Addresses, Speeches, Homilies 1984

Eucharistic celebration at the University of Laval (Homily)


Dear Brothers and Sisters, I thank you for this moving welcome.

At the outset I would like to greet his Grace Louis-Albert Vachon, Archbishop of Quebec, as well as each of my other brothers in the episcopate whose ministry is in Canada.

I extend greetings as well to the representatives of other Churches who have joined us from America and other continents, notably Europe with which Canada has established such strong links.

I greet Canadian missionaries and the representatives of the young churches where they exercise their ministry.

I greet too the Rector of Laval University, its faculty and students and all those who are working (in confident dialogue with faith) to renew and deepen culture in order to make it ever more human.

I extend greetings to the priests, deacons, seminarians, religious and laity of the various parishes of this Archdiocese and neighbouring dioceses whose presence here has been made possible by the fraternal twinning of parishes.

I greet those for whom Jesus had a particular place in his heart: the children, the young, the old, the sick, the prisoners, all those who suffer from a lack of love, all who are alienated from society, unemployed or distressed.

Together with the apostle Peter, let us turn towards the Lord Jesus. May He strengthen our faith!


“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Mt 16,16).

These words were spoken for the first time near Caesarea Philippi in answer to the question of Jesus: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Mt 16,13).

Simon Peter pronouced [sp] these words for the first time in Galilee. He repeated them later in many other places. He spoke them in Jerusalem, in particular on the day of Pentecost. He spoke them in Antioch, after leaving Jerusalem. He proclaimed them finally in Rome until the day that he had to die on the cross in order to witness to their truth.

These words which profess the divine sonship of Jesus Christ were left by Simon Peter to the Church as its heritage. He handed them down in a very special way to all his successors in the See of Rome.

As Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor it has been my wish to repeat these words here on Canadian soil. “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Mt 16,16).

It is in the city of Quebec that the Bishop of Rome sets foot on this land for the first time. Here began the evangelization of Canada. Here was founded its Church. Here was the first diocese of North America. It is from here that the seed first sown began its immense growth.

It is for this reason that at the very outset of this pilgrimage, I want us to meet and join together in this profession of faith on which the Church of Christ on earth is built:

the Christ, the Son of Man, the Son of the living God;

the Son, of the same nature as the Father; God of God;

Light of Light, begotten, not made, eternal Word by whom everything was made;

and at the same time: the Christtrue man.

“For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man”.

The Christ: true God and true man. This is the faith of the Church.

The Christ: crucified under Pontius Pilate, he died and was buried…

The Christ: on the third day he rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father whence he will come to judge the living and the dead.

Such is the faith of the apostles. Such is the faith of Peter. It is the faith on which the Church of God on earth is built.

Simon Peter, who was the first to confess this faith, near Caesarea Philippi, was also the first to receive the answer of Christ: “You are Cephas (that is ‘rock’) and on this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16,18).

How beautiful it is to hear the same apostle, Simon Peter, in his first letter which was read in today’s liturgy give witness to Christ by calling him the foundation stone. Christ is the “living stone” (1 P 2,4).

This stone, in truth, “was rejected by men” (1 P 2,4), completely rejected. Jesus was sentenced to die on the cross, the execution to be carried out scarcely a few hours before the Passover.

And it is precisely in this rejection that he was recognized for what he is, Jesus the Christ, the one “chosen by God and precious to him” (1 P 2,4).

It is through him, the living stone, the first stone, that we have all been brought together to be built up into a “spiritual temple” (1 P 2,5).

Yes, we are all “living stones”, a part of this building founded on Christ; we constitute “a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices that Jesus Christ has made acceptable to God” (1 P 2,5).

We are then “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people who belong to God” (1 P 2,9). We are all this through Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, true God and true man, crucified and risen from the dead. Yes, through Jesus Christ: he is the first stone in this divine edifice built up with the sons and daughters of all the earth. It will endure for all eternity in the inexpressible glory of the Holy Trinity!

It is with Jesus Christ, the living stone, that this ultimate future of our construction begins… Such is the future of humankind on earth, the future of a divine destiny.

Here then is the faith in Jesus Christ which Simon Peter proclaimed! Here is the faith concerning the Church which he confessed! What a surprising unity! And what strength in that faith!

Today, on Canadian soil, the Bishop of Rome wants to profess this faith with all his heart. He wants to make it the foundation of his mission among you, dear brothers and sisters, here in the City of Quebec and throughout Canada, all of whose regions I shall be visiting.

It is indeed from here that the Church of Christ began to spread throughout North America. Having set out from France, Jacques Cartier, Champlain and so many others brought to this continent their culture and their language and in doing so contributed to the implanting of faith in Christ the Saviour.

Many were the servants of God, both men and women, who from earliest colonial times came to these shores to contribute to the building up of the Church. Récollet Fathers, Jesuits, Sulpicians, Ursulines with Marie de 1’Incarnation and her incomparable spiritual experience, the Hospitalières of Dieppe inspired by the inexhaustible charity of Catherine de Saint-Augustin: these religious men and women were among the first to bear witness to the faith and to the love of Christ among the settlers and “Indians”.

Bearers of the word, educators of the young, good Samaritans ministering to the sick; it is they who shaped the face of the Church in this new land. People have spoken of a veritable “mystical epic” beginning with the first half of the 17th century. Some gave their life to the point of martyrdom. Many others joined them, bringing to the work of constructing their own living stone, labouring often in poverty, but made strong by the Spirit of God.

In this place we evoke in particular François de Montmorency Laval, Vicar Apostolic and then first bishop of Quebec. I cannot forget that the university whose guests we are today at this splendid site has its origin in the seminary that bears his name.

Here your forbears developed a culture rooted in that of their native land. Over the centuries this heritage has become consolidated and diversified. It has taken to itself the distinctive contribution of Amerindians and benefited from the English presence on this continent. It has been enriched by successive waves of immigrants from all over. Your people have succeeded in preserving their identity even while remaining open to other cultures.

The Church has already recognized the holiness of a number of these pioneers or is about to do so. They stand out as striking witnesses among so many others, men and women, humble believers engaged in their daily tasks who little by little shaped this country in their own image, according to their faith.

The vitality and the zeal of your predecessors moved them to carry the Good News further still. May I pay tribute here to a Church which was quick to reach out to Western Canada, to the Far North, to many other regions of America? More still, it has played a considerable role in the missionary effort of the Universal Church throughout the world.

Your motto is “Je me souviens”. There are indeed treasures in the memory of the Church as well as in that of a people!

In every generation, living memory makes it possible for us to recognize the presence of Christ, asking as he did at Caesarea: “And you, who do you say I am?”

The answer to this question is fundamental for the future of the Church in Canada and for the future of your culture.

You realize that your traditional culture characterizing a certain type of “Christendom” has shattered. It is henceforth open to a variety of currents of thought: it must answer innumerable new questions. Science, technology, and the arts take on a growing importance; material values are present everywhere. At the same time there is a greater concern for fostering human rights, for peace, justice, equality, sharing, freedom…

In this changing society, dear brothers and sisters, you must learn to articulate your faith, and to live it. As I said to your bishops last October: “These times are God’s times; he will provide his Church with what it requires as long as it remains open, courageous and prayerful”. You will know how to remember your past, the boldness and the loyalty of your predecessors, as you in turn seek to spread the message of the Gospel in new situations. You will know how to develop a new culture that will integrate the modernity of America even while preserving its deep-seated humanity. This latter trait doubtlessly derives from the fact that your culture was nurtured by Christianity.

Do not accept a divorce between faith and culture. You are being called at the present time to a new missionary effort.

Culture and education, which is the primary and essential task of culture – is the fundamental search for what is beautiful, true and good. This search best reveals the human being as a subject, bearer of personal transcendence (cf. my speech to UNESCO, June 2, 1980, No. 10). It helps him to become what he must “be” and not simply to rely on what he “has” or “possesses”. Your culture is not only the reflection of what you are: it is also the crucible in which what you are to become. You will no doubt develop your culture in a living and dynamic way, undaunted by difficult questions or new challenges. And yet you will not let yourselves be distracted by the glare of novelty. You will be careful not to allow a gap, a discontinuity, to grow between the past and the future. In other words, you will develop your culture with wisdom and prudence, retaining the freedom to criticize what may be called the “cultural industry”, remaining all the while deeply concerned about truth.

But in addressing myself here to believers, I again repeat what I expressed at UNESCO:  “I am thinking above all of the fundamental link between the Gospel, that is, the message of Christ and the Church, and man and his very humanity” (No. 10). Yes, dear brothers and sisters, in the culture that you are now developing, which is in line with what you already are by reason of a rich past, in this culture which is always the soul of a nation, (c.f. ibid., No. 14), faith plays a great part. Faith will illuminate culture , it will give it savour, it will enhance it, as the Gospel says in regard to that “light”, “salt” and “leaven” which the disciples of Jesus are called to be. Faith will ask culture what values it promotes, what destiny it offers to life, what place it makes for the poor and the disinherited with whom the Son of Man is identified, how it conceives of sharing, forgiveness and love. If it is this way, the Church will continue to accomplish her mission through you. And you will render service to all society, even to men and women who do not share the same spiritual experience as yourselves. For such a witness respects freedom of consciences, without thus abandoning them to certain “imperatives” of modern civilization which claim to serve human advancement but which in fact detract from respect for life, from the dignity of a love that involves persons, and from the search for the true values of humanity (cf. Discourse to UNESCO, No. 13).

But again your faith must remain active and strong; it must become always more personal, more and more rooted in prayer and in the experience of the Sacraments; it must reach the living God, in his Son Jesus Christ the Saviour, through the help of the Holy Spirit, in the Church. This is the faith that you ought to deepen with joy, in order to live it and to bear witness to it in daily life and in the new realms of culture. This is indeed the grace which we must request for the future of Quebec, for the future of all Canada. And here we are back to the fundamental question of Jesus Christ: “And you, who do you say that I am?”.

In the faith affirmed by Simon Peter near Caesarea Philippi, in the faith so beautifully expressed by him in his first letter, in that same faith I, John Paul II, Bishop of Rome, would like to extend to you most cordial greetings as I begin my pilgrimage in your country.

I wish to greet each and every one of you, you who are the chosen race, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the people, who belongs to God; you who have been called in Jesus Christ “to proclaim the great deeds of the one who called you out of darkness into his own wonderful light” (1 P 2:9).

On this day we are beginning a celebration to be long treasured in your hearts.

The Church has put on our lips words to fit the circumstances:

“Sing to the Lord, bless his name. Proclaim his salvation day after day. Tell of his glory among the nations. Tell of his marvels to every people” (Ps 95,96, 2-3).

May this Canadian land sing to the Lord

from the shores of the Atlantic to those of the Pacific and from the south to the frozen wastelands of the North…

Behold, Christ, the Son of the living God has become the first stone among you!

Behold, Christ, the Son of the living God has become the living stone for all generations!

Gloria Tibi, Trinitas!

Glory be to you, Holy Trinity!


Canadian Conference of Cathalic Bishops
Conférence des évêques catholiques du Canada