I am grateful to His Excellency the President of the Republic of Finland for the good wishes of which he has made you the bearer. I would ask you to convey to him the assurance of my prayers for him personally and for the important service that he is called upon to render to his country and to the world community.
Finland is known and appreciated everywhere for its attachment to its independence and personal liberties, and also for its dedication to international understanding and peace.
On the occasion of my visit on 2 June 1980 to the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in Paris, I remarked that it is not by means of physical force but because of its culture that a country preserves its identity and national sovereignty. It is the moral and ethical values enshrined in Finnish culture that give the nation its permanency and strength. I pray that those values will be carefully maintained and developed, for the good of your own people and of the whole world. The Catholic Church enjoys, I know, high esteem in Finland, and although its members there are few in numbers, they are willingly contributing to this task, as part of their service to their country.
The Holy See also looks with appreciation on Finland’s role in the service of world peace. It was not without reason that Helsinki was chosen as the venue for the opening and closing of the Conference on European Security and Cooperation, whose Final Act contains principles and pledges that reflect aspirations shared by people of good will everywhere, especially with regard to human rights and the rights of peoples. I hope that your country will long continue to play its valuable role in this field, by encouraging understanding between peoples and respect for the rights of nations and individuals.
In expressing my deep interest in Finland and my good wishes for its well-being. I also whish to assure you of my regard and of my prayers for you yourself and for the mission that you are undertaking. I am confident that with your help the cordial relationship between Finland and the Holy See will continue to develop. May God assist you and bless you.
It is a pleasure that I welcome Your Excellency as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of India to the Holy See and accept the kind good wishes that you bring me from the authorities of your country. I warmly reciprocate these good wishes and pray God to bless all the people of India.
As Your Excellency mentioned, the Christian faith came very early to India. It has been part of your country’s history ever since. When modern India acquired its independence, the Christians rightly placed their trust in their fellow-citizens and in the guarantees written into the Constitution and they willingly participated in all aspects of the nation’s life. I am confident that the praiseworthy traditions of respect for religious belief, of which Your Excellency spoke, will ensure the continuation of these guarantees of freedom of conscience and of the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion, without being discriminated against. One of the most precious elements of the heritage of India is its respect for the endeavours of men and women to fulfil the obligation that their nature imposes on them to seek the truth and adhere to it and to direct their whole lives in accordance with its demands.
The same heritage gives great significance to India’s role in the worldwide community of nations. In the international sphere there is need of voices that will speak for human rights, for the rights of individual men and women everywhere, the rights connected both with their bodily and their spiritual aspect, the rights without which they cannot live lives in keeping with their dignity as human beings endowed with intellect and will and with personhood. These fundamental rights are a condition for peace, and those who contribute to ensuring respect for them are true peacemakers.
I ask God to bless the work being done in India and by India to enable everyone to actuate human possibilities more fully. And I pray that he will bestow his favours abundantly on all the people of India and on those who are serving them in the fields of government or diplomacy or in any other way.
Dear Brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ,
1. With the help of God, it will be my privilege in a few weeks’ time to journey to your country and to express personally my love and esteem for all the Nigerian people. My visit there will be above all a pastoral visit. I shall go in order to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; and to celebrate with you – in faith, hope and charity – the communion of the Catholic Church. In a real sense I shall be making a pilgrimage to the living shrine of the People of God, which is the Church in your land.
2. The visit will give all of us an opportunity to experience our unity in Christ and in the Church.
Together we shall be able to realize ever more deeply what it means to be united in the acceptance of the word of God and to express this unity through prayer, sacramental action and charitable concern. In this way we hope to manifest ecclesial communion with the same fervour as the early Christians who “Devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers”. Indeed, I pray that my visit will not only reflect this communion but also intensify it. Meanwhile, today’s ad limina visit anticipates our great celebration of unity and leads up to it. It is a prelude and preparation for a pastoral visit in which the Pope will belong in a special way to Nigeria.
3. By its very nature every celebration of ecclesial communion is linked to the proclamation of the word of God. It is in the truth of Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word of God that all our assemblies take place; it is to this truth that our unity must give witness. As Saint John explains, our fellowship is linked to the message of truth which we have heard and proclaim: “our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ”. Indeed, in his prayer, Christ implores perfect unity for his followers only after he has addressed his Father, saying: “Sanctify them in truth... And for their sake I consecrate myself that they also may be consecrated in truth”. All ecclesial communion is built on the truth of Christ’s word.
4. The great desire of my heart is therefore to proclaim to your people the life-giving message of truth, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In this sense my whole pastoral visit is to be seen in the context of evangelization. It thus becomes a further proclamation of the message of salvation which has already been preached and accepted by your people. It becomes a fresh invitation for them to put on Jesus Christ and “to lead a life worthy of the calling” to which they are called. In a word, the visit is placed under the sign of evangelization, at the centre of which is “a clear proclamation that in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, who died and rose from the dead, salvation is offered to all people, as a gift of God’s grace and mercy”.
Understood in this way, evangelization means preaching a message of hope, bringing the Good News to all parts of society, and inviting individuals and communities to interior change.
Evangelization is the vocation proper to the Church; it expresses her deepest identity, for it sums up the whole mission of Jesus himself, who said: “I must proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God... because this is what I was sent to do”.
5. In union with the Bishops of Nigeria and the whole Church, I too shall strive to fulfil my own mission of evangelization at the service of the Gospel, inviting the Church in your midst to become an ever more effective sign and instrument of God’s kingdom on earth. It is through evangelization, through the communication of the power of Christ’s Gospel, that the local Churches are purified and enabled to become ever more authentic communities of faith, in which the poor and the suffering, the sick and the handicapped, the unemployed and the disinherited, the orphans, widows and refugees find fraternal love, solidarity and support; and in which everyone is “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”.
Yes, dear Brothers, I look forward to being with you and your people, in order to render homage to those who first brought you the Gospel message and implanted the Church among you. I earnestly desire to celebrate together with you our unity under the sign of evangelization. All this is directed to the glory of the Triune God, to whom each of us, on that occasion, will be able to address our prayer of exultation and joy: “I will give you praise in the vast assembly; in the mighty throng I will praise you”. With God’s help we shall praise him together – in Nigeria! And may the Mother of Jesus help it to be so.
dear friends from the United States,
In my message for the World Day of Peace this year, I addressed my words explicitly “to the men and women who today bear responsibility for life in society”. Since you are among those belonging to this important category of people at the service of peace, I am very happy to speak to you personally this morning and to welcome you to the Vatican.
1. Peace is without doubt a gift of God. But because it is entrusted to us, peace is also linked with human justice, which in turn is fostered through sound structures of law and through the delicate and diligent activities of legislators. As Congressmen you are in a position to offer an eminent form of service to your fellow citizens. You are in a position to help build legal structures that reflect justice and thereby promote peace. Moreover, the structures that you build can be a lasting contribution.
2. The service that you perform can benefit not only your own country but also society in general.
The measures that you take in Congress affect the lives of millions of Americans. They likewise touch the well-being of people throughout the world; the enactments of your Congress can give fraternal support to whole sectors of mankind and can sustain the hope of entire peoples.
3. You are called upon to champion human dignity within your country and beyond its boundaries.
You are called to be courageous advocates of human rights – especially those inalienable rights proclaimed by your own Declaration of Independence: the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. To defend and protect human life, to help all your brothers and sisters live as free people pursuing that true happiness willed for them by the Creator – this is indeed a splendid mission.
4. Last Saturday I had occasion to mention to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See that present times are difficult. But I also added: “The forces for good are greater!”. I believe that your role as Congressmen gives you immense opportunities to do good in many ways: as trusted and truthful servants of the public, as defenders of freedom, as proponents of justice, as supporters of life, as friends of the poor – and thus as real peace-makers promoting human rights.
All of this is in the best tradition of your land – in the American way of life. Again, as your Declaration of Independence states, it is in order to secure these rights that “Governments are instituted among men”. Or, as a distinguished American, Thomas Jefferson – to whom I referred during my address on the Mall in Washington – once said: “The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the first and only legitimate object of good government”.
Ladies and gentlemen, the challenge is great and can be deeply fulfilling. You are called to contribute effectively to the destiny of America and to the future of the world. May God sustain you in this important task of service in the true cause of human rights, of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.
Thank you for your visit.
Dear Brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ.
1. Jesus himself has said: “I must proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God... because this is what I was sent to do”. For us these words are like a key. They unlock the deepest meaning of our episcopal ministry because they sum up the whole mission of the Saviour. Jesus hereby indicates the supreme priority that is ours as Bishops acting in his name and sent by him. We are called to proclaim the Gospel, to evangelize our people. This proclamation of the Good News – this evangelization – is done by word and sacrament. Indeed, the Second Vatican Council looks upon the Eucharist as the most effective proclamation of the Gospel, "the source and summit of all evangelization".
2. Last week when I spoke to the first group of Bishops from your country, I told them how much I want my whole pastoral visit to Nigeria to be seen in the context of evangelization.
I told them that the great desire of my heart is “to proclaim to your people the life-giving message of truth, the Gospel of Jesus Christ”. The whole programme of my visit is related to this central theme. And it is my hope that the individual events will help to focus attention on the Good News of salvation – indeed, on the very person of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, the Redeemer of man – and that they will make his Gospel more widely known, respected and loved. I also pray that, with God’s grace, my visit may initiate a new era of evangelization, one that follows upon a century of zealous preaching of the Gospel and generous service rendered in the name of the same Jesus “who went about doing good”.
I look forward to proclaiming Jesus Christ to all those who will freely listen to my voice. Hence my meetings with the various groups that make up the Church in Nigeria. To all these groups I hope to present the Good News of the Kingdom of God, in relation to the concrete circumstances of daily life, as it is lived within the context of Nigerian culture. The different events will give me ample opportunities to endeavour to speak to your people, heart to heart.
3. But meanwhile, a reflection at this time on the very aim and scope of evangelization is a source of encouragement for us as Bishops. By means of this reflection we can clearly see the specific service that, together with our priests, we are called to render to the community. It is always a question of transmitting the Good News – a liberating, uplifting, satisfying Gospel. In the expression of Paul VI, our role as evangelizers is to speak about “the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the Kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God”.
What a privilege it is for us to proclaim “the name which is above every name” – the only name in which there is salvation. Our teaching is truly the teaching of Jesus, a teaching about life, about the fullness of life, about eternal life. We preach and make known a Jesus who says: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”. On the authority of Jesus we are able to hold out promises that will not deceive, promises such as: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God". In all of this we preach a merciful Lord, a loving Jesus who came not to condemn, but to save and to establish a Kingdom, gathering into one the dispersed children of God. At the core of our message is the proclamation of God’s gift of salvation – the gift of God’s merciful love bestowed through the death and Resurrection of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, through Christ the Son, we have received the grace of divine adoption and “in him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace”.
4. As we explicitly proclaim the mystery of a God who saves and gathers his people into one family, we perceive the need for exemplary witness – this too being a requirement of evangelization.
The lesson of history confirms that by the action of the Holy Spirit evangelization takes place above all through the witness of charity, the witness of holiness. The ministers of Christ are effective evangelizers to the extent that they are united with Christ, to the extent that they love their brethren and experience the need and urgency of proclaiming the Gospel. For us the words of Jesus are a whole programme of life and ministry. We can never forget them: “I must proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God... because this is what I was sent to do”.
5. This is the pastoral ideal that sustains us in our ministry, day after day, year after year. This is the pastoral vision that we must offer to our priests, who are personally called by Christ to be our co-workers in this vital task. This is the pastoral viewpoint that we want all seminary training to inculcate and the whole lay apostolate to share. In fact, it was this ideal, this vision, this viewpoint, this consciousness of being sent, in accordance with what Jesus said – “because for this I was sent” – that encouraged the missionaries to bring the word of God to your people. And it is this consciousness of being sent, this consciousness of the need to communicate Christ, that will animate, in the last years of this twentieth century and beyond, the continuing in-depth evangelization of Nigeria and all Africa. This, then, is the meaning of all evangelization, and the meaning of my visit: being sent to communicate Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, being sent to preach the Good News of the Kingdom, being sent to proclaim Christ’s saving love until he comes again in glory.
Beloved Brothers, we are ready to go forward together, and to summon the local Churches, in their entirety, to this task. And we shall do it, relying on the prayers and intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary, for the glory of the Most Holy Trinity: the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
It is a pleasure to accept the Letters of Credence appointing Your Excellency as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of your country to the Holy See. I warmly welcome you to this new assignment, and while expressing my gratitude for the kind greetings you have conveyed on behalf of the President of Nigeria, I would ask you to reciprocate his cordial good wishes.
Diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Nigeria are a sign of mutual understanding and respect; at the same time they are a pledge of our common desire to work together in friendly collaboration for the betterment of the human person and of society. The Holy See and your nation, each in its own specific field of responsibility, strive to promote the spiritual, moral and cultural elevation of men and women and of the families and communities of which they are a part.
Your presence here today bears witness to your Government’s intention to work in harmony with the Holy See. Similarly the Holy See and the Catholic Church in Nigeria more specifically want to contribute to securing a better future for your country. Just as Jesus of Nazareth was a man “who went about doing good”, so also the followers of Christ seek to excel in works of charity and justice in their relationships with all their fellow citizens, regardless of creed or any other social distinction. To illustrate this point, permit me to make reference to the educational institutions of the Church in Nigeria. Among other goals, these institutions seek to assist every person in developing his or her unique capabilities and talents, so that each one, having received a solid formation in the various fields of study, may, as a good citizen, contribute to the welfare and further development of the community. They are at the service of the parents, to help them in the exercise of their right to choose the type of education they wish to give their children, in accordance with their moral and religious principles.
In several weeks, I shall have the great joy of visiting the beloved people of Nigeria. I look forward to this pastoral pilgrimage with great anticipation. It will be an occasion of meeting many of my brothers and sisters in Christ, and of uniting with them to praise and glorify the name of God, our Creator and Redeemer. It will afford me the opportunity to greet the members of other religions, especially those of the Moslem faith, whom the Catholic Church holds in high esteem. I look forward to meeting His Excellency Alhaji Shehu Shagari, the President of Nigeria, together with the other leaders of your nation. I pray that this journey of friendship and faith will deepen the bonds of understanding and brotherhood which already unite us.
I wish Your Excellency success in the new mission which you are undertaking and, for its accomplishment, you may be assured of all necessary assistance on the part of the Holy See.
It is a pleasure to welcome you once again to the Vatican, members of the NATO Defence College and your families. I appreciate the opportunity of greeting you, and of addressing to you some brief considerations. As in the past, so also this year, I feel compelled to speak to you about peace, since, in virtue of the opportunities afforded to you for study and dialogue, you have a particular contribution to make to the great work of peace.
The events of the past several months have made the world increasingly aware of the complex obstacles which continue to impede sincere efforts for creating justice and harmony in today’s society. It is true that our world is racked with division and tension, with oppression and bloodshed – horrifying realities which are so deep-rooted and extensive that some of our brothers and sisters despair of peace ever being achieved. They have simply lost hope. But we cannot yield to fatalism and despair. Indeed we must respond to the situation with constant hope and untiring effort.
Peace is possible. It can be achieved. We who are believers are convinced of this truth because we know in faith that God is the foundation of peace. God wills to give his peace to the world. He wills to bring about peace in every nation, among all peoples and in every human heart.
By divine design, however, God creates peace not independently of man but continually and precisely in cooperation with man. Peace is a gift of God entrusted to us. As I stated in my message for the recent World Day of Peace, “while peace is a gift, man is never dispensed from responsibility for seeking it and endeavouring to establish it by individual and community effort, throughout history. God’s gift of peace is therefore also at all times a human conquest and achievement, since it is offered to us in order that we may accept it freely and put it progressively into operation by our creative will”. Since peace is not only a gift of God, but also a human conquest and achievement, it is a goal for which believers and non-believers alike – in fact all people of good will – can join hands and collaborate for the betterment of the entire world.
As we meet today, I am happily reminded of the recent liberation from captivity of General James Dozier. His liberation was a moment of great joy for so many people who had hoped and prayed for his release. It has given us new reason to believe that the scourge of terrorism can be brought to an end. And it has renewed our conviction that non-violent means are the one way to achieve long-lasting political and social reforms in any country.
As members of the NATO Defence College, may your activities always be motivated by a deep confidence in the possibility of peace and by a profound respect for the dignity of every human person. I pray that Almighty God will assist you in your every effort to build a future marked by harmony, justice and peace. God bless you and your families.
Friday, 5 February 1982
It is with much pleasure that I welcome Your Excellency as the first Ambassador of the Republic of Singapore to the Holy See and that I receive, together with your Letters of Credence, the kind greetings of His Excellency President C. V. Devan Nair.
I would like to express also my own best wishes for his Excellency the President and for all the people of Singapore.
In the relatively short time since the city of Singapore was founded it has grown rapidly. People of different origins have come together to form the present industrious population of your republic.
They have seen the need, as Your Excellency remarked, to live and work harmoniously together.
Their very variety underlines the importance of the human values that are common to all mankind.
Their collaboration enriches society as a whole, to whose welfare each group has its own valuable contribution to make. In turn each group has much to gain from a situation such as exists in Singapore: their constant association with people steeped in a different civilization from their own has no small part to play in the development of their own particular genius and spirit. I am therefore very happy to see understanding and cooperation prevail among the people of Singapore. And I pray that this attitude will continue to reign among them, not only for the good of their own country, but also as an example for others and for the international community as a whole.
From a very early stage in the history of Singapore the members of the Catholic Church in your country have willingly played their part in serving the community, especially by their work in the field of education. The Church’s mission is not of the political, economic, or social order: her purpose is a religious one. But this religious mission can be the source of commitment and vigour in serving the moral and spiritual interests of the human community and establishing it in accordance with the law of God. The Church therefore offers her unreserved cooperation in fostering among all people that brotherhood which corresponds to man’s high destiny. Her motives are free from earthly ambition. Her only goal is to carry forward the work of Christ, for he came into the world to bear witness to the truth, to save and not to judge, to serve and not to be served.
Accordingly I look forward to cordial cooperation between the Republic of Singapore and the Holy See in fostering understanding and harmony between peoples, and restoring peace where it is injured, protecting it where it is undermined and strengthening it further wherever it is preserved.
The diplomatic relations now established will facilitate this cooperation. I ask God to make it prosper and to bless Your Excellency and your mission.
Monday, 8 February 1982
It gives me pleasure today to welcome Your Excellency and to accept your Letters of Credence as Ambassador of the Republic of Zambia to the Holy See. I appreciate the kind words of greeting that you have just spoken on behalf of the citizens of your nation and I am grateful for your solicitude with regard to my well-being. In particular I take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to all the many countrymen of yours who prayed for me during the period of my recovery.
The theme of peace that you have presented is a concern that directly affects the stability not only of individual nations such as your own, but the world community as a whole. In fidelity to her mission of bringing the message of salvation to all peoples, the Catholic Church has a keen interest in the promotion of all that ensures the inherent dignity of every person. The establishment of true peace is essential for preserving and advancing that dignity.
Peace, as we are all aware, is not merely the absence of war. Rather, in its fullest meaning, peace points to the deepest desire that is found in the heart of every human being. Peace challenges that which is noblest in man. In this regard I stated in this year’s Message for the World Day of Peace that peace “springs from the dynamism of free wills guided by reason towards the common good that is to be attained in truth, justice and love”.
From this it is clear that peace must necessarily involve more than a consideration of material or economic values. It requires values of the spiritual realm as well. In fact, the pre-eminence of spiritual values must be acknowledged, in order to ensure that material development and economic growth serve the authentic destiny of the whole person. For this reason the unimpeded access to truth, the equitable distribution of the riches of creation, and the right of acceptance in society without discrimination on the basis of origin, race, sex, nationality, religion, political convictions and the like must be upheld and defended as essential elements, in building a lasting peace.
On the other hand, wherever selfishness, greed or exploitation are allowed to exist, by law or by custom, there human suffering will be most intensely experienced and the way to peace most severely blocked. These situations will only be overcome by a willingness to communicate, to understand the condition of those who are being manipulated and by a readiness to forgive the wrongs of the past in favour of a common search for future harmony.
Mr Ambassador, it gives me great hope to hear you reiterate the commitment of the people of Zambia to the quest for peace in the world. May God bless every effort in the pursuit of this goal.
I extend to Your Excellency my good wishes for success in the work that has been entrusted to you by His Excellency the President of the Republic. I assure you of the cooperation and assistance of the Holy See in your efforts, as well as my own prayers for yourself and for all the beloved sons and daughters of Zambia.
Saturday, 12 February 1982
Your Eminence Cardinal Ekandem,
my brother bishops,
respected Government leaders,
esteemed dignitaries and all you people of Nigeria,
I am happy to set foot on your beloved land. For a long time I have wanted to pay you this visit, and now this desire of my heart is being fulfilled. For me this is a moment of great joy; before me there unfolds a vision of hope.
1. I have come in order to meet people of different religious persuasions – both individuals and communities – and I earnestly hope that my presence among you will express the love and respect that I have for all of you, as well as my esteem for the worthy religious values that you cherish. I wish to show fraternal solidarity with all the people of this nation, who through their Constitution have firmly and solemnly resolved to live, under God, in unity and harmony, and to work for the welfare of all. It is my desire to pay tribute to Nigeria’s contribution to justice, peace and development in Africa and beyond, and to support all efforts under way to build a society ever more fraternal and humane.
2. To the Catholics I say: I come to you in the name of Jesus Christ, on a visit that is pastoral in nature. I come to meet you, to listen to you, to celebrate the Holy Eucharist with you and for you. I come to proclaim Jesus Christ in your midst and to strengthen you in your faith and in your love for God and for all your brothers and sisters. I come to support my brother bishops and priests in the work of evangelization and in their generous service to humanity.
3. I address my words of friendship to all sectors of the national community. In particular my thoughts and affection go out to the sick, the old and the handicapped, and to all who are experiencing the burdens of suffering and sorrow. I hope to be able to be close to you, in order to comfort you. I look forward to the opportunity to encourage and challenge the youth, and to honour all the citizens of Nigeria. I am deeply grateful to you for inviting me to be your guest and I ask God to reward you for this warm reception. May God grant to all of us days of joyful encounter, celebration and prayer.
May the Almighty and Merciful God bestow on Nigeria every blessing of true prosperity and peace. God bless Nigeria!