Speeches 1994 - Consistory Hall
Saturday, 19 November 1994
I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you have been appointed Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of your respective countries to the Holy See. Through you I extend cordial greetings to the Heads of State and the peoples of Denmark, Tunisia, India, Bangladesh, Ghana and of Jordan - which is represented here for the first time after the recent establishment of diplomatic relations. Our gathering in this Hall bespeaks the rich diversity of the human family, the desire of peoples of good will to live together in harmony and, in particular, the firm commitment of your Governments to promote the well - being of their peoples through dialogue and co-operation among Nations.
The Church is convinced that the path of human progress lies in the direction of full, effective and juridically guaranteed respect for the inalienable dignity and rights of the human person. Only upon this basis is it possible to construct a renewed society and to solve the complex and weighty problems facing humanity. The Holy See therefore seeks to foster the advancement of what my Predecessor Pope Paul VI was accustomed to call the "civilization of love": a spiritual milieu capable of embracing people of all races, cultures and faiths in an honest search for truth, for justice and for an integral development of all the members of the human family, especially the poor and those who struggle to make their legitimate claims heard.
By its presence and activity in the international community the Holy See seeks to bear witness to the spiritual and moral values essential for the building of just and fraternal relations among peoples. Among its concerns, it underlines the importance of the principle, enshrined in various international Agreements, of respect for the fundamental and inviolable right of each individual to enjoy freedom of conscience and of religion. I hope that you too, as Representatives of your countries, will work for the effective guarantee of this primordial human right. Likewise, during this International Year of the Family, we cannot fail to look to the family, the fundamental nucleus of society, as the first of those institutions which express and consolidate the values of peace (cf. John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1994, 5 [8 Dec. 1993]). The family is therefore deserving of special care and support from your Governments and from the whole of international society.
If we look at the present situation of the world we see light and shadow, signs of hope for true advancement but also dark omens of a new breakdown of relationships, undermined not only by ideological disagreements but also by ethnic exclusivism. Can the international community find a workable way to offset the threat of a new fragmentation?
Next year will see the celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the United Nations Organization. After the horrors of the Second World War, the United Nations sought to be the catalyst and even promoter of an evolution towards a more lively sense of human rights and indeed towards a new "right of nations" (cf. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 21). While down the years its action has often been thwarted by the politics of a world divided into blocs, nevertheless it succeeded in becoming the focal point of a widespread vivid consciousness of the need to address the grave imbalances that undermine world peace because they undermine justice and equity in relations between peoples. The United Nations has not always succeeded in setting up effective means for the just resolution of international conflicts, nor have its policies of aid for development always been positive; and precisely for these reasons the Fiftieth Anniversary appears as a conspicuous opportunity for necessary reform and amendment. But the Holy See, which has sought to contribute to the realization of the noble ideals of the United Nations Organization, continues to hope that it will be an ever more open and lofty forum of debate and decision at the service of the world’s peoples, and therefore a valid instrument of genuine human development.
With these brief reflections I offer Your Excellencies my cordial good wishes as you begin your mission as the distinguished Representatives of your countries to the Holy See. My collaborators will be only too willing to help you in this task. I, for my part, cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God upon yourselves, your families and the peoples which you represent.
It gives me great pleasure to accept the Letters of Credence by which Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II appoints you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Denmark to the Holy See. I am grateful to Her Majesty for the greetings which you have conveyed in her name, and I reciprocate with good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the peace and well-being of all the people of your Country.
You have referred to the recent dramatic changes which have given birth to new opportunities and challenges in Europe. With the end of an era marked by tension between opposite blocs, wide frontiers of freedom have been opened and every effort must now be made to preclude new forms of oppression, among which we must list ethical relativism and unbridled consumerism (cf. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 19). Today more than ever, a keen sense of responsibility to its spiritual heritage is necessary if the Continent is to remain true to itself. I am firmly convinced that Europe will fulfil its destiny only when it once again becomes a community of nations, sharing a common vision centered on the transcendent value of every human life, on a developed sense of the dignity of the human person, and on respect for human rights. The greatness of Europe was forged in the crucible of Christianity, and it is the life-giving truths of religion, written in the human heart, which must animate the Continent’s future.
In order to secure the fruits of authentic civilization in Europe and throughout the world - victory over injustice, selfishness and hatred - it is essential to strengthen the fundamental and indispensable unit of every social order: the family. The United Nations Organization has recognized the significance of the family for all forms of cultural, political and economic development by declaring this to be the International Year of the Family, a project which the Catholic Church gladly embraced as her own.
The integral development of a free and just society requires strong families established through the marriage of man and woman. Indeed, "it is the duty of the State to encourage and protect the authentic institution of the family, respecting its structure and its innate and inalienable rights" (John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1994, 5 [8 Dec. 1993]). Confusion concerning the true identity of marriage and the family would necessarily undermine the foundations of social life. Whenever the truth about the family is compromised, moral decline follows and cultural decadence inevitably results.
As Denmark prepares to host the World Summit for Social Development in 1995, a meeting in which the Holy See is pleased to participate, my thoughts turn to the specific contributions which the Catholic Church can offer to the international community in the light of the wisdom she has received from her Divine Founder and from her long experience down the centuries. As a result of recent scientific advances, a way of life dependent upon modern technology now spans the entire globe, offering the possibility of closer links between all human societies. Every person, culture and society is now, at least at some levels, interdependent. Given this situation, it has become even clearer that only respect for the innate dignity of every human person, from conception until natural death, without distinction of ethnic, social or religious condition, can serve as the solid basis of justice and peace among peoples.
It is a pleasure for me to acknowledge Denmark’s distinguished reputation in the world community for stimulating social and economic development in countries still struggling to achieve material progress. In this I see a concrete application of the fundamental conviction which in Catholic social doctrine underlies the obligation of solidarity, namely that "the goods of this world are originally meant for all" (cf. John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 42). While every State must accept the primary responsibility for its own development, it is also true that the unity of the human family imposes on the wealthier nations a duty of working for the common good of the less fortunate.
If the lofty goal of true international solidarity is to be realized, moderation and simplicity will have to replace the inordinate consumption of earthly goods and resources, and the creation of artificial needs (cf. John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1993, 5 [8 Dec. 1992]). Moreover, the industrialized countries of the North have other serious responsibilities. Nothing would be more tragic than to export to the developing countries patterns of behaviour rooted in an exaggerated individualism. New forms of imperialism which would seek, even unconsciously, to impose values opposed to the true good of individuals and nations must be firmly resisted.
The Catholic Church in Denmark, although small in numbers, has a long and venerable tradition of service to the Nation. She has striven to fashion a culture of life by educating the young, caring for the sick and assisting the poor and the marginalized. Now more than ever Catholics are being called to assist the moral renewal of society through the witness of their faith, and through the contribution of their spiritual and intellectual tradition.
Mr. Ambassador, it is my hope that, as you undertake your responsibilities, the bonds of understanding and friendship between the Holy See and Denmark will be increasingly strengthened. You can be assured that the various offices of the Roman Curia will always be ready to assist you in fulfilling your mission. Upon yourself and all the beloved people of your Nation I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
It is a pleasure for me to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of India to the Holy See. I likewise gladly receive the good wishes which you bring from His Excellency the President and from the Government and people of India. To think of India is to recall that your land has been a cradle of civilization, the birthplace of a wisdom which exercises a profound influence far beyond its borders. It is therefore with esteem also for that great tradition that I welcome you to the Vatican.
As Your Excellency has pointed out, India and the Holy See share common values and objectives; perhaps chief among these is concern for peace, understanding and cooperation among the nations of the world, so that people everywhere may be able to pursue their full human and spiritual development. Diplomacy has a fundamental role to play in building and maintaining just and peaceful relations between peoples and nations. By promoting mutual understanding and dialogue, barriers of distrust, suspicion and fear can be broken down, and respect for the dignity of the human person - of every person, independently of ethnic, social or religious origin - can be universally recognized as the basis of every relationship. This cause is not an easy one to serve, as witnessed to by the many points of tension and conflict still existing in the modern world. There are tragic instances, even in India itself, where ethnic, political and religious groups do not acknowledge in one another the dignity and rights which are basic to peaceful co-existence. In such situations, conflict, violence and social unrest sow division between individuals and peoples, reaping countless innocent victims.
Mr. Ambassador, as you are already well aware, your mission to the Holy See is not to a power in the temporal or worldly order. Rather, the Holy See’s concerns are focused on the essential values which give meaning to man’s efforts to build a society in which he can fulfil his human and spiritual destiny. And, as I said during my visit to India in 1986, the renewal of the world in all its social relationships, the establishment of true peace and justice, begins in the heart of every individual and is an eminently spiritual undertaking (cf. John Paul II, Address to the Representatives of the Different Religious and Cultural Traditions in the "Indira Gandhi" Stadium, 5, [2 Feb. 1986]). Your presence here today attests to the resolve of the Indian Government and people to pursue this vital undertaking.
It is precisely in taking on this task that individuals, peoples and nations must call upon their own special gifts and patrimonies. For India, this means taking advantage of the rich cultural and spiritual traditions which have been preserved throughout your country’s history of thousands of years. By virtue of these traditions, continuity and unity have been maintained in the midst of great diversity. At the basis of that unity stands a vision of the spiritual nature of man, expressed and deepened in the works of sages, mystics, artists, philosophers and statesmen of excellence who have made significant contributions to humanity. This is the patrimony which belongs to India and which can guide and inform India’s contribution to the world community.
In this regard, I note with satisfaction that the Indian Constitution, in its recognition of religious freedom, enshrines respect for the dignity of the human person in its most sacred dimension. Conscience and religious belief touch upon the innermost recesses of personality, and thus respect for religious freedom and freedom of conscience constitute the cornerstone of all freedoms. India has been renowned for its respect for the different traditions followed by its peoples. We must all hope that this respect will survive and grow, so that India may continue to represent a convincing voice raised in favour of harmony and peace in the international community.
Your Excellency has commented on the almost two-thousand year presence of the Christian community in India and noted the many contributions made by its members in various fields of service to the people. The Church in fact seeks to follow the teaching and example of her Divine Founder, who - in the words of Scripture - came to serve and not to be served (cf. Mt. Mt 20,28). Accordingly, the Church wishes to place herself wholly at the service of the dignity of the human person, and seeks to co-operate with others, especially the public authorities, in upholding the values which constitute and enhance that unique dignity.
Mr Ambassador, I wish you every happiness and success in your mission as your country’s Representative to the Holy See, and I assure you of the co-operation of the various offices of the Roman Curia. I would ask you kindly to convey my greetings and good wishes to the President and Government of India. May Almighty God bless you and all your fellow citizens.
I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican today and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. I gladly acknowledge the greetings which you have conveyed on behalf of President Abdur Rahman Biswas and which I cordially reciprocate. Please assure His Excellency and the Government and people of Bangladesh of my prayerful best wishes for the nation.
As your words have shown, you are aware that the Holy See’s presence in the international community is marked by characteristics which correspond to the religious and spiritual nature of the Catholic Church’s mission in the world. The Holy See’s activity is aimed above all at the safeguarding and promoting the inalienable dignity of every human person, which can only be ensured through the integral development of the individual and the family, and the progress in peace and justice of all peoples. And it is precisely in seeking these all-important objectives that close and cordial relations between the Holy See and those responsible for the well-being of the world’s peoples proves to be of mutual benefit and support.
In the case of your own country, the Bangladeshi people are imbued with a centuries-old spiritual tradition which has espoused religious freedom and seeks to be non-discriminatory in protecting the various religious groups present in society. If integral development is to be achieved, if the essential dignity of the human person is to be respected, then individuals and peoples must enjoy that freedom which consists in everyone having the duty, and therefore the right, to seek the truth in matters religious and matters of conscience, without constraint or discrimination (cf. Nostra Aetate NAE 3).
It follows that those responsible for the destiny of a nation have a duty to safeguard and foster their citizens’ inalienable right to religious freedom. In your own history, the fruits borne by policies of respect and tolerance are evident. It is these policies which have also allowed members of the Catholic community to add their own contribution to the social, economic and cultural life of Bangladesh, pursuing a role which they played even before Bangladesh became an independent State. And it is the continuation of these same policies which will enable your Government and people to persevere in their present efforts to face the great challenges of development and progress within the context of the rapidly changing conditions of the entire region.
Two elements which are essential for the well-being of every society are the family and education.The family always remains the nucleus of society, and consequently must be the central focus of efforts aimed at eliminating poverty and at building a just and equitable national community. The family is the greatest resource for sustaining and strengthening the values which are basic to society’s stability and progress.
At the same time, if public policies are to be truly effective, they must be accompanied by education. For individuals both in the family and in society at large need to be given an awareness and understanding of their rights and responsibilities. Education, certainly, is not only a question of acquiring knowledge and information, but also of gaining a keen sense of the solidarity which should unite individuals, families and peoples. The harmony and tranquillity which all people yearn for and which the world sorely needs, directly involve this solidarity, and therefore require enlightened attitudes of responsible participation on the part of all sectors of society. Education is the soul of social dynamism, the key to the future, the support of all effective programmes of development.
On many occasions I have drawn attention to the moral question of the primacy of the person in matters of economic and political development. As is evident from the unresolved and even increasing difficulties being experienced in some regions of the world, progress is not a straightforward, automatic and limitless process, as though societies were able to advance endlessly towards a perfection of some sort (cf. John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis SRS 27). The training and motivation of individuals and groups is an essential condition for promoting the common good. Through numerous educational institutions at every level, the Catholic Church in Bangladesh contributes to forming well-prepared and committed citizens who, in turn, are the great resource on which depends your country’s advancement and well-being. I am confident that your Government will continue to guarantee the necessary and lawful conditions of tranquillity and autonomy which make it possible for these institutions to preserve their identity and fulfil their objectives for the good of the whole nation. Co-operation between the State and the Church in the service of the same population will be one of the areas in which your mission will be particularly helpful and constructive.
Mr. Ambassador, the presentation of your Letters of Credence brings together the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and the Holy See in a renewed commitment to work for closer ties and increased mutual understanding. In this you can be sure of the assistance and co-operation of all the departments of the Roman Curia. May Almighty God sustain you in the fulfilment of your mission, and may his abundant blessings be upon your Government and your people, that they may always act to promote the dignity and freedom of the human person.
Your presence here today marks a significant step forward in relations between the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Holy See. I am particularly happy to accept the Letters of Credence by which His Majesty King Hussein Bin Talal has appointed you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, the first after the formal establishment of diplomatic relations between us. I would ask you kindly to assure His Majesty and the Government of the deep satisfaction which this moment brings me.
As Your Excellency has already indicated, even before the establishment of diplomatic relations contacts between the Hashemite Kingdom and the Holy See were close and cordial. It is enough to recall the many visits to the Vatican of His Majesty and of Crown Prince Hassan, occasions always marked by warmth and mutual esteem, no less than by a shared desire to co-operate in the promotion of the fundamental human values of freedom, justice, peace and harmony.
There is a need in every part of the world for men and women of good will and courage who will be true builders of peace. This is particularly evident in the Middle East where, after years of conflict, essential steps along the path of a settlement are now being taken. I cannot but express admiration and appreciation of the decisions taken by His Majesty the King, decisions which have not always been easy but which have finally brought peace with the neighbouring State of Israel. I express the ardent hope that what has been courageously agreed between the Jordanian and Israeli Authorities will soon be put into practice for the good of both countries and of their respective citizens. Peace and co-operation will bring well-being and social stability, and will therefore also be an incentive and example in other relationships which are still marked by mistrust, discrimination and tension.
The peace process still has a long and arduous path to follow, and it is not simplistic to say that its success depends, more than on anything else, on an increase of trust between the peoples of the Middle East themselves. This trust is being fostered and sustained by the wisdom and courage of the leaders of the region, and in this I gladly express recognition of the important role played by His Majesty the King.
Peace is a universal value which must be pursued in every part of the world, among all peoples. How much more so in that unique region which holds such a special place in the hearts of Muslims, Jews and Christians alike! The region in which God revealed himself to man constitutes for the believers of the great monotheistic religions a necessary point of reference for their religious and cultural identities.
In a certain sense the difficulties of the peace process are epitomized in the contrasting approaches to the question of the Holy City of Jerusalem. Precisely because the Holy City constitutes a sacred heritage for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, its very stones and monuments are both a promise of peace and a symbol of our differences. The Holy See’s position on the question is well known. As regards that part of the City considered sacred, it asks for international guarantees for the preservation of the characteristics which make it unique in the world: the Holy Places, the life of its communities, their respective quarters and, naturally, free access for all believers. Many religious men and women share the hope of being able one day soon to meet the followers of the other religions in a spirit of understanding and co-operation, in order to pray together in Jerusalem, which will then truly be the City of Peace. As Your Excellency has mentioned, Jerusalem is very dear to His Majesty King Hussein and to the Hashemite Royal Family.
The Holy See is greatly encouraged by the interest and commitment constantly demonstrated by the Jordanian Authorities in fostering mutual knowledge, dialogue and co-operation among the followers of the three religions. Certainly, our newly-established diplomatic relations and the exchange of Ambassadors between us will favour this intention, just as it has already brought encouragement to the Catholic citizens of Jordan who are ever ready to work for the advancement of the national community in every sphere. Clearly, our diplomatic relations are not and cannot remain solely a bilateral question. They are meant to support and increase the level of dialogue in the entire region.
Mr. Ambassador, I offer you my warm good wishes for the success of your mission. The various departments of the Holy See will only be too ready to welcome and assist you. In renewing the expression of my esteem for His Majesty the King, the Royal Family and the People of Jordan, I invoke Almighty God’s abundant blessings upon the entire Nation.
It is my pleasure to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Ghana to the Holy See. I am also happy to receive the greetings you bring from His Excellency President Rawlings, and I would ask you to convey to the President my own prayerful good wishes for the Government and people of Ghana.
As you have noted, there is a long history of Christian presence in Ghana, such that today more than half of the Ghanaian population professes Christianity. Moreover, the guarantees of religious freedom provided in the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana have created favourable conditions for the members of the Catholic Church to proceed with many projects of service which contribute to the spiritual and material development of your people and your country. In this regard, I am grateful to Your Excellency for mentioning the important contributions which the Catholic Church makes in education, health–care and social services. And not in Ghana alone, but throughout Africa the Church seeks to proclaim the Gospel message of truth, justice and peace, a message which requires concrete actions and not mere words or theories (cf. John Paul II, Centesimus Annus CA 57). Indeed, all who sincerely work for the integral development of the human person and of society will always find a willing partner in the Catholic Church.
This integral development, however, requires concerted efforts on the part of all peoples and nations. The last five years, in fact, have been marked by profound changes in the way in which nations and peoples interact: former divisions into two distinct blocs, ideologically, politically and militarily opposed to each other, have given way to a period of uncertainty, even of confusion in the search for a solid basis for bilateral and multilateral relations between peoples and governments. The failure of the centralized economies of the countries of the Eastern bloc and the need to offset social tensions arising out of the breakdown of the Communist system have to a large extent occupied the attention of the developed nations of Europe and America. For this reason, I have on many occasions urged world leaders and the international community not to forget the needs of the developing countries of the South of the world. In a special way I have invited them to be mindful of the needs of Africa.
Many African countries, including your own beloved Ghana, have been struggling to strengthen the trend towards social and political renewal, seeing this as a condition for real development. In some cases these efforts have brought good results and have effectively contributed to increased harmony and well–being. They enable all sectors of the population to take an active part in the life of the nation. In other cases, obstacles both old and new stand in the way of progress, preventing countries from setting out on the path to democracy and political pluralism. The tragic events in Rwanda are deeply shocking evidence of this. Learning from that horrendous experience, all Africans must be convinced that political association cannot be reduced to ethnic identity, and that a country’s institutions must be at the service of all its citizens equally and with a truly civic spirit.
In this respect recognition is due to the many efforts being made by your President to promote peace in nearby Liberia, specifically by supporting the international peacekeeping force presently active in that country. Devastated and numbed by so much violence, the suffering people of Liberia must not be abandoned by the international community. Above all, in the presence of this situation of conflict, all countries must be reminded of their moral obligation to respect the arms embargo declared by the United Nations. I hope and pray that Liberians will be spared further violence and that a just solution can be found to the disagreements that gave rise to this terrible tragedy.
The developed world has a clear responsibility towards Africa, not only by reason of past history but also because peace and development cannot be ensured for some people if they are not at the same time accessible to all. Programmes of co–operation are therefore necessary and should be available, especially in the transfer of needed technology, in the fight against the terrible AIDS epidemic and in the care of the great number of displaced persons and refugees. But this assistance should fully respect the specific social and cultural structures and traditions of Africa itself, since Africans must always be the artisans and masters of their own development and their own future.
The Catholic Church recently celebrated a Special Session of the Synod of Bishops devoted to the role and work of the Church in Africa. Among other things, the Synod called for a renewed practice of justice and for the rule of law; it saw the need for increased education and for a culture of peace excluding violence as a means of political struggle (cf. Synod of Bishops for Africa, Message, 34 and 35, [6 May 1994]). It is my hope that these objectives may be very much a part of Ghana’s life and political agenda. I can assure Your Excellency that the Catholic Church in Ghana will continue to work for these goals. Catholics share the deep yearning of all their brothers and sisters for true peace and harmony in a society which champions the rights and dignity of each of its individual members.
Mr. Ambassador, as you assume your responsibilities within the diplomatic community accredited to the Holy See, I offer you my prayerful good wishes for the success of your high mission and assure you that the various offices of the Holy See will always be ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. I cordially invoke upon you and upon the beloved people of Ghana the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
Speeches 1994 - Consistory Hall