Speeches 1989 - Iceland's National Shrine, Thingvellir






Airport of Reykjavik-Keflavik

Sunday, 4 June 1989

Dear Friends,

1. As I prepare to leave Iceland, I wish to express once again my gratitude for the gracious hospitality which you have extended to me. I am particularly grateful to Her Excellency the President, the Prime Minister and the other civil authorities for all their help in making this visit possible. It is my heartfelt prayer that my pastoral journey may serve as a stimulus to a renewed spiritual vigour for all Iceland’s people.

2. During my stay I have borne witness to the message of God’s love as revealed in Jesus Christ. I have sought to confirm my Catholic brothers and sisters in the faith, and I have lifted up my heart in prayer together with many others who believe in Christ. In all that has been said and done, I have recalled the evangelical values that Christians hold in common and offer to mankind. We are firmly convinced that those values are a beacon of hope for a world that increasingly longs to know true peace and authentic human fulfilment.

Anchored in the message of the Gospel, Christian values form an integral part of Iceland’s culture and spiritual heritage.Throughout your history, you have grown in unity as a people through your shared belief in the dignity of each human person, in the respect which is due to human life, and in the nobility of the human soul in its quest for peace. Likewise, you have sought to promote those values within the family circle, among your youth, and in civic life. The modern Republic of Iceland was founded upon those values, and your continued well-being as a society depends upon the extent to which they do not cease to offer you inspiration for the future.

3. Dear friends: as I leave Iceland, I am grateful for the many ways in which I myself have experienced Iceland’s spiritual riches. The strong faith and ready love of my Catholic brothers and sisters made me feel fully at home among the members of the household of God (Cfr. Eph Ep 2,19). The warmth of the welcome which I received from my Lutheran brothers and sisters at Thingvellir served as a vivid reminder not only of the great common heritage that we continue to share as Christians, but also of the power of the Holy Spirit, who even now urges us all to a deeper unity in the fellowship of faith and love. From all of Iceland’s people, from those who believe and those who profess no belief, I was shown respect and given a hearing that bespoke a hospitality that comes from the heart.

4. I thank God for all that I have received from you, and I pray that the message which I have brought will help all of you to discover greater happiness, peace and fulfilment. The many blessings which God has poured out upon Iceland in the past are a pledge for the future well-being of your country and her people. In him who is the author of peace and the source of all goodness, may you come to a clearer understanding of yourselves, your nation, and the calling which you have received within the larger community of the nations. As you work for peace in your own hearts, in your families, and in your Churches and communities, may you continue to know the abiding strength and lofty vision which faith alone can give.

May God bless Iceland and all her people!







Presidential Palace, Helsinki

Sunday, 4 June 1989

Mr President,
Distinguished Members of Government,
Ladies and Gentlement

1. As I begin my pastoral visit to Finland, I wish to express my gratitude for this meeting. In greeting you, President Koivisto, and the members of the Government, I wish to greet all the people of Finland with warmth and affection. I have looked forward to this visit, far I am very conscious of the bonds which have long existed between your nation and the Holy See. My first wish for Finland and her people is expressed simply in these words of the Psalmist: “May... peace be within your walls, and security within your towers!” (Ps 122,7).

In coming to Finland, I have come to a people well known for their independence and dedication to the cause of international peace.Your commitment to peace and the self-determination of peoples is strong, for it has long been tested in the crucible of suffering. The struggle to maintain Finland’s independence has left its mark not only in the memories of hardships once endured for the sake of freedom, but also in the determination and tenacity with which you have built up a modern and prosperous society in the wake of devastation and war. The strength of Finland does not derive from her material prosperity, but from a firm and enduring confidence in the ideals which have guided you through the events of your history.

It is that spiritual wealth which I would recall today. In a world which yearns to free itself from the spectre of war and long-enduring hostility between nations, Finland has an experience to share. Your struggles for independence and self-determination in this century have helped to forge your character as a people. Fidelity to the ideals which guided those struggles is the key not only to Finland’s continuing growth as a people, but also to her future contributions to the community of the nations.

2. As you know, Mr President, the Holy See was among the first within the international community to recognize the independence of Finland. Later, at the height of the Second World War, the Holy See and the Republic of Finland came to establish official diplomatic relations. The intervening years have further consolidated our good relations and our effective collaboration in the pursuit of an international order more solidly based upon justice, peace and an authentic development of peoples. It is my deep hope, Mr President, that these efforts may further promote the good of all individuals, of all nations and peoples.

The presence of the Holy See within the international community points to the fundamental importance of the spiritual values which inspire and undergird all genuine efforts to advance the cause of peace and respect for human dignity. In addition to her diplomatic efforts, Finland bears witness to those same values in a notable way through her contributions to the world of the arts and letters, and to the development of the sciences. This active and valuable presence has enlarged your appreciation of the human spirit, and has thus served to promote greater understanding among peoples. In this context, I am pleased to recall the close relationship which exists between the Finnish Institute in Rome and the Vatican. I trust that such cooperation will continue to result in fruitful exchanges and to advance both our knowledge of the past as well as our love for the treasures of art which people of every age have produced.

3. My pastoral visit is motivated by my desire, as Bishop of Rome, to strengthen the bonds of ecclesial communion which unite Finland’s Catholics with the Apostolic See. My ministry commits me to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to exercise a pastoral concern for all the Churches (Cfr. 2Cor 2Co 11,28). My desire is to be instrumental in deepening the faith of Finland’s Catholics, that they may grow in their knowledge of the hope to which Christ has called them, the riches of his glorious inheritance and the immeasurable greatness of his power in those who believe (Cfr. Eph Ep 1,18-19).

Tomorrow, in the Cathedral of Turku, I will join in an ecumenical service of prayer for the unity of all Christians. This too is a significant part of my pilgrimage to Finland. The ecumenical movement, which seeks to overcome all divisions among those who believe in Christ, is truly a sign of God’s grace at work in our time. I am grateful to my fellow Christians, my brothers and sisters in the Lord, for the kind invitation to pray with them at the tomb of Saint Henrik. I would hope that the fellowship that has grown between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran and Orthodox Churches here may be further strengthened by this pastoral visit.

As a friend of Finland, I have come to all her people, to believers and to non-believers alike. The message which I bring, the Gospel which I have been charged to preach, is intended to touch the hearts of all men and women. It has the power to awaken and enliven all that is noble in the human spirit, and to point the way to a world of authentic peace and true progress. For centuries, it has formed the vision and the conscience of the Finnish people. In our own days, it can offer a sure guide to those who seek the truth and long to build a society characterized by justice, harmony and universal solidarity.

4. Mr President, distinguished ladies and gentlemen: on the occasion of this first visit of a Bishop of Rome to Finland. I make it my prayer that the good relations existing between your country and the Holy See will continue to grow in the years ahead. May your efforts to build a more humane society and to provide for the well-being of all your people be ever rooted in the lofty moral and social principles that are part of Finland’s most precious heritage.

May Almighty God, the author of peace and the source of all good, bless Finland and all her people with his enduring peace.

Jumala siunatkoon Suomea. Jumala siunatkoon teitä kaikkia.






Lutheran Cathedral of Turku

Monday, 5 June 1989

“You did not choose, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (Jn 15,16).

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. These words of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ remind us that our discipleship is a gift, it is a work of grace. The spiritual fruitfulness of our lives is the result of a commission that we have received from the Lord, in whom we abide as branches of the vine, and apart from whom we can do nothing (Cfr. ibid. 15, 5).

Today, in this ancient Cathedral of Turku, we have gathered together as disciples of Christ in order to glorify the Father in the Holy Spirit. It is a joyful occasion, for in our midst we recognize the presence of the Risen Lord who promised us that wherever two or three are gathered in his name, he is there in their midst (Cfr. Matth Mt 18,20). It is also an occasion for us to reflect on his prayer that we, his disciples, “may all be one... so that the world may believe” (Jn 17,21). This constitutes a special challenge, for as we listen to the Lord’s words, we are reminded that his disciples throughout the world are not one. Despite the prayer which Jesus made on our behalf, we remain divided in many ways, and continue to bear the burdens of many centuries of separation and hostility. Yet Christ, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Cfr. Hebr. 12, 2), has not abandoned us. We know that even now he lives to make intercession for us (Cfr. ibid. 7, 25), and his will, that we may all be one, continually challenges his Church on her pilgrim way through history.

If, as his disciples, we are to do the Lord’s will and thus glorify the Father, we must work together to tear down the barriers which have long separated us. We must seek to resolve the issues which have divided us, and grow together, as branches of the one vine, in the life we have received from Christ.

2. Today, in Turku, I give thanks to Christ for this ecumenical meeting, and for the growing fellowship among his disciples which it symbolizes. As your guest, I am especially pleased to share this moment of common prayer with you. I am deeply grateful to you, Archbishop Vikström, for your kind invitation, and to all of you, my brothers and sisters in the Lord, for the warm welcome you have given me.

In these last decades, important progress has been made in doctrinal discussion and in pastoral collaboration among Christians. On an even deeper level, we have also witnessed a growing awareness of those elements of the apostolic heritage which, despite our divisions, we still hold in common. These cherished elements of our common heritage should inspire us to “lay aside every weight and sin... and run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Hebr. 12, 1). They help us recognize that what we share comes as a gift of God to those whom he has called to be one. It is in this context, on this first visit of a Bishop of Rome to Finland, that I wish to speak to you about the papal ministry which I have received, and which I exercise within that communion which is the universal Catholic Church (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 23).

3. Who am I? Like all of you, I am a Christian, and in Baptism I received the grace that unites me with Jesus Christ our Lord. Through Baptism I am your brother in Christ.

In addition, and without any merit on my part, I was called to the priesthood and ordained for the ministry of the word, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and the forgiveness of sins. Later, in my native Poland, I was ordained a bishop and received the call to exercise the fullness of the priesthood in the pastoral care of God’s people. Finally, God’s design has been for me to be charged with the special ministry of the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, in whom – according to Catholic teaching – the Lord instituted “a permanent and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and fellowship” (Ibid. 18).

The faith of the Catholic Church sees the ministry of the Pope as the permanence of the ministry of Peter. My office as Bishop of Rome demands that I be concerned with both the local Church of Rome and with the Church universal. In a special way, I have inherited the “care for all the Churches” of which Saint Paul spoke (Cfr. 2Cor 2Co 11,28), and I rely upon the grace of Christ to sustain me in my task.

As the Successor of Peter, I preach no other message but the Gospel, the good news of God’s love as revealed in the words of Jesus Christ: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love” (Jn 15,9). I proclaim the name of Jesus Christ, “the leader and perfecter of our faith” (Hebr. 12, 2). I bear witness that for our sake, Christ endured the Cross and left us his example lest we become weary or fainthearted (Cfr. ibid. 12, 2-3).

4. As the Successor of Peter, I am also bound to work for the unity of all Christ’s disciples. While Christians remain divided on many important points, we can all agree that the quest for Christian unity must be rooted primarily in Christ. Jesus himself said: “I am the vine and you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him, he it is who bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15,5). The point of reference for all Churches and Ecclesial Communities is our Lord Jesus Christ and the apostolic Church which he founded, that community of disciples which he brought into being during and immediately after his earthly life. For the Catholic Church unconditional fidelity to the will of Christ as it appears in the Apostolic Church and its Tradition constitutes the very ground of our existence.

Because ecumenism seeks unity in Christ through the Holy Spirit to the glory of the Father it must also be founded upon prayer.In this connection, Archbishop Vikström, I recall the occasion when, in January 1985, along with the late Archbishop Paavali of the Orthodox Church in Finland and Bishop Verschuren of the Catholic Church, you visited me in Rome. You came to inaugurate a chapel in the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva for the use of the Finnish people of various Churches who live in Rome. That was a very tangible display of the value of ecumenical prayer in common.

5. The presence at the Second Vatican Council of observers from other Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities, such as the Lutheran World Federation, gave great impetus to the ecumenical relations which have developed since then. Besides the importance of prayer, the Council taught the significance of personal conversion of mind and heart, as well as renewal in the Church itself for the fostering of Christian unity (Cfr. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 6-8). It asked for a renewal with regard to the preaching of the word of God, catechetics, liturgical reform, the apostolate of the laity and many other areas of ecclesial life. This renewal has had important implications for the internal life of the Catholic Church. It brought the mystery of the Church to the forefront of our attention, and in this way it has strengthened our resolve to travel the road to the unity of all Christians.

The unity which we seek can only be based on unity of faith. Theological dialogue, wherein each can speak to the other on an equal footing (Cfr. ibid. 9), remains indispensable to the pursuit of communion in faith in fidelity to the Apostolic Tradition. Here, I would like to say a word of appreciation for the work of both the International Lutheran/Catholic Dialogue and the International Orthodox/Catholic Dialogue. Both commissions have produced significant statements. At the proper time these statements need to be studied by the Churches themselves, in order to see how far the dialogues have taken us towards unity in faith. In the meantime, my hope is that research will continue, and will focus more and more upon the reality of the Church itself. The goal for which we are striving is impossible for man alone, but for him who prays in obedience to the words of the Lord, nothing is impossible.

In speaking of dialogue, may I take the opportunity to express gratitude to the Lutheran Church of Finland for the ecumenical openness it has shown in this regard. I have been told of the importance of its dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church and its dialogue with some Finnish Protestant communities. I express gratitude as well to the Orthodox Church of Finland for the generosity with which it hosted the Orthodox/Catholic international dialogue held in 1988 in this country, in the monastery of New Valamo. All of these efforts, we can hope, will lead one day to the sharing of the Apostolic Tradition in its fullness by all Christians.

6. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will and it shall be done for you” (Jn 15,7). Dear brothers and sisters in Christ: if we remain faithful to the Lord’s will, and abide in him, there is no division that his grace cannot heal, no obstacle that his love cannot overcome. May we always be guided by his Holy Spirit, that all who believe in him may be truly one, and that the Father will be glorified in our bearing much fruit. Amen.







Finlandia Hall, Helsinki

Monday, 5 June 1989

Mr President,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I would like to thank you, Mr President, far your kind words of welcome. I am happy to greet all of you, the members of this prestigious Paasikivi Association, as well as the diplomats and distinguished personalities who honour this meeting with their presence. My coming to this Finlandia Hall, in acceptance of your cordial invitation, is intended to manifest once again the Holy See’s strong support for the process which was set in motion in this very place on 1 August 1975 at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The Helsinki Final Act, signed by the nations of Europe, together with Canada and the United States, must be considered as one of the most significant of the instruments of international dialogue. On that occasion all of the thirty-five signatory countries came to an agreement on one basic fact, namely, that peace is not ensured when arms fall silent; rather, peace is the result of cooperation between both individuals on the one hand and societies themselves, and the result of respect for certain ethical imperatives.

The famous “ten principles” which preface the Helsinki Final Act constitute the basis upon which the peoples of Europe, having been the victims of so many wars and divisions, now wish to consolidate and preserve peace, so that future generations may be able to live in harmony and security.

2. The authors of the Final Act clearly realized that peace would be very precarious without cooperation between nations and between individuals, without a better quality of life, and without the promotion of the values which Europeans hold in common. This is why, among the ten principles, the seventh speaks of “respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief”. In addition, in the third paragraph adopted at the initiative of the Holy See, one reads that the participating States, and I quote: “recognize and respect the freedom of the individual to profess and practise, alone or in community with others, religion or belief, acting in accordance with the dictates of one’s own conscience”.

By thus placing respect for religious freedom among the foundations of peace in Europe, the Final Act not only remained faithful to the European spiritual heritage, impregnated from its origins with the Christian message, but reflected a convinction of the Catholic Church – and of many other believers – that the right of individuals and communities to social and civil freedom in matters of religion is one of the pillars which support the edifice of human rights.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen: at the Helsinki Conference, the negotiators upheld the principle that believers who feel discriminated against because of their faith, or who fear adverse reactions when they practise that faith, cannot share fully in the construction of the society in which they live. When basic human rights and freedoms are repressed, the social harmony of an entire nation is in some way disturbed. As a result, the work of peace is hindered.

But the authors of the Final Act also grasped another dimension of religious freedom, one on which the Holy See’s Delegation did not fail to insist when the occasion demanded: the “social” dimension of religious practice. Over and above freedom of “worship”, membership in a community of faith presupposes contacts and meetings between people professing the same belief. It is in the light of this thought that one should read the following paragraph of the third “basket”, devoted to human contacts: the signatories “confirm that religious faiths, institutions and organizations, practising within the constitutional framework of the participating States, and their representatives can, in the field of their activities, have contacts and meetings among themselves and exchange information”.

3. I wish to note that in pleading for an ever more effective freedom of religious practice of this kind, the Holy See always took account of the opinion of other Christian and non-Christian denominations. There was no lack of consultation, and many spiritual families apart from the Catholic Church expressed their support for this way of approaching the question. They also actively ensured that the ideas developed during the consultations in Helsinki and Geneva would find a favourable reaction among the leaders of their countries.

During the many follow-up meetings in the wake of the Helsinki Accord, the Holy See has always taken care to demonstrate to all Delegates how much the free and effective exercise of religion contributes to the strengthening of security and cooperation between peoples, and to identify regrettable cases of the total denial of religious freedom to communities of Eastern Rite Catholics, who have lost even the right to exist within the new post-War political and juridical structures.

In the light of the gap between the stated principles and the grave hindrances faced by some communities of believers in Europe, I thought it appropriate, a few months before the beginning of the Second Follow-up Meeting in Madrid, to write to the Heads of State of all the signatory countries of the Final Act. It was a question of helping the negotiators to define religious freedom more accurately, to consider it in all its dimensions, and especially to highlight the contribution which religious freedom can make to maintaining peace and cooperation between peoples. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am pleased to say that some of these distinguished Heads of State not only were kind enough to reply but also expressed their agreement with the tenor of my message. That message was in harmony with the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom, which clearly states that a proper application of the principle of religious freedom also helps to educate citizens to recognize the demands of the moral order and consequently “govern their activities with a sense of responsibility, and strive after what is true and right, willing always to join with others in cooperative effort” (Dignitatis Humanae DH 8).

As you will recall, in Madrid it proved possible to include in the closing Document the following paragraph: “The participating States reaffirm that they will recognize, respect and furthermore agree to take the action necessary to ensure the freedom of the individual to profess and practise, alone or in community with others, religion or belief acting in accordance with the dictates of his own conscience. In this context, they will consult, whenever necessary, the religious faiths, institutions and organizations, which act within the constitutional framework of their respective countries”. Such consultations are always beneficial, and I considered it appropriate to propose them, as some will remember, when I visited the Headquarters of the United Nations on 2 October 1979.

The Madrid Document also discusses the granting of appropriate legal status to religious faiths, institutions and organizations which request it and which are prepared to practise their faith within the relevant constitutional framework. It affirms that the States are determined to facilitate activity and contacts between communities and their representatives in the sphere of their spiritual activity. This subject was dealt with more specifically at a Meeting of Experts on Contacts between People, held in Berne in 1983.

It is comforting to be able to state that certain ideas have made headway, in spite of the serious difficulties which still exist in some countries. I am thinking especially of those Catholic communities forced to live an underground existence; of young people discriminated against in their studies or careers because of their religious beliefs; and of dioceses deprived of their bishops. Fortunately, at least at the level of principles, progress was made at the Ottawa Meeting in 1985, devoted to the subject of human rights, and at the debates within the Cultural Forum that same year in Budapest.

4. When, in November 1986, the third great Follow-up Meeting of the Conference opened in Vienna, it was clear that most of the Delegations would not be satisfied with a rewriting of the Final Act of the Madrid Document. They were looking for a qualitative leap forward: an exact text, with concrete commitments. Public opinion had come to accept that the Helsinki process was not meant merely to consolidate principles but to remedy situations which could not be justified.

In the sphere of freedom of conscience and religion, the negotiators started out from two premises. The first was that the Constitutions of all the countries represented did guarantee their citizens religious freedom. The second was that in practice this is the fundamental freedom most frequently violated.

As you know, this was the beginning of what was surely the most fruitful debate on religious freedom within the Conference. For months, the Delegations were able to explain how their Governments were putting into practice the undertakings assumed in Helsinki and Madrid. For its part, the Holy See’s Delegation was able to provide explanations and occasionally correct certain overoptimistic evaluations of the facts. It is striking to note the interest aroused by the subject. Four “propositions” were put forward by different groups of countries – including the Holy See – in view of drawing up the concluding document.

You are already familiar with the text which was adopted in Vienna last January. From many points of view, and specifically in the area which is our concern here, it represents significant progress. The perseverance of the negotiators and certain positive developments in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe had made this satisfying result possible.

We find in the Vienna Document a series of measures aimed at ensuring a freer exercise of religious freedom. I will merely give a brief indication of the most important provisions;

– free access to places of worship;
– the right of communities to organize themselves in accordance with their own hierarchical structure;
– a readiness to enter into consultations with religious faiths and organizations in order to gain a better understanding of their requirements;
– the right to give and receive religious education;
– the right to obtain, possess and use religious materials needed for the practice of religion;
– access of believers to the communications media;
– the possibility for believers and communities to maintain direct contacts with one another, both at home and abroad.

These are the concrete measures adopted by the leaders of thirty-five nations and for which they will have to answer to their citizens. In fact, herein lies the originality of the Final Act and of the Madrid and Vienna Documents: those who approve them assume a certain number of obligations not only with respect to other States but also vis-à-vis their own citizens, whom these documents recognize as having well-defined rights.

It can thus be said that the way in which these commitments are applied and put into practice will constitute a “test” of development or of stagnation. Some countries will even have to modify their legislation on religious freedom in order to bring it into line with these texts. In fact, the Vienna Document specifies that participating States must take steps to ensure that their laws and policies actually correspond to the measures adopted within the framework of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Cfr, Principles, n. 3). Verification procedures in the sphere of human rights were adopted in Vienna, which will make it possible to exercise even greater vigilance in the future. A contribution to this question is expected from the Meeting on the human dimension of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, now taking place in Paris.

5. Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen: I have outlined the major development of the last fourteen years within the framework of the Conference regarding the subject of religious freedom. In a sense one can say that the ever open “channel” constituted by the Helsinki process has enabled the “forces of the spirit” to anticipate to a certain extent the political détente which we have been witnessing in recent months. The ideas patiently sown here have matured. We must thank all those who have helped this slow process from which we dare to expect much more abundant fruit!

Religious freedom has become a common theme within the context of international affairs. The subject has become part of the culture of our times, for our contemporaries have learned from the excesses of the recent past, and have come to realize that believing in God, practising a religion and joining with others in expressing one’s faith is the special expression of that freedom of thought and expression which takes its source not from a concession granted by the State but from the very dignity of the human person.

Certainly more complete formulas could be found and less legal restrictions might be hoped for. At least for the present, though, the rule of consensus within the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, as well as ideological differences, make it impossible to obtain totally satisfying results.

In any event, the developments of these recent years, and the progress made in drawing up the various texts issued by the Conference, show ever more clearly that religious freedom can exist in various social systems. What the Churches ask for is that religious life should not be denied the freedom it needs. What the State owes itself to guarantee, as the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom clearly indicated, is the protection of this freedom for all its citizens, by means of just laws and by ensuring favourable conditions for the development of their religious life (Dignitatis Humanae DH 6). The idea that religion is a form of alienation is no longer fashionable, because, fortunately, the leaders of the nations and people themselves have come to realize that believers constitute a powerful factor in favour of the common good. Hatred and fanaticism can find no justification among those who call God “our Father”. Who in fact could deny that the commandment of charity, forgiveness of offences, a sense of duty, concern for the neglected – all of which is at the heart of the message of many spiritual families – constitute a priceless asset for society? At any rate, these are among the values which Christians have to offer, as their specific contribution to public and international life. Moreover, from the very fact that they come from all social classes, cultures and nations, the members of religious denominations constitute an effective force for union and cooperation between people.

6. Let us help Europe to discover its roots, to become more closely identified with its past. For religious life is not threatened merely by vexing restrictions; it can also be threatened by the spread of false values – such as hedonism, power seeking, greed – which are making headway in various countries and which in practice stifle the spiritual aspirations of large numbers of people. This is why it is vital for believers to be able to share freely in public debate, and thus put forward another view of the world – the one inspired by their faith. In this way they contribute to the moral uplift of the society in which they live. European nations have become more and more aware that the honest confrontation of ideas and convictions has been an indispensable condition for their over-all development. For this reason, Europe and the world can rightly expect from religions an effective contribution to the search for peace.

In Helsinki, a city geographically situated at the crossroads of so many human currents, the parties to the Final Act decided to ensure that the peoples of Europe should learn the lessons of their past and commit themselves to greater unity as the year two thousand approaches. The world is looking to this continent, which still has such great potential and which will be, I am sure, as ready in the future as in the past to share with the rest of the world the values that have shaped it.

Mr President, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen: it is with this ardent hope, expressed also in prayer, that I leave you. But before I conclude, permit me to say that in the noble task of carrying on the Helsinki process, the Catholic Church will not fail to go forward with you, side by side, in that discreet manner which befits her religious mission. She is convinced of the validity of the ideal embodied here fourteen years ago in a document which for millions of Europeans is more than a Final Act: it is an “act of hope”!

Speeches 1989 - Iceland's National Shrine, Thingvellir