Speeches 1992




Hall of the Throne

Tuesday, 5 May 1992

Dear Friends,

I am happy today to greet the members of the Board of Directors of the Gregorian Foundation.It is my hope that your visit in Rome, to which Saints Peter and Paul brought the Gospel of Christ and which has been built up in the faith by so many other holy men and women down the ages, will be for you a time of spiritual renewal.

Your efforts on behalf of the Pontifical Gregorian University, the Pontifical Biblical Institute and the Pontifical Oriental Institute greatly assist these ecclesiastical faculties in fulfilling their mission of deepening the understanding of Divine Revelation and exploring the patrimony of the Church’s wisdom, so that the men and women of this age may make this inheritance their own (Cf. Gravissimum Educationis GE 11). Your support of these institutions, which trace their existence back to the Collegio Romano founded by Saint Ignatius Loyola and Saint Francis Borgia in 1553, means that in a sense you are present–day co–workers of those great priests of the Society of Jesus in the apostolic work which the Holy Spirit moved them to undertake for the greater glory of God. In these centres of learning professors and students gather from all parts of the world to serve the Church through their study and research, and so in a very practical way you, their benefactors, share in spreading the Light of Christ’s truth to every corner of the globe.

I pray that God will reward you for your generosity, and I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.



Consistory Hall

Thursday, 7 May 1992

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to greet the participants in the Columbus Voyage Trip to Italy, sponsored by the Columbus 500th Anniversary Committee of Philadelphia. This visit, marking the beginning of your city’s celebration of the Columbian Year, aims at fostering an increased awareness of the importance of the discovery of America, an event which opened a new chapter in the history of the human family and led to the birth of new peoples and cultures.

The Church recalls with gratitude the spiritual significance of the discovery of the New World, principally the proclamation of the Gospel to the peoples of that Continent. From the seed planted by the first missionaries, the Christian message has taken root in the Americas, has grown and has brought forth an abundant harvest of faith, holiness and generous service to others. Today it is particularly fitting to recall the many generations of Italian Americans who as dedicated lay people or as priests and Religious have contributed to the growth of the Church and the accomplishment of her mission in your own country.

May your celebration of this Columbian Year give you a deeper appreciation of the faith and spiritual vision which inspired your forebears. May it lead to a renewed commitment to continue the work of building a society which fully respects the dignity of every human being made in the image and likeness of God.

Upon all of you I willingly invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.




Consistory Hall

Saturday, 9 May 1992

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am pleased to welcome to the Vatican the "World Jurist Association of the World Peace through Law Center" on the occasion of World Law Day. For thirty–five years, your Association has been committed to the establishment of international peace through the development of structures capable of protecting rights and resolving conflicts through the rule of law. I assure you of the Church’s great interest in your work and of her appreciation for your dedicated efforts to promote the cause of justice in international life. Concretely, the Holy See has been close to your endeavours by being represented at your assemblies and hopes that a more fruitful collaboration can be fostered in the future.

In our time, the human family has become increasingly aware of its interdependence, and has witnessed the providential rise of a deepened sense of solidarity between peoples and a greater concern for the welfare of all peoples and of every individual (Cf. John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 38). Organizations like your own reflect this growing awareness of a moral imperative of solidarity and play an important role in translating it into effective action.

2. Because, as the Scriptures observe, peace is always the work of justice (Cf. Is. Is 32,17), efforts to attain lasting peace in the world must be linked to the patient and persistent defence of fundamental human rights. Among the primary aims of law must be to ensure that each person receives his due, at every level of social life. The recognition that the human person is by nature the subject of certain rights which no individual, group or State may violate represents a significant juridical achievement and must be considered an essential principle of international law. In the face of every attempt to deny or modify this truth, I express my hope that your Association will work to develop ever more sound and convincing arguments for the existence of these inviolable rights, to uphold them wherever they are threatened, and to urge the establishment of more effective instances for their defence.

3. As I wrote in the Encyclical "Centesimus Annus", "If there is no transcendent truth, in obedience to which man achieves his full identity, then there is no sure principle for guaranteeing just relations between people" (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 44). Your efforts to lay secure foundations for world peace through law must convince you of the need to respect the demands of truth, especially the truth about man himself, in the workings of any legal system.Indeed, as I said to your Association on another occasion, "the whole history of law shows that law loses its stability and its moral authority... whenever it ceases to search for the truth concerning man" (Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, II, 2 (1979) 367). The tragic consequences of disregard for truth have been especially evident in our own century, in regimes which have sought systematically to suppress the truth, presuming to deprive people of their inalienable rights in the name of some higher justice, or showing a readiness to sacrifice the rights of individuals to the rights of the State and its programmes. But such consequences are also apparent today in a dangerous moral relativism which would lead some to view the common good of society as merely a sum of particular interests, and to consider profound ethical issues in narrow partisan terms, to be resolved by an appeal to public opinion or electoral advantage.

4. The role of religion in enlightening consciences regarding the spiritual and transcendent nature of human life cannot be ignored or underestimated. Indeed, in any consideration of fundamental human rights, a primary place must always be accorded to freedom of religion, which is in a sense their "source and synthesis" (John Paul II , Centesimus Annus CA 47), inasmuch as it involves the right of each individual to seek the truth in accordance with his conscience and to live in conformity with that truth, in a spirit of respect and tolerance for others. This moment of history is marked on the one hand by the liberation of whole peoples from oppression and on the other by the unfortunate resurgence of old hostilities between certain ethnic and religious groups. There is an urgent need to strengthen, within an internationally recognized legal order, the juridical means to protect the rights of individuals and groups, including the right to freedom of religion, and to foster respect for the significant contribution which believers can make to the building of a peaceful society.

5. Dear friends: in your efforts to lay the groundwork for a more effective juridical organization of the international community, I invite you once more to consider the importance of respecting and duly safeguarding those moral and spiritual truths necessary for an adequate defence of the dignity and freedom of individuals, peoples and nations. I pray that the work of your Association will continue to advance the growth of a juridical culture worthy of humanity. I hope that it will contribute to the establishment of that "civilization of love" in which each human being is able to enjoy the respect, freedom and peace needed to respond to his lofty calling. Upon all of you I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.




Monday, 11 May 1992

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

1. With intense joy I welcome you, the Bishops of Uganda, on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum. I have looked forward to this meeting, for you and the Churches entrusted to your care are frequently in my prayer.

I am grateful to you, Archbishop Wamala, for the kind words offered in the name of all. In being with you today, I draw ever closer in bonds of affection to the priests, men and women religious, and lay faithful of your Dioceses. Assure them that the sufferings of their nation are close to the heart of the Successor of Peter, and that he is one with them in the peace of Christ, whose victory over sin and death the Church solemnly celebrates during this Easter season.

Since your Conference’s last visit in 1988, the new Dioceses of Kasese and Kotido have been established, and this is a sign that the Church of God is taking ever firmer root among you. For this we give thanks to our heavenly Father who cares lovingly for all his children.

Your visit brings to mind Cardinal Nsubuga and the others of our brethren who have completed their pilgrim journey on earth. I also remember the missionaries and your own Ugandan faithful who have lost their lives in the violence which has beset your nation.

I join with you in praying that the Good Shepherd will welcome them all into his glorious peace.

2. In considering your weighty responsibilities for the care of God’s people, I am particularly aware of the trials and hardships which have hindered your episcopal ministry. The restoration of civic order to many parts of Uganda has not yet led to a full healing of the painful memories of strife and violence. And in some areas the people have not yet been able to put behind them the suffering and insecurity resulting from the activities of hostile forces.

I know that you and your predecessors have made it your concern to call to account those who violate the human dignity of their fellow citizens. In this way the Church shows the depths of her evangelical fidelity to Christ, the Prince of Peace, who taught us to love both friend and foe. You have shown love for those who are innocent victims by speaking in their defence. Those who have sinned against justice you have called back to the path which will lead to reconciliation with God and neighbour. Zeal for teaching and defending the moral order established by the Creator has been the foundation of all your efforts to educate your flock about the rights of all persons, especially women, children, refugees and the disadvantaged.

Given your role as authentic teachers of the Church’s social doctrine, particular mention should be made of your contribution to the process of preparing a new Constitution for your country. In your Collective Pastoral Letter and your lengthy Memorandum on this matter, you rightly seek to illuminate the contemporary realities of Ugandan society by the wisdom of God, and you call upon the faithful to play an active and responsible part in bringing this important undertaking to completion. Here, as in all phases of civic life, it belongs specifically to the laity to direct the course of events in the temporal order through political action. Bishops and priests are always ready to assist them in this task, especially through the formation of Christian consciences, but Pastors will never want to usurp the role of the lay faithful to work for the common good in a spirit of service (Cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 76 John Paul II, Christifideles Laici CL 42).

3. In reviewing your quinquennial reports, I note that initiatives for social and economic development have not been able to keep pace with the needs of the Ugandan people. While the greatest responsibility for improving this situation lies with Ugandans themselves, I have often appealed to the international community to give effective help. I will continue to insist on the claim which the peoples of Africa make upon the solidarity of their more fortunate brothers and sisters, so that every human being will gain a proper share in the benefits of creation.

The Uganda Episcopal Conference has indicated that one of the pressing social concerns requiring a concerted response from the Christian community is the assistance needed by refugees in the North and in the South of your country. I encourage you to seek ways of providing pastoral care to these brothers and sisters crying out for human and spiritual solidarity. Generosity to strangers who find themselves homeless in a foreign land is always a remarkable expression of authentic Christian love, for charity which reaches out beyond the bounds of one’s own family or race, tribe or nation–until it even encompasses one’s enemies (Cf. Mt 5,44) – is the law of the New Covenant and the sign of the new creation.

4. A second and even more dramatic challenge facing the Church in Uganda is the AIDS epidemic. The data clearly indicate the gravity of the crisis, a crisis touching not only those individuals who are bearers of the virus but also the communities to which they belong.

Here one must keep foremost in mind the children, spouses and other family members of those affected. Everything that the Church in Uganda has already done and is pledged to do in response, as you outlined in your Pastoral Letter on this matter, is a means for the Spirit of Christ to make present in the world the victory over sin and death won for us by the Cross.

In the struggle against this disease it is the special duty of the Church’s Bishops to point out that every act aimed at prevention or care must be based on a clear understanding of man’s true dignity and transcendent destiny. On the one hand, you must encourage a way of life imbued with a love which transcends self and is capable of much self–sacrifice. On the other hand, the care to be given to those suffering from AIDS and HIV is an expression of the solidarity which binds the members of God’s family to the sick (Cf. John Paul II, Address at the International Conference of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, 15 November1989). Just as Mary stood at the foot of the Cross to share in her Son’s agony, so the Church stands with those who are affected by AIDS. In the loving solicitude of the Pastors and lay faithful who care for the sick and visit them, the Church breaks through the isolation so often experienced by those who suffer. In the Gospel of hope and love which Christians proclaim by their words and even more eloquently by their deeds, the sick are enabled to discover the deepest meaning of their sufferings in union with the mystery of Calvary and to recognize that in the Risen Christ they are led to be no longer "victims" but rather victors over the forces of sin and evil.

5. The interval since your last ad Limina visit has seen the publication of my Encyclical Letter "Redemptoris Missio", in which I invite the Church to renew her missionary commitment (Cf. John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 2). It is my hope that you and your co–workers have found in this reflection on the Church’s mission ad gentes a confirmation of your many efforts to answer the call of the Second Vatican Council to "spread to all parts of the world the kingdom of Christ... and... prepare the way for his coming" (Ad Gentes AGD 1). The fact that a significant portion of the Ugandan population has not yet heard the Gospel, and the rapid increase in the number of young people, are indications that the Lord’s injunction to go and preach (Cf. Mk. Mc 16,15) has lost none of its urgency in your land.

Six years ago in your Pastoral Letter entitled With a New Heart and a New Spirit, you noted the urgency of missionary activity aimed at young people and the religious formation of children and young adults. I earnestly pray that God will strengthen you in this important service. The religious instruction of children and young people in the schools and in the parishes is a crucial element of the pastoral care which they receive from the Church, and so every effort which you make to ensure the completeness and effectiveness of catechesis by improving the quality of instruction and the training of teachers is to be commended. I ask you to give the assurance of my gratitude to the Religious and catechists engaged in this vital task.

Another great area of concern for the Church in Uganda is the pastoral care of families. I share your distress when you see how many of your flock are prevented from full participation in the Eucharist because their marital situation falls short of Christ’s expectations for his followers, and when you observe how deficiencies in family life harm both the Church and society. I am confident that you will continue to do all in your power to promote initiatives which support Christian husbands and wives in their vocation and which uphold faithful and permanent monogamous marriage as the foundation of family life.

6. God has given you the members of your presbyterate to be your chief co–workers in fulfilling your duties as Pastors. The strong commitment of the Uganda Episcopal Conference to the permanent formation of priests is a clear recognition of this fact. Institutions such as the National Diocesan Clergy Renewal Centre are meant to help priests "rekindle the gift of God which is within them" (Cf. 2Tm 1,6) and sustain them in a process of continual conversion. In this deepening of the priests’ identification with Christ the High Priest, nothing can ever replace the personal role which you play. May you always communicate to your priests a share of your own zeal for bringing hearts to Christ. Support your priests in their resolve to be faithful. Bind them ever closer to yourselves by the fraternal and fatherly solicitude which you show for them, especially in the first years after ordination.

You have been particularly blessed by God with an abundance of candidates for the priesthood and for the religious life. As a result, the rapid increase in the number of seminarians is straining the seminary resources currently available. In any project for expanding facilities a major concern must be to ensure that there will be a sufficient number of exemplary priests, well prepared for their responsibilities in priestly formation, to staff these institutions. The fact that the Uganda Episcopal Conference holds a second Plenary Assembly each year especially for the purpose of reviewing your seminaries speaks eloquently of your serious concern to improve these programmes of priestly training. I entrust to you the latest Post–Synodal Exhortation, "Pastores Dabo Vobis". I hope that, together with the Congregation for Evangelization’s "Guidelines on Formation in Major Seminaries" and all the other relevant conciliar and post–conciliar documents, it will help you to achieve this goal.

Men and women religious, whose witness and activities are so significant in your Dioceses, likewise have a special claim on your pastoral care. The voice of the shepherd should encourage them to lead exemplary lives of chastity, poverty and obedience, all signs of the supernatural charity which binds them in communities which should transcend any factionalism and be marked by integrity of life. The Superiors of these Religious Communities especially need the Bishop’s support in developing sound formation programmes and in providing their members with the assistance – both material and spiritual – which they need in order to remain faithful to their call from Christ.

7. Dear Brothers: it is my hope that during this pilgrimage to Rome the Holy Spirit will stir up in you the grace which you received through the laying on of hands. God has made you fellow workers with Peter and has sent you to preach like Paul. At the altars built upon their tombs you present your good works and your resolutions to serve Christ’s family faithfully. Have no fear, for from all your endeavours God will bring forth abundant fruit. For my part I commend you and all those entrusted to your pastoral care to the loving protection of Mary, Mother of the Church, and to the intercession of your Martyrs Saint Charles Lwanga and his Companions. In the love of Christ I impart my Apostolic Blessing.




Hall of Popes

Thursday, 14 May 1992

Dear Friends,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you, representatives of the United Bible Societies who are meeting this week at Castelgandolfo. I greet your Secretary General, the Reverend Doctor John Erickson, those of you whom I have met on other occasions and those who are here for the first time. The presence of the Catholic Biblical Federation with its President Bishop Alberto Ablondi, together with representatives of the Italian Biblical Association, speaks of the close links of cooperation which already unite you in your biblical work.

During these days, Christians everywhere are rejoicing in the Lord’s triumph over death. Like Saint Matthias, whose feastday it is today, we are called to be "witnesses to his Resurrection" (Ac 1,22) in a world thirsting for that authentic happiness which is the fruit of salvation in Christ Jesus. Our faith in Christ urges us to do all we can to work together in bearing witness to the word of God entrusted by the Spirit to the Church. The fact that full and perfect communion does not yet exist among Christians should be a constant impetus to personal conversion and to fervent prayer that our persistent efforts may be crowned by the gift of unity.

Many and priceless are the spiritual treasures which we share. Among them the Holy Scriptures occupy an eminent place. The Second Vatican Council recalled that the word of God written down in the Sacred Books is a "precious instrument in the mighty hand of God for attaining to that unity which the Saviour holds out to all" (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 21). The efforts of the United Bible Societies to spread knowledge of the Scriptures are therefore a significant contribution to the ecumenical cause. This great task and the need for a renewed evangelization of humanity as we approach the Third Christian Millennium are inseparable aspects of our duty to be faithful and humble messengers of the word of God.

The success you have had in publishing a large number of interconfessional translations constitutes a profound reason for giving thanks to God. Much good will come from your attempts to provide easier access to the Bible, because in the Sacred Books the Heavenly Father meets his children and he speaks to us of his mercy and forgiveness (Cf. Dei Verbum DV 21). He invites us to turn away from the works of darkness and welcomes us into the Kingdom of light and peace, where we will have life forever.

It is my hope that in the midst of the toil involved in sowing the seed of the word of God today you will experience that joy proclaimed by the Prophet Isaiah: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace, who brings good tidings of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’ " (Is 52,7). In this season of Resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit may you be blessed by the Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!




Consistory Hall

Friday, 22 May 1992

Dear Friends,

1. I am pleased to welcome to the Vatican the members of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland on the occasion of your Thirty-fifth Annual Conference. You have wished to hold your meeting this year in Rome in order to express your closeness to the See of Peter, aware as you are of the fundamentally ecclesial nature of the various services which you provide in your work as canonists. I greet you all with affection in the Lord and I thank you for your committed and enlightened efforts to serve the Church through the study and application of her law.

In the thirty-five years since its foundation, your Society has sought to promote the study of Canon Law in both its theoretical aspects and its practical applications. By placing your scholarship and pastoral experience at the service of God’s People, you have contributed notably to the renewal of ecclesial life mandated by the Second Vatican Council, and in particular to the revision of the Code of Canon Law. You have also been concerned to make the Church’s law more accessible through the publication of a translation of the 1983 Code and the preparation of a commentary for the use of students, parish ministers, members of Religious Institutes and interested laity.

2. Among the most significant aspects of the renewal of Canon Law in the period since the Council has been a growing concern that the letter and spirit of canonical legislation should reflect ever more fully the distinct nature of the Church as the sacrament of union with God and the unity of the whole human race (Cf. Lumen Gentium LG 1). The Council, while recalling Christ’s establishment of the Church as a visible society, insisted that the reality of this earthly society, endowed with hierarchical structures, may not be separated from her reality as a spiritual and heavenly community of faith, hope and love, the Mystical Body of Christ (Cf. ibid. 8). Because the Church’s social structure stands at the service of a deeper mystery of grace and communion, Canon Law – precisely as the law of the Church, ius Ecclesiae – must be acknowledged as unique in its means and in its ends. The canonical tradition was of course quite aware of the peculiar nature of the Church’s legal discipline, as is evident from the history of such institutions as dispensation and canonical custom, and the development of the concept of "canonical equity". Nevertheless, as the history of your science demonstrates, canonical theory and practice always need to be informed by a sound ecclesiological understanding, and efforts must always be made to avoid any undue accomodation of ecclesial norms and structures to the prevailing ethos of civil society. Today as in the past, canonists are challenged never to lose sight of the mystery of grace and truth which their work is meant to serve and foster.

Only in the light of a sound appreciation of the mystery of the Church will Canon Law become, as it must be, an effective instrument for the continuing renewal of ecclesial life. Fruitful periods of renewal in the Church have often been accompanied by a desire to recover the authentic discipline of the Catholic tradition, as that tradition has been preserved and handed down in the "sacred canons". Familiarity with the results of the Church’s long experience in adapting her laws to the changing needs of the People of God is in fact an indispensable reference point for her efforts to meet the challenges of the present time with wisdom and prudence. Today in particular, there is a need for a balanced appreciation of the constant dialectic in the Church’s life between the unfailing guidance of the Holy Spirit and the demands of fidelity to the Law of the New Covenant, and for a deeper insight into the social purpose of that "diversity of gifts both hierarchical and charismatic" (Lumen Gentium LG 4) which the Spirit has bestowed upon the Church. As canonists, your insights into these creative tensions within the Body of Christ can contribute not only to the development of sound ecclesiological reflection, but also, in a very practical way, to the good working of the various structures which enable the faithful to respond with fidelity to their supernatural calling and to share fully in the Church’s mission.

3. In recent years, much of the work of your Society has been devoted to the correct interpretation and implementation of the norms contained in the 1983 Code of Canon Law. As I observed at the time of its promulgation, the new Code in a sense represents a great effort to translate the ecclesiological teaching of the Second Vatican Council into canonical terms, and consequently its norms must always be seen in relation to the image of the Church which the Council described (Cf. John Paul II, Sacrae Disciplinae Leges). The challenging task of correctly interpreting the legislation contained in the Code demands a readiness to return frequently to the documents in which the teaching of the Council is authoritatively set forth, so as to understand that teaching more deeply and to eliminate whatever false or unilateral interpretations may have arisen. The work of interpretation must always be governed by the principles set down in the Code itself, in harmony with the canonical tradition, (Cf. Code of Canon Law CIC 6 § 2) which attributes decisive importance to the "proper meaning of the words considered in their text and context", (Ibid. can. 17) understood in view of the ratio legis and in relation to the mind of the legislator. In the end, your concern for the faithful interpretation of the Code serves the Church by contributing to a better understanding of the Council itself, and thus to a more effective implementation of its teaching.

The work of interpretation demands by its very nature a solid acquaintance with the history of canonical doctrine, especially with regard to the evolution of the corresponding jurisprudence. Those who have been entrusted with the application of the Church’s law will certainly need to be familiar with the various prescriptions of positive law, but they must also be able to appreciate the rich tradition from which the present law has developed. It is furthermore essential that they should clearly understand the object and methods proper to Canon Law, so as to be able to evaluate the relevance, as well as the limitations, of insights drawn from other, related sciences. I am grateful for the concern which your Society has shown for the proper training of future canonists and for the promotion of scholarly interest in the law: these concerns are an important aspect of your service to the Church.

4. Dear friends: you are engaged in a service which is ultimately pastoral in nature, for it seeks to strengthen the bonds of communion in the Church through fidelity to the Gospel and the promotion of justice. How often in this delicate and important task are you called upon to be heralds of the "message of reconciliation" (2Co 5,19) and to bring healing and hope in fragile situations of human weakness and sin! Wherever you carry out your work-in classrooms, offices and tribunals–always keep in mind the eminently pastoral nature of all Church law, which, while never derogating from the demands of truth, has as its final aim the salvation of souls (Cf. Code of Canon Law CIC 1752). I pray that your work on behalf of God’s People through the faithful application of Canon Law will always help to build up the communion of Christ’s Body in faith, hope and love, and will contribute ever more effectively to the proclamation of the Gospel and its saving truth to the men and women of our time.

Speeches 1992