U.S. President's Address to the Pope, 1982
President Ronald Reagan

Pope's address

On Monday, 7 June [1982], Pope John Paul II received a visit from the President of the United States, Mr Ronald Reagan, who was accompanied by his wife Nancy. Other members of the official party were Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig, Jr, and his wife; Mr James A. Baker III, Chief of Staff and Assistant to the President; Mr Michael K. Deaver, Deputy Chief of Staff and Assistant to the President, and his wife; Mr William P. Clark, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, and his wife; Mr Edward V. Hickey, Jr, Assistant to the President and Director of Special Support Services; Mr William A. Wilson, Personal Representative of the President to the Holy See, and his wife; Mr Michael A. McManus, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy to the Deputy Chief of Staff; and Mr Robert De Prospero, Special Assistant to the President.

The following is the text of President Reagan's address.

Your Holiness, Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, Members of the Clergy, 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 See who made it possible for us to meet in Vatican City.

This is truly is a city of peace, love and charity where the highest arid the humblest among us seek to follow in the footsteps of the Fisherman.

As you know, Your Holiness, this is my first visit to Europe as President. 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 while offering new opportunities for realistic negotiations with those who may not share the values of freedom and the spirit which 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 have shared in our different walks of life, Your Holiness, and the warm correspondence we have 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 will he 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 political and individual freedoms is wedded to religious freedom as well. Liberty has never meant licence to Americans. We treasure it precisely because it protects the human and spiritual values 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 a 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, medicines and materials—and we will 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 much be 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 will continue to call for an end to martial law, for the freeing of all political. prisoners, and a resumed dialogue 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 U.N. special session on disarmament. We pledge to do everything possible in these discussions—as in our individual initiatives for peace and arms reductions—to help bring a real, lasting peace throughout the world. To us, this is nothing less than it 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 someday embrace a world at peace, with justice and compassion for all mankind.


Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
14 June 1982, page 5

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