Speeches 1997 - Saturday, 11 October 1997






Monday, 13 October 1997

Mr Ambassador,

I am very pleased to welcome you and greet you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta to the Holy See. Please express my respectful thoughts and cordial greetings to the Prince and Grand Master of the Order, Fra Andrew Bertie, together with my gratitude for his devout sentiments which you have conveyed. I am also grateful to the members of the Sovereign Council of the entire Order, who on this important occasion have wished, through you, to express their renewed fidelity to the Successor of Peter.

You are well aware of the distinctive features of the Sovereign Order of Malta. It is distinguished for its supranational, religious and charitable character. As you have just recalled, being a subject of international law allows the Order to have diplomatic relations with numerous States and organizations, including the Holy See. Moreover, the latter has profound links with the Order which date back to the beginning of the second millennium, when it was founded in Jerusalem as the Hospitaller Order of St John. These links are also fostered by the religious affection of the Apostolic See and of all Christianity for the Holy Land, and by the Order’s very aim, which is graphically defined in the motto: "Tuitio fidei, obsequium paupe-rum".

A truly noble aim, which finds wonderful confirmation in the whole history of the Order, which has distinguished itself for centuries by its defence of the faith, frequently to the point of the supreme witness of bloodshed, and by its charitable service to pilgrims, the sick and every other form of human need.

Today the defence of the faith is expressed above all in giving witness by word and action to the Christian truths. This presupposes as a preliminary condition that you are well instructed in these truths and thoroughly convinced of the duty to profess them with courage and firmness, as is required of a "knight" who keeps his word. In this perspective, I would like symbolically to entrust to all the members of the Order of Malta the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which has recently been published in the Latin typical edition. Defending the faith often means, especially in our time, defending the great values that human reason without the light of Revelation risks misunderstanding in their integral and radical nature. These are, for example, human dignity, the nature of the family and the fundamental right to life.

Mr Ambassador, I encourage the whole Order to continue generously supporting these spiritual battles, on which the civilization of the third millennium depends. I am certain that the age-old institution which you represent here will not fail to persevere in making its valuable contribution to all the initiatives which the Church, in fidelity to God’s plan for humanity, is undertaking to safeguard the rights of all, beginning with the weakest.

The typical field of service for the Order of Malta is that of caring for the sick and pilgrims, who are honoured by its members as "lords" who must be assisted with the attitude of "servants". "For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you" (Jn 13,15), Jesus said to his disciples after washing their feet. May this Gospel image of service always inspire the action of those who serve in the Order of Malta!

I listened with satisfaction, Mr Ambassador, to your brief summary of what the many works administered by the Order in the world have accomplished. They are doubtless a valuable service to the needy and an effective witness to Christ, the Good Samaritan of humanity. The Holy See supports these initiatives and, for my part, I pray that they may respond ever better to the evangelical and humanitarian spirit from which they originated.

I was interested to hear of your emphasis on the particular efforts that the Order of Malta intends to devote to the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. In this regard I would like first of all to stress the happy coincidence of the Order’s ninth centenary, which will occur in 1999, with the eve of the Holy Year. If one looks carefully, there are not many institutions which can boast of such ancient origins: its existence spans almost the whole of the second millennium. What more favourable circumstance could there be to show people today that, despite profound historical changes, the Order of Malta, faithful to its original Gospel inspiration, has kept very much alive its most valuable possession: faith and charity?

Your choice to be present and active in the two focal points of the Jubilee, Rome and Jerusalem, is very appropriate and deserves every success. As Bishop of Rome, I express grateful appreciation for all the Order has done and I offer my fervent best wishes for what it is intending to do in the service of pilgrims who visit the holy places of the "Eternal City" in ever greater numbers.

Mr Ambassador, as I receive the Letters accrediting you for this new mission, I hope that it will be useful and richly satisfying, and at the same time, I assure you of a constant remembrance in my prayer.

With these sentiments I invoke the motherly protection of Mary most holy on the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, which venerates her with the title of Virgin of Filčremo, and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to the Prince and Grand Master, to you, to the chaplains and to all the members of the Order as well as to their relatives.





13 October 1997

Your Eminence,
Dear Brother Bishops,

1. With fraternal affection I welcome you, the Bishops of Uganda, praying that "the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways" (2Th 3,16). My greetings to you today are greetings also to the beloved priests, religious, and lay faithful of your Dioceses. Four years ago I had the immense joy of visiting Uganda and the memories remain vividly etched in my mind, especially the warmth of your welcome, the ardour of your prayer and the firmness of your determination to be faithful sons and daughters of the Church. I ask you to assure your people of my closeness as they strive to grow in Christ and to put on that "new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ep 4,24).

Since your last ad Limina visit, the Catholic community in Uganda, amidst continuing trials and challenges, has experienced many blessings. A further gift of God's love has been the creation of three new ecclesiastical jurisdictions: the Diocese of Kasana- Luweero, the Diocese of Lugazi and the Diocese of Nebbi. This is a welcome sign of the vitality of the Church in your land, and I join you in thanking the Lord who has given this growth (cf. 1Co 3,7).

2. Christ never ceases to raise up faithful Shepherds for his people, and you have been called to be successors of the Apostles in the weighty office of teaching, governing and sanctifying that part of the Church placed in your care. To you has been entrusted "the ministry of reconciliation" (2Co 5,18), a most essential element of the pastoral service which you render to your local Churches. "The Church in Africa is aware that it has to become for all, through the witness borne by its own sons and daughters, a place of true reconciliation. Forgiven and mutually reconciled, these sons and daughters will thus be able to bring to the world the forgiveness and reconciliation which Christ our Peace (cf. Eph Ep 2,14) offers to humanity through his Church" (Ecclesia in Africa ).

In your quinquennial reports, you show a marked awareness of this need for reconciliation. While you rightly point out that much progress has been made in advancing the peace and security of your nation as a whole, you do not overlook the tragic fact that violence continues to plague certain parts of your country, with fresh outbreaks of aggression occurring time and again. This is a clear sign that, although Uganda is emerging from the shadows of a past marred by strife, tension and bloodshed, not all threats against peace have passed, and the temptation to keep alive and nurture former grievances is still strong. For this reason it falls to the Church at this moment in Uganda's history to answer with ever greater resolve God's injunction to be a reconciling community.

3. The Catholic lay faithful have a special role to play in this area, for to them in particular are entrusted the affairs of the temporal order: politics, economics, leadership in society (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 31 Christifideles Laici CL 15).

In these fields they are called upon "to engage directly in dialogue or to work for dialogue aimed at reconciliation" (Reconciliatio et Paenitentia RP 25). For this reason it is especially important that you — as Pastors of souls and leaders of God's people — ensure that diocesan and parish programmes are in place which provide for the adequate formation of the laity. Now that the revised General Catechetical Directory has been issued, a National Catechetical Directory could prove most useful in ensuring an even greater assimilation of the Church's teaching by your people.

Catechesis is such an important part of the Church's mission that the continuing and concerted action of your Episcopal Conference is required in meeting the formational needs of the faithful, with special attention to the young people and children who receive no formal education. Catechists should be the object of your special pastoral solicitude. Thanks to their deep faith and devotion, they have played a prominent role from the Church's very beginning in Uganda and are still called upon today to make an exemplary and selfless contribution to the religious instruction of their communities. The various Catechetical Training Centres should be helped to expand and enrich the programmes offered so that catechists will increasingly acquire the skills which they need in order to respond effectively to the demands being made on them.

4. In general the Ugandan laity are taking an ever more active and responsible place in the life of their local Church. In small Christian communities, and in associations and movements, they grow in faith and Christian holiness. Through parish and diocesan pastoral councils and other bodies within the community they help to build up the Church as a communion of all her members. This wealth of commitment and enthusiasm is entrusted to your pastoral leadership as a grace and a duty. It is the basis on which you can prepare the whole People of God in Uganda to celebrate the forthcoming Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 as a joyful, transforming renewal of faith in Jesus Christ "the one Saviour of the world, yesterday, today and for ever" (cf. Heb He 13,8).

In all of this, of course, the parish remains at the very heart of the Christian community and of all pastoral activity. For it is the parish that "has the essential task of providing a more personal and immediate formation of the lay faithful . . . allowing them to grasp and live the immense, extraordinary richness and responsibility received at Baptism" (Christifideles Laici CL 61). For this reason, efforts should be made to create new parishes, especially where existing ones are extremely large in population or very extensive in territory. Increasing the overall number of parishes and reducing the size and area of the bigger ones will allow for greater attention to be given to the pastoral needs of individuals and families and will facilitate the effective ministry of parish priests.

5. Through your efforts, both individually and jointly, the Church in Uganda plays a very active role in creating and supporting structures and institutions which enable society to respond to people's needs and aspirations. There is a marked Catholic presence in the fields of education, health care and social services, and your leadership strengthens the faithful in dealing with certain very difficult problems. Among these is the scourge of AIDS, which has hit your country particularly hard.

In your Pastoral Letter Let Your Light Shine, you remarked that this tragic situation "needs to be confronted in solidarity, with much love and care for the victims, with much generosity towards the orphans and with much commitment to a renewed way of Christian moral living" (No. 28). Thus you have issued a call to reflect on the deeper moral and social issues associated with this disease, and you have invited all to take a firm stand against a dangerous crisis of values, one which is already causing many people to grow weak in spirit, indifferent to virtue and to what constitutes the authentic progress of society.

An adequate response to this challenge requires the effective inculturation of the Christian message, a delicate and difficult task which "raises the question of the Church's fidelity to the Gospel and the Apostolic Tradition amidst the constant evolution of cultures" (Ecclesia in Africa ). This inculturation faces a number of specific challenges in Uganda, especially in the areas of marriage and family life. Your untiring efforts to guide couples to the discovery of the truth and beauty of the demands of their new life together in Christ are an indispensable part of your ministry. The unit of ecclesial life known as the "domestic Church" must always occupy a special place in the Church's pastoral concern. The Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio provides a framework for effective catechesis, particularly in the vital area of marriage preparation. The faithful must be helped to understand the meaning and sacramental dignity of marriage, and they should be strongly supported by the whole Catholic community in living their commitment to the full.

In the process of the transformation of family life through the grace and light of the Gospel the concept of responsible parenthood calls for particular attention (cf. loc.cit., 28 ff.). Being a parent means sharing in God's work as the Author of life. The proper context for bringing new human life into the world is the permanent and exclusive union which spouses establish by the complete and permanent gift of self to each other. The Church's insistence on monogamous marriage is not the imposition of a foreign ideal displacing local traditions. Rather, in fidelity to her Lord, the Church proclaims that "Christ renews the first plan that the Creator inscribed in the hearts of man and woman . . . Christian couples are called to participate truly in the irrevocable indissolubility which binds Christ to the Church, his Bride, loved by him to the end" (ibid., 20). The same document appeals to each Bishop to "make the diocese ever more truly a ?diocesan family', a model and source of hope for the many families that belong to it" (ibid., 73).

6. An invaluable aid to the lay faithful as they strive to live married love according to God's will is the fidelity of priests and religious in their commitment to celibacy and virginity: "Marriage and virginity or celibacy are two ways of expressing and living the one mystery of the covenant of God with his people" (ibid., 16). What is required in any covenant is faithfulness. In our age, which is so much in need of a profound change of heart about sexual morality and married love, we must be confident that the Lord still calls many of his followers to be celibate "for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven" (Mt 19,22). We must also be convinced that he is even more generous in strengthening those chosen as they seek to answer that call, with all the sacrifices which a wholehearted response to the vocation to celibacy or virginity entails. The example of priests and religious who truly live up to their calling will help the laity to bear the self-denial demanded by obedience to God's plan for human sexuality. In this way God's holy people all together will lead truly fruitful lives and find lasting happiness (cf. Familiaris Consortio FC 16).

Priestly formation must always be one of your highest priorities. I encourage you to ensure that your seminaries continue to demand high academic achievement, and that the same high quality be required and attained in the spiritual and pastoral formation of your seminarians. It is essential that priestly training should firmly ground candidates in a relationship of deep communion and friendship with Jesus the Good Shepherd (cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 42). Priests and religious require your fatherly support and guidance, and can greatly benefit from programmes of continuing formation which effectively "rekindle the gift of God that is within them" (cf. 2Tm 1,6).

It is especially important that women religious should be provided with sufficient and skilled spiritual directors and confessors, priests who are familiar with the consecrated life and are able to strengthen them in their commitment.

7. In Christ all things are made new; in Baptism the faithful have put off their old nature which belonged to their former manner of life (cf. Eph Ep 4,22) so that there is no longer "Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, but all are now one in Christ Jesus" (cf. Gal Ga 3,28). Tribal rivalries and ethnic hostility cannot have a place in the Church of God or among his holy people. Rather the Catholic community in Uganda has the important task of helping your country to build an ever brighter future in which civil society grows to maturity in a climate of respect and harmony. This is your message as you preach the Kingdom of God and invite men and women to the splendour of that truth which "shines forth in all the works of the Creator and . . . enlightens man's intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord" (Veritatis Splendor, proem.).

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, it is my hope that these thoughts which your visit suggests will strengthen you in your ministry of service to those entrusted to your care. Recalling the heroic example of Saint Charles Lwanga and his Companions, I pray that the Holy Martyrs of Uganda will ever be a source of inspiration and renewal as you and your people seek to grow in holiness, truth and the genuine freedom of God's children (cf. Rom Rm 8,21). Commending the Church in Uganda to the protection of Mary, Mother of all believers and Queen of Africa, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.




To my Venerable Brother Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek

Archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev

I am pleased to be able to be present, in the person of Cardinal Edmund Szoka, at the reconsecration ceremony for the cathedral of Minsk and thus to share in the joy of the faithul of Belarus. This church, dedicated to Jesus, Mary and St Barbara, whose construction was begun by the Jesuit Fathers in 1700, became a parish church after the dissolution of the Society of Jesus. With the erection of the Diocese of Minsk in 1798, it was chosen as the cathedral for the new jurisdiction, whose first Bishop was the Most Rev. Jakub Daderka.

In 1951 the communist regime closed it, requisitioned it and turned it into a physical education centre. Like so many other churches of this beloved nation, it underwent a period of profanation during which, according to the mysterious designs of Providence, it never ceased to be a symbolic reference point for the People of God in the long years of their persecution.

Finally, in 1994 the former cathedral was returned to the Catholic community and you, Your Eminence, immediately began the work of restoring it. Radical and expensive operations were necessary to restore it as much as possible to its original splendour. The loving care you have devoted to it, with the support of the faithful and benefactors, has fortunately made it possible to achieve your goal. In recalling these events, how can we fail to think of the trials of our fathers of the Old Covenant: exiles from Zion, deprived of worship in the temple, but later joyful at being able to return to the holy city and rebuild their sanctuary? The prophet’s words sound more timely than ever for the members of this community: "Take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work for I am with you.... The latter splendour of this house shall be greater than the former, ... and in this place I will give prosperity" (Hg 2:4, 9).

The glory of the Church, Venerable Brother, is Christ the Lord: the Priest, Sacrifice, and Temple of the New Covenant. May this event be a providential opportunity for the faithful of this beloved country, journeying towards the third Christian millennium, to renew their commitment to be "like living stones ... built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1P 2,5).

The new dedication of St Mary’s Cathedral in Minsk reminds everyone of this vocation and mission. And may the Virgin Mother of God, image and model of the Church, Star of evangelization, be a guide for the faithful, so that they may respond to the divine plan with the ardour of faith, hope and charity, for the edification and comfort of every person of goodwill.

Venerable Brother, you will also be celebrating your 83rd birthday on this solemn occasion. Please accept my warm congratulations and heartfelt best wishes. I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, which I extend to the priests, religious and faithful of the whole Archdiocese.

From the Vatican, 15 October 1997.





Friday, 17 October 1997

Your Eminences,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am pleased to welcome you on the occasion of this International Catechetical Conference, organized to highlight the presentation of the editio typica of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the revised edition of the General Directory for Catechesis. The number of participants, the timeliness of the themes discussed and the competence of the speakers make the meeting an important event in the Church’s life.

I extend my affectionate greetings to the Cardinals, to the Presidents of the Catechetical Commissions of the Episcopal Conferences, to the directors of the National Catechetical Offices, to the priests, religious and committed lay people who have come here from various parts of the world to share the fruits of their experience and training.

I cordially thank each one individually for the valuable service given to the Church. In particular, I express my gratitude to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Darío Castrillón Hoyos, who — with the help of their staffs in the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith and for the Clergy — have organized and conducted this important meeting. It is an eloquent sign of the place the Church assigns to proclaiming the Word of God in a suitable manner to the people of our time. It is by starting with their questions that they must be helped to discover, through human words, the message of salvation brought by Jesus Christ. It is this complex, delicate work that the Church undertakes today, committed to imbuing different cultures with the perennial truth of the Gospel.

2. The motto chosen for this International Catechetical Congress — "Tradidi vobis quod accepi" (1Co 5,3) — effectively illustrates the nature of the Church's faith and evangelizing mission. In this regard, we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Faith is a personal act — the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself. But faith is not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone. You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life. The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others. Our love for Jesus and for our neighbour impels us to speak to others about our faith. Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers. I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 166).

In this task of transmitting the faith, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is offered as a particularly authoritative instrument. You have reflected on it during these days in order to become better acquainted with its features and aims. The Catechism presents revealed Truth by showing, in the light of the Second Vatican Council, how it is believed, celebrated, lived and prayed in the Church. Drawing abundantly from the precious patrimony of the past —especially the biblical, liturgical, patristic, conciliar and magisterial patrimony — and drawing from it what is new and what is old (cf. Mt Mt 13,52), it expresses the unalterable freshness of the Christian truth in our society today. It thus becomes an eloquent witness to the degree of awareness and self-knowledge which the Church possesses, as a whole, regarding her own perennial deposit of truth. As such, the Catchechism is presented as a sure norm for the teaching of the faith, and at the same time as a reliable and authentic reference text for preparing local catechisms.

3. Watchful in hope, the Church, between Easter and the parousia, must fulfil her escatological mandate by proclaiming God’s kingdom and harvesting the good grain of the Lord from the whole world. What she must absolutely do before the Lord’s return is to proclaim the "Christ event", the paschal mystery of his Death and Resurrection. To be the first and universal sacrament of salvation is her essential task.

The ministry of the Word is thus situated at the very centre of the Church’s apostolic action, when she celebrates the Eucharist or sings the praise of God, and when she teaches the faithful how to live their faith in daily life.

Far from remaining neutral, the Church is beside the Christian at the various moments of his life, to guide him in making choices that are consistent with the demands inscribed in the supernatural ontology of his Baptism. It is through this "mystagogical" action that the faith, which blossomed in Baptism, can grow and reach that full maturity which belongs to the responsible adult Christian.

This is precisely the task of catechesis. Not an easy task! Since it must take into consideration every aspect of the person’s life — the secular as well as the religious — catechesis must be rooted in the whole context of life. In other words, it must consider not only those to be catechized, their cultural and religious situation, but also their social, economic and political conditions. The whole of life, in all its concrete aspects, must be read and interpreted in the light of the Gospel.

4. This presupposes an attentive evaluation of the problems encountered today by a believer who rightly desires to make further progress in understanding his faith. These problems include the great questions man asks about his origins, the meaning of life, the happiness for which he longs, the destiny of the human family.

This means that a twofold movement will always be necessary to proclaim the Word of God in its integrity and purity to the people of our time, so that it will be intelligible and also attractive to them. The discovery of the integral mystery of salvation presupposes, on the one hand, an encounter with the witness offered by the ecclesial community of a life inspired by the Gospel. Thus catechesis speaks with greater effect about what can be really seen in the community’s concrete life. The catechist in a way interprets the Church to those he is catechizing. He reads and teaches them to read the signs of faith, the most important of which is the Church herself.

At the same time, the catechist must be able to discern and make the most of the spiritual inklings already present in man’s life, according to the fruitful method of saving dialogue. This is a task which arises again and again: catechesis must be able to grasp the questions arising in the human heart and direct them towards the answers offered by creative and saving Love. Prayerful meditation on Sacred Scripture, faithful study of "God’s marvels" throughout salvation history, listening to the Church’s living tradition and attention to the history of mankind, all linked together, can help people discover the God who is already working in the depths of their hearts and minds to draw them to himself and fill them with his love, making them his children in the Only-begotten Son.

5. Dear brothers and sisters, may this International Catechetical Congress strengthen the fruitful collaboration of the priestly ministry, of religious life and of the lay apostolate for a renewed proclamation of the Word of salvation, which is the Church’s essential mission and the perennial source of her joy in bringing forth new children. With one heart we must all tirelessly attend to this fundamental task which Christ entrusted to his Church: to bring the living Word to the world, to set it free from sin and to make the virtues and capacities of the new life in Christ resplendent in it.

With these wishes, I invoke upon you all an abundance of divine graces and, as a pledge of consolation and comfort, I affectionately impart to you my Blessing.





18 October 1997

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you, the Trustees of the Covenant Health Systems from the United States. The fact that you have important responsibilities in the field of healthcare offers me the opportunity to reaffirm not only the Church's constant and unfailing concern for the sick and those in need, but also her commitment to defend and uphold the God-given dignity of every human person in the manner in which the sick are treated and cared for.

This is especially true in Catholic hospitals and health-care institutions. The Catholic identity of these centers consists above all in the evangelical quality of the love with which they serve the sick and in the moral principles which effectively govern their practices. I encourage you in your work to be ever attentive to the Church's teaching on medical-moral issues.

May your visit to Rome increase your resolve to respect the image of the Creator in all those who benefit from your professional skills. I invoke upon you God's blessings of peace and well-being!





Saturday, 18 October 1997

Mr Ambassador,

1. With special joy I welcome you here today in the Vatican as you begin your task as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Holy See. As I did your esteemed predecessor, I bid you also a cordial welcome and wish you all the best in your new and distinguished service.

2. Your greetings, for which I heartily thank you, were accompanied by the promise to work to maintain and develop the excellent relations between the Holy See and the Federal Republic of Germany. In that connection you recalled the visit which I was able to make to your beloved homeland last year, and you made special mention of how the Federal Chancellor and I walked together through the Brandenburg Gate. As the open gate is a symbol that the forced division into political blocs has been overcome, so too our joint crossing of the threshold which once marked the boundary was an eloquent sign. For the entry through the "gate of unity" indicated the regained freedom, as it clearly indicates, however, that the many problems which today are caused precisely by this freedom can be resolved only in partnership. What holds true for relations between the Holy See and the Federal Republic of Germany is also true of the relationship between Church and State in your country. The two are allied whenever it is a question of giving "soul" to a pluralistic and secularized society. Freedom and unity require each other. Unity without freedom becomes compulsion, but freedom without unity brings chaos. While at the Brandenburg Gate I put the concept of "freedom" at the centre of my thoughts, today I would like to make "unity" the focus of my considerations.

3. When in the autumn of 1989 the wall began to crumble and was ultimately torn down in a non-violent revolution, it was succeeded, one after another, by the steps necessary for leading East and West back again to a common currency, political reunification and economic unity. Although much has been done in these areas, internal unity remains but a dream. There are still differences. It is true that people can travel unimpeded between East and West, but with the fall of the external wall not all the internal walls have been dismantled yet.

As the fathers of your Basic Law sought, a full 50 years ago, to build the new home for the community after the catastrophe of the Second World War, they came to the decision that they would give the German people a Constitution that is "conscious of their responsibility before God and humanity". This passage from the preamble of your Basic Law is still the Magna Charta for those who would instil a soul in German unity. Among the tragedies of this century now drawing to a close we can count the painful discovery that any attack against human beings is an attack against God and conscience. If many of our contemporaries lack the immediacy of this experience, nevertheless it is the lasting legacy of the generation of the many parents and grandparents who, upon the debris of the breakdown, built the social order in which political activity must obviously be predicated on respect for God and man. Hence there developed the still valid basis which marks the relationship of partnership between Church and State deriving from mutual respect for the independence of both partners and their own individual tasks as well as from the consciousness of a common responsibility for society and culture. Recently the basic conditions for future collaboration in some of the new Federal States were also established through agreements reached with the Holy See.

4. With great joy and deep gratitude I would like to emphasize how sensitively and generously this common responsibility for social matters is taken. Wherever crises flare up, eyes are not closed in Germany. Whenever cries for help are heard from far or near, the citizens of your country do not turn a deaf ear. The needs of others open the hearts and hands of your fellow citizens. The discussion of material, financial and moral support is not just idle chatter. The word "help" receives hands and feet from Germany. This society of solidarity binds together not only the old and new Federal States but goes beyond German borders, spreads over the European continent and at the same time embraces the whole globe of the "one world", crossing over all linguistic, religious and national frontiers.

5. Whatever applies to responsibility in great matters should also be seen in small ones. Whoever speaks about the "globalization" of the earth must not remain silent about the dignity of the individual. It is not only the earth which is a unity, but so is the human person in every phase of his life. It is precisely in this area that special attention is asked of political leaders and the Church alike in order not to succumb to the allures of a falsely understood humanitarianism or to allow new assaults on human dignity, which reveal the consolidation of a cultural situation that lends a hitherto unknown aspect to attacks on life: broad sections of public opinion approve of many forms of crime against life in the name of the right to individual freedom, and on this pretext they claim not only impunity for crimes of this type but also State approval and the right to carry them out in total freedom, with government health-care services providing them free of charge. An example of this far-reaching change in the way of looking at life in the Federal Republic of Germany can also be seen in the present practice of legalized abortion as well as in the looming discussion about humane death. The end result of this is tragic: "not only is the fact of the destruction of so many human lives still to be born or in their final stage extremely grave and disturbing, but no less grave and disturbing is the fact that conscience itself ... is finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish between good and evil in what concerns the basic value of human life" (Encyclical Evangelium vitae EV 4). God, conscience and human freedom cannot be divided. In this area Church and State are allies in giving Germany’s internal unity a firm foundation. Whoever attacks the human person attacks God. What a horrible, bloody wall must still be torn down in your own house so that the weakest ones, the unborn children, can also have their right to life recognized!

6. Religious instruction also serves as a unifying, foundational support for society. Although the State does not legislate values, it is not value-free. At the birth of the Federal Republic of Germany an option was made for the Christian God. Reunification is no cause for dividing this basic decision into two. Therefore the guarantee of denominational religious instruction in the schools is a duty of State-sponsored education. It is an expression of positive religious freedom in a democratic State. At the same time it also shows that the Churches are imparting something of their message to society and do not want to retreat into a private religious-ecclesiastical world. "The freedom to believe" and "the right to know" are therefore the mottos with which the German Bishops’ Conference promotes religious instruction in the schools throughout the Federal Republic and thus seeks to put their request at the centre of public attention, so that the possible introduction of a compulsory non-ecclesiastical religion and ethics course will be debated at both the political and juridical levels. In this context I want to restate the pressing wish that, in accord with the clear right of the human person and of the family, it will be possible for all Catholic students to be given in school "a spiritual formation with the aid of a religious instruction dependent on the Church" (Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi tradendae CTR 69).

Speeches 1997 - Saturday, 11 October 1997