Speeches 1979 - Consistory Hall




Saturday, 13 January 1979

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to receive today the "Committee of European journalists for the rights of the child", accompanied by representatives of the Italian National Commission for the International Year of the Child, under the patronage of which your first meeting, here, in Rome, is taking place. I thank you for this visit and for the trust it shows. In the framework of the International Year of the Child, you have wished to take initiatives in order that you yourselves may study the situation of certain groups of underprivileged children and then, I suppose, drive home to your readers the problems of these children.

The Holy See is not content to regard with interest and sympathy the good initiatives that will be undertaken this year. It is ready to encourage everything planned and carried out for the real good of children, for it is a question of an immense population, a considerable part of mankind, which needs special protection and advancement, in view of the precariousness of its fate.

The Church, happily, is not the only institution there is to cope with these needs; but it is true that she has always considered material, affective, educational and spiritual assistance for children an important part of her mission. And if she acted in this way, it was because, without always using the more recent vocabulary of the "rights of the child", she considered the child, in fact, not as an individual to be utilized, not as an object, but as a subject of inalienable rights, a newborn personality to be developed, having a value in itself, an extraordinary destiny. There would be no end to enumerating the works that Christianity set up for this purpose. It is only natural, since Christ himself put the child at the heart of the Kingdom of God: "Let the children come to me ... ; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 19,14). And these words of Christ spoken on behalf of destitute humans, and which will judge us all, "I was hungry and you gave me food ... ; I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me" (Mt 25,35-36), do they not apply particularly to the helpless child? Hunger for bread, hunger for affection, hunger for education ... Yes, the Church wishes to take an ever greater part in this action in favour of children, and to stimulate it more widely.

But the Church desires just as much to help to form the conscience of men, to make public opinion aware of the child's essential rights which you are trying to uphold. The "Declaration of the rights of the child", adopted by the Assembly of the United Nations Organization twenty years ago, already expresses an appreciable consensus on a certain number of very important principles, which are still far from being applied everywhere.

The Holy See thinks that we can also speak of the rights of the child from the moment of conception, and particularly of the right to life, for experience shows more and more that the child needs special protection, de facto and de jure, even before his birth.

Stress could thus be laid on the right of the child to be born in a real family, for it is essential that he should benefit from the beginning from the joint contribution of the father and the mother, united in an indissoluble marriage.

The child must also be reared, educated, in his family, the parents remaining "primarily and principally responsible" for his education, a role which "is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute" (Gravissimum Educationis GE 3). That is made necessary by the atmosphere of affection and of moral and material security that the psychology of the child requires. It should be added that procreation founds this natural right, which is also "the gravest obligation" (Ibid.). And even the existence of wider family ties, with brothers and sisters, with grandparents, and other close relatives, is an important element—which tends to be neglected today—for the child's harmonious balance.

In education, to which, together with the parents, the school and other organisms of society contribute, the child must find the possibilities "of developing in a healthy, normal way on the physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual and social plane, in conditions of freedom and dignity", as the second principle of the Declaration of the rights of the child asserts. In this connection, the child has also the right to the truth, in a teaching which takes into account the fundamental ethical values, and which will make possible a spiritual education, in conformity with the religion to which the child belongs, the orientation legitimately desired by his parents and the exigencies of freedom of conscience, rightly understood, for which the child must be prepared and formed throughout his childhood and adolescence. On this point, it is natural that the Church should be able to exercise her own responsibilities.

Actually, to speak of the rights of the child is to speak of the duties of parents and educators, who remain in the service of the child, of his higher interests. But the growing child must take part himself in his own development, with responsibilities that correspond to his capacities; and care must be taken not to neglect to speak to him also of his own duties towards others and towards society.

Such are the few reflections that you give me the opportunity to express, with regard to the goals that you set yourselves. Such is the ideal towards which it is necessary to strive, for the deepest good of children, for the honour of our civilization. I know that you give prior attention to the children whose elementary rights are not even satisfied, in your own countries as in those of other continents. European journalists, do not hesitate, therefore, to look also to regions of the globe less favoured than Europe! I pray to God to enlighten and strengthen your interest in these children.




Wednesday, 17 January 1979

Dear young people,

A great joy is renewed for me this morning as I bid you a hearty welcome to this Vatican Basilica. I thank you sincerely for the stupendous sight that your joyful presence offers to my eyes at this moment. Your faces, as clear as springs and as intense as flames, represent in the ecclesial community those ideal forms of Christian life. For this reason the Church, in her permanent spiritual youth, cannot but recognize herself in you, who are in the season of life which, in some ways, is the most beautiful one.

Among you there is also a particularly large group of students from the Pontifical School Pius IX. Together with their superiors, the hard-working Brothers of Our Lady of Mercy, and with the members of their families, they have come on a pilgrimage to manifest to the Pope their serious commitment of spiritual and cultural formation in the wake of their luminous tradition. This, from 1859, that is, since the Servant of God Pius IX, my venerated predecessor, set up your Institute, counts generations of young people who have been moulded to the high ideals of faith and science. Beloved sons, emulate and be proud of the examples set you by those who have preceded you, and, above all, be courageous witnesses to the Gospel in modern society.

And now let us make some short reflections together on the "Week of prayer for Christian unity", which will begin in the whole world tomorrow, to ask the Lord for the grace of the recomposition of the unity of all Christian Churches and to arrive at last at one fold under one Shepherd (cf. Jn Jn 10,16).

In this week our prayer for unity, which has been defined "the soul of the whole ecumenical movement" (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 8), must be continual and fervent, both to thank the Lord, who has aroused the desire for unity among all Christians, and to beseech further enlightenment in the continual search to rediscover what we have in common with our separated brethren and what has still to be overcome to reach the perfect unity, so much desired by the Lord in his prayer to the Father: "that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (Jn 17,21).

In obedience to this will of Christ, the Catholic Church has established brotherly relations with the other Christian Churches and confessions. In this connection, I wish to inform you that a theological dialogue is about to open between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches of the Byzantine tradition in order to eliminate those difficulties which still prevent eucharistic concelebration.

Dialogues have been going on for some time also with our separated Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed brothers, and I am happy to tell you that on subjects which, in the past, constituted deep divergences, consoling meeting points have been arrived at. Friendly and useful relations have also been established with the World Council of Churches and with other interconfessional organizations. There is still a long way to go, however: we must therefore quicken our pace in order to reach the coveted goal.

Let us renew, therefore, our prayer to the Lord, so that he may give all Christians light and strength to do everything possible to obtain. as soon as possible, full unity in charity and in truth, so that "speaking the truth"—as the Apostle of the Gentiles says—"we (shall) grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love" (Ep 4,15-16).

Let us seek to live this Week for unity in this spirit of full ecclesial fellowship, adapting ourselves to the biblical subject which inspires the ecumenical celebrations this year: "be in one another's service for the glory of God" (cf. 1P 5,7-11). This subject calls us to live together as much as possible the common heritage of all Christians. Cooperation, mutual love, reciprocal service make us get to know one another better and spur us also to find ways to overcome divergences.

For this purpose let us prepare our minds for prayer and now recite together the Our Father ...

In the firm confidence that you will continue to pray for the great cause of unity during this week, I willingly impart to you the Apostolic Blessing, which I wish to extend to your companions and members of your family who were unable to take part in this audience.




Thursday, 8 January 1979

Mr Ambassador,

I am very glad to bid Your Excellency a hearty welcome on this solemn occasion of the presentation of your Letters of Credence as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Uruguay to the Holy See.

Thank you for your respectful and devoted words for my person and for the Apostolic See. I remember very well how, at the beginning of my Pontificate, Your Excellency came with the Mission of your country to manifest on that occasion not only the good relations that exist between Uruguay and the Holy See, but also the Christian sentiments which animate, as sons of the Church, the Uruguayan faithful. Today Your Excellency comes to bear continued witness to this permanent spiritual closeness: a noble mission, for the successful development of which count on my cordial and sincere good will.

I am well aware that this nearness, this good understanding, which in my opinion must be increasingly extensive and fruitful, has as its deep root loyal recognition of the indefatigable work of the Church in Uruguay; a work such as corresponds to her mission of evangelization, of service of man, to his progress, and to his personal maturity as an individual and as a member of society. It must also constitute a firm commitment to spare no efforts or sacrifices when it is a question of bringing forth and promoting the values, particularly moral and spiritual values, which are in conformity with, and natural to, human dignity. In this field of complete advancement of the person, precisely towards which initiatives and activities have to converge, the Church in Uruguay will continue to offer her resolute collaboration; happy to contribute to improving the community edifice, in which the legitimate aspirations of all will be accepted and satisfied, and the ideals of peaceful coexistence and progress in solidarity will be strengthened.

Mr Ambassador, reiterating my good will, I request you to transmit my grateful greeting to His Excellency the President of Uruguay, and to all the beloved sons of your noble country, on which I invoke the gifts of the Almighty.




Saturday, 20 January 1979


Members of the Executive Committee of Latium, I thank you cordially for this visit which you have wished to pay me at the beginning of my Pontificate and also at the beginning of this new year on behalf of the sixty members of the Regional Council. We would have liked to meet them today and to greet them all with real pleasure.

Welcome, for you represent the Italian Region most particularly linked with the pastoral cares of the Bishop of Rome, and you come on behalf of its five Provinces, that is, Rome, Viterbo, Frosinone, Latina and Rieti.

1. In the last few years the human and social problems of the Region have multiplied; there has grown increasingly the urgent necessity of more modern structures and of services more in keeping with the exigencies of the dignity of the human person. Everyone must be involved in this effort, and the Church cannot remain extraneous to all that is connected with man's real good. The Second Vatican Council expressed itself with great lucidity as follows: "Christ did not bequeath to the Church a mission in the political, economic, or social order: the purpose he assigned to it was a religious one. But this religious mission can be the source of commitment, direction, and vigour to establish and consolidate the community of men according to the law of God", which is a law of justice and love (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 42). For this reason the Church has always, according to the necessity of times and places, given rise to works intended for the service of all, especially the needy; works which have been promoted, with great historical, civil and social merit, by religious institutions.

In your gestures and in the assurance, expressed by means of the kind words addressed to us by the President of the Executive Committee, of dedicating special care to the sectors which most directly regard the welfare of the people, I like to see a recognition of the contribution that these works make to the common good. To this recognition there cannot but correspond a commitment to respect their institutional purpose and the spaces of freedom natural to them, so that they may always act in conformity with the religious and moral principles from which they draw their raison d'ętre.

May the Executive Committee and the Regional Council, in a real spirit of service and responsibility, prepare suitable solutions in order that—thanks also to the contribution of all social forces—all citizens, in respect of their rights, may live a life really worthy of man. My thought goes at this moment to the sick, to children, to the old, to the unemployed, to drug addicts.

2. But to bring this about, one of the fundamental conditions is that a peaceful, serene and harmonious community life should be ensured for all. Pluralism entails in the first place respect for others and renunciation of the use of force to impose oneself on others. Why is there so much violence today? It is perhaps necessary to go further back, to those conceptions, to those groups that proclaimed and instilled—and continue to proclaim and instil, particularly in the consciences of the young—as an ideal of life, struggle against the other, hatred against anyone who thinks or acts differently, violence as the only means for social and political progress. But violence generates violence; hatred generates hatred; and they both humiliate and degrade the human person.

Christians cannot forget what the Second Vatican Council recalls to us: "We cannot truly pray to God the Father of all if we treat any people in other than brotherly fashion, for all men are created in God's image. Man's relation to God the Father and man's relation to his fellow-men are so dependent on each other that the Scripture says, 'he who does not love, does not know God' (1Jn 4,8)" (Nostra Aetate NAE 5).

I hope and trust that in the whole Region of Latium, in the whole of Italy, citizens may be able, in this year and in the future, to live a peaceful, serene, and prosperous life, and to contribute, with their honest and industrious work, to the continual growth and real progress of the nation.

With these wishes, I willingly invoke the grace of the Lord on your delicate action, and I impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.



Saturday, 20 January 1979

Dear Motorists,

I willingly complied with the desire expressed to me by the Italian Motorist Sports Commission to address from this window a blessing word of greeting and good wishes to you, racing-car drivers and teams. You are about to leave from this inspiring Square of St Peter's to take part in the forty-seventh Montecarlo Rally, in competition with other teams, which are starting out at the same time from various European capitals, including the dear city of Warsaw, always loved.

I thank you heartily for this significant presence, dear athletes, who make sport a purpose of style and of life, as well as a legitimate motive of prestige and honourable victories. At the same time, I would like to exhort you to see to it that these sports competitions are marked not only by the virtues of loyalty and integrity, but also by a constant effort for the truer and more lasting achievements, the victories of the spirit. These must always have first place in the scale of human values, whether on the plane of sport, or on the social and civil planes.

May good fortune smile on you, beloved brothers, and may my special propitiating blessing, which I now impart to you, to your teammates and to all the organizers of this popular event, accompany you as a token and auspice of continual assistance and divine protection.





Monday, 22 January 1979


You, too, have wished to come to the Pope, to present to him your affectionate wishes for the new year just started.

I address to each of you my sincere and cordial greeting, which I extend also to your respective families. I express to all my grateful appreciation for this visit and for your kind wishes.

I wish to thank the Chief Inspector also for his courteous words, with which he expressed your sentiments.

I am glad to have this first meeting with you, whose task it is to safeguard public order in the vicinity of the Vatican.

The task you carry out with care and solicitude is certainly an important and delicate one. It calls for a deep sense of responsibility and an attitude of complete dedication to duty. It also demands will power and commitment to an ideal, in humble and unspectacular work, which is not always fully appreciated by the public, but is so advantageous for the good of the community.

I take the opportunity to exhort you in a fatherly way always to be equal to your task, and to meet the trust placed in you.

May your stay at the centre of Christianity—where immense and continuous crowds flock to receive light for the intellect and consolation in the events of life—may the fact of carrying out your work not far from the Vicar of Christ, who, by divine mandate, is the "foundation of the Church" and "Teacher of truth", help you to deepen your Christian faith more and more, and commit you to an exemplary life. I hope that your convictions and consistency will bring you joy and consolation in carrying out your duty.

I assure you I will remember you particularly in prayer: may the Lord be near you in your toils and responsibilities. And may the Blessed Virgin assist you and accompany you always.

While I invoke on you and your families the choicest heavenly gifts in abundance, I willingly impart to you and your dear ones the Apostolic Blessing.




Tuesday, 23 January 1979

Beloved Brothers,

1. I am grateful to your President for his kind words and I express to everyone my joy at today's meeting. I think that the reasons for this joy are so obvious that there is no need of explanation. I have looked forward to this meeting particularly and attribute unusual importance to it.

"Arcano Dei consilio", by virtue of God's inscrutable decree, called on 16 October 1978 by the votes of the College of Cardinals, I have assumed, after my great and beloved predecessors, the guidance of the Roman See of St Peter and together with it that ministry over the whole Church, as a result of which the Bishop of Rome has become, according to St Gregory's definition, Servant of the Servants of God".

Just as it is my deep desire to carry out this ministry and all the tasks that derive from it, committing my strength and my love for all the Churches which are in the universal unity of the Catholic Church and for all their pastors, who are my brothers in the episcopal office, so, but in quite a special way, I wish to discharge my service for the Church in this Italian land chosen by Providence, and for the Bishops who, in union with the successor of Peter, are its pastors.

2. This is really the land chosen by Providence to become the centre of the Church. Here, where there was the capital of the Roman Empire, Peter came (and at the same time also Paul) to bring the Gospel and to initiate not only this see, but also many others. Everywhere there arose Christian communities full of faith and sacrifice, ready to give their lives and shed their blood for Christ, during the persecutions which followed one another until the year 313. In this peninsula, between the Alps and Sicily, numerous episcopal sees go back to such ancient times and to times more recent, but which are still distant. For two millennia they have become centres of evangelization and of the life of the new People of God, points of support for so many Christians, and of human backing for so many communities, initiatives and institutions.

With what sentiments of veneration and emotion does the son of a nation which has bound its millenary history so plainly to this centre of faith and culture which has developed around St Peter's see, find himself in the midst of all these riches of Christian life and tradition!

How inexpressibly grateful he is for all that the sons and daughters of this noble land have demonstrated to him during the first months of the new pontificate! I wish to put in your hands today, dear and revered Brothers, who, as members of the Permanent Council, represent here the whole Italian Episcopate, the expression of this gratitude. If the election of John Paul II has become—as we often hear it said—a new manifestation and a proof of the universality of the Church, then allow me to say that also the People of God, in Rome and in the whole of Italy, has its part in this. Awareness of the universality of the Church is certainly also one of the signs of that "sensus fidei" of which the constitution Lumen Gentium speaks. "The whole body of the faithful who have an anointing that comes from the Holy One (cf. 1Jn 2,20 and 27) cannot err in matters of belief. This characteristic is shown in the supernatural appreciation of the faith (sensus fidei) of the whole people, when, 'from the bishops to the last of the faithful' they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals. By this appreciation of the faith, aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth, the People of God, guided by the sacred teaching authority (magisterium), and obeying it, receives not the mere word of men, but truly the word of God (cf. 1Th 2,13), the faith once for all delivered to the saints (cf. Jude Jud 3). The People unfailingly adheres to this faith, penetrates it more deeply with right judgment, and applies it more fully in daily life" (n. 12, cf. n. 35).

3. And so, finding myself before you today, I wish to re-propose, together with you, that cause which is common to all of us, namely, to build up the Church of God, to proclaim the Gospel, to serve the elevation of men to the dignity of sons of God, and to spread all the values of the human spirit closely connected with this elevation. I wish to exercise this mission together with you, dear Brothers, drawing inspiration from all the principles of that collegial unity which were elaborated by the Second Vatican Council with depth, simplicity and precision. The latter stresses that the Lord Jesus constituted the Apostles "in the form of a college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from amongst them" (Lumen Gentium LG 19). And just as St Peter and the other Apostles constituted one college, by the Lord's will, so the bishops and the successor of Peter are united with one another in one college or episcopal body with and under the successor of Peter (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 19-22 Christus Dominus CD 22).

For this reason the Roman Pontiff—as the Council states further—"is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful. The individual bishops are the visible source and foundation of unity in their own particular Churches, which are constituted after the model of the universal Church; it is in these and formed out of them that the one and unique Catholic Church exists" (Lumen Gentium LG 23).

Hence there arises the necessity of a full communion of the bishops with one another and with the successor of Peter in faith, love, aims, and pastoral action.

This communion expands into the communion of individual bishops with their own priests and men and women religious, that is, with the souls that have given their life completely to the service of the Kingdom. Here communion is expressed, on the one hand, in the concern of pastors for the spiritual and material needs of those sons who are closest to them and often most exposed to the difficulties arising from a secularized environment, and, on the other hand, in the commitment of priests and men and women religious in rallying round their bishops, listening to their voices docilely, and carrying out their directives faithfully.

Communion between bishops, clergy, and religious, constructs communion with the laity. The latter, with all their riches of gifts and aspirations, capacity and initiatives, have a decisive task in the work of evangelizing the modern world. There may legitimately exist in the Church various degrees of connection with the hierarchical apostolate, and multiple forms of commitment in the pastoral field. From cordial acceptance of all the forces of clearly Catholic inspiration and from their utilization in plans of pastoral action, there cannot but derive an unquestionable advantage for a more and more incisive presence of the Church in the world.

It is also urgent to make an effort to restore to full ecclesial communion those movements, organisms and groups which, springing from the desire of generous and consistent adherence to the Gospel, are not yet in that community perspective which is necessary for action that is more and more aware of the joint responsibility of all the members of the People of God. It will be necessary to create new opportunities for meeting and confrontation, in an atmosphere of openness and cordiality, nourished at the table of the Word of God and the Eucharistic Bread. It will be necessary to resume dialogue patiently and trustfully, when it has been interrupted, without being discouraged by obstacles and rough patches on the way to comprehension and understanding. But that cannot be reached without obedience, due on the part of all the faithful, to the authentic Magisterium of the Church, even with regard to questions connected with the doctrine concerning the faith and morality. Harmony between institutional unity and pastoral pluralism is a difficult goal, which is never reached once and for all: it depends on the unanimous and constant effort of all ecclesial members and must be sought in the light of the following axiom, which is still relevant today: 'In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas". (Unity in things necessary, liberty where there is doubt, and charity in all).

4. Lastly, I would like to stress that communion has its defences, which, as regards bishops, can be summed up above all in prudent and courageous vigilance with regard to the insidious dangers that threaten, from outside and from within, the cohesion of the faithful round the common heritage of dogmatic truths, moral values, and disciplinary norms.

Communion has its instruments, first among which is your national Conference. It is right, therefore, to desire it to be more and more efficient and to be connected by an ever closer network with the other ecclesial structures, at the regional and diocesan level.

Nor should we underestimate the instrument constituted by the press, and in particular the Catholic daily, because of the possibilities it offers of constructive dialogue among the faithful in every part of the nation, with regard to the maturing, on the personal and community plane, of choices that are responsible and, if necessary, courageously prophetic, in the context of a public opinion that is too often solicited by voices that are no longer Christian in any way. I take the liberty, therefore, of appealing to your good will, to your energies, to the organizational capacities of the individual dioceses, for increasingly support for such an important and meritorious cause.

5. Since the Church is the "Universal sacrament of salvation", upon her "necessitas incumbit simulque ius sacrum evangelizandi" (lies an obligation and at the same time a sacred right to preach the gospel) (Ad Gentes AGD 7).

The Lord's command to "go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation" (Mc 16,15) is the foundation of the "sacred right" of teaching her own doctrine and the moral principles which regulate human activity with regard to salvation.

Only when this "sacred right" is respected in itself and in its exercise, is there put into practice that principle which the Council proclaims as the most important thing among those that regard the good of the Church, and in fact the good of the state itself, and which must always be preserved and defended everywhere, namely that "the Church in its action enjoys the freedom necessary to provide for the salvation of human beings".

This, in fact, is the sacred freedom with which God's Only-Begotten Son enriched the Church redeemed by his blood.

To this fundamental principle of liberty the Church appeals in her relations with the political community and, in particular, when—by common consent—she pursues the updating of the juridical instruments, ordained to healthy cooperation between Church and State, in loyal respect for the sovereignty of each, for the good of the human persons themselves,

6. There are still many things that could be said. But in this first talk we must limit ourself to the most important and topical ones.

I want this meeting to be the beginning of our collegial cooperation of each of you, dear and revered Brothers, and of all bishops and pastors of the Church in Italy.

I wish with all my heart to share your ministry, your solicitude, your difficulties, your hopes, your sufferings and your joys.

In conformity with my office, and at the same time, with full respect for the individual and collegial mission of each of you, sons of this Italian land, I would like this wish to be realized in a special way: "fecit illos Dominus crescere in plebem suam" (the Lord made them to grow up into his own people)

We are given new life by our common faith and the same love of Christ, who alone knows what is in man (cf. Jn Jn 2,25).

Let us go together to meet this man of our times—who is sometimes lost (even in this land rich in the finest Christian heritage)—by means of our service exercised in union with priests, and men and women religious, and in united cooperation with all the laity.

I hope and trust that, under the protection of the Mother of the Church and the Patron Saints of Italy, we will be able to carry out well the mission entrusted to us by the Lord, and that our brothers and sisters will experience the joy of our communion, and will live, together with you, the great dignity of the Christian vocation.

Speeches 1979 - Consistory Hall