Speeches 1979 - 10 March 1979

Every human work is according to the measure of the man. In the work of Spiritual Exercises the most important thing is always the following: that the man should be a faithful messenger. Just as our Father Moderator said on the first evening, referring to the Angelus: the name of this messenger is not important, what counts is the message itself.

The most important thing is that this message should reach the heart, that it should sink into the soil of the soul and act for a long time in this soil into which it has been thrown in the same way as grain is thrown.

Our desires meet on this, and it is just with these wishes that I want to thank the Reverend Father. These wishes are at the same time for us, for the participants. May Christ the Lord grant them through the intercession of his Mother, to whom the Reverend Father often directed our attention, referring to the figure of the Blessed Maximilian Kolbe. May this final Blessing become for us all a token of the fulfilment of these wishes, which we formulate for one another at the end of the Spiritual Exercises.



Sunday, 11 March 1979

Dear Boys,

This meeting reserved for you young people is a great joy for me. It takes place here in your sports field, where you meet for play and for training, and where, above all, you can get to know one another and form ties of brotherhood and friendship. You, too, young people of this parish, who are part of the immense diocese of Rome, are entrusted to my pastoral responsibility and to my love as Father and Pastor! And you can imagine how much I feel this solicitude and this love for you, together with the Cardinal Vicar and your priests!

Seeing that you face life so full of hope and expectations, it is impossible not to be moved and, at the same time, also thoughtful and concerned about your future. What shall I say to you then, which can assure you of the joy that Jesus has brought you and which no one can take away from you?

1. First of all I tell you that Jesus loves you! This is the most beautiful and consoling truth! This is the truth that the Vicar of Christ proclaims to you: Jesus loves you!

I hope that there are so many persons who love you and I earnestly trust that each one of you is happy, finding kindness, affection and understanding in all and from all. But we must also be realistic and keep in mind the human situation as it is. And so it may often happen that one feels in one's heart a sense of emptiness, melancholy, sadness and discontent. One may even have everything, but lack joy! Above all, it is terrible to see so much suffering, so much poverty, so much violence.

Well, just in this drama of existence and of human history, the message of the Gospel resounds perennially: Jesus loves you! Jesus came to this earth to reveal to us and to guarantee to us God's love. He came to love us and to be loved. Let yourselves be loved by Christ!

Jesus is not only an outstanding figure of human history, a hero, a representative man: He is the Son of God; as the sensational event of the Transfiguration, of which the Gospel of today's Mass speaks to us, reminds us; he is Immanuel, the God with us, the Divine friend who alone has words of Eternal Life! He is the light in darkness; he is our joy because we know that he loves each of us, personally. "What then shall we say to this?"—St Paul wrote to the Romans"—If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all,... Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us?..." (Rm 8,31-34).

Always, but especially at moments of confusion and anguish, when life and the world itself seem to collapse, do not forget the words of Jesus: "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Mt 11,28-30).

Do not forget that Jesus willed to remain present, personally and really, in the Eucharist, an immense mystery but a sure reality, in order to materialize authentically this individual and salvific love of his! Do not forget that Jesus willed to come to meet you by means of his ministers, the Priests!

2. I wish to tell you, furthermore, that we are awaited for Eternal Love in Paradise!

We must think of Paradise! We play the card of our Christian life staking it on Paradise! This certainty and this expectation does not distract us from our earthly commitments; on the contrary, it purifies and intensifies them, as the lives of all the Saints prove.

Our life is a path towards Paradise, where we will be loved and will love for ever in a complete and perfect way. We are born only to go to Paradise.

The thought of Paradise must make you strong against temptations, committed to your religious and moral formation, watchful with regard to the environment in which you must live, confident that, if you are united with Christ, you will triumph over every difficulty.

A great French poet, converted in his youth, Paul Claudel, wrote: "The Son of God did not come to destroy suffering, but to suffer with us. He did not come to destroy the cross, but to stretch out on it. He taught us the way to emerge from pain and the possibility of its transformation" (Positions et propositions).

I beseech the Blessed Virgin to accompany you with her protection. May she who gave the Saviour to the world, help you to prepare well for the mission to the people which will take place next October in this parish of yours. Let this moment of grace not pass in vain for each of you. Receive with these wishes my affectionate Apostolic Blessing.



Monday, 12 March 1979

Dear friends,

IT IS WITH GREAT PLEASURE that I greet you, presidents and representatives of the Jewish World Organizations, and in that capacity forming with the representatives of the Catholic Church the International Liaison Committee. I greet also the other representatives of various national Jewish Committees who are here with you.

Four years ago, my predecessor Paul VI received in audience this same International Committee and told them how he rejoiced that they had decided to meet in Rome, the city which is the centre of the Catholic Church[1].

Now you have also decided to come to Rome, to greet the new Pope, to meet with members of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, and thus to renew and give a fresh impulse to the dialogue which for the past years you have had with authorized representatives of the Catholic Church. This is indeed, therefore, an important moment in the history of our relations, and I am happy to have the occasion to say a word myself on this subject.

As your representatives has mentioned, it was the Second Vatican Council with its Declaration "Nostra Aetate" [2] that provided the starting point for this new and promising phase in the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish religious community. In effect, the Council made very clear that, "while searching into the mystery of the Church", it recalled "the spiritual bond linking the people of the New Covenant with Abraham’s stock"[3]. Thus it understood that our two religious communities are connected and closely related at the very level of their respective religious identities. For " the beginning of (the Church’s) faith and election are already found among the patriarchs, Moses and the prophets ", and " therefore she cannot forget that she received the revelation of the Old Testament through the people with whom God in his inexpressible mercy deigned to establish the Ancient Covenant"[4]. It is on the basis of all this that we recognize with utmost clarity that the path along which we should proceed with the Jewish religious community is one of fraternal dialogue and fruitful collaboration.

According to this solemn mandate, the Holy See has sought to provide the instruments for such dialogue and collaboration, and to foster their realization both here at the centre and elsewhere throughout the Church. Thus, the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews was created in 1974. At the same time, the dialogue began to develop at several levels in the local Churches around the world and with the Holy See itself. I wish to acknowledge here the friendly response and good will, indeed the cordial initiative, that the Church has found and continues to find among your organizations and other large sections of the Jewish community.

I believe that both sides must continue their strong efforts to overcome the difficulties of the past, so as to fulfil God’s commandment of love, and to sustain a truly fruitful and fraternal dialogue that contributes to the good of each of the partners involved and to our better service of humanity.

The "Guidelines" you have mentioned, whose value I wish to underline and reaffirm, indicate some ways and means to obtain these aims. You have rightly wished to stress a point of particular importance: " Christians must therefore strive to acquire a better knowledge of the basic components of the religious tradition of Judaism; they must strive to learn by what essential traits the Jews define themselves in the light of their own religious experience "[5].

Another important reflection is the following: " In virtue of her divine mission, and her very nature, the Church must preach Jesus Christ to the world [6]. Lest the witness of Catholics to Jesus Christ should give offence to Jews, they must take care to live and spread their Christian faith while maintaining the strictest respect for religious liberty in fine with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council [7]. They will likewise strive to understand the difficulties which arise for the Jewish soul – rightly imbued with an extremely high, pure notion of the divine transcendence – when faced with the mystery of the incarnate Word [8]".

These recommendations refer, of course, to the Catholic faithful. but I do not think it is superfluous to repeat them here. They help us to have a clear notion of Judaism and Christianity, and of their true mutual relationship. You are here, I believe, to help us in our reflections on Judaism. And I am sure that we find in you, and in the communities you represent, a real and deep disposition to understand Christianity and the Catholic Church in its proper identity today, so that we may work from both sides towards our common aim of overcoming every kind of prejudice and discrimination.

In this connection it is useful to refer once more to the Council Declaration"Nostra Aetate" and to repeat what the "Guidelines" say about the repudiation of "all forms of anti-Semitism and discrimination", " as opposed to the very spirit of Christianity ", but " which in any case the dignity of the human person alone would suffice to condemn"[9].

The Catholic Church therefore clearly repudiates in principle and in practice all such violations of human rights wherever they may occur throughout the world. I am, moreover, happy to evoke in your presence today the dedicated and effective work of my predecessor Pius XII on behalf of the Jewish people. And on my part I shall continue with divine help in my pastoral ministry in Rome – as I endeavoured to do in the See of Cracow – to be of assistance to all who suffer or are oppressed in any way.

Following also in particular in the footsteps of Paul VI, I entend to foster spiritual dialogue and to do everything in my power for the peace of that land which is holy for you as it is for us, with the hope that the City of Jerusalem will be effectively guaranteed as a centre of harmony for the followers of the three great monotheistic religions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, for whom the City is a revered place of devotion.

I am sure that the very fact of this meeting today, which you have so kindly asked to have, is in itself an expression of dialogue and a new step towards that fuller mutual understanding which we are called to achieve. By pursuing this goal we are all sure of being faithful and obedient to the will of God, the God of the Patriarchs and Prophets.

To God, then, I would like to turn at the end of these reflections. All of us, Jews and Christians, pray frequently to him with the same prayers, taken from the Book which we both consider to be the Word of God. It is for him to give to both religious communities, so near to each other, that reconciliation and effective love which are at the same time his command and his gift[10]. In this sense, I believe, each time that Jews recite the "Shema’ Israel" each time that Christians recall the first and second great commandments, we are, by God’s grace, brought nearer to each other.

As a sign of the understanding and fraternal love already achieved, let me express again my cordial welcome and greetings to you all with that word so rich in meaning, taken from the Hebrew language, which we Christians also use in our Liturgy: Peace be with you.Shalom, Shalom!

[1] Pauli VI Allocutio, die 10 ianuarii 1975.

[2] Nostra Aetate, 4.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Guidelines, Prologue.

[6] Ad Gentes, 2.

[7] Dignitatis Humanae.

[8] Guidelines, I.

[9] Guidelines, Prologue.

[10] Cfr. Lev.19, 18; Marc. 12, 30.



14 March 1979

Dear Boys and Girls!

Beloved Young People!

I see you here, so numerous and so full of life, that I feel really amazed and moved! Thank you for your visit! I thank each of you, your parents, your teachers and educators! I greet everyone with special affection, and I intend to clasp you all to my Father's heart!

I wish to recall particularly the pilgrimage of the Young Ecclesial Groups of Catholic Action of the Diocese of Rieti, organized by the Diocesan Evangelization Centre, with one thousand three hundred children and adolescents, and the pilgrimage of the pupils of Montecatini Terme, in the Diocese of Pescia, accompanied by their Bishop, Monsignor Giovanni Bianchi; these pupils built a grand crib for last Christmas.

You have come to Rome also to see the Pope, to hear the word of the Vicar of Christ, to receive his Blessing. And in your lives, which I hope will be long and beautiful, you will certainly always remember this meeting in the Vatican Basilica, because certain events are never forgotten, owing to their importance. But I would like you to remember too what I now wish to say to you, in this time of Lent.

You know that Lent is the liturgical time that prepares us for Holy Easter and lasts only forty days a year. Actually, however, we must always strain towards God, that is, be converted continually. Lent must leave a strong and lasting mark on our lives. It must renew in us awareness of our union with Jesus, who speaks to us of the necessity of conversion and indicates to us the way to reach it.

The first of the ways indicated by Jesus is that of prayer: "they ought always to pray and not lose heart" (Lc 18,1).

Why must we pray?

1.—We must pray first and foremost because we are believers.

Prayer is in fact the recognition of our limitation and our dependence: we come from God, we belong to God and we return to God! We cannot, therefore, but abandon ourselves to him, our Creator and Lord, with full and complete confidence. Some people affirm and try to prove that the universe is eternal and that the whole order we see in the universe, including man with his intelligence and freedom, is only the work of chance. Scientific studies and the deeply-felt experience of so many honest persons say, however, that these ideas, though affirmed and even taught, are not proved and always leave those who uphold them confused and restless, because they understand very well that an object in movement must be pushed from outside! They understand very well that chance cannot produce the perfect order that exists in the universe and in man! Everything is admirably ordained, from the tiny particles that compose the atom to the galaxies that revolve in space! Everything indicates a plan, which comprises every manifestation of nature, from inert matter to man's thought! Where there is order, there is intelligence; and where there is a supreme order, there is Supreme Intelligence, whom we call "God", and whom Jesus revealed to us as Love and taught us to call Father!

Thus, reflecting on the nature of the universe and on our own life, we understand and recognize that we are creatures, limited and yet sublime, who owe their existence to the Infinite Majesty of the Creator!

Prayer, therefore, is first of all an act of intelligence, a feeling of humility and gratitude, an attitude of trust and abandonment to him who gave us life out of love.

Prayer is a mysterious but real dialogue with God, a dialogue of confidence and love.

2.—We, however, are Christians, and therefore we must pray as Christians.

For the Christian, in fact, prayer acquires a particular characteristic, which completely changes its innermost nature and innermost value.

The Christian is a disciple of Jesus; he is one who really believes that Jesus is the Word Incarnate; the Son of God who came among us on this earth.

As a man, the life of Jesus was a continual prayer, a continual act of worship and love of the Father, and since the maximum expression of prayer is sacrifice, the summit of Jesus' prayer is the Sacrifice of the Cross, anticipated with the Eucharist at the Last Supper and handed down with Holy Mass throughout the centuries.

Therefore, the Christian knows that his prayer is Jesus; every prayer of his starts from Jesus; it is he who prays in us, with us, for us.

All those who believe in God, pray; but the Christian prays in Jesus Christ: Christ is our prayer!

The greatest prayer is Holy Mass, because in Holy Mass Jesus himself is really present, renewing the Sacrifice of the Cross; but every prayer is precious, especially the "Our Father", which he himself, willed to teach to the Apostles and to all men on earth.



15 March 1979

Dear Brothers,
Dear Sons and Daughters,
Dear Friends,

I thank you for your invitation. I have examined the subject of your Congress and of the various interventions on the agenda. Need I tell you that I am very sensitive to the pastoral problems that you study: how to ensure to Catholic communities of emigrants the ecclesial assistance, and in particular the priestly ministry, which they need? As you know, I have visited Polish communities abroad quite often: there is a whole interesting and delicate apostolate to be promoted in this area. And more generally, we must ask ourselves: what attitude must the local Church take with regard to migrants whoever they may be?

1. Because emigration is a massive phenomenon of our time, a permanent phenomenon, which is even assuming new forms, and which concerns all continents, and nearly all countries. It raises serious human and spiritual problems. It is a test, that is, a risk and a chance, for the immigrants and for those who receive them. Yes, it involves for the former a serious risk of uprooting, dehumanization and, in some cases, of dechristianization; for the latter a risk of withdrawing, of stiffening. But it also implies a chance of human and spiritual enrichment, opening, welcoming of foreigners, and mutual renewal thanks to this contact. And for the Church, it is an invitation to be more missionary, to go to meet the foreign brother, to respect him, to bear witness, in this context, to her faith and her charity, and to accept the other's positive contribution. Does the Church grasp this chance? From the first centuries, hospitality deeply characterized all ecclesial communities. The Church, which wishes to be catholic, that is, universal, finds again there a fundamental characteristic of her mission.

2. An indefatigable effort must therefore be made to drive home to the Churches of origin and the host Churches the needs of migrants. Do the Churches of origin take enough care to accompany their "diaspora", to prepare "missionaries" for them, and to sustain them? And do the host Churches, sometimes very pressed, pay enough attention to the presence of migrants? Do they take the means that this apostolate requires? Do they see to it, particularly, that priests, religious, and laity dedicate themselves in priority to these environments, which are often relegated to the fringes of society?

3. Let us make it quite clear: the apostolate of migrants is not just the work of these detached "missionaries": it is the work of the whole local Church, priests, religious and laity; it is the whole local Church which must take migrants into account, and be ready for welcome and for mutual exchanges. In particular, when it is a question of promoting the integration of foreigners, of providing for their human needs and their social advancement, of allowing them to exercise their temporal responsibilities, priests have not to take the place of laity of the host country, nor, on the other hand, these latter the place of the immigrants. But the "missionaries" still play an essential part, precisely to educate both sides to their own role, and they have a special contribution to make for the religious vitality of the communities of migrants. Their task is, moreover, a difficult one and your world Congress was right to stress the formation and duties of these "missionaries".

4. In fact, they must first be linked with the sensibility and language of the migrants. If they are their compatriots, that is, of course, easier; but they cannot be content either to transplant, purely and simply, the methods and means of apostolate of their country of origin, nor to make a clean sweep of them. Continuity and adaptation are necessary. Their pastor's heart must consider emigrants in the different dimensions of their complex life. On the one hand, they must help them to safeguard, let us rather say strengthen, their religious, family, and cultural values when they are the fruit of Christian generations, for they may well be shaken, without really being replaced. On the other hand, they cannot forget that these emigrants are now also marked by their host country, where, moreover, they have a part to play. The relations established between adults in the environment of work, and even more perhaps at school and in their free time for their children and young people, the media of communication which they see locally, such as television, call forth new questions, of course, in them, even a new mentality, with a new need of expression or participation. The apostolate must help them to cope with all this, to integrate the "new" harmoniously without neglecting the "old". The priest, or rather the priests, who are called to work in a team, with religious and laity, must be both prudent and open, at the meeting point of these two cultures, especially to prepare the new generations that remain in the host country. This shows the necessity of balance in these missionaries—human balance, spiritual balance—and also the necessity of their preparation, their ongoing formation. They must remain, above all, men of God and apostles, to permit emigrants to live their faith fully, with all its consequences.

I conclude here these few considerations, which the whole Congress enables you to study more deeply with Pastors and experts who are well informed about these questions. Methods and means have their importance, but what is determinant, in short, is the pastoral soul, enlightened zeal, faith, and charity, of all those who have a responsibility with regard to migrants. They must commune with the spirit of our one Pastor, Christ Jesus, whom we all seek to serve. May he enlighten you and strengthen you who work on the Commission for the Apostolate of Migrants and Tourism or in liaison with it. May he sustain the zeal of all those who, beyond this Congress, work daily at the base, in direct service of migrants, becoming "everything to everyone", like the Apostle Paul. I bless them in the Lord's name, and I willingly bless you.



16 March 1979

Beloved Brothers!

At the conclusion of your annual Meeting you wished to meet the Pope, to receive from him a word of encouragement and guidance. I must tell you that I, too, have desired this meeting in order to get to know you personally, to express to you my deep gratitude for the delicate ministry you carry out as Rectors of the Ecclesiastical Colleges of Rome, and to communicate some reflections to you, simply and sincerely.

1. In these two days of your Meeting you have meditated on, and studied together, the subject: "Our young people in the context of youth today", analyzing it from various aspects.

Let the students of your Colleges—seminarians or young priests—coming from all the Continents, be formed first and foremost to a deep sense of the Church. They must love the Church intensely as "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (cf Ep 5,25). The Second Vatican Council did not fail to inculcate this fundamental element for the priest's formation: "The students should be thoroughly penetrated with a sense of the Mystery of the Church, which this holy Council has set particularly in relief. Their sense of the Church will find expression in a humble and filial attachment to the Vicar of Christ and, after ordination, in their loyal cooperation with the bishop, in harmony with their fellow-priests. By this means they will bear witness to that unity which draws men to Christ." (Optatam Totius OT 9). Love for the Church, our Mother, which is manifested concretely in responsible and effective personal action, in order that she may show herself, and always be, "in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Ep 5,27). The holier the seminarians and the priests are, the holier the Church will be.

2. Your students come from all over the world to this city of Rome, the geographical centre of Catholicism. They bear within them their temperament, their original culture, their diversified historical experiences, their desire to prepare themselves, in the diocese of Peter's Successor, for the future ministry. This they will carry out in their dioceses and in their nations, after having enriched themselves with the great religious and cultural values which the City has accumulated in the centuries and continues to offer to souls desirous of truth, goodness and beauty. The experience of the stay in Rome is for a seminarian or for a young priest a real gift of Providence: the prayerful visit to its splendid Basilicas, to the Catacombs, to the tombs of the innumerable Martyrs and Saints, to the monuments of its age-old history, specialized study at the Pontifical Universities, the stay in the Ecclesiastical Colleges: all this has a deep impact on the personality and development of a young man.

I hope that your students will be able, with sound discernment, to collect and treasure all these elements for their own human and priestly formation. But, on the other hand, I also hope that Rome will always be able to offer these spiritual riches and never disappoint the expectations and hopes of these young people, and not distort or destroy the image they had formed of it. May they be able to make their own, and repeat of the diocese of Rome, the words that St Ignatius of Antioch addressed to it with fervent enthusiasm: "The Church beloved and illuminated in the will of him who willed all things that exist,…worthy of God, veneration and praise" (Letter to the Romans, Introd.).

3. I would like, finally, to express the sincere hope that the community life practised in the Ecclesiastical Colleges is not reduced to a mere set of exterior relations, but that it will imitate the spirit that animated that of the Apostles and of the first disciples in the Upper Room: "All these…devoted themselves to prayer, together with…Mary the mother of Jesus" (Ac 1,14). This is just what the Seminaries, Colleges, and Ecclesiastical Boarding Schools of Rome must be; real Upper Rooms, in which a life of intense personal and community prayer is breathed; a life of reciprocal, active and hard-working charity; a life of mutual spiritual aid to be always faithful to one's vocation and to the sacred commitments assumed before God, the Church, and one's own conscience.

And let the young be able to perceive and discover in you Rectors not only the Superior who must concern himself with the smooth, orderly, and disciplined running of a house, but the serene guide, the father, the brother, the friend, and above all the Priest, who, in his behaviour, irradiates the presence of Christ (cf. Gal Ga 2,20).

With these wishes, I willingly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to all of you and to the young people of your Colleges.




17 March 1979

Mr Ambassador,

In this presentation of the Letters that accredit you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Bolivia to the Holy See, I wish to bid Your Excellency a sincere and hearty welcome.

I listened gratefully to your expressive words of recognition of the labour of the Church in your country; a labour that remains in the shape of so many works of the past—to which Your Excellency referred—and that is continuing at present in a great many initiatives, whose one aim is to serve Bolivia in its people and to promote their complete development, informing their lives and daily activity with the principles of the Gospel.

The Church, faithful to her evangelizing mission and always sensitive to human concerns and aspirations, will not cease to encourage with all the means within her reach—as she confirmed at the recent Puebla Conference—all that leads not only to the development of the person, particularly in his moral and religious dimension, but also to the strengthening of those values which involve the growth of fundamental rights for progress in social life and, in accordance with the requirements of a Christian order, in solidarity and brotherhood.

I am well aware that the Church in Bolivia, through her bishops, well supported by priests, religious, and committed laity, continues to do all she can, putting her dedication and best energies in the service of the most needy, arousing in them well-grounded hopes for the betterment of their conditions of religious, social and cultural life. While I manifest here my sincere gratitude for this service, I express at the same time the desire that this evangelical commitment should be appreciated and supported by all those who feel the imperatives of an improving society, which is a guarantee of active peace and of real Christian progress.

I know that one of the problems that concern the Government and people of Bolivia most deeply is the aspiration to have once more an outlet to the sea: a problem of such importance both as regards the development of the country and the consequent perspective of better living conditions for its inhabitants. I can assure Your Excellency that the Holy See is following with cordial interest the efforts of Bolivia to arrive, through a peaceful agreement with the other countries concerned, at the realization of this deep aspiration.

Mr Ambassador, formulating my best wishes for the successful accomplishment of your mission, I request you to convey to the Bolivian authorities my sincere thanks for their respectful greeting. together with the assurance that I will remember all the beloved Bolivian sons in my prayers.

Speeches 1979 - 10 March 1979