Speeches 1978 - Thursday, 14 December 1978

My predecessors have quite often had the opportunity to receive a Delegation of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta, and to express to it their satisfaction and encouragement. But it is a long time since a new Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Holy See has presented his Letters of Credence here. I am therefore particularly happy to welcome Your Excellency and offer you my best wishes for the accomplishment of the mission you are beginning today.

Your words, full of nobility, have Just recalled the almost millenary history of unfailing faithfulness with regard to the Apostolic See, in concern to ensure inseparably the defence of faith and service of neighbours.

Many elements of the past have disappeared, as you emphasized. But charity, as St Paul says magnificently, remains for ever, charity which unites indissolubly here below love of God and love of our brothers, and particularly of the suffering members of Jesus Christ. This is the foundation of your action, which is inspired by the Gospel, and which requires from the Knights of Malta the qualities of spiritual life which give it all its meaning and fruitfulness.

Receiving your predecessor in the middle of the last world war, the great Pope Pius XII stressed the help given by the Order to so many innocent victims of the conflict. Are they less numerous now? You know that the miseries to be relieved have not diminished. How, then, could we fail to encourage solemnly again today all those whom you represent here to endeavour to give themselves more and more, always seeing in the hospitals, leper colonies and the many places where their dedication has the opportunity to bestow itself lavishly, a service of Christ himself, he who, as Pius XII also recalled, "though he was rich, yet for your sake he become poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich" (2Co 8,9).

This lesson must be particularly clear to us in these days which bring the celebration of the Nativity close to us. For this reason I express my best wishes that the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of Malta will continue to carry out its high mission, and I ask the Lord to shower his graces on the Prince and Grand Master, the Knights and Ladies of the Order, and particularly Your Excellency, while I willingly grant the Apostolic Blessing to all.




Saturday, 16 December 1978

Revered Brothers,

I am indeed overcome with joy because it has been given to me to speak to you today. For the Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops is a body that is both dear and familiar to me. It is really the circle in which I grew in maturity, as it were. Allow me to recall that after the last session of the Synod of Bishops held in the month of October 1977 I was re-appointed as a member of the same Council for a further period of three years.

If, as the result of another decision which the College of Cardinals took on the sixteenth of October of this year, my mandate has ceased to exist, nevertheless I feel that I am closely connected with the Council. For this reason—I like to repeat something which pleases me—I am very happy to see you. What you put before me is also a part—perhaps not a very small part—of my own personal experience.

Indeed this experience actually expresses the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the collegiality of bishops. This collegiality, however, becomes daily more urgent in the very life of the Church of our time.

There is re-echoed what John Paul I said in his first address when he uttered these words: "We greet all the bishops of the Church of God, 'each of whom represents his own Church, whereas all together with the Pope, represent the entire Church in a bond of peace, love and unity' (Lumen Gentium LG 23) and whose collegiality we very much wish to strengthen." (John Paul I, Urbi et Orbi Radiomessage, 27 August 1978). This very statement was confirmed a few weeks later by his successor in his first address and in these words: "We particularly urge a deeper reflection on the implications of the bond of collegiality. By it the bishops are closely linked with the Successor of the blessed Peter and all work together in order to fulfil the high offices entrusted to them: offices of enlightening the whole People of God with the light of the Gospel, of sanctifying them with the means of grace, and of governing them with pastoral skill. Undoubtedly, this collegiality extends also to the appropriate development of institutes—some new, some brought up to date—by which is procured the greatest unity in outlook, intent, and activity in the work of building up the body of Christ. In this regard we make special mention of the Synod of Bishops." (John Paul II, First Urbi et Orbi Radiomessage, 17 October 1978).

The principle concerning collegiality laid down by the Council, can without doubt be expressed and put into effect in various ways. My illustrious predecessor, Paul VI, spoke of this theme when he addressed the Fathers who had come together for the Extraordinary Synod in the year 1969. "We believe," he said, "that we have already given proof of this will to give practical increase to episcopal collegiality, both by instituting the Synod of Bishops, in recognising the Episcopal Conferences, and in associating some Brothers in the Episcopate and Pastors residing in their dioceses with the ministry that belongs to our Roman Curia; and if the grace of the Lord assists us and brotherly concord facilitates our mutual relations, the exercise of collegiality in other canonical forms will be able to have wider development ... the Synod ... will be able to throw light on the existence and the growth of episcopal collegiality in suitable canonical terms and at the same time strengthen the teaching of the First and the Second Vatican Councils concerning the power of Saint Peter's successor and that of the College of Bishops with the Pope, its Head." (AAS, LXI, 1969, PP 717-718) All the previous sessions dealt with these matters which are very effective in realising in the practical life that plan for the renewal of the Church which is contained in the teaching of the Second Vatican Council.

The themes which were discussed in the last two sessions of the Synod of Bishops make this clear to us. The principal question and, as it were,. the crux of the matter, seems to be evangelization. This is immediately followed by catechesis, by which evangelization becomes especially effective. The fruit of the first Synod held in the year 1974 was the Apostolic Exhortation Paul VI "Evangelii Nuntiandi". But the fruit of the Synod held in the year 1977, has not yet appeared, I hope that it will be published in the early part of next year. We certainly need documents of this kind, which spring from the fruitful, and at times difficult, practical life of the Church, and which, conversely, give new growth to that same life.

We are certainly convinced of the great importance of the theme "The Role of the Christian Family in the World of Today" which has been proposed for the Synod to be held in the year 1980. This theme is not unconnected with the previous ones; it moves in the same furrow, as it were. However, it must be observed that the family is not only the "object" of evangelization and catechesis, it is also and indeed above all the "fundamental subject" of evangelization. This is gathered from the whole teaching of the Second Vatican Council about the People of God and the apostolate of the laity. This is the main field, as it were, in which the same teaching is put into practice and consequently where the renewal of the Church according to the mind of the same Council is brought about.

Certainly, Revered Brothers, you have to take upon yourselves and to endure a heavy task! I thank you very much for your diligence especially the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, Ladislaus Rubin, Titular Bishop of Serta, and each of the members of the Council of the General Secretariat. Nor do I wish to pass over the "periti" and the officials who have their own duties in the same Secretariat. I encourage you all and I urge you to continue this noble work which in this age brings not a little vitality and growth to the Church.

Finally, as a special mark of our affection for you I willingly impart to you the Apostolic Blessing, as a pledge of heavenly assistance.




Sunday, 17 December 1978

Beloved sons, in the first place I extend a particularly cordial greeting to all of you present here, for the warm welcome you have given me.

I am happy and at the same time honoured to be among you today to inaugurate this "St Paul's Vocational School", which had been conceived and willed by my great predecessor Paul VI. He, not I, should have been here in my place to crown an intense and personal interest in this work of high social value, planned as early as 1974 and now happily completed.

This is one of the most living and significant monuments, raised to his keen sensitiveness to human advancement, understood as a necessary consequence of adherence to the Gospel, lived fully. With a real spirit of concrete love with lasting effects, he thought of the needs of the densely populated Ostiense District and above all of its many young people. In agreement with the competent Regional Authorities of Latium, the particular type of school and construction was chosen, and then an institute was constructed which, catering for 500 boys, can meet properly the local needs for specific courses of vocational training for mechanics, electricians and electro-technicians. As you know, the considerable expense incurred in setting up the vast and functional complex, was borne by the Pontiff himself. Therefore, both the building and the high quality equipment of the School are a generous gift of this outstanding Pope, who was well aware, as the Apostle Paul teaches us, that "faith works through love" (Ga 5,6). On their side, the well-deserving Giuseppini Fathers of Murialdo, who already direct the neighbouring St Paul's Youth Centre, bring to it their appreciated management as expert educators of youth.

I am here today to recall and recognize all this, to pay due tribute and express praise to him who really made the light of his good works shine before men (cf. Mt Mt 5,16), and to invite the families of the district and especially the pupils of the School to bless the memory of the Holy Father Paul VI, who, like Jesus, "went about doing good" (Ac 10,38). I am here, too, to tell you that I fully share these noble intentions. Therefore, even if Paul VI is no longer among us, be well assured that the new Pope makes his initiative his own and prays to the Lord to be so good as to help him to continue, with the same indefatigable zeal, the same commitment of efficacious charity, particularly in favour of the neediest.

There remains for me now only to express a fervent wish for all the youths who are here learning a trade for life. I know that the academic year started already last October. But I am still in time to urge you to learn here not only a specialized work, useful for you and for your livelihood, but also and above all the dimension of brotherly Christian love, which knows how to give and to give itself, so as to make to the society of our time not only a material contribution, but one of spiritual and interior construction, without which everything would be imperfect and unstable.

In particular I urge you, in this period of your youth which is so precious, but also decisive for the maturing of your personality, to dedicate yourselves with generosity to your religious formation as well as to your human and vocational one.

And may my most cordial Apostolic Blessing accompany you all: students, teachers, and all those who work here and have collaborated in its realization, so that this School may grow and bear fruit worthy of its venerated Founder, through the contribution of all and with the necessary grace of God.



Monday, 18 December 1978

Beloved Sons,

I am happy to be here with you today for a short meeting, but all the more cordial and joyful, in order to greet you with particular warmth of sentiment. Two motives urge me to address you.

The first consists in the particular service which you carry out with indefatigable solicitude within this Vatican City. I know how demanding it is and what a sense of responsibility it requires of each of you. Well, I am here to thank you for your work, for the care and effort with which you accomplish the task entrusted to you. Your commitment of surveillance in order that everything may take place in safety and order can become an opportunity and source for your personal discipline and therefore for a human and spiritual self-education. In this sense, it is perhaps not inopportune to recall that the Gospel calls on all Christians to a constant attitude of fruitful "vigilance" with regard to the coming of the Lord.

The fact of carrying out your activity near St Peter's Tomb, the centre of the Catholic World, is certainly a great honour and must be for you also a motive of deep joy but also of salutary reflections. It must be a stimulus to live Christian life fully. Yours is not just any job or service; yours is a commitment which calls for faith and consistency, so that you, too, in daily life, may bear witness to your religious convictions and your love for Christ, the Church and the Pope.

My visit and my greeting today are inspired also by a second motive. Christmas is now near. We must all wait for the Lord and be ready to receive him in the right way: with faith, commitment and joy. When he was born in Bethlehem, the first to welcome him and pay him homage were shepherds keeping watch; Luke writes as follows: "There were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night" (Lc 2,8). This is the right attitude, necessary for everyone. You, too, therefore are called to be like those keepers of flocks, or like those wise virgins, who at the arrival of the bridegroom were prepared to go and meet him (cf. Mt Mt 25,6-10). On this condition, Christmas really becomes a "feast" in the full sense of the term, with consequent effects on everyday life. Those shepherds, in fact, after the visit to Jesus, "returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen" (Lc 2,20).

At this point, my word changes into a wish, sincerely felt, for you and your families. May this coming Christmas be a real occasion of love, peace and intimacy in your homes. Only these realities make possible a real and lasting human and Christian prosperity, which I willingly invoke on you. And may the Lord protect you, reward you and encourage you with the abundance of his graces, of which my special Apostolic Blessing is intended as a token.



Tuesday, 19 December 1978

Dear Brothers,

I am very happy to receive you, for I attach great importance to these plenary meetings of your Council, in which Bishops delegated by each of the Episcopal Conferences of the whole of the European continent take part.

1. This collaboration is carried out in conformity with the statutes which were canonically approved by the Holy See, on 10 January 1977. It consists in exchanging regularly information, experiences and points of view on the main pastoral problems raised in your countries. It also leads you to undertake together duties which assume a European dimension.

It is one of the ways of incarnating collegiality, in the framework of which the teaching of the Second Vatican Council can yield all its fruit. Collegiality means the mutual opening and brotherly cooperation of Bishops in the service of evangelization, of the mission of the Church. An opening and cooperation of this kind are necessary, not only at the level of the local Churches and the universal Church, but also at the level of continents, as is testified by the vitality of other regional organisms—even if the statutes are a little different—such as the Latin American Episcopal Council (C.E.L.A.M.), the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (S.E.C.A.M.) or the Federation of the Asian Bishops' Conference (F.A.B.C.), to mention only these great Assemblies. The Pope and the Holy See make a point of promoting these organisms, at the various levels of collegial cooperation, it being understood that regional or continental bodies do not replace the authority of each Bishop or of each of the Episcopal conferences as regards decisions, and that their research is set in the framework of the more general orientations of the Holy See, in close liaison with Peter's Successor. And in the present case, the European dimension seems to the Pope very important and even necessary.

2. The Council of European Episcopal Conferences (C.E.E.C.), among its numerous exchanges and activities, has taken an important initiative: it organizes a symposium of European Bishops every three years. The symposium scheduled to take place this year was not held owing to the death of my two predecessors and the conclaves that followed. The preparation is continuing on the subject: youth and faith. It is a very important subject: it must be approached with great objectivity and with the hope of the apostles who know that Christ's message can and must touch the young of every generation.

I had the good fortune to take part in the 1975 Symposium and to give a conference to it. I wish to recall at least some of the thoughts that Paul VI had expressed then on receiving us. They were thoughts concerning Europe, its Christian heritage and its Christian future. He called on us to "awaken the Christian soul of Europe in which its unity is rooted"; to purify and bring back to their source the evangelical values still present but, as it were, disarticulated, geared to purely earthly aims; to awaken and strengthen consciences in the light of the faith preached in season and out of season; to cause their flame to converge above all barriers ... (cf. A.A.S., 67, 1975, p. 588-589).

In line with these thoughts, Paul VI established St Benedict as the patron saint of Europe, and now the fifteenth centenary of the birth of this great saint is approaching.

3. Europe is not the first cradle of Christianity. Even Rome received the Gospel, thanks to the ministry of the Apostles Peter and Paul, who came here from the country of Jesus Christ. But, in any case, it is true that Europe became, for two millennia, the bed, as it were, of a great river in which Christianity spread, making fertile the land of the spiritual life of the peoples and nations of this continent. And under this impetus, Europe became a mission centre, the influence of which spread to the other continents.

The Council of European Episcopal Conferences constitutes a special representation of the Catholic Episcopates of Europe. We must hope that all Episcopates are fully represented in this organization, with the possibility of taking a real part in it. It is only under these conditions that the analysis of the essential problems of the Church and of Christianity can be complete. It is a question of the problems of the Church and of Christianity, approached also in an ecumenical perspective. For if it is true that the whole of Europe is not Catholic, it is nearly all Christian. Your Council must become a kind of breeding-ground in which there is expressed, developed and matured not only awareness of what Christianity was yesterday, but responsibility for what it must be tomorrow.

It is with these sentiments that I present to you my best wishes for Christmas and the New Year, for the intention of each of you, your Council, all the Episcopates that you represent and all the nations of this continent, with which Providence has linked the history of Christianity so eloquently.




Wednesday, 20 December 1978

Dear boys and girls, and dear young people,

This Wednesday, too, there takes place, in this Vatican Basilica, the usual, but cordial and significant meeting between the Pope and all of you, so numerous, joyful and eloquent with your lively faces and your affectionate tributes.

The Pope, who represents the youth of Christ and the Church, is always happy to meet those who are the expression of the youth of life and mankind!

There is, therefore, an affinity of spirit between us; a need, as it were, to talk to one another as among real friends, is established; a taste to communicate joys, hopes, ideals is perceived; the desire for dialogue emerges, lively and spontaneous. On the part of the Pope, this dialogue consists of teachings of truth and goodness, of exhortation and encouragement, benevolence and blessing; while on the part of you, children and young people, it is manifested in the free and willing acceptance of these fatherly teachings, it is expressed in the promise to carry out what is said to you, it takes on concrete shape in the commitment to be witnesses among those of your own age, to the true joy that flourishes in good, pure heart,. rich in the Lord's grace.

Today I intend to call your attention to this grace, which is manifested in a quite particular and moving way in the Incarnation of the Word of God, that is, in the temporal Birth of Jesus, so that you too, contemplating the great mystery of love and light which radiates from the Heavenly Child, may be able, like the shepherds of Bethlehem, to return to your homes full of joy praising God in the heavens above for the ineffable gift of his Only begotten Son to men, and bestowing this same joy also on others.

"The Lord is near!", the Liturgy repeats to us in more and mort stirring and moved tones, in these days. We must say sincerely that, if the heart rejoices at this announcement, the mind asks itself the question: why does the Lord come to us? I will answer this question, resuming and completing the talk on Advent, started in the last few weeks. In it three great fundamental truths were outlined: God who creates and in creating reveals, at the same time, himself; the man created in the image and likeness of God "reflects" God in the visible created world; God bestows his grace, that is, he wills "all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth". He wishes every man to share in his truth, his love, his mystery, so that he can share in His divine life itself.

What a marvellous destiny! To live by God and with God always, to be happy for ever together with him!

God, however, does not want us to be safe and happy in an unconscious way or unwillingly, but he calls for our conscious and free collaboration, placing us before the "tree of the knowledge of good and of evil", that is, he proposes to us a choice, he demands from test of faithfulness.

We know very well how Adam and Eve first of all and then their descendants, following their fatal example, had more "knowledge of evil" than of good. In this way original sin, the beginning and symbol of so many sins, of immense ruin, of physical and spiritual death, made its appearance in the world.

Sin! The catechism tells us that it is transgression of God's commandment. We know that the Lord is offended, friendship with him is broken, his grace is lost, one strays from the right path, heading for ruin. God, by means of his commandments teaches us in practice how we must behave in order to live in a dignified, human and serene way; with them he instils in us respect for our parents superiors (IV commandment), respect for life in all its manifestations (V commandment), respect for the body and love (VI commandment), respect for what belongs to others (VII commandment), respect for truth (VIII commandment).

Sin is to ignore, trample upon, and transgress these wise and useful rules which the Lord gave us; that is why it is disorder and ruin! With so many "voices" inside and outside us, it tempts us, that is, urges us not to believe in God, not to listen to his fatherly invitations, to prefer our whim to his friendship. Committing sin, we are far from God, against God, without God!

Advent tells us that the Lord comes "for us and for our salvation", that is, to set us free from sin, to give back to us his friendship, to illuminate our minds with his light and warm our hearts with his love.

Jesus is about to come: on Christmas night we go to him to express to him our sincere and heartfelt "thank you", to ask him for the strength to keep us always far from sin and to remain constantly faithful to his infinite love.

I cannot leave you without extending to you a cordial fatherly greeting: may the Child of Bethlehem, together with his and our Sweet Mother, smile upon you and lavish upon you and all Your dear ones the gifts of joy, peace and prosperity; may he grant you, finally, his heavenly Blessing, of which mine is an anticipation and a sign.




Thursday, 21 December 1978

Mr Ambassador,

Receiving the Letters which accredit you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Panama to the Holy See, I wish in the first place to bid Your Excellency a hearty welcome to this Centre of the Catholic world. Here today the new mission begins which has been entrusted to you by the President of your country, to whom I wish to send my respectful greeting.

Be well assured now, Mr Ambassador, that in carrying out the high office you have assumed, you can rely on my cordial goodwill and my resolute determination to promote your task in every way possible, so that it may be very profitable and contribute effectively to draw closer the solid bonds of mutual esteem and collaboration that unite Panama and the Holy See.

In this perspective, the close presence of Your Excellency will make me see, beyond your worthy person, the country you represent, with its privileged geographical position, its vast heritage of culture, history and rich traditions. And above all it will conjure up before me a noble and generous people, in which the Church has thrown out deep roots, the beneficial influence of which has helped a great deal to shape its essential characteristics, also as a nation.

Thank you, Mr Ambassador, for the public testimony of recognition for the work carried out by the Church for your country, and which you evoked eloquently. It is a gratitude to which the Church and the Holy See give expression in the resolution of continuity and disinterested service, in order that the society of Panama may be imbued more and more with those higher values which make community life more fruitful, more united and brotherly; with horizons of growing human dignity, always open to the highest spheres and aspirations of man. For a more perfect temporal order can be achieved only if the improvement of spirits takes place in parallel fashion (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 4).

Mr Ambassador: I recommend to the Lord these intentions, as well as your personal and family ones. At the same time I send to all my beloved sons in Panama my affectionate greetings, accompanied by my best wishes for peace, prosperity and Christian progress, in. a climate of serene understanding and active collaboration with neighbouring nations and those of the whole world.



Thursday, 21 December 1978

Beloved Sons,

I express to you, very cordially, my satisfaction at this meeting. It is ideally linked with the meetings you had with my predecessor Paul VI of venerated memory, who had the fortune to know, already as Archbishop of Milan, your institution, its aims and its achievements.

1. Your work, which is now thirty-two years old, came into being with aims that were not solely and exclusively economic, but charitable: the fruits of the various initiatives were to be destined to the development of Catholic works. This is the interesting and, we could say, exemplary aspect of your activity, which, though following the so-called economic rules, first of all desires and must respect, with absolute consistency, professional ethics and the law of God as regards, in particular, justice in its most global sense.

But your perspectives go further. Drawing inspiration from the Christian concept of life and relations among men, you do not wish to let yourselves be prisoners of the mere individualistic logic of profit and gain, but wish to put into practice the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. The latter summed up Christian tradition and magisterial teaching as follows: "God intended the earth and all that it contains for the use of every human being and people. Thus, as all men follow justice and unite in charity, created goods should abound for them on a reasonable basis." (Gaudium et Spes GS 69).

2. My sincere congratulations are accompanied by a cordial wish. In today's world, in spite of great and real progress, there is still such need of solidarity and sharing, because there is still such poverty and misery. Many of our brothers and sisters suffer from hunger, thirst, and diseases of every kind; they have not yet a decent house, in keeping with the dignity of the human person. There remains, therefore, an immense space for charity, for "beneficence", considered and lived not as the proud gesture of one who, satisfied with his own wealth, ostentatiously drops a handful of coins into the treasury of the Temple, but as the discreet and humble gift of the "poor widow" of the Gospel, who gave two copper coins, which, however, were everything she had to live on (cf. Mk Mc 12,41-44 Lc 21,1-4). Charity—St Paul says—"is not arrogant or rude. [It] does not insist on its own way" (l Cor 13:5).

3. Keep on, beloved sons, along these main lines, which are the lines of the Gospel. The latter must always remain the firm and secure foundation of your individual and social behaviour. Let your profession be illuminated and directed by the light of faith, let it be expressed and put into practice in consistent witness to Christian life.

With these wishes I willingly impart to you, to all the members of Credito Artigiano and to their families, a special Apostolic Blessing.





Friday, 22 December 1978

Dearest Brothers of the Sacred College and Sons of the Roman Church!

1. To that address which has just now been delivered to me, in the name of all of you here present, I can only reply with the very briefest expression, but one animated by great affection: my deepest thanks. Thank you, because your visit ,on this vigil of the holy feast of Christmas is not a mere gesture of protocol, taking its inspiration from a traditional custom, however gracious. But it is an act so rich in warmth of sentiment that it affords me yet a further proof, if there were any need for such—and there is not—of the fact that although I have been elected Pope scarcely two months now, and have left behind my beloved land of Poland and my own diocese of Krakow, I have received in exchange another land here in Rome and a Church as vast as the world.

Christmas is the feast of home and family affections. It is a return to the side of the infant Jesus, come to be our brother, a return to our own birth and, by an interior journey, to the primordial roots of our very existence, surrounded by the dear faces of our parents, our relatives our fellow countrymen. Christmas is an invitation, therefore, to think over our own birth, in the concrete circumstances peculiar to each one of us. Just as it is natural for me to return in thought, on a wave of colourful memories, to my home in Wadowice, so it is natural for each of you to return to the warmth of hearth and home.

But now your devoted and solicitous presence this morning comes to weave itself into my personal and private thoughts, unleashing, as it were, an irrepressible emotion, and bringing me back to another and much higher reality. I mean the new reality that has devolved upon me by the choice that precisely you, Lords Cardinals, together with your other confreres scattered throughout the world, made on that fateful day for me, October 16. Vos estis corona mea, (You are my crown) I can repeat to you with the Apostle (cf. Ph 4,11): you have extended my family circle and have become by a very special title "my kinsmen" according to that transcendent, and yet very real communion, which creates bonds as staunch as those of any human family, that communion which is called and is ecclesial life.

Speeches 1978 - Thursday, 14 December 1978