Speeches 1982 - Saturday, 13 March 1982


Saturday, 20 March 1982

Mr President,
Dear athletes and friends,

In anticipation of your world championship of racing which will take place tomorrow, I am happy for this opportunity to extend to you a very cordial and warm welcome to the Vatican.

I am pleased to know that the six hundred athletes who will participate in this event represent about fifty different countries; and together with them have come hundreds of journalists, radio and television operators and technicians. I hope that this international sporting event will be for all of you an occasion of much satisfaction and joy, a time to appreciate more deeply one another’s gifts and friendship.

Athletic competition draws out of the human person some of his noblest qualities and talents. He must learn the secrets of his own body, its strengths and weaknesses, its stamina and its breaking point. He must develop, through long hours of exercise and effort, the power of concentration and the habit of discipline, learning how to hold his strength in reserve and to conserve his energy for that final moment when the victory depends on a great burst of speed or one last surge of strength.

These qualities and talents are important not only for sporting events, but in other areas of life as well. For the mature person is one who knows his own strengths and weaknesses, and who through discipline and persevering effort, can place these gifts at the service of others for the building up of society.

There is present among athletes a kind of universal brotherhood, a sincere respect for each person and a lively appreciation of one another’s abilities and gifts. Athletes engage in stiff competition; they like to be challenged and enjoy the excitement of a great contest. But rather than leading to rivalry and dissension, such competition, when carried out in a climate of friendship, leads to a still greater mutual respect and fraternal esteem. Thus events like that of tomorrow heighten our awareness of the value of brotherhood and of its possibility of being achieved. I have no doubt that you will make your contribution to the bulding up of this fraternal spirit.

With these few thoughts, I assure all of you of my best wishes and of a remembrance in my prayers. May Almighty God bless you and your loved ones with abundant joy.

                                                                    April 1982



Thursday, 1 April 1982

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to receive Your Excellency as the Envoy Extraordinary and Ambassador Plenipotentiary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The presentation of your Letters of Credence today, together with the accreditation of the first Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to the Court of Saint James’s marks an historic moment in the relations between the Holy See and Britain. It serves as a sign of the understanding and good will which characterize our diplomatic ties, and it affords a basis for expecting still closer collaboration in the future.

I appreciate the cordial greeting which you have conveyed to me from Her Majesty and I would ask you to assure her of my personal regard and highest esteem. Mindful of your country’s rich cultural tradition and of its special contribution to the history of civilization, I look forward with joyful anticipation to visiting Her Majesty and the people of Britain in the near future.

My forthcoming journey to your country is primarily of a religious nature, a pastoral visit to the members of the Catholic Church. I am also looking forward to the happy opportunity of meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland and other distinguished ecclesiastics and churchmen. These meetings, together with the prayers of so many, will undoubtedly further the great work of promoting unity among Christians.

I welcome the reference which you have made to recent events in Poland and your deep interest in the well-being of the Polish people. You also mention the vital need for an end to violence in Northern Ireland and the importance of safeguarding human rights in all the countries of the world. It is a sad fact of our time that basic personal rights are not everywhere respected and ensured. Social and cultural discrimination still exist in far too many forms, and many people lack true freedom of conscience and the right to practise their religion, even in their own homelands. We cannot remain silent in the face of such injustices. As long as basic human rights are denied in any land there can be enduring international peace. For a fundamental human bond links the destiny of the peoples of every nation. Thus no country can fully enjoy its own freedom, knowing that in other countries the dignity of the human person is being violated.

I wish to assure you, Mr Ambassador, that you can count on the continued interest and assistance of the Holy See in the fulfilment of your mission, and I invoke God’s blessings upon Her Majesty, her Government and all her people.



Friday, 2 April 1982

Dear friends in Christ,

I am happy to welcome to the Vatican members of the crew of the P&O Flagship “Canberra”.

I have been told that your visit to Rome is for a very brief time. You have only one day to visit this city which is so rich in tradition and steeped in history. It has been your wish to include in your day a visit to the Basilica of Saint Peter and an audience with the Pope. This pleases me very much. For it shows that you come not only as tourists but as pilgrims of faith as well. You want to venerate the great Saints who have lived and died in Rome and you wish to strengthen your own faith in our Saviour Jesus Christ.

My prayer is that your pilgrimage will enrich your lives and deepen your love for the Lord. To all of you and your loved ones I impart my Apostolic Blessing.



Saturday, 24 April 1982

My brothers and sisters,

I welcome you in the joy of this Easter Season! I am especially happy for this opportunity to meet with the newly-ordained deacons of the North American College and to offer a special word of greeting to their parents and friends as well as to the members of the College faculty - to Monsignor Charles Murphy and all those who are assisting the formation program of the College.

I am pleased to learn that two days ago all of you gathered in Saint Peter’s Basilica for the ordination of the young men to the diaconate. What a treasured gift the Lord entrusted to them in that moment! True enough they worked hard to prepare themselves theologically, spiritually and pastorally in order to be ready for this moment. But they realize that this call of the Lord is a gift. It is not something one merits; it is a grace freely bestowed by our Risen Lord.

There is no claim that any person can make in his own name to serve as a deacon in the Church. The diaconate is a call from God mediated through the Church, and it should be humbly accepted as a privileged opportunity of participating in Christ’s Paschal Mystery. The ordination rite itself teaches us an important lesson when it instructs the candidate to receive this gift in a state of prayer - lying prostrate before the Lord, invoking his help and that of our Blessed Mother and all the saints.

Yes, my brothers, deacons of the Church, what a wonderful grace the Lord has given you in this sacramental encounter. Be thankful for the invitation that is now you daily challenge to grow more and more in the image of Jesus through your service to others and your prayer for the Church.

The diaconate gives you a unique share in the Church’s ministry, in which you will participate even more completely with priestly ordination. Naturally you look forward to this with enthusiasm and expectation.

But find in this present call to service the invitation to mature in faith, in hope and in love. Be ready to give of yourselves in service and in prayer for you brothers and sisters, for the whole Church.

May the Risen Lord sustain all your efforts and may he be for you always a source of strength and happiness.



Tuesday, 27 April 1982

Dear Brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ,

1. For the past week we have been meeting individually, in encounters of fraternal solidarity, speaking about the life of your individual local Churches. These have been moments of ecclesial communion; they have been moments of shared pastoral love for God’s people, moments of hope for you and for me and for the Church. And now we have come to our collective meeting, which takes on a fuller dimension of our collegiality and becomes the expression of our common efforts to serve the People of God throughout the vast areas covered by the four ecclesiastical provinces of Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria and Bloemfontein, as well as the two Vicariates Apostolic in Namibia.

2. You are in Rome as pastors of a great portion of Christ’s flock. As divinely constituted representatives of your local Churches, as successors of the Apostles, you are here to renew the offering of your local Churches to Jesus Christ, who is “the chief Shepherd” (1 Petr. 5, 4) of the whole flock. This you are doing together with the Successor of Peter and in ecclesial communion with all your brother Bishops throughout the world.

The will of Jesus Christ for his Church is the supreme criterion of all our pastoral action, of everything we say and do, of our plans for the future and our evaluation of the past. In our collegial action of examining our own pastoral ministry and of providing for the well-being of the Church that belongs only to Christ, we must remember the exhortation of the Letter to the Hebrews: “Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection” (Hebr.12, 2). Hence we are gathered together in the power of Christ’s Spirit, desiring only to discern and obey the Lord’s will for his Church. The one who speaks to you today is particularly moved by the words of Jesus, who, while promising to build the Church on Peter, nevertheless insists that it belongs to him: “And on this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16,18). It is for the good of Christ’s Church - the People of God, the Body of Christ - that we pledge again all our efforts, endeavouring to profess apostolic courage and pastoral love.

3. Dear Brothers in Christ, you have come to the See of Peter, bearing the problems and difficulties, the joys and the anxieties, the aspirations, longings and hopes of your people. You come as pastors of ecclesial communities where, despite the vicissitudes of history and the weaknesses of human nature, Christianity has been faithfully lived by countless individuals and numerous communities over the years. In you and in your ministry I wish to render honour to all the great works of supernatural charity and fraternal concern that have been carried out, and are being carried out, in your Dioceses, Vicariates and Prefectures by yourselves, your priests, religious and beloved laity.

I am thinking of everything that has been done to manifest Christ’s love for the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the sick, the handicapped, the aged, the lonely, the abandoned, and those in mental and spiritual anguish. I am thinking of all the efforts made to ensure the Catholic education of the youth and to bring the transforming and uplifting message of the Gospel to individuals and communities. I am thinking of the generous dedication of generations of catechists who have endeavoured to lead their brothers and sisters to a greater knowledge of the mystery of Jesus Christ and his saving love. All of this, combined with the daily fidelity of thousands upon thousands of Christ’s followers, is an eloquent testimony to the power of the Crucified and Risen Lord that is at work in the hearts of the faithful. All of these are reasons for gratitude to God, for hope and confidence, for renewed commitment to our pastoral responsibilities. It is in the power of the Paschal Mystery that you and your faithful will always find encouragement and strength: “Sursum corda!”.

4. But there is more. I wish to thank you in the name of Christ and his Church for all your dedicated efforts on behalf of peace. You have striven vigorously to help implant the peace of Christ in human hearts, in families, in communities that have racial differences and are faced with serious racial discrimination, and throughout your nations. But its very nature, your work for peace, situated as it is in the historical framework of your local situations, has had to be concerned for freedom and for everything that freedom entails. You have worked conscientiously and perseveringly for justice and for human dignity, rightly insisting on non-violence and the need for reconciliation among brothers and sisters - so that all people may enjoy the freedom of the children of God, that freedom for which Christ set us free (Cfr. Gal Ga 5,1). In fulfilling your ministry, you have endeavoured to apply fundamental Christian principles, some of which I alluded to in the context of the 1981 World Day of Peace: “Without a deep and universal respect for freedom, peace will elude man . . . Freedom is wounded when the relationships between peoples are based not upon respect for the equal dignity of each but upon the right of the most powerful . . .” (IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Nuntius ob diem ad pacem fovendam toto orbe terrarium Calendis Ianuariis a. 1981 celebrandum, 2, die 8 dec. 1980: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, III, 2 (1980) 1629 s.). And again: “The freedom of the individual finds its basis in man’s transcendent dignity: a dignity given to him by God, his Creator, and which directs him towards God. . . . To be free is to be able to choose and to want to choose; it is to live according to one’s conscience” (Ibid. 5, die 8 dec. 1980: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, III, 2 (1980) 1632).

In particular, I know that you are looking forward with positive hope to the difficult but necessary process that must result in a just and peaceful solution to the problem of Namibia for the good of its people. I am close to you in this pastoral concern of yours and I continue to keep this intention in my heart and to remember it in my prayers.

5. In striving to fulfil the practical demands of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you find strength in the universal communion of Christ’s Church. Your union with the Bishops of the world and with me gives you support for your apostolic ministry. Millions of Catholics are praying everyday for the Church and her pastors, so that we may faithfully proclaim the liberating, reconciling and healing message of Jesus Christ. Sustained by the People of God, and fortified by the grace of the Saviour, you must continue confidently to uphold all the implications of evangelical freedom. The very words of Jesus are a constant inspiration for us and our people: “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (Jn 8,36).

6. Through the sacramental grace of our ordination, the Holy Spirit enables us to act in all circumstances as Bishops of the Church of God. The Holy Spirit prompts us to see all situations in the light of the Church’s mission, and in the light of our own specific pastoral role. As Bishops we are called to be leaders of a Church that rightly seeks those conditions of freedom and justice that are necessary for the initial stage of God’s Kingdom on this earth. At the same time, as Bishops we have a prophetic role with regard to the fullness of Christian freedom and life. As I wrote in the abovementioned World Day of Peace Message: “To be set free from injustice, fear, constraint and suffering would be useless, if we were to remain slaves in the depths of our hearts, slaves to sin. To be truly free, man must be set free from this slavery and transformed into a new creature. The radical freedom of man thus lies at the deepest level: the level of openness to God by conversion of heart, for it is man’s heart that the roots of every form of subjection, every violation of freedom, are found. Finally for the Christian, freedom does not come from man himself; it is manifested in obedience to the will of God and in fidelity to his love (IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Nuntius ob diem ad pacem fovendam toto orbe terrarium Calendis ianuariis a. 1981 celebrandum, 11, die 8 dec. 1980: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, III, 2 (1980) 1638).

7. For this reason, as Bishops we must not hesitate to keep urging our people to conversion of life, just as Christ did. And Christ’s example remained the pattern for Peter’s preaching at Pentecost (Cfr. Act.2, 38) and for all of us ever since then. Our proclamation of conversion is accompanied by the great announcement of God’s unlimited mercy and loving forgiveness. This understanding of God’s plan for his people incites us to apostolic fidelity and fortitude in expounding, in accordance with the expression of the Second Vatican Council “the whole mystery of Christ” (Christus Dominus CD 12). As you pursue this task, preaching a crucified Christ, know that the Lord Jesus is with you, and remember always that he personally is able by the power of his Spirit to condition human hearts to receive the revealed message of truth, even in its greatest demands, its highest ideals and its most challenging applications. With Saint Paul, each of us should confidently solicit the support of the people: “Pray for me to be given an opportunity to open my mouth and speak without fear and give out the mystery of the gospel . . .; pray that in proclaiming it I may speak as boldly as I ought to” (Ep 6,19-20).

8. Dear Brothers, by your presence here this morning, as by your entire episcopal ministry, you express your faith in the power of the Risen Jesus. It is only through the dynamism that flows from his death and Resurrection that we are able to proclaim his Gospel and to offer hope to our people. In spite of the various obstacles that affect your ministry, in spite of a lack of sufficient partners in the Gospel, in spite of the vastness of territory in which so many of you work, you have placed your hope in the Risen Lord and in his power to elevate human life and to transform human hearts from within.

9. When you return to your local Churches, I ask you to present my greetings to your people. I send a special remembrance to all the priests, deacons and religious who offer their lives so that the hope that was manifested at the Resurrection of Christ may permeate the lives of God’s people. I commend the success of your apostolate to Mary, the Mother of the Saviour and the Queen of Peace. I pray that she will help all your faithful to understand the meaning of paschal hope, and to be able to repeat those words with which the Apostle Peter once encouraged the early Christians: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Petr. 1, 3).

With all our strength, dear Brothers, let us proclaim faithfully this “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”.




Thursday, 29 April 1982

Dear friends,

It gives me great pleasure to greet all of you this morning and to thank you for the deep interest that you are showing in the Vatican Museums. You have indeed become staunch friends and active supporters in an important aspect of cultural activity aimed at the service of man. Through your efforts to promote the patrimony of art that is preserved in the Vatican, you are giving an eloquent testimony to your esteem for art and for its role in helping to uplift the human spirit to the uncreated source of all beauty.

In its constant concern not to neglect the spiritual dimension of man’s nature, and to urge the world to direct its gaze upwards to God – the Designer and Creator of the universe – the Holy See welcomes your devoted collaboration with the Vatican Museums as they strive to communicate to as many people as possible all the cultural benefits of that artistic heritage of which they are the custodian.

In particular, I am happy that our meeting today coincides with the official announcement of the Vatican Exhibition in the United States, entitled “The Vatican Collection – The Papacy and Art”. This unprecedented event, which was fostered by Cardinal Cooke as a result of my own visit to the United States, immediately found the ready and generous cooperation of so many distinguished persons, a number of whom are here today. This important initiative, jointly organized by the Vatican Museums and the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York, in collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago and the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, likewise received the enthusiastic welcome of the Archdioceses of New York, Chicago and San Francisco. These three Archdioceses are all worthily represented here, and in the case of San Francisco by the Ordinary himself, Archbishop Quinn. My special gratitude goes to all the representatives of the Museums involved and especially to the Directors thereof.

In accordance with the purpose of the Exhibition itself, the works of art will begin to relate the long and interesting relationship between the Papacy and art throughout the centuries. Above all, these works of art will have a contribution to make to the men and women of our day. They will speak of history, of the human condition in its universal challenge, and of the endeavors of the human spirit to attain the beauty to which it is attracted. And, yes! These works of art will speak of God, because they speak of man created in the image and likeness of God; and in so many ways they will turn our attention to God himself.

And thus the history of the Church repeats itself: her esteem for art and culture is renewed at this moment and in this generation as in the past. And all of this is because, as I stated in my first Encyclical: “The Church’s fundamental function in every age and particularly in our is to direct man’s gaze, to point the awareness and experience of the whole of humanity towards the mystery of God...”.

Through you, dear friends, I extend my gratitude to all who assist you in this mission of service – a splendid service rendered through art. I pray that your enthusiasm will sustain you and inspire others, and that God will bless this project and all your other worthy activities. And may the Lord’s peace and joy fill your hearts and your homes today and always. Thank you once again.

May 1982



Monday, 3 May 1982

Dear friends,

I extend a cordial welcome to all of you who make up the American Committee on Italian Migration. You have gathered for your Symposium in Rome, together with the Chairman of your Board, Bishop Swanstrom, and with Bishop Pernicone; at the same time you are celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of your foundation.

1. During the past three decades you have worked in the important area of your country’s immigration policy. As citizens you have striven to contribute to the betterment of society, according to Christian principles and with a view to uplifting the lot of millions of men, women and children. The Church cannot but praise everything that effectively promotes equality and justice for all people in the area of immigration - an area that so closely touches the good of the human person.

2. Some of the many values that you have rightly sought to protect are the human dignity of each individual, universal brotherhood, the sanctity of the family and the family’s need to be together. From your experience you know that when these values are fostered, a great new force is mobilized in favour of the common good; the result is individuals and families working together with a sense of mission, working together to sustain and reinforce the larger family of the nation, which in turn is called to consecrate all its energies to promote the welfare of its members and at the same time the cause of worldwide solidarity and universal peace. As regards the requirements of families, the last Synod of Bishops offered principles, which when applied will give new dynamism to the whole of society. All efforts made to help the family fulfill its role as the vital cell of all society deserve the greatest consideration.

3. An important part of your activities is the help that you offer to Italian immigrants once they have entered your country. This aspect of your association is very significant and it opens up a horizon that is as vast as the inventiveness of Christian charity. Encouragement for those beginning a new life in a new land, personal interest in people’s problems, social assistance to those in need and the warmth of human friendship are services that more than justify an association like your own and commend its purpose. And what a splendid thing it is when all these services are rendered in the name of Christ, who is alive and wants to continue through you his mission of loving concern for humanity, with which he intends to identify until the end of time. Jesus himself testifies: “As often as you did it for one of the least of my brethren, you did it for me”.

4. Your Symposium also offers you the occasion to travel to the earthquake area of southern Italy. I am happy to have this opportunity to thank you for your active interest in the problems of the people affected by disaster and for the generous donations that you were instrumental in raising for the alleviation of their needs. All of this speaks of worthy aims and practical initiatives.

5. Your visit to Rome and to others parts of Italy likewise enables you to expand your appreciation of the rich centuries-old culture of the Italian people, so many of whom have entered into American society, bringing their enriching contribution to the American way of life.

Upon all of you and your families I invoke the blessings of Almighty God. I pray that during your visit you will be confirmed in your faith and in the challenges of Christian love.



Friday, 7 May 1982

My dear brother Priests,

1. It is a pleasure for me to receive this morning all of you who make up the Institute for Continuing Theological Education at Casa Santa Maria. Your presence here gives us the opportunity for a brief reflection together on the priesthood that we all share - the priesthood of Jesus Christ.

2. During these past weeks you have had an extraordinary opportunity to think about the priesthood, and to consider it in the context of Christ’s love and of the Church’s mission of evangelization. You have also been able to relive the whole mystery of redemption in its historical setting - where it actually took place. As you meditate on the blessings that have influenced your priesthood, there is yet another event which has deeply touched all of you in your priestly lives. It is the great ecclesial event of this century: the Second Vatican Council. And among the special legacies of that Council is its teaching on the priesthood.

3. The Council has given to us priest many insights about ourselves, about what is important in our lives, and about what contribution we can truly make to the world. Without minimizing in any way all the many possibilities of pastoral service that are open to the priest of today, the Council did not hesitate to declare its absolute priorities. And it did this repeatedly. The essential mission of the priesthood is found in the Eucharist. Your identity and mine are fixed forever in the Eucharistic celebration, that action of Jesus which in turn is the fullest and most effective proclamation of his whole Gospel message: Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again! The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church expresses this truth in the following words: Priests “above all exercise their sacred ministry in Eucharistic worship” (Lumen Gentium LG 28). And the Decree on the Priesthood adds: “Priests fulfill their chief duty in the mystery of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. In it the work of our redemption continues to be carried out” (Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 13).

4. My dear brother priests, what the world really wants from us, and truly needs, is that the mystery of redemption should be made accessible to the men, women and children of our day. And it is through the Eucharist that Christ’s redemption touches human hearts, and transforms human history. It is through devotion to the Eucharist that we are enabled to read accurately the “signs of the times” and to understand all the requirements that genuine “aggiornamento” makes on us personally. It is in our faithful Eucharistic ministry that we are fully effective ministers of the Gospel and servants of Jesus Christ and his people. It is only through the Eucharist that we can be true pastors of our people and relevant spiritual leaders in our communities.

May a deeper appreciation of your Eucharistic vocation, my dear brothers, be a lasting result of your stay in Rome. And through the intercession of Mary the Mother of Jesus may you always find your joy and fulfillment in the Eucharist.



Saturday, 8 May 1982

Dear brothers and sisters,

I wish to express a very special welcome to you as pilgrims from Tasmania. It is a joy to welcome you to Rome. You have come to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and I pray that your pilgrimage will be spiritually beneficial. Pilgrimages are made to places where we feel especially close to the great figures of our faith, in order to draw inspiration from their example and to be helped by their protection. The two Apostles that you are venerating here have left an enduring impression on the world by their teaching, their lives and their death as martyrs to our Lord and Saviour. Theirs was an all-conquering faith. It is the faith that is yours also. I pray that through your pilgrimage you will be confirmed in your holy Catholic faith and find new strength for Christian living. May you experience Christ and his love during your journey of faith, and may our Blessed Mother Mary protect you and your families at home. God bless you all. God bless Tasmania.



Tuesday, 18 May 1982

Dear friends,

The International Institute of Humanitarian Law, which you represent, is of relatively recent foundation, but the aims that it pursues correspond to age-old aspirations of the human race. Indeed, it exists to further the protection by international law of rights that are part of man’s very nature. I am therefore very happy to meet you and to express to you my appreciation of your work.

The growing body of international humanitarian law safeguarding man’s primary requirements - such as life and physical integrity, freedom and moral dignity - finds solid foundation and true value only in connection with human rights that exist prior to the drawing up of agreements between States on the matter. The State authorities have the obligation to respect these rights both in international relations and in dealing with their own citizens.

The Charter of the United Nations and many other documents provide a solid basis today for this view. Man can no longer be considered merely as an object to be dealt with by international law, as some would have had it: he is the original subject of basic rights not conferred on him extrinsically, rights that have direct relevance for international order and that are binding on all authorities.

International humanitarian law has experienced a considerable development in recent times. Christianity offers this development a basis in its affirmation of man’s autonomous value and pre-eminent dignity as a person with his own individuality, complete in his essential constitution, and endowed with rational consciousness and freedom of will. In past centuries too, the Christian view of man inspired the tendency to mitigate the traditional ferocity of war, so as to ensure more human treatment for those involved in the hostilities. It made a decisive contribution to the affirmation, both morally and in practice, of the rules of humaneness and justice that are now, in duly modernized and specified form, the nucleus of our present-day international conventions.

It is because international humanitarian law has as its basis the rights of which the human person is the original and autonomous subject that that law is universal in its application. It applies everywhere and in every circumstance, in peace and in war, in normal times and in emergencies due to internal political disturbances and tensions or caused by natural disasters.

In spite of the efforts made in modern times on the juridical level to rule out the use of war as a legitimate means of dealing with international disputes, armed conflicts of various kinds continue to be stirred up in one area or another. International humanitarian law must be imposed in the conflicts. There are recognized rules limiting the violence of war and protecting its victims, rules that have now been universally accepted by the common conscience of the peoples of the world, and these rules must be observed.

But international humanitarian law must also give attention to the fate of the growing number of refugees seeking asylum: those people, young and old, who require every kind of material and moral assistance after being forced to leave their original community and often after seeing their family broken up. It must give attention to the peoples of the Third World condemned to underdevelopment and hunger, while a ruinous competition goes on for the possession of ever more plentiful and murderous weaponry. It must give attention to those who are persecuted for political reasons, many of them arrested and detained without any safeguards against the abominable practice of torture, and in some cases made to disappear while their relatives grieve and the authorities keep silence. It must give attention to the victims of natural disasters and those provoked by man, in order that international solidarity may come to their aid in the fullest way and with the most effective means available.

In short, international humanitarian law is for the whole of suffering mankind: for the injured, prisoners, the weak, the helpless, the poor, the oppressed. Its observance or non-observance is a real test for the ethical foundation and for the very reason for existence of the international community.

I pray God to assist your esteemed institute in spreading knowledge of humanitarian law, in fostering its development and in ensuring its concrete application at all levels. May God bless your efforts, both as individuals and as a group, in pursuit of these noble aims. And may he also inspire many others to work generously and wholeheartedly for this all-important cause.

Speeches 1982 - Saturday, 13 March 1982