Speeches 1996 - Friday, 8 March 1996




Monday, 11 March 1996

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to welcome once more a group of representatives of B nai B'rith International. The significance of your visit lies in the fact that it is an opportunity for us all to re-commit ourselves to the joint efforts needed to build ever greater understanding and solidarity between Catholics and Jews. At a time when hopes for peace have again been jeopardized by recent terrorist attacks in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, we must renew our prayer and our efforts to insist on what unites rather than on what divides and separates.

An essential tool for advancing mutual understanding and creating an ever closer rapport between Catholics and Jews is education. In this education, an essential element from both of our traditions is memory. The memory of our respective traditions, of the good and the bad of past relations, should teach us humble faith and trusting hope. It should guide us as we seek "to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God" (Cfr. Mic. Mi 6,8). It will strengthen our responsibility and commitment.

This is the path to which we are committed, and I pray that the Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, will grant us his bounteous mercy and grace so that we may truly progress down this path together. Upon all of you I invoke abundant divine blessings.




Tuesday, 26 March 1996

Your Eminence,
Dear Brother Bishops,

"I thank God in all my remembrance of you ... making my prayer with joy" (Ph 1,3).

1. With these words of St Paul, and in that same spirit of thanksgiving and joy, I greet you, the Bishops of Korea, on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum. You have come to Rome, to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, in order to express your communion and that of the whole "household of God" (Ep 2,19) in Korea with the Successor of Peter who "presides over the universal communion of charity" (Cfr. S. IGNATII ?NTIOCHENI Ad Romanos, prooemium).

Your ad Limina visit comes as the Holy Season of Lent is drawing to a close. After our meetings you will return to your Dioceses to lead the faithful in the celebrations that commemorate the most sacred events of our salvation: our Lord's Passion, Death and Resurrection. These most holy of mysteries cannot fail to inspire us as we seek to fulfil with fidelity and diligence our duties as Shepherds of God's People, nor can they fail to shape my reflection with you today. "For Christ, our Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, that of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1Co 5,7-8).

2. In the context of the Paschal Mystery we understand more clearly that "a Bishop should stand in the midst of his people as one who serves" (Christus Dominus CD 16 cfr. Matth. Mt 20,28), for Christ himself came not to do his own will but the will of the One who sent him (Cfr. Io. Jn 6,38). A Bishop must be a good shepherd who knows his sheep and whose sheep know him, to the point that this bond leads him to be ready to lay down his life for his sheep (Cfr. ibid. 10, 14-15). He must be a true father who shows love and concern for all, so that the whole family of believers may be gathered together and "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Petr. 3, 18). This then is the calling which the Lord renews to us each day. Our response can never be that of the "hired servants", but must always be the totally committed response of the Apostles (Cfr. Marc. 1, 20), called to be the very foundation of the whole edifice of the Church (Cfr. Eph. Ep 2,20).

As Bishops and shepherds of souls, this response of ours becomes a living witness, drawing into more intimate communion with the Lord those already in the sheepfold, and drawing to Christ and his Church those who do not yet know the full truth of the Gospel, "the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith" (Rm 1,16). In your homeland, this saving power of God is being clearly manifested: the overall number of Catholics continues to grow, programmes of formation for catechumens and neophytes are well attended, and vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life are numerous. Responding to the signs of the times, the lay faithful are becoming ever more actively involved in the Church's life and apostolate, in parishes and associations, in evangelization, catechesis and the study and application of the Church's social doctrine. Above all, through their witness of Christian living according to the standards of the Gospel and through their responsible involvement in the nation's social, cultural, political and economic life, the laity are assuming their specific role in the transformation of the temporal order in the perspective of God's Kingdom, by promoting human dignity, building solidarity and serving the common good. There is no question of the many spiritual gifts with which the Lord is blessing your Churches. Your task is to cultivate these gifts, nourishing, refining and directing them, so that the whole of human reality will be more fully imbued with Christ's saving presence and love. In this way the Church will truly serve "as a leaven and a kind of soul for human society" (Gaudium et Spes GS 40).

3. And is there not a great need for the Church in Korea to take on this role with ever increasing vigour and zeal? As you yourselves point out, your society's economic development is accompanied by a certain materialistic view of reality, which is coming to the fore and even seems to dominate people's outlook, especially among the younger generation. Not in Korea alone, but throughout your whole region of Asia, certain cultural influences are gaining ground which are in contrast with some of the more authentic human values upon which your society has hitherto based itself. As Pastors of the Church, you are well aware that a great effort of discernment is called for in relation to this phenomenon. You have a specific contribution to make through your vigorous efforts to implement pastoral initiatives and programmes which adequately address the crisis of values which is being widely felt.

Among the specific tasks of your ministry in this respect, I encourage you never to tire of proclaiming, teaching and defending the inviolable sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. Be spokesmen of the culture of life, seeking effective co-operation with all those who share your deep concern for the "extraordinary increase ... of threats to the life of individuals and peoples, especially where life is weak and defenseless" (IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Evangelium Vitae EV 3).

4. We must all be convinced that the coming Jubilee marking the 2000th anniversary of the Birth of our Saviour is a providential opportunity for the whole Church to reflect on what has been achieved so far and on what is required for a deeper, more generous following of the Lord. In your particular Churches you have already begun a pastoral programme of preparation for that year of grace.It will be most important to help everyone—priests, religious and laity—to grasp the true significance of this event. Its justification, content and purpose are well expressed in the words of the Council's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: "The Church believes that Christ, who died and was raised up for all, can through his Spirit offer man the light and the strength to measure up to his supreme destiny.... She likewise holds that in her most benign Lord and Master can be found the key, the focal point, and the goal of all human history" (Gaudium et Spes GS 10). This whole period therefore must be a time of conversion, grace and renewal, centered on the living presence of the Redeemer.

Among those who have a special claim on your pastoral concern and charity are those Catholics who for one reason or another have drifted away from the practice of the faith. Likewise, you will be making special efforts to involve young Catholics in the preparation and celebration of the Jubilee. This is essential, since it is they who will carry the Church into the next century and into the next millennium: Christ expects great things from young people (Cfr. IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 58).

5. In a similar context, I also encourage you to continue your missionary outreach, within your own country and beyond. This remains, after all, an essential feature of the Church's life in every generation and in every part of the world. It is therefore a fundamental part of our role as Successors of the Apostles, who themselves preached the Good News to all without distinction. The Church in Korea is in a unique position in your region to make known "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ep 3,8). In this regard, I am grateful to you for your generosity in sending religious personnel to certain parts of Asia where circumstances make this particularly necessary, and for your willingness to receive candidates from elsewhere into your own seminaries, a tangible sign of your commitment to "missionary co-operation" (Cfr. IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Redemptoris Missio RMi 85).

On another level, I wish to commend the Korean Church's efforts to show solidarity with your brothers and sisters in the North, especially in response to the recent floods which devastated several provinces.

6. In fulfilling all of your various pastoral responsibilities, you are assisted by your brother priests, who are your "necessary helpers and counsellors" in the sacred ministry (Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 7). I rejoice with you that your Dioceses are blessed with many devoted priests and that priestly vocations continue to increase.

Since the "first representative of Christ in priestly formation is the Bishop" (IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 65), you must strive to ensure that candidates possess sound motives, genuine piety and sufficient talent, and that they seriously strive to become men of irreproachable moral character. "An extremely important element of a priest's education" (Ibid. 45) is his spiritual formation, the necessary foundation of all the rest. But this formation does not end with priestly ordination, since, as every priest knows, faithfulness to the priestly ministry involves "a process of continual conversion" (IOANNIS PAULI PP. II Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 70). By making provision for the spiritual support and continuing formation of your priests, you will help them to acknowledge at all times their true dignity and express in the lives their priestly identity as "men of God", "servants of the Church", "alter Christus" (Cfr. ibid. 5).

The annual "Day for the Sanctification and Renewal of the Clergy", which you have established, is an invitation to the faithful to pray for the holiness, dedication and fidelity of their ordained ministers. Thus clergy and laity together will raise a common prayer to the Lord of the harvest that his promise may be fulfilled in your own local churches: "I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding" (Ier. 3, 15).

7. My reflection would hardly be complete without an affectionate mention of the consecrated men and women - religious and members of Secular Institutes - whose special consecration to the Lord enables them to bear a particularly effective witness to God's love for his people. In each local Church, they are living signs of the truth that "the Kingdom of God is at hand" (Marc. 1, 15). You know how much the Church in your country depends on their generous service. I urge you to be close to them and to cherish their charisms as an extraordinary gift of the Lord. Within a few days I will issue the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation which presents the fruits of the 1994 Synod of Bishops on the role and mission of the consecrated life in the Church and the world. I entrust this document to you and to the consecrated men and women of your Dioceses, as a token of the love, trust and expectation with which the whole People of God looks to them at this particular moment of salvation history.

8. Dear Brother Bishops, these are some of the thoughts which your visit inspires. I thank you once more for the generosity and commitment with which you discharge your pastoral duties. With Passiontide almost upon us, let us continue to look to him who freely laid down his life that he might take it up again (Cfr. Io. Jn 10,17). I pray unceasingly for you that you may faithfully fulfil your apostolic task of "preaching the word, convincing, rebuking, exhorting and being unfailing in patience and teaching" (Cfr. 2Tm 4,2). And the same prayer I ask of you, that the Lord may strengthen me in my ministry as primary guardian of the deposit of faith, for the good of the Church throughout the world.

I commend all of you to Mary, our sorrowful Mother at the foot of the Cross, and entrust to her the needs and hopes of the Church in Korea, as well as the burdens and joys of your own ministry. To each of you and to all the priests, religious and lay faithful of your Dioceses I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

April 1996




Tuesday, 2 April 1996

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to have this opportunity to welcome to the Vatican the Heads of the Police Forces from the fifteen member nations of the European Union, on the occasion of your Meeting in Rome. The ideal of European unity, as envisaged by its founding fathers, undoubtedly depends greatly on heightening respect for the rules which govern people's living together in community. Otherwise, it is impossible to have effective justice, peace and fraternity. It is in this perspective that your profession has an invaluable role to play. I wish to assure you of my esteem for the work done day after day by so many generous men and women in the police. The great challenge which engages their talents and sometimes their very lives is the protection of the inalienable freedom of everyone, without regard for race, culture or religion, which must never be reasons for discrimination. You and your colleagues place your skills and dedication at the service of building a better society for all.

In recent decades most countries have gone through crises of one kind or another—cultural, social, political—which have left individuals and families more vulnerable, and have given rise to new forms and levels of crime in society. Your task is immense, especially when honest citizens begin to feel that they are caught up in an overwhelming spiral of violence, drugs, corruption and lack of mutual trust. The temptation to discouragement affects even some members of your police forces, and this is a personal challenge to your own leadership.

Certes, il appartient aux Autorités politiques de prendre les décisions qui s'imposent pour refaire et affermir le tissu social, afin que chacun soit reconnu et aimé par ses frères, quelque soient sa position et son statut dans la société. Tout en poursuivant la répression contre toutes les formes de crime et d'actes contraires aux règles de la morale communautaire la plus élémentaire, vos services sont aussi appelés à privilégier la prévention et l'éducation civique, par la proximité avec l'ensemble du peuple, afin de faire découvrir à tous la beauté et la joie des relations conviviales qui supposent des droits et des devoirs. Les jeunes, en particulier, doivent retenir toute votre attention. Leur fragilité personnelle et les difficultés de nombreuses familles font d'eux une proie facile pour ceux qui veulent en tirer profit, par l'attrait illusoire de l'argent et de la violence gratuite ou par des plaisirs faciles. Les jeunes entrent parfois très rapidement dans la délinquance et les aider à en sortir demande une longue patience et un sens pédagogique profond, pour qu'ils puissent réintégrer les réseaux relationnels et trouver leur place dans la société, en particulier dans les zones défavorisées des villes.

Le souci de l'ordre public et des droits de l'homme sont des éléments fondamentaux de l'harmonie sociale. Les services de police ont la charge d'offrir à leurs concitoyens une terre où il est possible de vivre en sécurité et où tous soient respectés dans leur dignité de personne humaine. Ils sont les garants du respect de la loi édictée par un État, fondement du pacte social, pour que la justice soit égale pour tous; mais, dans le même temps, chacun doit pouvoir bénéficier des droits qui garantissent son intégrité personnelle et sa défense. Votre mission auprès des hommes est donc un véritable service de la société.

En vous souhaitant des travaux fructueux, pour le bien de tous vos compatriotes et pour l'affermissement des relations entre les personnes au sein de la Communauté européenne, je vous accorde bien volontiers ma Bénédiction Apostolique, ainsi qu'à tous les policiers que vous représentez et aux membres de vos familles.




Tuesday, 16 April 1996

Dear Brother Bishops,

1. It is with great joy that I greet you, the members of the Lesotho Catholic Bishops' Conference who, like the Apostle Paul in the early days of the Church, have come to see Peter (Cfr. Gal Ga 1,18). Your visit ad limina Apostolorum gives concrete expression to the ties which bind the whole Church of God in communion and fellowship, making us all "one in Christ Jesus" (Ibid. 3, 28). In greeting you, I embrace the clergy, the men and women religious and the lay faithful of your Dioceses. In the full joy of the Easter season we must raise our voices in prayer and thanksgiving to God, for "by his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Petr. 1, 3).

This living hope, this faith, emboldens us to proclaim that "there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Act. 4, 12). This must ever be the basis of our preaching and teaching as we tend Christ's flock and seek to lead new disciples to him. My predecessor, Pope Paul VI, said it well: "There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the Kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not proclaimed" (Pauli VI Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 22). The power of the Holy Spirit sustains us as we fulfil our obligations in this regard. The work of evangelization, once begun, must not be interrupted. People everywhere thirst for the transcendent dimension which the Good News brings to their lives; new generations await the proclamation of the Gospel.

2. The Church has a duty to present the Gospel in such a way that it can be grasped and understood by people of every background. Thus, each particular Church ought to develop "the ability to express Christ's message in its own way" and at the same time foster "a living exchange ... between the Church and the diverse cultures" (Gaudium et Spes GS 44). This is the inculturation which is necessary "for a firm rooting of the Gospel in Africa" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Ecclesia in Africa ). It is a twofold process, involving "the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration into Christianity" and "the insertion of Christianity into the various human cultures" (EIUSDEM Redemptoris Missio RMi 52). Your task as Bishops is to oversee this effort and to guarantee its genuineness. In Africa, as I have had the privilege to note personally on many occasions, including my most recent visit last year, there are many elements in the life of the continent's peoples which can serve as channels to make the Gospel message better known and understood.

These same elements, once imbued with the spirit of the Gospel, bring about the transformation of situations and circumstances which require healing. Such contact with the boundless grace of Christ (Cfr. Rom Rm 5,17 Rom Rm 5,20) is what the people of Lesotho long for, and it is what you are called to help them achieve.

Yes, dear Brothers in the Episcopate! "From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace" (Jn 1,16). This must be the object and substance of your proclamation, as you constantly remind your people of the hope which is ours in Christ Jesus (Cfr. 1Tm 1,3 1Tm 4,10). "For we have not a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses" (Hebr.4,15). The compassion, comfort and peace of Christ must be your faithful and consistent message to the people of Lesotho, especially to those who face some of the more difficult situations which you have referred to in your ad limina reports: the migrant workers who are forced by economic conditions to earn a living far from home, often for long periods of time; the women who must bring up their children on their own; the married people who must cope with the loneliness caused by a spouse's long absence; the children who are without the loving care and influence of one of their parents; the labourers and professional people coming home only to find increasing unemployment and hardship.

3. I am aware that in addressing these and other situations you work in close contact and co-operation with the other Ecclesial Communities present in your country, especially within the framework of the Christian Council of Lesotho. Without losing sight of the ultimate aim of ecumenical dialogue, which is the search for the full unity of Christ's disciples, there is already ample room for joint action in the defence of human dignity and freedom, in the service of the common good, and in bringing assistance and relief to those in need.

4. In fulfilling your pastoral responsibilities, you are assisted by the priests, consecrated "for building up the Body of Christ" (Ep 4,12), whom God has given you as your co-workers. As "a true father who excels in the spirit of love and solicitude" (Christus Dominus CD 16), a Bishop should encourage and sustain his priests. Nothing can replace the personal role which you play in helping them to "rekindle the gift of God which is within them through the laying on of hands" (Cfr. 2Tm 1,6). Support them as they strive for continual conversion and seek to deepen their identification with Christ the High Priest.

I am confident that, notwithstanding all the demands made on your resources, you will continue to give priority to the training of candidates to the priesthood, especially in what concerns that deep faith and Christian virtue which will enable them to be credible witnesses, in word and deed, to the Good News of Salvation in Jesus Christ. Saint Augustine's Major Seminary is a precious asset of the Church in Lesotho. I am certain that the Rector, directors, teachers and students, who form "a kind of family" (Optatam Totius OT 5), will make every effort to be a true community of faith, imbued with "harmony in spirit and behaviour" (Ibid.). Do not hesitate to send your best priests to serve in the Seminary (Cfr. ibid.); in every aspect of seminary life, candidates need to see the true identity of the priest, configured to Christ the Good Shepherd and called to make the Lord's love present for all (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 21-23).

5. Consecrated men and women too have a particular claim on your pastoral care. Encourage them in their way of life and their loving service, that they may continue to be outstanding heralds of the Gospel. It is especially through the work of Religious in education and health care in the Kingdom of Lesotho that the Church is able to make a significant contribution to the improvement of society. I would recommend to you, and ask you to recommend to your Religious, the recently published Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation « Vita Consecrata », as an instrument for reflection on their specific vocation in the Church: "A precious and necessary gift for the present and future of the People of God, since it is an intimate part of her life, her holiness and her mission" (I?annis Pauli PP. II Vita Consecrata VC 3).

When I remember my pastoral visit to the Church in Lesotho, I have a vivid recollection of the catechists and lay leaders, who have such a determinative role in the implantation and expansion of the Church in Africa (Cfr. EIUSDEM Ecclesia in Africa ). I would like to express a special word of gratitude and appreciation to them. May they always find in you the help they need to obtain a proper formation and to develop a clear awareness of their particular role in the Church and in society.

As for the laity, they should be strengthened in their Catholic identity, so that they may bear convincing witness to Christ and his truth, in the home, in the workplace and in society at large. This is true above all of the Christian family, the "domestic church". No effort should be spared in supporting and defending this first and vital cell of society. Couples in mixed marriages need particular pastoral attention, in order that there may be no weakening of faith. In the task of securing a revitalization of faith, small Christian communities can be particularly effective in fostering knowledge of God's word and active involvement in parish life and community service. They are especially useful in helping the Church to respond to the pastoral needs of the young, who have to feel the support of the ecclesial family if they are to meet the challenges presented by new cultural models. If young men and women are encouraged to play a more active role in the life of the Church, more of them will be led to respond to the grace and call of Christ to follow him in a vocation to priesthood or the religious life.

6. The aim of all your pastoral efforts is that "serious deepening of the faith" which is particularly necessary today, given the modern phenomena of "family uprooting, urbanization, unemployment and materialistic seductions of all kinds" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Ecclesia in Africa ). In this regard, Lesotho's Catholic Schools are one of your greatest assets, and one of your principal pastoral concerns. I encourage your efforts to seek a better understanding with the Government in order to overcome the difficulties currently being experienced in the Lesotho school system. The effectiveness of your schools in serving the needs of the nation's children depends greatly on their maintaining a specific Catholic identity. The Church's presence in education, as well as in the areas of social service and health care, is the practical expression of Christian love, a love which has to expand to meet ever new challenges. The current socio-economic situation of your country is creating difficulties for virtually all sections of the population, thus making charity and solidarity all the more necessary. An authentic witness of spiritual and material service is always the test of the credibility of Christ's followers.

7. With the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 drawing ever nearer, the whole Church is called to prepare for the special graces which that commemoration will surely bring (Cfr. EIUSDEM Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 15). To this end, I encourage you to consider how you can lead your people to a more intense experience of the Church as Christian fellowship, a living unity wherein all members share their spiritual gifts and make visibly present the one divine life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I ask you to take back to your Dioceses my warm greetings and the assurance of my prayers and concern for them. I commend the Catholics of Lesotho to the loving intercession of Mary and of your own Blessed Joseph Gérard, and I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of strength and peace in our Risen Saviour.



Your Eminences,

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to greet once more the members of the Papal Foundation, on your annual pilgrimage to Rome. During this holy season of Easter the whole Church celebrates the new life and renewed hope which is the risen Lord's gift to those who believe. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Petr. 1, 3). It is this redemptive and transforming grace which I invoke upon you and your associates, in gratitude for what the Papal Foundation does to support the universal ministry of the Successor of Peter.

In order to fulfil the mission entrusted to her by the Lord himself, the Church depends on the active co-operation of her members who give their time and energies so that "Christ may be all in all" (Cfr. Col Col 3,11). This is precisely what the members of the Papal Foundation are doing in providing me with effective help in meeting situations of need in different parts of the world. Areas ravaged by human poverty and violence, places where the Church herself is just now emerging from persecution and suppression, as well as materially affluent societies which are suffering from spiritual impoverishment: all of these have been and continue to be direct beneficiaries of the annual grants made available by the Papal Foundation.

The whole Church is preparing to celebrate with intense participation the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 and the beginning of a new Christian Millennium. Now as always, the clearest sign of the Church's vitality is the generous love with which her members open their hearts to their brothers and sisters.

Love is the soul and impulse of the new evangelization and of the mission ad gentes which constitute the fundamental challenges of her pilgrimage towards God's Kingdom. As the Apostle Paul indicated, that love involves "good deeds" and "help", if it is to be fruitful (Cfr. Tit Tt 3,14). My appreciation therefore of the Papal Foundation is not restricted to the practical benefits which result from your efforts, but is above all a sentiment of heartfelt gratitude for the evangelical spirit of self-giving love which animates your work.

In this same context, I cannot fail to express in a very special way my sentiments of personal gratitude to the late Cardinal John Krol. Not only was Cardinal Krol instrumental in establishing the Papal Foundation, but he also lent his able leadership, first as Chairman and then as President of the Foundation, watching over and encouraging its activities right up to the end of his life. Now that the Lord has called our dear Brother and friend back to himself, I know that you join me in praying that he will receive the reward of his labours, that he will "share his Master's joy" (Cfr. Matth Mt 25,21 Matth Mt 25,23).

My prayers are also for you, for your families and for all who contribute to the Foundation's important work: may your commitment to Christ and to the task of supporting the ministry of the Successor of Peter be strengthened and renewed at this season of life and grace. Commending you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, April 24, 1996.

Speeches 1996 - Friday, 8 March 1996