Speeches 1994 - Friday, 21 October 1994




Synod Hall

Thursday, 3 November 1994

Dear Friends,

1. I am happy to welcome the participants in the World Conference on Religion and Peace on the occasion of the opening of your Sixth World Assembly, which will later continue in Riva del Garda. The Holy See has participated in previous Assemblies and continues to follow with interest your efforts to work together for peace in ways suited to men and women of deep religious convictions. I thank the Reverend Nikkyo Niwano for his kind remarks regarding the relationship between the Holy See and your Organization from its beginnings.

When I greeted the members of your International Council in July 1991, I spoke of the need for the religions of the world to engage in a dialogue of mutual understanding and peace on the basis of the values they share. These values are not just humanitarian or humanistic Ė they belong to the realm of the deeper truths affecting manís life in this world and his destiny (cf. Nostra Aetate NAE 1). Today, such a dialogue is more necessary than ever. Indeed, as old barriers fall, new ones arise whenever fundamental truths and values are forgotten or obscured, even among people who profess themselves to be religious. Through interreligious dialogue we are able to bear witness to those truths which are the necessary point of reference for the individual and for society: the dignity of each and every human being, whatever his or her ethnic origin, religious affiliation, or political commitment. We testify that we respect and love all men and women because they are creatures of God, and therefore are of immense value.

Genuine dialogue helps us to understand one another as religious men and women, and enables us to respect our differences, without for that reason abstaining from affirming clearly and unequivocally what we believe to be the true way to salvation. By the same token, we should together uphold religious freedom for all. Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all freedoms; to prevent others from freely professing their religion is tantamount to jeopardizing our own.

2. The theme of this Sixth World Assembly: Healing the World, Religions for Peace, is itself a strong affirmation of a fundamental truth, namely, that religion is ordered towards that peace which reflects the divine harmony. As you reflect on the role of religion in healing the world, you will be examining some of the major manifestations of human suffering: the misuse of natural resources, violence and war, oppression and lack of justice, lack of respect for the human person. Violence in any form is opposed not only to the respect which we owe to every fellow human being; it is opposed also to the true essence of religion. Whatever the conflicts of the past and even of the present, it is our common task and duty to make better known the relation between religion and peace. This commitment is inscribed in your own identity as an association.

Today, religious leaders must clearly show that they are pledged to the promotion of peace precisely because of their religious belief. Religion is not, and must not become, a pretext for conflict, particularly when religious, cultural and ethnic identity coincide. In recent days, sadly, I have had reason to affirm once more that: "No one can consider himself faithful to the great and merciful God who in the name of the same God dares to kill his brother" (John Paul II, General Audience, 26 Oct. 1994). Religion and peace go together: to wage war in the name of religion is a blatant contradiction. I hope that you will be able, during your Conference, to find ways to spread this profound conviction.

3. During this International Year of the Family, allow me to draw your attention to the intimate connection between religion and the family. The family is the first community charged with educating in the essential values of human life, transmitting above all the conviction that "man is more precious for what he is than for what he has" (Gaudium et Spes GS 35). Religion, by referring to Godís plan for life and for society, helps the family fulfil this task at the deepest level. Cooperation among religious leaders is important in upholding and promoting this basic human institution, especially in these times when it is being attacked from many sides, as if it were something to be abandoned, forgotten or replaced by other forms of personal relationships. Healing the world means also, if not primarily, defending the family as a community of persons of equal dignity, working together in harmony for the common good.

In this context, attention should also be paid to the problem of housing and human settlements. Today, the lack of adequate and affordable housing suited to the needs of the family is widespread, and is affecting younger people in particular. Furthermore, in some places, the deliberate destruction of houses and settlements, as well as the forced displacement of ethnic groups, have become a cruel weapon of discrimination and war. Your commitment to serving peace requires that you look carefully at this contemporary tragedy, a tragedy which religions are called to help in healing. Numberless refugees and displaced persons, often separated from their families, are waiting for the consoling assistance that religions can and should provide. The United Nations hopes to address the urgent question of human settlements in 1997. It is not too early for religious bodies to begin to reflect on the common values which they have to offer and which will help the international community to address the question with adequate attention to the moral and ethical aspects involved.

4. In the Christian Scriptures, we read about a man seeking to justify himself. He asks Jesus who his neighbour is. Through the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus changes the terms of the question. The question is not who oneís neighbour is, but rather who made himself a neighbour to the poor man who fell victim to the violence of robbers. The reply should continually echo in our minds and hearts: "The one who showed mercy to him" (Lc 10,29-37). Mercy is the fruit of a love which recognizes in all those who suffer the dignity of human beings, whatever their condition, nationality or religion. This compassionate love knows no enemies, only brothers and sisters; it is universal. The wounds of humanity cannot leave us indifferent; we must heal, console, care for the multitudes of suffering individuals and peoples. Your present Assembly, by addressing the causes of suffering, can be instrumental in enlightening consciences regarding the profound human solidarity without which peace is impossible.

5. Peace is a precious gift from God to be sought in prayer and promoted with reverence. It was this conviction which led me to invite religious leaders to Assisi, in October 1986, to fast and pray for peace in the world. A number of you were present on that memorable occasion. Faced with the present tragedies of violence in Bosnia and Hercegovina, in Rwanda, and in many other troubled places around the world, let us pray without ceasing for peace. Those who pray for this gift, in humility and truth, cannot but dedicate themselves to the work of peace.

Together, may we love peace and bring peace to others. Your Assembly will be, I am sure, an invitation to religious men and women everywhere to put themselves at the service of peace and reconciliation. Healing the world through the commitment of Religions for Peace means that you look in faith and hope to the One in whom we "live and move and have our being" (Ac 9,17), in order to become better instruments for the accomplishment of manís true destiny here and beyond. May Godís blessings be upon you and your families, upon your deliberations, and upon all the members of your Organization.




Monday, 7 November 1994

Dear Brothers in Christ,

1. It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican, Bishops of the Anglican Communion and Bishops of the Catholic Church in the United States. You have come to Rome on a pilgrimage which has included another important stage at Canterbury. I appreciate the greetings which you have conveyed from Archbishop Carey and I gladly reciprocate. You are making this journey in the spirit of ecumenical brotherhood, with the desire to promote ever more intense dialogue between Anglicans and Catholics in your country. I thank Bishop Griswold for his kind words, and I take comfort from the fact that we agree in seeing a "divine summons and grace" in the longing for unity which the Holy Spirit has for many years been stimulating in the hearts of Christís followers (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 1).

2. It is already a wonderful gift of Godís grace that we concur in acknowledging that ecumenical relations are an essential requirement of our obedience to the Lord. Jesus in fact prayed to the Father for his disciples "that they may be one . . . so that the world may believe" (Jn 17,21). We can all be encouraged at the progress already made along this road. You in particular can point to many valid examples within the United States of co-operation in Christian witness and in service between Anglican and Catholic Dioceses and parishes. Common prayer for unity has become almost an habitual occurrence. You are also immediately aware of the need for common witness in matters of Christian morality. Building on what has already been evidenced in the document of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission Life in Christ: Morals, Communion and the Church, you are increasingly challenged, in order to be faithful to the Divine Teacher, to seek a united stance in the moral questions which so deeply affect the men and women of our time. For all of this, for the "grace of God which was given you in Jesus Christ" (1Co 1,4), we must be thankful.

3. At the same time we are painfully aware of the further obstacles along the way. We should neither be surprised nor held back by the difficulties involved.

Among them, you have mentioned the serious disagreement between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion over the ordination of women to the priesthood. At the same time it is heartening to hear you place this important issue in its proper perspective, a profound ecclesiological perspective which sees the Churchís first duty as obedience to Christ the Head (cf. Eph. Ep 5,23), a perspective which implies limits to our authority in relation to what has been handed down (cf. John Paul II, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, 4). Only a theological vision inspired by prayerful, contemplative faith will ensure openness to the Spiritís sure guidance as we continue our pilgrimage towards full communion.

4. In the face of these and other difficulties, where does our ecumenical hope lie? It is grounded in the very strength of the things which unite us in spite of our differences. Anglicans and Catholics already share a deep faith in the mysteries of our Redeemerís life, death and resurrection. These mysteries, made present to us in Baptism, are the well-spring of our lives in the Church. Baptism however is "a beginning, a point of departure"; it is "wholly directed towards the acquiring of the fullness of life in Christ" (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 22). Baptism thus contains an internal dynamism towards an ever fuller participation in the Church as a community of faith and visible communion. Our hope therefore is not of our own making, but flows ever new from the efficacy of the very gifts by which God constitutes his People on earth, the Church which journeys in a foreign land, away from her Lord (cf. 2Co 5,6), until she appears in glory with her Spouse (cf. Col. Col 3,1-4 cf. Lumen Gentium LG 6).

I pray, as we approach the Year 2000, that the Lord will guide us as we move ahead on the way to full communion, so that we can once again bear witness together to the Gospel of Christ, "that the world may believe" (Jn 17,21). In friendship I invoke upon you the grace and peace of God.



Friday, 11 November 1994

Common Christological Declaration

between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East

His Holiness John Paul II, Bishop of Rome and Pope of the Catholic Church, and His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, CatholicosĖPatriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, give thanks to God who has prompted them to this new brotherly meeting.

Both of them consider this meeting as a basic step on the way towards the full communion to be restored between their Churches. They can indeed, from now on, proclaim together before the world their common faith in the mystery of the Incarnation.
* * *

As heirs and guardians of the faith received from the Apostles as formulated by our common Fathers in the Nicene Creed, we confess one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten of the Father from all eternity who, in the fullness of time, came down from heaven and became man for our salvation. The Word of God, second Person of the Holy Trinity, became incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit in assuming from the holy Virgin Mary a body animated by a rational soul, with which he was indissolubly united from the moment of his conception.

Therefore our Lord Jesus Christ is true God and true man, perfect in his divinity and perfect in his humanity, consubstantial with the Father and consubstantial with us in all things but sin. His divinity and his humanity are united in one person, without confusion or change, without division or separation. In him has been preserved the difference of the natures of divinity and humanity, with all their properties, faculties and operations. But far from constituting "one and another", the divinity and humanity are united in the person of the same and unique Son of God and Lord Jesus Christ, who is the object of a single adoration.

Christ therefore is not an "ordinary man" whom God adopted in order to reside in him and inspire him, as in the righteous ones and the prophets. But the same God the Word, begotten of his Father before all worlds without beginning according to his divinity, was born of a mother without a father in the last times according to his humanity. The humanity to which the Blessed Virgin Mary gave birth always was that of the Son of God himself. That is the reason why the Assyrian Church of the East is praying the Virgin Mary as "the Mother of Christ our God and Saviour". In the light of this same faith the Catholic tradition addresses the Virgin Mary as "the Mother of God" and also as "the Mother of Christ". We both recognize the legitimacy and rightness of these expressions of the same faith and we both respect the preference of each Church in her liturgical life and piety.

This is the unique faith that we profess in the mystery of Christ. The controversies of the past led to anathemas, bearing on persons and on formulas. The Lordís Spirit permits us to understand better today that the divisions brought about in this way were due in large part to misunderstandings.

Whatever our christological divergences have been, we experience ourselves united today in the confession of the same faith in the Son of God who became man so that we might become children of God by his grace. We wish from now on to witness together to this faith in the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, proclaiming it in appropriate ways to our contemporaries, so that the world may believe in the Gospel of salvation.
* * *

The mystery of the Incarnation which we profess in common is not an abstract and isolated truth. It refers to the Son of God sent to save us. The economy of salvation, which has its origin in the mystery of communion of the Holy TrinityĖFather, Son and Holy SpiritĖ, is brought to its fulfilment through the sharing in this communion, by grace, within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, which is the People of God, the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Spirit.

Believers become members of this Body through the sacrament of Baptism, through which, by water and the working of the Holy Spirit, they are born again as new creatures. They are confirmed by the seal of the Holy Spirit who bestows the sacrament of Anointing. Their communion with God and among themselves is brought to full realization by the celebration of the unique offering of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist. This communion is restored for the sinful members of the Church when they are reconciled with God and with one another through the sacrament of Forgiveness. The sacrament of Ordination to the ministerial priesthood in the apostolic succession assures the authenticity of the faith, the sacraments and the communion in each local Church.

Living by this faith and these sacraments, it follows as a consequence that the particular Catholic churches and the particular Assyrian churches can recognize each other as sister Churches. To be full and entire, communion presupposes the unanimity concerning the content of the faith, the sacraments and the constitution of the Church. Since this unanimity for which we aim has not yet been attained, we cannot unfortunately celebrate together the Eucharist which is the sign of the ecclesial communion already fully restored.

Nevertheless, the deep spiritual communion in the faith and the mutual trust already existing between our Churches entitle us from now on to consider witnessing together to the Gospel message and coĖoperating in particular pastoral situations, including especially the areas of catechesis and the formation of future priests.

In thanking God for having made us rediscover what already unites us in the faith and the sacraments, we pledge ourselves to do everything possible to dispel the obstacles of the past which still prevent the attainment of full communion between our Churches, so that we can better respond to the Lordís call for the unity of his own, a unity which has of course to be expressed visibly. To overcome these obstacles, we now establish a Mixed Committee for theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.

Given at Saint Peterís, on 11 November 1994.





Friday, 11 November 1994

Your Holiness,

1. Exactly ten years have passed since I had the joy of welcoming you here on your first official visit to this Apostolic See. This pleasure is renewed today as you are accompanied by a delegation of eminent Bishops from your Holy Synod. In the words of the Apostle Paul, I wish you "grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord" (1Tm 1,2).

At the time of your previous visit, you shared with me your ardent wish that a declaration of the Pope of Rome and of the Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East would one day be able to express our two Churchesí common faith in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary. Historians and theologians immediately set about examining very carefully the Christological consequences of the Council of Ephesus. In an atmosphere of fraternity and mutual confidence, a fruitful dialogue has enabled us to overcome the ambiguities and misunderstandings of the past. Today, we have arrived at the Common Christological Declaration which we are about to sign together. This constitutes an important witness which will not fail to cause rejoicing among the faithful of our two Churches.

2. For my part, I am confident that this agreement will open up wide horizons at the level of pastoral collaboration. Of great importance will be the strengthening of co-operation in the spiritual and theological formation of future priests and responsible laity. The same applies to catechesis of children and of young people: we must apply all possible concern in this direction.

Moreover, in order to "share with the saints who are in need" (Rm 12,13), should we not also seek to coordinate our efforts to welcome with dignity and to help effectively those who are uprooted from their homeland or are forced to emigrate because of the severe trials which they have endured (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 18)? We do not forget the long night of suffering endured by your Eastern Syriac communities, which were scattered, persecuted and massacred down the centuries for professing the name of Christ. Those who despite everything have remained in their countries in the Middle East-and who have had to face war and unjust deprivation of every kind-should know that the Holy See will employ the means at its disposal, particularly through its contacts with Governments and International Organizations, to lessen their sufferings and if possible make them cease. Finally, a Church so distinguished in its past for its heroism as regards fidelity to the faith cannot remain marginalized in the Christian world, and especially among the Churches of the Middle East. We hope to be able to help you break down any isolation that still exists.

3. From my contacts with your brother Chaldean Bishops, whom I am meeting again in these days, I am able to assure you that they are ready to foster the great movement towards the restoration of the unity of all Christians, in accordance with the principles of the Decree on Ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council. They are truly concerned for "the preservation in a communion of faith and charity of those family ties which ought to exist between local Churches, as between sisters" (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 14). We all recognize that it is of supreme importance to understand, venerate, preserve and foster the rich heritage of each of our Churches, and that a diversity of customs and observances is in no way an obstacle to unity. This diversity includes the power of our Churches to govern themselves according to their own disciplines and to keep certain differences in theological expressions which, as we have verified, are often complementary rather than conflicting (cf. ibid., 15-17). In all things and in whatever circumstance, it is essential that we foster between ourselves mutual respect and a profound spirit of charity such as to exclude all forms of rivalry (cf. ibid., 18).

4. Your Holiness and Beloved Brothers: here then is the spirit in which the Catholic Church proposes this exchange of gifts. Together let us ask the Most Holy Trinity, Model of true Unity within diversity, to strengthen our hearts so that we will respond to the call for one visible Church of God, a Church truly universal and sent forth to the whole world, that the world may be converted to the Gospel and so be saved, to the glory of God. May God who has begun this good work in us bring it to completion in Christ Jesus (cf. Phil. Ph 1,6). Amen.



Clementine Hall

Monday, 14 November 1994

Dear Friends in Christ,

I am pleased to greet the members of the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities on the occasion of your annual meeting. Your assembly, which brings together representatives of such communities from around the world, bears witness to the remarkable diversity of the Holy Spiritís gifts, all of which are given for building up the Churchís unity in the bond of peace (cf. Eph. Ep 4,3).

The recognition in 1990 of your Fraternity as a Private Association of the Faithful of Pontifical Right was a sign that charismatic covenant communities have acted as a force for the renewal of the Church in fidelity to the word of God, in holiness of life and commitment to the task of evangelization. The ecclesial communion which your Fraternity strives to promote with the Bishops and the See of Peter, as well as between individual communities, is in fact a mark of your true Catholic identity. Indeed, "communion gives rise to mission and mission is accomplished in communion" (John Paul II, Christifideles Laici CL 32).

As cenacles of prayer, evangelical witness and sensitivity to the action of the Holy Spirit, your communities have a specific role to play in the renewal of Godís People in holiness in the face of an increased lack of a sense of Godís presence and consequent religious indifference. Your efforts to make known to others the joy of your faith in Christ will not only contribute to strengthening the life of the local Churches to which you belong, but will also inspire a deeper and more mature faith among your own members. In particular, I encourage you in joyful fidelity to the moral teachings of the Church. As I noted in the Encyclical "Veritatis Splendor", "the new evangelization will show its authenticity and unleash all its missionary force when it is carried out through the gift not only of the word proclaimed but also of the word lived" (John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor VS 107). Likewise, your emphasis on the centrality of Scripture for the Christian life can greatly help ecumenical understanding and co-operation, as all believers seek to hear the voice of the Spirit which continues to speak to the Churches (cf. Rev. Ap 2,29).

Your witness can be particularly important for young people, upon whom the ideal of holiness exerts a great fascination. I especially encourage you, as a lasting fruit of this "Year of the Family", to proclaim the sanctity of marriage and the family in accordance with Godís plan, and to work to ensure respect for Godís gift of life at every level of society. As the Church prepares to celebrate the Third Christian Millennium by committing all her resources to a new proclamation of the Gospel, the members of your Communities are being challenged to bear ever more convincing witness to the truths of the Gospel as taught by the Church. For this, I am certain that you will encourage your fellow-members to make a careful reading and attentive study of the "Catechism of the Catholic Church".

Dear friends, I offer my prayerful good wishes for your Meeting, and I am confident that your deliberations will foster an ever closer bond between the Churchís Pastors and the Charismatic Covenant Communities. Invoking upon all of you the Holy Spiritís gifts of wisdom and fortitude, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.



Consistory Hall

Friday, 18 November 1994

Your Eminences,

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am grateful to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences for organizing this study session on the topic of the scientific bases of the natural regulation of fertility and associated problems. I wish to thank Professor Nicola Cabibbo, President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, for his kind greeting. Your decision to address this subject is an appropriate follow-up to your earlier research on population and on global demographic trends. By inviting highly qualified experts to share the results of their research, the Academy is once more fulfilling the purpose for which it was established: to provide valuable scientific insights into themes of special concern to the Church and to society.

2. At the invitation of the Academy, you are directing your attention to the scientific and technical aspects of fertility-related matters. The Church is grateful for your work, for she "is the first to praise and commend the application of the human intellect to an activity in which man as a rational creature is so closely associated with his Creator" (Paul VI, Humanae Vitae HV 16). Your collective research will offer a better appreciation of the significant progress which has been made in the knowledge and understanding of the female fertility cycle. This knowledge helps couples in achieving as well as avoiding pregnancies. It should be of general interest that scientists have been able to demonstrate, by careful studies and with the assistance of many married couples, that natural methods of regulating fertility, or family planning, are trustworthy and effective, even in cases of very irregular ovarian cycles. The results of this research, made available to couples, can increase the options available to them and can therefore give husbands and wives the opportunity to make important decisions in a free and responsible manner, in an interpersonal dialogue which is respectful of the integrity of both partners and faithful to their religious convictions and cultural sensitivities. Such a dialogue can only enrich and deepen the communion between them.

3. The Church is pleased to note the progress which has been made in the knowledge of human biology and of female fertility rhythms (cf. ibid., 35). She considers these matters very important, since the sexual expression of love as a specifically human act touches the very meaning of life and the dignity of the individuals involved. Contemporary culture often regards sexuality in a reductive way, not in harmony with an integral vision of the human person. The love of a man and a woman must be understood in its fullest meaning, without dissociating the various aspects - spiritual, moral, physical, psychological - which comprise it. To ignore any one of these dimensions of love involves a serious risk to the unity of the person. The practice of the natural methods of family planning helps couples to embrace the normative principles of their sexual activity, which flow from the very structure of their persons and their relationship.

4. As a matter of fact, we can read in the bodyís reproductive system an indication of the design of the Creator. Knowledge of human sexuality and the reproductive system helps married couples discover the spousal dimension of the body and its place in Godís design (cf. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio FC 31). Such a perspective provides an understanding of the essential moral difference between those methods which artificially interrupt a process which of itself is open to life and other methods - based on an ever deepening knowledge of the biological rhythms of the human body - which order sexuality inseparably to the communion of persons and to the gift of life. In fact, the conjugal act has its own total meaning; it engages the individual in such a way that the experience of communion and openness to life cannot be separated. When natural methods are adopted, the body is considered an expression of the personís profound nature; otherwise, the separation of the different aspects of human sexuality in a particular act leads to considering the body as an external object, which the subject uses in a way which denies an essential purpose of the act itself and therefore involves a denial of the essential values of the coupleís interpersonal relationship. The practice of natural methods contributes to openness and greater sensitivity of each partner towards the other; it is also a training in the ways of interdependence and mutual concern, through respect for the other personís biological and psychological rhythms.

5. From this distinguished Assembly I would like to appeal to the worldís leaders to make the necessary means available for research and education in the area of natural methods of family planning. Indeed, it is the duty of States and International Organizations which recognize the principle of freedom of conscience to facilitate access to methods which respect the ethical convictions of couples. The future of man and of society is at stake in this all-important area of human behaviour, a matter which also has a direct influence on social development. For the struggle against underdevelopment and the response to population questions connected with it have an ally, not a foe, in methods which strengthen respect for human dignity. It is the whole of society which will benefit greatly from attention to these methods.

6. I am grateful to all of you for your co-operation with the Holy See. Through you I must also thank and encourage all those, including countless volunteers, who work with patience and special pedagogical skill to ensure that couples become familiar with natural methods of planning family size and learn how to apply them. I am also aware of the efforts being made to educate young people in their emotional life and their sexuality, as an essential preparation for marriage. This education often leads them to go against the current of contemporary opinion in matters of sex and human relationships. They need to understand clearly the profound reasons underlying their choice.

I entrust to the Lord your research which will allow important advances to be put before the international scientific community as a vital service to the integral development of individuals and couples. And I invoke Almighty Godís abundant blessings upon you, your collaborators and the members of your families.

Speeches 1994 - Friday, 21 October 1994