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Pope St John Paul II's Apostolic Visit to Curaçao

Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, 13th May 1990

Pope Saint John Paul II was a pilgrim to Curaçao (then the Dutch Antilles) in 1990, on his 47th apostolic voyage during which he had also visited Mexico. The date was the 9th anniversary of the assassination attempt on his life on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima 1981.

JPII's brief visit included:
a meeting with the Prime Minister and members of Government, Holy Mass for the faithful of the Diocese of Willemstad, an Act of entrustment to Our Lady of Fatima, a Message to the young people and an address at the Farewell ceremony at Hato Curaçao airport.

John Paul II's address to the Prime Minister & Members of Government
Fort Amsterdam Palace, Willemstad, Sunday 13th May 1990 - also in French, Italian & Spanish

"Your Excellency,
1. My first sentiment on arriving in the Netherlands Antilles is one of joyful gratitude to Almighty God who has made this visit possible. In your person I greet the authorities and the entire population of these beautiful islands.

I have kissed the soil of Curaçao as a sign of my cordial esteem and friendship towards all the peoples of this region. As Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Peter, I have done so in homage to all those who have testified here, in words of truth and deeds of love, to the power of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am filled with joy at the thought of meeting the Catholic faithful, especially at the Eucharistic celebration where they will gather with their priests, with Bishop Ellis and with many other Bishops of the Caribbean area.

2. As a fellow-pilgrim with the rest of the human family, living in a world which is witnessing dramatic social and political changes, my visit is meant to be an expression, before you and before all men and women of good will, of the Church’s profound solidarity with developing peoples. Individuals and peoples everywhere aspire to be truly free. They seek support in overcoming the obstacles that stand in the way of their full development. They are willing to undertake and endure much in order to achieve a more human way of life.

The real challenge facing developing nations is as much spiritual as material. It is the challenge of enabling the sense of human dignity to develop and flourish. It is the task of building into the very fabric of society a profound sense of human rights and of the corresponding personal and social responsibilities of every citizen. In a word, it is the ever-present duty of considering and treating each human being according to his or her unique worth as a beloved child of the Creator.

3. I wish to encourage you in this great enterprise. And I pray to Almighty God that the people of the Netherlands Antilles, with wise counsel and generous endeavour, will build a just and caring society, a place of peace and well-being for all the inhabitants of these islands.

Your Excellency, thank you again for your warm welcome.

Madam Prime Minister, Distinguished Members of Government, Ladies and Gentlemen,

4. At the beginning of my Pastoral Visit to Curaçao, I wish to greet each of you and to thank you for your warm welcome to these islands. The Netherlands Antilles have been blessed with a natural beauty which has long attracted visitors from throughout the world. But God has also blessed you with a rich variety of races and peoples who are striving together to build a unified and harmonious society. It is my fervent prayer that the peace which comes from God will continue to find a home in your hearts, in your families, and in every area of your social and civic life.

Madam Prime Minister, I express my deep gratitude for this opportunity to come to Curaçao and to visit the people of the Netherlands Antilles. My presence among you comes at a significant time, as people, of the Americas and from elsewhere are preparing to commemorate the five hundredth anniversary of the first voyage of Christopher Columbus to the Caribbean. It is my hope that this Visit of the Pope to Curaçao will help to recall the inspiration which the Christian faith provided to those who, in the midst of difficulties of all kinds, sought to uphold human dignity and lay foundations for a just and peaceful society.

Although my pastoral visit is primarily directed to the Catholics of the diocese of Willemstad, I hope that all men and women of good will, whatever their religious beliefs, will find in my brief stay among you an opportunity to consider the significance of those religious and moral values which are necessary for the integral well-being both of individuals and of entire societies. Those values have inspired generations of your countrymen in their efforts to forge bonds of unity and harmony among disparate peoples and traditions. In the next hours, as I celebrate the Eucharist and pray with many of your fellow citizens, we shall beseech God that fidelity to those same values will always guide your progress as a people.

5. In the present world situation, marked by rapid social and political changes, it has become increasingly evident that the concerns which shape societies in their development cannot be limited to the narrow plane of local or national self-interest, but must take on a broader character. Indeed, what is required of all peoples in these last years of the twentieth century is a solidarity that embraces the entire human family and each of its members. The solidarity is "a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good ... to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all " (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 38).

The fostering of this determination on every level of society is one of the great moral challenges of our time and the key to an effective collaboration of individuals, social groups and nations in providing for the needs and aspirations of the entire human race. Only through a resolute commitment to dialogue, cooperation and respect for objective principles of morality will your society be able to face the increasingly complex social, economic and political issues of the present day.

In this way, the Netherlands Antilles can make its rightful contribution to many other societies throughtout the world as they are confronted by similar challenges and strive to respond to them in a way worthy of their best traditions.

In this regard, I would note the important role played in the development of any society by its educators and its educational institutions. The Catholics of the Netherlands Antilles have long been committed to the work of educating the young in knowledge and virtue. The Church rightly considers this apostolate as a significant contribution to the life of your people, and is committed to cooperate constructively with the State on behalf of the education of all citizens.

6. Ladies and Gentlemen: almost 500 years ago, the first meeting of Europeans with the peoples of the Americas signalled the beginning of a new chapter in mankind’s history. At the present moment, when men and women throughout the world ardently hope for the beginning of a new era of peace and cooperation among nations, I encourage you in your efforts to build a society marked by justice and respect for the dignity of all.

May Almighty God pour out his abundant blessings on you and all the people of Curaçao, of the Netherlands Antilles and the entire Caribbean."

Pope St John Paul II's homily at Holy Mass at Sentro Deportivo Korsou
Willemstad, Sunday 13th May 1990 - also in Italian

"Queridos hermanos y hermanas:
1. Me siento feliz de estar con vosotros en esta bendita Isla, cruce de caminos y de culturas. Como toda tierra abierta al mar y a la comunicación con otros pueblos, la vuestra se encuentra en situación privilegiada, abierta a todos los horizontes, lo cual os hace más sensibles a los problemas del hombre, de la naturaleza, del más allá.

Doy gracias a Dios porque en esta nueva peregrinación a América Latina me ha permitido venir a visitaros y expresar así todo el afecto que siento por vosotros como hijos de la Iglesia católica y ciudadanos de la bella Curaçao. Saludo con un abrazo fraterno a vuestro obispo, monseñor Willem Michel Ellis y a los demás hermanos en el episcopado, cardenales y obispos aquí presentes, así como a los sacerdotes, religiosos, religiosas y a todos los amadísimos fieles de esta hermosa tierra donde la semilla del Evangelio ha sido particularmente fecundada. Mi cordial saludo se dirige a las autoridades que nos acompañan.

2. En nuestra celebración eucarística acaba de resonar la palabra del mismo Cristo que, hoy como ayer, sigue diciéndonos: “ Yo soy el camino, la verdad y la vida ” (Jn 14,6). Su voz es siempre actual, porque El vive resucitado y presente entre nosotros. Sus palabras nos infunden luz y esperanza para seguir el camino de la vida. En efecto, Dios nuestro Padre, por medio de su Hijo Jesucristo y en el Espíritu Santo, “ movido de amor, habla a los hombres como a amigos ” (Dei Verbum, 2).

La liturgia de este tiempo pascual nos introduce frecuentemente en el Cenáculo donde Jesús, la víspera de su pasión y muerte, tuvo su último coloquio con los Apóstoles. En el contexto de este coloquio encontramos una pregunta del Apóstol Felipe que es, al mismo tiempo, una oración: - “ Señor, muéstranos al Padre y nos basta ” (Jn 14,8.).

Esta pregunta y plegaria del Apóstol nos sirven como de clave para conocer lo que en aquellos momentos estaban pensando los Apóstoles.

La respuesta de Jesús elimina toda duda y les abre el camino para descubrir su misterio y su mensaje: “El que me ha visto a mí, ha visto al Padre” (Jn 14,9).

Cristo es la revelación personal de Dios. No solamente nos habla de Dios, su Padre, sino que se nos presenta como la revelación plena del Padre. Jesús es Hijo de Dios, el Verbo o palabra viva y personal del Padre, hecha carne por obra del Espíritu Santo en el seno de la Virgen María.

Jesucristo, como Hijo de Dios y Redentor nuestro, es el Camino que nos conduce al Padre, para introducirnos y hacernos partícipes del mismo misterio de Dios Amor, que es Padre, Hijo y Espíritu Santo. Sólo a partir de este misterio de Amor podremos comprender el misterio del hombre nuestro hermano.

El camino por el cual Cristo nos conduce al Padre pasa a través de todo lo que El mismo hace y dice. Es decir, pasa por el evangelio, que es su palabra viva y siempre actual. Pasa principalmente a través de todo lo que Cristo es: nuestra Pascua, nuestro “ paso ” de la Cruz a la Resurrección, nuestro paso a la Verdad y a la Vida, que es el mismo Dios. “ Nadie va al Padre sino por mí ”(Jn 14,6).

3. Aquí y ahora, como hace veinte siglos, Jesucristo sigue diciendo: “Yo soy el camino, la verdad y la vida” (Jn 14, 6). Queridos hermanos y hermanas, el Señor es el único camino que nos conduce a la verdadera vida, a la felicidad eterna, a la verdad inmutable. Nuestras aspiraciones a un mundo mejor, donde reine la justicia y la paz, sólo encontrarán su realización plena en Cristo resucitado, porque El es “la clave, el centro y el fin de toda la historia humana” (Gaudium et spes, 10). La construcción de un mundo donde reine el amor y la concordia comienza en cada corazón humano, cuando en él se hacen vida los criterios, la escala de valores y las actitudes evangélicas del Señor.

Como nos enseña el Concilio Vaticano II, sólo “Cristo..., manifiesta plenamente el hombre al propio hombre y le descubre la sublimidad de su vocación” (Gaudium et spes, 22).

Nuestros deseos de bienestar y felicidad sólo serán satisfechos de verdad cuando las personas, las familias y la sociedad entera vivan según el mandamiento del amor. La persona, la familia y la sociedad no serán plenamente humanas si limitan sus aspiraciones a sólo poseer, consumir y disfrutar, pues, “ el hombre..., no puede encontrar su propia plenitud si no es en la entrega sincera de sí mismo a los demás ” (Gaudium et spes, 24).

Como afirma el Concilio Vaticano II, los cristianos queremos ser constructores de “ un nuevo humanismo, en el que el hombre queda definido principalmente por la responsabilidad hacia sus hermanos y ante la historia ” (Gaudium et spes, 55).

4. El Señor, que es la “ piedra viva ”, como nos acaba de recordar san Pedro en la primera lectura de esta celebración, se dirige esta tarde a vosotros que debéis ser “ piedras vivas, ...en la construcción de un edificio espiritual, para un sacerdocio santo, para ofrecer sacrificios espirituales, aceptos a Dios por mediación de Jesucristo ” (1P 2,4.5).

El anuncio de la Palabra de Dios hace surgir generación tras generación, nuevas “ piedras vivas ”, con las cuales se construye el pueblo de Dios que es la Iglesia. Conscientes de que sois miembros vivos de la Iglesia de Cristo, os invito pues a dar testimonio de vuestra vitalidad cristiana y a ser un lazo de unión con tantas personas que pasan por vuestra tierra, buscando descanso, hospitalidad, trabajo, de manera que vuestra vida sea un testimonio permanente del evangelio.

¿Cómo no agradecer al Señor la fe recibida y todos los demás bienes materiales, culturales y espirituales con que os ha bendecido? Pero el mejor modo de agradecer a Dios sus bienes es éste: ser testigos y apóstoles del evangelio. Efectivamente, como nos lo recuerda el Concilio “la Iglesia es toda ella misionera y la obra de la evangelización es deber fundamental del pueblo de Dios” (Ad Gentes, 35).

En el contacto con las gentes que pasan algún tiempo entre vosotros por turismo, negocios o trabajo, podréis observar que “el mundo, a pesar de los innumerables signos de rechazo de Dios, lo busca sin embargo por caminos insospechados y siente dolorosamente su necesidad” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 76).

En las diversas formas de contacto encontraréis cómo cumplir vuestro deber de cristianos, puesto que por vuestra manera de vivir y compartir, estas mismas gentes deberán ver en vosotros los testigos de Dios Amor; pues a vosotros también van dirigidas estas palabras del Concilio: “La comunidad cristiana está integrada por hombres que, reunidos en Cristo, son guiados por el Espíritu Santo en su peregrinar hacia el Padre y han recibido la buena nueva de la salvación para comunicarla a todos. La Iglesia por ello se siente íntima y realmente solidaria del género humano y de su historia” (Gaudium et spes, 1).

5. El mensaje evangélico, que es la base para construir un mundo mejor, debe vivirse principalmente en la familia cristiana. Esta comunidad de Curaçao, en unión con sus pastores, ha escogido como lema de la visita del Papa “ Un mihó mundo mañan ku mas famia Kristian! ”, indicando así una de vuestras prioridades en la edificación del Reino de Dios. En efecto, en el hogar familiar es donde comienza a construirse un mundo mejor. Esto sólo es posible cuando la familia se considera no como simple cohabitación, sino como “ íntima comunidad conyugal de vida y amor ” (Gaudium et spes, 48). Pues la familia recibe la gran “misión de custodiar, revelar y comunicar el amor, como reflejo vivo y participación real del amor de Dios por la humanidad y del amor de Cristo Señor por la Iglesia su esposa” (Familiaris Consortio, 17).

En el marco propio de la acción evangelizadora, los esposos cristianos han de sentirse llamados a una mayor santidad de vida en fidelidad a las enseñanzas de la Iglesia. Pero, en contraste con éstas, comprobamos en nuestros días una serie de males que aquejan a la institución familiar, como son las uniones ilícitas no santificadas por el sacramento del matrimonio, la disgregación de la vida familiar por el divorcio, la infidelidad y el abandono del hogar y de los hijos, la violación del derecho a la vida por el aborto y la exclusión de la fecundidad. Todo ello se ve fomentado por una mentalidad materialista y consumista, así como por la corrupción y la pornografía desafiante.

Amados en el Señor, deseo deciros esto en vuestra lengua nativa: Ta necesario pa evangeliza familia, pa berdaderamente e sea un comunidad di bida y di amor poniendo un fundeshi solido pa un mundo nobo.

“Futuro di humanidad ta ser construi den familia” (Familiaris Consortio, 86). Futuro di Iglesia ta ser construi den familianan caminda ta biba y ta transmiti Evangelio, pasobra henter familia Kristian mester bira evangelizador di otro familianan.

Principalmente boso, tata y mamanan Kristian hunto cu boso yiunan tin e deber di anuncia cu alegria y conviccion e “ bon nobo ” tocante di familia, como fundeshi di sociedad y como “ Iglesia domestica ” (Lumen gentium, 11).

(Es necesario evangelizar a la familia, para que sea de veras comunidad de vida y de amor, poniendo así los sólidos fundamentos de un mundo nuevo. “¡El futuro de la humanidad se fragua en la familia!” El futuro de la Iglesia se fragua en las familias donde se viva y se transmita el evangelio, porque toda familia cristiana tiene que convertirse en evangelizadora de las demás familias. A vosotros, principalmente, padres y madres cristianos, juntamente con vuestros hijos, os toca anunciar con alegría y convicción la “ buena nueva ” sobre la familia, como fundamento de la sociedad y como “Iglesia doméstica”).

6. La presencia de tantos jóvenes en este “ Sentro Deportivo Korsou ” es ya motivo de esperanza en el advenimiento del mundo mejor que todos deseamos. ¡Queridos jóvenes, a quienes llevo siempre en mi corazón! Vivid ilusionados en seguir a Cristo. No os dejéis arrebatar por nada ni por nadie vuestra confianza en El, y vuestro entusiasmo por construir un mundo nuevo, donde reine la generosidad y el amor. En vuestro corazón sentís continuamente las ansias de verdad y de vida. Jesucristo es el único camino y es, al mismo tiempo, la suprema verdad y la verdadera vida.

Joven de Curaçao, participa en la incansable tarea de anunciar el evangelio. Estás llamado a ser un apasionado buscador de la verdad, de ideales altos y nobles. No caigas en la apatía, en la indiferencia, en el desánimo. El Señor está contigo. Sé, pues, protagonista en la construcción de una sociedad más justa, más sana y más fraterna.

7. Quiero ahora dirigir mi palabra llena de afecto a las personas consagradas. Me parece ver en vosotros el signo actual del amor de Cristo. Toda vuestra vida consagrada, por ser desposorio con Cristo, es “como señal y estímulo de la caridad y como un manantial extraordinario de espiritual fecundidad en el mundo” (Lumen gentium, 42). Que sigáis siendo fieles a las esperanzas que tiene puestas en vosotros la Iglesia. Sentíos profundamente amados por Cristo. Solamente convencidos de esto os sentiréis con fuerzas para amar y para hacer amar a Cristo y a la Iglesia su esposa. De este modo, vuestro amor esponsal a Cristo “se convierte también en amor por la Iglesia como Cuerpo de Cristo, por la Iglesia como pueblo de Dios, por la Iglesia que es a la vez Esposa y Madre” (Redemptoris Donum, 15).

A los queridos sacerdotes y a los futuros sacerdotes, os aliento a que sigáis fieles a vuestra vocación de ser “signo sacramental de Cristo pastor y Cabeza de la Iglesia” (Puebla, 659). Con el “ gozo pascual ”, que deriva de una vida inmolada como “ máximo testimonio del amor ” (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 11), podréis ser presencia y transparencia de Cristo, “ camino, verdad y vida ” para la familia cristiana, para los laicos, para los trabajadores, para los jóvenes, para las personas consagradas y para todo el pueblo de Dios. Cristo os necesita para llegar a los enfermos, a los pobres, a los alejados y a todos los que han comenzado a buscarle.

8. En la celebración litúrgica de hoy, escuchando la palabra de Dios, nos hemos acercado a Cristo que es la piedra angular, como nos lo ha recordado san Pedro citando al profeta Isaías: “He aquí que coloco en Sión una piedra angular, elegida, preciosa y el que crea en ella no será confundido” (1P 2,6; cf.Is 28,16). Hay que aceptar esta piedra angular, que es Cristo, y no desecharla en la construcción de la vida humana aquí en la tierra.

Antes de terminar, y en el marco del V Centenario de la llegada del Evangelio al Nuevo Mundo, deseo renovar mi llamado a la Iglesia que está en Curaçao a un mayor empeño en la nueva evangelización, que reavive con fuerza sus raíces cristianas. Esta nueva evangelización reclama hombres y mujeres asiduos en la escucha de la Palabra de Dios, en la oración, en la celebración eucarística y dispuestos a compartir los bienes con los hermanos (cf. Hch 2,42; 4,32). La nueva evangelización necesita cristianos y comunidades que sean “un solo corazón y una sola alma” (Hch 4,32). La Virgen Santísima, Madre de la unidad, os ayudará a vivir esta comunión eclesial tan ansiada por Jesús, como signo eficaz de vida nueva y de evangelización.

El Obispo de Roma, Sucesor de san Pedro, al visitar esta querida Iglesia local, os alienta a seguir siempre a Cristo “camino, verdad y vida”. Esto es lo que pido al Señor hoy y aquí, por vosotros y con vosotros. Así sea."

Act of Entrustment to Our Lady of Fatima
Willemstad, Sunday 13th May 1990 - in Italian

"Santissima Vergine Maria!

Come Pellegrino in questa benedetta terra delle Antille e di Aruba,
mi inginocchio di fronte a te, per mettere sotto la tua protezione
tutti i figli e le figlie di questo popolo,
che ti venera come una Madre amatissima.
Dinanzi a te, che sei la piena di grazia,
rinnoviamo la professione della nostra fede,
la ferma speranza nella tua protezione,
l’amore filiale che sorge dai nostri cuori.

Perché sei Madre di Dio e Madre nostra,
ti consacro le comunità ecclesiali
che sono in pellegrinaggio nelle Antille e Aruba;
fai sì che conservino sempre come un prezioso tesoro
la fede in Gesù Cristo, l’affetto per te,
la fedeltà alla Chiesa.

Benedici il suo Vescovo, i sacerdoti, i religiosi le religiose, i seminaristi e tutti gli apostoli laici
affinché siano sempre testimoni di unione e di carità fraterna.

Consacro a te in modo particolare le famiglie,
affinché si formino focolari cristiani
in cui si rispetti la vita che nasce,
dove si mantenga la fedeltà del matrimonio,
l’educazione integrale dei figli,
la generosità per i poveri ed i bisognosi;
affinché vi sia un mondo migliore domani
con più famiglie cristiane.

Benedici anche i giovani,
perché trovino in Cristo
il modello di dedizione al prossimo, che li spinga
ad impegnarsi nella costruzione
di una società più giusta, fraterna ed accogliente.
Sii protettrice amorevole dei bambini,
che meritano un mondo più pacifico ed umano,
dei malati, dei poveri, dei detenuti,
dei perseguitati, degli orfani,
degli indifesi, dei moribondi.

Madre della Chiesa!
consacro a te il popolo cattolico delle Antille e Aruba,
affinché rimanga
in perfetta comunione di fede e di amore.
Benedicilo con numerose vocazioni sacerdotali e religiose;
guidalo verso Gesù, Tuo Figlio,
che è la via, la verità e la vita.

Con fiducia affido alle tue mani questa preghiera
affinché giunga al Padre,
che ti ha amato e ti ha scelta come primizia della nuova umanità;
per mezzo del Figlio, che è nato dal tuo seno,
e nello Spirito Santo. Amen."

Papa John Paul II's Message to the Young People of Willemstad diocese
- also in Italian

Dear Young People of the Diocese of Willemstad,
1. My journey to your local Church would be incomplete if I failed to share some reflections with you who are so close to the Pope’s heart. I address these words to you in light of the questions which have been directed to me on your behalf. Your concerns all reflect your efforts to live the Christian vocation that is yours as members of Christ’s Church, and I wish to encourage you in your quest and in your generosity. You may feel that you are geographically far from the centre of the Church in Rome, but I assure you that you are very close to the Pope’s heart and affection.

Most of your questions have to do with the obligations connected with the Christian state of life in marriage and the family or in the priesthood and religious life. You deeply feel the plight of the poor and you wonder if the Church could not do more for them. You are concerned about the gap that often exists between the way things should be and the way things are, between Christian teaching and the way Christians live, between the Good News of the Gospel and the harsh realities of life. How, you ask, are we to accept Church teaching on marriage in the midst of divorce and family problems? How can we feel called to the priesthood or religious life, including a life of celibacy, when we are surrounded by a consumer culture and a pervasive hedonism? In a word, how can we be faithful members of a Church that calls us to ideals that go against the dominant trends of contemporary culture?

2. In order to respond to these questions, something much more fundamental must first be asked: What is our relationship to Jesus Christ and what does it mean to be a disciple of Christ, a "Christian"?

At the beginning of the Gospel of Saint John we read a fascinating account of two young men who met Jesus and became his first disciples. They were Andrew and John himself. "Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’" (Io. 1, 38). Jesus asks you the same question: "Young people of the Netherlands Antilles, what are you truly looking for from life?" It is Jesus’ way of putting before you the basic question of life’s meaning and direction. Like young people everywhere, you want a life that is worth living. In young hearts you feel a powerful yearning for a world filled with goodness, with justice, with understanding and harmony between people and between nations. You want to live on the level of light and truth in human relations, and therefore of trust and genuine freedom.

Where will you find all this? Jesus said to Andrew and John: "‘Come and you will see’. So they went and saw ... and they stayed with him" (Ibid. 1, 39). They stayed because they saw that with Jesus Christ they could aspire to what their hearts most desired. Not that Jesus offered simple solutions. On the contrary, both Andrew and John would suffer much for his sake. But their meeting with Jesus made them realize that here they had the key to their existence; here they found the deepest meaning of life; they had found the way to give the highest value to their lives. The Second Vatican Council, in more universal terms, said it this way:

"Christ fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling" (Gaudium et Spes, 22).

3. Dear young people, this high calling which Christ reveals is also your calling: to be sharers in the divine nature, to be a new creation, to turn away from sin and to be restored in your likeness to God through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in you. Christ is your Saviour, your Redeemer. He alone is "your way, your truth and your life" (Cfr. Io. 14, 6). His way of salvation, however, is not what we might expect from a purely human way of thinking. The crucified and risen Lord does not promise you a perfect and comfortable life in this world. If you reflect on this you will realize that even people who enjoy an abundance of earthly pleasures, possessions and power often feel empty and unhappy. This cannot be the answer to the deepest longings of the human heart.

What Jesus does promise is that his victory over sin and death can also be your victory if in imitation of his Cross you consent to "lose your life" together with him, that is, to offer your life to the Father; to spend your life in love for others, even strangers, enemies and those who sin against you; to seek God’s will and not your own in all things. This is what it means to be a new creation, to share in divine life, to be freed from sin and restored to the likeness of God so that here and now you may build his kingdom of peace, justice and love, and one day share eternal happiness with him in heaven.

4. It is only within this perspective of the total Christian vocation that you will find answers to the questions you ask about marriage and the family, or the priesthood and religious life. For in all things Christ is the pattern of Christian life and behaviour. Celibacy, for example, is meant to enable the priest or religious to imitate Christ’s total self-giving for the sake of all. It frees a man or woman from exclusive affections and family ties in order that he or she may be totally dedicated to the service of God and of humanity. It is a special grace given to some, a sign of God’s special love for those who have accepted a call to consecration or sacramental configuration with Christ. In this way celibacy constitutes a sign of the heavenly kingdom to come, in which people "neither marry nor are given in marriage" (Matth. 22, 30), and in which God is "everything to every one" (1 Cor. 15, 28).

Marriage too finds its full meaning in Christ. It is the sacrament in which a man and woman make an exclusive and unbreakable gift of self to each other out of love. Through their faithful love they continue the work of the first creation, cooperating with God in the task of bringing new life into the world. Their life-long communion becomes a sign of the perfect love that Christ the Bridegroom showed for his Bride the Church when he "gave himself up for her" (Eph. 5, 25), on the Cross.

Perhaps you feel that you have known priests, religious, married couples and family members who have failed to live up to their high calling. Only God can judge the hearts of others; and we must not use their weaknesses and failures to excuse ourselves from the duties of our Christian calling. Where will we get the strength necessary to meet all the challenges that being a Christian involves? Andrew and John "stayed with him", with Jesus (Cfr. Io. 1, 39). His company, his friendship, his divine love became the source of their transformation and fidelity. And at a certain moment Christ sent the Holy Spirit - "the giver of life" - upon the Apostles and they were filled with courage to take the "Good News" to the ends of the earth. The same gift of the Holy Spirit is given to each follower of Christ, to enable us to live up to the standards that he sets us. God’s grace builds on our human nature, so that we may "stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God" (Col. 4, 12).

5. Your reflection on the Christian life must now go a step further. Whatever your vocation, how are you to know what is right and wrong when you make moral decisions? As followers of the crucified and risen Christ, your first question should not be "what do I want?", but rather "what is God’s will for me at this moment, in this situation?". God’s will is made known in Revelation and in its authentic interpretation and transmission by the Church. That law is also written in every person’s heart (Cfr. Rom. 2, 16), and its highest expression is the perfect love of God and neighbour which Jesus demanded of his disciples and which the Holy Spirit pours forth into our hearts.

The same Holy Spirit continues to be present in his Church, helping her to apply the Gospel to moral questions, old and new. Hence, the Church’s teaching is not just one voice among others, but a voice that speaks with Christ’s authority. Our conscience, then, is not autonomous in deciding what is right and what is wrong. Consciences must be formed in the way of truth and love.

The eminent English Cardinal, John Henry Newman, who died a hundred years ago, wrote often and with great clarity on the question of conscience. In your Christian doctrine classes and discussions you may wish to reflect on these words of his:

"The rule and measure of duty is not utility, nor expedience, nor the happiness of the greatest number, not State convenience, nor fitness, order and the ‘pulchrum’. Conscience is not a longsighted selfishness, nor a desire to be consistent with oneself; but it is a messenger from Him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by His representatives...

I am using the word ‘conscience’ ... not as a fancy or an opinion, but as a dutiful obedience to what claims to be a divine voice, speaking within us...

Conscience has rights because it has duties; but in this age, with a large portion of the public, it is the very right and freedom of conscience to dispense with conscience, to ignore a Lawgiver and Judge, to be independent of unseen obligations. It becomes a licence to take up any or no religion, to take up this or that and let it go again, to go to church, to go to chapel, to boast of being above all religions and to be an impartial critic of each of them. Conscience is a stern monitor, but in this century it has been superseded by a counterfeit, which the eighteen centuries prior to it never heard of, and could not have mistaken for it, if they had. It is the right of self-will " (John Henry Newman Difficulties of Anglicans, Westminster, Md, II, pp. 248. 255. 250).

6. The Church has always held what Newman was proposing, that conscience is the interpreter, not the inventor, of the objective moral order established by God. That is why Pope Paul VI wrote in the important Encyclical: "Humanae Vitae". "In the task of transmitting life, therefore, (husband and wife) are not free to proceed completely at will, as if they could determine in a wholly autonomous way the honest path to follow; but they must conform their activity to the creative intention of God, expressed in the very nature of marriage and of its acts, and manifested by the constant teaching of the Church" (Pauli VI Humanae Vitae, 10).

You have asked me to comment also on other aspects of the Church’s teaching on human sexuality. During my pontificate I have given much time to a detailed analysis of the great gift of sexuality which God has impressed in the very structure of the body. I have explained how man and woman carry on in the ‘language of the body’ that dialogue which, according to Genesis 2:24-25, had its beginning on the day of creation (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Allocutio in Audientia generali, 4, die 22 aug. 1984: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, VII, 2 [1984] 228 s).

The ‘language of the body’, as language of human beings, individual persons, is subject to the demands of truth, that is, to the objective moral norm (Cfr. ibid.).

I am sure that your parents and those who help them in your formation, especially your priests and catechists, will try to explain in more detail the richness of Catholic doctrine regarding marriage and the family. I exhort you to have the highest esteem for the ideals of chastity, marital fidelity, and self-control, so that in every way you will uphold the very great value of human love as God has wished it from the beginning. You are stewards of the many gifts of creation and redemption that God has given us. Through the exercise of a well-formed Christian conscience may you prove to be wise stewards of the master’s goods– both spiritual and material– until his return (Cfr. Matth. 24, 45 ss.; 25, 14 ss).

7. Finally, let me say a word about the question which was raised concerning the Church’s identification with the poor. The fact that the Church, following the example of Christ, expresses a love of preference for the poor means that you, as young Catholics, are challenged to work for the relief of those in need and the true liberation of those who are oppressed in any way. As well as engaging in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, your intelligent commitment is needed in seeking those structural changes in society which can secure living conditions worthy of the human person. I implore you to start by adopting a new way of thinking: value a person, including yourself, not for what that person has but for what he or she is: a unique realization of God’s creative love, the subject of an inalienable dignity and inalienable human rights! No situation or circumstances of poverty or abandonment can ever take away that dignity.

Then, as you take on greater responsibilities, strive to apply this " philosophy of being rather than having " in every area of your activity, and seek to make the whole of society more sensitive to the special needs of the poor and the weak, including the weakest of the weak: the unborn. Nor must you forget that the obligation to lead a simple life and to be detached from material things is an important part of Christian living.

What about material possessions? When it comes to the cultural, historical and artistic treasures of a nation or of the Church throughout the world, we are dealing with a spiritual as well as material heritage which belongs to everyone, both now and in the future. This heritage cannot be reduced to so many objects of commercial value to be bought and sold like any others. Although what is judged superfluous ought to be sold when the needs of the poor require it (Cfr. Ioannis Pauli PP. II Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 31), we must not forget the words addressed to artists at the close of the Second Vatican Council: "Our world needs beauty so as not to sink into despair" (Patrum Conciliarium Nuntii quibusdam hominum ordinibus dati «Aux Artistes», die 8 dec. 1965). Through beautiful church buildings and works of religious art, the deep desire to confess the faith is made visible (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Allocutio ad eos qui conventui nationale italico artis sacrae interfuere coram admissos, die 27 apr. 1981: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, IV, 1 [1981] 1052 ss). The Church is not free to dispose of what has been entrusted to her down the centuries for the glory of God, the honour of Mary and the Saints, and the instruction and edification of each succeeding generation of Christian people. This is a treasure which in a sense belongs to the whole human family and which the Church feels obliged to preserve for posterity.

8. Dear young men and women, I pray that these brief reflections of mine on the occasion of my visit to the Diocese of Willemstad will increase your love for Christ and his Church, and will enable you to live with perseverance and ever greater courage as responsible members of society. I also pray that many more of you will receive and heed a call from God to the priesthood or religious life in order to preach the Gospel and celebrate the sacraments, and bear witness in a special way to the new creation that we have all become through Baptism. To all of you and to your families I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Willemstad, 13 May 1990.


Pope St John Paul II's address at the Farewell Ceremony
Hato Curaçao airport, Sunday 13th May 1990 - just in English

"Your Excellency, Madam Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. As I prepare to return to Rome at the conclusion of this pastoral visit to Curaçao, I wish to thank all of you for your kind welcome and generous hospitality. Although my stay among you has been very brief, I am indeed grateful to God for this opportunity to come to the Netherlands Antilles, to meet with numerous distinguished representatives of your political and religious life, and to celebrate the Eucharist with the Catholics of the diocese of Willemstad. Throughout this afternoon and evening I have been privileged to experience the gentle warmth and solid virtue of this island people. I have sensed as well your desire to build a strong and vibrant society, a society of material prosperity and moral virtue, a society of which coming generations will rightly be proud. In all your efforts, may you never forget that the greatness of a people will never be measured by its wealth or power, but by the degree of its concern for the needs of others, especially the weakest and the least fortunate.

2. As you face the challenges which will determine the future of your society, do not be tempted to neglect the poor, the voiceless and the troubled in your midst. Scripture promises that "he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully" (2 Cor 9, 6). These words express a profound truth which governs the lives of both individuals and entire peoples. To the extent that you respect the law of God and place your neighbour’s good above your own, you will experience a wealth that far exceeds any material calculation. In the end, it will be this spiritual wealth that will guarantee to each of you and to your entire society a lasting stability and a steady growth in unity, prosperity and peace.

Assuring you all once again of my prayers, I commend you and your families to the "goodness and loving kindness of God" (Tit 3, 4). May he bless you all! May he bless these islands with the peace that only He can give!"