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True peace cannot exist without commitment to practice justice

Ad limina Apostolorum: Episcopal Conference of Honduras

February 4, 1994



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 selfless ministry.

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 well-founded hopes.

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 Churches.

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

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