Speeches 1991




Monday, 2 December 1991

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which the Governor-General of Australia has appointed you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See. I take this occasion to renew the expression of my respect and warm affection for the Australian people, and I ask you to convey to the Governor-General, the Prime Minister and all your fellow citizens my prayerful good wishes for their peace and prosperity.

Your visit today brings to mind memories of my Pastoral Visit to your nation in 1986. I recall with deep gratitude the cordial welcome accorded to me when, as a "friend to all Australians", I came "to bear witness . . . to the greatness of (their) mission and to (their) immense capacity for good" (John Paul II, Address at the Airport of Fairbairn, Australia, 1 [4 Nov. 1986]). It is my hope that your service as your countryís representative will strengthen the bonds of friendship and cooperation which have characterized relations between Australia and the Holy See both before and after our first exchange of diplomatic representatives, so that by working together the Church and civil society may achieve the ends proper to each.

The Australian people and their Government are well known for their commitment to preserving and strengthening a social order which respects and guarantees human rights, one of the most basic of which is the right to religious liberty (cf. Dignitatis Humanae DH 2 John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1991). One cannot help thinking that the bitter experiences of many of the first settlers in your country have made all the more keen its citizensí appreciation for these inalienable human goods. This atmosphere of ordered freedom has provided an auspicious context in which the Catholic Church has been able to pursue with due liberty the mission entrusted to her by her Divine Founder.

The Catholics of Australia have used their liberty to build schools, hospitals and other health-care facilities and to establish centres for social service, all for the glory of God and love of neighbour. These works serve to reinforce the respect for human dignity which is the basis of all peace and prosperity in society. The Church is thankful that Australian society gives due recognition to her contribution and that her works are actively fostered and supported. I am confident that the preservation and strengthening of these good relations between Church and State will in the years ahead be of utmost importance in pursuing the common good, which, in the words of the Second Vatican Council, "embraces the sum of those conditions of social life by which individuals, families and groups can achieve their own fulfilment in a relatively thorough and ready way" (Gaudium et Spes GS 70).

Mr Ambassador, you have mentioned a number of areas in which your country and the Holy See have common concerns. Among these the efforts to reduce the level of armaments and the threat of war throughout the world deserve to be especially highlighted. Your nationís earnest pursuit of these objectives is in harmony with its democratic character, for a society which takes as its first and guiding principle the ineradicable dignity of all men and women will never rest content with establishing the security of its own members alone. How could it be otherwise? For if all men are of equal dignity by nature and not by virtue of their status, even the status of their citizenship, the tragedies of war - that terrible scourge against the dignity of man - will call forth the most vigorous response to banish this evil wherever it threatens, whether near at hand or far away. For its part the Holy See, in obedience to its mandate from the Prince of Peace, is devoted to doing everything possible to assist the nations of the world in hastening the day when war is no longer used, even as a last resort, for the resolution of conflicting claims.

Peace is effectively pursued by remedying the unjust situations which can impel communities to violence, by habituating ourselves and the younger generations to act justly and to recognize our happiness in this and not in unbridled material gain, by timely collective action to thwart the schemes of the wicked, and by developing economic and social life of those peoples whose diminished share in the goods of the world could cause them in their discontent to take up arms.

With particular urgency efforts for development must be directed to the nations of the "South", so called because it is in that hemisphere that the greater concentration of economically underdeveloped countries is perceived to lie. In this regard the Commonwealth of Australia, with its well-developed economy and its mastery of the technology needed for the production of wealth, is particularly well-placed to be of assistance to others. In regional proximity to some of the worldís poorest nations, your country has a particular opportunity to give a lead in securing peace by cooperating with its neighbours in their own development and by enlisting in this task the other economically advanced nations whose friendship and shared traditions dispose them to a similar solidarity. For what it has already done in this sphere Australia is to be praised. For what it is yet called to do, we can be sure that God will strengthen it to respond generously.

The dramatic events in Central and Eastern Europe over the last two years have given to peoples all over the world a renewed confidence in the power of united action for throwing off oppression and establishing a constitutional order in harmony with the order of true justice. However, this impressive reassertion of human dignity, acclaimed in so many quarters, brings us face to face with this paradox: at the very moment when the demands for fundamental human rights seem to be receiving ever wider recognition, the most basic of natural rights, namely the right to life and the value of life, are increasingly threatened, and this often in the very societies which view themselves as defenders of the cause of justice.

The right to life is based upon the natural order. It is not the product of any political ordinance. The mission of every government by nature is to defend this right (cf. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 40). When a society loses sight of the transcendent worth of the life of every human person, it lapses into measuring the value of each life according to merely utilitarian criteria so that government is no longer the guardian of life but the arbiter of its public usefulness. The enactment of laws permitting or encouraging abortion, euthanasia or any other attack upon life is a sign that a community has become a society of death and is passing into decay.

All the leaders of nations dedicated to respect for human rights - whether they come from countries, such as yours, where this is a longstanding tradition or from societies where it is a newly discovered value - can be true to this conviction only to the degree that they respect the human person at every stage of life. Catholics in Australia, as in every nation in which they make their home, are eager to act upon this truth, to work with their fellow citizens in order to transform their society into one which is fully dedicated to respect for human dignity and life.

Mr Ambassador, I renew the expression of my hope that your service as Australiaís Representative will foster the cooperation of your nation and the Holy See in working for a civilization truly worthy of the human person. I assure you that all the departments of the Roman Curia will assist you in the discharge of the responsibilities entrusted to you by your Government. I pray that in his loving kindness Almighty God will be your strength, and I invoke his abundant blessings upon you and your family and upon your country and her people.




Consistory Hall

Saturday, 7 December 1991

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is with special joy that I welcome you, the leaders of the Catholic fraternity of Covenant Communities and fellowships. I greet you and encourage you in your endeavours to set up a Church-wide structure for the Charismatic Renewal, which has grown extensively in the Catholic Church in recent years and which maintains close contacts with similar movements in other Christian communities.

I am pleased that you have come back to Rome, a year after the founding of your fraternity. I remember the Mass celebrated with you on that occasion. I am aware that your presence here expresses your desire to strengthen your ties with the See of Peter. Our meeting is taking place during the Special Assembly for Europe of the Synod of Bishops. At a time when the Church is reflecting on the call to a new evangelization and sees many comforting signs of Godís grace, your gathering is not without its own special significance.

The Holy Spirit is at work in groups such as yours, drawing you to prayer and filling you with joy in adoring and praising the Lord. As I wrote for the whole Church in my Encyclical "Dominum et Vivificantem": "Recent years have been seeing a growth in the number of people who, in ever more widespread movements and groups, are giving first place to prayer and seeking in prayer a renewal of their spiritual life" (John Paul II, Dominum et Vivificantem DEV 65).

It is the same Spirit who sends you forth to bear witness. How can anyone who has tasted the goodness of Christ remain silent and inactive? How can one lock away the good that has been so fully received? Christ is our Saviour, he has won for us eternal life by shedding his blood, and the Father has sealed this work of redemption by raising his Son from death and making him the glorious conqueror of evil. Saint Paul testifies: "If God is for us, who is against us?... Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Rm 8,31-37). These words of the Apostle are truly a cry of joy. Who would dare hide from others the salvation which Christ so abundantly offers? How can we fail to evangelize? Continue to communicate this zeal for the Gospel to those around you! Celebrate the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, in a spirit of rejoicing, and the Sacrament of Penance with dignity and piety. In this way those who are still far away will be drawn to the Lord and to his Body, the Church. In the spirit of the Post-Synodal Exhortation "Christifideles Laici", place yourselves at the service of the evangelizing work of your Bishops, the pastors who are responsible for the life of the local Churches. And do not forget your duty to foster justice and peace in the world. Bear witness with integrity: "Always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; and keep your conscience clear" (1P 3,15-16).

I pray that you will receive support and guidance from the communities to which you belong. In them you have found a way of life that leads you to evangelical freedom at a time when many confuse freedom with the absence of duties or responsibilities. May your membership of a community never hinder your readiness to serve your brothers and sisters, in particular through your efforts to strengthen the prayer groups of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. May the Catholic Fraternity be ever open to other communities wishing to join you.

May Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, intercede for you and guide you in your obedient following of the Lord in the heart of the Church.





Monday, 9 December 1991

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I wish to extend a cordial welcome to all of you, members of the International Commission for Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Disciples of Christ. Your meeting in these days to reflect on "the Church as Communion in Christ" is a source of satisfaction and encouragement, for we must all be convinced that every step along the path of ecumenical understanding is essentially an act of loving obedience to Christ himself.

The fact that you have come to Rome during the Advent season in order to continue this dialogue is significant for several reasons. In the first place, the See of Rome recognizes a special responsibility to work for Christian unity. It was here that the Second Vatican Council reaffirmed the Churchís irrevocable commitment to the unity of Christians. My predecessors and I have continually endeavoured to fulfil this charge, placing our hope for the restoration of unity among Christians in the grace of the Holy Spirit. In the words of the Council: "It is the Holy Spirit, dwelling in those who believe, pervading and ruling over the entire Church, who brings about that marvellous communion of the faithful and joins them together so intimately in Christ that he is the principle of the Churchís unity" (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 2).

The Advent season adds a symbolic dimension to your dialogue. It reminds us that the attainment of Christian unity remains ahead of us. It is something to be worked for with great faith and hope, and in expectation of the day when we can rejoice in the removal of the obstacles that divide Christians and in the recovery of full communion. As Saint James writes: "Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and late rains. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the Lordís coming is at hand" (Jc 5,7-8). May the spirit of this Advent season give you the grace of patient discernment in your important work.

This is an enormous task and a major responsibility which you bear on behalf of the Catholic Church and the Disciples of Christ.

May our Lord Jesus Christ, who has willed that there should be unity among all his followers, continue to enlighten you with his Spirit. I pray that he will bless you, your work and your families. May he give you the fullness of joy and peace during the Christmas season which we shall soon celebrate.




Monday, 16 December 1991

Mr Ambassador,

With great pleasure I welcome you to the Vatican for the presentation of the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ireland to the Holy See. I am grateful for the greetings which you have conveyed from Her Excellency President Robinson and I gladly reciprocate with good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the well-being of the Irish people, with whom this Apostolic See has been united by uninterrupted bonds of faith and friendship for over one thousand five hundred years.

You have referred to the profound changes taking place in the world with surprising and even alarming rapidity. It is as if the human family had shaken off a sombre and pervading threat, which for decades overshadowed international relations and caused every forecast for the future to be accompanied by pessimism and fear. The world, in fact, is striving to leave behind the negative aspects of its division into opposing blocs. But as it does so, the international community finds itself faced with a host of underlying problems standing in the way of genuine peace and progress. There exists a real danger that the vacuum created by the decline of ideological tensions will be filled by new excesses. The most obvious sign of such excess is the resurgence of the nationalistic tendencies which in some cases have already led to tragic violence and conflicts. These situations clearly undermine the processes of economic development and political agreement which should have followed from the changed relationship between East and West.

At the same time, the old problems have not gone away. The distress of millions of victims of hunger and poverty, the enormous imbalance between the more developed nations and the less developed ones, situations of radical injustice and violence, the denial of human and civil rights and freedoms - all this demands urgent attention if the legitimate aspirations of the human family are to be met. Fortunately, there are hopeful signs of the international communityís determination to meet the challenges of the present with more effective structures of dialogue and cooperation and an increased sense of the interdependence between countries.

In this perspective, the core question facing Europe is not one of development and prosperity alone but one which concerns the very significance and the continuing validity of Europeís historical, cultural and religious experience. What is at stake is the defence and promotion of the positive and permanent values and ideals of European civilization.

Your own country, Mr Ambassador, has a distinctive contribution to make to the new Europe which is being formed. Ireland can play a significant role in keeping alive a culture firmly based on the centrality of the human person as the subject of inalienable rights and freedoms, and open to the transcendent dimension of human existence. Just as at difficult times in the past her monks and missionaries brought faith and learning to many parts of Europe, so today she has a "gift" which she has a duty to defend and to share. Irelandís gift, as I indicated when I received the Letters of Credence of your distinguished predecessor, is "the rich humanism which characterizes her people and which springs in the first place from her fidelity to her Christian traditions" (John Paul II, Address to the New Ambassasador of Ireland to the Holy See, 22 Jan. 1990). Among the values which occupy an important place in your peopleís outlook and which need to be considered in all their importance I will mention only these: a keen sense of religious and civic freedom, a demand for equal justice for all, special care for the weaker members of society, a strong and loving family life, and a warmth of hospitality towards others.

This spiritual and moral ethos, to which Irish emigrants and missionaries have borne witness in so many parts of the world, continues to be a basic point of reference and source of direction and energy in meeting the challenges now facing Irish society. Modern societies are all faced with similar challenges: among others, to defend life, the family and the sacredness of marriage, to ensure high standards of education, to create opportunities for employment, to uphold principles of accountability and honesty in private and public life, to counteract the social degradation that comes from crime and drug and alcohol abuse. The evils obstructing human development are not merely economic and political. Their roots are above all ethical and moral. The building of a more human and more humane society requires a courageous and generous response to the truth about man and his transcendent destiny. Without a revitalization of essential spiritual resources there cannot be a strong and decisive individual and collective commitment to the common good and to solidarity.

Against the background of closer union and cooperation between the peoples of Europe, efforts to bring about a peaceful and voluntary reconciliation between the two communities of northern Ireland, to which Your Excellency has referred, take on new significance and urgency. The violence which continues to plague that Province is sinful and unjustifiable. It is also the expression of outmoded political and social positions, and those who follow this path pursue an unjust and undemocratic struggle. The only real path to peace is the path of respect for human rights, respect for legitimate differences, respect for the rule of law, on the part of everyone. We must continue to hope that the communities involved will work in practical ways to break down the barriers of mind and heart which divide them.

Mr Ambassador, I wish you well as you take up your new responsibilities as Irelandís Representative to the Holy See. You may be certain that the various departments of the Roman Curia will be only too willing to cooperate with you in your task. I assure you of my earnest prayers for the well-being of the beloved Irish people.

Speeches 1991