Speeches 1988 - Anglican Cathedral of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
Tuesday, 13 September 1988
Your Excellency President Mugabe,
Ladies and Gentlemen, dear Friends,
1. The hour has come for me to leave Zimbabwe, the first stage on my apostolic visit to Southern Africa.
With gratitude to God, I express to all of you present here and to all the wonderful people of Zimbabwe my joy at having been able to spend these days in your country. My stay was short, but it was intense, filled with prayer, celebration and friendship.
I thank you for the warm welcome and fine hospitality with which you received me from the first moment.
I carry you with me in my heart, especially the young, the sick, the needy and those who are alone. I remember you all in my prayers.
2. My meeting with my brothers of the Inter-Regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa, gathered for their Second Plenary Assembly, represented a very significant moment of this journey. I thank the Lord that our meeting was marked by a deep and intense communion between the Bishop of Rome and the pastors of the Church in this region. I implore God’s grace upon the outcome of their Assembly so that the decisions taken will bear abundant fruit for the good of the Church and of society.
3. Mr President, I thank you again for having personally met me on my arrival, for kindly inviting me to visit you at the State House and for all that you have done to make this visit possible.
I also wish to thank the Members of the Government who have been present at various venues, the national and local authorities, the staff of the various Ministries, the members of the police and security services and all those who have helped in the preparation and course of this visit.
4. To you, dear bishops of Zimbabwe, who with the priests, religious and laity have been the special object of my attention here, I offer my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation. My thanks goes to all those who have given of their time and energies in making this visit a success, providing transport and support so that people could come to pray with the Pope and to celebrate with him the mysteries of faith.
As the Successor of Peter I have come to confirm the faith of my brothers and sisters. I am truly happy to have met so many of you, to have listened to your concerns and aspirations and I encourage you all to persevere in the ecclesial and pastoral tasks you have undertaken.
I have experienced the vitality of your Catholic communities. I have seen how committed you are to education, especially through your schools, how dedicated to health care, how active in promoting justice and harmony, in serving the needs of the poor and of refugees.
I am fully aware of the fervour with which you encourage vocations and prepare the candidates to the priesthood and religious life, of the interest you take in the well-being of the family, in the training of youth and in the development of the world of culture.
For all this I give thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ. May he bless your apostolate.
5. To the brothers and sisters of the other Christian Ecclesial Communities who welcomed me so warmly in the Anglican Cathedral of Saint John at Bulawayo goes my sincere word of friendship and goodwill. We have prayed and reflected together. May the Lord Jesus Christ lead us further along the path of mutual esteem and love.
I thank the journalists and the communications personnel who helped to report my words and whose skills have served in these days to make Zimbabwe better known to the world.
Upon all the inhabitants of Zimbabwe I implore God’s love and peace!
God bless Zimbabwe!
Tuesday, 13 September 1988
Your Excellency President Masire,
My dear brother Bishop Setlalekgosi,
Noble People of Botswana,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. It is a great joy for me to begin this visit to your country. I wish to greet you in a true spirit of friendship and respect, and to assure you of my fervent prayers for the well-being and prosperity of the people of Botswana. I am grateful to President Masire and the Government for their kind invitation. I also wish to thank Bishop SetlaleKgosi and all the Catholic faithful who have made this visit possible.
2. Botswana is a country at peace with itself and with its neighbours. In fact, it can rightly be called an island of peace in a troubled sea. This is due in great measure to the nature of the Botswana people: you are a peace loving and friendly people, a people who believe in the basic equality and human dignity of every man and woman. Here in your land freedom of speech and freedom of religion are part of your national life. May you always enjoy the internal harmony that is so essential if true progress is to be made for the benefit of each and every citizen. With God’s help, may your country also continue to be an agent of peace for your neighbours.
I understand that Botswana’s independence is founded on four basic principles: unity, democracy, self-reliance and development. By building on these four pillars, you have achieved, in recent years, a remarkable degree of economic and social progress. These achievements are a ray of hope for people throughout Africa who long for authentic human development for themselves and for their children.
The pursuit of these four national ideals has enabled Botswana to make great strides in improving the quality of life of its people. Since independence in 1966, there has been significant and steady progress in the areas of education, health care and public works. This is a great credit to all of you: to the efforts of your government and to the commitment and collaboration of the people of Botswana in promoting the common good of the nation.
3. While the primary mission of the Catholic Church is religious and spiritual, nonetheless her members share this concern for economic and social development. The Church believes that the proper goal of authentic development is not only the material and economic transformation of the world for the better, but also the creation of ever greater possibilities for men and women to fulfil themselves in accordance with their dignity as children of God. Since society exists for people, it has the duty to respect, protect and promote the human person in all aspects. Among these aspects we must include the religious dimension, which expresses our transcendent vocation as human beings, and embraces our whole earthly existence. As I said in my Message for this Year’s World Day of Peace, religion helps us to appreciate better our human dignity and so it contributes to human freedom; it strengthens moral integrity and helps us to act with greater responsibility; it prepares us for true fellowship with other human beings by teaching us to live in solidarity with everyone as brothers and sisters (Cfr. “Nuntius ob diem ad pacem fovendam dicatum pro a. D. 1988”, 3, die 8 dec. 1987: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, X, 3  1336 s).
May the people of Botswana always preserve their traditional respect for the religious dimension of human life. May they continue to build a just and peaceful society on the solid foundation of respect for the human person, created by God in his own image and likeness.
4. I offer a special greeting to all my Catholic brothers and sisters, whom I have so looked forward to meeting in the course of this pastoral visit to Botswana. I come to you as a pastor in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and as a brother who wishes to share your joy at all that God has accomplished among you through the power of the Holy Spirit. I join you in thanking God for the gift of faith and baptism by which you share in the new life of the Risen Saviour. I wish to confirm you in your Catholic faith, and to the earthly well-being of your future of the Church in this beautiful country. As members of the Body of Christ, you are called to be heralds of the Good News of salvation. By living lives modelled on the Gospel, you not only contribute to the earthly well-being of your fellow citizens but also bring them an abundance of spiritual blessings: you lead them to Christ. With Saint Paul I pray that “the Lord may be generous in increasing your love, and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you. And may he so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in God’s sight” (Cfr. 1Thess 1Th 3,12-13).
5. I also extend my hand in friendship and peace to other Christians and to the members of other religions. Through a common respect for conscience, we can do much to safeguard the dignity of the human person in today’s world. Through active cooperation, we can promote the spiritual and material good of the human family. Through mutual love and greater understanding, we can help bring about the world peace so earnestly desired by all people of good will.
6. Every nation, no matter how young or old, has its own unique contribution to make to the rich tapestry of human life and culture. So too, every local Church builds up the one Body of Christ. I am confident that when I have completed my brief visit to Botswana I shall have gained a still deeper appreciation of the unity and variety of the human family, and also of the ways in which by his providence God leads and guides his sons and daughters. May he bless the people of Botswana! May he bless you now and always with an abundance of joy and peace!
Cathedral of Gaborone, Botswana
Tuesday, 13 September 1988
Dear Bishop Setlalekgosi,
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Diocese of Gaborone,
1. It is a great joy, for me to make this pastoral visit to your country and to meet all of you. I wish to express cordial greetings also to those who have come from other African nations, particularly from the Republic of South Africa. It is fitting that the Church in Botswana should be represented here by members of the clergy, religious and laity. In communion with your bishop and with the Successor of Peter, you constitute a young and dynamic local Church. There is within your ranks a diversity of graces, ministries and works, but all these are brought into the unity of one body – the Body of Christ – by the power of the Holy Spirit. As the Second Vatican Council teaches us, “In the Church there is diversity of ministry but unity of mission” (Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 2). All have a part to play in bringing Christ to the world.
In the reading we heard a few moments ago, Saint Paul speaks of his special calling as an Apostle and his ministry as a preacher of the Gospel. He refers to his work as a “duty” and a “responsibility”, for the sake of which he makes himself “all things to all men in order to save some at any cost” (Cfr. 1Cor 1Co 9,16-23). And earlier in the same chapter he tells the Corinthians: “You are all my work in the Lord... you are the seal of my apostolate” (Ibid. 9, 1-2).
2. It is within the context of the diversity of ministries in the Church, and of the special calling given to Saint Paul, that I wish to address my brothers and sisters who are priests or religious.
Dears friends: You are the spiritual heirs of Saint Paul and of all those missionaries who have given themselves without reserve in order to make Christ and his Church known and loved among the peoples of Africa. For the past sixty years, the Church in Botswana has been built up by the apostolic love and fervour of missionaries who have earned a warm and lasting remembrance in the hearts of the people of this country. These servants of the Gospel were men and women of faith whose lives confirm the tribute paid to religious in the Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Nuntiandi:” “By virtue of their religious consecration they are particularly free and willing to leave all things and go to the ends of the earth to preach the Gospel. They are always full of courage in their work, and their apostolate is often outstanding in its admirable resourcefulness and initiative. They are generous and are often to be found in the most remote mission stations where they may have to endure great dangers to health and even to life. Without doubt, the Church is greatly indebted to them” (Pauli VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 69).
The reality described by Pope Paul VI serves as a constant challenge to new generations of priests and religious who also wish to leave all things and follow in the footsteps of Christ. Inspired by the example of those who have gone before you, you too wish to bear abundant fruit in the Church of today and the future.
3. At this time, I would like to address a special word to my brothers in the priesthood.Like Saint Paul, you are servants of Christ and ministers of the Gospel. Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, you have been set apart to act in his very person and to serve the priestly People of God. In fulfilling this task, strive in a special way to help the laity of Botswana come to appreciate more deeply the importance of the contribution they make to the Church’s mission. By living an active Christian life in the world, they bear witness to God’s Kingdom and build up the Body of Christ. Particularly through the vitality of family life they make an invaluable contribution to the Church’s mission.
The ordained priesthood and the priesthood of all the baptized converge in the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which the Council describes as “the source and summit of all Christian life” (Lumen Gentium LG 11). As I once wrote: “The priest fulfils his principal mission and is manifested in all his fullness when he celebrates the Eucharist, and this manifestation is more complete when he himself allows the depth of that mystery to become visible, so that it alone shines forth in people’s hearts and minds, through his ministry” (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Dominicae Cenae, 2). Dear brothers, may we always centre our lives on this great mystery of faith which reveals to us the true meaning of our priestly vocation and is at the very heart of all our service to Christ and his Church.
I know that it is not always possible for you to celebrate the Eucharist with the faithful every Sunday. For that reason dedicated Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist are available for communion services, and I wish to commend them for their generosity and faith. At the same time, it is important that sound catechesis be given concerning the extraordinary nature of these services in relation to the Mass in order to ensure that the supreme value of the Eucharistic Sacrifice be not diminished.
Your task as brothers and collaborators with the bishop in shepherding the People of God also requires that you be “instructors in the faith” (Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 6). In fulfilling this important responsibility, you necessarily rely on the generous collaboration of the many lay catechists in Botswana and you give them needed guidance and support. This is not meant to limit your own ministry of the word but to make it more effective and fruitful. Together with the lay catechists, may you always experience the joy of bringing your people to know and embrace the fullness of truth in Christ.
The priest, my brothers, always has an essential and personal role in the ministry of “Word and Sacrament”. Many other demands are made on your time and energy, but it is especially in doing what is most essential to the priesthood that you find the encouragement, strength and satisfaction needed to persevere. May your daily prayer, too, bring joy to your ministry, so that the “peace of God which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus” (Ph 4,7).
4. I also wish to share some reflections with my brothers and sisters in religious life. Dear friends, while all the baptized share in the Church’s mission, the Lord Jesus has called you to bear public witness to the Gospel in a way that sets you apart. Your religious consecration is a special source of spiritual vitality for the Church. It gives rise to a way of life that serves the People of God precisely by its fidelity to a particular charism and spiritual heritage. However, as I have said on other occasions, “even though the many different apostolic works that you perform are extremely important, nevertheless the truly fundamental work of the apostolate remains always what (and at the same time who) you are in the Church” (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Redemptionis Donum, 15).
The Church depends on you to bear public witness to the radical demands of the Gospel, demands which are in danger of being obscured or ignored in today’s world. That is why the religious habit is not without value in your apostolic service. Above all, the Church needs the joyful witness of your consecrated chastity, poverty and obedience. Your call entails a share in the “folly of the Cross”, which will always remain a stumbling block to unbelievers, but in your own heart you know that the Cross is truly the power and wisdom of God at work in those who believe (Cfr. 1Cor 1Co 1,18 ss.). Thus, your love for the Crucified Lord is the basis of your vocation; your lives must be centred in him.
At the foot of the Cross, beside the Mother of our Redeemer, you will also see the cost of our reconciliation with God and with one another. For, as Saint Paul says, those “that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ” (Ep 2,13). Meditating on this great mystery, you will come to know more certainly that each of you and your whole communities must be servants of this reconciliation in the world, servants who can bring healing and peace to others because they have first of all experienced it themselves, especially through prayer and the Sacrament of Penance.
By the vow of chastity you have become special heralds of the Resurrection of Christ and of the promise of eternal life. You lift people’s eyes beyond the demands of worldly affairs and the press of daily tasks, reminding them of the things that truly last. And yet, for the vow of chastity to be a compelling sign of the Kingdom to come, it must be inspired by a concrete love for every one of God’s children. You are to “follow Christ by loving as he loved you, giving himself up in our place as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God” (Ibid. 5, 2). By doing so you proclaim to the world that “God is love” (1Io. 4, 16), for his glory and for the salvation of all.
Your vow of poverty also proceeds from the love of God. With Saint Paul you can say: “For him I have accepted the loss of everything, ...if only I can have Christ and be given a place in him” (Ph 3,8-9). Detachment from material things enables you to be more receptive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and more ready to receive his gifts. Through the practice of poverty, your lives stand as an appeal for greater sharing of the earth’s resources, in a world in which relatively few people live in prosperity while many more struggle for the basic necessities of life.
The Second Vatican Council exhorts all religious to support the poor and to love them with the deep yearning of Christ. This theme was developed further by my predecessor Paul VI. For example, he said that the “cry of the poor” bars religious from whatever would be a compromise with any form of social injustice (Cfr. Pauli VI Evangelica Testificatio, 18). I know that this teaching strikes a responsive chord in your hearts, because you have witnessed the plight of those who are subjected by law to discrimination. And I gladly support you in your desire to be close to those who are unjustly deprived of their legitimate rights and lack decent living conditions. It is only fitting that, as followers of our Crucified Saviour, you would make great efforts to be in solidarity with the poor and oppressed.
And, then, there is your vow of obedience, by which you have entrusted yourselves completely to God’s designs in intimation of the Son of God who “humbled himself, even to accepting death, death on a cross” (Ph 2,8). You promised obedience to the Lord out of a firm conviction that God’s plan for you is a plan of love. You were convinced that the best possible thing for you and for others is the faithful fulfilment of his will. In its concrete implementation this means the discernment of God’s will within your religious community and total openness and availability to the Holy Spirit in the service of God’s people. Through obedience you seek to lose your life in union with Christ and for the sake of the Gospel, precisely so that you may find your life through him (Cfr. Matth Mt 16,25). A mature understanding of religious obedience prompts you to heed Christ’s voice, even when it may seem that the path indicated is not the best for your own self-fulfilment or the use of your talents. But to those who love God, all things work together unto good (Cfr. Rom Rm 8,28). Faith teaches us that “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (1Co 1,25).
5. Finally, I wish to address all the lay men and women who are present. Through you I greet all the Catholic laity of Botswana, “who have been chosen, by the provident purpose of God the Father, to be made holy by the Spirit, obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood” (1Petr. 1, 2). Each of you is called to exercise an important role in the mission of the Church by participating in the Eucharist and receiving the sacraments, by praying and offering thanksgiving, and by living a holy life marked by self-denial and an active charity towards others (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 10). You share in a mission of “love and life” by being faithful to the duties of marriage and the family (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Familiaris Consortio FC 50). You transform the world and sanctify it from within by bringing the Gospel to public life and to the work place (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 31).
Many of you also collaborate directly in the Church’s ministry as catechists, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, and in other forms of service, especially to the sick and the needy. This too is a great blessing for the whole People of God. With Saint Paul I urge you: “Never grow tired of doing good because... in due time we shall reap our harvest. While we have the chance, we must do good to all, especially to our brothers in the faith” (Cfr. Gal Ga 6,9-10).
6. Dear brothers and sisters, priests, religious and laity of Botswana and Southern Africa: the whole Church has great love and esteem for you. She rejoices at what God is accomplishing in and through you. In your moments of discouragement and trial, never doubt that the Lord is near you. For he has called you by name. You are his. Trust in God to give you the grace you need to build up the Body of Christ through love and sacrifice.
May the grace and peace of our Risen Saviour reign in your hearts. To all of you I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.
Wednesday, 14 September 1988
Your Excellency President Masire,
1. The time has come for me to take leave of your country. As I do so, I can assure you that it has been a great joy for me to make this pastoral visit. Since my arrival yesterday morning, I have accumulated many memories of the land and people of Botswana that I will treasure. You will always have a special place in the Pope’s heart and in his prayers.
I am gratified by the kindness, courtesy and affection that have accompanied me everywhere over the past twenty-four hours. I have been cordially welcomed by all those whom I have met, whether Catholics, fellow Christians, or members of other religions. I am confident that this experience of mutual respect and esteem truly exemplifies the desire of all people of good will to live together in peace. May God bless all your efforts to create greater love and understanding in the world.
It has been my special joy to witness firsthand the vitality of the Catholic Church in Botswana. In accord with Christ’s will, I came to confirm my brothers and sisters in their faith. I have been edified by their efforts to live the Gospel and to share it with others. The enthusiasm and commitment of young people, in particular, is a source of encouragement for the future. Through mutual love and through service to others, may the clergy, religious and laity of Botswana always be a sign to their fellow citizens of God’s infinite love for mankind.
2. As I prepare to depart, I offer thanks to Almighty God, the Father of Mercies, for without his blessing all our labours are in vain. I thank the many people, especially the sick and the elderly, who by their prayers have contributed to the spiritual preparation for this visit.
Mr President: I am grateful to you and to all the members of Government for the many courtesies extended to me, and for your personal kindness in welcoming me upon my arrival and at the State House. I also wish to thank Bishop Setlalekgosi for receiving me as a brother in Christ and for offering me his gracious hospitality.
My gratitude also extends to all those in the Church and in Government who so diligently prepared this visit: those who helped in planning the events, especially the liturgy; those who made ready the various sites; those responsible for security, good order and transport; and the representatives of the media who have made it possible for others around the world to share the joy of this visit. Nor may I fail to mention all those who came out to greet the Pope and to hear his words. May God bless all of you.
3. Dear friends: the Liturgy I celebrated yesterday spoke of justice and peace. It re-echoed the timeless message that justice and peace are both a gift of God and a work of man. Without God we could never hope to understand, much less experience, the true nature of justice and peace. He offers them to us as gifts; we will find them only if we look to him. At the same time it is our moral duty as creatures made in God’s image and likeness to conform our lives to these divine gifts. Our world must be governed by love rather than hate, forgiveness rather than enmity, self-giving rather than selfishness, respect for others rather than domination. Only in this way can we hope to enjoy the justice and peace for which humanity yearns.
As I leave your country, it is my hope and prayer that the people of Botswana will always choose wisely the paths that lie ahead. May the love of God and of neighbour be your guide. May love for justice be your constant aim, so that you and your children’s children may continue to enjoy in this oasis of peace God’s special gift of peace.
God bless all of you. God bless Botswana.
Wednesday, 14 September 1988
My dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. It is a great joy to be with you here in your homeland. In these few hours that I have been in Lesotho. I have already begun to experience and appreciate, in a more profound way, the vibrant faith of the local Churches which you serve. Yours are “new Churches” at least in comparison with those of ancient tradition. As such, you bring to the universal Church a fresh awareness of the immense gift God has bestowed on all of us by bringing us to know and believe in his only Son, and by enabling us to share in his own divine life. “Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are” (1Io. 3, 1). That is what we are! We are children of God, created in his own image, endowed with an inalienable dignity that knows no barriers of tribe or race, language or place of origin. We are all “one in Christ Jesus” (Ga 3,28).
Our meeting this evening is but one more expression of the unity and communion of the followers of Jesus, and more particularly of that special bond of charity and faith which unites the bishops with one another and with the Successor of Saint Peter. Together with you and your faithful people. I praise the Providence of God which has made it possible for me to come on a pastoral visit to your beloved country.
2. I am particularly pleased that I am able to be with you as you celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Catholic Church’s efforts to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the Basotho people. And it is indeed most fitting that the highlight of this celebration should be the beatification of one of those first missionaries, Father Joseph Gérard of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. What he and his companions began here in this mountain Kingdom one hundred and twenty-five years ago was the great work of evangelization. And that work remains today – indeed it is in every land, in every age – the primary task of the Church.
Like the yeast Jesus spoke about in his own preaching, the proclamation of the Good News of salvation to the Basotho people had a very humble, almost hidden, beginning. The seed of God’s word had first to be sown in the soil of people’s minds and hearts before the new life of faith could spring up and grow.
The first Catholic missionaries numbered only three: Bishop Allard, Brother Bernard and Father Gérard. But, as that great Apostle Paul knew so well from his own experience, God’s power is at its best in weakness (Cfr. 2Cor 2Co 12,9). These men sowed the seed of God’s word, and the Spirit of God made it grow. In a short time, the first converts came forward, moved by the grace of God, inspired by the Gospel message and by the holy lives of the preachers, and eager to increase in the knowledge and love of “the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God” (Pauli VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 22). From these humble beginnings, the Church in Lesotho has steadily matured and borne fruit. The beatification of Father Gérard marks one more landmark in the history of evangelization in this land.
Yet, the great task of evangelization is never completed as long as we dwell on the earth. As Pope Paul VI said about the Church in his Apostolic Exhortation on Evangelization in the Modern World, “She needs to listen unceasingly to what she must believe, to her reasons for hoping, to the new commandment of love... she always needs to hear the proclamation of the ‘ mighty works of God ‘ which converted her to the Lord; she always needs to be called together afresh by him and reunited. In brief, this means that she has a constant need of being evangelized, if she wishes to retain freshness, vigour and strength in order to proclaim the Gospel” (Pauli VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 15). And this remains our primary task as bishops, to give impetus in every age to the mission of proclaiming in its entirety the Good News of salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Evangelization is a multifaceted task. It involves the evangelization of the mind, the evangelization of the heart, the evangelization of culture. It requires the active collaboration of the whole People of God, with the vital leadership of priests and religious and the special contribution of well trained catechists, all of them working in unity with the local bishop.
What is especially needed if our efforts are to bear fruit is that they be rooted in the love of Christ. If we really love him we shall be eager to make others know and love him too. Or to put it another way, our efforts to proclaim Christ and the Gospel are the measure of our love for him.
This is the secret of the success of Father Joseph Gérard: he was a man on fire with love for Jesus. His more than sixty years of missionary activity bear witness to the depth and fervour of that love. And it is my hope that the beatification of this brother priest will encourage everyone engaged in preaching and teaching God’s word, especially here in Lesotho.
4. My brothers in the Lord, I pray that this event in the life of your local Churches will bear fruit in new vocations to the religious life and the priesthood. There is no better way to ensure the continued evangelization of your people and your culture for, while everyone has a share in handing on the Good News of Jesus Christ, religious and priests play a particularly vital part.
I am aware that you have already been experiencing a most encouraging increase in religious and priestly vocations. May God continue to bless you abundantly in this regard, and I urge you to keep as a high priority the fostering of vocations. On your part, there naturally flows a great interest and active involvement in the formation of these co-workers of the Gospel. I am confident that you will continue to consider regular visits to the seminary and houses of formation, together with supervision of their entire programmes of discipline and study, as an important facet of your Episcopal ministry.
Since priests are our closest collaborators in the Church, indeed our brothers and sons in Christ, it is only right that a relationship of mutual respect and fraternal support should already begin while young men are preparing for sacred ordination. At the same time, the years of seminary formation provide an excellent opportunity for you, as bishops, to instil in these future priests an enthusiasm for evangelization and a pastoral concern for all God’s people, in particular for the poor and sick.
5. While emphasizing the need for special solicitude for priests and religious, I in no way wish to overlook the pastoral care which we are called by our Saviour to give to the lay men and women of the Church.
The last Synod of Bishops held in Rome has made us all more aware of the role of the laity in the life and mission of the Church. The Synod drew attention to the need for solid religious education to continue throughout a person’s life and not only during the time of youth, education which is given through well-prepared Sunday homilies to be sure, but which also requires additional initiatives to help our brothers and sisters to fulfil their responsibility in building up the Kingdom of God in the ordinary activities of life and work.
The needs are many, and much has to be done in order to respond adequately to the challenges that have to be faced. For example, I know that the problems faced by migrant workers are a particular concern for the Church in Lesotho. I know that you have made great efforts to reach out to them and their dear ones, to assure them of the Church’s interest and love, to offer them solidarity and support in Christ. In this you have followed the magnificent example of Saint Paul, who once described his pastoral activity in the following words: “We felt so devoted and protective towards you, and had come to love you so much, that we were eager to hand over to you not only the Good News but our whole lives as well” (1Th 2,8).
Yes, the temporal needs of people are part of the Church’s concern. Whatever affects our daily life affects our relationship with God and influences our readiness and ability to cooperate with grace and mercy. Thus, the Church teaches that “earthly progress is of vital concern to the Kingdom of God to the extent that it can contribute to the better ordering of human society” (Gaudium et Spes GS 39). Your own endeavours to promote justice and true development are undoubtedly an authentic response to the demands of the Gospel.
6. I also want to support you in your efforts to strengthen and enrich marriage and family life. As the Second Vatican Council reminded us, the family is the “domestic Church” and the “beginning and foundation of society” (Cfr. Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 11). Thus the vitality and stability of our families are a measure of the vitality and stability of society, and a major factor in the Church’s daily life. Whatever in society harms the family at the same time harms the Church. Whatever in a culture enriches the family enriches the Church as well. That is why a deep love for the Church always urges us as pastors of the People of God to exercise particular care for the family.
At the heart of the family lies the lifelong communion of husband and wife, a communion of life and love which begins with the free and informed consent of both the woman and the man. As Jesus reminded his listeners, the marriage covenant brings it about that husband and wife “are no longer two but one flesh” (Cfr. Matth Mt 19,6). They are united by a freely made promise of mutual self-giving. They are called to deepen every day of their lives this indissoluble communion of love. It is their joy and their responsibility to share with each other what they have and what they are, all their hopes, their sorrows and their joys.
We pastors of the Church serve married couples by ensuring that the Church’s teaching on the nature of marriage is clearly understood, and by helping them to be faithful to it through the word of God and the sacramental ministry. It is also our task to protect the family from practices or common misunderstandings which are harmful to conjugal fidelity and to the dignity of man and woman.
7. Dear brothers in Christ, our Episcopal ministry is truly an awesome responsibility, one that the Lord has given to us not because we are worthy but according to his own providence and mercy. As we seek to be faithful to him in the service of the Church which we love, we come to see in an ever deeper way the wisdom of the words of Mary in the Magnificat. “The Almighty has done great things... Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him” (Lc 1,49-50).
Yes, “the Almighty has done great things”. His Providence brought to Lesotho Father Gérard and his companions. That same Providence has made fruitful your own pastoral endeavours as bishops and the whole work of evangelization.
On this my pastoral visit to Lesotho, I gladly offer you my fraternal encouragement and prayerful support. And I willingly join you in praising the goodness of God: “Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age”.
Speeches 1988 - Anglican Cathedral of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe