Speeches 1979



Saturday, 14 April 1979

Dear Friends!

1. The spontaneous feeling that wells up in my heart today is joy: I have wished for this meeting, which takes place just on the eve of the holiest day for the Church, Easter! In it the Liturgy invites us to joy: "This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! ". I wanted to see and greet you personally, Traffic Policemen who escort my car every time—and it is not a rare occurrence!—that I leave the Vatican. I wanted to stay with you for a little, in serene quietness, far from the rapid and deafening movement of cars, in order to open my heart to you very simply.

I feel it my duty to say to you: "Thank you!". Thank you for your commitment in this task, which has been entrusted to you by your Superiors, and which you carry out with exceptional ability, clear readiness and recognized dedication; but "thank you" above all for the feelings of affection for my person, which animate your behaviour, admired by everyone. Once more, thank you!

2. This commitment of yours is part of your everyday duty as men, citizens and Christians. Here is the reflection that I wish to propose for your meditation and for that of your dear ones present here.

Each of us, in society, but in particular in the Church, has a vocation and a responsibility of his own. Every Christian in the community of the People of God must contribute to the construction of the Body of Christ, which is the Church. This is the "kingly service" of which the Second Vatican Council speaks (cf. Dogm. Const. Lumen Gentium LG 36), in accordance with which not only the Pope, Bishops and Priests, but all Christians, that is, married couples, parents, men and women of different conditions and professions, must construct their life, as I said already in my first Encyclical: "Married people must be distinguished for fidelity to their vocation, as is demanded by the indissoluble nature of the sacramental institution of marriage" (Enc. Redemptor Hominis, IV, 21).

On this eve of Easter, suspended, as it were, between the memory of the Passion of Jesus and that of his bodily Resurrection, I address to you, therefore, the fervent wish that you may always "hold fast your confession" (cf. Heb He 4,14): faith in God the Father, faith in Jesus Christ, who died and rose again, faith in the Church; and that your individual, family and social life, in all its manifestations, may be perfectly consistent with your Christian faith, so that you will be—as St James recommended—"doers of the word, and not hearers only" (Jc 1,22).

Then, with St Paul, the Pope will be able to say to you with full satisfaction: "I rejoice to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ" (Col 2,5).

A Happy Easter, beloved brothers and sisters! To you, to your parents, your wives, your children, to all your dear ones, a Happy Easter!

With my Apostolic Blessing.




Saturday, 14 April 1979

I am happy to greet the pupils and teachers of Catholic schools in the Belgian provinces of Antwerp, Brabant and Limbourg.

Congratulations to you all for having come to spend Holy Week in Rome. What an unforgettable memory for you! And thank you for your visit to the Pope, a visit which is such a congenial one on the human plane and such a consoling one on the spiritual plane.

As you know, the Lord Jesus has mysteriously entrusted all his disciples to me. They all have a place in my heart and my prayer, but especially the rising generation, yours, dear young people. That is why I wish to leave you today three instructions, which will be like three subjects of reflection.

Be young people overflowing with joy and earnestness, with consideration for everyone and with your own requirements.

Be ardent disciples of Christ, the centre of the whole of history and of your own history, very humble and courageous disciples, more and more capable of giving an account of their faith in him.

Be realistic and persevering builders of society, which is rather weary along its ways of practical materialism, and builders of the Christian community, of the one Church of Christ.

And I wish to add also: let many of you listen to the "Come and follow me", which Christ the Redeemer certainly addresses to attentive hearts and spirits today, as to these first apostles, as to all generations.

To you, dear young people, to all your classmates, to your teachers and your parents, a Happy and Holy Easter! With my affectionate Blessing




Praised be Jesus Christ.

IT IS A JOY for me to address the members of the National Catholic Educational Association of the United States, as you assemble in the great cause of Catholic Education. Through you I would hope that my message of encouragement and blessing would also reach the numerous Catholic schools of your country, all the students and teachers of these institutions and all those generously committed Catholic education. With the Apostle Peter I send you my greeting in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ: "Peace to all of you who are in Christ"[1].

As Catholic educators assembled in the communion of the universal Church and in prayer, you will certainly share with each other insights of value that will assist you in your important work, in your ecclesial mission. The Holy Spirit is with you and the Church is deeply grateful for your dedication. The Pope speaks to you in order to confirm you in your lofty role as Catholic educators, to assist you, to direct you, to support you.

Among the many reflections that could be made at this time there are three points in particular to which I would like to make a brief reference at the beginning of my pontificate. These are: the value of Catholic schools, the importance of Catholic teachers and educators, and the nature of Catholic education itself. These are themes that have been developed at length by my predecessors. At this time, however, it is important that I add my own testimony to theirs, in the special hope of giving a new impulse to Catholic education throughout the vast area of the United States of America.

With profound conviction I ratify and reaffirm the words that Paul VI spoke originally to the Bishops of your country: " Brethren, we know the difficulties involved in preserving Catholic schools, and the uncertainties of the future, and yet we rely on the help of God and on your own zealous collaboration and untiring efforts, so that Catholic schools can continue, despite grave obstacles, to fulfill their providential role at the service of genuine Catholic education, and at the service of your country"[2]. Yes, the Catholic school must remain a privileged means of Catholic education in America. As an instrument of the apostolate it is worthy of the greatest sacrifices.

But no Catholic school can be effective without dedicated Catholic teachers, convinced of the great ideal of Catholic education. The Church needs men and women who are intent on teaching by word and example – intent on helping to permeate the whole educational milieu with the spirit of Christ. This is a great vocation, and the Lord himself will reward all who serve in it as educators in the cause of the word of God.

In order that the Catholic school and the Catholic teachers may truly make their irreplaceable contribution to the Church and to the world, the goal of Catholic education itself must be crystal clear. Beloved sons and daughters of the Catholic Church, brothers and sisters in the faith: Catholic education is above all a question of communicating Christ, of helping to form Christ in the lives of others.

In the expression of the Second Vatican Council, those who have been baptized must be made ever more aware of the gift of faith that they have received, they must learn to adore the Father in spirit and in truth, and they must be trained to live the newness of Christian life in justice and in the holiness of truth[3].

These are indeed essential aims of Catholic education. To foster and promote them gives meaning to the Catholic school; it spells out the dignity of the vocation of Catholic educators.

Yes, it is above all a question of communicating Christ, and helping his uplifting Gospel to take root in the hearts of the faithful. Be strong, therefore, in pursuing these goals. The cause of Catholic education is the cause of Jesus Christ and of his Gospel at the service of man.

And be assured of the solidarity of the entire Church, and of the sustaining grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his name, I send you all my Apostolic Blessing: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

From the Vatican, 16 April 1979

[1] 1 Petr. 5, 14.

[2] Address of September 15, 1975.

[3] Cf. Gravissimum Educationis, 2.



Thursday, 19 April 1979

Lord Cardinal,

The meeting this morning is gladdened by these young priests of your archdiocese, on whom you laid hands in the course of the last decade. It seems to me I can read on your face the legitimate pride of a father who sees himself surrounded by a large and strong group of sons, on whom he knows he can rely for the present and for the future. Let my cordial greeting go to you, therefore, Lord Cardinal, and to these priests of yours, with an open and sincere welcome.

It always gives me special joy to be able to talk to priests, because it seems to me I can at once find myself in agreement with them owing to the ideals, hopes, joyful and sad experiences, in a word, the vocation which, by providential divine disposition, unites us. The spontaneous desire I feel in these cases would be to listen to the problems of each one, to ask questions about apostolic initiatives, the difficulties met with, the results obtained, projects for the future. I would then like to be able to converse, in brotherly communion of spirit, about the mystery of divine election, the greatness of the mission to which we are called, and the formidable responsibilities which we bear. To talk about them in order to revive in us awareness of the irreplaceable role that the ministerial priesthood must carry out in service of the People of God.

I entrusted some thoughts on this fundamental ecclesial function of ours to the Letter which I addressed to all priests on the occasion of the recent liturgical celebration of Holy Thursday. I trust that it was received by you, beloved sons, with the same open-heartedness with which I wrote it; and I hope that your attentive, intelligent, available reflection will dwell on it, so that it may strengthen and spur each one of you to persevere joyfully in the donation of himself to Christ and to the Church.

I would like here just to note that there are two requirements particularly felt by the clergy, especially the young: the demand for authenticity and the demand for closeness to the man of our times. They are two exigencies worthy of great consideration, because they express a sincere desire for consistency with one's own mission.

Glancing through the text of the above-mentioned Letter, you will have found that I indicated in likeness to Christ, "the Good Shepherd," the most valid criterion of priestly authenticity (cf. n. 5), and in the commitment to offer others the testimony of a priestly personality that is for everyone "a clear and plain sign and indication" (cf. n. 7), the most effective way of effecting a "significant" presence among modern men. It is not, in fact, by giving in to the promptings of an easy secularization, expressed either in the abandonment of the ecclesiastical habit, or in the assimilation of worldly habits, or in the taking up of a secular trade, it is not in this way that we can approach modern man effectively.

This assimilation might perhaps give, at first sight, the impression of an immediacy of contacts; but what use would it be if it were to be "paid for" with loss of the specific evangelizing and sanctifying charge, which makes the priest the salt of the earth and the light of the world? The risk that the salt may lose its taste or the light be smothered is already clearly put forward by Jesus in the Gospel (cf. Mt Mt 5,13-16). What would be the use of a priest so "assimilated" to the world as to become a camouflaged part of it and no longer a transforming leaven?

These are—I am sure—also your convictions; and it is for this reason that to be able to contemplate such a fine and promising group of young priests, closely gathered round their Bishop, fills my soul with joy. Thanking you again, therefore, for this visit of yours, in which I see the attestation of an intense desire for ever closer communion with Peter's Successor, I willingly assure you of a special memory at the Altar of the Lord, and in his Name I bestow upon you all my fatherly Apostolic Blessing, which can be extended to your families and to the souls entrusted to your generous ministry.



Saturday, 21 April 1979

Your Excellency,
Mr Regens, dear deacons,

I greet you heartily in the joy of the Easter octave at this short meeting. May the peace of the Risen Lord be with you all!

That you wished, during your stay in the Eternal City, to pay a visit also to the Bishop of Rome, confirms your belief in his universal mission for the whole Church at the same time. As successor of St Peter, the first courageous witness to the resurrection of Christ, it is his duty today to strengthen brothers in faith (cf. Lk Lc 22,31 f.).

I would now like to carry out this task towards you with special joy by heartily congratulating you as deacons on the gift of grace of your vocation and by encouraging you on your way to the priesthood. It is something great to be chosen by God for closer participation in his son's mission of salvation for the redemption of mankind. The grace of the vocation to the priesthood is, as I stressed recently in my letter to the priests: "the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit" (n. 2).

It is a precious treasure, which we carry, it is true, in frail vessels, but which, precisely for this reason, must be all the more carefully preserved.

Grasp this gift with both hands, without hesitation and anxious reservations, with full availability in the service of the People of God, with courageous and self-sacrificing love of Christ and of his Church! Be convinced from the first—to draw your attention particularly to another word from the above-mentioned letter—and prepare yourself conscientiously for it: "The only priest who will always prove necessary to people is the priest who is conscious of the full meaning of his priesthood: the priest who believes profoundly, who professes his faith with courage, who prays fervently, who teaches with deep conviction, who serves, who puts into practice in his own life the programme of the Beatitudes, who knows how to love disinterestedly, who is close to everyone, and especially to those who are most in need" (n. 7).

Let my special prayer for you and at the same time my sincere wish for your bishop and your diocese be that such a fulfilled priesthood may be allotted to each of you through the grace of God and your personal religious effort. The convincing example of good priests will also be the most effective means for the promotion of new priestly vocations! For this purpose I willingly impart the Apostolic Blessing to you all for rich graces of Christ, the Risen and Eternal High Priest.



Saturday, 21 April 1979

Beloved Priests of Milan!

Celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of your priestly ordination, you desired to solemnize it with a personal meeting with the Pope, on your return from a devout pilgrimage to Poland, my beloved native land, to the Marian sanctuary of Czestochowa.

And I thank you heartily for this filial devotion of yours, and I receive you with deep and sincere affection and extend my greeting to all. I embrace you, indeed, with all the love that must flow from our common priesthood and from my mission as universal Father. Welcome, then, you Superiors who come from Milan, a city famous all over the world for its adventurous history and its intelligent industry; a diocese of great bishops, holy priests, and committed laymen; the land of the painstaking and thoughtful pastoral ministry of my venerated predecessor Paul VI!

Welcome, you who have been pilgrims in my homeland, where the long and painful vicissitudes of history are interwoven with a Christian faith that is always sincere and real! But welcome above all to you priests who are celebrating your priestly jubilee!

Twenty-five years of priesthood are so many! They are a mystical and precious cathedral constructed with over ten thousand Holy Masses celebrated, with thousands and thousands of absolutions imparted, with innumerable baptisms, marriages, anointings of the sick, administered by means of the divine powers conferred by Jesus himself through the Apostles and the golden chain of the laying on of hands!

What can we do if not express our thanks and repeat with the Psalmist: "Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo"? (Ps 89,2).

Twenty-five years of priesthood also mean a period of long experience and concrete reflection on the priest's real identity. After so many years of industrious ministry in the Lord's vineyard and harvest, after having "borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat" (Mt 20,12), it is possible to deduce more easily the essential elements of the Catholic priesthood, strengthening ourselves to persevere and as a lesson for all confreres.

1. Our interior strength lies in our vocation.

We have been called! This is the fundamental truth that must instil courage and joy in us! Jesus himself said to the Apostles: "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide" (Jn 15,16). And the author of the Letter to the Hebrews cautions: "One does not take the honour upon himself, but he is called by God!" (He 5,4).

The call was at first an inner one, mysterious, caused by various reasons; but then, after the long and necessary preparation in the Seminary, under the direction of prudent and responsible superiors, it became official, guaranteed, when the Church called us and consecrated us by means of the bishop.

No one, in fact, would dare to become a minister of Christ, in continual contact with the Almighty! No one would have the courage to shoulder the weight of consciences and accept in this way a sacred and mystical solitude!

The call gives us the strength to be what we are with constancy and faithfulness; in moments of serenity, but above all in moments of crisis and discouragement, we say to ourselves: "Courage! I have been called!" "Ecce ego, mitte me" (Is 6,8).

2. Our joy is the Eucharist.

Let us recall the words of the Divine Master to the Apostles: "I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you" (Jn 15,15).

The priest is first of all for the Eucharist and lives by the Eucharist. We can "consecrate" and meet Christ personally with the divine power of "transubstantiation"; we can receive in communion Jesus living, true, real we can distribute to souls the Word, incarnate, dead and risen again for the salvation of the world! Every day we are in private audience with Jesus!

So always make Holy Mass the driving force of the day, the personal meeting with him who is our only true joy. An adequate preparation and appropriate thanksgiving are, therefore, absolutely necessary at every Holy Mass, to be able to savour the joy of the priesthood.

3. Finally, our concern must be love and service of souls, in the place that Providence has assigned to us through our superiors. Wherever we may be, in the bustling parishes of metropolises as in remote mountain villages, there are always persons to love, to serve and to save. We can always meditate on those consoling words that will mark our eternal destiny: "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master!" (cf. Mt 25,23).

May these words of mine accompany you as a memory of your twenty-fifth anniversary, while I ask you to pray for me, for all priests and that the Lord may bring forth many vocations.

May you be assisted, enlightened and strengthened by the Blessed Virgin, whom I address with the very words spoken by Paul VI at the resumption of the Second Vatican Council "Oh Mary, look on us your sons, look on us, brothers and disciples and apostles and continuers of Jesus. Make us aware of our vocation and our mission; make us not unworthy of assuming, in our priesthood, in our word, in the offering of our lives for the faithful entrusted to us, the representation, the personification of Christ. You, full of grace, make the priesthood, which honours you, also be holy and immaculate!" (11 October 1963).

And may my comforting Blessing always remain with you!



Tuesday, 24 April 1979

Beloved faithful of Brescia!

1. Your heart and your faith have brought you here to Rome, to the house of Peter's Successor, together with your dearly loved Bishop and with numerous civil Authorities. You have come to offer prayers of suffrage in the Vatican Basilica, which preserves—not far from St Peter's tomb—the mortal remains of Pope Paul VI, and also to meet the one who is his successor today.

I receive you with deep affection and greet you one by one with particular benevolence, and in you I greet the whole diocese of Brescia, which you represent.

Be assured that in the Pope's heart a special place is reserved for you, fellow-citizens of my unforgettable predecessor. Brescia, a diocese of great Catholic traditions and of a deeply religious population, is and remains in my heart, as it was in the heart of Pope Paul VI.

2. While I express to you my thanks for the visit, I wish to tell you, in the first place, my sincere satisfaction at the first purpose of this pilgrimage: that is, to honour the memory of Pope Paul VI.

Uttering this name, which calls up a historical period that was extremely eventful, there at once stands out in our minds the gigantic figure of the great Pontiff who, in a period of the history of the Church that was certainly not an easy one, taught us, with a daily martyrdom of solicitude and work, what it means to love and truly serve Christ and souls.

Particularly sensitive to the pressing needs of modern culture, with penetrating knowledge of the multiple and vast problems of the modern world, extremely aware of the responsibility of his high ministry, sharing the physical and moral suffering of the whole of mankind, Paul VI, enamoured of Christ and a friend of every man, a faithful servant of truth in charity, and a tireless defender of the rights of God and of man, was and will be for ever the everlasting glory of Brescia, of Italy and of the Church!

Before the secularization which has invested society and the ferments that have upset the Church internally in the last few years, Paul VI, misunderstood and sometimes even slandered, was always a beacon of light for all men, continually strengthening his brethren in faith. I am happy to recall what I wrote about him in the recent Encyclical "Redemptor Hominis": "As helmsman of the Church, the bark of Peter, he knew how to preserve a providential tranquillity and balance even in the most critical moments, when the Church seemed to be shaken from within, and he always maintained unhesitating hope in the Church's solidity... Gratitude is due to Paul VI because, while respecting every particle of truth contained in the various human opinions, he preserved at the same time the providential balance of the bark's helmsman" (n. 4).

The addresses, the Encyclicals, the Apostolic Exhortations, which he bequeathed to us, are a monument of doctrine, a real "Summa Theologica".

Therefore the opportune initiative undertaken by your diocese, to set up the "Paul VI" Institute for a thorough study of the personality and the works of the great Pontiff and of his times, gives me joy and satisfaction.

I know that this international Centre is being structured with painstaking and earnest care, and that it has already started its activity recently. It will be, among other things, a precious instrument at the disposal of scholars from all over the world for their researches.

I earnestly hope that this Institute vivat, crescat et floreat.

3. I see, then, another reason in the purpose of your meeting with the Pope today: to have from him a word of comfort and guidance for your commitment of Christian testimony.

Well, then, together with Pope Paul VI, I say to you: "Be faithful, people of Brescia, promise yourselves and assure the new generations that you will keep the heritage of the Christian faith firm, strong, complete and fruitful" (Paul VI, Address to the Pilgrimage from Brescia [25 January 1965]).

Brescia is famous for its cultural and publishing initiatives: I wish, therefore, to urge you earnestly to sow always and only the good grain of truth. We must give the certainty and the security of truth, in the name of Jesus who said: "I am the light of the world" (Jn 8,12). "For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth" (Jn 18,37).

Today it is more necessary than ever, in the first place, to sow the good grain of metaphysical truth. In fact theological confusion and moral crises generally have as their cause a philosophical crisis. It is necessary to abide firmly by good and wholesome metaphysics, which refers to the Absolute, to the one transcendent God, the creator and regulator of the universe and of man. Without the metaphysical Absolute, in fact, the "foundation" for any construction is lacking and any error can be justified.

In the Encyclical "Humani Generis" Pius XII wrote with wisdom and concern: "Everyone knows how much the Church appreciates the value of human reason, which has the task of proving with certainty the existence of one personal God, of proving invincibly by means of divine signs the foundations of Christian faith itself... But this task can be carried out suitably and reliably if reason is duly cultivated..." (Humani Generis, 29).

Then it is necessary to sow revealed truth, as it was proclaimed by the Divine Master and as it is taught by the Magisterium of the Church, with divine assistance; convinced of what Jesus himself said: “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters" (Lc 11,23).

Only in this way will a contribution be made to nourishing and strengthening a genuine and deep faith, which will illuminate and guide the whole activity of the Christian. Today a vague and superficial faith is not enough, an enlightened and intensely lived faith is necessary, which will flourish in consistent good works.

So let us sow the truth with full hands and let us try to make our faith more and more convinced and staunch: this is the instruction I leave you in the name of the Church, in memory of Paul VI, in the moving and demanding anxiety of the world today.

May you be assisted by the Blessed Virgin, "Our Lady of Graces", whom Paul VI deeply loved and often recalled with such nostalgia.

May the tender love of this late Pontiff for the Blessed Virgin be an example for you, and accompany you together with my cordial blessing, which I willingly extend also to your dear ones.



Monday, 26 April 1979

Dear Brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ,

FOR ALL OF US, this is an hour of faith. We have come together as Bishops of the Church of God, united in Christ, united in a wonderful communion of faith and love, united in a mission of evangelization and service to humanity – a mission that originates from a mandate received from the Saviour of the world.

This faith of ours is first of all expressed in thanksgiving to God for the marvellous works that he continues to bring about in the lives of the faithful committed to our pastoral care. You have come to reflect with me on what the Holy Spirit is accomplishing today in the local Churches of the Bengal and North Eastern regions of India, and to give praise to the glory of divine grace.

This faith is likewise expressed in fraternity – in the fraternity with which we gather together to consider the exigencies of our apostolic ministry. In this brotherhood of faith, we all experience the great joy of being apostles – successors to the original Twelve.

Jesus Christ, today and always, is the centre of our interest; he is the meaning of our lives. We also have the consciousness of belonging to the College of Bishops, of being in solidarity with the other members, of enjoying the support throughout the universal Church of all our Brothers in the Episcopate. Above all, we have the supreme consolation of knowing that the Lord Jesus is in our midst: Ecce ego vobiscum sum[1].

This is then, indeed, an hour of faith – an opportunity to renew our faith at the tomb of the Apostle Peter, who confessed that Jesus is "the Christ, the Son of the living God"[2], and that he alone has "the words of eternal life"[3]. We are here, moreover, to re-dedicate ourselves to our mission of faith, which is to proclaim God’s word, to proclaim God’s gift of salvation in Jesus Christ.

Our awareness, in faith, of the Lord’s presence inspires us to pursue our mission with confidence and humble self-assurance. We know that with Gods’ help there is no challenge that cannot be met, no obstacle that cannot be overcome for the Kingdom of God. With Saint John we attest: "This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith"[4]. The message of faith that we offer freely and without constraint rest not on the wisdom of men but rather on the power of God[5].

The power of God was strikingly manifested in the Paschal Mystery of Jesus of Nazareth; it pervaded the teaching of the Apostles: and it is active in our day. Above all, this power of God is active through the Eucharistic Sacrifice. It is here that we ourselves, together with our priest, must go to find the main source of that pastoral love[6] which enables us to live a life of faith, a life of selfless love modelled on that of the Good Shepherd.

In a full and active sharing in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and in the entire liturgical life of the Church all our people find the primary and indispensable source of the true Christian spirit[7]. Here they draw the strenght to be able to give to the world the witness of faith, the witness of love. The joyful commitment of service to humanity in need can only be sustained by power derived from the Eucharistic Christ. And it is he who inspires in the hearts of the faithful an ever greater appreciation of the needs of his brethren.

The effectiveness of the laity, and in particular of Christian families, to give to the world the witness of faith and love is conditioned by their spiritual dynamism, which is nowhere more available than in the Eucharist. The youth of your local Churches can only come to full maturity in Christ through the power of the Eucharist. God’s gift of priestly and religious vocations is mysteriously related to the reverent participation of God’s people in the Eucharist.

Brethren, in this hour of faith that we are celebrating together, it is fitting that we should concentrate on the Eucharist, which is the very mystery of faith. The Eucharist is our source of hope for the future. The success of our ministry is linked to it; the wellbeing of God’s people depends on it. With the Second Vatican Council we must continually point out that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of all Christian life”[8]. It is the heart of our ecclesial communities. To re-dedicate ourselves to our ministry of faith as Bishops requires a clear vision of our service in the perspective of Eucharist.

The full expression of human concern and love will be effected only through the Eucharist. All the great issues of your pastoral ministry are related to the Eucharistic Christ. He, and he alone, directs, through the power of his presence and the dynamism of his salvific action, the inner life of the ecclesial communities committed to your pastoral care. This profound truth motivated the appeal which I made to the universal Church in my recent Encyclical and which I repeat today: "Every member of the Church, especially Bishops and Priests, must be vigilant in seeing that this sacrament of love shall be at the centre of the life of the People of God... "[9].

In the same Encyclical I spoke also about the close link between the Eucharist and Penance, emphasizing how personal conversion must constantly be pursued with renewed endeavour so that partaking in the Eucharist may not lack its full redeeming effectiveness. In particular, I noted the need to guard the Sacrament of Penance, and I stressed that the faithful observance of the centuries-old “practice of individual confession with a personal act of sorrow and the intention to amend and make satisfaction” is an expression of the Church’s defence of “man’s right to a more personal encounter with crucified forgiving Christ”, and of Christ’s “right to meet each one of us in that key moment... of conversion and forgiveness”[10].

Brethren, let us never grow tired of extolling the value of individual confession. The documents that I cited in Redemptor Hominis make reference to a point of capital importnce: “the solemn teaching of the Council of Trent concerning the divine precept of individual confession”[11].

Seen in this perspective, the diligent observance by all the priests of the Church of the Pastoral Norms of Sacramentum Paenitentiae in regard to general absolution is both a question of loving fidelity to Jesus Christ and to his redemptive plan, and the expression of ecclesial communion in what Paul VI called " a master of special concern to the universal Church and of regulation by her supreme authority"[12].

Of particular importance for all the Bishops of the world is Paul VI’s great pastoral appeal: "Moreover, we ask you, the Bishops, to help your priests to have an ever greater appreciation of this splendid ministry of theirs as confessors[13]. The experience of centuries confirms the importance of this ministry. And if priests deeply understand how closely they collaborate, through the Sacrament of Penance, with the Saviour in the work of conversion, they will give themselves with ever greater zeal to this ministry... Other works, for lack of time, may have to be postponed or even abandoned, but not the confessional"[14].

Our ministry is indeed a ministry of faith, and the supernatural means to effect our goal are commensurate with the wisdom and power of God. The Eucharist and Penance are great treasures of Christ’s Church.

In all challenges and joys our ministry, in all our hopes and disappointments, in all the difficulties inherent in proclaiming Christ and his uplifting message for the cause of man and human dignity, let us reflect, in faith, that Christ’s power, and not our own, guides our steps and supports our efforts. Today in the fraternity of collegiality that is ours we can hear Christ speaking to us: Ecce ego vobiscum sum. And when you return to your people, endeavour to communicate the same message of faith, confidence and strengh to the whole community – to the priests, religious and laity who make up with you the People of God: Ecce ego votiscum sum. Particulary in the Eucharist.

But before we part, before you return to the field of your apostolic labours, let us rekindle, dear Brothers, the gift of God that is ours as Bishops. In the words of Saint Paul: “God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control”[15]. In this way, then, go forth to exercise your ministry of faith.

I ask you to take my greeting to your local Churches: to convey my love for all your people, to express my special gratitude to your co-workers in the priesthood, to the religious and to all who are your partners in the Gospel. My particular encouragement goes to the teachers and the catechists. In the unity of faith, in the love of the Redeemer, I embrace you all, saying with the Apostle Peter: "Peace to all of you who are in Christ"[16].

[1] Mt 28 :20.

[2] Mt 16 :16.

[3] Jn 6 :68.

[4] 1 Jn 5 :4.

[5] Cf. 1 Cor 2 :5.

[6] Cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 14.

[7] Cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 14.

[8] Lumen Gentium, 11.

[9] Redemptor Hominis, 20.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Cf. note 179; "Ad limina" Address of Paul VI: 20 April 1978.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Cf. Lumen Gentium, 30.

[14] Ibid.

[15] 2 Tim 1 :7.

[16] 1 Pt 5 :14.

Speeches 1979