Speeches 1988 - Saturday, 28 November 1988

The Queen of Apostles is the perfect example of the union of the spiritual and apostolic life in the midst of everyday concerns. She is an incomparable source of inspiration particularly for lay women in today’s world which, along with the scientific and technological development that produces material progress for some people and degradation for others, risks becoming steadily more inhuman. The family, the Church and society need that feminine “genius” which guarantees human sensitivity. Through the teaching of the Church and with the help of the Holy Spirit, women can increasingly discover in Mary the full meaning of their femininity and offer the gift of its untarnished beauty to a world in need of being humanized.

4. Dear Brothers: we are all heirs of a spiritual and civil freedom which has been won at a great price. Many of your people have personally experienced how costly liberty is, especially religious liberty. When we speak about this topic we are motivated by the truth about man and by concern for the well-being of each nation. Indeed, we have the best interests of all humanity at heart, for religious freedom supports and guarantees all other freedoms. As I said in this year’s Message for the World Day of Peace, the freedom of individuals and communities to profess and practise their own beliefs is an essential element for peace in the world.

Freedom is hampered in many ways, one of them being the pressures of a secularized cultural environment. You are faithful to your pastoral and prophetic mission when you alert your people, who so prize their religious liberty, not to let the pleasures and allurements of the world deprive them of that inner freedom which not even persecution itself could destroy in them or their forebears.

5. The presence of Eastern-Rite Catholics in America has come about both as a result of religious persecution in their homelands and through other variously motivated emigrations. Taking their situation into account, the Holy See over the years has fostered the protection and advancement of their ecclesial traditions by establishing parishes and special hierarchies in accordance with their spiritual needs.

Today, many difficult situations of economic, political and social unrest have forced millions of people to leave their homes and seek a better life elsewhere. As Pastors we must continually invite the faithful to be sensitive to the needs of the poor and of all who suffer.

The “logic of the Gospel” does not permit us to remain passive in regard to anyone in need. The love of Christ impels us therefore to defend and support the just cause of migrants, immigrants, and refugees.

6. By the will of her divine Founder, the Church is forever and essentially missionary. On the ecclesial level, your particular Churches contribute to the fulfillment of Christ’s command to go forth and make disciples of all nations by displaying to the world the universality of Christ’s salvation and by passing on your cherished traditions to successive generations.

Culturally, you bring the heritage of the East to a society which owes much of its formation to Western Christianity. Eastern and Western traditions in Christianity have complemented each other and produced in the fields of music, literature, the visual arts and architecture, as well as in modes of thought, the inculturation of the one and undivided deposit of faith entrusted by Christ to his Church.

The desire for unity, which is an outstanding sign of our times, is particularly strong at the level of ecumenism. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council expressly thanked God for the communion of the Eastern Churches with the See of Peter, the visible foundation of the unity of the Spouse of Christ. By helping our Orthodox brethren to reflect on the character of the relations that existed between their Churches and the Roman See before separation, your Churches contribute greatly to a constructive ecumenical dialogue. Now more than ever, you are called upon to pray end work for building up the visible unity of the Church.

7. Dear brothers Bishops: from your exceedingly rich liturgical and spiritual tradition, with your long experience of faithfulness to Christ in the midst of changes and adversity, you draw the necessary spiritual strenght to help the faithful entrusted to your care to correspond to their vocation to holiness and service in the context of the Church in the United States.

As we look forward to the third Christian millennium, let us entrust all our concerns and hopes to the Virgin Mother of God, to whom we owe the birth of Christ and who was present at the birth of the Church, which is one and universal from the beginning. The Marian Year has ended, but the period now opening up before us is a Marian event, a Marian path leading to the year 2000. As we travel this path together, with our eyes raised to her who is indeed the Star of the East, let us constantly present her to our people as a model of service, an incentive to holiness, our Mother of Perpetual Help. Upon you, dear Brothers, and upon all the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholics of the Metropolitan See of Pittsburgh and the Eparchies of Passaic, Parma and Van Nuys – as well as the faithful of all the other Eastern Churches in the United States – I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I impart to all my Apostolic Blessing.



Monday, 28 November 1988

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am grateful to you, Mrs Jepsen, for your kind works. I am indeed happy to welcome you, Danish members of the European Parliament, with your associates and some members of your families. I express my condolences to you, Mrs Toksvig, on the recent death of your husband who was to have led your group on this visit.

Your presence here today, as members of the Danish representation in the European Parliament, immediately brings to mind the recent happy event of the beatification of one of your countrymen, Niels Stensen, the seventeenth century scientist and, later, priest and Bishop. His life and work had a decidedly European outlook, in the sense that he embodied certain aspects of Europe’s cultural traditions with singular clarity. He was deeply committed to the search for the truth, both scientific truth regarding the human body and the inanimate world, and the moral and religious truth that affects human life in its deepest significance and purpose.

As I remarked to the Danish pilgrims who came to Rome on the occasion of Niels Stensen’s beatification: “Niels Stensen challenges us above all as a European... This famous son of Denmark found his way to Amsterdam, to Leyden, to Paris and to Florence, his second homeland. His ministry as a Bishop led him to Hanover, Munster, Hamburg and Schwerin. In all these places he was a witness to the same truth, the same science, the same will of God. In all these places his encounter was with the human person, the most dramatic and wonderful creature on earth. Do we too look at present-day efforts to bring about European unity in such a perspective...?”.

My dear friends: as members of the European Parliament you are fully aware that greater unity and collaboration on this continent is not an end in itself, but a means to provide a better life and more abundant well-being for the people of Europe. The human person, with his or her unique dignity and inalienable rights and spiritual vocation, is the cause you serve. This was an essential part of my message to the Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg and I am happy to note an echo of this concern in Mrs Jepsen’s thoughtful address today. In this you can be sure of the support and concern of the Church.

I gladly invoke God’s blessings upon you and your families, and upon Denmark and all its people, whom I look forward to visiting in June of next year, in a spirit of fraternal love and communion. God be with you!

December 1988





Friday, 9 December 1988

Dear Brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ,

1. We are coming to the end of the 1988 ad Limina visits, and I am happy that I can mark this occasion with such a large group of American bishops. To all of you who make up the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Chicago, Indianapolis and Milwaukee I extend a welcome of fraternal love.

During this year I have spoken to your brothers Bishops on a variety of topics, but always endeavoring to emphasize that the Church in the United States is called to holiness through a life of faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God and Savior of the world. This emphasis is the consequence of a profound conviction that only through living faith can the Church give a valid pastoral response to all the situations in which she finds herself in the modern world.

In my first talk of the present ad Limina series I stressed that the Church in the United States “belongs to Jesus Christ by right. He loves her intensely and intends to possess her more fully and to purify her ever more deeply in every aspect of her ecclesial reality” . And today I would suggest that together we turn our thoughts and hearts once more to Jesus Christ, so that in him we can better understand this ecclesial reality. In the words of the Letter to the Hebrews: “Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who inspires and perfects our faith” . And because “he has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God”, it is by looking to Christ in the reality of his heavenly Kingdom that we will understand his Church on earth.

2. Since the Church is already the Kingdom of God in its initial stage, it is fitting, at the conclusion of the ad Limina visits, that our attention should be directed to the final consummation of the Church. Her eschatological nature is an essential part of her mystery, and it is of great importance for our pastoral leadership in the Church.

We have been placed by the Holy Spirit as Pastors to guide the Church in accomplishing her mission. To do so adequately, we must always keep in mind that there is a specific dynamic at work at the center of the Church’s evangelizing activities. It is her eschatological dimension. Everything that brings about her final fulfillment promotes her vitality. But if eschatology were to remain devoid of consequences, the Church’s progress would be halted and her course misdirected. In this case, her activities would be irrelevant to authentic evangelization.

Ecclesial communion too is profoundly eschatological. Founded on communion through Christ with the Father in the Holy Spirit, the Church knows she is imbued with a life that transcends death. Her life is the life of the Risen Christ, the life that through the Cross conquered death by the power of loving obedience to the Father’s will. By the exercise of his saving power, Christ communicates his own glorious life to the Church. The Church begins to exist as a consequence of this act of the Risen Jesus. She already lives this life of her Lord and Savior while longing for her definitive fulfillment.

3. By his life-giving act the Lord brings his Church into union with himself and thus fills her with holiness But this holiness must be sustained and increased. In all the dimensions of their human existence the members of the Church must open themselves ever more to the Lord’s sanctifying power. In this way, the Kingdom gradually takes shape in each Christian and in the Church, and grows indefinitely.

It is precisely in holiness that the Church anticipates and actually inaugurates the Kingdom of God. The pastoral office in the Church exists to foster holiness. To understand fully the pastoral office we must look to the holiness of the Church in her eschatological form: the holiness that Christ wills for his Church, the holiness that consummates the union of Christ and his Bride in heaven. In presenting an American Bishop to the whole world as a model of pastoral charity, Paul VI called the canonization of John Neumann both a “celebration of holiness” and a “prophetic anticipation... for the United States... of a renewal in love”.

The full coming of Christ’s Kingdom requires from all the faithful the gift of themselves to God and to others. Inseparable from this gift is prayer. We see this in Christ Jesus. Our Lord goes to the Cross in the very context of that prayer which he began in Gethsemane and which was consummated when he gave up his spirit into the hands of the Father. By virtue of our divine filiation we are called to follow in this path. Authentic prayer is possible only when we are ready to carry out the saving plan of the Father. We must try, therefore, to help God’s people achieve a clear understanding of what prayer means: dialogue with God involving personal commitment. As Pastors, we ourselves must bear witness to prayer, being convinced that through it the saving power of God transforms the ecclesial community.

4. The Church proclaims that her members are to be “children of the resurrection”, and she waits “in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ” She looks forward to the hour when her glory will be revealed in the fullness of communion with the Most Holy Trinity. It is Christ’s coming that in turn will definitively “new heavens and a new earth” As we await these realities we are called to live in deep peace and serenity. Victory is certain, evil will not prevail: Jesus Christ has overcome the world.

For this reason, Christians must seek to use temporal goods without the anxiety and hyperactivity of those whose only hope is in this life. Certainly faith does not permit us to remain passive in the face of suffering and injustice. Our hope spurs us on to work actively for the coming of the universal Kingdom of God. But we can never do this with the uncertainty of those who place their ultimate happiness in earthly history. A Christian’s struggle breathes serenity and communicates peace, not only as the goal it seeks but as the very style with which it promotes justice. A basic security and optimism inspires the whole life of the Church. We know beforehand the goal to which we aspire with God’s help. We may experience hesitation with regard to certain means, but the objective is clear and unchanging. In its light we can discern the path to be followed and we correct any course that may have been taken by mistake. The Church can never succumb to the temptation to “remake” herself. Her essential identity is guaranteed by the assurance that Jesus Christ will return in glory.

5. This expectation of Christ’s return in glory gives meaning to all the Church’s activities and places all temporal concerns in proper perspective. In all she does, the Church looks to a horizon far beyond human history, where everything will be subjected to Christ and by him offered to the Father. At the moment foreordained, everything in heaven and on earth will definitively be placed under the headship of Christ. Meanwhile, by God’s design, the life of the Church is interwoven in the fabric of human history but always directed to eternal life.

The Church can never be a community at the service of merely temporal objectives. Her end is the Kingdom of God, which she must unceasingly extend until its completion in eternity. Hence her initiatives and efforts cannot be motivated by merely temporal values. The Church lives in the midst of human beings – she herself being the new humanity in Christ – and she shares the experience of the whole human family. She lives in solidarity with all people, and nothing human is foreign to her.

The concerns of the ecclesial community embrace those of the civil community in such areas as peace, culture, the family and human rights. Yet the perspective from which the Church approaches all these issues has as its characteristic originality a relationship with the Kingdom of God. If the Church were to lose this transcendent perspective, she could not make her distinctive contribution to humanity.

6. Any consideration of the eschatological dimension of the Church must necessarily include the Holy Eucharist. The Church constantly finds her nourishment in the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the glorified Christ. At the end of time, the saving power of the Eucharist will attain its full effect when the holiness of the Church will be complete and the entire universe will be perfectly restored in Christ. Meanwhile, we “proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes”.

The renewal of the Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary is at the same time the banquet of the Kingdom. As such it is the object of the Church’s profound solicitudine and of her legislation. Recently, there was a clarification of the supplementary character of the faculty granted to lay persons to distribute Holy Communion as extraordinary Eucharistic ministers. The conditions established in the Code of Canon Law were authentically interpreted last year, at which time I directed the Congregation for the Sacraments to communicate the decision to the Episcopal Conferences throughout the world. In some cases there may still be a need to revise diocesan policies in this matter, not only to ensure the faithful application of the law but also to foster the true notion and genuine character of the participation of the laity in the life and mission of the Church.

As we prepare for the Jubilee of the year 2000, let us place the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist at the center of pastoral renewal. This is in accord with the consistent teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which sees the Eucharist as the culmination of the proclamation of the word and the call to Penance. The Christ who calls us to the Eucharistic banquet is the same merciful Christ who calls us to conversion. It is my earnest hope that in every diocese of the United States, under the pastoral leadership of the Bishops, there will be effective plans for the genuine renewal of the Sacrament of Penance, with the promotion of individual Confession. The Church is convinced and proclaims that the implementation of “aggiornamento” as envisioned by the Second Vatican Council is closely linked to the renewal of the Sacrament of Penance. Individual conversion is at the heart of all reform and renewal.

7. Mary the Mother of Jesus is the perfect realization of the Church’s life of faith and goal of holiness. In her we have a great sign that sums up and completely expresses the holiness that we sinners strive to attain through conversion. She who is now body and soul in heaven is the first of the redeemed and the totally sanctified one.

In the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, the Council presents a synthesis, applicable to Mary, of living in the temporal order without ever losing sight of the spiritual order in its eschatological fullness. The Council says that “while leading the life common to all here on earth, one filled with family concerns and labors, she was always intimately united with her Son and in an entirely unique way cooperated in the work of the Savior”. In her femininity as Virgin, Wife and Mother, Mary stands in and before the Church as the Woman of all salvation history. Having now been assumed into heaven, she lives her spiritual motherhood interceding on our behalf, helping us in the midst of our earthly pilgrimage not to forget the goal which inspires all the Church’s activities.

8. It is our role as Bishops to offer to the Father, in union with Christ the High Priest, the Church and all her activities. We offer her as Christ desires her to be: his Body and his Spouse, the Church of his divinity and his humanity, the Church that reflects his generosity and lives his Sacrifice, the Church of truth and merciful love, the Church of prayer and service, the Church of conversion, holiness and eternal life.

The Church that we offer to the Father and work daily to build up in charity is by no means a so-called “monolithic structure”, but rather the apostolic structure of unassailable unity, in which, as Bishops, all of us are called, in the expression of Saint Paul, to “be united in the same mind and in the same purpose”. Strengthened by this unity, our ministry becomes ever more effective in all its dimensions.

The present hour in the life of the Church calls for great hope, based on the eschatological promises of God and expressed in renewed confidence in the power of Christ’s Paschal Mystery. This is the hour for renewed effort in inviting young people to the priesthood and religious life, the hour for renewed serenity in proclaiming the most difficult demands of Christianity and the loftiest challenges of the Cross. It is the hour for a new commitment to holiness on the part of the Church, as she prepares for the great Jubilee of the year 2000 and invokes the coming of the Lord Jesus.

As we conclude this series of ad Limina visits, in continuity with those of 1978 and 1983 and with my two pastoral visits to the United States, I wish to renew my deep gratitude to all of you, my brothers Bishops, for your partnership in the Gospel. In this same spirit I look forward to the special meeting of Bishops planned for next year, so that by continued pastoral collaboration we may assist the Church in the United States to live her vocation of holiness through a life of dynamic faith. Meanwhile, I entrust to Mary, Mother of the Church and Queen of Heaven, the beloved faithful of your land and bless them all in the name of the Lord Jesus.





Monday, 12 December 1988

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to offer Your Excellency a cordial welcome as you present the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mauritius to the Holy See. The kind expression of greetings and good wishes which you have conveyed to me on behalf of His Excellency the Governor-General, the Prime Minister and the people of Mauritius are much appreciated. I readily reciprocate with the assurance of my own good wishes and continued prayers for the harmony and well-being of all your fellowcitizens.

It is with satisfaction that I acknowledge your reference to the Pastoral Visits which have been a part of my ministry during the years of my Pontificate. As you know, my journeys to the various countries are primarily visits of the Bishop of Rome, as head of the Catholic Church, to the Catholic communities throughout the world. They have enabled me to bear witness before the nations to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to confirm the faith of the Church’s members and to serve the cause of Christian unity. At the same time, they have provided me with the opportunity of sharing in the legitimate hopes of peoples, in their sufferings and anxieties, in their practical efforts to promote peace and justice and the defence of human rights.

Your Excellency has mentioned the important role which religion plays in the life of the Mauritian people, and you have referred to the fact that your Government, in acknowledging the religious traditions of the people, has incorporated necessary safeguards in the Constitution to protect their religious freedom. Indeed, for true religious freedom to exist it is necessary that people, both individually and in association with each other, be able to pursue the truth and to profess and celebrate their religious convictions openly – always of course with respect for the common good. They should be able to communicate freely with other religious groups, both at home and abroad, and be enabled to transmit their beliefs to each new generation through appropriate forms of religious education. All of these rights should be recognized and confirmed by civil law so that no coercion by individuals, social groups or any human power be allowed to undermine that most fundamental of all freedoms, freedom of conscience and belief.

The Church is always eager to encourage closer bonds of trust and goodwill among the ethnic, social and religious groups of any country. Governments too have a major role to play in fostering this kind of harmony, especially by promoting and defending the dignity and rights of all citizens without discrimination. Apart from supporting economic, social and scientific development, Governments ensure the genuine well-being of their citizens by allowing for programmes in religious and moral education, respect for life and for transcendent values which are in keeping with the beliefs of their people. I encourage your Government in these endeavours and I know that the Catholic Church in Mauritius does not fail to make its own contribution in order to help in the construction of a harmonious society, respectful of the spiritual dimension of man. In so doing, the Church is convinced that the dialogue between the various components of society will be ever more fruitful, since it is based on the equal dignity of every human person.

I am pleased to acknowledge, Mr Ambassador, that your Government pursues a policy of international peace and that it strives to keep the Indian Ocean a zone of peace for the safety and welfare of all the countries of the region. This is admirably embodied in your country’s pledge to work for the liberty and progress of all peoples.

I wish to express once again my appreciation of your Government’s willingness to welcome me for a Pastoral Visit to Mauritius. I am looking forward to the possibility of fulfilling at an early date my desire to be present among the Catholic community of your nation, which I have wished to honour by calling to the College of Cardinals the Bishop of Port Louis, my dear and esteemed brother Jean Margéot. It will be my pleasure also to meet the people of Mauritius and so come to know and experience their noble human qualities.

At the outset of your mission, Mr Ambassador, I assure you of the cooperation of the Holy See in carrying out your responsibilities. It is my hope to further in every possible way the friendship and goodwill which characterize the diplomatic relations that exist between Mauritius and the Holy See. Upon Your Excellency, the Government and people of Mauritius I invoke God’s abundant blessings of peace and prosperity.




Monday, 19 December 1988

Dear Brothers in Christ,

1. It is with particular joy that I welcome you, the members of the Generalate of the Society of the Divine Word. Through you I greet all the members of the Society, on whom I invoke grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ his Son.

Your Institute has recently celebrated its thirteenth General Chapter and you are also commemorating one hundred years of the Society’s presence in the Eternal City. Through the Chapter the Society renewed its foundational commitment to missionary work in that foremost of all senses, obedience to Christ’s command to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations”. As the one entrusted with a special solicitude for all the Churches, it is a great joy for me to know that the members of the Society are engaged in specifically missionary activity in so many parts of the world. Be assured that the support of my prayers and encouragement reaches out to each member of your community, no matter how near or far.

2. Through your religious charism you are privileged to take part in the saving mission entrusted by Christ to the Church. As Divine Word missionaries you place emphasis on the worldwide dimension of this mission. You identify yourselves with the frontier situations of the local Churches, building up Christian communities where they do not yet exist and accompanying them in their growth until they can be sustained by their own strength and vitality. Your task is to bring the truth of Christ into a saving and redemptive dialogue with local cultures and traditions.

Undoubtedly this kind of apostolate was at the base of the great vision which animated your Blessed Founder Arnold at the beginning of your religious and missionary existence. Guided by the Holy Spirit, he well understood the missionary nature of the Church and did not hesitate to promote this missionary awareness in his contemporaries. He showed himself open to different cultures and allowed his spiritual sons to pursue the study of new sciences that proved very useful for effective missionary activity. It has been in a special way through the endeavours of Father Wilhelm Schmid, a member of your Institute, that the Church has at her disposal an extensive knowledge of cultural anthropology, so necessary for an effective evangelization of peoples of different cultural backgrounds. These sciences are important tools of your ecclesial service.

3. However, as your General Chapter also brought out, the members of the Society of the Divine Word are above all heralds of our Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be able to proclaim the Good News effectively only if you listen to the word of God and live it in your daily lives. The word of God – the divine word – must continue to be the focal point of your spirituality, the object of your daily prayer and meditation, so that it can be the source of your joy and fruitfulness. To use the words of John the Evangelist, the Incarnate Word must become for you something you have seen with your eyes, something you have looked upon and touched with your hands.

To achieve this kind of unity with the Word, you must be radically open to the Holy Spirit. It was the Spirit of God who moved the prophets, who was present at the Incarnation of the Word and who, at Pentecost, opened the way of the Gospel to the world. Today, the same Spirit moves and guides the messengers of the Good News of salvation.

4. With great joy I have learnt that this year the Society had one hundred and seventeen newly ordained missionaries. You are blessed with numerous vocations, especially in Poland, India, Indonesia and the Philippines. Young missionaries from these countries are being sent to different continents to evangelize and to build new Christian communities. Other countries that in recent years have undergone a vocational crisis begin to show new signs of hope. This fact spurs us to give thanks to the Lord for his goodness and to pray more intensely that he send many worthy labourers into his vineyard.

The vocations that God is sending to you come from different cultures and often from Churches which not very long ago were themselves missionary Christian communities. In the design of God, this is an important factor in the life of your Society, and it requires great attention and reflection on your part. As a community of priests and brothers from different nations and languages, you can become ever more a living symbol of the unity and diversity of the Church

5. On the happy occasion of this meeting I wish to exhort you and all the members of the Society of the Divine Word, individually and collectively, to remain faithful to your specific vocation, joyfully participating in the Church’s missionary task. Under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom you venerate as the Immaculate Spouse of the Holy Spirit, and through the intercession of your Blessed Founder Arnold and Blessed Joseph Freinademetz, may you continue to labour in the Lord’s harvest with wise counsel and generous dedication. From my heart I impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing.





Saturday, 31 December 1988

My dear Brothers and Sisters from Ethiopia,

As you gather to express gratitude to God for all the blessings of the past year, no doubt your thoughts and prayers turn to your families and friends in your native land. Perhaps this is also an occasion for you to reflect on the many events, both joyful and sorrowful, that have marked your journey to Rome and your stay here.

I join you in thanking God for his many blessings to you in the midst of difficulties and trials: for the kindnesses that have been extended to you by so many people, especially the Jesuit Fathers who have opened their home to you in a true spirit of Christian hospitality and solidarity.

Speeches 1988 - Saturday, 28 November 1988