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Acceptance and Esteem for every Life

June 3, 1988

In the evening of Friday, 3 June, the Holy Father went by helicopter from Carpi to Modena where he was welcomed by the Mayor on behalf of the citizens. The Pope replied as follows:

1. I am very grateful to you, Mr. Mayor, for your words of welcome on behalf of all the people of Modena. I am delighted to meet those present here in this square, which unites and expresses so well the religious and civil values which have always been present in the culture and the history of the city. My cordial greeting to you and to all who fill this square. I turn with respect to the Representative of the Italian Government, to whose noble address I listened with grateful attention, and to the religious and civil authorities, who by their participation make this meeting all the more meaningful.

From here I also greet the nearby city of Nonantola. I sincerely regret that on this occasion I am unable to visit its famous Abbey, which is so illustrious and important for the civil and religious history of the region.

2. I look upon your faces, dear people of Modena, I see this stupendous assembly, but I have before my mind's eye the entire population of the area. I intend to address you all: you who are present here, but also those who have remained at home in the various districts of the city and in the numerous communities of the plains, the hills and the mountains. An affectionate greeting to you all, especially to the children, the elderly and the sick. May solidarity and fraternal participation offer each person what he needs to live a fully human existence.

The witness, recalled earlier, of the illustrious Modenese, who with their lives and deeds honored the city, encourages and stimulates everyone to proceed, with the clarity and determination of your ancestors, along the path of authentic progress. The decisive criterion for that journey of human growth is esteem for the dignity of the person at every stage of his existence.

That esteem necessarily begins with the responsible and loving acceptance of life, before and after birth; it develops as the educational effort of the family, the school and the ecclesial community; it continues as support at every critical turning point in life; it is crowned in the loving and sympathetic care provided at the moment of departure from this life in time and of entrance into life without end. When everyone freely and responsibly collaborates in attaining this most noble objective and works for the advancement of the person in all his dimensions, there is reason to hope for the progressive establishment of a society ever more firmly anchored in the values of justice, solidarity, and peace.

3. This is a particularly urgent task today, when the quest for material well being runs the risk of being transformed into an unbridled impulse towards a life of consumerism deaf to the appeals of the transcendent. It is inevitable that such a conception of human progress--one which is reductive, one-dimensional and lacking the support or a higher moral understanding-- turns against man and ends by oppressing him. That is the explanation for the scourges of drugs and pornography for exploitation in the work and entertainment environments, for violence against others and against oneself. These phenomena gravely endanger the whole social equilibrium and especially the educational framework or adolescents and young people.

It is necessary, then, for civil and religious institutions, individuals and groups to intensify and coordinate their efforts with the aim of facing these threats on the one hand, and, oil the other, fostering the many positive forces which appear even in our day.

4. I have indicated some important areas in which the community effort is daily put to the test. Every person concerned for the future of the city cannot but hope for a great sense of responsibility in those who must make the decisions regarding questions of common interest. In particular, it is right to expect of them a vigorous effort in those areas in which the highest good of man is at stake, especially when the persons involved are unable to provide for themselves without help.

As I emphasized in the recent Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, the path of solidarity summons our world with urgency today: in fact, it is upon that path that the future of development and peace is to be found. Man is becoming ever more clearly aware of the multifaceted interdependence that ties him to others, even beyond national boundaries. He is thus coming to understand that only in solidarity is it possible, for him to advance along the path of true progress, respectful of every aspect of his being, which begins in time but is destined to be projected into eternity.

Faith brings to this conviction a further and decisive enlightenment; Christians know, in fact, that all humanity is called to form, in Christ, one family. So I invite believers to walk decisively along the path of solidarity, offering to the common effort the support of those spiritual values that give life its full meaning. There has been no lack of witnesses to those values here in your city. Suffice it to recall Dr Lusia Guidotti who served, even to the point of sacrificing her life, as a medical volunteer in Zimbabwe.

5. On the south wall of your cathedral a tablet recalls the visit of Pope Lucius III to your city in 1184. Leaving Modena through the gates of Cittanova in the early hours of a July morning, he blessed the city in the words recorded on the tablet: "May this city be blessed by Almighty God the Father, by the Son and the Holy Spirit, by the ever Blessed Virgin Mary, by Blessed Peter the Apostle and by Blessed Geminiano. May God make her prosperous and lead her to grow and multiply". To the throng of faithful accompanying him with burning candles, he said: "Blessed be the land in which you live and blessed be you and your children, forever".

Dear people of Modena, I repeat this blessing for you today. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, who watches over the city from above the municipal building, always protect you. May Jesus Christ, in whose name innumerable hosts of the faithful have struggled, suffered, loved, lived and died in your districts, accompany your steps along the path of authentic faith, industrious concord, justice and peace.

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