Speeches 1982 - Lagos





Lagos (Nigeria)

Tuesday, 16 February 1982

Dear friends in our Lord Jesus Christ,

1. It is with great pleasure that I meet you, distinguished and respected bishops and other leaders of the different Christian religious families in Nigeria. My pastoral, visit from its very planning was meant to have an important ecumenical dimension, for I see work for the unity of all Christians as an essential element in my own ministry as Bishop of Rome and Pastor of the Catholic Church. This encounter therefore fulfils one of my dearest desires. I am very pleased to greet you in the love of our common Lord: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all”.

The Catholic Church has much in common with your various ecclesial communities. We are all baptized in Christ, whom we confess as our Lord and Saviour, and whom we acknowledge as the “one Mediator between God and man”. The Bible and especially the Gospels are dear to us all, because they are the word of God and the revelation of his saving love. Our fundamental religious orientation is directed by our faith in Christ, our love for him, and our desire to help in the spreading of his Kingdom into the hearts of all, among all peoples, and at all times.

We also share common views on fundamental human rights, on justice and peace, on development, and on the need to live according to one’s faith. We believe that there must be no dichotomy between the Gospel message and Christian living.

2. While it is true that, both in Nigeria and in the world at large, the sad phenomenon of Christian disunity is still to be found, it is also true that achievements have been recorded in the field of ecumenism, in this country as well as internationally. The Catholic Church is engaged in a fruitful dialogue at international level with many of the Churches and confessional bodies that you represent; and here in Nigeria there is now much more dialogue, formal and informal, between yourselves and also between you and the Catholic Church, than in the past. So too there is a growing collaboration at world level in works of Christian service and charity. This also finds its expression in your own country. The Christian Association of Nigeria which was solemnly inaugurated in 1980 is working at national, regional and state levels with appreciable success. The Christian Health Association of Nigeria is a sound association of all Church medical institutions in this vast country. It has done much good, especially in joint approaches to Government and in projects of producing and distributing medical supplies at reduced prices. All of this constitutes a common witness to the charity of Christ.

Moreover, your common efforts with the Catholic Church in the Bible Society of Nigeria has yielded dividends, especially in joint projects of Bible translation into your many languages, and in the subsidizing of Bibles so that the poor can buy them too. These efforts are the expression of true zeal, “that the word of the Lord may speed on and triumph”.

You also issue joint statements when the occasion demands it. You show concern for the place of the Church and religion in Nigerian schools. And you promote national unity and understanding in other ways too. May God bless all these efforts.

3. It is my hope that you Nigerian Christians will pray ever more fervently that the Holy Spirit will give you the gift of perfect unity in Christ. Meanwhile, it is necessary to continue your joint projects of Bible translation, dialogue and common witness to Christ in the Christian Association of Nigeria.

Promote more and more the joint study of Christ’s teaching and of the moral exigencies of true discipleship in Christian living. Above all, love one another as Christ has loved us. This is his special commandment.

In all these ways we pray and work, hope and wait for the day, known to God alone, when we shall be fully one in Christ, when we shall celebrate the one Holy Eucharist and drink from the same Sacred Chalice.

I thank you. I respect you. I beg God to bless you abundantly. May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts.




Lagos (Nigeria)

Tuesday, 16 February 1982

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. It gives me great pleasure to meet here so many distinguished members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Federal Government of Nigeria. In you I greet not only the eminent representatives of various Governments, but also all the people of your nations. Wherever I travel I cherish the opportunity of meeting the members of the diplomatic community. While representing directly your respective Governments, you and your colleagues are also among the foremost builders of an international community that reaches beyond the confines of any particular territory.

Indeed, you are called to foster the common good of the world community over and above legitimate national interests.

2. On many occasions I have expressed my profound appreciation of the service which diplomats perform. The Holy See itself, which is always intent on promoting peaceful and fruitful relations with the civil authorities, is always happy when stable relations are established between itself and these States which so desire. The Apostolic Nuncios and Pro-Nuncios are among my most valued collaborators, and the Heads of the Missions accredited to the Holy See at the Vatican are highly esteemed partners in our common search and efforts to promote a climate of brotherhood and solidarity among all people of good will. With mutual deference for the respective prerogatives of Church and State, so much can be achieved in open dialogue and loyal collaboration for the benefit of mankind – for the benefit of every human being. No one who is serious about fostering the well-being of the human person can escape international cooperation. I know, Ladies and Gentlemen, that you are deeply aware of the need to pool all resources and efforts in order to build for mankind a world order of peace and justice.

3. Yours is a lofty mission and a constantly new challenge. Your task has been variously described as the fine art of doing what is politically possible to reconcile opposed or even contradictory interests between countries, to represent your own country’s role in the international domain, and to build bridges between peoples of different origins and cultural identity. Whatever may be emphasized as the distinctive characteristic of your mission, it is evident that diplomats must always distinguish themselves as specialists in dialogue and partnership.

We stand at the threshold of the third millennium and ours is an exciting period of history, with undreamed-of opportunities in the scientific and technological fields, but also fraught with contradictions and constant deadlocks in mutual relations. It is imperative to move beyond the kinds of viewpoint or fixed positions that tend to make dialogue difficult or impossible. This is done by making the dignity of the human person – every human person – the basis and starting-point for better relations. While the human person is paramount, it is also true that the human person belongs to a particular group or nation, that he cherishes certain values inherent in his historical and cultural heritage, and that he aligns himself with certain positions. This is normal and natural. Hence there exists a variety of social structures and political options that can advance the common good while truly respecting human dignity. But artificial and unnecessary oppositions easily result in polarization and impede the dialogue and the true partnership that are capable of overcoming obstacles and resolving deadlocks.

Dialogue between peoples and nations, despite economic, monetary and material inequalities, must take place on the basis of equality in dignity and in sovereignty. Economic or monetary superiority, the possession of material goods and resources or technological capacity do not justify political or social, cultural or moral superiority of one people or nation over another. This further means that any position that seeks to justify such alleged superiority on an ideological or philosophical basis is not a valid position and must be rejected. True dialogue and partnership demand a constant reference to the fundamental truth about man: the dignity and quality of the human person, individually and as a member of a society.

4. Your mission, Ladies and Gentlemen, assumes a special dimension and urgency because it has placed you in the Third World. The plight of many Third Word countries remains a constant reminder that the development issue is not dead, although one sometimes gains the impression that it is no longer viewed with the priority that it continues to deserve. Many of the world’s governments today seem more preoccupied with other matters, such as inflation and military security. And yet, despite the impressive level of economic growth which some developing countries have achieved over the past decades, millions of people still remain caught up in a poverty that not only means low incomes, but also malnutrition, hunger, illiteracy lack of education, persistent unemployment and reduced life expectancy.

In my latest encyclical I drew attention to this situation, especially when I stated that “the disproportionate distribution of wealth and poverty and the existence of some countries and continents that are developed and others that are not call for a levelling out and for a search for ways to ensure just development for all”. I referred to “a disconcerting fact of immense proportions; the fact that, while conspicuous natural resources remain unused, there are huge numbers of people who are unemployed or underemployed and countless multitudes of people suffering from hunger”.

Integral human development deserves special attention too in that it serves a vital function in the great cause of international peace. Peace throughout the world is possible only when there is internal peace in each country. And internal peace will never be attained until each nation gives sufficient attention to the promotion of a just development which is advantageous to all its citizens.

This decade too must listen to the prophetic utterance of Paul IV who, fifteen years ago, proclaimed that the “new name of peace is development”. With these words he called millions of people to accept new responsibility for peace and offered a new hope to the needy and downtrodden of the world.

Thus it is necessary to devise ways of urging governments to continue to make the development issue a top priority in their formulation of new policies and programmes. It is likewise important to insist on a development which respects the dignity and inalienable rights of the human person, and not merely a technological or economic development. In this framework, integral human development is closely linked to the pursuit of equality and justice and to a sincere concern for the weakest and poorest members of society.

5. Integral development, like peace itself, requires also the serene climate of human freedom. Here too, as diplomats, you must have an unalterable conviction and an irrevocable commitment.

Individual human beings must express freedom in the actual power of choice, in the responsible determination of their actions, and in that self-mastery which excludes exterior constraint. So too whole peoples must be able effectively to enjoy rightful autonomy and independence and exercise them in national sovereignty, without outside interference. And it is your own national sovereignty which you are endeavouring to represent so worthily within the one family of a humanity that embraces all nations.

6. Ladies and Gentlemen, you are eminently well placed to promote dialogue and true partnership, and to build bridges of mutual understanding for the benefit of all. In a world and a continent so full of promise and yet so ravaged by dissensions, exploitation, in justice, misunderstandings and all kinds of threats to peace, you have a splendid role to play: to foster justice, to work for reconciliation and to reinforce human solidarity. You are called to be outstanding peacemakers, generous servants of your fellowman in the cause of development, and faithful defenders of true freedom. May God bless you in this exalted assignment.





Lagos (Nigeria)

Tuesday, 16 February 1982

1. For the first time since last May the thirteenth, I am able to have direct contact with a group of representatives of the press, radio and television. And I am happy that it is a meeting with you who have been with me during my latest journey to Africa, the first I have made outside of Italy since the attempt on my life.

Many of you were in Rome last summer to inform your readers, viewers and listeners about the course of my recovery. I wish to thank you once more for the concern you demonstrated during that episode. I attribute its happy ending to the special protection of God and to the intercession of his Blessed Mother.

2. And now God’s providence has arranged that in the space of less than two years I should make a second visit to the African continent. This meeting with you, particularly the journalists and the radio and television representatives of African countries, gives me an opportunity to reflect with you on the importance of the means of social communication in Africa today.

Here you are at the initial stages of the development of your mass media, while the more industrialized countries have already reached a high level of development in this sector. This situation increases your responsibility, while giving you a unique opportunity. Through your action, your professional honesty and your dedication to the cause of truth, you can make a decisive contribution to this continent. By orienting the mass media totally to the service of man and in favour of objective information, Africa can determine its own future development.

3. We know that today in this sector, as in others, there are dangerous imbalances, and that various international organizations have spoken out against them. There is a tendency towards the exercise of outside pressure in the world of the press, radio and television, with the imposition, by the stronger countries, not only of technology but also of ideas. For this reason I feel it is important to stress that national sovereignty is safeguarded through the correct use of the communications media, precisely because these media can become instruments of ideological pressure. And this ideological pressure is more dangerous and insidious than many more obviously coercive means.

4. The Catholic Church will continue to call attention to the role of social communications. Since the Second Vatican Council she has multiplied her efforts in this sector. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the publication of the Pastoral Instruction “Communio et Progressio”. In this document there are three words which stand out prominently: sincerity, honesty, and truth. If each of you succeeds in putting these principles into practice in your own sphere of competence, then the means of social communication will truly become for all humanity the means of social and cultural advancement – the means of true progress.

This is the hope that accompanies the expression of my gratitude for all the sacrifices and services you have so generously given during my pastoral pilgrimage to Nigeria, which is now drawing to a close.

May God bless you and your families and enable all of you to know his love and to experience his peace.




Lagos, (Nigeria), 16 February 1982

Dear Friends,

I rejoice at this encounter with you, all you non-Nigerians who are living and working in this great country. Many of you come from parts of Europe, including my own dear country. But a good number of you are from other African nations.

1. You are living and working in Nigeria because Nigeria welcomes you and because you accept and respect Nigeria. You are in this country in different capacities. Some of you are engaged in the oil industry, in big civil and mechanical engineering works and in major industrial concerns. Some of you are members or officials of international organizations. Yet others are engaged in academic pursuits, teaching, medical work, administration, trade or commerce. Others of you are working on your own account.

2. Your presence and activities in Nigeria are signs of universal brotherhood. You and the Nigerians give to each other the right hand of brotherhood, friendship, cooperation and solidarity.

You give and you receive. The Nigerians give and they receive.

Be loyal to Nigeria which welcomes you. Love Nigeria. Help Nigeria. Do nothing that will damage Nigeria. Obey her laws. Respect her leaders. Help Nigeria to rise to greater heights. Make friends with Nigerians.

You are also unofficial ambassadors of your various countries. Bear this in mind. Let your conduct bring to your countries nothing but honour, peace, joy and the cementing of international relations.

3. You do not want to lose your national identities. You are right in this. Your home cultures meet the Nigerian culture as friends who ever seek to understand each other better. Both sides are enriched.

Do not forget religion and its practice while you are outside your home country. Where language becomes a problem, please discuss with the bishops and priests and other religious leaders how your group can be properly served.

All you non-Nigerian nationals working in Nigeria, the Pope has a deep interest in your well-being and in the well-being of your families, especially if there is physical separation involved. Always honour Nigeria and your home countries. May God’s abundant blessings descend on you all.





Wednesday, 17 February 1982

1. The moment has come, Mr President, Your Eminence, my brother bishops, Government leaders, and all you wonderful people of Nigeria, for me to say good-bye.

I am filled with gratitude. I am full of joy. You have spared no effort to arrange everything so beautifully for my travel and for the celebrations and encounters.

I thank the President, the Vice-President, and all the Government officials at all levels for their very cordial reception and hospitality and for their generous assistance.

I thank the Catholic bishops and all the Catholic committees that have worked with so much competence and dedication.

My gratitude goes likewise to all the pilots, drivers, security men, and to every man, woman and child who have show such wonderful hospitality and lively interest.

2. I take away with me very vivid memories of a great nation, a generous people, a dynamic Church, a richly endowed and warm-hearted youth, a country which honours the family, respects the elderly and regards children as a blessing. In short, I take with me an unforgettable memory of a country which is a credit to Africa, to the world and to the Church of Jesus Christ.

Although I have to go now, my heart remains with all of you. Shall I be able some time in the future to visit Nigeria again? Will the Providence of the Almighty and Merciful God dispose that I come back again to kiss your soil, embrace your children, encourage your youth and walk once more amidst the love and affection of the noble people of your land? We leave the future to God, to his wisdom and his fatherly care. It is to him – to the God and Creator and Father of us all that I entrust the future and the destiny of Nigeria.

3. And now I wish to address my final word to a very special person who is there in your midst – everywhere I look. It is the Nigerian child: each boy and girl created in the image and likeness of God. It is to the child of this great land, the child endowed with human dignity and inalienable rights, the child who reflects the love of God in his or her eyes and expresses it with a smile, that I leave my message of brotherhood, friendship and love. I ask you, dear child – for I know you are listening to me – to pass on this message to your brothers and sisters and to the children who will come after you.

Whoever you are, this message of love belongs to your religion as it does to mine: what I am saying is that you and every other child are loved by God and worthy of love. And that this love must spread everywhere and take possession of every single heart. The love that I am talking about means that you have to love God in return for this love; and you do this by loving every other child of God on this earth. This love means that there is no place for selfishness, for lying, for meanness, for hatred, for discrimination, for violence in this world. It means that you and every other child on earth are equal in dignity before God: whatever your age, your race, your nationality; whether you are a boy or a girl; whether you are rich or poor; whether you are strong or weak; whether you are healthy or sick or handicapped. The love that I ask you to have for every brother and sister, every person alive, is the love of generosity and kindness, of sacrifice, of friendship and peace.

What I am saying can be summed up in just a few words and it can be said in different ways. But let me say it to you in my way, the way that I learned it, the way I was taught by my mother, who told me when I was a child: “Treat others the way you would have them treat you”. Dear child of Nigeria: by acting in this way, you have more power than all the nuclear power station in the world, because you have the power to bring peace and happiness to the world. I am talking about the power that is yours under God, the power to love, the power to love every other child. Dear child: God has loved you; now you must love in return.

Good-bye and God bless all Nigeria!



Thursday, 25 February 1982

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to accept the Letters which accredit you as the first Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Barbados to the Holy See. I appreciate the good wishes that you have conveyed from the Right Honourable J. M. G. M. Adams and I ask you to reciprocate his cordial greetings.

The Holy See is always interested in promoting dialogue with leaders of nations and other civil authorities who bear a primary responsibility for the stability and well-being of society. Likewise the establishment of diplomatic relations with individual governments is welcomed as a means of working in closer collaboration for the achievement of common objectives and for the betterment of the human person in all his dimensions.

Today is therefore an important moment for both the Holy See and your country. It is a sign of our mutual desire to strengthen the bonds of understanding and trust which already exist, and it is an expression of our commitment to foster a climate of dialogue not only among ourselves but also among the whole family of nations.

I appreciate the reference which you have made to those desires which are common to the Holy See and Barbados: such as our common aspirations for the attainment of international peace and justice and our shared concern for the observance of human rights. The observance of human rights and the attainment of peace and justice on the international level are indeed desirable goals. And as we seek to bring them about, we should not forget that it is their realisation within individual nations which will form the solid foundation for their realisation in the international order. Herein the Church and governments can work hand in hand.

The Church, both on the local level and universally, is ready and eager to cooperate with particular governments, such as your own, in programmes which aim at the full integral development of the human person, whether it be in the field of education or through programmes which provide health care and assistance to the needy. While the Church emphasizes the primacy of the spiritual over the material, nonetheless she supports all worthy efforts to meet the manifold needs of the men and women of our time. I am sure that the Government of Barbados appreciates these objectives.

As I welcome you to your new post, Mr Ambassador, I ask Almighty God to bless you and keep you in his care. It is my hope that you will find happiness in your mission and I express my best wishes for the welfare of your country and for international harmony and peace.


26 February 1982

Dear directors, students and collaborators
of the Bossey Graduate School,

Welcome to Rome! It is my joy to receive you here and to greet you in the love of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

For the last five months you have been reflecting on God’s loving design in Christ. You are keenly aware that a fundamental concern of the Church is that life in the world should conform more to man’s surpassing dignity in all its aspects so as to make that life ever more human.

It is precisely in order to achieve this that the Church is at once a sign and a safeguard of the transcendence of the human person. May this strong conviction be the motive you take back with you to your own lands, where you will be called to affirm the humanity made in God’s likeness and wonderfully remade in Christ.

I hope that your stay in Rome is a happy time. May it enrich you in spirit too. As you stand in the places to which Peter and Paul came, may you grow in your appreciation of the beginnings of the Christian Faith in this place and their significance for the world.

My prayers and thoughts go with you in the years ahead as you serve our Lord Jesus Christ. May God bless you, your families and loved ones and the countries to which you now return.

March 1982



Monday, 8 March 1982

Dear friends,

I am happy to have the opportunity this morning to welcome your distinguished Delegation led by Congressman David Obey. I know that you have come to Europe on a study mission that is concentrating on the Polish situation.

During the past days you have made many useful contacts, and through your study of economic and other issues you are preparing a review of the United States humanitarian assistance to Poland. When you return home, you will have much useful information to report to the Congress and people of the United States.

The question at this time of humanitarian assistance to Poland, as well as to other needy peoples, is indeed a matter of the greatest importance. The fact that you are endeavoring to give it such a high priority is a credit to you and to your country. I am deeply aware of the solidarity of the American people with the Polish people in this difficult moment through which Poland is passing. Day after day I personally see the expressions of solidarity and practical help that come from the United States, and in particular from the heart of her people - a people intent on responding generously and repeatedly to the needs of those who are afflicted by suffering of various kinds; a people intent on bearing witness to the unity of the human family; a people intent on transforming international crises into an exercise of fraternal love and concern.

Yes, I am deeply grateful to the American people for what they have already done and are continuing to do in the face of a great challenge. And I wish to express my profound thanks to you and to the Congress of the United States to whom you are in a position to report with first-hand information about the magnitude of needs in Poland and the plight of Polish refugees outside.

In manifesting to you sentiments of the deepest gratitude, I know that I am speaking for millions of people who can only silently and in prayer formulate their own sentiments of thanks. On my part I ask God to reward you for your solicitude and generosity, and to sustain you in a cause that continues to be intimately linked to the dignity of human beings – both those who assist and those who are assisted. May God bless you and your families, and your noble and zealous efforts.


Saturday, 13 March 1982

Dear brothers and sisters,

I am pleased to welcome all of you here this morning. It is just a little over a year ago that you greeted me in the snow-covered city of Anchorage. On that occasion I invited your choir to visit me in Rome, and I am happy that you accepted to come and that you will sing tomorrow in Saint Peter’s Basilica. I thank Archbishop Hurley for organizing the visit and for expanding the group to include everyone present. For me you represent all the people of Alaska.

You come here today as pilgrims on a journey of faith. Because of this I exhort you in the words of Saint Paul: “Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ep 5,2).

The season of Lent that we are observing is a special time of pilgrimage, a time of walking in Christ’s love. In Lent we recall the journey of the Jewish people through the desert to the Promised Land. In Lent we relive the events of Christ’s Passion, his way of the Cross, through which our sins are remitted and our salvation is achieved.

Throughout these forty days, pilgrims here in Rome continue the venerable custom of visiting the station churches. This practice finds part of its meaning in the fact that the participants make a pilgrimage to different churches or basilicas. Your journey bears a similar religious character, and for this reason I pray that it will be for each of you a real journey of faith, a search for what fosters, strengthens and deepens your faith in Christ.

To set out on pilgrimage means leaving many things behind. When you travel, only the essentials can be taken along. You must choose just those items which are indispensable, otherwise as a traveler you become weighed down with too much baggage.

I am happy to know that among the things you deemed essential for this pilgrimage to Rome were music and song - joyful sound and a new song of hope and of promise. So often the people of our world are bombarded by the clamoring noises of a modern technology that dull the senses and sadden the human spirit. There are the cries of violence and despair, the voices of consumerism and greed, and the strident demands of excessive individualism.

But your song brings hope when it is founded in Christ, nourished by prayer and inspired by love of neighbor. This is the sound that the world needs to hear - it is a vitally important contribution that you make on your pilgrim way.

Eventually your pilgrimage will take you back home to begin anew the life’s work to which God has called you. As you return, know that the prayers of the Pope go with you.

When I was in Alaska, among those who greeted me was a five-year-old girl, little Mollie Marie, who reached out and handed me a bouquet of forget-me-nots. Recently I was informed that this little girl died shortly after Christmas; her brief earthly pilgrimage has ended. Let me assure you that the Pope will not forget: he will not forget this child and he will not forget you. You are remembered in my prayers; you are in my heart. We are all pilgrims on our way home to our heavenly Father. Let us walk in the way of love. Let us walk with faith. Let us walk in Christ Jesus.

Speeches 1982 - Lagos