Bookmark and Share

John Paul II's Apostolic Pilgrimage to Finland

4th - 6th June 1989

Pope Saint John Paul II was a pilgrim to Finland during his 42nd apostolic journey, on which he also visited Norway, Iceland, Denmark & Sweden.

On his first day in Finland, Papa San Giovanni Paolo II met with the President at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki. On Monday 5 June, St John Paul II met with an ecumenical group at the Lutheran Cathedral of Turku, before celebrating Holy Mass with the conferral of the Sacrament of Confirmation, and then speaking with the Paasikivi Association in the Finlandia Hall, Helsinki. Before departing for Denmark the next morning, JPII met with the elderly and sick in the Catholic Cathedral of Saint Henrik in Helsinki.

Pope St John Paul II's Address at a Meeting at the Presidential Palace
with Mr Mauno Koivisto, President of Finland, Helsinki, Sunday 4 June 1989 - in English, Italian & Spanish

"Mr President, Distinguished Members of Government, Ladies and Gentlement
1. As I begin my pastoral visit to Finland, I wish to express my gratitude for this meeting. In greeting you, President Koivisto, and the members of the Government, I wish to greet all the people of Finland with warmth and affection. I have looked forward to this visit, far I am very conscious of the bonds which have long existed between your nation and the Holy See. My first wish for Finland and her people is expressed simply in these words of the Psalmist: “May... peace be within your walls, and security within your towers!” (Ps. 122, 7).

In coming to Finland, I have come to a people well known for their independence and dedication to the cause of international peace. Your commitment to peace and the self-determination of peoples is strong, for it has long been tested in the crucible of suffering. The struggle to maintain Finland’s independence has left its mark not only in the memories of hardships once endured for the sake of freedom, but also in the determination and tenacity with which you have built up a modern and prosperous society in the wake of devastation and war. The strength of Finland does not derive from her material prosperity, but from a firm and enduring confidence in the ideals which have guided you through the events of your history.

It is that spiritual wealth which I would recall today. In a world which yearns to free itself from the spectre of war and long-enduring hostility between nations, Finland has an experience to share. Your struggles for independence and self-determination in this century have helped to forge your character as a people. Fidelity to the ideals which guided those struggles is the key not only to Finland’s continuing growth as a people, but also to her future contributions to the community of the nations.

2. As you know, Mr President, the Holy See was among the first within the international community to recognize the independence of Finland. Later, at the height of the Second World War, the Holy See and the Republic of Finland came to establish official diplomatic relations. The intervening years have further consolidated our good relations and our effective collaboration in the pursuit of an international order more solidly based upon justice, peace and an authentic development of peoples. It is my deep hope, Mr President, that these efforts may further promote the good of all individuals, of all nations and peoples.

The presence of the Holy See within the international community points to the fundamental importance of the spiritual values which inspire and undergird all genuine efforts to advance the cause of peace and respect for human dignity. In addition to her diplomatic efforts, Finland bears witness to those same values in a notable way through her contributions to the world of the arts and letters, and to the development of the sciences. This active and valuable presence has enlarged your appreciation of the human spirit, and has thus served to promote greater understanding among peoples. In this context, I am pleased to recall the close relationship which exists between the Finnish Institute in Rome and the Vatican. I trust that such cooperation will continue to result in fruitful exchanges and to advance both our knowledge of the past as well as our love for the treasures of art which people of every age have produced.

3. My pastoral visit is motivated by my desire, as Bishop of Rome, to strengthen the bonds of ecclesial communion which unite Finland’s Catholics with the Apostolic See. My ministry commits me to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to exercise a pastoral concern for all the Churches (Cfr. 2Cor. 11, 28). My desire is to be instrumental in deepening the faith of Finland’s Catholics, that they may grow in their knowledge of the hope to which Christ has called them, the riches of his glorious inheritance and the immeasurable greatness of his power in those who believe (Cfr. Eph. 1, 18-19).

Tomorrow, in the Cathedral of Turku, I will join in an ecumenical service of prayer for the unity of all Christians. This too is a significant part of my pilgrimage to Finland. The ecumenical movement, which seeks to overcome all divisions among those who believe in Christ, is truly a sign of God’s grace at work in our time. I am grateful to my fellow Christians, my brothers and sisters in the Lord, for the kind invitation to pray with them at the tomb of Saint Henrik. I would hope that the fellowship that has grown between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran and Orthodox Churches here may be further strengthened by this pastoral visit.

As a friend of Finland, I have come to all her people, to believers and to non-believers alike. The message which I bring, the Gospel which I have been charged to preach, is intended to touch the hearts of all men and women. It has the power to awaken and enliven all that is noble in the human spirit, and to point the way to a world of authentic peace and true progress. For centuries, it has formed the vision and the conscience of the Finnish people. In our own days, it can offer a sure guide to those who seek the truth and long to build a society characterized by justice, harmony and universal solidarity.

4. Mr President, distinguished ladies and gentlemen: on the occasion of this first visit of a Bishop of Rome to Finland. I make it my prayer that the good relations existing between your country and the Holy See will continue to grow in the years ahead. May your efforts to build a more humane society and to provide for the well-being of all your people be ever rooted in the lofty moral and social principles that are part of Finland’s most precious heritage.

May Almighty God, the author of peace and the source of all good, bless Finland and all her people with his enduring peace.

Jumala siunatkoon Suomea. Jumala siunatkoon teitä kaikkia."

Papa Saint John Paul II's Address in the Lutheran Cathedral of Turku
at an Ecumenical Meeting, Monday 5 June 1989 - in English & Italian  

“You did not choose, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (Jn 15, 16).

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. These words of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ remind us that our discipleship is a gift, it is a work of grace. The spiritual fruitfulness of our lives is the result of a commission that we have received from the Lord, in whom we abide as branches of the vine, and apart from whom we can do nothing (Cfr. ibid. 15, 5).

Today, in this ancient Cathedral of Turku, we have gathered together as disciples of Christ in order to glorify the Father in the Holy Spirit. It is a joyful occasion, for in our midst we recognize the presence of the Risen Lord who promised us that wherever two or three are gathered in his name, he is there in their midst (Cfr. Matth. 18, 20). It is also an occasion for us to reflect on his prayer that we, his disciples, “may all be one... so that the world may believe” (Io. 17, 21). This constitutes a special challenge, for as we listen to the Lord’s words, we are reminded that his disciples throughout the world are not one. Despite the prayer which Jesus made on our behalf, we remain divided in many ways, and continue to bear the burdens of many centuries of separation and hostility. Yet Christ, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Cfr. Hebr. 12, 2), has not abandoned us. We know that even now he lives to make intercession for us (Cfr. ibid. 7, 25), and his will, that we may all be one, continually challenges his Church on her pilgrim way through history.

If, as his disciples, we are to do the Lord’s will and thus glorify the Father, we must work together to tear down the barriers which have long separated us. We must seek to resolve the issues which have divided us, and grow together, as branches of the one vine, in the life we have received from Christ.

2. Today, in Turku, I give thanks to Christ for this ecumenical meeting, and for the growing fellowship among his disciples which it symbolizes. As your guest, I am especially pleased to share this moment of common prayer with you. I am deeply grateful to you, Archbishop Vikström, for your kind invitation, and to all of you, my brothers and sisters in the Lord, for the warm welcome you have given me.

In these last decades, important progress has been made in doctrinal discussion and in pastoral collaboration among Christians. On an even deeper level, we have also witnessed a growing awareness of those elements of the apostolic heritage which, despite our divisions, we still hold in common. These cherished elements of our common heritage should inspire us to “lay aside every weight and sin... and run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Hebr. 12, 1). They help us recognize that what we share comes as a gift of God to those whom he has called to be one. It is in this context, on this first visit of a Bishop of Rome to Finland, that I wish to speak to you about the papal ministry which I have received, and which I exercise within that communion which is the universal Catholic Church (Cfr. Lumen Gentium, 23).

3. Who am I? Like all of you, I am a Christian, and in Baptism I received the grace that unites me with Jesus Christ our Lord. Through Baptism I am your brother in Christ.

In addition, and without any merit on my part, I was called to the priesthood and ordained for the ministry of the word, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and the forgiveness of sins. Later, in my native Poland, I was ordained a bishop and received the call to exercise the fullness of the priesthood in the pastoral care of God’s people. Finally, God’s design has been for me to be charged with the special ministry of the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, in whom – according to Catholic teaching – the Lord instituted “a permanent and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and fellowship” (Ibid. 18).

The faith of the Catholic Church sees the ministry of the Pope as the permanence of the ministry of Peter. My office as Bishop of Rome demands that I be concerned with both the local Church of Rome and with the Church universal. In a special way, I have inherited the “care for all the Churches” of which Saint Paul spoke (Cfr. 2Cor. 11, 28), and I rely upon the grace of Christ to sustain me in my task.

As the Successor of Peter, I preach no other message but the Gospel, the good news of God’s love as revealed in the words of Jesus Christ: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love” (Io. 15, 9). I proclaim the name of Jesus Christ, “the leader and perfecter of our faith” (Hebr. 12, 2). I bear witness that for our sake, Christ endured the Cross and left us his example lest we become weary or fainthearted (Cfr. ibid. 12, 2-3).

4. As the Successor of Peter, I am also bound to work for the unity of all Christ’s disciples. While Christians remain divided on many important points, we can all agree that the quest for Christian unity must be rooted primarily in Christ. Jesus himself said: “I am the vine and you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him, he it is who bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (Io. 15, 5). The point of reference for all Churches and Ecclesial Communities is our Lord Jesus Christ and the apostolic Church which he founded, that community of disciples which he brought into being during and immediately after his earthly life. For the Catholic Church unconditional fidelity to the will of Christ as it appears in the Apostolic Church and its Tradition constitutes the very ground of our existence.

Because ecumenism seeks unity in Christ through the Holy Spirit to the glory of the Father it must also be founded upon prayer. In this connection, Archbishop Vikström, I recall the occasion when, in January 1985, along with the late Archbishop Paavali of the Orthodox Church in Finland and Bishop Verschuren of the Catholic Church, you visited me in Rome. You came to inaugurate a chapel in the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva for the use of the Finnish people of various Churches who live in Rome. That was a very tangible display of the value of ecumenical prayer in common.

5. The presence at the Second Vatican Council of observers from other Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities, such as the Lutheran World Federation, gave great impetus to the ecumenical relations which have developed since then. Besides the importance of prayer, the Council taught the significance of personal conversion of mind and heart, as well as renewal in the Church itself for the fostering of Christian unity (Cfr. Unitatis Redintegratio, 6-8). It asked for a renewal with regard to the preaching of the word of God, catechetics, liturgical reform, the apostolate of the laity and many other areas of ecclesial life. This renewal has had important implications for the internal life of the Catholic Church. It brought the mystery of the Church to the forefront of our attention, and in this way it has strengthened our resolve to travel the road to the unity of all Christians.

The unity which we seek can only be based on unity of faith. Theological dialogue, wherein each can speak to the other on an equal footing (Cfr. ibid. 9), remains indispensable to the pursuit of communion in faith in fidelity to the Apostolic Tradition. Here, I would like to say a word of appreciation for the work of both the International Lutheran/Catholic Dialogue and the International Orthodox/Catholic Dialogue. Both commissions have produced significant statements. At the proper time these statements need to be studied by the Churches themselves, in order to see how far the dialogues have taken us towards unity in faith. In the meantime, my hope is that research will continue, and will focus more and more upon the reality of the Church itself. The goal for which we are striving is impossible for man alone, but for him who prays in obedience to the words of the Lord, nothing is impossible.

In speaking of dialogue, may I take the opportunity to express gratitude to the Lutheran Church of Finland for the ecumenical openness it has shown in this regard. I have been told of the importance of its dialogue with the Russian Orthodox Church and its dialogue with some Finnish Protestant communities. I express gratitude as well to the Orthodox Church of Finland for the generosity with which it hosted the Orthodox/Catholic international dialogue held in 1988 in this country, in the monastery of New Valamo. All of these efforts, we can hope, will lead one day to the sharing of the Apostolic Tradition in its fullness by all Christians.

6. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will and it shall be done for you” (Io. 15, 7). Dear brothers and sisters in Christ: if we remain faithful to the Lord’s will, and abide in him, there is no division that his grace cannot heal, no obstacle that his love cannot overcome. May we always be guided by his Holy Spirit, that all who believe in him may be truly one, and that the Father will be glorified in our bearing much fruit. Amen."

Papa San Giovanni Paolo II's Homily at Holy Mass with the Conferral of the Sacrament of Confirmation
Ice Sports Hall, Helsinki, Monday 5 June 1989 - in English & Italian  

““Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights” (Iac. 1, 17).

"Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. In this solemn act of worship we celebrate the Eucharist of Jesus Christ. In union with him we give thanks to “the Father of lights” for “every perfect gift”. I join you today in this great act of thanks-giving, joyful in the knowledge of all the great gifts of creation and redemption with which God has blessed Finland: your homeland and your heritage. I come as a brother in Christ, as the Successor of the Apostle Peter, to Helsinki, the capital of your beautiful country. This is the first time that a Pope sets foot on Finnish soil. For this gift too I am deeply moved and grateful.

I am happy to celebrate this Liturgy with my brother bishops, especially with Bishop Verschuren, to whom I extend heartfelt congratulations in this twenty-fifth year of his Episcopal ministry. My cordial greeting goes to the priests of the Diocese of Helsinki and to all the men and women religious who are Christ’s servants in Finland. Nor may I fail to extend a special greeting to the young people who are to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation this afternoon, and to their parents, priests and teachers, who by instruction, good example and prayer have prepared them for this day. Finally, with great joy I welcome the Catholics who have come from Estonia, which since the Middle Ages has been known as the “ land of Mary ” – Maarjamaa."

Text in Finnish:
Toivotan Jumalan siunausta koko Suomen kansalle ja sen kauniille kotimaalle. Antakoon Jumala teille armoa ja viisautta rakentaa isänmaatanne rakkaudella ja viisaudella, niin etta teidän nuorisonne voisi luottaen katsoa tulevaisuuteen.

Jag ber att Gud ma välsigna alla familjer och alla som uppfostrar barn, sa att Finland genom dem kunde bevara sitt kristna arv och sina värdefulla traditioner at kommande generationer.

All the people of Finland – those from furthest South to the hardy people of the far North, the Lapps – rightly prize their freedom and independence following the wars and occupations of past centuries. You seek to protect your freedom through a democratic way of life. Drawn together by the rigours of a harsh climate, you have forged a close-knit society which cherishes the ideals of peace, justice and harmony, a society which esteems education in the best traditions of the Finnish scholars who already could be found centuries ago throughout Europe. You have also won international acclaim for helping others to reconcile their disagreements and conflicts. For all the gifts of nature and grace that are yours in this country I join you in giving thanks to God, the Father and Creator of us all. And with all my heart I say: May God protect Finland!

Jumala varjelkoon Suomea.
Gud beskydde Finland!

2. Dear brothers and sisters: think for a moment of all that God has done for us. Not only has he created us in his image and likeness, giving us life and breath and all the gifts of the created world; as we read today in the Letter of James, he has also “brought us forth by the word of truth” (Iac. 1, 18). This “bringing forth” refers to the fact that when we were spiritually dead because of sin, God did not abandon us but brought us back to life. He created us anew so that we might be holy in this life and eternally happy with him in the next. We have been given the gift of adoption as God’s own children, sharing divine life.

This gift of redemption is accomplished through “the Word of truth”, the Eternal Son and our Saviour, Jesus Christ. As Saint Peter boldly proclaims in the reading we heard from the Acts of the Apostles, the Crucified and Risen Christ “is Lord of all... every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Act. 10, 36. 43). This is truly the greatest gift of “the Father of lights” to humanity and all creation: the gift of his Son, “the Word made flesh” (Io. 1, 14) conceived and born of the Virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit.

3. We also know that before he ascended into heaven, Christ promised the same Spirit to his disciples, “to complete his work on earth and bring us the fullness of grace” ("Prex Eucharistica" IV). On the first Pentecost Sunday this promise was fulfilled when the Apostles received the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room at Jerusalem and immediately began to proclaim the Good News of salvation to people from every nation. Thus the great gift of redemption – our being “brought forth” to divine life – is a mighty work of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It must be received by us in faith. It must be lived. It must be proclaimed.

Thanks to the preaching of the Gospel that began with the apostles, the message of God’s mighty works reached Finland generations ago. We give thanks today for this too: that countless sons and daughters of this nation have been reborn to new life over the centuries through Baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The young men and women who are to be confirmed today can look back to their Christian ancestors who sought with God’s help to live a life in the Spirit: a life of love, joy, peace, and patience; a life marked by kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control. Many Christian models of holiness are known only to their families, neighbours, co-workers and friends. They are people who glorified God in the ordinary circumstances of daily life. Others are part of your national history: figures like Saint Henrik, the patron Saint of Finland, who sowed the seeds of faith and gave witness to his love for Christ by the shedding of his blood; and Blessed Hemming, the Bishop of Turku, who came on pilgrimage to my predecessor Pope Clement VI to present the message of Saint Birgitta and to plead for peace. They are part of a history of faith that continues with those to be confirmed today.

Text in Finnish: 
Rakkaat nuoret ystäväni, jotka otatte vastaan vahvistuksen sakramentin: te olette kerran uudestisyntyneet kasteessa, nyt teidät sidotaan vielä läheisemmin Kristukseen ja vahvistetaan Pyhän Hengen erityisellä voimalla (Cfr. Lumen Gentium, 11): viisauden ja ymmärryksen henki, neuvon ja voiman henki, tiedon ja Herran pelon henki. Tämä on erittäin tärkeä päivä kirkon jsenydessänne, koska vahvistettuina katolilaisina teidän odotetaan antautuvan lähetystehtävään, sillä muita Kristuksen luokse. Hän luottaa apuunne maailman muuttamisessa Jumalan perheeksi. Pyhän Paavalin lausumia sanoja opetuslapselleen Timoteukselle voidaan soveltaa teihin. Hän sanoo: çlkâân soveltaa teihin. Hän sanoo: Äköön kukaan nuoruuttasi katsoko ylen, vaan ole sinä uskovaisten esikuva puheessa, vaelluksessa, rakkaudessa, uskossa, puhtaudessa" (1Tim. 4, 12).

Voitte olla luottavaisia, että Jumala haluaa auttaa teitä täyttämän tämän tehtävän viettää kristityn elämää. Vahvistuksen sakramentista johtuva armo auttaa teitä sanomaan «kyllä» Kristukselle ja «ei» jumalattomuudelle ja synnille. Te kykenette kärsivällisinä kestämään koetukset ja houkutukset, sillä kuten Pyhä Jaakob sanoo meille: «Älköön kukaan, kiusauksessa ollessaan, sanoko: "Jumala minua kiusaa", sillä Jumala ei ole pahan kiusattavissa, eikä hän ketään kiusaa» (Iac. 1, 13). Kiusauksen voimaa ei tule aliarvioida, mutta voimme olla varmoja sen voittamisesta Jumalan avulla, jos yritåmme joka päivä koko sydämellämme tehdä hyvää ja välttää pahaa. Jumala näyttää meille aina tien, jotta emme lannistuisi tai joutuisi epätoivoon. Kehoitan teitä olemaan uskollisia ja vahvoja, niin, että maailmassa jossa on tarjolla niin monia pinnallisia ja tyhjiä lupauksia, ette koskaan valitse maalista valtaa, omaisuutta tai huvituksia Kristuksen sijaan. Älkää koskaan vaihtako vapautta joka teillä on Jumalan lapsina, orjuuteen kikä tulee itsekkyydestä ja synnistä.

4. Dear brothers and sisters gathered around this altar and all who hear my voice: “Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (Iac. 1, 13). The confirmation of these young men and women today reminds those of us who are already confirmed of the promises we made and the gifts we received from above. The endowments and gifts that we enjoy carry a serious responsibility. We must be stewards of the gifts of creation and redemption that God has lavished upon us.

One of the great gifts of the Spirit to the Church is the gift of unity for which Christ prayed on the eve of his passion and death. We who have been sealed with the Holy Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation must ask what we have done with this gift. Cannot all Christians accept together the challenge of Christian living? Can we not renew together our Baptismal commitment to “turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel”? (Cfr. Marc. 1, 15). As members of the one Body of Christ, may we be good stewards of the gift of unity. May we look with confidence and hope to the restoration of our full communion. This too can only come as a gift of the Holy Spirit, a mighty act of God for which we must work and pray.

Today’s Gospel parable (Cfr. Luc. 19, 11-17) offers an important lesson in stewardship. A servant entrusted with a sum of money increases its value by wise investment and thus earns the praise of his master. If we, like that servant, are “faithful in small things” (Cfr. ibid. 19, 17), then we too will receive greater, indeed the greatest gift of all: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2, 9).

5. Dear brothers and sisters: here in this “White City of the North”, this “Daughter of the Baltic”, let us raise our minds and hearts to God in thanksgiving for all his gifts, and especially for the gift of the Holy Spirit which is to be conferred in the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Let us pray for the light and strength that each of us needs to be “good stewards of God’s varied grace... in order that in everything (he) may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Petr. 4, 10-11). "

Pope St John Paul II's Address to Members of the Paasikivi Association
Finlandia Hall, Helsinki, Monday 5 June 1989 - in English, Italian & Spanish

"Mr President, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I would like to thank you, Mr President, far your kind words of welcome. I am happy to greet all of you, the members of this prestigious Paasikivi Association, as well as the diplomats and distinguished personalities who honour this meeting with their presence. My coming to this Finlandia Hall, in acceptance of your cordial invitation, is intended to manifest once again the Holy See’s strong support for the process which was set in motion in this very place on 1 August 1975 at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The Helsinki Final Act, signed by the nations of Europe, together with Canada and the United States, must be considered as one of the most significant of the instruments of international dialogue. On that occasion all of the thirty-five signatory countries came to an agreement on one basic fact, namely, that peace is not ensured when arms fall silent; rather, peace is the result of cooperation between both individuals on the one hand and societies themselves, and the result of respect for certain ethical imperatives.

The famous “ten principles” which preface the Helsinki Final Act constitute the basis upon which the peoples of Europe, having been the victims of so many wars and divisions, now wish to consolidate and preserve peace, so that future generations may be able to live in harmony and security.

2. The authors of the Final Act clearly realized that peace would be very precarious without cooperation between nations and between individuals, without a better quality of life, and without the promotion of the values which Europeans hold in common. This is why, among the ten principles, the seventh speaks of “respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief”. In addition, in the third paragraph adopted at the initiative of the Holy See, one reads that the participating States, and I quote: “recognize and respect the freedom of the individual to profess and practise, alone or in community with others, religion or belief, acting in accordance with the dictates of one’s own conscience”.

By thus placing respect for religious freedom among the foundations of peace in Europe, the Final Act not only remained faithful to the European spiritual heritage, impregnated from its origins with the Christian message, but reflected a convinction of the Catholic Church – and of many other believers – that the right of individuals and communities to social and civil freedom in matters of religion is one of the pillars which support the edifice of human rights.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen: at the Helsinki Conference, the negotiators upheld the principle that believers who feel discriminated against because of their faith, or who fear adverse reactions when they practise that faith, cannot share fully in the construction of the society in which they live. When basic human rights and freedoms are repressed, the social harmony of an entire nation is in some way disturbed. As a result, the work of peace is hindered.

But the authors of the Final Act also grasped another dimension of religious freedom, one on which the Holy See’s Delegation did not fail to insist when the occasion demanded: the “social” dimension of religious practice. Over and above freedom of “worship”, membership in a community of faith presupposes contacts and meetings between people professing the same belief. It is in the light of this thought that one should read the following paragraph of the third “basket”, devoted to human contacts: the signatories “confirm that religious faiths, institutions and organizations, practising within the constitutional framework of the participating States, and their representatives can, in the field of their activities, have contacts and meetings among themselves and exchange information”.

3. I wish to note that in pleading for an ever more effective freedom of religious practice of this kind, the Holy See always took account of the opinion of other Christian and non-Christian denominations. There was no lack of consultation, and many spiritual families apart from the Catholic Church expressed their support for this way of approaching the question. They also actively ensured that the ideas developed during the consultations in Helsinki and Geneva would find a favourable reaction among the leaders of their countries.

During the many follow-up meetings in the wake of the Helsinki Accord, the Holy See has always taken care to demonstrate to all Delegates how much the free and effective exercise of religion contributes to the strengthening of security and cooperation between peoples, and to identify regrettable cases of the total denial of religious freedom to communities of Eastern Rite Catholics, who have lost even the right to exist within the new post-War political and juridical structures.

In the light of the gap between the stated principles and the grave hindrances faced by some communities of believers in Europe, I thought it appropriate, a few months before the beginning of the Second Follow-up Meeting in Madrid, to write to the Heads of State of all the signatory countries of the Final Act. It was a question of helping the negotiators to define religious freedom more accurately, to consider it in all its dimensions, and especially to highlight the contribution which religious freedom can make to maintaining peace and cooperation between peoples. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am pleased to say that some of these distinguished Heads of State not only were kind enough to reply but also expressed their agreement with the tenor of my message. That message was in harmony with the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom, which clearly states that a proper application of the principle of religious freedom also helps to educate citizens to recognize the demands of the moral order and consequently “govern their activities with a sense of responsibility, and strive after what is true and right, willing always to join with others in cooperative effort” (Dignitatis Humanae, 8).

As you will recall, in Madrid it proved possible to include in the closing Document the following paragraph: “The participating States reaffirm that they will recognize, respect and furthermore agree to take the action necessary to ensure the freedom of the individual to profess and practise, alone or in community with others, religion or belief acting in accordance with the dictates of his own conscience. In this context, they will consult, whenever necessary, the religious faiths, institutions and organizations, which act within the constitutional framework of their respective countries”. Such consultations are always beneficial, and I considered it appropriate to propose them, as some will remember, when I visited the Headquarters of the United Nations on 2 October 1979.

The Madrid Document also discusses the granting of appropriate legal status to religious faiths, institutions and organizations which request it and which are prepared to practise their faith within the relevant constitutional framework. It affirms that the States are determined to facilitate activity and contacts between communities and their representatives in the sphere of their spiritual activity. This subject was dealt with more specifically at a Meeting of Experts on Contacts between People, held in Berne in 1983.

It is comforting to be able to state that certain ideas have made headway, in spite of the serious difficulties which still exist in some countries. I am thinking especially of those Catholic communities forced to live an underground existence; of young people discriminated against in their studies or careers because of their religious beliefs; and of dioceses deprived of their bishops. Fortunately, at least at the level of principles, progress was made at the Ottawa Meeting in 1985, devoted to the subject of human rights, and at the debates within the Cultural Forum that same year in Budapest.

4. When, in November 1986, the third great Follow-up Meeting of the Conference opened in Vienna, it was clear that most of the Delegations would not be satisfied with a rewriting of the Final Act of the Madrid Document. They were looking for a qualitative leap forward: an exact text, with concrete commitments. Public opinion had come to accept that the Helsinki process was not meant merely to consolidate principles but to remedy situations which could not be justified.

In the sphere of freedom of conscience and religion, the negotiators started out from two premises. The first was that the Constitutions of all the countries represented did guarantee their citizens religious freedom. The second was that in practice this is the fundamental freedom most frequently violated.

As you know, this was the beginning of what was surely the most fruitful debate on religious freedom within the Conference. For months, the Delegations were able to explain how their Governments were putting into practice the undertakings assumed in Helsinki and Madrid. For its part, the Holy See’s Delegation was able to provide explanations and occasionally correct certain overoptimistic evaluations of the facts. It is striking to note the interest aroused by the subject. Four “propositions” were put forward by different groups of countries – including the Holy See – in view of drawing up the concluding document.

You are already familiar with the text which was adopted in Vienna last January. From many points of view, and specifically in the area which is our concern here, it represents significant progress. The perseverance of the negotiators and certain positive developments in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe had made this satisfying result possible.

We find in the Vienna Document a series of measures aimed at ensuring a freer exercise of religious freedom. I will merely give a brief indication of the most important provisions;

– free access to places of worship;
– the right of communities to organize themselves in accordance with their own hierarchical structure;
– a readiness to enter into consultations with religious faiths and organizations in order to gain a better understanding of their requirements;
– the right to give and receive religious education;
– the right to obtain, possess and use religious materials needed for the practice of religion;
– access of believers to the communications media;
– the possibility for believers and communities to maintain direct contacts with one another, both at home and abroad.

These are the concrete measures adopted by the leaders of thirty-five nations and for which they will have to answer to their citizens. In fact, herein lies the originality of the Final Act and of the Madrid and Vienna Documents: those who approve them assume a certain number of obligations not only with respect to other States but also vis-à-vis their own citizens, whom these documents recognize as having well-defined rights.

It can thus be said that the way in which these commitments are applied and put into practice will constitute a “test” of development or of stagnation. Some countries will even have to modify their legislation on religious freedom in order to bring it into line with these texts. In fact, the Vienna Document specifies that participating States must take steps to ensure that their laws and policies actually correspond to the measures adopted within the framework of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Cfr, Principles, n. 3). Verification procedures in the sphere of human rights were adopted in Vienna, which will make it possible to exercise even greater vigilance in the future. A contribution to this question is expected from the Meeting on the human dimension of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, now taking place in Paris.

5. Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen: I have outlined the major development of the last fourteen years within the framework of the Conference regarding the subject of religious freedom. In a sense one can say that the ever open “channel” constituted by the Helsinki process has enabled the “forces of the spirit” to anticipate to a certain extent the political détente which we have been witnessing in recent months. The ideas patiently sown here have matured. We must thank all those who have helped this slow process from which we dare to expect much more abundant fruit!

Religious freedom has become a common theme within the context of international affairs. The subject has become part of the culture of our times, for our contemporaries have learned from the excesses of the recent past, and have come to realize that believing in God, practising a religion and joining with others in expressing one’s faith is the special expression of that freedom of thought and expression which takes its source not from a concession granted by the State but from the very dignity of the human person.

Certainly more complete formulas could be found and less legal restrictions might be hoped for. At least for the present, though, the rule of consensus within the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, as well as ideological differences, make it impossible to obtain totally satisfying results.

In any event, the developments of these recent years, and the progress made in drawing up the various texts issued by the Conference, show ever more clearly that religious freedom can exist in various social systems. What the Churches ask for is that religious life should not be denied the freedom it needs. What the State owes itself to guarantee, as the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom clearly indicated, is the protection of this freedom for all its citizens, by means of just laws and by ensuring favourable conditions for the development of their religious life (Dignitatis Humanae, 6). The idea that religion is a form of alienation is no longer fashionable, because, fortunately, the leaders of the nations and people themselves have come to realize that believers constitute a powerful factor in favour of the common good. Hatred and fanaticism can find no justification among those who call God “our Father”. Who in fact could deny that the commandment of charity, forgiveness of offences, a sense of duty, concern for the neglected – all of which is at the heart of the message of many spiritual families – constitute a priceless asset for society? At any rate, these are among the values which Christians have to offer, as their specific contribution to public and international life. Moreover, from the very fact that they come from all social classes, cultures and nations, the members of religious denominations constitute an effective force for union and cooperation between people.

6. Let us help Europe to discover its roots, to become more closely identified with its past. For religious life is not threatened merely by vexing restrictions; it can also be threatened by the spread of false values – such as hedonism, power seeking, greed – which are making headway in various countries and which in practice stifle the spiritual aspirations of large numbers of people. This is why it is vital for believers to be able to share freely in public debate, and thus put forward another view of the world – the one inspired by their faith. In this way they contribute to the moral uplift of the society in which they live. European nations have become more and more aware that the honest confrontation of ideas and convictions has been an indispensable condition for their over-all development. For this reason, Europe and the world can rightly expect from religions an effective contribution to the search for peace.

In Helsinki, a city geographically situated at the crossroads of so many human currents, the parties to the Final Act decided to ensure that the peoples of Europe should learn the lessons of their past and commit themselves to greater unity as the year two thousand approaches. The world is looking to this continent, which still has such great potential and which will be, I am sure, as ready in the future as in the past to share with the rest of the world the values that have shaped it.

Mr President, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen: it is with this ardent hope, expressed also in prayer, that I leave you. But before I conclude, permit me to say that in the noble task of carrying on the Helsinki process, the Catholic Church will not fail to go forward with you, side by side, in that discreet manner which befits her religious mission. She is convinced of the validity of the ideal embodied here fourteen years ago in a document which for millions of Europeans is more than a Final Act: it is an “act of hope”!"

John Paul II's words to the elderly & sick in the Cathedral of Saint Henrik
Helsinki, Tuesday 6 June 1989 - in English & Italian  

“Praised be Jesus Christ!

Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
1. The Lord has brought us to a new day. In this morning hour he is with us as we gather under the roof of this noble cathedral and thank him for the gift of life and the wonders of his mercy. At the same time we entrust the future to him. Yesterday, today and tomorrow belong to him.

For the first time in history the Bishop of Rome sets foot in this cathedral, dedicated to Saint Henrik, the holy Patron of Finland. My heart rejoices that I can do so with you: the elderly and the sick as well as the priests and the religious sisters and brothers of Finland. It is a privilege for me to speak to you, to be with you, because you are all special in the eyes of the Lord.

2. We have just heard the extraordinary words of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor . These words are addressed to all of us but especially to those who have the heavy cross of pain or sickness to bear. The Lord says to you this morning: “Blessed are you”. In your weakness and dependence you often realize better than others that we are all poor, weak and ultimately dependent on Christ, who says: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (Io. 15, 5).

How can I be blessed, you ask yourself? For the most part, modern society idolizes health, youth, power and beauty. The sick and the old seem to lack precisely those things that the world so much admires. But there is a higher wisdom; a wisdom that reveals the true meaning of our human weakness and our pain. That wisdom is revealed in Christ. He knows what it is to suffer; he experienced it on the road to Calvary. He was scourged and crowned with thorns; he had to carry the cross and was crucified.

Christ associates with himself in the closest possible way all those who suffer. If any of your relatives, neighbours and those looking after you do not fully understand how much you suffer, be assured that Christ the Lord does. Not only does the Lord understand our sufferings but he teaches us that suffering, pain, growing old, and death itself – all these things have an immense value when they are united with his own Passion and Death. In fact Jesus says that no one can claim to follow him without taking up his cross.

3. In the Gospel of Saint John we read: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes him should not perish but have eternal life” (Ibid. 3, 16). Jesus Christ is God’s definitive word about the human condition, and therefore also about suffering. In the plan of God all life has value, because from the moment of conception onwards there is a meeting, a dialogue between the Creator and the creature, between the divine and human. That dialogue takes its highest form in prayer and worship, and it reaches special intensity in our loving obedience to God’s will, when we accept life, with all its difficulties and sufferings, as a sharing in the work of redemption.

All of you therefore have a special apostolate: it is to be united with Christ and to pray for those who do not know him. I ask you to pray for me as well and for the Catholic Church throughout the world. I ask you to pray for those who cannot pray and who do not know how to pray, and for all who have lost faith in God and in his mercy. Allow the light and the healing presence of Christ to shine through your lives so that all who come into contact with you will discover the loving kindness of God.

4. The presence here of the priests, and religious sisters and brothers is also a cause of great joy for me. Dear brothers and sisters: your special vocations in the Church speak of the mystery of God’s grace working in your hearts and – through you – building up his Kingdom in this part of the world. In the words of Saint Paul, you have been called to the priesthood or religious life “by the mercy of God” (2Cor. 4, 1). His grace is your guarantee and the source of your happiness and spiritual efficacy.

God’s grace has been given to us through the Redemption accomplished by his Son and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. As ministers of God’s grace, my brothers in the priesthood, may you proclaim the Gospel and celebrate the sacraments with a profound reverence for the mysteries which transform the lives of all who believe. In your prayer, reflect frequently upon the ministry which has been entrusted to you by Christ. It is he whom you serve, and it is he who, in many hidden ways, can be trusted to bring forth a rich harvest from all that you sow.

My dear religious brothers and sisters: in a world which too often seeks fulfilment in material comforts and the manipulation of power, a world striving for happiness without a clear reference to God, you stand out as signposts pointing to higher values. Your configuration with Christ and your observance of the evangelical counsels recall Christ’s words: “My kingdom is not of this world” (Io. 13, 36). You are ambassadors of the one who proclaimed the striking message of the Beatitudes which ushered in a “newness” of life which our contemporaries seek but do not always know how to find. They yearn for a better world, without famine and war, without the threat of nuclear destruction, without the hatred and injustices which demean human life; but they do not always recognize the depths of conversion and reconciliation, which such a transformation of life requires. That is the wisdom which you must deepen through prayer and contemplation, so as to share it bountifully with those who “call you to account for the hope that is in you” (1Petr 3, 15).

I greet each one of you. I rejoice in your fidelity and I pray that by “seeing your good works”, generous young men and women of Finland will follow in your footsteps for the glory of our Father who is in heaven (Cfr. Matth. 5, 16).

5. The last hour of my pastoral visit to Finland is drawing near. I came here with a message of love and peace to all men and women of good will. I have seen the situation of the Catholic Church in Finland at first hand, and I give thanks to God for your communion with the See of Peter and your fidelity to the teachings of the Catholic Church. I encourage you all, laity as well as priests and religious, to remain steadfast in the love of Christ and in the unity of the Church. Like the early Church, you are a small community. I remind you of the words of Christ in the Book of Revelation: “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one; I died, and behold I am alive for evermore” (Apoc. 1, 27). Yes, Christ is your strength today and always!

The medieval hymn in honour of Saint Henrik has the following refrain, which expresses an unfailing security for a world often marked by lack of hope:

“Ergo plebs fennonica,
Gaude de hoc dono
Quod facta es catholica
Verbi Dei sono”.

“And so people of Finland,
Rejoice in this gift
that you have become Catholic,
through the preaching of the word of God”,

People of Finland – Do not lose hope!
Be firm in your faith and generous in your love!

In a short time, we will all join in praying to God our Father in the Finnish language. May we lift up our hearts with confidence and joy, knowing that he whose name is holy and who gives us our daily bread is the source of all goodness and love."