Speeches 1993 - Friday, 28 May 1993
4. The "Catechism of the Catholic Church" offers a summary of the truths about the "last things" which God has revealed to us in Christ (Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 988-1065). The absolute uniqueness of each human person and the finality of death (Ibid. n. 1013), the soul’s immediate judgment after death (Ibid. n. 1022), prayer for the dead in need of purification preceding the vision of God (Ibid. nn. 1030-1032), and a sober reflection on the existence and eternity of hell–all these belong to a proclamation that is "obedient from the heart to the standard of preaching to which you were committed" (Rm 6,17). The "fullness of the truth which God has enabled us to know" (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 5) tells us that life in the body has a transcendent goal and that decisions and actions in this life have irrevocable consequences which cannot be ignored. While many prefer to avoid these ultimate questions and some are tempted to think of salvation as a right and as a foregone conclusion, the Church must continue to remind people of the awesome reality of human freedom, the price of salvation (Cf. 1Cor. 1Co 7,23) and the riches of divine mercy (Cf. Eph. Ep 2,4). In doing so the Church is defending the worth and dignity of every individual against all efforts to trivialize human existence.
5. To those who are thirsting for the Living God (Cf. Ps. ) you must answer as men whose lives are "hid with Christ in God" (Col 3,3) and as authentic teachers of the spiritual life. This is not to retreat into a religious privatism. It is to act in accordance with the true nature of the Church as sacrament and instrument of intimate union with God and of the unity of all mankind (Cf. Lumen Gentium LG 1). It is to ensure that ecclesial communion and social solidarity flow from their deepest source: the Triune God revealed in Jesus Christ (Cf. John Paul II, Christifideles Laici CL 18 Jn. 17: 3. 20).
Your efforts to give a fresh impulse to the spiritual renewal of the Church in the United States will depend greatly on your careful attention to the spiritual formation of future priests. The implementation of The Program of Priestly Formation awaits your determined guidance and leadership. I wish to encourage you once more to give your best efforts to supporting the spiritual formation and growth of your priests, the vast majority of whom are devoted followers of Christ, ardent workers in his vineyard, and men who are deeply sensitive to the needs of their brothers and sisters.
6. The call to holiness whereby God invites everyone to be "holy and blameless before him" (Ep 1,4), is addressed in a specific way to those who are "consecrated to God in Jesus Christ as his exclusive possession" (John Paul II, Redemptionis Donum, 7). The renewal of Religious Life depends on each consecrated person’s seeking and loving God above all else, ever bearing in mind that the "contemplation of divine things and assiduous union with God in prayer is to be the first and foremost duty of all Religious" (Code of Canon Law CIC 663,1). The only effective way to reform Religious Life is the arduous path of personal and prayerful conversion, with a humble acknowledgment of one’s mistakes and sins and with confidence that the "power of his resurrection" (Ph 3,10) will overcome all weakness and mediocrity, and heal the sense of disappointment and anger experienced by some Religious.
The 1994 Assembly of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the consecrated life and its role in the Church and in the world will provide the Church with an opportunity to read the "signs of the times" regarding the future of Religious Life. As a Conference and as individual pastors, you will undoubtedly examine, with objectivity and respect, the reasons for the decline in numbers and the continuing scarcity of vocations being experienced by many Institutes, while others flourish and new ones are being formed.
Fortunately there are signs of a serious re–evaluation of attitudes and practices adopted in the post–conciliar years which, in the judgment of many Religious and lay people, have not brought the renewal advocated by the Second Vatican Council. It is a hopeful sign that many individual Religious and communities in the United States, having experienced the fruitlessness of self–preoccupation, of confusion over the meaning of the evangelical counsels, and the lack of a sense of corporate identity and apostolate, are now open to serious reflection on the Church’s authentic traditions of religious consecration. History teaches that in many instances a decline in the fervor and vitality of Religious Life is linked to a corresponding decline in understanding and practising evangelical poverty. By imitating Christ who "became poor" for our sake (Cf. 2Co 8,9) and freeing themselves from the tyranny of "having" over "being", Religious are called to be truly austere in their way of living and to "carry out a sincere review of their lives regarding their solidarity with the poor" (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 60). By their free and total gift of self to Christ and the Church, consecrated women and men provide a striking testimony that the spirit of the Beatitudes is the sole path of the world’s transformation and of the restoration of all things in Christ (Cf. Lumen Gentium LG 31).
I pray that your preparation for the Synod, in union with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the recently formed Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men will be guided by reflection on the Church’s teaching regarding the essential elements of Religious Life, by truthfulness in charity, and by a sincere openness to Christ who makes "all things new" (Ap 21,5). The Synod and its preparation is surely a time of grace, in which Religious Life in the United States, in all its variety of charisms and apostolic witness, can acquire a new vitality, a new power of attraction among the faithful, especially the young, when it is clearly seen to be a radical following of Christ.
7. Finally, I wish to assure you that I look forward to joining the great pilgrimage of young people who will converge on Denver in August to celebrate the Eighth World Youth Day. We will gather to proclaim that Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Mary, is "the resurrection and the life" (Jn 11,25) and that we have come "to fullness of life in him" (Col 2,20). In the Mile High City, surrounded by the beauty of the "everlasting hills" (Dt 33,15), we will raise our hearts in praise for the perennial youth of the Church (Cf. John Paul II, Christifideles Laici CL 2).
More than merely a festive occasion, the gathering in Denver is intended to be an authentic moment of evangelization. When the saving word of Christ enters the sanctuary of the human heart, it invites each young person to become a courageous and generous evangelizer (Cf. John Paul II, Message for World Youth Day 1993, 4, 15 August 1992). I am confident that in the next few months the Bishops of the United States will make every effort to encourage and support the young people who wish to join the Successor of Peter in professing the Church’s perennial faith: "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God" (Mt 16,16). The Church counts on her young people, remade as "a new creation" (2Co 5,17), to proclaim the Gospel in all the circles in which they move: in their families, among their friends, at school, in the work place. My visit to Denver will truly be a pilgrimage which I, along with so many young men and women, am preparing for through reflection, prayer and penance. I invite you to join me in this so that we shall be spiritually ready for that kairos.
8. Dear Brother Bishops, as Pastors you have been charged with expounding "the whole mystery of Christ" (Christus Dominus CD 12). Allow me to exhort you to be ever faithful in this task. There are many reasons for persevering in trust. Not least, because it is Christ himself who has called you to this ministry and has given you the Holy Spirit for the building up of his body, the Church. Furthermore, you are convinced that "opening the doors to Christ, accepting him into humanity... is the only road to take to arrive at the total truth and the exalted value of the human individual" (John Paul II, Christifideles Laici CL 34). You have every reason to be wise and courageous shepherds of the particular Churches entrusted to your ministry.
Through the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, I invoke an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon you, and upon the priests, deacons, Religious and laity of your Dioceses. May the Spirit continue to work in the world through the hearts of all who believe (Cf. "Introitus" in Dominica Pentecostes).
Saturday, 29 May 1993
I am pleased to welcome the members of the Boston Theological Institute. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rm 1,7).
You have come to Rome as members of different Churches and Ecclesial Communities, under the sponsorship of the Boston Theological Institute, to study the spirit and the institutions of the Catholic Church. In coming here you are fully aware that this is an "apostolic" city. In it the Apostles Peter and Paul witnessed to Christ, even to the shedding of their blood. Countless martyrs followed in their footsteps, giving their lives for the Gospel.
The Scriptures give ample witness to this apostolic heritage of Rome. One of the great Epistles of the New Testament was written to the people of this city. In his Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul expressed his eagerness to come to Rome, to proclaim the Gospel here and reap a great harvest for the sake of the Lord (Cf. Rom. Rm 1,11-15). We read in the Acts of the Apostles that Paul lived here for two years, "preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and unhindered" (Ac 28,30-31).
I pray that your stay in Rome will be enriching for you. I pray especially that it will give you a deep understanding of the need for all Christians to work together for the unity of all Christ’s disciples, that unity for which Our Lord prayed on the night before he died: "that they may all be one... so that the world may believe" (Jn 17,21). The path forward is not easy but we must go on, trusting in him who called us to this task.
As we prepare for the Feast of Pentecost, may the light and peace of the Holy Spirit fill your hearts and kindle in them the fire of his love (Cf. Missae in Vigilia Pentecostes: "Canticum ad Evangelium").
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. It is my great joy to welcome you, the Bishops of Zambia, in Rome for your visit ad Limina Apostolorum. I wish you a full share in the peace and joy bestowed by the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, upon the Church of Christ at Pentecost. I am grateful to Bishop de Jong for the devoted sentiments expressed on your behalf, and I extend a special welcome to Bishop Paul Lungu, who is making his first quinquennial visit. Your presence brings to mind my journey to Zambia in 1989. Among my fondest memories are those of the warmth and affection with which you and your people received the Successor of Peter, come among you to pray with you and to rejoice at the vitality of your faith. Indeed, in recalling those moments, I make my own the words of Saint Paul: "I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus". Please assure your priests, religious and lay faithful – especially the sick, and the children and young people – of my love and esteem for them.
Your "ad Limina" visit is a providential opportunity to deepen the strong bonds of communion which unite the particular Churches in Zambia with the Bishop of Rome. I especially ask Almighty God that your profession of faith at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul will bring you fresh strength to carry out the tasks and responsibilities of your Episcopal ministry with faithfulness and pastoral charity.
2. The members of the particular Churches entrusted to your care are citizens of a nation which is going through profound changes. It is not difficult to understand the satisfaction which the Zambian people feel over the fact that important political and social changes have taken place peacefully and with the cooperation of so many. Clearly the zealous efforts of Pastors and faithful, working together with Christians of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, played an important part in ensuring a positive outcome to this period of transition. Any common action of this sort, the Council teaches, "vividly expresses that bond which already unites" Christians and, insofar as all join in service to the common good, it "sets in clearer relief the features of Christ the Servant" (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 12). As the Fathers of the Council note, "Such cooperation... should be developed more and more" (Ibid.).
In times of social and cultural change Bishops feel even more keenly their duty to help the baptized to live out their consecration and mission. They do so by reading the "signs of the times" in the light of the Gospel, with its inexhaustible power to illuminate the true destiny of man and the nature of temporal realities in relation to that destiny. You have striven with great zeal to discharge this responsibility, and I wish to commend you for one initiative among others, namely, the publication of your Pastoral Letter, "You Shall be My Witnesses".
3. Recognition of what has been accomplished so far does not lessen your awareness that a great deal remains to be done on the road to achieving the sound social order to which the people of Zambia aspire. With this in mind your Letter entitled "The Future is Ours" calls for a new moral and political culture of responsibility. A widespread response to this summons to ethical renewal is essential to a healthy democratic order, in which justice and solidarity become the pillars of a harmonious national life. I noted in the Encyclical Letter "Centesimus Annus" that to advance "the individual through education and formation in true ideals" is a fundamental requirement of authentic democracy (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 40). Without a sound moral formation no citizenry would be capable of exercising well its political functions. Only if people are prudent, just, temperate and courageous, will the choices they make – whether in regard to the leaders they select or the policies they choose–be truly conducive to the well – being of the nation. Among the sound ethical habits needed today, great prominence is rightly given to solidarity, for this virtue is "a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all" (John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 38).
4. It is not only the political changes in Zambia which present Catholics with challenges for the practical living out of their Baptismal calling. Changes in the economy and other elements of the social fabric, as you have indicated, can make Christian living difficult, especially Christian family life. Economic problems, coupled with the rapid and intense urbanization of your country, inevitably give rise to situations in which immoral responses to the resulting pressures exert a powerful attraction. That you should place such a high priority on the pastoral care of families shows sound pastoral judgment. I encourage you never to grow weary of exhorting and encouraging the faithful to strive always to model their lives after the pattern of Christian marriage and family life. In fact, as the Apostolic Exhortation "Familiaris Consortio" points out: "It will be (the Bishop’s) particular care to make the diocese ever more truly a ‘diocesan family’, a model and source of hope for the many families that belong to it" (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio FC 73).
In this context it seems appropriate to mention two issues which are causing you particular concern. The first is the spread of the AIDS virus. Here all the disciples of Christ are obliged not to leave undone any possible act of goodness, so that those who are suffering may not be without the experience of Christian charity, which is the supreme criterion of action for Christ’s followers. At the same time the Church insistently calls upon everyone to live according to the high standards of moral conduct which alone give expression to the true dignity of the human person.
A second major social problem is that of securing the just position of women in Zambian society.Their invaluable contribution to the common good ought to receive due acknowledgment. Likewise, it is important that the full protection of the law be effectively extended to them in order to safeguard their rights, especially their rights to personal safety, economic justice, and access to education.
5. With regard to these and other social problems, you must continue to find inspiration in the Church’s social doctrine and to guide the faithful in living according to its tenets. Your efforts are not simply a response to the pressure of current events. They are born of a firm conviction about the intimate connection between the Church’s mission to preach the Gospel and the support she gives to the advancement and true liberation of mankind: "Between evangelization and human development... there are in fact profound links" (Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 31).
Concern for social development lies at the heart of the long tradition in Zambia of the Church’s works of education, health care and other human services. Already well–respected for the contribution made through its schools, hospitals, clinics and other such centres, the Catholic community under your leadership is moving towards the day when the level of direct ecclesial involvement in education will be restored as it once was. Because of the high percentage of young people within the Zambian population, I know that you cannot but feel the seriousness of this increased responsibility, and that you will do all you can to ensure the best possible response on the part of the Catholic community. In regard to the religious formation of young people, I wish to pay tribute once again to the catechists of your Dioceses, who give God such honour and glory by their service of the Gospel. I am confident that with the publication of the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" you will have an especially apt instrument for directing the catechetical apostolate and for supporting all those devoted to this essential work.
6. The continuing increase in Zambia of the number of candidates to the priesthood and the religious life calls for careful guidance and direction in the selection and training of those preparing for these vocations. You can be sure that if your seminaries conform to the fundamental requirements of the Church’s programme of priestly formation – especially as these are presented in the Conciliar Decree "Optatam Totius" and the Post–synodal Exhortation "Pastores Dabo Vobis" – they will bear excellent fruit for generations to come. Among the most important qualities to be cultivated in seminarians, the documents single out the loving acceptance of the celibate life, a spirit of poverty and simplicity, and an unfailing solicitude and zeal for the salus animarum, especially for the salvation of those who have strayed or become snared in sin.
A Bishop’s concern for priestly formation does not cease on the day he ordains his spiritual sons. "He is", as I wrote in "Pastores Dabo Vobis", "responsible for ongoing formation, the purpose of which is to ensure that all his priests are generously faithful to the gift and ministry received, that they are priests such as the People of God wishes to have and has a ‘right’ to" (John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 79). In seeing to it that your Dioceses have priests whose hearts are formed according to the very pattern of the heart of the Great High Priest, you are truly laying the foundations of the future welfare of the Church in your land.
7. Likewise, while respecting the legitimate autonomy of Institutes of religious life and apostolic life, a Bishop has precise pastoral responsibilities for the care of those who belong to these communities. He should always be willing to support young Zambians who aspire to consecrate their whole lives to the service of Christ’s Kingdom through the observance of the evangelical counsels. Of particular value is the support he offers Superiors in the delicate task of prudently discerning the fitness of candidates for admission to religious life. I join you too in expressing appreciation to the generous missionary priests, Brothers, Sisters and lay men and women whom the Spirit has moved to come to Zambia, bearing witness to that exchange of spiritual gifts between the particular Churches, which is an essential fruit of ecclesial communion.
8. Dear Brother Bishops, my words to you are meant to be an encouragement in the Lord.Fully aware of the daily toils of your ministry, I commend you and all the people of your Dioceses to the loving care of Mary Queen of the Apostles. I constantly pray for the forthcoming Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, for which you are preparing with dedicated zeal. Through that important initiative may the Church in Zambia and in all of Africa experience a new Pentecost, whereby the peoples of this continent will be filled with the Holy Spirit and will sing the praises of God in all the diversity of their tongues and cultures (Cf. Acts. Ac 2,4). In this hope, I gladly impart to you and all the faithful my Apostolic Blessing.
Friday, 4 June 1993
1. The decoration of the Sistine Chapel fulfils to an eminent degree the Church’s aim "that all things set apart for use in divine worship should be truly worthy, becoming and beautiful, signs and symbols of heavenly realities" (Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 122). Those who enter the Chapel come away with their hearts ready to echo these words from the Liturgy for the Dedication of a Church: "This is a place of awe..., God’s house, the gate of heaven." The frescoes of the Sistine Chapel are remarkable examples of how the human spirit, nourished by the faith of the Church, grew in its ability to wonder, to understand, to contemplate and to depict the divine mysteries revealed in the Old and the New Testaments. The painstaking restoration of the Sistine Chapel, begun in 1964 and now moving towards completion in 1994, has been undertaken for the very purpose of ensuring that this treasure of our religious and cultural patrimony will be preserved for future generations.
Because of your part in supporting this work of restoration, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican, the Directors and Executives of the Carrier Corporation and Delchi/Carrier Italia, together with the Directors of the parent company, United Technologies, and your associates and co–workers. I am happy to have this opportunity to express my thanks for the system of atmospheric and climatic control which you have designed, built and helped to install in the Sistine Chapel. This system of sophisticated technology will go a long way to ensuring that the results achieved through the restoration of the frescoes in the Chapel will last for many generations to come.
2. On the ceiling of the Chapel, Michelangelo, with incomparable genius, has placed before us the splendour of the works of Creation. At the centre is the creation of man. When God made our first parents in his own image and likeness (Cf. Gen. Gn 1,26), he gave them a share in his creative designs. By his command to "fill the earth and subdue it" (Ibid. 1: 28), he called upon them and their descendants to cooperate with him in bringing into being those things which in their goodness reflect him and give him glory (Cf. John Paul II, Laborem Exercens LE 4).
Michelangelo, Botticelli, Perugino and the other great masters whose works adorn the Chapel built by Pope Sixtus IV enjoy undying fame because of their success in responding to this challenge and vocation. Their gifts of mind and heart and hand enabled them to take the humble elements of plaster and pigment and reshape them into works of transcendent beauty. They breathed new life into their materials; they gave them form, so that there shines forth a light which dazzles all who behold the results of their skills.
3. And yet the joy which any work of human art brings is always tinged with the sad knowledge that the artist’s creation is fragile, for the materials can decay and the form which so delights us disappear.
It is in order to fight those processes of decay that you have offered your talents and resources. You have applied your knowledge to the task of creating a physical climate in which the frescoes will be better protected from the elements. In this way you have, we might say, become co–workers with the painters in making present their vision of God’s glorious deeds in creation and salvation history. Technology should not be man’s enemy but an "ally of work" – facilitating, perfecting, accelerating and enhancing the activities of man (Cf. John Paul II, Laborem Exercens LE 5). It is an instrumental good produced by human thought and ingenuity, and it achieves its proper purpose by helping man to rise to the higher things which are part of his essential end. I am happy to point to what is being accomplished in the Sistine Chapel as an illustration of an excellent use of technology at the service of masterpieces of religious art. The divine goodness which shines out from the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel is also expressed, though in another way, in what is done to protect these works of art.
4. All who have combined their efforts and skills in the task of restoring and protecting the Sistine Chapel have carried out a true work of solidarity: solidarity with our forebears in preserving what they have given us, solidarity with generations to come in guaranteeing that this precious artistic heritage inspired by the Gospel will be theirs. For this I express the gratitude not only of the Holy See but of all men and women of culture, all lovers of art, all those who will continue to admire the beauty and conceptual uniqueness of the Sistine Chapel paintings.
With cordial good wishes to you and all your dear ones, I invoke upon you abundant divine blessings.
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. I welcome you – the Bishops of Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee – and extend cordial greetings to you and to the priests, deacons, Religious and lay faithful of your beloved Dioceses. "I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom... that you may know... what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe" (Cf. Eph. Ep 1,17-19). I am particularly glad to meet you on the Eve of the Church’s solemn celebration of the Feast of the Holy and Undivided Trinity.
It is precisely in the inner life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that the reality of hierarchical communion in the Church, to which the ancient custom of ad Limina visits testifies, has its model and deepest source. In order to strengthen the Church’s visible unity, Christ makes each Successor of Peter its "visible source and foundation" (Lumen Gentium LG 23). Because my pastoral ministry on behalf of your particular Churches is intrinsic to their fullness of communion in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, it is only natural that I should rejoice in your many accomplishments, and share your trials and hardships with personal concern and affection. With sentiments of fraternal union I wish to continue the reflections I began last week with another group of Bishops from your country, on the spiritual renewal of the Church in the United States.
2. Today I will refer to some aspects of sacramental life. It is especially through the worthy celebration of the Sacraments that God’s plan of redemption unfolds and takes effect in the lives of the Church’s members. Through these actions of Christ himself, the Bridegroom communicates to his Bride the power of his saving death until he comes again in glory (Cf. 1Cor. 1Co 11,26).
This whole series of ad Limina talks is following the outline of the recently published Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catechism is truly God’s timely gift to the whole Church and to every Christian at the approach of the new millennium. Indeed, I pray that the Church in the United States will recognize in the Catechism an authoritative guide to sound and vibrant preaching, an invaluable resource for parish adult formation programs, a basic text for the upper grades of Catholic High Schools, Colleges and Universities. The Catechism presents in a clear and complete way the riches of the Church’s sacramental doctrine, based on its genuine sources: Sacred Scripture and Tradition as witnessed to by the Fathers, Doctors and Saints, and by the constant teaching of the Magisterium.
3. From the dawn of the Church at Pentecost, conversion to Christ has been linked to Baptism as the way in which people are incorporated into the body of Christ (Cf. Acts. Ac 2,38). This regeneration is "not simply a seal of conversion, a kind of external sign indicating conversion and attesting to it. Rather, it is the Sacrament which signifies and effects rebirth from the Spirit" (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 47). When the Church administers Baptism "for the remission of sins" – especially original sin, that state into which all are born deprived of original holiness and justice (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 405)– its recipients become the Father’s adopted children in the Son. They are formed into the likeness of Christ, united with him in the likeness of his Death and Resurrection (Cf. Lumen Gentium LG 7), and are made holy and living temples of the Spirit (Cf. Christifideles Laici CL 11-13).
At the beginning of my ministry in this Apostolic See, I approved the publication of the Instruction on Infant Baptism, which reaffirmed the Church’s belief in the necessity of Baptism, and her immemorial practice of baptizing infants (Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Infant Baptism, 3).
The Code of Canon Law incorporated this doctrine when it states that "parents are obliged to see to it that infants are baptized within the first weeks after birth" (Code of Canon Law CIC 867,1 cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 1250-1252). In keeping with the salutary counsel that Baptism is to be celebrated only when a well–founded hope exists that the child will be raised as a Catholic and so allow the sacrament to bear fruit (Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Infant Baptism, 30; Code of Canon Law CIC 868,2), many Dioceses issued particular guidelines to implement these directives. Although intended neither to discourage infant Baptism nor to render its celebration unduly difficult, such diocesan or parish guidelines have sometimes been applied in more restrictive ways than prescribed by the Holy See. On occasion Baptism has been unwisely denied to parents requesting it for their child. Pastoral charity would bid us to welcome those who have strayed from the practice of their faith (Cf. Lk. Lc 15,4-7), and to refrain from making demands not required by Church doctrine or law. Nowhere is the gratuitous and unmerited nature of grace more evident than in infant Baptism: "not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation of our sins" (1Jn 4,10). It is certainly right that Pastors prepare parents for the worthy celebration of their child’s Baptism, but it is also true that this Sacrament of initiation is first of all a gift from the Father to the child itself.
Speeches 1993 - Friday, 28 May 1993