Remarks Following a Meeting With Pope John Paul II in Vatican City
June 7, 1982
The President. Your Holiness, your Eminences, your Excellencies, members of the clergy, and ladies and gentlemen:
On behalf of myself and for all Americans, I want to express profound appreciation to you, Your Holiness, and to all of those from the Holy City who made it possible for us to meet in Vatican City.
This is truly a city of peace, love, and charity, where the highest to the humblest among us seek to follow in the footsteps of the fishermen. As you know, Your Holiness, this is my first visit to Europe as President. And I would like to think of it as a pilgrimage for peace, a journey aimed at strengthening the forces for peace in the free West by offering new opportunities for realistic negotiations with those who may not share the values of freedom and the spirit we cherish.
This is no easy task, but I leave this audience with a renewed sense of hope and dedication. Hope -- because one cannot meet a man like Your Holiness without feeling that a world that can produce such courage and vision out of adversity and oppression is capable, with God's help, of building a better future. Dedication -- because one cannot enter this citadel of faith, the fountainhead of so many of the values we in the free West hold dear, without coming away resolved to do all in one's power to live up to them.
Certain common experiences we've shared in our different walks of life, Your Holiness, and the warm correspondence we've carried on, also, gave our meeting a special meaning for me. I hope that others will follow. Let me add that all Americans remember with great warmth your historic visit to our shores in 1979. We all hope that you'll be back again with your timeless message. Ours is a nation grounded on faith, faith in man's ability through God-given freedom to live in tolerance and peace and faith that a Supreme Being guides our daily striving in this world. Our national motto, ``In God We Trust,'' reflects that faith.
Many of our earliest settlers came to America seeking a refuge where they could worship God unhindered, so our dedication to individual freedom is wedded to religious freedom as well. Liberty has never meant license to Americans. We treasure it precisely because it protects the human and spiritual values that we hold most dear: the right to worship as we choose, the right to elect democratic leaders, the right to choose the type of education we want for our children, and freedom from fear, want, and oppression. These are God-given freedoms, not the contrivances of man.
We also believe in helping one another through our churches and charitable institutions or simply as one friend, one good Samaritan to another. The Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule are as much a part of our living heritage as the Constitution we take such pride in. And we have tried -- not always successfully, but always in good conscience -- to extend those same principles to our role in the world.
We know that God has blessed America with the freedom and abundance many of our less fortunate brothers and sisters around the world have been denied. Since the end of World War II, we have done our best to provide assistance to them, assistance amounting to billions of dollars worth of food, medicine, and materials. And we'll continue to do so in the years ahead. Americans have always believed that in the words of the Scripture, ``Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.''
To us, in a troubled world, the Holy See and your pastorate represent one of the world's greatest moral and spiritual forces. We admire your active efforts to foster peace and promote justice, freedom, and compassion in a world that is still stalked by the forces of evil. As a people and as a government, we seek to pursue the same goals of peace, freedom, and humanity along political and economic lines that the Church pursues in its spiritual role. So, we deeply value your counsel and support and express our solidarity with you.
Your Holiness, one of the areas of our mutual concern is Latin America. We want to work closely with the Church in that area to help promote peace, social justice, and reform, and to prevent the spread of repression and godless tyranny. We also share your concern in seeking peace and justice in troubled areas of the Middle East, such as Lebanon.
Another special area of mutual concern is the martyred nation of Poland -- your own homeland. Through centuries of adversity, Poland has been a brave bastion of faith and freedom in the hearts of her courageous people, if not in those who rule her.
We seek a process of reconciliation and reform that will lead to a new dawn of hope for the people of Poland, and we'll continue to call for an end to martial law, for the freeing of all political prisoners, and to resume dialog among the Polish Government, the Church, and the Solidarity movement which speaks for the vast majority of Poles. While denying financial assistance to the oppressive Polish regime, America will continue to provide the Polish people with as much food and commodity support as possible through church and private organizations.
Today, Your Holiness, marks the beginning of the United Nations Special Session on Disarmament. We pledge to do everything possible in these discussions, as in our individual initiatives for peace and arms reduction, to help bring a real, lasting peace throughout the world. To us, this is nothing less than a sacred trust.
Dante has written that, ``The infinite goodness has such wide arms that it takes whatever turns to it.'' We ask your prayers, Holy Father, that God will guide us in our efforts for peace on this journey and in the years ahead and that the wide arms of faith and forgiveness can some day embrace a world at peace, with justice and compassion for all mankind.
The Pope. Mr. President, I am particularly pleased to welcome you today to the Vatican. Although we have already had many contacts, it is the first time that we have met personally.
In you, the President of the United States of America, I greet all the people of your great land. I still remember vividly the warm welcome that I was given by millions of your fellow citizens less than 3 years ago. On that occasion, I was once more able to witness firsthand the vitality of your nation. I was able to see again how the moral and spiritual values transmitted by your Founding Fathers find their dynamic expression in the life of modern America.
The American people are indeed proud of their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They are proud of civil and social progress in American society as well as their extraordinary advances in science and technology.
As I speak to you today, it is my hope that the entire structure of American life will rest ever more securely on the strong foundation of moral and spiritual values. Without the fostering and defense of these values, all human advancement is stunted and the very dignity of the human person is endangered.
Throughout the course of their history, and especially in difficult times, the American people have repeatedly risen to challenges presented to them. They have given many proofs of unselfishness, generosity, concern for others, concern for the poor, the needy, the oppressed. They have shown confidence in that great ideal of being a united people with a mission of service to perform.
At this present moment in the history of the world, the United States is called, above all, to fulfill its mission in the service of world peace. The very condition of the world today calls for a far-sighted policy that will favor those indispensable conditions of justice and freedom, of truth and love, that are the foundations of lasting peace.
Mr. President, my own greatest preoccupation is for the peace of the world, peace in our day.
In many parts of the world, there are centers of acute tension. This acute tension is manifested above all in the crisis of the South Atlantic, in the war between Iran and Iraq, and, now, in the grave crisis provoked by the new events in Lebanon. This grave crisis in Lebanon likewise merits the attention of the world because of the danger it contains of further provocation in the Middle East, with immense consequences for world peace.
There are, fortunately, many factors in society that today positively contribute to peace. These positive factors include an increasing realization of the interdependence of all peoples, the growing solidarity with those in need, and a greater conviction of the absurdity of war as a means of resolving controversies between nations.
During my recent visit to Britain, I stated in particular that the scale and the horror of modern warfare, whether nuclear or not, makes it totally unacceptable as a means of settling differences between nations. And for those who profess the Christian faith, I offer it as motivation the fact that when you are in contact with the Prince of Peace, you understand how totally opposed to His message are hatred and war.
The duty of peace falls especially upon the leaders of the world. It is up to the representatives of governments and peoples to work to free humanity not only from wars and conflicts but from the fear that is generated by ever more sophisticated and deadly weapons.
Peace is not only the absence of war; it also involves reciprocal trust between nations, a trust that is manifested and proved through constructive negotiations that aim at ending the arms race and at liberating immense resources that can be used to alleviate misery and feed millions of hungry human beings.
All effective peacemaking requires foresightedness, for foresightedness is a quality needed in all peacemakers. You, your own great nation is called to exercise this foresightedness as are all the nations of the world. This quality enables leaders to commit themselves to those concrete programs which are essential to world peace -- programs of justice and development, efforts to defend and protect human life, as well as initiatives that favor human rights. On the contrary, anything that wounds, weakens, or dishonors human dignity in any aspect imperils the cause of the human person and at the same time the peace of the world.
The relations between nations are greatly affected by the development issue which preserves its full relevance in this day of ours. Success in resolving questions in the North-South dialog will continue to be the gates of peaceful relations between values, political communities, and continue to influence the peace of the world in the years ahead.
Economic and social advancement linked to financial collaboration between peoples remains an apt goal for the renewed efforts of the statesmen of the world.
A truly universal concept of the common good of the human family is an incomparable instrument in building the edifice of the world today. It is my own conviction that a united and concerned America can contribute immensely to the cause of world peace through the efforts of her leaders and the commitment of all her citizens. Dedicated to the high ideals of her traditions, America is in a splendid position to help all humanity enjoy what she herself is intent on possessing.
With faith in God and belief in universal human solidarity may America step forward in this crucial moment in history to consolidate her rightful place at the service of world peace. In this sense, Mr. President, I repeat today those words that I spoke when I left the United States in 1979. My final prayer is this: that God will bless America so that she may increasingly become and truly be and long remain one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Thank you very much.
Note: The President spoke at 12:41 p.m. in the Papal Library at the Vatican Palace following his private meeting with the Pope.