5. It sometimes happens in your ministry that you meet resistance to legitimate and authorized changes, or systematic criticism of them. Such an attitude can reflect a lack of understanding of the dynamic nature of the Church’s role and mission in the world, as it is evident, for example, in the Acts of the Apostles, where the early Church’s adaptation to changing circumstances is amply demonstrated. At the same time, many discerning Catholics are disturbed and even scandalized when in their communities they perceive a "failure to distinguish correctly between a legitimate openness... to the world and the acceptance of a secularized world’s mentality and order of values" (1985 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, Final Report, 1, 4). It goes without saying that it falls to the Bishops in the first place to "test everything" and to "hold fast what is good" (Cf. 1Th 5,21), mindful of Saint Paul’s injunction to "preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching" (2Tm 4,2). In this respect I wish to encourage you in the difficult but necessary task which is yours, that of providing effective leadership in order to ensure that the life of the communities entrusted to your pastoral care stand firm in the genuine tradition which has come down to us from the Apostles.
6. As teachers of the faith you have many times spoken out on issues affecting the life of your society. The guidance you have given for example in the defence of life and in areas of social justice, unemployment, housing, race relations and the plight of refugees, has been a stimulus for many to become more active in the public debate of such questions and in efforts to meet the many and varied needs found in a developed society such as your own. It is impossible to mention all the excellent initiatives which have arisen and which receive your support. I am thinking in particular of the many Pro–Life activities in which Catholics, Christians of other denominations, and others of no particular religious allegiance, share a common conviction regarding the inviolable value of human life from the moment of conception to natural death. I could mention the celebration last year in Liverpool of a National Convention to mark the centenary of "Rerum Novarum", and the presentation made by the Catholic Media Office of the Encyclical "Centesimus Annus", as instances which enabled many people to acquire a renewed awareness of how the Church’s social teaching applies to the real problems of society. The Report on Homelessness by your Conference’s Department for Citizenship and Social Responsibility is an example in point. Some areas will continue to call for particularly careful guidance because the difficulties to be found in them are very great: the defence of life, the family, and respect for moral and ethical principles in the application of scientific and technological advances, as well as in the political choices, which determine whether or not socio–economic life effectively serves the well–being of individuals and of the community.
7. There is one further aspect of your ministry to which I would briefly refer. It is the important question of ecumenism and the need to place the difficulties encountered along the path to Christian unity within the general context of changed and much improved ecumenical relations. A number of recent events, including the publication of the Official response to the ARCIC I Final Report, have shown that it is possible to go to the heart of the serious differences between divided Christians and still persevere in a fraternal and progressive dialogue. The significance of the Response lies not only in its furtherance of the theological dialogue, important though this is, but especially in the fact that the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion are speaking to each other at the level of what may be called a truly ecclesial dialogue. It is precisely at this level that, eventually and with God’s grace, substantial moves towards unity of faith and visible ecclesial unity will take place. The question of "ecumenical method" should also be seen in this light. I look forward to the forthcoming visit of His Grace Archbishop Carey as an opportunity to discuss together the course which future discussion on ecumenical relations with the Anglican Communion might take.
Ecumenism of course is not solely a matter for the highest Church authorities. It also involves a dialogue of life at the level of exchanges and cooperation between believers at every level. It is heartening to know that such organizations as Churches Together in England, CYTUN in Wales and the Council of Churches for Britain and Ireland are producing good results. May God continue to inspire all Christians in England and Wales with sentiments of evangelical love, mutual trust and respect for one another, for the sake of an ever more effective witness to God’s word and service of Christ’s saving mission.
8. Dear Brother Bishops, before concluding I wish to thank you very warmly for your fidelity to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and for your deep sense of communion with the universal Church. Ten years have passed since my memorable visit to your country. That time still stands out vividly in my mind. And I still receive many letters from Great Britain, recalling those days of prayerful meeting. Allow me today to repeat a thought I shared with you when we met in Westminster at Archbishop’s House: "With our clergy, religious and laity, and united with one another, let us proclaim the saving and reconciling message of the Gospel, with a deep conviction that–like Jesus and with Jesus–we are not alone. In the collegiality of the Catholic Episcopate let us find renewed strength and vigour to lead God’s people" (John Paul II, Address at the Meeting with the Bishops of Great Britain, 11). May the Spirit confirm you in this consoling thought! With my Apostolic Blessing.
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. The Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications is the happy occasion of our meeting. I gladly welcome you and thank you for putting your professional competence at the service of the Holy See. Through your dedicated efforts, this week has seen the publication of the new Pastoral Instruction on Social Communications "Aetatis Novae", which - we may be confident - is destined to ensure a more effective presence of the Church in the communications media.
The new Instruction is designed to supplement but certainly not to replace the landmark Pastoral Instruction "Communio et Progressio", published two decades ago in response to a request from the Second Vatican Council in its Decree "Inter Mirifica". "Aetatis Novae" is the outcome of lengthy preparations, beginning with a worldwide survey of Episcopal Conferences and Catholic communicators. It offers a mature and extensive reflection by the Church on problems and opportunities in the field of communications at the dawn of a new era, the end of one Millennium and the beginning of another, made all the more significant by the profound changes now taking place in the history of the world's peoples and nations.
The new Document calls upon Dioceses and Episcopal Conferences actively to support a pastoral plan for social communications. It indicates that since every work of the Church is meant to communicate the truth and the love of Jesus Christ there should not only be a pastoral plan for communications but communications should be part of every pastoral plan. In an age so strongly marked by the communications media, it is essential for all involved in the apostolate to become accustomed to incorporating communications strategies into their pastoral planning. This new document offers guidelines for introducing the principles of "Inter Mirifica" and "Communio et Progressio" into such programmes.
2. "Aetatis Novae" is most timely in the particular situation of the world at the present moment. Profound political changes in Central and Eastern Europe have produced new opportunities for bringing the word of God to people prevented from hearing it by decades of atheistic oppression. In Western Europe there is already a long experience of Catholic presence in communications, and occasions for ecumenical and interreligious cooperation are constantly increasing. At the same time attention must be given to presenting programmes which display the genuine face of Catholic life and doctrine, while new developments in communications policies need to be carefully examined.
In Asia and Oceama, satellite technology has literally opened new windows on the world, bringing millions of human beings into contact with all that is good but also with all that is ambiguous or even harmful in the communications media. As regards Africa, the already published guidelines or "lineamenta" for the forthcoming Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Africa contain excellent principles for the use of the communications media in that continent, not only for a more widespread proclamation of the Gospel but also for more effective social, economic and truly human development.
Moreover, this year marks the five hundredth anniversary of the evangelization of the New World. The Christian message was the most precious gift which the early explorers and missionaries brought to the newly discovered continent, and faithful adherence to Christian principles on the part of all Catholics in the Americas would be a most appropriate way of expressing gratitude for that gift. The creative use of the media is essential not only for a deeper appreciation of the faith among those who already profess it, but also for an effective presentation and explanation of the Gospel to those who seek to understand better the beliefs of their Catholic brothers and sisters and perhaps even to accept that faith. Properly used, the communications media - in the New World and in the Old - can be powerful instruments of justice and peace. They can be employed to promote respect for the human rights of all persons - rich and poor, young and old, sick and healthy, powerful and powerless - and to remind individuals of their responsibilities to God and neighbour.
3. It is most appropriate to consider how all people, but especially the followers of Christ can be taught to be intelligent users of the media - able to distinguish the true from the false, the helpful from the harmful, the enriching from the demeaning. It is also appropriate to consider how young people can be trained to be effective workers in the media, with not only technical knowledge but also that spiritual and intellectual expertise which ensures both professional presentation and worthy content.
In my Message for this year's World Day of Social Communications I have urged Catholics to be more zealous in the use of the media for the proclamation of the Gospel. For centuries, the Church has been the patron of artists who have created masterpieces of literature, painting, sculpture and architecture in order to reflect the glory of God and to enrich the patrimony of civilization. Many of the artists who shape the ideals and values of the world today work in the communications media. The Church must understand them and encourage them, but she must also challenge them to articulate lofty ideals and present inspiring themes, capable of bringing the Christian message of liberation and hope to bear on the fears and anxieties of so many contemporary men and women, andofincreasing people's awareness of the moral principles on which life must be built. It is important for media personalities to be men and women of integrity and of sound moral character - men and women worthy of the respect which is paid them and of the trust which is given them. In short, the world should be enriched by their skill and artistry, but also by their goodness.
4. These and other matters have been the subject of your reflections during these days of your Assembly and will continue to occupy you in the future. With a prayer that your work in and for the communications media will contribute to the spread of the Gospel and to the promotion of unity, justice and peace, I invoke God's abundant gifts upon you and your loved ones. With my Apostolic Blessing.
Thursday, 26 March 1992
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. I am very pleased today to welcome you, the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Liverpool, on the occasion of your ad Limina visit. The source of my joy in meeting you is the Apostolic ministry we share and the thought of the profound Christian life and vitality of the Churches over which you preside. I greet you with the words of Saint Paul: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Ph 1,2). Just as Saint Paul shared with the brethren at Philippi a "partnership in the gospel" (Ibid., 1:5), so are we, as successors of the Apostles, united in the marvellous call and consecration given us by the Lord to be servants of the Good News of salvation. With gratitude to Archbishop Worlock for his kind words and for the sentiments he expressed on your behalf, I assure you that I remember you daily in my prayers and concern for the Church.
2. Last week I shared with the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Westminster, Southwark and Birmingham some reflections on the various challenges facing you in your episcopal ministry. In particular I referred to the need for the Catholic community to grow strong in faith and to understand more clearly the implications of that faith in order to "make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you" (1P 3,15). And not just to "make a defence", but to show forth the full truth and power of the Gospel message of salvation in Christ to a society in need of light and encouragement. This morning I wish to refer to one particular aspect of that challenge, as it affects your responsibility to be teachers and educators in the faith.
In this great task you are sustained by the special consecration received through the Holy Spirit at the moment of episcopal ordination. With this same assistance of the Holy Spirit down the centuries your forebears upheld an ecclesial tradition justly renowned for the great and holy Bishops who have been outstanding teachers of the English people. Likewise, the Holy Spirit has been at work in your nation through the labours of countless priests, Religious and lay faithful who built up a Catholic identity which must not be lost or diminished, for it reflects a fundamental fidelity to the apostolic and universal communion which has its visible head in the Successor of Peter (Cf. Lumen Gentium LG 18). A concrete development of this ecclesial vigour is the system of Catholic schools and colleges in your local Churches, through which you exercise in part your responsibilities as guardians of the faith, charged with passing on what you yourselves have received (Cf. 1Co 15,3).
3. When I spoke to members of your Episcopal Conference on a previous occasion about your Catholic schools (John Paul II, Address to the Bishops of Westminster on their ad Limina Visit, 29 Feb. 1988) many of you were in the process of reorganizing them. Making the adjustments necessary to ensure that your schools continue to make their essential contribution to the common good of God’s People was a task requiring prudent and diligent effort. It continues to involve you, as well as parents, teachers and school authorities, in difficult choices and exacting reforms. What is fundamental is that there should be no lack of commitment or generosity. This is all the more important because in Great Britain you and your brother Bishops have entrusted to the schools such a significant role in the process of educating children and adolescents in the faith.
4. In our age, marked as it is with a certain confusion about the nature and purpose of education – a confusion which, quite logically, follows from conflicting understandings of the human person and of life’s meaning and final end – it is indispensable to articulate clearly the goals of Catholic education and, for Bishops, to offer energetic leadership in seeking the cooperation of all those involved in achieving those goals.
In explaining to the faithful of your Dioceses the aim of Catholic education, you will be sharing with them part of the manifold riches of the Second Vatican Council. It is not necessary to repeat here all that the Council’s Declaration on Christian Education says in this respect (Cf. Gravissimum Educationis GE 1-2). In essence, Catholic schools must aim at bringing their pupils to that human and Christian maturity which will enable them to fulfil their calling in the Church and contribute to the common good of society. Preparing pupils to live upright lives in this world and to be worthy of the Kingdom of God, of which the Church on earth is "the initial budding forth" (Lumen Gentium LG 5), are two facets of a single objective: namely, to help them to know, love and follow Christ, true God and true man, who is the truth of God and the truth about man (Cf. John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis RH 8).
5. It is appropriate to speak of religious education as "the core of the core curriculum". Religious education in Catholic schools refers to the integral education of the pupils, both through the religious dimension of the school as a whole and through the specific programme of religious studies which it provides. This religious education is broader than catechesis, but it must also include catechesis, since a principal goal of the Catholic school must be to hand on the faith. The Gospel is the living centre which must animate and shape all that is said and done in the school. In such an environment, the pupils will be able to find the true inspiration and freedom which alone will encourage them to set out wholeheartedly on the path of service of God and neighbour.
In catechesis, making use of the pupils’ experience as a point of departure cannot be set in opposition to the handing on of the Church’s doctrinal tradition, for, as I pointed out in "Catechesi Tradendae", "no one can arrive at the whole truth on the basis solely of some simple private experience, that is to say without an adequate explanation of the meaning of Christ..." (John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae CTR 22). A clear and courageous proclamation of Jesus Christ as the one in whose name alone we are saved (Cf. Acts Ac 4,12) is required. This is not to imply that pupils who do not share the Catholic profession of faith cannot have a place in your schools. Their parents send them to these schools knowing the religious ethos to which they will be exposed and confident that the integrity of their children’s consciences will be respected. This respect, however, should not alter the fundamental nature of the school’s Catholic identity.
6. I wish to encourage you in your efforts to review religious education materials in order to see that they are based on principles of sound catechesis. As the consultation of the world’s Bishops regarding the Universal Catechism has amply shown, there is a widely felt need in the Church for a catechesis which is theologically sound and pedagogically appropriate, one which will provide pupils with a complete and systematic presentation of the doctrine of the Church as it is authentically taught by her Magisterium, while also ensuring that they are never without opportunities to make this inheritance their own. Only in this way will pupils have that education in the faith which they need and which their parents rightly expect. In this respect I am confident that the Universal Catechism which is shortly to be published will be seen as a further gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church, a concrete expression of that extraordinary grace which was the Second Vatican Council.
As pastors you are well aware that it is the teacher’s heart and soul which animates any religious text or programme. It is the teacher who transforms the syllabus from a dead letter into a living experience of learning the faith. Great is the responsibility of religious educators in Catholic classrooms and in other teaching situations! As you give thanks to God for the competence and dedication of the thousands of teachers who make your schools the excellent education centres that they are, you know that you must have teachers whose hearts and souls are shaped by the Spirit of Christ, teachers who think with the mind of the Church, teachers who look upon and love their pupils as part of the flock of Christ.
7. To those who question the continuation of a distinct Catholic school system, the Catholics of England must not fail to respond with clear and well–founded arguments, in order to raise the level of debate about education, to explain the Catholic point of view and to insist on the preservation of your schools as part of the exercise of religious liberty. While the cost of maintaining these schools is high, it must be recognized that they provide an incalculable service to the common good. In them, pupils learn to evaluate the affairs of the nation and the world in the light of that moral law which is the foundation of civic peace. They are taught that in playing out their particular roles in society they should act justly, temperately and courageously. The Catholic school is a witness to the truth that genuine education seeks to do more than simply impart knowledge, or train people to perform an economically productive task. All education worthy of the name seeks to bring forth as it were a full person, a person in whom moral excellence is no less developed than are theoretical or productive abilities.
8. Dear Brother Bishops, with these thoughts I have wished to be close to you in your ministry to God’s people. I also wish to thank you and your clergy, Religious and lay faithful for your zealous service of Christ and his Church. Down the centuries, the Church in your land has been enriched with an abundance of God’s grace, not the least of which is the example of so many martyrs who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, lived to the very end the mystery of Christ’s Passover. Now, no less than in the past, the call to holiness must be the chief concern of all the Church’s members. It is the testimony of obedience to our Heavenly Father, filled with evangelical love, which speaks most strongly to a world in need of reconciliation with God and peace among men and nations.
The Church in England can rightly take pride in being "the dowry of Mary". Through the prayers of Our Lady of Ransom may all the Catholics of your country continue to "hold to the Catholic faith, remain devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary and obedient to Peter" (Collecta "Memorial of Our Lady of Ransom"). To you and to all those entrusted to your pastoral care I impart my Apostolic Blessing, as a pledge of abundant divine strength and love.
Thursday, 26 March 1992
"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Ep 1,2). With these words of the Apostle Paul, I extend a cordial welcome to the President and members of the World Methodist Council.
I am pleased to note that this year marks the twenty–fifth anniversary of the international dialogue between the Catholic Church and the World Methodist Council. Our meeting today provides us with a welcome opportunity to give thanks to God for the evident fruits of this dialogue, carried on with patience and dedication by the members of the Catholic–Methodist International Commission. It likewise invites us to renew our commitment to continuing dialogue and cooperation in the service of the Gospel.
Although the path towards agreement in faith is long and at times arduous, we know that by undertaking it we are acting in obedience to the will of Christ himself. While remaining acutely aware that the full restoration of visible unity among Christians can only be sought as a gift of God’s grace, we can nonetheless rejoice that our "efforts towards unity are themselves a sign of the work of reconciliation which God is bringing about in our midst" (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 50).
In this regard, I express my confidence that the theological dialogues and official contacts taking place between Catholics and Methodists on the international level will be increasingly accompanied by a deep desire on the part of individual believers and local communities to support each other in bearing witness to their faith in Christ. An "ardour for holiness" on the part of all Christians is an essential requirement of Christian mission in our day (Cf. ibid., 90). Such a concern for holiness has been a significant part of the spiritual tradition of both Catholics and Methodists. Authentic Christian holiness will always remain first and foremost a gift of God, who in baptism has freed us from our sins, made us his children in Christ and called us to worship him in spirit and truth in the communion of the Church. We may be confident that the effort to live in fidelity to this gift will involve its own ecumenical dynamism, for, as the Second Vatican Council observed, the more Christians strive to live holier lives according to the Gospel, "the better will they be able to further the unity of Christians and put it into practice. For the closer their union with the Father, the Word and the Spirit, the more deeply and easily will they be able to grow in mutual love" (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 7).
Because the growth of Christians in unity of faith and love is awakened and sustained by the Holy Spirit, let us join in praying that our efforts to promote this unity will always be guided by him who is the Spirit of truth and the inspiration of the Church’s mission in the world. It is the Spirit whose "fruits" (Cf. Ga 5,22-23) are evident both in the moral lives of all who belong to Christ Jesus and in the life of the Church herself. It is he who gives us an ever more manifest sharing in the Trinitarian communion which Christ prayed would be the visible sign of his disciples’ fidelity (Cf. Jn. Jn 17,21). The more deeply we seek to understand and live the mystery of the Church, the more we will appreciate the Holy Spirit as "the one who points out the ways leading to the union of Christians, indeed as the supreme source of this unity, which comes from God himself" (John Paul II, Dominum et Vivificantem DEV 2).
With hope and confidence that relations between the Catholic Church and the World Methodist Council will go on to produce ever more positive fruits of understanding and cooperation, I pray that your visit here today may be a valid sign of our common desire and determination to "hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Ap 3,13).
God bless you abundantly.
Thursday, 23 April 1992
Dear President Brakemeier,
1. I am pleased to welcome you and the delegates of the Lutheran World Federation on your visit to the Vatican today. Four years ago, when I met the former President of your Federation, Landesbischof Johannes Hanselmann, I noted with gratitude to Almighty God that in the years since the Second Vatican Council Lutherans and Catholics have made much progress in overcoming the barriers of separation between us and in strengthening bonds of unity, through both theological dialogue and practical cooperation. I remain confident that our patient efforts will continue to bear fruit for the full unity of all who put their faith in the Risen Lord and have received new birth through water and the Holy Spirit (Cf. Jn. Jn 3,5).
The Church’s commitment to work for Christian unity is derived in the first place from her obedience to the will of the Lord, who on the night before he died prayed that all his disciples would be one (Cf. ibid., 17:21). As a gift of the Holy Spirit, the unity of Christ’s Church is meant to be the sign and pledge of that deeper reconciliation in Christ which is the sovereign work of God’s grace and which transcends all human efforts and initiatives. The goal of full unity between Christians will come about according to God’s providential designs, for he is the Lord of History. What he demands of us is a constant determination to respond to the urgings of his unfailing grace. We recognize that our meeting today, representing a significant step on this ecumenical pilgrimage, is a gift of God to us. I pray that it will strengthen our commitment to press forward, confident that the hope which his Spirit inspires will not leave us disappointed (Cf. Rom. Rm 5,5).
2. This year marks the twenty–fifth anniversary of the Lutheran Catholic dialogue, and it is appropriate that today we should recall with gratitude the significant results which it has yielded. Through its examination of such vitally important questions as justification and the nature and mission of the Church, I am confident that this dialogue will make a lasting contribution to our progress towards unity in the apostolic faith. Since the two issues I have mentioned are so closely linked to the authentic proclamation of the Gospel, and since disagreements about them at the time of the Reformation were decisive in bringing about the sad divisions which still exist, it is all the more essential that they should be studied patiently and in a spirit of fidelity to the Word which the Father has spoken to us "in these last days" (He 1,2).
In this regard, I would express my conviction that ecumenical dialogue must strive for an ever deeper understanding of the mystery of our salvation, accomplished through the Incarnation, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Within this perspective, theological dialogue will become a source of mutual enrichment and will certainly lead to that growth in the truth which the Lord promised as the work of his Holy Spirit (Cf. Jn. Jn 16,13). We would all agree that attainment of Christian unity can never be the result of masking differences or searching for some lowest common denominator acceptable to all. Indeed, "our efforts will only be fruitful to the extent that we discover and accept together the full authentic heritage of faith given by Christ through his Apostles" (John Paul II, Address at the Ecumenical Prayer Service in Uppsala [9 June 1989], 4).
3. It is also a source of encouragement that the many theological discussions, official contacts and other common projects taking place between Catholics and Lutherans have been conducted in a climate of increased fraternal charity. Among the events of recent years which have contributed to this more positive atmosphere, I recall with gratitude my visit to the Nordic Countries, an important part of which was devoted to ecumenical meetings and prayer services. Nor can I fail to mention the commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the canonization of Saint Birgitta of Sweden, when Lutheran and Catholic Bishops joined me at Solemn Vespers in Saint Peter’s Basilica. The outstanding holiness of that great woman, whose witness of love for Christ and the Church makes her a "fulcrum of unity" (John Paul II, Homily at the Ecumenical Prayer Service for the Sixth Centenary of the Canonization of Saint Birgitta of Sweeden [5 Oct. 1991]) between the separated Christians of Europe, can serve as a model for all believers and inspire a renewed commitment to our unity for the sake of the Gospel.
4. Distinguished friends: a few days ago we celebrated Christ’s victory over sin and death. The One who has the power to defeat death is also able to overcome the divisions between his followers. With trust in the reconciling love of Him whose "power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think" (Ep 3,20), I express my hope that relations between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation will lead to ever greater understanding and more dedicated service of the Gospel among all who confess that "Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Ph 2,11). May the peace of the Risen Lord be with you all.