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St John Paul II's Apostolic Visit to Lesotho

Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, 14th - 16th September 1988

Pope St John Paul II was a pilgrim to Lesotho in 1988 when he beatified Father Joseph Gérard, the 'Apostle of Lesotho'. JPII was on his 38th apostolic journey, during which he also visited Zimbabwe, Botswana, Swaziland (now Eswatini) & Mozambique.

14th September, Feast of the Triumph of the Cross - Pope St John Paul II celebrated Mass in the Pro-Cathedral of Roma and prayed at Fr Joseph Gérard's tomb before addressing the Episcopal Conference of Lesotho.
15th September, Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows - JPII beatified Father Joseph Gérard, made act of entrustment of Lesotho to Mary, met with young people and with priests, religious and seminarians in Maseru Cathedral, addressed an ecumenical meeting and spoke during his visit to King Moshoeshoe II in the Royal Palace of Maseru.
16th September - Farewell ceremony at the Moshoeshoe I Airport,

Pope St John Paul II's homily at Holy Mass in the Pro-Cathedral of Roma
on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross
Wednesday, 14 September 1988 - also in Italian

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Today it is my great joy to be together with you, the faithful of the Church in Lesotho, on the feast of the Triumph of the Cross, celebrating the Eucharistic Liturgy which in the Cross of Christ has its beginning and source.

I give thanks to God for the privilege of being here in Roma where Father Joseph Gérard served Christ for many years. In the love of Jesus, I offer cordial greetings to my brother bishop and to the priests and religious of this beloved country, as well as to those from other lands. In a special way, I greet the parents and their children, the families of Lesotho who form the primary communities of society and of the Church. I welcome the catechists and teachers who perform such a vital role in the work of evangelization in this mountainous and rugged land, and I offer warm greetings to the various lay associations: to the members of the Legion of Mary, the Saint Cecilia Association, the Ladies of Saint Ann and the Men of the Sacred Heart.

I also extend a warm welcome to our brothers and sisters in Christ from other Churches and ecclesial communities and to all those of good will who have wished to join us today in prayer.

2. In the Gospel of this feast we are witnesses of an unusual conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. The conversation takes place at night because Nicodemus, a prominent Jew, went to talk with Christ under the cover of darkness. Christ leads this man, a teacher, to the very heart of the mystery revealed by God. It is the mystery of the Son of God who descended from heaven and, as the Son of Man, accomplished the messianic mission among the people of Israel.

This mission was directed towards “the lifting up” of Christ on the Cross. Jesus says to Nicodemus: “The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert” (Jn 3, 14). Nicodemus knows the Scriptures well; he knows the inspired message of the Old Testament. He can recall the event that took place during the journey of the chosen people in the desert. At the command of Yahweh, “Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard” (Nu 21, 9).

This bronze serpent would restore to health and save the lives of the Israelites who had been bitten by the serpents. They were serpents with a poisonous venom; after being bitten by them many Israelites died. But the serpent made of bronze and placed on a high standard would become a means of salvation: whoever looked at it would live.

3. Jesus continues: “The Son of Man must be lifted up... so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (Jn 3, 14-15). The human family had received at the very beginning of earthly history a deadly bite from the “ancient serpent”. He had injected a satanic venom – the venom of original sin – into the souls of the first man and woman. And from that time onward, man’s history on earth has been burdened by sin. A tendency towards sin has generated many evils in the lives of individual persons and the communities to which they belong, in families, in entire peoples and nations.

“The Son of Man must be lifted up”, says Jesus to Nicodemus. And he says this with a view to his crucifixion: the Son of Man must be lifted up on the Cross. Whoever believes in him, whoever sees in this Cross and in the Crucified One the Redeemer of the world, whoever looks with faith on the redemptive death of Jesus on the Cross, finds in him the power of eternal life. By this power, sin is overcome. People receive forgiveness of their sins at the price of the Sacrifice of Christ. They find again the life of God which had been lost by sin.

4. This is the meaning of the Cross of Christ. This is its power. “God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved” (Jn 3, 17).

The feast that we celebrate today speaks of a marvellous and ceaseless action of God in human history, in the history of every man, woman and child. The Cross of Christ on Golgotha has become for all time the centre of this saving work of God. Christ is the Saviour of the world, because in him and through him the love with which God so loved the world is continuously revealed: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3, 16).

– The Father gave him so that this Son, who is one in substance with him, would become man by being conceived of the Virgin Mary.
– The Father gave him so that as the Son of Man he would proclaim the Gospel, the Good News of salvation.
– The Father gave him so that this Son, by responding with his own infinite love to the love of the Father, might offer himself on the Cross.

5. From a human point of view, Christ’s offering of himself on the Cross was a sign of contradiction, an unthinkable disgrace. It was, in fact, the most profound humiliation possible.

In today’s liturgy, the Apostle Paul speaks to us in words that capture the mystery of the Cross of Christ: “His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a Cross. But God raised him high” (Phil 2, 6-9).

Through his self-emptying on Golgotha, in the disgrace of the Cross and the crucifixion (at least in the human way of understanding these events) Christ receives the highest exaltation. In God’s eyes, the Cross is the greatest triumph. The way of human judgement is very different from God’s. God’s judgement far surpasses ours. What seems to us to be failure is, in God’s eyes, the victory of sacrificial love.

It is precisely this Cross of human disgrace that bears within itself the source of the exaltation of Christ in God.

“God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all other names so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2, 9-11).

To the eyes of the Apostles this was revealed through the Resurrection of Christ. At that moment they understood that Christ is the Lord, that he has been given all power in heaven and on earth. At that moment their eyes and their hearts were opened, so that the lips of Thomas could profess: “My Lord and My God”! (Jn 20, 28). And once they had come to believe, through the power of the Spirit of Truth, they were ready to go forth into the whole world to teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (cf Mt 28, 19).

6. Yes, it is through the Cross that Christ is exalted. Today’s feast of the Church speaks to us of this mystery. At the same time, it speaks of Christ who by means of the Cross lifts up humanity, lifts up all humanity and indeed all creation. “For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved” (Jn 3, 17).

Being “saved” means that every man and woman can be healed of the sin that poisoned the human family and all history. Jesus says to his Apostles after his Resurrection: “Those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven”. And as he says it he shows them the wounds of his crucifixion, to let them know that it is precisely in the Cross that the power to forgive sins is hidden, the power to heal consciences and human hearts.

Generation after generation passes. And in the midst of this passing, the Cross of Christ remains. Through the Cross, God continuously proclaims to the world the infinite love which no created evil is able to overcome. Yes, the Cross remains, so that in it the world, indeed every human person, may find the way of salvation. For it is by this Cross that the world is saved!

7. By this one holy Cross the people of Lesotho are saved. For more than a hundred years, the message of the Cross has been proclaimed here in your land. The power of the Cross has been uplifting and enriching your culture, enhancing human dignity, overcoming sin and division, touching your own lives as it did the lives of your forebears, with the healing mercy of God.

The Cross of Christ has indeed triumphed among the Basotho people. The Christian faith has taken root and brought forth abundant fruit. And yet evangelization must continue. The Good News of Christ’s Death and Resurrection must be constantly proclaimed anew, for the Church always needs to be built up in faith and charity. In a particular way, marriage and family life must be strengthened, first by preaching the real nature of Christian marriage, and then by working to overcome the false ideas and practices of society which damage human dignity and hinder the fidelity of husband and wife. This is especially urgent in a community which has to bear the strains and stresses of the absence of many fathers of families who are compelled by economic circumstances to seek employment outside the borders of Lesotho.

Educators and Catholic lay associations can make an invaluable contribution in the task of evangelization. Precisely as lay people, under the guidance of, and in collaboration with, the clergy and religious, they fulfil a vital role of handing on the Church’s great patrimony of doctrinal and moral truths. They bear witness to the Gospel of Christ by serving the poor and working for justice. And given the special role of the Church in the field of education in this Kingdom, teachers have a unique opportunity of forming their pupils in the love and knowledge of Jesus Christ. That is why the University of Roma, which was founded by the Catholic Church, has been such a blessing in this country. May those of you who have attended this University and benefited from higher education always use this precious gift to serve your brothers and sisters and build up the Body of Christ.

8. The Church in Lesotho today meditates on this wondrous mystery of the Triumph of the Cross and proclaims to all people in the words of the Psalmist: “Give heed, my people, to my teaching; turn your ear to the words of my mouth” (Ps 78 (77), 1).

And the greatest word that God has ever spoken to humanity through his only-begotten Son is the Cross, the word of the Cross. It was in this sign that the faith came to this land; it is a sign that one meets along mountain roads and the deepest valleys.

People of Lesotho, my brothers and sisters in Christ: Let us never forget the Cross, the triumphant Cross.

Let us never forget the works of the Lord! (cf Ps. 78 (77), 7). Amen."

St John Paul II's Prayer before the tomb
of Father Joseph Gérard

"God our Father,
all creation praises you,
all people delight in your presence.
You guide the course of history,
you govern all nations with order and mercy.

In your loving providence,
you called your servant, Joseph Gérard,
to imitate your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
to follow him more closely in chastity, poverty and obedience,
and to proclaim the Good News of salvation
in South Africa and in the Kingdom of Lesotho.

O Father of tenderness and love,
at this tomb of Joseph Gérard, we recall with gratitude
how you blessed your servant with a faithful spirit of prayer
that he might constantly walk in your gentle presence
and pour out his life in generous service of others.

You filled him with wisdom and apostolic zeal
that he might enlighten minds with the truth of the Gospel.

You gave your chosen one the gift of compassion
that he might offer comfort to the sick, hope to the dying,
and charity to all.

On this vigil of his beatification
we thank you, heavenly Father, Source of all holiness,
for the Gospel witness of Father Joseph Gérard.

By the help of his prayers
give us purity of heart,
strengthen us in faith,
keep us firm in hope,
inspire us to imitate his example of love.

Bless the Church in this land
with renewed vigour in serving you,
with fresh enthusiasm for evangelization,
so that always and in everything
your Name may be blessed and adored.

This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

Pope St John Paul II's address to the Members of the Episcopal Conference of Lesotho
Maseru, Wednesday 14th September 1988 - also in Italian

"My dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. It is a great joy to be with you here in your homeland. In these few hours that I have been in Lesotho, I have already begun to experience and appreciate, in a more profound way, the vibrant faith of the local Churches which you serve. Yours are “new Churches” at least in comparison with those of ancient tradition. As such, you bring to the universal Church a fresh awareness of the immense gift God has bestowed on all of us by bringing us to know and believe in his only Son, and by enabling us to share in his own divine life. “Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are” (1 Jn 3, 1). That is what we are! We are children of God, created in his own image, endowed with an inalienable dignity that knows no barriers of tribe or race, language or place of origin. We are all “one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3, 28).

Our meeting this evening is but one more expression of the unity and communion of the followers of Jesus, and more particularly of that special bond of charity and faith which unites the bishops with one another and with the Successor of Saint Peter. Together with you and your faithful people, I praise the Providence of God which has made it possible for me to come on a pastoral visit to your beloved country.

2. I am particularly pleased that I am able to be with you as you celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Catholic Church’s efforts to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the Basotho people. And it is indeed most fitting that the highlight of this celebration should be the beatification of one of those first missionaries, Father Joseph Gérard of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. What he and his companions began here in this mountain Kingdom 125 years ago was the great work of evangelization. And that work remains today – indeed it is in every land, in every age – the primary task of the Church.

Like the yeast Jesus spoke about in his own preaching, the proclamation of the Good News of salvation to the Basotho people had a very humble, almost hidden, beginning. The seed of God’s word had first to be sown in the soil of people’s minds and hearts before the new life of faith could spring up and grow.

The first Catholic missionaries numbered only three: Bishop Allard, Brother Bernard and Father Gérard. But, as that great Apostle Paul knew so well from his own experience, God’s power is at its best in weakness (cf 2 Cor 12, 9). These men sowed the seed of God’s word, and the Spirit of God made it grow. In a short time, the first converts came forward, moved by the grace of God, inspired by the Gospel message and by the holy lives of the preachers, and eager to increase in the knowledge and love of “the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 22). From these humble beginnings, the Church in Lesotho has steadily matured and borne fruit. The beatification of Father Gérard marks one more landmark in the history of evangelization in this land.

Yet, the great task of evangelization is never completed as long as we dwell on the earth. As Pope Paul VI said about the Church in his apostolic exhortation on evangelization in the modern world, “She needs to listen unceasingly to what she must believe, to her reasons for hoping, to the new commandment of love... she always needs to hear the proclamation of the ‘mighty works of God‘ which converted her to the Lord; she always needs to be called together afresh by him and reunited. In brief, this means that she has a constant need of being evangelized, if she wishes to retain freshness, vigour and strength in order to proclaim the Gospel” (EN, 15). And this remains our primary task as bishops, to give impetus in every age to the mission of proclaiming in its entirety the Good News of salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ.

3. Evangelization is a multifaceted task. It involves the evangelization of the mind, the evangelization of the heart, the evangelization of culture. It requires the active collaboration of the whole People of God, with the vital leadership of priests and religious and the special contribution of well trained catechists, all of them working in unity with the local bishop.

What is especially needed if our efforts are to bear fruit is that they be rooted in the love of Christ. If we really love him we shall be eager to make others know and love him too. Or to put it another way, our efforts to proclaim Christ and the Gospel are the measure of our love for him.

This is the secret of the success of Father Joseph Gérard: he was a man on fire with love for Jesus. His more than 60 years of missionary activity bear witness to the depth and fervour of that love. And it is my hope that the beatification of this brother priest will encourage everyone engaged in preaching and teaching God’s word, especially here in Lesotho.

4. My brothers in the Lord, I pray that this event in the life of your local Churches will bear fruit in new vocations to the religious life and the priesthood. There is no better way to ensure the continued evangelization of your people and your culture for, while everyone has a share in handing on the Good News of Jesus Christ, religious and priests play a particularly vital part.

I am aware that you have already been experiencing a most encouraging increase in religious and priestly vocations. May God continue to bless you abundantly in this regard, and I urge you to keep as a high priority the fostering of vocations. On your part, there naturally flows a great interest and active involvement in the formation of these co-workers of the Gospel. I am confident that you will continue to consider regular visits to the seminary and houses of formation, together with supervision of their entire programmes of discipline and study, as an important facet of your episcopal ministry.

Since priests are our closest collaborators in the Church, indeed our brothers and sons in Christ, it is only right that a relationship of mutual respect and fraternal support should already begin while young men are preparing for sacred ordination. At the same time, the years of seminary formation provide an excellent opportunity for you, as bishops, to instil in these future priests an enthusiasm for evangelization and a pastoral concern for all God’s people, in particular for the poor and sick.

5. While emphasizing the need for special solicitude for priests and religious, I in no way wish to overlook the pastoral care which we are called by our Saviour to give to the lay men and women of the Church.

The last Synod of Bishops held in Rome has made us all more aware of the role of the laity in the life and mission of the Church. The Synod drew attention to the need for solid religious education to continue throughout a person’s life and not only during the time of youth, education which is given through well-prepared Sunday homilies to be sure, but which also requires additional initiatives to help our brothers and sisters to fulfil their responsibility in building up the Kingdom of God in the ordinary activities of life and work.

The needs are many, and much has to be done in order to respond adequately to the challenges that have to be faced. For example, I know that the problems faced by migrant workers are a particular concern for the Church in Lesotho. I know that you have made great efforts to reach out to them and their dear ones, to assure them of the Church’s interest and love, to offer them solidarity and support in Christ. In this you have followed the magnificent example of St Paul, who once described his pastoral activity in the following words: “We felt so devoted and protective towards you, and had come to love you so much, that we were eager to hand over to you not only the Good News but our whole lives as well” (1 Thess 2, 8).

Yes, the temporal needs of people are part of the Church’s concern. Whatever affects our daily life affects our relationship with God and influences our readiness and ability to cooperate with grace and mercy. Thus, the Church teaches that “earthly progress is of vital concern to the Kingdom of God to the extent that it can contribute to the better ordering of human society” (Gaudium et Spes, 39). Your own endeavours to promote justice and true development are undoubtedly an authentic response to the demands of the Gospel.

6. I also want to support you in your efforts to strengthen and enrich marriage and family life. As the Second Vatican Council reminded us, the family is the “domestic Church” and the “beginning and foundation of society” (cf Apostolicam Actuositatem, 11). Thus the vitality and stability of our families are a measure of the vitality and stability of society, and a major factor in the Church’s daily life. Whatever in society harms the family at the same time harms the Church. Whatever in a culture enriches the family enriches the Church as well. That is why a deep love for the Church always urges us as pastors of the People of God to exercise particular care for the family.

At the heart of the family lies the lifelong communion of husband and wife, a communion of life and love which begins with the free and informed consent of both the woman and the man. As Jesus reminded his listeners, the marriage covenant brings it about that husband and wife “are no longer two but one flesh” (cf Mt 19, 6). They are united by a freely made promise of mutual self-giving. They are called to deepen every day of their lives this indissoluble communion of love. It is their joy and their responsibility to share with each other what they have and what they are, all their hopes, their sorrows and their joys.

We pastors of the Church serve married couples by ensuring that the Church’s teaching on the nature of marriage is clearly understood, and by helping them to be faithful to it through the word of God and the sacramental ministry. It is also our task to protect the family from practices or common misunderstandings which are harmful to conjugal fidelity and to the dignity of man and woman.

7. Dear brothers in Christ, our episcopal ministry is truly an awesome responsibility, one that the Lord has given to us not because we are worthy but according to his own providence and mercy. As we seek to be faithful to him in the service of the Church which we love, we come to see in an ever deeper way the wisdom of the words of Mary in the Magnificat. “The Almighty has done great things... Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him” (Lk 1, 49-50).

Yes, “the Almighty has done great things”. His Providence brought to Lesotho Father Gérard and his companions. That same Providence has made fruitful your own pastoral endeavours as bishops and the whole work of evangelization.

On this my pastoral visit to Lesotho, I gladly offer you my fraternal encouragement and prayerful support. And I willingly join you in praising the goodness of God: “Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age”."

St John Paul II's homily at Mass with the Beatification of Joseph Gérard
Maseru Racecourse, Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, Thursday 15th September 1988 - also in Italian

""My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord" (Lk 1, 46).

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. On the day after the feast of the Triumph of the Cross of Christ the liturgy of the Church directs our attention towards her who is found at the foot of the Cross, to the Mother of Christ, Mary.

She stood at the foot of the Cross together with three other women and with John, the disciple whom Christ loved. The Second Vatican Council teaches us that Mary is found there, at the foot of the Cross, “in keeping with the divine plan” (Lumen Gentium, 58).

Indeed in a certain sense this was the climax in her life’s pilgrimage, the moment for which the Holy Spirit had been preparing her throughout her entire existence and especially from the time of the Annunciation. It was the culmination of her pilgrimage of faith, of hope and of that special union with Jesus, her Son, the Redeemer of the world.

At the beginning of this pilgrimage, we hear Mary say in the house of her kinswoman Elizabeth, when she speaks of the great things the Almighty has done for her: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord”. At the foot of the Cross, “a sword pierces Mary’s soul”, fulfilling the words of Simeon (cf Lk 2, 35).

And yet, Mary does not cease to believe. The great works of God are accomplished precisely through this Cross, through the Sacrifice of the life of her Son. And united to the redemptive Sacrifice of her Son is the maternal sacrifice of her heart.

2. The Church leads us today into the very centre of the Heart of Mary, into the intimate mystery of her union with her Son, a union which here, at the foot of the Cross, reaches its particular fullness.

In the Letter to the Hebrews we read that Christ, while being Son of God, one in being with the Father, “learned to obey through suffering” (Heb 5, 8). And precisely through this obedience even to death on the Cross “he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation” (Heb 5, 9).

At the moment of the Annunciation Mary first spoke her “fiat”.

She said: “Let what you have said be done to me”. And with new strength of faith and trust in God she repeated this “fiat” at the foot of the Cross! This was her maternal sharing in the redemptive obedience of her Son as he offered his life on the Cross for the sins of the world.

At the foot of the Cross Mary never ceased to praise the wondrous mercy of God, the mercy which endures “from generation to generation”. And she did not cease to proclaim the saving “power of his arm”, which puts down the proud and raises the lowly. Like no other person on earth, Mary was able to penetrate the Paschal Mystery of Christ; she understood it with her heart.

3. And therefore the Church sees the Mother of God as the one who “preceded in the pilgrimage of faith” all the People of God on earth. In this faith she became a true daughter of Abraham; indeed she even surpassed him whom St Paul calls “the Father of all believers” (Rom 4, 11). Her pilgrimage of faith has done something even greater: it has enabled us to enter ever more profoundly into the inscrutable mysteries of God.

The Church in your country, in Lesotho, here in Maseru, as does the Church throughout the earth, goes forward on this same pilgrimage of faith, the pilgrimage on which the Mother of God has gone before us. Today the Bishop of Rome meets you on this pilgrimage. He stands in your midst and celebrates with you the Eucharistic Sacrifice on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.

4. It is with great joy that I join you in prayer today, my brothers and sisters of the Church in Lesotho. I know that many of you have had to make many sacrifices in order to be here, and I assure you of my happiness and gratitude that you have come. Your presence at this Liturgy is a sign of your love for the Church and an expression of your willingness to bear witness to the Kingdom of Christ.

I am also aware that many people would have liked to be with us, but have been unable to do so: the sick and suffering, those who live too far away, those who are too young or too old. To all of them I say with deep affection: the Pope embraces you and loves you in the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

My fraternal greetings go to Archbishop Morapeli of Maseru and to the bishops of the other dioceses of Lesotho. With them, I greet all your dedicated priests and religious, your catechists and all the members of your Christian families.

I greet our non-Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ and all people of good will, and I thank you for joining us on this historic occasion. I offer very cordial greetings to those who have come from beyond the borders of this country.

In a very special way, I greet the people of South Africa where Blessed Joseph Gérard laboured in Natal and the eastern Free State.

As members of one family, united in the love of Jesus, we rejoice today in the everlasting mercy of God who has granted us the gift of faith and made us a people of hope, a people on pilgrimage to the eternal Kingdom of God.

5. This day has a particular significance for the journey of faith which the Church in Lesotho is making. For today we celebrate the Beatification of the Servant of God, Joseph Gérard.

In the First Reading of the Liturgy, taken from the book of Genesis, we hear God calling Abraham to set out on a journey of faith, to set out on a road that will take him away from all that he has ever known and loved, to put all his trust in the promise of the Lord.

Father Gérard heard God addressing to him a similar call of faith. As in the case of Abraham, the Lord said to the young Frenchman named Joseph, “Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you” (Gen 12, 1). And he went promptly, as the Lord told him. He followed God’s call. He placed all his trust in the promise he had heard from on high.

The land that God showed Blessed Joseph was Africa, more precisely the land of South Africa, and then some years laser the land of the Basotho people. To this land, this Kingdom of Lesotho, he came as a man of faith. He came because he had been called and sent to proclaim the Kingdom of God.

6. From an early age, Joseph Gérard had been convinced that God was calling him to be a missionary. His heart overflowed with gratitude for the gift of the Christian life, and he longed to share with others this treasure, this priceless pearl, the infinite riches of knowing Jesus Christ. And it was this constant zeal for evangelization that shaped every stage of his long life.

Upon his arrival in Lesotho together with Bishop Allard and Brother Bernard he at once set about learning the language and customs of the Basotho people. He tried to understand their way of thinking, their sensitivities, their hopes and desires. He was eager to understand their very souls, so that he could decide on the best methods to use in preaching to them the Good News of salvation.

Father Gérard and his companions began their apostolic work at the mission called Roma. They gave themselves wholeheartedly and sacrificially to the task, relying completely on the grace of the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit of God soon brought forth fruit. Only a few years later, in 1866, a second mission at Korokoro was established. And in 1868 yet a third mission dedicated to Saint Michael was begun.

In obedience to his superior, Father Gérard went to the northern part of the country in 1876, where he founded the mission of Saint Monica. For the next twenty years and more he laboured there untiringly, establishing a convent and school, and building other missions in the surrounding area. In all his pastoral endeavours and plans, he placed all his hope in God, remembering the words spoken at his priestly ordination, namely that God who began the good work in him would bring it to completion.

Wherever Blessed Joseph Gérard went, he lived his missionary vocation with extraordinary apostolic fervour. His love for God, which burned ever more ardently in his heart, showed itself in practical love of neighbour. Above all he is remembered for his special care for the sick and suffering. Through frequent visits and his gentle manner, he always seemed to bring them fresh courage and hope. For those near the hour of death he found the right words to prepare them to meet God peacefully, face to face.

The secret of his holiness, the key to his joy and zeal, was the simple fact that he lived continually in the presence of God. Blessed Joseph’s whole life was caught up in the love of the Holy Trinity. People wanted to be near to Father Gérard because he always seemed near to God. He was filled with a spirit of prayer, nourished daily by the Liturgy of the Hours and by frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament. He had a fervent devotion to the Mother of God and the Saints. During his long and difficult journeys to outlying missions and the homes of the sick, he conversed continually with his beloved Lord. It is undoubtedly this vivid sense of being always in the presence of God that explains his lifelong fidelity to his religious vows of chastity, poverty and obedience and to his obligations as a priest.

God blessed Father Gérard with a long life of apostolic service. He granted him the grace to see over half a century of the unfolding evangelization of Lesotho. Father Gérard is certainly rejoicing today at the vitality of the Church in this country which was so dear to his heart: its bishops are native sons, there is an increasing number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, the active laity numbers more than 600,000 people, including 140,000 studying in Catholic schools. But with his missionary spirit, would he not still encourage us today to carry on with fresh enthusiasm the many-sided task of proclaiming the Gospel of Christ?

7. Here in Lesotho you have a traditional greeting: Khotso, Pula, Nala, – peace, rain and abundance. Blessed Joseph Gérard must have often prayed for these same blessings, he must have often uttered this same greeting in this land. Above all, he always tried to be a servant of reconciliation and peace, for this is an essential part of evangelization.

To evangelize means to proclaim the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the whole world, to tell the story of how “God wanted all perfection to be found in him and all things to be reconciled through him and for him, everything in heaven and everything on earth, by his death on the Cross” (Col 1, 19-20). The first step of evangelization is to accept the grace of conversion into our own minds and hearts, to let ourselves be reconciled to God. We must first experience God’s gracious mercy, the love of Christ which has “reconciled us to himself” and given us “the work of handing on this reconciliation” (2 Cor 5-18).

As the twentieth century draws to a close and as your country looks to the future, this is the special gift and the greatest responsibility which the members of the Church offer to their fellow citizens, to be servants of reconciliation and peace, after the example of Blessed Joseph Gérard.

Always believe in the power of love and truth: the love of neighbour which is rooted in the love of God and the truth which sets people free. Reject violence as a solution to any situation, no matter how unjust it may be. Put your trust in the methods that respect the rights of all and that are fully in accordance with the Gospel. Above all, trust in the God of justice, who created all things, who sees all human events, who holds in his hands the destiny of every person and of every nation.

8. Dear brothers and sisters: I rejoice with you on this solemn day of celebration. It is a day of great importance in your pilgrimage of faith and hope, a day of jubilation on the journey to union with Christ which the People of God in this land are making. Let us give thanks to the most holy God for this day. Let us sing, together with Mary: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my Saviour” (Lk 1, 46-47).

Together with Mary and with Blessed Joseph Gérard, let all the people of Lesotho exult in God our Saviour. Yes, all of you: young and old, children and parents, workers and teachers, priests and religious, the handicapped and the sick. Let us all praise the Lord with grateful voices, for the Almighty has done great things for us. Holy is his name!

9. Yet, at the same time, let the eyes of our faith never wander from the Cross of Calvary.

We read in the Gospel: “Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son’. Then to the disciple he said, 'This is your mother'. And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home” (Jn 19, 26-27).

My fervent wish for all of you, dear brothers and sisters, is that the word of John’s Gospel may be fulfilled in you.

May each of you discover Mary as your Mother.

May each of you seek to be a son, a daughter, of Mary, who at the foot of the Cross becomes in a particular way for us the “Mother of Divine Grace”.

May each of you “make a place for her in your home”, and even more so in your heart, every day and throughout your life, especially at those times of trial and suffering.

May the memory of this blessed day be inscribed for ever in the history of this city and this country, in the history of the whole continent of Africa.

Blessed Joseph Gérard, pray for us; lead us to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, our Mother in faith. Amen. "

St John Paul II's Act of Entrustment of
Lesotho to Mary
Maseru Racecourse, Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, Thursday 15th September 1988 

"O Mary, Mother of our Redeemer, Mother of the Church, at the end of this celebration of the Eucharist, we turn to you with confidence and love. On this feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, we remember your own sharing in the suffering and death of Christ your Son.

O Mother of Sorrows, it was precisely at the hour of your Son’s death that you became by a new title our Mother, Mother of all the faithful. For your loving Son said to you, as you stood at the foot of the Cross, “Woman, this is your son!”

From that moment onwards and throughout the course of human history, you are the Mother not only of the beloved disciple but of every member of the Church. You are our gentle Mother. You care for us all as your dear children. In fact, you see in each of us the face of your beloved Jesus And you intercede with him on our behalf, for our good and the Redemption of the world.

Today, dearest Mother, I entrust to you all those present at this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and all the people living in this mountain Kingdom. I entrust them to you with complete confidence and love.

O Mother of Sorrows, I bring before you the sick and the elderly and all who are burdened by sin. I know they will find in you a safe harbour and a consoling help. You will bring them tenderly but surely to the foot of the Triumphant Cross.

O Immaculate Heart of Mary, so filled with love for your Son, I entrust to you the youth of Lesotho in whose eyes the future shines. Protect them from the evil one. Enable them to see that only your Son is” the Way and the Truth and the Life”, only in him is there a future full of hope and a life truly founded on love.

O Blessed Virgin of Nazareth, I place before you the families of the Basotho people, all married couples who with their children are called to form a lifelong communion of love. Keep them pure and chaste, ever faithful to one another, always faithful, as you were, to the life-giving word of God.

O Mary, Model of holiness and first disciple of your Son, I entrust to your gentle care the Church in Lesotho. As it rejoices in a century and a quarter of evangelization and in the beatification of Father Joseph Gérard, lead your sons and daughters in the way of constant conversion, along the path of spiritual renewal. Pray for this local Church, so dear to the Successor of Peter, so dear to your own Immaculate Heart. Help our brothers and sisters to come to believe with conviction what you believed at the foot of the Cross: that human death is not the final word, for the final word belongs to God, the God of love and mercy, the God who has saved the world through the victorious Cross of your Son. Amen."

St John Paul II's words to Young People
Pitso Grounds, Maseru, Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, Thursday 15th September 1988 - also in Italian

"1. Bacha ba Lesotho, kea le rata!
(Young people of Lesotho, I love you!)

Bacha ba Lesotho, kea le rata!
(Young people of Lesotho, I love you!)

Bacha ba Lesotho, ka le rata haholo!
(Young people of Lesotho, I love you very much!)

My dear Young People of Lesotho,
I am very happy to be with you this afternoon. Thank you for your warm welcome. Thank you for your love for Jesus and the Church. I am grateful for this opportunity to listen to you and speak to you, to hear what you wish to say to me in your words, in your songs and in our being together.

My time in Lesotho has truly been a time of celebration: a time to give thanks to God for the gift of our faith in Christ, a time to praise God for the faithful witness of Blessed Joseph Gérard, a time to ask the Lord’s blessings on the future of the Church in this country. And I see in you that future, a future full of hope. It is a future built on the wonderful blessing of knowing and loving the Lord Jesus Christ.

By your Baptism, you were given this gift of faith, the same faith that nourished the soul of Bl Joseph Gérard, the same faith that he handed on to your ancestors and which you in turn must hand on. Faith is our great treasure, faith in Christ the Lord, and it is this treasure that holds the key to the future. And so, as we begin, let us make our own the words of the Psalm which we have just prayed together: “I will hear what the Lord God has to say”. Yes, let us listen to the Lord who loves us all.

2. Dear young friends, faith comes from listening to the Lord. And it grows through continuous listening – listening to the word of God, listening to his Body, the Church. That is why it is so important that, early in life, you should develop a habit of listening, above all to “what the Lord God has to say”. Like Bl Joseph Gérard, every member of the Church should become a lifelong student of the word of God. Many young people today find it helpful to study the Gospel together in small groups. In this way they profit from one another’s insights and learn to apply the inspired word to daily life and problems. And yet nothing can ever take the place of personal meditation on God’s word: nothing can take the place of that one-to-one dialogue between myself and the Lord.

By listening to the word of God, you will discover your own identity, you will come to know yourself as God knows you. Scripture says: “You are God’s chosen race, his saints: he loves you” (Col 3, 12). In God’s eyes, that is who you are. You are each called by name and you are loved by God with an everlasting love. This is the truth we learn in faith.

3. By listening to the word of God, you will hear “a voice that speaks of peace”. Yes, to his faithful people God speaks words of peace. For he is the source of reconciliation. He is the living foundation of peace, especially that peace which comes through God’s gift of conversion.

We human beings could never attain peace and reconciliation through our own efforts and plans. We must begin by listening “to what the Lord God has to say, a voice that speaks of peace”. And then we must act on what we hear. For listening leads to action. Far from being something merely passive, listening spurs us on to serve the needs of others, to break down barriers of prejudice and hostility, to become servants of reconciliation and peace. And this begins in concrete ways, like those suggested by St Paul in the reading we have just listened to: “You should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience” (Col 3, 12). To be servants of peace for others, we must nourish in our own hearts these virtues recommended by the Apostle.

4. Above all, if peace is to reign in your hearts, you must renounce every form of violence and hatred. Violence only begets further violence. Hatred closes us off from others, making communication and reconciliation impossible. The increase of violence in the world can never be halted by responding with more of the same. But it can be disarmed by the response of love, not a sentimental love that is nothing more than emotion, but a love that is rooted in God, a love like that of Christ, a love that remains non-violent.

Some people may say to you that the choice of non-violence is, in the end, a passive acceptance of situations of injustice. They may claim that it is cowardly not to use violence against what is wrong, or to refuse to defend with violence the oppressed. But nothing could be further from the truth. There is nothing passive about non-violence when it is chosen out of love. It has nothing to do with indifference. It has everything to do with actively seeking to “resist evil and conquer it with good”, as St Paul urges (Rom 12, 21). To choose non-violence means to make a courageous choice in love, a choice which includes the active defence of human rights and a firm commitment to justice and ordered development.

In making this choice, the first course of action is prayer. For unless the Lord guides our steps we soon lose the way. If our efforts are not rooted in God and his will, then everything we do is useless. As the Psalmist says: “If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labour; if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil” (Ps 127(126), 1). Prayer keeps us rooted in the Lord; prayer keeps our faith bright and burning; prayer leads to action that is in harmony with the designs of God.

5. If peace is to reign in your hearts, you must be willing to forgive, to forgive completely and sincerely. No community can survive without forgiveness. No family can live in harmony, no friendship can endure, without repeated forgiveness. Forgiveness is a free and undeserved gift that God offers to us so that we in turn can offer it to others. To forgive is to open the door to a new beginning. It makes possible a communion in love based on truth and compassion. Forgiveness lets go of hurtful memories from the past and hopes in a future built on what is right and good. It makes possible reconciliation and peace.

I urge you, then, in your personal lives as well as in your family and in society, to follow the advice of St Paul. He exhorts us in these words: “Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same” (Col 3, 13). Yes, let your faith, which depends on the mercy of God and on his gift of forgiveness, foster in your own hearts a constant readiness to forgive.

6. If peace is to reign in your hearts, one thing more is needed: you must put your faith into practice by working for justice and the good of others, especially for the good of the family.

In Lesotho, as in other countries today, the vocation of marriage is facing an increasing number of obstacles. Irregular unions are rising at an alarming rate, often as the result of evils such as “chobelo” or “chobeliso”, elopement or abduction. Such practices are contrary to Christian morality and to the demands of human dignity. They do not lead to lasting personal happiness, nor to any form of stability in marriage; they are a recipe for disaster.

One of the underlying problems is a loss of appreciation of the virtue of chastity. How important it is to recover this virtue in our own time, for chastity helps us to harmonize all the dimensions of our sexuality and thus to live joyfully in accordance with God’s will. While chastity demands a habit of self-discipline, it is also a gift of the Holy Spirit who lives in our bodies as in a temple.

Christian family life is a reflection of the life of the Blessed Trinity, where there is mutual giving and receiving of love among the three Divine Persons. The family is a kind of little Church where this love of the Blessed Trinity and love of neighbour are learned and can grow strong. The Christian vocation will call you as adults to make sacrifices to protect the divine institution of the family and to seek to remedy all the social ills which threaten its integrity. I therefore encourage you, during this time of your youth, to prepare well for the serious responsibilities of family life.

What is needed is a preparation based upon a continuing conversation with Christ. In his Church, Christ will teach you about the Sacrament of Marriage, about the intimate communion of life and love which is an image of the loving union of Christ and the Church (cf Eph 5, 21-35). Christian marriage is based on a free and mature consent of the wife as well as of the husband, and thus any form of abduction or constraint is clearly opposed to the will of God and to the equal dignity of man and woman.

Dear young friends, let the Lord Jesus teach you about love, for he himself is the source of all love. The human being cannot live without love, and yet how easily our understanding of love can be distorted, especially by selfishness and pride, as well as by the empty slogans and false attractions of materialistic society. That is why I urge you again, as I did in my apostolic letter to young people: “Do not be afraid of the love that places clear demands on people. These demands – as you find them in the constant teaching of the Church – are precisely capable of making your love a true love” (Dilecti Amici, VIII).

I also wish to encourage those of you whom the Lord is calling to follow him in the priesthood or the religious life. I say to you: be generous. The words of Jesus remain only too true: “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few” (Mt 9, 37). I have no doubt that Christ is calling some of you, perhaps many of you, to serve him and his people as his priests and religious. Be eager and willing to respond to his call! Remember the example of Bl Joseph Gérard. See all the good you can accomplish and the joy that will be yours when you follow in the footsteps of Christ the Lord.

7. Dear young people of Lesotho, how good it is to be with you in your beautiful land. When I leave this country I shall carry with me many happy memories of this meeting with the future leaders of Lesotho; and I shall remember all the special moments of this pastoral visit, especially the beatification of Father Joseph Gérard. Before closing, I want to leave you with one last appeal: let Christ be your model in life. Yes, let him be your only standard and measure, Christ who is “the Way, and the Truth, and the Life” (Jn 14, 16). Do not settle for anything less than Christ. May he guide you, protect you and keep you safe in his love. May Christ be your joy and your crown. “May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called” (Col 3, 15).

Praised be Jesus Christ!"

Pope St John Paul II's address to Priests, Religious & Seminarians
Cathedral of Maseru, Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, Thursday 15th September 1988 - also in Italian

"“Ho rorisoe Jesu Kriste”!

Dear Brothers and Sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ,
1. It gives me great pleasure to greet you with that beautiful greeting which Blessed Joseph Gérard taught to his first converts and which has become an honoured tradition among Catholic people of this country. Yes, praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! And praised be his Blessed Mother, especially today as we meet in this splendid church dedicated to her under the title of “Our Lady of Victories”.

Dear brother priests, dear Brothers and Sisters in religious life and my dear seminarians: After having celebrated the Mass of Beatification this morning, I am very pleased to have this time, laser in the same day, to be with you who are so dear to my heart. The beatification of Father Joseph Gérard, a priest and a religious, is truly a landmark in the history of Lesotho. It is a sign of God’s loving providence at work in your midst. This is indeed a time to celebrate and give thanks to the Lord of history and the God of love who has called each of you by name and given you a share in his own divine life. And an important way of giving thanks to God is to recall the events of the past which have served as the channels of his blessings.

In the first place, we remember al the dedicated missionary priests and religious of the past – those men and women of strong faith and burning love who left behind their families and friends, their own cultures and homelands, to bring the Gospel of Christ to the beloved people of this land. Those pioneer missionaries travelled through the mountains of this beautiful kingdom, sowing the seed of the Christian faith and laying firm foundations for a strong and vibrant Church. The very memory of those priests and religious calls to mind the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of one who brings good news, who heralds peace, brings happiness, proclaims salvation” (Is 52, 7).

Indeed, “how beautiful the feet of one who brings good news”! And that is what priests and religious are called to do. We must be joyful heralds of the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the rich heritage which is passed on to you today by the missionaries who have served in this land. Beginning with Father Joseph Gérard and his companions, the tradition of dedication to the preaching of God’s word and the work of total human development and liberation has been generously carried on by generations of priests and religious, most of them from foreign lands. To all those men and women of God we pay special tribute today. Through their labours, the Church in Lesotho has experienced amazing growth, in numbers and in works. The history of your country bears witness to the important contribution of priests and men and women religious, zealously working in many sectors of life, announcing Good News, heralding peace, bringing happiness, proclaiming salvation.

2. And now a new era is beginning in the life of the Church in Lesotho, a new stage in the great task of evangelization. It is a time marked by gratitude for the past and yet a readiness to face new challenges of the present and future, a time when the sons and daughters of Lesotho are now taking the place of many foreign missionaries, answering the call of Christ to carry on the Church’s pastoral care in continuity with what has gone before. Like Saint Paul, the missionaries “succeeded as an architect and laid the foundations, on which someone else is doing the building” (1 Cor 3, 10). The missionaries are still needed since they play an extremely important role, but it is right that ever greater responsibility should be assumed by the native sons and daughters of this land. At the same time, I rejoice that the Church here is now sending missionaries, especially women religious, to other lands. This too proclaims the abundant fruitfulness of the love of Christ in your midst.

As the Second Vatican Council taught, “The work of planting the Church in a given community of people reaches a kind of milestone when the community of the faithful, already rooted in social life and considerably adapted to the local culture, enjoys a certain stability and firmness. This means that the community is now equipped with its own supply, insufficient though it be, of local priests, religious and laity...” (Ad Gentes, 19). The Church in Lesotho has reached this milestone with the help of God’s grace and the efforts of many people. And the beatification of Father Joseph Gérard signals the attainment of a certain Christian maturity, a maturity that proclaims the greatness of God’s loving providence and the fruitfulness of divine grace at work in hearts that believe, a maturity that signals the local Church’s readiness for a new era of growth in Christ.

The Church in Lesotho, which has taken root so marvellously in this land, must now deepen the gift of faith and carry on the unending task of evangelization, particularly in those sectors which the Gospel has not yet reached. The laity must be helped to further the Kingdom of God in the ordinary events of daily existence. The family must be strengthened in unity and in its vital mission of life and love. Society must be uplifted and purified by the Gospel; social evils must be opposed and overcome, with justice and equality firmly established and secured by law. Then there are the special needs of young people, the elderly, the sick and the disabled. And the responsibility for this great enterprise falle, in a special way, upon the shoulders of you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, the priests and future priests, the men and women religious, whom God has called to serve him and his people in this land.

3. Remember the words of our Saviour: “You did not choose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last” (Jn 15, 16). Christ has called you to be his “friends”. Christ has sent you forth. Christ has entrusted to you the work of evangelization. Of course, every baptized person receives this charge and has a part to play. But in a particular way the Lord asks you, priests and religious, to take the lead in proclaiming the Good News of salvation and in bearing public witness to the Gospel. To you he says, as he said to the Apostles: “Teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time” (Mt 28, 30).

Yes, the Lord is with you always. Never forget these reassuring words. May they be your consolation and your strength, your inspiration and your joy. The Lord is with you always, in whatever service you perform within the Church: in prayer, in the apostolate and in all your efforts on behalf of justice. Above all, the Lord is with you in the liturgical assembly. For this reason you must all be men and women of the Eucharist. For as the Church teaches: “The other sacraments, as well as every ministry of the Church and every work of the apostolate, are linked with the Holy Eucharist and are directed towards it. For the most Blessed Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth, that is, Christ himself” (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 5).

In your communion with Christ you will find the strength to fulfil your mission in the Church. In Lesotho, as in any other country, this will mean an evangelization of your culture, that is an evangelization of your customs and traditions, your arts, your music, all those natural qualities and values that make up your society. All of these things should be purified and enriched by the light and power of the Gospel.

But how does one evangelize a culture? How does one assist the work of the Holy Spirit in your midst? One begins by evangelizing people, for culture is produced by people and is shaped by the quality of the relationships that they have with one another and with God. And thus the first step is to evangelize as Jesus himself did, namely by calling people to conversion. Remember the first words of Jesus in his public ministry, as recorded in the Gospel according to Saint Mark: “The time has come” he said, “and the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News” (Mk 1, 15). The Christian life, in fact, entails constant conversion. A special help in doing this is the regular reception of the Sacrament of Penance. Every aspect of our personal and social life must be purified and inspired by the truth and love of Christ. Only then can the laws and institutions of society be made to conform to the demands of justice and human dignity. It takes time to change attitudes and practices, but indeed they can be changed. With the help of God’s grace and the power of Christ’s Death and Resurrection, each of us can put on the mind and heart of our Lord and God.

4. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ: the mission you have received from God is indeed a vital one for the Church and for the world, a mission that will undoubtedly involve a share in the Cross of Christ and at the same time a share in his risen life. As Saint Paul reminds us: “It is all God’s work. It was God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the work of handing on this reconciliation” (2 Cor 5, 18).

We must never forget this truth: “God reconciled us to himself. Our vocation began as God’s work, God’s gift of reconciliation and communion with himself. In grateful appreciation of this gift, make every effort to preserve and deepen your union with God, especially through daily prayer and a joyful imitation of Jesus in his chastity, poverty and obedience. This is the secret of a fruitful ministry in the Church; it is the path that Blessed Joseph Gérard followed in his long life of priestly service. Jesus himself has told us: “Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15, 5).

Our communion with Christ will necessarily overflow in loving communion with one another. This is the commandment Jesus gave to his disciples: “Love one another, as I have loved you” (Jn 15, 12). Among priests, there exists a special brotherhood rooted in their sacramental ordination. Thus it is only natural that they should love one another as brothers, support one another, in the ministry of word and sacrament, and make constant efforts to encourage one another through prayer, charity and mute help.

Already in the seminary this spirit of priestly fraternity should have its beginning. Indeed, one of the purposes of priestly formation is to foster in each seminarian the human and spiritual qualities that will enable him to be an effective minister of reconciliation and a genuine brother in Christ to the other priests of his diocesan presbyterate.

Of course, religious life offers countless opportunities for growing in love not only of God but also of one another. Common prayer and a corporate apostolate are just two examples of ways that religious live a community life, rooted in mutual charity. Even more important for a deep spirit of brotherhood or sisterhood is the “oneness of mind and heart” that is fostered by their shared pursuit of holiness, their communal charism and their lifelong commitment to follow Christ in keeping with the Gospel and the Constitutions of their specific institute.

As God’s “chosen ones” and as servants of the Church, all of you, priests and seminarians, religious Sisters and Brothers, are called to build up and strengthen the unity of all who believe in Christ. Special efforts are at times needed to foster fruitful collaboration between the clergy and religious or between different religious institutes. The laity must be accepted as true brothers and sisters in Christ, with a vital role in the mission of the Church and with a right to our friendship and encouragement. And no ministry in the Church can have lasting fruit if it is not carried out in faithful collaboration with the local bishop, in communion with the universal Church.

5. My brothers and sisters: I will close these remarks by making my own the exhortation of Saint Paul to Timothy: “Fan into a flame the gift that God gave you... God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord... but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God” (2 Tim 1, 6-8).

Never be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord!

Both in word and in deed, bear witness before the world to the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And may the Blessed Virgin Mary and Blessed Joseph Gérard help you by their prayers and heavenly protection.

God bless you all."

Pope St John Paul II's address at an Ecumenical Meeting
Catholic Community Centre, Maseru, Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, Thursday 15th September 1988 - also in Italian

"Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 1, 2).

It is a joy for me to have this opportunity to meet the representatives of other Ecclesial Communities in Lesotho. As you know, a very special reason why I wanted to come to your country was to celebrate here the beatification of Blessed Joseph Gérard, one of the first Catholic missionaries to the Basotho people. But, at the same time, I felt it was important that this pastoral visit have an ecumenical dimension. For, even before the first Catholic missionaries arrived in Lesotho, other Christians had already begun here the work of evangelization. And throughout the years, right up to the present moment, you and your Catholic brothers and sisters have sought to serve the Lord in this land. At the same time, however, you have experienced here, as elsewhere in the world, the sad phenomenon of disunity among Christians. Yet, you have also experienced an ever greater desire for overcoming the obstacles and divisions of the past and of reaching, in the future, that complete unity for which Christ himself prayed.

I trust that this prayer service today will give encouragement to all those who are committed to the ecumenical movement and I pray that it will hasten the day when we shall be fully one in Christ, with a oneness like that which Jesus asked of his Father when he said: “May they be so completely one that the world will realize that it was you who sent me and that I have loved them as much as you loved me” (Io. 17, 23).

2. In the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, the great Apostle to the Gentiles tells the people, “it is clear that there are serious differences among you” (1Cor. 1, 11). Factions had grown up within that local Church, factions which threatened the faith and communion of the members. Saint Paul wished to do all he could to see that these were overcome. And so he wrote: “I do appeal to you, brothers, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to make up the differences between you, and instead of disagreeing among yourselves, to be united again in your belief and practice” (Ibid. 1, 10).

What Saint Paul desired for the Christians at Corinth was that they should overcome their divisions and seek the grace of sincere conversion. For, without this personal change of heart, conflicts and disagreements could never be overcome, unity in belief and practice could never be restored.

At the Second Vatican Council, the bishops of the Catholic Church spoke of the same need for conversion in order to make ecumenical progress. They taught: “There can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without a change of heart. For it is from newness of attitudes, from self-denial and unstilted love, that yearnings for unity take their rise and grow towards maturity” (Cfr. Eph. 4, 23).

For us, then, the ecumenical effort begins in humble prayer, asking our God, who is rich in mercy, to forgive our sins, enlighten our minds and give us the grace of a change of heart.

3. Such a conversion means turning away from sin and turning towards the truth, the fullness of truth that Christ reveals. With the words of the Psalm, we say to God: “Indeed you love truth in the heart; then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom” (Unitatis Redintegratio, 7). This personal search for truth, begun in prayer and aided by study, makes possible one of the important activities of the ecumenical movement, namely, the practice of dialogue.

Dialogue aims at bringing about that communion of mind and heart which is modelled on the inner life of the Blessed Trinity. The first steps, which are often painstakingly slow, require patience and perseverance. Misunderstandings from the past must be overcome and a better understanding of each other must be fostered. We must learn to speak to one another in honesty and in fraternal charity, with a desire to pursue and embrace the fullness of God’s truth. In this endeavour, clarity is an expression of charity, which the Second Vatican Council wisely suggested, saying: “It is...essential that doctrine be clearly presented in its entirety. Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false conciliatory approach...”.

We must proceed, then, with the art of dialogue, remaining faithful to what the Spirit of God has already done in our lives and in our communities, and confident that, if we ask God in faith, “in the secret of our hearts he will teach us wisdom”.

4. Within the Christian Council of Lesotho, you seek to create a forum for pursuing this ecumenical dialogue and also for promoting fraternal cooperation in projects which serve the common good. Such collaboration manifests the real, although imperfect, unity in Christ which we already share. And it can increase our effectiveness in serving the poor and needy after the example of Jesus our Lord, who tells us “in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me”.

Of particular value are those instances when Christians of diverse traditions stand together in the name of Christ to defend and promote the dignity and rights of the human person, regardless of race or tribe or social status. Such common action on behalf of justice and equality bears witness to the Gospel and serves the human family as a whole.

So many other areas of mutual cooperation remain open to us, such as direct assistance to the sick and suffering, support for family life, and efforts to promote reconciliation and peace. In a developing country such as Lesotho, certainly the work of fostering integral human development is a fertile field for working together as brothers and sisters in our one Lord and Saviour.

5. Dear friends in Christ: let us keep before our eyes at all times the Cross of our Lord and Redeemer, for in the Crucified Saviour those who “used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ”.

To be sure, the path to full unity in faith and charity is long and difficult. We cannot expect to reach the end without much prayer and penance. By the grace of God, however, we have already come a long way. Real progress has been made.

In God’s good time, Christ’s prayer for perfect unity will be fully answered. Christ has already conquered the power of sin which is the cause of all division. We must not grow weary or give up the struggle until the goal we so desire has been achieved. In particular, let us never cease to pray with joyful hope, opening our hearts in trust to receive the manifold gifts of the Spirit.

What the Spirit brings to us are all the gifts that shall accompany full communion in Christ, the gifts of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control”.

And as Saint Paul assures us, “There can be no law against things like that... Since the Spirit of our life, let us be directed by the Spirit”.

Yes, let us follow the Spirit’s lead, the Holy Spirit who has been given to us in Baptism, the “Advocate” who always pleads our cause, the “Spirit of truth whom the world can never receive”, the Spirit whom Jesus sends to lead us “to complete truth”.

My friends in Christ, I bid you farewell using the words of Saint Paul: “In the meantime, brothers, we wish you happiness; try to grow perfect; help one another. Be united; live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you”. "

St John Paul II's address during his visit to King Moshoeshoe II
Maseru, Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, Thursday 15th September 1988 - also in French, Italian & Spanish

"Your Majesty King Moshoeshoe II, Your Majesty Queen ‘Mamohato,
Your Excellency, Chairman of the Military Council and of the Council of Ministers,
My brother Bishops, Members of the Military Council and Ministers of the Government,
Mr Chief Justice, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Distinguished Officials of the Government,
Beloved People of Lesotho,

To all of you I say: “Khotso! Pula! Nala!”

1. It gives me great joy to be in Lesotho. Indeed, as the Psalmist says in the Bible, “This is the day which the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it!” (Ps 118, 24). Thank you, Your Majesty, for your words of welcome. I appreciate your kind invitation to visit your country and I am also grateful to the Catholic Bishops of Lesotho who have likewise invited me to come. My thanks go to all who have generously assisted in the preparation of this visit.

I extend cordial greetings to all the beloved people of this land. It is a pleasure to be with you. I come to you in a spirit of friendship and esteem, grateful to God for this opportunity of speaking with you and learning from you, desiring to be for every one of you a servant of unity and peace.

2. I also come as a servant of Jesus Christ, as the chief Pastor of the Catholic Church. In this service of our Lord, I desire to pray with my brothers and sisters in Christ, to confirm them in their faith and hope and to encourage them in their love for our Redeemer.

It has been a special joy for me to celebrate the beatification of Father Joseph Gérard, one of the first Catholic missionaries to the Basotho people and a man of great love for God and for your ancestors, a servant of Christ who sought to be the friend of all. He himself was befriended by the renowned founder of this nation, His Majesty King Moshoeshoe I.

The Catholic Church here has just commemorated the one hundred twenty-fifth anniversary of the arrival in Lesotho of Father Gérard and his companions. This event and the many blessings that the Lord has bestowed on the Church here in subsequent years manifest the providence and fidelity of God towards his people. And the memory of God’s loving providence in the past gives impetus to today’s followers of Jesus Christ in their efforts to be faithful to him. The beatification of Father Gérard is indeed an eloquent sign of the Church’s steady growth and vigour.

3. I am pleased at the efforts to promote understanding and communion which are being made by the Church in Lesotho. And I am happy that it has been possible for me to meet with the leaders of other Ecclesial Communities during the course of this visit. For if followers of Jesus Christ are to be servants of reconciliation in the world then they must make every effort to restore communion in faith and charity for which he himself prayed.

I know, too, that the citizens of Lesotho share this concern for unity and peace, for it is part of your national heritage, ever since the days of King Moshoeshoe I, a leader who chose as his means of governing the way of tolerance and forgiveness, dialogue and persuasion. These principles which continue to inspire you as a nation are indeed worthy of admiration and support. And I can assure you that the Church is always ready to do her part in strengthening this worthy tradition.

4. One of my goals, as chief shepherd of the Church, is to promote dialogue and understanding among peoples. It is one of the reasons I undertake visits to countries around the world, and one of hope in coming to Lesotho.

In fact, the Church as a whole desires to further dialogue among all men and women.

The warm welcome you have extended to me expresses your own openness and appreciation of dialogue. In these days of my visit, there have been opportunities to enjoy the fruits of dialogue, listening and speaking with one another. And we have engaged in the most important dialogue of all, the dialogue that is prayer – our conversation and communion with God.

5. I assure you of my deep interest in the culture of Lesotho. Your cordial welcome is an expression of your hospitality and goodness. And I pray that my visit will serve and encourage the well-being of all the Basotho people. In a special way, I offer my prayerful support to the poor and the sick, and those who have not been able to take part in the events of these days. May they know and experience the abundant mercy of God. And upon all the beloved people of Lesotho I invoke the gifts of peace and joy from the Lord our God."

Pope St John Paul II's address at the Farewell Ceremony
Moshoeshoe I Airport, Maseru, Friday 16th September 1988 - also in Italian 

"Your Majesty King Moshoeshoe II, Your Majesty Queen ‘Mamohato,
Your Excellency, Chairman of the Military Council, Dear brother Bishops,
Members of the Military Council, Ministers of the Government, Mr Chief Justice,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Distinguished Officials of the Government,
Beloved People of Lesotho,

1. The time has come for me to bid farewell to Lesotho. It was a shorter visit than had originally been planned, but one that has been filled with much prayer and activity, much joy and friendship. I now wish to express my profound gratitude for your warm reception and cordial hospitality.

I am grateful to Your Majesty, the King of Lesotho, to all the authorities of the nation, and to those who have been responsible for public order during my pastoral visit. I thank every one who contributed time and services to prepare for my coming and to make it such a memorable experience. In a particular way, I am grateful to all the Basotho people who have opened their hearts and mind to me, respectfully receiving me in friendship and helping me to learn firsthand about your own struggles and successes.

2. With fraternal love in Christ I express my heartfelt thanks to the Bishops of Lesotho and to the whole Catholic Church in this land I shall never forget the liturgy of Beatification of Blessed Joseph Gérard, nor the other occasions when we gathered in prayer to praise the Most Holy Trinity and to be renewed by the Holy Spirit in our faith, hope and charity.

The meeting with my brother bishops, the enthusiastic encounter with the young people yesterday afternoon, and the meeting with your clergy, religious and seminarians have shown me how firmly the seed of faith has taken root in this land and how abundant is its fruit. Surely, in heaven today, Blessed Joseph Gérard and all the saints are rejoicing at how the Gospel has been embraced by this beloved people and become for many the rule of daily life.

With the help of the prayers of Blessed Joseph Gérard and through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may you find the strength to carry on the great task of evangelization. In the words of Saint Paul I can confidently say: “I am quite certain that the One who began this good work in you will see that it is finished when the day of Christ Jesus comes” (Phil 1, 6).

3. In his farewell message to his disciples, Jesus Christ said: “A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15, 13). As I leave Lesotho this morning, I wish to recall again the wisdom of these words, the wisdom of seeking to act out of selfless love. What is needed in today’s world is “a civilization of love”, a kind of atmosphere in which the human mind thinks thoughts of peace and rejects the option of violence, where the heart is drawn to beauty and goodness and to the urgent needs of others, where people join hands as brothers and sisters to labour in solidarity for the rights and dignity of all, especially for the poorest and most defenceless members of society.

Yes, “a man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends”. That is the key to understand the life of Jesus Christ and of his faithful followers of every time and place. It is an accurate description of Blessed Joseph Gérard during the many years that he lived in this land. And even for those who do not believe in the Christian faith, these words about love ring true. For love is the most powerful force for changing the face of the earth.

Dear people of Lesotho: thank you for the love you have shown to me. As a parting gesture of my love and respect for you, I will kiss Lesotho soil. I will carry you today and always in my heart. May your homes be blessed with peace and love. And may the God of love keep you for ever in his care. God bless you all.

Khotso! Pula! Nala!"