Speeches 1988 - Monday, 31 October 1988




Saturday, 5 November 1988

Mr Ambassador,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept from you the Letters of Credence by which you are accredited as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Thailand to the Holy See. I am grateful to you for the kind greetings you have conveyed on behalf of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and I would ask you to assure His Majesty of my friendship and warmest good wishes. He has been particularly in my prayers on the recent occasion of his Sixtieth Birthday and I join all the people of your country in rejoicing at this significant event.

I have noted with much satisfaction your reference to the long and cordial relationship between the Kingdom of Thailand and the Holy See. This friendship is sustained by the religious sense and traditional hospitality of the Thai people, coupled with the Church’s message and mission of peace and service to all mankind. High points of this bilateral relationship were undoubtedly the visit which Their Majesties made to my predecessor Pope John XXIII in October 1960, and my own visit to your country and in particular to the Royal Family in May 1984.

The members of the Church in Thailand have set themselves the task of “a life of simplicity, charity, love of peace and humility, (with a readiness) to improve and offer themselves to serve all, especially the poor”. This spirit of service is evident in the Catholic community’s presence in schools, where children and young people of all sectors of the population are formed to assume their role as worthy and responsible citizens of their country. It also expresses itself in health services and assistance programmes which seek to help the disadvantaged. Among these services, I would mention the relief work being done among the many refugees who, leaving behind situations of conflict or oppression in South East Asia, have found refuge in Thailand. At Phanat Nikhom I was able to see for myself the implications of this sad situation, and my appreciation of the openness of the Thai Government and people to these brothers and sisters in need is deeply felt. We cannot forget that “each refugee is an individual human being, with his or her own dignity and personal history, with his or her own culture, experiences and legitimate expectations”.

It is my ardent hope that the Governments, together with the humanitarian and voluntary organizations of the world, will continue to come to the aid of these people, offering them above all real prospects of a better future. I again appeal to the international community to take effective steps to solve this problem in a spirit of goodwill and justice.

Mr. Ambassador, there are many areas of international life in which the Holy See and the Government of Thailand can seek increasing understanding. I wish to assure you of my prayerful best wishes for the success of your mission as the diplomatic representative of your country, and I assure you that you may rely on the ready collaboration of the various Departments of the Holy See. I pray that you will be happy in this excellent form of service to your people and I invoke abundant heavenly blessings upon Their Majesties the King and Queen, the Royal Family, and the entire Thai nation.



Monday, 7 November 1988

Dear brother Bishops,

1. On the occasion of your ad Limina visit, I welcome each of you in a spirit of fraternal love, and I send greetings to all of your local Churches: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. I am very pleased to have this opportunity to meet with you in order to strengthen even further the close ties which exist between the Holy See and the Canadian Hierarchy and to encourage you in your ministry to the People of God.

I wish to reflect with you for a few moments on our Christian vocation, on the fact that we are called by God to serve him in the Church and in the world. Human existence derives its very purpose from a call addressed to us by the one who is totally “other”, the Lord God. It is addressed to humanity in both creation and in redemption. In Genesis, God called Adam and Eve “to fill the earth and subdue it”. In Christ, the new Adam, God calls human beings to an even greater glory: to live in perfect communion with one another and with the Most Blessed Trinity. As we read in “Gaudium et Spes”: “Christ... fully reveals man to himself and makes man’s supreme calling clear”.

The Church has been called into existence as a sacrament of salvation in Christ. Each of her members is called to fulfill the Church’s mission through sacramental worship, through holiness of life, and through witness to the Gospel in word and deed.

2. Although the mystery of our vocation is deeply rooted within us, it is nevertheless obscured by sin. It is a struggle for us to conform our freedom to God’s call. In our sinfulness we rebel against his will for us. Like our first parents, we are tempted to decide for ourselves what is good and what is bad, independently of the God who made us. Great indeed is this temptation for much of today’s world, in which technological progress and material prosperity can obscure the transcendent dimension of our vocation and distract us from the ultimate questions concerning our existence. We are reminded of Christ’s sobering words: “What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life”; or again: “The gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life”.

Christ accomplishes our redemption and shows us by word and example that “to serve is to reign”. Far from diminishing man, obedience to God’s will brings life in abundance, and alone makes possible the self-realization, peace and joy for which we were created and for which we yearn.

Love is perfected by being tested – in suffering, in self-giving, through the cross. Wayward minds are thus converted to divine wisdom. Closed hearts are made capable of receiving divine love. Blinded eyes are opened to what is unseen.

Whatever shadows fall on life in this age or in any age, the Church “rejoices in hope”. She knows that “where sin increases, grace abounds all the more”. In proclaiming man’s God-given vocation in creation and redemption, she looks with confidence to him who “by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think”. She has unshakable faith in the reality of personal freedom and responsibility in responding to God’s call.

3. The Second Vatican Council placed great emphasis on the notion of vocation. It challenged all of God’s people to respond more generously to the mission that is theirs through Baptism, so that they in turn might lead every person to the realization that he or she is personally called by God in Christ to share the gift of eternal life. We give thanks to God that so many of Christ’s faithful have taken this challenge to heart. At the same time, we also recognize the pressing need m our day for more vocations to the ministerial priesthood in particular and to the religious life. The need for these vocations is keenly felt both in Canada and in much of the rest of the world. It is absolutely essential for the faithful to have true shepherds whose priestly ordination enables them to exercise the unique and sublime ministry of consecrating and absolving, and whose lives are a sacramental sign of the presence of Christ the Good Shepherd in the midst of his flock. At a time when many people are unchurched in your country and elsewhere, and when there is a sense of uncertainty, alienation or indifference among many Catholics, it is vital that priestly ministry and religious consecration should not be lacking in the Church.

4. In order to respond to these special needs, we must first reflect on the dynamics of God’s call in a person’s life. In this Decree on the Life and Ministry of Priests, the Second Vatican Council makes reference to the following words of Paul VI: “The voice of God which calls expresses itself in two different ways that are marvellous and converging; one interior: that of grace, that of the Holy Spirit, that inexpressible interior attraction which the silent and powerful voice of the Lord exercises in the unfathomable depths of the human soul; and the other one external, human, sensible, social, juridical, concrete”. This convergence of the internal and external dimensions applies to every vocation within the sacramental economy instituted by Christ, whether it be the initial call to faith and membership in his body, the Church, or the special vocations to the ministerial priesthood and to consecrated life.

5. The interior aspect of God’s call reminds us of a fundamental truth: every vocation is the result of a divine initiative, it is a gift from God. Therefore, as Jesus himself tells us we must “pray the lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest” since “the harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few”. In discerning “the signs of the times”, we must ponder the deep meaning that these words have for the Church in every age.

Today there are those who interpret the decline in priestly vocations since the Council as a sign that the ministerial priesthood is to be superseded or greatly diminished, rather than complemented, by new forms of ministry. Others argue that the requirement of celibacy for all Latin Rite priests should be abolished; still others claim that traditional doctrine about the priesthood, which is rooted in the institution of this Sacrament by Christ and in Christian theology, should be abandoned, as of this were possible, so that women could be ordained to the priesthood. In these ways, it is asserted or implied, an abundance of labourers will be assured for the Lord’s harvest.

May we not rather say that in keeping with God’s ways and not our own, the ordained priesthood and the Church’s love and understanding of it are being tested, precisely so that what is essential may be strengthened, purified and renewed in a spiritual rebirth to greater fruitfulness? If we are being brought to our knees, so to speak, by the need for more priests, is it not in order that we may understand with greater humility and love who the Lord of the harvest truly is? As Paul VI wisely taught us: “Christ did not hesitate to confide the formidable task of evangelizing the world... to a handful of men to all appearances lacking in number and quality. He bade this ‘ little flock ‘ not to lose heart, for, thanks to his constant assistance... they would overcome the world. Jesus has taught us also that the kingdom of God has an intrinsic and unobservable dynamism which enables it to grow without man’s awareness of it. The harvest of God’s kingdom is great, but the labourers, as in the beginning, are few. Actually, they have never been as numerous as human standards would have judged sufficient. But the Lord of the kingdom demands prayers, that it may be he... who will send out labourers... The counsels and prudence of man cannot supersede the hidden wisdom of him who, in the history of salvation, has challenged man’s wisdom and power by his own foolishness and weakness”.

Dear brothers, the Church’s “foolishness and weakness” in the eyes of the world are in direct proportion to the trust she has in her crucified Lord, in his words and deeds, in his example and his promises.

She knows that she is a “sign of contradiction”, and that the spiritual riches of her doctrine and discipline bear witness to a divine wisdom not of this world, yet destined for the world’s salvation. In discerning the “signs of the times” with regard to vocations, we must recognize our own need for constant conversion, even as we “pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest”.

6. Puisque la vocation nous est offerte comme un don, notre liberté humaine est essentielle quand il s’agit de l’accueillir ou de la rejeter. Nous pouvons penser au jeune homme riche de l’Evangile qui a refusé l’appel particulier du Christ parce qu’il avait de grands biens. D’où l’importance du caractère extérieur de la vocation, à savoir les aspects “humain, sensible, social, juridique et concret”, qui doivent nourrir et encourager l’appel que Dieu adresse à une personne, si l’on veut que cet appel ne soit ni négligé ni étouffé. Très souvent, de même que pour le prophète Elie, l’appel du Seigneur ne se presente pas comme un ouragan ni comme un tremblement de terre ni comme un feu dévorant, mais plutôt comme “le bruit d’une brise légére”. La personne appelée doit discerner l’authenticité de cette voix intérieure, non pas dans le vide, mais dans le cadre d’une culture et d’une société déterminées, d’une famille et d’une école, d’une paroisse et d’un diocèse.

Il est vrai qu’aujourd’hui le foyer, l’école, la paroisse et le diocése sont secoués par les vents du changement. Au milieu de grands bouleversements dans la façon de penser et de se conduire, qui sont des défis et des remises en question pour la foi et la pratique chrétiennes, l’Eglise cherche à se renouveler elle-même, non pas en se conformant au monde, mais “par une fidélité plus grande à sa vocation”. Une fidélité accrue nous conduit à plus de clarté et plus de force de conviction dans ce que l’Eglise croit et enseigne, y compris la grandeur et la nécessité du sacerdoce et de la vie religieuse. C’est une composante essentielle d’un environnement qui permet aux vocations de s’épanouir. Si les bases d’une saine ecclésiologie, des sacrements ou de l’ascèse chrétienne sont ébranlées dans l’esprit ou le coeur des fidèles, alors inévitablement l’appel de Dieu au sacerdoce, à la vie religieuse – et même au mariage chrétien – ne sera plus concrètement perceptible. Le “bruit de la brise légère” sera étouffé plutôt qu’amplifié par ce qui est “extérieur, humain, sensible, social, juridique et concret”.

7. Chers frères, je connais bien les efforts que vous faites, avec vos frères dans l’épiscopat canadien, afin de promouvoir les vocations au sacerdoce et à la vie consacrée.

Vous avez pris à coeur l’exhortation que le Concile adresse aux évêques: il leur demande d’aider ceux que Dieu appelle à son service et de rechercher la collaboration active de tout le Peuple de Dieu pour cultiver ces vocations. J’ai confiance que les fidèles de vos diocèses continueront à coopérer à cette grande oeuvre par une vie chrétienne exemplaire, par une prière et une pénitence accrues, ainsi que par le désir de mieux comprendre l’importance de ces vocations particulières pour la vocation chrétienne de chacun et de tous. Nous pouvons être sûrs que le “Maître de la moisson” ne nous abandonnera pas.

Le modèle de toute vocation qui vient de Dieu se trouve en Marie, la Mère de l’Eglise. Par son “fiat” d’humble servante du Seigneur, non seulement elle s’est rendue disponible à une effusion de dons divine, mais encore elle a donné naissance au Rédempteur qui a permis à chaque personne d’entendre et d’accepter l’appel de Dieu. Je prie pour que vous et vos Eglises particulières fassiez toujours l’expérience de la puissante et maternelle intercession de Marie, et de grand coeur, je vous donne à tous ma Bénédiction Apostolique.




Thursday, 10 November 1988

Mr Ambassador,

It is my pleasure to welcome you today and to accept the Letters accrediting you as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. I hasten to express my gratitude for the greetings and good wishes which you have conveyed to me from your President, His Excellency Hussain Muhammad Ershad, and I would ask you to assure him of my own good wishes and continued prayers to the Most High God for his well-being and that of all the people of Bangladesh. In particular I wish to manifest at this time my prayerful concern for and solidarity with the victims of the recent floods which have caused such devastation in your country.

In welcoming you, Mr. Ambassador, I recall my visit to your homeland in 1986. It was a joy for me to experience your warm hospitality and to encounter the cultural wealth of your people, whose long history has been enriched by the contributions of many linguistic, cultural and religious traditions. I came to your country “as a pilgrim to the ‘ soul ‘ of the Bangladesh people” and as “a brother in our common humanity; a brother in our adoration of the one God, living and enduring, merciful and all-powerful, who has made heaven and earth, and has spoken to all men; a brother in human solidarity, listening to the voice of humanity crying out all over the world for dignity, justice and peace”.

My visit had above all a religious significance. I wished to confirm my brothers and sisters of the Catholic Church in their faith and I was eager to encourage respect and esteem between all your people, whether they be Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Christian. And I repeat today my fervent hope that the followers of the various religious traditions present in your country will continue to live in harmony while seeking an ever greater understanding and appreciation of one another.

You have mentioned the importance of the spiritual dimension of your people’s national ethos and your Government’s protection of and respect for the religious freedom of the Bangladesh people. I wish to underline that the guarantee of an individual’s freedom to profess his or her religious convictions serves to strengthen a people’s moral integrity and thus favour a more just society at the service of the common good. As I said in my Message for this year’s World Day of Peace: “By leading people to a new understanding of their human condition, religious faith brings people, through a sincere gift of themselves, to a complete fellowship with other human beings. Faith brings people together and unites them, makes them see others as their brothers and sisters; it makes them more attentive, more responsible, more generous in their commitment to the common good”.

Mr Ambassador, you have referred to the recent measures which have been taken to further the democratic aspirations of your people. I wish to offer my encouragement to every initiative which ensures fundamental freedoms. It is the teaching of the Second Vatican Council that all citizens should have a simultaneous right and duty “to participate freely and actively in establishing the constitutional bases of a political community, governing the state, determining the scope and purpose of various institutions, and choosing leaders”.

I thank Your Excellency for your kind acknowledgment of the Holy See’s many endeavours on behalf of peace and development. Your have made reference specifically to its dedication to the task of universal disarmament, of achieving greater understanding and cooperation between the different world religions and of resolving the problems which currently afflict many nations of the world. In finding solutions to these and other concerns of the world community, the only path to follow so that justice and peace may prevail is the road of mutual respect, universal brotherhood and integral development. Political, economic, social and cultural relations and systems must be imbued with the values of solidarity and dialogue. And there is the need for a greater international ordering which will watch over the common good of all peoples.

I have noted, Mr Ambassador, your affirmation of the warm and cordial relations which exist between your Government and the Holy See. It is my hope that the collaboration which has always characterized our diplomatic relations will serve to further strengthen and develop those bonds of friendship.

Your Excellency can be confident of the Holy See’s readiness to assist you in the fulfilment of your diplomatic mission. As you take up your duties, I offer you my good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the successful and happy accomplishment of your responsibilities. Upon yourself and upon all the people of Bangladesh I invoke the blessing of the Most High God.




Saturday, 12 November 1988

Dear Friends in Christ,

As we begin this Eucharist, I wish to express heartfelt greetings to all of you on the occasion of the Centenary of the Pontifical Canadian College. I welcome most cordially the Cardinals and the Bishops who are here today. The presence of those making their ad Limina visits adds to the joy of this important anniversary celebration. To you and to all the priests who are past or present students of the College, to all the staff, friends and benefactors of this important house of studies: “Grace and peace... from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”.

Every minister of the Gospel is entrusted with the great task of serving. Over the past century the College has furthered this task by enriching the life and ministry of Canadian priests. It continues to provide a unique opportunity for study in Rome and for an experience of the Church in all the richness of her unity and diversity.

Alors que le Collège entre dans son deuxième siècle, invoquons l’aide des Apôtres Pierre et Paul, que les fresques de cette chapelle évoquent de manière saisissante. Eux qui sont les colonnes de l’Eglise, par leur vie et par leur mort, ils demeurent un exemple de service du Seigneur dans la vérité et dans l’amour. Que Paul vous donne en partage la lumière èblouissante du Christ ressuscité, dans laquelle il a été converti sur le chemin de Damas! Que Pierre vous donne la force dans la foi et la fidélité dans l’amour qui l’ont conduit au suprême témoignage du martyre! Et que le Dieu tout-puissant continue à répandre abondamment ses bienfaits sur le College et sur chacun de vos diocèses!





Monday, 14 November 1988

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you today and to accept the Letters of Credence by which His Excellency Alhaji Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, President of the Republic of The Gambia, has accredited you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See. The greetings and good wishes which you have conveyed on his behalf are very much appreciated and I would ask you to assure His Excellency of my prayers for his well-being and for the welfare of all the people of your country.

As Your Excellency has said, the relations between the Gambia and the Holy See are characterized by cordiality and mutual respect, for we have a common concern for the promotion of peace, justice and freedom. It is my hope that during your mission the links between us will be further strengthened, and that the contribution which the Catholic Church is making to the integral development of your country can be increased.

It is with satisfaction that I note your reference to the fact that the Church played a significant role in the advancement of The Gambia as a nation state even before the advent of Independence in 1965. Beginning with the activity of the first missionaries who came among your people, the Church has tried to serve as a leaven for the transformation of society. As you are aware, the Church views her contribution in this sphere as an essential part of her religious mission. She considers that her initiatives in sponsoring relief programmes and her efforts to improve the quality of life are in fulfilment of her responsibilities towards God and neighbour. She like wise holds that there should be no opposition between professional and social activities on the one hand and religious life on the other.

The Church’s contribution to the development of your country has been guaranteed by your Government’s protection of the precious right to religious freedom. Concerning this fundamental human right, I observed in my Message for this year’s World Day of Peace: “The civil and social right to religious freedom, inasmuch as it touches the most intimate sphere of the spirit, is a point of reference of the other fundamental rights and in some way becomes a measure of them... The State cannot claim authority, direct or indirect, over a person’s religious convictions. It cannot arrogate to itself the right to impose or to impede the profession or public practice of religion by a person or a community”.

Your Excellency refers to the pioneering role of the Church in the field of education as one which has left an indelible mark on the history of your country. I am pleased to note that the Catholic schools in the Gambia have made such a notable contribution and that they enjoy a reputation for excellence. The Church strives to provide a quality education which is imbued with the Christian Gospel. Through her schools she tries to promote the full development of the human person for the welfare of society.

I very much appreciate your kind words about the Church’s continuing relief efforts in the region of the Sahel. These programmes are primarily agricultural and therefore concern the majority of your people, who live in rural areas. I am pleased to note that the establishment of The John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel has greatly benefited the people of the Gambia as well as the other countries of the region. It is my hope that these programmes, by providing aid to drought victims and by funding special projects in the fight against desertification and its causes, will serve to maintain the peace and stability which are indeed a necessary condition for development.

You mention that your Government has always welcomed the Holy See’s ceaseless efforts on the international level at the service of peace and understanding amongst all peoples and nations. As Your Excellency knows, these initiatives are based upon the fundamental dignity of every human person made in the image and likeness of God.

The common dignity which we share as members of the human race demands that we should live in harmony and mutual respect, and that we should devote ourselves to work for the common good. Peaceful co-existence will only be achieved when everyone is convinced of our universal brotherhood.

Mr. Ambassador, as you begin your mission, I assure you of my prayers for the successful performance of your duties. The departments of the Holy See will always be ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your responsibilities. Upon yourself and upon the President, Government and people of the Gambia I invoke God’s abundant blessings.




Saturday, 19 November 1988

Dear Friends,

I extend very cordial greetings to you, officers and men of HMS Intrepid and HMS Euryalus. It is a pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican. In a particular way I greet Admiral Sir Julian Oswald, Commander-in-Chief Fleet, and Lady Oswald.

Your presence here today reminds me of those words of the Psalmist: “Some sailed to the sea in ships / to trade on the mighty waters. / These men have seen the Lord’s deeds, / the wonders he does in the deep”.

In this passage from the Bible, we see how the experience of going to sea can prompt us to reflect on the power of God and the wonders of this creation. It can move us to a greater awareness of the presence of God in human events and in our own daily lives. I hope that this has been true for each of you during your time of service in the Royal Navy. I pray that your tour of duty, always at the service of peace, has also helped you to deepen your faith and your love of God. For, in the end, that is the most important thing in life. As Saint Paul says: “there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love”. I will pray for you and your dear ones, asking the Lord to strengthen you in faith, hope and love. May he fill your hearts with abundant peace and joy. God be with you all.


Saturday, 28 November 1988

Dear Brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ,

1. Through you I would like to extend warm greetings today to all the Byzantine Catholics of the Province of Pittsburgh, and at the same time to express my love and esteem for all the other Eastern-Rite Catholics in the United States. In your particular Churches there shines forth “that tradition which was handed down from the Apostles through the Fathers and which forms part of the divinely revealed and undivided heritage of the universal Church”. Indeed, you bear faithful witness to the catholicity of the Church and to her ability to sustain and develop in the present – in continuity with the past – diverse religious traditions which derive from the one Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

In your own history, acceptance of the Gospel has exercised a profound influence on your people. The Christian culture which was generated over centuries in your lands of origin and which you have inherited is a great treasure to be preserved, shared and developed organically in the present situation of your lives in the United States. Acceptance of Christ never fails to produce fruit in all sectors of human activity.

2. The celebration of the recent Marian Year has provided the Church with a special opportunity of appreciating more fully the contribution of the East to the common patrimony of the Church’s worship. Here in Rome, on a number of memorable occasions we have offered the liturgy according to various rites, and in our prayer we have experienced a profound communion with all the Eastern Churches. These celebrations vividly expressed the lofty aspirations of the whole Church to adore the majesty of God and to be joined in communion with the Most Holy Trinity. The divine plan, according to which the Eternal Word took on human nature in the womb of the Virgin Mary, continually makes possible the fulfillment of this longing.

Together we have honored the All-holy Mother of God, the archetype of the human creature’s supernatural elevation to union with God in Jesus Christ. Mary, Daughter of God the Father, Mother of God the Son, Spouse and Temple of God the Holy Spirit, is at the very heart of the mystery of salvation. The special place that Marian piety holds in the Eastern Churches leads us to a deeper understanding of Christ, and through him, of the Father and the Holy Spirit.

3. From the very beginning of her divine motherhood, Mary takes up her role in relation to the messianic service of Christ, the Son of Man who came not to be served but to serve, and this service constitues the foundation of that Kingdom in which “to serve” means “to reign”. She who is “full of grace” expresses her joy at the gift she has received by saying: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord”. As Pastors of the Church we too find joy in our life of service as we recall the challenge of the Second Vatican Council: In exercising their office of father and pastor, Bishops should stand in the midst of their people as those who serve”. In this our apostolic ministry, we look to Mary as our model of total service.

Among the many tasks incumbent upon Bishops, the Second Vatican Council speaks of the obligation “to promote every activity that is of interest to the whole Church, especially that the faith may increase and the light of full truth appear to all people”. The service that the laity render in this area is of immense importance and requires a persevering commitment on their part. As they pursue their specific role of consecrating from within all temporal reality they can be greatly strengthened and inspired by the example of Mary. Thus in their daily occupations, in their work and family life, they need to be invited to respond to the universal call to holiness by identifying themselves with Christ, by carrying out all their activities as perfectly as possible, and by bearing genuine witness to the Lord and his Gospel. With God’s grace the laity can make their ordinary work a great act of generous and sanctifying service in union with Mary.

Speeches 1988 - Monday, 31 October 1988