Speeches 1979 - 5 April 1979



Friday, 6 April 1979

Revered and dear Brothers,

1. I cannot but manifest to you the deep joy I feel today at my first meeting with such a large group of prelates, priests, and faithful, led by Cardinal László Lékai, gathered in Rome for the fourth centenary of the foundation of the Germanic-Hungarian College.

This date was already solemnly celebrated on Sunday last in the presence of Cardinals and prelates, high Hungarian Authorities, the Ambassadors of the Federal Republic of Germany and of Austria, and other personalities. The high mission carried out, for centuries, by the Germanic-Hungarian College in forming holy and learned priests, who not infrequently rose to high responsibilities in the Church, was recalled on that occasion.

As is known, in 1579 my predecessor Gregory XIII founded the Hungarian College. Shortly before, in the year 1573, he had set up the new Germanic College, associating himself ideally with an intention of St Ignatius of Loyola.

Since the Hungarian College could not be endowed with sufficient means, the Pope, in the year following its foundation, that is, in 1580, united it with the Germanic College and gave instructions to the Apostolic Nuncio Malaspina to send twelve students to Rome from Hungary. But the Pontifical Representative was able to send only one, since your nation was under foreign occupation at that time.

A great many zealous priests, and also bishops of high prestige, came out of this College: let it suffice to mention the great personalities of Emeric Losy, George Lippay, George Szelepczenyi, who, in the seventeenth century, organized the life of the Church, then afflicted by divisions. I do not want to pass over in silence the figure of Benedict Kisdy, whose admirable hymns still ring out in your churches. But above them all, towers the great thinker, theologian, and orator of last century, Otokar Prolaszka, Bishop of Szekesféhervár.

This mission, as regards Hungary, has been interrupted for some time; but there is news that it will resume in the near future. I therefore formulate fervent wishes that the Hungarian priests who are formed in the Germanic-Hungarian College, will be a glory for the Church and for their country.

I greet particularly the aforesaid Cardinal Primate, my Confreres in the Episcopate, and all the other former students of the Germanic-Hungarian College, present here or who have remained in Hungary.

But in these days you are also celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the opening in Rome of the Hungarian Ecclesiastical Institute, which received the seal of the approval of the Holy See in 1940.

I am happy to recall that, also in this Institute, hosts of priests have been educated and formed for the good of the Church and of their country. I have pleasure in greeting the prelates, former pupils or also rectors of the Institute; and with them I intend to greet, with esteem and affection, all the priests who attended the Hungarian Ecclesiastical Institute in Rome.

The Church, Mother and Teacher, has the right and the duty to found and direct Institutes, in which she can form and educate her children in full freedom. "Holy Mother Church", the Second Vatican Council affirms, "in order to fulfil the mandate she receives from her divine founder to announce the mystery of salvation to all men and to renew all things in Christ, is under an obligation to promote the welfare of the whole life of man, including his life in this world insofar as it is related to his heavenly vocation; she has therefore a part to play in the development and extension of education" (Decree Gravissimum Educationis, Preface). And again: "...The sacred synod therefore affirms once more the right of the Church freely to establish and conduct schools of all kinds and grades, a right which has already been asserted time and again in many documents of the Magisterium. It emphasizes that the exercise of this right is of the utmost importance for the preservation of liberty of conscience, for the protection of the rights of parents, and for the advancement of culture itself." (Ibid., n. 8).

The happy occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of your Institute in Rome, gives you and me the opportunity for a short reflection on the fundamental and primary importance, for the very life of the Church, of the formation of priests who are at the same time holy; that is, who live intensely in union with Christ (cf. Jn Jn 15,9 f.), modelling their life on his (Ga 2,20 Ph 1,21) and carrying out day by day the demands, sometimes hard ones, of the Gospel (cf. Mt Mt 16,24 Mc 8,34); and who are also learned, that is, with a deep knowledge of the Word of God, the Sacred Doctrine, the teaching of the Magisteriunn of the Church, and capable of communicating this teaching to enlighten and guide the faithful, thus proving to be true "Ministers of the Word" (cf. Lk Lc 1,2 Ac 6,4 Ac 20,24 2Co 6,7 2Tm 2,15).

I sincerely hope that the directors and teaching staff of the two Institutes mentioned, as well as their students, are striving with all their might towards these aims, carrying out what the Second Vatican Council earnestly recommends, when it speaks of Major Seminaries and, therefore, also of Ecclesiastical Institutes: "In them the whole training of the students should have as its object to make them true shepherds of souls after the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, teacher, priest, and shepherd. Hence, they should be trained for the ministry of the Word, so that they may gain an ever increasing understanding of the revealed word of God, making it their own by meditation, and giving it expression in their speech and in their lives. They should be trained for the ministry of worship and sanctification, so that by prayer and the celebration of the sacred liturgical functions they may carry on the work of salvation through the eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments. They should be trained to undertake the ministry of the shepherd, that they may know how to represent Christ to men" (cf. Decree Optatam Totius OT 4 Optatam Totius )

2. Faced with this qualified group of prelates, priests, and faithful of noble Hungary, there come, spontaneously, remembrance, admiration, and veneration of St Stephen—the King who, between the tenth and the eleventh century, obtaining recognition of the kingdom from my predecessor Sylvester the Second, started your glorious history and became, rightly, the father of the country, the apostle of the Catholic faith, and the founder of the Church in Hungary. Always be proud of this great Saint, who was able to unite, in perfect harmony, consistency with the Christian faith, faithfulness to the Church, and love of his own nation!

I manifested my sentiments of good will and affection for you in my letter addressed on 2 December last to the Cardinal Primate, the prelates and, thereby, also to all my dear brothers and sons in Hungary. In this letter I wrote that I was convinced that the Catholic Church, which has had such an important part in Hungarian history, will be able, also in the future, to continue, in a certain sense, to mould the spiritual face of your country; irradiating on her sons and daughters that light of the Gospel of Christ. which has illuminated the lives of your fellow citizens for so many centuries.

At this meeting of ours, I wish to renew to you the expression of my sentiments, and urge you to continue to work, with zeal and dedication, always in harmony with one another. I have learned with deep satisfaction that you are dedicating yourselves, with special and increased commitment, to the formation of youth. This is a primary duty of the Church, which is aware that "young people exert a very important influence in modern society" (Decree Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 12). They seek truth, solidarity and justice; they dream and wish to contribute to the construction of a better society, in which selfishness will be banned, but the originality and uniqueness of human persons respected; they seek a global and exhaustive answer to man's fundamental problems, such as those concerning the essential and existential meaning of life. Answer these demands, these questions of the young, with constant zeal, presenting to them Christ, his person, his life, his message: a demanding one, it is true, but charged with hope and love. "Our spirit is set in one direction", I wrote recently, "the only direction for our intellect, will and heart is—towards Christ our Redeemer, towards Christ, the Redeemer of man. We wish to look towards him—because there is salvation in no one else but him, the Son of God—repeating what Peter said: 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6,68 cf. Acts Ac 4,8-12) (Redemptor Hominis, II, 7). Continue with these efforts of yours. The Lord will help you in every circumstance with his comfort and with his grace.

3. Concluding this meeting, I address an affectionate greeting to you present here, to your priests and faithful, and to all the other prelates, priests, and faithful of Hungary; the Kingdom of Mary. Always be firm in faith in God and in Christ (cf. l Cor 16:13; Col 1,23 Col 2,7 He 4,14 1P 5,9) and hand down clearly to future generations this incomparable gift of the Lord (cf. Rom Rm 6,17 1Co 11,23 1Co 15,3 2Tm 2,2)!

I invoke on your nation the motherly protection of the Blessed Virgin, its heavenly Queen; of Holy King Stephen; of St Elizabeth of Hungary, "pauperum consolatrix" and "famelicorum reparatrix"; of Blessed Hedwig, Queen of Poland, the splendid gift that your people bestowed on my country of origin in the fourteenth century; of all the Saints, men and women, that Hungary has given, for the glory of God, to the Church and to the world.

My respectful greeting and good wishes are also addressed to the Civil Authorities, as to all Hungarians who do not share your faith.

To all of you, prelates, priests, men and women religious, and the faithful of Hungary, I impart an abundant Apostolic Blessing.




Saturday, 7 April 1979

Mr President, and all you participants in the eighth Congress of the National Union of Charitable and Welfare Institutions,

A sentiment of deep satisfaction and consolation fills my heart on meeting you this morning for the first time. You are gathered in Rome to discuss the important problems that concern your Association. For nearly thirty years, it has been operating, as we know, in the field of charity, representing, safeguarding, and promoting the welfare initiatives of all Catholic-inspired bodies which are striving to meet the needs of all citizens in serious conditions of moral, material and social difficulty. Yours is a multiform, indispensable, providential work, which embraces all sectors of charity, which has no bounds, or has the immense and universal ones of human suffering. The importance, the effectiveness, and the great topical interest of your institution is well known. It acts in liaison with the Italian Episcopal Conference and avails itself of the collaboration of various Catholic organisms, present in the sector of social welfare.

Even if public welfare services are gradually covering tasks carried out for centuries by the charity of the Church, and even if modern society is trying to meet certain social security and welfare requirements in an institutional and organic form, the welfare and charitable action of the Church has not at all lost its irreplaceable function in the modern world.

Charity will always be necessary, as a stimulus and completion of justice itself; it will always remain for the Church the sign of its testimony and its credibility (cf. Jn Jn 13,35).

Be inwardly convinced of the necessity of your work, of the right and the duty you have to carry it out; a work that you will want to promote tirelessly, defending its meaning and urgency and its free exercise; improving its methods and services; committing yourselves also for a harmonious and unified effort, so that the various welfare institutions, without losing their own nature and autonomy, will be able to act in a spirit of sincere collaboration with one another and thus facilitate opportune and useful interventions of the public authorities and an adequate legislation.

Recently the Church has several times expressed her own teaching in the field of social work, also in the light of what the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, in the decree "Apostolicam Actuositatem" on the apostolate of the laity, said about the charitable action of Christians. I consider it useful to recall to your attention some fundamental principles regarding this teaching.

In the first place, it must be affirmed that the centre and unit of measurement of every system of social work is the human person, his dignity, his rights and duties; the human person, who will have to receive from society the aids necessary for his development and fulfilment. On the juridical plane, this statement takes concrete shape in the citizen's right to assistance, a right that no modern state system can fail expressly to recognize.

It is opportune to specify that theoretical recognition of this right: is not sufficient, but it is necessary that it should be made actually operative by means of an adequate organization of social services, promoted and run by all those who are responsible for promoting the common good of society.

In this connection, it is useful to point out that the implementation of the common good in the field of welfare, as in any other sector of associated life, is the joint task of the public authorities, the intermediary bodies, free institutions and associations, families, and individuals. All together they must collaborate in guaranteeing the citizen what is necessary to emerge from the condition of need in which he finds himself, and in order the better to realize and develop his own human personality. In this way, and with the contribution of all, that healthy harmonization of public and private initiatives will be realized, ensuring all energies the necessary space of action.

The opportune coordination of public and private welfare initiatives, so as to guarantee a harmonious system of social security, can be carried out today through the modern instrument of territorial, regional and national programming; provided the latter is really democratic, in the sense that all those interested, social, public and private operators, as well as the beneficiaries themselves, can make their free contribution, in the higher perspective of the common good.

In particular, as regards the Church, the possibility of promoting welfare initiatives is an element, and not a secondary one, of religious freedom; since works of charity, in their multiple forms, are a fundamental and original requirement of Christian faith, as is testified by the millenary history of Christianity, which is also the history of charity. In fact, the abovementioned conciliar decree on the apostolate of the laity says: "While every activity of the apostolate should find in charity its origin and driving force, certain works are of their nature a most eloquent expression of this charity; and Christ has willed that these should be signs of his messianic mission" (Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 8).

On the basis of this teaching, the same Ecumenical Council affirms in the same document that "the holy Church... in all ages, is recognized by this characteristic mark of charity. While rejoicing at initiatives taken elsewhere, it claims charitable works as its own mission and right" (Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 8).

In the light of these principles I wish to encourage the well-deserving action that your Union has been carrying on for about thirty years in support of all the free welfare and charitable institutions, among which those promoted by the charitable impetus of Christians constitute a very considerable part in Italy.

Operating in this way, you not only increase, on the civil plane, a wider pluralism of those free institutions which constitute the connective tissue of a really democratic society in which is realized the responsible participation of citizens with regard to the attainment of the common good, but at the same time you further the rights of man and of his freedoms, and particularly of religious freedom. In our times the latter takes on particular value and significance, since it qualifies the very political system of a society.

I earnestly exhort you, therefore, not to grow weary, not to let yourselves be discouraged by difficulties, but to progress and advance with the same dedication, with the same courage, and with increased love for Christ and his Church.

With this confidence, I affectionately bless you, the institutions you represent, the persons who work in them and the beneficiaries, imploring the comfort of heavenly assistance for all.




Saturday, 7 April 1979

Mr Ambassador,

The way in which Your Excellency has just presented the Letters of Credence has greatly touched me, and I wish in the first place to thank you for your remarks, which I deeply appreciated.

I hope that, in the framework of the high mission you are inaugurating at the Holy See, you will find great satisfactions: they will undoubtedly prolong those that you experienced when serving your country in international authorities such as UNESCO and the Commission for Human Rights; they will also come from the fact that you will be a witness and a protagonist of spiritual values which ensure these rights a solid foundation.

Besides you personally, I greet respectfully His Excellency the Governor-General and also the whole Canadian people. I keep, in fact, an excellent memory of the very hospitable peoples who welcomed me on the occasion of my visits to Polish emigrants, and I know in other connections the merits and the human and spiritual resources of your fellow-countrymen.

You stressed, Mr Ambassador, the deep concern of your Government to promote ideally and realize concretely, within the country as well as on the international scene, respect for persons, social justice, peace and disarmament, mutual aid for development. Such aims do your country honour, and the Holy See cannot

but rejoice at them.

Canadian Catholics, moreover, widely share these concerns, as is testified by the numerous documents of the Episcopate concerning peace, education, sharing, the fate of children, the poor, the unemployed, refugees, foreigners, cooperation with underprivileged countries. Man is, in fact, the primary and fundamental way for the Church.

What can we hope but that this concern with the. dignity of every man may progress, grow stronger and spread to all environments, and all systems, to the ends of the earth, and be embodied in everyday life, in concrete and effective measures? Respect for man's inviolable rights calls for human and juridical guarantees, within each nation as in relations among nations, and also for continual revision of behaviour, so that respect may be realized in the letter and in the spirit. It requires even more staunch convictions, motivations of an ethical and spiritual nature, which sciences are unable to provide by themselves. That is, in fact, the drama of our age, so proud, and rightly so, of its technical achievements, so strong here and there in its material riches, so imbued, nearly always, with its humanistic aims, but often so weak to realize in a true and lasting way the spirit of human rights and to educate man to his duties as well as to his rights.

As a matter of fact, the Christian faith—which is so deep-rooted in your country, marking its civilization, guiding its morals and institutions—draws respect for the dignity of every man and the dynamisms of its service in the love that God the Creator and Christ the Redeemer have manifested, and continue constantly to manifest, to every man for his full salvation. The first task of the Church is, therefore, to consolidate, develop, and radiate such a faith with all the spiritual and educative means that are specifically hers. Doing so, she is certain to lay also the best foundation for the action of men for the good of each of their brothers and of human communities.

These perspectives characterize the wishes I willingly express today, in prayer, for the Canadian people and its rulers, with a special thought for the Church in Canada.

I know to what extent Your Excellency is personally familiar with such considerations. I wish you, therefore, success in the accomplishment of your mission, in favour of more and more cordial and fruitful relations between Canada and the Holy See




9 April 1979

Mr Ambassador,

I welcome Your Excellency who, presenting the Letters of Credence today, begin your mission as Colombia's Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See.

Thank you for your cordial expressions of gratitude and devotion to this Apostolic See. Through them, I. have the joy also of feeling the human and religious closeness of a whole noble nation, Colombia, whose present course, like its past history, undoubtedly continues to benefit from a cultural and moral heritage and from communion in faith, a fruit of the centuries-old evangelizing presence of the Church.

In this connection, I wish to express my sincere satisfaction that people in your country have been able to appreciate to a large extent these values of the spirit, in that they constitute a good part of a solid foundation for the common good and for progress, as was reflected in the last and recent Concordat signed with the Holy See.

Saying this, I wish to reaffirm, on the part of the Church, the decided will for collaboration and likewise the resolution to serve man in conformity with the mission received from her divine Founder. This was also, nor could it be otherwise, my constant thought during my first pastoral visit to Latin America: to proclaim in a loud voice the binding commitment of serving man so as to increase his dignity according to God's plan, to improve him gradually by means of the effort of his own intelligence and will; in a word, to save him.

In this sense, allow me to express all my confidence both in the ecclesiastical Hierarchy and in the priests, religious, and laity of Colombia.

I am well aware that their apostolic activity, owing to the fact that it is a responsible ecclesial service in favour of the person, not detached from his real needs and his rightful aspirations, aims in the temporal order solely at "permeating it with the spirit of the Gospel" (cf. Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 2). I congratulate them on this.

To reduce the mission of the Church to a mere task of worship or devotion, would be as far from this spirit as to claim to assign to it as its primary, if not exclusive, aim that of fostering politico-social change by every means.

The work of the Church takes place in a wider and vaster framework; her disinterested service, animated by active charity (cf. Mt Mt 25,35 ff.), is directed above all at developing man, in the first place, in that which is of the greatest value within him and the source of his eminent dignity: the image of God. An image which, to be authentic, must be projected in all fields—professional, family, cultural, social...—in which the human person grows and is ennobled, being strengthened day by day in his direct experience, aimed at reaching a more and more just, united, and peaceful human community.

In order that these desires may become a splendid reality in Colombia, I implore the constant assistance of the Almighty, to which I commend Your Excellency's mission, the authorities, and all the citizens of your beloved country.





10 April 1979

Beloved Brothers and Sisters,

Through the words of the President of your University Congress, you have sketched an effective summary of the purposes of these days you are spending in Rome, and you have spoken to me of the aspirations and ideals by which you are inflamed.

I thank you sincerely for your expressions of affection for me and for my universal ministry as Peter's Successor.

I know that you represent here as many as two hundred and seventeen Universities all over the world, and this is already a positive sign of the universality of Christian faith, even if it does not always have an easy life. I know very well, indeed, the anxieties of the University world, but I also know your youthful commitment in assuming personally the responsibility that Christ entrusts to you: to be his witnesses in circles in which, through study, science and culture are elaborated.

In these days, you are reflecting on the efforts that are being made in the world for the purpose of developing unity and solidarity among peoples. You rightly ask yourselves on what values these efforts must be based, in order not to fall into the danger of the rhetoric of empty words. And you are asking yourselves, at the same time, in the name of what ideals it is possible to bring together cultures and peoples so different as, for example, those I see represented here by you.

For this reason, it already comforts me to see in your eyes the desire to seek in Christ the revelation of what God says to man and how man must answer God.

Here, beloved, is the central point: we must look to Christ, with all our attention. We know that God's plan is "to unite all things in him" (Ep 1,10), by means of the exceptional nature of his person and his salvific destiny of death and life. Just in these days, in which we are living again his blessed Passion, all this becomes more evident: Christ shows himself to us, in fact, with features that are even more similar to those of our weak nature as men. The Church points out to us Jesus raised on the cross, "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Is 53,3); but also risen from the dead, "he always lives to make intercession for (us)" (He 7,25).

Here, then, is the one at whom the Pope calls on you to look: Christ crucified for our sins and risen for our salvation (cf. Rom Rm 4,25), who becomes a universal and irresistible point of convergence: "and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." (Jn 12,32).

I know you place your hope in that cross, which has become for us all a "royal banner" (Liturgical hymn of Passiontide). Continue to be imbued, every day and in every circumstance, with the wisdom and strength which come to us only from Christ's paschal cross. Try to draw from this experience an ever new purifying energy. The cross is the pressure point to act as a lever for a service of man, so as to transmit to so many others the immense joy of being Christians.

In these days, while I contemplate Christ raised and nailed to the Cross, there often comes into my mind the expression with which St Augustine comments on the passage in John's Gospel just mentioned: "The wood of the cross to which the limbs of the Dying One had been nailed, became the chair of the Master who teaches" (In Jn 119,2). Just think: what voice, what master of thought can found unity among men and nations, if not he who, giving his own life, obtained for all of us adoption as children of the same Father? Precisely this divine filiation, obtained for us by Christ on the cross and realized by sending his Spirit into our hearts, is the only solid and indestructible foundation of the unity of a redeemed humanity.

My sons and daughters, you have pointed out at your Congress the sufferings and the contradictions by which a society is seen to be overwhelmed when it moves away from God. The wisdom of Christ makes you capable of pushing on to discover the deepest source of evil existing in the world. And it also stimulates you to proclaim to all men, your companions in study today, and in work tomorrow, the truth you have learned from the, Master's lips, that is, that evil comes "out of the heart of man" (Mc 7,21). So sociological analyses are not enough to bring justice and peace. The root of evil is within man. The remedy, therefore, also starts from the heart. And—I am happy to repeat—the door of our heart can be opened only by that great and definitive word of the love of Christ for us, which is his death on the Cross.

It is here that the Lord wishes to lead us: within ourselves. All this time that precedes Easter is a constant call to conversion of the heart. This is real wisdom: initium sapientiae timor Domini (Si 1,16).

Beloved sons, have, therefore, the courage to repent; and have also the courage to draw God's grace from sacramental Confession. This will make you free! It will give you the strength. that you need for the undertakings that are awaiting you, in society and in the Church, in the service of men. The true service of the Christian, in fact, is qualified on the basis of the active presence of God's grace in him and through him. Peace in the Christian's heart, moreover, is inseparably united with joy, which in Greek (chará) is etymologically akin to grace (cháris). The whole teaching of Jesus, including his Cross, has precisely this aim: "that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full" (Jn 15,11). When it pours from a Christian heart into other men, it brings forth hope, optimism, and impulses of generosity in everyday toil, infecting the whole of society.

My sons, only if you have in you this divine grace, which is joy and peace, will you be able to construct something worth while for men. Consider your University vocation, therefore, in this magnificent Christian perspective. Study today, professional work tomorrow, become for you a way in which to find God and serve men your brothers; that is, they become a way of holiness, as beloved Cardinal Albino Luciani said pithily just before he was called to this See of Peter, with the name of John Paul I: "There, right in the very street, in the office, in the factory, one becomes holy, provided one carries out one's duty competently, for love of God and joyfully; in such a way that daily work will not become `a daily tragedy', but almost `a daily smile' (from Il Gazzettino, 25 July 1978).

Finally, I recommend to the Blessed Virgin, Sedes Sapientiae, whom we find in these days iuxta crucem Jesu (Jn 19,2 Jn 5), to help you always to listen to this wisdom which will give you and the world the immense joy of living with Christ.

And in whatever environment you find yourselves living and bearing witness to the Gospel, may my fatherly Apostolic Blessing always accompany you.




Good Friday, 13 April 1979

1. When we make the Way of the Cross from one station to the next, in spirit we are always at the spot where this journey had its “historical" place: where it took place along the streets of Jerusalem, from the Praetorium of Pilate to the hill of Golgotha, or Calvary, outside the city walls.

And so today too we have been, in spirit in the City of the "Great King”, who, as a sign of his kingship chose the crown of thorns instead of a royal crown, and the cross instead of a throne.

Was not Pilate right when—as he showed Christ to the people who were awaiting his condemnation in front of the Praetorium "so that they might not be defiled, but might eat the passover" (Jn 18,28)—he did not say "Here is the king" but "'Here is the man" (Jn 19,5)? And in this way Pilate revealed the programme of Christ's kingdom, which is to be free from the attributes of earthly power in order to reveal the thoughts of many hearts (cf. Lk Lc 2,35) and to bring near to them the Truth and Love that come from God.

"Mine is not a kingdom of this world...
I was born for this, I came into the world for this:
to bear witness to the truth" (Jn 18,36-57).

This witness has remained at the corners of the streets of Jerusalem, at the windings of the Way of the Cross—where Christ walked, where he fell three times, where he accepted Simon of Cyrene's help and Veronica's veil, where he spoke to some women who were weeping for him.

We still desire this witness today. We want to know all its details. We follow the traces of the Way of the Cross in Jerusalem and in many other places on our earth, and every time we seem to repeat to this man condemned to die, to this Man of sorrows: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6,68).

2. As we make the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum in Rome, we are still following the footsteps of Christ, whose cross was planted in the hearts of his martyrs and confessors. They proclaimed the crucified Christ as "the power and the wisdom of God" (1Co 1,24). Together with Christ they took up the cross daily (cf. Lc 9,23), and when it was necessary they died like him on the cross, or died in the arenas of ancient Rome, torn to pieces by the wild animals, burnt alive, tortured. The power and the wisdom of God revealed in the cross were thus more powerfully manifested in human weakness. Not only did they accept suffering and death for Christ, but together with him they also gave themselves to love for their persecutors and enemies: "Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing" (Lc 23,34).

For this reason, upon the ruins of the Colosseum there stands the Cross.

As we look at this cross, the cross of the beginnings of the Church in this capital city and the cross of her history, we should feel and express a particularly deep solidarity with all our brothers and sisters in the faith, who in our own time too are subjected to persecution and discrimination in various parts of the world. We think especially of those who are condemned, in a certain sense, to "civil death" by denial of their right to live according to their own faith, their own rite, their own religious conditions. As we look at the cross in the Colosseum we ask Christ that they—like those who once suffered martyrdom here—may not lack the power of the Spirit, which is needed by the confessors and martyrs of our own times.

As we look at the cross in the Colosseum we feel an ever deeper union with them, and even stronger solidarity.

Just as Christ has a special place in our hearts through his Passion, so do they. We have the duty to speak about this passion of his modern confessors, and to bear witness to them before the conscience of all humanity, which proclaims the cause of man as the main purpose of all progress. How can one reconcile these claims with the damage done to so many people, who—gazing at the cross of Christ—confess God and proclaim his Love?

3. Jesus Christ, we are about to conclude this holy day of Good Friday at the foot of your cross. Just as once in Jerusalem at the foot of the cross there stood your Mother, John, Mary Magdalen and other women, so do we stand here. We are deeply moved by the importance of the moment. We cannot find the words to express all that our hearts feel. This evening, when—after you had been taken down from the cross they laid you in a tomb at the foot of Calvary—we wish to ask you to stay with us through your cross: you, who through the cross took leave of us. We ask you to stay with the Church; to stay with humanity; not to be dismayed if many, perhaps, pass by your cross with indifference, if some go away from it, and others do not reach it.

And yet, perhaps, never so much as today has man had need of this power and this wisdom that you yourself are, you alone: through your cross!

So stay with us in this deep mystery of your death, in which you revealed how much "God loved the world" (Jn 3,16). Stay with us and draw us to yourself (cf. Jn Jn 13,32), you who fell beneath this cross. Stay with us through your Mother, to whom, from the cross, you specially entrusted every human being (cf. Jn l9:27).

Stay with us!

Stat Crux, dum volvitur orbis!

Yes, "the Cross stands high upon the world as it goes round!"

Speeches 1979 - 5 April 1979