Speeches 1978 - Thursday, 20 April 1978


Saturday, 29 April 1978

Your Majesty,

It gives us much pleasure to extend our most cordial welcome to Your Majesty and to the distinguished persons who have accompanied you.

This meeting recalls to our mind the courteous visit you made to us in May 1964 and, especially, the unforgettable days of our earlier pilgrimage to the Holy Land, during which Your Majesty and the people of Jordan gave us so warm and spontaneous a reception.

We take the occasion of this meeting to renew to the noble people of your Kingdom our most fervent good wishes for prosperity and peace, with the blessing of the Most High. It is our hope that the economic and social development that your country is pursuing, under the wise guidance of those who govern it, may always be accompanied by a deep religious and moral spirit in all citizens, and especially in the younger generation, from the first moment of their education.

Your Majesty may rest assured of the loyalty with which, in its own field, the Catholic community in Jordan will make its contribution to that progress, in collaboration with the authorities and with their fellow-citizens.

The problem of peace in the troubled area of the Middle East is, as you know, a source of lively preoccupation and constant concern to the Holy See. Knowing Your Majesty’s commitment to the search for a peace based on a well-balanced recognition of the legitimate demands of the various parties, we wish to declare to you our heartfelt desire that the leaders concerned may come decisively to grips with the crucial issues of the conflict, and through wisdom and good will find a speedy solution to them. In particular, we once again express the hope that a just end may be put to the sad situation of the Palestinians, and that Jerusalem, the Holy City for the three great monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, may really become the “high place” of peace and encounter for peoples from every part of the world who, in spite of their diversity, are joined in brotherhood by the worship they offer to the one and only God.

With these wishes, we beg the Almighty to grant to Your Majesty, the Royal Family and the whole Kingdom of Jordan his protection and his abundant favours.

*AAS 70 (1978), p.335-336;

Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, vol. XVI, p.317-318;

L’Attività della Santa Sede 1978, p.111-112;

OR 30.4.1978, p.1;

ORa n.19 p.2 .

May 1978



Friday, 5 May 1978

Your Excellency,

we have pleasure in accepting the Letters of Credence with which His Excellency Dr Kenneth Kaunda, President of the Republic of Zambia, appoints you as your country’s Ambassador to the Holy See. With grateful recollections of his visit of last year, we express our thanks for the kind greetings that you bring from him and from the people of Zambia, and we ask you to assure them of our deep interest in their welfare and our prayerful wishes for their happiness.

Your Excellency has spoken eloquently of the harmful results for a people’s happiness that follow from a refusal to recognize God’s place in the lives of human beings. God is the founder and perfecter of human dignity, and the loftiest reason for that dignity is his call to communion with him. It is but natural therefore that any attempt to exclude God will be detrimental to man, both as an individual and as a member of society. By ignoring God, the individual is encouraged to turn a deaf ear to the promptings of the law that God has written in his heart in order to direct him ever upwards to greater nobility. God created man in his own image and likeness, crowned him with glory and honour and put him over the works of his hands. But in a society that does not sincerely acknowledge God, as all too many examples show, attempts are made to despoil man of that God-given grandeur: he is removed from his central position, treated as no more than a means for the attainment of other ends and subordinated to what should be at his service.

Recognition of God, who is the father of all, means recognizing also the brotherhood of human beings and their fundamental equality, without distinction of origin or race. In this respect, when addressing the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See last January, we spoke of the concern that we feel at situations of racial discrimination on the African continent. The Church, we said, “cannot encourage or justify violence, which sheds blood, sows destruction, generates hatred without measure and triggers off reprisals and vengeance. But the Church cannot keep silent with regard to her teaching, namely that all racist theories are contrary to Christian faith and love. The very horror that Christians have of violence must urge them to reaffirm the equal dignity of all men more clearly and courageously” (AAS 70 (1978) 173).

We have confidence that the Zambian people will value and preserve the necessary foundations for their true happiness. We are encouraged in this not only by the Christian commitment of many of your country’s citizens but also by the thought that they will not wish to be unfaithful to their ageless traditions, which have never considered man as mere matter limited to earthly life. We invoke upon them God’s richest blessings as they build on these precious foundations.

We pray God also to grant Your Excellency success in your important mission, in the performance of which you can count on our wholehearted assistance and that of our collaborators.

*AAS 70 (1978), p.336-338;

Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, vol. XVI, p.326-327;

L’Attività della Santa Sede 1978, p.117-118;

OR 5-6.5.1978, p.1;

ORa n.20 p.2.


Wednesday, 24 May 1978

Dear Cardinal Cooke,

the Holy Father has learned with deep satisfaction of the forthcoming special Symposium entitled “Natural Family Planning: Ten Years of Progress-1968-1978”, with which the Committee for Pro-Life Activities of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, together with the Human Life and Natural Family Planning Foundation, wishes to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Encyclical “Humanae Vitae”.

His Holiness has directed me to convey through you his encouragement for this Symposium, which aims at reviewing the scientific progress of the past decade, and at generating greater understanding of, and support for, the Church’s teaching on conjugal morality, family life, and responsible parenthood.

The participants at the Symposium will be well aware of recent interventions of the Church on these precise topics. While repeating previous teaching, the Holy Father wishes on this occasion to draw attention to some issues of particular pastoral importance in the matter of natural family planning.

The first area to which he wishes to draw attention is that of research. It is encouraging to note the increasing amount of rigorous scientific research that has been carried out in the area of natural family planning in the years following the Encyclical “Humanae Vitae”. It is important that this research be continued in an open manner, so that the natural methods of birth regulation may be scientifically vindicated on a wider scale and thus become accepted with greater confidence by more people. It is also satisfying to note an ever growing scientific collaboration, not only in research but also in evaluating results, and in developing teaching-methods.

The second area which His Holiness would stress is that of promotion. He repeats his encouragement and gratitude to all those who work for the promotion of natural family planning, whether directly with couples, or in medical and social endeavors. He also earnestly requests that the task of placing the results of scientific research at the service of couples around the world be pursued with intense effort.

Growing respect for the rights of conscience and the right to follow one’s religious convictions, together with the renewed interest, especially among young people, in forms of life which respect the patterns of nature, should be an encouragement for those bodies that have responsibility for the positive development of society, to take a greater and more constructive interest in the natural means of family planning. It is important that public authorities and international bodies, medical personnel and social workers, marriage counsellors and educators should recognize the high positive values that are to be found in the natural methods, in which the dignity of the human person is fostered: a knowledge and understanding of fertility help to assure personal autonomy by liberating couples from artificial means, while leading them to a degree of sexual self-mastery which is in direct contrast with the permissiveness and promiscuity that today constitute grave social problems to be solved. It is earnestly hoped therefore that public agencies will demonstrate corresponding interest in and support for couples and organizations which are led by their convictions to follow these high ideals.

The third area of pastoral importance which the Holy Father emphasizes is precisely that of the ideals which must inspire any program of natural family planning. Natural family planning is not another method of birth prevention. As the Encyclical “Humanae Vitae ” clearly teaches: “The problem of birth, like every other problem regarding human life, is to be considered, beyond partial perspectives-whether of the biological or psychological, demographic or sociological orders-in the light of an integral vision of man and of his vocation, not only his natural and earthly, but also his supernatural and eternal vocation” (Humanae Vitae HV 7).

The successful practice of natural family planning requires a personal commitment of both husband and wife. With this commitment it becomes an effective means for attaining, with God’s grace, oneness in marriage and conjugal love, which the Second Vatican Council had previously declared to be “ordained by their nature toward the begetting and educating of children” (Gaudium et Spes GS 50).

The Church truly recognizes that childbearing and parenthood require courage and generosity; she also recognizes the various challenges and sacrifices inherent in them, but also the joys and promises. In our day, when the child is often looked upon primarily as a burden, as a restriction on the freedom of the couple, it is necessary to proclaim that the child is the living witness to the love of the couple. It is also fitting to add that among couples who fulfill their role of procreation with generous human and Christian responsibility “those merit special mention who with wise and common deliberation and with magnanimity undertake to bring up properly even a larger number of children” (Ibid.).

The Holy Father stresses that-as must be the case in all areas of the Church’s pastoral mission-programs of natural family planning must present the authentic teaching of the Church in its entirety, with due attention to the full exigencies of God’s plan for marriage, which is “the wise institution of the Creator to realize in mankind his design of love ” (Humanae Vitae HV 8). At the same time, couples must be assisted with Christian understanding and patient pastoral care, so that, with divine help, they may successfully face whatever difficulties may arise from physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, or from other trying circumstances.

Moreover, it should be pointed out that the fostering of natural family planning programs forms part of the Church’s contribution to universal integral advancement. It is a specific service to couples who are striving to fulfill faithfully their proper duties as spouses and parents. It is vital that those who dedicate themselves to the work of teaching and promoting natural family planning should receive adequate formation, recognition and support from the Church communities and their leaders.

The Holy Father offers to the reflection of the participants at the New York Symposium the Church’s vision of natural family planning, namely that natural family planning cannot remain merely on the level of techniques or scientific research, although these are essentially linked to it. Programs of natural family planning must rather address themselves concretely to the challenging task of education to conjugal chastity. This education will be assisted and sustained through prayer; for Catholics it will be powerfully completed in the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist. Programs must aim at the development of an integral vision of the human person, in which conjugal love is intimately linked with openness to life, and in which joy is not isolated from sacrifice and sexual self-mastery. The realization of this vision, and its presentation to today’s troubled world, is the duty and the specific contribution of all Christians, but especially of Christian married couples, called by virtue of the Sacrament of Matrimony to the building up of God’s Kingdom on earth.

It is a source of satisfaction for the Holy Father to know that the organizers and participants at the New York Symposium share these high Christian ideals regarding marriage and human life itself, and that they have already shown their commitment to these ideals in years of tireless effort. To all who work together in promoting the dignity of conjugal love, the importance of the Christian family and the sacredness of human life in all its stages, His Holiness expresses his profound gratitude.

With paternal affection in Christ Jesus he extends his special Apostolic Blessing to all those assembled, as well as to their loyal collaborators, begging the Lord, the source of life and love, to continue to pour out his sustaining grace on their future activities. With every good wish for your own devoted support of the Pro-Life activities, I remain.

Sincerely yours in Christ.



Friday, 26 May 1978

Venerable and dear Brothers in Christ,

«God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him may not die, but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3,16-17).

Today, Brethren, by your presence at the See of Peter, you solemnly attest, by word and action, that you firmly believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God, and that your ministry is dedicated to his work of salvation-the salvation of the world. You have come, as Bishops of the Catholic Church, in order to celebrate in a special way the communion of this universal Church. All of us together are gathered in the Holy Spirit; our pastoral meeting is placed under the sign of absolute fidelity to “the chief Shepherd” (1 Petr. 5, 4) of the flock. In order at this moment to have a deeper insight into our mission, it is fitting for us to look up to him who says: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (Jn 10,10).

Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd remains forever the exemplar of all our pastoral activities. We are his disciples, and “it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher”(Mt 10,25) Our ministry is patterned on his. We have been sent to carry on, in his name and by his power, the work of God’s only Son. We have been sent, as apostles, to preach the Gospel of salvation, to proclaim life in Christ, and finally to lead the human family to the fullness of eternal life. Since, in God’s plan, the whole person is called to eternal life, and this life is already begun on earth, our ministry necessarily involves service to human life in its entirety.

We wish today to speak especially about life: to assure you all of our closeness to you in the splendid efforts, the sustained efforts, the united efforts that you have made on behalf of life, precisely in order to be faithful to your calling as Shepherds of God’s people in the States of Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota. By reason, moreover, of the solidarity of unity, responsibility and merit that links the entire Hierarchy in your country in this crucial matter, we now address our words not only to you, but also to all the Bishops of the United States-as we did during the ad limina visit of the New York Bishops last month, and as we intend, with God’s help, to do in the future.

We speak to you as one who has been called to strengthen his Brothers (Cfr. Luc Lc 22,32), and who, for this reason, has been given supreme authority in the Church of Jesus Christ. And so, in his name, in the name of Jesus Christ, we thank you for your ministry at the service of life. We know that you have labored precisely in order that the words of the Good Shepherd would be fulfilled: “that they may have life and have it to the full”. Under your leadership, so many of the Catholic people-priests, deacons, religious and laity-have joined in numerous initiatives aimed at defending, healing and promoting human life.

With the enlightenment of faith, the incentive of love and an awareness of your pastoral accountability, you have worked to oppose whatever wounds, weakens or dishonors human life. Your pastoral charity has found a consistent expression in so many ways -all related to the question of life, all aimed at protecting life in its multiple facets. You have endeavored to proclaim in practice that all aspects of human life are sacred.

In this regard, your efforts have been directed to the eradication of hunger, the elimination of subhuman living conditions, and the promotion of programs on behalf of the poor, the elderly and minorities. You have worked for the improvement of the social order itself. At the same time, we know that you have held up to your people the goal to which God calls them: the life above, in Christ Jesus (Cfr. Phil Ph 3,14).

Among your many activities at the service of life there is one which, especially at this juncture of history, deserves our strongest commendation and our firmest support: it is the continuing struggle against what the Second Vatican Council calls the “abominable crime ” of abortion (Gaudium et Spes GS 51). Disregard for the sacred character of life in the womb weakens the very fabric of civilization; it prepares a mentality, and even a public attitude, that can lead to the acceptance of other practices that are against the fundamental rights of the individual. This mentality can, for example, completely undermine concern for those in want, manifesting itself in insensitivity to social needs; it can produce contempt for the elderly, to the point of advocating euthanasia; it can prepare the way for those forms of genetic engineering that go against life, the dangers of which are not yet fully known to the general public.

It is therefore very encouraging to see the great service you render to humanity by constantly holding up to our people the value of human life. We are confident that, relying on the words of the Good Shepherd, who inspires your activity, you will continue to exercise leadership in this regard, sustaining the entire ecclesial community in their own vocation at the service of life.

It is also a source of world-wide honor that, in your country, so many upright men and women of differing religious convictions are united in a profound respect for the laws of the Creator and Lord of life, and that, by every just means at their disposal, they are endeavoring, before the witness of history, to take a definitive stand for human life.

We are convinced, moreover, that all efforts made to safeguard human rights actually benefit life itself. Everything aimed at banishing discrimination-in law or in fact-which is based on “race, origin, color, culture, sex or religion” (Octogesima Adveniens, 16) is a service to life. When the rights of minorities are fostered, when the mentally or physically handicapped are assisted, when those on the margin of society are given a voice-in all these instances the dignity of human life, the fullness of human life, and the sacredness of human life are furthered. And all the work done in your local Churches in the area of the Catholic school, in training for social justice, and in confronting various social issues touching the local, national or international community are a service to life.

In particular, every contribution made to better the moral climate of society, to oppose permissiveness and hedonism, and all assistance to the family, which is the source of new life, effectively uphold the values of life. We know that, in conjunction with the tenth anniversary of “Humanae Vitae”, various initiatives are being sponsored throughout your country to explain natural family planning, in accordance with the teaching of the Church. These activities honor life directly in the dignity and importance of its origin. In supporting natural family planning programs, the Church gives witness not only to her fidelity to the design of the Creator, but also to her faithful service to the human person, who remains: “the beginning, the subject and the goal of all social institutions” (Gaudium et Spes GS 25).

Your mission at the service of human life, however, finds its summit in leading your people to the fullness of eternal life: salvation in Christ. Through your ministry, the Lord himself offers the faithful the bread of life; it comes from the table both of God’s word and of the Body of Christ.” And according to Christ’s promise, he who eats this bread already has eternal life.”

In all the hopes, in all the difficulties and challenges of you ministry, we exhort you to go forward with fidelity and confidence, in the communion of the universal Church, leading your people along the path of life. Remember that Christ tells us: “I am with you always ” (Cfr. Dei Verbum DV 21).

Dear Brothers in Christ: Why do we speak about these things? Because of the vital importance of the theme of life as on orientation of our ministry. But also, so that, gathered in the Holy Spirit, we may experience together the joy of life in Christ, and the joy of being apostles of him who is Life itself. And we pray that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, you will go forth to prepare in your local Churches a fresh outpouring of Christian joy among all your people: a joy based on the keen conviction that God sent his Son to bring eternal life, so that the world might be saved through him.

With these sentiments, Brethren, and with deep affection in the Lord, we send our greeting and our Apostolic Blessing to all your Dioceses: to all your clergy, religious, seminarians and laity. “Peace to all of you who are in Christ” (Cfr. Io Jn 6,54).

June 1978


Saturday, 10 June 1978

Dear sons and daughters,

We have much pleasure in welcoming you who have come here on pilgrimage from Indonesia. Several years have now passed since we visited your country and spoke of mankind’s supreme, primary and irreplaceable need, which can be satisfied only through Jesus Christ. What we said then, we repeat to you today: Jesus Christ “is our Saviour, and at the same time he is the Teacher for all of us. He is ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’. Anyone who follows him will not be walking in the dark. That is the memory we would like to engrave on your souls for ever”.

To you and to your dear ones in Indonesia we give with affection our Apostolic Blessing.


Thursday, 15 June 1978

Mr President,

It is a pleasure for us to receive Your Excellency today, following your visit to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, in your capacity as Chairman of the Heads of State Conference of the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel. At the same time we are happy to greet the distinguished members of your suite, from your own country of The Gambia, and from Mali, Senegal and Upper Volta.

Your journey to the United States and Western Europe has been dictated by the continuing grave problem of drought in the Sahel, a problem that, as you have mentioned, preoccupies the Holy See, which has been able, within the limits of its possibilities, to offer assistance towards the relief of the sufferings of the peoples of the region. We are aware that the aim of your tour is to bring the problem more vividly to the attention of the competent authorities and Organizations, and we would assure you that our prayers go with you in your worthy endeavours. With regard to the Catholic Church’s on-the-spot efforts, we may mention that only a few days ago there took place in Ouagadougou an international meeting of representatives of the Churches of the Sahel. The aim was to review what contribution the Churches in the various countries have been able to make during recent years, and to discuss future concerted projects not only for combatting the ever-present menace of drought but also for favouring the long-term development of the countries involved.

Be assured also that the Holy See and the Catholic Church will always be allied with all initiatives, such as your own, that aim at assisting people in their urgent basic needs, and in promoting the human dignity of all the children of God.

As we reiterate our good wishes for your mission, we cannot fail to express our cordial pleasure at the fact that the Holy See and the Republic of The Gambia have just decided to establish diplomatic relations. This new and more intimate connection between the Holy See and your country will, we trust, lead to even greater and more fruitful cooperation in years to come.

Mr President, we close by invoking upon you and your colleagues in your present mission the abundant assistance of Almighty God.

*Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, vol. XVI, p.471-472;

OR 16.6.1978, p.1;

ORa n.26 p.2.


Thursday, 15 June 1978

Venerable and dear Brothers,

We welcome you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and embrace you in his love. In you, our brother Bishops, we wish to honor the local Churches over which you preside, and which you are called to serve in the charity of the Savior. Through you we send our greeting of joy and peace to all the faithful that make up your Dioceses: to all our sons and daughters in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, the Virgin Islands, Virginia, West Virginia, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska.

As we celebrate together our communion of faith and love in the unity of Christ, we are conscious of being the successors of his Apostles, Bishops of the Catholic Church, who are charged with the mission of giving witness to the Lord Jesus, and of proclaiming the testimony of his Father. In the words of Saint John: “The testimony is this: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever possesses the Son possesses life; whoever does not possess the Son of God does not possess life” (1 Io. 5, 11).

Today we wish to consider the mystery of life in Jesus Christ. And since life in Jesus Christ is embodied in the Eucharist, it is about the Eucharist that we now wish to speak to you and to all the Hierarchy in America. The Eucharist is of supreme importance in our ministry as priests and Bishops, making present Christ’s salvific activity. The Eucharist is of supreme relevance to our people in their Christian lives. It is of supreme effectiveness for the transformation of the world in justice, holiness and peace. Precisely, therefore, because of the intimate relationship between the Eucharist and the apostolate to which we dedicate ourselves, we wish to reflect with you on several aspects of this Sacrament, which is the Bread of life.

The Second Vatican Council has reminded all priests that the main source of their pastoral love is to be found in the Eucharistic Sacrifice (Cfr. Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 14). It goes on to state that “the ministry of priests is directed towards this work and is perfected in it. For their ministry, which takes its start from the Gospel proclamation, derives its power and force from the Sacrifice of Christ” (Ibid. 2). And then it specifies that priests fulfill their chief duty in the mystery of the Eucharistic Sacrifice (Cfr. Ibid. 13). For us, Brethren, as for all our collaborators in the priesthood, who have dedicated their lives in order to lead the faithful to the fullness of the Paschal Mystery, this teaching is extremely important. It gives a decisive orientation to all our activities as shepherds of God’s people, and as heralds of the Gospel of salvation, whose highest proclamation is enacted in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

Besides determining the priorities of our own ministry and that of our priests, the teaching of the Second Vatican Council gives immense joy to the Catholic people, reminding them that because the Eucharist contains Christ himself it therefore contains “the Church’s entire spiritual wealth” (Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 5).

A few months before the promulgation of the Council’s Decree on the Priestly Ministry and Life, we ourself reiterated the Church’s doctrine on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, stating that “it is presence in the fullest sense: because it is a substantial presence by which the whole and complete Christ, God and man, is present” (PAULI PP. VI Mysterium Fidei MF 39). We went on to state that the Catholic Church “has at all times given to this great Sacrament the worship which is known as latria and which may be given to God alone” (Ibid. 55). And we are convinced today that an ever greater emphasis on this teaching will be a source of strength to all the pilgrim people of God. For this reason we encourage you and all your priests to preach frequently this rich doctrine of Christ’s presence: the Eucharist, in the Mass and outside of the Mass, contains the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and is therefore deserving of the worship that is given to the living God, and to him alone.

Another clear enunciation of the importance of the Eucharist is contained in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, in which participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice is called “the source and summit of the whole Christian life” (Lumen Gentium LG 11). The Eucharistic Sacrifice is itself the apex of the Church’s liturgy, the entirety of which is the festive expression of salvation, and has as its primary role the glory of the Lord (Cfr. PAULI PP. VI Allocutio habita ad Helvetiae sacros Praesules, occasione visitationis «Ad limina» coram admissos: AAS 70 (1978) 104). In the words of the Council: “the Sacred Liturgy is above all the worship of the divine majesty” (Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 33). What a great service to the people of God: week after week, year after year to make them ever more conscious of the fact that they can draw unlimited strength from the Eucharist to collaborate actively in the mission of the Church. It is the summit of their Christian lives, not in the sense that their other activities are not important, but in the sense that, for their full effectiveness, these activities must be united with Christ’s salvific action and be associated with his redemptive Sacrifice.

The Vatican Council assures us that the Eucharist is likewise “the source and summit of all evangelization” (Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 5). The very identity of the Church, in her evangelizing mission, is effected by the Eucharist, which be comes the goal of all our activities. All the pastoral endeavors of our ministry are incomplete until the people that we are called to serve are led to full and active participation in the Eucharist. Every initiative we undertake in the name of God and as ministers of the Gospel must find fulfillment in the Eucharist.

A year ago, at the canonization of John Neumann, we cited the importance that the Eucharist held for him as a Bishop of the Catholic Church, precisely in the context of evangelization. And the example we gave was the importance he attributed to the Forty Hours’ Devotion. Venerable Brothers, we do not hesitate today to propose to you and all your faithful the great practice of Eucharistic adoration. At the same time we ask you and your priests to do all in your power so that the reverence due to the Eucharist will be understood by all the faithful, that Eucharistic celebrations everywhere will be characterized by dignity, and that all God’s children will approach their Father through Jesus Christ, in a spirit of profound filial reverence. In this regard, we recall the words we spoke last year to a group of Bishops on their ad limina visit: “The Catholic liturgy must remain theocentric” (AAS 69 (1977) 474).

As we thank God for giving the people of his Church a greater awareness of their liturgical role, we believe that it is good to repeat-in order to help you to formulate the directive you give in your Dioceses-what we mentioned in our Bicentennial Letter to the American Bishops: “We are pleased to recall that the Holy See has authorized, under certain circumstances, the distribution of Holy Communion by extraordinary ministers duly deputed to this high task. But we wish to emphasize that this ministry remains an extraordinary ministry to be exercised in accordance with the precise norms of the Holy See. By its nature therefore the role of the extraordinary minister is different from those other roles of Eucharistic participation that are the ordinary expression of lay participation ” (AAS 68 (1976) 410). To give the Eucharist to God’s people remains in general therefore an honored pastoral function. Extraordinary ministers are envisioned by the Instruction “Immensae Caritatis” where there is a genuine lack of ministers, and under these conditions fulfill a providential role.

The Vatican Council assures us, moreover, that the Eucharist is the root and center of the Church’s unity (Cfr. Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 6). No Christian community can be built up without the Eucharist. In the Eucharist the faithful must experience their oness as God’s people united in Christ: in his truth and in his love. This matter has been treated in the pastoral message “To Teach as Jesus Did”, wherein the American Bishops emphasized that a spirit of fellowship “is fostered especially by the Eucharist, which is at once sign of community and cause of its growth” (To Teach as Jesus Did, 24).

From this viewpoint it is then easy to see how the Eucharist is for the whole Church a bond of charity and a source of social love. The tradition of the Church speaks to us in every era of this marvelous truth. In our Encyclical “Mysterium Fidei”, we stated that Eucharistic worship leads to that social love “by which we place the common good before the good of the individual; we make the interests of the community, of the parish, of the entire Church our own; and extend our charity to the whole world because we know that everywhere there are members of Christ” (PAULI PP. VI Mysterium Fidei MF 69).

Dear Brothers in Christ, with the full conviction of our being we believe that these truths will guide you and sustain you in your apostolic ministry, in the joyful hope of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Eucharist is our source of hope because it is our pledge of life. Jesus himself has said: “I am the bread of life... If anyone eats this bread he shall live forever” (Jn 6,48 Jn 6,51). Amidst all the problems of the modern world let us remain constant in this hope. Our optimism is based, not on an unrealistic denial of the immense and manifest difficulties and opposition that beset the Kingdom of God, but in a realization that, in the Eucharist, the Paschal Mystery of the Lord Jesus is forever operative, and victorious over sin and death.

We thank you, Venerable Brethren, for your generous commitment to the Gospel, and for all your labors on its behalf; and we ask you to go forward in the power of Christ, the Supreme Shepherd of the Church. We exhort you to be strong in proclaiming the mystery of life in Christ, and in leading your people to the source of this life, the Eucharist. We pray that you, in turn, will encourage the faithful in their Eucharistic vocation. We ask especially that all our sons in the priesthood be sustained and supported in their inestimable role of building up God’s people through the Eucharist. In all sectors of the Church we pray that there will be a new era of Eucharistic piety, generating confidence and fraternal love, and producing justice and holiness of life.

With these sentiments, Brothers, we invoke upon all of you the wisdom and fortitude of Peter and Paul and the other Apostles; and we commend your ministry to the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and patroness of your beloved country. In the name of Jesus we bless you all, and through you we send our Apostolic Blessing to “those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all!” (Tt 3,15-16).

Speeches 1978 - Thursday, 20 April 1978