Speeches 1988 - Glamis Stadium, Harare






Sunday, 11 September 1988

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

1. It gives me great pleasure to meet you, distinguished Heads of Mission and Diplomatic Personnel accredited to the Government of Zimbabwe. I thank you for the courtesy of your presence and I greet each one of the nations and peoples whom you represent.

As you know, my visits to the various countries are above all visits of the Bishop of Rome, the head of the Catholic Church, to the Catholic communities spread throughout the world. The Pope’s task is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to confirm the faith of the members of the Church and to serve the cause of Catholic unity.

But there is also another aspect of the mission which divine providence has entrusted to the Bishop of Rome.

2. The Holy See, whose territory is the small independent enclave in the heart of Rome called the Vatican City, is a recognized and active participant in the international community.The Holy See deals with the international community and with each single member in a sprit of respect and sincere concern for the well-being of peoples, with understanding for the complexity and seriousness of the problems faced by those responsible for public life. The special nature of the Holy See’s service to the human family, corresponding to the Church’s religious and moral mission, requires that its role within the family of nations should not be of a technical or purely political kind. Rather it is a concrete and sensitive sharing in the legitimate aspirations of peoples, in their hopes and anxieties, in their practical efforts to promote peace and justice to defend human dignity and fundamental human rights.

In effect, the Holy See seeks to be a fellow traveller with the human family on its way to a more humane and truth-filled existence. It makes this journey without facile optimism, yet confident that the human family is capable of responding to the truth of things before that truth is transformed and subjected to the play of power or ideology. People are capable of perceiving the innate “truth of things” which the Creator has inscribed in the depths of their being, and they are capable of responding to that truth in a rational and moral way. Herein lies the basis of hope for a better future for the world.

3. In the service of the human family, the Holy See looks to the diplomatic community as a specially qualified partner. Each one of you is at the service of your own country’s interests. But the very nature of your profession and your personal experience of other countries and cultures makes you aware of the wider picture, the solidarity of the whole human race, which expresses an irreversible process of interdependence making the well-being of each part depend on the well-being of the whole. In this we share a common challenge: we must be builders of international peace, servants of the common good, promoters of understanding and dialogue everywhere.

Today such a task is not easy. There are many points of tension. Vast sectors of humanity are oppressed by unbearable conditions of life. And while there is much collaboration and fraternal aid from one country to another and through international organizations, there is certainly room for a more general, concerted and determined effort to alleviate the tragic situations of hunger, abject poverty, disease and illiteracy in which hundreds of millions of persons are imprisoned. The consciences of many are rightly perturbed and there exists a growing public opinion that more must be done to resolve these problems.

4. Before you, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, who represent various countries of the North, South, East and West, and international organizations at the service of the world community, allow me to refer to the dramatic situation of those regions of Africa affected by drought and famine. In these areas hunger, chronic malnutrition and death dominate inexorably.

On my first pastoral visit to Africa in May 1980, I made a solemn appeal at Ouagadougou for emergency aid to the suffering people of the Sahel region. That appeal was directed to international organizations to continue and increase the remarkable work they do to bring assistance to those in need and to remedy the causes of famine; to the Heads of States to contribute generous aid; to non-governmental organizations to inspire individuals and groups to further generosity and service; to men and women of science and research to direct their work towards combating desertification and famine (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II “Vehemens incitamentum ad homines aquarum penuria afflictos sublevandos, in urbe Uagaduguensi ante cathedrale templum elatum”, 7, die 10 maii 1980: Insegnamenti di Giovani Paolo II, III, 1 [1980] 1296).

Thanks must be given to all who concerned themselves with that great human tragedy. But the problem has not gone away and still today countless African lives are threatened by famine. New natural calamities have since then struck Africa, the most recent one bringing immense disaster to the Sudan. Once again world solidarity is called for. The very survival of millions of our brothers and sisters throughout the world depends on our concern for them!

5. I also feel obliged to call attention to another major cause of suffering for vast numbers of people in different parts of the world, and especially here in Africa: that is, the problem of refugees and displaced persons. For various reasons, some of them linked to injustices or natural disasters, these brothers and sisters of ours are forced to flee their homelands, to abandon all that has been familiar and dear to them, all that offered them physical and social security. And, becoming refugees, they face, often with only the help of their faith in God, an uncertain and fearful future.

As I said several years ago, after visiting the Refugee Camp at Phanat Nikhom in Thailand: “The sad lot of these courageous and unfortunate people cannot be ignored by the international community. Indeed the conscience of humanity must be made ever more aware of the evils of the situation, so that prompt and decisive action may be taken towards and adequate solution” (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Allocutio ad Gubernantes et Nationum Legatos”, 2, die 11 maii 1984: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, VII, 1 [1984] 1377).

6. The theme of my visit is “Human rights: the dignity of the human person”. The problem of hunger and the plight of refugees are directly related to the essential question of human rights. All human beings have a fundamental right to what is necessary to sustain life. To ignore this right in practice is to permit a radical discrimination. It is to condemn our brothers and sisters to extinction or to a subhuman existence.

That is why the continuing state of famine in some regions, and the growing numbers of refugees in Africa and throughout the world, must weigh on the consciences of all who can and should work to remedy these situations. Hunger in the world and the multifaceted problem of refugees are but two aspects – both very basic and important aspects – of the whole series of questions that must be faced in order that the world find its proper balance in a new international order based on justice, solidarity and peace.

7. In these matters, the diplomatic community has a vital role to play. You and your colleagues can draw the attention of governments and public opinion to the needs of suffering populations and to the gravity of the underlying economic, social and political conditions which need to be addressed. Through your firsthand experience of Africa, with sympathy and understanding, you can seek to persuade aid-providing agencies to design their programmes to fit the real conditions of African societies.

Likewise you can substantiate the conviction that the countries of Africa themselves must be in charge of their own development and historic destiny. Outside aid is urgently needed, but it will be helpful in the long term only if the essential force of growth and development is truly African.

In this sense it is only right for me to underline the special significance of the international recognition being given to Zimbabwe’s achievements in the field of food production. At the same time, one can perceive a growing worldwide concern for refugees and their precarious conditions, as well as for the social and political factors which cause people to leave their homelands. These examples are sources of inspiration and hope.

8. I pray to Almighty God that conditions of peace will prevail in this Southern African region and throughout the continent so that the peoples of Africa can effectively meet the great challenge of Africa’s development. I am sure that as committed diplomats you will do everything possible to promote the true well-being of the human family and that you will serve the cause of peace and human dignity with all the force of your intelligence and good will.

May God bless you and your families. May he protect the countries and peoples you represent.





Cathedral of Bulawayo

Monday, 12 September 1988

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

1. I greet you with the words of Saint Paul: “I am so proud of you that... I am filled with consolation and my joy is overflowing” (2Co 7,4).

This is indeed a moment of great joy for me, to meet you, the priests, the men and women religious, and the seminarians of Zimbabwe. In each one of you I see the great mystery of God’s love. To you the Lord has spoken as in the Book of Leviticus: “Be consecrated to me, because I, the Lord, am holy and I will set you apart from all these peoples so that you may be mine” (Lv 20,26). Your lives are rooted in that divine call and your confidence is in the One who sustains your ministry and witness. “His faithful love endures for ever” (Ps 118,1).

Here in Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Bulawayo, with the west window over the altar depicting the Immaculate Conception and scenes from the life of the Mother of God, I wish to share these moments with you in the spirit of Mary’s song of praise: “Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age” (Lc 1,49-50).

2. Brother priests: the theme of my visit to Zimbabwe is also the challenge of your priestly ministry:” coming together in Christ”, coming together in the Christian community, through reconciliation. It is your task to build up your parishes and each local Church in fidelity to the word of God, above all by breaking the Bread of life for your, people and by involving them in works of faith and service (Cfr. Act. 2, 42).

In order to do this you yourselves are first called to intimate union with the Lord. You must be men of God, accustomed to prayer and self-giving, humble of heart yet courageous in proclaiming the word “in season and out of season” (Cfr. 2Tim 2Tm 4,2). You must be true spiritual fathers and guides of your people. You must be brothers to each other in every difficulty.

One of the outstanding characteristics of African people is that they cherish family relationships. Accordingly, in this cultural context the Church must appear ever more clearly as the family of God’s beloved children. Exactly a year ago, during my visit to the United States, I spoke of the parish as the “family of families”, “our family in the Church... in which there are no strangers or aliens” (Ioannis Pauli PP. II “Allocutio ad communitatem catholicam ispanicam, in urbe Antoniopoli habita”, 9, die 13 sept. 1987: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, X, 3 [1987] 491). It is your task, my brothers, to instil this family spirit into your parishes and Small Christian Communities, by being yourselves a reflection of God’s fatherly love for his people.

The presbyterium too should be a family of many brothers under the bishop, “co-workers in the same undertaking” (Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 8). Occasions to pray together, study together and share the experiences of your priestly life and work are a necessary part of your lives. How beautiful when you welcome one another into your houses with the peace of Christ in your hearts! How important it is that you support each other through prayer, and with helpful advice and discernment!

3. The renewal in ecclesial life which the Second Vatican Council advocated has certainly, in spite of difficulties and some misunderstandings, produced abundant spiritual fruits in the life of the Church. This renewal has to be clearly evident in the ministry of priests who are called to guide and animate it. Among the more important gifts which the Holy Spirit has bestowed on the Church through the Council is the greater awareness of the universal call to holiness of life.Your ministry cannot be understood apart from your own sharing in the divine life, apart from prayer and penance, apart from self-giving, charity and justice. And the fruit of your ministry is to foster these things in the lives of your people. Indeed, you find nourishment for your own spiritual life in pastoral leadership and activity (Cfr. Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 14).

Under the guidance of the Council, the laity are acquiring a more precise understanding of their baptismal grace and their role in the priestly People of God. They show an ever greater thirst for God’s word and they look to the Church’s spiritual, theological and social doctrine to enlighten them in their everyday lives. Many of them yearn for a more responsible role in parish life, in liturgical activities, in catechesis and in service to those in need. In all of this your spiritual leadership is tested. Your proclamation of the word of God must provide them with ever more solid spiritual nourishment; it should be the result of your own study and prayerful meditation. Your teaching must clearly reflect the Church’s response to the increasingly complex questions raised by modern life. In Saint Matthew’s Gospel, Isaiah’s description of the suffering servant is applied to Jesus, and it can be applied to each one of you: “I will endow him with my spirit, and he will proclaim the true faith to the nations... He will not break the crushed reed, nor put out the smouldering wick till he has led the truth to victory” (Mt 12,18-20).

4. As the people of Zimbabwe and of the whole of Southern Africa strive for reconciliation and brotherhood, I pray that you as priests will exercise the special charism of being able to reconcile your people and “bring them together in Christ”. You well know that before there can be genuine and lasting reconciliation there has to be a conversion, that change of heart which is brought about by willing acceptance of its real consequences in personal and social life.

The ministry of reconciliation is above all a struggle against sin and evil. In administering the Sacrament of Penance, you are entrusted with the spiritual power to loose and bind. If you yourselves appreciate the blessings of this sacrament you will be better able to convey this deep appreciation to the faithful, who nowadays often need more personal attention and more patient listening on the part of the confessor. In each country I visit I appeal to the priests to make themselves as available as possible to those who wish to be freed from sin and renewed in grace, to be reconciled with the Lord and with the Church. And I make this same appeal to you: love this sacrament and receive it often.

My brother priests, the presence of God’s kingdom in Zimbabwe makes itself felt especially through the power and truth of your ministry, centred on the Eucharist. Therefore I earnestly encourage you to be ever more conformed to Christ, and to draw the spiritual resources you need for “shouldering the sacred task of the Gospel” (Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 2) from your daily sharing in Christ’s Paschal Mystery. May you always cherish Mary as the Mother of your vocation and the perfect example of discipleship and service.

5. Men and women religious of Zimbabwe! You too are bound to Christ by a unique relationship. You have received a special sharing in Christ’s consecration of himself to the Father for the sake of mankind (Cfr. Io Jn 17,19). It is a consecration which he fulfilled through his Death and Resurrection and which you realize in a specific way by fulfilling his words: “He who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 10,39).

In a letter to all consecrated persons which I wrote during the recently completed Marian Year, I sought to emphasize something which is at the heart of religious life, namely, the positive significance of dying with Christ in order to share in his Resurrection. I said that what is fundamental for a human being - man or woman - is precisely this: “finding oneself in Christ, since Christ is the ‘whole fullness(Cfr. Col. Col 2,9)’ (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Epistula Apostolica ad omnes personas consecratas communitatum religiosarum et institutorum saecularium Anno Mariali vertente, III, die 22 maii 1988: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XI, 1 [1988] 1595)”. To the extent that you “find yourselves in Christ”, the maturity of your faith and charity will make you his prophetic witnesses in each local Church and before the world. In this way you will effectively proclaim the eternal value of Christ’s saving message.

6. It is your special calling to bear public witness, through your way of life, to the “newness of life” which the Incarnate Son of God introduced into human affairs (Cfr. Rom Rm 6,4). You bear this witness in the concrete historical circumstances of present-day Zimbabwe and contemporary Africa, which have an urgent need for a renewed humanism, expressed in a culture which defends life and promotes human solidarity, to be built on the best traditions of this continent in dialogue with the perennial and universal truths revealed in Jesus Christ.

Your religious consecration, manifested through the observance of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience and made fruitful in the many activities of your religious institutes, is inseparable from the Church’s evangelizing and sanctifying mission. Your consecration will have little sense without a profound love of the Church as God’s chosen instrument for the salvation of mankind. Jesus says: “I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full” (Jn 10,10). All of us, the Successor of Peter and each one of you, must consider ourselves in the first place as apostles sent to proclaim the “life” which God offers in Christ Jesus. To reduce the “Good News” to anything less would be to diminish the very potential for transformation which the Spirit generates in the Church and of which your consecrated life is a clear witness and powerful instrument.

7. Religious life is the countersign to those tendencies towards selfish and excessive individualism, towards greed and ruthless competition which are among the factors that hinder authentic human development here in Africa and elsewhere. Religious life educates you to be especially sensitive to the needs of the poor, the disadvantaged, the sick and the handicapped, and of those left behind by progress.

In your service to others in towns or rural areas, in hospitals and schools in social services and charitable activities, you are not just serving the material development of your people, you are also upholding their human dignity. You treat others as God’s sons and daughters, made in his likeness. You serve them as Christ’s beloved brothers and sisters.

Here, I would like you to reflect on the fact that certain well-tried forms of apostolate, such as education and health care, are a most effective way of defending and promoting human rights because they defend the human person from the basic indignity of ignorance and abandonment. I wish to encourage you, especially the religious Sisters to persevere in these endeavours in fidelity to the charisms which the Holy Spirit has bestowed on your institutes.

8. My dear Sisters: as consecrated women you have a most profound effect on the way the Gospel is incorporated into local culture. Very often you “vivify” a Christian community from its very roots, stimulating and accompanying its growth in a way that is not open to others. The work of the first courageous women religious in this region has left an indelible mark on the Church here.

Let us praise God together for the selfless service of the many expatriate Sisters who have brought untold blessings upon the Church in this land. Theirs is a significant testimony of the universality of Christian love. And the Zimbabwean-born Sisters are the blossoming forth of the divine gift which the Church in this land has received from her Lord: “like branches sprouting out wondrously and abundantly (they) form a tree growing in the field of the Lord from a seed divinely planted” (Lumen Gentium LG 43). This particular seed was planted almost a hundred years ago, when after a long and hazardous journey the first Dominican Sisters entered this area, and it has not ceased to give the finest fruits ever since.

I wish to say a special word of encouragement to the Poor Clares who have established a community in Harare, the first of its kind in Zimbabwe. The contemplative life is an integral part of the life of every particular Church. The presence of these Sisters is a sign of a maturing community of faith, and they deserve the respect and love due to their special vocation. I pray that there may be many Zimbabwean vocations to the contemplative life, which the Council calls “the glory of the Church and an overflowing fountain of heavenly graces” (Perfectae Caritatis PC 7).

9. Dear religious Brothers: your faithfulness and prayerfulness are of vital importance to the Church, and the service you render is indispensable. Your example as conscientious administrators, technical instructors and skilled artisans, demonstrating the dignity of work, is of immense value to a developing country which cannot progress unless it holds workers in high esteem. The example of your joyous following of Christ and your industrious pastoral service is a source of encouragement to many. I invite the Church in Zimbabwe to promote vocations to the brotherhood without any fear that this will divert vocations from the priesthood, for it is the Lord who calls where and when he wishes.

I also offer a special greeting to all the seminarians and candidates to religious life in Zimbabwe. Always give thanks to God who gives you this opportunity to discern in faith and trust the calling which is the reason for your special place in the Church.Remember it is a call to service and holiness of life. It means detachment from material things, and the practice of all the Christian virtues, especially chastity, love of neighbour and zeal for the salvation of souls. Place your trust in the Lord: he is your Shepherd, he guides you along the right path; he is true to his name (Ps 1 Ps 3).

10. Dear priests and religious: the cost of discipleship is never small. Here in Bulawayo, I recall the memory of the first bishop of this diocese, Adolph Schmitt, and of the other priests, religious sisters and brothers, and lay people who lost their lives in the difficult years of the struggle for independence, or as the result of more recent acts of violent aggression. May their sacrifice inspire the entire Church in this land to “press forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God, announcing the Cross and Resurrection of the Lord until he comes” (Lumen Gentium LG 8). I entrust you all to Our Lady, Queen of Peace, whose shrine nearby is a reminder that true peace comes as a gift from the heart of our loving God.

May the peace of Christ be with you all!




Anglican Cathedral of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Monday, 12 September 1988

1. “How good and bow pleasant it is, brothers dwelling in unity... For there the Lord gives his blessing, life for ever” (Ps 133,1 Ps 133,3).

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

these words of the Psalmist express a basic longing of the human heart, the longing for harmony and friendship with others. At the same time, they express the longings of all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus. In fact, the desire for unity among Christians has been gaining momentum in a significant way in the course of this century, and especially since the calling of the Second Vatican Council by my predecessor Pope John XXIII.

With gratitude to God for this movement towards complete unity in faith and charity which the Holy Spirit is sustaining in our lifetime, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to meet you today, you who are the representatives of Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities in Zimbabwe. I thank you for the cordial welcome which you have extended to me, and I am grateful for the commitment each of you has made to the ecumenical movement.

2. In my first Encyclical Letter, at the very beginning of my pastoral service of the Church as the Successor of the Apostle Peter, I expressed my own great desire to continue and intensify the Catholic Church’s many efforts at restoring the fullness of unity among Christ’s followers, a unity that will only be advanced by keeping a steady focus on the face of Christ. I wrote: “in Christ and through Christ man has acquired full awareness of his dignity, of the heights to which he is raised, of the surpassing worth of his own humanity, and of the meaning of his existence. All of us who are Christ’s followers must therefore meet and unite around him. This unity in the various fields of the life, tradition, structures and discipline of the individual Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities cannot be brought about without effective work aimed at getting to know each other and removing the obstacles blocking the way to perfect unity” (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Redemptor Hominis RH 11).

This meeting today is certainly one more step in the necessary enterprise of “getting to know each other and removing the obstacles blocking the way”. But even more important than getting to know each other is that we get to know and accept more profoundly our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and the fullness of his teaching. That is why daily prayer and meditation on the Gospels are essential for the beginning and continuity of any ecumenical initiative.

In prayer, the Holy Spirit enlightens our minds and moves our hearts, thus deepening our communion with the Most Holy Trinity. And in our meditation on the Gospels we see ever more clearly the mercy of God who in Christ the Redeemer has reconciled the world to himself and handed on to us in the Church the work of reconciliation.

3. Christ’s own prayer to the Father reveals to us his great desire for the unity of all his followers: “May they all be one”, he prays, “Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you” (Jn 17,21).

The unity for which our Saviour prays is really a communion in truth and love, a communion like that which exists between the Father and the Son. There is nothing superficial, then, about the unity for which Christ prayed, a unity for which he would lay down his life, the unity for which the Church continually strives. And this unity is closely linked to the new life of faith in Christ which each of us received in the Sacrament of Baptism.

From the moment we were freed from sin through this sacrament and filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit, we began to experience, to some extent, the communion for which Christ prayed: “Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you” (Ibid. 17, 21). It is a communion with the Holy Trinity, and a communion with all our brothers and sisters in Christ.

4. But this wonderful gift of communion, rooted in “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ep 4,5) has been damaged by sins of division. Contrasting positions on doctrine and diverging paths, together with many failures in charity, have sown discord among those baptized “in water and the Holy Spirit” (Jn 3,5). As a most regrettable consequence, non-believers are often scandalized at the absence of love which has grown up among, the followers of Christ. And this, in turn, has greatly hindered the primary mission of the Church which is to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom to the very ends of the earth.

But the power of sin and division has not had the final word. Instead it has been conquered by Christ through his own Sacrifice on the Cross. And the Spirit of Truth and Love has never stopped working in the Church to overcome the hatred and division, the centuries of misunderstanding and discord. In the past thirty years, in particular, the Holy Spirit has prompted within the hearts of believers remorse over mistakes of the past, a new desire to overcome divisions, a fresh enthusiasm for working together as brothers and sisters in the vineyard of the Lord.

5. I know that here in Zimbabwe numerous initiative have been undertaken in this regard, initiatives which have been aided by the traditional African appreciation of the great value of community life and the family. You, like Christians throughout the world, are now walking together along the path that will lead to fullness of communion in Christ.

Your many joint activities in the field of human development, as well as the ecumenical dialogues, are commendable projects and serve as a good foundation for further ecumenical collaboration. I think, too, of your fraternal cooperation in meeting the needs of migrants, refugees and victims of natural disaster. There is also your mutual concern for the work of justice and peace and for a more equitable distribution of natural resources.

In all these joint efforts, what we strive to show to the world are both the human dimension and the divine dimension of the great mystery of the Redemption.As I wrote in my first Encyclical, “we can and must immediately reach and display to the world our unity in proclaiming the mystery of Christ, in revealing the divine dimension and also the human dimension of the Redemption, and in struggling with unwearying perseverance for the dignity that each human being has reached and can continually reach in Christ, namely the dignity of both the grace of divine adoption and the inner truth of humanity” (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Redemptor Hominis ).

6. The words of the Psalmist remind us of a primary element of the ecumenical movement: constant prayer for complete unity in Christ and praise of his Holy Name. As the Psalmist says: “I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise always on my lips... Glorify the Lord with me. Together let us praise his name” (Ps 2 Ps 3-4).

Although common worship may not be possible in many cases, nevertheless prayer services such as this one today play an important part in helping to restore unity among the followers of Jesus. The annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is one initiative in this regard which deserves special commendation and support. And in our own Communions, we have an obligation to follow the example of Christ in praying: “May they all be one” (Jn 17,21).

Above all, we must never lose confidence in what the Spirit of God can accomplish in our own day. For as the Angel Gabriel said to the Virgin Mary, “nothing is impossible to God” (Lc 1,37). Let our hearts then be alive with faith and always steadfast in hope. And may the praise of God be always on our lips: “Glorify the Lord with me. Together let us praise his name” (Ps 4). Amen.

Speeches 1988 - Glamis Stadium, Harare