Speeches 1978 - Thursday 23 November 1978
Friday, 24 November 1978
1. This is my first opportunity to meet the Superiors General of the male Orders, a meeting to which I attach particular importance. When I see you gathered here, there appear before my eyes magnificent figures of Saints, the great Saints who gave rise to your religious Families: Basil, Augustine, Benedict, Dominic, Francis, Ignatius of Loyola, Francis de Sales, Vincent de Paul, John-Baptist de La Salle, Paul of the Cross, Alphonsus Liguori. And then nearer to us, there are Joseph Benedict Cottolengo, John Bosco, Vincent Pallotti; not to speak of the most recent ones, whose holiness still awaits the definitive judgment of the Church, but whose beneficial influence is testified by the host of generous souls who have chosen to follow their example.
All these names—and I have mentioned only some—bear witness that the ways to holiness, to which the members of the People of God are called, passed and still pass, to a great extent, through the religious life. This should not surprise us, since religious life is based on the most precise "recipe" for holiness, which is constituted by love realized according to the evangelical counsels.
Furthermore, each of your Founders, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit promised by Christ to the Church, was a man who possessed a particular charism. Christ had in him an exceptional "instrument" for his work of salvation, which especially in this way is perpetuated in the history of the human family. The Church has gradually assumed these charisms, evaluated them and, when she found them authentic, thanked the Lord for them and tried to "put them in a safe place" in the life of the community, so that they could always yield fruit.
This was recalled by the Second Vatican Council, which stressed how the ecclesiastical hierarchy, on which there falls the task of feeding the People of God and leading them to good pastures, "in docile response to the promptings of the Holy Spirit accepts rules of religious life which are presented for its approval by outstanding men and women, improves them further and then officially authorizes them. It uses its supervisory and protective authority, too, to ensure that religious institutes established all over the world for building up the Body of Christ may develop and flourish in accordance with the spirit of their founders." (Lumen Gentium LG 45).
This is what I desire first of all to recognize and express during our first meeting. I do not intend here to make reference "to the past" understood as a historical period that is concluded in itself; I intend to refer "to the life" of the Church in her deepest dynamics. To her life, as it is presented before us, today, bringing with it the riches of the traditions of the past, to offer us the possibility of taking advantage of them today.
2. The religious vocation is a great problem of the Church of our time. For this very reason it is necessary in the first place to reaffirm forcefully that it belongs to that spiritual fullness which the Spirit himself—the spirit of Christ—brings forth and moulds in the People of God. Without religious Orders, without "consecrated" life, by means of the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, the Church would not be fully herself. Religious, in fact, "at the deepest level of their being are caught up in the dynamism of the Church's life, which is thirsty for the divine Absolute and called to holiness. It is to this holiness that they bear witness. They embody the Church in her desire to give herself completely to the radical demands of the beatitudes. By their lives they are a sign of total availability to God, the Church and the brethren" (Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 69).
Accepting this axiom, we must examine with all perspicacity how the religious vocation must be helped today to become aware of itself and mature, and how religious life must "function" in the life of the contemporary Church as a whole. To this question we are still seeking an answer—and rightly so. We can find it:
a) in the teaching of the Second Vatican Council;
b) in the exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi;
c) in the many statements of the Pontiffs, the Synods and the Episcopal Conferences.
This answer is a fundamental and multiform one. One postulate, however, seems to stand out particularly therein: If the whole life of the Church has two dimensions the vertical and the horizontal, the religious Orders must take the vertical dimension into account above all!
It is well known that the religious Orders have always set great store by the vertical dimension, entering life with the Gospel and bearing witness to it with their own example. With the Gospel reread authentically: that is, on the basis of the teaching of the Church and in faithfulness to her Magisterium. It must be so today also, Testificatio—sic, contestatio—non!
On every community, on every religious there weighs a particular co-responsibility for the real presence of Christ, who is meek and humble of heart, in the world of today—of the Crucified and Risen Christ—Christ among brothers: the spirit of evangelical maximalism, which is differentiated from any socio-political radicalism. "At the same time as being a challenge to the world and to the Church herself, this silent witness of poverty and abnegation, of purity and sincerity, of self-sacrifice in obedience", which Religious are called to bear, "can become an eloquent witness capable of touching also non-Christians who have good will and are sensitive to certain values" (Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 69).
3. The joint document of the S. Congregation for Religious and for Secular Institutes and of the S. Congregation for Bishops indicates what the relationship of the Orders and religious Congregations must be with the episcopal college, the bishops of the individual dioceses and the episcopal conferences. It is a document of great importance, to which special attention should be devoted in the next few years, in the attempt to assume the interior attitude of maximum availability, in harmony, moreover, with that humble and ready docility, which must be a distinctive note of the true Religious.
Wherever you are in the world, you are, with your vocation, "for the universal Church", through your mission "in a given local Church". Therefore—your vocation for the universal Church is realized in the structures of the local Church. Every effort must be made in order that "consecrated life" may develop in the individual local Churches, in order that it may contribute to their spiritual building up, in order that it may constitute their particular strength. Unity with the universal Church, through the local Church: that is your way.
4. Before concluding, allow me to return to a point which I consider a fundamental one in the life of every Religious, whatever may be the Family to which he belongs: I mean the contemplative dimension, the commitment to prayer. The Religious is a man consecrated to God by means of Christ, in the charity of the Spirit. This is an ontological datum which demands to emerge to consciousness and to orientate life, not only for the benefit of the individual person, but also for the advantage of the whole community, which, in consecrated souls, experiences and enjoys in a quite special way the life-bringing presence of the divine Bridegroom.
You must not be afraid, therefore, beloved sons, to remind your confreres frequently that a pause for true worship has greater value and spiritual fruit than the most intense activity, were it apostolic activity itself. This is the most urgent "contestation" that Religious must oppose to a society in which efficiency has become an idol, on the altar of which human dignity itself is not infrequently sacrificed.
Your houses must be above all centres of prayer, meditation and dialogue—personal and of the whole community—with Him who is and must remain the first and principal interlocutor in the industrious succession of your days. . If you are able to nourish this "climate" of intense and loving communion with God, it will be possible for you to carry forward, without traumatic tensions or dangerous confusion, that renewal of life and discipline, to which the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council committed you.
The soul that lives in habitual contact with God and moves within the warm range of his love, can easily protect itself from the temptation of particularisms and oppositions, which create the risk of painful divisions. It can interpret in the right evangelical light the option for the poorest and for every victim of human selfishness, without surrendering to socio-political radicalizations, which in the long run turn out to be inopportune, self-defeating and often causes of new forms of tyranny. It can approach people and take its place in the midst of the people, without questioning its own religious identity, or dimming that "specific originality" of its own vocation, which derives from the peculiar "following of Christ" poor, chaste and obedient.
These, beloved sons, are the reflections which I was anxious to submit to your consideration in this first meeting of ours. I am certain that you will not fail to undertake to transmit them to your confreres, enriching them with the contribution of your experience and your wisdom. May you be assisted in your delicate task by the Blessed Virgin! She, whom my Predecessor Paul VI of venerable memory indicated in his Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus as the Virgin listening, the Virgin in prayer, the Virgin who begets Christ and offers him for the salvation of the world, remains the unsurpassable model of every consecrated life. May it be She who acts as your guide in the laborious but fascinating ascent towards the ideal of full assimilation with Christ the Lord.
I accompany the wish with my Apostolic Blessing.
Saturday, 25 November 1978
Gentlemen and beloved Sons,
It is a deep joy for me to receive today you, Italian Catholic Jurists, who have come to Rome for the 29th national meeting of your Union. The latter has, right from its foundation, we can say, anticipated the directions of the Second Vatican Council with regard to the mission of the Christian laity. Personalities outstanding for ardent faith, deep philosophical thought and unquestioned technico-juridical competence, have wished to commit themselves, through your well-deserving Association, to "contributing to the implementation of the principles of Christian ethics in juridical science, legislative, judicial and administrative activity, in the whole of public and professional life", as your Statute says in article two.
Not only is your qualified presence at this Audience a great consolation for me, but also the knowledge that in the last thirty years the Union has endeavoured to give a Christian inspiration in many fields of social life. A sign and proof of this are the proceedings of the study meetings and the publications of the Union, all characterized by the spirit of service with regard to the human person, for the purposes of the affirmation and promotion of his inalienable rights and values of freedom, inviolability and development.
But what is particularly comforting is the constant faithfulness manifested to the Church, to the Pope and to the Bishops, whose teachings and directions have always been accepted by your Union with respect, love and devotion, without yielding to the allurements and temptations of misunderstood autonomies in proposing and defending the principles of natural and Christian ethics, which govern the institution of marriage, and in affirming also the inviolability and sacrality of human life from conception, in morals and in the law.
Your Union has considered it an honour, prior even to being a duty, to accept and follow the word of the Vicar of Christ. And you have not lacked this authoritative word in the past: Pius XII, John XXIII and Paul VI delivered, on the occasion of the meetings of the Union, addresses with a high doctrinal content, offering principles and illuminating indications of universal validity on the serious problems which society raises for the Christian jurist. I have pleasure in recalling the address—still so relevant today—delivered by Paul VI, of venerated memory, on 9 December 1972, on the occasion of your meeting on "Defence of the right to birth".
And the Pope's word does not wish to be lacking today, on the occasion of the meeting which has as its subject "The freedom of assistance" .
This issue—such a delicate and sensitive one—must certainly be tackled by the jurist in all its complex juridical problems (constitutional, technico-legislative, philosophico-juridical), but it cannot be adequately studied without involving the plan of society which it is desired to implement, and even more so, the view of the human. person—of his fundamental rights and freedoms—which qualifies the same plan of society.
Society is made for man, "hominis causa omne jus constitutum est". Society with its laws is placed in the service of man; for the salvation of man the Church was founded by Christ (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 48 Gaudium et Spes GS 45). Therefore the Church, too, has its word to say with regard to this subject.
And she must say, in the first place, that the problem of "freedom of assistance" in a modern State, which wishes to be democratic, falls under the wider topic of human rights, civil freedoms and religious liberty itself.
Man is an intelligent and free being, ordained by natural purpose to realize the potentialities of his person in society. Expressions of this innate social character are the natural society based on marriage, one and indissoluble, such as is the family, and the free intermediary formations; the political community, of which the State in its various institutional articulations is the juridical form.
The State must ensure to all its members the possibility of a full development of their person. This requires that those who are in conditions of necessity and need owing to illness, poverty, disablements of various kinds, should be offered those services and those aids which their particular situation calls for. Even before being an obligation of justice on the part of the State, this is an obligation of solidarity on the part of each citizen.
For the believer, furthermore, it is an irrepressible requirement of his faith in God the Father, who calls all men to constitute a communion of brothers in Christ (cf. Mt Mt 23,8-9). It is joyful obedience to the biblical commandment: "Deus mandavit illis unicuique de proximo suo" (God gave commandment to each of them concerning his neighbour) (cf. Sir Si 17,14). It is the full realization of the desire to discover, to meet Christ in one's suffering neighbour: "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (cf. Mt Mt 25,34-40).
All this is the basis of the duty of assistance, but also of its irrepressible freedom. The citizen, as an individual or in association, must be free to offer services of assistance in conformity with his own capacities and his own ideal inspiration.
The Church must be free—as already "in the early days the Church linked the agape to the eucharistic supper, and by so doing showed itself as one body around Christ united by the bond of charity. So too, in all ages, love is its characteristic mark. While rejoicing at initiatives taken elsewhere, it claims charitable works as its own mission and right" (Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 8).
These freedoms would not be respected, either in the letter or in the spirit, if the tendency prevailed to attribute to the State and to the other territorial expressions of the public authority a centralizing and exclusive function of organization and direct management of the services or of rigid control, which would end up by distorting their own legitimate function of promotion, propulsion, integration and even—if necessary—of substitution of the initiative of free social formations according to the principle of subsidiarity.
The Italian Episcopate—as is known—has manifested also recently its concern at the real danger that actual spaces of freedom may be restricted, and that the free action of persons, families, intermediate bodies, and civil and religious associations themselves, will be reduced and limited more and more, in favour of the public authority with the result of "deresponsibilizing and creating dangerous premises of a collectivity, which destroys man, suppressing his fundamental rights and his free capacities of expression" (Communique of the Italian Episcopal Episcopate [C.E.I] in January 1978).
The same Italian Episcopate also expressed concern that well-deserving works which, for centuries, under the impetus of Christian charity, have taken care of orphans, the blind, the deaf and dumb, the old and all kinds of needy persons, thanks to the generosity of donors and to the personal sacrifice, sometimes heroic, of religious women and men, and which by virtue of legislative provisions had to assume, in spite of themselves, the juridical figure of public Institutions of Welfare and Charity—with a certain guarantee, however, for the purposes for which they were instituted—may be suppressed or in any case not sufficiently and effectively guaranteed.
The Pope cannot remain indifferent to these concerns, which regard the very possibility of the Church to carry out her mission of charity, and which also regard the freedom of Catholics and of all citizens, individually or in association, to set up organizations in conformity with their ideals, in respect for just laws and in the service of their needy neighbour.
I hope, therefore, that your meeting will be successful in the study of a subject, which involves the very nature of the Church in her original commitment of dedication to others; and that your well-deserving Union will continue to give Italian society a fruitful contribution of ideas, proposals, but above all a testimony of Christian inspiration and life, especially in the professional field.
With these wishes I very willingly and warmly impart to you the Apostolic Blessing, which I intend to extend to all Catholic jurists and to their dear ones.
Saturday, 25 November 1978
Beloved Sons of Seregno,
I greet you all with particularly warm cordiality, beginning with my beloved brother Mons. Bernardo Citterio, Auxiliary Bishop of Milan and former priest of your parish, Mons. Luigi Gandini, the present parish priest, the municipal Authorities and then each of you, excluding no one.
I am happy at your presence and I thank you for it. The bond that ties me to you goes back to the already distant 1963, when I went to your town for the first time and celebrated Holy Mass in your collegiate church. That was just the first of a whole series of personal meetings or correspondence, in the course of these fifteen years.
It all began with the request that the parish priest of St Florian in Krakow and then I myself had addressed to the then Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal John Baptist Montini, to obtain for that church three new bells to replace the preceding ones, lost during the war. It was precisely you of Seregno, with the grace of God and with your concrete Christian generosity, who made this wish come true, manifesting in this way also your disinterested ecclesial communion. Now the bells that ring in Krakow from the church of St Florian, the Patron Saint of that beloved Archdiocese, sing also of your brotherly solicitude and testify to that bond of mutual love that must always characterize the Church of Christ.
Up to now there had been a sincere regret in my heart: when in August 1973 you came on pilgrimage to Krakow I was not able to receive you, because I was absent owing to pastoral commitments. I am therefore deeply happy today to make up for having missed you then by receiving you here most willingly and with deep benevolence. This time, however, you meet in my humble person no longer the Bishop of Krakow but the Bishop of Rome, who is therefore Peter's Successor himself and so a sign of the unity of the whole Church founded by Christ. That does not diminish, but on the contrary increases my gratitude to you.
I wish to exhort you to one thing: continue also with other exemplary initiatives in your commitment of communion with the great Catholic Community scattered all over the world. Then, as Paul already assured the Christians of Greece, who took an interest, even a material one, in those of Jerusalem, God "will multiply your resources and increase the harvest of your righteousness, (2Co 9,10).
The object of my wish for your parish community and for each of you is this: that with the help of the Lord you will be able to grow more and more in the intensity of a Christian life, which is based on staunch faith and which flourishes in the beauty of love. Only in this way does one become lamps on a stand, effective witnesses to the Gospel before men, "that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Mt 5,16).
With these wishes and with the assurance of a special prayer, I willingly grant you the most ample Apostolic Blessing, to be extended also to your families and your fellow parishioners who have remained at home, as a token of lasting and ever fruitful heavenly protection.
Monday, 27 November 1978
Our revered Brother and dear Sons, who devote yourselves to cultivating and promoting the Latin language, we willingly greet you individually: our revered Brother Cardinal Pericle Felici, who is known to be an expert in the language of the Romans; the Council and members of the Foundation called "Latinitas", which was set up with a certain foresight by our predecessor of happy memory Paul VI. Some of these in our Secretariat of State are engaged in drawing up documents in Latin. We greet also the winners of the 21st competition "Certamen Vaticanum".
We highly praise this "Certamen Vaticanum" which in the past was established with the approval and assistance of Pius XII, since it encourages the study of Latin so that one may deepen one's knowledge of it and promote its use.
There is no one who is ignorant of the fact that this age is less favourable to the study of Latin, when men today are more interested in science and technology and consider the vernacular to be more expressive. Nevertheless we do not wish to ignore the important documents of our predecessors who time and again emphasised the importance of Latin even in this age, especially in so far as the Church is concerned. For Latin is in a way a universal language cutting across national boundaries and as such the Apostolic See still constantly makes use of it in letters and acts addressed to the whole Catholic family.
One must also point out that the sources of the ecclesiastical disciplines are for the most part written in Latin. But what must be said of the outstanding works of the Fathers and other writers of importance who use this tongue? One ought not to be considered a master of learning who does not understand the language of these writers, but who must rely only on translations, if any exist. These rarely bring out the full meaning of the original text. For this reason the Second Vatican Council rightly advised students of sacred studies that "they should acquire a command of Latin which will enable them to understand and use the source material of so many sciences, and the documents of the Church as well" (Optatam Totius OT 13).
We address ourself especially to young men so that in this age in which as is well known the study of Latin literature and of the humanities is neglected, they should readily accept this Latin heritage, as it were, which the Church considers very important, and work hard to make it fruitful. They should realize that this quotation from Cicero applies in a certain sense to them: "It is not ... so great a distinction to know Latin as it is a disgrace not to know it" (Brutus, 37,140).
We exhort all of you here present and those who are helping you. to continue this noble work and to hold high the torch of Latin, which is also a bond between men of different tongues, although it is confirmed within narrower limits than it was in times past. Be assured that successor of Saint Peter in the supreme apostolic ministry wishes every success in your efforts, is helping and encouraging you. The Apostolic Blessing which we willingly impart to each and everyone of you in the Lord is a sign of this.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I bid you a hearty welcome on your first visit to the new Pope in the Vatican. I complied with your wish for a meeting with particular joy, since a long-standing personal acquaintance and bonds of friendship tie me to Your Eminence and to the country which you all represent here. These natural, human relations have now become closer and deeper as a result of my being called to Peter's See.
You too on your side emphasize this special spiritual bond not only by this visit to the present Successor of St Peter, but also by having participated yesterday in the episcopal Ordination of Mons. Squicciarini, one of my close collaborators, who was active in the nunciature in your country for several years.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my esteem for your people, its culture and all the values which Christianity and the Church have given it. Therefore our common wish can only be that the Church may continue to take part in social life in your country as the Gospel "leaven", which gives the life of men and nations, families and social relations, a healthy taste. This is my wish for the Church in Austria, for your people and for your State. I still remember clearly the friendly participation of your President, Dr Kirchschläger, at the Mass of inauguration of the new pontificate.
This wish goes especially to you, Lord Cardinal, as Archbishop of Vienna, and to all your confreres in the episcopal ministry, who are working at home. Once more I would like to express here my thanks for everything that you did, Your Eminence, before the Council and during it, and are still doing now in the post-conciliar period, in order to maintain relations between different local Churches and between Christians in different countries. I thank you also quite particularly for having accepted the direction of the Secretariat for non-believers, that difficult organism, which is, however, at the same time indispensable for the life of the Church today. My hope is that we will be able to have a great deal more help from your experience and wisdom in this field. There is much more I would say, if I followed my heart. If I stop here, you must be sure, Lord Cardinal, and your esteemed companions, that I like to remember in my prayers your personal concerns, the great concerns of the Church in Austria and of her faithful, and willingly bless you all.
Dear Friends of "Cor Unum",
I am very happy to receive you here, at the conclusion of your seventh plenary Assembly. Several of you belong to episcopal Conferences, those which are able to offer material aid or those which have needs to make known; most of you represent charitable organisms set up directly by these Conferences or constituted to carry out mutual aid and sharing, in a Christian spirit and according to a particular aim, on the national or international plane.
Since you have been called to work in a "pontifical" Council, it falls upon me to tell you the deep gratitude of the Holy See, all the greater in that I know you are already very busy with the multiple tasks of your particular institutions, tasks which do not brook delay in being carried out. And yet you grasp the necessity of coming assiduously to the Assemblies and meetings of this Council. The Pope personally, the Holy See, the universal Church rely on these meetings, summit meetings, of Christians eminently engaged in the service of human advancement and charity, men and women who can let them benefit from their knowledge and their zeal on the pastoral plane, and also from their competence as experts in the technical aspects of mutual aid, always envisaged according to the Church's concern with charity. Yes, I deeply encourage you in this active and regular participation in the work of the pontifical Council.
The report on the activities of Cor Unum show clearly how the spirit of coordination which motivated the foundation of this institution and which remains its raison d'etre, is progressing and maturing. It seems that this result has been widely promoted by the working groups which the Council has organized among the different members, consultants or other experts, on precise subjects or aims. This formula makes it possible to hope for more and more fruitful results. Certainly, the local Churches are the first ones concerned at the stage of giving or receiving, preparing or carrying out, and their participation is necessary. But it seems no less necessary that all those concerned in the sharing should consult and sustain one another, beyond bilateral exchanges, in the context of the universal Church, for it is a question of a really universal responsibility and mission of the Church. And the pontifical Council Cor Unum is precisely the normal and effective meeting and coordination point for all welfare and advancement efforts in the Church. This tells you the trust that my predecessors put in this work, a trust which I am happy to renew to you today.
I cannot, in the course of this short talk, tackle the numerous aspects which you yourselves have examined and which you must have at heart. We are all quite convinced that it is charity according to Christ which must motivate our actions of human advancement: the gospel read this year for the feast of Christ the King remains its charter. We must also take care to set advancement carefully in the context of evangelization, which is the fullness of human advancement, since it proclaims and offers man's full salvation.
Then, too, a particular but essential aspect of your action consists in maintaining the impetus of generosity. You know the urgent situations which occur, whether it is a question of natural catastrophes or catastrophes caused by men, by their acts of violence or their obstinate selfishness. Such situations often bring about, thank God, immediate bursts of generosity in the consciences of men enamoured of solidarity, all the more so in that the media of information then give wide coverage to the sensational character of the facts. But if there are catastrophes the effects of which can be eliminated by a decisive action of short duration, this is not generally the case: needs are prolonged often for long periods. And one of your tasks is then to keep awake or reawaken generosity and the concern to inform, as long as the needs of our brothers last.
May the Holy Spirit enlighten and strengthen you in the magnificent work entrusted to you! You contribute to giving the testimony which characterizes disciples of Christ best: charity, universal charity, the charity that knows no frontiers or enemies. I willingly bless you, with all those who collaborate with you.
Speeches 1978 - Thursday 23 November 1978