Speeches 1985 - The Hague

June 1985




Friday, 7 June 1985

Dear Brother Bishops,

It is with great pleasure and with a deep sense of joy in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ that I greet you. Your ad Limina visit brings you from your distant land to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul - those men of faith and zeal, whose strength and fidelity in responding to Christ’s call are so linked to the very foundation of the Church, and are the model of our own fidelity to the Lord in the service of the Gospel.

I greet you in the words of Saint Paul: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you . . . making my prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the gospel” (Ph 1,3). Yes, I often remember you and your collaborators, the priests, religious and laity, who daily toil with you for the building up of the Church “in the defence and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Ibid. 1, 7-8).

1. As teachers in the Church of God, you are deeply aware that your service to the Gospel has a distinctively theological character and explanation. The whole mystery of the Redemption proceeds from a divine initiative. It has its origin in the decree of God the Father. It flows “from that fountain of love or charity within God the Father” (Ad Gentes AGD 2) which gives rise to the mission of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us, God’s purpose was to establish peace and communion between sinful human beings and himself, and to fashion humanity into a fraternal and reconciled community (Cfr. ibid. 3). In order to do this the Son of God walked the ways of a true Incarnation, that he might draw men to share his divine life. He became poor for our sake, though he had been rich, in order that his poverty might enrich us (Cfr. 2Co 8,9).

The Church in Burma knows that it walks in the footsteps of that Jesus of Nazareth who was poor and humble, who preferred the company of the simple and needy, and who taught his followers that “whoever humbles himself . . . is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18,4).

I fully understand that our pastoral ministry reflects this example of the Master. Yours is a service of love rendered to your brothers and sisters in the faith, often in poverty and deprivation. But far from being a disadvantage, this is in fact your glory and the reason of your people’s trust and love for you. You must continue to strive to fulfil the Council’s recommendation: “In exercising his office of father and pastor the Bishop should be with his people as one who serves, as a good shepherd who knows his sheep and whose sheep know him, as a true father who excels in his love and solicitude for all” (Christus Dominus CD 16).

2. Your willingness to place your trust above all in the grace of God, with a consequent steadfastness and purity of heart in your ministry to your people, remains for you and for your collaborators in the task of evangelization and catechesis the best indication that you are labouring for the Lord himself. By being close to the life and culture of your people you show the Lord is present in their midst, you sustain them in their profession of faith, you defend them against discouragement and the onslaught of a materialistic and self-centred outlook on life. You help them to become ever more conscious of the dignity which is theirs as sons and daughters of God and as loyal citizens of their country.

It is true that your pastoral activity is often hindered by the absence of human and material means, by the very fact that Catholics form a small minority in Burma, and by circumstances inherent in the historical and geographical conditions of your country today.

3. But it is also true that there are many supernatural advantages in your local Churches which point to the generous - often heroic - dedication of pastors, priests, religious and laity. You are rich in grace and love: the Lord has given the increase (Cfr. 1Co 3,7).

You can boast of a regular flow of vocations to the diocesan Minor Seminaries, and also to the Major Seminary in Rangoon, which by reason of the increased numbers of aspirants is now exclusively for theological students, while the students of philosophy have moved to Maymyo in Mandalay.

There has been a steady increase in the number of vocations to the religious life, and the activities of the religious are well integrated into the pastoral programmes of the various local Churches.

The active collaboration of the laity as catechists and community leaders, with an increasing awareness of their specific role in the Church, testifies that the Holy Spirit “stirs up in their hearts the obedience of faith” (Ad Gentes AGD 15).

These are God’s gifts to the Church in Burma, for which we give thanks together in the spirit of the collegial communion which unites us, the successors of the Apostles with the Successor of Peter. Among these gifts there is one that elicits special mention. I refer to your priests: your cooperators and assistants in the work of evangelizing and catechizing your people. They are one with you in the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and for this reason they share, in their own way, in your responsibility for each local Church, “and even for the entire Church”, as the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church reminds us (Lumen Gentium LG 28).

The Bishop’s effectiveness depends to a great extent on his priests. Hence you must always welcome them with a special love, regard them as brothers, sons and friends, listen to them and give them your trust. You should be concerned for their spiritual, intellectual and material well being, so that they can live holy lives and fulfil their ministry faithfully and fruitfully. Your are called to be compassionate and helpful to those priests who are in any kind of danger or who in some respect may have failed. In doing this you imitate the love in the heart of Jesus, and draw abundant blessings upon your priests, many of whom live in conditions of isolation and even danger, as they serve scattered communities and, perhaps, have few opportunities to experience the warmth and fellowship of the company of their brothers in the priesthood.

4. The Church in Burma can count on the commitment and generous support of many of the laity in the work of evangelization and social development.

Your catechists play an indispensable role in sustaining the Christian life of your communities and in bringing the divine message of salvation to those near and far. The validity of this contribution of the laity to the Church’s mission is closely related to the formation available to these men and women, who are anxious to be of effective assistance to their pastors in the apostolate of “like towards like” and in proclaiming Christ in places which it is difficult or impossible for the clergy and religious to reach. I encourage you in your efforts to provide this formation through special centres for this purpose, and in programmes adapted to the possibilities of your people.

In a special way I am happy to know that you pay special attention to the needs and possibilities of young people. They too can have an extraordinary effectiveness in bringing the message of Christ to their peers and to the younger members of the community. In my recent Apostolic Letter to the youth of the world for International Youth Year, I wrote that “the Church looks to the young; or rather, the Church in a special way sees herself in the young” (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Epistula Apostolica ad iuvenes, Internationali vertente Anno Iuventuti dicato, 15, die 31 mar. 1985: vide supra, p. 794).

As pastors you will know how to convert into a living reality in your local Churches the role of young people. It means appointing capable priests and religious to the task of their formation, and it involves an effort on the part of all to give them a sense of belonging to the Church as their right and dignity.

5. There is one other point to which I would refer briefly and entrust it to your prayerful consideration. It is the question of the necessary and important dialogue between faith and culture which takes place in the concrete circumstances of the Church’s presence in each place.

The Church, which is the light of all nations, speaks the same message of salvation and offers the same means of holiness and justice to all peoples. Yet, in each local Church she seeks a serious and sincere “dialogue” with the culture and traditions of the people, in order to ensure a genuine “inculturation” of the Christian faith. Without permitting any undermining of the integrity of her truth or of the unity of her Catholic discipline, the Church “utilizes the resources of different cultures in her preaching to spread and explain the message of Christ, to examine and understand it more deeply and to express it more perfectly in the liturgy and in various aspects of the life of the faithful” (Gaudium et Spes GS 58). In this way faith enriches the spiritual qualities of every nation, and the Church herself progresses towards a fuller understanding of the mystery of the Redemption.

In this process two principles must be respected: the compatibility with the Gospel of the various cultures and cultural elements assimilated into the life of the Church, and the safeguarding of communion with the universal Church (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Familiaris Consortio FC 10).

This “dialogue” between the truly Catholic faith of the Church and local cultures is an important aspect of your episcopal ministry. It is essential that Bishops of the same country should work together in this matter, in close contact with the Roman Curia. I pray that the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, may guide you in this task of ensuring that the seed of the Christian faith takes ever deeper root in Burmese soil.

6. My brother Bishops, we have touched on only a few of the many aspects of your pastoral ministry. It is not possible to speak of everything that is in our hearts. What is especially important is that we have lived this meeting in the full communion of faith and in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I commend you and the Churches over which you preside and which you serve to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church. I ask you to take my greetings to your fellow Bishops who have not been able to come. I pray for all the Burmese people, especially the young, the old and the sick.

With the words of the Apostle Peter I say “Peace to all of you that are in Christ” (1 Petr. 5, 14).





Friday, 7 June 1985

Dear Friends,

It is a pleasure for me to greet al of you participating in the thirty-first International Institute for the Prevention and Treatment of Alcoholism, co-sponsored by the International Council on Alcohol and Addictions of Lausanne and the Centro Italiano di Solidarietà di Roma. A marvellous opportunity has been presented to you in your deliberations during these days to exchange information and to meet specialists in the medical profession from other countries who are concerned about the problem of alcohol abuse. The problem has indeed assumed grave proportions and involves peoples of all ages and all walks of life.

Particularly worrisome is the effect that the abuse of alcohol has had on the young people of modern society. Many factors come into play in this social evil, not the least of which are peer pressures and group involvement in surroundings which are unwholesome and which prevent young people from maturing and becoming happy and healthy human beings. The ready availability of alcohol as compared to other drugs makes the percentage of users very high among the young, and this too is cause for serious concern. Likewise, the economic conditions existing in society, such as high rates of poverty and unemployment, can contribute to a young person’s sense of restlessness, insecurity, frustration and social alienation, and can draw that person to the fantasy world of alcohol as an escape from the problems of life.

However significant these factors may be, it is the family which most powerfully influences young people in the area of alcohol. The example given by parents, in all things including the abuse of alcohol, is foremost in the formation of the young. The child is watchful and alert in observing how the father and mother cope with the pressures of life. The child can be easily led to imitate behaviour patterns which have been learned at home. Parents must take special care to provide positive example in this regard, lest the temptation to resort to unhealthy ways of psychological escape be communicated to their children.

At the same time, parents should perceive as important the fostering of family values, that is, forming the family into a true community of persons, where husband and wife, parents and children, live in relationships of genuine love for each other. Love is the point of departure and the final goal of the family. Love is the inner dynamism which leads the family to ever deeper and more intense communion (Cfr. IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Familiaris Consortio FC 18). The example which parents offer to their children in showing that love, which implies mutual respect, forgiveness and moderation in their own behaviour, will mark the path for their children to follow.

I wish to offer my encouragement to all who work towards a solution to the problem of alcohol abuse. In particular, I would like to thank all those who, in the name of fundamental human solidarity, strive to assist people who suffer from alcoholism. I am thinking of those experts, doctors, nurses and other individuals, as well as the institutions especially established for this purpose, that perform an incalculable service to their suffering neighbours. The compassion which motivates this activity, reminiscent of the spirit of the Good Samaritan, is a beautiful testimony to the concern of people today to pay closer attention to the sufferings of their neighbours and to seek to deal with them with ever greater skill.

May your meeting in Rome lead you to discover ever more effective methods and procedures for achieving your goals. Be assured of my prayers and my support for all that you do on behalf of those who suffer.

God bless you and your families.




Monday, 10 June 1985

Mr Ambassador,

I extend a warm greeting to you as you present the Letters whereby Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II accredits you as her Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. I thank you most heartily for your kind words.

In your discourse you make reference to certain recent events that I too believe have confirmed and strengthened the cordial relations that exist between Great Britain and the Holy See. My Pastoral Visit to your country, of which my heart is still filled with wonderful memories, provided me with a unique opportunity of knowing your people better and of experiencing more directly your traditions and way of life. I am glad that during that journey Providence enabled me to meet not only Catholics but also members of other Ecclesial Communities, including so many distinguished ecclesiastics.

You yourself have mentioned the Common Declaration that I signed with Archbishop Runcie in Canterbury Cathedral. I was happy for that occasion on which the concrete steps of these past years were reaffirmed and the paths to further ecumenical dialogue were indicated. I am convinced that with God’s help the reconciliation and unity in faith for which we long will one day be attained.

I am pleased that you have also referred to the change in the status of the respective Missions of Great Britain and the Holy See. This has great symbolic value and manifests progress in the dialogue for peace.

Your mention of the part played by the Holy See in resolving a territorial dispute is a timely reminder that the most serious and seemingly irreconcilable difficulties can be solved with God’s help and through patient and prudent negotiations.

In this regard, you rightly recall my constant solicitude for an end to the violence in Northern Ireland. As you have stated, I have repeatedly condemned all forms of violence and terrorism as an unacceptable response to existing difficulties. I have likewise stressed that without justice and a deep respect for the dignity of every human person there can be no foundation for a true and lasting peace. I therefore encourage and support every worthy effort aimed at reconciling opposing factions and at bringing to an end the tragic suffering that has too long endured.

Inevitably there occur discouraging moments in the dialogue for peace, but the process must never be abandoned. God will give the grace; men and women of good will must provide the effort. I urge the leaders involved to create every opportunity to promote the cause of peace and to use every available resource and talent towards securing it.

Mr Ambassador, I trust that your period of service will render the diplomatic relations between Great Britain and the Holy See ever more cordial. I can assure you that you will find here a spirit of willing cooperation as you go about the fulfilment of your duties. For my part I assure you of my prayerful support in the exercise of your mission.

I would ask you to convey my greetings and good wishes to Her Majesty and the members of the Royal Family. It was a particularly happy experience for me to receive in recent audience the Prince and Princess of Wales, and I desire to express once again the joy of that meeting.

May God be with you and may he abundantly bless the people whom you represent.



Friday, 14 June 1985

Dear Friends in Christ,

I am pleased to welcome to the Vatican the Saint Charles Borromeo and the Saint Basil Church Choirs. In the joy of Christ I greet you all. Your presence here today reminds me of the words of the psalm: "In the presence of the angels I will sing your praise", for you are from Los Angeles, the City of Our Lady of the Angels, and you come to Rome to sing, to sing the praises of God. How good it is to sing and to rejoice in the love of our Lord! Even better to make our life a song, to create harmony and concord in the world, to live a life that is pleasing in God’s sight. As you refresh the hearts of others through your hymns and songs, may God fill your own hearts with the fullness of his peace.




Friday, 21 June 1985

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear Friends.

It is a great pleasure for me today to welcome to the Vatican all of you who are taking part in the Marcel Grossman Meeting on Relativistic Astrophysics. In you I also greet the illustrious institutions that are co-sponsoring this meeting: the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, the Departments of Physics of the two Universities of Rome, and the Specola Vaticana. I assure you all of my respect and esteem.

I likewise wish to take this special opportunity to honour the world of science and all the distinguished men and women who contribute to the increase of human knowledge and to the possibilities for peace. Your being here today is one more indication of the common resolution of the Church and science to serve side by side, in friendship and mutual support, the cause of man.

I cordially acknowledge the presence among you of the Nobel Prizewinners, as well as the Ambassadors of the countries represented at your meeting. With deep satisfaction the Church takes note of the solidarity that marks your important meeting and this gathering in the Vatican.

1. We are living in a unique era. There was a time when scientific discoveries having an enormous impact on the development of human society and on the way we see ourselves only occurred every century or so. Now they are made on much shorter timescales: every year, every month, even every week. And, what is perhaps more significant, the impact on technology is almost immediate. In fact, within the last few decades we have witnessed more basic advances in our understanding of physical reality than had been made during the entire previous history of our planet. There is strong evidence that this exponential growth of ideas and scientific knowledge will continue.

It is wonderful to see how much has been understood concerning the structure of stars - their birth, life and death, the origin and structure of galaxies, the formation of the elements and other building blocks of physical reality in the early universe, and the interlocking roles of fundamental interactions and processes, in the large and in the small. These scientific achievements proclaim the dignity of the human being and greatly clarify man’s unique role in the universe.

It should however be a matter of concern to us that, while science develops at ever-increasing speed, other fields of human endeavour remain relatively dormant or even regress. In the absence of a mature interaction between science and the practical and theoretical endeavours of politics, economics, art, philosophy, ethics and theology, the new vision and the new technological powers provided by science can lead to unprecedented human catastrophe. The current inadequacy of such responsible interaction on many levels represents a great “missed opportunity” for creating a new genuine “humanism” of profound depth, beauty, moral and spiritual nobility and personal sensitivity.

2. Interestingly enough, the glaring divergence between the pace of development in science and that of other critical areas of human endeavour, especially politics, is reflected in the personal tragedies of certain scientists in the service of humanity and of their own nations. Some have been and are giants, not only in their particular areas of scientific activity, but also in their unwavering personal commitment to moral and personal values and to the growth of these values within human society on both the national and the international levels.

The personal misfortunes of these dedicated men and women bear witness to a much larger tragedy experienced by a silent and powerless society. Non-scientists can often suffer even greater incursions upon their personal freedom and human rights, but have fewer means of making them known. Basic human rights are not respected in some scientifically and technologically advanced societies. The moral voice and the personal and spiritual sensitivies of scientists and non-scientists alike are at times unheard or simply ignored by those who exercise power.

3. Science, however important, cannot be a substitute for other human activities. Above all it cannot substitute for faith, moral values, art or political science. The contribution that science can make, through its dynamism and its constant reaching out towards truth, is to give inspiration and a richer physical context or vision to other human activities. It can share with them the results it has derived from its continuing investigations of the universal laws of nature. Science can finally lead humanity to bow down before the Creator of the universe, who, from the Christian viewpoint, is revealed as the Redeemer of man.

Today we see here in this programme two examples of a symbiotic relationship, in this case between science and art. The mathematical solutions of the Einstein field equations of general relativity describing the orbits of particles around a gravitationally collapsed object have inspired a sculptor to create an artistic object, while the electromagnetic signals of a pulsar, the compact remnant of a supernova explosion thousands of years ago, have provided the inspiration for a composition of classical music.

4. Apart from your scientific work, what is most significant about this gathering is that scientists representing more than thirty nationalities are here working and discussing together, addressing in fraternal solidarity some of the most challenging and basic questions ever put to the human mind.

No nation can be isolated. No nation can afford the luxury of having other nations do all its thinking for it! Nor should any nation hoard for its own exclusive advantage the rights and contribution of its scientists.

Every nation, no matter how advanced or how small, needs to participate in this work, in this quest, and in this dialogue. Each country, each person, is nourished and ennobled by doing so. And in turn each contributes something very special to the study of these problems from his or her own background, culture and world view. Your individual and collaborative work and thinking manifest in so many ways the extraordinarily rich and precious character of human nature, which is having and will continue to have a crucial impact on the world and on society at large.

Dear friends: be assured of my prayerful interest in your many challenging and important endeavours. May God, the source of all truth, grant you profound insights and abundant wisdom. And may all your achievements contribute to the betterment of society and to the fuller recognition of the dignity of the human person who is created in the image and likeness of God.



Thursday, 27 June 1985

My dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am happy to have this opportunity to greet you and welcome you to the Vatican. Having travelled all the way from Indonesia, from Jakarta, you did not wish to return without meeting the Pope. Let us thank our Lord Jesus Christ who has enabled us to share the mutual joy of this visit.

I pray that your pilgrimage to Rome, especially to the Tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, will increase even more your love for the great gift of Faith, which you received at Baptism. Your whole Christian life is a development of that original gift. May you always bear witness to the spiritual strength which accompanies you as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church.

In your country the Church is a little flock, but also an energetic and hope-filled community united around your pastors and willingly serving the common good and the well-being of your fellow-citizens. In this respect the laity have a specific role to play, and I wish to encourage you to intensify your apostolic activity.

I ask you to take my greetings to your families, and to the whole community, especially to the sick and those in need. To all of you I impart my Apostolic Blessing, in particular to the Xaverian Missionaries accompanying you.

May Almighty God abundantly bless Indonesia!

July 1985




Friday, 5 July 1985

Dear Friends from Iceland,

I am truly happy to have this occasion to welcome you, members of the Iceland Polyphonic Choir and the Camera Orchestra of Reykjavik, to the Vatican.

Your art is a medium which undoubtedly enhances your sensitivity to the most noble human values and sentiments. I am sure, therefore, that your visit to Rome and your contact with the many cultural riches of this City constitute for each one of you a moment of particular joy and an experience that will further strengthen your resolve to place your talents at the service of your fellow human beings.

Many of your performances have a profoundly religious significance. I pray that in all of this you will raise your hearts to the contemplation of the fatherhood of God, whose Providence guides our lives and blesses our endeavours. May the peace of Christ sustain you.

I ask you to take my cordial greetings to each member of your families and to all your fellow citizens. I assure you that Iceland occupies a special place in my affection and prayers.

My God bless you all abundantly!




Saturday, 6 July 1985

Dear Friends,

1. Offer very cordial greetings to the participants in the Vatican Conference on Cosmology. In this year which marks the Fiftieth Anniversary of scientific research at the Specola Vaticana, I would like to take this occasion to extend my heartfelt congratulations and best wishes to Father Coyne and the entire staff of the Observatory. Please know that your diligent work, especially in the field of astrophysics, together with your ecclesial dedication, bears splendid witness to the Church’s profound interest in the world of science and particularly in the men and women engaged in scientific research.

I warmly greet the observational astronomers and the theorists in gravitational physics and cosmology who have accepted the invitation to take part in this important meeting. It is a joy to welcome you today, together with the members of your families.

2. Through the natural sciences, and cosmology in particular, we have become much more aware of our true physical position within the universe, within physical reality - in space and in time. We are struck very forcibly by our smallness and apparent insignificance, and even more by our vulnerability in such a vast and seemingly hostile environment. Yet this universe of ours, this galaxy in which our sun is situated and this planet on which we live, is our home. And all of it in some way or other serves to support us, nourish us, fascinate us, inspire us, taking us out of ourselves and forcing us to look far beyond the limits of our unaided vision. What we discover through our study of nature and of the universe in all its immensity and rich variety serves on the one hand to emphasize our fragile condition and our littleness, and on the other hand to manifest clearly our greatness and superiority in the midst of all creation - the profoundly exalted position we enjoy in being able to search, to imagine and to discover so much. We are made in the image and likeness of God. Thus, we are capable of knowing and understanding more and more about the universe and all that it contains. We can reach out and grasp its inner workings and designs, plumbing its depths with questioning reverence and with awestruck imagination.

3. This Conference, I have been told, has as one of its principal focuses the determination of the inherent limitations of cosmology’s competency and its observational verifiability - the limits in principle and in practice of the scientific verification of its theoretical products. With a gradual and constant growth in humble self-knowledge, we are able to avoid the extremes of an inflated evaluation of our own abilities and capacities or a disparagingly narrow and superficial one. And that is true of any disciple or field of study. A sound appreciation of both our limitations and strong points enables us to plan our projects carefully, to maintain proper relationships with the material, personal and divine realities, and to become ever more sensitive to all the valuable information which is available to us through modern science.

4. The more we know about physical reality, about the history and structure of the universe, about the fundamental make-up of matter and the processes and patterns which at the roots of the material world, the more we can appreciate the immensity of the mystery of God, the more we are in a position to grasp the mystery of ourselves - our origin and our destiny. For creation, as we have come to know it, speaks to us in fragmentary yet very true reflections of the God who created it and maintains it in existence. Of course, that picture must always remain tantalizingly incomplete. For certain aspects of our lives rise above and move beyond the material dimension and, while having deep roots in the material, surpass the understanding which the natural sciences are capable of providing. They draw our attention to the realm of the Spirit. The human creations of art and poetry, our longing for justice and peace and for wholeness, indeed all genuine human experience, lead us to recognize that there is an interiority in the universe and particularly in human life, an interiority which cannot simply be reduced to the features of reality which the physical and natural sciences are concerned with. There are certainly important and essential contributions to be made by the sciences, directly and indirectly, to these more interior or spiritual characteristics of reality. Indeed such contributions must be made, but their investigation and study demands other complementary methods and disciplines such as those provided by the arts, the humanities, philosophy and theology. These in turn must become aware of their own essential competencies and limitations.

5. Much of what modern astronomy and cosmology investigate does not find direct application via technology. Yet it makes a vitally important contribution. For it helps us, at the very least, to put ourselves and everything else into a larger perspective, encouraging us to move beyond our own narrow and selfish concerns. Our view of ourselves, of God and of the universe is radically different from that of people in the Middle Ages. We see ourselves situated in a much larger context - in a much more vast and much more intricately, even delicately, complex world and universe.

For the first time we have seen ourselves from outside - from the Moon, and from other vantage points in our solar system. And with that startling perspective, we realize that we must be more responsible for ourselves, our neighbours, our institutions, and our planet, whatever may be our nation, religion or political stance. We realize ever more deeply our smallness and our frailty, but at the same time our grandeur. We feel more inclined to say together with the Psalmist of the Old Testament: “The heavens proclaim the glory of God and the firmament shows forth the work of his hands” (Ps 19,1 Ps 19,

Speeches 1985 - The Hague