Speeches 1997 - Friday, 25 April 1997
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. As the Church continues to celebrate with Paschal joy "the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1P 1,3), I welcome you - the Bishops of Scotland - in the love of our Lord and Saviour: "Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come" (Ap 1,4). Your visit ad Limina Apostolorum is a celebration of the profound, grace-filled nature of the collegial communion which unites us in the service of Christ and his Church. At the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul you re-affirm your fidelity and that of the Catholic people of Scotland to the Successor of Peter, the Rock upon whom the Lord continues to build his Church (cf. Mt Mt 16,18). I wish you to know that in the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of your ministry I have never ceased to "remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have" (Phm 4-5).
As we prepare to enter the Third Millennium, the Holy Spirit urges the Church to accomplish her sacred duty of preaching the Gospel to all creation (cf. Mk Mc 16,16). The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 calls us to intensify our efforts to carry forward Christ's mission in the world. The Church in Scotland is celebrating two great anniversaries of its own, which add particular confirmation and strength to that call. The ninth of June marks the 1,400th anniversary of the death of Saint Columba, the great apostle of the highlands and islands of Scotland. His apostolic labours gave renewed impulse to the diffusion of the faith brought to northern Britain two centuries earlier by Saint Ninian, whose 1,600th anniversary, by a happy coincidence, you will also celebrate this year, in August. The heroism, dedication and holiness of those intrepid evangelizers still shine forth today as a model above all for pastors of souls in proclaiming Jesus Christ, "the same yesterday and today and for ever" (He 13,8).
2. You are fortunate to have as your co-workers priests who are truly "men of God", generous in facing the perennial yet ever new demands of their ministry. To them also I send my affectionate greetings, and in this context I invite you to encourage, develop and deepen the initiatives of recent years designed to strengthen the spirituality of the diocesan priesthood, understood as an ever deeper communion with the pastoral charity of Jesus (Pastores Dabo Vobis PDV 57). Do all you can to foster a sure and faithful sense of the priest’s identity. This will be the indispensable basis for a sustained effort to promote more abundant vocations to the service of God's People in the ordained ministry.
If the Church in Scotland is to meet successfully the challenge of evangelization in the Third Christian Millennium, it must continue to ensure that a sufficient number of talented young men respond now to Christ's call. Your seminaries have the delicate task of inspiring these candidates to Orders with the ideal of the priesthood so that, after the spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation which the Church in her wisdom has laid down for future ministers of the Altar, new priests can go forth to build up, through their preaching and the celebration of the sacraments, Christian communities centred on the saving presence of the Risen Lord.
In serving the Church you and your priests can count on the support of the dedicated members of Institutes of Consecrated Life present in your country, who bear witness to that undivided love for Christ and his Church expressed through the observance of the evangelical counsels. Together let us thank the Lord of the harvest for the Religious of your Dioceses. Let them know that they are loved and appreciated as your trusted collaborators in the community of faith.
3. The aspect of your episcopal ministry upon which I principally wish to reflect with you is your role as teachers of the faith. The faithful look to the Bishops to be "authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the people assigned them" (Lumen Gentium LG 25). Hence, with the Apostle Paul, I solemnly urge you: "Proclaim the message, whether the time is favourable or not" (2Tm 4,2). A Bishop's first duty is to preach Jesus Christ, "the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings" (cf. Phil Ph 3,10). In him alone can man find the meaning of his existence here on earth: he is the centre of creation, and all human history is directed towards him as its only explanation and end. The duty of fearlessly proclaiming the Gospel becomes all the more pressing when society begins to lose its sense of God: as Bishops we must be tireless in recalling our fellow men to the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ.
I urge you therefore to "bear witness to the truth" (Jn 18,37) constantly and vigorously, ensuring that your people receive that truth which sets them free (cf. Jn Jn 8,32). Courageous, forthright and persuasive teaching which applies the Church's doctrine to practical local situations is essential in order to sustain the spiritual and moral life of the faithful. It is also an effective means of re-evangelizing those who "have lost a living sense of the faith, or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church, and live a life far removed from Christ and his Gospel" (Redemptoris Missio RMi 33). Working out the implications of the Gospel for Christian life in the world and applying it to new situations is crucial to your ecclesial leadership, especially through individual or joint Pastoral Letters on vital questions of faith and morals. This is a time for Catholics - together with other Christians - to bring the freshness of the Gospel to the struggle to defend and promote the fundamental values upon which to build a society truly worthy of man.
4. As you have often proposed in your teaching, the renewal of the Christian community and of society at the dawn of the Third Millennium passes by way of the family.The strengthening of the communion of persons in the family is the great antidote to the self-indulgence and sense of isolation so common today. The pastoral care of the family requires of you "personal interest, care, time, personnel and resources, but above all personal support for the families and for all those who, in the various diocesan structures, assist you in the pastoral care of the family" (Familiaris Consortio FC 73). You need to instill a new confidence that Christ the Bridegroom accompanies married couples, strengthening them with the power of his grace and enabling them to serve life and love in accordance with God's plan "from the beginning" (cf. Mt Mt 19,6). The diocesan agencies involved, as well as parishes and schools, should be keenly aware of the pressing need to prepare young people for married life and parenthood, and every effort should be made to implement practical ways of supporting existing marriages and assisting couples in difficulties.
Mindful of the good of individuals and of society, and in obedience to the divine will, the Church never ceases to proclaim that marriage is a permanent covenant of life and love. But, as you know so well, there is the special problem today of the divorced and remarried. Pastoral charity demands that they should not be marginalized from the community of faith but shown the love that the Shepherd has for those in difficulty (cf. Lk Lc 15,3-7). Without crushing the bruised reed or quenching the dimly burning wick (cf. Is Is 42,3), or - at the other extreme - emptying of meaning the Church's teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, every parish should be seen to be a family in which everyone can experience the welcome and healing, as well as the forgiveness and reconciliation, offered by the Father who is "rich in mercy" (Ep 2,4).
5. Likewise, I wish to express to you and the Scottish faithful my profound appreciation of your resolute efforts to defend the inviolable dignity of human life against old and new threats - threats sometimes disguised as compassion - directed against unborn children, the handicapped, the seriously ill and the dying. There is ample room for action by individuals, families, movements and associations in the task of building "a society in which the dignity of each person is recognized and protected and the lives of all are defended and enhanced" (Evangelium Vitae EV 90). Your efforts to help mothers uncertain about whether to welcome their unborn children deserve the support of the whole ecclesial community and indeed of all persons of good will.
The faithful also look to you to make ever more widely known, with clarity and compassion, the Church's teaching on the end-of-life questions increasingly faced by families and health-care personnel. In Sacred Scripture nothing is clearer than the Lord's sovereignty over life and death. The word of God teaches that no one "can arbitrarily choose whether to live or die; the absolute master of such a decision is the Creator alone" (Evangelium Vitae EV 47). He is the One in whom "we live and move and have our being" (Ac 17,28). This teaching should be seen in the wider context of the whole Christian approach to life, whereby "the redemptive value of suffering, accepted and offered to God with love, derives from the sacrifice of Christ himself, who calls the members of his Mystical Body to share in his sufferings" (Redemptoris Missio RMi 78). The path to a culture of life passes necessarily by way of sharing in the mystery of Calvary.
I encourage the Church in Scotland - especially its priests, catechists and Catholic teachers - not to lose heart in the struggle to defend the inviolable and sacred value of every life, but to stand guard at the gate, to protect the weak and the vulnerable, and to work to persuade your fellow-citizens that the renewal of society must be founded on respect for objective and universally valid moral truths and values.
6. Among other vital concerns of your ministry, you rightly regard Catholic schools as central to the Church's mission in Scotland. A great debt of gratitude is due to the priests, Religious and lay faithful who labour so selflessly in the apostolate of education. The purpose of these schools must be to provide the kind of educational environment where children and adolescents can grow to maturity imbued with love of Christ and the Church. The specific identity of Catholic schools should be reflected throughout the curriculum and in every area of school life, precisely so that they may be communities in which the faith is nourished and pupils are prepared for their mission in the Church and society. More than in the past, Catholic schools need to emphasize evangelization and catechesis, for in so many cases proper religious formation in the home is lacking (cf. Catechesi Tradendae CTR 18-19). Teachers in Catholic schools must be able and willing to transmit the Catholic faith in all its fullness, beauty and power. For this they must be guided in their own lives by "the word of truth" which is the Gospel of salvation (cf. Eph Ep 1,13). I am aware that you have vigorously reaffirmed the Church's right to establish, conduct and govern schools freely and in accordance with the right of Catholic parents to have a means of ensuring their children's education in the faith (cf. Gravissimum Educationis GE 8). Whenever these rights are threatened a decisive response is called for.
7. Dear Brothers in the Episcopacy, speaking of educating young people reminds us of the forthcoming World Youth Day in Paris, a gathering of young men and women who will be leaders of evangelization and social renewal in the future (cf. Christifideles Laici CL 46). As Bishops, it is our responsibility to invite and welcome young adults - with their spiritual hunger, idealism and vitality - more completely into the Church's life. They are searching, sometimes in a confused way, for the fullness of life which is found only in Jesus Christ, "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14,6). They expect the Church and her leaders to present a serious programme of formation in sound Catholic doctrine and to encourage personal and liturgical prayer and the frequent reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist. Young people expect to be challenged by the Church, and they know how to respond with great generosity. When we encourage their passion for justice, their solidarity with the marginalized and their yearning for peace, their commitment makes a unique contribution to "building up the Body of Christ" (Ep 4,12). The youth ministry should be focused on the parish, so as to ensure that the young are not isolated from the broader community of faith and worship. As experience confirms, it is also often helpful to supplement parish activities with membership of Catholic youth associations, movements and groups that meet their specific needs (cf. Redemptoris Missio RMi 37).
8. As the Great Jubilee draws near, the Church advances along her pilgrim way, watching and waiting for her Lord, the Alpha and the Omega, who makes "all things new" (Ap 21,5). I invite the Church in Scotland to implore from "the Father of mercies" (2Co 1,3) the grace "to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Rm 8,29). I pray that the Risen Lord will ever increase the fervour of the priests, Religious and laity of your Dioceses, that the good work he has begun in them may come to fruition (cf. Phil Ph 1,6). Thanking you for your commitment and dedication, and entrusting you to the loving protection of Mary, Mother of the Church, and to the intercession of your heavenly Patrons, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.
Mr President of the Czech Republic,
Cardinal Vlk, Archbishop of Prague,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Distinguished Political, Civil and Military Authorities,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. Two years ago when I arrived at this airport for a visit of intense pastoral activity that would take me to Moravia and then to Poland, I was forced to limit my stop in Prague to just a few hours. I expressed the desire to meet you again "for a longer period, in 1997, for the celebrations of the Millennium of the martyrdom of Saint Adalbert" (Address on the Arrival at the Government Airport of Prague-Ruzyne, 20 May 1995, No. 4).
That desire is fulfilled today: here I am, by the grace of God, among you once more, to experience with you the event for which you have been preparing these last ten years.
It was in fact the late Cardinal František Tomášek who, with true prophetic spirit, proclaimed the "Decade of Spiritual Renewal" in preparation for the Millennium of Saint Adalbert. Man of God that he was, he, like Abraham, "hoped against all hope" (cf. Rom Rm 4,18). And he was rewarded: he witnessed the canonization of Agnes of Bohemia, the process of the strengthening of democratic principles even before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the return of freedom to the Church after long years of persecution. Having had the joy of welcoming the Pope in April 1990, he will certainly be rejoicing in heaven to see me return among his people twice. History is truly guided by the almighty hand of God!
2. I cordially thank you, Mr President, for being here to welcome me in the name of the whole Czech Republic, which you represent with such great prestige, having been among those who brought about the rebirth of this country.
To you, dear Cardinal Archbishop of Prague, and to all my Brothers in the Episcopate, I offer my affectionate greeting and express my joy at being once more in this beloved land, at the culmination of these celebrations in honour of Saint Adalbert prepared and organized with great pastoral sensitivity.
I affectionately greet the priests, the men and women religious and the faithful in this land of saints, as well as all the citizens of the Republic.
3. As you know, the reason that I have come once more among you is twofold: we wish to celebrate on Sunday the Solemnity of Saint Adalbert and, on that occasion, to meditate on the message that emerges from the decade of spiritual renewal.
The Millennium and the Decade: it is precisely to experience with you these two great moments of the historical and spiritual life of your country that I have returned. And I have come all the more willingly because this year 1997 is also the first year of the three-year period of immediate preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.
How could we not see a golden thread running through these three great events? At this moment, which for me is one of great emotion, I cannot fail to recall the words that I addressed to you in the homily which I gave in Prague in 1990, when I spoke about the Decade proclaimed by Cardinal Tomášek as a "farsighted invitation" to gain a deeper understanding of the religious and civic history of your homeland (cf. Homily at Mass on the Letná Esplanade, Prague, 21 April 1990, No. 4).
That was an invitation to respond to current challenges and to draw light and strength from the past. And what a radiant light shines upon on us from the martyrdom of Saint Adalbert, a thousand years ago! The meek and captivating figure of the holy Bishop speaks with the same power to the present generation as well. He was — as I have previously observed — "the first Czech to occupy the See of Prague, the first Czech of truly European importance . . . Saint Adalbert, along with the Patrons of Europe, Benedict and Cyril and Methodius, belongs among the founders of Christian culture in Europe, especially in Central Europe" (ibid.).
4. The Decade and the Millennium harmonize well with the preparation for the Jubilee of the Year 2000, which, for the year 1997, is centred on "Jesus Christ, the one Saviour of the world, yesterday, today and for ever". As I indicated in my Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, we are called to deepen our understanding of the mystery of Christ, turning "with renewed interest to the Bible" and rediscovering Baptism as "the basis of Christian living" (op. cit., Nos. 40 and 41). This is an important commitment also from the standpoint of ecumenism, since "the centrality of Christ, of the word of God and of faith ought to inspire interest among Christians of other denominations and meet with a favourable response from them" (ibid., No. 41).
I am therefore particularly pleased to say these words as I think of our dear brothers and sisters of the other Christian Churches and denominations present in this Republic. As I cordially greet them, I express the hope that we shall meet again at the ecumenical prayer meeting which will be held on Sunday afternoon in the Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert.
But I trust that the spiritual purpose of my visit will find a response also among those individuals who for various reasons feel far from the Church and from religion in general. In my experience as a young priest and as a bishop in Krakow I was able to approach many of these people searching for truth, and I have always regarded with great respect the internal anguish that often accompanies them.
I am certain that the heritage of Christian values of which Saint Adalbert was a special witness in times marked by ignorance and cruelty will not leave indifferent those who, although far from belief, have at heart the civil, cultural and spiritual roots which have so profoundly marked the history of your homeland.
5. As the first stage of my apostolic visit, I am about to go to the Benedictine monastery at Brevnov, founded 1,004 years ago by Saint Adalbert. To him I entrust the success of my pilgrim journey, and I hope that these millenary celebrations will be a fresh step forward in the ever increasing spiritual and ethical growth of all the dear sons and daughters of this blessed land.
Mr President, Venerable Brothers, ladies and gentlemen! With these sentiments, which come from my heart, I renew my sincere thanks for the welcome which has been given to me and I commend to the blessing of Almighty God your persons, your families, and your homeland, which has resolutely set out, amidst understandable difficulties, on the road towards peace, progress, and national and international cooperation.
Pochválen bud' Jezíš Kristus!
Dear Brother Bishops!
1. I have greatly desired this meeting with you, who have the responsibility of guiding God's People in this land in faith and governing them in charity. I thank God that I am able to be here today with you, in this house which welcomes everyone, since in a way it is the Pope's house.
I am grateful for the care with which you have prepared this visit. May it produce abundant fruits of renewal in the Christian life of your respective Dioceses and ecclesiastical circumscriptions, which in a few years have become more numerous since the recent union of the Dioceses of Plzen in Bohemia and of Ostrava-Opava in Moravia and Silesia.
I greet each of you with affection, beginning with you, the dear Cardinal Archbishop of Prague and successor of Saint Adalbert, and you, the dear Archbishop of Olomouc, as I recall with gratitude the welcome which you and your faithful gave me during my pilgrimage two years ago. A special greeting also goes to Bishop Karel Otcenášek, in whose Diocese I shall have the joy tomorrow of celebrating Mass for the young people. I am pleased to see the Apostolic Exarch of the new Exarchate for the faithful of the Byzantine Slav Rite living in the Czech Republic. Together with the residential Bishops I also wish to greet the auxiliary Bishops, and among them the two recently ordained auxiliaries of Prague.
I am here to give thanks to God, together with you, for the spiritual gifts with which he has blessed the Church in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia during the Decade of spiritual renewal desired by the unforgettable Cardinal František Tomášek. The Decade was launched when times were still dark, as a means of preparing believers to celebrate the Millennium of the martyrdom of Saint Adalbert.
2. This evening Saint Adalbert speaks to us of his life as a Bishop consumed with zeal for the flock entrusted to him and at the same time "seized" by God according to the Benedictine ideal of prayer and activity. The ancient biography sketched by Bruno of Querfurt defines the Bishop's character in a lapidary sentence: Bene vixit, bene docuit, ab eo quod ore dixit nusquam opere recessit: "He lived an outstanding life, he was an outstanding teacher and he never departed in his actions from the words of his mouth - Dobre zil, dobre ucil, nikdy se skutem neodchylil od toho, co hlasal usty" (Legend Nascitur purpureus flos, XI). No less effectively does Bruno evoke Adalbert's virtues as a monk, his love of prayer, silence, humility and withdrawal: Erat laetus ad omne iniunctum opus, non solum maioribus sed etiam minoribus oboedire paratus, quae est prima via virtutis: "He rejoiced in every work given him, ready to obey not only his superiors but also his inferiors, which is the first way of virtue - Radoval se z kazdé, ulozené, prace, ochoten poslechnout nejen starsi, ale i mladsi, coz je prvni cesta ctnosti" (ibid., XIV).
His rich personality, his strong yet gentle figure as a man sensitive to the values of Christian civilization, as a Bishop open to the greater dimensions of Europe, endowed with the charism of combining in a single zealous apostolate the different nations of Europe, is a model for us. He was an upright and unswerving Pastor who in the face of corruption and weakness remained faithful to the unchanging Law of God. He was a courageous and responsible missionary, called to enlarge constantly the horizons of evangelization and proclamation.
3. In the society of his time, both civil and ecclesiastical, Saint Adalbert faced enormously serious challenges and undertook a significant work which, even if it did not immediately bear visible fruits, eventually produced effects which still endure today.
The challenges lying before you today, dear Bishops, are no less demanding than those of that time. I think in the first place of religious indifference which, as I had occasion to reaffirm in my Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, leads many people to live as if God did not exist, or to be content with a vague religiosity incapable of adequately responding to the problem of truth and the duty of consistency (cf. No. 36). Forty years of systematic repression of the Church, the elimination of her Pastors, Bishops and priests, the intimidation of individuals and families, weigh heavily upon the present generation. This can be seen particularly in the area of family morality, as was shown by some statistical data gathered on the occasion of the International Year of the Family. Nearly a half of the marriages end in divorce or separation, especially in Bohemia. The practice of abortion, permitted by laws inherited from the past regime, is showing signs of a slight decrease, yet the number of abortions remains among the highest in the world. As a result, there has been a considerable decrease in the birth rate. For some years now, the number of deaths has exceeded the number of births.
Another challenge to the proclamation of the Gospel is hedonism, which has invaded these lands from neighbouring countries and contributed to a growing crisis of values in everyday life, in family structure and even in people's outlook on the meaning of life. The spread of pornography, prostitution and paedophilia is also symptomatic of a situation of grave social malaise.
Dear Brothers, you are well aware of these problems, which challenge your pastoral consciousness and your sense of responsibility. They must not discourage you, but rather be an opportunity for renewing your commitment and hope. Such was the hope that impelled Saint Adalbert despite trials, even spiritual ones. It is a hope that is born of awareness that "the night is far gone, the day is at hand" (Rm 13,12), for the Risen Christ is with us.
Present in society are a number of people of good will, many of whom are active in their parishes and are distinguished for their commitment to personal holiness and the apostolate. It is my hope that, with your help, they can always overcome difficulties and obstacles.
4. The family must be at the center of your concern as Pastors. As the "domestic Church", the family is the firmest guarantee for the desired renewal as we approach the Third Millennium. I express my appreciation for the numerous programmes and the various family centres which have sprung up in every part of the country in order to help provide concrete assistance to children, young people in difficulty and unwed mothers.
The family, profoundly marked by habits, traditions, customs and rituals deeply imbued with faith, is the terrain best adapted for fostering vocations. When the voice of the Church's Pastors was forced to be silent, families succeeded in preserving the Christian heritage of their forebears and in providing Christian education for their children, many of whom became priests and Religious. Today's consumer mentality can have a negative impact on the rise of vocations and care for them; hence the need to give pastoral priority to promoting vocations to the priesthood and to forms of consecrated life.
The family is also critical for the training of young people. The Europe of the year 2000 needs generous, enthusiastic and pure young people, capable of shaping their future. Dear Brother Bishops, I wish to express my special appreciation for the concern with which you are following the human and spiritual growth of young people. Even in the period of oppression, a highly-organized network of activities, led by courageous priests, existed for the training of young men and women. This resulted in activities at all levels on behalf of young people, with reception centres, spiritual retreats and periodic formation meetings. These generous efforts have produced abundant fruit in spiritual maturity. In view of this, encouragement should be given to all volunteer initiatives which can have a formative value for young people.
5. I express lively appreciation of the charitable activities which the Dioceses of Bohemia and Moravia are carrying out through appropriate agencies, especially "Charita". By their presence, these organizations are capable of directing public generosity towards carefully selected and presented objectives. I refer in particular to the aid given to cases of hidden poverty existing within your country, to the praiseworthy work in aid of the people of Bosnia-Hercegovina, and to support for missionary work, for lepers and for the outcast of the whole world.
In the diversified presence of the Church in the Czech Republic, numerous Movements also have a place. In all fields of pastoral activity, especially that of youth work, they cooperate in the formation of mature consciences. I urge them always to be in harmony with the Church's Pastors in an authentic spirit of cooperation, witnessed by a readiness to accept the pastoral directives which they issue in the exercise of their responsibilities in the service of the flock entrusted to them.
Dear Brother Bishops, you well know how much the Church esteems and promotes all authentic forms of culture and strives to enter into communion and dialogue with them. The meeting-place between Church and culture is the world, and within it man, who is called to progressive self-realization with the aid of God's grace mediated by the Church, and of all the spiritual helps made available by the cultural heritage of the nation. True culture is humanizing, while non-culture and false cultures are dehumanizing. For this reason, in the choice of a culture man puts at stake his own destiny. Prague has been a beacon of intellectual life of rare prestige. This year marks the 650th anniversary of the foundation of the celebrated Charles University. In the course of the centuries, Czech cultural life has been a crossroads of many, sometimes opposed, spiritual currents, of which indelible traces still remain. Concern for culture must be a constant priority of your pastoral activity.
6. In the variety of your pastoral commitments, priests are your first fellow-workers; without them your activity could not be effective. I urge you: love your clergy, be close to your priests who, as I well know, are burdened by immense pastoral work, with the care of parishes, often quite numerous, which demands time, availability and effort. Many of your priests have suffered in State prisons, with effects on their health which are still evident and which age will certainly aggravate. The younger priests, who came out of the seminary with a fervent zeal for the apostolate, can sometimes be tempted to fall into routine, or even experience discouragement as a result of loneliness or the infiltration of certain ideas already widespread in the West. Be close to them. Welcome them as brothers. Make them feel that you love them and that their work is indispensable for you.
It is equally important to establish and to cultivate full and authentic cooperation with Religious communities of men and women, of both active and contemplative life, and in a special way with those Religious who are ordained priests and who administer with generosity and commitment different parish communities. They are an integral part of your presbyterate.
Finally, in your long-range pastoral vision, support and practical encouragement needs to be given to the communications apostolate, especially with regard to the publication of books and periodicals, and to all the many other possibilities for apostolate and witness that the Holy Spirit is awakening in religious families of both men and women.
7. I am aware of the problems which still exist in the relations, otherwise cordial and open, between the Church and the competent State authorities. I venture to mention some of the more urgent matters requiring your attention, not only in the context of these celebrations in honour of Saint Adalbert but also in view of your coming visit ad Limina Apostolorum.
To date no clear guidelines have been established to regulate relations between the State and the Catholic Church. Now, almost eight years after the fall of the regime, it is certainly necessary, and beneficial for both parties, to reach the desired definition of reciprocal rights and duties. The Holy See is committed to seeking such an agreement, in accord with your Episcopal Conference.
As is known, the Catholic Church, here as everywhere else, does not ask for privileges or seek to be served, but to serve, according to the example of her Founder (cf. Mt Mt 10,28). She asks to be able to exercise freely and with dignity her proper mission, which is expressed in evangelization and human promotion, and thus in the preaching of the Gospel, religious education, the training of adolescents and young people, pastoral work in universities, and charitable and welfare activities.
In this context, the question arises of the restitution of goods confiscated arbitrarily during the dark years of persecution. During that time the Church was defrauded of donations coming from private individuals and various institutions and intended for specific educational and charitable purposes. The Church has a right to be independent and, if she asks for these goods, she does so because they enable her to meet the unalienable requirements of her mission.
The Church, as has been repeatedly stated since the beginning of the free existence of this nation, is open to dialogue about possible arrangements for the restitution of the goods which were confiscated. For this purpose to be attained, a precise and long-range plan of action needs to be established both by the State and the Church.
These problems will then have to be discussed, with objectivity and competence, by a Mixed Commission made up of expert representatives of the State and the Church. On the basis of experience gained in similar cases in other countries, a Commission chaired by the Apostolic Nuncio and made up of an appropriate number of expert Bishops and lay persons, could examine these problems with an analogous government Commission, in order to arrive as quickly as possible at a satisfactory solution of still unresolved questions.
Finally, it is urgently necessary that the Church be permitted to be present in fields of a pre-eminently spiritual character, as has long been the case in other countries of Europe. I am speaking of the teaching of religion in the State schools, which today deserves to be considered a primary contribution to the building of a Europe based on that heritage of Christian culture which is common to the peoples of Western and Eastern Europe. I am thinking also of pastoral care in hospitals and prisons, and, in particular, of spiritual assistance to the military, by the presence of properly trained military chaplains. I am aware of a first attempt in this regard among the troops stationed in Bosnia-Hercegovina, which is proving quite successful, and not only among the Catholic troops.
If I have mentioned these undertakings, it is also in order to emphasize that the Holy See, with direct knowledge of your desires and needs, continues to be at your disposal to offer you discreet and practical cooperation for resolving these problems.
8. Your Eminence, Venerable Brothers! The Millennium of Saint Adalbert has given us an opportunity to reflect on the problems of the Church in this beloved nation. Certainly such problems exist, and they can also be serious. But they are also proof that the Church is alive, growing, and acting as an authoritative participant in the various movements of spiritual, cultural, social and political renewal marking the present time.
After the long years of persecution, the Decade of spiritual renewal has helped clarify, in accordance with the thousand-year-old Christian civilization of your country, the response expected by the different sectors of ecclesial and civil life. Yes, we can say once more that "the night is far gone, the day is at hand".
If there remain areas where shadows persist, these are a reason for even greater commitment. In my Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint, I described the mission of the Successor of Peter within the Episcopal College as that of a "sentinel" who confirms his Brother Bishops so that "the true voice of Christ the Shepherd may be heard in all the particular Churches" (No. 94). And so I thank the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for having offered us the opportunity to experience our "partnership in the Gospel" (Ph 1,5), and to draw strength and encouragement from one another in accordance with the "immeasurable riches of his grace" (Ep 2,7). I allow myself to ask you, at the culmination of the celebrations commemorating Saint Adalbert: Custos, quid de nocte? Custos, quid de nocte? "Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?" (Is 21,11). The day must dawn. The new dawn of the Sun of justice must come (cf. Mal Ml 3,20): Jesus Christ, God from God, Light from Light, without whom the civilization of love cannot be built. Be sentinels then, pointing out to the flock that better times are coming.
Through the harmonious efforts of all who are sincerely concerned for the good of man, I express my hope for the coming of that peace of Christ which is indispensable for the creation of an order of justice, peace and progress, so deeply desired by this people dear to you and to me.
May God bless you and accompany you in your difficult and exhilarating work!
Speeches 1997 - Friday, 25 April 1997