14 June 1999, Lowicz, Poland
Holy Father's Homily
1. "Grace to you and peace from God the
Father and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Gal 1:3).
With the words of the Apostle Paul I warmly greet all who have gathered here
for this Eucharist. I am grateful to Divine Providence for the grace of this
meeting. Before this altar and in your midst, I wish to be one with all who have
come here, as well as with those who gather around their priests every day in
church, bearing witness to their faith, hope and love. In the Eucharist Christ
has revealed in the most perfect way God's infinite love for man: "Greater love
has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Jn
I greet the young Church of Lowicz, together with its Pastor, Bishop Alojzy,
and Auxiliary Bishop Józef. I also greet the diocesan and religious clergy, the
religious brothers and sisters and all the faithful of this Diocese, and in a
special way the many children and young people gathered here. I greet the
pilgrims who have come for this meeting from the neighbouring Archdioceses of
Warsaw and Lódz, as well as from the Dioceses of Plock and Wloclawek, together
with their Pastors, and the pilgrims who have come from other parts of Poland
and from abroad.
I greet you, land of Lowicz, with your rich history. It was in fact here, in
the city of Lowicz, that for centuries the Archbishops of Gniezno, Primates of
Poland, lived. Many of them found their place of eternal repose in the crypt of
the ancient collegiate church of Lowicz, now the Cathedral.
I greet you, land of Blessed Maria Franciszka Siedliska, foundress of the
Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth; land of Blessed Boleslawa Lament,
foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family. Here, through
the efforts of Father Stanislaw Konarski, the reform of the Scolopian schools
took place. From history we know how important this was in the period of the
Polish Enlightenment, and what great fruits of this reform were gathered by the
generations of Poles living under the partitions.
I greet you, land so abundantly rich in Christian tradition and in the faith
of your people, which despite the storms of history has always persevered,
unchanged, beside Christ and his Church.
2. "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of
the calling to which you have been called" (Eph 4:1).
Saint Paul writes this in the Letter to the Ephesians. Today the same words
could be addressed to us, his fellow countrymen, by Bishop Michal Kozal, a
prisoner in the concentration camp at Dachau. Today is the liturgical memorial
of this faithful witness to Christ. The grace which God gave him "was not in
vain" (cf. 1 Cor 15:10) and continues to bear fruit today. Blessed Bishop
Kozal exhorts us to behave in a manner worthy of our human and Christian
vocation, as sons and daughters of this land, the same homeland of which he was
a son. Saint Paul shows the greatness of this vocation. We are members of the
Body of Christ, the Church, which he instituted and of which he is the Head. In
this Church the Holy Spirit continually distributes the gifts necessary for
various services and tasks. These make up the great richness of the Church and
serve the good of all.
Recalling these words, I think especially of you, dear parents. God has given
you a special vocation. To preserve human life on earth, he instituted the
family. You are the first guardians and protectors of the life which has not yet
come into the world but is already conceived. Accept the gift of life as the
greatest grace of God, as his blessing for the family, for the nation and for
the Church. Here, from this place, I say to all the fathers and mothers of my
homeland and of the whole world, to all men and women without exception: every
child conceived in the womb of its mother has the right to life! I repeat once
again what I have already said many times: "Human life is sacred. No one, in any
circumstance, can claim the right to directly destroy an innocent human life.
God is the absolute Lord of the life of man, made in his image and likeness (cf.
Gn 1:26-28). Human life is thus given a sacred and inviolable character,
which reflects the inviolability of the Creator himself" (cf. Evangelium
Vitae, 53). God protects life with the firm prohibition proclaimed on Sinai:
"You shall not kill" (Ex 20:13). Remain faithful to this commandment.
Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, Primate of the Millennium, once said "We wish to be a
nation of the living, not of the dead".
The family is also called upon to educate its children. The first place where
the educational process of a young person begins is the family home. All
children have the natural, inalienable right to have their own family, parents,
brothers and sisters, among whom they come to the realization that they are a
persons needing love and capable of loving others. May the Holy Family of
Nazareth always be the example for you, the family in which Christ grew up with
his mother Mary and putative father Joseph. Since parents give life to their own
children, they have the right to be recognized as the first and principal
educators. They also have the duty to create a family atmosphere, filled with
love and respect for God and neighbour, which favours the personal and social
education of their children. What a great task the mother has! Thanks to the
particularly deep bond which unites her to her child, she can draw her child
close to Christ and the Church in an effective way. However, she always expects
the help of her husband, the father of the family.
Dear parents, you know well that in these days it is not easy to create the
Christian conditions necessary for educating children. You must do everything to
ensure that God is present and honoured in your families. Do not forget daily
family prayer, especially in the evening, keeping Sunday holy and going to
Sunday Mass. You are your children's first teachers of prayer and Christian
virtue, and no one can take your place in this. Observe religious customs and
cultivate Christian tradition, teach your children to respect everyone. May your
greatest desire be to educate the younger generation in union with Christ and
the Church. Only in this way will you be faithful to your vocation as parents
and provide for your children's spiritual needs.
3. In this responsible duty of education, the family must receive assistance.
It needs help and expects it from the Church and the State. It is not a matter
of replacing the family in its duties but of harmoniously uniting everyone in
this great task.
I therefore speak to you, my brother priests, and to all who are involved in
catechesis: open wide the doors of the Church so that everyone, and in
particular the young, can draw abundantly upon and profit from her enormous
spiritual wealth. In our country today, the Church can teach religion in the
schools without hindrance. The times of struggle for freedom of catechesis are
past. Many of us know what sacrifices and what courage this cost Catholic
society in Poland. One of the wrongs done to the faithful in the times of the
totalitarian system has been righted.
The teaching of religion in the schools, which is a great good, requires
sincere and responsible commitment. We should make the best possible use of this
good. Thanks to catechesis, the Church can carry out her own evangelizing
activity with still greater efficiency and in this way widen the scope of her
I also speak to you, dear teachers and educators. You have taken on the great
task of handing on knowledge and education to the children and young people
entrusted to you. You are faced with a difficult and serious call. Young people
need you. They look for models as points of reference. They expect answers to
the many questions of life which trouble their minds and hearts, and in a
special way they demand from you an example of how to live. You must be their
friends, faithful companions and allies in the struggles of youth. Help them to
build the foundations for their future.
I am pleased that in Poland many new Catholic schools are being established.
This is a sign that the Church is present in a practical way in the area of
education. These schools are to be supported, and conditions must be created to
enable them to contribute to the common good of society in cooperation with the
entire educational world in Poland.
Particular sensitivity is needed on the part of all those involved in schools
in order to create the climate for friendly and open dialogue. A spirit of
familiarity and mutual respect should prevail in all schools; this was and is
characteristic of the Polish school. The school should be a source of the social
virtues which our country so greatly needs. Such a climate needs to contribute
to enabling children and young people to declare their religious convictions
openly and behave in accordance with them. Let us seek to develop and strengthen
in the hearts of children and young people patriotic feeling and a bond with the
homeland. Let us seek to make them aware of the common good of the nation and
teach them a sense of responsibility for the future. The education of the
younger generation in a spirit of love for the homeland is of great importance
for the future of the nation. In fact, it is not possible to serve the nation
well without knowing its history, its rich tradition and its culture. Poland
needs people open to the world, who love their own country.
Dear teachers and educators, I wish to express to you my appreciation for
your efforts in the education of young people. I warmly thank you for this
particularly important and difficult work. I thank you for your service to the
country. I myself owe a personal debt of gratitude to schools, and to my
teachers and educators, whom I remember to this day and for whom I pray every
day. What I received in my school years continues to bear fruit in my life
May the good of the younger generation be the concern of your life and
educational work. Saint Paul says: "I beg you to lead a life worthy of the
calling . . . for building up the body of Christ" (Eph 4:1, 12). Could
there be a vocation greater than the one God has given to you?
4. "Grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's
gift" (Eph 4:7). Saint Paul teaches us today and at the same time
reminds us that grace is the gift by which God gives us his life, making us his
children and partakers of his nature. The question therefore arises: how should
I live, so that the power of God's grace will be manifest in me in the fullest
possible way, like the mysterious power of a grain of wheat which produces a
Dear boys and girls, pupils of the primary and secondary schools of the
Diocese of Lowicz and the neighbouring Dioceses, and also from other parts of
Poland: it is good that you are here today. I am very happy to have this
meeting. What you have just heard concerns you and your education in a special
way. I want to assure you: the Pope loves you very much and has your future very
much at heart, so that you will prepare yourselves well for the tasks which
You know that we are coming close to the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. In
this regard, many of you are probably asking: the new millennium which is about
to arrive, what will it be like? Will it be better than the one which is about
to end? Will it bring important and positive changes for the world, or will it
be the same as before? I want to tell you that to a great extent the future of
the world, of our country and of the Church depends on you. You will be the ones
to shape it, on you depends the great task of building up the times which are
coming. Now you understand why I first spoke so much about the education of the
Do not be afraid to follow the path of your vocation, do not be afraid to
seek the truth about yourselves and the world around you. How much I would like
you all to have in your homes an atmosphere of real love! God has given you your
parents and for this great gift you should often thank him. Respect and love
your parents. They brought you into the world and they are educating you. Your
parents are in fact your dearest friends, and you should seek their help and
advice in the problems of your lives. At this moment I think with sadness and
great concern about all those young people of your own age who do not have a
family home, who are deprived of the love and warmth of parents. Tell them that
the Pope remembers them in his prayers and that he wishes them very well.
Your age is the most profitable time of life for sowing and preparing the
ground for future harvests. The more you commit yourselves to your duties, the
more efficiently you will carry out your mission in the future. Devote
yourselves to your studies with great enthusiasm. Learn to know new things.
Knowledge opens new horizons and helps man's spiritual growth. The person who
always wants to learn something new is truly great.
Youth seeks models and examples. Christ himself comes to your aid, he who
dedicated his entire life to the good of others. Look to him. May he be present
in your thoughts, in your games and in your conversations. You should always
live in friendship with him. The Lord Jesus wishes to help you. He wishes to be
your support and to strengthen you in your youthful struggles in order to attain
the virtues such as faith, love, honesty, purity and generosity. When you have
to face some difficulty, when you experience lack of success or disappointment
in your life, may your thoughts go straight to Christ, who loves you and helps
you to overcome every difficulty. Know that you are not alone. At your side
there is someone who will never disappoint you. Christ understands the most
secret desires of your heart. He awaits your love and your witness.
5. "You have one teacher and you are all brethren" (Mt 23:8).
Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us turn our hearts to Christ, "the true light
that enlightens every man" (cf. Jn 1:9). He is the Teacher, the Risen One
who has life in himself and who remains ever present in the Church and the
world. It is he who reveals to us the will of the Father and who teaches us how
to live out the vocation which we have received from God through the power of
the Holy Spirit. Let us entrust to Christ the great work of education. Only he
fully knows man and knows what is hidden in the depths of the human heart. Today
Christ says to us: "Without me you can do nothing" (Jn 15:5) - I, your
Teacher, I wish to be your way and your light, your life and truth "always, to
the close of the age" (Mt 28:20). Amen.
Teachings of the
Magisterium on Abortion