Speeches 1979 - Saturday, 24 February 1979

May the Blessed Virgin of the Angels, so venerated in Costa Rica, intercede in order that these aims may become a splendid reality.

Mr Ambassador, before concluding this first meeting of ours, I wish to assure you of my constant and benevolent help in the promotion of these ideals and in the accomplishment of the high mission which is beginning today. Kindly convey to Mr President and to the Authorities and people of Costa Rica, the most respectful and cordial regards of the Pope, who asks God to grant this noble nation his best blessings along the way to peace, common life, and pursuit of increasingly higher human and Christian aims.



Saturday, 24 February 1979

Dear Friends,

1. At the end of this brotherly meeting, I feel the deep need to express to you cordially my joy and satisfaction at this meeting of ours: joy, because I find myself once more with a specialized group of priests of my Roman diocese; satisfaction because I have been able to see personally the seriousness and pastoral commitment which animate you all.

In the articulated structure of the diocese, you have the delicate task of acting as liaison between the "Presbyterium" and the Bishop; of ensuring and strengthening also the continual and effective concord of priests in the sphere of the respective Prefectures, in order that the overall Apostolate may be coordinated with the purposes of a more and more homogeneous and prompt effectiveness. The circle of this twofold union is widened and strengthened even more in the Prefects' community meetings, as is that of today, in order to study together, in a wide survey, the pastoral problems of the Church in Rome, as is laid down in the Apostolic Constitution "Vicariae Potestatis in Urbe" (n. 7-8).

In this perspective, the function and the mission of the Prefect and of the Council of Prefects take on great significance for the diocesan apostolate; since they condition its necessary and desirable compactness, as well as its orderly and logical method.

On you, in particular, there falls the responsibility that the diocese of Rome may really be, like the early community of Jerusalem, "of one heart and soul" (Ac 4,32).

2. It is the first time I have officially met the Prefects of the Diocese of Rome, and this happy circumstance brings back to my memory the many meetings with the Prefects of my diocese in Krakow. At these meetings, over which I presided, I conversed in a brotherly way with my priests and discussed our common responsibilities as pastors and guides of souls. The close collaboration which existed between Bishop and Prefect was a guarantee of serene availability for the solution of the various complex problems which ecclesial life presented day after day.

3. I listened with deep interest to the three reports on the "Lenten Apostolate" in Rome. It intends to move in three directions, with a concrete approach: catechesis; liturgical celebrations; the commitment of charity. I hope and trust that, in such a rich and significant liturgical time as is that of Lent, now imminent, not only the priests of the diocese but all the faithful will be made aware of these three fundamental aspects of Christian life.

I listened with particular attention to the evaluation of this pastoral year's second Assembly of the Roman Clergy which took place on 15 February last. In it you studied the subject of the Clergy of Rome faced with the requirements of the diocese, stressing four points: the requirements of an authentic communion; the structures of participation and collegiality; solidarity and equalization between the Clergy and the parishes; and finally, the problem of vocations.

I was positively impressed by the spirit that animated the Meeting, by the high number of participants, and by the truly priestly commitment with which you tackled such delicate problems. I hope that concrete spiritual fruit will come from it.

I also think that some ideas, which I listened to at this meeting today, will certainly be a precious help for me to prepare the address which I will deliver to the Roman Clergy in the audience that will take place for the beginning of Lent. In this connection, I would be sincerely grateful to you if you would add some other suggestions, either orally or in writing, because, as the book of Proverbs notes: "a wise man listens to advice" (Pr 12,15).

To all of you my esteem and affection. May the faithful of the whole Church, looking to their brothers and priests of the diocese of Rome, subscribe to the words that St Paul addressed to the Romans: "Your faith is proclaimed in all the world" (Rm 1,8).

With this wish, I bless you paternally.



Saturday, 23 February 1979

1. Let as direct our attention today to the thought of St Paul, which the sacred liturgy proposes to us. The second reading of the Mass, taken from the letter to the Romans, seems "written" for those who must meditate on the problem of their vocation in a special, profound way and must also responsibly take decisions about it.

The passage of St Paul's letter speaks in the first place of our eternal vocation: "For those whom he (God) foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Rm 8,29). Certainly more than once we have reflected on this penetrating mystery. Our vocation has its source only in God, who knows each of us in the Word, his Son, and knowing "predestines", so that we too may become his sons. In this way, the eternal and only-begotten Son, generated, not created, of the same substance as the Father", has his brothers on earth, and he is "the first-born among many brethren" (Rm 8,29).

To think of one's vocation means being familiar with the eternal mystery which is the mystery of charity, the mystery of grace. This is precisely the fundamental and full dimension of our preparation for the priesthood. Grace constitutes, at the same time, the essential foundation of vocation in each of us. I hope that you will deepen your priestly vocation in the seminary, beginning from this mystery of grace. A vocation is a grace and a gift of God in Jesus Christ. By means of the priesthood, we become particularly like Jesus, "the first-born among many brethren" (Rm 8,29). This awareness of the divine gift gives our vocation its deep meaning, in the perspective of our whole life. Human life, then, has its full value when it constitutes the reflection and the fulfilment of Eternal Truth and of unique Love.

2. Continuing to follow St Paul's thought, we become aware that a vocation is a task, as well as a gift. Moreover, its consolidation and deepening throughout the course of human life cannot take place without an effort and without spiritual struggle. Otherwise how can we understand and explain these words: "If God is for us, who is against us?" (Rm 8,31), These words have their real meaning, their first value, only on the lips of one who not only seeks, but also fights. What does he fight for? To what does the struggle lead? He fights precisely for the victory which consists in the realization of God's eternal thought in himself, in his soul, for the truth of his vocation, for its deepest meaning. In this search, in this interior struggle he must take up a position, in a certain sense, face to face with the full reality of love, which God revealed to man in Christ: "He did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all" (Rm 8,32).

The result of this comparison with the revealed reality of God's love, and in particular with that of our eternal vocation, is this question of St Paul: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" (Rm 8,35).

Just so. At the centre of reflection on our priestly vocation there is this love: "He loved me and gave himself for me" (Ga 2,20); "looking upon me, he loved me" (cf. Mk Mc 10,21). If there had not been this look, if there had not been this love, I should not be here. I should not be on this way. This way must be my vocation until the end of my life… Do I know what it consists of? Do I persevere in it? St Paul's answer is: "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Rm 8,37). This is an incredibly important task. This is the key principle of the whole formation to the priesthood and to priestly life, of priestly asceticism and of the priestly ministry:

"I am sure"—the Apostle continues—"that neither death nor life…nor things present nor things to come... nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rm 8,38-39).

What can "height" mean? What can "anything else in all creation" mean? What can "depth" mean, in the perspective of our vocation? It is necessary to look at all that with a full sense of concreteness, considering adequately the reality which "I myself" constitute. And it is necessary to look at all that in the spirit of faith; in the spirit of hope and trust.

3. This last word directs us to Mary, "Mother of trust". Today's festivity is particularly dear to you all, because the Roman Seminary is dedicated precisely to our Lady of Trust.

Before the devotional image of the Mother of Trust, so venerated and treasured so lovingly in this Seminary, numberless ranks of seminarians have knelt for over a century and a half and, in Mary's motherly aid, they found the strength to overcome moments of difficulty and the generosity of commitment required by a faithful response to vocation.

"Mater mea, fiducia mea", is the familiar prayer within these walls. Mary is an inexhaustible source of trust because she is our Mother. Each of us can say: Jesus "looking upon me, loved me" (cf. Mk Mc 10,21). He turned his special look upon me and loved me particularly when, from the cross, he said to his disciple, indicating his Mother: "Behold, your mother" (Jn 19,27).

If, therefore, to accept one's vocation, to choose the priesthood, to persevere in the priesthood, means "to believe in love" (cf. 1Jn 4,16), then, in the whole of your life (first as a seminarian, then as a priest), it is necessary to insert deeply also this look from the cross and our Master's last words: "Behold, your mother". With the help of such faith and such trust, our priesthood is constructed. It assumes a special resemblance to him who, precisely as Mary's Son, became "the firstborn among many brethren" (Rm 8,29). Then the priest absorbs, somehow, a particular and personal ray of this hope and this trust, which is so necessary, for the man who has been called, in travelling along the sometimes difficult paths of life, on which he must respond to eternal Love.





Saturday, 24 February 1979

Dear Brothers and Sons,

Is it necessary to say how happy I am to be again with you, members of the Council of the International Federation of Catholic Universities or Rectors of the Catholic Universities of Europe? The pontifical yearbook of 1978 still named me among the members of the Congregation for Catholic Education, where I became familiar with your problems. I have also kept an excellent memory of my participation in the meeting at Lublin, which you have just recalled so kindly. As for the work of University professor, I quite naturally gauge its interest and importance, after the years I myself spent teaching in the Theological Faculty of Krakow, the most ancient in Poland, at Lublin University

1. You are certainly quite convinced, but I am anxious to stress again that the Catholic Universities have a select place in the Pope's heart, as they must have in the whole Church and in the concerns of her Pastors in the midst of the many activities of their ministry. Dedicated to a work of research and teaching, they have also thereby a sole of witness and an apostolate without which the Church could not fully and durably evangelize the vast world of culture, or simply the rising generations, more and more highly educated, who will also be increasingly demanding to face up to, in faith, the many questions raised by sciences and the various systems of thought. From the first centuries the Church has felt the importance of an apostolate of the intellect—let it be enough to recall St Justin, St Augustine—and her initiatives are numberless in this field. I do not need to quote the texts of the recent Council which you know by heart. For some time now, the attention of leaders of the Church has rightly been drawn by the spiritual needs of social environments that are quite dechristianized or little christianized: workers, peasants, migrants, poor people of every kind. It is certainly necessary, and the Gospel makes it a duty for us. But the University world also needs a Church presence more than ever. And, in the specific framework which is yours, you help to provide it.

2. Addressing teachers and students in Mexico recently, I indicated three aims for Catholic University Institutes: to make a specific contribution to the Church and society—thanks to a really complete study of the different problems—with the concern to show the full significance of man regenerated in Christ and thus permit his complete development; to form pedagogically men who, having made a personal synthesis between faith and culture, will be capable both of keeping their place in society and of bearing witness in it to their faith; to set up, among teachers and students, a real community which already bears witness visibly to a living Christianity.

3. I stress here some fundamental points. Research at the University level presupposes all the loyalty, the seriousness and, for that very reason, the freedom of scientific investigation. It is at this price that you bear witness to the truth, that you serve the Church and society, that you deserve the esteem of the University world; and this in all branches of knowledge.

But when it is a question of man, of the field of human sciences, it is necessary to add the following; if it is right to take advantage of the contribution of the different methodologies, it is not sufficient to choose one, or even make a synthesis of several, to determine what man is in depth. The Christian cannot let himself be hemmed in by them, all the more so in that he is not taken in by their premises. He knows that he must go beyond the purely natural perspective; his faith makes him approach anthropology in the perspective of man's full vocation and salvation; it is the light beneath which he works, the line that guides his research. In other words, a Catholic University is not only a field of religious research open in all directions. It presupposes in its teachers an anthropology enlightened by faith, consistent with faith, in particular with the Creation and with the Redemption of Christ. In the midst of the swarm of present-day approaches, which too often lead, moreover, to a minimizing of man, Christians have an original role to play, within research and teaching, precisely because they reject any partial vision of man.

As for theological research properly speaking, by definition it cannot exist without seeking its source and its regulation in Scripture and Tradition, in the experience and decisions of the Church handed down by the Magisterium throughout the course of the centuries. These brief reminders mark the specific exigencies of the responsibility of the teaching staff in Catholic Faculties. It is in this sense that Catholic Universities must safeguard their own character. It is in this framework that they bear witness not only before their students, but also before other Universities, to the seriousness with which the Church approaches the world of thought, and, at the same time, to a real understanding of faith.

4. Before this great and difficult mission, collaboration between Catholic Universities of the whole world is highly desirable, for themselves and for the development, in an opportune way, of their relations with the world of culture. This shows all the importance of your Federation. I warmly encourage its initiatives, and in particular the study of the subject of the next Assembly on the ethical problems of the modern technological society. A fundamental subject, to which I am very sensitive myself, and to which I hope to have the opportunity to return. May the Holy Spirit guide you with his light and give you the necessary strength! May the intercession of Mary keep you available for his action, for the will of God! You know that I remain very close to your concerns and to your work. I willingly give you my Apostolic Blessing.



Sunday, 25 February 1979

Dear Bride and Bridegroom,

You will shortly utter the words of the sacramental promise which will make you husband and wife in Christ Jesus before God and the Church. They are concise words (you certainly know them by heart), but their significance, their special importance, their unitive power, are particularly great. Promising each other love, faithfulness, and virtue in marriage, not only will you confirm again what your young hearts bear witness to now, but at the same time you will lay the foundations for the construction of the home of your common future. Man must live on the earth, and to live there he needs not only a building constructed on a material foundation; today he needs a spiritual foundation. Love, faithfulness, and virtue in marriage constitute that foundation on which alone the matrimonial community can rest, the foundation on which the spiritual dwelling for the future family can be built.

All of us gathered here attach great importance to these words, which you will utter shortly. We know what value these words have, for you personally and, at the same time, how important they are for the Church and for society.

We wish, and above all we implore from God, one thing only for you on this day: that these words may constitute the principle of your whole life; that you may be able, with the help of divine grace, to put them into practice in your lives, reciprocally observing these solemn vows, which today you made in turn before God.

May Christ be with you always. Never take your eyes off him. Seek him in your thought, in your heart and in your prayer, so that he may guide your young love towards these great tasks, the responsibility for which you assume from today onwards. And may new men—your children, the future fruit of your union—bear witness that you are carrying out faithfully the eternal plan of love of the Creator himself; and subsequently may they find, through you, the way to Christ and to his Church. In this way you will give thanks to God for the love which he has brought forth in your hearts and which he permits you today to express and confirm with this great sacrament.




Monday, 26 February 1979


Welcome to the Pope's house! I willingly accepted the desire you expressed for a special Audience on the occasion of your second European Congress, because this meeting offers me the opportunity to say to you, and to all members of the Movements for Life, a word of praise and encouragement to persevere in the noble task which you have assumed in defence of man and of his fundamental rights. You are struggling in order that every man may be recognized as having the right to be born, to grow, to develop his own capacities harmoniously, to construct his own transcendent destiny freely and in a dignified way.

These are very noble purposes and I am happy to see that not only the sons of the Catholic Church but also members of other religious confessions and persons of different ideological trend are united in pursuing them, because I consider that an expression of that "agreement in supporting one another on some elementary but firm principles", "principles of humanity", which "every man of good will can find... in his own conscience", to which I referred in my recent Message for the World Day of Peace.

Faithful to the mission received from her divine Founder, the Church has always affirmed the sacredness of human life, and did so with particular forcefulness at the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Who does not remember those solemn words? "God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception (Gaudium et Spes GS 51). Strong in this conviction, the Council Fathers did not hesitate to condemn bluntly "all offences against life itself, such as murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and willful suicide; all violations of the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture, undue psychological pressures; all offences against human dignity, such as sub-human living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, degrading working conditions where men are treated as mere tools for profit rather than free and responsible persons" (Gaudium et Spes GS 27).

This is the context in which your commitment is set. It consists in the first place of an intelligent and assiduous action to make consciences become aware of the inviolability of human life at all its stages, so that the right to it will be effectively recognized in morals and in laws, as a basic value of every society that wants to call itself civil. It is expressed, furthermore, in the courageous stand against every form of attack on life, from whatever quarter it may come. Finally, it takes the form of a disinterested and respectful offer of concrete help for persons who are up against difficulties in making their behaviour conform with the dictates of conscience.

It is a work of great humanity and generous charity, which cannot but meet with the approval of every person aware of the possibilities and the risks which are in store for this society of ours.

Do not be discouraged by the difficulties, opposition, and failure you may meet with on your way. It is a question of man and, with such a stake, no one can shut himself up in an attitude of resigned passivity without thereby abdicating as a human being. As Vicar of Christ the Word of God Incarnate, I say to you: have faith in God, the Creator and Father of every human being; have confidence in man, created in the image and likeness of God and called to be his son, in the Son. In Christ, who died and rose again, man's cause has already had its definitive verdict: life will overcome death!

With this hope in my heart, I willingly grant you all my Apostolic Blessing, as a token of divine assistance.



Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. The Church is beginning Lent. As every year, we are entering this period, beginning from Ash Wednesday, in order to prepare, for forty days, for the Sacred Triduum of the passion, the death and the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It also refers to that forty days of fasting, which in Christ's earthly life was the introduction to the revelation of his mission as Messiah and Redeemer. During Lent, the Church wishes to animate herself by accepting with particular commitment the mission of her Lord and Master in all its salvific value. Therefore she listens with the utmost attention to the words of Christ, who, independently of the unfolding of temporal matters in the various fields of human life, proclaims immutably the Kingdom of God. And his last word is the Cross on Mount Calvary: that is, the sacrifice offered by his love in order to reconcile man with God. In the time of Lent we must all look to the Cross with special attention in order to understand afresh its eloquence. We cannot see in it only a memory of the events that happened about two thousand years ago. We must understand the teaching of the Cross as it speaks to our times, to modern man: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever." (He 13,8) In the Cross of Jesus Christ there is expressed an intense call to metanoia, to conversion: "repent, and believe in the gospel' (Mc 1,15). And we must accept this call as addressed to one and all of us especially on the occasion of the period of Lent. To live Lent means conversion to God by means of Jesus Christ.

2. Christ himself indicates to us in the gospel the rich programme of conversion. Christ—and, after him, the Church—also proposes to us, in the time of Lent, the means that serve for this conversion. It is a question in the first place of prayer; then of almsdeeds and of fasting. We must accept these means and introduce them into our lives in proportion to the needs and possibilities of man and of the Christian of our times. Prayer always remains the first and fundamental condition of approach to God. During Lent we must pray, we must make an effort to pray more, to look for the time and the place to pray. It is prayer in the first place that brings us out of indifference and makes us sensitive to the things of God and of the soul. Prayer also educates our consciences, and Lent is a particularly suitable time to reawaken and educate conscience. Just in this period the Church reminds us of the indispensable necessity of sacramental confession, in order that we all may be able to live the resurrection of Christ not only in the liturgy, but also in our own soul. Almsdeeds and fasting as means of conversion and of Christian repentance are closely connected with each other. Fasting means self-mastery; it means being demanding with regard to ourselves; being ready to renounce things—and not just food—but also enjoyment and the various pleasures. And almsdeeds—in the wider and essential acceptation—means readiness to share joys and sadness with others, to give to one's neighbour, to the needy in particular; to share not only material goods, but also the gifts of the spirit. And it is just for this reason that we must open to others, feel their different needs, sufferings and misfortunes, and seek—not only in our resources, but above all in our hearts, in our way of behaving and acting—the means to prevent their needs or to bring relief to their sufferings and misfortunes.

In this way, therefore, addressing God by means of prayer, we at the same time address man. Being demanding with ourselves and generous with others, we express our conversion in a way that is both concrete and social. Through fuller solidarity with men, with the suffering and especially with the needy, we unite with the suffering and crucified Christ.

3. We enter, then, the Lenten period in conformity with the centuries-old tradition of the Church. We enter this time in conformity with the particular tradition of the Church of Rome. The generations of disciples and confessors of Christ who have borne to him here an extraordinary witness of faithfulness, not sparing even their own blood, are looking at us. Their catacombs and the most ancient sanctuaries of Rome remind us of them. The whole history of the Eternal City recalls them. We are entering this period, beginning from Ash Wednesday, the day on which the Church sprinkles the ashes on our heads, as a sign of the precariousness of our body and of our temporal existence, admonishing us in the liturgy: "You are dust, and to dust you shall return." Let us accept this penitential sign humbly in order that the mystery of the crucified and risen Christ may be renewed, with all the more forcefulness, in the heart and conscience of each of us, that we, too, may "walk in newness of life" (Rm 6,4).

From the Vatican, 28 February 1979




Wednesday, 28 February 1979

Dear Boys and Girls,

1. I wish to address to each of you, in the first place, a cordial greeting and sincere thanks. This presence of yours, so numerous and gay, is a significant testimony of the love that binds you to the Pope, in whom you recognize, with enlightened and penetrating faith, the Vicar of Christ.

It is easy for me, therefore, to begin the talk with you, a simple, familiar talk which I would like each of you to feel as addressed to him personally.

The subject of our conversation today is suggested by the liturgical occasion of "Ash Wednesday". You know that on this day, with which the period of preparation for Easter begins, the Church puts ashes on the heads of the faithful and calls them to penitence. This word "penitence" returns in so many pages of Holy Scripture, it re-echoes on the lips of so many prophets and, finally, in a particularly eloquent way, on the lips of Jesus Christ himself: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Mt 3,2).

2. "Penitence" in the evangelical sense means, above all, this: "to be converted". Jesus contests the purely external way with which many of his contemporaries carried out their acts of repentance: charity, fasting, prayer. They neglected the real purpose of these acts, which was interior purification, necessary to be able to meet in the depths of conscience, "in the secrecy of the heart", with the merciful holiness of God.

Do you remember that extraordinary page of the Gospel according to Matthew? "Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do... that they may be praised by men...; do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites: for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men... But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Mt 6,2-6).

This is, therefore, the real meaning of every real "penitential" commitment: to withdraw from the current of exterior things, to silence the advancing hubbub of so many human voices, in order to return into oneself, into one's deepest inner life; because it is in the silence of conscience that God waits for us. When, in fact, Jesus says: "go into your room and shut the door", he does not call to an isolation that is an end in itself. That "shutting the door" corresponds to the one decisive opening of the human heart: the opening to God: "your Father who sees in secret will reward you". In the meeting with God there is the "reward", to which every human heart aspires: the experience of forgiveness and spiritual liberation.

3. Penitence, therefore, is not just effort; it is also joy. Sometimes, in fact, it is a great joy of the human spirit, a joy that cannot spring from other sources.

Does it riot seem to you, dear boys and girls, that many of your contemporaries have lost, to a certain extent, the flavour of this joy? They have lost it, because they have mislaid the deep sense of that spiritual effort which makes it possible to find oneself again in the whole truth of one's own humanity. Our civilization, especially in the West—connected as it is with the development of science and technique—glimpses the need of the intellectual and physical effort. It does not, on the other hand, sufficiently consider the importance of the effort necessary to recover and promote moral values, which constitute the most authentic inner life of man. And it pays for it with that sense of emptiness and confusion which the young feel especially, sometimes even dramatically.

The severe liturgy of "'Ash Wednesday" and, subsequently, the whole period of Lent constitute a systematic call to the rediscovery of those values, and to renewed experience of that meeting with Christ which can alone give life its full meaning. Let us say so clearly: Lent is the path towards the joy of the meeting with the Risen Christ.

My wish is that each of you, and with you so many, so very many young people, will be able to take advantage of the opportunity offered by this period of the liturgical year in order to set out courageously.

With my Apostolic Blessing.

Speeches 1979 - Saturday, 24 February 1979