Speeches 1991 - Castel Gandolfo





Thursday, 26 September 1991

Mr Ambassador, I

It gives me great pleasure to accept the Letters of Credence by which Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II appoints you as her Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See. I ask you kindly to convey to Her Majesty my cordial greetings and good wishes. I am certain that you will continue to strengthen and develop the close ties between Great Britain and the Holy See which made possible the establishment of full diplomatic relations almost ten years ago.

Your Excellency has referred to the extraordinary changes taking place in Europe and the world. Certainly, none of us can remain indifferent to what is happening on this continent. We are pleased but also concerned witnesses of profound transformations taking place in the social and political spheres. These are positive changes, for they move in the direction of greater respect for the liberty and self-determination of peoples. Nations which until recently were bound by force to a world order made up of artificial barriers, nations which lacked a voice of their own in the international community, are now eager to assert their sovereignty and pursue their destiny as equal partners in a new economic and political structure. I am heartened that your own country, Mr Ambassador, is acting in order to be of concrete assistance at this present delicate stage.

The current transformations can be largely ascribed to the changes advocated and introduced in the Soviet Union over the past few years. But they would not have taken on their present urgency and momentum unless they also reflected the ardent aspirations of peoples everywhere to preserve and develop in freedom their cultural and religious heritages. In the long run, man’s innate need to strive for the higher values which genuinely express his dignity - values such as the exercise of human rights, and foremost among them the right to life and freedom of conscience and religion - cannot be stifled. Recent events have given a new impulse to a universal human aspiration: the hope that cooperation and solidarity, not force, will govern relations between individuals and between States; the hope that dialogue and negotiation, not the use of arms, will become the only acceptable means of resolving conflicts.

The generally peaceful nature of the process of change which has been taking place demonstrates the maturity achieved by the peoples involved and their commitment to the democratic goals which they have set themselves. But the tensions and even violent conflicts which in some States are marking the process of change show how hard it is to overcome the injustices of the past in order to institute a truly free and fruitful form of cooperation. The Holy See encourages all efforts to end violence and reach a just settlement of current disputes, and it appreciates the European Community’s policy of rejecting changes of borders brought about by force. We must continue to hope and pray that wisdom and solidarity will prevail over ethnic and political rivalry.

I have often referred to the need to overcome the prejudices or hostilities inherited from history in relations between majorities and minorities. Unfortunately, we see with what obstinacy such attitudes survive the passage of time. In a speech to the Diplomatic Corps during my recent visit to Hungary I spoke of the need to work patiently and resolutely to overcome this kind of problem. Indeed, for Christians this task is a priority: "they may not set it aside without being unfaithful to a central truth, that of the fundamental equality of all human beings who have been called to live in fraternal unity, beyond all sorts of borders. To reach that goal, a long road must be travelled; far from discouraging us, this must encourage us to undertake the journey without delay" (John Paul II, Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 5 [17 August 1991]).

These same thoughts and sentiments express my deep concern and sorrow with regard to the continuing tragedy of Northern Ireland, to which Your Excellency has also referred. The Church continues to condemn all acts of violence and intimidation, from whatever source they originate. Peace cannot come from injustice and violence; it can only be built on respect for the rights of individuals and peoples, and on a shared sense of responsibility for the well-being of the entire population. I hope and pray that every effort will be made to give new life to the process of dialogue, and that this dialogue will quickly proceed to questions of substance regarding the life of the whole community.

In the fulfilment of her universal mission, the Church constantly reminds people that there can be no genuine human progress except in respect for the ethical imperatives deriving from the human dignity of every individual, imperatives which are founded in man’s very nature, antecedent to economic, cultural and political considerations, and which determine the only viable programme for the construction of a world truly worthy of man.

This solicitude for the ethical and moral demands basic to human life characterizes the Church’s action everywhere, not least in the developed countries, which today perhaps even more than previously bear a special responsibility towards the peoples of the developing nations since they exercise a powerful attraction and influence over them. It is clear that in developed societies efforts to organize and legislate for the common good without reference to objective moral values have led to a widespread spiritual crisis, a crisis of fundamental values, one which has weakened the fabric of civic life and has left millions of people unsure of the ultimate meaning of their very existence and strivings. When, at the beginning of my Pontificate, I appealed to peoples and nations to open their doors to Christ, it was not a call to a merely private religious commitment. The foundations of European civilization rest squarely on the Christian Gospel.

Without an enlivening contact with the power and vision of the Gospel, the institutions which ensure the continuance of that civilization are deprived of direction and vitality.

The Church fully realizes that in the building of a more humane and peaceful world she has a fundamental role to play: to educate consciences in the demands of truth and justice. It is my hope therefore that in this respect greater cooperation between various Christian Churches and communities, and between Christians and the followers of other religious traditions, will help to invigorate public concern for the defence of life and human rights and for the responsible use of God’s creation.

Mr Ambassador, I have mentioned only a few of the important issues upon which you will often have occasion to reflect in the course of your mission to the Holy See. I take this opportunity to wish you well in the fulfilment of your duties and to assure you of the willing cooperation of the various departments of the Holy See. May God’s guidance and blessing be with you.




Friday, 27 September 1991

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am pleased to welcome you, distinguished participants in the Workshop organized by the Vatican Observatory and the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, at Berkeley in California. This is the second in a series of meetings aimed at fostering interdisciplinary research in the areas of the natural sciences, philosophy and theology. You come from different cultural and religious backgrounds and your scholarly pursuits represent a wide variety of disciplines. You personify that diversity which enriches the pursuit of unity in the many areas of human culture.

The first of your Conferences, in September 1987, was held to commemorate the three hundredth anniversary of the publication of Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. In a Message published as an introduction to the proceedings of that Conference, I restated my keen desire that a new relationship between science and religion should be fostered, by means of a deeper interchange regarding important questions, vital to the life of society, which concern both realms of investigation (cf. John Paul II, Letter to the Director of the Vatican Observatory, 1 June 1988). Your present Workshop is a clear sign that such an interdisciplinary approach is both possible and fruitful.

2. The theme you have chosen is a particularly significant one: The Quantum Creation of the Universe and the Origins of the Laws of Nature. It not only includes such fundamental concepts in the natural sciences as quantum physics, quantum gravity, cosmology and physical laws, but also such religious themes as creation, God and nature, the natural and the supernatural, miracles, and others. You have chosen a difficult task, but one which offers the promise of advancing the understanding of concepts essential to the meeting of religion and science.

The rift between science and religion dates back to the beginning of modern science itself. In the seventeenth century, with Galileo and Newton as principal protagonists, the experimental method was perfected and the application of mathematics to scientific research was begun. This growth of the natural sciences was sometimes accompanied by a certain kind of rationalism which contended that everything could be explained by scientific reasoning alone or, as later developed, by the conviction that nothing could be explained since the existence of absolute truth was altogether disallowed. Thus the question of God was often scrutinized by such a method as to make it seem devoid of meaning (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 19). This led, in not a few sectors of ecclesial life, to a cautious and suspicious view of science as being tainted with atheism, and thus a divorce between science and religion was set for decades to come.

In principle the Church could not accept such a rift, convinced as she was that the truth of nature and the truth of revelation come from the same divine source. The very words with which Pope Leo XIII re-instituted the Vatican Observatory a hundred years ago summarized the Church’s unremitting hope for a renewed dialogue and collaboration with the world of science. In the founding document Pope Leo wrote: "in taking up this work we have become involved not only in helping to promote a very noble science, which more than any other human discipline raises the spirit of mortals to the contemplation of heavenly events, but we have in the first place put before ourselves the plan . . . that everyone might see that the Church and her Pastors are not opposed to true and solid science, whether human or divine, but that they embrace it, encourage it, and promote it with the fullest possible dedication" (Leo XIII, Ut Mysticam, 14 March 1891).

3. In more recent times, the Church’s growing interest in the natural sciences has sometimes been accompanied by a tendency on the part of some towards a misuse of scientific results to bolster religious beliefs. In its Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, the Second Vatican Council rejected this approach and deplored "certain habits of mind, sometimes found also among Christians, which do not sufficiently attend to the rightful independence of science" (Gaudium et Spes GS 36). What the Council advocated, in effect, was an attitude of mutual openness and a new relationship of collaboration in the service of the human family.

It sought to put aside definitively any remaining fears regarding the hoped-for dialogue. The Constitution states: "if methodical investigation within every branch of learning is carried out in a genuinely scientific manner and in accord with moral norms, it never truly conflicts with faith. For earthly matters and the concerns of faith derive from the same God. Indeed, whoever labours to penetrate the secrets of reality with a humble and steady mind is, even unawares, being led by the hand of God, who holds all things in existence and gives them their identity" (Ibid.). As I wrote regarding your 1987 Workshop: "The unprecedented opportunity we have today is for a common interactive relationship in which each discipline retains its integrity and yet is radically open to the discoveries and insights of the other" (John Paul II, Letter to the Director of the Vatican Observatory, 1 June 1988).

I am confident that your discussions will seek to illustrate the common ground of a fruitful collaboration. May your interchange lead all of us to a clearer and fuller discovery of that Truth which is the source of all our light and understanding. May God bless you abundantly.

October 1991





Monday, 7 October 1991

My dear Friends,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you as you journey to Malta to take part in the Fifth International Meeting for Peace organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio. Your desire to meet believers of all traditions in order to pray for peace in the world illustrates the conviction which we share that religion has a vital part to play in the building of more just and harmonious relations between individuals and peoples. I therefore wish to assure you of my interest in your work for peace and I am happy that we have this occasion to meet.

I recall with satisfaction that many religious leaders in Japan, including some of you who are here today, responded generously to my invitation to come to Assisi for the World Day of Prayer for Peace in October 1986. Since that date religious representatives from Japan have been present at the annual meetings which the Community of Sant’Egidio has organized to promote the spirit and aims of the Assisi Meeting. This year, which marks the fiftieth anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War in the Pacific, your delegation is even more numerous. Your country’s tragic experience of the horrors of atomic war makes you particularly eloquent spokesmen of the world’s vocation to peace.

Peace, the desire of every human heart, is essential to the well-being of the human family and indeed to its very survival. In recent times we have witnessed great progress in overcoming obstacles to world peace. And yet, as I said at Assisi, "peace is always extremely fragile. It is threatened in so many ways and with such unforeseeable consequences that we must endeavour to provide it with secure foundations" (John Paul II, Address to the representatives of the Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities gathered in Assisi for the World Day of Prayer, 3 [27 Oct. 1986]). We are aware that, in a sense, peace is beyond us. It is a gift to be implored. It is heartening that so many people around the world pray, individually and collectively, for this divine gift, for the success of efforts to promote true peace. The gathering of people from different religious backgrounds to pray in this manner takes on the added significance of a sign to the world that even profound differences of outlook and conviction need not be obstacles to mutual understanding, esteem and cooperation, which are the path to peace.





Thursday, 10 October 1991

Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Brother Priests,

With joy and affection I greet you, alumni of the Pontifical North American College who are celebrating the fortieth anniversary of your ordination to the Priesthood. You are vividly aware of the many blessings with which Almighty God has filled your lives and the lives of those whom he has entrusted to your pastoral care over the years. One with you in praising and thanking him for the riches of his love, I join you likewise in prayerful remembrance of classmates and friends who are not able to be here.

I am glad that you have chosen to commemorate this milestone in your lives by returning to Rome. Once again you are pilgrims in this City, the scene of the splendid witness to Christ given by the Apostles Peter and Paul and by so many other martyrs and saints. The bonds which link you to the Church in Rome are just as strong after all these years, and you testify to the fact that the hopes placed in you by the superiors of your College - and here I recall by name your Rector, Archbishop Martin O’Connor - were not in vain. The re-opening of the College was no easy task after the Second World War, so by persevering labor in the pastoral ministry over these forty years you have repaid the confidence placed in you by those who sent you to study in Rome.

The mission for which you were ordained continues to shape your lives, and there remains much for you to do in preaching the word of God, in nourishing the family of Christ’s disciples with the Eucharist and the other sacraments of faith, and in defending the dignity of the human person and of human life. May the Holy Spirit renew the joy of your youth and your first fervor for the service of the Gospel. Let this anniversary be an occasion to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of hands (cf. 2Tm 1,6).

I commend you and the people you serve to the loving intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Patroness of your College as Our Lady of Humility, and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.





Monday, 28 October 1991

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to receive the Letters of Credence by which Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth Il has appointed you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Saint Lucia to the Holy See. I am grateful for the kind sentiments you have expressed on behalf of your Government, and I ask you to convey to the Governor-General, the Prime Minister and all the people of Saint Lucia my best wishes for their peace and prosperity.

This occasion brings to mind once again my visit to your country in 1986, and I recall with joy and satisfaction the warmth of my meeting with your fellow citizens. It was just over a year before my visit that I received the first Ambassador from your country. In these intervening years relations between your Government and the Holy See have been marked by increasing respect and esteem, thus fulfilling the hopes we shared in establishing diplomatic relations. I am confident that in building upon the solid foundation laid by your late predecessor, Ambassador Carasco, whom you have recalled so affectionately today, you will be the worthy diplomatic representative of your nation.

In the course of pursuing the mission entrusted to her by her Divine Lord, the Church in Saint Lucia manifests her readiness to offer "honest assistance in fostering that brotherhood of all men which corresponds to . . . their destiny" (Gaudium et Spes GS 3). The activities of the Church in your country, her proclamation of the truth about the human person and his relationship with the Creator, her schools and programmes of education, her care for the poor and needy, all contribute to strengthening this brotherhood and, at the same time, they invite all men and women of good will to join in working for the common good.

You spoke of the commitment of the people of Saint Lucia to the cause of peace both at home and abroad, and of their determination to preserve democracy in a stable social climate. These noble goals set the stage for your nation’s true growth and development. Only by acknowledging the dignity of all its citizens as free participants in their country’s life, only by recognizing the rights of all men and women, independently of social condition, can a nation fulfil its destiny and lead its people to full freedom and well-being.

It is precisely within this higher context that the task of achieving economic development has to be understood. As one, albeit very important, ingredient of the complex reality of human progress - which necessarily entails a social, cultural and religious dimension-material development must be guided by a moral understanding of man and his destiny.Man is called to transcend himself by entering into a relationship with God and neighbour built on respect for the truth and expressed in loving service to others. Economic development is a means to the achievement of these higher goals. It brings an increase of the material goods which help to sustain and free people so that they are better able to foster these relationships. Development which loses sight of man’s true destiny, far from alleviating his misery, aggravates it. Any increase of material goods which is not directed towards serving the moral good of individuals and families would merely increase occasions of conflict and would undermine that communion in knowledge and right action which constitutes an essential part of human happiness (cf. ibid., 12; John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 29).

The contrary of that selfish desire which would hinder true development is solidarity. This is the name for that moral virtue found in the human person whose actions are freely and habitually directed to the common good. It should not be confused with a vague feeling of distress at the misfortunes of others. It is rather a readiness to imbue the affairs of our communities and society with the most profound human and spiritual values. Solidarity is seen in the commitment of men and women to serve those whose lives and destinies are bound up with their own. For believers, acts of service to the common good in solidarity are elevated to a new dimension of self-transcendence by the working of Christ’s Spirit (cf. John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 38 and 40). The members of the Church in every nation are happy to contribute the energy which is the fruit of the graces poured out upon them by the Heavenly Father. Solidarity is a theme to which the Church has given much prominence in her social teaching as she seeks to respond to the concrete challenges of our age. Just as it is an essential aspect of relations within each community, so also is it essential in relations between nations. The Holy See is pleased to note the efforts of the countries of your region to give life to new forms of cooperation and unity. By acting rightly together on the basis of the recognition of mutual interdependence, a group of countries secures peace not only within its own geographical region but contributes greatly to the cause of peace for all the nations of the earth.

Mr Ambassador, your words concerning the desire of the young people of Saint Lucia to take a full and active part in the life of society find a ready understanding in my heart. Efforts to enlist the young in mankind’s struggle against the forces of despair are admirable. The aim of these efforts is both to rescue the younger generation from an attitude which would blight the hope they ought to have for the future, and to prepare leaders who will devote themselves consistently and courageously to building up a just social order.

As you take up your mission, I assure you that all the departments of the Holy See will offer you their fullest cooperation so that you may successfully discharge your responsibilities. I renew my own cordial good wishes, and I pray that the Lord God will ever bestow his abundant blessings upon the people of Saint Lucia.

                                                           November 1991





Wednesday, 7 November 1991

Mr Ambassador,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Indonesia. Our meeting reminds me of the rich diversity of your country and its people which I came to know during my visit in 1989, and the experience of Indonesian hospitality remains a vivid memory. I am grateful for the kind greetings which you conveyed from His Excellency President Soeharto and the Government, and I gladly reciprocate with good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the peace and prosperity of the entire nation.

The vastness of Indonesia, extending as she does across many thousands of islands, and the variety of her ethnic groups, cultures and languages have inspired the founders of the nation to build her unity on lofty and universal principles which enable all her citizens to feel that their natural and legitimate differences are appreciated and respected in the fundamental law which governs the life of the nation. These principles are embodied in your national philosophy of Pancasila, which holds that the secure basis for lasting unity and development as a nation lies in profound respect for human life, for the inalienable rights of the human person, and for the freedom of responsible citizens to determine their destiny as a people (cf. John Paul II, Address at the Meeting with the President of Indonesia, 2 [9 Oct. 1989]). In such a context all citizens can commit themselves freely and decisively to the common task of building up society in harmony and well-being. The Catholic citizens of Indonesia have been active from the foundation of the State in fostering its advancement, in defending freedom and justice, in promoting education, health care and service to those in need. In cooperation with others and fulfilling her religious and humanitarian mission, the Church in Indonesia strengthens the spiritual values which enrich the life of individuals and of society itself.

The world is living through a time of profound social and political transformation. The breakdown of the Marxist system has changed the logic of relationships between the superpowers and between blocs of nations. A less confrontational and more confident international climate opens the way to important new possibilities of cooperation among the nations of the world in promoting progress and development. However, satisfaction at the positive aspects of this period of transition does not blind us to the grave dangers which are also present on the world’s horizon: ethnic and nationalistic rivalries are reasserting themselves in many places, sometimes with tragic consequences of conflict and violence; and the growing economic imbalance between developed and developing nations and, within nations, between the prosperity of the few and the deprivation of the many is already a source of tensions which could have unforeseen results.

In her recent history, Indonesia too has had to face situations of a painful and complex nature, which show how difficult it can be to find that dynamic balance which would ensure the just protection of the overall interests of the nation and the fundamental rights of individuals and peoples. As a nation, Indonesia has a clear constitutional vision of the respect that is due to the objective diversity and specific character of each group. It is to be hoped that the wisdom which has inspired the basic principles of the Archipelago’s millenary culture will favour a swift settlement of remaining tensions and will give further impulse to the values of humanism and civil harmony, with respect for everyone.

Nevertheless, this is truly a time of historic challenge for the whole human family. National leaders themselves and their peoples readily acknowledge that enormous resources must now be directed, not to the production of systems of death and destruction but to the building of peace, to alleviating the sufferings of refugees and the victims of hunger and disease, and to fostering the advancement of the poorer inhabitants of this planet. In order that such an effort may produce results, the reality of global interdependence must be accepted, in such a way that those in positions of responsibility rise above particular and nationalistic interests through a true sense of solidarity and concern for the common good.

At this time, as I wrote in my most recent Encyclical, "what is called for is a special effort to mobilize resources, which are not lacking in the world as a whole, for the purpose of economic growth and common development, redefining the priorities and hierarchies of values on the basis of which economic and political choices are made" (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 28). Such a redefinition of the goals to be pursued must be inspired and guided by a precise vision of the nature and purpose of development and social progress, which can be no other than the complete well-being of the human person. I am pleased to note your reference to your country’s efforts to provide present and future generations with improved conditions of life, not just at the level of material progress but also in the spiritual and religious spheres. It is this higher view of human needs which will enable your fellow-citizens to pursue a development that is genuinely beneficial and respectful of their deepest aspirations.

Mr Ambassador, the Holy See appreciates the efforts which Indonesia and other countries have been making to resolve some of the lamentable situations of injustice and contention existing in the South-East Asian region. In recent weeks the international community has been encouraged by the steps taken to achieve an improved climate of peace in Cambodia. As a member of the ASEAN group, your own country has been actively involved in promoting a solution to this longstanding situation of conflict. The recent tragic history of that peaceloving people should remind us of the terrible consequences to which traditional rivalries and ideological differences can lead when the value of human life is ignored and the demands of human dignity are trampled upon. It is my fervent hope that the Peace Accords signed in Paris just two weeks ago will bring a new period of stability and development to that beloved country, with consequent benefits for the peace of the entire region. The international community can do much to help the people of Cambodia to rebuild their society in respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms.

I express the hope that the Country of Pancasila will play a significant international role also in the specific sphere of the promotion of religious freedom, by offering to others the contribution of its rich experience in this area. Your country, in fact, attributes great importance to concord and cooperation among different religious traditions which, respecting one another’s specific character, willingly work together to ensure the primacy of the values of the spirit and the harmonious cooperation of all believers in the one and Merciful God. At this time, when disagreements and forms of extremism have unfortunately reappeared in different parts of the world and, also in Asia, have clouded the, image of certain religious groups, the Indonesian experience is significant. The reasons for the tolerance which characterizes her law and civic life constitute a positive example for the international community and especially for those countries which are linked with Indonesia by bonds of culture or common interests.

Mr Ambassador, I am fully confident that you will seek to strengthen further the bonds of understanding and friendship between your country and the Holy See. On my part I assure you of the willing cooperation of the various departments of the Roman Curia in the discharge of your lofty diplomatic mission. I pray that you will be happy in this new responsibility, and I invoke an abundance of divine blessings upon the beloved Indonesian people.

Speeches 1991 - Castel Gandolfo