to the Sacred College of Cardinals
Wednesday, 30 August 1978
* * * [The] unity [of the Church] transcends space, ignores racial difference and enriches us with the true values present in diverse cultures. Though peoples differ in geographical location, in language and mentality, through this one communion, they become a single great family. How could one but feel a wave of a brightening hope in face of the marvellous spectacle your presence offers to a reflective spirit? It projects one's mind in the direction of the five continents represented in so dramatic and worthy a fashion by you.
Your presence places before us an eloquent image of the Church of Christ. The Catholic unity of this Church so moved the great Augustine and led him to keep in focus the "small branches" of the single particular churches so that they would not detach themselves "from that great tree which is spread throughout the world through the extension of its branches" (Letter 185 to Boniface, n. 8, 32).
It is for this unity that we know we have been established both as a sign and as an instrument (cf. Lumen Gentium, 22:2, 23:1). It is our goal to dedicate our total energy to the defence of this unity and indeed its increase. We are encouraged in this by our awareness that we can trust in the enlightened and generous action of each of you as well. We do not intend to restate the great themes of our programme which are already known to you. We would only wish to reconfirm in this moment together with you all, the commitment of our total availability to the guidance of the Spirit for the good of the Church. It was this that each of you promised on the day of your elevation to the Cardinalate, to serve "even to the shedding of your blood."
Venerable Brothers, last Saturday we found ourselves faced with that momentous decision of saying "yes." We knew that this would place on our shoulders the formidable weight of the Apostolic ministry. One of you whispered in my ear encouraging words of trust and confidence. It is fitting then for us, having now been made the Vicar of the One who commanded Peter to "confirm your brothers" (Lk. 22:32), it is fitting for us to remind you that you are now to take up your respective ecclesiastical responsibilities with courage, with firm trust. Even in the difficulty of the present hour, we have the ever-present assistance of Christ. He repeats again to us today the words spoken when the darkness of the passion gathered over him, words spoken to that first group of believers, "Remember, I have overcome the world" (Jn. 16:33).
In the name of Christ and with the pledge of our paternal goodwill, we impart to you, to your collaborators, and to all the souls who come under your pastoral care, the first fruits of our propitious Apostolic Blessing.