October 11, 2002

The Balance of the Helmsman
"While it is right that, in accordance with the example of her Master, who is “humble in heart,” the Church also should have humility as her foundation, that she should have a critical sense with regard to all that goes to make up her human character and activity, and that she should always be very demanding on herself, nevertheless criticism too should have its just limits. Otherwise it ceases to be constructive and does not reveal truth, love and thankfulness for the grace in which we become sharers principally and fully in and through the Church. Furthermore such criticism does not express an attitude of service but rather a wish to direct the opinion of others in accordance with one’s own, which is at times spread abroad in too thoughtless a manner.

Gratitude is due to Paul VI because, while respecting every particle of truth contained in the various human opinions, he preserved at the same time the providential balance of the bark’s helmsman. The Church that I – through John Paul I – have had entrusted to me almost immediately after him is admittedly not free of internal difficulties and tension. At the same time, however, she is internally more strengthened against the excesses of self-criticism: she can be said to be more critical with regard to the various thoughtless criticisms, more resistant with respect to the various “novelties,” more mature in her spirit of discerning, better able to bring out of her everlasting treasure “what is new and what is old,” more intent on her own mystery, and because of all that more serviceable for her mission of salvation for all: God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

- Pope John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis

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