"Build the Civilization of Truth and Love"

John Paul II to participants of the “Meeting for Friendship Among the Peoples” in Rimini.
John Paul II

Dearest Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am very happy to be here among you to conclude this third Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples". Just pronouncing these words already gladdens one’s heart. "Meeting" ! "Meeting of friendship" ! "Friendship among peoples" ! Words that acquire a special significance in these times, often dramatic, of the world’s history. I therefore greet you with the joy of the Psalms. It is the very joy of God: "Behold, how good it is, and how pleasant, where brethren dwell at one!" (Ps 132).
Today we are living a special hour, which must be understood thoroughly. The reasons are so many.

2. Above all, we are living a meeting.
Each one of you, during these days, has been able to have this experience. You have meetings not only with the hundreds and thousands of other persons who have filled the lecture halls, but also with various personalities who brought here the contribution of their reflection and creativity. But this meeting has been made possible and almost necessary by another Meeting. The Meeting was in fact born from the friendship of a group of Christians from this city. As I have been told, it was born from the passion for communication, for creativity, for dialogue that the Christian faith, integrally lived, always brings with it.
Yes, the faith lived as a reverberation of and in continuity with those first meetings that the Gospel documents, the faith lived as a certainty and a claim for Christ’s presence in every situation and occasion of life, makes it possible to create new forms of life for man, makes him desirous of communicating and knowing, of meeting and putting to good use.
The meeting with Christ, which is renewed in a permanent way in the sacramental memorial of His death and resurrection, makes possible and encourages the meeting with brethren and all men. Truly St Paul’s words to the Thessalonians can be taken up again here, as a conclusion and a teaching of this attempt of yours: "Test everything and retain what is good" (1 Thess 5:21).
I am pleased that the initiative is an expression of the vitality of the Catholic laity in Italy. Such a laity, "aware and active, is an estimable treasure for each local Church", as I said to the bishops of Liguria last 8 January. An aware laity, that is, conscious of the communion that binds it to Christ and the Church, and an active one, that is, desirous of expressing in the freedom of its initiatives the beauty and the humanity of what it has encountered. This is the beautiful reality of this meeting.

3. This year you have focused your attention on a particularly stimulating theme, "Man’s Resources". Shall we reflect on it together?
In general, man’s resource is everything that comes to his aid in his effort to earn his living and subdue the earth. But things truly become man’s resources only when man encounters them through work. Through work man subdues nature and puts everything at his service. Through work man takes care of the earth, uses its riches for his life, and at the same time improves and protects the earth. I am therefore pleased to note how your theme has reference above all to the Church’s great current preoccupation for human work, which was expressed in my recent Encyclical Laborem Exercens. In fact, man communicates with external reality only through his inner nature. It is the internal resources of his mind and heart that allow him to rise above things and rule over them. Man’s worth is not in what he "has" but in what he "is". For this reason it is necessary to meditate with particular depth on that decisive resource of man that is work, in order to understand the unselfish, pure, non-utilitarian importance that is at the basis of human work and confers on it its significance.

4. This however is linked – and we are taking a step forward – with another fundamental resource of man: the family.
Man works to support himself and his family. If to work is to take care of one’s being, cooperating in the creative work of God, this general principle becomes evident and existentially concrete for the greater part of men in the fact that by working man takes care of the person of his loved ones. If it is certainly true that man, as all the animals, feels the instinct for self-preservation, it is also true that it is not right to posit as the principle of work an intention that is only utilitarian and selfish. Even the instinct for self-preservation exists in man in a specifically human, personalistic form as the will to exist as a person, as the will to safeguard the value of the person in himself and in others, beginning with his loved ones. This fact defines the limit of every utilitarian and economic interpretation of human work.
Work, through which man subdues nature, is the work of the entire human community throughout all its generations. Every one of these generations has its obligations to take care of the earth in order to hand it over to future generations, still and ever more fit to be man’s home. May I recall in this context, even if incidentally, that when the bond of solidarity that must bind men among themselves and with future generations is broken, this care of the earth is lessened. And then, the ecological catastrophe that is threatening mankind today has a deep ethical root in the forgetfulness of the true nature of human work and especially of its subjective dimension, its value for the family and social community. It is the Church’s duty to recall men’s attention to this truth.

5. But we must go to greater depths. The resources of which we have spoken, though sacrosanct and primary, still touch man on the surface. It is necessary to pay attention principally to the resources that man has within himself: in his human nature, in the dignity of the image and likeness of God (cfr. Gen 1:27), which man bears impressed in the essence of his personality. The well-known words of the great St Augustine, whose feast we celebrated yesterday, still always come to mind: Fecisti nos ad te: "You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You" (Confessions 1:1).
Yes, brothers and sisters, we are made for the Lord, who has stamped in us the immortal mark of His power and His love. Man’s great resources are from here, they are here, and only in God do they find their safeguard. Man is great through his intellect, through which he knows himself, others, the world and God. Man is great through his will, through which he gives himself in love, to the extent of reaching the heights of heroism. On these resources man’s irreprehensible yearning finds its foundation: the yearning that reaches towards truth – this is the life of the intellect – and that which reaches towards freedom – this is the sight of the will. Here man acquires his great incomparable stature, which no one can trample on, which no one can scorn, which no one can take away from him: the stature of "being", to which I have already referred.
This value, proper to man, through which every man is truly man, rests on the foundation of culture. It is above all in culture that man’s essential resources are manifested. As I said at Unesco headquarters in Paris, "Man lives a truly human life through culture... Culture is that by which man as man becomes more man, ‘is’ more, enters more into ‘being’ . . . Culture is always placed in essential and necessary relation to what man is, while his relation with what he has, with his ‘having’ is not only secondary; but totally relative... In the cultural sphere man is always the first fact: man is the primordial and fundamental fact of culture. And this is what man always is: in the integral unity of his spiritual and material subjectivity. If the distinction between spiritual culture and material culture is correct in the function of the character and the content of the products in which culture is manifest, it is necessary to note at the same time that on the one hand the works of material culture always make a ‘spiritualization’ of matter appear, a subjection of the material element to the spiritual element, to the spiritual powers of man, that is to his intellect and his will. On the other hand, the works of spiritual culture manifest in a specific way a ‘materialization’ of the spirit, an incarnation of the spiritual."
So culture thus becomes the foundation of man’s abilities to discover and utilize all his resources, those given to his spiritual being and those given to his material being. Provided he knows how to discover them! Provided he does not destroy them! Brothers and sisters, think of the enormous responsibility you hold in your hands! Do not waste it, do not neglect it! You need all your powers to do this, but above all you need Him who is the power of God and man, "Christ, the power of God and wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1:24).

6. Here we are, therefore, at the unavoidable focal point of the question. Man’s greatest "resource" is Christ, Son of God and Son of Man. In Him are discovered the outlines of the new man, realized in all his fullness, man per se. In Christ, crucified and risen, there is revealed to man the possibility and the way for everyone to assume his nature in profound unity. Here is, I would say, the unifying principle of your Meeting, dedicated to man’s resources. It is like a wire between all the various moments of your work program: the risen Christ, the inexhaustible source of life for man. Christ, man’s resource: this is how you wanted to announce the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.
He did not disdain to assume the nature of man, and not in an abstract way, since "He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave... He humbled himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross" (Phil 2:7, 8). The humanity of Christ, through the mystery of the cross and resurrection, has become the place where man, conquered but not annihilated by sin, has rediscovered his own humanity.
Strengthened by this unique and unrepeatable experience of her founder, the Church has been able to define herself through the mouth of Paul VI an "expert in humanity". It is under this title, founded on the authority of the Master and reinforced by two thousand years of existence, that the Church today appears on the scene of history, desirous of reproposing to man the central core of her message: Christ, the first fruits and root of the new man.
After all, right here in Rimini you have had the living testimony of people who have given themselves fully to Christ in the exercise of their profession and whose example continues to shine ever more: the engineer Alberto Marvelli, whose cause for beatification has begun, and Doctor Igino Righetti, collaborator of the future Paul VI of happy memory, and with him the founder and first president of the Catholic graduates. Two laymen, two apostles, two men who knew how to draw from "Christ the resource". They drew for themselves – in intense interior activity, in prayer, in the sacramental life – and they have left for others a model and a call.

7. To speak of Christ as man’s resource is to testify that even today the essential ends of civilization are in fact, consciously and unconsciously, referred to the Christ event, which has become the daily announcement confessed by the Church.
The man of today is strongly committed to reformulate his relationship with the world that surrounds him, with science and technology. He wants to discover ever new resources for his life and for coexistence among peoples; he is striving to realize a process that everyone would like to be peaceful and to exalt art as an expression of his own free creativity. Despite this, peace is gravely threatened today, science and technology risk generating an unbalanced load of negative consequences in the relationship between man and man, between man and nature, between nations and nations. From this contradiction, which seems unstoppable because it is structurally connected with the mystery of evil, it is necessary that our gaze be directed to the "artisan of our salvation" in order to generate a civilization that is born of truth and love. The civilization of love! In order not to be in agony, in order not to burn out in unbridled egoism, in blind insensitivity to the pain of others. Brothers and sisters, build this civilization without ever becoming tired!
It is the task I leave you today. Work for this, pray for this, suffer for this!
And with this good wish, I bless you all in the name of the Lord.

The Holy Father then spoke with the young people and answered some questions. This is the first question:

Since the beginning of your pontificate you have defined young people as the hope of the Church. What does this mean for our life?

The Pope answered:

Life for young people means to discover man’s resources: this is peculiar to youth and it is done especially in the early years of life. The hope for the future is tied to this discovery. If young people of our time have discovered man’s resources in the right way – because you can discover them even in evil – if they have discovered them in truth, in love, then we can be full of hope in the future.

The second question:

Living daily our problems in our family, at work, at school, we see great problems. But even the economical and social problems of our time imply a deep existential insecurity. What does all this mean for Christians?

This is the Pope’s answer:

It is a deep and indeed very right perception: the perception of the drama of human existence. And we can and must think about it, as it is a phenomenon that has many facets. There are several reasons, I could say that the very essence of the human drama is different. But if we reflect about the different aspects of this drama of human existence, we arrive at a central point: the basic human drama is the failure to feel the meaning of life, not to possess the meaning of one’s life, to live without meaning. Here we touch again upon the theme of resources. Not to discover the meaning of human life means not to know what man’s resources are. All the resources, those offered to man by external nature, those offered by human nature, his personality, and finally the supernatural resources open to man in Christ. That is the way we can help others. Many times we find ourselves without possibilities; we cannot find the way to help others in the different dramas of human life. But I think that, in this drama which seems to me central and basic, we can perhaps do more, we can try to give to others the meaning of life, we can try to make them discover man’s resources and, in this way, give them the meaning of life. I think this is also your apostolate: to help others to discover the meaning of human existence.

Here is the third question:

Your Holiness, since the beginning of your pontificate you have tirelessly spurred peoples and nations to peace. Today, what are the basic elements for this construction?

The Holy Father answered:

Well, first of all a methodological observation. I was told: "Come to Rimini and we will listen to you." But indeed the reality is a bit different: "You have to come to Rimini, we are listening to you but we are examining you as well!"
I have spoken many times about peace. Of course words are not the most important things, but they are still important. I would repeat what was perhaps essential in my speech at the United Nations where, following the traditional teachings of the Church especially of the recent popes, Pope John and Pope Paul, I tried to convince the great assembly: if we want to achieve peace we must fully respect the various human rights. They have different aspects: they are strictly speaking rights of the person, but then they become larger and become rights of the family, the rights of peoples. According to a good theory, by observing all these rights you exclude war, you create peace. So there is a program. On the other hand we know that, although the program exists, there are still wars and threats.

The fourth and last question was:

Holy Father, our basic concern has been and is that of giving testimony to the Christian fact. Why and how does an initiative like this one of the Meeting contribute to this witnessing?

The Pope answered as follows:

I am convinced that it contributes to giving a Christian witness. I would even say, it contributes to showing a dimension of the Church, precisely that dimension on which we have meditated so much in the teaching of Vatican II and which we left for the future. We used to think of the Church in a rather static way as of something definitively constituted: this was and still is true. The Church is a divine institution. Yet Vatican II has shown us the Church as a people on a journey, the people of God. It has shown us the Church above all as a mission that comes from the Holy Trinity and enters into each baptized, into each Christian, as a part of him, even, in a certain sense, into each man of good will. This great mission of the truth, of good and of love has become what constitutes our vision of the Church. I think that you who are a movement, and who with this Meeting give an expression to your movement, to the aims of this movement, try to express with this Meeting the Church’s particular character, the mission proper to her. The mission proper to the Church is always an historical one, although transcendent, although divine. It is historical, part of the history of our time. With your Meeting you are trying to show the journey of the Church of our time. You are trying to express the meaning of the mystery of salvation, the work of salvation. You mean, with the different methods and especially with this Meeting, to incarnate this work of salvation, to make it present among men. Here, in short, like this, not to say too many words.