Speeches 1993 - Saturday, 5 June 1993

4. The forgiveness of sins first experienced in Baptism is a recurring need in the life of every Christian. Restoring a proper sense of sin is the first step to be taken in facing squarely the grave spiritual crisis looming over men and women today, a crisis which can well be described as "an eclipse of conscience" (John Paul II, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia RP 18).

Without a healthy awareness of their own sinfulness, people will never experience the depth of God’s redeeming love for them while they were still sinners (Cf. Rom. Rm 5,8). Given the prevailing idea that happiness consists in satisfying oneself and being satisfied with oneself, the Church must proclaim even more vigorously that it is only God’s grace, not therapeutic or self–convincing schemes, which can heal the divisions in the human heart caused by sinfulness (Cf. ibid. 3: 24; Ep 2,5).

The pastoral ministry of Bishops and priests constantly comes up against a failure to recognize the full truth about the human person. As you have rightly pointed out, a onesided and distorted anthropology presents the Church in America with a serious pastoral challenge (Cf. NCCB, Committee for Pastoral Research and Practices, Reflections on the Sacrament of Penance in Catholic Life Today). What can be done to help Priests, Religious and laity to have a true and balanced sense of what it means to be unfaithful to God, and therefore to sin? Certainly, proper teaching is required. Undoubtedly the first stage in renewing the practice of the Sacrament of Penance is to preach clearly what Saint John tells us: "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1Jn 1,8). By stirring up in peoples’ hearts an ardent desire for forgiveness and the consolation of meeting the Father who is "rich in mercy" (Ep 2,4), those who preach the Gospel of salvation will help the faithful to rediscover "the beauty and joy of the Sacrament of Penance" (John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 48).

But knowledge needs to be accompanied by efforts to make as readily available and as helpful as possible the practice of the Sacrament of Penance. Despite some hopeful signs, this remains a grave and urgent pastoral problem.

I urge you to respond to it with concrete initiatives. During your 1988 ad Limina visit, I emphasized that "in something as sacred as this Sacrament sporadic efforts are not enough to overcome the crisis" (John Paul II, Address to the Bishops of the United States of America, 31 May 1988). Once again I renew my appeal to you to implement pastoral plans with the explicit purpose of encouraging frequent, devout and joyful celebration of Penance.

5. One of the responsibilities of your Episcopal ministry is that of overseeing the observance of the doctrinal and liturgical norms governing the celebration of Penance (Cf. Christus Dominus CD 15). For Catholics in a state of mortal sin, individual and integral confession and absolution remains the ordinary way of being reconciled with God and the Church (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 1484 Code of Canon Law, can. 960; John Paul II, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia RP 17). The absolving word of the Divine Physician – "your sins are forgiven" (Mc 2,5) – spoken by the priest acting in persona Christi Capitis, is addressed personally to the individual penitent. Any exceptions to this practice are governed by the conditions of gravis necessitas required for granting general absolution (Code of Canon Law CIC 961 Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1483), to be understood according to the Church’s clearly expressed mind in this regard.

Essential to the renewal of sacramental practice is the generosity of priests, zealous to serve as ambassadors of Christ’s mercy (Cf. 2Cor. 2Co 5,20), and wise in the ways in which the Holy Spirit leads the soul to ever greater love of God. Programs of formation should provide priests with the training necessary to become good and holy confessors. Seminarians need to have a full grasp of dogmatic, spiritual and moral theology. Inspired by the example of fervent priests, they should develop a pastoral sensibility founded on a sound psychology of the human person. They should grow to have a welcoming attitude and a deep compassion towards all those who seek God’s mercy. Confessors, who are instruments of divine forgiveness, must be patient, never hurrying penitents or, as sometimes happens, restricting the number of sins they can confess. Parishes should guarantee scheduled times for Penance or, when pastoral need recommends it, make the Sacrament available to the faithful before Mass. Advent, Lent and the days of the Sacred Triduum are especially appropriate times for evoking conversion and celebrating the Sacrament of Penance.

6. We cannot speak of the spiritual renewal of your Dioceses without carefully examining also the state of your people’s faith and participation in the Eucharist, which is the source, center and culmination of the Church’s life (Cf. Lumen Gentium LG 11 Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 1324-1327). Jesus’ "sincere gift" of himself offered on the Cross is made present and applied in the Eucharist which "creates" his body, the Church (Cf. Lumen Gentium LG 28 John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem MD 26). It follows that stewarding this great mystery is among the greatest privileges and responsibilities of your Episcopal Office.

Regrettably, it can sometimes happen that the Liturgy is seriously marred by illicit omissions or additions to the approved texts. In such instances, "it is for the Bishops to root out such abuses, because the regulation of the Liturgy depends on the Bishop within the limits of the law" (John Paul II, Vigesimus Quintus Annus, 13).

Because a Parish is essentially a Eucharistic community, it should have a priest who has the "utterly irreplaceable" role of offering Mass for the faithful (Cf. John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 26). Some of you are confronted with the situation of not being able to provide a priest for every community that has traditionally had one. As an interim and emergency measure – for Catholic doctrine would admit no other judgment –, it has become necessary in some places to conduct a Sunday celebration in the absence of a priest, and for this the Holy See has issued appropriate norms (Cf. Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, Directorium de celebrationibus dominicalibus absente presbytero). Such situations offer only a temporary solution.

While greatly appreciating the generous assistance of Religious and members of the laity in this regard, a truly living community cannot resign itself to being without a priest to offer the Eucharist for them. Conscious of the urgent need of priests for the Church’s continuing life and mission, I urge you to promote prayer for vocations, to become personally involved in inviting young men to consider this call, to appoint suitable priests as Vocations Directors in your dioceses, and to give them the support they need. In the meanwhile, such assemblies, which are "in expectation of a priest" (John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 27), are an occasion of many blessings for their participants.

7. My final thoughts this morning turn to Denver and the World Day of Youth, when I will have the opportunity to meet young men and women from all over America and the rest of the world. I wish to express my deep gratitude to the Bishops and all those involved in preparing this event. Thanks to your enthusiastic encouragement, many young men and women will be in Denver, where they will proclaim that Jesus Christ is their Companion on their pilgrim way (Cf. Jn. Jn 15,15) and the Giver of the fullness of life (Cf. ibid. 10: 10). We must pray that, from the heart of your beloved Nation, the world’s youth will be stirred to accept the mission of proclaiming that they "have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1P 1,3).

Entrusting you, and all the priests, Religious and faithful of your Dioceses to the loving protection of Mary, the Virgin Mother of Mercy, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.




Tuesday, 8 June 1993

Dear Brother Bishops,

"Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come" (Ap 1,4).

1. I welcome you this morning, pastors chosen to shepherd the Lord’s flock (Cf. Lumen Gentium LG 21) in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. This ad Limina meeting testifies to the responsibility we have in common for all the Churches (Cf. 2Cor. 2Co 11,28), and to our shared duty to guard the truth that has been entrusted to us by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us (Cf. 2Tm. 2Tm 1,14). We are experiencing this moment of fraternal union as the Church prepares to celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord. This solemn Feast affords us the opportunity to reaffirm that communion between the particular Churches in the universal Church is rooted above all in the Eucharist, "by which the unity of the Church is both signified and brought about" (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 2). In this way we are reminded that only by being one with Christ in his self–offering to the Father, made present and applied at the Altar of Sacrifice, can we be worthy and effective instruments of the sanctification of God’s beloved people.

In fact, in these ad Limina dialogues with the United States Bishops I have been referring to the Bishop’s duty to preach the call to holiness. My conversations with the members of your Conference strengthen me in the conviction of the urgent need for a genuine spiritual renewal in the life of the Church in your country. You too must be convinced that the principal aim of your ministry is to lead the people entrusted to you to "put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ep 4,23). All the other demands made on you take their sense and purpose from this fundamental task.

2. Last week I spoke to another group of Bishops about some aspects of Baptism, Penance and the Eucharist. Today I wish to say something about Marriage and Holy Orders, two sacraments ordained to the corporate life of the ecclesial community. Those who receive these Sacraments are consecrated by the Holy Spirit for a special mission in the Church, either as Christian spouses and parents or as pastors of souls (Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 1534-1535). The general crisis of values in society has had an especially harmful effect on the way these two Sacraments are considered and lived. But the Church, as a living and dynamic reality whose strength is the Gospel, "the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith" (Rm 1,16), must react to defend the whole truth and support the rightful application of God’s intentions for marriage and the priesthood.

3. An outlook expressing the supposed absolute autonomy of personal judgement claims to see the family as just one of many freely chosen and disposable institutions whose purpose is to foster the individual’s self–fulfillment. This outlook gives rise to efforts to legitimize other so–called "domestic partnerships" which claim rights that properly belong only to families. Instead, for the Church, marriage and the family are sacred realities. They are not simply a personal lifestyle, the personal project of the individuals involved. Respect for God’s will so clearly revealed in the order of creation (Cf. Gen. Gn 1,26-28) demands that the Church oppose any attempt to redefine marriage and the family on any other basis. The Church continues to proclaim that authentic family values can only be built upon marriage between man and woman as ordained "in the beginning" (Cf. Mt. Mt 19,4). Pastors should encourage the laity to assume their full responsibility for promoting civil laws, national policy and social institutions that defend and foster the rights and duties of the family in its original truth (Cf. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio FC 44).

In a recent statement of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, you noted with alarm that the United States has "the highest divorce rate, the highest teen–age pregnancy rate, the highest child poverty rate and the highest abortion rate in the Western world" (United States Catholic Conference, Putting Children and Families First, 1991, n. II, A). These indications of social and moral breakdown provide a serious challenge for the Catholic community to respond with pastoral realism. Serious attention should be given to strengthening the sense of marriage and family life among Catholics themselves, especially among young couples preparing for marriage.

A rich and demanding program of preparation for catechumens has given excellent results in many Dioceses of the United States. Given the importance of marriage as the vocational sacrament through whose grace most men and women are sanctified, and children are schooled in life as well as in faith, an analogous spiritual preparation for those who are to be married "in the Lord" (Cf. 1Co 7,39) is surely needed. A strengthening of Pre–Cana and other programs, and the personal involvement of priests in the spiritual preparation of couples will help provide the foundation for stronger marriages. Moreover, just as the catechumenate is followed by a period of mystagogia, so also sustained pastoral care should be offered to the newly married.

4. This year the Church celebrates the twenty–fifth anniversary of "Humanae Vitae", in which Pope Paul VI reaffirmed the teaching on the immorality of separating – intentionally and by artificial means – the two intrinsic meanings of the marital act: the unitive and the procreative (Cf. Paul VI, Humanae Vitae HV 14). This teaching has been repeated over and over again in the Church during the past twenty–five years (Cf., ex. gr., John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio FC 29-33). The "Catechism of the Catholic Church" clearly reaffirms it (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 2370). However, inadequate and insufficient explanation is at least partially responsible for the fact that many Catholics have difficulty in applying that teaching. The challenge is to make better known and appreciated the dignity and joy of human sexuality lived according to the truth of the body’s nuptial meaning. In programs for marriage preparation, and other pastoral efforts directed to the support of marriage and family life, couples should be presented with the full truth of God’s plan for living their conjugal love with integrity.

Again, I encourage you and your Brother Bishops of the United States to give generous support to natural family planning programs. Each Diocese should candidly examine its priorities to determine whether it provides the necessary means to make better known the natural methods of regulating fertility (Cf. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio FC 35). Likewise, in your ministry you should inspire confidence and hope in parents, emphasizing the joys and challenges of their vocation. Pastoral charity requires that Church agencies be particularly concerned with families in difficulty, broken families, one parent families, but it also demands that the central object of the Church’s pastoral attention should be the traditional, stable family where education, socialization and transmission of Catholic faith and values is accomplished. The Holy See, acknowledging the value of the United Nations proposal to make 1994 the Year of the Family, has willingly adhered to that initiative. At the local level, Dioceses and Catholic institutions are called to take this opportunity in order to increase their efforts to defend and promote family life.

5. Recognizing the new challenges to be met in preparing men to be priests for the Third Millennium of Christianity, the last Synod of Bishops dealt at length with the question of priestly formation. Garnering the fruits of this discussion, I subsequently issued the Apostolic Exhortation "Pastores Dabo Vobis" to guide Pastors and all concerned in their task of revitalizing the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral preparation of seminarians. I am encouraged too by your Conference’s approval of the revised "Program of Priestly Formation". That document provides a solid framework for formation insofar as it clearly presents the sacramental consecration of the priest as a configuration to Jesus Christ so that he can truly act in persona Christi Capitis and in the name of the Church (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 1548-1553). No other way of conceiving the priesthood does justice to the Church’s understanding of the Lord’s intentions. It remains only for me to urge you to be demanding in the selection of candidates, to provide well–qualified priests for seminary ministry, and not to compromise the standards required by the challenges facing priests today. Only the Ordinary can call a candidate to the diaconate and priesthood. He must therefore feel personally responsible before the Lord and before the Church for the decisions he makes in this regard.

I pray that the increase in candidates to the priesthood, apparent in some Dioceses, will be the beginning of a trend that will spread to all corners of your great country. Bishops who know their seminarians and who take time to shepherd them as spiritual sons will build Churches strong in fraternity and spiritual communion. The consistent witness of your own zeal for souls, your own fidelity to the Gospel transmitted in the Church, your interior joy and simple life style, will so often provide the example from which men are first able to recognize their call to priesthood.

6. For the new evangelization to bear fruit, the Church will need priests whose spiritual life has been shaped by asceticism, interior discipline, a spirit of sacrifice and self–denial (John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 48). Where a culture of self–centeredness and self–indulgence has made inroads, these essential virtues and dispositions need to be given specific attention in spiritual formation. The ministerial priesthood marks a man permanently and indelibly in his inner being (Cf. ibid. 70). It is not a profession or a "career" in the secular sense. A certain worldliness, exaggerated financial concerns and secular attitudes towards "retirement" are among the factors that work against fostering a genuine pastoral charity which flows from an interior life enlivened by the Spirit (Cf. ibid. 19). Bishops and priests together must face these demands and rise to the challenges involved. Similarly, associations whose purpose is to support priests by providing opportunities for fraternal support and spiritual growth, thus rejuvenating enthusiasm for their ministry, deserve your encouragement.

Permit me a few words of confidence about situations that profoundly grieve you and so many others, and whose burden we all feel deeply (Cf. Gal. Ga 6,2). As a "fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ" (1P 5,1). I share your sadness and disappointment when those entrusted with the sacred ministry fail in their commitment, becoming a cause of public scandal that undermines peoples’ trust in the Church’s Pastors and damages priestly morale. These failures are tragic for the victims and for the clerics involved. We must pray ardently for all those affected by this misconduct, knowing that our Redeemer is close to those who suffer injustice from the hands of others, and that his mercy reaches the contrite of heart.

The failures of a small number of clerics make it all the more important that seminary formation discern scrupulously the charism of celibacy among candidates for the priesthood. This requirement is not just a passing legal norm or an externally imposed condition for ordination, but a value profoundly linked with the priest’s sharing in the Bridegroom’s care of his Body, the Church (Cf. John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 50). By supporting their healthy psychosexual development, a sound human formation and growth in grace and virtue will enable seminarians to accept joyfully and live serenely this "precious gift of God" (Optatam Totius OT 10), by which they share in Christ’s spousal self–giving to the Church (Cf. Eph. Ep 5,25-27), whereby he loves his People with a pure, generous and constant heart(Cf. John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 22).

7. Finally, my thoughts turn to the World Youth Day in Denver, which is fast approaching. There we will join young people from all over the world to profess with Peter: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16,16); "You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6,68). This is a pilgrimage of faith and friendship to encounter Christ in the City – in his Eucharistic self–offering, in the sufferings of our brothers and sisters, in the prayers of his People. May the Savior who gave himself "for the life of the world" (Ibid. 6: 51) find a youth prepared to meet him, encouraged by your generous assistance and enthusiasm. Young people are special gifts to the Church, heralds of hope and protagonists of Christianity’s new springtime (Cf. John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 86).

In this era of the Church, the Holy Spirit perpetuates the grace of Pentecost, preserving unity, guiding Christ’s disciples into the fullness of truth (Cf. Jn. Jn 16,13) and enlivening the communion of all the faithful (Cf. John Paul II, Dominum et Vivificantem DEV 25).

Yet, like her Spouse and Lord, the Church must also pass through an earthly "hour" (Cf. Jn 17,1) of dedicated commitment and work, even of suffering. I pray that Our Lady of Guadalupe, Protectress of the Americas, to whom I entrust the priests, Religious and lay faithful of your Dioceses, will accompany and strengthen you in your ministry. Through her maternal mediation may she obtain for you a share in her unfaltering faith, constant hope and fervent love. With my Apostolic Blessing.





Wednesday, 9 June 1993

It is with great joy that I extend a warm fraternal greeting to His Holiness Abuna Paulos, Shepherd and Patriarch of the ancient Church of Ethiopia, rich in noble spiritual traditions and persevering Christian witness. I am truly pleased that it has been possible for you to make this visit to the Church of Rome, and I look forward to our meetings during these days. I know that we share the ardent hope that this visit will favour relations between our Churches and help to foster that search for full ecclesial communion which is the heart of ecumenical endeavours.




Friday, 11 June 1993

Your Holiness,

1. It is truly a great joy for me to receive you and those who accompany you here today. In welcoming you, the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, it is a beloved brother that I greet, one who represents a Church to which I feel very close.

In this time of Pentecost when we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, who has gathered into one those who were once scattered, I extend most willingly, dear brother, the hand of welcome.

Your presence in Rome reminds us of that long tradition of Ethiopian pilgrims, who since the Middle Ages have come to Rome in great numbers to venerate the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles. To them my Predecessors always accorded cordial hospitality within the Vatican itself. I therefore see your visit as a carrying forward of that venerable tradition, but above all as the visible expression of the profound communion that we have been rediscovering together for some years. How marvellous are the works of the spirit of God! For we, who had almost thought of ourselves as strangers to one another, now find that we are ever more closely united by the Spirit, who is our reconciliation and the bond of peace (Cf. Eph. Ep 4,3).

2. The deep communion that exists between us, despite the vicissitudes of history, is rooted in the fundamental realities of our Christian faith. For we share the faith handed down from the Apostles, as also the same sacraments and the same ministry, rooted in the apostolic succession. This was strongly stated in the teaching of the Second Vatican Council (Cf. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 15).

Today, moreover, we can affirm that we have the one faith in Christ, even though for a long time this was a source of division between us. Although our traditions used different formulations to express the same ineffable mystery of the union of humanity and divinity in the Word made Flesh, our two Churches in full accord with the Apostolic faith confess both the distinction and the complete union of humanity and divinity in the person of Jesus Christ, Son of God. So it is that the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church confess the same faith in Him who forever remains "the Way, and the Truth, and the Life" (Jn 14,6), the Lord and Saviour of the world.

All this should spur us on to seek new and suitable ways of fostering the rediscovery of our communion in the concrete daily life of the faithful of our two Churches.

We must do all we can to heal the memories of misunderstanding in the past and to promote new attitudes based on forgiveness, mutual esteem and respect. We must resist all hostility and every spirit of rivalry between us, so that we may engage resolutely, through mutual collaboration, in the building up of our Churches.

3. As we guide our faithful towards the rediscovery of full communion, let us seek to avoid anything that might sow confusion in their ranks. I can assure you that such is the wish of the Catholic Bishops in Ethiopia. Catholics and Orthodox – in their recognition and respect for one another as pastors of that part of the flock which is entrusted to each can have no other aim than the growth and the unity of the People of God.

That is the expectation of our faithful who are convinced that "brothers who once shared the same sufferings and trials ought not to oppose one another today, but should look together at the future opening before them with promising signs of hope" (John Paul II, Letter to the European Bishops, 2, 31 May 1991).

The field for cooperation is vast. It should begin with an improvement in fraternal relationships on all levels, but most particularly among those who have the task of leadership.

Having restored this dialogue of charity between us, we may be more confident when we ask the Lord with one heart for the gift of unity, especially on the occasion of the universal Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, for which, as you know, the theme is jointly prepared each year by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches, to which since its inception your Church has belonged.

Finally, the circumstances of the present time require us to work together in the pastoral domain, so as not to put any obstacle in the way of "that most holy cause, the preaching of the Gospel to all creatures" (Cf. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 1).

I am thinking particularly of the formation of future priests and parish workers in which the Catholic Committee for Cultural Collaboration is already engaged by providing scholarships for Ethiopian Orthodox students so that they can pursue their studies and undertake specializations; I am thinking also of the Liturgy, our ancient heritage which, if it is to remain alive, must be accessible to the people of our day; I mention also – and it is among the most urgent of problems – pastoral work among Ethiopians who have migrated to Europe and North America: likewise, the evangelization of the young, charitable work among refugees, and all the many forms of development that are necessary in order to reconstruct the country after so many difficult years.

4. On this auspicious occasion, I wish to reiterate to Your Holiness the deep respect in which the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is held by the Catholic Church for having maintained and preserved over the centuries the patrimony of Christian faith and culture. The baptism of the Ethiopian which is reported in the Acts of the Apostles (Cf. Ac 8,27-39) bears witness to the ancient origins of your Christian faith. Following his lead, and with the same joy, the Ethiopian people embraced the Gospel and have remained faithful to it despite the many sufferings they have had to endure, even in the recent past. The close link between faith and Ethiopian culture, the persistence of the ancient monastic tradition, the riches and splendour of your liturgy – these are among the many things which the Catholic Church observes with sincere admiration.

My dear brothers, for some days now you have been going to the principal places of pilgrimage in Rome. You have already prayed at the tomb of the Apostle Peter and you will continue this afternoon and tomorrow to visit the great Basilicas and precious Christian treasures of this venerable city. I am also happy that you are also taking the opportunity to visit living communities, both monasteries and parishes, where Christians seek to celebrate and put their faith into practice. It is my earnest prayer that these spiritual meetings between our Churches may demonstrate in a public way the strength of our desire for full communion. Through the intercession of Mary, the great Mother of God, may the Holy Spirit hasten the day when we may once more eat and drink at the same Table of the Lord.




Monday, 21 June 1993

Your Excellency,
Dear Friends,

"Hearing the word of God with reverence and proclaiming it confidently" (Dei Verbum DV 1).

1. In these words, which begin the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation "Dei Verbum", the Fathers of that Sacred Synod remind us of two activities which form the foundation of the great work of evangelization: first the Church is called to listen attentively to the Good News of eternal life, and then she shares with all mankind the word spoken to her, "so that by hearing the message of salvation the whole world may believe; by believing, it may hope; and by hoping, it may love" (Dei Verbum DV 1). You the members of the Catholic Biblical Federation, seek to make a special contribution to the Church, so that she may ever more effectively fulfil her role in God’s saving plan through her preaching of "the gospel to the whole creation" (Mc 16,15). I extend to you a warm welcome today, and I assure you of my prayerful good wishes that your efforts will be made fruitful by a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

2. Your Federation was founded in order to help implement the directives of the Second Vatican Council concerning Sacred Scripture in the life of the Church, and it finds the basic elements of its programme in the sixth chapter of "Dei Verbum".

There the Council Fathers express a particular concern that "easy access to Sacred Scripture should be provided for all the Christian faithful" (Dei Verbum DV 22), for "in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets his children with great love and speaks with them" (Ibid. 21). To provide the members of the Christian community with the Scriptures and to open their minds to what the Spirit says there to the churches (Cf. Rev. Ap 2,7) are perennially necessary means for building up the Body of Christ.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is the type and model of the Church’s reception of God’s revelation. Full of grace (Cf. Lk. Lc 1,28), she was led both to ponder his marvellous deeds (Cf. ibid. 2: 19) and generously to accept her part in them (Cf. ibid. 1: 38). The Church at prayer over the Sacred Scriptures seeks to imitate the Mother of God both by lovingly contemplating this record of God’s saving design and by selflessly accepting the divine will traced out therein.

3. In the task of advancing the reading and study of the Bible, there is wide scope for ecumenical cooperation. Belief that the Lord continues to speak to his disciples through the inspired text has a special power to strengthen the fraternal bonds between Catholics and members of other Churches and ecclesial communities; and in our dialogue, as the Council says, "the sacred utterances are precious instruments in the mighty hand of God for attaining that unity which the Saviour holds out to all men" (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 21).

It is in the force and might of God’s word, and not in any earthly power, that the Church finds support and energy, the strength of her faith and the food of her soul (Cf. Dei Verbum DV 21). Through the intercession of Our Lady Queen of Apostles and Prophets may you find renewed strength to do your part in assisting the faithful to hear the word of God and to keep it (Cf. Lk. Lc 11,28).

I cordially impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.

Speeches 1993 - Saturday, 5 June 1993