Speeches 1978



Sistine Chapel

Tuesday, 17 October 1978

Our Venerable Brothers, beloved children of Holy Church, and all men of goodwill who listen to us!

One expression only, among so many others, comes immediately to our lips at this moment, as after our election to the See of the Blessed Peter, we present ourself to you. The expression, which, in evident contrast with our obvious limitations as a human person, highlights the immense burden and office committed to us, is this: "O the depth... of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!" (Rm 11,33). In fact, who could have foreseen, after the death of Pope Paul VI whom we always remember, the premature decease of his most amiable successor, John Paul I? How could we have been able to foresee that this formidable heritage would have been placed on our shoulders? For this reason, it is necessary for us to meditate upon the mysterious design of the provident and good God, not indeed in order to understand, but, rather, that we may worship and pray. Truly we feel the need to repeat the words of the Psalmist who, raising his eyes aloft, exclaimed: "From whence does my help come? My help comes from the Lord" (Ps 120,1-2).

These totally unforseen events, happening in so brief a time, and the inadequacy with which we can respond to that invitation impel us to turn to the Lord and to trust completely to him. But they also prevent us from outlining a programme for our Pontificate which would be the fruit of long reflection and of precise elaboration. But to make up for this, there is to hand a certain compensation, as it were, which is itself a sign of the strengthening presence of God.

It is less than a month since all of us, both inside and outside these historic walls of the Sistine Chapel, heard Pope John Paul speaking at the very beginning of his ministry, from which one might have hoped much. Both on account of the memory that is yet fresh in the mind of each one of us and on account of the wise reminders and exhortations contained in the allocution, we consider that we cannot overlook it. That same address, as in the circumstances in which it was given, is truly apposite and clearly maintains its validity here and now at the start of this new pontifical ministry to which we are bound and which, before God and the Church, we cannot avoid.

We wish, therefore, to clarify some basic points which we consider to be of special importance. Hence—as we propose and as, with the help of God, we confidently trust—we shall continue these not merely with earnestness and attention but we shall also further them with constant pressure, so that ecclesial life, truly lived, may correspond to them. First of all, we wish to point out the unceasing importance of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, and we accept the definite duty of assiduously bringing it into affect. Indeed, is not that universal Council a kind of milestone as it were, an event of the utmost importance in the almost two thousand year history of the Church, and consequently in the religious and cultural history of the world?

However, as the Council is not limited to the documents alone, neither is it completed by the ways applying it which were devised in these post-conciliar years. Therefore we rightly consider that we are bound by the primary duty of most diligently furthering the implementation of the decrees and directive norms of that same Universal Synod. This indeed we shall do in a way that is at once prudent and stimulating. We shall strive, in particular, that first of all an appropriate mentality may flourish. Namely, it is necessary that, above all, outlooks must be at one with the Council so that in practice those things may be done that were ordered by it, and that those things which lie hidden in it or—as is usually said—are "implicit" may become explicit in the light of the experiments made since then and the demands of changing circumstances. Briefly, it is necessary that the fertile seeds which the Fathers of the Ecumenical Synod, nourished by the word of God, sowed in good ground (cf. Mt Mt 13,8)—that is, the important teachings and pastoral deliberations should be brought to maturity in that way which is characteristic of movement and life.

This general purpose of fidelity to the Second Vatican Council and express will, in so far as we are concerned, of bringing it into effect, can cover various sections: missionary and ecumenical affairs, discipline, and suitable administration. But there is one section to which greater attention will have to be given, and that is the ecclesiological section. Venerable Brethren and beloved sons of the Catholic world, it is necessary for us to take once again into our hands the "Magna Charta" of the Council, that is, the Dogmatic Constitution "Lumen Gentium", so that with renewed and invigorating zeal we may meditate on the nature and function of the Church, its way of being and acting. This should be done not merely in order that the vital communion in Christ of all who believe and hope in him should be accomplished, but also in order to contribute to bringing about a fuller and closer unity of the whole human family. John XXIII was accustomed to repeat the following words: "The Church of Christ is the light of the nations." For the Church—his words were repeated by the Council—is the universal sacrament of salvation and unity for the human race. (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 1 LG 48 Ad Gentes AGD 1).

The mystery of salvation which finds its centre in the Church and is actualized through the Church; the dynamism which on account of that same mystery animates the People of God; the special bond, that is, collegiality, which "with Peter and under Peter" binds together the sacred Pastors; all these are major elements on which we have not yet sufficiently reflected. We must do so in order to decide in face of human needs, whether these be permanent or passing, what the Church should adopt as its mode of presence and its course of action. Wherefore, the assent to be given to this document of the Council, seen in the light of Tradition and embodying the dogmatic formulae issued over a century ago by the First Vatican Council, will be to us Pastors and to the faithful a decisive indication and a rousing stimulus, so that—we say it again—we may walk in the paths of life and of history.

In order that we may become better informed and more vigilant in undertaking our duty, we particularly urge a deeper reflection on the implications of the collegial bond. By collegiality the Bishops are closely linked with the Successor of the blessed Peter, and all collaborate in order to fulfil the high offices committed to them: offices of enlightening the whole People of God with the light of the Gospel, of sanctifying them with the means of grace, of guiding them with pastoral skill. Undoubtedly, this collegiality extends to the appropriate development of institutes—some new, some updated—by which is procured the greatest unity in outlook, intent, and activity in the work of building up the body of Christ, which is the Church (cf. Eph Ep 4,12 Col 1,24). In this regard. we make special mention of the Synod of Bishops, set up before the end of the Council by that very talented man, Paul VI (cf. Apostolic Letter, given "motu proprio", Apostolica Sollicitudo; AAS LVII, 1965, PP 775-780).

But besides these things, which remind us of the Council, there is the duty in general of being faithful to the task we have accepted and to which we ourself are bound before all others. We, who are called to hold the Supreme Office in the Church, must manifest this fidelity with all our might and for this reason we must be a shining example both in our thinking and in our actions. This indeed must be done because we preserve intact the deposit of faith, because we make entirely our own the commands of Christ, who, after Peter was made the rock on which the Church was built, gave him the keys of the kingdom of heaven (cf. Mt Mt 16,18-19), who bade him strengthen his brethren (cf. Lk Lc 22,32), and to feed the sheep and the lambs of his flock as a proof of his love (cf. Jn Jn 21,15-17). We are entirely convinced that in no inquiry, which may take place today into the "ministry of Peter" as it is called—so that what is proper and peculiar to it may be studied in greater depth every day—can these three important passages of the holy gospel be omitted. For it is a question of the various parts of the office, which are bound up with the very nature of the Church so that its internal unity may be preserved and its spiritual mission placed in safe hands. These parts were not only committed to Saint Peter but also to his lawful successors. We are also convinced that this high office must always be related to love as the source from which it is nourished and as it were the climate in which it can be expanded. This love is as it were a necessary reply to the question of Jesus "Do you love me?" So we are pleased to repeat these words of Saint Paul "The love of Christ constraineth us" (2Co 5,14), because we want our ministry to be from the outset a ministry of love, and want to show and declare this in every possible way.

In this matter we will strive to follow the meritorious examples of our immediate predecessors. Who does not remember the words of Paul VI who preached "the civilization of love" and almost a month before his death declared in a prophetic way: "I have kept the faith" (cf. Homily on Feast of SS. Peter and Paul: AAS LXX, 1978, p. 395), not indeed to praise himself but after fifteen years full of apostolic ministry to examine his conscience more strictly?

But what can we say of John Paul I? It seems to us that only yesterday he emerged from this assembly of ours to put on the papal robes—not a light weight. But what warmth of charity, nay, what "an abundant outpouring of love"— which came forth from him in the few days of his ministry and which in his last Sunday address before the Angelus he desired should come upon the world. This is also confirmed by his wise instructions to the faithful who were present at his public audiences on faith, hope and love.

Beloved brothers in the Episcopate and dear children, fidelity, as is clear, implies not a wavering obedience to the Magisterium of Peter especially in what pertains to doctrine. The "objective" importance of this Magisterium must always be kept in mind and even safeguarded because of the attacks which in our time are being levelled here and there against certain truths of the Catholic faith. Fidelity too implies the observance of the liturgical norms laid down by ecclesiastical Authority and therefore has nothing to do with the practice either of introducing innovations of one's own accord and without approval or of obstinately refusing to carry out what has been lawfully laid down and introduced into the sacred rites. Fidelity also concerns the great discipline of the Church of which our immediate predecessor spoke. This discipline is not of such a kind that it depresses or, as they say, degrades. It seeks to safeguard the right ordering of the mystical body of Christ with the result that all the members of which it is composed united together perform their duties in a normal and natural way. Moreover, fidelity signifies the fulfilment of the demands of the priestly and religious vocation in such a way that what has freely been promised to God will always be carried out in so. far as the life is understood in a stable supernatural way.

Finally, in so far as the faithful are concerned—as the word itself signifies—fidelity of its very nature must be a duty in keeping with their condition as Christians. They show it with ready and sincere hearts and give proof of it either by obeying the sacred Pastors whom the Holy Spirit has placed to rule the Church of God (cf. Acts Ac 20,28), or by collaborating in those plans and works for which they have been called.

Nor at this point must we forget the Brethren of other Churches and Christian confessions. For the cause of ecumenism is so lofty and such a sensitive issue that we may not keep silent about it. How often do we meditate together on the last wish of Christ who asked the Father for the gift of unity for the disciples (cf. in 17:21-23)? Who does not remember how much Saint Paul stressed "the unity of the spirit" from which the followers of Christ might have the same love, being of one accord, of one mind" (cf. Phil Ph 2,2)? Therefore one can hardly credit that a deplorable division still exists among Christians. This is a cause of embarrassment and perhaps of scandal to others. And so we wish to proceed along the road which has happily been opened and to encourage whatever can serve to remove the obstacles, desirous as we are, that through common effort full communion may eventually be achieved.

We turn also to all men who as children of almighty God are our brothers whom we must love and serve, to make known to them without any sense of boasting but with sincere humility our intention to really devote ourself to the continual and special cause of peace, of development and justice among nations. In this matter we have no desire to interfere in politics or to take part in the management of temporal affairs. For just as the Church cannot be confined to a certain earthly pattern, so we in our approach to the urgent questions of men and peoples, are led solely by religious and moral motives. Following him who gave that perfect way to his followers, so that they might be the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world" (Mt 5,13-16), we wish to strive to strengthen the spiritual foundations on which human society must be based. We feel that this duty is all the more urgent the longer that discords and dissensions last, which in not a few parts of the world, provide material for struggles and conflicts and even give rise to the more serious danger of frightful calamities.

Therefore it will be our constant care to direct our attention to questions of this kind and to deal with them by timely action forgetful of our own interests and motivated by the spirit of the Gospel. One may at this point at least share the grave concern which the College of Cardinals during the interregnum expressed concerning the dear land of Lebanon and its people. For it we all greatly desire peace with freedom. At the same time we wish to extend our hand to all peoples and all men at this moment and to open our heart to all who are oppressed, as they say, by any injustice or discrimination with regard to either economic or social affairs, or even to political matters, or even to freedom of conscience and the freedom to practice their religion which is their due. We must aim at this: that all forms of injustice, which exist today, should be given consideration by all in common and should be really eradicated from the world, so that all men may be able to live a life worthy of man. This also belong to the mission of the Church which has been explained in the Second Vatican Council, not only in the dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium but also in the pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes.

Brothers, dear sons and daughters, the recent happenings of the Church and of the world are for us all a healthy warning: how will our pontificate be? What is the destiny the Lord has assigned to his Church in the next years? What road will mankind take in this period of time as it approaches the year 2000? To these bold questions the only answer is: "God knows" (cf. Cor 12:2-3).

The course of our life which has brought us unexpectedly to the supreme responsibility and office of apostolic Service is of little interest. Our person—we ought to say— should disappear when confronted with the weighty office we must fill. And so a speech must be changed into an appeal. After praying to the Lord, we feel the need of your prayers to gain that indispensable, heavenly strength that will make it possible for us to take up the work of our predecessors from the point where they left off.

After acknowledging their cherished memory, we offer to each one of you, our Venerable Brothers, whom we remember with gratitude, our greeting. We extend a greeting which is both trusting and encouraging to all our brothers in the Episcopate, who in different parts of the world have the care of individual churches, the chosen sections of the People of God (cf. Christus Dominus CD 11) and who are co-workers with us in the work of universal salvation. Behind them, we behold the order of priesthood, the band of missionaries, the companies of Religious men and women.

At the same time we earnestly hope that their numbers will grow, echoing in our mind those words of the Saviour "The harvest is great, the labourers are few" (Mt 9,37-38 Lc 10,2). We behold also the Christian families and communities, the many associations dedicated to the apostolate, the faithful who even if they are not known to us individually, are not anonymous, not strangers, nor even in a lower place, for they are included in the glorious company of the Church of Christ. Among them we look with particular affection on the weak, the poor, the sick, and those afflicted with sorrow.

Now, at the beginning of our universal pastoral ministry, we wish to open to them our heart. Do not you, brothers and sisters, share by your sufferings in the passion of our Redeemer, and in a certain way complete it? (cf. Col Col 1,24). The unworthy successor of St Peter, who proposes to explore "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ep 3,8), has the greatest need of your help, your prayers, your devotedness or "sacrifice", and this he most humbly asks of you.

We also wish, most beloved Brothers and sons who hear us, because of our undying love for the land of our birth, to greet in a very special way all the citizens of Poland, "ever faithful", and the bishops, priests, and people of the Church of Krakow. United in this greeting by an indissoluble bond are memories, affections, the sweet love of the fatherland, and hope. In this grave hour which gives rise to trepidation, we cannot do other than turn our mind with filial devotion to the Virgin Mary, who always lives and acts as a Mother in the mystery of Christ, and repeat the words "Totus tuus" (all thine) which we inscribed in our heart and on our coat of arms twenty years ago on the day of our episcopal ordination. We cannot but invoke Saints Peter and Paul and all the Saints and Blesseds of the universal Church.

In this same hour we greet everyone, the old, those in the prime of life, adolescents, children, babes newly born, with that ardent sentiment of fatherhood which is already welling up from our heart. We express the sincere wish that all "may grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ", as the Prince of the Apostles desired (2P 3,18). And to all we impart our first Apostolic Blessing, that it may procure not only for them but for the whole human family an abundance of the gifts of the Father who is in heaven. Amen.



Consistory Hall

Wednesday, 18 October 1978

Revered Brothers!

What can I say, what do I wish to say to you, at this meeting while all of us are certainly still moved by the ecclesial events of these days?

In the first place I thank the Cardinal Dean for the noble words which, interpreting your sentiments, he has addressed to me. And in particular I express gratitude for the act of extraordinary confidence which you have shown with regard to my humble person, electing me as Peter's Successor in the See of Rome. Only in the light of faith is it possible to accept with interior tranquillity and with confidence the fact that by virtue of your choice it has fallen to me to become the Vicar of Christ on earth and visible Head of the Church.

Venerable Brothers, it was an act of confidence and at the same time of great courage to have wished to call a "non-Italian" as Bishop of Rome. One cannot say any more, but can only bow one's head before this decision of the Sacred College.

Never, perhaps, as in these recent events, which have involved the Church, depriving her twice in two months of her universal Pastor, has the Christian people felt and experienced the importance, the delicacy, the responsibility of the tasks that the Sacred College of Cardinals had to perform. And never as in this period—we must recognize with real satisfaction—have the faithful shown such affectionate esteem and such benevolent understanding for Their Eminences. The intense and prolonged applause addressed to you at the end of the Mass "Pro eligendo Papa" and at the announcement of the election of the new Pontiff, was the most expressive, exalting and moving proof.

The faithful have really understood, revered Brothers, that the purple you wear is the sign of that faithfulness "unto the shedding of your blood", which you promised the Pope with a solemn oath. Yours is a garment of blood, which recalls and presents the blood that the Apostles, the Bishops, the Cardinals have shed for Christ in the course of the centuries. I remember, at this moment, the figure of a great Bishop, St John Fisher, created cardinal—as is known—when he was imprisoned for his faithfulness to the Pope of Rome. On the morning of 22 June 1535, while he was preparing to offer his head to the executioner's axe, he exclaimed facing the crowd: "Christian people, I am about to die for faith in the Holy Catholic Church of Christ".

I would also venture to add that also in our times there are persons who have not been spared, who are still not spared, the experience of prison, sufferings, humiliation for Christ. May this unshakeable faithfulness to the Bride of Jesus be always the badge of honour and the pre-eminent boast of the College of Cardinals.

I would like to stress another element in this short meeting of ours: the sense of brotherhood, which in this recent period has been manifested and strengthened more and more within the Sacred College: "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!" (Ps 132,1). The Sacred College has had to deal twice, and in a very short space of time, with one of the most delicate problems of the Church: that of the election of the Roman Pontiff. And on this occasion the true universality of the Church has shone forth. It was really possible to see what St Augustine affirms: "The Church itself speaks the languages of all peoples... Spread among the peoples, the Church speaks all languages" (St. Augustine, Tractates on the Gospel of Jn 32 Jn 7 PL Jn 35,109).

Ecclesial experiences, needs and problems that are complex, varied, and sometimes even different. But this variety has been—and certainly will be—always concordant in one faith, as the same Bishop of Hippo reminds us when he emphasizes the beauty and variety of the clothes of the queen-Church: "These languages constitute the variety of the vesture of the queen. Just as every variety of dress is harmonized in unity, so, too, all languages in regard to the one faith" (St. Augustine, Expositions on the Psalms, Ps. XLIV, 23: PL 36, 509).

It is difficult for me not to express deep gratitude to the Holy Father Paul VI for the fact that he decided to give the Sacred College such a wide, international, intercontinental dimension. Its members, in fact, come from the furthest ends of the earth. That makes it possible not only to accentuate the universality of the Church, but also the universal aspect of Rome.

In a few days you will all return to your posts of responsibility: most of you to your dioceses: others to the Departments of the Holy See; all to continue with ever increasing commitment the pastoral ministry, which is weighted down with responsibilities, worries and sacrifices, but also comforted by the grace of the Lord and by the spiritual joy he gives his faithful servants. But, though at the head of the particular Churches, always participate in concern for the whole Church, living and putting into practice with all your might what the Second Vatican Council recommends: "As lawful successors of the apostles and as members of the episcopal college, bishops should always realize that they are linked one to the other, and should show concern for all the churches. For by divine institution and the requirement of their apostolic office, each one in concert with his fellow bishops is responsible for the Church" (Christus Dominus CD 6 cf. ibid CD 3 Lumen Gentium LG 23).

Invoking on you all, on the faithful entrusted to your pastoral zeal and on all dear to you, the grace of Christ and the watchful protection of Mary, "Mother of the Church", I would like to impart my Apostolic Blessing with great affection. I would like to do so first for you, and afterwards with you all: in this way let the Church be blessed everywhere by the new Bishop of Rome and by the whole College of Cardinals, whose members come from all over the world and are close to him.



Consistory Hall

Friday, 20 October 1978

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very touched by the words and generous wishes that your spokesman has just addressed to me. I know of the relations full of mutual esteem and trust which had been established between Pope Paul VI and each of the diplomatic representations accredited to the Holy See. This climate was due to the understanding, respectful and benevolent, that this great Pope had of responsibility for the common good of peoples, and above all to the superior ideals that animated him as regards peace and development. My immediate Predecessor, dear Pope John Paul I, receiving you less than two months ago, had initiated similar relations, and each of you still remembers his words full of humility, availability and pastoral judgment, which I make entirely mine. And now today I inherit the same office and you, you express the same trust, with the same enthusiasm. I thank you heartily for the sentiments which, through my person, you thus testify faithfully to the Holy See.

In the very first place, may each of you feel that he is cordially welcomed here for his own sake, and for the country, the people that he represents. Yes, if there is a place where all peoples must come into contact in peace, and meet respect, sympathy and a sincere desire for their dignity, their happiness, and their progress, it is at the heart of the Church, around the Apostolic See, which was set up to bear witness to truth and to love of Christ.

My esteem and my wishes go, therefore, to one and all of you, in the diversity of your situations. At this meeting, in fact, not only Governments, but also peoples and nations are represented. And among them there are the old "nations", rich in a great past, a fruitful history, a tradition and culture of their own; there are also young nations which have arisen recently, with great possibilities to bring into use, or which are still awakening and being formed. The Church has always wished to participate in the life of peoples and nations and to contribute to their development. The Church has always recognised particular richness in the diversity and plurality of their cultures, their histories, their languages. In many cases the Church has made her specific contribution to the formation of these cultures. The Church has considered, and continues to be of the opinion, that in international relations it is obligatory to respect the rights of each nation.

As for me, called from one of these nations to succeed the Apostle Peter in the service of the universal Church and of all nations, I will endeavour to manifest to each one the esteem which it has the right to expect. You must, therefore, echo my fervent wishes within your Governments and among all your fellow countrymen. And here, I must add that the history of my native country has taught me to respect the specific values of each nation, and of each people, its tradition and its rights among other peoples. As a Christian, and even more as Pope, I am, I shall be, a witness to this attitude and to universal love, reserving the same goodwill for everyone, especially those who have suffered.

Diplomatic relations mean stable, reciprocal relations, under the sign of politeness, discretion and loyalty. Without confusing competences, they do not necessarily manifest, on my side, approval of such and such a regime—that is not my business. Obviously, neither do they manifest approval of all its acts in the conduct of public affairs. But they show an appreciation of positive temporal values; a desire for dialogue with those who are legitimately charged with the common good of society; an understanding of their role which is often a difficult one; interest and aid for the human causes they have to promote, sometimes by direct interventions, above all by the formation of consciences, which is a specific contribution to justice and peace on the international plane. By doing so, the Holy See does not want to emerge from its pastoral role. Anxious to put into practice the solicitude of Christ, while preparing the eternal salvation of men which is its first duty, how could it fail to take an interest in the welfare and progress of peoples in this world?

On the other hand, the Church and the Holy See in particular ask your nations, your Governments, to take increasingly into consideration a certain number of needs. The Holy See does not seek this for itself. It does so, in union with the local episcopate, for the Christians or believers who inhabit your countries, in order that, without any special privilege but in all justice, they may nourish their faith, ensure religious worship, and be admitted, as loyal citizens, to full participation in social life. The Holy See does so also in the interest of men whoever they may be, knowing that freedom, respect for the life and dignity of persons—who are never instruments— fairness in treatment, professional conscientiousness in work, and a united pursuit of the common good, the spirit of reconciliation, opening to spiritual values, are fundamental requirements of harmonious life in society, and of the progress of citizens and their civilization. Certainly, the last-mentioned goals generally figure on the programme of those responsible. But the result, for all that, cannot be taken for granted, and all means are not equally valid. There are still too many physical and moral miseries which depend on negligence, selfishness, and the blindness or hardness of men. The Church wishes to contribute to diminish these miseries with her peaceful means, by education to the moral sense, by the loyal action of Christians and men of goodwill. Doing so, the Church may sometimes not be understood; but she is convinced that she is rendering a service which mankind cannot do without. She is faithful to her Teacher and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

It is in this spirit that I hope to maintain and develop, with all the countries that you represent, cordial and fruitful relationships. I encourage you in your high office and I encourage, above all, your Governments to seek justice and peace more and more, in understandable love for your fellow countrymen, and with your minds and hearts open to other peoples. On this way, may God enlighten you and strengthen you yourselves and all your leaders, and may he bless each of your countries.



Saturday, 21 October 1978

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I bid you welcome! And thank you heartily for everything you have done, and for everything you will do, to present to the general public, in the press, on the radio, and on television, the events in the Catholic Church which have gathered you several times at Rome within the last two months.

Certainly, at the mere professional level, you have lived through days as tiring as they were moving. The sudden, unforeseeable character of the facts that followed one another, obliged you to appeal to a sum of knowledge in the area of religious information that was, perhaps, unfamiliar to you; and then to meet, under conditions that were sometimes feverish, a requirement marked by the malady of the century: haste. For you, to wait for the white smoke was not a restful hour!

Thank you in the first place for having echoed so widely, with unanimous respect, the extensive and really historic labour of the great Pope Paul VI. Thank you for having made so familiar the smiling face and the evangelical attitude of my immediate Predecessor, John Paul I. Thank you again for the favourable coverage you gave to the recent conclave, to my election and to the first steps I have taken in the heavy office of the pontificate. In any case, it was an opportunity for you not only to speak of persons—who pass—but of the See of Rome, of the Church, her traditions and her rites, her faith, her problems and her hopes, of St Peter and the role of the Pope, of the great spiritual stakes of today: in short, of the mystery of the Church. Allow me to dwell a little on this aspect: it is difficult to present well the true face of the Church.

Yes, it is always difficult to read events, and to enable others to read them. In the first place they are nearly always complex. It is enough for an element to be forgotten inadvertently, omitted deliberately, minimized or on the contrary emphasized disproportionately, to distort the present vision and the forecasts to come. Ecclesial events, furthermore, are more difficult to grasp for those who contemplate them—I say it in all respect for everyone—outside a vision of faith, and even more difficult to express to a large public which has difficulty in perceiving their real meaning. You must, nevertheless, arouse the interest and win a hearing from this public, while your agencies ask you often and above all for the sensational. Some are then tempted to drop into the anecdote: it is concrete and it may be very good, but on condition that the anecdote is significant and really related to the nature of the religious phenomenon. Others plunge courageously into a very advanced analysis of the problems and motives of ecclesial persons, with the risk of not considering sufficiently the essential which, as you know, is not of a political but of a spiritual nature. Finally, from this last point of view, things are often more simple than is imagined: I hardly dare speak of my election!

Speeches 1978