Thursday, 13 January 1994
In accepting the Letters accrediting you as the Ambassadors of your respective countries to the Holy See, I express my deep esteem for the peoples you represent and I send respectful greetings to your Heads of State. Coming as you do from the continents of Africa, America, Asia and Oceania, your presence here gives visible expression to the great diversity of the human family and also reflects the universal character of the diplomatic community attached to the Holy See.
As diplomats, you serve the interests of your nations by patiently exploring the avenues of understanding and dialogue which constitute the only sure and lasting means of promoting justice and peace in human affairs. At the same time, you support those juridical institutions which aim to consolidate and increase political and social cooperation between nations and to establish closer bonds of solidarity among peoples.
Unhappily, however, we are living in a world torn by painful conflicts, in which repeated calls to dialogue and negotiation are too often ignored, and the sufferings of innocent victims are daily multiplied. The need for peace and for solidarity leading to real development is felt in a particular way by the younger countries, especially in the southern hemisphere. They are seeking models of progress which will enable them to live in dignity, emancipated from the slavery of poverty, hunger and debt. They wish to build a future of freedom and self-determination in accordance with their own cultural and religious traditions. The need for peace is likewise felt by the more developed societies of East and West, as they look for a renewal of the moral and spiritual values necessary for just and peaceful relations at every level of their coexistence.
By its presence in the international community, the Holy See seeks, in a way consonant with the Church’s specific nature and mission, to serve humanity precisely by promoting this much-needed culture of cooperation and solidarity, based on respect for the truths of the moral order, concern for authentic human development and the defence of human dignity. Likewise, the members of the Church, inspired by the message of the Gospel, wish to serve the common good by the educational, charitable and social works whereby they express their faith in Christ. They ask for and rightly expect recognition of their freedom to take a full part in the life of their respective countries, and to bring to the critical issues facing society the perspective of their Christian faith.
The Holy See therefore looks to you as partners in the service of the human family. The Church encourages you in your noble work as artisans of peace! She knows that peace is a gift of Almighty God which takes root not only in institutions and structures but most importantly in the depths of the human heart. For this reason, she is convinced that "the goal of peace, so desired by everyone, will be achieved through the putting into effect of social and international justice, but also through the practice of the virtues which favour togetherness, and which teach us to live in unity, so as to build in unity, by giving and receiving, a new society and a new world" (John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 39).
Your Excellencies, I offer you my best wishes as you begin your mission. Upon yourselves and the peoples which you represent I cordially invoke an abundance of divine blessings.
I am pleased to accept today the Credential Letters by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Australia to the Holy See. Your welcome presence here affords me the opportunity to reaffirm my sentiments of esteem for your nation and my affection for all its people. I would ask you kindly to assure the Government of my good wishes for Australia’s peace and prosperity, and to convey to His Excellency the Governor-General and to the Prime Minister my cordial greetings.
I am deeply saddened by reports of the suffering and loss caused by the fires in New South Wales. I will continue to pray for all who are affected by this immense tragedy, asking God in particular to guard the fire-fighters and volunteers who with true practical solidarity have been working so hard to protect the lives and property of their fellow-citizens.
It is by serving ever more generously the cause of justice, peace and reconciliation, both within her national boundaries and abroad, that Australia can realize that "great mission" and "immense capacity for good" to which I bore tribute during my Pastoral Visit in 1986 (John Paul II, Address at the Airport of Fairbairn, 4, 24 November 1986). The dignity of every man and woman which the Church steadfastly proclaims is also a foremost principle of the democratic aspirations of your society. "We speak", as I said in my address to the Parliament at Canberra in 1986, "a common language of respect for the human person" (John Paul II, Address to the members of the Parliament House in Canberra, 3, 24 November 1986). It is here that we find the basis for our cooperation and cordial relations.
A shared conviction regarding human dignity and the rights of every person is the secure foundation upon which to build a truly just and cohesive society. As the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World points out, "the social order and its development must constantly yield to the good of the person, since the order of things must be subordinate to the order of persons and not the other way around" (Gaudium et Spes GS 26). In a democracy, recognition of the inalienable dignity and transcendent destiny of every individual should guide citizens in the use of their freedom, thus helping them to prevent liberty from becoming a pretext for arbitrary licence. Without such a safeguard, the way would be open for a tyranny of the majority - or of those who could manipulate the majority, for "as history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into an open or thinly disguised totalitarianism" (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 46). The renewed dedication of Australians to the common good, in fidelity to the ideals of their democratic heritage, will help to ensure that in the life of the nation the measure of good government remains principles such as truthfulness, impartiality, solidarity and respect for the rights of all (Cf. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor VS 101).
In the field of international relations, Australia’s opposition to armed conflict as a means for solving disputes between nations is an important reference-point for the world community’s efforts to meet the challenges of unresolved ethnic and political tensions. The interdependence of nations and of whole areas of the globe is a prominent feature of the present world situation, where the development and peace of each depends upon the well-being of all. Development is indivisible: all have a right to share at the table of the world’s resources. This principle is for believers and for all people of good will a summons to ever deeper solidarity, and an encouragement to help less prosperous nations in their efforts to achieve authentic progress.
I note with appreciation your reference to Australia’s concern for the rights and needs of its own Indigenous peoples, and your mention of your country’s openness to the resettlement of foreign refugees. No individual should be seen merely as the object of assistance. Every human being is the subject of real rights and duties. People’s capacity to act on their own behalf must be safeguarded and enhanced. In particular, the tragedy of refugees is increasingly felt today as an attack on essential human dignity (Cf. Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" and Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Refugees: A Challenge to Solidarity, 1992, n. 11, 35) and, in the international forum, the Holy See is pleased to see its efforts to revive a sometimes flagging interest in the plight of the World’s refugees backed or paralleled by other Governments and international agencies. I gladly express the Church’s appreciation of Australia’s efforts to stimulate international aid and solidarity with people forced into exile.
Your reference to the Servant of God Mary MacKillop reminds us that her life and work are a fine example of the traditional commitment of Australian Catholics to the welfare of their country. With the guarantees of religious liberty contained in the laws of your nation, the Church has been able to devote herself extensively to works of education, health-care and other forms of social service. Religious faith does not produce a theory of social organization but offers a basis and a motivation for acts of solidarity, especially with the poor and the vulnerable, and for the promotion of justice, including the just distribution of resources (Cf. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 57). "By leading people to a new understanding of their human condition, religious faith brings people, through a sincere gift of themselves, to a complete fellowship with other human beings... [It] brings them together and unites them... it makes them more attentive, more responsible, more generous in their commitment to the common good" (John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1988, 3, 8 December 1987). The Catholic community in Australia remains firm in its commitment to the development and progress of a society which recognizes, defends and promotes the dignity of each person and the value of every human life. It is my ardent hope and prayer that Australia will continue to benefit from the spiritual vision and energies of its people in a context of harmony and mutual respect among all its citizens.
Your Excellency, during your term as your country’s Ambassador, the various departments of the Holy See will do all they can to assist you in the discharge of your lofty duties. I offer my own good wishes for your efforts to build further on the already very positive relations between Australia and the Holy See, and I invoke upon you and your loved ones abundant divine blessings.
It gives me great pleasure to accept the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the Holy See. I am grateful for the cordial greetings which you have conveyed from His Excellency President D. B. Wijetunge and the people of Sri Lanka, and I gladly reciprocate with good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the peace and well-being of the entire nation.
Among the greatest challenges of this last decade of the twentieth century is that of finding a way to promote the growth—and sometimes even the survival—of multi-religious and multicultural societies in various parts of the world. As events in our own day so tragically demonstrate, wherever intolerance and ethnic strife creep into a nation’s social or political life peace is endangered and undermined. On the contrary, the religious, cultural and ethnic differences within a country should be treasured as gifts which help citizens to appreciate the oneness of the human family in the natural and legitimate diversity of its members. Sri Lanka is facing a major challenge in this regard.
Your Excellency has referred to the long tradition of freedom of religion in your country. Indeed, Sri Lanka as a nation is founded on the principles of equal human rights for all and respect for religious liberty. With citizens who profess Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam, Sri Lanka has vigorously sought to provide an example of religious harmony and cooperation, which in turn are essential factors of social and civic peace and solidarity.
In this International Year of the Family it will be helpful to consider the role of that vital unit of society in supporting and guaranteeing respect for cultural and ethnic diversity. As the fundamental community responsible for educating the younger generation, the family plays an indispensable part in fostering reciprocal solidarity, without bias or prejudice. Built on the enduring foundation of marriage, this intimate communion of persons makes an essential contribution to nurturing a national life based on shared moral values, communal solidarity and respect for the rights and duties of each citizen. The family in Sri Lanka, as in every country, has the task of "humanizing" the social order.
I am heartened to know that your nation is working to foster peace by alleviating the devastating effects of poverty. When families are unable to provide for their primary needs in a way befitting their human dignity, social instability follows. Both within countries and among them, the ever widening social and economic abyss separating rich from poor is a cause for grave concern. Nations can attain authentic progress only if their leaders and people take bold measures to guarantee a fair distribution of wealth and resources, and if material development is placed in a wider context of an overall human and social progress (Cf. John Paul II, World Day of Peace 1993, 5). A solely pragmatic approach to growth is insufficient. The promotion of progress raises ethical questions which must be addressed. In fact, the main obstacles to a nation’s integral development can be overcome only by means of decisions in conformity with the moral order taken by those entrusted with responsibility for the common good (Cf. John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 35).
In fulfilling their task, leaders have to make special efforts to create and encourage conditions which strengthen family life and ensure the active contribution of family members to the wider community. If a society is to resolve economic, cultural and social problems, ethical and religious values must shape its mentality, behaviour and structures. Without an "ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity . . . freedom loses its foundation and people are exposed to the violence of passion and manipulation, both open and hidden" (John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 46). Respect for the universal and unchanging norms of the moral order is the path which leads to national and international peace and prosperity.
On various occasions in recent years I have expressed concern regarding the internal conflict in your country, a conflict which has caused thousands of victims, inflicted immense suffering and had a devastating effect on family and community life. Your Excellency has mentioned that the Government of Sri Lanka is taking positive steps to restore peace. I can assure you that the Holy See supports every honest effort to bring an end to bloodshed, and is anxious that innocent civilians, especially women and children, should be protected from all forms of violence. Men and women of good will must spare no effort to overcome a culture of violence which trivializes the sacredness of human life.
Lasting peace can be established only if mutual trust is nurtured between conflicting factions. Full respect for the rule of law and constitutional order, the guarantee of security and of the God-given rights of all persons, and mutual confidence between those of different races and traditions are principles cherished by the vast majority of Sri Lankans. These principles provide the cornerstone for a culture of dialogue which would express your people’s deep yearning for peace and justice. "The willingness of parties involved to meet and talk to one another is the indispensable condition for reaching an equitable solution to the complex problems that can seriously obstruct peace" (John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1989, 10). Nothing should be allowed to thwart the earnest discussion and negotiation which are the obligatory path to peace.
As Your Excellency has kindly noted, the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka has a long and venerable tradition of service to the nation. While the Church carefully maintains her independence from the State and her autonomy in her own sphere of activity, her members actively pursue the common good in a spirit of harmony and cooperation with all their fellow-citizens. Both communities, civil and religious, serve "the personal and social vocation of the same individuals" (Cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 76). Fulfilling the mission entrusted to her by God, the Church proclaims the truth about man-his transcendence and his central place within society. She contributes to national life "by forming the consciences of her members in openness towards others and respect for them, in that tolerance which accompanies the search for truth, and in a spirit of solidarity" (John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1991, VII). Catholic citizens in your land have been active in defending freedom and promoting health care and education. At this moment in the life of their country, Catholic Sri Lankans are among those who are devoting themselves to works of justice and reconciliation. As followers of the "Prince of Peace" (Is 9,6), they are struggling to foster within families and communities a climate of harmony that will lead to the cessation of hostilities and attacks on human life.
Mr. Ambassador, as you undertake your responsibilities, it is my hope that the bonds of understanding and friendship between the Holy See and your country will be increasingly strengthened. You will find that the various offices of the Roman Curia are always ready to assist you in fulfilling your mission. Upon yourself and all the beloved people of Sri Lanka I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
It is a pleasure for me today to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the Holy See. I am grateful for the good wishes offered on behalf of your fellow-citizens. Please convey to His Excellency the President my thanks for his cordial greetings, and assure him of my prayers that God the Almighty will sustain the leaders and people of Pakistan in working in a spirit of solidarity and justice to secure the prosperity and well-being of the entire nation.
You have affirmed, Mr. Ambassador, your Government’s commitment to harmonious international relations, and you have spoken feelingly of the Pakistani people’s desire to live in peace. The Holy See, in accordance with its particular nature, seeks to serve the community of nations by supporting initiatives aimed at implementing this fundamental longing of all people of good will.
A significant example of cooperation between the Church and the civil order is the worldwide Catholic community’s participation in this year’s observance of the International Year of the Family proclaimed by the United Nations. The Christian community seeks with renewed commitment to do all that it can to strengthen the family, the basic cell of society. In my Message for the 1994 "World Day of Peace" I gave special attention to the necessary link between sound family life and the advancement of the cause of world peace: "The domestic virtues, based upon a profound respect for human life and dignity, and practised in understanding, patience, mutual encouragement and forgiveness, enable the community of the family to live out the first and fundamental experience of peace" (John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1994, 2. The truthfulness, justice, generosity and mutual respect that are learned and perfected in the home are the necessary foundation for peace between nations, races and peoples.
Because the family is so crucial to a well-ordered society, the threat which poverty poses to peace is especially grave when material want endangers family stability. Therefore, development programmes aimed at eradicating the conditions which are so often the breeding ground for strife must make the good of the family their highest priority. Development cannot serve peace unless it first serves the family. In fact, experience shows that many well-intentioned international projects have failed precisely because they do not take into account the importance of family structures and relationships in every field of human endeavour, including the economy, education, and the sphere of cultural and social life.
Among the virtues fostered in the home, special mention is deservedly made of solidarity: a persevering determination to serve the common good (Cf. John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 38). It is in the communion of life shared by the family that its members are schooled in "that self-giving love which is capable of accepting those who are different, making their needs and demands its own, and allowing them to share in its own benefits" (John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1994, 2). In societies like that of Pakistan, with distinct minorities living in the midst of a strong cultural or religious majority, mutual respect is essential for that solidarity without which there can be no progress deserving of the name.
In such a society, diversity should never be seen as an obstacle to unity. Rather it can be recognized as an opportunity for individuals and groups to enrich the common patrimony of all. And because the common good, rightly understood, is based on the inviolable dignity of all those belonging to a society or nation, it is important that majorities respect the rights of minorities, while making it possible for them to take a full part in the life of the nation and to contribute effectively to its progress. Among the universal rights to be upheld is that of religious liberty, the cornerstone of all human rights (Cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 73). It is particularly gratifying to note that in recent remarks both the President and the Prime Minister referred to minorities as a "sacred trust" and reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to observing and enforcing the constitutional guarantees protecting them.
The members of the Catholic community in Pakistan are eager to make their specific contribution to the well-being of their nation, since from the very origin of the Church her members have been taught that God wants us to be good citizens (Cf. 1P 2,15). In this regard the electorate’s recent reaffirmation of Pakistan’s democratic ideals and fundamental freedoms is particularly welcome. It is in just such a social context that the Church is able to pursue her spiritual and humanitarian mission. In her schools, hospitals and other works of social service, the love which her Founder commanded is made visible. In the upright lives of Pakistani Christians the Church seeks to bear witness to that transcendent moral order revealed by God down the ages. Together with their fellow-citizens who are followers of Islam, the members of the Catholic community seek, in a spirit of sincere dialogue, to make common cause "in order to safeguard and foster social justice, moral values, peace and freedom" (Nostra Aetate NAE 3).
Your Excellency, as you take up your duties as your nation’s Ambassador, I assure you that you can rely on the cooperation of all who serve in the offices and departments of the Holy See. I extend to you, to your loved ones and your colleagues my heartfelt good wishes, and I invoke upon you abundant divine blessings.
I am happy to welcome you to the Vatican today as you take up your responsibilities as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belize to the Holy See. Thank you for the kind sentiments which you expressed on behalf of your fellow-citizens. Please assure them that they have an abiding place in the thoughts and affections of the Pope, and that he continues to pray to Almighty God for their safety and wellbeing. Likewise, I ask you kindly to convey to Her Excellency the Governor-General, as well as to the Prime Minister, my heartfelt greetings and good wishes for divine blessings upon their efforts to serve the common good.
I recall that the arrival of your first predecessor occurred just ten years ago last month, not long after my Pastoral Visit to your beloved nation. Although the period during which there has been an exchange of diplomatic representatives is relatively brief, the cordial relations between the Catholic Church and Belize go back much farther in time, and the experience of this past decade has built upon that tradition and reinforced it. I am confident that during the term of your service these bonds will grow even stronger.
By cooperating on a day-to-day basis and in such important initiatives as the International Year of the Family, of which you made mention, the Church and the State, each according to its own nature and proper sphere of operation, can all the more effectively "act for the benefit of a common subject-man" (Paul VI, Sollicitudo Omnium Ecclesiarum). When I went to Santo Domingo to participate in the commemoration of the Fifth Centenary of the first preaching of the Gospel in the New World, I took the occasion to reaffirm the essential relationship between the Church’s mission and the true progress of mankind: "Stimulating human development must be the logical outcome of evangelization, which tends toward the comprehensive liberation of the person" (John Paul II, Inaugural Address on the occasion of the 4th General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate, 13 [12 Oct. 1992]) .
It was on behalf of the human person, not as an abstraction, but as a real, historical individual, that I spoke on that occasion. With increasing urgency people must be enabled to participate more fully in forging their own destiny in a society in which all can contribute to providing for their own material needs and to fulfilling the demands of their intellectual, moral, spiritual and religious life (Cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 64). Overall development can only come about through the persevering practice of solidarity, which requires, as a precondition, the full cooperation of all in order to overcome the inequalities epitomized in the gap between the developed North and the developing South. "But", as I said in my Encyclical Letter "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis", "the developing nations themselves have the duty to practise solidarity among themselves and with the neediest countries of the world" (John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 45). In the Caribbean Region, such cooperation is particularly important, as Belize and its neighbours face the challenges of advancing in the ways of integral human progress.
The spirit of cooperation and dedication to the common good is indispensable in all matters concerning the relations between one State and another, between individuals and groups within a nation, and between a people and its leaders. In all cases dialogue and mutual respect are the paths to be followed in resolving tensions and settling conflicting claims according to the norms of justice.
The Catholic faithful of Belize, under the guidance and direction of their Bishop, will continue their tradition of service to the common good. Over the decades the Church’s schools in particular have done much to strengthen the life of the nation, and remain an important resource for the intellectual and moral formation of the next generation of citizens. It is my ardent hope that in all matters affecting the country’s peace and progress the citizens of Belize will find inspiration and encouragement in their religious convictions and spiritual resources, so that together they can build a society ever more just and ever more caring towards those in any kind of need.
Your Excellency, I assure you that during the term of your service as Ambassador of Belize you will find the departments of the Roman Curia always ready to assist you in your lofty duties. With prayerful good wishes for the success of your mission, I invoke upon you and your fellow-citizens the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
It is a distinct pleasure for me to welcome you to the Vatican today and to receive the Letters of Credence whereby His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej names you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Thailand to the Holy See. I am grateful for the cordial greetings and good wishes you bring from His Majesty and for the sentiments of esteem which you have so kindly expressed on your own behalf and in the name of your fellow-citizens. I wish to take this occasion to affirm once more my own deep respect for the Thai people, and I ask you to convey to Their Majesties the King and Queen the assurance of my fervent prayers for their health and well-being, and for that of all the members of the Royal Family. I especially ask Almighty God to bless your country abundantly with peace and prosperity.
Catholics in Thailand feel, I know, a strong sense of gratitude to their Sovereign for the care and solicitude with which he discharges his role as the "Upholder of All Religions". Secure in the free practice of their faith, the members of the Church in your country can devote themselves all the more generously to fulfilling their spiritual and humanitarian mission, bearing witness in all that they say and do to God’s love for mankind (Cf. Mt. Mt 5,45). This service of neighbour, to which they are moved by divine charity, is also an expression of their patriotism, for by helping to enhance the well-being of their fellow-citizens they are effectively building up their homeland. They contribute to the common good not only by organized works of education, health care and other social services, but also by carrying out their everyday activities and duties in faithful conformity with the moral demands of the Gospel. And they look forward to every opportunity for working with followers of other religions in a spirit of mutual respect for the development of society.
Your mention of my Pastoral Visit to Thailand in 1984 revives many pleasant memories. I was particularly happy to see at first hand the culture and way of life of the Thai people, which have developed over the centuries on the basis of a venerable tradition of wisdom, which the Church looks upon with sincere respect (Cf. Nostra Aetate NAE 2). Rooted as they are in the religious insight that the passing things of this world cannot satisfy the longings of the human heart and that true happiness can only be achieved through spiritual purification, Thai traditions provide a firm foundation for rejecting a merely utilitarian model of development. They can help to ensure the integrity of your precious civilization against the forces of consumerism and materialism. The true progress of individuals and of society is, as I wrote in my Encyclical Letter "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis", "measured and oriented to the reality and vocation of man seen in his totality, namely according to his interior dimension" (John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 29). Recognition that the apex of human development is spiritual does not hinder a people’s tireless efforts to provide its members with their rightful share in the goods of this world. Rather, the truth about every person’s inalienable dignity and worth should move them to achieve that just measure of material things which will sustain, without impeding, the search for transcendence.
Authentic development is the prerequisite for the flowering of peace. Development must be at the service of the human subject. It should extend the range of people’s freedom and help them to use their liberty well, in acts of virtue. When individuals pursue moral goodness, society can in turn shape all the cultural forms and political realities established by its members and their leaders. The freedom which is so dear to the Thai people that you proudly call your nation "the Land of the Free" finds its source, therefore, in inner liberation and self-giving service of the common good. True human liberty, which is nothing other than the freedom to do what is right and just, is the firm foundation upon which Thailand can build an ever more stable polity, while exercising its appropriate role in international affairs, especially within the region of South East Asia.