Thursday, 7 December 1978
With sincere pleasure I welcome Your Excellency, who presents to me the Letters of Credence as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Nicaragua to the Holy See.
I am well aware—and the words that Your Excellency has just uttered are also a proof of it—that the People of Nicaragua is cordially united with this Apostolic See by deep-rooted ties of spiritual closeness, springing from the centuriesold presence of the Church in those lands, a presence always marked by solidarity with their people and their history. I wish therefore to testify here to my esteem and confidence in your noble country, the daily events of which I am following closely, and not without concern.
Through her continual evangelizing presence, the Church, a "sacrament of salvation", does nothing but carry out her mission of service for men, in order to make the kingdom of God present among them. This kingdom is not only one of peace, justice and love. Hence her constant and self-sacrificing solicitude to revive also in consciences the concern to perfect this land, where the human family grows (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 39). Such beloved goods as human dignity, brotherly union, freedom, excellent fruits of man's nature and enterprise, are spread on earth in the Spirit of the Lord and in accordance with his command (ibid.).
To promote these inalienable values of the person, to create around them the conditions of spiritual, social and cultural life, without the slightest discrimination, in order that each individual may assume responsibly the multiform requirements of human society and commit himself to the more and more positive construction of the community, all this constitutes the indispensable mould of an orderly and peaceful society.
In this active pursuit of the common good, the Church in Nicaragua wishes to continue to participate in a disinterested way, with its own specific means. It wishes to offer its cooperation for the development of all, by means of a complete formation, especially in the moral field, in conformity with the Christian vocation, enabling them to meet their legitimate aspirations, not only on the individual plane, but also on those of the family and the community.
Mr Ambassador, asking the Lord, the giver of every good, to make these resolutions a reality in order that they may be a daily source of concord and of real peaceful collaboration, I also invoke divine favour on the people of Nicaragua, on its leaders and particularly, on this day, on Your Excellency, wishing you success in carrying out your lofty and noble mission.
1. The noble expressions with which you have wished to confirm, in this first meeting with the new Successor of Peter, the faithful adherence to Christ in the person of his Vicar and the generous commitment of service for truth in charity, which animate the members of the large family of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, have aroused sentiments of deep emotion and sincere appreciation in my heart. To you, therefore, to the eminent representatives of the Academic Body, to the dear Students, to the Members of the administrative and auxiliary Personnel and to all those gathered here, there goes the attestation of my fatherly gratitude and my special benevolence.
I am happy to extend to you my cordial welcome, beloved sons, and to greet in you the qualified exponents of an Institution which, for many years now, has carried out in Italy a role of primary importance for the Christian animation of the world of culture. With this meeting, which you requested and I granted joyfully, you wished to conclude in a significant way the celebrations for the centenary of the birth of Father Agostino Gemelli, the illustrious Franciscan who, with farsighted wisdom, apostolic charity and indomitable courage, created that splendid complex of persons and works, life and thought, study and action, which your University is.
In the course of this year you have paused to reflect, with renewed intensity of affection, on the figure, thought and work of the outstanding Religious, to whom the community of Italian Catholics and the world of culture and of scientific research itself owe so much. You have taken his writings in your hands again and you have meditated again on their teachings. It seemed clear to you, in fact, that you could not offer him a better tribute of gratitude than by making room for his voice, whose echo many of you still keep in their hearts, in order that "the Father" might speak again—to those who are at present continuing his work—of ideal aims and concrete plans of action, of inviting prospects and insidious dangers, of fears that still loom up and hopes that never fail.
2. At this moment too our thought goes to him, to gather some significant aspect of his message and draw from it comfort and a stimulus in the great difficulties of the present time. Well, there is a "constant"—at least it seems so to me—which directs and sustains Father Gemelli's action throughout his whole existence: it is interest in man: individual man, endowed with certain physical and psychical capacities, conditioned by certain environmental factors, weakened by certain illnesses, straining towards the conquest of certain ideals.
Was it not this interest that drove the young student to the Faculty of Medicine, towards that science which makes service of human life its own programme and banner? And was it not again the same interest that prompted him—now a friar—to specialize in experimental psychology, directing him towards the science on which his attention and his effort as a brilliant and indefatigable researcher were focused for the rest of his life?
Interest in man induced him to turn with particular passion to the most painful and difficult situations: those of the worker, to study "the human factor in work" and to arrive, after experiments carried out directly in the sulphur mines of Sicily or in the workshops of the North, at the conclusion, which was then a pioneering one, that it is not man who must be adapted to machines, but the latter that must be constructed to fit man; the situations of soldiers exposed to the shattering experiences of the violence of war, or those of aviators, contending with rudimentary and extremely dangerous aircraft, in order to prepare specific remedies for the increasingly numerous psychological traumas among soldiers in the front lines; finally, the situations of prisoners sentenced to penal servitude, to a group of whom he offered hospitality in the premises of the psychology laboratory of the Catholic University, to study their reactions from close at hand and deduce from them the norms for an effective intervention to rehabilitate them.
3. The biographical references just made show what kind of interest Father Gemelli took in man: not the interest of the scientist uprooted from reality, who considers man as a mere subject of analysis, but the heartfelt passion of one who feels deeply involved in the problems of which his fellowmen are victims. Interest in man meant for Father Gemelli the desire to serve man. How? Experience taught the courageous friar that the most necessary and urgent service to offer one's neighbour was to help him "à bien penser" (to think well), to use the words of Pascal (Pensées, n. 347), because "la pensée fait la grandeur de l'homme" (thought makes man's greatness) (ibid. n. 346). In right thought lies the premise for right action; and in right action lies the hope of a lasting solution for the serious evils that torment mankind.
"Ideas are what the world needs above all": this was his conviction (cf. A. Gemelli, "L'Università per la pace sociale", in Vita e Pensiero, January 1950). And as ideas are worked out and communicated in teaching, he conceived the bold project of an Institute that would gather together good students, sustained by the ideal of serious and disinterested scientific research, and willing young people, animated by the desire to proceed with their teachers in search of truth, in order to adhere to it passionately and then generously to transmit to others its riches, which had now become the substance of their own lives (cf. A. Gemelli, Il progresso degli studi scientifici fra i cattolici italiani", in Studium, June 1907). 0.
But is human reason able to reach, by itself, the satisfying shores of truth? The painful turmoil of his youth, solved only with the tranquillizing experience of conversion, had caused Father Gemelli to feel tangibly the necessity of faith for a fully satisfying answer to the fundamental problems of human existence. He will not be afraid, therefore, to declare: "The solution of these problems must not be sought from sciences, pure or applied, it must not be sought from philosophy, but from religion". And he will establish with programmatic clarity: "We must go back to God, not to just any God, presented to us by a natural religion, but to a living God, to Jesus Christ, the supreme reason for our life, the supreme beauty to contemplate, the supreme goodness to imitate, the supreme reward to reach" (A. Gemelli, "La funzione religiosa della cultura", in Vita e Pensiero, April 1919).
4. The Catholic University came into being to meet these requirements. This was the intention of its Founder, who wished to constitute in it a "real and effective centre of Catholic culture", as he declared when the great project was now about to be realized (cf. A. Gemelli, "Perche i cattolici italiani debbono avere una loro Universita", in Vita e Pensiero, July 1919), and as he confirmed immediately after its official launching, when he stressed that: "The Catholic University was conceived with the bold dream of making Catholicism known, loved and followed in Italy" (Bollettino degli Amici, n. 1, January 1922).
It was not a question, obviously, of questioning in any way the method and freedom to which the individual scientific disciplines are entitled: Father Gemelli described their nature and advocated their safeguarding on various occasions. It was a question rather of carrying out, at the University level, that "union of faith and science", to which the then Apostolic Nuncio, Mons. Achille Ratti, referred in a letter from Poland (cf. Letter to Father Gemelli of 28 March 1921) and which the official Magisterium, in particular that of the Second Vatican Council, has recognized so many times as possible, desirable and fruitful (cf. Gravissimum Educationis GE 8 and 10 and the preceding magisterial documents quoted in it).
In faith that is understood and lived, in fact, cultural progress finds, not an obstacle, but an incomparable aid to solve and overcome the antinomies to which it is dramatically exposed today: just think, for example, of the necessity of promoting the dynamism and expansion of culture without jeopardizing the ancestral wisdom of peoples; think also of the urgency of safeguarding the necessary synthesis, in spite of the division of the single disciplines; think, finally, of the problem of recognizing, on the one hand, the legitimate autonomy of culture, while avoiding, on the other hand, the risk of a humanism that is closed, limited to a purely earthly horizon and exposed, consequently, to decidedly inhuman developments (cf. H. De Lubac, Le drame de l'humanisme athée, Paris 1945).
Father Gemelli sees in the Catholic University the privileged place in which it would be possible to throw a bridge between the past and the future, between the ancient classical culture and the new scientific culture, between the values of modern culture and the eternal message of the Gospel. From this fruitful synthesis there would be derived—he rightly trusted—a most effecttive impulse towards the implementation of a full humanism, dynamically open to the boundless horizons of divinization, to which historical man is called. This would lead to reaching in the best way that purpose to which—as I said just before—Father Gemelli's life was completely directed, the purpose of serving man. "I am of the opinion"—he stated in the inaugural lecture for the academic year 1957-58, that is, at the end of his hard-working existence—"I am of the opinion that the contemporary University, while it has the duty of collaborating for the progress of sciences and of following the methodology required by each of them, must never, however, give second place to what demands recognition of its primacy, that is, man, the human person, the world of spirituality" (A. Gemelli, "Le conquiste della scienza e i diritti dello spirito", in Vita e Pensiero, January 1958).
5. These were the convictions that guided and sustained Father Gemelli's action in starting and carrying out, in the midst of difficulties of every kind, the titanic project of a private Catholic University in Italy. These are the convictions that must continue to direct, also today, the effort of those who have freely chosen to enter, as leaders, teachers or pupils, the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart.
I am certain that I am expressing the deep feeling of Father Gemelli when I say to you today: be proud of the title "Catholic" which describes your University. It does not mortify your commitment for the advancement of every true human value. If it is true that "l'homme passe infinement l'homme" (man transcends man infinitely), as Pascal divined (cf Pensées, n. 434), then it must be said that the human person does not find full self-fulfilment except in reference to Him who is the fundamental reason of all our judgments on being, good, truth and beauty. And since the infinite transcendence of this God, who has been indicated as the "completely Other", has approached us in Christ Jesus, who became flesh in order to take part completely in our history, then it must be concluded that Christian faith qualifies us believers to interpret, better than anyone else, the deepest aspirations of the human being and to indicate, with serene and tranquil certainty, the ways and the means to satisfy them fully.
This is, therefore, the testimony which the Christian community and even the world of culture expect from you, teachers and pupils of the University, set up by Father Gemelli's intrepid faith: to prove with facts that intelligence is not only not impaired, but on the contrary stimulated and strengthened by that incomparable source of understanding human reality, which is the Word of God; to show with facts that it is possible to build around this Word a community of men and women (the "universitas personarum" of the origins) who canyon their research in the different areas without losing contact with the essential frame of reference of a Christian view of life; a community of men and women who seek particular answers to particular problems, but who are sustained by the joyful awareness of possessing together the ultimate answer to ultimate problems; a community of men and women, above all, who endeavour to incarnate, in their existence and in the social environment to which they belong, the proclamation of salvation which they received from him who is "the true light that enlightens every man" (Jn 1); a community of men and women who feel committed—while respecting the legitimate autonomy of earthly realities, created by God, depending on him and subordinated to him—"to see that the divine life is inscribed in the life of the earthly city" (Gaudium et Spes GS 43).
The title "Catholic" also prides itself on containing the commitment of a distinct faithfulness of the University to the Church, to the Pope and the Bishops, to whom it has always been and is extremely dear and to the whole Italian ecclesial community, by which it is sustained with sacrifices and considered with affection, but also with demanding hope. This faithfulness—so insistently instilled and so consistently lived by Father Gemelli—is the guarantee of that unity and brotherly charity, which are the distinguishing mark of your institution, as of any other one destined for service of the People of God.
This is your task, beloved sons, this is the order the Pope entrusts to you; and this is also his wish. A wish which I address in a very special way to the young, in whose hands are laid not only the future destiny of the glorious Catholic University, but above all the hopes of Christian animation of the future society. Let there ring out again for them, on the Pope's lips, a warning that the Rector addressed to them at a difficult hour of Italian and world history: "It is not the hour for empty chatter and arrogant attitudes", he said. "It is the hour for great tasks. It falls upon you, the young, especially to construct the future, to construct the new era of history. Wherever you may be, show that you are aware of this mission of yours. Be flames that burn, illuminate, guide and comfort. Nobility of sentiment, purity of life, hatred for vulgarity and for everything that degrades, are a duty more than ever today" (Foglio agli studenti, October 1940).
And now, in taking leave of you, beloved sons, my thought rises in imploration to her whom we are venerating today in the privilege of her Immaculate Conception. Father Gemelli loved the Blessed Virgin with filial devotion and defended her against disparagers with passionate ardour, to an extent that won him among his friends the name of "Knight of the Virgin". May Mary keep a glance of motherly predilection for the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, for which this generous son of hers worked, suffered and prayed so much. May she, whom the Church invokes as "Sedes Sapientiae", enlighten and strengthen lavishly those who are now continuing a work to which the Holy See and the whole Italian Church look with unchanged affection, constant trust and ever living hope.
With these wishes I am happy to grant to you, to your families and to all friends of the Catholic University, my fatherly Apostolic Blessing,
I know that also members of the Association of Parents of the Catholic Schools are present at this meeting. In these days it is holding in Rome the first congress of its Regional Delegates.
I extend my greeting and my blessing to them, too, hoping that the Lord will assist them in their generous effort in favour of an adequate cultural, moral and religious formation of youth.
Saturday, 9 December 1978
Dear young sportsmen!
I am particularly happy to receive you and bid a cordial welcome to you, players of the Bologna football team, to your directors and to the members of your families, who have wished to take part in this happy meeting.
I am grateful to you for your presence which recalls to my mind unforgettable memories of the years spent with young sport-lovers, with whom I have experienced moments charged with human and spiritual joy.
You know how the young are the object of the predilection of the Church and of the Pope, who loves to meet them in order to give and receive enthusiasm and strength, but you young sportsmen have a special place, because you offer, in a preeminent way, a spectacle of fortitude, loyalty and self-control, and also because you have to a marked extent the sense of honour, friendship and brotherly solidarity: virtues which the Church promotes and exalts.
Continue, dear young men, to give the best of yourselves in sports competitions, always remembering that the competitive spirit of the sportsman, though so noble in itself, must not be an end in itself, but must be subordinated to the far more noble requirements of the spirit. Therefore, while I repeat to you: be good sportsmen, I also say to you: be good citizens in family and social life, and, even more, be good Christians, who are able to give a superior meaning to life, in such a way as to be able to put into practice what the Apostle Paul said about athletes to Christians of his time: "Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it ... They (athletes) do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable" (l Cor 9:24-25).
With these sentiments, I express to you all my greeting and my encouragement, which I wish to confirm with a special Blessing.
Saturday, 9 December 1978
Beloved Brothers and Sisters, workers of Montedison, the Alfa Romeo Company, Pirelli, "Corriere delIa Sera", and other Companies, belonging to the" Groups of commitment and Christian presence", welcome to the house of the common Father!
1. I know that you have been waiting for this Audience with the Pope for some time. You already wished to meet Pope John Paul I, of venerated memory, who—I am told—was a familiar figure in the large factory at Porto Marghera. The Lord called him to Himself after such a short, but so intense a pontificate as to leave immense emotion in the world. And here you have the new Pope, who is particularly happy to receive today this great array of representatives from Italian Industry, qualified and well-known all over the world. I greet you all heartily and thank you for the joy your visit gives me.
2. As you know, I, too, have been a worker: for a short period of my life, during the last world conflict I, too, had direct experience of factory work. I know, therefore, what the commitment of daily toil in the employment of others means. I know how heavy and monotonous it is; I know the needs of the workers and their just demands and legitimate aspirations. And I know how necessary it is that work should
never be alienating and frustrating, but should always correspond to man's superior spiritual dignity.
3. You know, too, how much the Church, following the example of the divine Master, has always esteemed, protected and defended man and his work, from the condemnation of slavery to the systematic presentation of the "Christian social doctrine", from the teaching of evangelical charity as the supreme commandment, to the great social Encyclicals, such as Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum, Pius XI's Quadragesimo Anno, John XXIII's Mater et Magistra and Paul VI's Populorum Progressio. In the midst of the trials and tribulations of human history, in the dramatic process of the social and political settlement of peoples, the Church has always defended the worker, upholding the urgency of real social justice, together with Christian charity, in an atmosphere of freedom, mutual respect and brotherhood. In this connection, I would just like to recall Pope John XXIII's Broadcast Message to Polish workers, on 26 May 1963, a few days before his death: "We will spare no effort, as long as we live, in order that there may be solicitude and care for you. Have confidence in the love of the Church and entrust yourselves to her tranquilly, in the certainty that her thoughts are thoughts of peace and not of affliction".
4. And now what shall I say to you in particular, Christian workers, which may serve as a memory of our meeting?
In the first place, it is my earnest wish that work may be a real right for every human person. Today the national and international situation is so difficult and complicated, that it is not possible to oversimplify. But, since we know that work is life, serenity, commitment, interest, meaning, we must wish everyone to have it.
He who has a job, feels he is useful, sound, engaged in something which gives his own life value. To be without a job is psychologically negative and dangerous, particularly for the young and for those who have a family to support. Therefore, while we must thank the Lord if we have work, we must also feel the grief and distress of the unemployed and, as far as is in our power, endeavour to meet these painful situations. Words are not enough! It is necessary to help concretely, in a Christian way! While I appeal to those responsible for society, I also address each of you directly: commit yourselves, you, too, in order that everyone may find work!
In the second place, I urge the implementation of social justice. Here, too, there are many problems, enormous ones; but I appeal to the conscience of everyone, employers and workers. Rights and duties are on both sides and, for society to be able to keep itself in the balance of peace and common prosperity, everyone must make an effort to fight and overcome selfishness. This is certainly a difficult undertaking, but the Christian must make a point of being just in everything and with everyone, both in remunerating and protecting work and in spending his own strength. He must be, in fact, a witness to Christ everywhere, and therefore also at work.
Finally, I call upon you to sanctify work. Work is not always easy, pleasant, satisfying; it may sometimes be heavy, not esteemed, not well paid, even dangerous. It is then necessary to remember that all work is collaboration with God to perfect the nature he created, and it is a service to brothers. It is necessary, therefore, to work with love and out of love! Then one will always be content and serene, and even if work tires, one takes up the cross together with Jesus Christ and bears the fatigue courageously.
Know that the Pope loves you, follows you in your factories and your workshops, keeps you in his heart! Keep high the name of ,. Christian" in your places of work, together with that of your, or rather our, Italy!
With my Apostolic Blessing.
Saturday, 9 December 1978
First of all I express my sincere joy at meeting you today, ecclesiastical Consultants, national Councillors, and missionary Delegates of the over sixty diocesan groups of the "Apostolic Movement of the Blind", which is celebrating these days the fiftieth anniversary of its foundation.
My joy is accompanied by deep satisfaction at the merits that the Movement has won in these long years, marked by silent sacrifice, serious commitment, and constant dedication in order to spur on and help sightless brothers—children, young people, and old—to take their place in a personal and responsible way in the life of the Church and civil society, to mature interiorly their own path with Christ, and to offer an external, consistent and limpid testimony of their profession of faith in the Gospel message. The goodness and fruitfulness of your multiform activity have been confirmed by the irrepressible necessity of expanding and spreading your initiatives in favour also of the sightless in the Third World. For ten years your Movement has—we can say—set up little missionary stations in Brazil, Guinea Bissau, the Central African Empire, Kenya, the Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, that is, in particular, in great Africa. Well done! Really well done! I read with deep emotion the reports contained in your fine review.
This glance of mine and yours at the past is certainly a motive of pleasure and satisfaction; but it is necessary to look also and above all to the future. Millions of sightless sisters and brothers in the whole world are waiting from us, if not for the miracle of cure, for understanding, solidarity, affection and help; in a word, for our true charity, based on faith. And it is this very faith that must operate in us by means of charity (cf. Gal Ga 5,6), as St Paul tells us. Keep well in mind the recommendation of Jesus: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Mt 5,16).
Continue this apostolic work of yours with enthusiasm, with commitment. Do not let yourselves be cast down by difficulties or discouragement. I have pleasure in quoting to you the words, so topical, that St Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, who was martyred in Rome about the year 107, addressed to the Christians of Ephesus: "As the tree is known by its fruits, so those who call themselves disciples of Christ will be known by their works. Today it is not a question of professing faith with words, but there is necessary the deep strength of a living and active faith in order to be found faithful until the end" (Letter to the Ephesians, XIV, 2).
On you, on all the members of the Movement, on all the sightless, I invoke the grace, the strength and the comfort of Christ, "the light of the world" (cf. Jn Jn 1,5), and I willingly impart a special Apostolic Blessing.
Tuesday, 12 December 1978
I GLADLY WELCOME Your Excellency as Ireland s Ambassador to the Holy See and, in accepting the Letters of Credence that you bring from His Excellency President Hillery, I would ask you to convey to him my cordial greetings and to renew to him the heartfelt good wishes that I expressed on the occasion of our recent meeting.
It gives me particular pleasure to receive thus the representative of a country with such long and glorious traditions of attachment to the Christian faith. Saint Patrick, from whom the Irish received that faith, is deservedly looked on as their Abraham or Moses since it was he who formed them as a Christian people and set them on a path that they have since endeavoured faithfully to follow. The continent of Europe, with which your country is at present establishing closer ties, still has vivid memories of the great Irish personalities who left a deep impression by their wisdom and their sanctity, at a time when the light of the Gospel and of learning was in danger of growing dim. Today every continent feels the influence of your missionaries and of the men and women who have made their homes in other countries or are bringing other peoples their fraternal aid.
I rejoice greatly at these manifestations of the deep-seated Christian conviction of your compatriots. It is, I feel, a guarantee that understanding and cooperation will take the place of hatred and conflict. The Gospel message, which the Church is called upon to make increasingly part of a people’s way of thinking and living, enjoins sincere respect and love for those with different social and political views. It teaches us that every other human being is a brother or sister. It is therefore bound to strengthen family unity between the children of the same motherland and to encourage mutual collaboration and respect for the rights of others and for the spiritual values that are the foundations of a society’s concord and of its moral and social advancement.
I assure you, Mr Ambassador, of my deep interest in your country’s welfare and of my prayers that all may enjoy happiness in peace and justice. I warmly appreciate the contribution that the Irish authorities are making to the good of people throughout the world by spiritual and material aid, by helping to maintain and strengthen peace, and by supporting human rights.
I would assure Your Excellency of every assistance on the part of the Holy See in the fulfilment of your duties as Ambassador and I express the hope that your mission will be rewarding for yourself and beneficial to all.
I wish to direct my attention to the imminent meeting between the Foreign Ministers of Argentina and Chile with the earnest hope of seeing the settlement of the controversy which divides your countries and causes such concern in my heart.
May the talk smooth the way for further reflection which, preventing steps that might lead to unforeseeable consequences, will make it possible to proceed with a serene and responsible examination of the disagreement. In this way there will be able to prevail the requirements of justice, fairness and prudence, as the certain and stable foundation of the brotherly coexistence of your peoples, corresponding to their deep aspiration to peace at home and abroad, on which they can build a better future.
Dialogue does not prejudice rights and widens the field of reasonable possibilities, doing honour to all those who have the courage and wisdom to continue it tirelessly against all obstacles.
It will be a concern blessed by God and sustained by the consent of your peoples and the approval of the international Community.
My appeal is inspired by the fatherly affection I feel for these two beloved Nations and the confidence that comes to me from the sense of responsibility which they have shown up to now and of which I am hoping for a further testimony.
With my best wishes and my Blessing.
From the Vatican, 12 December 1978