Speeches 1979 - Wednesday, 14 February 1979




Beloved Bolivian Sons,

May the peace of the Lord be always with you!

I feel great satisfaction at this moment to be with you, via satellite, at the inauguration of this new radio station at Tiwanacu. It permits me to express my most sincere congratulations because it signifies a technical advance, destined increasingly to promote fraternal and peaceful interchange with other peoples, sharing with one another your own human and spiritual riches.

But above all it permits me to testify to you from close at hand my affection as Father and universal Pastor; a deep affection, which also corresponds in my heart with a joyful confidence, being certain that, in conformity with your centuries-old adherence to the Gospel message, you will continue to offer to the world, and particularly to the Church, the pure image of a community full of vitality, closely united by the ties of Christian faith, charity, and peace. May it be this communion, the fruit of the presence of the Spirit in your souls, that always gives your people an unmistakable stamp and daily impels the pursuit of further goals of progress and common prosperity.

I know that you are preparing or already carrying out a crusade of family prayer which is really promising. Prayer ennobles and dignifies the Christian, putting him in the harmony of submission and gratitude to God, who gave himself entirely to men, making them participate, by means of his Son, in his own divine life. Can there be a greater and deeper communication? Through personal prayer, through prayer in the home and even more through liturgical prayer, man is reborn every day, in proportion as he assimilates the divine gifts and puts them into practice in his conduct, until he really becomes a close friend, a son of God. To pray is to set up a family, to build a community, to attach oneself in a salvific way to the new and definitive Covenant, sealed by Christ in the sacrament of love: the Eucharist.

I urge you, therefore, beloved sons, to intensify family prayer and liturgical prayer around the Eucharist: let them be the sap that nourishes your whole individual and community life. Through them you will discover and enjoy the happiness of solidarity, which displays itself instinctively and genuinely wherever there are poor or sick people, persons who suffer injustice or who cannot find a friendly hand to help them to overcome their limitations. And always associate with your persevering and unanimous prayer Mary, the Mother of God and our Mother, who, under the invocation of Virgin of Copacabana, is a sure advocate of your aspirations before the Lord.

I willingly bless you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.




Saturday, 17 February 1979

Mr Ambassador,

FOR THE SECOND TIME in a few months I greet you and assure you of my respect. In October you came to represent His Maiesty King Bhumibol and the Government and people of Thailand at the inauguration of my papal ministry. Today you become their permanent representative as your country’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See. I renew my heartfelt wishes for the welfare of His Maiesty the King of Thailand and invoke every blessing on the Thai people and their leaders.

I know well the high value that your nation has set on freedom and the deep interest it has displayed in man’s pursuit of liberation and enlightenment. This attitude indicates a profound respect for man, for his rights and for his possibilities. I rejoice in finding such regard for man, whom the Christian religion sees as made in the image and after the likeness of God and given power over the works of creation. The existence of such regard will prevent man from being made the slave of a system. It will not allow decisions to be made on the basis of ideological conceptions about the abstract man, while neglecting the welfare of the really existing human beings. It will be a safeguard for the dignity of each individual and of each people. It will thus be a firm basis for peace within the State and within the international community.

As I stated last October, when addressing the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, the Catholic Church in anxious to put the solicitude of Christ into practice and therefore, while working for man’s eternal salvation as her first duty, she cannot fail to take an active interest also in the welfare and progress of peoples in this world. The Church’s principal contribution in this field is through the formation of consciences, by making people more spiritually mature, more open to others and ready to assist them in need. She considers the rendering of this service as her duty and she hopes to have the understanding of the civil authorities in performing her task.

I am happy to note the cordial relations that have long existed between Thailand and the Holy See and I am confident that these will continue to produce valuable results for the benefit of all. I count on the assistance of Your Excellency in ensuring that they will in the future be even more fruitful, and I assure you of my willing cooperation and that of all the officials of the Holy See in the pursuit of that end. May God bless you and your high mission.


Saturday, 17 February 1979

I am grateful to you for this visit and, in particular, I thank your esteemed dean for his expression of your sentiments. I offer all of you my heartfelt greetings. I am delighted with this opportunity to meet for the first time those who, beyond all others, embody the Church’s judicial function in the service of truth and love for the building up of the Body of Christ. I am happy to recognize in them, as in all administrators of justice and specialists in canon law, professionals of a vital role in the Church, indefatigable witnesses to a higher justice in the midst of a world characterized by injustice and violence, and, consequently, most valuable collaborators in the pastoral activity of the Church herself.

As you are well aware, the Church’s vocation includes a committed effort to be the interpreter of that thirst for justice and dignity which the men and women of our age experience so strongly. In her function of proclaiming and upholding the basic rights of the human person at every stage of his or her existence, the Church is supported by the international community which recently celebrated with special ceremonies the thirtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and which has proclaimed 1979 to be the International Year of the Child.

Perhaps the history of the twentieth century will characterize the Church as the chief defender of the human person throughout the whole of his or her life beginning with conception. As the Church’s self-awareness has developed, the human-Christian person has found not only recognition but also, and above all, an explicit, active, and balanced defense of personal basic rights in harmony with those of the ecclesial community. This, too, is a duty the Church cannot renounce. In the area of the relations between person and community, she provides a model for integrating the orderly development of society and the development of the Christian’s personality in a community of faith, hope, and love (see Lumen Gentium LG 8).

Canon law plays a role that is in the highest degree educative, both of individuals and of society, with the intention of bringing about an ordered and fruitful environment in which the human-Christian person can come into being and mature in an integral way. In fact, this can be realized only insofar as a person surrenders any exclusive individualism, since the person’s vocation is communal as well as personal. Canon law agrees with and fosters this characteristic fulfillment insofar as it helps to overcome individualism, by leading—from a rejection of the self as an exclusive and isolated individual—to the affirmation of the self as an authentically social being through acknowledgement of and respect for the other as a person endowed with universal, inviolable, and inalienable rights and invested with a transcendent dignity.

But the task of the Church and her historical merit, which is to proclaim and defend in every place and in every age the fundamental human rights, does not exempt her but, on the contrary, obliges her to be herself a mirror of justice (speculum iustitiae) for the world. In this regard, the Church has her own proper and specific responsibility.

This fundamental option, which indicates self-awareness on the part of the entire People of God, is a constant challenge and stimulus to all persons in the Church—and, in particular, to those who, like you, have a special responsibility in this regard—to “love righteousness and justice” (Ps 33,5). This applies above all to those who toil in the ecclesiastical tribunals, that is, to those who should “judge with... righteousness” (Ps 9,8, see Ps 7,9 and Ps 13 Ps 98,9 etc. ). As my esteemed predecessor Paul VI said that you who devote yourselves to the service of the noble virtue of justice can be called, in Ulpian’s splendid phrase, “priests of justice,” because yours, in fact, is “a worthy and eminent ministry upon which reflects the very light of God—primordial and absolute justice, most pure source of all earthly justice. Your ministry of justice (ministerium iustitiae), which must be always faithful and irreproachable, must be considered in this divine light. Under this light one understands why it must flee from even the most minute blemish of injustice so as to protect for this ministry its crystal purity” (January 11, 1965 supra p. 80).

The profound respect owed to the rights of the human person, which require urgent and solicitous protection, should motivate the ecclesiastical judge to observe exactly those procedural norms which are intended precisely to assure the rights of the person.

The ecclesiastical judge, therefore, will not only bear in mind that “the primary requirement of justice is to respect persons” (L. Bouyer, L’Église de Dieu, Corps du Christ et temple de l’Esprit, Paris, 1970, p. 599), but will also look beyond justice and st rive for equity and, beyond this, for charity (see P. Andrieu-Guitrancourt, Introduction sommaire à l’étude du droit en général et du droit canonique en particulier, Paris, 1963, p. 22).

Thinking along these same lines, which have a solid basis in history and experience, the Second Vatican Council declared: “All should be treated with justice and humanity” (Dignitatis humanae DH 7). It also spoke—though with only civil society in mind—of “a positive legal system to establish a suitable distinction of offices and institutions of the public authority and also to provide an effective and impartial protection of rights” (Gaudium et spes GS 75 Gaudium et spes ) It was in the light of these presuppositions that the constitution Regimini Ecclesiae universae, which dealt with the reform of the curia, decreed the establishment of a second section within the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura that has authority to settle “contentions which have arisen from the exercise of administrative ecclesiastical power, which are referred to it because of an interposed appeal or re-course against a decision of the competent department, whenever it is contended that the act itself violates some law” (Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution, Regimini Ecclesiae universae, August 15, 1967, in AAS, 59 [1967] pp. 921–922, no. 106).

Let us recall, finally, the incomparable picture which Pope Paul VI painted of the ecclesiastical judge: “The ecclesiastical judge is essentially that `living justice’ (quaedam iustitia animata) of which St. Thomas speaks, citing Aristotle. He must, therefore, understand and fulfill his mission in a priestly spirit. Over and above the requisite knowledge—judicial, theological, psychological, social, etc.—he must also acquire a great and habitual self-mastery. He must strive to grow in virtue, lest he should eventually obscure with the filter of a defective and distorted personality the heavenly rays of justice, which the Lord grants to him for the correct exercise of his ministry. Thus in pronouncing judgment he will be a priest and pastor of souls with his eyes fixed on no one but God” (January 28, 1971, supra p. 110).

I want to advert to a problem that immediately strikes one observing the phenomenon of civil society and of the Church. I refer to the problem of the relation between the protection of rights and ecclesial communion. There is no doubt that the consolidation and safeguarding of ecclesial communion is a fundamental task that gives coherence to the entire canonical legal system and guides the activities of all its component parts. The very juridical life of the Church and, therefore, her judicial activity as well, is in itself by its nature pastoral: “The juridical life is one of the pastoral helps the Church uses in leading us to salvation” (Paul VI, February 4, 1977, supra p. 139). In its exercise, therefore, this life must always be profoundly inspired by the Holy Spirit to whose voice minds and hearts must be open.

On the other hand, the protection of rights and the corresponding control exercised over the actions of public administration constitute for the public authorities themselves an assurance that is of indisputable value. In the context of a possible rupture of ecclesial communion and of the strict requirement that it be restored, along with the various preliminary institutes—such as equity, tolerance, arbitration, conciliation, etc.—procedural law is an action of the Church, a tool to surmount and resolve conflicts. Consequently, in the vision of a Church which protects the rights of the individual faithful, but likewise promotes and protects the common good as an indispensable condition for the integral development of the human and Christian person, she also positively includes penal discipline. Even the penalty that is threatened by ecclesiastical authority—although in reality it is simply a recognition of a situation in which the subject has put himself or herself—is seen as a means of fostering communion, that is, as a means of repairing those deficiencies in the individual good and the common good that have come to light in the anti-ecclesial, criminal, and scandalous behavior of the members of the People of God.

Here again Pope Paul VI provides clarification: “The baptized cannot effectively exercise their fundamental rights unless they also acknowledge the duties which baptism brings and, especially, unless they are convinced that these rights are to be exercised within the communion of the Church. These rights are for the building up the Body of Christ, the Church, and must, therefore, be exercised in an orderly and peaceful way and may not be used to inflict harm” (February 4, 1977, supra p. 139).

If, then, the believers accept the inspiration of the Spirit and acknowledge the need of a profound conversion to the Church, the affirmation and exercise of their rights will be transformed into an acceptance of duties with regard to unity and solidarity so that the higher values of the common good may be achieved. I recalled this point explicitly in my message to the secretary [general] of the United Nations Organization on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights: “While insisting—and rightly so—on the vindication of human rights, every individual has the obligation to exercise these fundamental rights in a responsible and ethically justified manner. Every man and woman has the duty to respect in others the rights claimed for oneself. Furthermore, we must all contribute our share to the building up of a society that makes possible and feasible the enjoyment of rights and the discharge of the duties inherent in these rights” (letter, December 2, 1978, in AAS, 71 [1979] pp. 124–125).

Despite the imperfections and difficulties which mark every human legal system, in the Church’s experience the words law, judgment, and justice have as their archetype a higher justice, namely the justice of God that is the goal to be reached and the other term in an inevitable comparison. The existence of such an exemplar entails an awesome task for all those who exercise justice.

In the historical tension to obtain a balanced integration of values, the emphasis at times has been on social order at the expense of the autonomy of the human person. The Church, however, has never ceased to preach “the dignity of the human person, as this is known from the revealed word of God and from reason itself” (Dignitatis humanae DH 2). She has always come to the aid of those who suffer from any form of oppression, by denouncing unjust situations when fundamental human rights and salvation require it and by calling—respectfully but unambiguously—for the rectification of similar situations that contravene justice.

In keeping with the Church’s transcendent mission, the ministry of justice entrusted to you lays on you a special responsibility for making the Church appear ever more clearly as a mirror of justice, the permanent incarnation of the Prince of Justice, thereby, leading the world into a blessed age of justice and peace.

I am certain that all those who participate in the Church’s judicial activity— especially the prelate auditors, officials, and entire personnel of the Apostolic Tribunal, along with the advocates and procurators—are fully cognizant of the importance of the pastoral mission in which they share, and are happy to carry it out with diligence and dedication, after the example of the many outstanding jurists and zealous priests, who have with such admirable solicitude devoted their gifts of mind and heart to the work of this tribunal.

I wish at this time to recall Cardinal Boleslaw Filipiak who was summoned to his heavenly home during the past year. I also wish to pay homage to our esteemed Monsignor Charles Lefebvre for his example of diligence and unselfishness. The Holy See continues to benefit by his valuable experience, now that he has ended the service he was rendering to the Sacred Roman Rota until a few months ago.

I am grateful as well to those prelate auditors who for reasons of health have been unable to continue in service.

To all of you I offer my heartfelt gratitude and sincere appreciation as well as the assurance of my prayers. May the Lord be with you to help you, and may my encouragement and blessing be a source of support to you.




18 February 1979

Beloved Brothers and Sisters,

At the end of the Eucharistic Celebration in the parish church of St Gregory the Great at Pian due Torri, I am happy to be able to express my cordial greeting and blessing also to you, young people, workers, all you faithful who gather for your liturgical and sacramental meetings in this subsidiary chapel of Magliana, nobly entitled after the Blessed Maximilian Mary Kolbe, my venerated fellow-countryman.

I thank you sincerely for the enthusiasm with which you have welcomed me in this place of worship and, above all, for the fervent spirit of faith with which you attend it.

I also express to you my fatherly satisfaction at the significant choice of your protector, described by the ever-lamented and great Pope Paul VI as "a luminous image for our generation" (Gaudete in Domino). As you know, during the most tragic ordeals that stained our age with blood, the Blessed Kolbe spontaneously offered himself to death in order to save a brother whom he did not know (Francis Gajownicek), an innocent man condemned to death as a reprisal for the escape of a prisoner in the Osviecim concentration camp. The heroic martyr was condemned to die of hunger until, on 14 August 1941, his noble soul returned to God, after he had assisted and comforted his companions in misfortune.

A humble and meek son of St Francis, and a knight enamoured of Mary Immaculate, he traversed the ways of the world, from Poland to Italy and to Japan, doing good to everyone, following the example of Christ who "pertransivit benefaciendo" (cf. Ac 10,38). Jesus, Mary, and Francis were his three great loves, that is, the secret of his heroic charity: "Only love creates", he repeated to all those who approached him. This is the expression which, like a lamp, illumines his whole life. It was this superior ideal, this essential duty of every true Christian, that enabled him to overcome the cruelty and violence of his tremendous ordeal by the splendid testimony of his brotherly love and his forgiveness of his persecutors.

May the example and the help of Blessed Maximilian lead us, also, to true and disinterested Christian love for all brothers in a world in which hatred and vendetta are continually rending human society.

Invoking on you his protection and the smile of the Immaculate Virgin, I bless you all, and with you also the members of your families, relatives and friends.




Wednesday, 21 February 1979

Beloved Boys and Girls,

1. Every meeting is a new discovery, a source of real joy for me and for you. The Pope wants to know, to converse with, and to hear his little and young friends; but you, too, on your side, have a great desire to manifest to the Pope your joy, your enthusiasm and also—why not?—your problems.

Now, you are particularly sensitive to the great problem of "freedom", of "liberation". But, we ask ourselves, you and I: "freedom" in what sense?; "liberation" from whom, from what, from what conditioning, from what slavery?

Today I refer once more to the third Conference of the Latin-American Episcopate, dedicated to evangelization in the present and in the future of the Church. To evangelize means doing everything, according to our capacities, in order that man "may believe", in order that man find himself again in Christ, in order that he may find again in him the full meaning and the adequate dimension of his own life. This "finding again" is, at the same time, the deepest source of man's liberation. "For freedom Christ has set us free", St Paul tells us (Ga 5,1). Liberation is certainly a reality of faith, a deep part of Christ's salvific mission, of his work, and his teaching.

2. Jesus himself links "liberation" with knowledge of the truth: "You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (Jn 8,32). In this affirmation is the deep meaning of the freedom that Christ gives us. Liberation is an interior transformation of man, as a consequence coming from knowledge of the truth. It is a question of a spiritual process of maturing, by means of which man becomes a representative and spokesman of "righteousness and holiness" (Ep 4,24) at the different levels of personal, individual, and social life. But this truth is not mere truth of a scientific or historical nature, it is Christ himself—the Word incarnate of the Father—who can say of himself, "I am the way, the truth, the life" (Jn 14,6). For this reason. Jesus, although aware of what was in store for him, repeatedly and forcefully, with firmness and with decision, opposed "non-truth" in his earthly life.

This service of truth, participation in the prophetic service of Christ, is a task of the Church, which tries to carry it out in the different historical contexts. It is necessary to call clearly by name injustice, the exploitation of man by man, the exploitation of man by the state, or by the mechanisms of systems and regimes. It is necessary to call by name all social injustice, all discrimination, all violence inflicted on man with regard to his body, his spirit, his conscience, his dignify as a person, his life.

Liberation, even in the social sense, begins with knowledge and courageous proclamation of the truth, without manipulations or falsifications of any kind.

3. You, too, young people and children, always be intensely united with Christ the Truth; be witness to the Truth, which is he himself and his message, entrusted to man who is frail and strong at the same time. Do you remember Pascal's enlightening meditation on man? "Man is only a reed, the weakest one in nature; but he is a thinking reed. It is not necessary for the whole universe to arm itself to crush him: steam, a drop of water are enough to kill him. But even if the universe crushed him, man would still be more noble than that which kills him, because he knows he will die and he knows the superiority the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this (B. Pascal, Pensées, 347.)

So this frail reed, just because it is "thinking", goes beyond itself; it bears within it the transcendental mystery and that "creative restlessness" which comes from it. Yet just in these times it is announced that the condition for the "liberation of man" is his liberation "from Christ", from his message, from his law of love, that is, from religion, which is defined as "alienation of man".

Beloved boys and girls! Christ is waiting for you to free you from evil, sin, and error, that is, from the real roots from which come the miseries that degrade and debase man. Always be prophets and witnesses to the Truth!

With my Apostolic Blessing.






Friday, 23 February 1979

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the first place, I thank Cardinal Fernando Antonelli for the appreciated words of homage which he addressed to me also on our behalf. And I thank all of you also, for visiting me in such large numbers at the conclusion of the twenty-first National Liturgico-Pastoral Congress, promoted by the "Work of the Kingship of our Lord Jesus Christ".

I know you are studying the very topical subject "Liturgy and forms of piety, for a renewal of popular piety". I hope you will succeed in showing in its right light, and in a well-balanced way, the mutual relationship between both these important aspects of Christian religious life, so that each one may respect and promote the requirements and identity of the other.

But I also wish to recall that the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the above-mentioned "Work of Kingship" falls this year. I am well aware that this Association was founded by the indefatigable and well-deserving Franciscan, Father Agostino Gemelli, who characterized it with the purpose of a twofold promotion, liturgical and ascetical. And it is a pleasure for me, today, cordially to acknowledge before you the great good done in so many years by this Institution: both with the many publications, ancient and recent, and with the numerous initiatives of fruitful meetings of study and prayer.

I am happy, therefore, to formulate sincere wishes for the further development of the "Work", in conformity with the spirit of the Founder, in harmony with other similar institutes, and in faithful collaboration with the bishops: may it always contribute to educating and bringing new Christian life to wide sectors of the holy Church of God in Italy.

It is with these wishes and with fatherly affection that I grant the special Apostolic Blessing to you all, as a token of the necessary heavenly graces.


Friday, 23 February 1979

Dear young people,

YOU HAVE COME a long way on foot: from Ireland to Rome! You have dedicated your journey to the cause of charity, in the hope of rendering help to children in need.

The Pope is happy to see you this morning, to welcome you to the Vatican, and to confirm you in your Christian love, as well as in the faith that is at the foundation of all virtue.

Be immensely grateful for your Catholic and apostolic faith. It is a great gift of God, given to your forefathers and preserved throughout the centuries with great generosity and sacrifice.

And strive always to live lives that are consistent with your belief. Keep up your concern for others, your solicitude for those who suffer, your love for all your fellow men and women, whoever they may be and whatever may be their convictions or their condition of life. Remember how Saint John characterizes all religion, how he summarizes the will of God: "This is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another"[1].

In other words, dear young people, what I am asking for today is: fidelity and consistency. Your calling – the vocation of all of you – is one of fidelity to the message of God’s truth that you have received. And then you must act in a way that is consistent with what you believe. Above all, this consistency manifests itself in love: in generous, disciplined, unselfish love of others – in order to fulfil the great commandment: " If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another"[2].

And when you return to your homes, take my blessing to your loved ones. My special Apostolic Blessing goes to all Ireland.

[1] 1 Io. 3, 23.

[2] 1 Io. 4, 11.




Saturday, 24 February 1979

Mr Ambassador,

I have listened with deep pleasure to the words spoken by Your Excellency on presenting the Letters of Credence as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Costa Rica to the. Holy See. I bid you in the first place a hearty welcome.

Your Excellency has just referred to the task carried out by the Church in favour of peace. It is certainly a cause to which the Church and the Holy See have dedicated and will continue to dedicate their best energies, in order that this incalculable good may preside over social life within the nations and in the international community. It is an aim which, following my revered predecessors, I have also made mine. For this reason, as I said recently, the Church "wishes to serve peace not by means of political activities, but by promoting the values and principles which are the condition for peace and human rapprochement, and are at the basis of international common good" (Address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, 12 January 1979, n. 5).

I am happy to know that the people of Costa Rica is making effective efforts to cultivate these values and principles which promote and defend peace.

Another point to which Your Excellency has referred is respect for human rights in society today. A subject which in the present period of the history of humanity is becoming an increasingly pressing one as an irreplaceable element of social order, which must be governed by the requirements that spring from the dignity of persons, considered individually and collectively.

The teachings of the Second Vatican Council are clear in this connection: "The protection and promotion of the inviolable rights of man is an essential duty of every civil authority." (Dignitatis Humanae DH 6). The Church, in her doctrine and in her evangelizing activity, does not forget, but on the contrary makes every effort that all men (regardless of race, culture, religion, and social class) may see their rights respected as persons and as depositaries of a transcendent vocation to which God has called them, and which, therefore, no person or human power can suppress or ignore.

Serving this cause, the Church is well aware that she is serving the cause of man. With this conviction, from the beginning of my Pontificate I have laid stress on this line, in order to obtain that man may reach rightful freedom in truth; a truth concerning the human being, society, and concerning his destiny. It is the cause of human dignity, to which I called attention in the third part of my address at the opening of the work of the recent Puebla Conference, and which the Latin-American Episcopate has included in the final Document. These are aims which I am sure the Authorities and people of Costa Rica will make their own, in accordance with the Christian and humanist tradition which they wish to pursue.

Speeches 1979 - Wednesday, 14 February 1979