Speeches 1997 - Saturday, 11 January 1997
I gladly welcome you to the Vatican and accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the Holy See. I thank you for the greetings which you bring from President Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari and the Prime Minister, and I ask you to convey to them the assurance of my prayers for your nation and its people.
Your Excellency has graciously acknowledged the Holy See’s efforts within the international community to foster the establishment of peace and justice in human affairs and in international relations. This service is inspired by an abiding concern for the well-being of all peoples everywhere. The one human family, in all its vast diversity, shares a common destiny on this planet and a common responsibility in developing the world’s resources for the benefit of all. Unfortunately the world and its component societies are often marked by a notable lack of equity and justice in the sharing of the benefits of economic, social and cultural progress. At the same time, as so many international meetings on these topics show, there is a growing awareness that the inherent dignity of every human being, no matter what the circumstances of life, constitutes a moral impulse of great intensity in stimulating a development that will fully take account of the inalienable rights through which human dignity is expressed (cf. Sollicitudo rei socialis SRS 26). The Holy See seeks to promote this view of integral human development, not least in relation to the safeguarding of religious freedom, a freedom which is an essential expression of the unique dignity of the human person. I am pleased that Your Excellency referred to the rights of minorities, which necessar ily include the right to freedom of reli gion.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted and proclaimed by the United Nations Organization almost 50 years ago, makes clear reference to “the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” (article 18). It is this free dom which is the basis of all others, since it enables people to fulfil the moral obligation to search for and ad here to the truth, especially religious truth. That obligation stems from the very nature of the human person, en dowed by the Creator with intelligence and free will. Consequently, we must hope that all States will juridically guar antee the freedom of every individual and group to profess their religious con victions.
The civil recognition of the right to religious freedom can be said to be the measure of a society’s respect for other fundamental rights. In cases where the State grants a special juridical position to a particular religion, it is especially important to ensure that everyone’s right to freedom of conscience is legally recognized and effectively respected Any law regarding religious matters which is susceptible to abuse and misin terpretation in a manner contrary to the mind of the legislator needs to be clari fied in such a way that justice will al ways be upheld, especially in relation to the weaker sectors of society. Whenever problems of discrimination affecting mi norities arise, a dialogue based on mu tual respect and concern for the com mon good constitutes the first and fundamental duty of all parties.
In this spirit, the Catholics of Pakistan are committed to working with their fellow citizens for their country’s political, social and cultural development. The Catholic Church has made an important contribution in the field of education at all levels of Pakistani society and is also present in the areas of health care and social assistance. In offering these services, the Church seeks no special privileges but merely wishes to exercise her rights freely and to have these rights duly respected. In this way she seeks to pursue her spiritual and humanitarian mission for the good of society as a whole.
Mr Ambassador, I am certain that we share a great concern for the stability and peace of your entire region. I express the hope that in the international forum Pakistan will use its influence to support initiatives to bring the parties in conflict in surrounding areas to the negotiating table, so that a just and lasting settlement will ensure that the rights and well-being of people who for so long have undergone enormous sufferings will be acknowledged and respected. I
offer cordial good wishes as you begin your term of service as your country’s representative to the Holy See, and I assure you of the readiness of the offices of the Roman Curia to assist you in your mission. Upon yourself and the people of Pakistan I invoke the abundant blessings of almighty God.
It is a pleasure for me to extend a cordial welcome to you as I accept the Letters of Credence by which President Lennart Meri has appointed you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Estonia to the Holy See. I am profoundly grateful for his greeting and I reciprocate with the assurance of my prayers for the well-being of all Estonians.
I continue to treasure the memories of my Pastoral Visit to Estonia and the other Baltic Republics in 1993, shortly after the lamp of freedom had been lit anew and national independence restored. In this century Estonians have survived the struggle against two totalitarian systems hostile to their political, economic, cultural and religious interests: the regime inspired by Nazism during the Second World War and then, in the long post-war period, a communist dictatorship marked by militant atheism. As Your Excellency has so poignantly recalled, the nation emerged victorious from these great trials thanks to the heroic sacrifices made by countless citizens, even to the point of martyrdom. For my part I renew my gratitude to almighty God that those sufferings have helped to give birth to a new climate of hope in Estonia. Truly, “the effective will for national independence and the desire to experience the value of genuine freedom are now beginning to bring forth fruit in the life of individuals and of the entire civic community of your country” (Departure Speech, Tallinn, 10 September 1993).
The journey from oppression to liberty is an arduous one. An essential aspect of every such pilgrimage of freedom is the need to come to terms with the heavy burdens bequeathed by history. Tyranny can continue to leave its destructive mark upon society in the form of fear, suspicion and division — within families and communities, and between religious and ethnic groups. In my Message for the 1997 World Day of Peace, I urged all men and women of goodwill to refuse to remain prisoners of the past and to look instead with hope to the future. Respect for the fullness of truth calls even those who have been gravely wronged to a “healing of memories” which is concretely expressed in the offer of forgiveness. If a spirit of reconciliation is to imbue national and international life — a necessary precondition of true peace — individuals and peoples must re-examine past offences “with a new attitude”; they must learn “precisely from the experience of suffering that only love can build up, whereas hatred produces devastation and ruin” (loc. cit., n. 3).
A nation’s authentic development can be gauged by the degree to which its citizens are willing to be judged by the truth and its ethical demands. Part of Estonia’s precious heritage of Christian values is the conviction that an inseparable connection exists between freedom and truth in political, economic and cultural life. Only the acknowledgment of transcendent truth can guarantee the inviolable dignity and rights of every human person (cf. Veritatis splendor VS 99). Respect for the free exercise of these fundamental human rights must be the hallmark of every democracy established on the rule of law. When different peoples live in the same territory, as is the case in Estonia, particular care must be taken to ensure that the rights of ethnic and religious minorities are always safeguarded. Indeed, “respect for minorities is to be considered the touchstone of social harmony and the index of the civic maturity attained by a country and its institutions” (Message for the 1989 World Day of Peace, 12).
Mr Ambassador, you have mentioned the new challenges which Estonia faces as it seeks a more worthy standard of living for all its citizens. Catholic social teaching recognizes the positive role played in a nation’s economic life by the free market, private property and personal creativity. But today a great danger must also be acknowledged: the socalled “idolatry” of the market. This occurs whenever an economic system based on unbridled capitalism dictates policies which plunder natural resources, disregard the dignity of workers, undermine the family as society’s basic unit and foster a consumer culture in which “having” is more important than “being”. Leaders who wish to act ethically must bear this in mind and examine market forces, ensuring, if necessary, that they are corrected in the name of the principles of natural law, social justice, human rights and the common good. The Church offers the rich patrimony of her social doctrine as a resource and guide to your nation as it seeks to advance along the path of solidarity and justice. This doctrine especially stresses the importance of a practical concern for the poor, the marginalized and the suffering.
The approach of the Third Millennium is spurring believers in your country to an ever more intense commitment to “the full and visible communion” of all Christians (Ut unum sint UUS 95). I wish to confirm the conviction which I expressed in my address at the Lutheran Church of St Nicholas in Tallinn: “The quest for unity represents an authentic service rendered to the modern world. Achieving the communion which is hoped for among all believers in Christ can represent, and certainly will represent, one of the greatest accomplishments of human history” (10 September 1993). I am confident that, with God’s grace, an ecumenical springtime in Estonia will bear fruit in continued prayer together, fraternal charity and joint undertakings for the promotion of social and cultural life. The Catholic faithful in your country, while few in number, are ever ready to contribute to the task of building Estonia’s future.
Mr Ambassador, I express the fervent hope that the bonds of friendship which characterize the cordial relationship between the Holy See and the Republic of Estonia will be strengthened. As you begin your mission I assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia will always offer you ready assistance as you carry out your responsibilities. Upon yourself and upon all the beloved people of Estonia I invoke the abundant blessings of almighty God.
As you come to the Vatican to present the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Republic of Tanzania to the Holy See I am pleased to offer you a cordial welcome. The visit in November of President Benjamin Mkapa and your own presence here today rekindle the joyful memories of my Pastoral Visit to your country in 1990 when I was so warmly and enthusiastically received. I ask you to convey my good wishes to the President and members of the Government, and to assure them of my prayers for the well-being of all your fellow citizens.
Referring to your country’s commitment to work for the cause of peace, you have also recognized the Holy See’s efforts in this same area. Indeed, the Church has been entrusted by her Divine Founder with a religious and humanitarian mission, different in nature from that of the political community, but open nonetheless to many forms of co-operation and mutual support. In accordance with this mission, the presence of the Holy See in the international community is directed solely to seeking the good of the human family: working for the cause of peace, for the defence of human dignity and human rights, for the integral development of peoples. This is a duty which derives necessarily and perennially from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and is a responsibility shared by all Christians.
As peoples and nations co-operate in the task of fostering understanding and advancing the cause of peace and justice, there remains a problem which, despite its global proportions, has a relatively weak hold on worldwide public opinion: the tragic situation of millions of refugees and displaced persons. Some of these people are the victims of natural disasters, but many more are suffering the consequences of ethnic conflict, power struggles or inadequate social and economic development. There is no question that much is being done, especially by voluntary aid organizations and by the international community, but much more is still needed. Your own country has been an example in welcoming refugees and seeking to provide assistance for them, even at the cost of using its own badly needed resources. Tanzania’s activity in this regard is praiseworthy and one hopes that it will be matched by a generous and prompt response from other nations.
In the case of Africa, a concrete commitment to the continuing democratization of society is to be encouraged. The challenge is to increase the participation of all groups in a representative and juridically safeguarded ordering of public life. This requires a constant improvement of the quality of education at all levels, which will enable more and more people to play a responsible role in the economic, social and cultural development of their country. It also entails the promotion of a clearer consciousness of human rights and human dignity. Dialogue and negotiation must replace conflict in the resolution of tensions. This need is especially urgent in the Great Lakes region, where violence and bloodshed continue to cause untold suffering and claim countless victims: neither Africa nor the larger family of nations can turn a deaf ear to the cries of the men, women and children whose lives are being destroyed in these fratricidal conflicts. In this respect, it is to be hoped that the recently inaugurated Secretariat for East African Co-operation will prove to be an effective vehicle for dealing with the difficulties and problems which your area must face, and that, at the same time, it will provide an infrastructure for more effective collaboration and mutual assistance in all areas of social development.
The Catholic Church, of course, will always be a willing partner in the quest for integral human development, and will continue to make its own contribution to the building up of Tanzanian society. In this regard, your country’s guarantee of the right of religious freedom, the cornerstone of harmony and stability in any democratic system of government, enables Catholics to work for the spiritual and material progress of society.
Mr Ambassador, I am confident that your mission will serve to strengthen the existing ties of friendship and co-operation between Tanzania and the Holy See. As you assume your new responsibilities I offer you my prayerful good wishes, and I assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia will be ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon yourself and the beloved people of Tanzania I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of almighty God.
I am pleased to welcome you today as you present the Letters appointing you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Ghana to the Holy See. My first Pastoral Visit to Africa as Successor of Peter brought me to your country, and the hospitality of the Ghanaian people, as well as the rich variety of their cultures and traditions, remain a vivid recollection. I thank President Jerry John Rawlings for his greetings and I renew the assurance of my prayers for the well-being and prosperity of your nation.
Your comments have centred on two important challenges facing our modern world — development and peace. Despite the close attention which these interrelated themes have received in recent decades, there is still much to be done if authentic development and true peace are to be achieved. Political and economic relations between nations and peoples need to be built on a new basis. Self-interest and efforts to reinforce positions of dominance should be resisted, so that developing nations will not be seen as mere sources of raw materials or as markets for finished products, but as true partners in a new and more just international order, as co-workers who have a valuable contribution to make for the good of the entire human family.
At all levels of development — social, economic, political — a strong and unwavering commitment to the inalienable rights and dignity of the human person is required. It is precisely such a commitment that the Holy See seeks to foster and strengthen by its active presence in the field of diplomacy. In fact, the safeguarding of fundamental rights and respect for human dignity are the prerequisites for integral development. The human person must ever remain the focal point of all development.
In my Message for the 1981 World Day of Peace, I noted that “peace must be realized in truth; it must be built upon justice; it must be animated by love; it must be brought to being in freedom. Without a deep and universal respect for freedom, peace will elude man” (loc. cit., 2). The freedom which we are speaking about here, that human freedom which is the foundation of true and lasting peace, is nothing less than freedom to do what is right and just. It is for this reason that moral and spiritual values have an essential place in the political sphere. Indeed, political structures are effective when they truly respond to the needs of the human person and the community. Should these structures disregard this primary finality and become ends in themselves, they run the risk of polarizing society, alienating different segments of the population.
A correct understanding of the human person is necessary if efforts aimed at fostering development and promoting peace are to be successful. The Church has an important contribution to make in this very area: for through her social teaching she seeks to increase moral awareness of the demands of justice and solidarity, demands which are predicated on the incomparable worth and centrality of the human person. Sharing with the people of our time a profound and ardent desire for a life which is just in every way, she does not fail to examine the various aspects of the sort of justice which the life of people and society demands (cf. Dives in misericordia DM 12). In accordance with her own nature and mission, the Church is thus involved in practical efforts aimed at the improvement of society and at responding to concrete human needs. This is the motivation behind her work in the areas of education, health care and social services, all of which she undertakes in faithfulness to her divine Founder, who “came not to be served but to serve” (Mt 20,28). Here I wish to express my gratitude for your words of appreciation of the positive contribution which the Church makes to Ghanaian society.
Your Excellency, during your term as Ghana’s representative to the Holy See the various departments of the Roman Curia will do all they can to assist you in the discharge of your duties. I offer my good wishes for the success of your efforts to build further on the positive relations already existing between us, and I pray that almighty God will bestow abundant blessings upon yourself and your fellow citizens.
It is my pleasure to welcome you today to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed the first Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan to the Holy See. I ask you to convey my cordial greetings to President Askar Akayev, and to assure him and your fellow citizens of my good wishes for the prosperity and wellbeing of your country. In a special way I pray that the bonds of friendship and esteem which are now being forged between us will grow ever closer and serve the cause of peace, justice and solidarity. Today marks another step forward in your nation’s journey of freedom. I wholeheartedly congratulate you and your compatriots on the progress being made in the strengthening of democratic structures and constitutional order, and on your increasing participation in the community of nations.
The ethnic and cultural diversity of your nation is reflected in the languages, races and religions of your citizens, destined to live and work together for the common good. Diversity need never be an obstacle to a nation’s unity; rather it enriches a people’s patrimony by teaching respect for each person’s and each group’s attempt to address the fundamental questions of human existence. The differences which distinguish individuals and peoples do not erase their profound unity, since “every culture is an effort to ponder the mystery of the world and in particular of the human person: it is a way of giving expression to the transcendent dimension of human life” (Address to the United Nations General Assembly, 5 October 1995, n. 9). We must all be convinced that “the development of a culture based on respect for others is essential to the building of a peaceful society” (Message for the 1989 World Day of Peace, n. 9).
As your people continue to improve their economic and social conditions, conscientious efforts are needed in order to ensure that new forms of alienation — ethical relativism and spiritual impoverishment — do not come to weaken the fabric of social life (cf. Centesimus annus CA 19). Societies which have only recently adopted a market economy may be tempted to identify freedom with the self-interest of certain sectors at the expense of the common good. The advantages of technological progress and the possibilities offered by intellectual and cultural exchanges should not lead to a fresh affirmation of a materialistic mentality which accepts the primacy of things over persons. Nothing of lasting value is gained when the weaker elements of society are neglected, or when the pursuit of profit and unbridled competition hinder solidarity and co-operation. Wise leaders respect the universal moral norms written by God on the human heart and act according to them, convinced that they are the most reliable guide to the authentic renewal of social and political life.
As Your Excellency has remarked, religious belief and practice also make a decisive contribution to national life. Society is strengthened by the presence of believers who, endeavouring to act in accordance with their convictions, seek to promote all that is true and right. It is possible to construct a renewed society and to address the complex and weighty problems affecting it only if the truth about God and about man’s transcendent dignity is acknowledged (cf. Veritatis splendor VS 99). When men and women inspired by their religious traditions work together in the care of human life and in fostering social justice, they confirm by their actions that the ultimate foundations of every society worthy of man are ethical and religious. The religious convictions of your people are indeed a force which strengthens their sense of responsibility to the country’s welfare and motivates their mutual solidarity.
As the Government and people of Kyrgyzstan press on with necessary reforms, the Catholic Church will offer whatever assistance and support she can in the authentic moral development of society. This she will do by her witness of faith, her teaching and experience, and by humanitarian activity in accordance with her religious mission. The Catholic Church never imposes on a nation or people particular views of society and its structures, but offers the testimony of a lofty concept of man and of his transcendent destiny.
Mr Ambassador, your presence confirms that a new era has indeed begun for the Republic of Kyrgyzstan. I am confident that, as a result of the mission you are assuming today, the bonds of friendship and co-operation between your nation and the Holy See will grow and be consolidated. I assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia will always be ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Renewing my good wishes for the success of your mission, I invoke the blessings of the Most High God upon Your Excellency and upon the Government and beloved people of Kyrgyzstan.
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Australian Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See. I am grateful for the good wishes you bring from the Government and people of Australia. These cordial greetings remind me of the warm welcome which I received during my second visit to your country in early 1995, when I had the pleasure of beatifying that outstanding Australian woman, Mother Mary MacKillop. At that time I was able once more to experience the openness and hospitality to strangers for which your fellow-countrymen are rightly esteemed.
Your presence today enables me to acknowledge Australia’s active role in providing aid to developing nations and assistance to those suffering from the effects of war and political unrest. In the closing years of this century, calamitous situations, in particular the immense tragedy unfolding in the Great Lakes area of Africa, challenge all those committed to justice and peace to redouble their efforts to alleviate so much pain and suffering. The destitution of countless millions is an affront to human dignity and a continuing threat to world peace.
Your Excellency has noted that among the urgent problems facing the international community is the continuing tragedy of hunger and malnutrition. The recent World Food Summit in Rome focused attention on the grave situation of the more than eight hundred million people in developing countries who are ravaged by malnutrition or the consequences of food insecurity. Sadly, the scourge of hunger persists despite scientific and technological advances capable of increasing agricultural production and providing sufficient food for everyone. While the reasons for this are many and complex, we cannot ignore the fact that any effective response must be linked to broader questions of development, including the need to ensure that developing countries have fair access to the resources, technology and the education that can make progress possible. Authentic development requires not only prudent economic measures but also a commitment to solidarity in promoting the integral good of individuals and peoples, with due respect for the ethical imperatives which alone can guarantee just and equitable relationships between them. In this regard, the developed nations must seriously examine their stewardship of the world’s resources and make increasing efforts to guarantee the universal right to nutrition.
Certainly one of the most promising signs of our times has been an increasing desire on the part of the international community to co-operate in finding ways to eradicate poverty from the human family. Solutions to this problem will not however be found in policies and programmes which, by fostering and even imposing a model of life not in harmony with peoples’ culture and traditions, undermine fundamental human rights (cf. Sollicitudo rei socialis SRS 25). The fact that the earth must be a home to everyone calls for a spirit of co-operation and sharing which respects the legitimate differences of individuals and peoples. The advancement of human dignity also requires a clear sense of the transcendent moral truths which must direct political choices and integrate particular interests within the framework of a coherent vision of the common good (cf. Centesimus annus CA 47).
In fulfilling her spiritual mission, the Church endeavours to heighten awareness of the inalienable dignity and inviolability of every human being, including the unborn, the handicapped, the elderly and the terminally ill. Absolutely essential to any system of values worthy of man is the fundamental right to life itself. Any action or omission which directly and deliberately causes the death of an innocent person is a grave violation of the law written in the human heart. The Catholic Church in Australia seeks to defend this fundamental truth when it speaks forthrightly against attempts to legitimize requests for euthanasia or to authorize it (cf. Evangelium vitae EV 72). It is my prayer that as the Year 2000 approaches Australia will further strengthen its Christian heritage by defending human life and by acting generously and courageously in the service of the poor, the stranger and the defenceless.
In offering my best wishes I take the opportunity to assure you of the assistance which the various departments of the Roman Curia will always be ready to offer you in the fulfilment of your mission. Upon Your Excellency and all Australians I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. A few months after my last Pastoral Visit to France, which I vividly recall, today I am pleased to begin the conversations I will be having with the Bishops of the different apostolic regions on the occasion of their pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles, the principal meaning of the ad limina visit. Your meetings with the Successor of Peter and his assistants are an act of ecclesial communion and an expression of the collegial spirit that unites us. These contacts are also the opportunity for deeper reflection on the various aspects of your mission.
I thank Bishop Michel Moutel of Nevers, President of the Central Apostolic Region, for the affectionate sentiments he has just expressed to me on your behalf and for his outline of the Church’s situation in your country. I cordially greet each one of you and, in particular, Archbishop Jean Honoré of Tours, who welcomed me to his see city with so much attention last September, making my pilgrimage to the tomb of St Martin an important moment that I could not possibly forget as I meet you again here.
Today we pay tribute to Bishop Jean Cuminal of Blois, who left us prematurely before he could celebrate the third centenary of the foundation of his Diocese. Let us pray to the Lord to grant this faithful servant his reward in peace.
2. Bishop Moutel has recalled several features of your Dioceses, linked within the framework of an extensive and varied region. Although they are relatively distant, it is fortunate that you are able to work together on various projects. I am thinking in particular of the seminary in Orléans, which involves almost all your Dioceses and whose living conditions you have recently improved.
Many believers show great generosity and take part actively and perceptively in Church life. These are true reasons for hope and signs of the Holy Spirit’s active presence in the heart of the baptized and in their communities. Please convey the Bishop of Rome’s cordial greetings and encouragement to the members of your Dioceses. I would especially like to express to your priests, deacons, consecrated persons and lay leaders my esteem and trust, because with great devotion they are all taking part with you in the mission Jesus entrusted to his disciples.
With the different groups of French Bishops who will be making their ad limina visits in the coming weeks, I intend to treat several topics important to the Church today, hoping to offer you some subjects for reflection in the same spirit in which the Lord asked Peter to “strengthen your brethren” (Lc 22,31). Today I will focus more on certain aspects of your episcopal ministry, but without attempting to give a full picture.
Speeches 1997 - Saturday, 11 January 1997