Speeches 1988





Maseru (Lesotho)

Thursday, 15 September 1988

1. Bacha ba Lesotho, kea le rata!
(Young people of Lesotho, I love you!)

Bacha ba Lesotho, kea le rata!
(Young people of Lesotho, I love you!)

Bacha ba Lesotho, ka le rata haholo!
(Young people of Lesotho, I love you very much!)

My dear Young People of Lesotho,

I am very happy to be with you this afternoon. Thank you for your warm welcome. Thank you for your love for Jesus and the Church. I am grateful for this opportunity to listen to you and speak to you, to hear what you wish to say to me in your words, in your songs and in our being together.

My time in Lesotho has truly been a time of celebration: a time to give thanks to God for the gift of our faith in Christ, a time to praise God for the faithful witness of Blessed Joseph Gérard, a time to ask the Lord’s blessings on the future of the Church in this country. And I see in you that future, a future full of hope. It is a future built on the wonderful blessing of knowing and loving the Lord Jesus Christ.

By your Baptism, you were given this gift of faith, the same faith that nourished the soul of Blessed Joseph Gérard, the same faith that he handed on to your ancestors and which you in turn must hand on. Faith is our great treasure, faith in Christ the Lord, and it is this treasure that holds the key to the future. And so, as we begin, let us make our own the words of the Psalm which we have just prayed together: “I will hear what the Lord God has to say”. Yes, let us listen to the Lord who loves us all.

2. Dear young friends, faith comes from listening to the Lord. And it grows through continuous listening – listening to the word of God, listening to his Body, the Church. That is why it is so important that, early in life, you should develop a habit of listening, above all to “what the Lord God has to say”. Like Blessed Joseph Gérard, every member of the Church should become a lifelong student of the word of God. Many young people today find it helpful to study the Gospel together in small groups. In this way they profit from one another’s insights and learn to apply the inspired word to daily life and problems. And yet nothing can ever take the place of personal meditation on God’s word: nothing can take the place of that one-to-one dialogue between myself and the Lord.

By listening to the word of God, you will discover your own identity, you will come to know yourself as God knows you. Scripture says: “You are God’s chosen race, his saints: he loves you”[1]. In God’s eyes, that is who you are. You are each called by name and you are loved by God with an everlasting love. This is the truth we learn in faith.

3. By listening to the word of God, you will hear “a voice that speaks of peace”. Yes, to his faithful people God speaks words of peace. For he is the source of reconciliation. He is the living foundation of peace, especially that peace which comes through God’s gift of conversion.

We human beings could never attain peace and reconciliation through our own efforts and plans. We must begin by listening “to what the Lord God has to say, a voice that speaks of peace”. And then we must act on what we hear. For listening leads to action. Far from being something merely passive, listening spurs us on to serve the needs of others, to break down barriers of prejudice and hostility, to become servants of reconciliation and peace. And this begins in concrete ways, like those suggested by Saint Paul in the reading we have just listened to: “You should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience”[2]. To be servants of peace for others, we must nourish in our own hearts these virtues recommended by the Apostle.

4. Above all, if peace is to reign in your hearts, you must renounce every form of violence and hatred. Violence only begets further violence. Hatred closes us off from others, making communication and reconciliation impossible. The increase of violence in the world can never be halted by responding with more of the same. But it can be disarmed by the response of love, not a sentimental love that is nothing more than emotion, but a love that is rooted in God, a love like that of Christ, a love that remains non-violent.

Some people may say to you that the choice of non-violence is, in the end, a passive acceptance of situations of injustice. They may claim that it is cowardly not to use violence against what is wrong, or to refuse to defend with violence the oppressed. But nothing could be further from the truth. There is nothing passive about non-violence when it is chosen out of love. It has nothing to do with indifference. It has everything to do with actively seeking to “resist evil and conquer it with good”, as Saint Paul urges[3]. To choose non-violence means to make a courageous choice in love, a choice which includes the active defence of human rights and a firm commitment to justice and ordered development.

In making this choice, the first course of action is prayer. For unless the Lord guides our steps we soon lose the way. If our efforts are not rooted in God and his will, then everything we do is useless. As the Psalmist says: “If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labour; if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil”[4]. Prayer keeps us rooted in the Lord; prayer keeps our faith bright and burning; prayer leads to action that is in harmony with the designs of God.

5. If peace is to reign in your hearts, you must be willing to forgive, to forgive completely and sincerely. No community can survive without forgiveness. No family can live in harmony, no friendship can endure, without repeated forgiveness. Forgiveness is a free and undeserved gift that God offers to us so that we in turn can offer it to others. To forgive is to open the door to a new beginning. It makes possible a communion in love based on truth and compassion. Forgiveness lets go of hurtful memories from the past and hopes in a future built on what is right and good. It makes possible reconciliation and peace.

I urge you, then, in your personal lives as well as in your family and in society, to follow the advice of Saint Paul. He exhorts us in these words: “Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same”[5]. Yes, let your faith, which depends on the mercy of God and on his gift of forgiveness, foster in your own hearts a constant readiness to forgive.

6. If peace is to reign in your hearts, one thing more is needed: you must put your faith into practice by working for justice and the good of others, especially for the good of the family.

In Lesotho, as in other countries today, the vocation of marriage is facing an increasing number of obstacles. Irregular unions are rising at an alarming rate, often as the result of evils such as “chobelo” or “chobeliso”, elopement or abduction. Such practices are contrary to Christian morality and to the demands of human dignity. They do not lead to lasting personal happiness, nor to any form of stability in marriage; they are a recipe for disaster.

One of the underlying problems is a loss of appreciation of the virtue of chastity. How important it is to recover this virtue in our own time, for chastity helps us to harmonize all the dimensions of our sexuality and thus to live joyfully in accordance with God’s will. While chastity demands a habit of selfdiscipline, it is also a gift of the Holy Spirit who lives in our bodies as in a temple.

Christian family life is a reflection of the life of the Blessed Trinity, where there is mutual giving and receiving of love among the three Divine Persons. The family is a kind of little Church where this love of the Blessed Trinity and love of neighbour are learned and can grow strong. The Christian vocation will call you as adults to make sacrifices to protect the divine institution of the family and to seek to remedy all the social ills which threaten its integrity. I therefore encourage you, during this time of your youth, to prepare well for the serious responsibilities of family life.

What is needed is a preparation based upon a continuing conversation with Christ. In his Church, Christ will teach you about the Sacrament of Marriage, about the intimate communion of life and love which is an image of the loving union of Christ and the Church[6]. Christian marriage is based on a free and mature consent of the wife as well as of the husband, and thus any form of abduction or constraint is clearly opposed to the will of God and to the equal dignity of man and woman.

Dear young friends, let the Lord Jesus teach you about love, for he himself is the source of all love. The human being cannot live without love, and yet how easily our understanding of love can be distorted, especially by selfishness and pride, as well as by the empty slogans and false attractions of materialistic society. That is why I urge you again, as I did in my Apostolic Letter to Youth: “Do not be afraid of the love that places clear demands on people. These demands – as you find them in the constant teaching of the Church – are precisely capable of making your love a true love”[7].

I also wish to encourage those of you whom the Lord is calling to follow him in the priesthood or the religious life. I say to you: be generous. The words of Jesus remain only too true: “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few”[8]. I have no doubt that Christ is calling some of you, perhaps many of you, to serve him and his people as his priests and religious. Be eager and willing to respond to his call! Remember the example of Blessed Joseph Gérard. See all the good you can accomplish and the joy that will be yours when you follow in the footsteps of Christ the Lord.

7. Dear young people of Lesotho, how good it is to be with you in your beautiful land. When I leave this country I shall carry with me many happy memories of this meeting with the future leaders of Lesotho; and I shall remember all the special moments of this pastoral visit, especially the beatification of Father Joseph Gérard. Before closing, I want to leave you with one last appeal: let Christ be your model in life. Yes, let him be your only standard and measure, Christ who is “the Way, and the Truth, and the Life”[9]. Do not settle for anything less than Christ. May he guide you, protect you and keep you safe in his love. May Christ be your joy and your crown. “May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called”[10].

Praised be Jesus Christ!

[1] Col. 3, 12.

[2] Col. 3, 12.

[3] Rom. 12, 21.

[4] Ps. 127 (126), 1.

[5] Col. 3, 13.

[6] Cfr. Eph. 5, 21-35.

[7] Ioannis Pauli PP. II Epistula Apostolica ad iuvenes internationali vertente anno iuventuti dicato, 10, 26 mar. 1985: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, VIII, 1 (1985) 782.

[8] Matt. 9, 37.

[9] Io. 14, 16.

[10] Col. 3, 15.




Cathedral of Maseru (Lesotho)

Thursday, 15 September 1988

“Ho rorisoe Jesu Kriste”!

Dear Brothers and Sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ,

1. It gives me great pleasure to greet you with that beautiful greeting which Blessed Joseph Gérard taught to his first converts and which has become an honoured tradition among Catholic people of this country. Yes, praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! And praised be his Blessed Mother, especially today as we meet in this splendid church dedicated to her under the title of “Our Lady of Victories”.

Dear brother priests, dear Brothers and Sisters in religious life and my dear seminarians: After having celebrated the Mass of Beatification this morning, I am very pleased to have this time, laser in the same day, to be with you who are so dear to my heart. The beatification of Father Joseph Gérard, a priest and a religious, is truly a landmark in the history of Lesotho. It is a sign of God’s loving providence at work in your midst. This is indeed a time to celebrate and give thanks to the Lord of history and the God of love who has called each of you by name and given you a share in his own divine life. And an important way of giving thanks to God is to recall the events of the past which have served as the channels of his blessings.

In the first place, we remember al the dedicated missionary priests and religious of the past – those men and women of strong faith and burning love who left behind their families and friends, their own cultures and homelands, to bring the Gospel of Christ to the beloved people of this land. Those pioneer missionaries travelled through the mountains of this beautiful kingdom, sowing the seed of the Christian faith and laying firm foundations for a strong and vibrant Church. The very memory of those priests and religious calls to mind the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of one who brings good news, who heralds peace, brings happiness, proclaims salvation”[1].

Indeed, “how beautiful the feet of one who brings good news”! And that is what priests and religious are called to do. We must be joyful heralds of the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the rich heritage which is passed on to you today by the missionaries who have served in this land. Beginning with Father Joseph Gérard and his companions, the tradition of dedication to the preaching of God’s word and the work of total human development and liberation has been generously carried on by generations of priests and religious, most of them from foreign lands. To all those men and women of God we pay special tribute today. Through their labours, the Church in Lesotho has experienced amazing growth, in numbers and in works. The history of your country bears witness to the important contribution of priests and men and women religious, zealously working in many sectors of life, announcing Good News, heralding peace, bringing happiness, proclaiming salvation.

2. And now a new era is beginning in the life of the Church in Lesotho, a new stage in the great task of evangelization. It is a time marked by gratitude for the past and yet a readiness to face new challenges of the present and future, a time when the sons and daughters of Lesotho are now taking the place of many foreign missionaries, answering the call of Christ to carry on the Church’s pastoral care in continuity with what has gone before. Like Saint Paul, the missionaries “succeeded as an architect and laid the foundations, on which someone else is doing the building”[2]. The missionaries are still needed since they play an extremely important role, but it is right that ever greater responsibility should be assumed by the native sons and daughters of this land. At the same time, I rejoice that the Church here is now sending missionaries, especially women religious, to other lands. This too proclaims the abundant fruitfulness of the love of Christ in your midst.

As the Second Vatican Council taught, “The work of planting the Church in a given community of people reaches a kind of milestone when the community of the faithful, already rooted in social life and considerably adapted to the local culture, enjoys a certain stability and firmness. This means that the community is now equipped with its own supply, insufficient though it be, of local priests, religious and laity...”[3]. The Church in Lesotho has reached this milestone with the help of God’s grace and the efforts of many people. And the beatification of Father Joseph Gérard signals the attainment of a certain Christian maturity, a maturity that proclaims the greatness of God’s loving providence and the fruitfulness of divine grace at work in hearts that believe, a maturity that signals the local Church’s readiness for a new era of growth in Christ.

The Church in Lesotho, which has taken root so marvellously in this land, must now deepen the gift of faith and carry on the unending task of evangelization, particularly in those sectors which the Gospel has not yet reached. The laity must be helped to further the Kingdom of God in the ordinary events of daily existence. The family must be strengthened in unity and in its vital mission of life and love. Society must be uplifted and purified by the Gospel; social evils must be opposed and overcome, with justice and equality firmly established and secured by law. Then there are the special needs of young people, the elderly, the sick and the disabled. And the responsibility for this great enterprise falle, in a special way, upon the shoulders of you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, the priests and future priests, the men and women religious, whom God has called to serve him and his people in this land.

3. Remember the words of our Saviour: “You did not choose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last”[4]. Christ has called you to be his “friends”. Christ has sent you forth. Christ has entrusted to you the work of evangelization. Of course, every baptized person receives this charge and has a part to play. But in a particular way the Lord asks you, priests and religious, to take the lead in proclaiming the Good News of salvation and in bearing public witness to the Gospel. To you he says, as he said to the Apostles: “Teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time”[5].

Yes, the Lord is with you always. Never forget these reassuring words. May they be your consolation and your strength, your inspiration and your joy. The Lord is with you always, in whatever service you perform within the Church: in prayer, in the apostolate and in all your efforts on behalf of justice. Above all, the Lord is with you in the liturgical assembly. For this reason you must all be men and women of the Eucharist. For as the Church teaches: “The other sacraments, as well as every ministry of the Church and every work of the apostolate, are linked with the Holy Eucharist and are directed towards it. For the most Blessed Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth, that is, Christ himself”[6].

In your communion with Christ you will find the strength to fulfil your mission in the Church. In Lesotho, as in any other country, this will mean an evangelization of your culture, that is an evangelization of your customs and traditions, your arts, your music, all those natural qualities and values that make up your society. All of these things should be purified and enriched by the light and power of the Gospel.

But how does one evangelize a culture? How does one assist the work of the Holy Spirit in your midst? One begins by evangelizing people, for culture is produced by people and is shaped by the quality of the relationships that they have with one another and with God. And thus the first step is to evangelize as Jesus himself did, namely by calling people to conversion. Remember the first words of Jesus in his public ministry, as recorded in the Gospel according to Saint Mark: “The time has come” he said, “and the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News”[7]. The Christian life, in fact, entails constant conversion. A special help in doing this is the regular reception of the Sacrament of Penance. Every aspect of our personal and social life must be purified and inspired by the truth and love of Christ. Only then can the laws and institutions of society be made to conform to the demands of justice and human dignity. It takes time to change attitudes and practices, but indeed they can be changed. With the help of God’s grace and the power of Christ’s Death and Resurrection, each of us can put on the mind and heart of our Lord and God.

4. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ: the mission you have received from God is indeed a vital one for the Church and for the world, a mission that will undoubtedly involve a share in the Cross of Christ and at the same time a share in his risen life. As Saint Paul reminds us: “It is all God’s work. It was God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the work of handing on this reconciliation”[8].

We must never forget this truth: “God reconciled us to himself. Our vocation began as God’s work, God’s gift of reconciliation and communion with himself. In grateful appreciation of this gift, make every effort to preserve and deepen your union with God, especially through daily prayer and a joyful imitation of Jesus in his chastity, poverty and obedience. This is the secret of a fruitful ministry in the Church; it is the path that Blessed Joseph Gérard followed in his long life of priestly service. Jesus himself has told us: “Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing”[9].

Our communion with Christ will necessarily overflow in loving communion with one another. This is the commandment Jesus gave to his disciples: “Love one another, as I have loved you”[10]. Among priests, there exists a special brotherhood rooted in their sacramental ordination. Thus it is only natural that they should love one another as brothers, support one another, in the ministry of word and sacrament, and make constant efforts to encourage one another through prayer, charity and mute help.

Already in the seminary this spirit of priestly fraternity should have its beginning. Indeed, one of the purposes of priestly formation is to foster in each seminarian the human and spiritual qualities that will enable him to be an effective minister of reconciliation and a genuine brother in Christ to the other priests of his diocesan presbyterate.

Of course, religious life offers countless opportunities for growing in love not only of God but also of one another. Common prayer and a corporate apostolate are just two examples of ways that religious live a community life, rooted in mutual charity. Even more important for a deep spirit of brotherhood or sisterhood is the “oneness of mind and heart” that is fostered by their shared pursuit of holiness, their communal charism and their lifelong commitment to follow Christ in keeping with the Gospel and the Constitutions of their specific institute.

As God’s “chosen ones” and as servants of the Church, all of you, priests and seminarians, religious Sisters and Brothers, are called to build up and strengthen the unity of all who believe in Christ. Special efforts are at times needed to foster fruitful collaboration between the clergy and religious or between different religious institutes. The laity must be accepted as true brothers and sisters in Christ, with a vital role in the mission of the Church and with a right to our friendship and encouragement. And no ministry in the Church can have lasting fruit if it is not carried out in faithful collaboration with the local bishop, in communion with the universal Church.

5. My brothers and sisters: I will close these remarks by making my own the exhortation of Saint Paul to Timothy: “Fan into a flame the gift that God gave you... God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord... but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God”[11].

Never be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord!

Both in word and in deed, bear witness before the world to the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And may the Blessed Virgin Mary and Blessed Joseph Gérard help you by their prayers and heavenly protection.

God bless you all.

[1] Is. 52, 7.

[2] 1 Cor. 3, 10.

[3] Ad Gentes, 19.

[4] Io. 15, 16.

[5] Matth. 28, 30.

[6] Presbyterorum Ordinis, 5.

[7] Marc. 1, 15.

[8] 2 Cor. 5, 18.

[9] Io. 15, 5.

[10] Ibid. 15, 12.

[11] 2 Tim. 1, 6-8.





Catholic Community Center, Maseru (Lesotho)

Thursday, 15 September 1988

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

1. “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2Co 1,2).

It is a joy for me to have this opportunity to meet the representatives of other Ecclesial Communities in Lesotho. As you know, a very special reason why I wanted to come to your country was to celebrate here the beatification of Blessed Joseph Gérard, one of the first Catholic missionaries to the Basotho people. But, at the same time, I felt it was important that this pastoral visit have an ecumenical dimension. For, even before the first Catholic missionaries arrived in Lesotho, other Christians had already begun here the work of evangelization. And throughout the years, right up to the present moment, you and your Catholic brothers and sisters have sought to serve the Lord in this land. At the same time, however, you have experienced here, as elsewhere in the world, the sad phenomenon of disunity among Christians. Yet, you have also experienced an ever greater desire for overcoming the obstacles and divisions of the past and of reaching, in the future, that complete unity for which Christ himself prayed.

I trust that this prayer service today will give encouragement to all those who are committed to the ecumenical movement and I pray that it will hasten the day when we shall be fully one in Christ, with a oneness like that which Jesus asked of his Father when he said: “May they be so completely one that the world will realize that it was you who sent me and that I have loved them as much as you loved me” (Jn 17,23).

2. In the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, the great Apostle to the Gentiles tells the people, “it is clear that there are serious differences among you” (1Co 1,11). Factions had grown up within that local Church, factions which threatened the faith and communion of the members. Saint Paul wished to do all he could to see that these were overcome. And so he wrote: “I do appeal to you, brothers, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to make up the differences between you, and instead of disagreeing among yourselves, to be united again in your belief and practice” (Ibid. 1, 10).

What Saint Paul desired for the Christians at Corinth was that they should overcome their divisions and seek the grace of sincere conversion. For, without this personal change of heart, conflicts and disagreements could never be overcome, unity in belief and practice could never be restored.

At the Second Vatican Council, the bishops of the Catholic Church spoke of the same need for conversion in order to make ecumenical progress. They taught: “There can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without a change of heart. For it is from newness of attitudes, from self-denial and unstilted love, that yearnings for unity take their rise and grow towards maturity” (Cfr. Eph Ep 4,23).

For us, then, the ecumenical effort begins in humble prayer, asking our God, who is rich in mercy, to forgive our sins, enlighten our minds and give us the grace of a change of heart.

3. Such a conversion means turning away from sin and turning towards the truth, the fullness of truth that Christ reveals. With the words of the Psalm, we say to God: “Indeed you love truth in the heart; then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom” (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 7). This personal search for truth, begun in prayer and aided by study, makes possible one of the important activities of the ecumenical movement, namely, the practice of dialogue.

Dialogue aims at bringing about that communion of mind and heart which is modelled on the inner life of the Blessed Trinity. The first steps, which are often painstakingly slow, require patience and perseverance. Misunderstandings from the past must be overcome and a better understanding of each other must be fostered. We must learn to speak to one another in honesty and in fraternal charity, with a desire to pursue and embrace the fullness of God’s truth. In this endeavour, clarity is an expression of charity, which the Second Vatican Council wisely suggested, saying: “It is...essential that doctrine be clearly presented in its entirety. Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false conciliatory approach...”.

We must proceed, then, with the art of dialogue, remaining faithful to what the Spirit of God has already done in our lives and in our communities, and confident that, if we ask God in faith, “in the secret of our hearts he will teach us wisdom”.

4. Within the Christian Council of Lesotho, you seek to create a forum for pursuing this ecumenical dialogue and also for promoting fraternal cooperation in projects which serve the common good. Such collaboration manifests the real, although imperfect, unity in Christ which we already share. And it can increase our effectiveness in serving the poor and needy after the example of Jesus our Lord, who tells us “in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me”.

Of particular value are those instances when Christians of diverse traditions stand together in the name of Christ to defend and promote the dignity and rights of the human person, regardless of race or tribe or social status. Such common action on behalf of justice and equality bears witness to the Gospel and serves the human family as a whole.

So many other areas of mutual cooperation remain open to us, such as direct assistance to the sick and suffering, support for family life, and efforts to promote reconciliation and peace. In a developing country such as Lesotho, certainly the work of fostering integral human development is a fertile field for working together as brothers and sisters in our one Lord and Saviour.

5. Dear friends in Christ: let us keep before our eyes at all times the Cross of our Lord and Redeemer, for in the Crucified Saviour those who “used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ”.

To be sure, the path to full unity in faith and charity is long and difficult. We cannot expect to reach the end without much prayer and penance. By the grace of God, however, we have already come a long way. Real progress has been made.

In God’s good time, Christ’s prayer for perfect unity will be fully answered. Christ has already conquered the power of sin which is the cause of all division. We must not grow weary or give up the struggle until the goal we so desire has been achieved. In particular, let us never cease to pray with joyful hope, opening our hearts in trust to receive the manifold gifts of the Spirit.

What the Spirit brings to us are all the gifts that shall accompany full communion in Christ, the gifts of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control”.

And as Saint Paul assures us, “There can be no law against things like that... Since the Spirit of our life, let us be directed by the Spirit”.

Yes, let us follow the Spirit’s lead, the Holy Spirit who has been given to us in Baptism, the “Advocate” who always pleads our cause, the “Spirit of truth whom the world can never receive”, the Spirit whom Jesus sends to lead us “to complete truth”.

My friends in Christ, I bid you farewell using the words of Saint Paul: “In the meantime, brothers, we wish you happiness; try to grow perfect; help one another. Be united; live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you”.

Speeches 1988