Address of Pope Pius XII

Di Gran Cuore Vi Diamo (1956)

Address to the Sixth National Week on New Pastoral Methods
September 14, 1956

WITH all Our heart We welcome you, Venerable Brethren and beloved sons who are taking part in the “Sixth National Week on New Pastoral Methods” here in the eternal city.

We realize that in choosing Rome as the site of your meetings this year, your Central Office wanted to pay filial tribute to Our person, while giving evidence of your development and of your firm resolution to spread your influence as far as possible. And, as a matter of fact, this dear mother of ours — Rome — has a way of anointing with the chrism of universality any kind of activity which shares her spirit, even activities which have sprung up in far-off regions, as she receives in exchange the valuable contribution which they have to offer.

Center for Pastoral Orientation

The reports which you were good enough to send Us note that the “Center for Pastoral Orientation” originated in Milan in September, 1953, at the “Didascaleion” Institute for Higher Studies.

At first it was restricted to the diocese of St. Ambrose, but before long the need of spreading throughout Italy became apparent, and a triple aim was set: 1) to bring the clergy and Catholic laity up to date on the various movements which are trying to bring Christian life to full bloom, and to give them an idea of the tremendous value of these activities, in the light of dogmatic and moral theology, of sociology, and of history; 2) to study the organizational problems that are involved and the practical means of making the activity which is undertaken intelligent and productive; 3) to reach a certain agreement on coordination of all pastoral activity, for here in Italy it has to face some special problems of a general nature.

Your Center has a quarterly publication — “Pastoral Orientation”— whose aim is to “direct — bring up to date — coordinate” and promote the “National Weeks on New Pastoral Methods” in particular.

This present session, the sixth, has for its basic theme “the word of God in the Christian community” — a topic that can easily be sub-divided into many particular subjects. Each of your outstanding speakers in turn is faced with what We might describe as an overflowing abundance of questions and problems to be considered, and these are problems which touch on vital points in the apostolate. Their proper solution will lend new force to the traditional vigor of that primordial instrument of the faith — preaching.

Christian revival

At your request, We intend to add a thought or two to your many learned reports and lectures on the place of the Word of God in pastoral activity and its use as a means for a Christian revival of the world, and for the salvation of the soul of modern man — who thirsts so for the Word of God and His truth. Whenever it really sounds forth, the screeching of machines, the shouts of the mob, sighs of pain, and cries of passion seem to die out all of a sudden, and deep within the spirit, which is surrounded by a protective wall of silence, an encouraging rustle of hope begins to rise.

Christ: The Church’s model in preaching

We do not intend to go into the problem of how to go about proclaiming the Word of God in specific instances and how to apply it to various times, places, and persons in the light of modern problems, the modern mentality, modern feelings, and modern language. Above and beyond all that — or perhaps it might be better to say, at its very basis — there is another deeper element, which is mentioned in your general aims, and to which We would like to draw your attention now.

This element seems to Us to be something more than a matter of an up-to-the-minute approach. For both priest and layman, it involves a profound liberation, an acquisition, a security, a defense against tepidity and externalism.

Our Lord Himself preached the word of God; the Church has taken Him as its model in preaching it through the centuries. Hence the subject for Our talk today: the preaching of the Word of God in the community takes its standard and ultimately its orientation — 1) from the preaching of Christ, and 2) from that of the Church.



When pious meditation carries Us back to relive the events of the Gospel and We find Ourselves in spirit in the midst of the multitude crowding around our divine Master as He makes known the glad tidings, We are struck at once by His ability to put His very soul into the words, along with His wisdom and love, so that these words become a faithful mirror of His Person. Christ’s preaching has a personal character that is tremendously effective.

1. The personal character of the preaching of our Lord.

The first thing that this personal character reveals to Us is an absolute certainty and clarity of mind and a fixed determination and firmness in the will. Our Lord gives Himself wholly and completely to announcing the Word of God. “My teaching is not my own, but his who sent me. . . . He who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory. But he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is truthful, and there is no injustice in him.” (John 7, 16, 18)

Christ’s service of souls

A second characteristic is His dedication to the service of souls. “I have compassion on the crowd!” (Mark 8, 2) The parable of the good Shepherd is most significant in this regard. (John 10, 1-21) “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”

He gave Himself to men and to souls in the constant preaching of the Word of God: moving from place to place, from city to city, (Luke 4, 42-48), or staying where He was (Mark 8, 2), in the synagogues (Luke 4, 15), in the temple, on the shores of the lake (Luke 5, 1), in a boat on the sea (Mark 4, 1), on the mountains (Matth. 5, 1; 15, 29).

He cured the sick, raised the dead, piled miracle upon miracle so that men would believe His words and that thus the Word of God might sink its roots in their souls and bring forth fruit (cfr. Luke 8, 11-15).

His lips poured forth the parables and stories He used to clothe the Word of God, in the hope that it might be engraved on the hearts of men and bring them to reflect. The preaching of the Word of God by our Lord was driven on by an immense, tireless, ever active love for souls.

Calmness and detachment

The third characteristic was calmness in judgment and a total independence of the pleasure or resentment, approval or disapproval aroused in men by His words.

When He openly rebuked the vanity and ambition of the Scribes and Pharisees, He showed complete detachment from the applause of the populace and the favor of the ruling classes (Matth. 23, 1-13). Because of the wonders He had worked, the crowd wanted to make Him king; but Jesus fled and went up on to a mountain by Himself (John 6, 15).

He was to experience the “Hosannas” of His solemn entry and the “Crucify Him” of the Passion with full command of His feelings, without allowing Himself to be carried away by the former or frightened by the latter (Mark 9, 11; Luke 19, 37-40; John 19, 6-15).

May these few brief suggestions on the personal character of the Redeemer’s proclamation of the Word of God be a lesson to all priests on the inner dispositions they should have in preaching that same Word!

2. The preaching of our Lord and its content.

Now look for a moment at the content of the preaching of our Lord, and try to grasp its object and characteristics, so that your words may be worthy of faithful ambassadors of Christ.

Dispositions which Christ required of His listeners

a) Our Lord laid down certain dispositions of mind and heart as required of His listeners if they were to receive His teaching fruitfully: first, the moral seriousness which a man has to have in approaching revelation and God’s demands, for they leave no room for levity or superficiality (Matth. 11, 16-17; 7, 21); next, an honesty and inner sincerity that excludes all hypocrisy and double-dealing (Matth. 16, 6; Luke 12, 1); zeal for the Kingdom of God, which is irreconcilable with laziness and inactivity (Matth. 7, 18; 25, 21, 23, 30) ; constant vigilance (Matth. 25, 13; Mark 13, 35-37); a deliberate, firm acceptance of the word and will of God (Matth. 7, 21; 19, 17; Luke 11, 28).

Our Lord poured forth an abundance of the loftiest teachings to hearts that were thus prepared.

Fear and trust

He wanted to bind men ever closer to their Father in heaven; and so He implanted in them a fear of His infinite majesty on the one hand (Matth. 10, 28), and an unconditional trust and childlike love of Him above all things on the other (Matth. 6, 9; 22, 37). Men should feel secure in the tender, watchful love of their heavenly Father, and so not worry too much about material goods (Matth. 6, 25 and 38).

Union with Christ

b) But besides this, our Lord’s preaching inspired a union with Christ: faith in Christ, trust, love of Christ, an unconditional dedication to Christ and for Christ (Matth. 10, 32-39), imitation of Him.

Christ is the center of preaching. Anyone who reads the sermons of Christ in the Gospels, can see that it is impossible to keep Christ out of the preaching of the Word of God without modifying and falsifying its very substance. And the exhortation of the Apostle St. Paul tells us that Christ is just as inseparable from the preaching of a priest in the pastoral ministry: “But we, for our part, preach a crucified Christ” (I Cor. 1, 23); “For we preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ” (II Cor. 4, 5).

Christ’s commands

As for all of the rest of the material treated by Christ in His preaching, We will be content for now to point out — over and above His great promises (heaven, the Eucharist, the Resurrection, eternal life) — the duties of which He spoke. They give Us an idea of the topics of His talks, the importance He attached to them and where He laid stress; this is a real help to a priest in his pastoral ministry for he can keep these arguments in mind and then use them at the proper moment in his own preaching with the realization: This is what our Lord did.

Now among these commands, We find special attention paid to the duty of prayer (Luke 18, 1; Matth. 7, 7); the duty of internal and external humility, with a disapproval of all pride and arrogance (Luke 14, 11; 18, 14; Matth. 11, 29); the duty of self-denial and sacrifice; the duty of mastery of the passions (Matth. 5, 30); the duty of carrying the cross in the footsteps of our crucified Lord (Luke 9, 23); the duty of tending toward perfection (Matth. 5, 48); the great duty of love of neighbor, similar to the first and greatest commandment of love of God (Matth. 22, 39); the duty of submission to the Church and to the Authority established by Christ (Matth. 18, 17; Luke 10, 16); the duty of holiness and of the indissolubility of marriage; the doctrine and the fact of the superiority and pre-eminence of virginity over matrimony (Matth. 19, 3 and 12); the doctrine of God’s judging and rewarding every man according to his works (Matth. 6, 4, 6, 18; 16, 27; 25, 34-36 and 41-43); the doctrine of the inexhaustible mercy of God in pardoning faults and wiping out punishment, as long as life lasts here below for any of us (Luke 15, 1-7 and 8-10; 5, 20-24; John 20, 23).

All of this leads Us to a comparison of the preaching of the priest with that of our Lord. And it brings Us to make the preaching of Christ the supreme guide and rule for “pastoral orientation” and “pastoral adaptation.”



Now We have to direct Our attention to the second part of the theme mentioned at the beginning — and in a threefold way: 1) the mission of the Church in preaching the Word of God; 2) the carrying out of this mission in the course of time; 3) the carrying out of this mission at the present moment.

1. The mission of the Church in preaching the Word of God.

In speaking of the Church, Fundamental Theology and Dogmatic Theology offer lengthy accounts and a wealth of argumentation about its teaching authority, pointing up its nature, origin, direct and indirect objects, prerogatives, and various types of activity. There is no point in taking up these matters with you, who are theologians, and therefore already well-acquainted with them. So We would like to set out along another path, and continue the first part of Our talk by showing how the mission of the Church in preaching the Word of God is a carrying on of the preaching of Christ, in its content (“veritas Christi”), its aims, and in the demands made by Christ in the matter of human conduct.

The Church’s teaching mission

We would like to single out one point in the classical text on the power and duty of the Church to teach: “Go and make disciples of all nations, . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matth. 28, 20); the Apostles (and, in them, the Church) have to announce what our Lord announced, and teach men to observe all that He has commanded them to believe and do.

The Acts of the Apostles tell Us that before ascending into heaven, our Lord gave the Apostles one more instruction on the mission which awaited them and on the equipment He had given them for carrying it out. “You shall be witnesses for me . . . even to the very ends of the earth” (Acts 1, 8). The Apostles were to be witnesses of Him, of His doctrine, of His life, of His Passion, of His resurrection. In order to be fitted to give this testimony, they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit (“You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit,” Acts 1, 5); they would receive the strength of the Holy Spirit, which would come upon them (“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,” Acts 1, 8).

These few short indications point up a slightly different aspect of the mission of the Church in preaching the Word of God, which is more profound than the one usually presented in Fundamental Theology; the latter is usually more theoretical, with less stress on the living reality involved.

The full sense of what We want to say now is to be found on the lips of the Savior Himself in His farewell discourse; at that time the Redeemer used a friendly conversation to reveal His thoughts on the mission He was entrusting to the Apostles and, through them, to the Church.

The Spirit of truth

Our Lord had come to the end of His life on earth. He still had much to say to those who were to carry on His mission, but at this time they were not yet ready to bear it (John 16, 12). So He would beg the Father to send another Parakleton, to remain with them forever, the Spirit of truth, Whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees nor knows Him (John 14, 16-17).

This Helper, this Holy Spirit, would teach the Apostles everything and recall to them all that He had said, all the “veritas Christi” (John 14, 26). This would prepare them to go on announcing the word of Christ in the spirit of Christ. They would be receiving all that they had to teach from the strength and authority of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Truth, light, and love

Beloved sons, here you have a key for the understanding and appreciation of the preaching of the Church — a preaching of the doctrine of Christ through the Church’s teachers, the Pope and the Bishops who are in communion with him. It is the one and triune God Who communicates truth, light and life through the teaching authority of the Church.

These thoughts do not do away with a need for the systematic exposition and the clear definitions which scientific Theology offers Us in this question of the origin and properties of the teaching authority of the Church. On the contrary, they will help it to avoid certain false interpretations and arbitrary inferences which have been proposed by some even quite recently.

But at the same time, they are a real help toward setting a higher value on the preaching of the Church and giving it greater attention, and toward a readier acceptance of it, while they bring a better understanding of what radiates out from it: truth, light, and life from the depths of God.

2. The carrying out of this mission in the course of history.

We certainly do not intend to give a summary of the history of the Church under this heading. Our only desire is to take up this question:

Has the preaching of the Church, which is based on the truths which the Lord has commanded it to teach, and which is sustained by the Spirit of God in each succeeding age, been applied to modern man and his time? To answer this question, you have to take a look at the past.

“And thou shalt renew the face of the earth”

All that the Psalmist says of the Spirit of the Creator and that the Church applies to the Holy Spirit in her prayer can be seen in action in her own preaching in the course of the centuries: “Emitte Spiritum tuum et creabuntur, et renovabis faciem terrae.” The Church, which has spread the truth of Christ in the world through the power of the Holy Spirit, has renewed the face of the earth, not once, but time and again.

You can see it in the early ages of Christianity in the midst of a pagan world and of the worship of false gods; in the time of the downfall of the Roman Empire and of its civilization; in the times of the invasions of new races and peoples; in the Middle Ages, with their flowering of Christianity; in the time of the new paganism; in the time of the unfortunate split in the faith in the West; in the age of the Enlightenment — and so forth.

Always and everywhere the preaching of the Church has had the same aim and the same result: to make a man a Christian, to infuse into man the truth, the life, and the riches of the grace of the Lord. In this sense, the preaching of the Church has shown its adaptability and has actually adapted itself to all men, all times, all types of civilization.

The gates of hell shall not prevail

The struggles and persecutions that have surrounded the preaching of the Church in its progress through the course of the centuries are common knowledge; the same is true of the succession of victory and defeat, rise and fall, heroic professions at the cost of life and goods, and, in some cases, downfall, betrayal, abandonment. History gives clear evidence of one thing: “The gates of hell shall not prevail” (Matth. 16, 18). But there is some evidence on the other side too; the gates of hell have had partial successes.

Surely, when you think of the riches of truth and of grace with which the Lord has endowed the Church for the fulfillment of its teaching office, you would expect that its journey through the ages would be nothing but a continuously salutary and peaceful victory.

But events have developed in a very different way, just as the Redeemer Himself had predicted to the Apostles: “No servant is greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before you.” (John 15, 18-20).

So there have been efforts and struggles, persecution and oppression, a Via Crucis instead of a solemn entry with jubilant Hosannas, but along the way the Church has conquered the minds and hearts of countless men through the truth and force of the Holy Spirit.

3. The carrying out of this Mission in the present day.

All that We have said of the past is true of the present as well. A “Center for Pastoral Orientation” with the aim of “pastoral adaptation” is good and in many cases absolutely necessary. The “priest entrusted with the care of souls” can and must know what modern science, art, and technology have to say about man’s goal and his religious and moral life; he must have a clear idea of what is acceptable, what is unacceptable, and what is indifferent, from a moral and religious point of view.

The Church’s teaching authority

Now We must say the same thing of the present as We did of the past: there is as much of a need (and today an even greater one) of keeping our pastoral activity up to date on its contact with the preaching of the Church (the vivum Magisterium ecclesiasticum), as there is for keeping it in touch with modern sciences.

We can go a step farther and say that right now there is a greater need of an “orientation” of modern sciences toward the teaching authority of the Church (whenever they are dealing with the religious and moral fields) than there is for an orientation of the teaching authority of the Church toward modern sciences. (This involves no desire on Our part to disturb the autonomy of these sciences whenever they are not dealing with the religious-moral field either directly or indirectly, and as long as the direction of human life toward a supernatural final end does not suffer in any way.)

We are interested now in making people more aware of the necessity of contact with the Church’s teaching authority, and in strengthening their personal conviction of the importance of adopting and maintaining this contact in order to make their activity well-adapted to current times and people.

The Church has within it the arms given it by Christ: the truth of Christ and the Holy Spirit. With this equipment, it has its hand on the pulse of the times, and the faithful must have theirs on the pulse of the Church if they are to be properly orientated and able to give a proper diagnosis and prognosis of the present time in its relationship to eternity.

The “new theology”

The Encyclical “Humani generis” of August 12, 1950, “De nonnullis falsis opinionibus, quae catholicae doctrinae fundamenta subruere minantur” [On some false opinions which threaten to undermine the foundations of Catholic doctrine], (Acta Ap. Sedis 42, 1950, pp. 561 ff.) is to a great extent a refutation of a false “Orientation” and “Modernization” of theology, philosophy, and exegesis in line with certain modern currents and scientific tendencies which lack a sufficient basis. It speaks of an unjustified tendency toward erroneous systems of philosophy and of the concessions that some seem to be ready to make (evolutionism, idealism, immanentism, pragmatism, existentialism, historicism) in the field of theology and in exegesis.

The “new theology” claimed to be fitting in with modern developments and to be making it easier and more natural for a Catholic scientist to be a Catholic. As a matter of fact, it began to introduce arbitrary corrections, suppressions, changes, and reconstructions of all that had gone before, to tone down the rigidity and immutability of metaphysical principles, to make precise dogmatic definitions more flexible, to revise the content and meaning and inner structure of the supernatural, to spiritualize and modernize the theology of the Eucharist, to adopt a new approach to the doctrine of the Redemption, the nature and effects of sin, and not a few other points, so as to bring them into line with modern thought and feelings. The same kind of movement could be observed in the field of exegesis. Many wanted to accept the ideas and conclusions of profane sciences, often without any serious examination or evaluation.

“Modern Orientation”

There are some other current examples that We would like to mention now, to give you an even clearer view of just how necessary it is at the present time for any “Orientation” or “Modernization” to be in contact with the living Magisterium of the Church.

Any “modern Orientation” will have to adopt a vigilant and critical attitude toward the “New Morality” as well as the “New Theology.” We have explained the mind of the Church on this subject in two talks on March 23 [La Famiglia] and April 18 [Soyez les Bienvenues], 1952 (Discorsi e Radiomessaggi, v. 14, pp. 19-27 and 71-78).

The Holy See has recently taken a stand on a related matter in the Instruction of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office [Contra Doctrinam] on February 2 of this year (Acta Ap. Sedis 48, 1956, pp. 144-45), on “Ethica Situationis” [Situation Ethics], a system which appeals to many who do not have a clear idea of its dangerous nature. The “Center for Orientation” is faced with a serious obligation in this matter, if it is really interested in providing up-to-date information that has a scientific basis.

The Holy See has spoken and taken a stand on questions of law and the natural order, on social problems, on secularism in its various applications — to education and the school problem, the life of the state, international relations and international law — and because it has spoken, modern pastoral orientation will do well to keep these teachings in mind.

Theologians and the Magisterium

There is another point that We cannot pass over in silence. Special circumstances in the ecclesiastical history of the last few years prompted Us to make mention in Our two allocutions to the Sacred College and to the Hierarchy on May 31 [Si Diligis] and November 2 [Magnificate Dominum], 1954 (Discorsi, v. 16, pp. 41-46 and 245-246), of the “jure divino” basis for the teaching authority of the Pope and of Bishops. We went on to discuss the teaching of Theologians, who do not carry on their work through divine right, but through delegation of the Church, and hence remain subject to the vigilance and authority of the legitimate Teaching Authority. When Theologians take an active interest in “Orientation” and bring forth scientific theological arguments, you may be faced with the problem of whether the word of Theologians or that of the Teaching Authority of the Church carries greater weight and offers a greater guarantee of truth.

The Encyclical “Humani generis” has already provided an answer: “Quod quidem depositum (fidei) … necipsis theologis divinus Redemptor concredidit authentice interpretandum, sed soli Ecclesiae Magisterio. . . . Quare Decessor Noster imm. mem. Pius IX, docens nobilissimum theologiae munus illud esse, quod ostendat quomodo ab Ecclesia definita doctrina contineatur in fontibus, non absque gravi causa illa addidit verba: eo ipso sensu, quo ab Ecclesia definita est” (l.c., p. 569). [“This deposit of faith our Divine Redeemer has given for authentic interpretation not to each of the faithful, not even to theologians, but only to the Teaching Authority of the Church. … Hence Our Predecessor of immortal memory, Pius IX, teaching that the most noble office of theology is to show how a doctrine defined by the Church is contained in the sources of revelation, added these words, and with very good reason: ‘in that sense in which it has been defined by the Church’.”] So the decisive factor in knowing the truth is not the “Opinio theologorum” [opinion of theologians] but the “sensus Ecclesiae” [judgment of the Church]. To reverse the matter would be making Theologians practically the “magistri Magisterii” [teachers of the Magisterium], which is obviously an error.

This does not imply, of course, that Theologians and other learned men should relax their efforts to put on a scientific basis a whole series of questions which acutely affect our lives. The Holy See certainly loves, praises, and promotes the learned studies and lofty speculation of Theologians who are penetrating more deeply into revealed truths and who are ever ready to ponder, explain, and support the declarations of the ecclesiastical Teaching Authority with scientific seriousness, in the light of reason as illuminated by faith (Conc. Vatic. Sess. III, cap. 4), which means, as Pius IX affirmed, “in sensu Ecclesiae.”

Related issues

As for the many individual issues which also have a bearing on our present topic — questions of medicine, psychology, psychotherapy and clinical psychology, law, guilt and punishment, sociology, national and international questions, and other things of the sort — all We can do at the moment is to refer you to the many discourses We have already given on them.

Marriage and virginity

The recent Encyclical, De Sacra Virginitate [Sacra Virginitas], of March 25, 1954, has shown you, among other things, the Church’s attitude toward the endless debates carried on by modern men and especially by the young about the importance or even — as some will have it — the indispensable necessity of marriage for the human person (who, otherwise, in their opinion, remains a kind of spiritual monster), and its attitude concerning the supposed superiority of Christian marriage and the marriage-act over virginity —which is not a sacrament that produces effects ex opere operato (Act. Ap. Sedis 46, 1954, pp. 174-76).

Sacred music

And We do not want to omit mention of a passage of the Encyclical on “Musica sacra” [Musicae Sacrae] of December 25, 1955, where there is express mention of the Church’s attitude toward the hotly debated and often erroneously solved problem of the independence of art from all that is not art. You know yourselves how often this question is discussed even in Catholic groups without any clear knowledge of true, basic principles (Act. Ap. Sedis 48, 1956, pp. 10-11).

The leaven of salvation

Now We have come to the end of Our exhortation, and We hope that it may be for your Center like the “leaven, which a woman took and buried in three measures of flour, until all of it was leavened” (Matth. 18, 33).

You will really become a leaven of salvation for the whole modern world to the extent that you are able to attain, under the guidance of Holy Mother the Church, the inexhaustible vigor of the eternal Word, Who became man to make men sharers in His divine nature. May every Pastor of souls approach the world in that same way, with intelligence, knowledge, and love, so that he may not be dragged down by the world to its own level, but may see his human words bringing it the liberating truth of God, the transcendent perfection of the Redeemer, Jesus.

May our Lord grant you an abundant increase of the “spirit of Christ” and of the “spirit of the Church” of Christ, that you may carry out this duty of yours fruitfully.

Meanwhile, as a pledge of these wonderful graces, We impart to you with all Our heart Our paternal Apostolic Benediction.

[Original Source (Italian): Acta Apostolicae Sedis, vol. 48 (1956): pp. 699-711. Translation Source: Rev. Austin Vaughan, taken from The Pope Speaks, vol. 3, no. 4 (Spring, 1957), pp. 381-392; italics and bold print given.]

Image source: Wikimedia Commons
License: public domain

Share this content now: