Speeches 1991




Thursday, 20 June 1991

Dear Friends,

1. The fact that the First International Congress of the Society for Organ Sharing is being held here in Rome gives me the opportunity to welcome you and to encourage you in promoting the goal which the theme of your Congress expresses: "World Co-operation in Transplantation". I thank Professor Raffaello Cortesini for his kind words of presentation, and I offer my good wishes for the success of the work in progress.

Among the many remarkable achievements of modern medicine, advances in the fields of immunology and of surgical technology have made possible the therapeutic use of organ and tissue transplants. It is surely a reason for satisfaction that many sick people, who until recently could only expect death or at best a painful and restricted existence, can now recover more or less fully through the replacement of a diseased organ with a healthy donated one. We should rejoice that medicine, in its service to life, has found in organ transplantation a new way of serving the human family, precisely by safeguarding that fundamental good of the person.

2. This splendid development is not of course without its dark side. There is still much to be learned through research and clinical experience, and there are many questions of an ethical, legal and social nature which need to be more deeply and widely investigated. There are even shameful abuses which call for determined action on the part of medical associations and donor societies, and especially of competent legislative bodies. Yet in spite of these difficulties we can recall the words of the fourth century Doctor of the Church, Saint Basil the Great: "As regards medicine, it would not be right to reject a gift of God (that is, medical science), just because of the bad use that some people make of it...; we should instead throw light on what they have corrupted" (St. Basil the Great, Regola lunga, 55, 3: cf. Migne, ).

With the advent of organ transplantation, which began with blood transfusions, man has found a way to give of himself, of his blood and of his body, so that others may continue to live. Thanks to science, and to the professional training and commitment of doctors and health-care workers, whose collaboration is less obvious but no less indispensable for the outcome of complicated surgical operations, new and wonderful challenges are presented. We are challenged to love our neighbour in new ways; in evangelical terms, to love "to the end" (Cf. Jn. Jn 13,1), yet within certain limits which cannot be exceeded, limits laid down by human nature itself.

3. Above all, this form of treatment is inseparable from a human act of donation. In effect, transplantation presupposes a prior, explicit, free and conscious decision on the part of the donor or of someone who legitimately represents the donor, generally the closest relatives. It is a decision to offer, without reward, a part of one’s own body for the health and well-being of another person. In this sense, the medical action of transplantation makes possible the donor’s act of self-giving, that sincere gift of self which expresses our constitutive calling to love and communion.

Love, communion, solidarity and absolute respect for the dignity of the human person constitute the only legitimate context of organ transplantation. It is essential not to ignore the moral and spiritual values which come into play when individuals, while observing the ethical norms which guarantee the dignity of the human person and bring it to perfection, freely and consciously decide to give a part of themselves, a part of their own body, in order to save the life of another human being.

4. In effect, the human body is always a personal body, the body of a person. The body cannot be treated as a merely physical or biological entity, nor can its organs and tissues ever be used as items for sale or exchange. Such a reductive materialist conception would lead to a merely instrumental use of the body, and therefore of the person. In such a perspective, organ transplantation and the grafting of tissue would no longer correspond to an act of donation but would amount to the dispossession or plundering of a body.

Furthermore, a person can only donate that of which he can deprive himself without serious danger or harm to his own life or personal identity, and for a just and proportionate reason. It is obvious that vital organs can only be donated after death. But to offer in life a part of one’s body, an offering which will become effective only after death, is already in many cases an act of great love, the love which gives life to others. Thus the progress of the bio-medical sciences has made it possible for people to project beyond death their vocation to love. By analogy with Christ’s Paschal Mystery, in dying death is somehow overcome and life.

To repeat the words of the restored.

Second Vatican Council: only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light (Cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 22 John Paul II Redemptor Hominis RH 8). The Death and Resurrection of the Lord constitute the supreme act of love which gives profound meaning to the donor’s offering of an organ to save another person. For Christians, Jesus’ offering of himself is the essential point of reference and inspiration of the love underlying the willingness to donate an organ, which is a manifestation of generous solidarity, all the more eloquent in a society which has become excessively utilitarian and less sensitive to unselfish giving.

5. Much more could be added, including a meditation on the doctors and their assistants who make possible this striking form of human solidarity. A transplant, and even a simple blood transfusion, is not like other operations. It must not be separated from the donor’s act of self-giving, from the love that gives life. The physician should always be conscious of the particular nobility of this work; he becomes the mediator of something especially significant, the gift of self which one person has made even after death so that another might live. The difficulty of the operation, the need to act swiftly, the need for complete concentration on the task, should not make the physician lose sight of the mystery of love involved in what he is doing.

Nor should the recipients of organ transplants forget that they are receiving a unique gift from someone else: the gift of self made by the donor, a gift which is certainly to be considered an authentic form of human and Christian solidarity. At the approach of the Third Millennium, in a period of great historic promise, yet one in which threats against life are becoming ever more powerful and deadly, as in abortion and euthanasia, society needs these concrete gestures of solidarity and self-giving love.

6. In conclusion, let us remember those words of Jesus narrated by the Evangelist and physician Luke: "give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap" (Lc 6,38). We shall receive our supreme reward from God according to the genuine and effective love we have shown to our neighbour.

May the Lord of heaven and earth sustain you in your endeavours to defend and serve life through the wonderful means which medical science places at your disposal. May he bless you and your loved ones with peace and joy.




Friday, 21 June 1991

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Finland to the Holy See. Recalling with pleasure the warm welcome and kind hospitality which I received during my Pastoral Visit to Finland two years ago, I ask you to convey my greetings to President Koivisto and the members of the Government, to assure them of my cordial good wishes for the well-being of your country and all its people.

I am grateful for Your Excellency’s kind reference to the Holy See’s efforts to promote justice and peace in the world. My Visit to your country, and in particular my Address to the Paasikivi Association in Helsinki, afforded me an opportunity to explain the nature of the Holy See’s presence and activity in the international community, and to point out that the goal of the Holy See’s activity is to promote respect for the fundamental ethical and moral principles which are the basis for harmonious cooperation among nations with a view to the common good of all mankind. Foremost among these principles is respect for the dignity of each human person and for the inalienable rights which flow from that dignity. As a result of the success of the 1975 Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe held in your capital, the name Helsinki has become almost synonymous with the conviction that respect for human rights constitutes the essential foundation of a world of peace and justice. This conviction, which is likewise an integral part of the Christian vision of man and society, is deeply imbedded in your own people’s culture and I trust that it will always continue to inspire Finland’s progress and her involvement in the community of nations.

As the events of this century have demonstrated, a refusal to acknowledge respect for human dignity and freedom as a moral imperative to be applied to every sector of human activity inevitably leads to grave injustice and acts of violence against individuals and entire social groups. While we can rejoice at the profound changes taking place in the structures and policies of many countries, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, the leaders of the nations, with the intelligent participation of all sectors of society, must at the same time be ready to meet the many new and grave challenges already demanding urgent attention. Among the more serious threats to human dignity I would note the emergence of a concept of freedom detached from truth and from the demands of a transcendent moral law. It is not possible for a society to live in an ethical vacuum. Certain moral imperatives spring from the very being and nature of things, especially of man and his vocation to peaceful and constructive coexistence with others.

An important part of the Holy See’s activity within the international community consists in drawing attention to the ethical and moral values involved in decisions and policies affecting people’s lives. The Holy See is committed to insisting on the fact that efforts to solve serious national and international problems call for important changes of attitude, behaviour and structures, as well as attention to the spiritual dimension of life (Cf. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 60). Because the health of any society ultimately depends upon the integrity with which its citizens work together to address social issues in the light of the criteria of truth, justice and morality, I again express the hope that your own nation’s efforts in this regard will remain "rooted in the lofty moral and social principles that are part of Finland’s most precious heritage" (John Paul II, Meeting with the President of Finland, Mr. Mauno Koivisto, 4, [4 June 1989]).

Although Catholics in Finland represent only a small portion of the population, they too have an active contribution to make to the well-being of their homeland. The Church wishes to help in developing a social order firmly based on respect for human dignity, by educating people to spiritual values, by inculcating ethical and moral principles, and by showing a special concern for the vulnerable and the poor. Indeed, the way in which people are involved in building their own future ultimately depends on the understanding they have of themselves and of human destiny. As I pointed out in my recent Encyclical "Centesimus Annus", "it is on this level that the Church’s specific and decisive contribution to true culture is to be found" (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 51). Against this background, I hope that the already warm relations between Finland and the Holy See will lead to ever closer understanding and cooperation in matters of common concern.

Mr Ambassador, I offer you my best wishes as you begin your mission, assuring you of the readiness of the various offices of the Holy See to assist you in your work. Upon yourself and all the people of Finland I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.




Friday, 21 June 1991

Dear Friends,

I am very pleased to welcome the staff members of the Dialogue Sub-Unit of the World Council of Churches at the conclusion of your annual joint meeting with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Together you have reflected on the proceedings of the Seventh Plenary Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Canberra earlier this year, and on the problems created by the Gulf War for the peoples of the Middle East and elsewhere. I am confident that these discussions will serve to further the mutual respect and collaboration that are required of all believers in safeguarding religious values, promoting the integral development of the human person and building a more just and fraternal society for the good of the entire human family.

Through dialogue the Catholic Church has come to recognize more and more that other religions can offer a positive challenge for her own life and mission: "they stimulate her both to discover and acknowledge the signs of Christ’s presence and of the working of the Spirit, as well as to examine more deeply her own identity and to bear witness to the fullness of Revelation which she has received for all" (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 56). Through dialogue she "seeks to uncover the 'seeds of the Word', a 'ray of that truth which enlightens all men'" (Ibid).

Dialogue with traditional religions joins us in holy awe before the divine mystery which guides human destiny.

It unites us in an awareness of nature as the Creator’s gift to mankind. Dialogue with the great religious traditions of Asia recalls for us the universal value of self-discipline, silence and contemplation in developing the human person and in opening hearts to God and neighbour. Dialogue among Christians, Muslims and Jews reminds us of a common heritage of belief in the One God who created us, who shows us his will, and who calls us to be happy with him in eternity.

It is especially important in the aftermath of the Gulf War that those belonging to the three religions which have their historical roots in the Middle East should strive to overcome misunderstandings through genuine dialogue in an atmosphere of religious freedom based on mutual respect. I am fully convinced that this is essential for a just and lasting peace in the whole region, which for so long has been troubled by violence and discord. Only through interreligious dialogue can the powerful role of religious faith be placed at the service of peace through the elimination of prejudice and intolerance, to the glory of God in whose oneness we all believe.

Dear friends, as you know at first hand, dialogue demands docility to the Spirit and open-mindedness, as well as humility, frankness and a reverence for truth. It is my fervent prayer that these gifts of heart and mind will be yours in abundance as you work to foster new and ever more fruitful paths of religious understanding and cooperation. Upon all of you and your loved ones I cordially invoke the divine blessings of grace and peace.




Monday, 24 June 1991

Dear Friends,

I am pleased that your presence in Rome enables me to welcome you to the Vatican, and to greet the members and guests of the Faith and Order Standing Commission, Led by your Moderator Dr Mary Tanner, and the Director Dr Gunther Gassman.

The Faith and Order movement was an important factor in the establishment of the World Council of Churches, and ever since, as a commission within the Council, Faith and Order has continued to play a vital role in the whole ecumenical movement. Its special contribution has been to keep before divided Christians the goal of seeking visible unity in the one Apostolic Faith, a unity which will have its highest ecclesial expression in Eucharistic Communion. In the Catholic view of ecumenism, the task of achieving, with God’s grace, the full visible unity of Christians must always be a priority. Partial relationships between Christians, with do not yet express full communion in faith, the sacraments of faith, and order, are never enough; not least because disunity continues to put obstacles in the way of the mission entrusted by Christ to his disciples.

We are all vividly aware that the world is passing through a time of radical change filled with great opportunities for the human family but also with enormous difficulties and dangers. People everywhere are seeking the values upon which to build their societies and their lives. They need to hear the message of God’s saving grace spoken "in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth" (Ac 3,6). They need to hear "the message of reconciliation" which has been entrusted to us in the Gospel (2Co 5,19). But the efforts of Christians to witness to the Lord are often obscured by our divisions.

We must not lose hope. The difficulties along the path of ecumenical understanding must not discourage us. Rather they should impel us to commit ourselves and our ecclesial communities with fresh vigour to the task at hand, for it is the Lord himself who urges us to seek the unity he prayed for, so that the world may believe (Cf. Jn. Jn 17,21). That unity revolves in a special way around agreement on the nature of the Church and her mission. Here again, Faith and Order can continue to play a major role by fostering the theological studies which light the path towards greater agreement in the Apostolic Faith.

It is my hope and prayer that your efforts, especially in the field of ecclesiology and in preparation for the next World Conference on Faith and Order in 1993, will strengthen interest and concern for the theological aspects of the dialogue between divided Christians. May God bless you and your loved ones.




Friday, 28 June 1991

Mesdames, Messieurs,

1. Je suis heureux de vous souhaiter la bienvenue dans la Salle du Synode, devenue pour la circonstance le siège des travaux de la XLIIème session ordinaire de l’Assemblée générale de l’Union européenne de Radiodiffusion. Et je voudrais d’abord remercier Monsieur Albert Scharf, qui se consacre depuis des années avec dévouement votre Organisation, pour les paroles aimables qu’il m’a adressées en votre nom à tous.

Je salue les membres du Conseil d’Administration, les Présidents des différentes commissions, le Secrétaire général et les responsables des services permanents de l’Union. J’adresse aussi mes salutations aux représentants des Unions soeurs qui font entendre dans votre Assemblée la voix des autres continents du globe. Cette rencontre n’est pas la première qu’il m’ait été donné d’avoir avec l’Union européenne de Radiodiffusion; en 1981, la Commission des programmes radiophoniques a été l’hôte de Radio Vatican et, en 1984, ce fut le cas de la Commission technique.

Mais cette année, pour le LXème anniversaire de la fondation de la «Radio du Pape», l’Union européenne de Radiodiffusion a voulu donner cette commémoration tout son relief par sa présence au plus haut niveau en la Cité du Vatican.

2. L’Église, conformément à sa mission, est particulièrement attentive au destin et à la dignité de la personne humaine. «L’homme ? ai-je écrit dans ma première encyclique ? est la route de l’Église». Cette m me conviction a inspiré la rédaction de l’encyclique récente «Centesimus Annus», dans laquelle j’ai renouvelé la présentation de la doctrine sociale de l’Église la lumière de l’évolution qu’a connue la situation du monde contemporain. De ce point de vue, il est facile de comprendre la sollicitude et l’intérêt avec lesquels l’Église considère l’ensemble des médias qui se sont désormais imposés dans la vie quotidienne, exerçant une influence croissante sur la pensée et le comportement des citoyens.

En s’exprimant sur ce phénomène typiquement moderne, l’Église ne peut taire les questions de nature morale qu’il suscite. Mais on présente parfois dans une perspective unilatérale et incomplète ces rappels des règles morales que, dans ce domaine comme en d’autres, l’Église adresse aux responsables car il s’agit pour elle d’un devoir auquel elle ne peut renoncer. Il arrive ainsi que l’on ne comprenne pas l’esprit dans lequel elle exerce son rôle d’enseignement: en effet, elle agit dans le bien intégral de l’homme. Dans d’autres cas, son avertissement est bien respecté dans l’abstrait, mais il est ensuite relativisé ou vidé de son sens concret parce qu’il ne tiendrait pas compte de la situation des médias et des lois qui régissent leur action.

La vérité est différente: non seulement l’Église n’ignore pas le «pouvoir» qui est entre vos mains, non seulement elle tient compte des responsabilités spécifiques de ceux qui travaillent dans votre secteur, mais elle a conscience aussi des difficultés, des limites, des conditions auxquelles vous êtes soumis. L’Église sait et reconnaît que, dans le domaine des médias, il y a des milieux où les exigences morales ne sont pas prises en considération ou même sont tournées en ridicule, ce qui rend parfois très difficile d’agir en toute fidélité sa conscience.

3. En un temps de grandes transformations culturelles, sociales et politiques, de nouveaux problèmes sont apparus pour les opérateurs du service public de radiodiffusion. Jusqu’à ces dernières années, ce service a été respecté, et en un sens protégé, en raison de la mission qui lui était assignée; à présent, il doit entrer en compétition, sur un terrain qui se transforme rapidement en marché. Mais si, dans le cadre de la compétition économique, l’assouplissement peut être profitable, cela peut devenir dangereux pour une activité comme la communication, si liée à des facteurs éthiques qu’elle ne peut être réduite purement et simplement à la logique du marché.

Dans la situation difficile que connaissent des degrés divers certains de vos pays, les pouvoirs publics sont appelés faire preuve d’une lucidité et d’une énergie exceptionnelles pour conduire la délicate période de transition actuelle. Heureusement, malgré les défauts qui demeurent, il semble que l’on s’oriente aujourd’hui vers la réalisation de systèmes mixtes plus équilibrés où coexistent harmonieusement le service public et les organismes privés, avec une répartition équitable des charges et des ressources, en cherchant avant tout l’intérêt de la communauté.

Cela paraît d’autant plus nécessaire en cette période où, libérés des systèmes totalitaires, les pays d’Europe centrale et orientale, qui s’efforcent de construire une société nouvelle, se tournent vers l’Occident dans l’espoir de trouver non pas des exemples de compétition sauvage, mais des modèles de communication dignes de démocraties avancées.

4. In such a context Vatican Radio continues to operate today, with its own characteristics and specific finality. Built by Guglielmo Marconi and inaugurated by my predecessor Pius XI in 1931, this station operates in the service of the faith, of the unity of the Church, and of peace in the world. Its resources are limited and never sufficient for the mission it is called upon to fulfil. But its very existence and its longstanding presence in the field of international broadcasting bears witness to the Church’s concern to have the means to proclaim, in complete independence, the Gospel, the Good News of salvation.

In spite of its special nature, Vatican Radio belongs to your Union as an active and founding member. It endeavours to collaborate in a professional way with the various member agencies, the various bodies into which the Union is divided, and in particular with the Radio Committee and the Technical Committee. At the same time, I gladly acknowledge that it also receives a great deal from you, in exchanges, assistance and experience in all its fields of activity.

Specifically, I wish to thank all the broadcasting agencies which, in the course of my apostolic journeys, have been helpful to Vatican Radio and have provided technical and professional assistance. I am also grateful to the radio and television stations of so many countries which have carried the message of my pilgrimages to different parts of the world in Christ’s name and in the service of the human family.

5. I wish to encourage you in your daily work. I realize that it is difficult and complex. But I also realize the enormous good that you can do. By upholding a lofty ideal of the human person, you can be extremely effective in building a civilization truly worthy of man.

I express the hope that your Union will go away from this General Assembly with a renewed sense of unity and commitment. Associations such as yours must always be careful not to allow particular interests to overshadow the common good. As a service to truthful information and genuine cultural development, the world of communications should be free from the conditioning of partisan and commercial interests.

Last year, on the fortieth anniversary of the foundation of the European Broadcasting Union, you reaffirmed in the Marino Charter your intention to defend the ethical character of broadcasting’s public service and to commit the European Broadcasting Union to the task of maintaining a spirit of effective solidarity among its member bodies. These goals call for great harmony within your own organization, especially as you are now engaging in a closer cooperation with the organisms active in the field of television. You can imagine with what satisfaction I see the realization in your sector of activity of the cultural unity which responds to Europe’s common roots but which for decades was hindered by artificial barriers.

I also hope that as your organization grows and increases in solidarity you will continue to give your attention to the developing regions outside of Europe as well, where your help can be extremely important.

May the Lord bless your efforts and your aspirations. May he sustain your daily work, protect you and your families, and enable you to build a world that is more just and more worthy of man.

July 1991




Monday, 1 July 1991

Your Eminence,

I give joyful thanks to Almighty God for your presence here today in the company of members of your family and some of your friends and well-wishers. Your participation in Friday’s Consistory was the realization of an intention which has been with me since the beginning of my Pontificate, since the Consistory of June 30, 1979.

At that time, I felt that the whole Church could not but honor a man who has given witness by word and deed, through long suffering and trials, to what constitutes the very essence of life in the Church: participation in the divine life through the apostolic faith and evangelical love. The bonds of faith, hope and love which unite the baptized with the Lord and with each other have an essential and visible manifestation in the communion which links the particular Churches to the Church of Rome and to the successor of Peter. As the Second Vatican Council stated: "Just as, by the Lord’s will, Saint Peter and the other apostles constituted one apostolic college, so in a similar way the Roman Pontiff as the successor of Peter, and the bishops as the successors of the Apostles are joined together . . . by the bonds of unity, charity and peace" (Lumen Gentium LG 22). Your Eminence’s elevation to the College of Cardinals is a tribute to your humble perseverance in this necessary communion with Peter.

By honoring you the Holy See honors the whole faithful Church in China. With what prayerful longing and love do I follow the life of the loyal Chinese Catholic communities!

My desire to have you as a member of the College of Cardinals was, in 1979, and continues today to be the expression of my heartfelt esteem, openness and good will towards the great Chinese family. I express the hope that this event which is a source of joy for the whole Church will be seen as a sign of our desire to foster that dialogue which can benefit the cause of harmony and peace among all the peoples of the world.

In praying for Your Eminence, your family and friends, I gladly invoke abundant divine gifts upon all your fellow-citizens. May God bless the great Chinese family.



Monday, 1 July 1991

Dear Cardinal Cassidy,

There are many reasons why this visit, in the company of your relatives and friends, many of whom have come from Australia, is particularly pleasant. It is an occasion for us to share in the joy of your entering the College of Cardinals, and to give you the assurance of our prayers for you and your generous service of the Church.

For almost forty years you have been at the heart of the Church, so to speak, serving the Holy See as a diplomat in different parts of the world. You have always understood the special nature of the Holy See’s presence in the international community as a continuation of the Church’s mission to promote the full development of individuals and peoples, to defend and foster human dignity and human rights, and to keep alive the awareness of the ethical and moral dimensions of all human life and activity.

I am personally grateful to you for the competence and dedication with which you assisted me in the role of Substitute of the Secretariat of State. Now you are my close and responsible collaborator in fulfilling the charge which the Second Vatican Council entrusted to the Church, and to the Pope in particular, the duty of working wisely and untiringly for the union of divided Christians. You are called to this service at a time of radical changes in the world, a time of new and not always easy challenges in the field of dialogue and understanding between Christians of the East and of the West. I am fully confident that you will continue to help me in this important and delicate sector of my ministry.

I gladly invoke God’s blessings upon you and the members of your family, and upon all who are here with you today. Through you I send a special greeting to your homeland, Australia. God bless you all.




Monday, 1 July 1991

Dear Cardinal Mahony,

Dear friends,

It has become a custom for the Pope to greet the relatives and friends of the new Cardinals after the Consistory. I am happy to welcome all of you who have wished to accompany Cardinal Mahony at this special event. Through you I send prayerful best wishes to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and to the other Dioceses of California represented; not least to the Dioceses of Fresno and Stockton where the new Cardinal served as priest and Bishop.

Cardinals must have a special concern for the universal Church. As Archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal Mahony already ministers to a See that is an image of the universal Church, with Catholics from almost every country and every language under his care. I look forward to having him as an advisor in my ministry as successor of Peter. I recall my visit to Saint Vibiana’s Cathedral on September 15, 1987. I offer you the same message I had then: "The name of Jesus is your life and your salvation. It is your pride and joy, and the pride and joy of your families and your parishes. In his name you find strength for your weaknesses and energy for daily Christian living".

May all of you find in Jesus Christ the light and strength for a renewed Christian commitment and ever more generous service of those around you who have need of your concern and help. May Our Lady of the Angels, to whom your City is dedicated, accompany you always.

To you and your loved ones I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Speeches 1991