Speeches 1982 - Lagos (Nigeria)






Saturday, 12 February 1982

Mr President,

1. I am deeply grateful for the kind words that you have addressed to me and by which you offer, in the name of all the citizens of Nigeria, a warm welcome to your country. You will allow me to express the feelings that fill my heart at this moment by quoting from your own poem “Wakar Nigeriya”: “And thank God that he placed us among the people of Nigeria”! These words, which so many of your fellow citizens have recited, can now aptly describe the firm bond between the whole nation and myself. Like you, I want to thank Almighty God for letting me be in Nigeria today and for giving me this longed-for visit to the people of this great nation.

I also thank you, Mr President, for the kind invitation which you extended to me. That, in doing so, you spoke for the whole of Nigeria has already been made manifest by the enthusiastic welcome while I am receiving from the people. I would ask you, today even more than before, to consider me one of your own, for indeed I come to this land as a friend and a brother to all its inhabitants.

2. On this my second visit to Africa, I wish to stress the essentially religious character of my journey, which begins most fittingly in Nigeria. I come to confirm my brother Bishop – who also extended to me a cordial invitation – in their pastoral endeavours; I come to share with my Catholic brethren moments of prayer and of common celebration. I come to confess with other fellow Christians and with by brothers and sisters of other faiths our common belief in the goodness and mercy of Almighty God. My message is one of peace and love, of brotherhood and faith. Of faith in God, certainly, but also of faith in humanity, of confidence in the marvellous possibilities of every man, woman and child.

And so, my meeting here with you, Mr President and Government leaders, is more than the observance of a mere practice of courtesy which makes it possible to thank one’s hosts, as they deserve, for their generous hospitality and for the good will shown in the face of the exacting demands of the organization of this visit by all those in authority. I also attach great importance to the opportunity which is offered me for exchanging views with those who hold civil power, on our common concerns for humanity. In their own fields, the political community and the Church are autonomous and independent, but their common concern for man brings them together and invites them to collaboration for the welfare of all.

3. It is therefore fitting for me to express to you, Mr President, and to the Government Leaders, and indeed to all the people of this great country my deep appreciation of what the Nigerian people have achieved, not always without suffering and sacrifice, since their independence over two decades ago. I experience a deep joy in seeing how Nigeria, together with numerous other African nations, has acceded to full national sovereignty and is able to take its future in its own hands, according to the richness of its own genius, in respect for its own culture, and in consonance with its own sense of God and of spiritual values. It is my conviction that all Africa, when allowed to take charge of its own affairs, without being subjected to interference and pressure from any outside powers or groups, will not only astound the rest of the world by its achievements, but will be able to share its wisdom, its sense of life, its reverence for God with other continents and nations, thus establishing that exchange and that partnership in mutual respect that is needed for the true progress of all humanity.

4. I therefore desire to pay homage to the significant contribution which the Nigerian nation has made and is making in the first place to the African continent. You forcefully stand up for political freedom and for the right of all place to the African continent. You spare no efforts to help remove all discrimination against people because of their colour, race, language or social status. You have offered help to countries in greater need and you champion brotherly relations and economic collaboration between African nations. Nigeria is looked to, to lead the way in promoting a magnanimous policy of receiving and assisting refugees and helping them to resettle through humane repatriation or by programmes bettering their lot. And you have given other countries an example of how to reconcile when brothers have had serious misunderstandings. In consolidating national unity within your own nation, you are strengthening the unity of Africa; in turn this activity constitutes the cornerstone of Nigeria’s commitment to Africa and to the world. By acting collectively in the framework of an all-African collaboration, you are not only contributing to making Africa’s voice increasingly heard in the comity of nations, but you are effectively promoting international solidarity among all the peoples of the world.

5. Nigeria has been blessed by the Creator with a rich human potential and with natural wealth. Such gifts, received. in humble gratefulness, are also a constant challenge, for the goods of this world are given by the Creator for the benefit of all. Public authorities are entrusted with the sacred assignment to channel these riches to the best interests of the people, that is, for the betterment of all and for the future of all. There is likewise need to protect the land, sea, water and air from pollution an the ravages of industrial development, precisely in order to protect the dignity and dominion of man. I have also been informed, Mr President, that your Federal Government ant the State authorities place high priority on housing, agriculture, education and social services.

May these splendid objectives truly redound to the good of countless individuals and of society as a whole. I wholeheartedly encourage all those entrusted with the well-being of their fellowman to make the human person the true criterion of all development efforts. Development projects must always have a human face. They cannot be reduced to a purely materialistic or economic endeavour. The human person must always be the ultimate measure of the feasibility and the success of an economic or social programme. Progress can therefore not be separated from the dignity of the human person nor from the respect for his or her fundamental rights. In the pursuit of progress, total progress, anything must be rejected that is unworthy of the freedom and the human rights of the individual and of the people as a whole. Thus are rejected such elements as corruption, bribery, embezzlement of public funds, domination over the weak, callousness towards the poor and handicapped. Participation in the political life of the country, freedom of religion, of speech, of association, the protection of a well functioning judiciary system, respect for and promotion of things spiritual and cultural, love of truth: these are the ingredients for progress that is truly and fully human. I have no doubt that the authorities and the people of Nigeria are fully aware of these challenges and values. I trust that they will always work together in the pursuit of the true economic and social development of the country, intimately linked to the question of human dignity.

6. Mr President, yours is a land of promise, a land of hope. In its efforts to develop, it is bound also to suffer the pressures that so often arise from conflicting demands and from the sheer magnitude of the task. Among the problems that invest the developing world is a disproportionate urbanization that can create slum conditions, place the disinherited and the less fortunate on the margin of society, and link want and poverty to crime and to the loss of moral values. Only the united efforts of all the citizens under enlightened leadership can overcome difficulties such as this. Only the harnessing of all the forces for the common good, in true respect of the supreme values of the spirit, will make a nation great and a happy dwelling place for its people. The glory of the Government is the well-being, the peace and the joy of the governed. This is the vision of hope that I share with you today. This is my wish for you, Mr President, for you, respected Government leaders. This is my prayer for all of you, beloved people of Nigeria. This is my prayer to the Almighty and Merciful God.




Onitsha (Nigeria)

Saturday, 13 February 1982

Dear young men and women of Nigeria,

This afternoon the Pope belongs to you!

I am truly overjoyed to see you here in your teeming thousands from all parts of your vast country.

You have displayed for me your youthful agility, your fascinating acrobatics, your joy and your optimism. I am very grateful to you; I am very happy to be with you. Long before we met, you were in my thoughts and prayers. And now the time has come for a personal encounter. Permit me to share some thoughts with you.

1. Youth is the age of hope, of promise, of enthusiasm, of plans and of ideals. Youth does not want to give up in the face of difficulties. Youth does not want to put up with the shortcomings of the status quo. Youth believes in a better world and is determined to do something to help bring it about.

You must be known for your generosity and openness to others. You must be grateful to your parents. You will love them, respect them, help them, and obey them. You will accept your teachers, respect them and follow their instructions. You will be known for self-sacrifice, diligence at your studies or work, and efficiency in your assigned duties. You will sacrifice yourselves in Catholic lay apostolate organizations in order to bear witness to Christ. You must be a dedicated laity zealously pursuing your mission to communicate Christ. Some of you will be called to become priests, brothers or sisters, with a special role of service in the Kingdom of God.

2. My beloved young people of Nigeria, you must be outstanding for discipline, strength of character and reliability. This will show itself in several ways. You will be chaste. You will resist all temptations which attack the sanctity of your body. You will bring your chastity to the priesthood, religious life or marriage. You will have many opportunities to express discipline through Christian temperance. The attractions and pressures of the world often lure young people into self-indulgence or escapism. Temptations to the excesses of drink and to drug abuse are all around you.

Will-power reinforced by humble prayer is essential to anyone who is trying to act in a fully human way.

3. It is a major decision for you to choose a permanent state of life. For most of you it will be marriage. But for many of you it may be the priesthood, the brotherhood or the sisterhood. You will need the advice of your priests, your parents and your teachers. You will need God’s guidance. Pray. Rely on Christ. Open your hearts to him. Open your hearts wide to Christ. Do not be afraid. Be generous. The one who gives sparingly will reap sparingly. The one who gives with generosity will reap an abundant harvest. You can count on God’s grace.

4. A good Christian is a good citizen. You must love your country, obey its laws, respect your leaders, and pay your taxes. You are called to take your due part in political, social, economic and cultural affairs. When you are eligible, you should vote and be voted for in political elections.

I wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the national programme of youth service. I commend the young men and women who generously give of themselves for this period of service outside their state of origin, forging new bonds of friendship and strengthening fraternal solidarity and national unity. At the same time I am grateful for the consideration given to priests and religious, whose assignments must not conflict with their priestly and religious status.

5. As young people, you should constantly strive to identify the ills of your society, such as bribery and corruption, the embezzlement of government or company funds, extravagant and unproductive spending, the parade of wealth, neglect of the poor and the friendless, nepotism, tribalism, political antagonism, denial of the rights of the poor, abortion, contraception and other evils which also ravage other countries. As true youth you will see, judge and then act according to the criteria of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

6. In all things, you will radiate joy, peace, brotherliness, optimism and the hope of a better Nigeria. This is your contribution as Christians; this is what you learn from the Lord. This is the challenge of his word, which must take root in your lives and bear fruit. Remember how Jesus challenges you over and over again in the Gospels: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God...”.

I wish to show my appreciation of the many forms of organized Catholic youth apostolate at the various levels (national, diocesan, parish and station). I praise the many associations through which you fulfil your commitment to the lay apostolate and reaffirm your desire to serve humanity in the name of Christ. I pay tribute to your priest chaplains who help you so much, and also to the religious brothers and sisters and to the laypeople who help to make your organizations a vital expression of the life of the Church.

7. Young people of Nigeria, I have come to encourage you in the great mission you have to help build a better world, to advance Christ’s Kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace. It is to him that I wish to direct your gaze. As was said to the early Christians: “Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection”. In his name – in the holy name of Jesus, the Saviour of the world, the Redeemer of man, the friend of youth – I want to express to you those sentiments that I have shared with young men and women throughout the world: Young people of Nigeria, you have an incomparable dignity as children of God, as brothers and sisters of Christ.

Young people of Nigeria, Christ died for you, to redeem you. Christ loves you and I love you too!

Young people of Nigeria, “let us love one another, since love comes from God”.



Monday, 8 February 1982

It gives me pleasure today to welcome Your Excellency and to accept your Letters of Credence as Ambassador of the Republic of Zambia to the Holy See. I appreciate the kind words of greeting that you have just spoken on behalf of the citizens of your nation and I am grateful for your solicitude with regard to my well-being. In particular I take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to all the many countrymen of yours who prayed for me during the period of my recovery.
The theme of peace that you have presented is a concern that directly affects the stability not only of individual nations such as your own, but the world community as a whole. In fidelity to her mission of bringing the message of salvation to all peoples, the Catholic Church has a keen interest in the promotion of all that ensures the inherent dignity of every person. The establishment of true peace is essential for preserving and advancing that dignity.

Peace, as we are all aware, is not merely the absence of war. Rather, in its fullest meaning, peace points to the deepest desire that is found in the heart of every human being. Peace challenges that which is noblest in man. In this regard I stated in this year’s Message for the World Day of Peace that peace “springs from the dynamism of free wills guided by reason towards the common good that is to be attained in truth, justice and love”.

From this it is clear that peace must necessarily involve more than a consideration of material or economic values. It requires values of the spiritual realm as well. In fact, the pre-eminence of spiritual values must be acknowledged, in order to ensure that material development and economic growth serve the authentic destiny of the whole person. For this reason the unimpeded access to truth, the equitable distribution of the riches of creation, and the right of acceptance in society without discrimination on the basis of origin, race, sex, nationality, religion, political convictions and the like must be upheld and defended as essential elements, in building a lasting peace.

On the other hand, wherever selfishness, greed or exploitation are allowed to exist, by law or by custom, there human suffering will be most intensely experienced and the way to peace most severely blocked. These situations will only be overcome by a willingness to communicate, to understand the condition of those who are being manipulated and by a readiness to forgive the wrongs of the past in favour of a common search for future harmony.

Mr Ambassador, it gives me great hope to hear you reiterate the commitment of the people of Zambia to the quest for peace in the world. May God bless every effort in the pursuit of this goal.

I extend to Your Excellency my good wishes for success in the work that has been entrusted to you by His Excellency the President of the Republic. I assure you of the cooperation and assistance of the Holy See in your efforts, as well as my own prayers for yourself and for all the beloved sons and daughters of Zambia.




Enugu (Nigeria)

Saturday, 13 February 1982

Dear brother priests,
my dear seminarians,

“May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts”.

I am particularly happy to meet you today, priests and seminarians of Nigeria. You are called to be the immediate co-workers of your bishops. On you, to a large extent, depends the work of evangelization in this land. Permit me to share with you some thoughts on the sacred ministry of the priesthood.

1. The priest is sent by Christ and his Church to proclaim the Gospel of salvation, above all in the celebration of the Eucharist. The priest is ordained to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass, and thus to renew the Paschal Mystery of our Lord Jesus Christ. As a minister of Christ, the priest is called to sanctify the People of God by word and sacrament. He shares the pastoral solicitude of the Good Shepherd, which is frequently expressed in prayer for the flock. As priests, you and I are called to preach and teach the word of God with clarity, lively faith and personal commitment, with orthodoxy, and love. We are called to gather the People of God together, to build the Body of the Church. In accordance with the will of Christ, the priest carries out his apostolate under the leadership of his bishop and in union with his brother priests.

2. Your young Church in Nigeria is full of life and vigour. With apostolic dynamism your missionary priests laid strong foundations through prayer, diligence, chastity and dedication in charity. The local priests and bishops have taken up the mission and consolidated it. Right now you have many initiatives under way to make the Church more and more at home in your culture. I praise you for the harmony with which the Nigerian diocesan priests, the missionary priests and the Nigerian religious priests work together to advance the Kingdom of Christ.

3. I understand well that most of you are grossly overworked. Some of you parish priests have ten thousand Catholics to serve; some of you may have even many more. There may even be fifteen outstations to a single priest. Most of you celebrate two or three Masses every Sunday in distant places, teach Christian doctrine, and give Eucharistic Benediction.

Your people flock to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You patiently and lovingly discharge this ministry. I understand that in some places all the priests in neighbouring parishes join in a cooperative effort to make this sacrament available. You do this by going together in groups of ten to twenty to your various neighbouring parishes during such peak confession seasons as Christmas and Easter. This, my dear brothers in the priesthood, is an excellent way to fulfil Christ’s will to serve his people. You thereby give your parishioners a good choice of confessors and you bear a silent witness to the one priesthood of Christ and to your fraternal solidarity. The Pope rejoices because of your fidelity to this extremely important sacramental ministry, in which Christ’s forgiving and healing power touches human hearts.

4. You also pay great attention to the preparation of candidates for the other sacraments and to the general promotion of catechetics. You animate and coordinate the work of catechists, Catholic teachers and other teachers of religion. Your Bishops’ Conference has recently emphasized the importance of the catechumenate and has issued directives and letters for the proper carrying out of the sacraments of initiation. Praised be Jesus Christ, who through you and your catechists continues to provide for the deeper rooting of the Church in the power of God’s word.

5. I wish to express my esteem of the apostolate of those priests who, in collaboration with their bishops, work at diocesan centres, pastoral and catechetical centres, junior and senior seminaries, in its social services, the Catholic Secretariat in Lagos, schools, colleges, universities, the mass media, mission assignments outside the diocese, both inside and outside and outside of Nigeria, and all such tasks. These priests are serving Christ in vital areas too. The Church needs their particular contribution to her pastoral mission; the aim of all these activities is to evangelize, to communicate Christ.

6. God has blessed Nigeria with many junior and senior seminarians. Indeed your Bigard Memorial Seminary in Enugu and Ikot Ekpene is one of the largest in the world. Your seminary professors have distinguished themselves by their zealous desire to teach the word of God and by sheer hard work. May the Lord reward all those – the laity, religious, priests and bishops – who make this possible. May he bless the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples which gives you moral, financial and technical support.

The high number of your seminarians must never be used as a reason for accepting a lower quality of performance. Of first importance in the seminary must be friendship with Christ centred on the Eucharist and nurtured especially by prayer and meditation on the word of God. This friendship with Christ is authentically expressed in sacrifice, love of neighbour, chastity and apostolic zeal. It likewise demands fidelity to studies and a certain detachment from the things of this world. More spiritual directors are needed for your seminarians. A priest appointed to serve in a seminary should rejoice when this special assignment is given to him. He should strive by word and example to present to the seminarians the highest ideals of the priesthood What a great privilege it is to help lead young men to a greater knowledge and love of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd. Seminarians who are really unsuitable for ordination should be firmly and charitably advised to follow another vocation.

7. No priest can carry out his ministry well unless he lives in union with Christ. His life, like Christ’s, must be marked by self-sacrifice, zeal for the spreading of the Kingdom of God, unblemished chastity, unstained charity. All this is possible only when the priest is a man of prayer and Eucharistic devotion. By praying the Liturgy of the Hours in union with the Church he will find strength and joy for the apostolate. In silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament he will be constantly renewed in his consecration to Jesus Christ and confirmed in his permanent commitment to priestly celibacy. By invoking Mary the Mother of Jesus, the priest will be sustained in his generous service to all Christ’s brothers and sisters in the world. Yes, the priest must not allow the passing needs of the active apostolate to elbow out or eat into his prayer life. He must not be so engrossed with working for God that he is in danger of forgetting God himself. He will remember that our Saviour warned us that without him we can do nothing. Without him, we can fish all night and still catch nothing.

8. No priest can work all by himself. He works with his brother priests and under the leadership of the bishop, who is their father, brother, co-worker and friend. The authentic priest will maintain the love and unity of the presbyterium. He will reverence and obey his bishop as he solemnly promised on ordination day. The presbyterium of the bishop with all his priests, diocesan and religious, should function as a family, as an apostolic team marked with joy, mutual understanding and fraternal love. The presbyterium exists so that, through the renewal of Christ’s Sacrifice, the mystery of Christ’s saving love may enter the lives of God’s people. priests must not forget to help their brother priests who are in difficulty: moral, spiritual, financial or otherwise. And the sick and the old priests find in your warmth of brotherly charity both solace and support.

9. No state of life escapes temptations and you will try to identify your own. By God’s grace and with persevering effort, you must strive to resist whatever temptation may come your way: whether, for example, to laxity in discipline, or to laziness, instability, unavailability, too much travelling or dissipation of apostolic energy. Relying on grace, you will reject temptations against celibacy by watchfulness, prayer and mortification. You will refuse to be captured by the attraction of material things and will not put your joy in money, big cars, and a high position in society. Party politics are not for you. It is the proper area of the lay apostolate. Rather you are the chaplains of the laity, who in political matters should assume ther own distinctive role. In strengthening you against temptation the Sacrament of Penance has great importance for every priest. Here, for our own lives, we ministers of reconciliation find Christ’s healing and sustaining action, his forgiving and merciful love.

10. Nigerians love to study. This is good. Learned priests are required in order to answer the reeds of Church and society. Every priest should continue to improve himself by the private study of theology, catechetics and other such sacred sciences. Strive to make time for some such study frequently. When you are ordained and it is a question of going to universities or similar institutes inside or outside Nigeria, this in an assignment to be given only to a certain number of priests, according to diocesan needs and planning, for which the bishops take ultimate responsibility. Do nothing without your bishop, or worse still against him, especially on this point. Priests who have already put themselves into such irregular positions can now retrace their steps and find peace of conscience. In the same way, you will resist the temptation to seek employment anywhere without or against your bishop. We all share in Christ’s one priesthood. Let us maintain its unity and love.

11. The priest must be a leaven in the Nigerian community of today. In a country in which many are over-concerned with making money, the priest by word and example must call attention to higher values. Man does not live by bread alone. The priest must identify with the poor, so as to be able to bring them the uplifting Gospel of Christ. Remember that Jesus applied these words to himself: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the Good News to the poor”.

Since “evangelization would not be complete if it did not take account of the unceasing interplay of the Gospel and men’s concrete life”, the priest will be deeply concerned with bringing the light of the Gospel and the power of God’s word to touch the many different issues of family life, fundamental human rights and duties, justice and peace, development and liberation, culture and learning. He will endeavour to make Christ and the Church present in the fields of the arts and science, culture and the professions. I am particularly happy about the inauguration of the Catholic Institute of West Africa in Port Harcourt, by the Bishops of Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia and The Gambia, for the purpose of higher ecclesiastical studies.

The priests who work in the mass media have a wonderful opportunity to share Christ with others, as do the spiritual directors of the religious and laity, the chaplains of all lay apostolate organizations, and the priests who recruit vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. To all of you I say: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”.

Beloved priests and future priests of Nigeria, as Bishop of Rome and your brother priest, I bless you from my heart. I embrace each of you with deep affection in Christ Jesus – the one who is your only Master and your closest friend, and who has loved each one of you with an everlasting love. I commend you all to Mary the Mother of Jesus, our great High Priest.




Kaduna (Nigeria)

Dunday, 14 February 1982

Dear leaders of the laity in Nigeria,
dear catechists, dear Catholic women,

I experience great joy in meeting you today. This encounter gives me the opportunity to speak to you about your respective contributions to the Gospel, as well as about your common vocation in the Church. All of you have been commissioned by Christ himself to have a share in the saving mission of his Church.

1. I appreciate the way in which you the laity of Nigeria work together with your bishops and priests in order to bear witness to Christ, in order to communicate Christ to others. This unity with the pastors of the Church is indeed an essential condition for the supernatural success of your efforts. Under their guidance you have the National Laity Council and the Catholic Women’s Organization at all levels: national, provincial, diocesan, parochial and stational. There is much grassroots activity, and there are many worthy organizations. In all of this you are striving to activate the grace of your Baptism and your Confirmation.

Having been called by Christ himself, you are his chosen partners in evangelization. This leads you to share the Church’s zeal to provide Catholic religious education for all Catholic-children in all types of educational institutions. You are truly aware of the mystery of the Church, that all of us who are baptized in Christ make up his Body, the Church. In this Church there is diversity of apostolate or ministry but oneness of mission: the spreading of the Kingdom of Christ. Bishops, priests, religious and laity – each group has its specific contribution to make.

2. As lay people you know that your special apostolate is to bring Christian principles to bear upon the temporal order, that is, to bring the spirit of Christ into such spheres of life as marriage and the family, trade and commerce, the arts and professions, politics and government, culture and national and international relations. In all these areas lay people must, in the expression of the Second Vatican Council, play their own distinctive role. From priest chaplains you receive the Word of God and sacramental strengthening. Fortified in this way, you enter into the arena of ordinary daily life and confess Christ there.

Speeches 1982 - Lagos (Nigeria)