness that "the love of Christ controls us" (cf.
2Co 5,14), that they are ready to "preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching." (cf. 2Tm 4,2) — as St Paul says—in order that the communities, entrusted to their care as pastors and teachers, will not "turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths" (cf. 2Tm 4,4).

My brothers in the Episcopate of the Latin-American continent are ready, together with their priests, religious men and women, and all zealous laity, to read the "signs of the times", to form the whole People of God in justice, truth, and love.

May the Lord bless them in all this work of theirs.

May he allow them to see the fruits of this zeal and this cooperation, the proof of which has been the third General Conference in Puebla.

May the Church in the Latin-American continent, strong in the tradition of its first evangelization, become strong again with the conscience of the whole People of God, with the strength of its own priestly and religious vocations, with a deep sense of responsibility for the social order, based on justice, peace, respect of human rights, on the adequate distribution of goods, on the progress of public education and culture.

We wish them all of this.

Let all of us gathered here, and the whole Church, continue to pray tirelessly for these aims of Latin America, invoking the intercession of the Mother of God of Guadalupe, at whose feet we began our work.


Wednesday, 21 February 1979

1. Today, too, I wish to refer to the subject of the third Conference of the Latin-American Episcopate: to evangelization, it is a fundamental subject, a subject that is always topical. The Conference, which ended its work at Puebla on 13 February, bears witness to this. It is, moreover, the subject "of the future"; the subject that the Church must live continually and prolong in the future. The subject, therefore, constitutes the permanent perspective of the Church's mission.

To evangelize means making Christ present in the life of man as a person, and at the same time in the life of society. To evangelize means doing everything possible, according to our capacities, in order that man "may believe"; in order that man may find himself again in Christ, in order that he may find again in him the meaning and the adequate dimension of his own life. This finding again is, at the same time, the deepest source of man's liberation, St Paul expresses this when he writes: "For freedom Christ has set us free" (
Ga 5,1). So, liberation, then, is certainly a reality of faith, one of the fundamental biblical themes, which are a deep part of Christ's salvific mission, of the work of Redemption, of his teaching. This subject has never ceased to constitute the content of the spiritual life of Christians. The Conference of the Latin-American Episcopate bears witness that this subject returns in a new historical context; therefore it must be taken up again in the teaching of the Church, in theology, and in the apostolate. It must be taken up again in its own depth, and in its evangelical authenticity.

There are many circumstances that make it such a relevant subject today. It is difficult, here, to mention them all. Certainly it is recalled by that "universal desire for dignity" on the part of man, of which the Second Vatican Council speaks. The "theology of liberation" is often connected (sometimes too exclusively) with Latin America; but it must be admitted that one of the great contemporary theologians, Hans Urs von Balthassar, is right when he demands a theology of liberation on a universal scale. Only the contexts are different, but the reality itself of the freedom "for which Christ set us free" (cf. Ga 5,1) is universal. The task of theology is to find its real significance in the different concrete historical and contemporary contexts.

2. Christ himself links liberation particularly with knowledge of the truth: "You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (Jn 8,32). This sentence testifies above all to the intimate significance of the freedom for which Christ liberates us. Liberation means man's inner transformation, which is a consequence of the knowledge of truth. The transformation is, therefore, a spiritual process, in which man matures "in true righteousness and holiness" (Ep 4,24). Man, inwardly mature in this way, become a representative and a spokesman of this "righteousness" in the various environments of social life. Truth is important not only for the growth of human knowledge, deepening man's interior life in this way; truth has also a prophetic significance and power. It constitutes the content of testimony and it calls for testimony. We find this prophetic power of truth in the teaching of Christ. As a Prophet, as a witness to truth, Christ repeatedly opposes non-truth; he does so with great forcefulness and decision and often he does not hesitate to condemn falsehood. Let us re-read the Gospel carefully; we will find in it a good many severe expressions—for example, "white- washed tombs" (Mt 23,27), "blind guides" (Mt 23,16), "hypocrites" (Mt 23,13 Mt 23,15 Mt 23,23 Mt 23,25 Mt 23,27 Mt 23,29) which Christ utters, aware of the consequences that are in store for him.

So this service of truth as participation in Christ's prophetic service is a task of the Church, which tries to carry it out in the various historical contexts. It is necessary to call by their name injustice, the exploitation of man by man, or the exploitation of man by the Stale, institutions, mechanisms of systems and regimes which sometimes operate without sensitivity. It is necessary to call by name every social injustice, discrimination, violence inflicted on man against the body, against the spirit, against his conscience and against his convictions. Christ teaches us a special sensitivity for man, for the dignity of the human person, for human life, for the human spirit and body. It is this sensitivity which bears witness to knowledge of that "truth which makes us free" (Jn 3,32). It is not permitted for man to conceal this truth from himself. It is not permitted to "falsify it". It is not permitted to make this truth the object of a "tender". It is necessary to speak of it clearly and simply. And not to "condemn" men, but to serve man's cause. Liberation also in the social sense begins with knowledge of the truth.

3. Let us stop at this point. It is difficult to express in a short speech everything involved in this great subject, which has many aspects and, above all, many levels. I stress: many levels, because it is necessary, in this subject, to see man according to the different elements of all the riches of his personal and at the same time social being; his "historical" and at the same time, in a certain way, "supertemporal" being. (History, among other things, bears witness to this "supertemporality" of man). The being that the "thinking reed" is (cf. B. Pascal, Pensées, 347)—everyone knows how frail a reed is—just because it is "thinking" always goes beyond itself; it bears within it the transcendental mystery and a "creative restlessness" which springs from the latter.

We will stop for the present at this point. The theology of liberation must, above all, be faithful to the whole truth about man, in order to show clearly, not only in the Latin-American context but also in all contemporary contexts, what reality is this freedom "for which Christ set its free".

Christ! It is necessary to speak of our liberation in Christ; it is necessary to proclaim this liberation. It must be integrated in the whole contemporary reality of human life. Many circumstances, many reasons, demand this. Just in these times, in which it is claimed that the condition of "man's liberation" is his liberation "from Christ", that is, from religion, just in these times the reality of our liberation in Christ must become, for us all, more and more evident and more and more full.

4. "For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth." (Jn 18,37).

The Church, looking to Christ who bears witness to the truth, must always and everywhere ask herself, and in a certain sense also the contemporary "world", how to make good emerge from man, how to liberate the dynamism of the good that is in man, in order that it may be stronger than evil, than any moral, social evil, etc. The third Conference of the Latin-American Episcopate bears witness to the readiness to undertake this effort. We want not only to recommend this effort to God, but also to follow it for the good of the Church and of the whole human family.

To faithful coming from Uganda

I am particularly happy today to extend a welcome to the Ugandans living in Rome. Your presence here is part of your participation in the centenary of the evangelization of your country. Your presence likewise gives me the opportunity to express again my esteem and love for the Church in your land, and to render praise and thanksgiving to God, who through the power of the Holy Spirit has brought forth abundant fruits of holiness and justice in the lives of generations of Ugandans. And on this important occasion may all of you be renewed in the joy and strength of life in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Saviour of the world.

Ash Wednesday, 28 February 1979


1. We meet today on the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday. On this day, beginning the forty-day period of the preparation for Easter, the Church puts ashes on our heads and calls us to penitence. The word "penitence" recurs in so many pages of Holy Scripture, it re-echoes on the lips of so many prophets and, finally, in a particularly eloquent way, on the lips of Jesus Christ himself: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (
Mt 3,2). It can be said that Christ introduced the tradition of fasting or forty days into the liturgical year of the Church. because he himself "fasted forty days and forty nights" (Mt 4,2) before beginning to teach. With this forty-day fast, the Church is, in a certain sense, called every year to follow her Master and Lord, if she wishes to preach his Gospel effectively. The first clay of Lent—just today—must testify in a particular way that the Church accepts this call by Christ and wishes to fulfil it.

2. Penitence in the evangelical sense means, above all, "conversion". From this aspect, the passage of the Gospel of Ash Wednesday is very significant. Jesus speaks of the carrying out of acts of penitence, known to and practised by his contemporaries, by the people of the Old Covenant. At the same time, however, he criticizes the purely "external" way in which these acts, charity, fasting, prayer, are carried out: because this way is contrary to the peculiar finality of the acts themselves. The purpose of the acts of penitence is a sincere turning to God to be able to meet him deep down in the human being, in the recesses of the heart.

"Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do... that they may be praised by men...; do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites... that they may be seen by men... But... go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret, will reward you.

"And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites,... but anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Mt 6,2-6 Mt 6,17-18).

Therefore the first and principal meaning of penitence is interior, spiritual. The principal effort of penitence consists "in entering oneself", one's deepest being, entering this dimension of one's own humanity in which, in a certain sense, God is waiting for us. The "exterior" man must—I would say—yield, in each of us, to the "interior" man and, in a certain sense, "make way for him". In current life, man does not live enough on the "interior" plane. Jesus Christ clearly indicates that also acts of devotion and penitence (such as fasting, charity, prayer) which because of their religious finality are mainly "interior", may yield to the current "exteriorism", and can therefore be falsified. Penitence, on the contrary, as turning to God, requires above all that man should reject appearances, succeed in freeing himself from falsity, and find himself again in all his interior truth. Even a rapid, summary look into the divine splendour of man's interior truth is already a success. It is necessary, however, to consolidate this success skilfully by means of systematic work on oneself. This work is called "ascesis" (it had already been given this name by the Greeks of the times of the origins of Christianity). Ascesis means an interior effort not to let oneself be swept along and pushed by the different "exterior" currents, in such a way as to remain always oneself and keep the dignity of one's own humanity.

But the Lord Jesus calls us to do something more. When he says "go into your room and shut the door", he indicates an ascetic effort of the human spirit, which must not end in man himself. That shutting-in of oneself is, at the same time, the deepest opening of the human heart. It is indispensable for the purpose of meeting the Father, and must be undertaken for this purpose. "Your Father who sees in secret will reward you." Here it is a question of acquiring again the simplicity of thought, of will, and of heart which is indispensable to meet God in one's own "self". And God is waiting for that, in order to approach man who is absorbed interiorly and at the same time open to his word and his love! God wishes to communicate himself to the soul thus disposed. He wishes to give it truth and love, which have their real source in him.

3. Then the main current of Lent must flow through the interior man, through hearts and consciences. The essential effort of repentance consists in this. In this effort the human determination to be converted to God is invested with the predisposing grace of conversion and, at the same time, of forgiveness and of spiritual liberation. Penance is not just an effort, a weight, but it is also a joy. Sometimes it is a great joy of the human spirit, a delight that other sources cannot bring forth.

15 Contemporary man seems to have lost, to a certain extent, the flavour of this joy. He has also lost the deep sense of that spiritual effort, which makes it possible to find oneself again in the whole truth of one's interior being. Many causes and circumstances, which it is difficult to analyse in the limits of this discourse, contribute in this connection. Our civilization—especially in the West—closely connected with the development of science and technique, catches a glimpse of the need of intellectual and physical effort. But it has lost to a considerable extent the sense of the effort of the spirit, the fruit of which is man seen in his interior dimensions. When all is said and done, man living in the currents of this civilization very often loses his own dimension; he loses the interior sense of his own humanity. The effort that leads to the fruit just mentioned becomes alien to this man, as well as the joy that comes from it: the great joy of finding again and of meeting; the joy of Conversion (metánoia); the joy of Penitence.

The severe liturgy of Ash Wednesday and, subsequently, the whole period of Lent is—as preparation for Easter—a systematic call to this joy: to the joy that fructifies from the effort of patiently finding oneself again: "By your endurance you will gain your lives" (
Lc 21,19).

Let no one be afraid to undertake this effort.

To representatives of the “ Shinto ” religion

I SHOULD LIKE to express to the Venerable High Priest Nijo, High Priest of the Shrine of Ise, and to the thirty Shinto representatives here present, my joy and gratitude for having come to honour my humble person in the name of the whole Shintoist community.

On such an auspicious occasion I wish to express my respect for the religion that you profess. The Catholic Church recognizes with reverence everything that is true, good and noble in your religion.

Shintoism, the traditional religion of Japan, affirms for example that all men are equally sons of God and that, because of this, all men are brothers. Moreover, in your religious tradition, you show a special sensitivity and appreciation for the harmony and beauty of nature, and you show a readiness to recognize there a revelation of God the Most High. I am also aware that in your noble teaching on personal asceticism you seek to make the heart of man ever more pure.

The many things that we hold in common impel us to unite ever more closely in friendship and brotherhood in the service of all humanity.

Gladly, therefore, I invoke upon each of you, upon your families, and upon the entire Japanese people a special blessing from the Most High.

March 1979