Speeches 1991




Saturday, 18 May 1991

Mr Ambassador,

1. I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican as you present the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Philippines to the Holy See. In this position it will be your task to contribute to strengthening still further the close ties which already exist between your country and the Holy See; ties which reflect a relationship which goes back almost five hundred years to the time when the Christian faith was first preached in the Philippine archipelago and which have a solid basis in our shared views on many issues of international relations, our commitment to the promotion of justice at every level of society, and the fostering of peace in the world. I thank you for the greetings you have conveyed from President Corazon Aquino, and I would ask you to assure Her Excellency of my earnest prayers for the well-being of all Filipinos.

2. One of the principal concerns of my Pontificate in relation to the international community has been to draw attention to the ever increasing imbalance between the countries of the so-called "North" and those of the "South"; that is, to the great material distance which separates developed countries from developing ones. As you are aware, the Church’s assessment of this imbalance does not spring from economic or political interests; rather the Church approaches this question in the light of her religious mission, and therefore from an essentially ethical and moral point of view.

Since the decline of the ideological contrasts which have divided the world for most of this century, the asymmetry between rich and poor nations is now certainly the most threatening source of conflict among peoples. In my New Year Address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, I again turned to this theme, in the hope that the leaders of nations will take a far-seeing and morally responsible attitude in responding to the frustration of millions of our brothers and sisters trapped in situations of material or cultural deprivation (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Ad repraesentantes Nationum apud Sanctam Sedem Legatos, 9, die 12 ian. 1991: vide supra, pp. PP 92 s).

3. In order to prevent this imbalance between the developed and developing societies from remaining a chronic source of tension, the international community must make adequate adjustments in its economic and social systems and priorities. In particular it must set about resolving the problem of the foreign indebtedness of the countries least able to meet the demand being placed upon them (Cfr. ibid). The seriousness of the situation cannot be ignored. On the most immediate level, urgent steps are required to help the millions whose very existence is threatened by famine, homelessness and violence. On a more general but no less pressing level, a new attitude is needed so as to change the prevailing order in which a small sector of the human family uses a disproportionate part of the earth’s resources and available energies without a fair return of experience, technology and the actual material benefits of development to the rest, by far the greater part of the one human race. This is not to criticize the progress made by the more developed nations through hard work and enterprise. Not is it to ignore the responsibility of the developing nations in promoting their own growth through wise policies and sustained effort. It is to recognize, as I wrote in my recent Encyclical "Centesimus Annus", that there exists "a growing inability to situate particular interests within the framework of a coherent vision of the common good" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Centesimus Annus CA 47).

A proper concept of the common good is what is often lacking, not only on the theoretical level but also on the practical level of nation-building and of working for a just order in economic and political relations. The common good "is not simply the sum total of particular interests; rather it involves an assessment and integration of those interests on the basis of a balanced hierarchy of values; ultimately, it demands a correct understanding of the dignity and rights of the person" (Ibid).

4. In this year, which the Church is dedicating to spreading knowledge of her Social Doctrine, I cannot fail to emphasize the social purpose of all power and wealth, and the duty to use these realities for the common good. It is surely not beyond possibility that in many countries— including the Philippines— there might be established a new forum of solidarity, a social pact as it were, between those responsible for public life, those who control the economy, those engaged in education and scientific and technological development, and other forces within society; a pact in which all would agree to work for improved conditions, but in a way that would benefit ever greater numbers of their fellow citizens by educating them for increased participation in economic and civic life. For such an effort to be practicable, public authorities would have to show that they were genuinely at the service of their communities; business leaders would have to harmonize the need for capital growth and profit with the demands of justice and the creation of a community of work respectful of the personality and creativity of its members; those who educate and those who create public opinion would have to promote and uphold a vision of life in which the transcendent dignity of every person is the criterion of judgment and action. In essence, all would have to be convinced that a nation, as a community of persons, must be built on a solid ethical and moral base, with each member sharing a sense of responsibility for the well-being of all.

5. Your nation is undergoing a series of profound transformations, and Your Excellency has referred to the positive efforts being made by your people and Government to meet the challenges involved. You are aware that the Church is a wise and effective partner in the task of building a society which is deeply respectful of human dignity and firmly established on a solid foundation of social justice. The Church in fact is never a merely passive observer of the human scene. Her duty to communicate God’s merciful love embraces individuals, families and groups at every social level. She has a special call to serve the poor, for they have greater and more immediate needs. But no one is excluded from her concern, and I am certain that in your country this fact is well known and appreciated.

On numerous occasions I have had the opportunity to reflect with the Bishops of the Philippines on the circumstances of their ministry. They are deeply committed to serving the best interests of their people through the exercise of their specific role as spiritual guides and teachers and through the immense network of educational, social and charitable works which have sprung from the evangelical command to love one’s neighbor as oneself. The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, to which Your Excellency has referred and in which you personally took part, gave voice to the Bishops’ desire to prepare the Catholic community better for the many challenges it is facing.

6. Through their teaching and evangelizing activities, the Pastors of the Church strive in a particular way to educate consciences to the objective demands of justice and solidarity which flow from our human dignity. While they have full confidence in the capabilities and goodness of their people and give due recognition to the many positive aspects of Filipino society, they are also concerned about what appears to be a decline of certain fundamental values. They also note social imbalances which in some cases lead to a loss of trust in political and public institutions and even to violence (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Allocutio ad quosdam Insularum Philippinarum episcopos, 2, die 18 sept. 1990: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XIII, 2 [1990] 638 s). It is my ardent hope, Mr Ambassador, that without a blurring of their respective roles the Church and the public authorities of the Philippines will continue to cooperate in fostering the common good.

May God abundantly bless the Filipino people in the construction of a more equitable, just and caring society. May his protection be with you, Mr Ambassador, in the fulfillment of your noble mission!




Friday, 24 May 1991

Your Eminence,
Dear Brother Bishops,

1. I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican on the occasion of your quinquennial visit to the Tombs of Saints Peter and Paul. As successors of the Apostles, whose witness to the Risen Lord is the sure foundation of the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel in every time and place, you have come to Rome to reaffirm your communion in faith and charity with the Successor of Peter. In greeting you, I embrace all the Catholics of Thailand, and I make my own the prayer of the Apostle Peter: "May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord" (2 Petr. 1, 2).

I am grateful to Bishop George Yod Phimphisan, the new President of your Conference, for his kind words. I am confident that, following the example of Cardinal Kitbunchu, he will inspire and encourage the work of the Conference in achieving the goals which you have set yourselves in the period of evangelization leading up to the beginning of the third Christian millennium. The Church in Thailand, though a "pusillus grex", is remarkably well placed to bear witness to Jesus Christ in the heart of Asia, where so many do not yet know him but yearn for the truths and values of his Gospel. Your recent celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the establishment of the Hierarchy, with the ordination of new priests and a great gathering of the faithful, shows how the Church in your midst is quickly maturing and shines forth ever more fully as "a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 4).

2. Our meeting today recalls the particular joy of the Beatification in October 1989 of the seven Thai Martyrs. Their testimony reveals the unlimited power of God’s word to penetrate to the heart of every human culture, and to find radiant expression in the holiness of individuals and whole communities. By following Jesus Christ in life and in death, the Martyrs not only offered a convincing proof of their deep faith in God’s promises. Their sacrifice also revealed that "the word of God is not fettered" (Cfr. 2Tm 2,9), by any particular language or cultural expression. Rather, the light of the Gospel is meant for every people, and its truth purifies, strengthens and elevates every culture from within (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 13). At the price of their blood, the Martyrs bore eloquent witness to the catholicity of the Church which Christ established to be the universal sacrament of union with God and of the unity of the whole human race (Cfr. ibid. 1). They fully confirmed the truth of the words which I addressed to you on another occasion: "In your people Christ has become Thai" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Bancokii, allocutio ad episcopos Thailandiae habita, 1, die 11 maii 1984: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, VII, 1 [1984] 1383).

3. As Pastors of the Church, it is important for you to discern the signs of God’s favour among your people and to seek ways of bringing his gifts to fruition. A clear sign of God’s love is the increase of vocations both to the priesthood and to the religious life. It is heartening to know of the care which your Conference gives to the Lux Mundi National Major Seminary, your closeness to the Staff and Students, and the efforts made to maintain high standards. All that you do to ensure the adequate formation of the young men preparing for the priesthood in your Seminaries, as well as your pastoral attention to the formation of candidates to the Religious life, constitutes an essential part of your ministry and is an excellent form of service to the Christian community. From your origins as a mission Church you draw increasing awareness of the need to become a missionary Church. Initiatives such as the launching of a Decade of Evangelization and the establishment of a Thai Missionary Society to work in the northern region of the country— small like the mustard seed of the Gospel but destined to become a great life-giving tree (Cfr. Matth. Mt 13,31 Matth. Mt 13,32 Matth. )— demonstrate the vitality of your particular Churches in responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I pray for the success of these initiatives, in the certainty that despite the difficulties involved the Lord of the harvest will amply repay your patient efforts. Confidence in God’s Providence is essential for all missionary activity, for in the end we know that "mission is based not on human abilities but on the power of the Risen Lord" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Redemptoris Missio RMi 23). Its ultimate success will be revealed in ways and at times known only to God himself.

4. A central aspect of the Church’s mission, and one of particular importance for your own pastoral ministry, is her relation to other religions. My recent Encyclical "Redemptoris Missio" insisted that the Church’s duty to preach the Gospel to all nations in no way implies a lack of respect for the various cultures or for the good that is to be found in each religion (Cfr. ibid. 55). "Other religions constitute a positive challenge for the Church: they stimulate her both to discover and acknowledge the signs of Christ’s presence and of the working of the Spirit, as well as to examine more deeply her own identity and to bear witness to the fullness of revelation which she has received for the good of all" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Redemptoris Missio RMi 56). Hence, there is no contradiction between openness to God’s truth wherever it is to be found and an acknowledgement that Christ’s gifts, present in the spiritual treasures of other traditions, are meant to lead back to him, since he remains, in the words of the Council, the one "principle of salvation for the whole world" (Lumen Gentium LG 17).

Inter-religious dialogue is conducted on a number of levels. Not the least among these, especially in pastoral situations like your own, is that "dialogue of life" in which believers bear clear witness to spiritual values, help one another to live what the Gospel teaches, and collaborate with all men and women of good will to build a more just and fraternal society. By patiently encouraging your people to show their faith in Christ through solidarity and generous commitment to the good of individuals and of society, you will be opening doors to other, more formal, avenues of dialogue and cooperation.

5. In your reports on the state of your Dioceses, many of you have stressed that indirect evangelization is the primary vehicle of the Church’s missionary outreach. The lay faithful have an essential role in this regard. How important it is for the life of the Church that they actively commit themselves to living their baptismal faith, by bearing joyful witness to the demands of the Gospel, and by being ever ready to give an account of the hope that is in them (Cfr. 1 Petr. 3, 15)! The lay faithful of Thailand can now look to an exemplary patron in Blessed Philip Siphong, for "here was a lay person who was deeply conscious that through Baptism he belonged to Christ, Priest, Prophet and King, and was thus personally called to proclaim the Gospel" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Homilia in Vaticana basilica habita, ob decretos Dei Servis Philippo Siphong et Sociabus, 4, die 22 oct. 1989: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XII, 2 [1989] 990 s).

I can only encourage the praiseworthy efforts being made in your particular Churches to enable the laity to fulfil their Christian vocation, especially in such critical areas as the adequate preparation of young people for the Sacrament of Matrimony and instruction in natural family planning. The counselling of couples entering mixed marriages represents a particular pastoral challenge for the Church in Thailand, and I am confident that it will be addressed ever more effectively on both the local and the diocesan levels. The family must continue to be a central focus of ordinary pastoral activity, while special attention should be paid to young people and to their formation as responsible members of society. Your communities’ involvement in health-care and in particular of the handicapped and those suffering from Hansen’s Disease or AIDS; their generous work among the poor of the slums; their efforts to combat the scourge of drug addiction among the young: all this is inspired by evangelical love and guided by the conviction that human dignity can only be safeguarded by attention to the demands of the human spirit which reaches its full expression in generous self-giving to God and neighbour. I am pleased to note that the newly-established Human Development Centre intends to coordinate and promote an incisive response to the many threats against human life in your society.

6. In speaking of the participation of the laity in the Church’s mission, I cannot fail to mention the outstanding contribution of lay catechists to ecclesial life in Thailand. Their "singular and absolutely necessary contribution to the spread of the faith and of the Church" (Ad Gentes AGD 7), consists especially in helping others to discover the treasures of wisdom and knowledge which they themselves have found in Christ Jesus (Cfr. Col. Col 2,3). I ask you to convey to them my own deep appreciation for their work and for their example of dedication to the Church’s mission.

The activity of catechists is an extension, as it were, of the pastoral teaching of the Bishops and the local clergy. It is an ecclesial task for which they require adequate doctrinal and pedagogical formation. You must continue your efforts in this regard, and your decision to designate the feast of Blessed Siphong as National Catechists’ Day will surely bring spiritual comfort and encouragement to those who have undertaken this difficult and demanding work.

Thailand’s Catholic schools too provide a vital service by ensuring the religious education of the young and by forming a committed laity imbued with the spirit of the Gospel. The Church’s notable commitment to establishing and maintaining such schools attests to, her conviction that the integral good of individuals and entire communities is promoted by the formation of consciences and by respect for the dignity and freedom of individuals in their pursuit of truth. The Catholic view is that parents are the primary and principal educators of their children (Cfr. Gravissimum Educationis GE 3). Other bodies, including religious and civil institutions, have the responsibility of assisting them in carrying out this duty and of ensuring the free exercise of their fundamental rights in this area (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Nuntius ob diem ad pacem fovendam dicatum pro a. D. 1991, III, die 8 dec. 1990: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XIII, 2 [1990] 1560 ss). An increasingly effective coordination of these responsibilities, the importance of which has been clearly emphasized in various international Declarations, can come from continued dialogue and cooperation between all involved.

7. I cannot conclude without expressing my concern for the plight of the refugees and displaced persons who have found a temporary home in Thailand. The human tragedy involved in this great exodus of individuals and families challenges the entire international community. Their situation of suffering needs to be addressed on a global level, with due attention to all the social and economic factors which have contributed to this "festering wound which typifies and reveals all the imbalances and conflicts of the modern world" (Eiusdem Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 24). The sacrifices and demonstrations of solidarity shown to refugees by the Church in Thailand have been fully in the spirit of the Gospel ideal of the Good Samaritan. In this regard, I am pleased to recall once again the commendable humanitarian efforts being undertaken by the Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees. I join you in praying that the exiles and the homeless presently in your country will soon be able to return to a free and dignified life in their native lands.

8. My Brother Bishops, I give thanks to God our Father for the many blessings which he has bestowed on the Church in Thailand through the faithful witness of her clergy, religious and laity. A special word of appreciation is also due to the expatriate missionary personnel who play an important role in many of your pastoral programmes and who represent a special bond of union with the universal Church. I express the hope that their number can be increased so that society as a whole may benefit from their services.

Let us pray together that all the members of the Catholic community will grow in love of the Saviour, in appreciation of their sublime vocation and dignity as members of Christ’s Church, and in their desire to share the joy of the Good News with others. I commend you and the faithful of your dioceses to the intercession of Our Lady of the Assumption, and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and strength in your ministry to God’s People.




Friday, 31 May 1991

Dear Friends,

1. I am very pleased to have this occasion to meet with the Directors of Postal Services in various countries of Europe, as well as in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and the United States of America, during these days in which you are studying ways of improving communications among continents and nations by means of the services that your agencies can provide. At a time when your responsibilities are no doubt becoming ever more demanding, I wish to assure you of the Church’s esteem and appreciation of your work.

As you visit a city so rich in history as Rome, you cannot but recall the long tradition of the post over many centuries in the midst of political, cultural, and social change. It would seem that a form of postal service existed from early antiquity in the Persian Empire, the Greek States and then in the Roman Empire, especially for political and military purpose. In the Roman imperial epoch, postal delivery was greatly expanded along the lines established by Caesar Augustus, so that by the time of Constantine there were provincial magistrates whose sole responsibility was the orderly functioning of the post. With the disappearance of a unified empire, postal communications in the Middle Ages and Renaissance remained limited and sporadic.

It was only in modern times that a truly international postal organization was established: the Universal Postal Union founded at Berne in 1874. For the purposes of the post, all member countries were from then on to be considered a single territory, each member guaranteeing postal service within its boundaries according to regulations and rates that conformed with those of the other members. Despite wars, social upheavals and the radical transformations of society, the post continues to serve people’s need to communicate with one another, whether within families and among loved ones, or for cultural, educational or business purposes. Today, modern technologies open up new possibilities and create new challenges for even greater communications among all the world’s peoples.

2. Dear friends, each of you holds a position of great trust within society. To you falls responsibility for the confidentiality of postal communications, and for the safe, prompt and dependable delivery of a vast number of letters, parcels and other pieces of mail. You must also see to the efficient administration of your agencies, and to future needs in light of today’s social and technological developments.

But in all this, your service is ultimately directed to the human person, to man, who as I have said in the Encyclical "Redemptor Hominis", "writes [his] personal history through numerous bonds, contacts, situations and social structures linking him with other men . . . man in the full truth of his existence, of his personal being and also of his community and social being-in the sphere of his own family, in the sphere of society and very diverse contexts, in the sphere of his own nation or people . . . and in the sphere of the whole of mankind" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Redemptor Hominis RH 14).

In serving the human person and fostering community among men and women through postal communications, you also glorify God the Creator who calls man to fulfil his earthly vocation in the light of a transcendent destiny. May this same God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you in your work and enlighten your deliberations during these days. To each of you and to your families I cordially impart my Blessing.

June 1991




Monday, 17 June 1991

Mr Ambassador,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence which appoint you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of China to the Holy See. I thank you for the greetings which you have conveyed from your President, your Government and fellow-citizens. I would ask you to assure them all of the sincerity of my good wishes and the earnestness of my prayers for their peace and well-being.

You have spoken of the noble ideals and aspirations which lie at the heart of the great Chinese cultural tradition. The achievements of mind and spirit epitomized in the teachings of renowned Chinese philosophers and sages gave substance and form to a humanism which survived the vicissitudes of history and imbued the cultural and social life of the whole Chinese family with ennobling truths and values. When Catholicism was introduced into China, it was at the level of that cultural and moral heritage that a very profound and fruitful exchange took place. It was a dialogue which arose spontaneously out of man’s innate tendency to transcend himself and his material circumstances. It was a fine example of that universal human experience which I enunciated thus in my recent Encyclical regarding the Church’s social teaching: "Man remains above all a being who seeks the truth and strives to live in that truth, deepening his understanding of it through a dialogue which involves past and future generations" (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 49).

The meeting between your people’s culture and the Gospel blossomed in spite of not a few difficulties. It revealed a wide spectrum of mutual understanding and shared aspirations. As I wrote to the Church in Taiwan on the occasion of the Symposium on Evangelization which took place in March 1988: "To accept Christ and his Gospel in no way means to abandon one’s own culture or to be less loyal in regard to one’s own nation" (John Paul II, Address to the Bishops and Members of the Regional Episcopal Conference of China, 2 Feb. 1988).

The Church is deeply committed to this dialogue between her faith and the rich traditions of your culture. She seeks to understand ever more fully your people’s genuine way of thinking and feeling, so that her worship of God and her service to the human family, especially to the poor and needy, will effectively contribute to building a deeply just and peaceful society.

Today, especially in developed societies, there is a danger that the historic memory of peoples, which preserves their common identity, will be weakened. People are distracted and often unaware of the negative consequences of the loss of spiritual values which characterizes life where an exaggerated consumerism sets the tone of social conduct. Society becomes less "personalized" because the family and other intermediate groups are no longer able to fulfill their natural function to provide the full support, formation and solidarity which their members require (Cf. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, CA 49). The Church, in each local community of believers as well as at the level of her presence in the international community, seeks to offset these trends by promoting a sense of the value of every human being, made in God’s image, and by educating individuals to an awareness of their responsibilities and of their duty to develop their human potential. In relation to society, the Church’s sole purpose is care and responsibility for man, who has been entrusted to her by Christ himself (Cf. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 53).

The Church is immensely confident that in spite of deviations along the way man’s central place within society will be more and more recognized, and that State authorities and political bodies will more and more realize that it is imperative to create the conditions of freedom which will enable man to attend to his spiritual and transcendent needs. Respect for freedom of thought, conscience and religion is essential for human development and for the social harmony of nations. A proper application of the principle of religious freedom helps to educate citizens to recognize the demands of the moral order, and consequently to act responsibly in fulfilling their obligations, in responding to the needs of others, and in cooperating with their fellow-citizens in building structures of development, justice and peace.

Mr. Ambassador, your diplomatic mission to the Holy See has less to do with the politics of relations between States than it has to do with reflection and action in relation to the ethical and moral principles which ought to guide the participation of peoples in international life and the efforts of their respective Governments to respond to the great questions facing the human family. In the international forum the Holy See offers its willing and loyal cooperation, taking to heart the problems, anxieties and aspirations of the world’s peoples, with full respect for their sovereignty and the specific forms of life and government which they freely and legitimately give themselves.

With my prayers for the success of your mission, I assure Your Excellency of the assistance and cooperation of the various departments of the Holy See. I gladly invoke abundant divine blessings upon you and your fellow-citizens.





Thursday, 20 June 1991

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you have been appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Iran. You represent a nation with rich historical, cultural and religious traditions, which give moral strength to your people in the task of reconstruction and development. I assure you that I offer prayers for the peace and well-being of your fellow-citizens.

Peace is the summing-up of the aspirations of all men and women of good will. When it is lacking, not only are people subjected to death and destruction, as has recently occurred in the Persian Gulf area; they are also deeply wounded in their unique dignity as human beings. They are hindered in pursuing their development as rational and spiritual beings. Moreover, for believers, peace is a gift of God. It is as it were God’s special endowment, since it makes possible the realization of all his other gifts to individuals and to society.

On many occasions I have expressed the Church’s commitment to seek a profound and respectful dialogue with the followers of the Muslim faith, in order to increase mutual knowledge and understanding, and thus better serve the cause of harmony and peace. Indeed, as I wrote in the Encyclical "Centesimus Annus": "I am convinced that the various religions, now and in the future, will have a predominant role in preserving peace and in building a society worthy of man" (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 60). The true foundation for reestablishing justice, for achieving and strengthening peace, and for promoting all aspects of human welfare must be a sincere and wide-ranging exchange between Christian and Muslim believers, based on respect for the specific character of each other’s faith. The world needs the unanimous witness of our common convictions regarding the dignity of man, created by God. We must feel the weight of our responsibility, since it is above all to believers that the Creator has entrusted "the work of his hands", including in a special way his creature par excellence: man, invested with an inalienable dignity.

It is the defence and promotion of human dignity which the Holy See pursues through its presence in the international community and its bilateral diplomatic relations with many countries. This activity, which has no other aim but to be at the service of the good of the human family, is characterized by a predominant interest in the ethical, moral and humanitarian aspects of relations between the world’s peoples. In this perspective I fully share the desire which Your Excellency has expressed for a further strengthening of relations between the Holy See and the Islamic Republic of Iran, in order to ensure increased mutual understanding and co-operation in these areas of fundamental importance.

The grave problems which affect humanity, including poverty and hunger, especially among millions of refugees, the destruction of the earth’s material resources, the exploitation of people and groups of people for economic and political purposes, and the suffering inflicted by armed conflict, are signs of a deep imbalance in the human heart. In effect, the world’s inability to meet these situations with wise and generous endeavours to resolve them denotes a widespread spiritual crisis. In many ways, the problems themselves, when they are not due to natural calamities, and the lack of an effective response to them are the expression of a spiritual blindness in man’s heart. He fails to take account of the Creator’s will manifested in the very nature of created reality. He fails to see the image of God in himself and in others, and thus he lacks the motivation and strength to foster the inviolable dignity of every individual and the solidarity needed to care for the vulnerable and weak. A true renewal of spiritual values is required if a more just and peaceful world is to be achieved.

Economic and political factors alone cannot fully explain the radical changes which are now taking place in the structures of many nations, with important consequences for international relations. These changes cannot be adequately understood without taking into account the underlying demand for greater personal responsibility in the pursuit of our human destiny. They speak to us of man’s thirst for authentic spiritual freedom. As I wrote in this year’s World Day of Peace Message: "The rapid changes which have taken place show very clearly that a person may not be treated as a kind of object governed solely by forces outside of his or her control. Rather, the individual person, despite human frailty, has the ability to seek and freely know the good, to recognize and reject evil, to choose truth and to oppose error" (John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace1991, I). This freedom of thought, of conscience, and consequently of religion, is an essential foundation of peace, and I renew the hope that the great religions will continue to foster mutual understanding and dialogue on the basis of the many values shared by them, so as to ensure that obstacles to the implementation of that freedom are avoided (Cf. ibid. VII). In this way following the law of conscience and the precepts of one’s own religion believers, although they may hold different views on many subjects, will be able to work together to meet the urgent problems facing the human family.

It is in this spirit too that I recall the beloved Christian communities living in your country. While they remain steadfast in their religious convictions, and thus need the means and opportunities to fulfil their religious duties and deepen and strengthen their Christian faith, they are proud citizens of their homeland and wish to do their part in meeting the challenges facing the nation at this time.

As Your Excellency begins your diplomatic mission, I wish you well and assure you of the co-operation of the various departments of the Holy See. I would ask you to convey my greetings to the President, the Government and the people of the Islamic Republic of Iran, upon whom I prayerfully invoke Almighty God’s abundant blessings.

Speeches 1991