Speeches 1990 - Consistory Hall




Consistory Hall

Thursday, 6 December 1990

Your Eminences,
Your Excellencies,
Distinguished Visitors,

1. As Delegates of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations and Members of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, you have come together to commemorate the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the Second Vatican Councilís Declaration "Nostra Aetate". In effect, what you are celebrating is nothing other than the divine mercy which is guiding Christians and Jews to mutual awareness, respect, cooperation and solidarity. Conscious of our sharing in the same hope and promises made to Abraham and to his descendants, I am indeed pleased to welcome you in this house! "Baruch ha-ba be-Shem Adonai!": "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" (Ps 119 [118]:26).

2. The brief but significant Document "Nostra Aetate" occupied an important place in the work of the Council. After a quarter of a century it has lost none of its vigour. The strength of the Document and its abiding interest derive from the fact that it speaks to all peoples and about all peoples from a religious perspective, a perspective which is the deepest and most mysterious of the many dimensions of the human person, the image of the Creator (Cf. Gen. Gn 1,26).

The universal openness of "Nostra Aetate", however, is anchored in and takes its orientation from a high sense of the absolute singularity of Godís choice of a particular people, "His own" people, Israel according to the flesh, already called "Godís Church" (Lumen Gentium LG 9 cf. Ne. Ne 13,1 Nb 20,4 Dt 23,1 ff. ). Thus the Churchís reflection on her mission and on her very nature is intrinsically linked with her reflection on the stock of Abraham and on the nature of the Jewish people (Cf. Nostra Aetate NAE 4). The Church is fully aware that Sacred Scripture bears witness that the Jewish people, this community of faith and custodian of a tradition thousands of years old, is an intimate part of the "mystery" of revelation and of salvation. In our own times many Catholic writers have spoken of that "mystery" which is the Jewish people: among them Geremia Bonomelli, Jacques Maritain and Thomas Merton.

The Church therefore, particularly through her Biblical scholars and theologians, but also through the work of other writers, artists and catechists, continues to reflect upon and express more thoroughly her own thinking on the mystery of this people. I am happy that the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews is intensely promoting study on this theme in a theological and exegetical context.

3. When we consider Jewish tradition we see how profoundly you venerate Sacred Scripture, the Migra, and in particular the Torah. You live in a special relationship with the Torah, the living teaching of the living God. You study it with love in the Talmud Torah, so as to put it into practice with joy. Its teaching on love, on justice and on the law is reiterated in the Prophets - Neviíim, and in the Ketuvim. God, his holy Torah, the synagogal liturgy and family traditions, the Land of holiness, are surely what characterize your people from the religious point of view. And these are things that constitute the foundation of our dialogue and of our cooperation.

At the centre of the Holy Land, almost as its hallowed heart, lies Jerusalem. It is a City holy to three great religions, to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Its very name evokes peace. I should like you to join in praying daily for peace, justice and respect for the fundamental human and religious rights of the three peoples, the three communities of faith who inhabit that beloved Land.

4. No dialogue between Christians and Jews can overlook the painful and terrible experience of the Shoah.During the meeting at Prague in September of this year, the Jewish-Catholic International Liaison Committee considered at length the religious and historical dimensions of the Shoah and of anti-Semitism, and came to conclusions that are of great importance for the continuation of our dialogue and cooperation. It is my hope that these may be widely recognized and that the recommendations then formulated will be implemented wherever human and religious rights are violated.

May God grant that the commemoration of the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of "Nostra Aetate" will bring fresh results of spiritual and moral renewal for us and for the world. May it bring above all the fruit of cooperation in promoting justice and peace. In the Babylonian Talmud we read: "The world stands upon the single column that is the just man" (Hagigah, 12b). In the Gospel, Jesus Christ tells us that blessed are the peacemakers (Cf. Matt. Mt 5,9). May justice and peace fill our hearts and guide our steps towards the fullness of redemption for all peoples and for the whole universe. May God hear our prayers!




Saturday, 15 December 1990

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. This is the third time during my Pontificate that we meet on the occasion of your ad Limina visit as Pastors of the Church in Taiwan. Your presence here is truly a cause of joy and hope. The joy stems from the vision of our heavenly Fatherís unfailing love made manifest in your particular Churches, of the Catholic faithfulís intense communion with the Successor of Peter, "the permanent and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and fellowship" (Lumen Gentium LG 18), of the numerous works of education, assistance and health-care carried out in your Dioceses. Hope springs from your determination to continue to bear vigorous witness of faith and communion with the universal Church in the midst of the great Chinese family, which is very close to my heart. Through you I greet the priests, religious and laity of your Dioceses: "I give thanks to God always for you because of the Grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus" (1Co 1,4).

2. By seeking ever greater union and understanding among themselves, Bishops play an essential part in building up and safeguarding the communion of the universal Church, "a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" (Cf. Lumen Gentium LG 4). That communion is above all a spiritual reality and it stems from our sharing, through the work of the Holy Spirit, in the gifts which the Father bestows on those who believe in the Son. It is enriched by the diversity of peoples and their various cultures, who through Baptism are incorporated into Christ, "the light of the world, from whom we go forth, through whom we live, and towards whom our journey leads us" (Ibid., 3). In union with Christ and at the service of Church unity, the Catholic community of Taiwan has a specific calling to ensure that the Gospel message of salvation will be ever more clearly proclaimed and made known in and through the treasures of your own Chinese culture.

The Church in your Region has a distinct history of its own. Its presence goes back to the seventeenth century, but it is in the past forty years that the Catholic community assumed its present form, born under the sign of the Cross, in the hope of the resurrection to come. In this special situation, what are the priorities of your episcopal ministry within your own society? Undoubtedly these priorities amount to two fundamental endeavors: the spiritual renewal of your particular Churches, and the great task of evangelization and missionary expansion.

3. These are the same goals which you set yourselves in the Symposium on Evangelization which you celebrated in February 1988, in response to the need to give fresh impulse to the missionary character of your communities. That ecclesial event ought to be a continuing point of reference for the life and activity of the priests, religious and laity of your Dioceses, and for the institutions through which the Churchís mission is fulfilled. At the time of your Symposium I wrote that you had two challenges before you: one pastoral or ad intra, and the other missionary or ad extra (Cf. John Paul II, Address to the Members of the Chinese Regional Episcopal Conference). Now as then, these intimately connected goals are dependent on your "seeking a spiritual and organizational renewal of those forces already at work among you, and fostering the emergence of new pastoral programs and energies which are designed, among other goals, to sanctify the family and consolidate the local Church in union with the universal Church" (Ibid.). These objectives call for your continuing attention, and the concerted and generous effort of all involved.

The spiritual renewal to which the Holy Spirit called the whole People of God through the Second Vatican Council remains the principal task of each particular Church as we prepare to enter the third Christian Millennium. The Representatives of the Asian Bishops gathered at Bandung in July of this year urged the promotion in Asia of "the spirituality of those who place their complete trust in the Lord". They described this spirituality as an emphasis on renunciation and simplicity, compassion for and solidarity with all, especially with the poor. Its characteristic virtues would be meekness and humility, a deep sense of harmony, intimate communion with God, docility to his Spirit. As the Asian Bishops themselves indicated, such spirituality cannot but appear as a living proclamation of Jesus, the Lord and Savior, unequivocal in its meaning, powerful and far-reaching in its impact (Cf. Final Statement, 9. 7).

4. When Jesus Christ is known and loved, there necessarily follows a deep sense of mission.Individuals and groups are then more aware that they have received a divine gift which is not merely to be preserved; it must be shared (Cf. Matt. Mt 25,26-27). When a particular Church strives to be faithful to the Lord, the conviction is clear and fully accepted that one and all must be prepared to make a defense to those who call them to account for the hope that is in them (Cf. 1P 3,15). Without exception, every follower of Christ is called to be an apostle of the word of life and of the truths and values of the kingdom. And the first and fundamental work of the apostle is the witness of life.The urgency of this primary form of apostolate was underlined by Pope Paul VI in "Evangelii Nuntiandi" when he wrote: "Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses" (Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 41). Precisely because the Catholic community of Taiwan is a pusillus grex it is essential that your witness be clear and courageous, so that the Christian message, so vividly expressed in the Beatitudes, may speak effectively to human hearts.

This witness is all the more imperative when pastoral activities which until now have been sustained by numerous men and women missionaries - who have accumulated great merits through their generous labors among you - depend more and more on your local clergy, religious and dedicated lay collaborators. I would encourage you to promote vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life, in particular by giving all possible support to Christian families and by fostering the Catholic identity of the Churchís schools and youth associations. The best of your efforts should also be directed to the appropriate training of future priests and religious, taking those steps that are needed to strengthen the formation programs of your seminaries and religious houses in the light of the many positive insights which have emerged during the recent Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Where Catholics are such a small part of the entire population, foreign missionaries are still urgently needed. At the same time, the process by which many works begun by them are now being run by the local community should signify, with Godís grace, an increase of vitality and an upsurge of fresh energies and new forms of commitment on your part.

5. The faithful of Taiwan must not only preserve what has already been achieved but ought also to be directed to the proclamation of Christ to those who do not yet know him.For these too he is "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14,6). In your society there are many sincere followers of other religious traditions with whom it is important to engage in respectful dialogue on questions of mutual concern. These include the defense of human life and the ethical questions posed by advances in science and technology. They refer to the loss of the sense of purpose and moral commitment that follows from the secularization of society and from a consumerist style of life centered on material well-being as an end in itself. Are there not many of your compatriots who are seeking a higher meaning for their lives, who need to hear the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ? Do they not have a right to hear the truth that will make them free (Cf. Jn. Jn 8,32)?

I wish to encourage you then and to urge you to continue along the path of spiritual and organizational renewal to which your Symposium gave a strong impulse and from which the Church in Taiwan and in the many overseas communities of Chinese origin will draw necessary vigor and direction. "To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfil every good resolve and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him" (2Th 1,11-12).

6. Dear brother Bishops, your visit to the See of Peter makes me think with great affection also of the beloved Catholic community on the Mainland. In your presence, how can I not be deeply moved to thank God for the shining example offered by Bishops, priests, religious and lay men and women during these years? How can I not be filled with joy at the continuing and ever more frequent reports of loyal communion which come from the leaders and members of those communities, who are always mindful of the Pope in their prayers?

These reports speak of the spreading of the Gospel through the hidden and unceasing apostolate of many generous Catholics, of the reopening of churches, seminaries and houses of formation for young people wishing to follow a life of consecration, and of a flourishing of activities at the service of the entire community. Together, let us praise the Lord for all that has been done with a loyal heart and in fidelity to Christ and his Church. It is he who supports, encourages and increases the witness of the faithful, and who surprises us with the never-ending gifts of his grace. I am aware that in this initial blossoming of pastoral life the help of the Churches over which you preside is not lacking. Speaking as it were in the name of the recipients of such fraternal assistance, I wish to thank you for all that you are doing for those who are one with you not only in the faith but also by origin.

At the same time there are reports that sadden my heart as Shepherd of the universal Church The arrests of Bishops, priest and members of the laity, and various other difficulties, lead one to think that, in spite of some positive signs, there is a long way to go before the beloved Catholic community on the Mainland can give full and open expression to its faith and to its ecclesial communion with the Successor of Peter and the Catholic Church spread throughout the world.

7. Close to the tomb of the Apostle Peter, whom the Lord chose as guarantor of the Churchís faith and unity, I feel bound to make a strong and earnest appeal for unity. This call is directed to you who are here present, but also to all those who have generously and loyally accepted the Word who gives life. The text from the Prophet Isaiah which we read in the Eucharistic celebration of last Sunday is an invitation to us to persevere in hope (Cf. Is. Is 40,3-5). It reminds us that at Christmas the glory of the Lord will be made manifest and that "he is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them against his breast" (Ibid., 40:11). The Lord expects us to cooperate in this coming by preparing a way in the wilderness (Cf. Ibid., 40:3). Yes, Brothers, the unity of the Church, including that of the Catholic community on the Mainland, is the fruit of the Lordís infinite mercy. But it also requires the humble, hidden and generous contribution of all concerned. As we prepare for Christmas, let our prayer to the Father be ever more fervent, that the Divine Childís gift to the Church on the Mainland may be the gift of unity.

In our prayer, how can we forget that the path which leads to true unity is the effort of every Chinese believer on behalf of ecclesial reconciliation? A reconciliation, certainly, which must be built on the foundation of the truth of the unrenounceable principles of the Catholic faith, but which must also be sustained by understanding, goodwill, forgiveness, and the dedication of all to the cause of spreading the kingdom of God.

I urge you to be spokesmen of this desire of the Successor of Peter; be untiring and patient builders of reconciliation among the brethren on the Mainland! Tell them that the Pope bears them in his heart and that his prayer is constantly, daily, raised for them to the Giver of all good things and to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

When you return to your own Dioceses, take my blessing to your brothers and sisters, and remind them of the glorious heritage that is theirs as followers of Christ and as sons and daughters of the beloved Chinese family. "May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may (you) be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it (1Th 5,23-24).

Speeches 1990 - Consistory Hall