Pope John Paul I - Address to College of Cardinals - 30 August 1978

[photograph of Pope John Paul I] We are most happy to have the opportunity to meet with you. We have desired to do so and now, thanks to your kindness, we are able to take joy in your presence.

First of all, we feel impelled not only to express our gratitude once again for your choice - which continues to surprise and confuse us - of this humble person. We also want to express again the trust that is ours for your brotherly and continuous shared effort. The weight placed on our weak shoulders by the Lord in his mysterious design of providence would appear to be too great for us if we were not convinced that we could count not only on the all-powerful presence of his grace but also on your kind understanding and on the close working bond of you, my brothers. You are not only outstanding in doctrine and wisdom but also experienced in pastoral leadership - adept both in the things of God and those of men.

In this situation, we wish to state that we count in a special way on the assistance of the cardinals who remain near us in this, our beloved city - the cardinals who are responsible for the various agencies which make up the Roman Curia.

The pastoral tasks which have been ours through divine providence these past years were almost always far distant from the complex organization which offers the vicar of Christ the possibility of carrying out the apostolic duty for which he is responsible to the whole church. This organization assures that there can exist legitimate autonomies while maintaining an indispensable respect for that essential unity of discipline and indeed of faith which Christ prayed for on the eve of his passion (cf. in. 17:11, 21.23).

It is not difficult to recognize our inexperience in so delicate a sector of church life. We promise therefore to treasure the suggestions that will come to us from our worthy co-workers. We will be placing ourselves, one might say, in the school of those who, through their well-deserved experience and recognition in these matters of great importance, deserve our full trust and our appreciative recognition as well.

Next, our thoughts turn to you, our brothers, who will be returning to your dioceses once again to undertake the pastoral care of the churches entrusted to you by the Spirit (cf. Acts 20:28). You are already anticipating the joy of seeing your sons and daughters whom you know so well and love so deeply. This is a joy which will not be ours.

The Lord knows the sadness that there is in our heart because of this. Above all though, in his goodness he knows how to temper the sadness of detachment with the prospect of a still broader paternal responsibility. He especially comforts us with that inestimable gift of your loving and sincere support. In this, we experience that same response by all the bishops of the world united to this Apostolic See with the strong bond of one communion.

This unity transcends space, ignores racial differences and rather enriches us with the true values present in diverse cultures. Though peoples differ in geographical location, in language and mentality, through this one communion they become a single great family. How could one but feel a wave of a brightening hope in face of the marvelous spectacle your presence offers to a reflective spirit? It casts one in the direction of the five continents represented in so dramatic and worthy a fashion by you.

Your presence places before us an eloquent image of the church of Christ. The catholic unity of this church so moved the great Augustine and led him to keep in focus the "small branches" of the single particular churches so that they would not detach themselves "from that great tree which is spread throughout the world through the extension of its branches" (Letter 185 to Boniface, No. 8, 32). It is for this unity that we know we have been established both as a sign and as an instrument (cf. Lumen Gentium, Nn. 22, 2; 23, 1).

It is our goal to dedicate our total energy to the defense of this unity and indeed its increase. We are encouraged in this by our awareness that we can trust in the enlightened and generous action of each of you as well.

We do not intend to restate the great themes of our program which are already known to you. We would only wish to reconfirm in this moment with you, the commitment of our total availability to the guidance of the Spirit for the good of the church. It was this that each of you promised on the day of your elevation to the cardinalate, to serve "even to the shedding of your blood."

Venerable brothers, last Saturday we found ourselves faced with that dangerous decision of saying "Yes." We knew that this would place on our shoulders the formidable weight of the apostolic ministry. One of you whispered in my ear words encouraging trust and confidence. It is fitting then for us, having now been made the vicar of the one who commanded Peter to "Confirm your brothers" (Lk. 22. 32), to remind you that you are now to take up your respective ecclesiastical responsibilities with courage, with firm trust.

Even in the difficulty of the present hour, we have the ever-present assistance of Christ. He repeats again to us today the words spoken when the darkness of the passion covered over him, words spoken to that first group of believers, "Remember, I have conquered the world" (Jn. 16:33).

In the name of Christ and with the pledge of our paternal love, we impart to you our co-workers and to all the souls who come under your pastoral care, this first of our propitious apostolic blessings.
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