Speeches 1998 - Sunday, 25 January 1998



TO CUBA (JANUARY 21-26, 1998)


Sunday, 25 January 1998

Mr President,
Cardinal Ortega and Brothers in the Episcopate,
Esteemed Civil Authorities,
Dear Cuban Brothers and Sisters,

1. I have experienced intense and emotion-filled days with the pilgrim People of God in the beautiful land of Cuba which has left in me its profound imprint. I take with me the memory of the faces of so many people whom I met during these days. I am grateful to you for your cordial hospitality, an authentic expression of the Cuban soul, and above all for being able to share with you intense moments of prayer and reflection in the celebration of Holy Mass in Santa Clara, in Camagüey, in Santiago de Cuba and here in Havana, as well as in the visit completed just a few hours ago to the metropolitan cathedral.

2. I ask God to bless and repay all who have worked in bringing about this visit, so long desired. I thank you, Mr President, and also the other authorities of the nation for your presence here as well as for the co-operation lent in the actual carrying out of this visit, in which as many people as possible have participated, either by attending the celebrations or by following them through the media. I am very grateful to my Brother Bishops of Cuba for their work and pastoral concern in preparation both for my visit and for the mission among the people which preceded it, the immediate fruits of which have already been seen in the warm welcome received; this mission must in some way continue.

3. As Successor of the Apostle Peter and following the Lord's command, I have come as a messenger of truth and hope, to confirm you in faith and to leave you a message of peace and reconciliation in Christ. Therefore I encourage you to continue to walk together, inspired by the highest moral principles, so that the vitality which characterizes this noble people will produce abundant fruits of well-being and of spiritual and material prosperity for the benefit of everyone.

4. Before leaving this capital city, I wish to bid an emotional farewell to all the sons and daughters of this nation: to those who live in the cities and in the countryside; to the children, the young people and the elderly; to the families and each individual person. I am confident that they will continue to preserve and promote the most genuine values of the Cuban heart. Faithful to the heritage received from your forebears and despite difficulties, the Cuban spirit must ever show its trust in God, its Christian faith, its ties to the Church, its love for the culture and traditions of the homeland, its vocation to justice and freedom. In the process of doing precisely this, all Cubans are called to contribute to the common good in a climate of mutual respect and with a profound sense of solidarity.

In our day, no nation can live in isolation. The Cuban people therefore cannot be denied the contacts with other peoples necessary for economic, social and cultural development, especially when the imposed isolation strikes the population indiscriminately, making it ever more difficult for the weakest to enjoy the bare essentials of decent living, things such as food, health and education. All can and should take practical steps to bring about changes in this regard. May nations, and especially those which share the same Christian heritage and the same language, work effectively to extend the benefits of unity and harmony, to join efforts and overcome obstacles so that the Cuban people, as the active agents of their own history, may maintain international relations which promote the common good. In this way they will be helped to overcome the suffering caused by material and moral poverty, the roots of which may be found, among other things, in unjust inequalities, in limitations to fundamental freedoms, in depersonalization and the discouragement of individuals, and in oppressive economic measures — unjust and ethically unacceptable — imposed from outside the country.

5. Dear people of Cuba, as I leave this cherished land, I take with me the indelible memories of these days and a great confidence in the future of your homeland. Build it with vision, guided by the light of faith, with the fervour of hope and the generosity of fraternal love. These are capable of creating a climate of greater freedom and pluralism, in the certainty that God loves you intensely and remains faithful to his promises. In effect, "to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all men" (1Tm 4,10). May he fill you with his blessings and in every moment may you experience his closeness.

Praised be Jesus Christ!

The Holy Father then said extemporaneously:

A final word about the rain. Now it has stopped, but since my visit to the cathedral of Havana it has rained rather hard. I wondered why the rain came after these warm days, after Santiago de Cuba where it was so hot. It could be a sign: the Cuban skies are weeping because the Pope is going away, because he is leaving us. That would be a superficial interpretation. When we sing in the liturgy: "Rorate caeli desuper et nubes pluant iustum", it is Advent. I think this is a more profound interpretation.

This rain during the last hours of my stay in Cuba may signify an advent. My wish is that this rain will be a good sign of a new advent in your history. Thank you very much.





Saturday 31 January 1998

Mr President of the Regional Board,
Mr President of the Regional Council,
Distinguished Members of the Board and of the Council,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. It is a happy custom that at the beginning of every year I have the pleasure of receiving the representatives of the Regional Administration of Lazio, for an exchange of good wishes in keeping with the profound link that exists between the region and the Bishop of Rome. To each of you and your families I extend my best wishes for peace and prosperity, and for the successful fulfilment of the institutional task that has been entrusted to you. I greet in particular the President of the Regional Council, the Honourable Luca Borgomeo. I also express my gratitude to the President of the Board, the Honourable Piero Badaloni, for the kind words that he spoke to me in your name and I thank you all for your presence.

2. It is only two years now until the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. With deep appreciation I listened to what was said about your efforts to prepare for this historic occasion, and I thank you for what you are achieving in the various sectors for which you are responsible. As a result of your commitment, you are making it possible for the pilgrims and visitors, but first and foremost for the inhabitants of the region, to experience this extraordinary event as an occasion of spiritual and social renewal.

The Holy Year is in fact a providential occasion, also at the civil level, for promoting a more equitable society, which never loses sight of the human person with his rights and duties, as I recalled in my Message for the World Day of Peace this year, which marks the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The person must be at the centre of every social project (cf. n. 3). The great challenges at the global level are also found, in due proportion, within the area of your responsibility. I am thinking, for example, of the challenges of ensuring the globalization of solidarity (cf. ibid.), of working for the equitable application of the law and combating corruption (cf. n. 5), of preventing and fighting usury (cf. n. 6).

"Individuals, families, communities and nations, all are called to live in justice and to work in peace. No one can claim exemption from this responsibility" (n. 1). Those who are in key roles have a special opportunity for making their own contribution to the achievement of these important objectives and, therefore, to the development of an authentic democracy. This, in fact, "is possible only in a State ruled by law, and on the basis of a correct conception of the human person. It requires that the necessary conditions be present for the advancement both of the individual through education and formation in true ideals, and of the 'subjectivity' of society through the creation of structures of participation and shared responsibility" (Encyclical Centesimus annus CA 46).

3. At our annual meetings it has become almost obligatory to touch on the question of work, which is the priority item on the agenda of the governments of European nations and also absorbs a large part of your energy.

Public authorities must work both directly and indirectly for the achievement of full and dignified employment. Indirectly and according to the principle of subsidiarity, by creating favourable conditions for the free exercise of economic activity, leading to abundant employment opportunities and sources of wealth. Directly and according to the principle of solidarity, the weakest must be defended by putting limits on the autonomy of the parties who decide on working conditions, and by always ensuring the basic essentials for the unemployed worker.

"Young people whom society marginalizes, including the very large number of immigrants and those who are enslaved by dangerous delinquencies, must be directed towards the path of work so that the value of their humanity may be fostered and respected" (Speech to the Convention "Professional Training and Social Social Solidarity on the Centenary of Rerum novarum", 1 December 1990; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 10 December 1990, p. 3). I hope that the commitment of the centres for professional formation of Christian inspiration, which continually exercise a very important function for the education of youth, is always given due attention both by private enterprise and public institutions.

4. Another delicate area to which I wish to draw your attention is that of health and, particularly, that of co-operation between the public authorities and Catholic institutions.

The Church, faithful to the example and command of Christ, has always shown a special concern for the sick. In every age the ecclesial community has established numerous convalescent institutions and has provided a skilled presence in public hospitals. It is very important that in Rome and Lazio this effective collaboration should continue and indeed that it should increase. It is the duty of the Regional Administration to support these worthy institutions, which offer a noble service for the benefit of society, allocating the necessary funds and allowing them to continue working calmly in accordance with their ideals.

5. I also take the occasion of this meeting with you to make a new appeal for the family. You are aware of how much I care about this primary cell of society, the foundation of civilization and of a nation's life. Every good public administrator, all the more so if he is guided by Christian ethics, cannot fail to regard the family as the 'prism', so to speak, for viewing all social problems.

I stress that "it is urgent therefore to promote not only family policies, but also those social policies which have the family as their principal object, policies which assist the family by providing adequate resources and efficient means of support, both for bringing up children and for looking after the elderly, so as to avoid distancing the latter from the family unit and in order to strengthen relations between generations" (Encyclical Centesimus annus CA 49).

This appeal for the family naturally extends to an appeal for the school, which families have a right to choose for their children. The Church will never tire of recalling this right of parents and the duty, therefore, of public authorities to make this right effective by encouraging and supporting authentic scholastic parity.

6. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope that in every field there may always be extensive collaboration between the Regional Administration and the ecclesiatical authorities at every level. I also hope that every believer may generously make his contribution to building a future on a truly human scale.

With all my heart I renew my best wishes to you and ask you to convey them to your families and fellow workers. On everyone I gladly invoke the blessing of the Lord.





Saturday, 31 January 1998

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to extend a cordial welcome to you as you present the Letters of Credence whereby Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has appointed you her Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See. I am grateful for the greetings which you bring from Her Majesty and I ask you to convey to her the assurance of my prayers and good wishes.

You mention your Government's concern for the promotion of a foreign policy founded on respect for human rights. The celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the promulgation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an appropriate occasion for world leaders to renew their commitment to defending the fundamental rights of the human person. The preamble of that document declares that the "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world". The Declaration emphasises that the same rights belong to every individual and to all peoples. In my recent Message for the World Day of Peace, I drew attention to a tendency in some quarters to weaken the universal and indivisible character of human rights. It is therefore vital that the International Community should feel in duty bound to ensure that the same basic social, economic and cultural rights are available to all.

The commitment to defend and protect human rights is closely linked with the Church's mission in the modern world, convinced as she is that the promotion of peace, justice and solidarity is a truly practical and effective witness to the Gospel message regarding the sacred character of human life. Hence the Holy See insists firmly on every individual's fundamental right to life as well as the right to live in a united family, to develop one's intelligence and freedom in seeking and knowing the truth, the right to share in the work which makes use of the earth's resources, and the right to derive from that work the means to support oneself and one's dependents (cf. Centesimus Annus CA 47).

Among these basic rights, religious freedom, "understood as the right to live in the truth of one's faith and in conformity with one's transcendent dignity as a person" (Centesimus Annus CA 47), is an essential requirement of the dignity of every person and a cornerstone of the structure of human rights. Religious freedom includes the freedom to practise one's faith within an organized religious community. Everyone must be allowed to do so free of coercion (cf. Dignitatis Humanae DH 1), and therefore the State, which cannot claim authority, direct or indirect, over a person's religious convictions, should find the way to ensure that the rights of all individuals and communities are equally guaranteed, while safeguarding public order. It is important that Governments work together to guarantee that the fundamental right to religious freedom is everywhere respected, and I am heartened by your own Government's concerns in this regard.

As experience shows, efforts to promote peace among peoples can succeed only if there is a willingness to engage in a dialogue which respects the rights of all the parties concerned and without recourse to means contrary to the very nature of the negotiating process. This dialogue is admittedly difficult, and patience, good will and genuine openness are required in order to bring it to fruition. In this regard, I cannot but encourage the present dialogue between the various parties in Northern Ireland, in the hope that the desire for reconciliation and trust will prevail, in spite of the enormous difficulties involved and recurring moments of crisis.

In my recent speech to the Diplomatic Corps, I referred to the various trials which afflict the peoples of the Great Lakes region of Africa: "Armed conflict, displacement of persons, the tragedy of refugees, deficient health conditions, a defective administration of justice" (Speech to the Diplomatic Corps, 10 January 1998, 4). While the leaders of the countries in this region have the primary responsibility to find solutions to these problems, Governments such as your own can help in no small way to achieve a cessation of hostilities and ensure that the basic principles of justice are observed. The Holy See and the various Catholic aid organizations are already engaged in joint efforts with various International Organizations to improve the quality of human life not only in that part of Africa but throughout the world. This too is an area in which there is ample room for cooperation between us.

In effect, the promotion of world peace calls for a commitment on the part of the International Community to the integral development of all peoples and nations. In this regard the Holy See subscribes to appeals coming from many quarters for world leaders to take steps to reduce the heavy burden of external debt which hinders the social, political and economic progress of poorer countries (cf. Message for the World Day of Peace 1998, 4). I welcome your Government's resolve to find a solution to this problem before the end of the century.

A particular difficulty with regard to development is posed by the arms trade. Some poorer countries are tempted to exhaust much needed resources on the acquisition of military technology, instead of using them to guarantee a better standard of living for their citizens. Nations which produce and export arms have a serious moral responsibility to ensure that this trade does not further increase the threat to peace within countries and among nations. It is to be hoped that the European Union's deliberations on establishing a code of conduct to regulate the export of arms will go some way towards diminishing the temptation for developing countries to waste their resources in this way.

In this regard, public opinion has welcomed the signing in Ottawa of the International Convention banning anti-personnel landmines, which have been a major obstacle to the peaceful reconstruction of war-torn regions throughout the world. I share your hope that this Convention will eventually be signed by all members of the International Community, and I commend your Government's decision to allocate funds for the removal of these devices. There is a need for continued international cooperation to ensure that the dangers and threats to development posed by such weapons are permanently removed.

Your Excellency, in mentioning only a few of the important issues which you have raised, I have sought to indicate how the Church's concern for peace is based essentially on her spiritual mission to serve the human person, created in God's image and likeness and called to eternal life. As you undertake your duties, I am confident that your mission will serve to strengthen the friendly relations existing between the United Kingdom and the Holy See. I assure you of the cooperation and assistance of the various departments of the Roman Curia, and I invoke God's blessings upon you and upon all those whom you represent.

                                                       February 1998





Monday, 2 February 1998

Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. Today's meeting is a cause of deep joy for me, because it offers me the opportunity officially to give you the new Constitution Ecclesia in Urbe, which updates certain organizational aspects of the Vicariate of Rome, bringing them into line with the changed social and ecclesial circumstances of the Christian community.

With deep gratitude I greet Cardinal Camillo Ruini, my first co-worker in leading the People of God who live in Rome. Together with him, I would like to offer a cordial greeting to the Archbishop Vicegerent and the Auxiliary Bishops who make their valuable contribution to the orderly growth of Church activities in the various areas of the city. My affectionate thoughts also turn at this time to the priests, to consecrated men and women and to their lay coworkers, who devote their best energies so that Christ's Gospel may be continually proclaimed to all Romans.

Divine Providence has assigned to Rome the special vocation to be the see of Peter's Successor and, through the exercise of his ministry, to carry out in the community of the redeemed the service of presiding in charity (cf. St Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Romanos , PG ). This is the reason why our Diocese is marked by an extraordinary wealth and variety of persons and ecclesial activities, which, while defining its unique features, also give rise to the specific needs of pastoral co-ordination, for which we must provide.

2. In deference to the recommendations of the recent Diocesan Synod and after listening to the suggestions I received from various parts, I have decided that the Apostolic Constitution Vicariae potestatis of my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, should be revised so that the Vicariate of Rome can more effectively provide her proper service, updating it in accordance with the new canonical provisions and the changed situations of the present time.

In the 20 years that have passed since the above-mentioned Constitution of Paul VI, the Vicariate of Rome has found that it must respond to new and complex needs; in this regard, the opportuneness of revising its structures seems clearer than ever.

New pastoral opportunities and the need constantly to strengthen the vital relationship between the Bishop of Rome and the city's Christian community and, more generally, the rich, complex reality of civil society, find a response in the text which I present to you today. I hope that it will be a suitable tool for renewing this Church according to the desire expressed by the Diocesan Synod and will contribute to the period of pastoral growth that has already begun with the City Mission, to which the various pastoral workers are very generously committed.

3. All this cannot fail to encourage fruitful contact with the pilgrims who will come to Rome for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. This has great pastoral importance. It is easy to imagine their expectations as they come to the city bathed in the blood of the Apostles and martyrs. How spiritually refreshing it will be for them to find here a welcoming community, actively working in the name of Christ, Redeemer of man!

I entrust to each individual, according to his own responsibilities, the implementation of the provisions I am giving you today and, as I invoke the help of Mary "Salus Populi Romani" on you and on the various parish communities, I willingly impart a cordial Apostolic Blessing to you all.





Monday 2 February 1998

Dear Brothers in the Episcopal Ministry,

1. I find every meeting with the Polish Bishops a joyful return to people and places familiar and dear to me. And what can I say when Bishops come to visit me from that part of Poland where the Metropolitan Archdiocese and Province of Kraków are located? Indeed, that is where I come from, and for many years I was granted to be its Pastor. I address my most cordial welcome to the Metropolitan Archbishop of Kraków, Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, and the Metropolitan Archbishops who accompany him: from Częstochowa, Katowice and Przemysl, as well as the Archbishop of Lódz. I also extend a greeting to the residential Bishops of the Dioceses of Bielsko-Zywiec, Gliwice, Kielce, Opole, Radom, Rzeszów, Sosnowiec, Tarnów and Zamosc-Lubaczów, and the Auxiliary Bishops of the abovementioned Archdioceses and Dioceses. Your visit ad limina Apostolorum has particular eloquence within the framework of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, for which the universal Church is preparing, as she wishes to pay a supreme tribute to the One God in the Blessed Trinity for the immensity of the benefits lavished on the world by the Saviour's coming to earth. The local Churches will take part in these celebrations in their own way, linking them in turn to their own important anniversaries. In Poland these events are connected with the millennium of the martyrdom of St Adalbert, its patron, and to the millennium of the institution of the first Polish metropolitan see in Gniezno, with the episcopal sees of Kraków, Wroclaw and Kolobrzeg.

The visit ad limina Apostolorum also has a profound theological meaning. It is actually the expression of the Bishops' unity with the Bishop of Rome, in fulfilment of Christ's call to take care of the Church. It can be said that Paul's sollicitudo omnium Ecclesiarum is realized in this way. The Bishop of Rome and the dicasteries of the Roman Curia subject to him are given an opportunity to learn of the Pastors' problems first hand and to share their experiences with them. This is how the bond of collegial unity and responsibility in the Church is reinforced. It is the responsibility for bringing all mankind to encounter Christ, the one Saviour of the world. In this context, the deep pastoral significance of this visit can also be seen. Indeed, it allows an evaluation to be made of the pastoral work in the Dioceses, which makes it possible to focus attention on the challenges of the contemporary world, both for the Pastors of the Church and for the whole flock.

2. The person of Jesus Christ releases enormous spiritual energy in the world, and his Good News also illumines the life of our contemporaries with its splendour. Thus it happens wherever man becomes the way of the Church and the Church - the People of God - knows no other way than Jesus Christ (cf. 1Co 2,2). At the same time, the world in which we live again and again shows its face disfigured by sin and selfishness, by many forms of violence, by deceit and injustice. This world frequently loses touch with God, denies his existence and falls into religious indifference. Sometimes on the world's face deformed by sin we see emptiness, sorrow and even despair. These phenomena can also be observed in our country. Also incumbent on the Church's Pastors is the duty of helping man, despite these problems, to rediscover Christ in his life and to walk on the way of faith in its fullness. As I wrote in the Encyclical Redemptor hominis: "The Church cannot abandon man, for his 'destiny' ... is so closely and unbreakably linked with Christ" (n. 14). This pastoral concern must produce great and generous acts of new evangelization, the essential mission of the Church and a concrete expression of her identity.

"Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" (1Co 9,16). The Apostle Paul's words become for each one of us a pressing exhortation to proclaim the Gospel and to encourage renewal efforts whose purpose is to prepare "a new springtime of Christian life". These efforts, begun by the Second Vatican Council and inspired by the Holy Spirit, continue and are bearing blessed fruit. The Council's teaching, interpreted correctly in the light of the current signs of the times, is an indispensable reference point in the work of the new evangelization for all the faithful, but especially for Bishops, priests and consecrated persons. On the threshold of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, it is also necessary to reflect on the question of how far the Council's teaching is reflected in the Church's activities in Poland, in her institutions and in the style of her pastoral ministry. The Great Jubilee commits us to an examination of conscience which must also consider the "reception given to the Council, this great gift of the Spirit to the Church at the end of the second millennium" (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 36).

3. Poland is currently at a crucial moment in her history. In our country's society many changes have occurred which are appreciated. The fact that lay people take part in the work of evangelization and feel ever more aware of their specific role in the Church is a cause for joy. It is the great task for the Church in Poland to deepen this ecclesial self-awareness of the Catholic laity and help it to continue growing in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council. "The apostolate of the laity", we read in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, "is a sharing in the salvific mission of the Church. Through Baptism and Confirmation all are appointed to this apostolate by the Lord himself. Moreover, by the sacraments, and especially by the Eucharist, that love of God and man which is the soul of the apostolate is communicated and nourished. The laity, however, are given this special vocation: to make the Church present and fruitful in those places and circumstances where it is only through them that she can become the salt of the earth. Thus, every lay person, through those gifts given to him, is at once the witness and the living instrument of the mission of the Church herself 'according to the measure of Christ's bestowal' (Ep 4,7)" (n. 33). A systematic introduction of this teaching into pastoral practice is essential at all levels: parochial, diocesan and national. Families and ecclesial and civil communities of various kinds should be formed in this light.

The saving mission of Christ's Church is carried out in the local Church. Each of these Churches, by virtue of their hierarchical ties with the Bishop of Rome, through the ministries of the Bishop and of the priests gathered round him, can bring to man the nourishment of the word of God and sacramental grace. Recourse to this service enables the community - the Mystical Body of Christ - to be constantly built up and reinforced. Our work must primarily aim at forming man's spiritual bond with God and, at the same time, at deepening the bond of understanding and love among people. This purpose is served by the ecclesial and secular structures of the community, among which the parish and the Diocese play irreplaceable roles. The Second Vatican Council indicated a number of ways in which both parishes and Dioceses can become living bodies, pulsating with spiritual energy. Here a great and constant concern is necessary to develop the sacramental life of the faithful and their interior formation; this must be undertaken consistently and competently, so that they can feel that they are true subjects in the Church's life and take upon their shoulders their share of responsibility in the Church and in society. The effectiveness of the lay apostolate depends on their union with Christ: "He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing" (Jn 15,5). In this process they have their own tasks to fulfil in the various types of Catholic associations and organizations, especially in Catholic Action, as well as in those advisory structures provided for by canon law at various levels and of various kinds. Nor should the groups and communities for the formation of lay Catholics be forgotten, those which pray together, make spiritual exercises and study the rich heritage of the Council and the Church's social teaching, which today is more necessary than ever in Poland. I hope that these tasks will also be carried out by the Plenary Synod Groups and by the different ecclesial movements which are ever more numerous in Poland. For this we give thanks to the Holy Spirit.

4. With regard to the tasks of lay Catholics, I am thinking particularly of families. The family "is placed at the service of the building up of the kingdom of God in history by participating in the life and mission of the Church.... In turn, the Christian family is grafted into the mystery of the Church to such a degree as to become a sharer, in its own way, in the saving mission proper to the Church" (Familiaris consortio FC 49). Today this basic cell of social life is exposed to great danger because of a tendency in the world to weaken the family's natural permanence by replacing it with irregular unions, and even by attempts to recognize as families unions between people of the same sex. The family is also mortally threatened by the denial of the right to life of the unborn and by attacks on the younger generation's spiritual formation in lasting Christian values. With genuine sadness I followed the efforts in our homeland to legalize the murder of unborn children, and with great apprehension I accompanied in prayer those who were fighting for the right to life of every human being. In the homily I preached in Kalisz, I said: "The measure of civilization, a universal and permanent measure which includes all cultures, is its relationship with life. A civilization which rejected the defenceless would deserve to be called a barbarian civilization" (Mass at St Joseph's Shrine, Kalisz, Poland, 4 June 1997; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 18 June 1997, p. 4). I consider the efforts to surround every newborn child with attentive care to be worthy of praise and in need of widespread support, through a network of diocesan homes for unwed mothers and funds for the defence of life. I give thanks to God for the opportunities now available in providing children and young people with a good preparation for family life, in the pastoral care of engaged couples, in responsible parenthood and in the Christian formation of the young generation. I realize that these are not easy tasks, since more than legislative changes in their favour are involved. To change society's mentality regarding the fundamental role of the family and of man's life in society, hard work is essential. Here we need to combine the forces of the Church, the school and other milieus, in order to restore respect for the traditional values of the family and to promote them in the educational process; everyone must collaborate, including the media, which have an enormous influence today in forming people's attitudes. In our country, the family must be surrounded by the love and care which is its due. Do all you can to prevent families in Poland from feeling isolated in their attempts to preserve their identity and to defend their rights and basic values, and help them fulfil their mission and their duties. Do not let this "community of life and love" (Gaudium et spes GS 48) suffer injustice or profanation. The welfare of society and of the Church is linked to the wellbeing of the family. Thus the family must be staunchly supported by the Church. I urgently ask you to do this because I am very concerned about the family and its fate in today's world.

5. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, as I reflect with you on the tasks facing the Church in Poland in connection with the new evangelization, it is impossible not to recall the meetings with young people which took place during my pilgrimage to our homeland last year. Young people are the hope of the world and of the Church. It will be they who determine our homeland's future. We cannot but note with sorrow and anxiety that in recent years the dangers to which the young generation is exposed have not only not diminished, but perhaps have even increased. Purely human values as well as the faith and moral sense have been severely endangered. Passively submitting to the tempting opportunities of the consumerist pseudoculture, often without serious reflection on the true meaning of life, love and one's duties to society, exposes the young to alienation from their family and from the human community, or even induces them to believe in the fallacious slogans spread by certain ideologies.

Young Poles have enormous resources of goodness and spiritual potential. We see these qualities, among other things, in their active participation in the religious life of the family and parish, in catechesis, in associations, in Church movements and in Catholic organizations. Young people frequently make radical choices about entering a seminary or practising various forms of the evangelical counsels. During my last visit, I confidently told Polish youth: "Be in this world bearers of Christian faith and hope by living love every day. Be faithful witnesses of the risen Christ, never turn back before the obstacles that present themselves on the paths of your lives. I am counting on you. On your youthful energy and your dedication to Christ" (Address at a prayer service for young people, Poznan, 3 June 1997; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 18 June 1997, p. 10). The presence of young people from all over the world, including Poland, during World Youth Day in Paris last August has shown that trust placed in young people does not disappoint. We could very clearly perceive that young people yearn deeply for the beauty of the Gospel, which contains the essential truth about Christ. But they need witnesses whose life and conduct they can imitate.

Young people are the hope of the Church as she enters the third millennium. They cannot be left without help or guidance at the crossroads of life and when faced with difficult choices. A great effort is necessary to make the Church present among youth. Concern for Christian education in the family is one of the signs of this presence, which must also be outwardly expressed in the various forms of community life in parishes and schools. The Catholic Youth Association and Catholic Action, which are receiving new life in Poland, take into account the creative initiative of young people and train them to take personal responsibility for their own life and for that of the religious and civil community. It is constantly necessary to form apostolic lay groups in the Church, ready to develop their activity in those areas of public life which are their field of action.

Nor can we neglect the very important role which must be carried out by university chaplaincies with their structures and activities among young students. For many years this has been an irreplaceable form of the Church's pastoral care thanks to which students and teachers can receive appropriate help in developing their faith and in forming a Christian world-view. It is essential to make the most of the new opportunities available to university chaplaincies in Poland, so that they may be a school for the formation of our homeland's Catholic intelligentsia, able to undertake important tasks in the life of the Church and the nation, such as science, culture, politics or the economy.

A vast field of action requiring a wise approach is the school, where the teaching of religion has been reintroduced. Diocesan and religious priests, sisters and large numbers of lay people are involved in it. They have encountered a succession of serious educational and pedagogical problems in their contacts with children and young people. Most of these problems concern Polish society as a whole in a time of transition, but are experienced with particular intensity by children and young people and demand extraordinary sensitivity to each pupil's personality. It is therefore necessary to observe closely what is happening in the world and in Poland, and what influences the formation of convictions and attitudes in the young. They also expect a friendly and open discussion of all the problems bothering them. An effective aid in the work of catechists and students is offered by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, whose Polish translation was published in 1994. The best use possible should be made of it by school catechetical programmes which are clear in their exposition, and by catechisms adapted to today's mentality, to the pupil's intellectual capacity and to the degree of his emotional development. The catechesis of children and young people is one of the basic tasks of all pastoral work. Therefore, the harmonious co-operation of all the Pastors of the Church in Poland and a great commitment from those responsible for catechesis are essential.

As I said during your visit ad limina Apostolorum in 1993: "Obviously catechesis in the school needs to be completed at the parish level with the pastoral care for children and young people" (Address to first group of Polish Bishops, 12 January 1993). I am aware of the difficulties this type of catechesis will encounter, but it is necessary to find some solution, so that the children and young people will not treat religious teaching merely as one of the subjects taught at school, but will also draw strength from a direct contact with God in the liturgy and in the holy sacraments. I am certain you are very concerned about the question of young people and of seeing that none of them stray; and, even more, about the question of seeking out all who leave or turn their backs because of moral bewilderment and the disappointments or frustrations they have experienced. Their progress must become a particular concern for the Church. All these problems demand deep reflection, evaluation and common action.

6. "So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1Co 13,13).

Bishops are burdened with the duty of guiding the People of God in charity, after the example of Christ, who "went about doing good" (Ac 10,38), to the point of making the total gift of himself. Others can surpass or compete with you in many things, but no one can restrain the Church from proclaiming the Gospel of love, from standing up for those for whom no one stands up. A persevering and disinterested witness of effective love has an unbreakable link with evangelization because it is a witness to God's love.

For several years in Poland major changes have been taking place in the the economy. They are indispensable for making the economy an effective instrument of social progress and well-being. Nonetheless, in Poland there are still many who live in extremely difficult conditions, the homeless, the abandoned, the hungry, the handicapped and those who suffer injustice, who have found themselves in this plight through no fault of their own. There are also some who have been forced to the fringes of social life because of errors or crimes committed, or because they succumbed to some vice, especially alcohol and drugs. The number of persons infected with AIDS is also growing. All these people must be the object of the Church's attentive pastoral care. It is impossible to close our eyes to their daily need for housing, food, medical treatment or the search for a job and the possibility of earning a living. May the Church's voice be clear and audible in every place where it is necessary to plead for the future of these persons and for their rights.

I learned with joy of the vigorous activity of Polish Caritas and the development of the various diocesan charities, which in recent years have been able to create their own effective structures and organize themselves so as to offer great assistance today to the needy in Poland and beyond its borders. Here I want to stress with deep feeling the concern for handicapped children, for the organization of homes for the children of poor families, for the help offered to the victims of various misfortunes and to the families who were victims of the disastrous flooding in Poland last year; and beyond Polish borders, the contribution to the aid programme for nations and people tried by war, sickness or disasters should be mentioned. These initiatives also repay the debt of gratitude for the international solidarity once shown to Poland and which is always offered to us in our various needs. This assistance would be impossible without the great generosity shown by Polish society. I am also pleased because in recent years in our country, many charitable organizations have arisen which, although they are not institutionally connected with the Church, nevertheless stem from the good and merciful hearts of persons sensitive to poverty and injustice. The witness of charity is an expression of concern and responsibility for man and the fulfilment of Christ's words: "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25,40). Christ's words must prompt us, always and in every situation, to concrete action.

7. Giving priority to charity effectively opens men's hearts to the Gospel, and an attitude of dialogue enables them to discover in the Church a place where freedom not only finds a defence against misuse but also flourishes in free adherence to Christ the Lord. The evangelizing Church must seek to "fully [mirror] the image of her crucified Lord, the supreme witness of patient love and of humble meekness" (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 35). Apostolic zeal, full of sensitivity and spiritual depth, and based on true wisdom and holiness of life, particularly in those who are called to proclaim the Gospel, is a sign of openness to all people, to the whole world embraced in the saving plan of God who is Love.

I would like to add that the new evangelization, carried out by the Church, draws its effectiveness and strength from prayer. Let us remember the enormous importance prayer has had in the history, indeed so recently, of the struggle for freedom. Must not the Church in Poland, as she faces the immensity of her tasks, gather anew in assiduous prayer? Indeed, prayer has the power to involve all the baptized in the new evangelization, which is the work of the Holy Spirit. Prayer teaches the methods of God's action; it purifies us, removing all that separates us from God and from men, and from all that threatens unity. Prayer protects us against the temptation of timidity, from narrowness of heart and mind; it is prayer that raises man's eyes to see things in God's perspective and that opens the way of the human heart to divine grace. A life of prayer requires participation in the liturgy, receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation and participation in Mass. Indeed, the Eucharistic banquet also provides the spiritual food so necessary to every human being. Participation in Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation is an inexhaustible source for the interior life and the apostolate. It is indispensable then to sensitize the faithful to the festive character of the Lord's Day.

The Polish Bishop's Conference, particularly on the eve of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, must urge people to pray fervently and to persevere in prayer, and must be their guide, showing the faithful the wealth of gifts God wants to bestow on those who ask him for them. May appropriate pastoral initiatives at the national, diocesan or parochial levels foster the spiritual development of the greatest possible number of the faithful. May the media of social communications, especially the Catholic media, also contribute to this, using their methods to the best advantage. Lastly, may Catholic movements and associations make the idea of the apostolate of prayer their own, and may they help their members, especially young people, to "put out into the deep". Remember that no external activity can promote evangelization more than union with God in prayer.

8. We owe the evangelization and proclamation of the Good News in our land to the sons and daughters of the nations who were baptized before our forebears. St Adalbert and the first Polish martyrs are an eloquent example of the fact that evangelization, at its deepest level, is sharing Christ "to the end of the earth" (Ac 1,8), which demands the gift of self. This is the logic of the evangelization begun by Christ and continued by the Apostles. So it must remain today and for ever. The Church in Poland has made and is making a great contribution to missionary work. Here I would like to express my thanks to you for your generous commitment to the missions. In this attitude your collegial responsibility for the evangelization of the world is also expressed; indeed "missionary activity is the greatest and holiest duty of the Church", as we read in the Council's Decree Ad gentes (cf. n. 29). Frequently Bishops from various parts of the world send me requests for missionaries from Poland. I put this problem to your heart. Urge your community to be generously open to the Church's missionary activity in today's world. In fact, nothing so energizes ecclesial life or contributes so much to reawakening vocations as giving preachers of Christ to those who do not know his teaching. I also take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude for our missionaries' generous labours: to the priests, religious, members of the institutes of consecrated life and lay faithful who have given themselves totally to the service of evangelization. Let us support them with fervent prayer, so that the proclamation of the Good News, assisted by divine grace, may achieve the desired results in mission lands.

I have entrusted all these important Polish matters to the Mother of Christ at Jasna Góra during my last stay in my beloved country. We always went there to ask Mary's help in remaining faithful to God, to the Cross, to the Gospel, to Holy Church and to her Pastors. Here I would like to repeat once again the words I spoke then as I stood before her: "I come to you today, O Mother, to exhort my brothers and sisters to persevere with Christ and his Church, to encourage the wise use of regained freedom, in the spirit of what is most beautiful in our Christian tradition. Queen of Poland, recalling with gratitude your motherly protection, I entrust to you my homeland and the social, economic and political changes taking place in her. May desire for the common good prevail over selfishness and divisions. May all who exercise public service see in you the humble Handmaid of the Lord; may they learn to serve and to recognize the needs of their fellow countrymen, as you did at Cana in Galilee, so that Poland may become a nation in which love, truth, justice and peace reign. May the name of your Son be glorified in it" (Prayer to Our Lady of Jasna Góra, 4 June 1997; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 18 June 1997, p. 5). So may it be and may almighty God bless you in your pastoral ministry in my homeland and yours.

Speeches 1998 - Sunday, 25 January 1998