Speeches 1991


                                                          January 1991





Friday, 4 January 1991

Mr Ambassador,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept your Letters of Credence as you begin your mission as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. I would ask you to convey my greetings to President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and to assure him of my good wishes and prayers for your country’s prosperity and peace. It is my fervent hope that an unswerving commitment to promoting the full well-being of all individuals and solidarity among social groups will ever inspire Pakistan’s development and growth as a nation.

As Your Excellency has rightly observed, the present world situation is characterized by two apparently contrary tendencies. On the one hand, there is a growing desire among peoples and nations to see hostility and conflict replaced by dialogue and cooperation. On the other hand, we cannot fail to note with deep concern the appearance of new and dramatic confrontations and the unfortunate persistence of intolerance based on racial, ethnic and religious prejudice. In the light of this preoccupying situation, it is incumbent upon all people of good will, and especially the leaders of nations, to renew their confidence in the cause of peace, which rests on respect both for the legitimate sovereignty of each nation and the inalienable dignity and rights of every individual.

Among these rights, one which requires increasing attention in the contemporary world is freedom of conscience. The importance of respect for the conscience of every person is the theme of my Message for the World Day of Peace this year. I am convinced that the exercise and juridical protection of this freedom is a vital requirement for peace in the world. For conscience bears witness to "the transcendence of the person, also in regard to society at large, and as such is inviolable... To deny an individual complete freedom of conscience— and in particular the freedom to seek the truth— or to attempt to impose a particular way of seeing the truth, constitutes a violation of that individual’s most personal rights. This also aggravates animosities and tensions, which can easily lead to strained and hostile relations within society or even to open conflict. In the end, it is on the level of conscience that the difficult task of ensuring a firm and lasting peace is most effectively confronted" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Nuntius ob diem ad pacem fovendam dicatum pro a. D. 1991, 1, die 8 dec. 1990: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XIII, 2 [1990] 1559 s).

In this regard, I have many times referred to the right of individuals and organized religious communities to profess and practise their faith freely, as a cornerstone of the structure of human rights and an essential element for peaceful human coexistence. Respect for religious freedom serves as both an indication and a guarantee of authentic social progress. As Pakistan strives to embody in its civic and cultural life a firm dedication to respect for human dignity, it will discover in the various religious traditions of its people a profound inspiration and a lasting impetus for building a just and harmonious society.

The Catholics of Pakistan, in full equality with all their fellow citizens, desire to participate actively in their country’s political, social and cultural advancement. They bring to it the spiritual vision and moral values which derive from their Christian faith. Even though they are a religious minority, they rightly expect that their religious freedom will be both affirmed and effectively safeguarded by law. I am confident that, in accordance with the democratic principles governing the modern State of Pakistan, they will continue to make their proper contribution to national life.

Mr Ambassador, I assure you once more of my good wishes for the success of your mission. As you enter the family of diplomats accredited to the Holy See, please know of the readiness of the various offices and agencies of the Roman Curia to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon you, and upon the leaders and people of Pakistan, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of the Most High God.




Saturday, 5 January 1991

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican at the beginning of your mission as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Papua New Guinea to the Holy See. Your young nation, which last year celebrated the fifteenth anniversary of its independence, has set for itself the lofty goal of building a harmonious society honouring and embracing the rich ethnic diversity of its people. With the assurance of my prayers for your country’s peace and prosperity, I ask you to convey my cordial greetings to the Governor General, the Government, and all your fellow citizens.

You have spoken of your nation’s support for initiatives favouring peace and stability in the world. All who sincerely work for the integral development of human society will find a willing cooperator in the Catholic Church. Ever mindful of the unity of the human family, the Holy See is convinced that efforts to promote dialogue and solidarity between individuals and peoples are incumbent upon all nations, and constitute one of the most pressing moral requirements of our time. Through its presence within the international community, the Holy See strives to encourage and strengthen such dialogue, especially with regard to those spiritual and ethical values which are the essential foundation of a just society and of true and lasting peace.

In this context, the Church is committed to serving the well being of individuals and peoples, in particular where human dignity and rights are threatened, or where there are poverty, hunger or a lack of sufficient health-care and educational opportunities. The Church has an age-old tradition of such service, and it is to the human person in the real circumstances of life that her efforts are devoted. In this light I express the fervent hope that the difficulties which have arisen concerning Bougainville will be met by all concerned in a humanitarian manner and with full confidence in dialogue and negotiation as the proper path to an effective and just settlement.

On another level, concern for the natural environment has emerged in recent years as one of the most urgent issues affecting our world. The ecological problem constitutes a global challenge, involving both the developed and the developing nations. Papua New Guinea can make a specific contribution to the growth of awareness within the international community of the pressing need to address this question effectively. Inasmuch as "many ethical values, fundamental to the development of a peaceful society, are particularly relevant to the ecological question" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Nuntius ob diem ad pacem favendam dicatum pro a. D. 1990, 2, die 8 dec. 1989: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XII, 2 [1989] 1463), your nation’s efforts to promote responsible stewardship of the gifts of nature can draw strength and guidance from your people’s moral, cultural and religious traditions.

You have referred to the role played by the Catholic Church in the development of your country. The Church’s activity in this area is based upon her conviction that "the advancement of the human person and the growth of society are dependent on each other (Gaudium et Spes GS 25). Almost seven years ago, at Port Moresby, I gave joyful thanks to God for the ways in which Catholics have contributed to the well-being and development of their country (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Allocutio in aeronavium portu Moresbiensi habita, 2, die 7 maii 1984: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, VII, 1 [1984] 1301). Today, their work for the integral good of all the people of Papua New Guinea continues, especially through their commitment in the fields of education, health care and social services.

Mr Ambassador, I offer you my prayerful good wishes as you undertake your new responsibilities within the diplomatic community accredited to the Holy See, and I assure you of the readiness of the various offices of the Roman Curia to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. I cordially invoke upon you and upon all the beloved people of Papua New Guinea the abundant blessings of Almighty God.





Monday, 14 January 1991

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Sudan to the Holy See. I much appreciate the greetings and good wishes which you have expressed on behalf of His Excellency Lieutenant General Omer Hassan Ahmed El Beshir, Chairman of the National Salvation Revolutionary Command Council, and the Members of the Council and the Sudanese people. I would assure you of my own greetings and of my prayers for the peace and well-being of your country.

The Holy See’s presence in the international community is fully directed to the service of the human family, in the pursuit of peace, justice and truth in human affairs and in relations between nations. This service is animated by an abiding concern for the wellbeing of people everywhere, reflecting a profound conviction regarding the unity of the human family and the common responsibility of all for our destiny. There are two areas in which the Holy See’s efforts are particularly notable: the promotion of religious freedom as an essential requirement of the dignity of every person and the cornerstone of the whole structure of human rights, and humanitarian concern for those in need.

My Message for this year’s World Day of Peace deals with the important question of respect for the freedom of conscience of every person. It appeals to Governments and legislators to defend this fundamental human right. This is a development of what I stated in the 1988 World Day of Peace Message: that the civil and social right of religious freedom is a point of reference of the other fundamental rights and in some way becomes a measure of them, so that even in cases where the State grants a special juridical position to a particular religion there is a duty to ensure that the right to freedom of conscience is legally recognized and effectively respected for all citizens (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Nuntius ob diem ad pacem fovendam dicatum pro a. D. 1988, 1, die 8 dec. 1987: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, X, 3 [1987] 1332 ss).

My Message the following year also directed attention to the problems of discrimination and injustice affecting civil and religious minorities. When such minority groups put forward claims that have particular political implications, dialogue offers the only sure way of preserving harmony. The willingness of the parties involved to negotiate is the indispensable condition for reaching an equitable solution to the complex problems that can seriously obstruct peace (Cfr. Eiusdem Nuntius ob diem ad pacem fovendam dicatum pro a. D. 1989, 10, die 8 dec. 1988: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XI, 4 [1988] 1794 s). In this respect the Holy See continues to follow with close attention all initiatives for a peaceful resolution of the civil war taking place in Southern Sudan. The Holy See encourages attempts to establish open and frank negotiations aimed at reaching a just settlement that will take into account the social, cultural and religious differences existing among the people of the Sudan.

I am fully aware of the difficulties confronting your Government, stemming from the situation of conflict as well as from last year’s catastrophic flooding and drought in certain regions of the North. The movements of your country’s population have resulted in a vast increase in the number of refugees and displaced persons. As a result, more than a million refugees on the outskirts of Khartoum are living in the poorest of conditions. In the face of this grave problem, I renew the Holy See’s support for the United Nations Programme "Operation Sudan", and I appeal to Governments and International Organizations for further humanitarian aid and assistance. It is my ardent hope that they will intensify their efforts to assist the many victims of the unstable situation prevailing in the whole region.

The Catholic faithful of the Sudan, like their fellow citizens, are deeply affected by the present sufferings and trials of their country. The Church therefore shares their concern and anguish, and in fidelity to the teachings of Christ, she seeks to serve those in need. The Catholic community in your country offers the limited resources at its disposal for the relief of the homeless and famine-stricken, regardless of religious differences. By safeguarding and fostering social justice and moral values through her educational and charitable activities, the Church effectively cooperates in building up the national community on the foundations of the equal dignity of every human being and a strong sense of solidarity at every level of national life. For itself the Catholic community asks only the freedom to fulfil its religious and humanitarian mission.

Mr Ambassador, as you assume your new responsibilities, I assure you that the Holy See greatly values its good relations with your Government. I am certain that you will do all you can to further consolidate them. In the fulfilment of your lofty mission you can count on the cooperation of the various departments of the Holy See. Upon Your Excellency and the Government and people of the Sudan I invoke the abundant blessings of the Most High God.





Thursday, 17 January 1991

Mr Ambassador,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept your Letters of Credence as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Zimbabwe to the Holy See. I would ask you to convey my cordial greetings to President Mugabe and to assure him of my good wishes that your nation will always be guided by the ideals of reconciliation and peace which inspired its independence and subsequent growth. As I suggested during my Pastoral Visit in 1988, Zimbabwe can be a sign to the Southern African region and to the entire world that "a better future can be built on the basis of justice and brotherhood, under God, without discrimination" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Allocutio in Hararae in Zimbabua aeronavium portu, 1, die 10 sept. 1988: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XI, 3 [1988] 649).

Among the positive aspects of the present world situation is the growing realization of the need to address that profoundly disturbing division which continues to exist between the affluent nations and those which are materially less developed. A deeper awareness of the unity of the whole human family and of the radical interdependence of all peoples is gradually fostering a widespread conviction that only genuine solidarity, understood as a moral category determining human relations, can effectively safeguard the dignity and rights of individuals and therefore build peace within societies and between nations. The urgent need for such solidarity makes specific demands on every country. All are challenged to develop a national life which promotes mutual respect and generous cooperation, while those which have been blessed with an abundance of material wealth are also called to respond generously to the needs of less developed countries. In Zimbabwe, as elsewhere, the practice of the virtues which favour togetherness will serve the cause of peace in so far as they "teach us to live in unity, so as to build in unity, by giving and receiving, a new society and a better world" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 39).

Like other African nations, Zimbabwe is faced with a pressing need to ensure a sound and lasting development for her people. Even in its strictly economic dimensions, however, the authentic progress of a society will always be guided by the highest standards of moral responsibility. As your nation seeks to grow in a way which responds to the legitimate hopes and deepest aspirations of all its citizens, it is important that it should contribute to the emergence of a model of integral development which will be genuinely African both in its inspiration and aims, and not dependent upon external models. For "the countries of Africa themselves must be in charge of their own development and historic destiny. Outside aid is urgently needed, but it will only be helpful if the essential force of growth and development is truly African" (Eiusdem Hararae in Zimbabua, allocutio ad nationum Legatos habita, 7, die 11 sept. 1988: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XI, 3 [1988] 702).

I appreciate Your Excellency’s reference to the ways in which the Church has helped to promote the well-being of Zimbabwe’s people over the years. After taking an active part in the achievement of independence, the Catholics of Zimbabwe loyally participate in the process of nation-building by engaging in respectful dialogue on important issues affecting national life and by direct involvement in such critical areas of social progress as education and health care. Guided by their concern for the integral development of each human person, they strive to build a society that fully corresponds to the dignity of its citizens and makes "its life one that is more human" (Gaudium et Spes GS 38). I am confident that they will continue to make a valued contribution to public life by addressing the moral and ethical dimensions of important issues affecting the future of the nation and all its citizens.

Mr Ambassador, I am certain that you assume your new diplomatic responsibilities with a keen awareness of the special nature of the Holy See’s activity within the international community. I assure you of the willing cooperation of the various offices of the Roman Curia in the fulfilment of your lofty mission. Upon yourself and all the people of the Republic of Zimbabwe I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.




Thursday, 24 January 1991

Madame Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Singapore to the Holy See. On this occasion, I would ask you to convey my greetings and good wishes to President Wee Kim Wee and the members of your Government. It is my fervent hope that having celebrated the first quarter century of Singapore’s independence, you and your fellow citizens will continue to grow in your commitment to the democratic values of freedom, justice and the pursuit of the common good, which are essential for the sound and integral development of society.

Your Excellency has made kind reference to my Pastoral Visit to Singapore in 1986. At that time, I was impressed by the wide diversity of peoples and cultures which make up your nation. Such pluralism by its very nature demands of each individual and social group a deep and abiding respect for the legitimate aspirations, traditions and beliefs of others, as well as a readiness to engage in sincere dialogue and generous cooperation in maintaining harmony in society. Genuine harmony, however, requires that the fundamental dignity and rights of each person be effectively recognized and safeguarded. In the great project of consolidating national unity, religious believers of all traditions have a particular contribution to make, for by "drawing from the deepest resources of a right conscience" they can derive "higher incentives for building up a more just and more human society" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Nuntius ob diem ad pacem fovendam dicatum pro a. D. 1988, 3, die 8 dec. 1987: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, X, 3, [1987] 1336 ss).

A Well formed religious conscience, in fact, greatly helps people to "gain a keener awareness of their own destiny, to make the world conform better to the surpassing dignity of man, to strive for a more deeply rooted sense of universal brotherhood, and to meet the pressing appeals of our times with a generous and common effort of love" (Gaudium et Spes GS 91). In the pursuit of these goals, the political community and religious bodies are independent of each other and self-governing, though they are made up of the same people and serve the same social reality. They are called to close cooperation and solidarity, to the exclusion of baseless rivalries or suspicions. For her part, the Catholic Church wishes her members to "form their own judgement in the light of truth, direct their activities with a sense of responsibility, and strive for what is true and just in willing cooperation with others" (Dignitatis Humanae DH 2). She therefore encourages a respectful and constructive dialogue with all who have the good of society at hear.

The Church is convinced that in a truly pluralistic and democratic society there should be no conflict between the free and public profession of religious faith and the obligations incumbent upon all citizens to promote the common good. This conviction guides the diplomatic activity of the Holy See within the international community. It also inspires the efforts of the members of the Catholic community in Singapore to maintain friendly relations with all sectors of society, while faithfully and consistently applying the teachings of the Gospel to every dimension of their personal and social lives.

In this regard, I would recall that "authentic religious freedom cannot be limited to simple tolerance" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Allocutio ad Nationum Legatos, 16, die 13 ian. 1990: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XIII, 1 [1990] 81), of individual believers or religious groups. Not is it compatible with the restriction of their witness to the purely private sphere. Rather, the right to profess religious beliefs and to promote, within the limits of the common good, the vision of truth which those beliefs entail is matched by an obligation on the part of the civil authorities to permit believers and their communities to witness to their faith publicly and without fear, and to live out all its demands, including its ethical and social demands.

Madame Ambassador: at a time of grave anxiety and suffering resulting from the tragic conflict in the Gulf Region, I express the hope that countries such as your own, which are not involved in the hostilities, will join in seeking new and creative means of promoting a return to dialogue and negotiation as the only true path towars restoring international order and justice.

In renewing my good wishes at the beginning of your mission, I assure you of the readiness of the various offices of the Holy See to assist you. Upon yourself and upon all the citizens of the Republic of Singapore I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of the Most High God.


Monday, 28 January 1991

1. Thank you very much, Monsignor Dean of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, for the beautiful expression of greetings and good wishes with which you interpreted our common sentiments of esteem, affection, and commitment in the service of the Church.

I extend my cordial greeting to the entire college of the judges of the Rota, the officials, the members of the Studio Rotale, and of the group of advocates.

I see this annual meeting as a propitious occasion to express to all of you my appreciation for the delicate work you do in the service of the administration of justice in the Church, and to emphasize some points concerning an institution so important, delicate and complex as marriage. Today, I want to pause to consider with you the implications which the relationship between faith and culture has upon it.

2. Marriage is an institution based on natural law, and its characteristics are inscribed in the very being of man and woman. From the very first pages of Holy Scripture the sacred Author presents the distinction between the sexes as being willed by God: “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Gn 1,27). The other creation account in the book of Genesis also tells us that the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner” (Gn 2,18).

The narrative continues: “And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This as last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’ “ (Gn 2,22). The bond which is created between a man and woman in the marriage relationship is superior to every other interpersonal bond, even the one between parent and child. The sacred Author concludes: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gn 2,24).

3. Precisely because it is a reality that is deeply rooted in human nature itself, marriage is affected by the cultural and historical conditions of every people. They have always left their mark upon the institution of marriage. The Church, therefore, cannot prescind from the cultural milieu. I recalled this in my apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio: “Since God’s plan for marriage and the family touches men and women in the concreteness of their daily existence in specific social and cultural situations, the Church ought to apply herself to understanding the situations within which marriage and the family are lived today, in order to fulfill her task of serving” (no. 4).

It is in the journey of history and the variety of cultures that God’s plan is fulfilled. If, on the one hand culture has sometimes had a negative influence on the institution of matrimony, having effects on it which are contrary to God’s plan such as polygamy and divorce, on the other hand in many cases it has been the instrument which God used to prepare the soil for a better and deeper understanding of his original intentions.

4. The Church, in her mission of presenting revealed doctrine to humankind, has continually had to confront cultures. From the very first centuries the Christian message, in encountering the Greco-Roman culture, found a soil which was favorably fertile for some aspects. Under the influence of Christian preaching, Roman law in particular lost much of its harshness, was permeated by gospel humanity (humanitas), and in turn offered the new religion a wonderful scientific means for drawing up its legislation on marriage. The Christian faith—by introducing into it the value of the indissolubility of the marriage bond—found in the Roman juridical reflection on consent an instrument for expressing the fundamental principle that is at the basis of canonical discipline on the subject. This principle was firmly repeated by Pope Paul VI in his meeting with you on February 9, 1976. He then affirmed, among other things, the principle that “ ‘marriage is brought into being by the consent of the parties’ (matrimonium facit partium consensus). This principle is of paramount importance in the whole canonical and theological teaching received from tradition and has frequently been restated by the Church’s magisterium as one of the chief bases on which both the natural law of the institution of marriage and the evangelical precept are founded” (supra p. 141). It is therefore fundamental in the canonical juridical system (cf. c. 1057, §1).

The problem of culture, however, has become particularly important today. The Church took note of it with renewed sensitivity during the Second Vatican Council. Gaudium et spes affirms: “There are many connections between the announcement of salvation and human culture. In revealing himself to his people, even to extent of showing himself fully in the incarnate Son, God has spoken in terms of culture peculiar to different ages” (no. 58). In line with the mystery of the incarnation: “The Church likewise, living in various conditions of history, has adopted the discoveries of various cultures to spread and explain the news of Christ in its preaching to all nations, to explore it and understand it more deeply, and to express it better in liturgical celebration and in the life of the varied community of the faithful” (ibid.). Every culture, however, must be evangelized; it must be compared to the gospel message and become imbued with it: “The good news of Christ continually renews the life and behavior of fallen humanity and attacks and dispels the errors and evils which flow from the ever-threatening seduction of sin” (ibid.). Cultures, as Paul VI said in the apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi: “must be regenerated through contact with the Gospel” (no. 20).

5. Among the influences which today’s culture has on matrimony, we must point out that some of them have their inspiration in the Christian faith. For example, the decline of polygamy and other conditions by which the woman was subject to the man, the affirmation of the equality of man and woman, the growing orientation toward a personalized view of marriage understood as a community of life and love—these are all values which are now part of humanity’s moral patrimony.

The recognition of the equal dignity of man and woman is further accompanied moreover by the ever-greater recognition of the right of freedom of choice of one’s state of life and marriage partner.

Contemporary culture, nonetheless, also presents some aspects which cause concern. In some cases these same positive aspects which have been mentioned have lost their life-giving-attachment to their original Christian matrix, and end up by seeming to be disjointed and scarcely meaningful elements which are no longer able to be integrated into the organic context of marriage as it is properly understood and authentically lived.

In particular, in the affluent and consumeristic western world, such positive aspects tend to be distorted by an immanentistic and hedonistic vision that undermines the real meaning of marital love. It can be instructive to reread from the point of view of marriage what is said in the final report of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops about the external causes which impede the Council’s implementation: “In the wealthy nations we see the constant growth of an ideology characterized by pride in technical advances and a certain immanentism that lead to the idolatry of material goods, the so-called consumerism. From this can follow a certain blindness to spiritual realities and values” (I, 4). The consequences are ominous: “This immanentism is a reduction of the integral vision of the person, a reduction which leads not to true liberation but to a new idolatry, to the slavery of ideologies, to life in constraining and often oppressive structures of this world” (II, A. 1). From such a mentality the misconception of the holiness of the institution of marriage often follows, not to speak of the rejection of the institution of marriage itself, which opens the way for the spread of free love.

Even when it is accepted, the institution is often deformed both in its essential elements and in its properties. This happens, for example, when marital love is experienced in egoistic self-centeredness, as a form of evasion, which tends to justify itself and be consumed in itself.

Likewise freedom—although it is necessary for that consent which is basic to marriage—if it is absolutized, leads to the plague of divorce. People tend to forget then that in the face of difficulties in relationships it is important not to let oneself be dominated by fear or weariness, but to be able to find in love’s resources the courage to be consistent with the commitments made.

Renouncing one’s own responsibilities, moreover, rather than leading to true fulfillment of the person, results in a progressive self-alienation. In fact, it tends to attribute the difficulties to psychological mechanisms, whose functioning is understood in a deterministic manner, resulting in hasty recourse to the conclusions of psychology and psychiatry to claim the nullity of the marriage.

6. As you know, in the world there are still peoples among whom the practice of polygamy has not disappeared. Indeed, even among Catholics there are people who, in the name of respect for the culture of these people, would want to somehow justify or tolerate such a practice in Christian communities. In my apostolic visits I have not failed to point out the Church’s teaching on monogamous marriage and the equality of rights of man and woman.

Indeed, we cannot ignore the fact that such cultures still have a long way to go in the field of the full recognition of the equal dignity of man and woman. Marriage is still, to a large degree, the result of agreements between families which do not take into account the free will of the young people. In the celebration itself of marriage the social practices sometimes make it difficult to determine the moment of the exchange of consent, and the creation of the marriage bond, thus giving rise to interpretations which are not consonant with the contractual and personal nature of the marriage consent.

Even in what concerns judicial practice there is no lack of negligence in regard to canon law, in justification of which appeal is made to local custom or particular aspects of the culture of a given people. In this regard, it is well to recall that negligences of this kind do not merely mean omissions in the formal legal process, but risk violating the right of justice that every believer has, with a subsequent decline in respect for the holiness of marriage.

7. The Church, therefore, although with all due attention to the culture of every people and to the progress of science, should always be attentive so that the people of today are offered the entirety of the gospel message about marriage, as it has matured in her consciousness through centuries of reflection carried out under the guidance of the Spirit. The fruit of such reflection today is found with special richness in Vatican II and the new Code of Canon Law, which is one of the most important documents implementing the Council.

Attentive to the voice of the Spirit and sensitive to the demands of modern cultures with motherly concern, the Church does not limit herself to repeating the essential elements which must be safeguarded but, making use of the means placed at her disposal by modern scientific progress, studies them to take advantage of anything valid which emerges from the thought and custom of the peoples.

In continuity with tradition and openness to the new needs, there is the new marriage legislation which is based on the three principles: marriage consent, the capacity of the persons, and the canonical form. The new Code is imbued with the Council’s thought, particularly in what concerns the personalistic understanding of marriage. Its legislation touches upon elements and protects values which the Church wants to guarantee at the universal level, beyond the variety and changing nature of cultures in which the individual particular churches operate. In reproposing such values and the procedures necessary for safeguarding them, the new Code, however, leaves significant room to the responsibility of the bishops’ conferences or of the bishops of the individual particular churches for adaptations which are consonant with the diversity of the cultures and the variety of pastoral situations. It is a question of aspects which cannot be considered marginal or of little importance. Therefore, it is urgent to proceed to the preparation of adequate norms as requested by the new Code.

8. In her fidelity to God and the person, the Church acts like the scribe, having become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven, “brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old” (Mt 13,51). In faithful adherence to the Spirit who enlightens and sustains her, as the people of the new covenant, the Church “speaks in all languages, and in love understands and embraces all languages” (Ag 4).

As I invite all of you, workers of justice, to look at marriage in the light of God’s plan, to promote it with the means which you have to fulfill it, I urge you to persevere generously in your work, convinced that you are offering an important service to families, the Church, and society itself.

The pope looks on you with confidence and affection and with these sentiments imparts to you the apostolic blessing.

                                                                  February 1991

Speeches 1991