Speeches 1996 - Friday, 5 July 1996
5. Your people's fidelity to prayer and their fervent sacramental life are treasures to be carefully guarded and intensified. For the fulfilment of their mission the lay faithful need to be interiorly sustained by the power of the Spirit poured out upon the Church through the wounds of the Crucified and Risen Lord. From the pierced heart the Redeemer flow the living waters of grace (Cfr. Io Jn 7,38), which will strengthen the Catholics of Myanmar in building up the mystical body of Christ, even in difficult situations. Those who "walk by the Spirit" (Ga 5,16) are impelled by love to be conformed to the Son (Cfr. Rom Rm 8,29) and to love others as he has loved th?m (Cfr. Io Jn 15,12). Authentic spirituality always leads to love others, and to a firm commitment to transform the world - the home, neighbourhood, workplace and nation - in the light of faith. Opus orationis iustitia: the ?hristi?n's hunger and thirst for justice is the fruit of ?r???rful union with God.
I am glad to know that, even without an abundance of material resources, the laity in your Dioceses generously devote themselves to the spiritual and corporal works of m?r??, responding especially to the needs of orphans, the poor and the neglected. The establishment of Karuna Myanmar [Caritas] will give initiatives of solidarity a structure through which the various groups can work together more effectively for the well-being of all.
As you have had occasion to tell me, the catechists in your Dioceses are "irreplaceable evangelizers" and a pillar of strength for your Christian communities (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Redemptoris Missio RMi 73). To each of them I send a special greeting in the Lord! The first witness of every catechist - and the one which you must constantly encourage - is a life of holiness shown by steadfast faith, unfailing hope and burning charity. These are the "words" which draw people to the Gospel. In order that the specific ecclesial mission of your catechists may be ever more fruitful, they should be chosen according to precise, realistic and verifiable criteria (Cfr. Congregationis pro Gentium Evangelizatione Guide for Catechists, 18) and they must be ensured an intense spiritual, doctrinal and pastoral formation.
6. The Church in Myanmar, like its Sister Churches throughout the world, is "missionary by its very nature, and is both evangelized and evangelizing" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Redemptoris Missio RMi 49). No part of the People of God can feel exempt from the task proclaiming the Good News to the whole of creation (Cfr. Marc.16, 15). Through the witness of priests, religious and lay catechists, evangelization is continuing to make progress in the most remote areas of your country. Recent plans for the establishment of a Missionary Society, Associations of lay missionaries, and evangelizing efforts related to the Great Jubilee are eloquent signs of that missionary spirit which is the guarantee that your hearts beat in unison with the needs of the universal Church (Cfr. Act. 12, 24).
You speak of improving ecumenical contacts, and especially of common prayer with those not in full communion with the Catholic Church. We must hope that this practice - which in fact is "the soul of the whole ecumenical movement" (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 8) will increasingly lead Christians in Myanmar to "join together in taking a stand in the name of Christ on important problems concerning man's calling and on freedom, justice, peace, and the future of the world" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Ut Unum Sint UUS 43).
Likewise, interreligious dialogue is a delicate but indispensable task of your particular Churches. Indeed, as in the rest of Asia, in Myanmar. "the issue of the encounter of Christianity with ancient local ?ultur?s and religions is a pressing one" (?iusdem Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 38). In this you are guided by a profound esteem for the followers of other religious traditions - the pre- requisite for all dialogue. An attitude of respect avoids both a false irenicism rooted in religious indifferentism and a militant fundamentalism which fails to recognize the individual and personal nature of the quest to know the truth and live according to it. On the immediate and practical level, interreligious dialogue involves the desire to overcome divisiveness and to promote harmony through mutual respect, selflessness and compassionate service of others without distinction. In a special way Myanmar's ancient monastic tradition can form a spiritual bridge of fellowship which will stimulate dialogue between Buddhists and Christians. Lives dedicated to prayer and asceticism strongly remind us that the heart's deepest stirrings are satisfied not by the materialism of "having" things but by the communion of "being" with God. Would it not be a great blessing for the Church in Myanmar to have an Institute of Contemplative Life, a community which would "bear glorious witness among non-Christians to the majesty and love of God"? (Ad Gentes AGD 40) The emergence of the monastic life in a young Church is a sign that the Gospel has been authentically and fully implanted.
7. I also wish to encourage your efforts to make the Catholic faithful ever more aware of the part they can play in your country's development, a development which should embody respect for human rights and for cultural and religious values, as well as the promotion of justice and the service of the common good. The Church's social teaching rests on the concept of "the dignity of the person revealed in all its fullness in the mystery of the Incarnate Word" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Centesimus Annus CA 47). It rests on the firm conviction that the unshakable foundation and solid guarantee of a just and peaceful human coexistence are the universal moral norms grounded in creation and written in the human heart (Cfr. Eiusdem Veritatis Splendor VS 96). The safeguarding and promotion of human dignity and inalienable human rights, and in particular the right to religious freedom, is a task which the Church must never neglect.
8. Dear Brothers: as the Great Jubilee draws ever nearer, we must pray that the Church in Myanmar will be blessed with the special fruits of that anniversary. In your midst there are already many hopeful signs for the future of Christianity (Cfr. Eiusdem Redemptoris Missio RMi 86), a future which God is preparing through the zeal and faithfulness with which you carry out your episcopal ministry. I wish once more to assure you of my fraternal support, and I pray that the ministerium Petrinum which the Lord has entrusted to me for the good of his flock (Cfr. Jn 21,15-17) will serve to strengthen you in the apostolic faith (Cfr. Lc 22,32). May the Blessed Virgin Mary intercede for the whole Family of God in Myanmar, that it may continue with courage and joy to "proclaim the mystery of the Gospel" (Ep 6,19). With this prayer I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to the priests, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful: "Peace be to all of you who are in Christ" (1 Petr. 5, 14).
I offer you a cordial welcome to the Vatican, and I gladly accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Sweden to the Holy See. I thank you for your kind words regarding the role and activity of the Holy See in the international community, and in particular for the good wishes which you have conveyed on behalf of His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf. I assure His Majesty of my own esteem and I pray for the continuing peace and prosperity of the nation.
Your Excellency has recalled the visit I made to Sweden in 1989 and especially the visit to Uppsala and Vadstena, which was as it were a journey to the very heart of Sweden's spiritual, cultural and historical heritage. For me it was a delightful encounter with Sweden's past and present. At Uppsala I had occasion to refer to the ecclesiastical origins of the city's renowned University and that institution's proud history of educating in a Christian humanism based on universal values. At Vadstena I met the youth of Sweden and of other Nordic countries, who are not only our future but also a serious, present challenge to our capacity to pass on the religious truths and cultural achievements that constitute the very heart of Europe's identity and heritage. The new Europe emerging from almost 50 years of effort, of which Sweden is an active participant, must not lose sight of the fundamental values of our civilization, which at Uppsala I succinctly listed as "the dignity of the person, the sacred character of life, the central role of the family, the importance of education, the freedom to think, to speak and to profess one's own convictions or religion, the legal protection of individuals and groups, the co-operation of all for the common good, the concept of work as a sharing in the Creator's own work, the authority of the State, itself governed by law and reason" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Coetus cum Communitate Universitatis Sueciae, 4, die 9 iun. 1989: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XII, 1 (1989) 1611).
These values are the result of a long and sometimes painful intellectual and social development, "a spiritual achievement of reason and justice which honours the peoples of Europe as they strive to implement in the temporal order the spirit of Christian brotherhood taught by the Gospel" (Ibid.). The Church, as the depositary of that Gospel, with all the glory of her great men and women - saints, teachers and founders, like your own St Birgitta - and despite the limitations of so many others of her members, was instrumental in creating the conditions which made that development possible. Is it any wonder that the Church looks to the new Europe with immense expectation and hope, and offers her accumulated wisdom for the difficult and delicate task of building a genuine culture of justice, peace and solidarity on this Continent?
Nor is this the desire of the Catholic Church alone. The progress made in ecumenical relations over recent decades greatly serves to enhance the contribution of religious thought and life to the common task. I am more than happy to know that relations between Catholics in your country and members of the Church of Sweden are solidly grounded in mutual esteem and broad co-operation. From my many meetings with the Bishops of the Church of Sweden I know that we share a deep and unfeigned desire to arrive at the ultimate goal of our ecumenical commitment, the unity which corresponds to the will of Christ himself (Cfr. Io Jn 17,21).
The Catholics in your country, including those who are recent immigrants, form a small minority. Nevertheless, in union with their Lutheran neighbours and all people of good will, they play an active part in fostering those cultural and civic values which stand at the source of a just and caring society. In their faith they find the motives and resources for exercising their rights and duties as citizens who have the good of their nation dee?ly at heart.
Diplomatic relations between Sweden and the Holy See, formally established in 1982, have brought new possibilities of contact and co-operation in the service of peace and justice in the international community. I wish to express the Holy See's appreciation of the role which Sweden plays in programmes of development and assistance in needy parts of the world, its dedicated work in defence of human rights, and in particular the contribution which it has made and continues to make to the search for peace in the Balkans.
I am certain, Mr Ambassador, that in the fulfilment of your mission you will contribute all your personal qualities and skills to further strengthening the bonds of friendship and goodwill which unite us. I assure you of the ready collaboration of the various departments of the Roman Curia. Upon yourself, upon His Majesty and the Royal Family, and upon the Swedish people whom you represent I cordially invoke abundant divine blessings.
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the Vatican and accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Philippines to the Holy See. I am grateful for the greetings His Excellency President Fidel Ramos, and the Government and people your country; may I request you to convey my own good wishes and to assure them all my esteem and affection for your nation. Your presence here today evokes strong and cherished memories my most recent Pastoral Visit to Manila and the celebration there of the 10th World Youth Day, in which you personally were deeply involved. On that occasion I was able to witness once again the faith, resilience and vitality of the Filipino people, who remain undaunted, despite frequent setbacks resulting from natural calamities or connected with economic and social factors.
At this time, Filipinos are recalling the historical events and the memory of the patriots who initiated a movement which found its fulfilment, after the horrors and destruction of the Second World War, in the independence of your nation. This is the 50th anniversary of that fundamental moment of your history, and I offer my sincere congratulations and encourage the Government and people to continue to hold in high esteem the ideals of justice, civic pride and social solidarity which make a society stable and capable of serving the needs of its members.
Southeast Asia is living through a period of remarkable growth and development, and your Government is endeavouring to secure such progress also for the Philippines. I am confident that every effort will be made to ensure that the benefits derived from such development are equitably shared by all, and in particular that they be used to help the disadvantaged, so that all Filipinos may share in building "a nation resolutely set on the path of genuine and integral development, and fully committed to the well-being of all its citizens, with special concern for the weakest" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Adventus in urbem Manilam allocutio, 2, die 12 ian. 1995: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XVIII, 1 (1995) 86). It is essential that such advances be matched by a deepening appreciation of spiritual values without which no genuine human development is possible.
In your country an Asian culture and way of life have met and profoundly assimilated the Christian message and tradition. The values derived from the Gospel inspire Christians, and indeed many other men and women of goodwill, to foster a more widespread awareness of the fundamental rights which ensue from the inalienable dignity of every human being. The Philippines have a distinguished record of caring for the weak and more vulnerable, and of generous hospitality towards those who have over the centuries sought refuge in your country. More recently collaboration between the State and the Church has been of great benefit to such people and I urge all involved to continue their efforts to find just solutions to the remaining problems.
Throughout the world, and in the Asia-Pacific region especially, there is the growing conviction that more must be done to protect children from abuse and exploitation of any kind. Governments need to intervene strongly, with all the force of law, against those who harm and scandalize the most defenseless among us. Measures which contribute to this end are to be welcomed, and co-operation at the international level to secure this and to alleviate child poverty - which is frequently the key factor in the propagation of such evils - is to be encouraged.
Many Filipinos must still work abroad in order to provide for their families at home. Such Overseas Contract Workers deserve support and protection. In Rome, as elsewhere, the Church is striving to accompany such people pastorally and to offer them the encouragement needed for perseverance in the Christian life and in their own best traditions, despite the many pressures to which they are subject and the daily problems they must face.
Since the first evangelization of the Philippines the Church has made an essential contribution to the progress of the nation. As I said upon my arrival in Manila last January, "the Church and the political community work on different levels and are mutually independent, but they serve the same human beings. In that service there is ample room for dialogue, co-operation and mutual support" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Adventus in urbem Manilam allocutio, 5, die 12 ian. 1995: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, XVIII, 1 (1995) 87). As there was a religious dimension to the birth of your nation, so now, 50 years after independence, the Church seeks to co-operate with the State in safeguarding everything that is wholesome and worthy of praise in society. The family and married life have a special place within Filipino culture and tradition. Indeed, Filipinos have the highest esteem for the family as the first and vital cell of society, and the source of its cohesion. As I wrote in the Apostolic Exhortation "Familiaris Consortio": "The family has vital and organic links with society, since it is its foundation and nourishes it continually through its role of service to life: it is from the family that citizens come to birth and it is within the family that they find the first school of the social virtues that are the animating principle of the existence and development society itself" (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Familiaris Consortio FC 42). Every effort must be made to strengthen and protect the family, and to ensure the conditions in which it can fulfil its inherent God-given mission in society. Moreover today, when the sacredness all human life from conception to natural death is being obscured in the minds many, it is most important that demographic and social problems, which call for responsible and effective attention from national and international bodies, not be left open to false and deceptive solutions, opposed to the truth and the good of persons and nations (Eiusdem Evangelium Vitae EV 4).
On another level, I am pleased to acknowledge that the lung quest for peace in your country has made considerable progress in recent years. The task is not an easy one, rendered more difficult in part by the complexity of the nation's social fabric, but it is an undertaking requiring prudence and good will.
Your Excellency, I have every confidence that throughout the duration of your mission the friendship and understanding which have ever distinguished relations between the Philippines and the Holy See will prosper, and I wish to assure you the willing co-operation the various offices of the Roman Curia, which you already have some experience as a Member the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Upon yourself and upon the entire Filipino nation I invoke Almighty God's abundant blessings.
Saturday, 10 August 1996
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I before all else, I wish to thank the many people who contributed to making this Colloquium possible. In particular, I express my gratitude to the "Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen" which has been responsible for the organization of our meeting and many of whose members are present among us.
These have been three days of intense reflection on topics of great interest. They have been a true feast for the spirit. With their papers, our speakers have led us to a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of the Enlightenment and of the influence that it continues to exert in our own times, especially on the approach to certain fundamental concepts of anthropology.
I thank you all most heartily.
2. During the presentation of the papers and the stimulating discussions which ensued, I tried not only to follow the thread of the various arguments, but also to find a way of approaching, from a theological standpoint, the overall issues which were raised.
I found a starting point in the term "Enlightenment" itself. There is no need to say much about the nature and the historical significance of this cultural phenomenon: these are quite well-known. Equally well-known is the effect which the Enlightenment had on Christianity in Europe. In a certain sense, it became a movement of dissent from the Christian faith, a dissent based on rationalistic premises. This is one of the points I touched upon in my book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope.
But the same word — "Enlightenment" — can also be understood to mean "illumination", the gift of light from above. Here the word can have a very positive theological connotation. To speak of "enlightenment" in this sense is to acknowledge that, alongside the knowledge of reality open to man by the exercise of reason alone, there also exists a knowledge which man - as a reasonable and free being - is capable of receiving from God. Consequently, "enlightenment" can be seen as the working within man of the light and the power which the Holy Spirit bestows. The Church was born of the power of that "enlightenment" which occurred when the Holy Spirit descended upon her at Pentecost. That day revealed the light and the power which flow from the Cross and Resurrection of Christ.
3. Les Apôtres sont devenus participants de ces dons de l'Esprit Saint, qui s'étaient manifestés dans le Christ lui-même, au début de sa mission messianique. Rappelons-nous les paroles qu'Il a prononcées dans la Synagogue de Nazareth: « L'Esprit du Seigneur est sur moi, parce que le Seigneur m'a consacré par l'onction. Il m'a envoyé porter la Bonne nouvelle aux pauvres, annoncer aux prisonniers qu'ils sont libres, et aux aveugles qu'ils verront la lumière, apporter aux opprimés la libération, annoncer une année de bienfaits accordée par le Seigneur » (Lc 4,18-19 cfr. Is Is 61,1-2).
Le jour de la Pentecôte, les Apôtres, et avec eux l'Église primitive, furent aussi rendus participants de ces dons de l'Esprit. Ces dons sont nombreux et variés: la tradition, se référant aux Écritures (Cfr. Is Is 11,2), a dénombré les sept dons suivants: don de sagesse, d'intelligence, de conseil, de force, de connaissance, de piété (donum pietatis, ce qui est souvent traduit en polonais par « don de dévotion »), et don de crainte de Dieu (Cfr. Catholicae Ecclesiae Catechismus, n. 1831).
Comme on peut le remarquer, ces dons se réfèrent non seulement aux facultés cognitives de l'homme, mais aussi à sa volonté et à la partie affective de sa psychè.Par exemple, le don de force ou le donum pietatis n'ont pas de valeur directement cognitive, mais, de manière indirecte, ils ont une influence sur l'aspect instinctif et sur les passions qui appartiennent à la psychè humaine.
4. Bei dieser Schlußveranstaltung möchte ich auch die Aufmerksamkeit auf die liturgischen Feiern dieser Tage lenken: Das »Triduum« unserer Überlegungen in Castel Gandolfo fand zwischen dem 8. und dem 10. August statt: am 8. gedenkt die Kirche der hervorragenden Gestalt des heiligen Dominikus und am 9. August - zumindest in Polen und in Deutschland - der seligen Edith Stein. Schließlich wird am 10. August das Fest des heiligen Laurentius, Diakon und Märtyrer, begangen.
Unter diesen Persönlichkeiten ist Laurentius der Älteste; von ihm sagt die Liturgie, daß er für Rom das gleiche darstellte, was der heilige Stephanus für Jerusalem bedeutete. Als Märtyrer stellt er insbesondere die heroische Stärke dar, verbunden mit der Gabe des Heiligen Geistes. Der heilige Dominikus, der Gründer des Predigerordens, das heißt der Dominikaner, hat mit seiner neuen religiösen Familie, die er ins Leben gerufen hat, einen grundlegenden Beitrag für jene großartige Entwicklung der mittelalterlichen Theologie geleistet, die besonders durch das Werk des heiligen Thomas von Aquin Ausdruck gefunden hat. Schließlich hat Edith Stein, eine uns zeitgenössische Person, in sich ein wunderbares Zeugnis ihrer Erkenntnisgaben abgelegt - die Gaben der Weisheit, der Erkenntnis, des Rates und der Wissenschaft. Sie war Mitarbeiterin Husserls und hat sehr wichtige philosophische Werke verfaßt. Gleichzeitig hat sie mit der Palme des Martyriums Eingang in das Martyrologium der Kirche gefunden. Es ist uns bekannt, daß sie als Tochter des jüdischen Volkes in den Öfen von Auschwitz verbrannt wurde. Gerade gestern, am 9. August, sagte ich zum Professor Spaemann: »Heute ist der Tag der seligen Edith Stein. So könnten wir doch sagen, daß dieser Tag sich zwischen die philosophische Spekulation von "Endliches und ewiges Sein" und die mystische Erhebung von "Kreuzeswissenschaft" stellt«.
Kann der Tod dieser Märtyrerin als eine Konsequenz - wenigstens als eine indirekte Konsequenz - der Irrtümer, die in der geschichtlichen und philosophischen Aufklärung ihre Wurzeln hatten, betrachtet werden? Auch wenn dies der historischen W?hrh?ft über Edith Stein entsprechen würde, ist es nicht zu leugnen, daß sie in sich gleichzeitig eine tiefere Wahrheit trägt, nämlich die eines Lebens und eines Todes, die Frucht jener »Aufklärung-Erleuchtung« ist, die dem Menschen mit den Gaben des Heiligen Geistes geschenkt wird und die ihre Früchte besonders in den kritischsten und dramatischsten Augenblicken im Leben eines gläubigen Menschen bringt.
Nochmals mein aufrichtiger Dank für die schöne Erfahrung dieses Kolloquiums, das uns beschäftigt und zu einem Austausch wahrhaftig interessanter Uberlegungen gebracht hat.
Allen gelten meine herzlichsten Wünsche und alles Gute.
Dear Brother Bishops,
I warmly welcome you, the Bishops of Sri Lanka, with the prayer that "mercy, peace and love may be multiplied in you" (cf. Jude Jud 1,2). I earnestly hope that your ad Limina visit and your veneration of the holy Martyrs Peter and Paul will strengthen the koinonia of heart and mind (cf. Acts Ac 4,32) which unites us in the service of the Gospel. All the joyful moments of my Pastoral Visit to your country last year come back to my mind, There I experienced the serene and dignified hospitality, the fervent religious spirit of all Sri Lankans. I continue to pray that your people will always cherish their rich spiritual and cultural heritage, and that the harmony and mutual respect which has flourished among the various religions will not be weakened by present ethnic difficulties (cf. John Paul II, Homily for the Liturgy of Vespers at the Cathedral of St. Lucia, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 20 Jan. 1995).
The whole Church is preparing to celebrate the Great Jubilee which will commemorate the "fullness of time", (Ga 4,4) when the Eternal Word took flesh in the Virgin Mother's womb (cf. Jn. Jn 1,14). This must be a time for the Church in Sri Lanka to enter the Upper Room with Mary and the Apostles and pray fervently for a fresh outpouring of the Spirit; a time to open wide the doors to Christ and to listen to his pressing summons: "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mc 1,15). Through you, his "ambassadors" (2Co 5,6), this appeal should ring out with ever greater urgency in the final years before the beginning of the Third Christian Millennium, The framework for this preparation is presented by the positive outcome of the National Pastoral Convention, for which we prayed together last year in Colombo. The deliberations and resolutions of the Convention have set the tone of your pastoral agenda for the Third Millennium. May the Lord bring to completion the good work he has begun in you (cf. Phil. Ph 1,6)!
2. The Convention has brought a new awareness among the laity of the fact that by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation they are called to bear faithful witness to Christ in every sphere of life. They have the specific task of serving the Kingdom of God "by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God's will" (Lumen Gentium LG 31). They look to you and your priests to help them acquire the preparation they need in order to answer that call. A systematic and sound catechists which truly nourishes the seed of faith in people's hearts is central to your prophetic ministry. In Sri Lanka, the celebration of religious feasts, novenas, pilgrimages and other manifestations of popular devotion provide unique opportunities - to be explored in greater depth - for the deeper spiritual and theological formation of the laity. The translations of the Catechism of the Catholic Church into the languages of your country, prepared under your supervision, will be of great help in handing on the treasure of the Gospel to your people.
It is especially important that the catechetical apostolate should help the family to fulfil its role as the principal school of evangelization: "Christian parents are the primary and irreplaceable catechists of their children, a task for which they are given the grace by the Sacrament of Matrimony" (John Paul II, Christifideles Laici CL 34). They must be supported, of course, by priests, religious and catechists, in parishes, schools and associations. The well-organized system of Sunday Schools established in your Dioceses is an excellent means of fulfilling this task, especially where catechists constantly grow in their knowledge of the faith, develop methods of teaching adapted to those being catechized and show zeal in reaching out to those who seem indifferent. To all the committed lay faithful devoted to works of the apostolate in your Dioceses I send a special greeting, and I encourage them "to grow always in the knowledge of the richness of Baptism and faith as well as to live it more fully" (Ibid., 58).
3. In this context a special chapter must be dedicated to young people. The secularization of the educational system and of society calls the ecclesial community to devote more time and resources to the youth apostolate. This requires creativity in the designing of programmes, in planning retreats and days of recollection, and in the setting up of Catholic youth federations, movements and associations. In their own specific way each of these initiatives should further that blessed encounter of youth with the loving gaze of Christ (Cf. Mk. Mc 10,21) who knows what is in their heart (cf. Jn 2,25). Despite allurements of all kinds, young people yearn for the fullness of life which is found only in him who is "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Ibid., 14:6). Once young people have found their interior Companion, the Word of life, the Redeemer of the world, they become the most effective apostles to their own generation!
A particular word of gratitude is due for the work and witness of your Catholic schools. As well as pursuing excellence in academic matters, education undertaken by the Church aims at leading pupils to a renewal of their minds by the power of truth (cf. Rom. Rm 12,2) and to the conversion of their hearts to the love of God and neighbour (cf. Mt. Mt 22,37-40). By teaching respect for others and tolerance of diversity, Catholic schools help to form a climate of dialogue and cooperation in society. In order that the schools may fulfil their lofty mission better, I invite you to encourage those engaged in this apostolate to persevere in spite of difficulties and to explore new ways of serving the poor and the marginalized, who would not otherwise have access to such an education.
4. In all these areas of the apostolate, you are assisted by your generous and dedicated priests. Your particular Churches are blessed with priests filled with zeal and marked by the spirit of evangelical poverty. Encourage them always to "strengthen the inner man" (cf. Eph. Ep 3,16) through a life of prayer and the willingness to make a full and sincere gift of self to the Lord and his Church. The Church in Sri Lanka, as everywhere else, needs priests outstanding for their holiness of life, theological learning and spiritual wisdom, devout celebration of the Eucharist and the other Sacraments according to the mind and discipline of the Church, obedience to their Bishops and a commitment to fruitful cooperation with the lay faithful (cf. John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 18). Your recent decision that candidates to the priesthood will have a propaedeutic year of intense spiritual formation will undoubtedly reinforce the training of "shepherds after the Lord's own heart" (cf. Jer. Jr 3,15). Be close to priests who suffer or are tempted, reminding them of the sacramental grace which has configured them to Christ who prefers to call them "friends" rather than servants (cf. Jn. Jn 15,15). Exhort your priests to maintain the traditional pastoral practice of parish visitation as an effective means of sustaining the faithful and of reaching those who have fallen away from the practice of their faith.
Speeches 1996 - Friday, 5 July 1996