Speeches 1989 - Moltkes Palace, Copenhagen
Wednesday, 7 June 1989
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Both at the Vatican and on my journeys to the Church in various parts of the world, I have frequent opportunities to meet members of the diplomatic community. Today, I have the great pleasure of meeting you, the distinguished Heads of Mission and diplomatic personnel accredited to Her Majesty the Queen of Denmark. I greet you all and thank you for your presence here. Through you I pay tribute to the nations and peoples you represent. In your service to your respective countries and to the world community I see a direct contribution to the realization of the ardent hope that burns in human hearts everywhere, the hope that an ever more peaceful and humane world will result from the transformations taking place in peoples and in the relations between the forces that shape our history.
I wish to speak to you this morning as a friend in our common humanity, as one concerned for the genuine well-being and advancement of the human family, and as a disciple of Jesus Christ whose Church I have been called to serve in a ministry of unity and faith.
In preparing for this visit to Denmark, I have been strongly reminded of two Danish thinkers. As a former professor of ethics in my own country, I have long been familiar with the writings of one of them: Søren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard was deeply absorbed by a sense of the limited and finite nature of existence, and by a consequent sense of dread – a sense of foreboding which he understood as something not merely psychological but essentially metaphysical, and therefore inevitably present in all of human experience. For Kierkegaard, this anguish was the fundamental category defining the relationship of the individual to the world. For him, the whole of existence is permeated by the possibility of not being. Hence everything is somehow, at the same time, nothing. “What I am”, wrote Kierkegaard, “is nothing” (Søren Kierkegaard, Intimate Diary).
Kierkegaard’s escape from this negativity was through his Christian faith and his obedience to God. In a certain sense he went against the intellectual climate of his time by drawing attention back to the individual and the individual’s personal relationship to God. Some later philosophers were much affected by Kierkegaard’s concept of existential dread. Of these, some found no way out but to extol the orientation towards death and nothingness inherent in being “ situated ” in the world. In that school, the human spirit was prepared for radical despair and a denial of meaning and freedom in life.
The other Danish scholar who comes to mind was the seventeenth century scientist Niels Stensen, the famous anatomist and the founder of scientific paleontology, geology and crystallography. As I had occasion to point out at last year’s beatification ceremony for this outstanding son of Denmark, his life followed a double course: he was a keen observer of the human body and of inanimate nature, and at the same time he was a deeply believing Christian who placed himself at the service of God’s will in a humble yet forthright and fearless way. His pursuit of scientific knowledge led him to attend the Universities at Amsterdam, Leyden, Paris and Florence. His journey of faith led him to a profound experience of conversion, to ordination as a priest, to becoming a bishop and a missionary. His personal holiness was so notable that the Church holds him up as an example to the faithful and as an intercessor for them before God.
2. The memory of these two Danish intellectuals and believers provokes reflections which may be far removed from our daily and immediate concerns, but which nevertheless form the undercurrent of all thought and decision, and therefore determine as it were the very sense of our daily struggles, both personal and collective. These reflections are related to the meaning of life with its obvious limitations, its sufferings and its mysterious outcome which is death. They concern the place of religion in history, culture and society, and the perennial question about the relationship between faith and reason. On the practical plane, they concern the pressing need for collaboration between men and women of religion, science, culture, politics and economics in facing the great problems of the world: the preservation of the planet and its resources, peace between nations and groups, justice in society, and a prompt and effective response to the tragic situation of poverty, sickness and hunger affecting millions of human beings.
Our own century has experienced such terrible wars and political tensions, such offences against life and freedom, such seemingly intractable sources of suffering – including the present-day tragedies of the international drug trade and the increasing spread of AIDS – that some people may hesitate to express too much hope or to be over optimistic about the future. Yet many will agree that the world is living through a moment of extraordinary awakening. The old problems remain, and new ones arise; but there is also a growing awareness of an opportunity being offered to give birth to a new and better era: a time to involve one another in frank and truthful collaboration in order to meet the great challenges facing humanity at the end of the twentieth century. The opportunity I speak of is not something clearly definable. It is more like the confluence of many complex global developments in the fields of science and technology, in the economic world, in a growing political maturity of peoples and in the formation of public opinion. Perhaps it is right to say that what we are experiencing is a change, however slow and fragile, in the direction of the world’s concerns, and an increasing, if sometimes grudging, willingness to accept the implications of a planetary interdependence from which no one can truly escape.
I speak of these things to you, distinguished members of the Diplomatic Corps, because of your personal and professional capability of evoking an appropriate response to the challenges which have appeared on the horizon of humanity’s progress. Mine is an invitation to you and to all men and women with responsibility for the public life of nations, to do everything possible to encourage this moral awakening and to further the peaceful processes which seek to implement freedom, respect for human dignity and human rights throughout the world. In this you and your Governments and peoples will have the full encouragement of the Catholic Church.
The Church has little or no technical advice to give, nor an economic or political programme to promote. Her mission is eminently spiritual and humanitarian. She seeks to be faithful to Jesus Christ, her divine founder, who declared: “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn 18,36), but who, at the same time, was moved to compassion at the sight of the sufferings of the multitudes (Cfr. Matth Mt 9,36). The Church exists to proclaim the dominion of God, the loving Father, over creation and over man, and seeks to educate people’s consciences to accept responsibility for themselves and for the world, for human relationships and for the common destiny of the human family. Specifically, the Church teaches a doctrine of creation and redemption which places the individual at the centre of her worldview and activity. Her temporal objective is the full development of individuals. She stimulates and appeals to personal responsibility. She encourages and calls upon society to defend and promote the inalienable worth and rights of the person, and to safeguard these values through legislation and social policies. She wishes to pursue these goals in cooperation with all who serve the common good.
From the beginning of my own pontificate I have endeavoured to give voice to a preoccupation which is already present in biblical accounts of man’s efforts to build a world without reference to God.Today this preoccupation assumes an immediacy all its own, by reason of the immensely magnified potential for good or evil which man has fashioned. The danger is that “while man’s dominion over the world of things is making enormous advances, he may lose the essential threads of his dominion and in various ways let his humanity be subjected to the world and become himself something subject to manipulation” (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Redemptor Hominis RH 16).
As man increasingly takes charge of his world, the fundamental question remains ever the same: “whether in the context of this progress man, as man, is becoming truly better, that is to say, more mature spiritually, more aware of the dignity of his humanity, more responsible, more open to others, especially the most needy and the weakest” (Ibid.15).
The basic questions therefore are those related to truth and meaning, to moral good and evil. These are perennial questions, since each generation, and indeed each individual, is called upon to respond to them in the ever changing circumstances of life. The unbalanced development taking place at present and posing the greatest threat to the stability of the world – where the rising material standards of some are in stark contrast with the deepening poverty and misery of others – is not the result of blind and uncontrollable forces, but of decisions made by individuals and groups. I am fully convinced, and have so written in my 1987 Encyclical on the Church’s Social Concern, that certain forms of modern “imperialism” which appear to be inspired by economics or politics, are in fact real forms of idolatry: the worship of money, ideology, class or technology. The true nature of the inequalities which plague our world is that of moral evil. To acknowledge this is important, for, “to diagnose the evil in this way is to identify precisely, on the level of human conduct, the path to be followed in order to overcome it” (Eiusdem Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 37).
Ladies and Gentlemen: these are the thoughts that I wish to leave with you, trusting that you share my concern for the direction in which humanity is going at the end of this Second Christian Millennium. The path forward is the path of a profound solidarity, which is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of others, but a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good (Ibid.). Such a commitment to solidarity befits your status as diplomats at the service of peace and progress. My plea to you therefore is that we may work together to build an era of effective worldwide solidarity in openness to the moral dimensions implicit in every human endeavour.
May Almighty God be with you in your work. May his blessings be upon you and your families and upon the countries which you serve. Thank you.
Thursday, 8 June 1989
Your Royal Highnesses Prince Bertil and Princess Liliane,
Bishop Brandenburg and Bishop Kenney.
Distinguished Members of the Government,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Dear People of Sweden,
Gud välsigna Sverige! With this prayer, I greet all the people of your country and ask God to bless you with his peace.
1. It is with great joy that I set foot upon Swedish soil this morning and begin my visit to this noble land. I am grateful to your Royal Highnesses for the warm welcome that you have extended to me on behalf of His Majesty the King. I likewise express my gratitude to Your Excellency, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and to the Swedish Government which, together with the Catholic community and the Swedish Church, has graciously invited me here today.
I come today to a people whose past has been marked by a deep Christian faith and a commitment to the goals of peace, tolerance and the advancement of genuine human dignity. It is my prayer that this heritage and these values may continue to flourish among you and serve as a beacon of hope to illuminate the future of your society and all its members.
2. I have come to Sweden as minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and as the Bishop of Rome. As a preacher of the Gospel, I rely on God’s grace to proclaim to all who dwell within these borders the grace and peace which come from God, the “Father of mercies” (2Co 1,3). As the Bishop of Rome, I wish to visit the members of the Catholic Church in this country. Dear brothers and sisters in the Catholic faith: during these days I will have the joy of sharing in your ecclesial life, listening to your concerns and hopes for the Church in Sweden, praying with you and celebrating the Eucharist, the mystery of our faith!
In Bishop Brandenburg and Bishop Kenney, I greet the Catholic people of Sweden with love and great affection. The Diocese of Stockholm reflects the richness and diversity of people which mark the entire Catholic Church. It can thus, by God’s grace, bear eloquent witness to the unity and charity which should characterize the lives of all Christ’s followers. In the Church of God, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Ga 3,28).
3. It is also my ardent hope that this pastoral visit will contribute to the growth of understanding and fraternal love among all who profess the name of Christ. The Church of Rome in our own day continues to venerate the memory of Saint Birgitta of Sweden, whose intrepid Christian faith contributed greatly to the Church’s spiritual renewal some six hundred years ago. As I visit the homeland of Saint Birgitta. I cannot but recall the long and rich Christian heritage which is shared by all Swedish Christians in spite of the divisions which have arisen. That heritage has the power to inspire us all in our search to obey the Lord’s will and to restore the bonds of unity in faith among Christians. With this conviction, I extend my heartfelt greeting in the Lord to Archbishop Werkström and to all the faithful of the Swedish Lutheran Church.
In the name of Jesus Christ, I greet all the people of this country and assure you of my prayers for your continued peace and prosperity. The Gospel which I preach is a message of hope, and it is directed to all men and women, to people of every race and tongue (Cfr. Apoc Ap 5,9). I am grateful for the opportunity to carry this message to these shores, and I thank all of you for the friendly interest which has surrounded the news of my coming.
4. Throughout the world, Sweden is known and respected for her efforts to secure the well-being of all her people. Indeed, Sweden enjoys a “quality of life” which, even when measured in material terms alone, represents an impressive achievement. Your interest in international cooperation and disarmament is also well known. These initiatives, together with your generosity in foreign aid, serve as an encouragement to other nations as they too seek to provide the best for their people, according to their own abilities and in the light of their own history. Sweden’s attainments in areas such as health care, education and concern for the welfare of immigrants must be seen as a sign of hope on the horizon of the world’s genuine development and progress.
Your record in all of these areas is a source of gratification to the Holy See, which seeks to advance the cause of true development, justice and peace within the community of nations. In this context, I am pleased to recall that in 1982 Sweden and the Holy See established formal diplomatic relations, thus resuming traditional contacts which date back to the sixteenth century. I pray that your continuing efforts to promote understanding among people will bear much fruit and will merit for you the blessing which has been reserved for those who are peacemakers and shall therefore be called children of God (Cfr. Matth Mt 5,9).
5. True peace, the peace which is the work of justice (Cfr. Is Is 32,17), requires a continual sensitivity to the ethical and religious values underlying all of human activity. Among these values, respect for the gift of life in all its forms, accompanied by unselfish service of others – especially those in need and those less fortunate than ourselves – constitute the essential foundation of a truly just and humane society. The pursuit of these goals has deep spiritual roots, and represents the fruit of that yearning of the human heart for the profound fulfilment which the Bible calls shalom, peace (Cfr. Ps Ps 121,6-9).
Dear friends: may that peace of God, the peace which surpasses all understanding (Ph 4,7), dwell in your hearts and in your homes. May God continue to bless Sweden and all her people!
Thursday, 8 June 1989
Dear Bishops Brandenburg and Kenney,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. It is very fitting that we should profess our faith on this joyful occasion using the words of the Creed. In doing so we recall the great doctrinal truths which are the object of our Christian faith. This ancient Creed confirms our living communion with those who have gone before us and with all those who in every time and place have professed the faith entrusted by Christ to the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”.
The preaching of the Gospel and the profession of faith which constitute the Church’s living tradition are a light shining in the darkness, “until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2Petr.1, 29). The faith which we have received as a gift is a sacred trust which must be handed on to others. There is an urgency about the truths of Christianity, a missionary dimension to its saving message. The faith is meant to be Good News for others, as well as for ourselves.
Just as once the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul filled the known world with the name of Jesus, so too do I, the Successor of Peter, consider it my primary duty to preach Christ to those both near and far and to encourage you, my brethren in “the household of faith” (Ga 6,10), to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Hebr.12, 1). In this cathedral, the centre of ecclesial life in the Diocese of Stockholm, I join you in giving thanks to God for the gift of faith that you have received, and I ask him to strengthen you in your love for Christ and his Church, and in your commitment to preaching the Good News to others.
2. Today Christ is calling each of us, through the vocation we have received as bishops, priests, religious or laity, to speak to the heart of Sweden. For a thousand years Sweden’s history and culture have been formed by the Gospel. In every generation, the Church must proclaim the Gospel anew. She must repeat, in season and out of season (Cfr. 2Tim 2Tm 4,2), the imperatives that stand at the heart of all Christian preaching: “Be reconciled to God” (2Co 5,20) and “put on a new nature, one created after the likeness of God in the holiness of truth” (Ep 4,23). This insistent call is one which needs to be heard in the Sweden of today, and it is you whom God has chosen and sent to be its heralds.
In order to bring the message of conversion and reconciliation in Christ to others, we must first live it ourselves. It is not enough for us to point to Christ; in a certain sense we have become Christ through Baptism. In the words of Saint Augustine: “Let us rejoice and give thanks: we have not only become Christians, but Christ himself... Stand in awe and rejoice; we have become Christ” (S. Augustini In Ioann. Evang. Tract., 21, 8). From our baptismal union with Christ in the mystery of his Death and Resurrection, we have received a vocation to holiness (Rm 6,9-12), a call to be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect (Cfr. Matth Mt 5,48).
Dear brothers and sisters: Sweden needs living signs of Christ, who hold fast to God’s word in their hearts, who abide in him through the sacraments, who put the Beatitudes into practice and who love all, especially the least of their brothers and sisters. This is what it means to be consecrated in truth (Cfr. Io Jn 17,19) and live the faith that we profess in the Creed.
3. To my dear brothers priests here today I wish to say that this is your vocation in a very special sense: that you yourselves be sanctified (1Th 4,3) and then, acting in the person of Christ, that you sanctify others. Never forget that you are, in the words of Saint Paul, “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1Co 4,1). As ministers of the sacraments, you bring the gift of salvation to God’s people and nourish the divine life that they have received from Christ. As trusted shepherds, you are also their spiritual physicians and guides. You must strengthen the weak, encourage the doubting, and bring back those who stray.
In order to fulfil this special vocation, you need to be conformed ever more closely to the image of Christ the High Priest, the obedient Son of the Father and the Victor of the Cross. Only by becoming another Christ, alter Christus, in every fibre of your being, will you find fulfilment in your calling and be faithful to the grace which God poured out upon you at your ordination. The challenge to put on Christ requires a constant conversion. As I said in my first Holy Thursday letter to priests, “we must rediscover every day the gift given us by Christ himself in the Sacrament of Orders, learning to appreciate the importance of the salvific mission of the Church, reflecting on our own vocation in the context of that mission” (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Epistula ad universos Ecclesiae Sacerdotes adveniente feria V in Cena Domini, anno MCMLXXIX, 10, die 8 apr. 1979: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, II  857 ss.).
Dear brothers: this is what the People of God expect of us. This is what the People of God in Sweden expect of you. They want to see Christ in you. They want to hear his message from you, even when that message speaks of the Cross, of dying to our old life, and to a human way of thinking, in order to rise to new life in God. They want to be inspired by your words and your example, so that they can fulfil the duties of their state in life in accordance with God’s will. And though they may not admit it, many of those who claim to be unbelievers have a secret desire to be found by God. As priests you have a special responsibility to seek out those who are lost. I pray that you will be sustained by God’s never-failing grace in all that you undertake in his name.
4. Dear brothers and sisters in religious life: I also wish to encourage you in your service to Christ and his Church in Sweden. This service is very evident in your various apostolates, particularly in the education of the young and the care of the sick, the elderly and the poor. But even more important than what you do is what you are: persons consecrated to God in Jesus Christ as his exclusive possession (Cfr. Eiusdem. Redemptionis Donum, 15).
You are special signs of God’s kingdom in Sweden today – a kingdom that is “not of this world” (Cfr. Io Jn 18,36) yet transforms this world from within. By living a life of service in chastity, poverty and obedience, you remind people that there is more to this world than meets the eye. There is a transcendent, spiritual vocation and destiny to which every person is called by God. This is a message that Sweden needs to hear from you, in keeping with the long tradition of religious life in this country that goes back to Saint Ansgar and Saint Birgitta.
In order to challenge the world with a message of conversion and reconciliation, you too must first hear and accept it within yourselves, and within your own religious institutes. By prayer, reflection and an ever more generous gift of self, you will find the love you need in order to live in community and to carry out the duties of your apostolate “not reluctantly or under compulsion, but cheerfully” (Cfr. 2Cor 2Co 9,7). Although the way may sometimes be “narrow and hard” (Mt 7,14), you will come to recognize ever more clearly that the Lord is “in your midst” (Cfr. ibid. 18, 20). I urge you to grow in Christian maturity every day, to deepen your understanding of what it means to follow Christ as religious, so that you may then bring him to others, and others to him.
5. Dear members of the Pastoral Council and other lay men and women of the Diocese of Stockholm: You too are called to seek holiness and to share fully in the Church’s mission, no less than the priests and religious who are your brothers and sisters in the Lord. As I stated last year in my Apostolic Exhortation “Christifideles Laici”: “The lay faithful must see their daily activities as an occasion to join themselves to God, fulfil his will, serve other people and lead them to communion with God in Christ” (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Christifideles Laici CL 17).
Although as Catholics you constitute a religious minority in Sweden, religious freedom enables you to share fully in the life of your country. All the greater then is the challenge to make a contribution to Swedish society worthy of Catholic faith and morals, in ecumenical collaboration with Christians of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities. Among your neighbours, friends and relatives – at home, in school and at your place of employment – you are Christ, inviting people to “put on the new nature”, “to be reconciled with God”.
I wish to recall in particular the two great tasks mentioned in my Apostolic Exhortation as being particularly entrusted to lay women in furthering the Church’s saving mission today. The first is “the task of bringing full dignity to the conjugal life and to motherhood... as a result of the intelligent, loving and decisive intervention of women” (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Christifideles Laici CL 51). The second is “the task of assuring the moral dimension of culture, the dimension, namely, of a culture worthy of the person” (Ibid.). This is especially important at a time in history when developments in science and technology are not always inspired and measured by true wisdom, but rather offer the odious prospect of making life increasingly “dehumanized”. By virtue of their specific sensitivity, women can offer an immense contribution towards promoting the true welfare of the person, beginning with the fundamental value of life itself (Cfr. ibid.).
These tasks, dear brothers and sisters, are only two examples of the many ways in which the lay faithful are challenged to bear witness to the Gospel by transforming humanity with the light of Christ.It is also an encouraging sign for the Church in Sweden that so many of you are serving as catechists, members of advisory bodies, or involved in charitable activities, youth work, and other endeavours.
6. Finally, to all of you present here – clergy, religious and laity – I say: Do not be afraid! Many of you have come to Sweden from other countries in order to escape political or economic hardship, or as clergy and religious in order to serve the Catholics of this land. This involves many hardships, sacrifices and challenges, but with Saint Paul we can “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts” (Rm 5,3-5). Yes, dear brothers and sisters, with God’s love within our hearts we need not fear.
Never shrink from the task of preaching the Gospel and professing your faith among those who are indifferent or unbelieving. Never lose confidence in the fundamental goodness of man, formed in God’s image and redeemed in Christ. Through the grace of God even the most indifferent and unbelieving of hearts can be opened to the Truth, Beauty and Goodness for which they were created. Above all, never lose confidence in the power of God which accompanies our proclamation of the word, a power that is able “to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ep 3,20).
Dear friends in Christ: so that we may be worthy of God’s blessing let us now pray together in the words that Jesus himself has taught us.
Friday, 9 June 1989
“May all be one... so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17,21).
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. With these words of the Gospel before us, I wish to give thanks to Almighty God who in his loving Providence has made it possible for me to be with you today. My cordial greeting goes to Their Majesties King Carl Gustav and Queen Silvia, whose presence I gladly acknowledge with fervent prayers for the peace and well-being of the nation. I also wish to express my thanks to Archbishop Werkström, who has opened wide the door of friendship for this ecumenical service. To all of you who have come here this morning to pray with the Bishop of Rome I extend the hand of brotherhood and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Scripture readings which we have just heard from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah and from the Gospel of John respond to the deepest longings of the human heart for unity and peace. In the Book of Genesis we read how these gifts were lost because of sin. The murder of Abel by his brother Cain (Cfr. Gen Gn 4) and in particular the building of the Tower of Babel (Cfr. ibid. 11) show how the reality of sin spread and multiplied. Forgetting God, men sought to raise up a tower through their own efforts, only to end in incomprehension and division. The Tower of Babel is the first of many episodes in the Old Testament which show the consequences of man’s misguided attempts to succeed on his own, without reference to the God who created him.
But in today’s first reading the Prophet Isaiah announces the promise of a restoration of unity and peace with God and among men which the Lord himself will bring about on Mount Sion. He proclaims this vision of hope: “the mountain of the house of the Lord... shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it,... many peoples shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord... that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths’... nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Is 2,2-4). Unlike the builders of Babel, Isaiah recognizes that unity and peace are not guaranteed by any human programme, but will come through knowledge of God, through obedience to the divine law, through learning God’s ways and “walking in his paths”. Isaiah recognizes the spiritual nature of the “temple” in which unity and peace with God and among men will be restored.
This vision of Isaiah is fulfilled in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He is the Eternal Priest, who on the eve of his death begins a prayer for unity and peace which he will continue to offer until its perfect fulfilment at the end of time: “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us” (Jn 17,20-21). By his Death and Resurrection, Christ became that spiritual temple to which “all the nations flow”. By his revelation of the truth about God and man, Christ shows that the human longing for unity and peace has its beginning and end in a transcendent mystery: the union of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
2. Dear brothers and sisters: this Gospel touches each of us personally. Christ’s priestly prayer includes us, inasmuch as we too have become believers through the apostles’ word. The gift of salvation, which restores man to communion with God and with others, is directed to all. “It has pleased God to make men holy and to save them not merely as individuals without any mutual bonds, but by making them into a single people, a people which acknowledges him in truth and serves him in holiness” (Lumen Gentium LG 9). Into the unity of the one Church of Christ, then, God calls all who believe that Jesus is “the author of salvation and the source of unity and peace” (Ibid.). He, in fact, has established this Church, “that for each and all she may be the visible sacrament of this saving unity” (Ibid.).
Unity is an essential mark of the Church. Far from being a merely human organization with a message, the Church is the Body and Bride of her Lord, born from his wounded side on the Cross. Her unity flows from her very nature and is essential to her mission. It is part of God’s plan of salvation. It is the will and prayer of Christ. We recognize too that for the Church to be a credible sign of redemption and communion with God, she must live in conformity with what she is and with what she proclaims. Indeed, all who look upon Jesus as “the author of salvation and the source of unity and peace” (Ibid., 9) will want to do everything possible to be effective signs and instruments of that unity and peace, “so that the world may believe” (Jn 17,21). For this reason, the concern for Christian unity with which we have gathered in prayer this morning is no small or superficial matter.
3. We must acknowledge with sorrow that Christians are not united. At the same time we can be confident that the Lord of history has not abandoned us to our divisions. He wisely and patiently draws us by his grace to an ever greater remorse for them and an ever greater desire for unity (Cfr. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 1).
Despite all the dissension and division over the centuries, belief in our one Lord and Saviour and incorporation into him by Baptism ensures a kind of communion, however imperfect. Baptism, which is a sacramental bond among all those who have been reborn, is at the same time a dynamic point of departure. Once baptized, we must strive for fullness of life in Christ, a fullness that is expressed in the complete profession of faith and in the sacramental unity and fellowship of the Church as Christ willed it to be (Cfr. ibid. 22). As I stated last year to a Delegation from the Lutheran World Federation: “Because we already share bonds of unity in Christ through Baptism, we can never be satisfied with anything less than full communion” (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Ad quosdam seiunctos Fratres coram admissos, 3, die 4 mar. 1988: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XI, 1  552).
Protestants and Catholics in Sweden also share an impressive historical heritage, of which this great cathedral of Uppsala is a striking reminder. It was built as a national shrine at a time when all the people of Sweden were joined in the same faith. Even today the tomb of Saint Erik is preserved here. The faith which inspired the construction of this cathedral once brought Cistercians, Dominicans and Franciscans to your country. It inspired Saint Birgitta, whose revelations were read throughout Europe. Even after the Reformation, much of the Catholic heritage was preserved here, more than in other countries.
4. Reference to this history and acknowledgment of this shared heritage make our divisions all the more painful. They instil in us a spirit of repentance. The Decree on Ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council recalls the injunction of the First Letter of John: “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1Io. 1, 10). It extends this warning to sins against unity, and so it urges us to “beg pardon of God and of our separated brethren, just as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 7).
Dear brothers and sisters: it is a challenge for us to forgive each other, but the Lord has commanded us to do so. After four hundred years of separation, time is needed for the process of reconciliation and healing to take place. Not everything can be done at once, but we must do what we can today with hope for what may be possible tomorrow.
In seeking greater understanding, much can be gained through patient dialogue. Let us ask: What can we learn from one another? How can we enrich one another? Dialogue makes it possible for us to examine anew the profound questions raised at the time of the Reformation, free from polemics and mistrust. But one thing is clear: we will never find unity by searching for some least common denominator that may be acceptable to all. Our efforts will only be fruitful to the extent that we discover and accept together the full authentic heritage of faith given by Christ through his apostles. Let us all try more and more to find in that faith our strength to live a truly Christian life (Cfr. ibid. 8).
Living in Christ provides an indispensable spiritual foundation for our quest for Christian unity. It is very important, therefore, that there should be a spiritual commitment to unity on the part of each and every Christian. Ecumenism challenges us to intensify our private and public prayer, to be converted anew, to grow in holiness of life. Only in this way will we be able to discern God’s will and open ourselves to he whole truth about Christ and his Church. When we consider the greatness of the ecumenical task, we must acknowledge our inadequacy. But the Lord assures us: “I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor, to be with you for ever, ...the Spirit of truth” (Jn 14,16-17). This Spirit of truth will bear witness to Christ and guide the believer to the complete truth since “he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak” (Ibid. 16, 13). However much we strive for unity, it remains ever a gift of the Holy Spirit. We will be well disposed to receive this gift only to the extent that we have opened our minds and hearts to him through Christian living, and especially through prayer.
5. I join you in giving thanks for the many ways in which the Holy Spirit has accompanied the ecumenical movement in Sweden over the years and has drawn Christians closer together. One has only to think of the life and work of individuals like the great Archbishop of Uppsala, Nathan Söderblom, who is buried in this cathedral and whose efforts on behalf of Christian unity and world peace are well known. I recall with great pleasure how he conversed and corresponded with my compatriot Ursula Ledochowoska, that remarkable woman who lived for several years in Sweden during the First World War, and whose name has now been inscribed among the “Blessed”.
It is also gratifying to see the extent of Christian cooperation in Sweden today. Special mention must be made of the call to ecumenical dialogue which Archbishop Werkström issued in 1987 on behalf of the Bishops of the Swedish Lutheran Church to all Church leaders in Sweden. In addition to the important dialogues taking place between Lutherans and Catholics internationally, there have also been theological discussions in a truly fraternal spirit between the Catholic Church and the Swedish Lutheran Church. These discussions have led to significant reports on Christian marriage and the family, and on the office of bishop.
In Sweden we must gratefully acknowledge a new spirit of good will between Catholics, Lutherans, and members of the Free Churches.In many places where Catholics are without a church building, their Protestant neighbours have made available the facilities needed for worship. There is also the cordial relationship that exists between Catholics and their Orthodox brothers and sisters in Sweden. I am reminded of the words of Saint Paul: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2Co 5,18).
6. Dear friends: I have come to your country in a spirit of love as your brother in Christ, as the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, to whom the Lord said: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Lc 22,32). I have come as Christ’s servant and witness, as Shepherd of his flock. I greet you in the name of the Catholic Church and I bring greetings and prayers from all those in full communion with the Church of Rome, which from ancient times was said “to hold the primacy of love” (S. Ignatii Antiocheni Ad Romanos).
Here in Uppsala, in this great cathedral, as a brother I urge both Protestants and Catholics to “fight the good fight of the faith” (1Tm 6,12), to grow closer to Jesus Christ, who died “to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” (Jn 11,52). In this way we will also grow closer to one another.
Brothers and sisters, let us never cease to seek unity. Let us climb together “the mountain of the house of the Lord”. Let us love one another, “so that the world may believe”. Amen.
Speeches 1989 - Moltkes Palace, Copenhagen