Monday, 25 May 1998
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I am pleased to welcome the Delegation from Bulgaria, which has come to Rome to honour Sts Cyril and Methodius, who remain linked to the memory of the Church in your country and on the European continent. Your pilgrimage shows that the Bulgarian people recognize how important these two great figures are for their own identity.
The method of evangelization used by Cyril and Methodius is remarkable; it is an example of intercultural dialogue. In fact, these two saints were able to proclaim the Gospel without imposing the culture and customs in which they had been formed and to which they remained attached. They adapted the proclamation of Christ's Gospel to the Slavic world without altering it or taking anything from its rich content. On the contrary, their intention was to unite the people of the region to the universal Church and make the divine truth shine forth.
2. In our time, Cyril and Methodius, who helped form Europe's roots, can also help this continent in the task of unification which it has begun. In fact, their work recalls that Europe, traditionally composed of two parts that were long separated, can rediscover its unity. With its specific spiritual cultures and practices, each part contributes its own riches to the whole, thus fostering communion between individuals and fraternal dialogue between peoples. At the religious level, this must be put into practice through an ever more intense ecumenical commitment. At the civil level, it is an invitation to spare no effort to make peace, harmony and reconciliation prevail.
3. In this spirit, as I thank you for your kind visit, I extend my fervent wishes to your Delegation, to the authorities and to the Bulgarian people. I entrust you to the intercession of Cyril and Methodius and invoke upon you the blessings of God.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. "We give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ" (1Th 1,2-3). These words of the Apostle Paul re-echo in my heart with grateful joy as I send you a warm greeting and assure you of my spiritual closeness in anticipation of our meeting in the Vatican.
I extend an affectionate greeting to the President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Cardinal James Francis Stafford; to the Secretary, Bishop Stanislaw Rylko, and to the dicastery's staff. My greeting also goes to the leaders and delegates of the various movements, to the Pastors who are accompanying them and to the distinguished speakers.
During your World Congress, you are addressing the theme: "Ecclesial Movements: Communion and Mission on the Threshold of the Third Millennium". I thank the Pontifical Council for the Laity, which has taken responsibility for promoting and organizing this important meeting, as well as the movements that have promptly and willingly accepted the invitation I extended to them on the Vigil of Pentecost two years ago. On that occasion, I hoped that on the way to the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, during the year dedicated to the Holy Spirit, they would offer a "joint witness" and "in communion with the Pastors and linked with diocesan programmes, [they would bring] their spiritual, educational and missionary riches to the heart of the Church as a precious experience and proposal of Christian life" (Homily on the Vigil of Pentecost, 25 May 1996, n. 7; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 29 May 1996, p. 2).
I deeply hope that your congress and the meeting on 30 May 1998 in St Peter's Square will highlight the fruitful vitality of the movements among the People of God, who are preparing to cross the threshold of the third millennium of the Christian era.
2. I am thinking at this moment of the international conferences organized in Rome in 1981, in Rocca di Papa in 1987 and in Bratislava in 1991. I followed their work attentively, accompanying them with prayer and constant encouragement. From the beginning of my Pontificate, I have given special importance to the progress of ecclesial movements, and I have had the opportunity to appreciate the results of their widespread and growing presence during my pastoral visits to parishes and my apostolic journeys. I have noticed with pleasure their willingness to devote their energies to the service of the See of Peter and the local Churches. I have been able to point to them as something new that is still waiting to be properly accepted and appreciated. Today I notice, with great joy, that they have a more mature self-knowledge. They represent one of the most significant fruits of that springtime in the Church which was foretold by the Second Vatican Council, but unfortunately has often been hampered by the spread of secularization. Their presence is encouraging because it shows that this springtime is advancing and revealing the freshness of the Christian experience based on personal encounter with Christ. Even in the diversity of their forms, these movements are marked by a common awareness of the "newness" which baptismal grace brings to life, through a remarkable longing to reflect on the mystery of communion with Christ and with their brethren, through sound fidelity to the patrimony of the faith passed on by the living stream of Tradition. This gives rise to a renewed missionary zeal which reaches out to the men and women of our era in the concrete situations where they find themselves, and turns its loving attention to the dignity, needs and destiny of each individual.
These are the reasons for the "joint witness" which, thanks to the service you have received from the Pontifical Council for the Laity and in a spirit of friendship, dialogue and collaboration with all the movements, is now given concrete expression at this World Congress and, particularly, in a few days at the eagerly awaited "Meeting" in St Peter's Square. A "joint witness", moreover, which has already emerged and been tested in the arduous preparatory phase of these two events.
The significant presence among you of the superiors and representatives of other dicasteries of the Roman Curia, of Bishops from various continents and nations, of delegates from the International Unions of Superiors General, of the guests of various institutions and associations shows that the whole Church is involved in this endeavour, confirming that the dimension of communion is essential in the life of movements. The ecumenical dimension is also present, made tangible by the participation of fraternal delegates from other Churches and Christian Communions, to whom I address a special greeting.
3. The object of this World Congress is, on the one hand, to examine the theological nature and missionary task of the movements and, on the other, to encourage mutual edification through the exchange of testimonies and experiences. Your programme thus involves crucial aspects of the life of the movements which the Spirit of Christ has stirred up to give new apostolic fervour to the ecclesial structure. At the opening of your congress, I would like to propose for your consideration several reflections which we will certainly have occasion to emphasize later during the celebration in St Peter's Square on 30 May.
You represent more than 50 movements and new forms of community life, which are the expression of a multifaceted variety of charisms, educational methods and apostolic forms and goals. This multiplicity is lived in the unity of faith, hope and charity, in obedience to Christ and to the Pastors of the Church. Your very existence is a hymn to the unity in diversity desired by the Spirit and gives witness to it. Indeed, in the mystery of communion of the Body of Christ, unity is never a dull homogeneity or a denial of diversity, just as plurality must never become particularism or dispersion. That is why each of your groups deserves to be appreciated for the particular contribution it makes to the life of the Church.
4. What is meant today by "movement"? The term is often used to refer to realities that differ among themselves, sometimes even by reason of their canonical structure. If, on the one hand, that structure certainly cannot exhaust or capture the wealth of forms produced by the life-giving creativity of Christ's Spirit, on the other, it indicates a concrete ecclesial reality with predominantly lay membership, a faith journey and Christian witness which bases its own pedagogical method on a precise charism given to the person of the founder in specific circumstances and ways.
The charism's own originality, which gives life to a movement, neither claims nor could claim to add anything to the richness of the depositum fidei, safeguarded by the Church with passionate fidelity. Nonetheless, it represents a powerful support, a moving and convincing reminder to live the Christian experience fully, with intelligence and creativity. Therein lies the basis for finding adequate responses to the challenges and needs of ever changing times and historical circumstances.
In this light, the charisms recognized by the Church are ways to deepen one's knowledge of Christ and to give oneself more generously to him, while rooting oneself more and more deeply in communion with the entire Christian people. For this reason they deserve attention from every member of the ecclesial community, beginning with the Pastors to whom the care of the particular Churches is entrusted in communion with the Vicar of Christ. Movements can thus make a valuable contribution to the vital dynamics of the one Church founded on Peter in the various local situations, especially in those regions where the implantatio Ecclesiae is still in its early stages or subject to many difficulties.
5. I have often had occasion to stress that there is no conflict or opposition in the Church between the institutional dimension and the charismatic dimension, of which movements are a significant expression. Both are co-essential to the divine constitution of the Church founded by Jesus, because they both help to make the mystery of Christ and his saving work present in the world. Together they aim at renewing in their own ways the self-awareness of the Church, which in a certain sense can be called a "movement" herself, since she is the realization in time and space of the Father's sending of his Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.
I am convinced that my reflections will be given due consideration during the congress, which I accompany with the prayer that it may bear abundant fruit for the benefit of the Church and of all humanity.
With these sentiments, as I look forward to meeting you in St Peter's Square on the Vigil of Pentecost, I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you and to those you represent.
From the Vatican, 27 May 1998
1. I am pleased to receive you today and I welcome you to Rome, where you are presenting the Letters accrediting you to the Holy See as Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of your countries: the Principality of Andorra, whose representative I am receiving for the first time, The Gambia, Jordan, Latvia, Madagascar, Uganda, Swaziland, Chad and Zambia. On this occasion I would again like to express my cordial esteem for your national authorities and for all your compatriots. I would be grateful if you would convey to your respective Heads of State my gratitude for their messages, which I particularly appreciate. In return, I ask you to express my respectful greetings and best wishes for their persons and their lofty mission at the service of all their fellow citizens.
2. My thoughts turn first of all to Africa and especially to Nigeria, which I had the opportunity to visit last March. The warm welcome of the nation's leaders and of the entire people is a sign of this country's human resources. Like other African countries, it possesses numerous riches: in particular a sense of family, openness to foreigners and the love of dialogue and fraternal life. Relying on these pillars of African society and on the efforts of its peoples, the international community is called to increase, in a disinterested way, its aid to this continent, so that Africans can achieve on their own the progress indispensable to making the most of their lands; the various countries will thus become better integrated into world economic networks and attain the social development to which they legitimately aspire today.
3. In a perspective often developed by the Church's social teaching, solidarity must proceed to a thorough revision or outright cancellation of the debt of the world's poorest countries. Caritas Internationalis which, with other Catholic organizations, is involved in initiatives of charity and solidarity in the developing countries, has recently shown at an opportune time that an excessive debt affects the rights of individuals and peoples, as well as the dignity of persons. In the past, the decision to cancel the debt has allowed countries in a difficult and precarious situation to find their way to economic progress, democratic life and greater economic stability. I therefore invite the wealthier countries to reconsider their relations with poorer countries, which all too often are still impoverished, especially because of the external debt that keeps them in a situation of dependence on other nations and leaves them no opportunity to govern themselves as they wish, nor to make the necessary reforms and changes.
In the same way, the leaders of poor countries should strive to develop harmoniously all the national institutions. In carrying out their responsibilities, their principal goal must be to seek to serve all their compatriots, without distinction or partisanship, out of love for their country, for the people who live there and are welcomed there, for the sake of the moral, spiritual and social growth of all. The administration of the res publica thus presupposes great concern for all citizens, particularly the weakest and those who are the most seriously affected by a difficult economic situation; this also requires that priority be given to dialogue between the nation's various members, whose efforts must contribute to the prosperity of the whole people. The institutional authorities must strive for a healthy administration of public life, for which they are accountable to God and to the people. These responsibilities also require true self-denial, so that the sense of service to their brothers and sisters will continue to prevail, that the the principles of democratic life will be manifest and that the values on which the civitas is based will be practised.
4. The primary objective of political leaders is also to achieve true peace, which cannot be the mere absence of armed conflict. It is a question of harmonious coexistence, in which all constituents of the nation build civil society together, with respect for legitimate individual freedoms. Those responsible for directing the destiny of peoples are specifically called to create an atmosphere of trust among their compatriots, with concern for the common good and great moral rectitude. In this way all the individuals who live in the same territory will be able to coexist, without preferences or privileges. Indeed, discrimination of any kind is always to the detriment of the weakest and gravely threatens social harmony and peace.
5. I can only hope for the renewed commitment of the international community on behalf of countries which are faced important economic and political problems, making international relations fragile. Conflicts and wars are never the way that one can hope will lead to the resolution of tension within a nation or between States, nor to legitimate prosperity. They are always seriously damaging to the population and cannot help citizens to trust either their institutions or their brothers and sisters. They can only give rise to an escalation of violence. To leave violence behind means recognizing differences, which are sources of wealth and dynamism, by being willing to link one's future to that of one's brothers and sisters. Once again, I address a heartfelt appeal to all nations: no more massacres or wars, which disfigure man and humanity. No more discriminatory measures towards part of the people, which marginalize individuals because of their opinions or religious beliefs or exclude them from any participation in national affairs.
6. I would also like to stress the importance of pursuing civil and moral education, especially with youth, who will be called to take an active part in the future life of the nation. I therefore invite the authorities to take special care of their youth, who are a country's primary wealth. Many young people are caught up in a spiral of violence, recruited by armed groups, taken hostage by groups of fighters, plunged into drug trafficking or subjected to degrading situations. They will be scarred by these for life and will have great difficulty in regaining their place in society. It is also to be feared that they feed the spiral of violence. In educating youth, national leaders are preparing important social developments in their county. I urge the international community to persevere in the aid it donates to countries involved in a revitalized education for their youth, even if this is sometimes done at the price of heavy sacrifices and amid numerous difficulties.
7. For her part, the Church hopes to continue her essential work of proclaiming the Gospel, with respect for local traditions and the other spiritual practices that exist in various countries. She is also concerned to offer her help to countries and local peoples without restrictions or compensation, through humanitarian and social programmes, thanks to the clergy and faithful who freely devote themselves to the service of their brothers and sisters in the institutions belonging to her or in national or international organizations.
8. During your mission to the Apostolic See, you will have the opportunity to discover more directly the activities and concerns of the Church on every continent. Two weeks ago, the Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of Bishops ended in Rome; it was a moment of intense communion between the different Catholic communities, gathered round the Successor of Peter. The Pastors echoed the difficulties their countries are currently undergoing, particularly with regard to human rights; they also recounted the spiritual and human dynamism of millions of people. Therefore, as I hope you will have many opportunities to become aware of the Church's universality through these events, I invoke an abundance of divine blessings upon you and your families, on your staffs and upon the nations you represent.
As you present the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Zambia to the Holy See I offer you warm greetings and welcome you to the Vatican. With gratitude for the good wishes which you bring from His Excellency President Frederick J. Chiluba, I ask you to convey to him my own cordial good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the peace and well-being of your nation, especially now that the declared state of emergency in your country has ended and the situation returns to normal.
Although nearly ten years have passed since my Pastoral Visit to Zambia, the memories of the time I spent among your people remain vividly etched in my mind. My travels to the various countries of the world are made principally as the Bishop of Rome and Successor of Saint Peter; at the same time, however, they enable me to manifest solidarity with all peoples as they work to achieve their destiny. The Holy See is present in the international community not as a political, economic or military power, but as an active partner in the continuing discussions on the moral and ethical questions facing our world today.
It is in this context that I am pleased to note Your Excellency’s remarks concerning the necessary contribution of Christian principles and values in the struggle to overcome injustice and evil at both the personal and the institutional levels. Indeed, the two great commandments which Christians have received from their Lord — “You shall love the Lord your God with all your strength, and your neighbour as yourself” (cf. Mk Mc 12,30-31) — clearly preclude all behaviour and attitudes on the part of individuals and leaders alike which may cause harm, suffering or injury to others. It is on the basis of these same two commandments, and following the example of the Lord himself who “came not to be served but to serve” (Mt 20,28), that the Church is actively involved in the life of your country. She is most notably present in the field of education and in the areas of health and social services, offering assistance to all Zambians regardless of religious affiliation. I very much appreciate Your Excellency’s expression of esteem for the contribution which the Catholic Church makes in this regard.
The church and the political community, though independent and self- governing, work for the personal and social well-being of the same human beings. For her part, the church “contributes to the wider application of justice and charity within and between nations. By preaching the truth of the gospel and shedding light on all areas of human activity through her teaching and the example of the faithful, she shows respect for the political freedom and responsibility of citizens and fosters these values” (pastoral constitution on the church in the modern world gaudium et spes GS 76).
Chief among these freedoms and responsibilities, and the cornerstone of all human rights, is freedom of religion. For this freedom is an irreplaceable component of the good of individuals and of society as a whole. It is a sad fact that, fifty years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there are still millions of people in various parts of the world who are suffering because of their religious beliefs, subjected to repressive and oppressive legislation, the victims sometimes of open persecution but more often of subtle forms of discrimination. Such situations bode ill for world peace and for the advancement of justice and truth.
The Church endeavours to remind all people, and world leaders in particular, that social order itself is founded upon and directed towards the human person, with his inalienable rights which are not conferred from outside but which arise from human nature itself. Nothing and nobody can destroy these rights, nor can any external constraint eliminate them: for they are rooted in what is most profoundly human. All individuals, according to the dictates of their own conscience, must be free to express themselves in acts of conscious choice. As I said in my 1998 World Day of Peace Message: “The freedom with which the Creator has endowed man is the capacity always given him to seek what is true by using his intelligence and to embrace without reserve the good to which he naturally aspires, without being subjected to undue pressures, constraints or violence of any kind” (No. 1).
The freedom of individuals in their quest for truth and in the corresponding profession of their religious faith must be specifically guaranteed within the juridical structure of society. That is to say, religious freedom “must be recognized and confirmed by civil law as a personal and inalienable right in order to be safeguarded from any kind of coercion by individuals, social groups or any human power” (ibid.) This right to freedom of religion is not just one human right among many others but is rather the most fundamental right. Its observance is a true measure of a society’s commitment to uphold and defend the human dignity of all its members.
Mr Ambassador, as you begin your mission I assure you of the readiness of the various offices of the Roman Curia to help you in the fulfilment of your duties. I am confident that your work will serve to strengthen the good relations which already exist between the Holy See and the Republic of Zambia. Upon Your Excellency and all the people of your country I invoke the abundant blessing of Almighty God.
I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Uganda to the Holy See. Deeply grateful for the good wishes which you have expressed on behalf of your President, His Excellency Yoweri Museveni, I ask you kindly to convey to him my own cordial greetings. With vivid memories of my Pastoral Visit to your country in 1993 and of the generous hospitality that was shown me, I take this opportunity to renew to the beloved people of Uganda the assurance of my prayers that they will continue to work wisely for the development of their own land and for peace and justice throughout Africa.
With satisfaction we can note many signs of progress and stability on your continent as a whole; there has indeed been considerable success in leaving behind much of the unrest, tension and bloodshed of former times. Yet we cannot overlook the fact that certain parts of Africa continue to languish under the cruel and destructive shadow of conflict and aggression, making it evident that not all threats to peace have yet been overcome. Not even your own country has been spared the new outbreaks of violence which, flaring up again and again, continue to afflict individual populations and States. Thus we see that the desire to keep alive former enmities, the temptation to nurture past grievances, remains strong. It is for this reason that peoples, governments and international organizations must join forces and work together to replace discord with dialogue and reconciliation. A great contribution to this task would be the development of practical mechanisms for promoting an honest exchange between the different parties to a dispute, by bringing opposing factions together and working with determination to help people divided by resentment and ill-will to rediscover the advantages of peaceful and harmonious coexistence.
Perhaps the greatest challenge here is to be found at the level of education: for a society which seeks to be truly civilized and which desires to contribute to the advance ment of peoples must cultivate in all its members an objective and open understanding of others. Such an understanding is invaluable in helping people to accept social, cultural and religious traditions which are different from their own. Moreover, this is actually the first step towards reconciliation, since “respect for differences is an inherently necessary condition for genuine relationships between individuals and between groups” (Message for the 1997 World Day of Peace, 3). Bitter conflicts and armed aggression, even when seeming to resolve the problems at hand, succeed only in exacerbating the difficulties and disseminating further tragedy and destruction.
It is for this reason that in every part of the world the Holy See encourages peoples and their governments to rise above the “culture of war” and to reject the vicious circle of death and violence. The Church herself is deeply concerned about the social dimension of human life, which is an essential part of the Christian message (cf. Centesimus Annus CA 5); thus she invites her members to take an active part in the political, economic and social life of their respective countries, to imbue these areas with the light of faith and with the Gospel message of reconciliation and forgiveness.
Now, the requirements of justice are such that, whenever a wrong has been committed, whenever evil has been done, it must be acknowledged and, as far as possible, reparation made. But human justice finds its ultimate foundation in the law of God and in his plan of salvation for humanity (cf. Dives in Misericordia DM 14). Therefore justice is not limited to establishing what is right between the parties in conflict but looks above all to re- establishing authentic relationships with God, with others and with oneself. For this reason, there is no contradiction between forgiveness and justice; forgiveness does not lessen the requirements of justice but seeks to reintegrate individuals and groups into society, and States into the community of Nations, through a renewed sense of responsibility and, where possible, solidarity with the victims of past injustices.
This is why all people are called to seek reconciliation and to work together to build a society in which the dignity of the human person and respect for human rights is the norm of conduct for all — for individuals, governments and international bodies. Africa itself, drawing on its noblest values and traditions, has the strength and inspiration to grow in solidarity, justice and reconciliation; Africans themselves can help one another to progress towards a better life, building a freer and more brotherly society on their continent.
Your Excellency has presented various priorities which your Government has set for itself as it seeks to bring Uganda into a new era of peace and prosperity. You will find in the Catholic faithful of your country eager participants in securing the concrete realization of these priorities, particularly the promotion and safeguarding of human rights, the democratization of government institutions, the relief of poverty, and the increased availability of educational services. Through the Church’s network of schools and social assistance programmes, the priests, Religious and laity will continue to work in Uganda for the well- being of all their fellow citizens — especially the younger generation, your country’s greatest resource.
Mr Ambassador, at the beginning of your mission I offer you my best wishes and I assure you that the various departments of the Holy See will cooperate in whatever way they can as you discharge your high responsibilities. Upon you and all the people of Uganda I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
Your Royal Highness,
On the occasion of the presentation of the Letters of Credence by which His Majesty King Mswati III appoints you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Swaziland to the Holy See, I welcome you to the Vatican. I thank you for the kind words of greeting which you bring from your Sovereign; with a clear recollection of my visit to your country some years ago I cordially reciprocate and would ask you to convey my own good wishes to His Majesty and to all the Swazi people.