Speeches 1984




Friday, 23 March 1984

Mr Ambassador,

i am pleased to welcome Your Excellency to the Vatican today and to receive from you the letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Lesotho. I am grateful for the warm greetings which you have brought from His Majesty King Moshoeshoe II, and in turn I would ask you to convey to His Majesty the assurance of my own good wishes.

I have noted with satisfaction the appreciation which you have expressed on behalf of your countrymen for the spiritual and material assistance that the Catholic Church has provided. It is my hope that the relationship of friendship and cooperation that already exists will be strengthened by the fulfilment of the mission which you are now undertaking.

As you have pointed out, the primary task of the Church is always to proclaim the message of salvation revealed in Jesus Christ and to encourage all believers to act upon the moral values that are found in that message. Thus the Church is conscious that religious belief can never be relegated to one dimension of a person’s life but must permeate the whole of existence, providing a constant motivation for serving God and neighbour in contemporary society. For this reason Christians believe that it is their duty to foster the equal rights of every person, to provide assistance to the suffering and the needy, and to spend their energies in the work of reconciliation, so that universal brotherhood under God can be advanced.

These objectives match the fundamental desires of your own nation as you have described them. Indeed, the Church joins all men and women of good will in seeking to contribute to the establishment of a world order rooted in the principles of justice, equality and mutual respect.

It is therefore with great hopefulness that I offer you my cordial good wishes for the success of your mission. I pray that it will bear much fruit. May God bless you and the people of Lesotho with his abundant favour and with every good gift.





Clementine Hall

Monday, 26 March 1984

Dear Friends,

I wish to offer a cordial welcome to all of you who are taking part in the IV International Symposium on Heating in Toroidal Plasmas, which has been jointly organized by the Italian Commission for Nuclear and Alternative Energy Sources and the International School of Plasma Physics. I extend a special greeting to your Chairman and to his associates who have promoted this meeting.

The scientific investigations which you conduct, individually in your respective research centres, or together as in these meetings which you devote especially to the deepening of theoretical knowledge and to the practical evaluation of the heating experiments that are part of Controlled Thermonuclear Fusion, are aimed at discovering an important source of energy for the development of the universe.

In this undertaking the Church follows you with attentive interest. She is aware that your complex and delicate work involves keeping in mind certain fundamental ethical principles that touch upon the future of humanity, its well-being, its security.

Your activity has effects outside the different nations which support the research. You are called to provide an example of successful international collaboration among the peoples of the earth. By its very nature your work must be aimed towards the peaceful future and the harmonious and fraternal development of man, of each individual human being. For it is to the human person that your efforts your studies, your research must be directed.

Through your heating experiments you penetrate the deep mysteries of the physical world and its properties and potentialities. In scientific endeavours the Catholic Church sees the accomplishment of the will of the Creator of the universe, who entrusted the earth to man. As the Lord of Life, God tells man to have dominion over the forces of the earth and to subdue the world (cf. Gen Gn 1,26-28), and to continue through the centuries his own work of creation. Your research can indeed have a great importance for the future of humanity. For, as you emphasize, the quality of the environment and of life, the production of food and, in certain cases, the very survival of man, depends upon the long-range availability of sufficient energy.

The Church, as faithful guardian of the message of Christ, is fully aware of the universal significance of his word, which for all believers is the supreme norm of conduct and model of life. For this reason she tirelessly proclaims full respect of the human person and the indisputable primacy of man over things, which must be subject to him as instruments.

The recognition of the dignity of the human person has been one of the main themes which the Church has been reflecting upon during this Holy Year of the Redemption. This conviction, which Christians bear witness to by their religious faith, and anxieties concerning the precarious nature and fragility of true scientific development aimed at the good of the people of today and of future generations, I commend to you for your reflection.

I express to each and every one of you and to all people of scientific research my hopes for true progress and peace, and I invoke upon all of you the abundant blessings of God.





Monday, 26 March 1984

Dear Friends,

1. I am very pleased to welcome all of you who come from the Bologna Center of the School of Advanced International Studies of The Johns Hopkins University. The unique and challenging educational experience that is yours offers each one of you a marvellous opportunity to grow in an awareness of the vital role that international exchange and dialogue must play in modern society.

As specialized students coming together from various parts of the world, you gather to study the application of contemporary economics, history and political science to the problems of the United States and Europe. Yet the information and ideas which you discuss have clear repercussions on the current situation and the future destiny of peoples and nations throughout the world.

I am happy to be with you today, since it gives me the occasion to share with you my conviction on the importance of an international encounter like the one in which you are engaged: important not only as a way for you as individuals to acquire advanced technical learning in preparation for your professional careers, but also important for the commitment that it represents, a commitment to fruitful dialogue as a means of achieving mutual understanding among peoples and a stronger sense of universal solidarity.

2. The Catholic Church, while never overlooking the material prerequisites for peace and integral human development, lays special emphasis upon the spiritual and moral conditions necessary for bringing the hopes and aspirations of humanity to fruition. At the same time, she acknowledges that any attempts to unite peoples and nations together in ever closer cooperation will be faltering unless there prevails everywhere a deep sense of brotherhood which renders dialogue a permanent objective.

A constructive initiative toward achieving this goal is the program in which you are now participating. Through your examination and comparative analysis of international economic and political systems you can learn to understand better the evolution of various theories and systems, and at the same time, to evaluate with greater objectivity the socio-economic factor at work in today’s world.

However, as you engage in this complex and technical field of learning, I would encourage your never to forget the ultimate aim and final purpose of your research: namely, the promotion and protection of the dignity of the human person. This is certainly a deeply Christian perspective. In this regard, I should like to recall my remarks on this subject in an address in 1979 to the XXXIV General Assembly of the United Nations Organization: "... the fundamental criterion for comparing social, economic and political systems is not, and cannot be, the criterion of hegemony and imperialism: it can be, and indeed it must be, the humanistic criterion, namely the measure in which each system is really capable of reducing, restraining and eliminating as far as possible the various forms of exploitation of man and of ensuring for him, through work, not only the just distribution of the indispensable material goods, but also a participation, in keeping with his dignity, in the whole process of production and in the social life that grows up around that process" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II, Allocutio ad Nationum Unitarum Legatos habita, 17, die 2 oct. 1979: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, II, 2 (1979) 535).

3. As humanity pursues this end, I strongly believe that its re-education must be, above all, spiritual and religious. Moral foundations must be laid in which all peoples put aside mutual suspicions and unite to form an international community with common duties and common goals.

I invite you today to strive to realize these noble aims through their application to your various fields of expertise. In this way you will make a significant contribution to the advancement of a more genuinely human society, one that is founded on justice and crowned with charity.

In conclusion, I wish to extend a special greeting to the President and the Provost of the Johns Hopkins University, the Dean of the School of Advanced International Studies as well as to the Director and the Professors of the Bologna Center Program. I offer you my encouragement for your own dedication to higher learning, especially as it emphasizes the dignity of each human person and fosters fraternal cooperation for the betterment of peoples everywhere. Your presence here today is much appreciated.

And may God bless all of you and your families.



Friday, 30 March 1984

Dear brothers and sisters,

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Ep 1,2).

It is an immense joy for me to welcome you as pilgrims from Scandinavia. You have come representing the Church in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. You have come with your hopes and anxieties, and with the aspirations and joys of your Christian lives. You have come to bear witness in Rome to your faith in Jesus Christ the Son Of God and the Redeemer of the world.

In your home countries you have heard the call of the Church: "Open the Doors to the Redeemer". This call has struck your hearts and you have felt the need to celebrate, in union with the universal Church, the mystery of the Redemption. Your presence in Rome at this time renders homage to the redeeming Blood of Christ and to the reconciliation brought about by the shedding of this Blood. You are here to proclaim in and with the Church that Christ has freed us from sin and death. In the words of the Apostle Paul: "It is in Christ and through his blood that we have been redeemed and our sins forgiven, so immeasurably generous is God’s favour to us" (Ep 1,7). Because of the Redemption you are called to be a holy people, to live in Christ Jesus for the glory of the Father. Through the redeeming act of his Son - the Paschal Mystery of Jesus - God takes possession of you as his own.

And today you are in a position to enter into the mystery of the Redemption through the conversion that God offers you, the opening of your hearts to him. In this context the Church presents to you the great treasure of grace: the Sacrament of Penance, whereby in an individual and personal encounter with the Redeemer you receive the outpouring of his pardon, his mercy and his love. And then the Church invites you to the fullness of union with God in the Eucharist, in which the mystery of the Redemption is supremely actuated in your lives. The Church asks you, dear brothers and sisters, to receive these sacraments. Penance and the Eucharist are involved in conversion, in the opening of the doors of your hearts to the Redeemer.

There is yet another aspect of the Redemption that I would like to emphasize today. Jesus died, Saint John tells us, "to gather into one the dispersed children of God" (Jn 11,52). The Redemption of Jesus is intimately related to the unity of the Church and requires the full unity in faith and love of all Christ’s followers. As Catholics in Scandinavia you are a small flock among other Christian brethren. In your daily lives you experience the need for perfect Christian unity. This unity is a gift of God and must be humbly sought in prayer. Through that conversion which is the object of your pilgrimage to Rome, you will be able to be faithful to sustained prayer for Christian unity. Through the holiness of your own lives you will actually contribute to this cause. This aspect too is contained in the Church’s call: "Open the Doors to the Redeemer".

As you return to your homes I ask you to take my greetings and blessing to your families and friends, especially to the sick and suffering. The Pope is close to the Bishops, priests, religious and laity of Scandinavia. Be assured of my prayers for you all. "My love be with you all in Christ Jesus" (1Co 16,23).

April 1984




Thursday, 5 April 1984

I am very pleased to greet those taking part in the pilgrimage of the sick and handicapped led by Group Captain Cheshire and Lady Ryder.

My dear friends, I know that your visit to Rome is a great moment for all of you. Here, close to the tomb of the Apostle Peter, you are not just casual visitors admiring the artistic and historical monuments of this city. You are truly pilgrims, eager to renew your faith and to show other people the spiritual resources that help you to accept each day the cross of suffering to which our Lord has called you.

I am sure that you have often thought about the meaning and importance of your suffering. With you in mind I recently wrote an Apostolic Letter on the Christian meaning of Human Suffering. I wanted to affirm before the world that "in suffering there is concealed a particular power that draws a person interiorly close to Christ, a special grace" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II, Salvifici Doloris, 26) .

It is this closeness to the suffering Christ that places you in the very heart of the Church as she makes her pilgrim way towards the Kingdom of God. And because you are in the heart of the Church you are in my heart too. I ask you to pray for the Church, and to intercede for the whole of the human family in these times of great need.

I assure you that you are in my daily prayers, and I ask the Virgin Mother of our Redeemer to be with you always.

With deep affection I give you my Apostolic Blessing. I bless too the organizers and benefactors of your pilgrimage, your families and friends, and those looking after you in the love of Jesus Christ our Lord.





Monday, 9 April 1984

Mr Ambassador,

it gives me great pleasure, after the recent establishment of diplomatic relations, to welcome you as the First Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Holy See. This is, indeed, as you have stated, an historic moment: the friendly relations that have long existed between the United States and the Holy See are actuated today in a new and special way. Diplomatic ties now formalize, in the way that customarily governs them officially in the international community, a relationship of close collaboration which for many years has already produced fruitful results.

On the part of the Holy See this collaboration means striving earnestly to be of service. It means entering into an extended dialogue on the important issues which are at the basis of civilization itself. It means exerting common efforts to defend human dignity and the rights of the human person - every human person, every man, woman and child on this earth. In this collaboration, the Holy See envisions a useful and respectful exchange of ideas on world peace and development, and on the conditions essential to their attainment, beginning with the need to protect freedom, promote justice, and vindicate truth against every attempted manipulation. And since freedom, justice and truth are related to concrete situations in life, our common concerns must necessarily embrace the global problems of world hunger, the arms race, human misery, the oppression of the weak, the plight of the poor, the condition of refugees, the violation of consciences and the integral development of individuals, communities and nations. All of these points have vital interest for the Government of the United States, as well as for the Catholics of the United States and of the world, because they deeply affect the lives of people - the American people and all the other peoples of the world - and because of the very special position of the United States on the international scene.

You have pointed out, Mr Ambassador, and rightly so, that in many points the principles on which your Republic was founded closely parallel the principles of the Holy See. Yes, it is a question of religious and human values and moral principles. Certainly the recognition of God and the defense of human dignity, and therefore of human life, are a most precious part of your national heritage. Your Declaration of Independence speaks to the whole world about the "Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God", and with great wisdom it recognizes inalienable rights for man. Your Constitution for its part sees the need to "establish justice . . . and secure the blessings of liberty". On the occasion of your Bicentennial, my predecessor Paul VI expressed his deep admiration for the sound basis of American life, and he shared his hope for "a rededication to those moral principles formulated by your Founding Fathers and enshrined forever in your history" (Paolo VI, Address of the Holy Father Paul VI to a group of representatives of the Congress of the United States, 26 Apr. 1976: Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, XVI (1976) 288 s.).

Part of the greatness of the American ideal is, without doubt, an openness to other peoples: not in the sense of "foreign entanglements", but in the sense of fraternal concern "for the well-being", as you have stated it, "of our fellowman throughout the world". On this occasion I cannot fail to express my conviction that the condition of today’s world depends in great measure on the way the United States exercises her global mission of service to humanity. The United States is eminently fitted for this world task of openness to others by reason of her very internal composition as a nation: E pluribus unum! Is America not made up of countless ethnic strains and every race on earth? Does she not contain within herself, in her very citizens, a sensitivity to other peoples: to their cultures, their needs, their aspirations for human dignity and peace?

It is my prayer, Mr Ambassador, that America will not fail to be herself and to renew her identity in fidelity to moral and religious principles, and in service to a world in need of peace and human rights, a world hungry for bread and thirsting for justice and fraternal love. With these sentiments, Mr Ambassador, I ask God to assist you in your mission and I invoke his blessings on the President and all the people of the United States of America.




Thursday, 12 April 1984

Queridísimos jóvenes,

esta magnífica plaza de San Pedro en la que nos encontramos y que guarda tantos recuerdos eclesiales, se abre hoy a un encuentro del Papa con la juventud de todo el mundo.

Ma de la impresión de que la columnata que nos rodea, es esta tarde los brazos abiertos del Papa y de la Iglesia, que se unen para acogeros aquí, cerca de la tumba de San Pedro.

Bienvenidos seáis, amadísimos jóvenes, a esta primera cita con el Papa, al principio de los actos de vuestro Jubileo.

Os he visto recorrer la vía de la Conciliazione con las antorchas en la mano. Era una estupenda marcha de luz. Pero era sobre todo una profesión de fe y de esperanza, porque con vosotros caminaba Cristo. El sostiene vuestro entusiasmo y da sentido a vuestra vida; El os llama a vivir ideales que ningún otro enseña; El os está siempre cercano; El es el Amigo que nunca defrauda.

En este encuentro, cuando las sombras de la noche van cayendo, sé que queréis orar como los discípulos de Emaús: Señor, el día ya declina, quédate con nosotros (Cf. Luc Lc 24,28).

Quédate para iluminar nuestras dudas y temores.

Quédate para que fortifiquemos nuestra luz con la tuya.

Quédate para ayudarnos a ser solidarios y generosos.

Quédate para que en un mundo con poca fe y esperanza, nos alentemos los unos a los otros y sembremos fe y esperanza.

Quédate, para que también nosotros aprendamos de Ti a ser luz para los otros jóvenes y para el mundo.

2) Durant trois jours, vous allez méditer avec mes frères Evêques sur trois thèmes qui éveillent en vous un écho profond: la joie, la liberté, l’amour. Trois mot-clés, trois expériences que vous avez déjà faites, mais que vous allez approfondir, éclairer, fortifier, pour en vivre davantage encore. Grâce à la parole de grands témoins de l’Eglise d’aujourd’hui, grâce à vos témoignages mutuels, grâce à la prière et aux sacrements. Ce soir, je me contente de faire résonner en vous quelques Paroles de Jésus Christ.

La joie! Regardez votre expérience: accueillez les joies multiples qui sont les dons de Dieu: la santé du corps et la vie de l’esprit, la générosité du coeur, l’admiration devant la nature et les oeuvres de l’homme, la plénitude de l’amitié et de l’amour. Mais aspirez aux dons supérieurs, à la joie parfaite que Dieu révèle.

Rejoignez la joie d’Abraham, le Père des croyants (cf. Io. Jn 8,56). Regardez la joie de Marie, “bienheureuse d’avoir cru”, qui “exulte de joie en Dieu, son Sauveur” (Lc 1,45 Lc 1,47). Ecoutez Jean-Baptiste, l’ami de l’Epoux (cf. Io. Jn 3,29). Rejoignez saint François, saint Jean Bosco, tous les saints.

Surtout contemplez la joie unique de Jésus: il est le Fils bien-aimé: en lui vit tout l’amour du Père (cf. Matth. Mt 3,17). Il exulte de voir le Royaume révélé aux petits (Lc 10,21) et livre sa vie pour apporter “aux affligés la joie” (Missale Romanum, «Prex Eucharistica IV»).

Et vous, quelle sera votre joie?

Le Seigneur vous dit: “Si quelqu’un m’ouvre la porte, j’entrerai chez lui pour m’asseoir à sa table, moi près de lui et lui avec moi” (cf. Apoc. Ap 3,20). “Si deux ou trois sont réunis en mon nom, je suis au milieux d’eux” (Mt 18,20). “Heureux les pauvres. Heureux les coeurs purs: ceux qui font la paix, ceux, qui ont faim et soif de justice” (Cf. Ibid.5, 3-9)

Oui, chers amis, soyez dans la joie même de souffrir pour le nom du Christ, et d’être avec lui les frères de ceux qui souffrent. Et que la Résurrection du Christ vous remplisse d’une joie qui demeure (Cf. Io. Jn 20,20), avec l’Esprit Saint qui vous est donné (Cf. Rom. Rm 5,5).

Au-delà de toutes les joies qui éclairent votre route, cherchez Celui qui vous donne la joie. “Cette joie, personne ne pourra vous l’enlever” (Jn 16,22).

3) Dear English-speaking young People,

the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always!

Tonight I am happy to welcome you to the Vatican, which is the goal of your march. You have come here freely to show your love for Christ and his Church, and to gather in his name.

Your freedom is a great gift that you have received from God. It means that you have the power to say yes to Christ. But your yes would not mean anything, unless you could also say no. In saying yes to Christ, you give him yourselves; you offer him your hearts; you recognize his place in your lives, for as children of God, brothers and sisters of Christ, you are created in order to say yes to God’s love. Your freedom was bought by Jesus. He died to make you free. Only Jesus makes you free. He himself tells us in the Gospel of Saint John: "If the Son frees you, you will really be free" (Jn 8,36).

The main obstacle to your freedom is sin, which means saying no to God. But Jesus Christ the Son of God is ready to forgive all sins, and this is what he does in Confession, the Sacrament of Penance. In Confession Jesus himself forgives your sins and gives back the freedom you lost when you said no to God. Dear young people, love your freedom; exercise it by saying yes to God; do not surrender it. Regain it when it is lost, and strengthen it when it is weak through Confession. Remember the words of Jesus: "If the Son frees you, you will really be free".

4) Das dritte Thema unserer Besinnung, liebe junge Freunde, ist die faszinierende Wahrheit von der Liebe: der Liebe zwischen Menschen; der Liebe, mit der Gott uns zuerst geliebt hat; der Liebe, die wir jederzeit Gott und den anderen schulden.

Hört das Zeugnis des Evangelisten Johannes: ”Gott hat die Welt so sehr geliebt, daß er seinen einzigen Sohn hingab, damit jeder, der an ihn glaubt, . . . das ewige Leben hat“ (Ibid. 3, 16). Christus ist die fleischgewordene Liebe des Vaters, ”die Güte und Menschenfreundlichkeit Gottes, unseres Retters“ (Tt 3,4), die sogar in der größten Erniedrigung am Kreuz noch für die Peiniger betet und ihnen verzeiht. In seinem Leiden und Sterben durchschreitet Christus auch die dunklen Abgründe der Liebe; er durchlebt die totale Auslieferung der eigenen Person um der Liebe willen, von der er selber sagt: ”Es gibt keine größere Liebe, als wenn einer sein Leben für seine Freunde gibt“ (Jn 15,13).

Schaut vor allem auf diesen Jesus! Schaut auf sein Kreuz! Er ist in Person, was das Wort Liebe sagt. Er selbst will und soll auch das Maß eurer Liebe sein. Deshalb lautet sein neues und größtes Gebot: ”Liebt einander! Wie ich euch geliebt habe, so sollt auch ihr einander lieben. Daran werden alle erkennen, daß ihr meine Jünger seid: wenn ihr einander liebt“ (Ibid. 13, 34-35). Wie sehr hungert die kranke Welt nach Liebe, nach der heilenden Liebe Jesu Christi, des Erlösers. Wie sehr verlangt die alte Welt nach einer Liebe, die jung ist und jugendliche Kraft schenkt. Werdet ihr ihre Boten! Tragt ihr sie zu den Menschen, wie ihr das Licht der Fackeln durch die abendlichen Staßen getragen habt! Laßt das Feuer des Heiligen Geistes in euch leuchten, um der Welt das Licht und die Wärme der Liebe Gottes zu bringen.

5. Carissimi giovani, “aprite le porte al Redentore!”. Mi ritorna spontaneo alle labbra questo appello che rivolsi al mondo all’inizio del mio pontificato e che ho poi scelto come parola-guida per la celebrazione di questo Anno Santo straordinario. Mi ritorna spontaneo alle labbra, stasera, in questo incontro con voi che siete venuti in rappresentanza dei giovani di tutto il mondo. Voi testimoniate che il messaggio di Cristo non vi lascia indifferenti. Voi intuite che nella sua parola può esservi la risposta che andate ansiosamente cercando. Pur tra interrogativi e dubbi, pur tra perplessità e scoramenti, voi avvertite nel profondo del vostro cuore che lui possiede la chiave capace di risolvere l’enigma che s’annida in ogni essere umano. Non vi sareste messi in cammino per Roma, se non vi avesse sospinto questa percezione, nella quale già vibra la gioia di una scoperta, che può dare senso e scopo a tutta una vita.

Carissimi giovani, Cristo lo si scopre, lasciandolo camminare accanto a sé sulla propria strada. Il mio invito è: lasciate, carissimi giovani, che Cristo si ponga al vostro fianco con la parola del suo Vangelo e con l’energia vitale dei suoi sacramenti. È una presenza esigente, la sua. Può apparire inizialmente scomoda e potreste essere tentati di rifiutarla. Ma se avrete il coraggio di aprirgli le porte del vostro cuore e di accoglierlo nella vostra vita, voi scoprirete in lui la gioia della libertà vera, quella di poter costruire la vostra esistenza sull’unica realtà capace di resistere all’usura del tempo e di spingersi anche oltre le frontiere della morte, la realtà indistruttibile dell’amore.

6) Witam Was, moi mlodzi Przyjaciele - Rodacy, którzy przybyliscie do Rzymu jako pielgrzymi Swietego Roku Odkupienia, aby tu, u grobów Apostolów, w tej wielkiej wspólnocie mlodych serc, przezyc razem z Papiezem Jubileusz Mlodziezy.

W Was witam i pozdrawiam cala umilowana mlodziez polska, wierna dziedzictwu Tysiaclecia Chrztu Polski, i przekazuje jej braterski i ojcowski zarazem pocalunek pokoju.

Zycze Wam z calego serca, abyscie te dni jubileuszowej pielgrzymki przezyli w radosci, w poczuciu braterstwa i pokoju. Wszyscy bowiem ogarnieci jestesmy odkupiencza miloscia Chrystusa, która znalazla swój najpelniejszy wyraz w Jego Krzyzu i Zmartwychwstaniu.

7) Queridos jovens, meus amigos, de língua portuguesa: sede bem-vindos!

A vossa peregrinação trouxe-vos aqui, em atitude de procura: por Cristo Redentor, buscais um mundo novo. E vós sois a promessa desse mundo novo, a construir também por vós, na alegria de quem tem uma vida para viver, sente a liberdade responsável de filho de Deus, que quer o nosso amor e nos quer todos irmãos (Cf. Matth. Mt 23,8), pelo Irmão universal Jesus Cristo, o Justo. Coragem! “Nós sabemos que passámos da morte para a vida - que se deu para nós a Páscoa - porque amamos os irmãos” (1 Io. 3, 14).




Thursday, 12 April 1984

Dear Brothers in Christ,

it gives me great pleasure to welcome you as members of the Twenty-sixth General Chapter of the Congregation of the Christian Brothers. I greet you with the words of the Apostle Paul: "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world" (Rm 1,8).

1. You represent almost three thousand Christian Brothers actively involved in the education of youth in over three hundred and fifty communities on the five continents. Moreover, you are the bearers of a truly glorious tradition of commitment to the education of the young which had its humble origin in the first school that your founder, Edmund Ignatius Rice, set up in a stable at Waterford in the early years of the nineteenth century. That was indeed an act of evangelical compassion, moved as he was by the pitiable state of young boys who had no prospect of education or guidance in the sad conditions of poverty and extreme religious discrimination in which they lived.

Who can measure the extent of the good achieved by your Congregation since then? How many boys have grown to Christian maturity in their personal and professional lives, as a result of the often unspoken heroism of the work carried out by the Brothers with that deep personal faith, with the spirit of self-dedication, and the inner joy that characterizes the followers of Edmund Ignatius Rice?

2. Your General Chapter has the important task of revising the Constitutions and other regulations to be submitted for the approval of the Sacred Congregation of Religious and Secular Institutes. You are also engaged in a process of renewal and adaptation.

In this respect I would draw your attention to what I said in my recent Apostolic Exhortation "Redemptionis Donum": "The Church thinks of you, above all, as persons who are ‘consecrated’: consecrated to God in Jesus Christ as his exclusive possession" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II, Redemptionis Donum, 7).

Without doubt, the effectiveness of your apostolate and the vitality of your Congregation, indeed the sense of personal identity and therefore the spiritual maturity of each member of your Congregation, follows from the authentic way in which this consecration is accepted and lived.

As members of a Religious Institute you have a specific witness to give. You proclaim the saving power of Christ by your particular style of life, which is based on the observance of the evangelical counsels and animated by a solid piety that is at once personal and common to all the members of the Congregation.

3. Allow me to mention briefly one aspect of Christian piety which contributes greatly to the attainment of holiness and the consistency of your witness. I refer to the intense devotion to the Blessed Sacrament that marked the spiritual journey of Edmund Rice and from which so much strength and enlightenment has come for innumerable members of his Congregation. You must be men of frequent contact with the Risen Christ in the Sacrament of his presence, in order to nourish the faith that sustains and gives meaning to your vocation.

The Second Vatican Council took pains to point out that the fact must be honestly faced, that even the most desirable changes made in view of contemporary needs will fail to achieve their purpose unless a renewal of spirit - an interior renewal of the heart - gives life to them (Cf. Perfectae Caritatis PC 2).

4. You have wished to visit the Pope. And I take this opportunity to thank you for your specific ecclesial service in fostering the integral development of youth. I appreciate too the direct assistance given by the Congregation of the Christian Brothers of the Holy See.

May I also ask you for something? You are well aware of the needs of the Church all over the world in relation to vocations to the priesthood and to the religious life. My request is that you do not fail to challenge the young to follow Christ in this way. Help them to discover the divine call. Support them by your prayer, your advice, and the example of your lives.

It is my ardent hope that you will be encouraged by this meeting to continue along the path of fidelity to the original inspiration of your Founder. I pray that your Congregation will grow and flourish with new vocations; that the lives of all its members will be fruitful and fulfilled in the task entrusted to each one.

May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles, protect you and inspire you by her example of perfect consecration!

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Speeches 1984