Speeches 1992


                                                              January 1992





Saturday, 4 January 1992

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you today for the presentation of the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Almost ten years have passed since my visit to your country. The warm hospitality of the Nigerian people and their determination to pursue progress in justice and peace remain a vivid memory of that pilgrimage to Africa. I am grateful for the kind greetings which you have expressed on behalf of His Excellency President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, and I gladly respond with my prayerful best wishes for the well–being of all your fellow–citizens.

Until recently many aspects of international life were dominated by the division of the world into opposing blocs, in which ideological factors have been preponderant. The totalitarian ideologies of this century–declaring themselves hostile to God–have proved to be tragically hostile to the people in whose name and for whose benefit they claimed to exercise power. Their grave internal philosophical contradictions included an inability to recognize the individual as a person endowed with an indomitable spiritual thrust towards freedom, and especially towards freedom of conscience. Where those ideologies prevailed, oppressive regimes sought to separate people from their spiritual and cultural roots by changing their points of reference and systems of values. This has served only to spread the greatest alienation of all: the alienation of man from God, the alienation of so many individuals from the very foundation of truth, morality and authentic human solidarity. This is a spiritual and cultural wound which will require much healing.

Through the events of recent years a new situation has arisen in individual countries and in the international community. In the Encyclical "Centesimus Annus" I wrote: "The events of 1989 took place principally in the countries of Eastern and Central Europe. However, they have worldwide importance because they have positive and negative consequences which concern the whole human family. These consequences are not mechanistic or fatalistic in character, but rather are opportunities for human freedom to cooperate with the merciful plan of God who acts within history" (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 26). It might be said that history at this time is concentrated and poised to take a decisive step. Whether or not this step will lead to a better future depends greatly on the wisdom of the world’s leaders and the capacity of peoples to seek to resolve the complex problems facing the human family through dialogue and solidarity, rather than through rivalry and conflict. And in responding to the new international situation, there can be no "slackening of efforts to sustain and assist the countries of the Third World" (Ibid. 28). Indeed, the recent changes in the climate of international relations within Europe and the whole of the Northern Hemisphere provide a providential opportunity for the industrialized nations to act more effectively in solidarity with the peoples of the world who are in need of development.

Nigeria has been striving in recent years to consolidate a more representative and democratic form of political and social organization, and among these initiatives will be the elections for a civilian government to be held later this year. The key to the success of such positive developments lies in defending the human person, the family, the various social organizations – all of which enjoy their own spheres of autonomy and sovereignty (Cf. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 45). Efforts to strengthen the democratic system contribute to building a more dynamic, just and peaceful society insofar as such a system enables all citizens to express their political choices, affords them the possibility of electing and holding to account those who govern them, and of replacing them by peaceful means when appropriate (Ibid. 46). When structures of participation and shared responsibility are strengthened, and opportunities are created for the advancement of individuals through education and work, society finds within itself the resources needed to fuel its own progress. May Almighty God grant that your people and your Government will see their efforts crowned by success in building a better and brighter future.

An indispensable condition for any people to secure for themselves a social order which respects the inviolable dignity of the human person is that the followers of different religious traditions in the nation strive to live in harmony. The importance of good interreligious relations for the construction of peace is a central topic of my own Message for this year’s World Day of Peace: "Bearing witness to peace and working and praying for peace are a normal part of good religious behaviour. This also explains why in the sacred books of the different religions references to peace occupy a prominent place in the context of man’s life and his relationship with God. For example, we Christians believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of the One who has ‘plans for welfare and not for evil’ (Jr 29,11) is ‘our peace’... (Ep 2,14), and for the followers of Islam the term ‘salam’ is so important that it constitutes one of the glorious divine names.... [Indeed,] it is in the nature of religion to foster an ever closer bond with the Godhead and to promote an increasingly fraternal relationship among people" (John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1992, 2). It is my earnest hope that your country will stand out in the world as a beacon of understanding and mutual respect among all believers. I renew the appeal for dialogue and cooperation that I made when I visited Nigeria: "If we join hands in the name of God we can accomplish much good. We can collaborate in the promotion of justice, peace and development" (John Paul II, Address to the Muslim Religious Leaders in Kaduna, 4 Feb.1982).

Mr Ambassador, may your tenure as your nation’s Representative to the Holy See be a fruitful contribution to building up peace and solidarity in the relations of peoples and nations. I assure you of the cooperation of the various departments of the Holy See. May the blessings of the Most High God be with you and with the beloved Nigerian people.




Friday, 10 January 1992

Mr Ambassador,

I welcome you today to the Vatican and am pleased to accept the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People's Republic of Bangladesh. I take this opportunity to reaffirm my sentiments of esteem and friendship for the Bangladeshi people. Their warm hospitality during my visit to your country some five years ago remains for me a vivid memory, for I came as a "brother... in our common humanity..., our adoration of the One God... and [in] human solidarity" (John Paul II, Address at the International Airport of Dacca, 1, [19 Nov. 1986]) and thus I was received. I thank you for conveying the cordial greetings of His Excellency President Abdur Rahman Biswas, and I ask you to express to him and to the Government and citizens of your nation my prayerful best wishes for their efforts to advance the common good.

The tide of world events in the last few years is radically altering the way in which nations and peoples relate to one another. Insofar as this shift has brought about a lessening of international tensions, the peoples of the world have an unparalleled opportunity to work for development, and especially for the advancement of those nations which do not yet enjoy a proper share of the fruits of creation. Many human resources which, in the context of a world divided into opposing blocs, had previously been devoted to military purposes can now be made available and indeed ought to be used in the cause of progress. And among these, certain moral resources must not be underestimated, such as creative initiative, commitment to education and research, an unshakable resolve to achieve the goal of cooperation and peace, and generous self-sacrifice, to mention but a few. Specifically human goods such as these are most important weapons against underdevelopment (Cf. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 31-32).

Effective international cooperation for development should broaden rather than diminish the scope for developing nations to act freely in determining the appropriate means by which to pursue the common good. Not only does true development demand that each nation grow in self-affirmation; it also requires that individual citizens should be enabled to advance in the responsible exercise of their own personal freedom. Thus the establishment of more participatory and more just political structures, based upon a civil constitution which reflects the natural law and honours human dignity, "is the necessary condition and sure guarantee of the development of 'the whole individual and of all the people'" (John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 44). In the light of this truth about the individual and society, I take particular note of your mention of the efforts of the Bangladeshi people to achieve a more representative and more democratic form of government. I pray that Almighty God will help them to persevere and will crown those efforts with success.

I am pleased that you have referred to the Holy See as a force for the advancement of peace in the world. In her service of the cause of peace, the Church has a role and competence which are distinct from those proper to civil society. This distinctiveness, while precluding any identification of the Church with the political community, in no way lessens the urgency with which she seeks to serve man's personal and social vocation (Cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 76). In fidelity to her proper role of making known to people the path of their eternal destiny as established by the Creator, the Church proclaims the truth of the dignity of the human person and strengthens the solidarity which can lead to effective action for the common good. By the faithful discharge of her stewardship in transcendent matters, she is present in the temporal order, educating consciences to the truths and values which are basic to society's well-being.

Like all good citizens, the Catholics of your nation, in the light of the Gospel, make their own contribution to Bangladeshi society. The fact that they comprise a small minority in no way diminishes their pride in their homeland or their loyalty to her. Rather, their faith leads them to esteem their national heritage as one of God's great natural gifts and inspires them to recognize and respond to the needs of all their fellow-citizens. Among other activities, the Church in Bangladesh is deeply involved in running schools and charitable institutions which help to sustain and advance the dignity of the human person. It is committed to cooperating with all men and women of good will in resisting the threats to the moral health of the nation which come from error about the demands made by the divine law or rejection of these demands. Above all, Bangladeshi Catholics wish to share with their nation a vision of hope. Trusting in the power of the all-merciful God to conquer the evil in human hearts, they seek to inspire new courage in those who are wearied by the struggle against injustice and exploitation and are tempted to despair. God's cause is man's deliverance, and his divine assistance will never be lacking.

Harmony and peace among the followers of different religious traditions is an essential requirement of your country's efforts to meet the challenges with which it is faced. I am particularly hopeful that your national life will ever more clearly reflect what you have said about the tolerance and respect which Muslims of Bangladesh, on the basis of the teachings in the Holy Quran, have for the followers of other faiths. In fact, as I said in my Message for this year's World Day of Peace, good interreligious relations are a fundamental condition and essential aid for the construction of peace. Unless believers of different religions grow in respect for each other through dialogue and reconciliation, the opportunities offered to them to cooperate for the common good will be lost, and the world can ill-afford to forfeit such service to the human family. Without good interreligious relations there is a danger that religion could be degraded into a weapon of hostility and lead to a repetition of "the many painful wounds inflicted over the course of centuries" (John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1992). I renew the appeal that I made when visiting Bangladesh: "We who believe in the almighty power of the Most High God must be convinced that with his help peace and reconciliation are possible. Indeed it is his will that we work together to bring these about" (John Paul II, Address to the Representatives of the Catholic Church, 9, [19 Nov. 1986]).

Mr Ambassador, I express my best wishes for your term of service as your nation's Representative, and I assure you that the offices of the Holy See will give you all possible help as you fulfil your responsibilities. May God abundantly bless you and your fellow-citizens.




Tuesday, 14 January 1992

Signori Cardinali,
Illustri Signori,
Cari Fratelli e Sorelle,

1. Sono lieto di poter compiere oggi la visita a questa mostra dedicata a «Il lavoro dell'uomo nella pittura da Goya a Kandiskij» la quale vuole essere come un coronamento e una meditazione ispirata dall'arte sui grandi temi del lavoro umano che hanno attirato la riflessione della Chiesa durante l'anno da poco trascorso.

Saluto di cuore tutti voi che prendete parte a questo incontro. Esprimo il mio grato pensiero e il mio vivo apprezzamento ai responsabili della Biblioteca Apostolica e alla Società Muse di Bologna che hanno sostenuto e curato la realizzazione di questa interessante iniziativa.

In pari tempo saluto i partecipanti al «Colloquium» organizzato in Vaticano sotto gli auspici del Pontificio Consiglio della Giustizia e della Pace.

Li ringrazio per la presenza, mentre rivolgo un particolare saluto al Signor Mario Conde per l'appoggio offerto.

2. Dear Friends, you are meeting following the publication of the Encyclical "Centesimus Annus" in order to discuss the theme: "After 1991: Capitalism and Ethics". 1991 was, in fact, a year filled with enormous challenges, and it has left in its wake extraordinary expectations. Significantly, it was also the year which marked the centenary of the Encyclical "Rerum Novarum" of Pope Leo XIII.

The present exhibition seeks to illustrate both the artistic context and the social milieu of that time. I trust that both dates, 1891 and 1991, will be sure points of reference for your reflection and your discussions.

Furthermore, the theme of your Colloquium is closely related to various aspects of your own personal and professional lives. All of you have important responsibilities, whether it be in political or academic life or in the world of business and finance.

To view this exhibition is to feel ourselves invited to consider the effects on the daily life of millions of people of two extreme responses to society's need for economic and social organization, two far-reaching aspects of the problem of "Capitalism and Ethics": on the one hand, an unbridled capitalism which puts the quest for power and profit and the cult of an often soulless efficiency above all other considerations; and, on the other hand, the dangerous - and eventually disastrous - illusion that there can be a materialistic, and essentially atheistic, ideological solution to social problems.

I am confident that the lectures and discussions in which you are taking part, with the help of distinguished experts on the Church's social teaching, will enable you to appreciate more fully the firm foundations of this teaching, its profound human dimension and the evangelical spirit which inspires it.

May this exchange of views, taking place at such a high level, prove helpful to all of you as you carry out your responsibilities for the common good.

Once again I offer you a cordial welcome. Upon you and your work I invoke the blessings of Almighty God.



Consistory Hall

Thursday, 23 January 1992

1. This annual meeting with you, the distinguished members of the Tribunal of the Rota, always gives me satisfaction and joy, because it offers me a suitable opportunity for expressing to such an important institution of the Roman Church my esteem and gratitude, as well as my cordial best wishes for the beginning of the new judicial year.

First of all, I thank the Monsignor Dean for his address and I am glad to second the words at the conclusion of his speech, because his elevation to the episcopacy was truly meant not only as an act of esteem and gratitude to him, but also as a proof of my appreciation for the centuries old and illustrious Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

2. The brief account just given by Monsignor Dean regarding the sudden and almost unexpected upheavals which in recent years have taken place throughout the world particularly in Europe where we live, necessarily leads one to pause and reflect on some matters which, in a global vision of the Church’s life today, directly concern the work and the special function (munus specificum) of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

Doubtlessly the concern, which is proper to the universal ministry of Peter’s successor, extends to all the ecclesial problems that these occurrences involve. This was the reason, for example, that compelled me last November to convoke a special assembly of the Synod of Bishops with responsibility for dealing with the problems presented to the Church by the changes which have taken place on the European continent. The same has been true of the other more or less recent meetings with the bishops of particular regions. My attention and that of my brothers in the episcopate has always been meant as a precise and in-depth examination of the contemporary situation, especially with a view to the future, in searching for those pastoral solutions that, based on the certainty of the healing and life-giving power of the redemption accomplished by Christ the Lord, seem to offer a suitable and effective response to pressing spiritual needs.

3. In this search, as in the Church’s uninterrupted tradition and the ceaseless work of this Apostolic See, there is a continual effort to harmonize, on the one hand the supreme demands of God’s unavoidable and immutable law, confirmed and perfected by Christian revelation, and on the other hand the changeable conditions of the humanity, its particular needs, its most acute weaknesses.

Obviously, it is not a matter of modifying the divine law, and still less of bending it to human caprice, because that would mean the very denial of the former and the degradation of the latter. It is rather understanding people of today; placing them in proper harmony with the absolute demands of the divine law; of pointing out the most consistent way of conforming to it. For example, it is exactly what the Church is currently doing, with the participation of the entire community - bishops, priests, laity, cultural institutes, theologians - through the new Catholic catechism, whose purpose is to present the face of Christ to the mind, heart, expectations, and anxieties of humanity, which is about to cross with trepidation the threshold of the year two thousand.

The canonical system is also involved in this demanding and fascinating work of application, taking part, or better, visibly expressing by its very nature the inner soul of that society, at once external but always mystically supernatural, which is the Church. Thus, in the field of law, the revision of the Code of Canon Law was worked out by starting with today’s reality and looking toward a hope-filled future, and I myself had the joy of promulgating it. This text, however, would cease being the tool which it must be for the saving work of the Church, if those responsible did not take care to apply it with diligence. As I stated in the constitution promulgating the Code: “Canonical laws by their very nature demand observance,” for which “it is very much to be hoped that the new canonical legislation will be an effective instrument by the help of which the Church will be able to perfect itself in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, and show itself ever more equal to carry out its salvific role in the world.”

4. However, the application of canon law entails, rather, presupposes its correct interpretation. Here is where we find the principal function of the Rotal dicastery.

Everyone knows that judicial interpretation - in virtue of c. 6, §3 - does not have the force of general law, but obliges only the persons or pertains only to the matters about which the judgment was given. But the judge’s work is no less relevant or essential because of this. If the work of judging consists in bringing the law to bear on reality, and thus of actuating concretely the intention of the abstract norm - limited, however, to the cases brought to judgment - certainly the judge is called to a delicate intermediary task in bringing together the legal system and those governed by it. The abstract majesty of the law - even canon law - would remain a value divorced from concrete reality in which human beings in general and the faithful in particular live and act, if the norm itself were not related to those for whom it has been established.

From this more general point of view one can well understand the essential work reserved to you, judges of the Rota. But there is something more particular and specific which pertains to you, since you are members of an apostolic tribunal, and as such, are called to play a specific role in the Church’s relationship to the world today, as I just mentioned.

Again, precisely in the context of interpreting canon law, particularly where there are, or seem to be, lacunae legis, the new Code - explaining in c. 19 what could be inferred also from the corresponding c. 20 of the preceding legislative text - clearly lays down the principle according to which the jurisprudence and praxis of the Roman Curia take their place among the other supplementary sources. If then we limit the significance of this expression to cases of marriage nullity, it seems evident that, on the level of substantive law, i.e., in deciding the merit of the cases presented, jurisprudence must be understood exclusively as that which emanates from the Tribunal of the Roman Rota. This context, therefore, explains what the constitution Pastor bonus states in attributing to the Rota the responsibility of fostering “unity of jurisprudence, and by virtue of its own decisions provides assistance to lower tribunals” (art. 126).

5. Two demands then are given to your specific office: to safeguard the immutability of the divine law and the stability of the canonical norm and, at the same time, to protect and defend human dignity.

It was precisely his abiding concern to respect and protect the needs of contemporary humankind that guided the canonical legislator in the revision of the Code; in modifying institutions which were no longer appropriate for today’s culture; and in introducing other new ones which guarantee absolutely necessary and irrevocable rights. It is sufficient to recall here the new canonical legislation regarding persons in the Church and, in particular, Christ’s faithful (christifideles), as well as the reform of procedural law, organized in a collection of clearer and more streamlined norms, which above all are more attentive to the proper concern for human dignity.

Moreover, it was precisely the jurisprudence of this tribunal, which - although remaining within the impassable limits of divine natural law - was able to foresee and anticipate certain canonical regulations, e.g., in matrimonial law, which later were included in the present Code. This would not have been possible if the research, attention and sensitivity which were brought to bear on the reality of the human person had not guided and illumined the Rota’s work of jurisprudence. Naturally this was done with the help and the reciprocal influence of canonical science and those humanistic studies based on a correct philosophical and theological anthropology. Thus, through your specific work too, the Church shows the world not only her face as minister of redemption, but also that of teacher of humanity.

Therefore invoking light and strength from God for each of you in this arduous task, I cordially impart to you all - judges, officials and advocates - my apostolic blessing, as a pledge of God’s all-knowing and almighty assistance.




Thursday, 30 January 1992

Your Eminences,

Your Excellency,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am pleased to have this opportunity to meet with the members of the planning committee of the Religious Alliance against Pornography. As an interreligious group composed of representatives of the Jewish, Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Protestant and Mormon communities, you are well–qualified to voice the concerns of an important segment of American society with regard to this grave social problem. Your discussions with the Pontifical Council for the Family help call attention to the urgent need for effective cooperation among all people of good will in opposing pornography and its damaging effects on the lives of individuals, families and society.

2. The proliferation of pornographic literature is only one indication of a broader crisis of moral values affecting contemporary society (Cf. Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Pornography and Violence in the Communications Media: A Pastoral Response, 19-20). Pornography is immoral and ultimately anti–social precisely because it is opposed to the truth about the human person, made in the image and likeness of God (Cf. Gen. Gn 1,26-27). By its very nature, pornography denies the genuine meaning of human sexuality as a Godgiven gift intended to open individuals to love and to sharing in the creative work of God through responsible procreation. By reducing the body to an instrument for the gratification of the senses, pornography frustrates authentic moral growth and undermines the development of mature and healthy relationships. It leads inexorably to the exploitation of individuals, especially those who are most vulnerable, as is so tragically evident in the case of child pornography.

As your Alliance has sought to make clear, the spread of pornography represents a serious threat to society as a whole. The strength of any society is measured by its ability to respect those moral imperatives which are grounded in the objective truth about the transcendent vocation of the human person. When a society exalts "freedom" for its own sake, and grows indifferent to the demands of truth, it ends by severely limiting man’s true freedom–the interior freedom of the spirit. Freedom, once detached from its moral foundations, easily becomes confused with license. The effects of this confusion are unfortunately apparent in many Western societies in an increasing commercialization of sexuality. The production of pornography has become a thriving industry and its diffusion is at times considered a legitimate expression of free speech, with the consequent debasement of individuals, particularly women. The problem, however, is felt no less strongly in developing countries, where the expansion of the pornography industry is a source of concern precisely because it weakens the moral foundations so necessary for the integral development of those societies.

3. I am pleased that your meeting in the Vatican is taking place in conjunction with the Pontifical Council for the Family. The family is usually the first to suffer from pornography and its damaging effects on children. Consequently, as the primary cell of society, the family must be the first champion of the battle against this evil. It is my hope that your efforts to combat the plague of pornography will help families in their delicate task of forming the consciences of the young, instilling in them a deep reverence for sexuality and a mature appreciation of the virtues of modesty and chastity. At the same time, I trust that your work will help to increase public concern about the gravity of the ethical issues posed by pornography, and lead to a clearer awareness of the need for decisive intervention by the authorities charged with the promotion of the common good. Because every attack on the family and its integrity is an attack on the good of humanity (Cf. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio FC 86), it is essential that the rights of families should be clearly acknowledged and safeguarded through appropriate legislation.

4. Dear friends: your meeting is a noteworthy example of religious believers coming together in order to address one of the great social ills of our time. I am convinced that by offering the "unanimous witness of our common convictions regarding the dignity of man, created by God" (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 60), the followers of the various religions, both now and in the future, will contribute in no small measure to the growth of that "civilization of love" which is founded on the principles of an authentic humanism. I encourage your worthy efforts and I cordially invoke upon all of you the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

                                                   February 1992




Monday, 3 February 1992

Dear Friends,

I extend a warm welcome to the students and faculty of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy . In your journey to the Eternal City, you have followed in the steps both of Saint Peter, who was buried on this Vatican Hill, and of Saint Paul, who landed near the Bay of Naples and then made his way to Rome (cf. Acts Ac 28,13-14). May your visit to the cultural and artistic treasures of Rome prove spiritually enriching and deepen your appreciation of the religious faith to which many of them bear eloquent witness.

Your training cruise has brought you across the Atlantic Ocean, which Christopher Columbus crossed five hundred years ago on a heroic voyage of exploration which led to the discovery of America. The commemoration of this great event offers you an opportunity to reflect on the new challenges which your generation will face in a rapidly changing world. In the end, the effectiveness with which you meet those challenges will depend not only on the knowledge and technical skills you have mastered but also on your personal maturity and discipline, your moral integrity and your commitment to working generously with others in pursuit of the common good.

The experience of working together as a team in manning a ship has no doubt convinced you of the importance of these values. Your cruise to Europe has also introduced you to some of the many peoples and cultures which make up our world. These experiences will serve you in good stead as you prepare to assume your responsibilities after graduation. One of the promising signs of our times is a growing appreciation of the unity of the human family and the need for solidarity among all its members. Whatever your eventual plans, I encourage you to be sensitive always to the needs of others, to place their good above your personal interests and to show genuine concern for those less fortunate than yourselves.

I offer all of you my prayerful good wishes as you continue your studies and as the Academy begins its second century of service. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke God's abundant blessings of grace and peace.





Thursday, 6 February 1992

Speeches 1992