Speeches 1991 - Wednesday, 7 November 1991





Hall of Benediction

Thursday, 14 November 1991

Mr Chairman,
Mr Director-General,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am very pleased to meet once again the representatives and experts of the States and Organizations associated in the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. This Twenty-sixth General Assembly is particularly worthy of note, because it marks the fortieth anniversary of the establishment of the headquarters of FAO in Rome. I offer heartfelt good wishes on this significant occasion. The selection of this city as the centre of your activity has helped to foster an especially close level of understanding and collaboration between your Organization and the Holy See. It is encouraging to see the many convergences between the new objectives and methods which the Organization has evolved for itself and the Church's teaching about social development and her call to understand it in the light of the ethical dimension and transcendent destiny of the human person.

2. Even after four decades of intense efforts by men and women of good will the objectives of FAO continue to have a pressing urgency.Now as much as in the past, there is a need to make the production and distribution of food more efficient, to improve the lot of agricultural workers and thus to contribute to the general expansion of the world economy, in order to eliminate hunger from our world. As one charged with continuing "the teaching and activity of Christ, from whom the sight of a hungry crowd prompted the moving exclamation: 'I feel sorry for all these people; they... have nothing to eat' (Mt 15,32)" (Pope Paul VI, Address to Participants of the World Conference on Nutrition, 9 November 1974), I take the occasion of this meeting to express once more my anxiety for the plight of the world's hungry. We share a burning concern for them, and so I pray that our meeting will be an opportunity for rededication to their service.

Through long experience and the accumulation of extensive data, FAO's approach has moved beyond broad references to the struggle against hunger and a simple call for its elimination to a recognition of the multiplicity of hunger's causes and the need for a correspondingly sophisticated response. This insight into the complexity of the situation, far from dampening the zeal of the members of FAO, should serve as a spur, to action, since efforts made to remedy problems which have been accurately analyzed stand the best chance of achieving success.

3. The growing recognition of the many dimensions to be addressed in any attack on hunger and malnutrition has led to the identification of important social and political issues which have a direct impact on the matter. Concern for the health of the environment is one of the issues which has a particular bearing on the concerns of FAO, and its complex ramifications have to be taken into account in any campaign against hunger. In fact, respect for the fields, forests and seas, and their preservation from over-exploitation, from the very foundation of any realistic policy aimed at increasing the world's food supply. The world's natural assets, given by the Creator in trust to all mankind, are the source from which human labour brings forth the harvest upon which we depend. With the aid of scientific expertise, sound practical judgment must point out the path which lies between the extremes of asking too much of our environment and asking too little, either of which would have disastrous consequences for the human family.

Growing awareness of the finite resources of the earth casts into ever sharper relief the need to make available to all who are involved in food production the knowledge and technology required in order to ensure that their efforts will yield the best possible results. The wide-spread establishment of training-centres and institutions which foster the sharing of know-how and skill is one of the most effective lines of action to be pursued in the struggle against hunger. The development of the specifically human capacity to work increases vastly the otherwise limited potentiality of the earth. Hence, the emphasis must be more and more on the application of productive intelligence. The land and the sea yield their abundance precisely in the measure in which they are worked with wisdom. As I wrote in my Encyclical Letter "Centesimus Annus": "Today the decisive factor (in production) is increasingly man himself" (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 32 Centesimus Annus, 32; cf. 31). I am happy to note that this truth about man's labour is reflected in your Medium-Term Plan, 1992-97, with its emphasis on the importance of human resources for solving the problem of hunger.

4. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Holy See is deeply interested in the specific role of FAO as an impetus for socio-economic development. The guiding principle of the Church's teaching on development is expressed in the Second Vatican Council's Pastoral Constitution "Gaudium et Spes", which states: "In the socio-economic realm too, the dignity and total vocation of the human person must be honoured and advanced along with the welfare of society as a whole. For man is the source, centre and the purpose of all socio-economic life" (Gaudium et Spes GS 63). Development which is worthy of the human person must aim at advancing people in every aspect of life, the spiritual as well as the material.

Indeed, economic advancement achieves its proper end precisely to the degree that it advances the whole good and destiny of human beings.

One of the implications of this truth is that the clear affirmation of the dignity and worth of those who work to produce our food is an indispensable part of any solution to the problem of hunger. They are special cooperators with the Creator as they obey his command to "subdue the earth" (cf. Gen. Gn 1,28). They perform the vital service of providing society with the goods needed for its daily sustenance. The recognition of their dignity is echoed in the call of FAO for rural people to be regarded not as mere means of increasing food production "but as the ultimate users and beneficiaries of the development process" (Medium-Term Plan, p.75). It is of particular importance in this regard to design programmes which will increase the scope for free and responsible action by farmers, fishermen and those who manage forestry resources, and will enable them to take an effective part in formulating the policies which affect them directly.

It is also important to keep in mind that projects aimed at eliminating hunger must be in harmony with the fundamental right of couples to establish and foster a family (cf. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio FC 42). Any initiative which would seek to increase the world's food supply by an assault upon the sanctity of the family or by interference with parents' right to decide about the number of their children would oppress rather than serve the human race (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 47 John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio FC 42 Id ., Laborem Exercens LE 25). Rather than forbidding the poor to be born, truly effective programmes for developing the food supply will ensure that the poor share even now in the material goods which they need in order to support their families, while they receive the training and assistance they require so that eventually they can produce these goods by their own labour (cf. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 28).

5. The years leading up to this last decade of the Millennium have witnessed monumental shifts in relations between peoples and nations. The great changes which have taken place present FAO with new challenges and new opportunities. The disruption of what had become the customary patterns of production and exchange in many places means that the fight against hunger must be vastly extended. I am confident that your Organization, with its tradition of intergovernmental cooperation, will know how to respond effectively.

The reduction of world tensions, for so long the goal of mankind's hopes and prayers, gives leaders of governments and their peoples a fresh chance to work together to build a society worthy of the human person. The elimination of hunger and its causes must be a fundamental part of this project.One hopes that a particular consequence of the lessening of antagonism in international relations will be a decrease in the amount of money spent on the manufacture and purchase of arms. The resources thus released can then be devoted to development and to food production. I pray that the governments of the world will dedicate themselves to this noble task with the same energy as was given to protecting themselves against those whom they once considered their foes.

6. The tasks before you, Ladies and Gentlemen, will tax your wisdom and challenge your courage, but you can take heart from the nobility of your cause, a nobility which more than justifies the effort and sacrifice involved. You are pledged to ensure the satisfaction of the right to have enough to eat, to have a secure and stable share in the produce of land and sea. Renew your commitment to this struggle! In saying this I lend my voice to all the poor and hungry whom I have met on my Pastoral Visits to so many parts of the world. I pass on to you their appeal; I express to you their gratitude.

I give the assurance of my prayers for the success of your deliberations in establishing your work project for the next two years, and I invoke upon you the peace and strength which comes from Almighty God, who "does not forget the cry of the afflicted" (Ps 9,12).





Friday, 15 November 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 the Republic of Fiji to the Holy See. I ask you kindly to convey my greetings to your President, Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau, and to the members of your Government, with the assurance of my continued good wishes that your nation, composed of people of many races, cultures and religions, will always experience the blessings of prosperity and social concord. In your efforts to consolidate national unity, may you and your fellow-citizens "always cherish your own particular cultural values and customs as a means of enriching one another" (John Paul II, Homily at Albert Park in Suva (Fiji), 1 [21 November 1986]).

As you have indicated, Fiji faces the continuing challenge of building unity from diversity and establishing a society in which the rights of every individual are acknowledged and all are granted an opportunity to participate fully in the life of the nation. Authentic harmony, between individuals, communities or entire nations, is manifested in concern for the welfare of all people and the pursuit of the common good through policies and actions which promote integral development. In your own country, as elsewhere, progress towards national unity and prosperity will largely depend upon the extent to which its citizens are motivated by a spirit of solidarity which embraces all people and fully respects the dignity and rights of each. At the present time, as you and your fellow-citizens are engaged in the task of framing a national Constitution, it is important that your commitment to these fundamental principles be clearly reaffirmed and receive adequate juridical expression in the laws which will guide Fijiís future growth.

Among the fundamental rights which have their origin in the dignity of the human person, I have frequently called attention to religious freedom, which can in a certain sense be considered the "source and synthesis" of all human rights (cf. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 47). Inasmuch as each person has the right and the duty to seek the truth and act in accordance with its demands without interference from any human authority, the extent to which a society respects the conscience of its individual members will constitute an accurate measure of its regard for other human rights. Within pluralistic societies like your own, respect for the conscience of others can be fostered through greater knowledge of other cultures and religions and the promotion of a balanced understanding of necessary and legitimate differences. Indeed, "what better means is there of building unity within diversity than a commitment on the part of all to a common search for peace and a common affirmation of a freedom which enlightens and esteems the conscience of everyone?" (John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1991).

Your Excellency has kindly referred to the contribution which the Catholic Church has made to the development of your society. By her preaching, her activity in the fields of health care and social welfare, and her educational apostolate, the Church desires to instil in her members a deeper awareness of the unity of the whole human family and the obligation of all to build a society ever more in conformity with manís surpassing dignity (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 91). Through her efforts to spread the teaching of the Gospel, "the Church offers a force for liberation which promotes development precisely because it leads to conversion of heart and of ways of thinking, fosters the recognition of each personís dignity, encourages solidarity, commitment and service of oneís neighbour, and gives everyone a place in Godís plan" (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 59).

While it is true that the political community and the Church remain independent of each other and autonomous in their respective spheres of activity, nevertheless "they are both at the service of the personal and social vocation of the same individuals", and will be successful in serving the good of all to the extent that they develop a healthy cooperation (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 76). In this regard, I would assure Your Excellency of the willingness of the Church in Fiji to contribute to the progress of society not only through the work of her various institutions, but also, and more importantly, "by forming the consciences of her members in openness towards others and respect for them, in that tolerance which accompanies the search for truth, and in a spirit of solidarity" (John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1991).

Mr Ambassador, I offer you my prayerful good wishes as you begin your mission, and I assure you of the readiness of the various offices of the Roman Curia to assist you in fulfilling your new duties. Upon yourself and all the beloved people of the Republic of Fiji I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.




Tuesday, 19 November 1991

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Thailand. Your presence here today offers me the happy occasion to underline and reaffirm the ties of friendship and goodwill which mark relations between your country and the Holy See. I thank you for the greetings you have expressed on behalf of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and I gladly reciprocate with my warmest good wishes for the health and happiness of Their Majesties and of the Royal Family, and with my prayers for the well-being of all your fellow citizens.

The Thai people are proud of their long tradition of religious freedom, of which the Monarchs themselves are the guarantors. Although the Catholic community in Thailand is small in relation to the followers of other religious traditions, it enjoys religious freedom, not only to fulfil the duties of their Christian faith but also to share wholeheartedly in the life and concerns of the nation. Catholics have the progress and development of Thai society very much at heart.

Your Excellency has referred to the widespread activity of the Church in the fields of education, health-care and service to those in need. In May of this year I had the joy of meeting the Catholic Bishops of Thailand here in the Vatican on the occasion of their quinquennial ad Limina visits. They were pleased to report on their communitiesí efforts to defend and strengthen family life, to be of assistance to the poor and the sick, in particular the handicapped and those suffering from Hansenís Disease or AIDS, to educate the young as responsible members of society. The Catholic view is that parents are the primary and principal educators of their children and that other bodies, including religious and civil institutions, have the responsibility of assisting them in carrying out this duty and of ensuring the free exercise of their fundamental rights in this area (cf. Gravissimum Educationis GE 3). An increasingly effective coordination of these responsibilities, the importance of which has been clearly emphasized in various international Declarations, can come from continued dialogue and cooperation between all involved (cf. John Paul II, Address to the Bishops of Thailand on their ad Limina visit, 6 [24 May 1991])). The well-being of a nation greatly depends on the integral education of its citizens, which includes education in ethical and moral values, as well as in respect for human dignity and human rights.

In building up a just and developed society, Thai Catholics seek increasing dialogue and cooperation with the followers of other religions, in order to avoid misunderstandings and above all to identify areas of common commitment. Religious belief is a powerful force for good in the life of individual believers as well as in society as a whole. It is my earnest hope that harmony will continue to characterize relations between all believers in Thailand, so that the common good will be most effectively served.

As a neighbour of Cambodia and the host country of large numbers of refugees from that country, Thailand has been an active partner in the negotiations which have led to the Paris Peace Accords of last month. These provide a basis for the advent of peace in that hardpressed nation. A transitional period has just begun, in which the representatives of the various groups within the country are committed to working through political means, in conjunction with the United Nations, to set up a reconciliation body responsive to the Cambodian peopleís longdelayed aspirations to independence, peace and development. During this period Cambodia will need political and economic support from the international community, and not least from the ASEAN countries which have been directly involved in the peace process, in order that the terrible heritage of years of suffering and violence may be overcome, and a new culture of freedom and cooperation be established.

Among the principal beneficiaries of peace we must count the hundreds of thousands of refugees now gathered in your country. They have lost not only their homes and possessions but also their loved ones and, as is so often the case, their very dignity. I recall my visit to Phanat Nikhom in May 1984. There I found thousands of men, women and children, completely destitute and in a state of total dependence on others for food, clothing and shelter, and unable to make any decision about their own future. As I said during my stay in your country: "History will record the sense of hospitality, the respect for life and the deeply rooted generosity shown by the people of Thailand" (cf. John Paul II, Address to the members of the Government of Thailand and to the Diplomatic Corps of Bangkok, 4 [11 May 1984]). Their Majesties and the Government of Thailand, together with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and numerous governmental and non-governmental organizations, including the COERR (Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees), as well as many individual volunteers, deserve praise and gratitude for their untiring efforts. Now, new resources and an even greater commitment are needed in order to ensure that the tragedy of the refugees comes to an end with their safe and voluntary return home and an opportunity to begin their lives again in conditions of stability and freedom.

The new situation in Cambodia and the reduction of some tensions in the world as a result of recent transformations suggest that regional peace and stability in Southeast Asia is now a more realistic prospect. Not all problems have been solved, but in the new circumstances ASEANís long-standing objective of creating a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality has become less remote. The Holy See is happy to see such an initiative prosper. Development in fact demands increased understanding and goodwill between countries, and presupposes greater cultural, social, educational and scientific exchanges. All of this is impossible in the presence of conflict and rivalry. Development, by freeing human beings from the negative effects of degrading poverty and lack of education, is an essential factor in promoting a more just society, open to the spiritual and transcendent nature of human life.

As you begin your mission I wish to offer you, Mr Ambassador, my prayerful best wishes for the success of your work and efforts. I am confident that your endeavours will lead to a further strengthening of the good relations already existing between Thailand and the Holy See. Upon Their Majesties the King and Queen, upon the Royal Family and the beloved Thai people I invoke abundant divine gifts.




Friday, 22 November 1991

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I extend to each of you a cordial welcome. I greet you and I thank you for having accepted the invitation of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to take part in a scientific discussion on a problem which is of great concern to society today: the relationship between the accelerated increase in world population and the availability of natural resources.

The close connection between the worldís resources and its inhabitants must be evaluated, as you have opportunely done, by also taking into account the present imbalances in demographic distribution, in movements of migrants, in the allocation and consumption of resources.

The increase both of population and of available resources varies from place to place, to such an extent that different parts of the world are presently experiencing and can be expected to experience unequal trends.

The data emerging from your research and discussions will therefore prove important and very useful in enabling the Holy See to formulate and clarify - in accordance with its proper mission and responsibilities - appropriate guidelines and suggestions. The Academyís independence and scientific competence enable it to provide a valuable service to the Church. The Church in turn can then make use of the Academyís analysis of reliable data in order to develop - in the field of her own competence and autonomy - a carefully considered judgment of a religious and ethical nature.

2. Although the starting-point of your research is the current world situation, you have rightly chosen to look at the past as well. You have highlighted the causes which have produced the earthís present situation and led to the notable growth of the world population in recent decades. You have then looked to the future, in order to make certain projections based on the connection between the dynamics of demography and the dynamics of available resources, particularly with regard to their impact on the environment.

It is a well-known fact that the availability of resources is obstructed by various social, economic and political factors, to the extent that some people fear that the point will even be reached when it will be impossible to feed all the worldís people. It is important, however, not to be guided by fear; instead, what is needed is a careful evaluation of the various aspects of the problem.

3. An analysis of the different situations points to a growing diversification with regard not only to basic natural resources, but more specifically to those resources capable of actually being used by man, through the application of his intelligence, enterprise and labour. Science and its relative applications have made new resources available and hold out the promise of alternative forms of energy. But, centres of scientific research are not evenly spread, and the propagation of skills and technologies is conditioned, and at times slowed down, by various factors which make the practice of international solidarity difficult. Yes, such solidarity is the fundamental premise for full and balanced development.

What we are speaking of, then, is a problem of social organization and hence also a political problem. Various aspects of life in society are involved here, from family rights to the regulation of land ownership, from social welfare to the organization of labour, from public order to ways of establishing a consensus in society.

Human society is first and foremost a society of persons, whose inalienable rights must always be respected. No political authority, whether national or international, can ever propose, much less impose, a policy that is contrary to the good of persons and of families (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 25-26 Dignitatis Humanae DH 3).

4. There is a widespread opinion that population control is the easiest method of solving the underlying problem, given that a worldwide reorganization of the processes of production and a redistribution of resources would require an enormous amount of time and would immediately give rise to economic complications.

The Church is aware of the complexity of the problem. It is one that must be faced without delay; but account must also be taken of the differing regional situations, some of which are the complete opposite of others: some countries show a massive population increase, while others are heading towards a dwindling, aging population. And often it is precisely the latter countries, with their high level of consumption, which are most responsible for the pollution of the environment.

The urgency of the situation must not lead into error in proposing ways of intervening. To apply methods which are not in accord with the true nature of man actually ends up by causing tragic harm. For this reason the Church, as an "expert in humanity" (cf. Paul VI, Populorum Progressio PP 13), upholds the principle of responsible parenthood and considers it her chief duty to draw urgent attention to the morality of the methods employed. These must always respect the person and the personís inalienable rights.

5. The increase or the forced decrease of population is partly the result of deficiencies in social institutions. Damage to the environment and the increasing scarcity of natural resources are often the result of human errors. Despite the fact that the world produces enough food for everyone, hundreds of millions of people are suffering from hunger, while elsewhere enormous quantities of food go to waste.

In view of these many different mistaken human attitudes, it is necessary to address first of all the people who are responsible for them.

6. Population growth has to be faced not only by the exercise of a responsible parenthood which respects the divine law, but also by economic means which have a profound effect on social institutions. Particularly in the developing countries, where young people represent a high percentage of the population, it is necessary to eliminate the grave shortage of adequate structures for ensuring education, the spread of culture and professional training. The condition of women must also be improved as an integral part of the modernization of society.

Thanks to advances in medicine which have reduced infant mortality and increased the average life expectancy, and thanks also to the development of technology, there has been a real change in living conditions. These new conditions must be met not only with scientific reasoning, but more importantly with recourse to all available intellectual and spiritual energies. People need to rediscover the moral significance of respecting limits; they must grow and mature in the sense of responsibility with regard to every aspect of life (cf. John XXIII, Mater et Magistra MM 195 Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, Gaudium et ).

By not taking steps in this direction, the human family could well fall victim to a devastating tyranny which would infringe upon a fundamental aspect of what it means to be human, namely giving life to new human beings and leading them to maturity.

It is the responsibility of the public authorities, within the limits of their legitimate competence, to issue directives which reconcile the containment of births and respect for the free and personal assumption of responsibility by individuals (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 87 Paul VI, Populorum Progressio PP 47). A political programme which respects the nature of the human person can influence demographic developments, but it should be accompanied by a redistribution of economic resources among the citizens. Otherwise such provisions can risk placing the heaviest burden on the poorest and weakest sectors of society, thus adding injustice to injustice.

Man, "the only creature on earth whom God willed for its own sake" (Gaudium et Spes GS 24), is the subject of primordial rights and duties, which are antecedent to those deriving from social and political life (cf. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris PT 5,35). The human person is "the origin, the subject and the purpose of all social institutions" (Gaudium et Spes GS 25), and for this reason authorities must keep in mind the limits of their own competence.

For her part, the Church invites the human family to plan its future, impelled not just by material concerns but also and especially by respect for the order which God has placed within creation.

7. We all have precise duties towards future generations: this is an essential dimension of the problem, and it impels us to base our proposals on solid prospects regarding population growth and the availability of resources.

The conservation of resources presupposes peaceful coexistence, since - as is generally recognized - wars are among the worst causes of environmental damage. Peaceful coexistence in its turn presupposes solidarity, which is the result of a developed moral sense. The basic virtues of social life constitute a favourable climate for world solidarity, about which I wrote in my Encyclical Letter (cf. John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 39-40). It is mainly upon solidarity that the solution to the questions with which you are dealing depends.

8. Within this context a strong common commitment to institutional reform is needed, a commitment which aims at raising the level of intellectual and personal maturity by means of a satisfactory educational system. It will also aim at strengthening enterprise and the creation of jobs through adequate investments. The destruction of the environment caused by industry and industrial products must be reduced in accordance with precise plans and undertakings, also at the international level. A radical effort to change the current state of affairs is now required.

This reform must be based on personal renewal (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 24). There must be action within the sphere of education and still more in the field of the all-round authentic personal development of individuals. This will be done by educating people in awareness of the values that are proper to human beings, in order to bring about a society in which they take an active part and which offers better living conditions for the whole of humanity. This is certainly not an easy undertaking. It is a task first of all for the family, the basic unit of society. The family draws moral strength from parentsí sense of responsibility, about which the Council speaks (cf. Ibid., 51), and which includes a balanced attitude towards procreation, an attitude which seeks to build a more united and caring society.

9. The appeal to each individualís sense of responsibility is an urgent one. So is the appeal for solidarity on the part of everyone.

The dynamics of population growth, the complexity of uncovering and distributing resources, and their mutual connections and consequences for the environment constitute a long-term and demanding challenge. It is only through a new and more austere manner of living, one which springs from respect for the dignity of the person, that humanity will be able to meet this challenge adequately (cf. Dignitatis Humanae DH 3).

In short, a renewed way of life is needed, one which will spread by way of an authentic humanism and will therefore be capable of dissuading public authorities from proposing and legalizing solutions which are contrary to the true and lasting common good. It is a manner of living which, by reflecting the real interests of the individual, will help to bring about a world in which love for others is accepted as the general and normative rule.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you very much for the scientific contribution which during these days you have made to a better understanding of such pressing issues. With these sentiments, I invoke divine protection upon each of you and once more offer you a cordial greeting.

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Speeches 1991 - Wednesday, 7 November 1991