Speeches 1985 - Friday, 19 April 1985

Your Colloquium is one of those “brotherly dialogues”, and it will most certainly contribute to that “mutual understanding and respect” mentioned by the Council.

Jews and Christians must get to know each other better. Not just superficially as people of different religions, merely coexisting in the same place, but as members of such religions which are so closely linked to one another (Cfr. ibid.). This implies that Christians try to know as exactly as possible the distinctive beliefs, religious practices and spirituality of the Jews, and conversely that the Jews try to know the beliefs and practices and spirituality of Christians.

Such seems to be the proper way to dispel prejudices. But also to discover, on the Christian side, the deep Jewish roots of Christianity, and, on the Jewish side, to appreciate better the special way in which the Church, since the day of the Apostles, has read the Old Testament and received the Jewish heritage.

Here we are already in what we Christians call a theological field. I see in the programme of your Colloquium that you are dealing with proper theological subjects. I believe this to be a sign of maturity in our relations and a proof that the thrust and practical recommendations of “Nostra Aetate” really do inspire our dialogues. It is hopeful and refreshing to see this done in an encounter commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the Declaration.

Common theological studies cannot in fact be envisaged if there is not, on each side, a large measure of mutual trust and deep respect for each other – trust and respect which can only profit and grow from such studies.

You have also faced the question of Jewish and Christian spirituality in the present secularistic context. Yes, in our days one can sometimes have the sad impression of an absence of God and his will from the private and public lives of men and women. When we reflect on such a situation and its tragic consequences for mankind, deprived of its roots in God and therefore of its basic moral orientation, one can only be grateful to the Lord because we believe in him, as Jews and Christians, and we both can say, in the words of Deuteronomy: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one God” (Dt 6,4).

But gratitude soon turns into a commitment to express and publicly profess that faith before the world and to live our lives according to it, so that “men may see our good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5,16).

The existence and the providence of the Lord, our Creator and Saviour, are thus made present in the witness of our daily conduct and belief. And this is one of the responses that those who believe in God and are prepared to “sanctify his name” (Cfr. ibid. 6, 9) can and should give to the secularistic climate of the present day.

A commemorative Colloquium thus easily becomes a point of departure for a new and strong dedication, not only to ever deeper relations between Jews and Christians in many fields, but also to what man needs most in the present world: a sense of God as a loving Father and of his saving will.

It is in this context that I note the reference in your programme to the catastrophe which so cruelly decimated the Jewish people, before and during the war, especially in the death camps. I am well aware that the traditional date for such a commemoration falls about now. It is precisely an absence of faith in God and, as a consequence, of love and respect for our fellow men and women, which can easily bring about such disasters. Let ut pray together that it will never happen again, and that whatever we do to get to know each other better, to collaborate with one another and to bear witness to the one God and to his will, as expressed in the Decalogue, will help make people still more aware of the abyss which mankind can fall into when we do not acknowledge other people as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of the same heavenly Father.

Jewish-Christians relations are never an academic exercise. They are, on the contrary, part of the very fabric of our religious commitments and our respective vocations as Christians and as Jews. For Christians these relations have special theological and moral dimensions because of the Church’s conviction, expressed in the document we are commemorating, that “she received the revelation of the Old Testament through the people with whom God in his inexpressible mercy deigned to establish the ancient Covenant, and draws sustenance from the root of that good olive tree into which have been grafted the wild olive branches of the Gentiles (Cfr. Rom Rm 11,17-24)” (Nostra Aetate NAE 4). To commemorate the anniversary of “Nostra Aetate” is to become still more conscious of all these dimensions and to translate them into daily practice everywhere.

I earnestly hope for this and pray that the work of your organizations and institutions in the field of Jewish-Christian relations will be ever more blessed by the Lord, whose name is forever to be praised: “Great is the Lord and highly to be praised” (Ps 145,3).




Friday, 26 April 1985

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome Your Excellency as I accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Saint Lucia. It is a special pleasure to greet you today since you come as the first Ambassador of your country to the Holy See. Our relations are already marked by mutual respect and esteem, but this historic occasion expresses our common intention to deepen the bonds of trust which exist and to collaborate in a more formal and stable way, especially in furthering peace and justice in the world.

Over the centuries, diplomatic missions have helped to create more effective lines of communication and dialogue between individual nations and the world community as a whole. The Holy See itself has constantly engaged in international diplomacy, establishing and maintaining full diplomatic relations with a large number of States and participating in the activities and discussions of international organizations. While its role is a unique one in view of the Church’s primary task of promoting moral and spiritual values, the Holy See has always prized the opportunity to make a unique and important contribution to harmony and understanding between governments and peoples and to the protection and dignity of every human person. You can be sure, then, Your Excellency, that the Holy See is pleased with the establishment of diplomatic relations with Saint Lucia, and it holds in honour and respect your own distinguished role as its first Ambassador.

The Christian faith, and the Catholic Church in particular, has flourished in a remarkable way in your country. The development in recent years of an ever increasing number of your own indigenous clergy and religious, who are gradually assuming greater responsibility for the pastoral care of the faithful, is a clear sign of the Church’s growth and vigour. In this regard, I have noted with pleasure your reference to the dynamic and vital role which the Church is playing in your island’s development - in the spiritual and moral realms certainly, but also in the fields of education, culture and social works. I can assure you that, in a genuine spirit of ecumenism and with appreciation for the existing freedom of religion, the Catholic Church will continually seek to collaborate with the people of Saint Lucia in efforts to promote the common good and welfare of all, while she pursues her specific mission of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Holy See appreciates the desire of your Government to engage in joint efforts with neighbouring countries in the Caribbean to create a zone of peace. It likewise appreciates your interest in the establishment of a more equitable economic and social order internationally. Perhaps your history of having so frequently experienced influences from without before your independence has made your nation more deeply aware of the importance of international relations, especially at the present period of history which is witnessing an ever increasing interdependence.

I wish to express my gratitude for the cordial greetings which you have conveyed on behalf of the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. John Compton, and I would ask you kindly to reciprocate them. I thank you, too, for the kind invitation to visit Saint Lucia. I would be very happy indeed to accept this invitation and look forward to the day when it might be arranged.

As you begin your new assignment, be assured, Your Excellency, of the full cooperation and assistance of the Holy See in the fulfilment of your mission. I pray that the Lord will grant you much joy and satisfaction in your work. And I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God upon you and your fellow citizens.




Monday, 29 April 1985

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I want to thank you, first of all, for coming to see me. I have met the Presiding Bishop of the American Lutheran Church, Bishop David W. Preus. Please extend my cordial greetings to him. I am happy now to welcome to Rome the Vice-President, the Reverend Lloyd Svendsbye, and this prominent group of Lutheran laity, led by Mr and Mrs Arley Bjella of the Lutheran Brotherhood Fraternal Benefit Society.

From accounts given to me by American Catholic bishops, I know the good relations that have been developing between Lutherans and Catholics in the United States. Your visit today has the effect of adding to this growing relationship. The laity have an important role in the quest for unity. “The concern for restoring unity”, according to the Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis redintegratio UR 5), “involves the whole Church, faithful and clergy alike. It extends to everyone according to the talent of each, whether it be exercised in daily Christian living or in theological and historical studies”.

Our commitment is always to Christ, and for this reason we must always strive for unity with one another in Christ. We do this through prayer, dialogue, and collaboration. When I visited the Lutheran church in Rome in December 1983, I said that “I have come because in these days the Spirit of God has urged us, through the ecumenical dialogue, to the quest for the full unity among Christians”. I feel that the same motivation has led you here today. We live in an extraordinary time of grace. A time in which the Spirit is transforming the old hostilities of the past into new patterns of reconciliation so that the prayer of Christ for the unity of his followers (Cfr. Io Jn 17) may be fulfilled. It is the task of all of us to pray and work so that Christians everywhere will be responsive to the grace of the Spirit leading them to unity.

Please accept my best wishes and the assurance of my prayers during his holy Easter season. “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen” (1Co 16,21).

                                                       May 1985





Saturday, 4 May 1985

Mrs Reagan,

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you today to the Vatican. I thank you for the courtesy of your visit and I would ask you to convey my respectful greetings to the President of the United States.

I wish to express my appreciation of the reasons which bring you to Rome at this time, namely, your participation in the fight against drug abuse and in the rehabilitation of those whose lives have been affected by this social evil.

The Catholic Church has great concern for the harmful effects of so pervasive and alarming a social problem as drug dependency. The dignity of the human person is seriously offended by the enslavement which results from this dependency. Obviously, the consequences for the family and for society in general are tragic and debilitating. One must indeed ask to what extent this phenomenon is symptomatic of a profound crisis of the social and moral order. Does it not perhaps reflect an inadequacy on the part of modern society to satisfy the spiritual longings of people today?

All efforts in the campaign against drug abuse take on special relevance during this year which has been declared by the United Nations Organization as International Youth Year. One of the great challenges to modern society is to find viable solutions to this problem which affects so many of our young people. Certainly the leaders of society must strive to create the social conditions in which young people are discouraged from seeking refuge in the fantasy world of self-indulgence and drugs, and are inspired and helped to fulfill responsible roles in society.

In particular, I wish to offer encouragement to all who promote international cooperation with a view to arresting, and eventually eliminating, this grave social evil. Internal legislation and law enforcement to curb drug trafficking are ultimately effective only insofar as they receive the support of other nations which are committed to higher human values and to the common good of their respective citizens and of their neighbours. At the same time, international collaboration is needed in programs of therapy and rehabilitation. Treatment must be adapted to the different situations in which this social phenomenon develops and spreads. The exchange of ideas and methods on the international level is most useful and commendable.

In greeting you today I wish to renew my gratitude for the generous work being done for people with drug dependency in your own country and throughout the world, and I appeal to all men and women of good will to join forces in order to meet with skill and compassion the needs of fellow human beings, especially the young.

May the Lord who is rich in mercy bless the many efforts being made, and crown them with success.




Thursday, 9 May 1985

Dear Friends,

It is a special joy for me to be able to welcome you, our guests who follow the faith of Islam, to Rome for the colloquium on “Holiness in Christianity and Islam”. My fraternal greetings go as well to those Christians who have been taking part in the colloquium. As I have often said in other meetings with Muslims, your God and ours is one and the same, and we are brothers and sisters in the faith of Abraham. Thus it is natural that we have much to discuss concerning true holiness in obedience and worship to God.

All true holiness comes from God, who is called “The Holy One” in the Sacred Books of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Your Holy Qur’an calls God “Al-Quddus”, as in the verse: “He is God, besides Whom there is no other, the Sovereign, the Holy the (source of) Peace” (Al-Qur’an 59, 23). The prophet Hosea links God’s holiness with his forgiving love for mankind, a love which surpasses our ability to comprehend: “I am God, not man; I am the Holy One in your midst and have no wish to destroy” (Os 11,9). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches his disciples that holiness consists in assuming, in our human way, the qualities of God’s own holiness which he has revealed to mankind: “Be holy, even as your heavenly Father is holy” (Mt 5,48).

Thus, the Qur’an calls you to uprightness (al-salah), to conscientious devotion (al-taqwa), to goodness (al-husn), and to virtue (al-birr), which is described as believing in God, giving one’s wealth to the needy, freeing captives, being constant in prayer, keeping one’s word, and being patient in times of suffering, hardship and violence (Qur’an 2, 177). Similarly, Saint Paul stresses the love we must show towards all, and the duty to lead a blameless life in the sight of God: “May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you. And may he so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all his saints” (1Th 3,12-13). In today’s world, it is more important than ever that men and women of faith, assisted by God’s grace, should strive for true holiness. Self-centred tendencies, such as greed, the lust for power and prestige, competition, revenge, the lack of forgiveness, and the quest for earthly pleasures - all these threaten to turn mankind from the path to goodness and holiness which God has intended for all of us. The countless numbers of good people around the world - Christians, Muslims, and others - who quietly lead lives of authentic obedience, praise, and thanksgiving to God and selfless service of their neighbour, offer humanity a genuine alternative, “God’s way”, to a world which otherwise would be destroyed in selfseeking, hatred, and struggle.

May the God of holiness bless your efforts throughout these days!




The Hague

Monday, 13 May 1985

Mr President,

Distinguished Judges of the Court,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. It is with a profound sense of respect and esteem that I have come today to the International Court of Justice. I am happy to have been able to include this meeting in the programme of my pastoral visit to the Netherlands, and I am pleased that it should take place in the presence of the members of the Permanent Court of Arbitration and of the Diplomatic Corps. Be assured that I am deeply grateful for the kind words of welcome that have been addressed to me. I feel honoured indeed to be with you in this historic Peace Palace, and to have this opportunity to speak to you.

The Holy See attaches great importance to its collaboration with the United Nations Organization and the various organisms which are a vital part of its work. The Church's interest in the International Court of Justice goes back to the very beginnings of this Tribunal and to the events that were linked to its establishment. I am thinking of the high degree of personal involvement of my predecessor, Leo XIII, with the Peace Conference held at The Hague in 1899, which paved the way for the Permanent Court of International Justice and, eventually, for the International Court of Justice. As soon as Leo XIII learned of the initiative by Tsar Nicholas II, he encouraged it. He also gave it his support in an exchange of letters with Queen Wilhelmina, the monarch of the host country, the Netherlands. Even when it became apparent that the Holy See itself could not take part in the Peace Conference at The Hague, the interest of Leo XIII in the Peace Conference remained undiminished and he continued to encourage it. Through his Secretary of State, Cardinal Rampolla, he made it clear why he considered the Peace Conference to be so important, and his ideas have more than a merely historical value: "The international community lacks a system of moral and legal means to establish and maintain the rights of everyone. There is therefore no alternative but an immediate recourse to the use of force. This explains the rivalry between States to develop military strength ... The establishment of mediation and arbitration would seem to be the most appropriate way of dealing with this disastrous situation; in every respect it satisfies the wishes of the Holy See" (11 January 1899).

The Church has consistently supported the development of an international administration of justice and arbitration as a way of peace fully resolving conflicts and as part of the evolution of a world legal system. Traditionally the Holy See has played the role of mediator in disputes. It is worth recalling, for example, the mediation of Leo XIII in the controversy between Germany and Spain over the Caroline Islands. There were the repeated attempts by Benedict XV to mediate during the First World War, and his support for the creation of a League of Nations which would truly correspond to the exigencies of justice, peace and the promotion of the common good in international relations. Pius XII and his successors particularly welcomed and encouraged the creation and development of the United Nations Organization. John XXIII spoke of the issue in "Pacem in Terris", while Paul VI personally expressed his support when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly on 4 October 1965; two years later, in "Populorum Progressio", he reiterated his plea for "an order of justice which is universally recognized" [1]. I too was able to address the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York on 2 October 1979, and subsequently to reiterate support in my message to the Second Special Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on Disarmament on 7 June 1982. I was also happy to speak to FAO in Rome in 1979, to UNESCO in Paris in 1980, to the International Labour Organization in Geneva in 1982, and to the International Organizations based in Vienna in 1983. In line with this record of continuous support and interest, I have accepted with great pleasure and an intense feeling of involvement the invitation of the President of the International Court of Justice, which, with the Permanent Court of Arbitration, has traditionally been based here in the Peace Palace. I hope that this visit will clearly show the extent to which the Catholic Church wishes to support the efforts of these international bodies.

2. If we turn from the historical background to the present situation, we have to recognize that there is today an even greater moral need than there was in past years for conflicts to be resolved peacefully on the basis of justice. In the first place, because of the existence of advanced weaponry, war in our time is increasingly coming to mean the total annihilation of the enemy.

Every war threatens to become total war.

The second reason is the new quality of interdependence between nations. More than ever before, the fates of individual nations are bound up with one another; the fact that many of their interests coincide is much more important than the fact that some are in conflict with one another. In addition, in our own time an organization of world peace has simply become a real possibility in a technical sense; the means of communication are available, and a large number of world organizations have already been developed. What is now required is the will to achieve true peace.

At the present time it is both necessary and possible to promote worldwide peace. But the development of laws and mentalities in a community based on the principle of the absolute sovereignty of individual States has lagged behind other developments in an era in which destructive violence and all-embracing communications determine the picture of the world. We are still living too often with reflexes of suspicion and aggression which are detrimental to relations between nations.

3. Unfortunately, in today's world, even the peaceful settlement of disputes in often the province of a diplomacy determined more by self-interest than by the requirements of the common good of the international community—a common good based on what is right and just. This fact can have an inhibiting influence on the work of both the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Nonetheless, these organizations have an extremely important role to play. The Permanent Court or Arbitration has contributed to settling a number of conflicts and to averting the use of armed force. The International Court of Justice has intervened in difficult areas and has managed to do more than simply apply existing law: it has also contributed to the development of law. The decisions of the Court have not infrequently had a wide-ranging scope because they are to be seen in the framework of the rules of international law and legal principles.

The task of the International Court of Justice as well as the Permanent Court of Arbitration is to bring an element of impartiality and objectivity to bear on dealings between States. Their members have included many eminent lawyers. Together with the International Law Academy, the two organizations constitute an international centre of distinguished legal activity.

4. However, it is clear that the contribution of the International Court of Justice to the development of new norms of international law will be impeded as long as the States do not agree on the fundamental principles and general rules of international law. It is necessary to recall, in this regard, that, while progress has been made over the years, it has been limited. There is yet a long way to go—with trust and renewed determination.

Strictly speaking, the present Court is no more—but it is also no less—than an initial step towards what we hope will one day be a totally effective judicial authority in a peaceful world. In the view of the Holy See, there are a number of ways in which the judicial element can play a wider role in international relations:

? by States and international Organizations making more intensive use of the International Court of Justice;

? by a wider acceptance of the so-called compulsory jurisdiction of the Court;

? by more frequent use of arbitration;

? by development of legal and political/humanitarian organizations at the regional level to supplement and support those at the world level;

? by development of the law of humanitarian and criminal responsibility towards the international community.

These elements are clearly discernible in many recent developments: the international declarations and treaties on human rights; the work of organizations for human rights at regional and international levels; the work of the Red Cross and other agencies in the humanitarian sphere and particularly in aiding the victims of armed conflicts; the work of private organizations; and the extension of the role of the International Court as a result of requests from international organizations for advisory opinions. A need to develop a world legal system has also been expressed by the international community itself.

5. All of this deserves confirmation and support. The Catholic Church is involved in this field, as can be seen, for example, by her active participation in international organizations and by the many declarations of the Holy See in favour of them. In doing this, the Church points out the criteria which the development of an international system of law must satisfy. In legal terms, these can be expressed as the recognition of human rights: the right to life of every individual, the right to a decent existence worthy of human beings and the right to protection by the law; recognition of the right of peoples to self-determination and independence and their right to a fair share of the world's economic wealth. Pacem in Terris expresses the basic criteria in moral terms as truth, love, freedom, justice and solidarity.

6. These criteria must find expression in international relations in the form of treaties and in the work of international organizations, supported by a growing awareness among ordinary people of the duty to respect in all circumstances the fundamental rights of the human person. When this happens, the criteria will also have a further effect on the administration of international law and arbitration.

The support of governments and public opinion is very important here. After all, developments in the world do not as a matter of course follow a straight line towards peace. They are influenced—often to a crucial extent—by the clash of national interests, of cultures and ideologies, by the attempts of one people or race to dominate another, and by the disregard of the rights of individuals and peoples. Even while the Court sits in the Peace Palace, the cries continue to ring out in many parts of the world of the imprisoned and the oppressed, the cries of people who are being exterminated, the cries of people whose cultural and spiritual freedom is being shackled—whose personal liberty is being denied.

For Christians and for all who believe in a Covenant, that is, in an unbreakable bond between God and man and between all human beings, no form of discrimination—in law or in fact—on the basis of race, origin, colour, culture, sex or religion can ever be acceptable. Hence no system of apartheid or separate development will ever be acceptable as a model for the relations between peoples or races.

Even the International Court of Justice comes under pressure designed to prevent it from transcending ideologies and interests. As international judges and magistrates, the members of the Court must give proof of the greatest independence and of perfect integrity. And it is for this reason that, before assuming their lofty role, they undertake a solemn commitment to exercise their functions with full impartiality and according to their conscience[2]. They must resist such pressures and must be assisted in their efforts to do so. Against the politics of power struggles and self-interest we must set a form of politics aimed at strengthening the values on which peace rests.

7. Developing international law and extending and strengthening international organizations are vitally important tasks for humanity today. But what is absolutely essential in all of this is the pursuit of the common good on the basis of justice, according to the norms of a true world legal system. Without an understanding of the source of law, the reasons for law and the object of law, a proper legal system cannot exist. Without an understanding of the criteria for the peaceful settlement of conflicts such solutions do not come into being.

The crux of the matter is that man must love God above all else and love his neighbour as himself.It is essential for human beings to realize that they have been created in God's image and that therefore they must respect one another instead of exploiting, torturing and killing one another. And so too States, as units in which people live together, must respect and support one another. Every lawyer and every ordinary person knows that man's law is not perfect. Legal formulations always leave something to be desired. There is always room for improvement and new developments and a need for legal institutions to be improved. This even applies to such basic documents as the declarations and treaties on human rights. The law of God written in people's hearts and proclaimed by the Church provides the norms and impulses for this improvement, for God's law transcends time. It speaks a language which everyone can understand, like the parable of the Good Samaritan. It provides an answer for man's desire for a meaning to life, a life which does not end with death. It expresses what people may expect from one another.

Jesus Christ preached a Kingdom of truth, love and peace, three indivisible elements. People must want these elements to come into their lives and into their relations with others. Peace only comes when human beings strive for truth and love in their dealing with one another, when they discover who they really are and recognize one another's purpose. Peace is not born from fear of the bomb or the power of one over another. We should certainly be concerned about nuclear weapons, but our first concern should be for people themselves, for the way in which many people think and speak about life and society. There are few topics on which so much falsehood is spoken as peace; few are so susceptible to manipulation. This is the first threat.

The Church speaks in the name of him who will come one day to judge all people, to judge history on the basis of truth. Sent by him, she wants to help form the conscience and behaviour of human beings. She wishes to show a way, a way that is difficult but sure—a way on which each individual gains strength to promote that peace which is both a fruit of human labour and a gift of God. It is a way on which everyone's endeavours are important, for the different fields of human activity and the different contexts in life are all closely related.

Violence and criminal behaviour in nations and cultures encourage violence and criminal behaviour in international relations. The absence of solidarity within a country encourages a lack of solidarity in the world. Modern societies are characterized by increasing fragmentation and alienation. This leads to a situation in which people expect more of a system than they do of their own efforts and collaboration; and so dissatisfaction can turn them against systems and, as a result, society becomes more difficult to govern. A society seen as a mere system cannot provide people with a decent human existence. The more people become aware that society exists for man, the more they will be able to search for one another again and to discover a truly human inspiration for their dealings with one another. In so doing, they will be challenged to look beyond national boundaries.

8. Before concluding, I wish to express a word of deep appreciation to the Netherlands, which is strongly committed to playing host to the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The Netherlands is a country with strong Christian traditions and a long history of freedom. It has given valuable service in the cause of the development of international law, for peace, development, cooperation and human rights. It is a country in which ordinary citizens and private organizations have a strong involvement with the rest of the world. These efforts are worthy of esteem and they merit gratitude.

Above all, I commend the efforts of the Judges of the International Court of Justice, of the Permanent Court of Arbitration and of all those who in their own love for justice work to promote it in the world. The Psalmist of the Old Testament says: "The just will flourish like the palm-tree and grow like a Lebanon cedar" [3].

I pray that God will strengthen you in your efforts to be just and to promote justice. May he bless your work abundantly, so that it may help bring forth greater harmony in the world, and strengthen the foundations of a true and lasting peace.

[1] Pauli VI Populorum Progressio, 78.

[2] Cfr. Statuti, art. 20.

[3] Ps. 91 (92), 12.

Speeches 1985 - Friday, 19 April 1985