Ad limina Apostolorum: Episcopal Conference of Honduras
February 4, 1994
True peace cannot exist without commitment to practice justice
On 4 February, the Holy Father spoke to the Bishops of Honduras at the end of
their ad limina visit. At their meeting during the Year of the
Family, the Holy Father recalled the importance of the pastoral care of the
family, as a way of increasing vocations. The Pope stated that the high
percentage of non-marital unions and birth-control programmes are leading to the
disintegration of family structures, and the mass media have a deeply negative
effect on the family, creating misleading stereotypes. Here is a translation of
the Holy Father's Spanish-language discourse.
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. I greet you with affection in the Lord, and I warmly welcome you to this
meeting. It marks the end of your visit ad limina Apostolorum, which
renews the joy and commitment of ecclesial unity between the Pastors, clergy and
faithful of the Church in Honduras and the Successor of Peter. In St Paul's
words, I wish you "grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus
our Lord" (1 Tm 1:2). In a spirit of true brotherhood, I rejoice to share once
again your pastoral concern for the life, hope and difficulties of your
respective Dioceses. This also enables me to fulfil the mandate received from
the Lord to strengthen my brothers in the faith (cf. Lk 22:32).
I am sincerely grateful to Bishop Raúl Corriveau of Choluteca, President of
the Episcopal Conference, for the friendly words he has addressed to me
expressing the sentiments of all his brothers in the Episcopate, and confirming
the deep communion with the Holy See that gives life to your generous and
2. From my perusal of your quinquennial reports and the discussions we have
had, I am pleased to observe that one of your pastoral priorities is to
strengthen and to consolidate the family institution in your beloved country.
What hope you must feel in knowing that the whole pilgrim Church in Honduras,
together with you, her legitimate Pastors, pulsates with the desire to
strengthen family structures!
I am aware of the particular difficulties that you have to face in this
pressing apostolate, but I know that you are firmly convinced that "the family,
as the fundamental and essential educating community, is the privileged means
for transmitting the religious and cultural values which help the person to
acquire his or her own identity. Founded on love and open to the gift of life,
the family contains in itself the very future of society; its most special task
is to contribute effectively to a future of peace" (Message for World Peace Day,
1 January 1994, in L'Osservatore Romano English edition, n. 51, 22
December 1993, p. 1).
Promoting family values will increase vocations In the National
Pastoral Assembly that you celebrated last November, at which qualified lay
people as well as delegates from the priests and religious participated, you
analyzed the reality of the family in Honduras and were yet again concerned to
note the high percentage of unstable, non-marital unions, which lead to the
serious lack of family structures and are at the root of irregular situations
and the frequent phenomena of disintegration; in addition to all this there is
an increasing number of damaging birth- control campaigns that are in opposition
to the requirements of responsible parenthood (cf. Gaudium et spes, nn.
50-51), which you have continued valiantly to uphold. Despite this, your people
have retained a deep piety, the testimony of their proven faith and love of God,
their filial veneration for the Blessed Virgin and their fidelity to the Church.
I encourage you in your commitment to implement your national plan for the
pastoral care of families, to ensure that your Christian roots retain all their
vigour. You prepared it for this Year of the Family and entrusted it to the
Virgin of Suyapa, your heavenly patroness, during a solemn ceremony in which the
living forces of your country took part.
3. I am persuaded that all you are doing on behalf of the family and the
promotion of its values will contribute to an increase in vocations to the
priesthood and the religious life, essential for a more promising future for
the Church in Honduras. In this regard, I am glad to know that the number of
diocesan priests is increasing, that the courses held at the National Major
Seminary of Our Lady of Suyapa have already been recognized by the State, and
that you can already rely on six minor seminaries, for which you have
You know well that priestly or religious vocations usually originate and are
strengthened within the family. Furthermore, experience shows us that where the
spouses are involved in apostolic tasks, their homes are fertile ground where
the Lord may call some of their members to follow him in the priestly or
religious life. Therefore encourage all Christian families, especially those who
are active members of apostolic movements, to live the virtues of the home with
intensity and joy and to be ever open to the possibility that the Lord may call
some of their members to his exclusive service.
4. As you well know, one of the factors that significantly affects the
concept of values experienced by the institution of the family is the means
of social communication. Indeed through the media misleading stereotypes of
the family can be created, showing conjugal infidelity as attractive, justifying
the crime of abortion, and spreading the divorce mentality and hedonistic
culture of a consumer society. Spare no efforts in promoting and supporting the
"mass media", particularly the radio. In your country's present condition it is
without a doubt a very suitable instrument for evangelizing the family,
safeguarding life and transmitting the values lived by the Holy Family of
Nazareth. At the same time, proclaiming the essential content of Catholic
doctrine in the broadcast media will effectively help counteract the
proselytizing activities of the sects and new religious groups, which in
Honduras are also creating confusion among the faithful and threaten their
Catholic identity, sowing division and uncertainty.
Purpose of authority is concern for the common good
I know that you have just completed a new phase in the process of reinforcing
democracy in your beloved country. While I ask God to strengthen the bonds of
solidarity and the human and spiritual progress of all the beloved children of
Honduras, I hope that the authorities may fulfil their urgent obligations to the
family ever more satisfactorily. May I recall in this regard the words of my
recent Message for the World Day of Peace: "As the fundamental nucleus of
society, the family has a right to the full support of the State in order to
carry out fully its particular mission. State laws, therefore, must be directed
to promoting its well-being, helping it to fulfil its proper duties. In the face
of increasing pressure nowadays to consider, as legally equivalent to the union
of spouses, forms of union which by their very nature or their intentional lack
of permanence are in no way capable of expressing the meaning and ensuring the
good of the family, it is the duty of the State to encourage and protect the
authentic institution of the family, respecting its natural and inalienable
rights" (ibid., n. 5).
Peace and harmony in families, which we all desire, should be firmly rooted
in the dignity of the human person and his rights. No true peace can exist if
there is not a serious and decisive commitment to practice social justice. In
this task, those who are invested with public authority play a fundamental role.
As I pointed out in the Encyclical
Redemptor hominis, "the fundamental duty of power is solicitude for the
common good of society" (n. 17). Thus it is necessary to restore moral values
such as solidarity, industry, honesty in fulfilling public functions, the spirit
of sharing: all this will be the best guarantee of greater social cohesion among
the people of Honduras and a more decisive commitment to the active quest for
the common good.
5. Today's meeting, beloved brothers, affords me an opportunity to show my
satisfaction that you have made your voice heard in favour of the most poor and
defenceless on several occasions.
Your mission as Pastors is not foreign to the vast realm of spreading and
implementing the Church's social teaching, for it "is an essential part of the
Christian message, since this doctrine points out the direct consequences of
that message in the life of society and situates daily work and struggles for
justice in the context of bearing witness to Christ the Saviour" (Centesimus
annus, n. 5).
In this task, the contribution of all pastoral workers is particularly
necessary, but in a special way that the laity, since their Christian vocation
requires that they "not only bring men the message and grace of Christ, but also
permeate and improve the whole range of the temporal" (Apostolicam
actuositatem, n. 5).
Their apostolic commitment should also lead them to participate more actively
in the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church. Indeed, the Second Vatican
Council reminds us that the liturgy is "the summit towards which the activity of
the Church is directed; it is also the fount from which all her power flows. For
the goal of apostolic endeavour is that all who are made sons of God by faith
and Baptism should come together... to take part in the Sacrifice and to eat the
Lord's Supper" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 10).
Strengthen unity of priests and pastoral workers
Concerning this, I would like to remember with particular affection the
Delegates of the Word who have already celebrated the "silver anniversary" of
their foundation, the work of Bishop emeritus Marcelo Gérin of Choluteca, who,
despite his fragile health, has returned to Honduras and continues to encourage
them with his wisdom and witness. Given the geographic and demographic
conditions of your country, they are a substantially important apostolic force
in the sector of the new evangelization. In this respect, as well as in the
Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Delegates of the Word will be able to
find in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, and in the Letter
that I shall shortly be addressing to families, effective tools for study and
reflection in order to be a more incisive presence in the family apostolate, not
only in rural districts but also in urban areas.
6. Finally, as you also form a family in the episcopal ministry, I cannot
fail to recall with affection two members of the Honduran Episcopate who, one
because of his age and the other for health reasons, are not able to take part
in this ad limina visit: Archbishop emeritus Héctor Enrique Santos
Hernández, S.D.B. of Tegucigalpa, and Bishop emeritus Jaime Brufau Maciá, C.M.
of San Pedro Sula. I ask you to convey to both these faithful servants of the
Gospel my brotherly greetings and the Apostolic See's sincere gratitude.
Persevere courageously on the path of renewal that you have mapped out.
Joyfully live in unity and peace, the fruit and the guarantee of the Holy
Spirit's presence. Consolidating the spirit of collegiality in your Episcopal
Conference will certainly contribute to invigorating your ministry and to
following pastoral affairs more closely. The witness of your unity will also be
a reason and an incentive to strengthen still further the unity among your
priests, your pastoral workers, and with the other members of your individual
7. Yesterday the Lord granted us the grace to concelebrate Mass on the feast
of Our Lady of Suyapa, the patroness of Honduras. This reminds us of the Upper
Room on the day of Pentecost when Jesus' disciples were close to Mary. May the
Mother and Patroness of your country enfold all the families of Honduras in her
protective mantle. I entrust your intentions and pastoral aspirations to her, so
that her divine Son may make your episcopal ministry most fruitful.
With deep affection I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all, extending it
also to the absent prelates, to your priests and religious, seminarians and
Delegates of the Word, and to all the beloved faithful of Honduras, especially
to the poor, the sick and all those who are suffering.
Teachings of the
Magisterium on Abortion