Speeches 1995 - Saturday, 25 November 1995



Hall of the Throne

Tuesday, 28 November 1995

Dear Brothers in Christ,

I am happy to have this opportunity to meet the members of the Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops from the United States and Canada. Your pilgrimage together, bringing you now to the Church of Rome and shortly to the Church of Constantinople, indicates your deep desire to advance the search for the full communion which our Churches are committed to achieving on the path of mutual respect, dialogue and love.

In a few days time it will be 30 years since Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Atenagoras I, on 7 December 1965, in a common Declaration asked the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches to erase from memory the sentences of excommunication delivered against one another in 1054. That Declaration "was at once a healing of historical memories, a mutual forgiveness, and a firm commitment to strive for communion" (John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint UUS 52).

How great is the Lord, and how glorious his name, that he enables us to see how far we have travelled in the three decades since that turning-point! When His Holiness Bartholomew I visited Rome in June of this year, we recalled in our Common Declaration that the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue was able to state that we recognize one another as "Sister Churches, responsible together for safeguarding the one Church of God" (Joint International Commision for Theological Dialogue, Communis Delaratio, 2 [29 June 1995]). We rejoice in the knowledge that we share a common sacramental conception of the Church, "sustained and passed on in time by the apostolic succession" (Ibid.).

Dear Brothers, as you visit the tomb of the Apostle Peter here in Rome, may God grant you the grace of perseverance in the quest for unity. As you visit the Church of Constantinople, filled with the memory of the Apostle Andrew, may the Lord grant you the courage to continue to build upon the relationships developed thus far.

As the Year 2000 approaches, may the figures of the Brothers Peter and Andrew, united too in their martyrdom for the sake of the Gospel, inspire us all to love the Church with undivided hearts. May the Apostles intercede for us that we may seek only the will of Christ, our Lord and Master, who prayed for his disciples "that they may all be one... so that the world may believe" (Jn 17,21).

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Ph 1,2).
December 1995



Consistory Hall

Monday, 4 December 1995

Your Eminences,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome the participants in the 1995 awards ceremony organized by the Together for Peace Foundation.

Among the goals of your Foundation is the advancement of peace, solidarity and justice among peoples and nations. In a special way you seek to improve the social conditions of women and children, all too often the first victims of conflict, violence and underdevelopment. Wherever we look in the world there are situations of human need and suffering which can only be relieved through the good will of those in more fortunate circumstances. A civilization truly worthy of the human person can only be built on the foundations of freedom "lived in self–giving solidarity and responsibility" (John Paul II, Address for the Fiftieth General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, 18 [5 Oct. 1995]). In the end, personal commitment and efforts.

Upon all of you, your families and your countries of origin, I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.





Thursday, 7 December 1995

To the Participants in the Congress
on Secularism and Religious Freedom
marking the Thirtieth Anniversary
of "Dignitatis Humanae".

1. It is with great pleasure that I greet the participants in the International Congress on Secularism and Religious Freedom organized by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, and under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Culture. Today marks 30 years since the Second Vatican Council issued its Declaration on Religious Freedom, "Dignitatis Humanae". That important text has been the subject of your reflection during your meeting, which has brought together distinguished experts from different backgrounds, and witnesses capable of offering their personal testimony regarding the way in which religious freedom is observed or not observed in the contemporary world. I express a particular word of appreciation to the Becket Fund, for its many efforts in defence of religious freedom in the United States and around the world.

2. As I have often stated, the Second Vatican Council constituted an extraordinary grace for the Church, and a decisive moment of her recent history. "Dignitatis Humanae" is undoubtedly one of the Council’s most innovative texts. It has the specific and important merit of having cleared the way for that remarkable and fruitful dialogue between the Church and the world, so ardently proposed and encouraged by that other great Council document, the Pastoral Constitution "Gaudium et Spes", issued on the very same day. Looking back over the last 30 years, it must be said that the Church’s commitment to religious freedom as an inviolable right of the human person (cf. Dignitatis Humanae, chap. I) has had an effect beyond anything the Fathers of the Council could have anticipated.

When the Council declared that the demand for freedom in human society, and in the first place the demand for religious freedom, is "greatly in accord with truth and justice" (Ibid., 1), the way was opened for the Church’s members and her institutions to play a practical and substantial part in promoting that global "quest for freedom" which, as I said recently at the United Nations, is "one of the great dynamics of world history" (John Paul II, Address for the Fiftieth General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, 2 [5 Oct. 1995]). In many cases, the defence of religious freedom, as the first of human rights and the foundation of any meaningful scheme of rights, has been the main inspiration of men and women who, "even when threatened by violence, have taken the risk of freedom, asking to be given a place in social, political and economic life which is commensurate with their dignity as free human beings" (John Paul II, Ibid.). In a word, the Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom resulted in the release of enormous moral and religious energies, which have had a real bearing on the social and political transformations of recent years, and indeed on the whole structure of international relations.

3. As "Dignitatis Humanae" teaches, men and women "are at once impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth" (Dignitatis Humanae DH 2). We are religious by nature, insofar as we are gifted by the Creator with intelligence and will, and therefore capable of knowing and loving the Author of life himself. In the depths of our being, we yearn for God and strive to find him. In the changing circumstances of life, every human person hears the whispered invitation: "Seek my face" (Ps 27 [26]:8). And we, often without knowing the full implication of our answer, respond from the depths of our heart: "Your face, O Lord, do I seek. Hide not your face" (Ibid., 9). It is the integrity and legitimacy of that dialogue between the human heart and mind and the Creator that we defend when we defend the inalienable right to religious freedom. In defending religious freedom, the Church is not defending an institutional prerogative; she is defending the truth about the human person.

4. The theme of your Congress brings together two significant concepts: secularism and religious freedom. The Council itself acknowledged the content, but also the limits, of the autonomy of the temporal order. The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church states: "While it must be recognized that the temporal sphere is governed by its own principles, since it is properly concerned with the interests of this world, that ominous doctrine must rightly be rejected which attempts to build a society with no regard whatever for religion, and which attacks and destroys the religious liberty of its citizens" (Lumen Gentium LG 36). Throughout the 20th century, millions of human beings have been the innocent victims of political ideologies and of forms of religious and ethnic hatred which in one way or another have sought to extinguish or limit the individual’s right to be free from coercion in matters religious. Is it too much to hope that the blood of those countless victims will have prepared the world for a new understanding of the importance of religious freedom, and its inviolability?

5. "Dignitatis Humanae" was in a sense a response to a situation which has often occurred in the Church’s history, and which has not altogether disappeared from the contemporary world. Today however we would do well to consider another form of limitation on religious freedom, one which is more subtle than overt persecution. I am thinking here of the claim that a democratic society should relegate to the realm of private opinion its members’ religious beliefs and the moral convictions which derive from faith. At first glance, this appears to be an attitude of necessary impartiality and "neutrality" on the part of society in relation to those of its members who follow different religious traditions or none at all. Indeed, it is widely held that this is the only enlightened approach possible in a modern pluralistic State.

But if citizens are expected to leave aside their religious convictions when they take part in public life, does this not mean that society not only excludes the contribution of religion to its institutional life, but also promotes a culture which re–defines man as less than what he is? In particular, there are moral questions at the core of every great public issue. Should citizens whose moral judgments are informed by their religious beliefs be less welcome to express their most deeply held convictions? When that happens, is not democracy itself emptied of real meaning? Should not genuine pluralism imply that firmly held convictions can be expressed in vigorous and respectful public dialogue? The Church readily encourages such a dialogue, which she knows will be most useful and productive as long as it is open to objective truth which can be reached and adhered to, and is not conditioned by a preconceived "areligious" and "moral" view of the human person and of human community.

6. On their part, religious believers must be deeply committed to the method of dialogue and persuasion.As we prepare to celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Christ, the Church acknowledges, in a spirit of profound repentance, those times in history when "acquiescence (was.) given... to intolerance and even the use of violence in the service of truth" (John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 35). With the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, the Church today holds firmly to that basic tenet of the Declaration on Religious Freedom: "The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, which wins over the mind with both gentleness and power" (Dignitatis Humanae DH 1). The Church neither seeks nor desires to see any worldly power placed at the service of the truths she bears. She asks only to be allowed to address man in freedom; and she asks for all human beings the freedom to respond to the Gospel in the full measure of their humanity.

7. My wish for all of you is that your deliberations will strengthen your commitment to the defence and advancement of religious freedom. In serving this cause, you are effectively promoting human dignity and serving the integral well–being of the human family. When you do so "in the Holy Spirit, in unaffected love, in the word of truth" (2Co 6,6-7), you are serving the Lord who sets us free in the deepest possible sense of our freedom. May his abundant blessings be upon you all!

From the Vatican, 7 December 1995.





Monday, 11 December 1995

Dear Friends in Christ,

I am happy to welcome this Delegation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on the occasion of your visit to this City where the Apostles Peter and Paul bore witness to Christ and gave their lives for the sake of the Gospel. Continuing a series of such visits, your days in Rome are aimed at increasing mutual knowledge and establishing an even closer relationship between us.

Our ecumenical efforts must be marked with a deep sense of hope, for it is the Lord who calls us to unity. It is his grace which achieves results when human efforts fall short. A very significant stage in the Lutheran–Catholic dialogue was reached when it became possible to consider the doctrine of justification. It must be our shared prayer that a common understanding of this central theme of our faith will be attained.

We must trust that the obstacles still preventing Lutherans and Catholics from expressing the full visible unity, which is the Lord’s intention, will eventually give way before "the power of God for salvation" (Rm 1,16). May the coming Jubilee of the Year 2000 inspire us to new efforts to respond to Jesus’ prayer for his disciples: "That they may all be one... so that the world may believe" (Jn 17,21).

"The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you" (1Co 16,23).





Wednesday, 13 December 1995

Your Eminence,

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. With "the affection of Christ Jesus" (Ph 1,8), I greet the Pastors of the Church in the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Bombay, Goa, Hyderabad, Nagpur and Verapoly on the occasion of your visit ad limina Apostolorum. You have come to pray at the Tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul in the See where they confirmed the truth and fruitfulness of the Gospel by their martyrdom. Here they preached Christ crucified and risen and "made the good confession" of faith (1Tm 6,13). Through the witness of their blood they sanctified this Church, leaving an inheritance to be kept by their Successors, the Bishops of Rome, in whose ministry "all the Bishops recognize that they are united in Christ and all the faithful find confirmation for their faith" (John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint UUS 97).

In unity, charity and peace we are members of the College of Bishops, which Christ established in order to carry forward his saving work through the ages. Each one, according to the measure of God’s gift, has the responsibility of tending the sheep entrusted to him in a particular Diocese. At the same time we have a collegial responsibility for the whole Church (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 22). Like the Apostle Peter, we are aware of our frailty and sinfulness, but like him also we are comforted by the Lord’s words: "Do not be afraid!" (Lc 5,10). Like St Paul, we will "all the more gladly boast of our weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon us" (cf. 2Co 12,9). Through our episcopal ministry the risen Lord, in the power of the Holy Spirit, continues to guide his Church on the way to the Father. Because "we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel’ " (1Th 2,4), we are empowered to show an apostolic daring that knows no fear. My fraternal plea to you and all the Bishops of India is this: always have the courage to declare the Gospel of God no matter how great the opposition (cf. ibid., 2:2)!

2. The same Spirit given to the Church "through the wounds of the Crucifixion" (John Paul II, Dominum et Vivificantem DEV 25) accompanies you along the path of your mission as shepherds of God’s People and heralds of the Gospel to those who have not yet heard it. He will strengthen you in the bonds of unity and charity, so that all together the Bishops of India will be of one mind and heart, exercising effective pastoral solidarity, in order to meet the challenges facing the Catholic community in your country at the approach of the new millennium.

One of these challenges is the resurgence of that mentality which separates people on social and ethnic grounds. With sadness we acknowledge that even in the Christian community such problems persist, in forms of discrimination which go against the very essence of the Gospel message, a message which speaks of God’s unbounded love for all his children, making no distinction. We are all bound by the Apostle Paul’s exhortation: "To lead a life worthy of the calling to which we have been called... eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (cf. Eph. Ep 4,1-3). The prayer of Christ in the Upper Room, which is often applied to ecumenical relations with other Christians, must have its first expression in the life of the Catholic community, in each parish, in each local gathering of the faithful: "That they may all be one even as you, Father, are in me and I in you; that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (Jn 17,21).

3. It was in the Upper Room that the Lord gave his followers the new commandment of mutual love (cf. ibid., 13:34) and instituted the Eucharist as the sacrament which creates and signifies the unity of all his disciples. Through the Eucharist, Christ continues to build up his Body, the Church, and the Holy Spirit accomplishes the "strengthening of the inner man" (Ep 3,16). In India as in Rome and in every other part of the world, the original model of the community of faith is the one described in the Acts of the Apostles: the faithful "devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Ac 2,42). Bishops must always have that model in mind as they strive to consolidate in the same spirit of unity and harmony that portion of the Church committed to their pastoral care. As the high priests of sacred worship and the principal "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1Co 4,1), Bishops must promote liturgical life in their Dioceses, according to the teaching and discipline of the Universal Church. Because the liturgy expresses the faith of the Church, vigilance over the manner of celebration is a solemn duty. Bishops are to guarantee that the "lex orandi" of every particular Church reflects the "lex credendi" of the universal "koinonia".

4. From the Eucharist comes strength to live the Christian life in all its fullness, and zeal to share that life with others. The Eucharistic Lord sends you into the highways and byways of your nation, to establish for God’s glory "the civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice and liberty, which find their full attainment in Christ" (John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 52). For Bishops and their co–workers – priests, religious and committed lay persons – that task includes the teaching of the Church’s social doctrine, the proclamation of the Gospel of life, and the fostering of interreligious dialogue and co–operation.

5. "To teach and to spread her social doctrine pertains to the Church’s evangelizing mission and is an essential part of the Christian message" (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 5).

In the circumstances of your apostolate the Church’s social teaching calls for a courageous commitment to promoting a more just and equitable society, and for a sincere love of the poor expressed in a solidarity which will help them to become the principal agents of their own human development. In your ad limina reports you have drawn attention to certain situations which weigh heavily on your communities. Among these are the old and new threats to human life – threats which are sometimes masked as compassion – directed against unborn children, the handicapped, the seriously ill and the dying. Whenever the dignity and rights of individuals or peoples are threatened, the Church’s prophetic voice should ring out in the service of life.

The "conspiracy against life" (cf. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, EV 17) takes on many forms in modern society. These include violence fueled by racial and religious differences, the exploitation of women and children in the workplace, as well as through sexual permissiveness and pornography, pressures to adopt certain methods of population control, and a general weakening of the sense of responsibility for the common good on the part of those who control the economy and public life. The foundations of a just society can only rest on the moral law. The laity in particular should be encouraged and trained to work for a society which will respect and promote the ethical values inscribed in the human heart (cf. Rom. Rm 2,15) and revealed by God’s wisdom and love, values which in large part are reflected in the moral codes of the world’s great religions. Despite the difficulties involved in a society which is overwhelmingly non–Christian, you as Bishops are "the first ones called to be untiring teachers of the Gospel of life" (John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae EV 82). I am confident that you will exhort, educate and encourage priests, theologians, teachers, catechists, parents and all believers, that they may be ever more committed to their responsibility to be a people for life.

6. Another area of concern and action for the Church in India is the status of women in society and in the ecclesial community. Certainly, the enormous challenge of addressing the problem of the historical oppression of women is a matter for the whole of society. But the Catholic community for its part can do much through its institutions, through the attitudes and behaviour of its members, in particular of the over sixty–five thousand women religious, in order to increase awareness of women’s equality in dignity with men, of their fundamental rights and of the complementarity of men and women in God’s plan. I am heartened that your Episcopal Conference and many Dioceses are already taking practical steps to respond to the concerns and hopes of women and to find ways to improve their situation. I renew the appeal I made last September, for the whole Church to be willing to foster feminine participation in every way in her internal life, with the exception of those tasks which belong properly to the priest, by making use of the ample room for a lay and feminine presence recognized by Church law (cf. John Paul II, Angelus Address, 2 [3 Sept. 1995]). By promoting respect for women’s true dignity, you will contribute to freeing reserves of wisdom and sensitivity which the Church and society greatly need.

7. In a multi–religious society such as India, Christians need to join hands with other people of good will in the defence of shared human and spiritual values and in the promotion of integral human development. The Catholic Church in India must meet the challenge of militant religious fundamentalism by fostering interreligious dialogue.From this dialogue will come respect for the "seeds of the Word" sown among the peoples and religions of India, in a sincere recognition of the genuine "spiritual riches" of their "prayer and contemplation, faith and ways of searching for God or the Absolute" (Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 42). The "dialogue of life" with non–Christians will show that genuine religious belief is a source of mutual understanding, fraternal solidarity and social peace.

8. Dear Brothers: with keen expectation the whole Church is getting ready to commemorate the two thousandth anniversary of the Redemptive Incarnation of the Lord in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Besides significant events in preparation for the Jubilee, such as the Special Session for Asia of the Synod of Bishops, Bishops in their own Dioceses – in co–operation with all sectors of the faithful – are called to promote a profound interior renewal at every level of Church life. This is the revolution in the Spirit which should inspire your ministry, in obedience to St Paul’s exhortation: "Be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ep 4,24). The years leading up to the Jubilee should become a time of hope for the Church in India! Hope pierces the darkness of the Passion with the splendour of the Resurrection. Pastors who walk in the footsteps of the "Shepherd and Guardian of our souls" (cf. 1P 2,25) are icons of this hope for their people. With joyful thanksgiving for the "great things" (cf. Lk. Lc 1,49) that God has done for the Church in India, I entrust you and your priests, religious and laity to Mary, the Virgin of the New Advent and the Morning Star who guides the People of God to her Son, Christ the Redeemer. With my Apostolic Blessing.

Speeches 1995 - Saturday, 25 November 1995