Speeches 1978 - Tuesday, 28 November 1978
Dear young people, boys and girls,
Thank you for the enthusiastic welcome you gave me in this splendid Vatican Basilica, as I passed your groups resounding with youthful exultation and sincere attachment to the person of the successor of Peter, on whose tomb we are gathered to draw from him inspiration and support.
You come from schools, parishes, clubs, institutes and Catholic associations to manifest to the Pope your Christian ideals and the good will to prepare for your future and your coming responsibilities as Christians and citizens with seriousness and generous dedication. For this, too, or rather above all for this, I repeat to you my hearty thanks, which I wish to extend also to your parents, your educators, your teachers and your parish priests, who have guided you to this meeting.
Before speaking to you of the general subject of this Wednesday, which is centred on Advent (next Sunday, in fact, as you know, the liturgical time of Advent begins), I wish to address, with fatherly benevolence, a special greeting to two groups of young people: the spastic boys of the "Villa Margherita" Spastic Centre at Montefiascone, which is run by the Religious of the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception; and then the group of deaf-and-dumb from the Gualandi Institute in Rome: I bid you welcome, beloved sons! Your presence and your particular condition deserve a special place in the heart of the Pope, who embraces you and blesses you with heartfelt predilection. May the loving attentions of those dedicated to your assistance and to your instruction be for you a reason of relief and serenity, despite the inevitable sorrows of daily life. Today, with a gesture worthy of mention, they have accompanied you here in a spirit of active solidarity with brothers in greater need.
Now, a few days before Advent, as I mentioned, we wish to examine the meaning of Advent. We are so accustomed to this term that we run the risk of not feeling any longer the need for a further search for its deep meaning.
It means in the first place coming. And even the youngest among you who are listening to me know this and remember well the coming of Jesus in the night of Christmas, in a grotto used as a cowshed. But the older ones among you, who are already engaged in higher studies, ask yourselves questions to study more and more deeply this fascinating reality of Christianity, which is Advent. Summing up, briefly, what I will say at length at the second audience this morning, Advent is the history of the first relations between God and man. As soon as the Christian becomes aware of his supernatural vocation, he receives the mystery of the coming of God to his own soul, and his heart throbs and pulsates constantly with this reality, since it is nothing but the very life of Christianity.
To understand better the role of God and of man in the mystery of Advent, we must go back to the first page of Holy Scripture, that is, to Genesis, where we read the words: "Beresit bara! In the beginning God created ... " He, God, creates, that is "gives a beginning" to everything that is not God, that is, to the visible and invisible world (according to Genesis: the heavens and the earth). In this context the verb "creates" manifests the fullness of God's being, which is revealed as Omnipotence which is at once Wisdom and Love.
But the same page of the Bible presents to us another protagonist of Advent, man. We read there, in fact, that God creates him in His image and likeness: "Then God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Gn 1,26). I will speak next Wednesday of this second protagonist of Advent, that is man; but I wish to indicate to you now this special relationship, of which the theology of Advent is woven, between God and the image of God, man.
And, as the first commitment of the new liturgical season that is about to open, try to give, on the basis of the short biblical considerations we have made together now, a personal answer to the two questions that have emerged implicitly from our talk, namely: 1) what does Advent mean?; 2) why is Advent an essential part of Christianity?
Returning to your homes, your schools and your associations, tell everyone that the Pope counts a great deal on the young. Tell them that the young are the comfort and the strength of the Pope, who wishes to see them all, to let them hear his voice of encouragement in the midst of all the difficulties that integration in society involves. Tell them, finally, to reflect both individually, and at their meetings, on the meaning of the new liturgical period and on the implications that result in the daily commitment of the necessary spiritual renewal.
May the Apostolic Blessing which I now willingly impart to you and to all your dear ones, be of help and a stimulation to you to carry out your resolutions.
Gathered in Rome for your annual Organizational Meeting, which this time coincides with the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Founder of your Institute, St Leonard Murialdo, you expressed the desire to meet the new Pope, in order to manifest your faithfulness to the Vicar of Christ and to have some words from him.
Expressing to you my gratitude for this thoughtful and kind gesture, in the first place I extend my most cordial greeting to each of you and willingly join in this celebration of yours, trusting that it will be a stimulus to renewed commitment in your spiritual life and in your apostolic zeal.
I wish, furthermore, to take advantage of the meeting to exhort you to remain faithful to three instructions of your Founder:
1. The pursuit of holiness. "Make yourselves holy and do so quickly" was Murialdo's constant exhortation. This must be our first concern and our fundamental commitment.
Holiness consists first of all in living the reality of God's love with conviction, in spite of the difficulties of history and of one's own life.
Murialdo wrote in his "Spiritual Testament": "I would like the Congregation of St Joseph to aim above all at spreading around it and especially within it knowledge of the infinite, actual and individual love that God has for all souls, especially of the faithful, and particularly for his elect and chosen—priests and religious—of the personal love he has for each of us. We read in books of piety, we preach from the pulpit that God loved men so much, but people do not reflect that it is now, at present, in this very hour, that God loves us truly and infinitely ... ".
I, too, wish to say this to you all: in your daily difficulties, in moments of trials and discouragement, when it seems that every commitment is almost emptied of interest and value, remember that God knows our troubles! God loves you, one by one, he is close to you, he understands you! Trust in him and in this certainty find the courage and the joy to carry out your duty lovingly and joyfully.
"Holiness" also consists in a life of concealment and humility: to know how to immerse oneself in the daily suffering of men, but in silence, without publicity, without worldly echoes. "Let us do and be silent!": was your Founder's programmatic motto. To do and be silent! How relevant is this programme of life and apostolate even today.
Treasure, beloved Sons, the teachings of your Saint! They indicate the certain way for the Coming of the Kingdom of God!
2. A second characteristic of St Leonard Murialdo was pedagogical concern. He was unquestionably a great educator, like Don Bosco, and dedicated his whole life to the education of children and young people, convinced of the value of the preventive method and of Christocentric guidance.
Let us meditate together on what he wrote to confreres gathered in the Spiritual Exercises of 1898: "May love of God bring forth zeal for the salvation of the young: "ne perdantur", St John Chrysostom says, "so that they may not be lost", not be damned, and therefore ... real zeal to save them, to instruct them well in religion, to instil in them love of God, of Jesus Christ, and of Mary, and zeal to save themselves. But all this will not be obtained unless one has humility of heart".
It is an exhortation which the Pope wishes to echo this morning. let this be your spur: educate to save!
From the "pedagogy of eternal salvation" there springs logically the "pedagogy of love". Commit your lives completely to edifying, to forming children and young people, behaving in such a way that your life will be a continual example of virtue for them: it is necessary to become a child with children and everything to everyone in order to win all to Christ!
Kindness of heart, affability, patience, politeness, gaiety, are necessary elements in order to attract attention, to form, to lead to Christ, to save, and they often call for effort and sacrifice. In spite of the difficulties, you must continue in your labour with love and dedication, because the educator's work has an eternal value.
3. Finally, I would like to point out a last characteristic, which seems to me important to define more completely the nature of Murialdo, and it is his deep faithfulness to the Church and to the Pope. He lived in a very difficult age for the Church, especially in Italy, and, intelligent and far-sighted as he was, he had understood perfectly that times were changing quickly and that it was better for the Church not to have any longer the concerns of "temporal power". His letters, so profound and balanced, bear witness to this. He trusted in Providence, following the example of St Joseph, whose name your Congregation bears.
Act like this, you too! Love the Church! Love the Pope! Be docile to his teachings and his directives, convinced that the Lord wants unity in truth and in charity, and that the Holy Spirit assists the Vicar of Christ in his indispensable and salvific work. And pray, and get your young people and your faithful to pray, for the Pope and for the Church.
We cannot conclude without addressing the Blessed Virgin, so loved and venerated by Murialdo, who had recourse to her as the Universal Mediatrix of all grace. The thought of Mary returned continually in his letters. In them he inculcated the recitation of the Rosary, entrusted his Sons with spreading devotion to the Holy Virgin, and stated: "If one wishes to do a little good among the young, one must instil love for Mary in them". The beneficial work carried out by your Founder, is the best confirmation of this. So follow his example in this matter too.
With these wishes, while I think with admiration of the great work you have carried out in various parts of the world, especially for the sake of youth, I implore from the Lord the abundance of his graces and his favours on your apostolate, and with particular benevolence I impart to you, beloved sons, and to all your young people and your parishes, the Apostolic Blessing.
Saturday, 2 December 1978
I am very happy to receive you today. Senegal, which you now represent as Ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary, is a country with which the Holy See has long maintained friendly relations. Your President, His Excellency Mr Léopold Sédar Senghor, who has charged you to transmit his good wishes to me, is a statesman whose visit my revered predecessor Pope Paul VI received several times with pleasure and whose interventions he appreciated. Kindly convey to him my sentiments of high consideration and deep esteem.
My thought goes spontaneously to the Church in Senegal, and particularly to dear Cardinal Hyacinthe Thiandoum and my other Brothers in the episcopate. But in this instance, it is for all your fellow-countrymen that I formulate fervent wishes of happiness, peace and progress.
An essential condition of this progress—as Your Excellency stressed to my deep satisfaction—is respect for and the promotion of, spiritual values. Certainly, the expansion of knowledge, the struggle for better conditions of health, and economic development, are necessary and deserve all our efforts: I am thinking of the drama of the drought, which must be remedied thanks to wide solidarity; I am thinking of the courageous achievements of your Government in the cultural field. But if this progress were to be accompanied by a materialistic conception of life, it would actually be a regression. Man would be mutilated and he would not be long in losing his dignity and his sacred character, at the same time as the ultimate meaning of his existence which is to live in the presence of God and in brotherly relations with his neighbour. Every civilization must take care not to lose its soul!
It is the honour of your country, it is the honour of African tradition, to preserve the intuition of the sacred. The civilization of "négritude" (Negro civilization), which President Senghor himself has analysed with penetrating insight, includes this deeply rooted religious sense and encourages it. It must, however, be deepened and educated, in order to be able to deal without reduction with the whole of modern culture, with its philosophies and its scientific and technical spirit.
Tolerance and peace among the disciples of the great religious confessions are facilitated by the institutions of your country, under the wise guidance of your President. With regard to these religious confessions the State keeps the distance which permits the necessary impartiality and the normal distinction between political interests and religious matters. But this distance is not indifference: the State knows how to mark its esteem for spiritual values and encourages, with justice, the services that religious communities render to the populations, in the field of teaching or medical care.
Finally, peace among countries, and particularly on the African continent, is also a matter of concern, and rightly so, for the government and people of Senegal. Aware of the interdependence of nations and anxious about the human rights of your neighbours, your country wishes to help its African partners to subdue violence, which is always springing up again, to overcome the racial discriminations from which they suffer, to settle their conflicts in a reasonable way, and to establish a just and lasting peace among them, if possible without foreign interference.
The stake is an immense and redoubtable one for the happiness and development of African peoples. May God promote the wise and generous contribution which Senegal is capable of making to it! You know the constant solicitude of the Holy See in this field. I am touched by the way in which Your Excellency paid tribute to it.
I wish you yourself, Mr Ambassador, a happy and fruitful mission, and I invoke the assistance of the Almighty on your person, your fellow-countrymen and your rulers.
To His Excellency
Dr Kurt Waldheim
Secretary-General of the United Nations Organization
The signal occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives the Holy See the opportunity of proclaiming once again to people and to nations its constant interest and solicitude for fundamental human rights whose expression we find clearly taught in the Gospel message itself.
With this in mind I want to greet you, Mr. Secretary-General, and through you the President and members of the General Assembly of the United Nations who have gathered to commemorate this anniversary. I want to express to all of you my firm agreement to "the continuing commitment of the United Nations Organization to promote in an ever clearer, more authoritative and more effective manner, respect for the fundamental rights of man" (Paul VI, Message for the XXVth Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, 10 December 1973: AAS 65 (1973), p. 674).
In these past thirty years significant steps have been taken and some outstanding efforts made to create and support the juridical instruments which would protect the ideals set out in this Declaration.
Two years ago the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights came into effect. By them, the United Nations marked a significant step forward in making effective one of the basic principles which it has adopted as its own from the very foundation of the organization : namely, to establish juridically binding means for promoting the human rights of individuals and for protecting their fundamental liberties.
Certainly, it would be a desirable goal to have more and more States adopt these Covenants in order that the content of the Universal Declaration can become ever more operative in the world. In this way the Declaration would find greater echo as the expression of the firm will of people everywhere to promote by legal safeguards the rights of all men and women without discrimination of race, sex, language or religion.
It should be noted that the Holy See—consistent with its own identity and at various levels—has always sought to be a faithful collaborator with the United Nations in all those initiatives which would further this noble but difficult task. The Holy See has always appreciated, lauded, and supported the efforts of the United Nations endeavouring to guarantee in an ever more efficient way the full and just protection of the basic rights and freedoms of the human person.
If a review of the past thirty years gives us all reason for real satisfaction at the many advances that have been made in this field, still we cannot ignore that the world we live in today offers too many examples of situations of injustice and oppression. One is bound to observe a seemingly growing divergence between the meaningful declarations of the United Nations and the sometimes massive increase of human rights violations in all parts of society and of the world. This can only sadden us and leave us dissatisfied at the current state of affairs.
Who can deny that today individual persons and civil powers violate basic rights of the human person with impunity: rights such as the right to be born, the right to life, the right to responsible procreation, to work, to peace, to freedom and social justice, the right to participate in the decisions that affect people and nations?
And what can be said when we face the various forms of collective violence like racial discrimination against individuals and groups, the use of physical and psychological torture perpetrated against prisoners or political dissenters? The list grows when we turn to the instances of the abduction of persons for political reasons and look at the acts of kidnapping for material gain which attack so dramatically family life and the social fabric.
In the world as we find it today what criteria can we use to see that the rights of all persons are protected? What basis can we offer as the soil in which individual and social rights might grow? Unquestionably that basis is the dignity of the human person. Pope John XXIII explained this in Pacem in Terris : "Any well-regulated and profitable association of men in society demands the acceptance of one fundamental principle: that each individual is truly a person.
As such he has rights and duties which together flow as a direct consequence from his nature. These rights and duties are universal and inviolable and therefore altogether inalienable".
Quite similar is the preamble of the Universal Declaration itself when it says: " the recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world".
It is in this dignity of the person that human rights find their immediate source. And it is respect for this dignity that gives birth to their effective protection. The human person, even when he or she errs, always maintains inherent dignity and never forfeits his or her personal dignity (John XXIII, Pacem in Terris PT 158).
For believers, it is by allowing God to speak to man that one can contribute more truly to the strengthening of the consciousness that every human being has of his or her destiny, and to the awareness that all rights derive from the dignity of the person who is firmly rooted in God.
I now wish to speak of these rights themselves as sanctioned by the Declaration, and especially of one of them which undoubtedly occupies a central position: the right to freedom of thought, of conscience and of religion (cf. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Art. 18).
Allow me to call the attention of the Assembly to the importance and the gravity of a problem still today very keenly felt and suffered. I mean the problem of religious freedom, which is at the basis of all other freedoms and is inseparably tied to them all by reason of that very dignity which is the human person.
True freedom is the salient characteristic of humanity: it is the fount from which human dignity flows; it is "the exceptional sign of the divine image within man" (Gaudium et Spes GS 17). It is offered to us and conferred on us as our own mission.
Today men and women have an increased consciousness of the social dimension of life and as a result have become ever more sensitive to the principle of freedom of thought, of conscience and of religion. However, with sadness and deeply felt regret we also have to admit that unfortunately, in the words of the Second Vatican Council, in its Declaration on Religious Freedom, "forms of government still exist under which, even though freedom of religious worship receives constitutional recognition, the powers of government are engaged in the effort to deter citizens from the profession of religion and to make life difficult and dangerous for religious communities" (Dignitatis Humanae DH 15).
The Church strives to be the interpreter of the thirst modern men and women have for dignity. So I would solemnly ask that, in every place and by everyone, religious freedom be respected for every person and for all peoples. I am moved to make this solemn appeal because of the profound conviction that, even aside from the desire to serve God, the common good of society itself "may profit by the moral qualities of justice and peace which have their origin in man's faithfulness to God and to his holy will" (Dignitatis Humanae DH 6). The free exercise of religion benefits both individuals and governments. Therefore the obligation to respect religious freedom falls on everyone, both private citizens and legitimate civil authority.
Why then is repressive and discriminatory action practised against vast numbers of citizens, who have had to suffer all sort of oppression, even death, simply in order to preserve their spiritual values, yet who despite all this have never ceased to cooperate in everything that serves the true civil and social progress of their country? Should they not be the objects of admiration and praise rather than considered as suspect and criminals?
My Predecessor Paul VI raised this question: "Can a State fruitfully call for entire trust and collaboration while, by a kind of 'negative confessionalism', it proclaims itself atheist and while declaring that it respects within a certain framework individual beliefs takes up positions against the faith of part of its citizens?" (Paul VI, Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 14 January 1978: AAS 70  170).
Justice, wisdom and realism all demand that the baneful positions of secularism be overcome, particularly the erroneous reduction of the religious fact to the purely private sphere. Every person must be given the opportunity within the context of our life together to profess his or her faith and belief, alone or with others, in private and in public.
There is one last point which deserves attention. While insisting—and rightly so—on the vindication of human rights, every individual has the obligation to exercise his basic rights in a responsible and ethically justified manner. Every man and woman has the duty to respect in others the rights claimed for oneself. Furthermore, we must all contribute our share to the building up of a society that makes possible and feasible the enjoyment of rights and the discharge of the duties inherent in those rights.
To conclude this message, I wish to extend to you, Mr. Secretary-General, and to all those who, in whatever capacity, serve in your Organization, my heartfelt good wishes, with the hope that the United Nations will continue tirelessly to promote everywhere the defence of the human person and of his dignity in the spirit of the Universal Declaration.
From the Vatican, 2 December 1978.
Monday, 4 December 1978
Today you are inaugurating your mission as Ambassador, which I hope will be a happy and untroubled one for you, fruitful for your country and for the Holy See. The memories of my predecessors, whom you recalled with delicacy, the good wishes you formulated for my Pontificate, echoing those of your President and your Government, are a homage which greatly moved me. Then, too, your remarks stress principles to which the Catholic Church attaches great importance. I thank you heartily for this.
With regard to the Turkish people whom you will now represent at the Holy See, I will willingly take up again the wishes you mentioned yourself: peace at home, among all those living on the soil of the Republic, seeking in its laws protection of their rights and making their original contribution to the national patrimony; peace abroad, with neighbouring countries, however different they may be, and with the international Community as a whole, in a spirit of mutual understanding. The establishment or strengthening of peace must seem all the more urgent to Turkey in that the latter is situated at the meeting point of two continents, at the door of the Middle East, which is still so unstable, at the crossroads of great civilizations. The Holy See expresses the wish that it will not only benefit from peace, the condition of happiness and prosperity, but also be able to make its positive and specific contribution to it itself. The Holy See is thinking in particular of the problem of Cyprus, for which it hopes, with all the peoples of the island, that a just solution will be found as soon as possible.
On its side, the Holy See wishes to serve—according to the criteria which Your Excellency has happily recalled—international understanding and cooperation. It is important, in fact, that relations of power or of economic interests should not prevail to the detriment of minorities or of the weak, but that justice should always inspire the respect, esteem, and mutual aid to which everyone is entitled. The Catholic Church exerts herself particularly in order that moral and spiritual values may imbue all relations among peoples: it is one aspect of her mission, and she is convinced that it is a question of the happiness and progress of humanity. It is this spirit which animates the Holy See in its bilateral relations or its international activities. For that reason it relies on the understanding and support of men of goodwill, especially in countries which recognize its role by exchanging diplomatic representations with it.
In your country, Christians—connected with the communities and spiritual high-places of the very first centuries of our era—have shown their desire and their capacity to participate, as responsible citizens, in the cultural and social progress of their country. How could they fail to desire harmonious relations with all their Moslem compatriots, in the recognized and real respect of religious freedom, the importance of which Your Excellency has stressed and which is, in fact, when rightly understood, the touchstone of all other freedoms and the sign of real progress and, let us say so, of a modern State? Nor do I doubt that Catholic institutions, of education or charity, receive, from your Government and public opinion, the esteem, protection and encouragements that their service deserves, in the interest of all.
I beg you to thank His Excellency Mr Fahri S. Korutürk for his kind wishes and to assure him of those I willingly express, in prayer; for his person and for the whole people over whose destiny he presides. May the Almighty assist him, may He inspire those who share with him the heavy task of the common good, may He watch over all your compatriots, and may He help you yourself, Mr Ambassador, to carry out your noble mission here!
Wednesday, 6 December 1978
Beloved boys and girls, and beloved young people,
I find you in large numbers and exuberant as always. I am pleased to be able to meet you today, both to feel your warm communion with the Pope, who is Peter's Successor, and to tell you that I cherish a special affection for you, because I see in you all the promising hopes of the Church and of the world of tomorrow. Always remember that you will be able to construct something really great and lasting only if you build, as St Paul says, on the one foundation, which is Jesus Christ (l Cor 3:11).
Prepare for life seriously and with commitment. In this period of youth, which is so important for the full maturation of your personality, always give the right place to the religious element of your formation, the one that lets man reach his full dignity, which is that of being a son of God.
As you well know, in these days all Christians are living the liturgical period of Advent, which is the immediate preparation for Christmas. Last Wednesday I already spoke to so many other youngsters like you, explaining that Advent means "coming", that is, God's coming among men to share their sufferings and promote joy in their lives. Today I would like to tell you in general who man is, man who is called to meeting and friendship with the Lord.
The first pages of the Bible, which I think you have already read, tell us that "God created man in his own image" (Gn 1,27). This means that man, every human being, and therefore also each of you, has a particular relationship with God. Though belonging to visible creation, to nature and to the animal world, each of us is differentiated in some way from all other creatures.
You know that some scientists affirm man's dependence on the evolution of nature and place him in the changeable becoming of the various species. These affirmations, to the extent to which they are really proved, are very important, because they tell us that we must respect the natural world of which we are part. But if we go down into the depths of man, we see that he is more different from nature than he resembles it. Man possesses a spirit, intelligence, freedom, conscience therefore he resembles God more than the created world.
It is again the first book of the bible, Genesis, which tells us that Adam gave a name to all living creatures of the air and of the land, thus proving his own superiority over them; but among all these beings "for the man there was not found a helper fit for him" (Gn 2,20). He realizes that he is different from all living creatures, even if they are endowed, like him, with vegetative and sensitive life. It could be said that this first man does what every man of any time normally does, that is, he reflects on his own identity and asks himself who he is. the result of this attitude is the ascertaining of a fundamental difference: I am different from all the rest, I am more different than similar.
All this helps us to understand better the mystery of Advent, which we are living. If God, as we said, "comes" to man, he does so because there is, in the human being, a capacity for expectation and a capacity for welcome, such as does not exist in any other creature. God comes for man, in fact he comes into man, and establishes a most particular communion with him.
Therefore I call upon you, too, dear boys and girls, in view of Christmas, to make room for him, to prepare for the meeting with him, so that he may find his true image, clean and faithful, in each of you.
With these wishes, I willingly bless you, and with you I bless your parents, your teachers and those who have accompanied you here.
Speeches 1978 - Tuesday, 28 November 1978