World Youth Day
Meeting of Pope John Paul II With Colorado Catholics
August 14, 1993
"The mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest
mountain" (Is. 2:2).
1. Upon arriving in Denver, I lifted up my eyes toward the splendor of the
Rocky Mountains, whose majesty and power recall that all our help comes from the
Lord, who has made heaven and earth (cf. Ps. 121:1). He alone is the rock of our
salvation (cf. Ps. 89:26). God has given me the grace to join my voice with
yours in praising and thanking our heavenly Father for the mighty works
(Acts 2:12) that he has accomplished since the Gospel was first preached in this
Today I greet all those whom Christ -- the pescador de hombres, the
divine fisherman -- has gathered into the net of his Church. "With the affection
of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:8), I thank Archbishop Stafford of Denver, Bishop
Hanifen of Colorado Springs, Bishop Tafoya of Pueblo, Bishop Hart of Cheyenne
and the other bishops present: the priests, the religious and every one of you,
for being "sound in faith, in love and in steadfastness" (Ti. 2:2).
I cordially greet the governor of Colorado, the mayor of Denver and the
representatives of other churches, ecclesial communities and religious bodies.
Your presence encourages us to continue to strive for ever greater understanding
among all people of good will and to work together for a new civilization of
2. The World Youth Day is a great celebration of life: life as a divine gift
and an awe-inspiring mystery. Young people from all over the world are gathering
to profess the Church's faith that in Jesus Christ we can come to the full truth
about our human condition and our eternal destiny.
Only in Christ can men and women find answers to the ultimate questions that
trouble them. Only in Christ can they fully understand their dignity as persons
created and loved by God. Jesus Christ is the only Son from the Father ... full
of grace and truth (Jn. 1: 14).
By keeping the incarnation of the eternal Word before her eyes, the Church
understands more fully her twofold nature, human and divine. She is the mystical
body of the Word made flesh. As such she is inseparably united with her Lord and
is holy in a way that can never fail (cf. Lumen Gentium, 39). The
Church is also the visible means which God uses to reconcile sinful humanity to
himself. She is the people of God making its pilgrim way to the Father's house.
In this sense she is constantly in need of conversion and renewal, and her
members must ever be challenged "to purify and renew themselves so that the sign
of Christ can shine more brightly on (her) face" (ibid., 15). Only when the
Church generates works of genuine holiness and humble service do the words of
Isaiah come true: "All nations shall stream toward her" (Is. 2:2).
United to Christ as a visible communion of persons, the Church must take as
her model the early Christian community in Jerusalem which devoted itself to the
apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers
(Acts 2:42). If the Church is to be a credible sign of reconciliation to the
world, all those who believe, wherever they may be, must be "of one heart and
one soul" (Acts 4:32). By your fraternal communion the world will know that you
are Christ's disciples!
3. The members of the Catholic Church should take to heart the plea of St.
Paul: Always be "eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace"
(Eph. 4:3). With gentleness and patience, revere the Church as Christ's beloved
bride who is ever vigorous and youthful. So many problems arise when people
think of the Church as "theirs," when in fact she belongs to Christ. Christ and
the Church are inseparably united as one flesh (cf. Eph. 5:29). Our love for
Christ finds its vital expression in our love for the Church. Polarization and
destructive criticism have no place among "those who are of the household of
faith" (Gal. 6: 10).
The Church in the United States is vital and dynamic, rich in "faith and love
and holiness" (1 Tm. 2:15). By far the vast majority of her bishops, priests,
religious and laity are dedicated followers of Christ and generous servants of
the Gospel message of love. Nevertheless, at a time when all institutions are
suspect, the Church herself has not escaped reproach. I have already written to
the bishops of the United States about the pain of the suffering and scandal
caused by the sins of some ministers of the altar. Sad situations such as these
invite us anew to look at the mystery of the Church with the eyes of faith.
While every human means for responding to this evil must be implemented, we
cannot forget that the first and most important means is prayer: ardent, humble,
confident prayer. America needs much prayer - lest it lose its soul (cf. letter
to the bishops of the United States, June 11, 1993).
4. On many issues, especially with regard to moral questions, "the teaching
of the Church in our day is placed in a social and cultural context which
renders it more difficult to understand and yet more urgent and irreplaceable
for promoting the true good of men and women (Familiaris Consortio, 30). Nowhere is this
more evident than in questions relating to the transmission of human life and to
the inalienable right to life of the unborn.
Twenty-five years ago Pope Paul VI published the encyclical Humanae Vitae. Your bishops recently issued a
statement to mark this anniversary. They call everyone "to listen to the wisdom
of Humanae Vitae and to make the Church's teaching the foundation for a
renewed understanding of marriage and family life (National Conference of
Catholic Bishops, "Human Sexuality from God's Perspective: Humanae Vitae
25 Years Later," conclusion). The Church calls married couples to responsible
parenthood by acting as "ministers -- and not arbiters" of God's saving plan.
Since the publication of Humanae Vitae, significant steps have been taken
to promote natural family planning among those who wish to live their conjugal
love according to the fullness of its truth. Yet more efforts must be made to
educate the consciences of married couples in this form of conjugal chastity,
which is grounded on "dialogue, reciprocal respect, shared responsibility and
self-control" (Familiaris Consortio, 32). I appeal especially to young
people to rediscover the wealth of wisdom, the integrity of conscience and the
deep interior joy which flow from respect for human sexuality understood as a
great gift from God and lived according to the truth of the body's nuptial
"Building an authentic civilization of love must include a massive effort to
educate consciences in the moral truths which sustain respect for life in the
face of every threat against it. In her vigorous concern for human rights and
justice, the Catholic Church is unambiguously committed to protecting and
cherishing every human life, including the life of the unborn."
5. Likewise, building an authentic civilization of love must include a
massive effort to educate consciences in the moral truths which sustain respect
for life in the face of every threat against it. In her vigorous concern for
human rights and justice, the Catholic Church is unambiguously committed to
protecting and cherishing every human life, including the life of the unborn. As
sent by Christ to serve the weak, downtrodden and defenseless, the Church must
speak on behalf of those most in need of protection. It is a source of comfort
that this position is shared by people of many faiths. Those who respect life
must accompany their teaching about the value of every human life with concrete
and effective acts of solidarity to people in difficult situations. Without
charity, the struggle to defend life would be lacking the essential ingredient
of the Christian ethic; as St. Paul writes: "Do not be overcome by evil, but
overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12:21).
Archbishop Stafford has told me of the deep concern of many Americans about
urban violence as a negative "sign of the times" that needs to be read in light
of the Gospel. Violence is always a failure to respect God's image and likeness
(cf. Gn. 1:26-27) in our neighbor, in every human person, without exception.
Violence in any form is a denial of human dignity. The question which must be
asked is, Who is responsible? Individuals have a responsibility for what is
happening. Families have a responsibility. Society has a heavy responsibility.
Everybody must be willing to accept their part of this responsibility, including
the media which in part seem to become more aware of the effect they can have on
And when the question is asked, What is to be done? Everybody must be
committed to fostering a profound sense of the value of life and dignity of the
human person. The whole of society must work to change the structural conditions
which lead people, especially the young, to the lack of vision, the loss of
esteem for themselves and for others which lead to violence. But since the root
of violence is in the human heart, society will be condemned to go on causing
it, feeding it and even, to an extent, glorifying it, unless it reaffirms the
moral and religious truths which alone are an effective barrier to lawlessness
and violence, because these truths alone are capable of enlightening and
strengthening conscience. Ultimately, it is the victory of grace over sin that
leads to fraternal harmony and reconciliation.
6. Brothers and sisters in Christ, I urge you to renew your trust in the
richness of the Father's mercy (cf. Eph. 2:4), in the incarnation and redemption
accomplished by his beloved Son, in the Holy Spirit's vivifying presence in your
hearts. This immense mystery of love is made present to us through holy Church's
sacraments, teaching and solidarity with pilgrim humanity. The Church, through
your bishops and other ministers, in your parishes, associations and movements,
needs your love and your active support in defending the inviolable right to
life and the integrity of the family, in promoting Christian principles in
private and public life, in serving the poor and the weak, and in overcoming all
manner of evil with good.
May Mary, "full of grace," intercede for the Catholic community of Colorado
and of the United States.
May her example of discipleship draw each one of you to an ever more personal
love of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. May she who is the mother of the Church
teach you to love and serve the Church as she loved and served the first
community of Christ's followers (cf. Acts 1: 14).
Through the Church, may you abide in Christ, the Prince of Peace and the Lord
of our lives. Amen.
Statements of the Holy Father and Bishops Regarding Abortion