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Through Faith Man Accepts in a Free and Convincing Manner the Truths Contained in God’s Revelation

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on God the Father
General Audience, Wednesday, 17 April 1985 - in Italian & Spanish

"1. The originality of faith consists in the essentially supernatural character of knowledge which it derives from God's grace and from the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It must likewise be said that faith possesses its own authentically human originality. We find in it all the characteristics of rational and reasonable conviction in regard to the truth contained in divine revelation. Such conviction, or certainty, corresponds perfectly to the dignity of the person as a rational and free being.

Among the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the Declaration on Religious Liberty throws light on this problem. It begins with the words Dignitatis Humanae, and we read there among other things:

"It is one of the major tenets of Catholic doctrine that man's response to God in faith must be free: no one therefore is to be forced to embrace the Christian faith against his own will. This doctrine is contained in the word of God and it was constantly proclaimed by the Fathers of the Church. The act of faith is of its very nature a free act. Man, redeemed by Christ the Savior and through Christ Jesus called to be God's adopted son, cannot give his adherence to God revealing himself unless, under the drawing of the Father, he offers to God the reasonable and free submission of faith. It is therefore completely in accord with the nature of faith that in matters religious every manner of coercion on the part of men should be excluded" (DH 10).

"God calls men to serve him in spirit and in truth, hence they are bound in conscience but they stand under no compulsion. God has regard for the dignity of the human person whom he himself created and man is to be guided by his own judgment and he is to enjoy freedom. This truth appears at its height in Christ Jesus" (DH 11).

2. Here the conciliar document indicates in what way Christ sought to "stir up and strengthen the faith in the hearers" by excluding all coercion. He bore definitive witness to the truth of his Gospel through the cross and the resurrection, "He refused to impose the truth by force on those who spoke against it.... His established by witnessing to the truth and by hearing the truth, and it extends its dominion by the love whereby Christ, lifted up on the cross, draws all men to himself" (DH 11). Christ then handed on to the apostles the same method of convincing in regard to the truth of the Gospel.

Precisely because of this freedom, faith - which we express by the word "credo" - possesses its own human authenticity and originality, besides the divine. It expresses conviction and certainty about the truth of revelation, by virtue of an act of free will. This structural voluntariness of faith in no way implies that faith is optional and that an attitude of fundamental indifference would be justified. It only means that man is called to respond with the free adherence of his entire being to the invitation and gift of God.

3. The same conciliar document which deals with the problem of religious liberty underlines clearly that faith is a matter of conscience.

"It is in accordance with their dignity as persons - that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility - that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth" (DH 2). If this is the essential argument in favor of the right to religious liberty, it is also the fundamental motive for the fact that this same liberty must be correctly understood and observed in social life.

4. As regards personal decisions, "everybody has the duty and therefore the right to seek the truth in religious matters in order that, through the use of suitable means, he may prudently form judgments of conscience which are sincere and true.

"Truth, however, is to be sought after in a manner proper to the dignity of the human person and his social nature. The inquiry is to be free, carried on with the aid of teaching or instruction, communication and dialogue, in the course of which men explain to one another the truth they have discovered, or think they have discovered, in order thus to assist one another in the quest for truth. Moreover, as the truth is discovered, it is by a personal assent that men are to adhere to it" (DH 3).

In these words we find a very striking characteristic of our "credo" as a profoundly human act corresponding to the dignity of man as a person. This correspondence is expressed in the relationship with the truth by means of the interior freedom and the responsibility of conscience of the believing subject.

This doctrine, drawn from the conciliar declaration on religious liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), also serves to show the importance of a systematic catechesis, for two reasons. First, it makes possible the knowledge of the truth of God's plan of love which is contained in divine revelation. Secondly, it helps to adhere ever more firmly to the truth already known and accepted by faith."

After the Catechesis, Pope John Paul II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai pellegrini di lingua francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Je salue de grand cœur tous les pèlerins de langue française, notamment de France, de Suisse, venus avec leur diocèse, leur paroisse, leur collège. Je demande au Seigneur de vous bénir ainsi que vos proches, et ceux auprès desquels vous vous efforcez d’accomplir un travail d’évangélisation.

* * *

C’est dans ces sentiments que j’accueille les pèlerins du diocèse de Viviers avec leur évêque: que le Seigneur fortifie votre foi et vous aide à en témoigner!

* * *

Et vous, chères Sœurs de l’Union romaine de l’Ordre de sainte Ursule, je suis heureux de vous encourager dans la formation de vos Sœurs: comme je le souligne souvent, les jeunes qui vous sont confiés à travers les cinq continents ont besoin d’éducatrices sûres et totalement dévouées, comme sainte Angèle Merici, qui aident leur conscience à adhérer librement à la vérité. Je bénis avec vous vos maisons d’éducation.

Ai gruppi di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At today's audience there are pilgrims and visitors from various parts of the English-speaking world. I wish to extend special greetings to the seminarians who have come from Korea; to the groups from Sweden and Finland; and to the Trainee Officers, Officers and Chaplains of the Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth in England.

* * *

I greet the international group of participants in the Development Administration Programme, sponsored by the Institute for University Cooperation in collaboration with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ladies and gentlemen: I hope that the knowledge and insights you have acquired during the course of your programme will give you a deeper understanding of the social and cultural situations of other countries as well as your own. May you return to your respective nations better prepared to work for the promotion of the dignity of your fellow citizens. Know that the Pope accompanies your efforts with his prayers for the well-being and prosperity of your people.

* * *

My warm welcome also goes to the Anglican Bishops and priests currently taking part in the Seminar at the Anglican Centre in Rome. My brothers in the Lord: I hope that your experience in Rome will serve to strengthen the bonds of Christian fellowship which exist between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. Let us continue to pray together for that unity which Christ so ardently desires for his followers.

And to all of you from England, Sweden, Finland, Korea, Australia and the United States I offer my heartfelt good wishes and I ask our Risen Lord to bless you in every way.

Ai pellegrini di lingua tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Durch diese kurze Zusammenfassung meiner heutigen Ausführungen grüße ich sehr herzlich alle anwesenden deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher: aus Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz; die einzelnen Gruppen, besonders die Ordensschwestern und Priester sowie die zahlreichen Jugendlichen. Zu eurer Romwallfahrt erbitte ich euch reiche österliche Gnaden. Gerade der auferstandene Herr verlangt von seinen Jüngern einen festen und lebendigen Glauben und preist die selig, die nicht sehen und doch glauben. Er selbst bestärke euch in eurer christlichen Berufung und gebe euch Mut und Kraft zu einem wirklich christlichen Leben. Dazu erteile ich euch und euren Lieben in der Heimat von Herzen meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini provenienti dalla Spagna e dall’America Latina

Queridos hermanos y hermanas,

Deseo dirigir ahora mi cordial saludo al Consejo General y a las Madres Provinciales Esclavas del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús y a las Religiosas de la Sagrada Familia de Burdeos. Que el Señor Resucitado aliente vuestro testimonio de amor a Dios y de entrega a la Iglesia.

* * *

Saludo igualmente al grupo de empresarios españoles y de empleados del Banco Español de Crédito, así como a los estudiantes procedentes de Vigo y de Bilbao. Finalmente deseo saludar al grupo de madres de familia del Movimiento de Schönstatt venidas de Chile; que la Madre de Cristo y de la Iglesia os guíe en vuestro camino.

A todos los peregrinos de España y de los diversos Países de América Latina, mientras ruego para que Cristo, nuestra Pascua, ilumine sus vidas, imparto de corazón la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli provenienti dalla Polonia

Witam wszystkich pielgrzymów z Polski, w szczególności pielgrzymkę diecezjalną z archidiecezji gnieźnieńskiej; z archidiecezji krakowskiej, z parafii Biały Kościół; z parafii Karczew koło Warszawy; uczestników “Czwartków Papieskich” z Warszawy, od sióstr urszulanek szarych; z parafii Krobia w archidiecezji poznańskiej; z Ostrowia Wielkopolskiego; z Tarnowa, pielgrzymkę katedralną; kapłanów z diecezji włocławskiej; pielgrzymów z parafii Podwyższenia Krzyża z Rzeszowa; pielgrzymkę diecezjalną z Lublina; pielgrzymów z Pułtuska, diecezja płocka; pielgrzymów z Legnicy, z parafii franciszkańskiej św. Jana Chrzciciela; z parafii Podwyższenia Krzyża w Kłodzku; pielgrzymkę rolników z diecezji gdańskiej oraz uszestników grup turystycznych PTTK, “Orbis”, “Sport-Tourist”, “Turysta”.

Ai gruppi di lingua italiana

Desidero rivolgere il mio affettuoso saluto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana - in gruppi o singoli - che sono presenti a questa udienza; in modo speciale voglio ricordare i Padri missionari cappuccini, provenienti in gran parte dall’America Latina per un corso di aggiornamento; i partecipanti al XV Convegno degli economi generali e provinciali, organizzato dal “Centro Nazionale Economi di Comunità”, che celebra il 25° anno di fondazione; il parroco e i fedeli della comunità parrocchiale della “Sacra Famiglia” in Venturina, diocesi di Massa Marittima-Piombino, in pellegrinaggio per il 50° di fondazione della parrocchia; le suore, i bambini e gli ospiti dell’Istituto Sant’Antonio di Roma; le religiose appartenenti al “Movimento internazionale delle religiose aderenti al Movimento dei Focolari”.

A voi tutti e tutte esprimo un fervido e sincero augurio, il quale trova la sua ispirazione nel periodo liturgico pasquale, che ci invita ad unirci sempre più profondamente, nel pensiero e nell’azione, al Cristo Risorto.

Che questo vostro pellegrinaggio a Roma e questo vostro incontro presso il sepolcro di Pietro siano uno stimolo per un ulteriore, crescente impegno a dare una testimonianza cristiana nei vari settori, in cui si svolge la nostra vita quotidiana.

La mia benedizione apostolica conforti e confermi i vostri propositi di bene.

Ai giovani

Rivolgo ora un saluto a tutti i giovani presenti a questa udienza.

Cari giovani, è ancora vivo in me il ricordo del vostro raduno, la Domenica delle Palme, con il suo momento di preghiera e di riflessione e la celebrazione liturgica per inneggiare a Cristo, nostro re. È stato un incontro che ha dimostrato la capacità di riflessione dei giovani, insieme con la loro vivacità e la forza di dare testimonianza.

Siate fedeli a questo stile di vita: sappiate, cioè, unire sempre preghiera e azione, trovando il motivo del vostro agire nella potenza della meditazione e della riflessione. Solo così sarà possibile partecipare alle vicende sociali che vi riguardano in modo autentico, diventando portatori di verità con animo sincero e convinto.

Vi benedico tutti di cuore.

Agli ammalati

Una parola per voi, malati, che costituite sempre la porzione eletta di questi incontri.

Se comprendiamo che l’amore condusse Gesù a morire sulla croce, possiamo guardare alla croce come a una realtà che dà senso al dolore, perché su di essa Cristo si è unito all’uomo sofferente per amarlo e redimerlo. La gloria, che nella croce di Cristo era offuscata dall’immensità del dolore, è stata rivelata dalla risurrezione. Sappiate anche voi annunciare che ogni uomo in pena è chiamato a condividere la gloria del Crocifisso risorto.

La mia benedizione, affinché il Signore conforti ogni vostra speranza.

Agli sposi novelli

A tutti gli sposi novelli, qui presenti, desidero rivolgere uno speciale augurio per la felicità della loro famiglia, nata con la benedizione di Dio. Nell’esortazione Familiaris consortio ho scritto che la famiglia cristiana, soprattutto oggi, ha una speciale vocazione ad essere testimone dell’alleanza pasquale di Cristo, mediante la costante irradiazione della gioia dell’amore e della sicurezza della speranza. Possiate essere nel mondo un segno di questi doni che provengono dalla grazia del sacramento.

Vi accompagni e vi sostenga la mia benedizione.


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