Speeches 1979 - Wednesday, 31 January 1979

February 1979







Beloved Brothers,

Before leaving the soil of Mexico I feel the necessity of sending a fatherly greeting to you and, through you, to all the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care.

A greeting marked by the sign of sorrow at not having been able to visit these beloved sons, although so near your countries.

A sorrow that is manifested in a deeper expression of love.

Tell them that the Pope, during the days he lived in the New Continent, thought of them a great deal and prayed a great deal for them.

The material closeness, due to my visit to Mexico, has made me feel more vividly my affection and interest in the whole of Latin America, and in particular, during my brief stay in Santo Domingo I remembered with special love the whole archipelago of the Antilles.

Now that my thought and my affection are closer to you, there comes to my mind, in a special way, the memory of the material calamities that not long ago befell some countries, particularly Guatemala and Nicaragua. We thank God that the process of reconstruction is continuing in a satisfactory way.

If you could understand how much the Pope desires that the peoples of these countries should be understood in their whole dimension as human beings, and that those who have in their hands the possibility and the power should exercise it in complete justice, which is the condition of peace and development among peoples!

The Pope returns to Rome, but his word remains with you: may it be a constant stimulus to you to continue to work every day with renewed effort, in order that the great love for your countries may be manifested through your commitment in favour of the welfare and brotherly life of this great family which is made up by one and all of the countries of the American continent.

Imparting his blessing to the bishops, and through them to all the peoples of these lands, the Pope wishes to consolidate, increase, and deepen these ties that have been established thanks to his pastoral mission.

Praise to almighty God who has permitted us, on account of the Conference of the Latin American Episcopate, to make the centre of the Church in American lands for some days, days that are all important for the present and the future of evangelization in this great and beloved continent.




(JANUARY 25 - FEBRUARY 1 1979)


Thursday, 1 February 1979

I AM GRATEFUL to you for this welcome. Is it a great joy for me, on my return to Rome, to be able to stop in Nassau – a great joy to be with the beloved people of the Bahamas.

My first greeting goes to the authorities of this young, recently independent nation. You have kindly facilitated my visit, and I wish to assure you of my cordial gratitude. You have, moreover, my prayers for the faithful fulfilment of the lofty tasks that you are called to perform at the service of all the men and women of this nation.

Being here this evening in your midst, I have the opportunity to formulate my best wishes for the entire population of the Bahamas. My hope for everyone is that there may be constant progress along the path of authentic and integral human advancement. With the profound conviction of the surpassing dignity of the human person, may all the people of these islands make their individual and unique contributions to the common good that takes into account the personal rights and duties of all citizens.

To be with you is also to share the hope that, as a sovereign nation within the family of nations, you will make your own special contribution to society: that you will help build the edifice of world peace on the solid columns of truth and justice, charity and freedom. And may God bless all your efforts and help you to fulfil this important role for the benefit on this generation and of those to come.

On this wonderful occasion I wish to extend a particular word of greeting to all the sons and daughters of the Catholic Church. I assure you all of my love in our Lord Jesus Christ, and I trust that my presence is a real indication to you of the great bonds of faith and charity that link you with Catholics everywhere throughout the world. I pray that you will find strength and joy in this solidarity and fellowship, and that you will constantly give witness to your belief by the genuineness of your Christian lives. The words of Jesus constitute a perpetual challenge for all of us: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven"[1].

With deep respect and fraternal love I wish also to greet all the other Christian brethren of the Bahamas – all who confess with us that " Jesus Christ is the Son of God”[2]. Be assured of our desire to collaborate loyally and perseveringly, in order to attain by God’s grace the unity willed by Christ the Lord. My expression of friendship goes likewise to all the men and women of good will residing in this region of the Atlantic ocean. As children of one heavenly Father we are united in the solidarity of love and in promoting to the full the incomparable dignity of the human person.

At this moment then, during this short stop, I sense the hope that is in all of you, the people of the Bahamas – a hope for your future that is vast like the ocean that surrounds you. It is my privilege to share this hope with you and to give expression to it now, being confident that it will sustain you in all your worthy endeavours as a united people. I ask God to lead you to the full achievement of your destiny. May he give to the people of the Bahamas rich and lasting blessings. May he assist the poor, comfort the sick, guide the youth, and bring peace to every heart.

God bless the Bahamas, today and for ever!

[1] Matth.5, 16.

[2] 1 Io. 4, 15.






Thursday, 1 February 1979

I was very happy, Mr Prime Minister, to hear the courteous words of greeting and good wishes that you kindly addressed to me, also on behalf of the Italian Government.

At the end of this first apostolic journey, which took me over the Ocean to the noble and dear land of Mexico, one feeling prevails over the others that fill my anxious and stirred heart: the feeling of gratitude.

I am grateful, in the first place, to the Lord and to the Holy Virgin of Guadalupe for the constant assistance with which they sustained me in these days; allowing me to crown happily a delicate and important initiative, undertaken in fulfilment of the universal mandate which Christ himself entrusted to me, calling me to the responsibility of his Vicar in Peter's See.

I think next, with deep gratitude, of the many demonstrations of thoughtfulness, devotedness, and affection, on the part of the people that I met in the course of my pilgrimage; and, in particular, on the part of my revered brothers in the Episcopate, gathered in Puebla in representation of the whole Catholic Hierarchy of Latin America. My heart was able to beat in unison with theirs: I rejoiced, suffered and hoped with them; above all, I prayed with them, imploring from our common Father the advent of a world made more peaceful, just, and human by sincere adherence to the message of love of his Son incarnate.

And now, on my return to this Roman See, in which the Catholic world recognizes the centre and the source of its own unity, a new and great emotion is aroused in me by this welcome of yours, so spontaneous and cordial. I greet, therefore, with respect and gratitude, the Cardinal Secretary of. State and the other ecclesiastical personalities, the Italian political, civil, and military Authorities, the members of the Diplomatic Corps, and all of you who have disregarded inconvenience in order to be able to welcome me personally.

May God reward you for such courtesy, and may he lavish his favours on you and on all, those who have made every possible effort to ensure the success of the journey; beginning with the executives, pilots and personnel of the Air Companies, to whom I owe an agreeable and comfortable flight. In confirmation of these wishes I am happy to impart to you present here, to the beloved city of Rome, and to all those who followed me in thought and in prayer, a special comforting Apostolic Blessing.



Consistory Hall

Thursday, 1 February 1979

Lords Cardinals,

1. At the moment when my first missionary journey ends, I raise my deepest thanks to God for the great experience he has granted me of living in the fullness of an apostolic work which occupied, with particular intensity, every hour of the past days.

2. I considered it my duty to undertake this journey (connected with the work of the third General Assembly of the Latin-American Episcopate in Puebla, announced some time ago), following, in this, the example of my predecessor Paul VI of venerated memory, who wished to inaugurate this new form in carrying out the papal office in the Church.

3. It is difficult to speak fully of this unforgettable experience while the thousand voices I listened to still re-echo in my mind, and while the memories of what I was able to see, of the persons that I was able to meet, and of the subjects I had occasion to tackle, are still so immediate and alive.

4. It will be necessary to return to all that for a long time in prayer, reflection, and in my heart. But I can say right now that this journey, after the short but significant stop at Santo Domingo, was an exceptional meeting with Mexico in its human and Christian reality, a meeting with the people of God of this country, which responded with a great act of faith to the presence of the Pope. This meeting, which started in Guadalupe, the heart of the Mexican Church, extended to reach the stages of Puebla in Oaxaca, Guadalajara, and Monterrey.

5. With the riches of its contents and the multiplicity of its manifestations, this meeting offers, in a certain sense, a living context for the tasks which, together with the Bishops of Latin America, we tackled within the third General Assembly of that episcopate. The latter, which, as you know, opened on 27 January last with the solemn concelebration at the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Guadalupe, continues at Puebla, on the subject "Evangelization in the present and future of Latin America", until 12 February next, when it concludes.

Introducing its work on 28 January, I addressed to the South-American Church, with great hope and confidence, a message which was made concretely universal by the presence of the media of social communications, and by that of the professionals of information (who gave great coverage to every stage of my short but intense journey). It will certainly be necessary to speak more than once of the significance of the work of Puebla and of the individual problems tackled there, examining the various subjects again.

6. Now, returning to the Apostolic See after seven days, I feel the need to thank heartily all those, at every level, who helped to prepare and organize this journey, it has been a great success, although it took place in such a short time. I would like to thank also all those who bore with me the weight of this journey: Their Excellencies Caprio, Casaroli, Martin, Marcinkus, Mons. Noè, and all the other persons of the suite, press, radio and television, and all the lay people who followed me throughout the whole journey.

7. Finally, for the welcome you have given me, allow me to express my thanks particularly to you and to the whole College of Cardinals, whom I felt so close in prayer and in their hearts in the course of these unforgettable days; especially to the Cardinal Dean who has interpreted so well the sentiments of you all, and to the Cardinal Secretary of State for the precious work he carried out so generously in the days of my absence. May the Virgin of Guadalupe, to whom I have prayed so much in these days, through her intercession, give strength to our commitment in order that the hopes raised by the apostolic journey that I have concluded today, will not be disappointed.




Wednesday, 7 February 1979

Dear Boys and Girls!

Dear Young People!

Here we are again, in St Peter's Basilica, for the usual weekly Audience. Today, too, you have come in large numbers to meet the Pope. Deeply appreciating this testimony of faith and filial respect, I thank you sincerely and greet you with affection.

Your youth, your liveliness, your joy, are very bracing, and stimulate an increasingly intense commitment in service of your souls.

1. The first thought I wish to express to you today concerns, as is obvious, my recent journey to Latin America, which represents nearly half of the Catholic population on earth. I think you will have been able to follow it, at least partly, on television or in the newspapers.

My heart is full of unforgettable memories: this stupendous, though tiring, journey, was a real grace of the Lord, certainly obtained for me by my venerated predecessors, whose great name I bear: John XXIII, Paul VI and Pope John Paul I. They accompanied me in the long and consoling pilgrimage from Santo Domingo to Mexico City, from Guadalajara to Puebla, from Oaxaca to Monterrey, in a joyful and pressing programme of appointments and ceremonies.

It was a meeting with millions and millions of persons who, urged by faith and hope, gathered round the Vicar of Christ. It was, above all, a continual meeting of prayer and meditation. I was able to speak to bishops, priests, men and women religious, seminarians, workers, University students, school children, campesinos, Indios, the sick, the underprivileged, and children, as well as to leaders of the nations and governments. I spoke in stadiums, in the squares, in the streets, in the great Sanctuaries, in the cathedrals, among the mountains of the Indios, in the "barrios" of the poor, in hospitals. Everywhere, the crowds flocked around the Pope as they once flocked around Jesus.

And at this moment I would like to address a fatherly thought to all the young people and children, so ardent and gay, that I met. In particular, I am glad to remember the sick children of Mexico City and the little Indios of Cuilapan.

2. The second thought concerns the assembly of the Latin-American Episcopate, gathered in the city of Puebla.

I had the fortune to open this third Assembly personally on Saturday 27 January, when I presided over the concelebration in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and then on Sunday 28 January, when I delivered the opening address in the Chapel of the Major Seminary at Puebla.

It is a question—as is known—of the third meeting of the Episcopate of Latin America: the first one took place at Rio de Janeiro in 1955; the second, at Medellín in 1968.

There are present at Puebla twenty-one Cardinals, sixty-six archbishops, one hundred and thirty bishops, forty-five men and women religious, thirty-three men and women laity, four deacons, four campesinos, four Indios, and five non-Catholic observers.

This Assembly has as subject of discussion a very important problem: "the evangelization in the present and the future of Latin America". Therefore I recommend it warmly to your fervent prayers.

3. I would like to conclude the information, just given, with a thought on "Episcopal Collegiality'', of which the second Vatican Council speaks at length in the Constitution Lumen Gentium.

You know that Jesus chose the twelve Apostles and conferred on them alone his powers for the accomplishment of their mission: to announce the Truth, to save and sanctify souls, to guide the Church.

He set Peter at the head of the twelve, as the foundation of the Church and the universal Pastor of all souls, with the task of "strengthening his brothers", having from the Lord special assistance in order not to err in the doctrine about faith and morality. The mission and the powers of the Apostles passed to the Bishops; the mission and the powers of Peter passed to the Pope, and, that is, to the Bishop of Rome, his successor.

You see how, in the will and plan of Jesus, the Church is one Body, perfectly united and linked together: the Bishops form a unity, a "collegiality" with Peter, that is, with the Pope, as their Head.

So by means of the Bishops we ascend to the Apostles and from the Apostles we arrive at Jesus and, through Jesus, we reach the Holy Trinity.

In order to be sure that we really love Jesus, we must be united with our own Bishop. The Constitution Lumen Gentium rightly affirms that the Lord Jesus Christ is present the midst of believers in the person of the Bishops, assisted by the priests (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 28).

Therefore, dear young people and children, love your Bishop, who is a father, a friend and a teacher; pray for him and with him; listen to his words and carry out his initiatives; make his pastoral ministry beautiful and consoling. Let the meeting with the Bishop always be a joy and a feast, because it is a meeting with Jesus!

With this wish I entrust you to the motherly love of Our Lady of Guadalupe and I willingly bless you all.



Thursday, 8 February 1979

Dear friends,

MY PREDECESSOR PAUL VI was happy to have repeated visits over the years from the faculty, staff and members of the NATO Defense College. And today, I wish to assure you all of my own personal and cordial welcome to the Vatican. It is a pleasure to greet you and your families for the first time, to experience the joy of the children’s presence, and briefly to consider with, you the role that you are able to play at the service of peace in the world.

In my Message for this year’s World Day of Peace, I endeavoured to draw attention to the close relationship between education and peace. Precisely because you are an institution of education, I am convinced that you have special opportunities to reflect on peace – special opportunities to study the prerequisites and conditions of peace, the components of peace the exigencies of peace.

Living and studying in a climate of international solidarity, you are able to meditate on the principles of peace: to consolidate ideas and to reinforce attitudes that promote it. Yes, the condition of the edifice of peace depends on the firmness with which the principles of its foundation are embraced. And so I would hope that at the core of your activities there would be a reflection on the great principles related to peace, and a renewed dedication on your part to their application.

In this regard, how necessary it is for all individuals and peoples to cultivate that mutual trust which is an obligation springing from the bonds that unite us as children of God! Sensitivity to the immense needs of humanity brings with it a spontaneous rejection of the arms race, which is so incompatible with the all out struggle against hunger, sickness, underdevelopment and illiteracy. Reflection on the sacredness of human life, on the exigencies of justice, and on the unacceptability of violence in its many forms – reflection on these themes is truly needed in order to ensure the basis of peace. In a word, the cause of world peace is effectively fostered when the dignity of the human person is upheld. The inviolable dignity of every individual and of all peoples in the full reality of their origin, existence and destiny is central to the issue of world peace.

It is my prayer that you yourselves will think thoughts of peace, engender new attitudes of peace in the younger generation, and effectively and perseveringly promote the conditions that lead to peace. And may God give you peace in your hearts and in your homes – today and always.




Thursday, 8 February 1979

Lord Cardinal,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

With your visit today, accompanied by Cardinal König, you would like to honour an event which broadcast via satellite by television last year, met with world-wide interest and approval. I am referring to the eucharistic celebration at the beginning of my pontificate, the broadcast of which was indicated by the editorial staff of the Television and Radio magazine Hörzu as the most important television programme in the year 1978.

Like this opening liturgy, also all the other great events connected with the papacy in the preceding year, with the help of the modern media of communication, greatly increased the interest of the public in the person and activity of the Pope. At present, broadcasts and commentaries on the highest office of the Catholic Church meet with heightened attention. That should fill us all with rightful joy.

I would also like to understand in this sense the prize of your magazine, the "Golden Camera", which I accept gratefully. My sincere thanks goes, at the same time as to you, to all those who contributed to the success of these broadcasts on the important ecclesial event.

And if I can add further a personal request, it would be the following: You, too, with your magazine of programmes, so widely circulated, help to give listeners and viewers a deeper religious understanding of such ecclesial broadcasts by means of suitable, competent introductions and commentaries. In this way, you will form them universally to a balanced and critical use of the media of communication, so that these wonderful achievements of technique will contribute to their real spiritual and moral progress. My special Apostolic Blessing accompanies you for this purpose!




Paul VI Hall

Friday, 8 February 1979

1. In the first place I wish to thank, on behalf of all those present, the organizers and the artists who have offered us this moment of spiritual enjoyment: let the expression of my sincere and cordial gratitude go to them, and to all those who collaborated in the success of this concert.

2. My thought then goes to Maestro Krzysztof Penderecki. It is not the first time I have been present at the performance of a work of his. I remember the "Passio et mors Domini Nostri Jesu Christi" according to St Luke in the academic courtyard of Wawel Castle; I remember the performance of "Utrenia" in St Catherine's Church in Krakow. I could never have imagined that I would have the privilege of receiving Mr Penderecki in the "Paul VI" Hall in the Vatican, in the first months of my pontificate.

I am deeply moved.

3. I wish to congratulate you, Maestro, on this masterpiece, which confirms, in its content, the line of your preceding artistic researches. It is difficult for me to say something more as regards the essential part, the strictly musical aspect, with regard to which I must limit myself to expressing a mere impression.

I must confess that this impression is a deep one. As far as the content is concerned, there comes to my mind a sentence uttered, perhaps even before the war, by an artist I knew well:

"Every great work of art is—in its inspiration and in its root—religious."

I think that Maestro Penderecki's great works confirm this principle.

This time he has turned to Milton. I think that "Paradise Lost" has become an opportunity to express, in the language, so original, of his composition, some questions that man asks himself; the questions that regard the fundamental problems of his existence and his destiny.

The answer to these questions, which we find in the first pages of Holy Scripture, in the first chapters of the book of Genesis, cannot but impress us by its depth and its logic.

It is not a question of a mere chronicle of some events; there recorded are the fundamental experiences to which man must always return, in his existence, in spite of the clarifications that biblical hermeneutics has brought on this matter. I would say that the first chapters of the book of Genesis protect from the risk of alienation that which is substantially human in each of us.

I wish, therefore, to congratulate you, Maestro, on the idea of appealing to this source through the poem of the great English writer.

Personally I am very happy that this musical work has come from the pen of a Polish composer. This is once more a testimony of the Christian mould by which the whole of our culture is penetrated. And since the language of music is more universal than that of literature, I hope that this fruit of the artistic creativity of a fellow-countryman of mine may become cause of artistic emotions in all contemporaries, regardless of their nationality.

And I thank the Lord deeply for this.

I conclude with sincere congratulations to the individual artists, to the gifted soloists, to members of the orchestra of the Theatre "alla Scala" and to the choir of the Chicago Opera, who have rendered the inspired composition in such a masterly way.

My Apostolic Blessing to all.




Saturday, 10 February 1979

Mr Ambassador,

IT IS A PLEASURE for me to receive you today, and to accept the Letters whereby President Nyerere appoints you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Republic of Tanzania. I am most appreciative of the courteous greetings and good wishes of His Excellency, and I would ask you to convey my own cordial greetings to him and likewise to the Government and all the people of your country.

I have noted with great interest your remarks on the Church’s contribution to the good of man. I am also grateful for your kind words about the Holy See’s commitment to the cause of peace and to the building of a better world for everyone. It is particularly gratifying to hear you speak about the "new hope" that this activity has generated among your people and throughout your continent.

For it is indeed under the sign of hope that the Holy See and the entire Church perform their activities at the service of humanity. It is a hope that resists discouragement, copes with obstacles, overcomes setbacks, and resolutely pursues the goal to be achieved. With the vigour and enthusiasm generated by hope, the Church constantly rededicates herself to the advancement of humanity, to the cause of human rights, and to the effective promotion of the dignity of men and women everywhere, under the fatherhood of God.

While respecting every upright conscience and entering into dialogue with all people of good will, the Church makes no secret of the fact that her inner strength and driving forces is "Christ Jesus our hope"[1], from whose teaching she derives the full measure of her esteem and love for man himself. And it is for the benefit of man, for every human being, that the Church commits herself to initiatives and programmes which – although they span generations and are brought to completion only with time – are diligently put into practice here and now for the good of each person of this generation. While proclaiming man’s transcendent destiny, the Church insists on the urgency of his temporal needs.

And so in this way the Church intends to continue perseveringly the quest for justice and peace. In working in the sphere that is proper to her, she endeavours to lend her support to the efforts that nations are making on behalf of the integral development of their people. In this regard, she is especially eager to see the preservation and fostering of the great spiritual values of the African community.

Your Excellency can thus count on the understanding and collaboration of the Holy See. My own prayer is for the tranquillity of your land and for the spiritual and material well-being of all the beloved citizens of Tanzania.

[1] 1 Tim. 1, 1.




Wednesday, 14 February 1979

Dear Girls and Boys,

Today I see you in very large numbers and enthusiastic, as always. I greet you all together with deep affection. I know that you come from various schools and belong to different groups, but for me you are all equally dear. Always be assured that the Pope is particularly close to you and expects a great deal from you, from the joyful commitment of your Christian witness and the seriousness with which you are preparing to take a responsible part in the construction of a better future for the whole world.

You certainly know of the journey I made some days ago in Mexico, to meet the representatives of all the bishops of Latin America in Puebla. Well, I want to invite you, too, to turn your thoughts as young Christians to the work that those bishops have carried out there in these days on the subject of evangelization in the present and future of that continent.

To evangelize means proclaiming the Gospel, and the Gospel is summed up completely in the person of Jesus Christ: in what he said and did, even more, in what he signifies personally for us as radical liberation from every form of evil.

Dear young people! To you, as to the peoples of Latin America, I have only this message to address: take as the stimulus of your own lives that same Jesus Christ who, according to the Letter to the Hebrews, "is the same yesterday and today and for ever" (He 13,8).

It was this Jesus that the first missionaries proclaimed in America, when they landed there for the first time over four hundred years ago. It is this Jesus who still constitutes the raison d'être of millions of men in those countries, who, in him, did not abandon, but ennobled, the old traditions of their ancestors. It is this Jesus who gives them strength in carrying out the concrete commitment for the building up of a more just and more human society. And it will still always be this Jesus, the Son of God and our Lord, who in the future will never abandon his Church spread all over the world, but by means of his Spirit will always endow her with capacities to make men discover more and more the beauty of being Christians.

For this reason it is necessary that all of us should strengthen more the ties of our ecclesial community. All together we must feel ourselves more "Church" and "People of God". My dear brothers in the Episcopate of the Latin-American continent are giving this testimony of unity: "it is love of Christ that drives them" (cf. 2Co 5,14) to commit themselves for the Gospel on behalf of their peoples. In this they are effectively assisted by the more mature members of those Churches, that is by a large number of priests, religious and laity who are spending their lives to form a People of God based on justice, truth and love. But we must pray that the Lord may call forth more and more numerous and qualified vocations for the evangelical advancement of those beloved communities.

Dear boys and girls, sooner or later you, too, will have to think of how to be able to make yourselves useful to improve human society and the world in which we live. Then you will think also of what may best serve this purpose. Well, remember that only with the Gospel of Jesus Christ will you be able to set man really free from all slavery and give him the deepest happiness. The Gospel, in fact, places at the centre love and not hate, the equality of all and not oppression by a few, dialogue in peace and not a clash in struggle, the human person and not an abstract ideology, the advancement of life in all its manifestations and never its mortification.

This is what, with the help of God and with the protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe, real Christians are doing in Latin America in union and in harmony with their bishops.

And this is also what I warmly wish for you, while I give my fatherly blessing to you all, together with your dear ones.

Speeches 1979 - Wednesday, 31 January 1979