Speeches 1989 - Finlandia Hall, Helsinki
Tuesday, 6 June 1989
Praised be Jesus Christ!
Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
1. The Lord has brought us to a new day. In this morning hour he is with us as we gather under the roof of this noble cathedral and thank him for the gift of life and the wonders of his mercy. At the same time we entrust the future to him. Yesterday, today and tomorrow belong to him.
For the first time in history the Bishop of Rome sets foot in this cathedral, dedicated to Saint Henrik, the holy Patron of Finland. My heart rejoices that I can do so with you: the elderly and the sick as well as the priests and the religious sisters and brothers of Finland. It is a privilege for me to speak to you, to be with you, because you are all special in the eyes of the Lord.
2. We have just heard the extraordinary words of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor . These words are addressed to all of us but especially to those who have the heavy cross of pain or sickness to bear. The Lord says to you this morning: “Blessed are you”. In your weakness and dependence you often realize better than others that we are all poor, weak and ultimately dependent on Christ, who says: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15,5).
How can I be blessed, you ask yourself? For the most part, modern society idolizes health, youth, power and beauty. The sick and the old seem to lack precisely those things that the world so much admires. But there is a higher wisdom; a wisdom that reveals the true meaning of our human weakness and our pain. That wisdom is revealed in Christ. He knows what it is to suffer; he experienced it on the road to Calvary. He was scourged and crowned with thorns; he had to carry the cross and was crucified.
Christ associates with himself in the closest possible way all those who suffer. If any of your relatives, neighbours and those looking after you do not fully understand how much you suffer, be assured that Christ the Lord does. Not only does the Lord understand our sufferings but he teaches us that suffering, pain, growing old, and death itself – all these things have an immense value when they are united with his own Passion and Death. In fact Jesus says that no one can claim to follow him without taking up his cross.
3. In the Gospel of Saint John we read: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes him should not perish but have eternal life” (Ibid. 3, 16). Jesus Christ is God’s definitive word about the human condition, and therefore also about suffering. In the plan of God all life has value, because from the moment of conception onwards there is a meeting, a dialogue between the Creator and the creature, between the divine and human. That dialogue takes its highest form in prayer and worship, and it reaches special intensity in our loving obedience to God’s will, when we accept life, with all its difficulties and sufferings, as a sharing in the work of redemption.
All of you therefore have a special apostolate: it is to be united with Christ and to pray for those who do not know him. I ask you to pray for me as well and for the Catholic Church throughout the world. I ask you to pray for those who cannot pray and who do not know how to pray, and for all who have lost faith in God and in his mercy. Allow the light and the healing presence of Christ to shine through your lives so that all who come into contact with you will discover the loving kindness of God.
4. The presence here of the priests, and religious sisters and brothers is also a cause of great joy for me. Dear brothers and sisters: your special vocations in the Church speak of the mystery of God’s grace working in your hearts and – through you – building up his Kingdom in this part of the world. In the words of Saint Paul, you have been called to the priesthood or religious life “by the mercy of God” (2Co 4,1). His grace is your guarantee and the source of your happiness and spiritual efficacy.
God’s grace has been given to us through the Redemption accomplished by his Son and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. As ministers of God’s grace, my brothers in the priesthood, may you proclaim the Gospel and celebrate the sacraments with a profound reverence for the mysteries which transform the lives of all who believe. In your prayer, reflect frequently upon the ministry which has been entrusted to you by Christ. It is he whom you serve, and it is he who, in many hidden ways, can be trusted to bring forth a rich harvest from all that you sow.
My dear religious brothers and sisters: in a world which too often seeks fulfilment in material comforts and the manipulation of power, a world striving for happiness without a clear reference to God, you stand out as signposts pointing to higher values. Your configuration with Christ and your observance of the evangelical counsels recall Christ’s words: “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn 13,36). You are ambassadors of the one who proclaimed the striking message of the Beatitudes which ushered in a “newness” of life which our contemporaries seek but do not always know how to find. They yearn for a better world, without famine and war, without the threat of nuclear destruction, without the hatred and injustices which demean human life; but they do not always recognize the depths of conversion and reconciliation, which such a transformation of life requires. That is the wisdom which you must deepen through prayer and contemplation, so as to share it bountifully with those who “call you to account for the hope that is in you” (1Petr 3, 15).
I greet each one of you. I rejoice in your fidelity and I pray that by “seeing your good works”, generous young men and women of Finland will follow in your footsteps for the glory of our Father who is in heaven (Cfr. Matth Mt 5,16).
5. The last hour of my pastoral visit to Finland is drawing near. I came here with a message of love and peace to all men and women of good will. I have seen the situation of the Catholic Church in Finland at first hand, and I give thanks to God for your communion with the See of Peter and your fidelity to the teachings of the Catholic Church. I encourage you all, laity as well as priests and religious, to remain steadfast in the love of Christ and in the unity of the Church. Like the early Church, you are a small community. I remind you of the words of Christ in the Book of Revelation: “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore” (Ap 1,27). Yes, Christ is your strength today and always!
The medieval hymn in honour of Saint Henrik has the following refrain, which expresses an unfailing security for a world often marked by lack of hope:
“Ergo plebs fennonica,
Gaude de hoc dono
Quod facta es catholica
Verbi Dei sono”.
“And so people of Finland,
Rejoice in this gift
that you have become Catholic,
through the preaching of the word of God”,
People of Finland – Do not lose hope!
Be firm in your faith and generous in your love!
In a short time, we will all join in praying to God our Father in the Finnish language. May we lift up our hearts with confidence and joy, knowing that he whose name is holy and who gives us our daily bread is the source of all goodness and love.
Tuesday, 6 June 1989
Mr Prime Minister,
Distinguished Members of Government,
Dear People of Denmark,
1. It is with distinct pleasure that I greet you and all the people of Denmark. My visit to your country is an expression of the esteem which I have for the Kingdom of Denmark and all her people. Throughout her history, Denmark has commanded the respect of her neighbours, not only for the courage of her warriors, but also, and more importantly, for the high ideals which have guided her growth as a nation. Today, those ideals continue to find expression in a thriving cultural and intellectual life. They provide the support for a healthy civic and social life, and they find a deep source of inspiration and renewal in the religious faith of so many men and women among you. Within the international community, Denmark has long been esteemed for the expression which those ideals have found in the generosity and solidarity which mark your relations with the developing nations of the world.
Indeed, for all their ancient strength and unity as a people, Danes have never been isolated from the rest of the family of nations. For over a thousand years, Denmark has stood as a geographical link between the Nordic peoples and the rest of Europe. Her notable contributions to science, the arts and literature have been a source of enrichment for the entire world. This heritage is both a cause for pride and a stimulus to further action of this kind.
For these reasons, I am pleased to have this opportunity to set foot upon Danish soil today. I wish to express my gratitude to Queen Margrethe, to you, Mr Prime Minister, and to all those civil and ecclesiastical authorities who have helped to make this visit possible.
2. I have come to Denmark as the Bishop of Rome, as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and as one who is committed, as you are committed, to the search for authentic peace in our world. My journey brings me to the Catholics of Denmark, my brothers and sisters in Christ. In accordance with the ministry I received, I have come to pray with them, to celebrate the sacraments with them and to strengthen them in the bonds of ecclesial communion which unite them with the Catholic Church throughout the world. It is my hope that this visit of the Successor of Peter will serve to confirm them in the faith they have received, so that they may come to know more deeply Christ Jesus and the power of his resurrection.
I have also come with the intention of meeting the bishops and people of the Danish Lutheran Church, as well as representatives of the various Christian Ecclesial Communities present in Denmark. This ecumenical aspect of my visit is one that is dear to me. In our days, Christians throughout the world are seeking to overcome the divisions and disagreements which have long separated us. In conformity with the will of Christ who prayed that his disciples might all be one (Cfr. Io Jn 17,21), we seek the grace of reconciliation and a renewed commitment to bringing the Gospel’s message of hope to the world. I am grateful for this privileged moment, and I pray that my presence, and the Gospel I preach, may encourage all Christians to cherish more deeply the gift of faith which we have received.
3. The Christian faith remains, in our own day, as it has for a thousand years, an inspiration and a support for Denmark’s people. The very symbol of your existence as a people, the Dannebrog, is marked with the sign of the Cross. Under this banner, Denmark has grown strong in her identity as a nation and her people have prospered. In our times, cooperation and mutual support among all nations has become our only hope for the attainment of peace and a just distribution of the world’s goods. Here too, Denmark has demonstrated a generous solidarity in accord with the best of her traditions. In the international community, your country is known for her concern for the welfare of all and the advancement of human rights. Your hospitality towards refugees and foreigners at home is matched by your assistance to the developing nations of the Third World.
These generous contributions to the advancement of peoples and their social progress are an expression of values deeply implanted in the soul of the Danish people. May you always be faithful to those values, treasuring them as part of your country’s great riches and passing them on to your children. Our age needs to be challenged by this example. It longs for a witness to authentic generosity and self-sacrifice for the good of others. At a time when many are tempted to live for the day and selfishly to exploit the resources which nature has provided for all, Denmark can raise her voice in defence of all those who have no voice: the poor, the underprivileged, and those not yet born. In doing so, she will be faithful to the Dannebrog, faithful to her very self.
Dear friends: with every passing day, a new world is struggling to be born. Mankind lies poised between a future of hope and promise, and a future of violence and poverty. Each of us, in our families and communities, in our churches and governments, has a role to play in giving birth to this new world. I am grateful to you for all that you have done, and all that you are doing, to bring about the dawn of an age of understanding and cooperation among peoples, and a commitment to the good of all people, especially those who most need your help. Your pursuit of these noble goals will always have my support and gratitude. In this regard, I am pleased to recall the establishment of diplomatic relations between Denmark and the Holy See. It is my hope that these relations will serve the cause of increasing understanding among peoples, and contribute to the growth of that peace for which we all long. God bless each and every one of you! May God bless Denmark and all her people!
Gud velsigne Danmark. Gud velsigne jere alle.
Wednesday, 7 June 1989
Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!
Diese Begegnung am Beginn des zweiten Tages meines Pastoralbesuches in Eurem Land bereitet mir eine besondere Freude. In Euch Priestern, Ordensleuten verschiedener Kongregationen und Vertretern der Laien grüße ich das ganze Volk Gottes in Eurer Diözese Kopenhagen, in dessen Mitte und mit dem zusammen Ihr mit Glaubenskraft und Opferbereitschaft fortfahrt, lebendige Zeugen für Jesus Christus und das anbrechende Gottesreich in der Welt zu sein.
1. Liebe Mitbrüder im Priesteramt!
Mit besonderer Zuneigung und Liebe wende ich mich zuerst an Euch, die Ihr die engsten Mitarbeiter Eures Bischofs in seinem Hirtendienst seid. Einige von Euch entstammen diesem Land, die meisten aber sind von anderen Ortskirchen hierher gekommen, um der katholischen Kirche in Dänemark als Priester zu dienen. Unter Euch sind Weltpriester und mehr noch Angehörige verschiedener Ordensgemeinschaften, von denen einige schon ein Jahrhundert, andere erst seit neuerer Zeit in Dänemark anwesend und tätig sind. Es freut mich zu hören, daß die priesterliche Gemeinschaft unter Euch trotz der angedeuteten Vielfalt und Unterschiede eng und herzlich ist. Euer brüderlicher Zusammenhalt, der sowohl in Eurem Priesterrat als auch in Euren gelegentlichen Priestertreffen zum Ausdruck kommt, ist von großem Wert für Eure oft isolierte pastorale Arbeit in der Diasporasituation, in der Ihr mit Euren Gemeinden weithin lebt. Darum ermutige ich Euch von Herzen, diese brüderliche und solidarische Gemeinschaft unter Euch auch in Zukunft sorgfältig zu pflegen.
Die verschiedene Herkunft, die Zugehörigkeit zu unterschiedlichen Ordensgemeinschaften wie auch das Studium in verschiedenen Ländern sind für Euer Presbyterium eine große Bereicherung. Darum kann ein reger Gedankenaustausch, das gemeinsame Besprechen der vielfältigen pastoralen Erfahrungen und Aufgaben in einer schnell sich verändernden Gesellschaft Eure brüderliche Zusammenarbeit und Euer persönliches priesterliches Wirken in Gemeinden sehr befruchten und vertiefen. Besonders empfehlenswert sind dafür auch gemeinsame Studien- und Fortbildungskurse sowie gemeinschaftliche geistliche Exerzitien und Einkehrtage, in denen Ihr Euch vor Gott Eurer priesterlichen Berufung und Sendung in der Kirche und der Welt von heute neu bewußt werdet und daraus neue Kraft und Zuversicht für Eure täglichen Mühen im Weinberg des Herrn schöpft.
”Nicht ihr habt mich erwählt, sondern ich habe euch erwählt“, so sagt uns der Herr (Jn 15,16). Er hat Euch dafür ausersehen, seine Heilssendung inmitten des Volkes Gottes fortzusetzen. Er hat Euch bestellt zu Boten seiner Frohen Botschaft und zu Ausspendern seiner göttlichen Geheimnisse. Darum müßt Ihr zuallererst seine Freunde und Vertrauten sein. Nicht Ihr, nicht Eure Gemeinden, sondern Christus selbst soll Inhalt und letztes Ziel Eures priesterlichen Wirkens sein. Der Priester darf niemals vergessen, daß er”im Namen und in der Person Jesu Christi handelt“, wie eine lange Tradition lehrt. Er muß ganz zurücktreten hinter dem Herrn, den er verkündet und der durch ihn wirkt.
Wie sich das Handeln des Priesters letztlich aus seiner Sendung durch Christus herleitet, so muß dieses auch immer auf Christus hingeordnet bleiben. Darum wird die Liturgie, vor allem die Eucharistie, die das II. Vatikanische Konzil als Höhepunkt und Quelle des Lebens der Kirche bezeichnet (Cfr. Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 10), auch der vitale Mittelpunkt seiner ganzen pastoralen Tätigkeit sein. Widmet deshalb der würdigen Gestaltung der Gottesdienste und der Sakramente Eure besondere Sorge und Aufmerksamkeit. Jeder, der an liturgischen Handlungen der Kirche teilnimmt, soll sich dessen bewußt sein, daß er einen heiligen Dienst verrichtet, der wesentlich auf die Anbetung und den Lobpreis Gottes ausgerichtet ist.
Aus der inneren Lebensgemeinschaft mit Christus erwächst dann für den Priester und für jeden Christen der Auftrag zum Zeugnis vor der Welt, zur christlichen Gestaltung des eigenen Lebens, der Familie und der Gesellschaft. Dabei werdet Ihr gewiß auch auf viele Schwierigkeiten stoßen, wenn Ihr glaubwürdige Zeugen des Reiches Gottes sein wollt, da dieses nicht von dieser Welt ist. Laßt Euch dadurch aber nicht entmutigen! Ihr teilt darin das Geschick Jesu Christi selbst, wir Ihr es auch schon durch Eure äußere Lebensform unübersehbar zum Ausdruck bringt. Widersteht mit aller Kräften der Versuchung, Euch und die Botschaft Christi der Welt anzugleichen. Wir sind vielmehr dazu gesandt, uns und die Menschen im Geist des Evangeliums zu verändern und zu erneuern. Darum muß der Aufruf zu Umkehr und Buße die wesentliche Aufforderung Eurer Verkündigung bleiben.
Wenn die Probleme und Schwierigkeiten, denen Ihr in Eurer Seelsorgsarbeit begegnet, unüberwindlich erscheinen, so seid Euch stets der beglückenden Tatsache bewußt, daß Ihr eine kostbare Gabe in Euren Händen tragt und den Menschen zu geben habt, nach der sich die Menschen – ohne es vielleicht zu wissen – sogar in tiefsten sehnen; die Frohe Botschaft vom Heil und die Hoffnung auf ein erfülltes ewiges Leben in Gott.
So wie Christus seine ersten Apostel als eine kleine Schar von Getreuen ausgeschickt hat, so werdet auch Ihr vom Herrn der Kirche ausgesandt. Fürchtet Euch nicht, denn in ihm habt Ihr Eure Stärke und Euren Reichtum. Er, der sein gutes Werk in Euch begonnen hat, wird es auch zur Vollendung bringen. Er, der Euch berufen hat, wird Euch auch die Kraft geben, seinen Auftrag auszuführen und Eurer Berufung bis zum Ende treu zu bleiben. Mit der gleichen Zuversicht sorgt Euch zugleich darum, daß der Herr der Ernte aus Euren Gemeinden immer wieder neue Arbeiter in seine Ernte sende, auf daß Gottes Lobpreis und Anbetung in Eurer Mitte niemals verstumme.
2. Liebe Ordensschwestern!
Mit der gleichen Zuneigung und Wertschätzung richte ich nun mein Wort an Euch, die Ihr viele Aufgaben und Mühen zur Auferbauung des Reiches Gottes mit euren Priestern teilt und den Menschen in diesem Land in der Liebe Jesu Christi auf vielfältige Weise dient.
Seit der Einführung der Religions-freiheit in Dänemark im Jahre 1849 haben katholische Ordensschwesterns, die aus verschiedenen Ländern und Ordensgemeinschaften hierher gekommen sind, beim neuen Aufbau der katholischen Kirche in diesem Land auf vielfältige Weise mitgewirkt. Die Schwestern waren für das Wirken der Priester und die Gemeinschaften oft eine große Hilfe. Nicht selten wurden mit ihrer Unterstützung neue Häuser und Kirchen gebaut. In Zeiten, in denen die Menschen hier vielerorts, besonders in den großen Städten, noch unter erheblichem Mangel litten, haben die Schwestern durch ihre Arbeit in den Krankenhäusern und Kindergärten einen unschätzbaren Dienst geleistet. Durch Ihren Einsatz wurden auch viele katholischen Schulen gegründet, entstanden kontemplative Klöster, die ein Zeichen dafür sind, daß die wichtigste Dimension der Kirche das Gebet und die hochste Berufung des Menschen der Lobpreis Gottes ist.
Ich grüße Euch sehr herzlich, liebe Schwestern, und danke Euch für den Dienst, den Ihr und Eure Ordensgemeinschaften in der Vergangenheit für die Kirche und die Menschen in diesem Land geleistet habt und noch heute leistet. Obwohl Eure Zahl zurückgegangen ist, bleibt Ihr weiterhin ein wichtiger und unentbehrlicher Bestandteil dieser Ortskirche. Wie früher gebt Ihr auch jetzt durch Euer Dasein und Wirken ein unübersehbares Zeugnis für ein Leben, das durch Verzicht auf Eigentum, auf Ehe und Familie und durch selbstlose Hingabe im Gehorsam dem Herrn besonders eng nachzufolgen und in seiner Liebe den Menschen zu dienen wünscht. Euer konsequentes christliches Lebenszeugnis ist um so notwendiger, je mehr eine materialistisch ausgerichtete Gesellschaft die höchsten Werte in Besitz und Reichtum, in sinnlichem Genuß und Ausleben, in Selbstbehauptung und Machtausübung über andere sieht.
Mit Euch zusammen danke ich Gott für die Gnade Eurer Berufung und für Eure hochherzige Bereitschaft, mit der Ihr wie Maria Euer”Fiat“, Euer Ja zum Ruf in die besondere Nachfolge Christi gesprochen habt. Aus der unwiderruflichen Bindung an ihn erwartet Ihr fortan den Sinn und die Fruchtbarkeit Eures Lebens. In unserer Zeit der Bindungsangst seid Ihr aufgerufen, Zeugnis dafür zu geben, daß eine endgültige Bindung, eine das ganze Leben tragende Entscheidung auf Gott hin möglich ist; mehr noch, daß es sich sogar lohnt, sie zu wagen, da sie Euch frei und froh macht, wenn Ihr sie Tag für Tag aufrichtigen Herzens erneuert. Euer Ja, das Ihr von Jahren oder Jahrzehnten gesprochen habt, muß vor dem Herrn immer neu bekräftigt werden. Dazu bedarf es der täglichen Offenheit für den je neuen Anruf Gottes und das tägliche sich Einlassen auf seine gekreuzigte Liebe. Nur er kann das Geschenk der Berufung in Euch lebendig erhalten. Nur er kann durch seinen Geist die immer wieder erfahrene Schwäche überwinden und Euch Beharrlichkeit bis zur endgültigen Erfüllung in Gott schenken (Cfr. Ioannes Pauli PP. II Homilia, Ottingae, in urbis platea, ad Religiosos utriusque sexus habita, die 18 nov. 1980: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, III, 2  1323 ss.).
Liebe Ordensschwestern! Die Umstände haben Euch genötigt, viele Eurer großen und traditionsreichen Institutionen: Krankenhäuser, Kliniken und Bildungseinrichtungen aufzugeben. Ihr selbst sucht nach neuen Wegen des christlichen Zeugnisses und des Dienstes am Nächsten innerhalb kleinerer Kommunitäten. Mögen diese Leben sgemeinschaften dem Geist Eurer Ordensgründer und Ordensgründerinnen treu bleiben und Euch dazu befähigen, das Licht des Evangeliums und die Liebe Jesu Christi an Eure Mitmenschen in Eurer Umgebung weiterzugeben. Möge Euer einladendes Beispiel sowie Euer Gebet und Opfer auch in Zukunft junge Frauen dazu bewegen, den Ruf Gottes zum Ordensleben hochherzig und freudig anzunehmen. Gott ruft ja nicht nur zu einem Leben in Entsagung und Opfer, sondern auch zu einem Leben innerer Freude und Erfüllung. Frohe Ausstrahlung ist immer das Kennzeichen der Ordensschwestern gewesen. Dadurch ist Euer Leben ein überzeugendes Zeichen dafür, daß ”das Joch Christi nicht drückt und seine Last leicht ist“ (Mt 11,30).
Schließlich möchte ich noch besonders jene Ordensschwestern hier in Dänemark grüßen, die nach einem langen Leben treuen und selbstlosen Dienstes nun ein hohes Altar erreicht haben und sich in gläubiger Hoffnung und froher Zuversicht auf die endgültige Begegnung mit dem Herrn vorbereiten. Wenn Ihr die Schwachheit des Alters spürt, wenn Euch Krankheit und Leiden bedrücken und schließlich die Stunde Eures Heimgangs näher rückt, dann laßt auch noch Euer Leiden und Sterben zu einem Zeugnis für Christus werden, der Euch gerade in dieser Zeit der Prüfung besonders nahe ist. Seid davon überzeugt, daß Ihr durch Eure Geduld und Euren Glauben, durch Euer Gebet und die Aufopferung Eures Leidens im Verborgenen der Kirche, die der mystische Leib Jesu Christi ist, die gößten Dienste erweisen könnt.
Euch und Eure Mitschwestern sowie auch alle Priester, durch die Euch die Gemeinschaft und die Liebe Jesu Christi selber nahe ist und Euch Trost und Kraft schenkt, begleite ich weiterhin mit meinem besonderen Gebet und Segen.
3. Dear Members of the Pastoral Council,
I wish to thank your Chairman, Mr Jan Lange, for his kind words on your behalf. I also wish to express my appreciation for the vital way in which you, the Catholic laity of Denmark, continue to build up the one Body of Christ, together with your Bishop, the clergy and the religious. Amid the diversity of vocations in which the new life of grace expresses itself, lay people like yourselves are at the forefront of the Church’s mission. As a priestly people formed and governed by the Church’s pastors, you sanctify the world and transform it after the pattern of Christ within the ordinary circumstances of daily life (Cfr. Lumen Gentium LG 10 Lumen Gentium LG 31). In the years since the Second Vatican Council lay participation in Denmark has grown in extent and dynamism, as is reflected in the activities of the Diocesan Pastoral Council and the local Parish Councils since their establishment in 1970.
What are the challenges that face the Catholic laity in Denmark today? I know that marriage and the family are a great concern, and it is about these that I wish to reflect with you. Like Christians in many other parts of the world, you are faced with the sad reality of divorce, broken homes, confusion about the roles of women and men, and a certain antilife mentality which leads not only to artificial contraception and abortion but also to questioning the very desirability of living. The Church’s teaching, which upholds the morality of Judeo-Christian religious tradition, is considered by some to be out of touch with modern realities or overly intrusive in matters which they consider to be “private” and therefore free from “outside interference”.
Far from being an intrusion into the intimacy of conjugal relations and the home, the Gospel, which is the source of the Church’s teaching, brings a liberating message of truth and light. It provides an irreplaceable foundation for the self discovery of the human person and for the stable and loving elements which are essential for human relationships. Grace builds on nature: the Gospel does not make inhuman demands of us. It enlightens, elevates, and perfects what is human, through the power of God’s grace. Exclusive and lifelong fidelity in marriage, responsible parenthood that respects God’s gift of human life, reverence for every human person from the moment of conception until natural death, the equal and complementary dignity of women and men: these, dear brothers and sisters are part of the fabric of Christian truth woven from the Gospel.
Often we may wonder how best to answer the questions of the young in their search for God, or how to touch the hearts and minds of the indifferent, or how to bring Christ to unbelievers. It is my conviction that if we conform our lives to the Gospel in all its fullness, accepting its demands and trusting its wisdom, then despite the scepticism of some and the ridicule of others, we shall in fact be drawing many people and even whole societies to Christ. For no person can remain indifferent to holiness or be unmoved by a life that is fully human because it is lived in God.
I encourage each of you and all the laity of Denmark to give this kind of prophetic witness both in public and in private life.Do not be afraid to live the demands of the Gospel as proclaimed by your Catholic faith. Do not be discouraged in accepting the Gospel with all firmness and charity. As Christians with a mission that comes from Christ himself, seek your strength in him, for as he himself tells us: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15,5).
To all of you gathered here I wish to express my deep appreciation. May the Lord bless you and your loved ones, especially the children and those who are sick. As a pledge of strength and peace in the Lord I cordially impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.
Wednesday, 7 June 1989
My dear Brothers and Sisters,
dear Friends in Christ,
1. I would like to express my gratitude for the opportunity to meet today this representation from the Danish Lutheran Church, as well as the representatives of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities in Denmark. I also greet Chief Rabbi Melchior Ben. In particular I wish to thank Bishop Christiansen and Reverend Werner Jenssen for their kind words and for the reflections which they have offered on the theme of the Scriptures and human fellowship.
As Christians who strive to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of truth (Cfr. Io Jn 16,13), we are constantly reminded of the prayer which Jesus made on behalf of his disciples the night before he died: “I do not pray for these only, but for all who believe in me through their word, that they all may be one...” (Jn 17,20-21). The unity of all who believe in Christ is clearly a matter of Christ’s will. It touches the very heart of the Church’s life and mission in the world. It compels us to acknowledge that, for lack of unity, our witness to the Gospel and our credibility as followers of Christ have been seriously hampered. It also commits us to serve the cause of reconciliation, since we ourselves have been reconciled to God in Christ (Cfr. 2Cor 2Co 15,18). It is Christ who, once for all, broke down the dividing wall of hostility between Israel and the nations, and now summons all his followers to perfect unity (Cfr. Io Jn 17,22).
Some four hundred years ago, the ties of full ecclesial communion which had united the majority of Christians in Denmark with the Church of Rome were severed. This tragic separation, often marked by hostility and mutual distrust, has endured up to our own times. Today, in Moltke’s Palace, I come to you as a brother in Christ and as a disciple of the one Master, in order to stress my own commitment, and the commitment of the entire Catholic Church, to work for the restoration of unity among Christians, in accordance with the Lord’s will. Surely we are bound by the Gospel to work and pray together for a restoration of full unity “in the bond of peace” (Ep 4,3). Fidelity to the full truth of Christ compels us not only to acknowledge the differences which separate us, but also to seek their resolution, with confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit. This, in fact, is the aim of the important theological dialogue presently taking place between the Roman Catholic Church and the Churches and Ecclesial Communities whose representatives are here present, including the Lutheran World Federation. In this dialogue, we must first acknowledge those things which we already share, in the hope of overcoming distrust and of fostering growth in mutual understanding.
2. My brothers and sisters: The Second Vatican Council made important doctrinal statements about Holy Scripture, its place in the Church of Christ, and its role in the movement towards Christian unity. The Bible is a great gift from God which all Christians, whatever their differences, continue to hold in common. Inspired by our shared love for the written word of God, I wish to offer, in this ecumenical assembly, some personal thoughts on this great gift and its role in our work for greater mutual understanding.
The Council’s Decree on Ecumenism solemnly affirms: “in dialogue itself, the sacred utterances are precious instruments in the mighty hand of God for attaining that unity which the Saviour holds out to all men” (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 21). “Precious instruments in the mighty hand of God”. Holy Scripture is in fact God’s own word. All Christians hold this as a basic tenet of faith. The Council Fathers, in the Decree which I have just quoted, acknowledge this quite explicitly: “Calling upon the Holy Spirit, in these sacred Scriptures (our Christian brethren) seek God as he speaks to them in Christ” (Ibid.). And almost in the same breath, they go on to say, “A love, veneration, and near cult of the sacred Scriptures lead our brethren to a constant and expert study of the sacred text” (Ibid.).
All Christians “seek God” in his own written word. We are convinced that our Lord Jesus Christ reveals himself to us, today and always, in the Scriptures. The Incarnate Word of God continues to speak to the Church through the sacred books. In reading and studying the Scriptures, then, Christians seek to know God and to understand his plan for the human family. Technical and scientific study is only and instrument of this larger aim. Primarily, the word of God is intended to build up and sustain the Church; to provide strength for her children, food for the soul, and to be a pure and lasting source of spiritual life (Cfr. Dei Verbum DV 21). That is why Catholics and Lutherans as well as the members of other Ecclesial Communities make the word of God a fundamental component of the Liturgy, which, according to the Fathers of the Church, consists in the “table of the word” as well as the “table of the Eucharist”.
3. Is there not a “principle of unity” to be found here? Does the conviction of our dependence on God’s written word not provide a solid foundation for Christian unity?
The answer to these questions is surely in the affirmative, as the present status of our relations can demonstrate. This is true not only because of a kind of psychological convergence that has grown up between us, but much more because God, the One who speaks in Scripture and through Scripture, is at work in those who read it with pure and sincere hearts. It is precisely for this reason that the Council says that Scripture is a powerful instrument in the hand of God to reach the goal of that unity which the Saviour offers to all (Cfr. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 21).
The extent of our growing convergence is attested by the fact that we use the same critical methods, and often arrive at the same exegetical conclusions, that more and more we listen to the voice of Tradition in the interpretation of the word of God, and that, on the practical level, collaboration has increased among us in the translation, publication and diffusion of the Sacred Texts.
4. However, my brothers and sisters, we are all well aware that much remains to be done to make of Scripture that instrument of unity which the Lord wills for it – and for us. And it is sad to acknowledge that the interpretation of Scripture sometimes remains a factor of division and therefore of disunity among Christians. This is not so much because we read in different, or even divergent, ways certain particular texts or passages. Rather, it is because we hold different views of the “relationship between the Scriptures and the Church” and the role of the Church’s authentic teaching office in their interpretation (Cfr. ibid).
These differing views are now an important subject on the agenda of our dialogue. I am convinced that it is by pursuing this dialogue with confidence and perseverance, and above all with prayer, that we shall be able to overcome our differences, without being unfaithful to what belongs to the integrity of the Christian faith. We shall be led to strengthen our faithfulness to the revealed word of God, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit who “guides us into all the truth” (Cfr. Io Jn 16,13). It is precisely in this endeavour, difficult as it is, that the “powerful instrument” of God’s sacred word can serve to build that “peace” between us which “surpasses all understanding” (Cfr. Phil Ph 4,7).
Thus, the road ahead of us is clearly indicated. We are called to continue and deepen our common study of Holy Scripture, our dialogue on its content and interpretation, and our collaboration in making it more accessible and understood.
Above all, as Christian individuals and in our Ecclesial Communities, we are called to practise in our lives the message of reconciliation, of victory over sin, of love and peace in Christ, which are revealed in the Scriptures. We must be renewed in Spirit so as to become more faithful to the revealed word of God and the teaching of Christ by becoming “holy, as he is holy” (Cfr. 1Petr. 1, 16). In this way, we shall be drawn together towards deeper unity, in true faith and in active love. This is what the Second Vatican Council implied when it stated: “Every renewal of the Church essentially consists in an increase of fidelity to her own calling. Undoubtedly this explains the dynamism of the movement towards unity” (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 6).
5. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ: in the Holy Scriptures, all Christians have been given a common treasure, a rule of faith, a source of spiritual growth and an encouragement to know and serve the one true God. In today’s world, so deeply affected by a loss of the sense of God, a world which has forgotten the meaning of life and the reality of sin and forgiveness, a world lacking transcendent hope, the Scriptures offer to all the message of salvation in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. For you, the Christians of Denmark, the Bible is a precious key which opens the door to understanding a culture which for a thousand years has drawn inspiration from its teaching. Through the power of God’s word, you come to an ever new awareness of the profound religious and moral principles which underlie the best traditions of your society. By teaching its message to the young, you will pass on the wisdom they need to distinguish between good and evil, between life and death in making important decisions for their future and the future of Denmark. By leading them in a prayerful reading of Holy Scripture, you will be challenged by a message that fully responds to the questions of life’s meaning, that question about which so many of our contemporaries are confused.
In concluding these reflections, I thank you all once again for your kind invitation, and I pray that each of you, in all that you do, will always serve the Lord in obedience to his holy word. May Christ bless the efforts of all who preach his name and strive to do his will. May his Holy Spirit ever guide us in our efforts to overcome the divisions which separate Christians from one another. To God “who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen” (Ep 3,20-21 Ep 3,
Speeches 1989 - Finlandia Hall, Helsinki