This is a translation of the Latin speech delivered by Pope Paul VI to the ecumenical council Oct. 5 on his return from his flight to the United Nations in New York.
Venerable brothers, our journey from beyond the ocean back here to where we began is now happily concluded, thanks be to God. We have brought to an extraordinary meeting of the organization of the United Nations the message of greeting and of peace which this sacrosanct council entrusted to us.
There we addressed our words to members of that great international organization, representatives of more than 100 states in the world, to strengthen their common purpose of concord and peace and to exhort them to continue to pursue the work they began 20 years ago to render war remote, to solve honorably any conflict between peoples and to find remedies for the needs and the evils which are still impeding harmonious civil progress, well remembering that for the fulfillment of such a grave and protracted undertaking it is necessary to found it in wisdom which derives from God and which was given to us by Christ.
It is not necessary for us to tell you with how much courtesy we have been received and with how much deference we have been listened to. Nor is it necessary to tell you how warm a reception we received from people and what affectionate devotion we were shown by those dear and faithful sons of the American metropolis. For all this news, widely dispersed and illustrated on television, is already known to you as if you too had been present there at the twofold singular event: the first visit by a Roman Pontiff to the land which Christopher Columbus nearly five centuries ago discovered and opened to the commerce of civil society, and the first meeting a successor of Peter and vicar of Christ had the fortune of realizing with the qualified representatives of nearly all the peoples of the earth, gathered there and attentive to the words of the head of the Catholic Church.
Our voyage was very rapid and our stay in that continent very brief, but the scope of our presence there was quite worthy of our interest: the cause of peace in the world.
We give thanks to the Lord, venerable brothers, to have had the fortune to announce a message of peace, in a sense to men of all the world. The Gospel message has never before had such a large audience nor, we can say, an audience more ready and disposed to listen to it. Never before has such an announcement given the impression of interpreting jointly the merciful voice of heaven and the imploring voice of the earth, thus manifesting itself as the mysterious design of God for humanity and completely adequate to the profound aspiration of that same humanity. And never before has the mission of the Church as mediator between God and man been justified by more evident, providential and modern reasons.
It is regrettable that the interpreter of such a luminous hour should have been our most humble person. (But does not God, in order to claim for Himself glory for great achievements, choose instruments unequal to the importance and efficacy of such achievements?) It is regrettable, but let this not lessen our joy in the prophetic value assumed by our announcement: In the name of Christ we have preached peace to men.
Now we discern a subjective consequence implied by this office, and with this thought we end our journey. You know that when one speaks a word he pledges himself to grave obligations: the obligation of consistency, of solidarity, of example. The word which is not rendered valid by an active will to translate it into action for its own sake and because of its intrinsic value — what is it worth? The authority of the word springs indeed from truth, which it echoes. But on the human plane it draws great efficacy from the manner in which the one who speaks it also practices it. The voice speaks, but the example of the herald of the Gospel persuades. Therefore a grave consequence rests on us from the fact that we have proclaimed the cause of peace. We must be now more than ever workers for peace. The Catholic Church has undertaken a greater obligation to serve the cause of peace from the fact that through our voice it has solemnly pleaded the cause of peace.
It is certainly not our office, nor can it be our intention, to enter into politics or into the field of economics, where the temporal harmony which constitutes civil peace is constructed in a direct way. But we can and must help even in this construction of a civil peace by means of an assiduous moral support and in some instances, such as works of charity, even with material and direct support.
Is not our ecumenical council fully engaged at this moment in studying how to render operative and beneficial the relationship between the Catholic Church and the modern world? Our contribution to peace is thereby already set in action and will certainly become even more efficacious and precious when all of us, convinced that peace must have justice as its foundation, become advocates of justice. For the world has great need of justice and Christ wills that we be hungry and thirsty after justice.
We know, however, that justice is a progressive thing. We know that gradually, as society advances, it becomes aware of its imperfect composition and the strident and demanding inequalities come to light which still afflict humanity. Is not, perhaps, this awareness of the imbalance between classes, between nations, the gravest threat against peace?
These things are known. But now they prompt us to reconsider what we can do to remedy them. The condition of the developing populations must be the object of our consideration. Or better, our charity toward the poor of the world — they are interminably legion — must become more attentive, more active, more generous.
Other considerations lead us to the same consequences in the religious and moral fields: to place our faith at the service of charity, in ecumenical discussions as well as in spiritual and social relations with men of good will of every race and creed. Is not this a contribution to peace, and is it not already part of our programs?
We must therefore study and with added vigor apply these programs of ours, since we have made an apologia for peace, as the commitment to which today we must all pledge ourselves. May the Lord grant that the testimony of the word be followed by the testimony of action.
All of you, venerable brothers, who share with us in the “ministry of reconciliation” (II Cor. 5, 18), you faithful here present who preserve the “unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4, 3), you representatives of various nations, you most worthy observers — be with us in desiring peace, in praying and working for it. With our blessing “may the God of peace be with you all” (Rom. 15, 33).