Hall of Benediction
Monday, 1 July 1991
Dear Cardinal Bevilacqua,
It gives me great joy to share this moment with you, and with Cardinal Krol and your family and friends who have come from the United States to be with you on this happy occasion. Above all, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, where you exercise your episcopal ministry, is well represented, as also the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and the diocese of Brooklyn, where you were born and which you served for so many years of your priestly life.
In becoming a Cardinal you are even more closely bound to the service of the Church and to the See of Peter "in the daily care of the universal Church" (Code of Canon Law CIC 349). Together with the dignity, you will also be burdened with new and demanding responsibilities. I am sure that you will continue to give of yourself with the same competence and love, of which you have given proof on so many occasions. It must be a source of encouragement to you to know that you can count on the support and prayers of all those who rejoice with you during these days.
It is particularly fitting that your titular Church in Rome is the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer and Saint Alphonsus on the Via Merulana, in the care of the Redemptorist fathers. It brings to mind the life and example of the great Saint John Neumann, the first Redemptorist to be professed in America, who was one of your predecessors as Bishop of Philadelphia. To all of you I express a heartfelt wish that these spiritual bonds with Rome will increase your faith and bring you an ever growing awareness of sharing responsibility for the life of the Church, the Body of Christ.
May God abundantly bless you and your families. May his light guide you along the path of life towards the kingdom of his beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Please take my greeting to your loved ones, to your Dioceses and parishes, and especially to the sick and the poor. I gladly pray for you all to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.
Tuesday, 2 July 1991
I am happy that such a representative group has come from Ireland to accompany Cardinal Daly on this occasion, and that through you I have this opportunity to greet the Irish people, from both North and South. I have so many vivid memories of my visit to your country and I have met so many Irish people both here in Rome and on my visits to other parts of the world, including so many missionary Sisters, Brothers and Priests, that Ireland is never far from my thoughts. With particular affection I remember the late Cardinal Ň Fiaich, whose great love was to be among his people, sharing in their daily joys and sorrows. Dear Cardinal Daly, at this moment I am thinking of the community entrusted to your pastoral care, and of all the ecclesial communities present in Northern Ireland. I am thinking of the many victims of violence, of the suffering brought about by attitudes which are radically opposed to the Gospel ideals which must govern the life of every Christian. Above all I think of the younger generation, and of the responsibility of educating them in respect for human dignity and fundamental human rights.
In this context, I wish to express my prayerful support for all those engaged in the political dialogue now taking place in Northern Ireland. I wish to encourage them to continue untiringly in their efforts, seeking measures that will guarantee peaceful relations, so that everyone can cooperate, in dignity and freedom, in building a society in which all citizens feel fully accepted and are justly treated, and have the greatest mutual respect for each other, according to the noble traditions of Ireland.
May God’s love be with Your Eminence, and with all the people of Ireland without distinction. May Christ’s peace reign in your hearts.
Thursday, 4 July 1991
With great joy I greet this delegation of highly qualified representatives of the religions of the world and members of the International Council of the World Conference on Religion and Peace. I would assure you that I follow closely the activities of the Conference in favour of interreligious dialogue and cooperation. I am happy to note that within your organization there are also many Catholics who are making a positive contribution to the work of increasing understanding among believers of all religions.
During your meetings of the past few days in Rovereto you have been discussing the theme of education for peace. Now in Rome you are engaged in an exchange of ideas on how to bring about conditions for peace in the Middle East, and you will continue your discussions in Assisi. I pray that the special significance of that city, marked by the spirit of Saint Francis - in his own lifetime an ambassador of peace - will provide you with inspiration and encouragement. I recall the World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi in 1986, during which we reflected on the harmony desired by God the Creator, on mankind’s longing and hope for lasting peace, and on the love which the peoples of the world must learn to have for one another, and which has its only sure foundation in God’s will and in his gifts.
It is my great hope that the religions of the world will increasingly engage in a dialogue of understanding and peace on the basis of the many values which they share. As I wrote in this year’s Message for the World Day of Peace: "When undertaken in a spirit of trust, and with respect and sincerity, interreligious cooperation and dialogue make a real contribution to peace . . . This common search (for answers to the world’s problems) - carried out in the light of the law of conscience and of the precepts of one’s own religion, and confronting the causes of present-day social injustices and wars - will lay a solid foundation for cooperation in the search for needed solutions" (John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1991).
The recent conflict in the Middle East has clearly shown that the path of war resolves no problems. Rather it increases hatred, violence and suffering. What will resolve the problems assailing humanity today is the path of peace, a way of walking together and facing human crises in a spirit of dialogue and solidarity. The path of peace is not an easy one. It demands courage, patience and determination, and must be built, as you are well aware, upon a true education for peace.
Education for peace is above all education in the truth of the human person, created by God, who made us all brothers and sisters in the one human family. Without genuine respect for the life, dignity and fundamental rights of each individual, there will be no peace. All religions are therefore called to "offer the unanimous witness of our common convictions regarding the dignity of man" (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 60). Education for peace demands teaching and learning the non-violent ways of dealing with tensions and of fostering justice in human relations. These are dialogue, negotiation, cooperation and solidarity.
As believers, our first conviction about peace is that it is a gift from God, for which we must pray with pure hearts and humble hope. Those who pray from the depths of their heart for peace cannot but commit themselves to the realization of this peace for all peoples.
For Christians, peace is a legacy handed on to us by Jesus Christ. Whenever we gather in worship, we recall his words: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you" (Jn 14,27). We know that our actions are judged on the basis of his promise: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Mt 5,9). We also realize that the work of establishing true peace lies at the heart of our religious commitment.
May God assist and support your efforts. On my part, I invoke the abundant blessings of God on each one of you and your families. O God, make us signs and instruments of your peace!
Tuesday, 13 August 1991
Drogie dzieci, które przebywacie w tym Instytucie, aby powrócicdo zdrowia, razem z wami pragne naprzód pozdrowic pana premiera Rzeczypospolitej, dostojnych przedstawicieli prezydenta Stanów Zjednoczonych, którym przewodniczy pan Ed Derwinski, i Kongresu, z panem Fascell na czele, Zarzad Fundacji “Project HOPE”, przedstawicieli Miedzynarodowego Zarzadu tej Fundacji, przedstawicieli rzadu polskiego oraz przedstawicieli sponsorów z malzonkami. Witam wszystkie obecne tu panie. Pozdrawiam wszystkich pracowników Polsko-Amerykanskiego Instytutu Pediatrii Akademii Medycznej z Krakowa oraz przedstawicieli tej Akademii z rektorem, prof. Andrzejem Szczeklikiem i wszystkich obecnych tu gosci.
1. Jak wiadomo, jestem u poczatku drugiego etapu mojego tegorocznego pielgrzymowania do Ojczyzny. Tym razem moje pielgrzymie kroki kieruja sie na Jasna Góre, by u stóp Królowej Polski i Matki Kosciola spotkac sie z mlodzieza, która przychodzi tam na spotkanie z calego swiata z okazji swojego swieta mlodych.
Pielgrzymujac z Rzymu do Czestochowy nie moglem pominac Krakowa i wawelskiego wzgórza, które jest prawdziwym sanktuarium naszej historii.
Jednakze Opatrznosc Boza sprawila, ze pierwsze kroki na szlaku tej pielgrzymki bylo mi dane skierowac do szpitala, i to do szpitala dzieciecego, a wiec do szczególnego sanktuarium ludzkiego cierpienia.
Dziekuje wiec Bogu za to spotkanie! Dziekuje organizatorom, dziekuje dzieciom za zaproszenie. Mojej obecnosci w tym szpitalu nie traktuje jako zwykle zatrzymanie sie, ale jako prawdziwa stacje, w znaczeniu religijnym, w znaczeniu koscielnym, a wiec jako spotkanie ludzi z Bogiem, z jakas Jego szczególna tajemnica oraz przezycie tej tajemnicy jako oczyszczenie i przygotowanie do stacji nastepnej.
A cóz jest bardziej oczyszczajacego i przyblizajacego do wszechmocnego i swietego Boga, jak nie cierpienie i ofiara niewinnego czlowieka? By wypowiedziec te slowa, trzeba miec gleboko w sercu Osobe Chrystusa, Syna Bozego, Jego tajemnice paschalna. Tajemnice Odkupienia . . . Przez Krzyz i Meke swoja odkupiles swiat.
W takim tez duchu sw. Pawel przyjmuje swoje slabosci, obelgi, niedostatki, przesladowania, bo “Moc . . . w slabosci sie doskonali” (2Co 12,9). Ludzka slabosc, osadzona przez wiare w tajemnicy Chrystusa, staje sie zródlem Bozej mocy.
Dlatego Apostol pisze: “ilekroc niedomagam, tylekroc jestem mocny” (Ibid., 12:10).
Cierpienie wiec czlowieka, cierpienie ludzi, którego nie da sie uniknac, przyjete w duchu wiary, jest zródlem mocy dla cierpiacego i dla innych i jest zródlem mocy dla Kosciola, dla jego zbawczego poslannictwa. Dlatego tak bardzo sobie cenie kazde spotkanie z ludzmi chorymi i cierpiacymi.
Dlatego tak bardzo licze na owocnosc ich slabosci i ich bólu.
Prawde te pragne raz jeszcze przekazac wam, drogie dzieci, które przebywacie w tym szpitalu, pragne ja przekazac waszym rodzicom, tym, którzy was kochaja, którzy sie wami opiekuja, którzy was lecza. I pragne ja przekazac wszystkim moim rodakom, którzy cierpia w domach, w szpitalach, w róznych zakladach, i pragne ja przekazac chorym i cierpiacym na calym swiecie.
Czlowiek leka sie cierpienia, wzdryga sie przed nim, pragnie go uniknac - tak jak lekal sie meki i smierci sam Chrystus - i ma do tego nie tylko prawo, ale i obowiazek.
Cierpienie jednak istnieje na swiecie i dotyka nas.
Ja wiem, drogie dzieci, ze wy i wasi rodzice pragnelibyscie mnie przyjac w waszych domach, w kosciele, w szkole, moze na boisku, przy dobrym zdrowiu i pelnej sprawnosci. Tymczasem zaprosilyscie mnie do szpitala, który jest na jakis czas dla was domem zastepczym po to, byscie do prawdziwego domu, do waszej rodziny mogly powrócic zdrowe. Tego zdrowia ja wam zycze z calego serca i modle sie o nie. Modle sie o zdrowy blask waszych oczu, o radosny usmiech, o szczescie. Modle sie, by mimo choroby bylo wam dobrze w tym szpitalu, byscie spotkali kochajacych was ludzi, madrych lekarzy, troskliwe pielegniarki i pielegniarzy, dobrych kolegów i kolezanki.
W chwilach trudniejszych, gdy bedzie wam zle, drogie dzieci, bardzo zle, popatrzcie na Chrystusa, na Chrystusa ukrzyzowanego, który zmartwychwstal. Jego Matka stala pod krzyzem. Do tej Matki, która jest nasza Matka, udaje sie jutro na Jasna Góre i zaniose Jej was, wasze cierpienia, wasze modlitwy i pragnienia, i to wszystko, czego ja dla was pragne.
2. We find ourselves in this sprawling hospital, which was brought to birth by love and human solidarity. Much good is being done here: people are being restored to health, restored to life. All of this is an evangelical sign of eternal life and a sign of God’s summons of mankind to that life.
Just as Christ acted by using his divine power, so you act by using human science, skills and wisdom in union with his grace. For this reason your Institute is, as all such places are, a sign, sign which gives witness to the dignity and worth of human life. It is a sign of concern for this life and is, in a certain sense, the human sign of the full measure of this life.
This Institute, in addition to its essential meaning, still plays a special role as a symbol. It began more than twenty-five years ago, at a time when division in the world was emphasized. It began in spite of the ideological differences which divided the world and even in defiance of the hostility incited in these later years between the East and the West. To put it better: This work has been accomplished on a higher level than all this. Along with other such works, it must speak with a loud voice to us and to all the world. The good of mankind has become stronger than whatever is contrary to it. Human solidarity has triumphed over divisions, over hostilities.Therefore, I wish to express my gratitude; I wish to pay special homage to those who courageously began this work, to those who brought it to completion, and to those who are continuing to help it grow. At this moment, spiritually present before our eyes are all those children who have, in this hospital, regained their health and have returned to their homes and to a normal life.
And so, gratitude and commendation are due first to American "Polonia". From its midst this idea was born, and it found support from the members of the House of Representatives.
It is not possible to name all those who have particularly distinguished themselves in this project. I will, then, recall only one member of Congress, an eminent man of politics who served in the highest government responsibilities, a man so very dedicated to American "Polonia": Mr Clement Zablocki of Milwaukee. I knew him personally and I conferred upon him a distinguished Papal honour.
Needs have grown, and so this hospital has expanded.
The government of the United States has contributed directly to this expansion. It is worth recalling that Mr Zablocki was present when the construction of the Institute for Rehabilitation began and that this Hospital was dedicated by the then Vice-President of the United States, Mr George Bush. I ask the members of Congress who are present here to convey to President Bush my expression of deep gratitude. In the course of expanding this large, modern hospital at Prokocim, principal support has come from the American Foundation - Project Health Opportunity to People Everywhere. Hope! The government of the United States designated this foundation as the sponsor of the Pediatric Institute of the Academy of Medicine at Krakow. The first letters of the Foundation’s name make up a very meaningful word: HOPE. Hope - nadzieja! The Foundation’s president is its founder, Doctor William Walsh, who is present here with his wife and his family. Serving as Director of the Polish program is his son, Doctor John Walsh, a faithful friend of Poland. He has put his whole heart into working for children. The beginnings and the history of this Foundation are very interesting, for it is a story of human sensitivity to the needs of others. The background for this story always remains Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan. Suffice it to say that Project HOPE carries on a hundred programs, one of which takes place in Poland. In the future it plans to move into other countries: Czechoslovakia, Hungary, the Baltic nations, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Romania. "May God reward and help them". Obviously many organizations and individuals participate in all this work; both public and private funds have been invested. We cannot fail, therefore, to mention the contributions of Poland: its Government, and Institutions on various levels, as well as the Academy of Medicine at Krakow and the Director of the Polish American Institute of Pediatrics, Professor Jan Grochowski, who is present. I ask to be excused for naming only these few.
Thanks to this cooperation and solidarity we have now arrived at the last phase of this great initiative carried out by Project HOPE, namely, the Ambulatory Care Center for Children, which I blessed a few minutes ago. It will bear the name of that great friend of Poland, Clement Zablocki, whom I mentioned before. And this is not yet the end. There are also new projects underway for further developing this Center. Among them, I am told, is the construction of a hotel for parents and children. Dear Brothers and Sisters, all of this is particularly significant because it tells us of the degree to which this hospital takes into account the many needs - physical and spiritual - of the human person.
It tells us that here, not only are the latest advances in science and technology being employed, but that there is also a concern for the human person as a whole.
May God bless this undertaking and all others like it.
3. Szanowni panstwo, drodzy bracia i siostry, pozwólcie, ze na zakonczenie przekaze wam jeszcze garsc wspomnien i refleksji.
Od poczatku mojej duszpasterskiej poslugi w szczególny sposób zwiazalem sie ze srodowiskiem lekarskim, a takze z calym srodowiskiem sluzby zdrowia. Wsród zebranych dzisiaj widze osoby, które byly juz obecne w poczatkach mojej pracy duszpasterskiej. Sa równiez obecni ci, z którymi spotkalem sie jako metropolita krakowski. Sa wreszcie ci najmlodsi, z którymi spotykam sie po raz pierwszy. Staralem sie i staram przypominac wszystkim pracownikom sluzby zdrowia o ich wielkim powolaniu, wynikajacym z poslugi czlowiekowi choremu. W Liscie Apostolskim o chrzescijanskim sensie ludzkiego cierpienia napisalem: “Jakze bardzo samarytanski jest zawód lekarza czy pielegniarki, czy inne im podobne. Ze wzgledu na "ewangeliczna" tresc, jaka sie w nim zawiera, sklonni jestesmy myslec tutaj bardziej o powolaniu, nie tylko o zawodzie” (John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris, 29). Nie ulega najmniejszej watpliwosci, ze praca lekarza, pielegniarki, kazda praca wsród chorych jest sluzba Chrystusowi: “Wszystko, co uczyniliscie jednemu z tych braci moich najmniejszych, Mniescie uczynili” (Mt 25,40).
Charakter pomocy niesionej choremu, jego pielegnacji sprawia, ze mamy do czynienia nie tyle z zawodem, co wlasnie z powolaniem, które przez swa szlachetnosc i idealy bliskie jest powolaniu kaplana. W realizowaniu tego powolania ogromna role odgrywaja wartosci religijne. Umacniaja wsród lekarzy i calej sluzby zdrowia ducha autentycznej sluzby wobec pacjentów, mobilizuja do dzialania na rzecz bardziej godnego wykonywania zawodu i wzywaja do wiekszego poczucia odpowiedzialnosci za powierzone dobro, którym jest czlowiek. Dlatego wazna role w pelnieniu poslugi lekarskiej czy pielegniarskiej odgrywa zycie religijne. Tu jest miejsce na to, co nazywamy duszpasterstwem ludzi sluzby zdrowia. Pragnie ono niesc im glebsza znajomosc ewangelii, calej nauki Kosciola oraz pomagac im w ich moralnej i duchowej formacji.
Dziekuje, jeszcze raz dziekuje wszystkim. Dziekuje dzieciom za wzruszajacy program, jaki przygotowaly, dziekuje malej rózyczce, co wypadla z koszyczka i . . . powinszowala.
Dziekuje za gorace serca, za modlitwy, przede wszystkim za ofiare waszego cierpienia. Zabieram was stad na Jasna Góre i zycze, byscie w nastepnych Swiatowych Dniach Mlodziezy, które nie wiadomo jeszcze, gdzie sie beda odbywac, czynnie mogli uczestniczyc, jesli nie bezposrednio, to przynajmniej na odleglosc.
Pragne poblogoslawic z calego serca dzieci, sluzbe zdrowia, naszych gosci i wszystkich tutaj zgromadzonych. Niech was blogoslawi Bóg Wszechmogacy, Ojciec, Syn i Duch Swiety.
Jeszcze musze cos dodac. Nie duzo! Mianowicie pragne bardzo pozdrowic parafie w Prokocimiu - starym i nowym - i obecnych tutaj ksiezy parafialnych. Równoczesnie pragne jeszcze pozdrowic kapelanów tego szpitala oraz siostry. Niech Pan Bóg blogoslawi waszej pracy, waszym powolaniom.
Friday, 16 August 1991
1.My thought turns especially to the Catholics who live in this Country and who contribute with generous commitment to the common welfare. My greeting then expands to embrace with lively affection all the sons and daughters of the Hungarian nation, those residing in the homeland and those who have come from beyond her borders, especially those who live in neighbouring countries.
A few minutes ago, when I kissed the ground of your Country, I wished to express that which fills my heart at this moment: profound esteem for your Country, deep joy at being in your midst and a heartfelt desire to stand beside you on the journey which Hungary is making towards a better future. I know this Land, the beauty and richness of her vast plains, the generous spirit of her proud people and the heritage of culture and art which enriches her history.
2. My coming among you wishes to be an expression of these sentiments. I know well that you feel the joy of being able anew to receive your friends freely - all your friends, from wherever they come - and I think you consider me one of them. I recall that in August 1989 the invitation addressed to me to visit your Country was interpreted as one of the first signs of the new climate of freedom which was becoming more evident. Three years later, I am happy to be here in order to congratulate you on the steps you have already taken in this new direction, even though the experiences you have had in the meantime have shown you that freedom is never exempt from risks, but rather involves a price of its own which can also at times be very high. You are now fully aware that the new climate of freedom does not by itself resolve all the problems of your life.
In the last century one of your poets wrote that "Heaven gives each Country a treasure" and added that the treasure of your own Country is "a sacred sorrow" (J. Eötvös, 1836). How many sufferings have marked your land! How many armies have spread their ranks in this plain, before the fortress of Buda! How many buildings set to the torch have reddened this horizon, while blood and tears watered your fields! This ancient sorrow is sacred because it has not remained a sterile sadness. Your ancestors used to repeat a phrase which has become traditional: "Long live the Hungarian, the walls of Buda are still standing" (K. Kisfaludy, 1824). This serene certainty was nourished by the faith of your first saintly King who, in a moment of sorrow, was able to exclaim courageously: "If God is with me who can be against me?" This is the reason why your indomitable race has been able to resume, after every great national calamity, the rebuilding of the Country.
Indeed, your ancestors did not limit themselves to restoring what had been destroyed but always wished to build something new, more in keeping with new possibilities and new demands.
I can share your traditions and your present harmonious effort to build a more happy and humane future because I am a son of the Polish Nation, which has so much in common with Hungarian history, and I too come from this region of Europe now on the threshold of a new era in which it hopes to be able to contribute to the formation of a peaceful community of Nations united among themselves.
3. Dear Brothers and Sisters: the great war and the decades which followed it devastated your Country. Now, however, you are in a position to build a new world on the ruins of the one which has passed away, by following the example of your forebears who were always able to keep hope alive and after every national disaster had the courage and the strength to start again from the beginning in order to renew their lives.
You thus wish to lift up the fortunes of your Country, but you do not intend to return to past models which, albeit glorious, are now obsolete. You consider it your task to build a new house, in which future generations can develop in prosperity. You are endeavouring to carry out this task with diligence and at no small cost. And so, my Brothers and Sisters, I have come among you to help you in this work with my words and with prayer.
Men and women of Hungary! I speak to you as one who considers himself your compatriot, sharing in your destiny with you. The Pope shares your joys and your sufferings, your plans and your efforts, aimed at building a better future. He feels close to you. His words come from the "Good News" of Christ, from the faith of the Church, which knows well "the joys and hopes and the sorrows and anxieties of people today, especially of those who are poor and afflicted" (Gaudium et Spes GS 1).
4. Many times in the course of history you have been forced to combat foreign powers in order to defend your national independence. Hungarian history has known bitter periods of foreign invasions and courageous wars of independence, even when these ended tragically. Now your Country has gained its own sovereignty and you can build national life independently. Other enemies, however, are now appearing on the horizon, as well as other difficulties to overcome and other illusions to combat: they are the conflicts within your society, the self-centred interests of individuals and groups which set some people against others. Your history teaches you that all this can compromise your future and destroy your efforts to attain more just and humane social conditions.
This appeal to unity, justice and peace is not simply the result of political or economic negotiations in which useful compromises can be reached. Justice and peace, these indispensable conditions for the building of a truly human society, are only constructed on those ultimate and eternal moral values on which every human life is based.
The purpose of my Visit to your Country is twofold: I have come in order to confirm the faith of my brothers and sisters belonging to the Church and I have come in order to offer all Hungarians the Christian vision of the world: "For it is the human person that is to be saved, and human society to be restored" (Gaudium et Spes GS 3). I have come in order to take note of your commitment to rebuilding your Country, to share your joys and your concerns and to offer to all the immense strength of religious faith.
This religious orientation is what I propose as the indispensable and effective basis of the rebirth of your Country, and I propose it in the words of the Council "not just to the Church’s own daughters and sons and all who call on the name of Christ, but to people everywhere" (Ibid., 2). Indeed, how could we know our true good, if not by hearing Him who made us and knows better than ourselves the things that we need. How can we welcome true good, the common good, even at the expense of petty selfish interests of the moment, if not by worshipping Him who created us in his image and likeness, and bids us make this divine image shine forth ever more perfectly?
5. We know well, however, how fragile is our ability to accept the truth which sets us free and makes us capable of practicing the justice demanded by our conscience. By our efforts alone we can do nothing to enable us to enter into peace with God. For this reason I have also come to pray together with you. Our common prayer intends to give voice to the most sacred desires of our heart.
Sunday, 18 August 1991
1. I consider this ecumenical encounter not an act of external courtesy, but a moment of great significance on the path which the Lord himself set before his disciples when he prayed that they might be one as he and the Father are one (cf. Jn. Jn 17,21-23). One of the reasons for the many pastoral journeys I have undertaken during my Pontificate is to reaffirm that the Catholic Church is committed to the ecumenical movement with an irrevocable decision, and she desires to contribute to it with all her possibilities. A fundamental aspect of my office as Bishop of Rome is to be of service to unity. It is my fervent hope therefore that my coming to Hungary may advance and encourage ecumenical relations among Christians.
2. I am well aware that this meeting would not have been possible in former times. A Pope visiting Hungary would not have come to Debrecen. The citizens of Debrecen would not have desired his presence. The changes that have taken place in this regard can be attributed to various factors which have a profound meaning for Christian life and witness. The Second Vatican Council speaks of a duty to scrutinize the "signs of the times" (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 4), namely those events which speak to us of the presence and of the design of God who is the Lord of history. In the light of such signs, the Council clearly affirmed that the movement for the restoration of unity among all Christians is "fostered by the grace of the Holy Spirit" (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 1)
3. Among the "signs of the times" which we should note there is the mutual esteem which Christians feel towards one another today, even though they belong to communities which are still divided. In their approach to one another in the past, divided Christians tended to accentuate the ideas or practices of the other which they considered contrary to the will of Christ.
This tendency and the controversies which result from it may still not have been completely put aside. But today, through ecumenical dialogue, we have discovered common ground and convergence on many important points. There are also aspects in the life of the other which we joyfully recognize as the fruit of God’s special gifts. I would repeat what I stated on a similar occasion: "It is no small achievement of the ecumenical movement that, after centuries of mistrust, we humbly and sincerely recognize in each other’s communities the presence and fruitfulness of Christ’s gifts at work. For this divine action in the lives of all of us we offer thanks to God" (John Paul II, Meeting with the Representatives of Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities, 2 [11 Sept. 1987]).
These areas of common ground belong to a heritage which is basic to all of us. They include faith in Jesus Christ, the one and only Saviour, love and veneration of Sacred Scripture, great esteem for Baptism as the beginning of "new life" in the Holy Spirit. There are also other concerns, which in the past may not have been given so much attention but which today stand out more and more as areas in which the various communities can fruitfully cooperate with each other. I am thinking, for example, of joint prayer for common needs, shared concern for justice and peace in society, joint action to show solidarity and to create conditions and structures for a more equitable distribution of the world’s resources and for greater responsibility in their use.
4. There is a further "sign of the times" through which God manifests his will to us with regard to the ecumenical movement.
It consists in the fact that greater unity among the Churches and ecclesial communities takes on even more importance today in the face of the modern challenges to Christian faith. Our ancestors on this continent, even after the Reformation, shared the conviction, often taken for granted, that European society and culture had their source and inspiration in religious values: faith in the Triune God and in Jesus Christ, true God and true man, the vision of life on earth as a pilgrimage to eternal life, the innate and inalienable value of the human person from conception until death.
Today, society tends to ignore and even repudiate much of this common heritage. While there are those who still militate against religious beliefs, the recent crumbling of the ideologies with which some European Governments thought to substitute the Gospel has created a vacuum. There are many people of good will who have never received the gift of faith. Others seek advancement and happiness in purely economic and material well-being. There is no time to be lost in the mission of re-evangelization; hence the urgency of promoting the work of Christian unity, since "the fact that the Good News of reconciliation is preached by Christians who are divided among themselves weakens their witness" (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 50). How joyful and encouraging it is therefore when, in a society which includes many who are without God and without hope, we meet those with whom, to paraphrase Saint Paul, we are "drinking of the same Spirit" (cf. 1Co 12,13).
This joyful empathy and esteem for one another contrasts sharply with the antipathy which members of the various Christian communities have sometimes displayed towards other Christians. I am aware of the sad history of the preachers who were condemned to imprisonment and forced labour on the galleys, and whose fate is recalled here in this church. Other tragic events also come to mind. Today, such things are unthinkable. It is our present task to make even more progress in reciprocal esteem and fraternal love.
5. Mindful of history and of the theological differences between us, we are conscious of the enormity of the task before us. On the one hand, there is the objective difficulty of the goal towards which we must move. True ecumenism does not endorse ideas of religious indifference and relativism which insinuate that all religions are equally good and therefore that it is enough that they are practised with good will. No! Our search is a quest together for unity in the one apostolic faith that "was once for all delivered to the saints" (Ibid., 3). On the other hand, there is the subjective difficulty felt by some who fear efforts to bring about greater unity because they think it will impose a uniformity which they will be unable to accept.
First, it should be said that within the context of the one apostolic faith, which ought to be the goal of our ecumenical endeavours, there is a legitimate diversity which is not opposed to the unity willed by God. The variety of gifts of the Spirit can make truly rich the wedding-garment in which the Spouse of Christ ought to present herself to him. The Church in fact is "a unity that embraces diversity and that is verified in diversity . . . The Church will always be a unity in diversity" (John Paul II, Homily during the Holy Mass at the Globe Stadium in Stockholm, Sweden, 1 [8 June 1989]). At the same time we must serenely recognize that "we are not yet in agreement as to how each of our Churches and ecclesial communities relates to the fullness of life and mission which flow from God’s redemptive act through the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ" (John Paul II, Meeting with the Representatives of Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities, 2 [11 Sept. 1987]) . In our search let us commit ourselves to dealing with each other, not in the spirit of conflict which so often characterized our relations in the past, but rather in the spirit of Saint Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians about love: "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way" (1Co 13,4-5).
Ecumenism is not only a seed which divine Providence has put into the hearts of believers in recent times. It is also a fruit that God wants to bring to maturity in us. We are all responsible for its development.
6. In relations between divided Christians, there is another "sign of the times" in which the guidance of the Holy Spirit is particularly eloquent. Today we are more fully aware that the progress of ecumenism implies metanoia or conversion. The Second Vatican Council put it in this way: "There can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without a change of heart. For it is from newness of attitudes..., from self-denial and unstinted love that yearnings for unity take their rise and grow toward maturity. We should therefore pray to the divine Spirit for the grace to be genuinely self-denying, humble, gentle in the service of others, and to have an attitude of brotherly generosity toward them" (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 7). This is really an echo of Saint Paul’s challenge: "Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but to the interests of others" (Ph 2,3-4). This challenge is directed to us, both individually and in our communities.
A spirit of conversion will help us to put aside all caricatures of others and all temptations to falsify their views. It will make us aware of the good that the Holy Spirit works in them. A spirit of conversion enables each follower of Christ to look upon those belonging to other Christian communities more objectively, without prejudices, seeking to know them more fully as they see themselves. A spirit of conversion is essential in preparing the way for the purification of our collective memories, so that at every step in our advance towards unity we may be guided by truth alone.
7. A new Europe is struggling to take shape before our eyes. The great nation of Hungary is searching to redefine its goals after the recent momentous changes in Central and Eastern Europe. As Christians, the best service we can contribute at this time is a renewed common witness to the Christian values which were the foundation of Europe and of Hungary. Those values were not the result of fortuitous intuition or arbitrary consensus. They flowed from consideration of the mystery of man in the light of the inalienable dignity that comes to him from being created and re-created in the image and likeness of God. That dignity appears in all its truth and richness in the Incarnate Word, the only-begotten Son. Without Jesus Christ and his Gospel, which is "the power of God for salvation" (Rm 1,16), it will not be possible to build a Europe of lasting peace, of justice and solidarity between individuals and peoples. Europe must be more than a community of shared interests; on a deeper level, its peoples have a shared vocation to build, in Christ, the one great family of the children of God.
In this time of change, the willingness of Christian communities to work together in restoring Europe to its Christian foundations is of special value. However, the task before Hungary and before Europe is greater than anything that our material and cultural resources alone can achieve. Prayer is vital. Our Saviour has promised that where two or three are gathered in his name, he is there among them (cf. Mt. Mt 18,19-20). If not just two or three but thousands of believers, who have been separated too long, are reunited in mutual love and common invocation, surely Christ will bless their efforts. If then we who are still divided can learn to pray together for our own continual conversion and for the conversion of our non-believing brothers and sisters who do not yet know God, but are searching for the truth, our heavenly Father will not refuse to grant us his Spirit, his forgiveness and his grace (cf. Lk. Lc 11,9-13).
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this very meeting is already a stage on the way towards the goal of unity. The "signs of the times" tell us that the Spirit of the Lord is exhorting us to continue our course. Our immediate duty is to hear the exhortation of Saint Paul: to lead a life worthy of the calling which we have received, "with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ep 4,2-4). This is the hope and commitment which lie before us. This is the path of our growing together in solid faith and effective love. May God who began a good work in us bring it to completion (cf. Phil. Ph 1,6)!