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Magisterium

«The rights of man express the will of God»

To Muslim Youth, Casablanca, Aug. 19th 1985

 

 

A'izza'i sh-shubban, uhayyikum bi-mawadda

 

Wa uhyi min khilalikum jami' abna hadihi l-umma an-nabila.

 

 

Dear young people,

 

 

All thanks and glory to God, who has allowed me to be with you here today. A few years ago his majesty the King paid me the honour of a visit in Rome, and he was so courteous as to invite me to visit your country and meet with you. With pleasure I accepted his invitation to come and speak to you during this Youth Year.

 

I often meet with young people, usually Catholics. This is my first time meeting with young Muslims.

 

Christians and Muslims have much in common, both as believers and as human beings. We live in the same world, a world full of signs of hope, but also full of many signs of distress. For both of us, Abraham is a unique model of faith in God, of submission to His will and faith in His goodness. We believe in the same God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the worlds and leads His creatures toward their perfection.

 

Therefore my thought turns to God and my heart rises to Him: above all else I would like to speak to you of God; of Him, because you Muslims and we Catholics both believe in Him. I also want to speak to you about human values, which have their foundation in God, values which concern our personal development, the development of our families, our societies, as well the international community. Is not God's mystery the highest reality, upon which the meaning of our life depends? And is it not the first problem which presents itself to a young person when he or she reflects on the mystery of existence and on the values to chose in order to construct his or her growing personality?

 

For my part, in the Catholic Church, I hold the office of Successor to Peter, the apostle chosen by Jesus to confirm His brothers in the faith. Coming after the Popes who followed without interruption throughout history, I am the Bishop of Rome, called among his brothers in the world to be witness to the faith and guarantee the unity of all members of the Church.

 

It is as a believer therefore that I come to you today. Here before you I would simply like to bear witness to that in which I believe, to that which I wish for my brothers mankind, to that which, by experience, I believe to be useful for everyone.

 

 

I invoke the Highest, the Omnipotent God Who is our Creator. He is the origin of all life, just as He is the source of all good, of all that is beautiful, of all that is holy.

 

He separated light from darkness. He made the entire universe grow according to a wonderful design. He willed the plants to grow and produce their fruits, as He willed the birds of the sky, the beasts of the land and the fish of the sea to multiply.

 

He created us, mankind, and we belong to Him. His holy law guides our life. It is the light of God which orients our destiny and illuminates our conscience. He makes us capable of loving and of transmitting life. He asks every man to respect all human creatures and to love them as friends, companions, brothers. He invites us to help others when they are hurt, abandoned, hungry and thirsty, in short, when they no longer know how to find their way on the paths of Life.

 

Yes, God asks us to listen to His voice. He expects of us obedience to His holy will, freely complying with the intellect and the heart.

 

For these reasons we must answer to Him. He, God, is our judge, because only He is truly just. Moreover, we know that His mercy is inseparable from His justice. When man returns to God penitent and contrite, after having abandoned Him in sin and the works of death, God then shows Himself to be forgiving and merciful.

 

Therefore, all our love and adoration to Him. For His benefice and His mercy, we thank Him, in every time and in every place.

 

 

In a world that desires unity and peace, but knows only a thousand tensions and conflicts, should not believers promote friendship and union among men and peoples, who form a single community on the earth? We know that they all have the same beginning and the same end: the God who created them and waits for them, because He will reunite them.

 

Twenty years ago at the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church, in the person of its bishops, or religious leaders, committed itself to the search for collaboration between believers. It published a Document on the dialogue between religions (Nostra aetate). It affirms that all men, especially men of living faith, must respect each other, overcome all discrimination, live together and serve universal brotherhood (cf. cited document, n.5). The Church shows particular respect for Muslim believers, given their faith in the one God, their sense of prayer and their esteem for the moral life (cf. n.3). It desires «to promote together, for all men, social justice, moral values, peace and liberty» (ibid.).

 

 

Today the dialogue between Christians and Muslims is more necessary than it has ever been. It derives from our loyalty to God, and presupposes that we know how to recognise God with faith and bear witness to Him with word and deed in an ever more secularised, and sometimes atheistic, world.

 

Young people can build a better future if they put their faith in God before everything else, and if they dedicate themselves to constructing this new world according to God's plan, with wisdom and faith.

 

God is the source of all joy. For this reason we must bear witness to "our cult" of God, our adoration, our prayers of praise and supplication. Man cannot live without prayer, just as he cannot live without breathing. We must bear witness to "our humble search for His will". He must inspire our dedication to a more just and unified world. God's ways are not always our ways. They transcend our actions, which are always incomplete, and the intentions of our heart, which are always imperfect. God can never be used for our ends, because He is beyond everything.

 

This testimony of faith, which is vital for us and which can suffer neither faithlessness nor indifference to the truth, is created through respect for other religious traditions, because every man wants to be respected for what he is, and for what he conscientiously believes in. We would like everyone to have access to the fullness of divine truth, but they can do so only through the free adhesion of their conscience, safe from external constructions unworthy of the free homage of reason and the heart which characterise human dignity. This is the true sense of religious liberty, which respects both God and man. From such worshippers God expects a sincere cult, worshippers in spirit and in truth.

 

 

Our conviction is that «we cannot invoke God as the Father of all men, if we refuse to act like brothers towards some of the men created in the image of God» (Nostra aetate, n.5).

 

Therefore we must "respect, love and help every human being", since all people are God's creatures, and in a certain sense, His images and His representatives, because this is the way which leads to God. His creatures can fully realise themselves only if they know God, if they accept Him with all their heart and obey Him on the road to perfection.

 

For this reason obedience to God and love for mankind must lead us to "respect the rights of man", those rights which are the expression of God's will and represent the needs of human nature as God created us.

 

Respect and dialogue require reciprocity in all fields, especially in that which concerns fundamental liberties and religious liberty in particular. They favour peace and comprehension among peoples. Together they help solve the problems of today's men and women, especially the problems of young people.

 

 

Young people normally look to the future and hope for a more just and humane world. God made young people this way so that they might contribute to the transformation of the world according to His plan for life. But even to them the situation often appears dark.

 

In this world there are borders and divisions among men, such as the incomprehension between generations; there are also wars, racism, injustice, hunger, waste, unemployment. These are dramatic evils which move all of us, in particular young people, throughout the world. Some people run the risk of discouragement, others of resignation, still others run the risk of wanting to change everything with violence and extreme solutions. Wisdom teaches us that self-discipline and love are the only levers of renewal needed.

 

"God does not want men to remain passive". He has entrusted the earth to their dominion, that they may cultivate it and make it bear fruit together. You are responsible for the world of tomorrow. By "fully assuming your responsibility", courageously, you can overcome today's difficulties. It is up to you to take the initiative and not expect everything from adults and from those who exercise authority. You must build the world, not just dream it.

 

"By working together" you can be effective. A job well done is a service to others. It creates ties of solidarity. The experience of common work allows one to purify oneself and discover the richness of others. In this way a climate of trust can be created little by little, allowing everyone to grow, develop and "be more". Do not overlook, young people, collaboration "with adults", especially with your parents and your teachers, as well as with the "leaders" of society and heads of State. Young people must not isolate themselves from others. Young people need adults, just as adults need young people.

 

In this common work, the human person, man or woman, must not be sacrificed. "Every person is unique" in the eyes of God, irreplaceable in this developmental work. Everyone must be recognised for what he or she is, and respected as such. No one should use his neighbour; no one should exploit his equal; no one should scorn his brother.

 

In these conditions a more humane, just and fraternal world may be created, where each person can find his or her place in dignity and freedom. This world of the XXI century is in your hands; it will be whatever you make it.

 

 

This future world depends on "the young people of all the world's countries". Our world is divided, and fragmented. It knows many conflicts and grave injustice. There is no true solidarity between the North and the South, not enough reciprocal help among the nations of the South. In this world there are many cultures and many races which are not respected.

 

Why all this? Because "men do not accept their differences": they do not know each other well enough. They reject those who do not belong to the same civilization. They refuse to help each other. They are not able to free themselves from egoism and self-sufficiency.

 

"God created all men equal in dignity, but different" in gifts and talents. Humanity is a whole in which every group has a role to play. It is necessary to recognise the values of different peoples and different cultures. The world is like a living organism; each one has something to receive from the others and something to give to others.

 

I am happy to meet you here, in Morocco. Morocco has a "tradition of openness". Your scientists have travelled and you have welcomed scientists from other countries. Morocco has been a meeting place of civilizations: it has facilitated exchange between the East, Spain and Africa. Morocco has a "tradition of tolerance". In this Muslim country, there have always been Jews and almost always Christians, and this experience has been lived in respect, in a positive manner. You have been and remain a country of hospitality. Therefore, you young Moroccans are prepared to become citizens of tomorrow's world, in this "fraternal world" to which you aspire alongside the young people of all nations.

 

I am sure that you young people are capable of dialogue. You do not want to be conditioned by prejudice. You are ready to build a civilization founded on love. You can work to break down those barriers erected, sometimes, by pride, but more often by the weakness and fear of men. You want to love others without national, racial or religious borders.

 

For this reason, you "want justice and peace". «Peace and young people walk together», as I said in my message for World Peace Day this year. You want neither war nor violence. You know the price they make innocents pay. Nor do you want the arms race. This does not mean that you want peace at any price. Peace walks apace with justice. You do not want oppression for anyone. You want peace in justice.

 

 

Mostly you want men to have something to live on. Young people who are fortunate enough to study have the right to think about the profession they will practice on their own. But they must also worry about the conditions of life, often more difficult, for their brothers and sisters who live in the same country, and throughout the world. In fact, how can we remain indifferent when other human beings, in great numbers, die of hunger, malnutrition, or lack of medical assistance, when they cruelly suffer because of drought, when they are forced into unemployment or emigration by destructive economic laws, when they know the precarious situation of refugees parked in camps after our human conflicts? God has given the earth to all of humanity so that men may take their nourishment from it in solidarity, and so that every people may have the means to nourish itself, cure itself and live in peace.

 

 

But even though economic problems are important, man does not live by bread alone, he needs an intellectual and spiritual life in which one finds the soul of this new world to which you aspire. Man needs to develop "his spirit and his conscience". This is what is often missing in today's man. The loss of values and the crisis of identity which throughout the world push us towards an overcoming and a renewed effort of search and questioning. The inner light which is thus born in our conscience will allow us to give sense to development, to orient it towards the good of mankind, of each man and of all men, according to God's plan.

 

The Arabs of Machreq and Maghreb, and Muslims in general, have a "long tradition of study" and of knowledge: literary, scientific, philosophic. You are the inheritors of this tradition, you must study in order to learn to know the world that God has given us, understand it, discover its meaning, with taste and "respect for truth", and in order to learn to know the peoples and men created and loved by God, in order to prepare yourselves to serve them better.

 

Moreover, the search for truth will lead you beyond intellectual values, to the spiritual dimension of the inner life.

 

 

Man is a "spiritual being". We believers know that we do not live in a closed world. We believe in God. We are loved by God and by those who search for God.

 

The Catholic Church looks respectfully on and "recognises the quality of your religious path", the richness of your spiritual tradition.

 

We Christians are also proud of our religious tradition.

 

I believe that we Christians and Muslims must recognise with joy the religious values that we have in common and thank God for them. Both of us believe in one God, the One God, Who is fullness of justice and fullness of mercy; we believe in the importance of prayer, of fasting and alms-giving, of penitence and forgiveness; we believe that God will judge us mercifully at the end of time and we hope that after the resurrection He will be satisfied with us and we know that we will be satisfied with Him.

 

Loyalty necessitates that we recognise and respect our differences. Obviously, the most fundamental difference is the way we see the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth. You know that for the Christians, Jesus is the One who makes them enter into an intimate knowledge of God's mystery and into a filial communion with His gifts, so that they recognise and proclaim Him to be their Lord and Saviour.

 

These differences are important, and we must be able to accept them with humility and respect, in mutual tolerance. In this lies a mystery about which I am sure God will some day enlighten us.

 

We Christians and Muslims have generally misunderstood each other, and sometimes in the past we have opposed each other and lost ourselves in polemics and wars.

 

I believe that God invites us here, today, to "change our old habits". We must respect each other and stimulate each other in good works on the path of God.

 

You know, with me, what the price of spiritual values is. Ideologies and slogans cannot satisfy you nor solve the problems of your life. Only spiritual and moral values can do so, and they have God as their foundation.

 

Young people, I hope that you can contribute to the building of a world in which God occupies the first place in helping to save mankind. On this path, be certain of the esteem and collaboration of your Catholic brothers and sisters, whom I represent among you this evening.

 

 

I would like to thank his majesty the King for having invited me, and to thank you, dearest young people of Morocco and many other countries, for having come here and listened to my testimony with trust.

 

But most of all, I would like to thank God, Who has allowed this meeting to take place. We are all under His watchful eye. Today He is the first witness of our meeting. It is He who places in our hearts the feelings of mercy and understanding, of forgiveness and reconciliation, of service and collaboration. Should not believers, such as we are, reproduce in their life and society the eminent titles which our religious traditions recognise? Let us try to be available to Him, to be submissive to His will and the invitations He sends us. In this way our lives will find a new dynamism.

 

Then a world can be created, I am sure of it, in which men and women of living and efficient faith will sing the glory of God and try to construct a human society according to the will of God.

 

I would like to end by invoking Him personally in front of you:

 

 

«O God, You are our Creator./ You are good and Your mercy is endless./ All creatures praise You./ O God, You have given us men an inner law which we must obey./ To do Your will, is to do our work./ To follow Your ways is to know the soul's peace./ We offer our obedience to You./ Guide us in all we do on the earth./ Free us of our bad tendencies which remove Your will from our heart./ Do not let us justify human disorder/ by invoking Your name./ O God, You are the one. Our worship is for You./ Do not let us move away from You./ O God, judge of all men, / help us to be part of Your elect on the last day./ O God, author of justice and peace,/ give us true joy and authentic love,/ as well as lasting fraternity among peoples./ Fill us with Your gifts forever. Amen!»

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