Speeches 1991 - Calvinist Church of Debrecen
Sunday, 18 August 1991
1.Grant us your peace, O Lord! How often this prayer was addressed to God, when you met in this place of worship in those days when the dark clouds of persecution were beginning to gather over the Hebrew community of Hungary and when hateful measures of discrimination were making life ever more difficult. In your hearts you repeated the prayers which from ancient times had so often been on the lips of your forefathers: "O God, why do you cast us off for ever? Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?"(Ps 74,1). But persecution became ever more severe. At that time you were gripped by fear for your very lives. Thousand after thousand of the Hebrew community were imprisoned in concentration camps and progressively exterminated. In those terrible days the words of the Prophet Jeremiah became once more a reality: "A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are not" (Jr 31,15).
My thoughts go with deep respect to the great believers who, even in those days of anguish and affliction, in those days of devastation - "Yom Shoah", in the words of Zephaniah (cf. Zeph. So 1,15) - did not fail to believe in the Lordís promises and to repeat: "He has torn, that he may heal us; he has stricken, and he will bind us up" (Os 6,1). We are here now to adore the God of Israel, who this time too has stretched out his protecting hand over a blessed remnant of his people. How often this mysterious ransom has been repeated in your history!
2. Sustained by its faith in the Lord, even in its millennary dispersion, the Jewish people has preserved its identity, its rites, its tradition, and indeed has made an essential contribution to the spiritual and cultural life of the world, particularly in Europe. In this country too you have behind you a long history of generous dedication and commitment. And today, after the period of darkness when it seemed as though the Jews would be completely exterminated, you are here once more and making a significant contribution to Magyar national life. I rejoice at your active presence, which reveals the new vitality of your people. But at the same time I recall each and every one of the Jews-women and children, old men and young-who, though they lost their lives, kept their faith in the Lordís promises. In fact I firmly believe that in their persons too is fulfilled the word of God written in the Book of Daniel: "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake... And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament . . ." (Da 12,2-3).
The sure expectation of the resurrection of the dead is a treasure which many children of Israel discovered at the very moment when their unconditional trust in God had to face the evidence of a situation which, humanly speaking, was desperate. This expectation, shot through with Messianic hope, constituted a break on the darkened human horizon, and revealed a decisive dimension of their existence. With profound respect I salute the testimony of those brave and righteous people; I am certain that their convictions were not in vain, and I trust that all who share that expectation will always have the strength to obey Godís commands.
I would like also to remember what the illustrious representatives of the Catholic Church, here in Hungary as well as in other countries, have done to defend the Jews; within the possibilities allowed by the circumstances, they committed themselves with courage; as for instance did the Papal Nuncio Monsignor Angelo Rotta and Monsignor Apor, Bishop of Gyor.
4. Our gaze now turns from the past to a future of reconciliation in justice. Once again I deplore and condemn, together with you, the wickedness which made you suffer and which brought about the death of so many others. Of course we must try to "purge the evil from our midst" (cf. Deut. Dt 17,7), but what concerns us now is not desire for revenge on the wicked, since it is fitting to leave the supreme judgment to God, but a commitment to ensure that never again can selfishness and hatred sow suffering and death. We must ensure that justice reigns at least in that part of the world over which we can exercise a certain influence, beginning in the first place with our own hearts, our families and those who are close to us.
This fight against hatred and selfishness is a necessary requirement of fidelity to Godís law. The precept "You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Lv 19,28), concerns in the first place the mutual relationship between the children of Israel, but it does not allow indifference to others. "The Lord your God... loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner therefore; for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt" (Dt 10,17-19). The hard quest for justice, love and peace must begin with ourselves. It would be a mistake to think that the dark force of selfishness and hatred remains totally outside our lives and does not in some way tarnish our very existence. "The imagination of manís heart is evil from his youth" (Gn 8,21), says the Lord. And this inclination finds an echo in our ways of behaving. Therefore, with Godís powerful help, true liberation from evil is a continuous crossing of the Red Sea, and involves a patient struggle, through which we have to progress by means of a daily conversion of heart, or Teshuvŗ, in repentance, fasting, and works of mercy.
Let us join therefore in a sincere quest for goodness and peace, within us and about us, day after day, so that thanks also to our commitment the wickedness which we detest may be more radically conquered, and that the kingdom of justice, love and peace which corresponds to the Creatorís intention may be spread ever more widely within us and about us. "Love for the one same God must be translated into concrete action in favour of man... in the quest for social justice and peace, at the local, national and international levels" (Guidelines and Suggestions for Applying the Declaration "Nostra Aetate", 4: "Enchiridion Vaticanum", vol. 5, p. 513).
5. Knowing our weakness, and trusting in the strength of God who works in us and delivers us from evil, let us have recourse to the Lord who sets us free. He who rescues his people from forms of external slavery will also free us from slavery within. May the Lordís face shine upon our hearts, so that we shall not fix our gaze on the bitter memory of wrongs received, nor wait for others to become good first, but shall ourselves go forward in conversion to what is good and, forgetting the past, cooperate with the Creator in building a brighter future.
This was precisely the great teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which exhorted the whole Church to study the vast treasure made up by the common spiritual patrimony (cf. Nostra Aetate NAE 4) which unites us with Abrahamís stock, so as to draw from that patrimony a renewed impulse of faith and action. And from this conviction springs a common commitment for Christians and Jews to get to know one another better, to engage in dialogue, to cooperate intensely in the sphere of human rights, religious education, and the fight against antisemitism, in accordance with the programme laid down in Prague in 1991 by the Jewish-Catholic Mixed Committee, in a spirit of fraternal esteem.
In the face of the risk of a resurgence and spread of antisemitic feelings, attitudes and initiatives, of which certain disquieting signs are to be seen today, and of which we have experienced the most frightful results in the past, we must teach consciences to consider antisemitism, and all forms of racism, as sins against God and humanity. In order to ensure this education of consciences and effective cooperation in general, it is to be hoped that there can also be set up joint local committees.
And so, my friends, may this meeting of ours turn into a fervent prayer, after the manner of the Prophetís moving supplication: "Remember your power and your name. For you are our Lord, our God, and you, O Lord, will we praise" (Ba 3,5-6).
May this prayer unite all the inhabitants of Hungary, in the peace of the Lord.
Tuesday, 20 August 1991
1. During my visit to Hungary I have been able to admire some of the fine results of the human and Christian life of the Nation. I have been able to admire the wealth of your historical traditions, here in the heart of Europe. I would have liked to visit all the places where Hungarians live, inside and outside the borders of your homeland. I would have wished personally to meet every Hungarian, in order to bring to each one the message of Christ, who is our life and who came to give us life in ever greater abundance. Every life is generated in pain and suffering.
Every life is nevertheless a gift of God. I have come to Hungary to thank God together with you for the opportunity he has given you to start a new life, to establish a new society based on justice and freedom.
2. In the effort to create a new life for society, there are two fundamental aspects which we must never forget.
The first. Life is not ours for our own sake alone; life is a common heritage and a common responsibility. We are called upon to build a new society, we must create a new human order in this country, in Europe, in the world, if we wish to enjoy during the next millennium a more genuine and happy life, a more human and Christian life.
The second. Although we need material things for our life, human happiness cannot be built on material well-being alone. It is true: you must devote yourselves to overcoming great economic difficulties and social problems. Justice can help you to distribute material goods in an honest way, but a happy and genuinely human society cannot be created except through righteousness, love and forgiveness.
You are striving to build a new democratic society based on the rule of law and on justice. I would add: you will not be able to build that city unless you agree to live by the values of mercy and love.
3. Today we have celebrated the Feast of Saint Stephen, the first King and the first Saint of Hungary, who during his life successfully blended justice with mercy, human life with divine life, the law with love. We must follow the example he has left us; we must bear witness both to justice and to mercy, to the law as well as to love, in order to build in peace and solidarity a new Hungary and a new Europe.
4. I wish to express my deepest gratitude to all those who have welcomed me to this country.
In the first place I wish to thank you, Mr President, and all the State Authorities and all Hungarians. Hungary has always enjoyed a great reputation for the generous welcome it gives to visitors. The first houses for pilgrims were in fact built by Saint Stephen. I too have come as a pilgrim to this land, and I thank you for your hospitality. I have been able to appreciate the cooperation between the Authorities of the State and the Church, who have made my visit possible.
I make an urgent appeal to the State and the Church to combine their efforts in the service of the common good, in order to defend and promote human rights and the fundamental values without which no society can live, in order to create a new generation of men and women capable of using their freedom in a responsible way, and conscious that they will have to give an account of their deeds before their brothers and sisters and before God.
5. I wish to say a special word of thanks to you, Cardinal Paskai, and to all the Bishops, priests, Religious and laity of the Church in Hungary. Thank you for your sincere love and your fraternal hospitality. I carry back with me to Rome the memory of your faith which I have shared in the hope and love which Christ has given us.
Tuesday, 27 August 1991
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. It is with particular joy that I welcome you, the Bishops of Myanmar, on the occasion of your ad Limina visit, which brings you here to pray at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, to meet the Bishop of Rome, and to bear witness to the apostolic faith of the Church universal.
Your presence, which I have keenly anticipated, is an occasion of rejoicing, for you have come from a Catholic community which is truly a pusillus grex, and is for just that reason very close to my heart. I particularly give thanks to God that after almost thirty years the Bishops of your land are able to make this pilgrimage together. We praise our Lord for the many signs of vitality in the Church in Myanmar, especially for the establishment of the two new Dioceses of Loikaw and Lashio. I thank Archbishop U Than Aung, President of your Conference, for the remarks offered in the name of each of you. They were not only informative but expressed profound sentiments of loyalty and devotion which are very much appreciated.
It is my fervent hope that this visit will strengthen not only your communion with the Successor of Peter but also that "fellowship of fraternal charity" (cf. Christus Dominus CD 36) which must characterize the members of the same Episcopal Conference. Only if you are united among yourselves in bonds of esteem and friendship will there emerge "a holy union of energies in the service of the common good of the Churches" (Ibid., 37). There are many areas in which the Bishops of a given region or country must "jointly exercise their pastoral office" (Ibid., 38) if they are to respond effectively to the challenges facing Christian faith and life. Actively contributing to the efficacy of the Episcopal Conference is a magnificent way of expressing the "daily anxiety for all the Churches" (2Co 11,28) which is a solemn duty of every Bishop. I therefore encourage you always to be like the first Christian community, as described in the Acts of the Apostles: "of one heart and soul" (Ac 4,32). I also hope that the recently established Apostolic Delegation, by consistently ensuring the presence of a Pontifical Representative, will help to strengthen further the ties between the Dioceses in Myanmar and foster more regular contacts with the Apostolic See and with the universal Church.
2. After a long period of dependence on external missionary support, the Church in your country has had to rely more and more upon its own personnel and resources. Building on what courageous missionaries have done for the faith in your land and with the generous collaboration of your native priests, Religious and catechists, you are endeavouring to carry out your ecclesial mission in a situation which is not always easy. However, precisely because of the circumstances in which your Churches live, we can trace out in them the recapitulation of the work of the Apostles in this City. Saint Peter as well as Saint Paul came to Rome with scant resources, and it would have seemed likely that their voices should have been drowned out by the overwhelming tide of a culture which had not yet received the Good News of salvation. Nevertheless, the Gospel to which they testified, even to the shedding of their blood, triumphed. I invite you, dear Brothers, to take courage from visiting their tombs, the very sites at which they in their weakness conquered their conquerors. Let your confidence for the future not be based on your own efforts alone. Thus, with the Apostle Paul you will be able to say, "I will all the more gladly boast of my weakness, that the power of Christ may rest upon me . . .; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2Co 12,9-10).
3. Returning to one of the many themes of our conversations regarding the particular Churches over which you preside in love, I wish to encourage your efforts to lead the Catholic community in a decade of evangelization which will prepare for the next Christian millennium. Evangelization is an extraordinarily rich concept. As the recent Encyclical "Redemptoris Missio" indicates, "Mission is a single but complex reality, and it develops in a variety of ways" (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 41). While the Churchís fundamental function always and everywhere is "to point the awareness and experience of the whole of humanity towards the mystery of Christ" (John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis RH 10), the manner in which this is to be done involves a discernment regarding ways and means, in obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is the special responsibility of the Bishops to promote the appropriate response of their communities to the command of Christ: "Go . . . make disciples . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Mt 28,19-20).
In spite of the complexity of the problems of evangelization in your continent, the Fifth Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishopsí Conferences held in Bandung in July of last year took a hopeful view of the Churchís path. The Bishops noted that, "seen with the eyes of faith, these difficulties, together with the signs of hope that accompany them, are as so many challenges to mission" (Final Statement, III, 3. 0). I wish to encourage you to have this same positive attitude and to seek to discern the appropriate paths for evangelizing those entrusted to your care.
4. It is impossible to reflect on the life and mission of the Christian community in your country without realizing the importance of bearing witness by word and deed to authentic evangelical values. The vast majority of your fellow citizens follow that form of Buddhism which is called the "small vehicle", and their religious traditions permeate the whole life of society. They are sensitive to a spiritual attitude which emphasizes renunciation, self-giving and peaceful relations with all, values which find their full realization in the life of our Saviour. Did not our Lord Jesus Christ empty himself, taking the form of a servant (cf. Phil. Ph 2,6)? Was he not sent by the Father "to bring the good news to the poor, to heal the contrite of heart" (Lc 4,18), "to seek and save what was lost" (Ibid., 19:10)? Was not this sublime message of humble respect for Godís will and self-giving love for the least of our brothers and sisters summed up in the Beatitudes, the New Law given in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Mt. Mt 5,3-10)?
In showing the face of the Redeemer to those in your homeland who do not yet know him, you hasten the day when they will find him for whom their hearts have longed. In offering Christ to them you disclose "the Way, and the Truth, and the Life" (Jn 14,6) whereby every opposition or limitation is overcome. This does not happen through the negation or annihilation of differences, but through the union in Godís love given as a free gift of his Spirit. In preaching Christ you hasten the day for which Christ himself longs. He calls all peoples to his Bride, the Church, so that he, the Bridegroom, may, with the widest of loving embraces, enter a union wherein the many become one without loss of their identity (cf. Eph. Ep 5,23-32 and Lumen Gentium LG 6 and 13, cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter on Certain Aspects of the Christian Meditation, 12-15).
5. This great challenge of cooperating in the Spiritís work of drawing all to Christ must be met in the first place by you, the Bishops, and by the priests and men and women Religious of your dioceses, each according to his or her specific vocation in the Church. That is why I wish to encourage you to give your utmost attention to the pastoral care of vocations and to the formation of your priests and Religious. The National Major Seminary must have a certain pride of place among the concerns of your Conference. In spite of the limitations which are well known to you, efforts must be continually made to raise the level of the formation being given. It is also my hope that there will be more frequent opportunities for candidates for the priesthood to be prepared at Ecclesiastical Universities outside of Myanmar.
6. We also recognize that the laity play an indispensable role in shaping society according to the Gospel, especially in their families and in their work. For this they need the constant support of their pastors. They need formation in the faith, so as to have the interior strength to persevere in Christian living and to make known the reasons of the hope that is in them, always - as the author of the First Letter of Peter writes - with gentleness and reverence (cf. 1P 3,15). I am heartened by the fact that you are doing much to ensure the catechetical formation of lay leaders in your communities, and that you give special attention to competent young people, such as the "Home Missioners" or the "Little Evangelizers", who bring the word of God to remote areas or to their contemporaries who would otherwise not be reached by the Church. Your Catholic associations are numerous and fervent. Upon all of these generous Catholics I implore an increase of Godís love and protection.
Mention of the laityís role in evangelizing society calls to mind the affirmation of the recent Encyclical "Centesimus Annus" that "the Churchís social teaching is itself a valid instrument of evangelization" (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 54), precisely because it concerns itself with all things human in the light of the higher mystery of Godís plan of salvation for the world. "In this light, and only in this light, does [the Church] concern itself with everything else: the rights of the individual, and in particular of the "working class", the family and education, the duties of the State, the ordering of national and international society, economic life, culture, war and peace, and respect for life from the moment of conception until death" (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 54).
The Church teaches the demands of justice and seeks the implementation of justice at every level of society, not for any purely temporal motive but for the genuine welfare of individuals in view of their transcendent destiny. The Churchís efforts in the field of integral human development is above all a work of love and the creation of a "civilization of love": the love, that is, with which Jesus Christ gave himself up for us (cf. Eph. Ep 5,2), the love which he showed in his earthly life when he experienced a deep compassion for people (cf. Mt. Mt 9,36). As the Final Statement of the Bandung Assembly stated, the Church was sent "to serve the Asian peoples in their quest for God and for a better human life; to serve Asia . . . in the manner of Christ himself who did not come to be served but to serve and to lay down his life as a ransom for all (cf. Mk. Mc 10,45) - and to discern, in dialogue with Asian peoples and Asian realities, what deeds the Lord wills to be done so that all humankind may be gathered together in harmony as his family" (Final Statement, III, 6, 3). I know that this is your way of life, that you are close to the poor and the suffering. Although you cannot embark on major projects of social assistance, your door is always open to the widow and the orphan, to the elderly and the handicapped so that the light of Christís love will shine in their lives too.
7. Dear Brother Bishops, as you return to your people, bring with you the renewed conviction that Christ is sending you before him as his heralds and witnesses. May you yourselves "be renewed in the spirit of your minds" (cf. Eph. Ep 4,23)! Never lose heart, no matter what difficulties may surround your ministry. Be a source of inspiration and encouragement for your priests. Sustain the men and women Religious who cooperate with you in the care of Godís people. Be examples of Christian living to all the faithful. And be assured that each day I remember you in prayer before the Lord: that you may be "filled with the Spirit . . . always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father" (Ep 5,18).
May the holy Mother of God look upon you and intercede for the peace and reconciliation which your nation needs. As a token of my spiritual closeness I impart my Apostolic Blessing to all the Catholic faithful of Myanmar.
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Wednesday, 4 September 1991
I am deeply grateful to the Soloists and Choir of Ankara State Opera and the Orchestra of Ankara State Opera and Ballet, under the expert direction of Dr Hikmet Simsek, for this delightful performance of The Yunus Emre Oratorio. My thanks go also to the Turkish Ministry of Culture and to all who have made this inspiring evening possible. I welcome all of you, members of the Diplomatic Corps and other distinguished guests, on whom the special significance of this musical event cannot be lost.
The music of the late Turkish composer, Ahmet Adnan Saygun, provides a rich and lovely setting for the mystical poems of Yunus Emre. This year, declared by UNESCO "The Yunus Emre Year" to commemorate the seven hundredth and fiftieth anniversary of the birth of the great Turkish Muslim mystic, offers us an opportunity to reflect on the major themes of his poetry. Yunus Emre was filled with an awareness of the loving presence of God in the midst of creation. He sang of the universal brotherhood of all human beings and of the power of love to transform human life into a hymn of praise to God. He saw in the wonders of the natural world the signs which lead to an ever deeper knowledge of God and a desire to reverence and thank him.
These themes have lost none of their importance today. In a society too often closed to lifeís transcendent dimension, we need to be reminded of Godís loving presence and nearness. A world too often torn by strife is in need of devout believers who, by word and deed, encourage understanding and union among all the members of the human family. We need to learn anew a respectful attitude towards nature, and extend our commitment to use its benefits with care and responsibility. Christians find much in Yunus Emreís God-centred poems to remind them of the striking spirituality of Saint Francis of Assisi, a near contemporary of his.
The Oratorio therefore has been a moment of profound encounter, of mutual understanding and friendship. May you continue to proclaim the glory of God through your artistry. May the thoughts and sentiments inspired by this performance accompany us all in our work for a better world and for peace among its inhabitants. May Almighty God bless you and reward you.
Saturday, 14 September 1991
It gives me great pleasure to welcome members of the Italian National Olympic Committee and the participants in the "Italian Masters - Memorial Marco Merlo" water-skiing event. I thank Mr Aldo Franchi, President of the Italian Water-skiing Federation, for his kind words of introduction. I greet you all and wish you well in your championship.
The fact that you come from so many countries makes your gathering a magnificent occasion for meeting people of different backgrounds and for building friendships beyond all barriers of race, culture or political experience. You are united, first of all, in your sporting interest. You share a passion for the sport of water-skiing. It has become a dynamic source of communication and contact between you. Your sporting activities not only bring out certain qualities in each one of you individually. They not only impel you to give the best of yourselves physically and competitively; they also invite you constantly to reach out to discover the bonds that unite you with others. Indeed, sports are a uniquely effective means of building mutual esteem and respect, human solidarity, friendship and goodwill among peoples.
The Church values and respects sports which are truly worthy of the human person. They are such when they foster the orderly and harmonious development of the body at the service of the spirit, and when they constitute an intelligent and formative competition which stirs up interest and enthusiasm, and are a source of enjoyable relaxation. I encourage you to have this ideal always before you, so that your dedication to sport will be matched by a striving for the higher values which will give you dignity and moral stature in your own eyes and in the eyes of those who follow your achievements.
The ancient Romans set great store by the educational value of sports and competitions. In the Christian tradition, the struggle for virtue and fidelity to Christ have often been presented under the metaphor of athletic competition. Saint Paul speaks of his life as a race in which it is vital to reach the final goal (cf. 1Co 9,24-27). It is my hope that your visit on this occasion will be an opportunity for you to commit yourselves once more to the highest ideals of human solidarity and to faithfulness in your relations with God, our Creator and Redeemer. May his abundant blessings be with you and your families.
Thursday, 19 September 1991
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to be able to meet you, Canadian War Veterans, during the course of your visit to Rome. Some of you are returning to places where you were personally involved in the tragic events of the Second World War. May this be a time of serene reflection for you, in which you recall the experience of those years in the light of the progress which has been made since then in building a more just and peaceful world.
We all rejoice at the changes that have taken place in relations between East and West in recent years, and especially during recent months and weeks. A great hope has filled our hearts that Europe and the world might finally enter an era of firm and stable peace. It seemed that the Second World War had at last come to an end! And yet we are constantly reminded how fragile are the institutions which ensure peaceful relations between peoples who, with the onset of freedom, are also rediscovering ancient hostilities and prejudices. Although - as you well know - individuals are capable of great and noble acts of service and human solidarity on the battlefield, war itself with its accompanying evils and sufferings is a reality which the human family is called to reject as a means of pursuing political objectives. You who have seen its cost in human suffering will surely agree that other, more just, ways must be found to meet whatever challenges to peace may arise now and in the future.
At this time, the process of peace and cooperation between peoples which has been built up with great effort over the years - especially through the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, of which Canada is a member, and in particular since the signing of the Helsinki Accords - is gravely threatened by the events taking place in Yugoslavia. I have already appealed on a number of occasions to political leaders, and in the first place to the Governments of Europe, to do all in their power to stop the killing and destruction, and to provide a structure of dialogue between the parties involved. Such an international effort to solve the present crisis cannot be seen as interference but as a logical application of the spirit and intent of that Conference. I am confident that you will join me in praying to Almighty God that this terrible tragedy will soon end, and that the equality of peoples and their right to self-determination will be effectively respected.
On each one of you and on your families I invoke Godís abundant blessings. May his love be with you on your present journey, and may he guide and protect the beloved people of Canada.
Speeches 1991 - Calvinist Church of Debrecen