Speeches 1989 - Monday, 28 August 1989




Monday, 4 September 1989

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. During the course of this year I have already had the pleasure on two occasions of meeting groups of Bishops from the various regions of India. Today I am glad to welcome you, the pastors of the Church in the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Ranchi and Hyderabad, together with some Bishops from other jurisdictions who have arranged to make their ad Limina visit at this time. I greet you with Saint Paul’s wish for the Ephesians: “Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love undying” (Ep 6,24).

2. The general theme of my conversations with the Bishops of India has been that of the Church, the sacrament of our union with God and of the unity and peace of the whole human family. As Bishops you are fully consecrated, especially by reason of the sacramental grace received through the laying on of hands, to loving service of the Body of Christ, the household of the faith, a part of which has been entrusted to your daily care and toil. In speaking to a previous group of Indian Bishops, I already mentioned the need for explicit reference to Christ and to the Church in all pastoral ministry. There can be no ecclesial life or service that is not clearly founded on the supreme grace of Redemption realized in the Saviour’s Paschal Mystery and made present and celebrated in the “sacraments of faith” by which individuals are led to holiness, the Church is built up and God is duly worshipped (Cfr. Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 59).

If today there are those who would restrict or limit the Gospel message to a merely humanitarian action of good neighbourliness or to a work of social “progress”, however necessary and worthy of our concern, it is the Bishops’ task to recall the cry of the great Apostle Paul: “I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1Co 2,1-2). The life of the Church in each of its members and in every community is life in Christ through the Spirit, a life of grace and holiness, nourished by the word of God and sustained by assiduous participation in the sacraments and untiring struggle against temptation and sin, in order that love may prevail. The primary objective of your pastoral ministry as Bishops in each particular Church must be to foster the communion of the faithful with the Most Blessed Trinity.

3. It is clear that the ecclesial community will be better equipped to fulfil the mission which springs from Baptism when its members display a deep and abiding concern for holiness of life and obedience to God. The mystery of communion which makes the Church “a people made one with the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 4) is the source of a dynamic activity which receives its impulse and direction from the Spirit whom Christ sent to guide and sanctify his followers until the end of time. Your evangelizing and missionary activity aims to communicate knowledge and experience of the salvation and freedom brought by Jesus Christ. The words of the First Letter of Saint John are worthy of constant meditation on the part of Bishops and their collaborators: “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us” (1Io. 1, 3). The whole history of the Church from the beginning bears witness to the fact that the Christian presence is above all an unfolding of holiness and virtue, of generous fidelity to God, often to the point of martyrdom.

In order for the Church to exercise her evangelizing role it is necessary for each particular Church to be strengthened and endowed for this task by being herself constantly evangelized. From the inner life of faith, hope and love flow all other aspects of the Church’s life in your country, such as activity in the fields of education and health-care, and service to the poorest as the great sign of Christ’s presence and the authentic expression of the vitality of your Christian communities. In the multicultural and multireligious environment of your country, the ecclesial community has a special calling to promote reconciliation and understanding among people of different backgrounds and to encourage an open and serious reflection on the fundamental ethical and moral issues, old and new, which lie at the heart of society’s duty to identify and serve the common good of all its members. All of this requires a clear sense of our Christian vocation and mission.

4. Today I wish to refer also to the special pastoral responsibility of Bishops for the growth and development of the consecrated life of Religious. “By the charity to which they lead, the evangelical counsels join their followers to the Church and her mystery in a special way” (Lumen Gentium LG 44). For this reason your pastoral service to Religious is an essential component of your ministry as Bishops. Your first obligation in this regard is of course to love and defend this “divine gift which the Church has received from her Lord and which she ever preserves with the help of his grace” (Ibid.43). The pastors of the Church in India cannot but be filled with gratitude for what religious life has meant and now means for the life of the ecclesial community in your country. You cannot but be inspired and edified by the dedication and self-giving of the multitude of men and women religious who bear witness to evangelical living in your midst.

I have been pleased to note that the Conference of Religious of India (CRI) has decided that the theme of its National Assembly to be held in December 1989 is precisely “The role of Religious in Evangelization in the Indian Context”. To the discussion of this theme, Religious will bring the rich heritage of their centuries-old experience of evangelizing in every part of India, among all sectors of the population. In this field men and women religious know that they are not working for themselves, that the ultimate responsibility for the Church’s life and mission rests with the Bishops in union with the Successor of Peter, and that therefore their concern must be to integrate and coordinate their apostolate with that of the Dioceses in which they operate. They know that it is not a question of constantly re-inventing the task of evangelization or of always changing goals and methods, but of wisely and courageously persevering in essentials, while adapting those aspects which, if improved, offer hope of greater benefits.

5. The Bishop’s ministry to the Religious present in his Diocese is of the same nature as his ministry to all God’s people. It is to fulfil the priestly, prophetic and pastoral mission entrusted to him by Christ as a member of the episcopal order. Because Religious belong inseparably to the life and holiness of the Church (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 44), he must exhort them by word and example to remain steadfast in the path of the sequela Christi to which their vows radically commit them. He should find opportunities to break the Eucharistic bread and the bread of the word of life with them, and share moments of their community life in fraternal and ecclesial communion, with respect for the internal life of each community according to its charism and the relevant canonical norms.

A Bishop has a grave responsibility to preach the Gospel and to teach the Catholic way of life to all his people, including men and women religious. He has a right and obligation to ensure that correct doctrine is taught and presented in his Diocese. This involves, where appropriate, the task of presenting a correct theological exposition of Religious Life itself. In this he does not take the place of those responsible for formation in religious communities, but his task is to bear authoritative witness to divine and catholic truth (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 25), and in this way to become a secure point of reference for all the members of the Church as they seek to be identified with Jesus Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

As pastor, it is the Bishop’s duty to lead the particular Church to the fullness of Christian life. This duty is especially urgent in liturgical matters, in the care of souls and in safeguarding the public good of the Church. In all of these areas communication and dialogue with the Religious who serve in your Dioceses are important for the well-being of the ecclesial community and for the unity of pastoral action. In this respect, meetings with the Major Superiors of Religious are a necessary condition of understanding and collaboration, and consequently, the work of the CBCI - CRI Joint Committee deserves your support and encouragement.

6. Dear Brothers: In dealing briefly with the Bishop’s role in relation to Religious Life, my intention is above all to exhort you to make the development of Religious Life one of the great concerns of your individual and collective ministry. In doing so, you will join your Religious in addressing some specific questions such as the importance of promoting an ever greater sense of community and vowed life among Religious themselves, the selection and formation of candidates to the Religious Life, tensions which may sometimes exist between men and women religious and diocesan clergy, a proper inculturation of Religious Life which also purifies aspects of local cultures, especially as regards the dignity and role of women in society.

As you prepare to return to your Dioceses I ask you to take my greetings and blessings to your priests, religious and laity. Each day in prayer I remember you and your fellow-workers in the Lord’s harvest, invoking upon you the spiritual closeness and maternal care of Mary, our Mother in the faith. I would ask you to be true friends and fathers to your people, offering them always the example of the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his flock.

“Thankful for your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now... I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Ph 1,5-6). With my Apostolic Blessing.





Castel Gandolfo

Friday, 8 September 1989

Dear Brothers in Christ,

This morning, gathered around the altar, we prepare to celebrate the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Church’s commemoration of Mary’s birth leads us to meditate on her closeness to us in our human condition. She too was born a daughter of the human race. She is our sister in the human family. At the same time we joyfully recognize that she is far above us. We are happy to call her our beloved Mother in the spiritual order. Her special greatness is the result of the unique and extraordinary mystery of God’s intervention “in the fullness of time” when he no longer spoke through the prophets, but through his Son. Because Mary offered herself as the humble servant of the Lord, the eternal Word was made flesh in her womb and the immense riches of redemptive love were released into human history. The whole life of the Church in every age and in every place is inseparably linked to the young Jewish woman who responded to the Angel’s message with total obedience to God’s will: “Let it be to me according to your word” (Lc 1,38).

In God’s eternal plan, Mary was called to give birth to the Savior whose Sacrifice on the Cross redeemed the world from its bondage to sin and death. In fulfilling her vocation she remained closely united to the saving work of her Son. As the Mother of the Church, “Mater Ecclesiae”, Mary invites all who have been reborn in Christ towards an ever deeper contemplation of the mystery of the Church. She inspires us to recognize the lofty vocation that each of us has received in Christ and guides us on our way towards the hope that has been stored up for us in heaven.

As we rejoice in her birth, let us invoke Mary’s maternal love and care upon our ministry as Bishops, a ministry which you have been called to exercise in the United States of America. As Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Mary is the Patroness of your country. May she continue to draw all the priests, religious and laity of your nation toward her divine Son. And through her prayers, may each of us find the strength we need to live fully our vocation as ministers of Christ’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.





Castel Gandolfo

Friday, 8 September 1989

Dear Friends,

I am very pleased to meet you, the Commission members who are now approaching the end of the third phase of a fruitful dialogue between Classical Pentecostals and Catholics. In welcoming you here today, I express the hope that your discussions have contributed not only to an increase of mutual understanding about our life and spiritual experiences as Christians, but also to the interior conversion and change of heart which are so fundamental to the ecumenical movement (Cfr. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 7-8).

You have focused on different aspects of the theme of Koinonia, of the Church as Communion. The study of this theme, which was highlighted once again at the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985, is of great importance to the Catholic Church. “Communion” is actually an expression of the Catholic Church’s understanding of herself and her life.

All Christians surely agree that it is their responsibility to examine with love for Christ’s truth the differences which divide us, and to seek ways in which, despite these divisions, we may yet bear a common witness to the world. Christ himself prayed for the unity of his disciples. He made this prayer to the Father for the sake of the Gospel: “so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17,21). It is therefore an essential part of the ecumenical task to grow in knowledge of the truth, to break down the barriers of misunderstanding and prejudice, and to grow in love for one another, in order that we may more faithfully proclaim Christ to a world so much in need of him.

Both Catholics and Pentecostals honor the presence of the Holy Spirit and his spiritual gifts. Saint Paul exhorts us to earnestly desire the higher gifts (Cfr. 1Cor 1Co 12,31), and to make love our aim more than anything else (Cfr. ibid. 14, 1). Through dialogue, then, may we seek that love which delights in the truth and is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes (Cfr. ibid. 13, 6-7).

I assure you of my fervent prayer for an increase of love among all those engaged in ecumenism. May your dialogue contribute to new understanding between Catholics and Pentecostals, for the sake of the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.




Tuesday, 12 September 1989

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. This meeting concludes the present series of ad Limina visits of the Bishops of India. Today I am happy to welcome you, the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Bangalore, Madras-Mylapore, Madurai and Pondicherry in the States of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2Co 1,2). Your presence constitutes an intense moment of the collegial communion which unites us in the service of Christ’s Body, the Church. You bring with you – on pilgrimage, as it were, to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul – a testimony of the Christian life and holiness of that part of God’s people entrusted to your care. I give thanks to God for the opportunities which he has given me through my meetings with the Bishops of India to exercise in a personal and direct way the universal ministry entrusted to the Successors of Peter.

2. The Church in India is a vibrant reality filled with life and evangelizing resources. She is enriched by a diversity of rites and the multiple forms of her presence and action among peoples of different social and cultural background. She has a long and varied history from which to draw lessons for her contemporary life and mission, including the example of great men and women saints to whom she can look for inspiration and encouragement in facing the enormous challenges of evangelization and service.

In conversation with you, the Bishops, I have become more aware of the circumstances of your brothers and sisters in the faith, citizens of a huge country which is struggling to achieve greater development, as well as unity, social harmony and justice for all its people. Through you I wish to send words of encouragement to all the members of the Catholic Church in India. In joyful reception of the Good News announced by the Church in Jesus’ name and in generous fidelity to the grace received by each one for building up the Body of Christ, may all the sons and daughters of the Church in India “stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God” (Col 4,12).

3. One of the many vivid memories which I retain from my visit to your country was the meeting with priests at the Basilica of Bom Jesu in Old Goa, where I was able to pray before the remains of Saint Francis Xavier, one of the outstanding figures of the Church’s missionary history. The clergy present on that occasion, in representation of all the priests of India, stood out “as servants who spend themselves without counting the cost, as leaders who form, inspire and guide the one People of God in the ways of the Lord” (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Allocutio ad Indiae Presbyteros in Basilica “Boni Jesus” habita, 3, die 6 febr. 1986: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, IX, 1 [1986] 350). Again today, I wish to express my deep affection in the Lord for each one of them and to encourage them, as I said then, to continue to give Jesus to India.

Bishops and priests are united in an organic bond springing from the very nature of the Church’s reality as the sacramental sign of Christ’s saving presence in the world, a presence continued through time in a special way through the action of those called to share in the one and eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ. May you who have received the fullness of the priesthood not fail in the important duty of building up and maintaining bonds of deep and abiding brotherhood and friendship with the priests who share with you the daily toil of the pastoral ministry. In each Diocese the presbyterium should be a striking witness of unity, love and mutual support among all its members. There should never be signs of discrimination or division. Difficulties are never lacking, but with God’s help and the good will of all concerned the healthy state of the presbyterium will be an important factor in the well-being and perseverance of each of your brother priests.

4. I wish to congratulate the Bishops of India on your manifest concern for the life and ministry of your priests. In particular I am happy to note what is written in the Foreword of the Charter of Priestly Formation for India, approved in 1988: “The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India is more concerned about the formation of our priests than about any other area of its responsibility. The future of the Church in India depends on the quality and calibre of the priests who come out of our Seminaries and Formation Houses”. You are rightly convinced that a careful selection of candidates and their solid and integral formation is of singular importance and benefit to your Dioceses and to the Church as a whole.

Indeed, in view of the 1990 Synod of Bishops, the entire Catholic Church has been called to reflection, meditation, dialogue and prayer on the formation of priests in the circumstances of the present day. The theme is most timely since it affords the Bishops of the world an opportunity to examine the state of the renewal intended by the Council in this area, the experiences and achievements obtained since then and the new demands constantly arising in the life of the ecclesial community. It may be said that the forthcoming Synod complements the previous one on the vocation and mission of the lay faithful in the Church and in the world. It was at that Synod that many voices were heard asking that priests receive a solid spiritual formation, that they be prepared in cooperation with the lay faithful and that this preparation aim at animating the lay state (Cfr. Lineamenta, 1).

5. My desire at this time is to encourage you to involve the whole Church in India in the reflection leading up to the Synod and to support you in the specific responsibility which is yours as Bishops in the area of priestly formation. The Lineamenta make reference to the role of Bishops and Major Superiors of Religious in such concrete aspects as visiting seminaries and being informed of the progress of seminarians, in guiding and supporting the work of those engaged in the work of formation (Cfr. ibid.22). A Bishop ought not to leave the formation of his seminarians to others, to the point of not being personally involved in the process of vocation discernment and progress towards ordination. As the one who has primary responsibility for the well-being of the particular Church over which he presides, he is also primarily responsible for the life and ministry of his priests and for their formation.

6. In the Charter of Priestly Formation for India you rightly point out that the nature and mission of the Church as the sacrament of union with God and the unity of all mankind poses a special challenge in India which is a land of many faces and diverse forces. Priestly formation, therefore, in order effectively to serve the needs of your Dioceses, must take into account the culture, language and way of life of the people the seminarian is called to serve in his future ministry. At the same time this attention to local conditions should in no way weaken the sense of the unity and uniqueness of the Church. Seminarians should be taught to distinguish between essential unity in faith, sacramental life and hierarchical communion, and the legitimate variety consonant with true catholicity. Undue emphasis on pluralism, whether theological, liturgical or pastoral, can sometimes lead to a “ pluralism of fundamentally opposed positions ” and hence to a loss of identity (Cfr. Synodi Extr. Episc. 1985, Relatio finalis, II, C, 2).

Every aspect of priestly formation must be seen in relation to the Church as the “mystery” of God’s eternal design made present and visible in the course of human history. Those who are called upon to expound this “mystery” – in particular, theologians, professors and seminary personnel charged with priestly formation – should be imbued with an attitude of humble and loving adoration of the “pietatis sacramentum” (1Tm 3,16) which is the whole source of the Church’s life and mission.

7. As pastors of an ecclesial community in the heart of Asia you are sensitive to the great human hunger which marks the life of your continent, the profound yearning for human dignity, for liberation from the oppression of poverty, prejudice and violence in all its forms. You know how deeply the peoples of Asia feel the aspiration to religious truth and to the fullness of salvation. You know that in this context your principal task – stated in the most simple but also the most truthful of terms – is to lead and encourage your particular Churches to show forth the face of Jesus Christ, to speak his message and to communicate the “new life” which springs from the Paschal Mystery. Your first task as Bishops then is to be faithful to Jesus Christ, personally and collectively, and to reflect as perfectly as possible the figure of the Good Shepherd “the faithful witness” (Ap 1,5).

The major chapters of your ministry, such as the proclamation of the gospel, its “inculturation” and presentation in a way that corresponds to the genius of your peoples, and inter-religious dialogue with the followers of other spiritual traditions, engage you in a necessary dialogue of faith and love with the Church universal, and in particular with the Apostolic See. On the occasion of your ad Limina visit, I wish to thank you, the Bishops of the Church in India, for the constancy, and seriousness of your commitment to this essential aspect of collegiality.

With deep conviction I recall something I stated during our meeting in New Delhi on 1st February 1986: “At the very centre of your pastoral solicitude, dear Brothers, is the Church’s unity. In her unity we recognize the greatest of blessings, the desire of the Heart of Jesus, the expression of fidelity to the Lord, the sign of the credibility of his Church and the sign of the credibility of the very mission of Christ. In the unity of the Church we see the reason why Jesus died: ‘to gather into one the scattered children of God’ (Jn 11,52)” (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Delii, allocutio ad Indiae sacros Praesules, 7, die 1 febr. 1986: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, IX, 1 [1986] 264). I wish to confide this concern to your prayers, to your study and to the actions which you take for the good of the Church in your land. Unity is not always easy. It often requires great personal sacrifice and suffering. It will only be sustained by God’s grace.

May Mary, Mother of the Word Incarnate, intercede for this gift for the Church in India.




Friday, 15 September 1989

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ph 1,2). In welcoming you to Rome on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum, my thoughts spontaneously turn to our last meeting, exactly one year ago, in the heart of Lesotho. I recall with special gratitude the warm hospitality which I encountered among the Catholics of your mountain Kingdom. Although my visit was not spared some of that drama which is a part of the life of the Church in Southern Africa, I was blessed with the opportunity of witnessing the firm faith which has taken root among your people, the challenges it faces, and the promise it holds out for the future of Lesotho.

As we gather here today we still feel the sadness caused by the sudden death of Archbishop Morapeli. His love of the Church and his wise counsel as brother Bishop and Metropolitan stand as an example and incentive for your own pastoral ministry. May God reward his faithful servant in his eternal love.

2. A strong faith in Jesus Christ demands that we “be renewed in the spirit of our minds” (Cfr. Eph Ep 4,23), and learn to judge all things in the light of the Gospel. I am pleased to see that your recent Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Lesotho has called all the members of the Church to undertake an examination of conscience concerning their contribution as Christian believers to the life of your society. In pursuing this self-examination, the Church in Lesotho will look to you, the Bishops, for inspiration and guidance. This is entirely appropriate, for it is through the ministry of its Bishops that the people of the New Testament is guided and directed on its journey towards eternal happiness (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 21).

I wish to assure you of my fraternal support as you seek to build up the Body of Christ in the Kingdom of Lesotho. It was as a sign of my “concern for all the Churches” (Cfr. 2Cor 2Co 11,28) that I recently convoked a Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. This Assembly will serve as an opportunity for all the Bishops of Africa to evaluate in the light of faith the reality of the Church in the life of your peoples on the threshold of the Third Millennium.

3. Dear Brothers: at the core of your ministry as Successors of the Apostles in the awesome task of preaching the Gospel and helping the people entrusted to your care to apply the truths of the faith to their daily lives. The Second Vatican Council reminds us that Bishops are heralds and authentic teachers of the faith - teachers, that is, who are endowed with the authority of Christ himself (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 25).

To respond to a world that longs to “see Jesus” (Cfr. Io Jn 12,21), you must embody in your person the truth of God’s Word and the love of the Good Shepherd. This great task requires of you an ever deeper configuration of both mind and will to Christ our High Priest. The foundation for this deepening imitation of Christ has already been laid, thanks to the gift of the Holy Spirit which you received at your episcopal ordination. Through God’s grace, you have been enabled to stand in the place of Christ and act in his person (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 21). As shepherds in the image of the Good Shepherd, you are called to become the forma gregis, the very pattern of that fervent faith and spiritual wisdom to which all Christians are called. Within the particular Church, you have been called to discern and order the many gifts which the Spirit has given for the building up of Christ’s Body in faith, hope and love.

4. As I reflect upon the life of the Church in Lesotho, I give thanks to God for the many ways in which your ministry has brought the light of Christ to your country and to its people. Inspired by the example and prayers of Blessed Joseph Gerard, you have sought to carry on the great work of implanting the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the minds and hearts of the people of your country. Amid political and social tensions, you have addressed the needs of your people with a praiseworthy concern for moral values and the demands of justice. I am particularly gratified by the patient and generous efforts which, in collaboration with the leaders of other Ecclesial Communities, you have made on behalf of the exiled Basotho, whose return to their native land is a sign of hope for the future of Lesotho, for where reconciliation prevails, love unity and solidarity strengthen a people’s resolve to live in peace.

I urge you as “ heralds and authentic teachers of the faith ” to make every effort to guarantee that the Catholic Faith continues to be carefully and fully taught to all of the Christian faithful. Few aspects of your ministry as Bishops are as important as this, for it is upon a clergy and laity well-instructed in the Faith that the future vitality of the Church in Lesotho will depend. The examination of conscience which you have enjoined upon Lesotho’s Catholic will only bear fruit if it is made in the light of an adeguate and practical knowledge of the word of God and the teaching of the Church.

5. In this regard, I would underline the importance of a sound catechesis, imparted by well-trained and generous personnel. In the Apostolic Exhortation “Catechesi Tradendae”, I noted that “every baptized person, precisely by reason of being baptized, has the right to receive from the Church instruction and education enabling him or her to enter on a truly Christian life” (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Catechesi Tradendae CTR 14). The work of catechesis is an indispensable aspect of the wider work of evangelization. Once the believer has heard the Gospel and accepted Christ, he or she must grow in Christ, learning to follow him, “to think like him, to judge like him, to act in conformity with his commandments and to hope as he invites us to” (Ibid. 20).

The nurturing of a strong Catholic identity, rooted in conformity to Christ and in a sound knowledge of doctrine, is crucial to the success of the Church’s mission in today’s society. As young people face serious challenges to their faith and to their fidelity to Christ’s law, they need the tools which will enable them to lead a life worthy of the calling they have received. An all-embracing catechesis will enable them to face those challenges in a way that is at once fully Christian and fully African. A particular area of your pastoral endeavour must always be the training of committed and well-prepared catechists who know and love Christ and who wish to share the faith of the Church with all whom they meet.

One privileged locus of catechesis in Lesotho has been and continues to be its fine system of Catholic schools. These schools, and the dedicated religious and laity who staff them, have had a profound impact upon society. They have produced generations of students in an atmosphere of learning which is inspired by faith and sees all knowledge within the setting of God’s plan for the world and for mankind. You are rightly concerned for the quality of religious education imparted in the schools and in programmes of sacramental preparation in the parishes. In so many ways, Catholic schools play an important role in your society. I hope that any difficulties regarding these schools will be met in a true spirit of goodwill and that the public authorities will continue to give them the support they need.

6. Another area of prime importance for the future of the Church in Lesotho is the formation of future priests. Here too, your obligation as “ teachers of the faith ” must lead you to ensure an adequate formation in the truths of Catholic doctrine and in the apostolic life. It may be that here a particular sacrifice will be required of you. Seminarians need the presence and guidance of your finest priests – priests who are able to inspire in young men a deep love of the Lord and an unwavering commitment to a life of apostolic zeal. Indeed, there are few assignments where a priest will have so profound an effect on the future of the Church’s mission Spes messis in semine: the hope for the harvest depends upon the generosity with which the seed in sown.

The ministerial priesthood to which your seminarians are called is a sharing in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, who for our sake “humbled himself and became obedient” (Ph 2,8). In an age which exalts social status, the priest is called to serve others, especially the poorest and those most in need. For this reason, the spiritual formation which is so important a part of seminary training must stress the figure of Jesus as the one who came among us as a servant (Cfr. Luc Lc 22,27). The purpose of this formation must be to foster a zeal for the service of others that is deeply rooted in gratitude for the gift received.

The men and women religious working in Lesotho contribute enormously to the life of your local Churches. Their educational, welfare and pastoral activities are indispensable. But above all they bring to your communities the testimony of their religious consecration, a sign of the Kingdom of God and an expression of a preferential love of Christ which can attract all the members of the Church to the fulfilment of their Christian duties (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 44). It is your task to support them in this deeper aspect of their consecrated life and call to holiness.

7. Dear Brothers: in sharing these reflections with you, I encourage you in your ministry for the People of God. As you face the challenges of the present and the future, may you never cease to draw new confidence and hope from the grace of God at work in the hearts of all who believe. In this, you have a powerful example in the life of Blessed Joseph Gerard, whose personal holiness and trust in God’s will inspired a whole people to turn to Christ.

With gratitude to the Father for all his many gifts, I ask you to convey my affection and best wishes to my brothers and sisters in the Churches of Maseru, Leribe, Mohale’s Hoek and Qacha’s Nek. Please tell them once again that the Pope loves them and prays for them, so that they may grow in grace and in the joy which comes from serving the Lord in fidelity and thanksgiving. To them, and to you, their pastors, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing, invoking upon all of you the loving protection of Mary, Mother of the Church.

Speeches 1989 - Monday, 28 August 1989