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Address Of John Paul II 1979 

(also 2000 below)

To The Members Of  Rotary International 

14 June 1979  


John Paul IIFollowing the example of my predecessor Paul VI, I am happy to extend a cordial welcome to members of Rotary International. It is a pleasure for me to have the opportunity to continue, on an international level, the conversation which Paul VI inaugurated with you years ago in Milan, and which he later carried on in Rome. I too am very willing to reflect with you on your important aims and on your worthy activities.

Your presence here today indicates a great power for good. You come from many different nations and backgrounds. You bring with you vast experience in the economic, industrial, professional, cultural and scientific fields. In the solidarity of your association, you find mutual support, reciprocal encouragement and a shared commitment to work for the common good. To one who observes you with deep interest and keen attention it seems as though you are offering, with sincerity and generosity, your talents, your resources and your energies to the service of man. And to the extent that you pursue this lofty ideal of reaching out to people everywhere, I am certain that you will continue to find satisfaction and human fulfillment. Indeed, in your very act of giving, of assisting, of helping others to help themselves, you will find enrichment for your own lives. In demonstrating ever greater involvement in the cause of man, you will appreciate ever more the unsurpassed dignity and grandeur of man, as well as his real fragility and vulnerability. And in your efforts and endeavors for the good of man you can be assured of the understanding and esteem of the Catholic Church.


At this point no one will be surprised if, in my reflections, I add a word with special reference to those Rotarians who are linked to me in the Christian faith. Precisely at a moment when he was speaking about the progress of man and the development of peoples, Paul VI proclaimed his conviction, which is mine and that of Christians everywhere: "By reason of his union with Christ, the source of life, man attains to new fulfillment of himself, to a transcendent humanism which gives him his greatest possible perfection: this is the highest goal of personal development". And it is to this "new fulfillment" and to this "transcendent humanism" that I wish to give witness today, offering them as the complement of all you are doing in your noble and worthy program of service. Thus looking upon man as "the primary and fundamental way for the Church", I could not but likewise proclaim that "Jesus Christ is the chief way for the Church". 


Finally, I would ask you to convey to all the members of Rotary International, to all your colleagues throughout the world, the expression of my esteem for the efforts you are making on behalf of humanity. May your generous service render honor to your respective countries and be reflected in the joy of your daily lives. My special greeting goes to your children and to the elderly at home, and my prayers include the many intentions that you carry in your hearts. May God sustain Rotary International in the noble cause of reaching out to serve humanity - humanity in need.

By the end of the decade, the Catholic Truth Society was able to declare that "Rotary is neither secret nor seditious".  It was nevertheless still regarded as a "society banned under pain of sin only"  and not of "sin and excommunication".  Gradually there was a thaw in relations between the Church and Rotary. In 1970 Pope Pius VI addressed Rotarians in Italy, and in 1979 Pope John Paul II spoke to the International Convention in Rome, praising some of Rotary's humanitarian programs at a  special audience in the Vatican.  Later he accepted a Paul Harris Fellowship and a World Understanding and Peace Award from Rotary, while Catholic priests throughout the world were taking positions of authority, even serving as District Governors.  And on Saturday, 11 March 2000, Pope John Paul II received a number of groups who had come as pilgrims to Rome during the Holy Year, including members of Rotary International, a pilgrimage from the Italian Diocese of Pitigliano-Sovana-Orbetello, the Archdiocesan College of Pius XI in Desio, Italy, members of various parishes in Rieti, Bologna and Urbania, Italy.

The Church is a willing ally of all those who promote man's well-being, irrevocably committed as she is to this cause, in virtue of her nature and her mandate. In my Encyclical I emphasized the relationship between the Church's mission and man, when I stated: "Man in the full truth of his existence, of his personal being and also of his community and social being - in the sphere of his own family, in the sphere of society and very diverse contexts, in the sphere of his own nation or people... and in the sphere of the whole of mankind - this man is the primary route that the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission: he is the primary and fundamental way for the Church, the way traced out by Christ himself...". Because of this solicitude of the Church for man in his concrete reality, permit me to add a word of particular encouragement for your current program encompassing your concern for "Health, Hunger, Humanity". It is meant to be your specific means of cooperating in the spiritual and material progress of society, in defending human dignity, in applying principles of upright conduct, and in exemplifying fraternal love. May this program, so conceived, be a lasting contribution to man on the part of Rotary International.


The three words themselves open up extended areas and suggest so much to the ingenuity of your spirit of service. As the modem world succeeds in producing more and more quality medicine, vast numbers of people are still in dire need of basic medical care. Despite magnificent efforts and achievements, the area of preventive medicine remains to a great extent an unfulfilled challenge. The dignity of man requires an attentive and truly knowledgeable care for the sector of mental health - a whole area where we again encounter human fragility and vulnerability, and where earnest and sustained commitment to the grandeur and dignity of man is so needed.


Widespread hunger remains today one of the telling expressions of man's uncompleted quest for progress and for the mastery of creation. Millions of children are crying out to the world, pleading for food. And at the same time millions of people are forced to bear in their bodies and their minds the results of a lack of proper nourishment when they were young. They exhibit before the witness of history the permanent scars of a diminished or severely handicapped physical or mental condition. For all who are willing to see, hunger is so real; at the same time hunger has so many facets. Man is hungry for food, and yet he realizes that he does not live "by bread alone". Man is also hungry for knowledge of the Creator, the Giver of all good gifts; he hungers for love and truth. The human being hungers to be understood; he craves freedom and justice, and true and lasting peace.


Dear Rotarians, is this not an immense area in which you have many opportunities to expend yourselves for your fellowman? And whatever other challenge remains in the quest for human advancement - whether in the area of development or liberation - can be grouped under your third category: humanity - the betterment of humanity. To work for humanity, to serve men and women everywhere, is a splendid aim, especially when the motivation is love.



Doug Rudman


Pope John Paul II, in his address to the Rotary International convention at Rome, Italy in 1979

His Holiness John Paul II

March 11, 2000 

On Saturday, 11 March 2000, Pope John Paul II received a number of groups who had come as pilgrims to Rome during the Holy Year, including members of Rotary International, a pilgrimage from the Italian Diocese of Pitigliano-Sovana-Orbetello, the Archdiocesan College of Pius XI in Desio, Italy, members of various parishes in Rieti, Bologna and Urbania, Italy. 

The Pope said to them:  "You will pass through the Holy Door, symbolizing the conversion which must mark the life of every Christian. May this passage confirm your commitment to turn away from sin and to accept the gift of new life which the Lord constantly offers through the ministry of the Church."

This is a translation of his Italian address and the text of his English greetings. 

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

First, I am pleased to receive all of you who have come to celebrate your Jubilee at the beginning of this Lenten season. I first extend a cordial greeting to you, the members of Rotary International. You have crossed the threshold of the Holy Door in the Vatican Basilica and have taken part in the Jubilee Eucharist at which Cardinal Paul Poupard presided; he is here with us and I greet him with affection. Welcome, dear brothers and sisters! I offer each of you my embrace of peace. 

The celebration of the Jubilee is an excellent occasion for you to meditate on the importance and value of being Christians at the dawn of the third millennium. It would certainly be interesting to ask yourselves what Paul Percy Harris, your founder, would do today and how he would organize the association he founded almost 100 years ago. At the dawn of the 20th century he became aware of the loneliness experienced by people in large cities and sought to remedy it by developing an ever-wider network of friendly relations between individuals on the basis of understanding, sympathy and peace among peoples. 

You have tried to continue this service, dear Rotarians, in an ever more concerned and attentive way in the almost 100 years of your club's existence. The time we are living in is full of potential and challenge. As we cross the threshold of the third millennium of the Christian era, the Church once again presents the ancient and ever new Gospel message to everyone. You Rotarians, who want to be generous heralds and fearless witnesses of Christ, should also dedicate yourselves to giving hope to people today, to overcoming loneliness, indifference, selfishness and evil. 

Second, I now greet you, dear faithful who are taking part in the pilgrimage of the Diocese of Pitigliano-Sovana-Orbetello, and especially your Pastor, Bishop Mario Meini, who has led you on this faith journey. Through him, I would like to offer my encouragement and blessing to the priests, religious and faithful of the Diocese. 

You come from the native land of my predecessor, Pope St Gregory VII. May his example and teachings spur you to love Christ and his Church with renewed intensity. He lived in a historical period when Christians were shaken by serious internal difficulties and the pernicious influence of the worldly spirit. Faced with the mentality of the time, he strove to the very end, even during his sad exile, so that the "Holy Church, Bride of God, our lady and our mother, would once again be adorned with her original splendor as she was for many centuries, and always be free, chaste and catholic" (PL 148, 709). He preached and bore witness that holiness is the vocation of every member of the ecclesial community.

Times have undoubtedly changed. However, the invitation to all believers to fulfill God's will eagerly and to be steadfast in bearing consistent witness to the faith is still timely. 

Dear brothers and sisters, the Holy Year not only offers us a special grace, but also powerful reasons for converting mentalities and lives to a deeper fidelity to Christ and a more intense love for the Church. Returning home, continue in your commitment to Christian witness. Think of yourselves as active members in building the Christian community:  "Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence" (1 Pt 3: 15). Always have trust:  Christ has overcome the world (cf. Jn 16: 33)! 

Next I extend a cordial greeting to the director and members of the Archdiocesan College of Pius XI in Desio. Dear friends, you have wished to make your Jubilee pilgrimage at the beginning of the important season of Lent, in which Christ's call to conversion becomes more insistent.

May the Jubilee pilgrimage be a favorable occasion for you to live deeply this year of great spiritual riches. The Holy Door, through which you have passed, signifies God's unlimited kindness to those who want to turn to him and follow the path of holiness. Through this Door and through the Church's ministry, believers are prompted to draw more abundantly from the inexhaustible treasures of divine grace. 

This is the gift and message for you too:  may Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life renew you so that you will be his friends and witnesses in the world. Be faithful to him and spread hope, joy and love among your brothers and sisters. 

Fourth, may these same sentiments also be in your hearts, dear faithful from the parishes of Rieti, Bologna and Urbania. I greet you all affectionately and, in addressing you, I would also like you to take the Pope's best wishes back to your families, friends and brethren in faith. In returning to your homes, may you be able to communicate to everyone you meet the enthusiasm of a renewed faith and the commitment to active charity. May Mary, Mother of the One who began the new time of salvation and whom we call upon with trust, accompany you and always keep you under the mantle of her protection.

With these sentiments, I cordially impart a special Blessing to you, which I willingly extend to your families and your communities.


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Date of Message: | Jan 13, 2011