SEPTEMBER 20, 1984
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
The time has come for me to leave Canada and to say good-bye to you. I do so not without regret, having had the opportunity to visit so many men and women and so many varied and interesting places in your vast country. Nevertheless, I am filled with joy, for I feel that we lived together moments of grace.
Among you I greet in friendship my brother bishops, who invited me, who prepared this pilgrimage with great care, who welcomed me on behalf of you all and who accompanied me; I reiterate to them all my deep gratitude. Through you here, who represent the whole Canadian community, I wish to thank the priests, the religious and the laity for their kind and sincere welcome, for the witness of their faith and for their spirit of service in the Church. I would like to greet in particular the other Christian communities, with whom I am happy to have been able to make a number of contacts, and of whose zeal in promoting the cause of unity I have gained a better appreciation.
I would also like to thank the civic officials, who have played such a major part in organizing my trip and who have shown such a deep appreciation of the pastoral meaning of my visit. I thank them for being so kind as to come even here to bid me farewell. I have vivid memories of our meetings, especially upon my arrival in Quebec City, and quite recently in Ottawa itself. I wish to express my gratitude to the Governor General, to the Prime Minister, to the Honourable Members of the judiciary, to the Speakers and Members of the Senate and the House of Commons, to the provincial premiers and to the members of the diplomatic corps, who have joined here with Canadian civic dignitaries and officials. With these civic authorities, I wish to thank all those who, for many months, working in numerous groups, have given them their effective, courteous and often discreet co-operation, participating in the many organizational, security and transportation arrangements required for this long trip.
The visit that I have just completed has given me a better appreciation of the beauty and diversity of your country, and of the generosity of your people. I have enjoyed our meetings, thanks to your characteristic openness and enthusiasm. I cannot speak now of all that I will keep in my heart; that goes beyond what can be expressed in a few words.
Permit me to say only that throughout my trip I have been struck by the richness and continued vitality of all that has been passed on to you by your predecessors: the Amerindians and Inuit; Europeans from France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Poland, and many other countries: and all those who have come from the numerous regions of Latin America, the East and the Far East.
The happy combination of all these elements of your heritage in a free and enterprising people makes Canadians particularly well suited to remaining open to all the calls of the world, to promoting peace and to living actively in generous solidarity with those of our brothers and sisters who are most in need and with those who have heavy burdens to bear.
At this moment of my departure, I wish for the Canadian people a happy future, the development of all their qualities, a life lived in harmony and respect for their cultural and spiritual difference. This is facilitated, I am aware, by the institutions of this country.
You have before you many challenging tasks, both in order to face the internal difficulties which remain, notably the economic crisis, and in order to develop your positive contribution to international life. May the awareness of these duties lead you to fulfil them with the courage, the nobility and the unselfishness of those who find their joy in the service of their brothers and sisters!
To you, the members of the People of God in this country, I entrust one of my best rememberances [sp] of the different stages of this pilgrimage: together we have been able to live a striking experience of the faith that unites us. I am well aware that the sympathy that you have manifested in my regard expresses, beyond my person, your real bonds with the universal Church, with the Church rooted in the faith of the Apostles ever since the Resurrection of the Lord and the beginning of the missionary era of Pentecost.
In my coming to your communities, I have discovered with joy that you are continuing what the great founders whom you so greatly honour began. They brought the Gospel here, sometimes at the price of their lives; they built an edifice which continues to be full of life despite the difficulties and changes of our times. Be faithful to the inspiration of the known saints who have sown in this land the seed that was destined to bear fruit.
We have celebrated together, we have prayed to the Lord, we have been in communion with him, we have listened to his word. Your fervour is the sign that the message of the Successor of Peter, who has come to bear witness to Jesus Christ, has found men and women ready to work for a new world. It is the sign that the Christians of this country have the Holy Spirit living within them – the Holy Spirit who infuses into our hearts the love of God, who strengthens us in hope and gives fullness to our faith.
May my pilgrimage to the shrines of God’s people mark a positive step for all of you on the long road that leads humanity to renewal through the gift of God, and to the fullness of fraternal solidarity on the road of holiness!
I shall continue to pray for you and with you. Today I ask the Father of all love, the Son who dwells among us, and the Spirit of power and light, to fill you with every blessing.
With joy I assure you all once again of my gratitude, and I renew from the bottom of my heart my good wishes for all the people of Canada.