JOHN PAUL II
Sunday, 6 April 2003
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Forty years ago on 11 April 1963, Blessed John XXIII published the Encyclical Pacem in Terris, in which he sketched the main lines for an effective promotion of peace in the world. Today, too, the Encyclical is proving extraordinarily timely. Building peace is "an ongoing task", as the situation in these days dramatically demonstrates.
My thoughts go in particular to Iraq and to all those involved in the war that is being waged there. I am thinking in a special way of the defenceless civilian population in various cities which is subjected to a harsh trial. Please God that this conflict ends soon in order to make way for a new era of forgiveness, love and peace.
2. To achieve this goal, it is necessary to set out anew in the spirit that motivated my venerable Predecessor: a spirit of faith, first of all, and at the same time of realistic and farsighted wisdom. In the Encyclical, he lists among the "signs of the times" that "men are becoming more and more convinced that disputes which arise between States should not be resolved by recourse to arms, but rather by negotiation" (Part III: n. 126). Unfortunately, this positive goal of civilization has not yet been achieved.
I would like to entrust the commitment to peace especially to young people. I will meet them next Sunday [13 April] on the Day dedicated to them. It is indispensable to educate new generations in the way of peace, which must become more and more a lifestyle which is based - as Pope John teaches - on the "four pillars" of truth, justice, love and freedom. In this regard the World Youth Days are a marvellous way to teach brotherhood, a workshop of peace and of hope for the future of humanity.
3. In preparation for World Youth Day, as is now the tradition, I will meet the young people of Rome and of the Dioceses of Lazio in a special session of prayer and festivity, which will take place next Thursday afternoon, 10 April, in St Peter's Square. In light of the theme "Behold, your Mother!", I will entrust the young people present to the Blessed Virgin and give to each one a Rosary to help them pray.
Let us continue with deep confidence to call on Our Lady, praying for peace in Iraq and in every other part of the world.
Saint Peter's Square
On 2 April last year, just as today, in these very hours and here in this very apartment, beloved Pope John Paul II was living the last stage of his earthly pilgrimage, a pilgrimage of faith, love and hope which left a profound mark on the history of the Church and of humanity. His agony and death constitute, as it were, an extension of the Easter Triduum.
We all remember the images of his last Way of the Cross on Good Friday: being unable to go to the Colosseum, he followed it in his Private Chapel, a cross in his hands. Then, on Easter morning he imparted the Urbi et Orbi Blessing, unable to speak, solely with the gesture of his hand. Let us never forget that Blessing. It was the most heartfelt and moving Blessing which he left us as the last testimony of his desire to carry out his ministry to the very end.
John Paul II died as he had always lived, inspired by the indomitable courage of faith, abandoning himself to God and entrusting himself to Mary Most Holy. This evening we will commemorate him with a Marian Prayer Vigil in St Peter's Square, where tomorrow afternoon we will celebrate Mass for him.
His legacy is immense but the message of his very long Pontificate can be summed up well in the words he chose to inaugurate it, here in St Peter's Square on 22 October 1978: "Open wide the doors to Christ!" (Inauguration Homily; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 2 November 1978, p. 12).
John Paul II incarnated this unforgettable appeal, which I feel resounding within me as if it were yesterday, in the whole of himself and in the whole of his mission as Successor of Peter, especially with his extraordinary programme of Apostolic Journeys. In visiting the countries of the entire world, meeting the crowds, the Ecclesial Communities, the Heads of Government, Religious Leaders and various social realities, he was making, as it were, a great gesture to confirm his initial words. He always proclaimed Christ, presenting him to everyone, as did the Second Vatican Council, as an answer to man's expectations, expectations of freedom, justice and peace. Christ is the Redeemer of man, he was fond of repeating, the one genuine Saviour of every person and the entire human race.
In his last years, the Lord gradually stripped him of everything, to make him fully resemble him. And when henceforth he could no longer travel or even walk, or finally even speak, his gesture, his proclamation, was reduced to the essential: to the gift of himself to the very end. His death was the fulfilment of a consistent witness of faith that moved the hearts of so many people of good will.
John Paul II departed from us on a Saturday dedicated especially to Mary, for whom he had always had a filial devotion. Let us now ask the heavenly Mother of God to help us treasure what this great Pope gave and taught us.
After the Angelus:
I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors gathered for this Lenten Angelus. My special greeting goes to the delegation of librarians from Ukraine. On this, the first anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II, let us commend his noble soul to God's loving mercy and pray that his tireless service to the Gospel will bear ever more abundant fruit for the Church's growth in faith, hope and love. Upon all of you I invoke an abundance of joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.
I wish you all a good Sunday! See you tonight for the Rosary!
PASTORAL VISIT TO THE PARISH CHURCH
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Fifth Sunday of Lent, 29 March 2009
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In today's Gospel passage St John refers to an episode that occurred during the last phase of Christ's public ministry, just before the Jewish Passover, which was to be the Passover of his death and Resurrection. While Jesus was in Jerusalem, the Evangelist recounts, some Greeks, proselytes of Judaism who were curious and attracted by what he was doing, approached Philip, one of the Twelve who had a Greek name and came from Galilee. "Sir", they said to him, "we wish to see Jesus". Philip in turn went to Andrew, one of the first Apostles very close to the Lord and who also had a Greek name, and they both went and "told Jesus" (cf. John 12: 20-21).
In the request of these anonymous Greeks we can interpret the thirst to see and to know Christ which is in every person's heart; and Jesus' answer orients us to the mystery of Easter, the glorious manifestation of his saving mission. "The hour has come", he declared, "for the Son of man to be glorified (John 12: 23). Yes! The hour of the glorification of the Son of man is at hand, but it will entail the sorrowful passage through his Passion and death on the Cross. Indeed the divine plan of salvation which is for everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike will only be brought about in this manner. Actually, everyone is invited to be a member of the one people of the new and definitive Covenant. In this light, we also understand the solemn proclamation with which the Gospel passage ends: "and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself" (John 12: 32), and likewise the Evangelist's comment: "He said this to show by what death he was to die" (John 12: 33). The Cross: the height loftiness of love is the loftiness of Jesus and he attracts all to these heights.
Very appropriately, the liturgy brings us to meditate on this text of John's Gospel today, on this Fifth Sunday of Lent, while the days of the Lord's Passion draw near in which we will immerse ourselves spiritually as from next Sunday which is called, precisely, Palm Sunday and the Sunday of the Lord's Passion. It is as if the Church were encouraging us to share Jesus' state of mind, desiring to prepare us to relive the mystery of his Crucifixion, death and Resurrection not as foreign spectators but on the contrary as protagonists, involved together with him in his mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection. Indeed, where Christ is his disciples called to follow him, to be in in solidarity with him at the moment of the combat must also be in order to share in his victory.
What our association with his mission consists of is explained by the Lord himself. In speaking of his forthcoming glorious death, he uses a simple and at the same time evocative image: "unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12: 24).
Yet the man Jesus who was a true man with the same sentiments as ours felt the burden of the trial and bitter sorrow at the tragic end that awaited him. Precisely since he was God-Man he felt terror even more acutely as he faced the abyss of human sin and all that is unclean in humanity which he had to carry with him and consume in the fire of his love. He had to carry all this with him and transform it in his love. "Now is my soul troubled", he confessed. "And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour?" (John 12: 27). The temptation to ask: "Save me, do not permit the Cross, give me life!" surfaces. In the distress of his invocation we may grasp in anticipation the anguished prayer of Gethsemane, when, experiencing the drama of loneliness and fear, he implored the Father to take from him the cup of the Passion. At the same time, however, his filial adherence to the divine plan did not fail, because it is precisely this that enables him to know that his hour has come and with trust he prays: "Father, glorify your name" (John 12: 28). By this he means "I accept the Cross" in which the name of God is glorified, that is, the greatness of his love. Here too Jesus anticipates the words of the Mount of Olives, the process that must be fundamentally brought about in all our prayers: to transform, to allow grace to transform our selfish will and open it to comply with the divine will. The same sentiments surface in the passage of the Letter to the Hebrews proclaimed in the Second Reading. Prostrated by extreme anguish because of the death that was hanging over him, Jesus offers up prayers and supplications to God "with loud cries and tears" (Hebrews 5: 7). He invokes help from the One who can set him free but always remaining abandoned in the Father's hands. And precisely because of his filial trust in God, the author notes, he was heard, in the sense that he was raised, he received new and definitive life. The Letter to the Hebrews makes us understand that these insistent prayers, of Jesus with tears and cries, were the true act of the High Priest with which he offered himself and humanity to the Father, there by transforming the world.
Dear brothers and sisters, this is the demanding way of the Cross that Jesus points out to all his disciples. On several occasions he said, "If anyone wants to serve me, let him follow me". There is no alternative for the Christian who wishes to fulfil his vocation. It is the "law" of the Cross, described with the image of the grain of wheat that dies in order that new life may germinate; it is the "logic" of the Cross, recalled also in today's Gospel: "He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life". "To hate" one's life is a strong and paradoxical Semitic expression that clearly emphasizes the radical totality which must distinguish those who follow Christ and, out of love for him, put themselves at the service of their brethren. They lose their life and thus find it. There is no other way to experience the joy and the true fruitfulness of Love: the way of giving oneself, of self-giving, of losing oneself in order to find oneself.
Dear friends, Jesus' invitation rings out with particular eloquence at today's celebration in this Parish of yours. Indeed, it is dedicated to the Holy Face of Jesus: that Face which "some Greeks", of which the Gospel speaks, wished to see; that Face which in the coming days of the Passion we shall contemplate disfigured by human sins, indifference and ingratitude; that Face, radiant with light and dazzling with glory that will shine out at dawn on Easter Day. Let us keep our hearts and minds fixed on the Face of Christ, dear faithful whom I greet with affection, starting with Fr Luigi Coluzzi, your Parish Priest, to whom I am also grateful for expressing your sentiments. Thank you for your cordial welcome: I am truly glad to be among you on the occasion of the third anniversary of the dedication of your church and I greet you all with affection. I extend a special greeting to the Cardinal Vicar, as well as to Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini, who has contributed to the realization of this new parish centre, to the Auxiliary Bishop of the Sector, to Bishop Marcello Costalunga and to the other Prelates present, to the priests who collaborate in the parish, to the praiseworthy women religious of the Congregation of the Poor Daughters of the Visitation who take care of the residents in their Rest Home for the elderly right opposite this beautiful church. I greet the catechists, the Council and the parish workers and those who collaborate in the life of the Parish; I greet the children, the young people and their families. I extend my thoughts with pleasure to the inhabitants of Magliana, especially the elderly, the sick, people who are lonely and in difficulty. I am praying for each and everyone at this Holy Mass.
Dear brothers and sisters, let yourselves be enlightened by the splendour of the Face of Christ, and your young community which can now benefit from a new parish complex, with modern and functional structures will walk united, united by the commitment to proclaim and witness to the Gospel in this neighbourhood. I know what great care you devote to liturgical formation, making the most of every resource of your community: the readers, the choir and all those who are dedicated to enlivening the celebrations. It is important to put always personal and liturgical prayer first in our life. I am aware of the great commitment you devote to catechesis to ensure that it lives up to the expectations of the children, both those preparing to receive the sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation and those who attend the After-School Prayer and Recreation Centre. You are also anxious to provide a suitable catechesis for parents, whom you invite to take a course of Christian formation together with their children. In this way you seek to help families to live the sacramental events together, educating and being educated in the faith "in the family", which must be the first and natural "school" of Christian life for all its members. I congratulate you on your open and welcoming parish. It is motivated and enlivened by a sincere love for God and for all the brethren, in imitation of St Maximilian Mary Kolbe to whom it was originally dedicated. In Auschwitz, with heroic courage, he sacrificed himself to save the life of another. In our time, marked by a general social and economic crisis, the effort you are making, above all through the parish Caritas and the Sant'Egidio group, in order, as far as possible, to meet the expectations of the poorest and neediest people is most praiseworthy.
I would like to say a special word of encouragement to you, dear young people: let yourselves be attracted by the fascination of Christ! Fixing his Face with the eyes of the faith, ask him: "Jesus what do you want me to do with you and for you?". Thus, keep listening. Be guided by his Spirit, second the plan he has for you. Prepare yourselves seriously and build families that are united and faithful to the Gospel and to be his witnesses in society; then, if he calls you, be ready to dedicate your whole life to his service in the Church as priests or as men and women religious. I assure you of my prayers; in particular I am expecting you next Thursday in St Peter's Basilica to prepare ourselves for the World Youth Day, which as you know, is being celebrated this year at the diocesan level, next Sunday. We shall remember together my beloved and venerable Predecessor John Paul II on the fourth anniversary of his death. In many circumstances he encouraged young people to encounter Christ and to follow him with enthusiasm and generosity.
Dear brothers and sisters of this parish community, may the infinite love of Christ that shines in his Face be radiant in your every attitude, and become your "daily life". As St Augustine urged in an Easter homily, "Christ has suffered; let us die to sin. Christ is risen; let us live for God. Christ has passed from this world to the Father; let us not be attached to this earth with our hearts but follow him in the things of above. Our Lord was hung on the wood of the Cross; let us crucify concupiscence of the flesh. he lay in the tomb; buried with him, let us forget past things; he is seated in Heaven; let us concentrate our longing on our desires to supreme things" (S. Agostino, Discourse 229/D, 1).
Heartened by this knowledge, let us continue the Eucharistic celebration, invoking the motherly intercession of Mary, so that our life may become a reflection of Christ's. Let us pray that all those whom we meet may always perceive in our gestures and in our words the pacifying and comforting goodness of his Face. Amen!
Saint Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I would first of all like to thank God and all those who collaborated in various ways in the success of the Apostolic Journey that I was able to make to Africa in the past few days and I invoke upon the seeds scattered on African soil an abundance of Blessings from Heaven. I propose to expand on this significant pastoral experience next Wednesday at the General Audience, but I cannot let this opportunity pass without expressing the deep emotion I felt on encountering the Catholic communities and peoples of Cameroon and Angola. Two aspects impressed me above all, both of which are very important. The first was the visible joy on the faces of the people, the joy of feeling part of the one family of God, and I thank the Lord for having been able to share moments of simple celebration, choral and full of faith, with the multitudes of these our brothers and sisters. The second aspect is the strong feeling of sacredness in the air at the Liturgical Celebrations, characteristic of all African peoples and which, I can say, emerged at every moment of my stay among these dear peoples. The Visit enabled me to see and understand better the reality of the Church in Africa, in the variety of her experiences and the challenges she has to face in this period.
In thinking precisely of the challenges that mark the path of the Church on the African continent and in every other part of the world, we realize how timely are the words of the Gospel this Fifth Sunday of Lent. In the imminence of his Passion Jesus declared: "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12: 24). Now is no longer the time for words and discourses; indeed the crucial hour has come for which the Son of God came into the world and although his soul is troubled, he makes himself available to fulfil the Father's will to the end. And this is the will of God: to give eternal life to us who have lost it. However, in order for this to be brought about Jesus dies, like a grain of wheat that God the Father has sown in the world. Indeed, only in this way can a new humanity germinate and grow, free from the dominion of sin and able to live in brotherhood, as sons and daughters of the one Father who is in Heaven.
In the great celebration of faith lived together in Africa, we experienced that this new humanity is alive, even with its human limitations. Abundant fruits are gathered wherever missionaries, like Jesus, have given their life and continue to spend it for the Gospel. I would like to address a special thought of gratitude to them for the good that they do. They are women and men both religious and lay. It was beautiful for me to see the fruit of their love for Christ and to observe the Christian's profound gratitude to them. Let us give thanks to God and pray to Most Holy Mary that Christ's message of hope and love may spread throughout the world.
After the Angelus:
I greet with great affection the numerous Africans who live in Rome, including many students, accompanied here by Archbishop Robert Sarah, Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Dear friends, you wished to come and express your joy and gratitude for my Apostolic Journey in Africa. I warmly thank you. I pray for you, for your families and for your countries of origin. Thank you!
Next Thursday, at 6:00 p.m., I shall preside in St Peter's at Holy Mass on the fourth anniversary of the death of my beloved Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II. I invite especially the young people of Rome to participate, in order to prepare together for the World Youth Day which will be celebrated at the diocesan level on Palm Sunday.
I am pleased to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims to this Angelus, especially students and teachers from Holy Trinity Catholic High School in Edmonton, Canada. In today's liturgy, Jesus teaches that "unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit".
In these last weeks of Lent, let us intensify our prayer, fasting and almsgiving. In this way, we will prepare ourselves to meditate on Christ's passion and death, so as to rejoice fully in the glory of his Resurrection. God bless you all! I also assure you of my remembrance in prayer for the World Day of Autism which is this coming 2 April. I wish everyone a good Sunday.
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Expo Bicentenario Park, León
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am very pleased to be among you today and I express my sincere gratitude to the Most Reverend José Guadalupe Martín Rábago, Archbishop of León, for his kind words of welcome. I greet the Mexican Bishops, and the Cardinals and other Bishops present here, and in a special way those who have come from Latin America and the Caribbean. I also extend a warm greeting to the authorities that are with us, as well as all who have gathered for this Holy Mass presided by the Successor of Peter.
We said, “A pure heart, create for me, O God” (Psalm 50:12) during the responsorial psalm. This exclamation shows us how profoundly we must prepare to celebrate next week the great mystery of the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord. It also helps us to look deeply into the human heart, especially in times of sorrow as well as hope, as are the present times for the people of Mexico and of Latin America.
The desire for a heart that would be pure, sincere, humble, acceptable to God was very much felt by Israel as it became aware of the persistence in its midst of evil and sin as a power, practically implacable and impossible to overcome. There was nothing left but to trust in God’s mercy and in the hope that he would change from within, from the heart, an unbearable, dark and hopeless situation. In this way recourse gained ground to the infinite mercy of the Lord who does not wish the sinner to die but to convert and live (cf. Ezekiel 33:11). A pure heart, a new heart, is one which recognizes that, of itself, it is impotent and places itself in God’s hands so as to continue hoping in his promises. Then the psalmist can say to the Lord with conviction: “Sinners will return to you” (Psalm 50:15). And towards the end of the psalm he will give an explanation which is at the same time a firm conviction of faith: “A humble, contrite heart you will not spurn” (v. 19).
The history of Israel relates some great events and battles, but when faced with its more authentic existence, its decisive destiny, its salvation, it places its hope not in its own efforts, but in God who can create a new heart, not insensitive or proud. This should remind each one of us and our peoples that, when addressing the deeper dimension of personal and community life, human strategies will not suffice to save us. We must have recourse to the One who alone can give life in its fullness, because he is the essence of life and its author; he has made us sharers in the same through his Son Jesus Christ.
Today’s Gospel takes up the topic and shows us how this ancient desire for the fullness of life has actually been achieved in Christ. Saint John explains it in a passage in which the wish of some Greeks to see Jesus coincides with the moment in which the Lord is about to be glorified. Jesus responds to the question of the Greeks, who represent the pagan world, saying: “Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23). This is a strange response which seems inconsistent with the question asked by the Greeks. What has the glorification of Jesus to do with the request to meet him? But there is a relation. Someone might think – says Saint Augustine – that Jesus felt glorified because the Gentiles were coming to him. This would be similar to the applause of the multitudes who give “glory” to those who are grand in the world, as we would say today. But this is not so. “It was convenient that, before the wonder of his glorification, should come the humility of his passion” (In Joannis Ev. 51:9: PL 35, 1766).
Jesus’ answer, announcing his imminent passion, means that a casual encounter in those moments would have been superficial and perhaps deceptive. The Greeks will see the one they wished to meet raised up on the cross from which he will attract all to himself (cf. John 12:32). There his “glory” will begin, because of his sacrifice of expiation for all, as the grain of wheat fallen to the ground that by dying germinates and produces abundant fruit. They will find the one whom, unknown to them, they were seeking in their hearts, the true God who is made visible to all peoples. This was how Our Lady of Guadalupe showed her divine Son to Saint Juan Diego, not as a powerful legendary hero but as the very God of the living, by whom all live, the Creator of persons, of closeness and immediacy, of heaven and earth (cf. Nican Mopohua, v.33). At that moment she did what she had done previously at the wedding feast of Cana. Faced with the embarrassment caused by the lack of wine, she told the servants clearly that the path to follow was her Son: “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).
Dear brothers and sisters, by coming here I have been able to visit the monument to Christ the King situated on top of the Cubilete. My venerable predecessor, Blessed Pope John Paul II, although he ardently desired to do so, was unable on his several journeys to this beloved land to visit this site of such significance for the faith of the Mexican people. I am sure that in heaven he is happy that the Lord has granted me the grace to be here with you and that he has blessed the millions of Mexicans who have venerated his relics in every corner of the country. This monument represents Christ the King. But his crowns, one of a sovereign, the other of thorns, indicate that his royal status does not correspond to how it has been or is understood by many. His kingdom does not stand on the power of his armies subduing others through force or violence. It rests on a higher power than wins over hearts: the love of God that he brought into the world with his sacrifice and the truth to which he bore witness. This is his sovereignty which no one can take from him and which no one should forget. Hence it is right that this shrine should be above all a place of pilgrimage, of fervent prayer, of conversion, of reconciliation, of the search for truth and the acceptance of grace. We ask Christ, to reign in our hearts, making them pure, docile, filled with hope and courageous in humility.
From this park, foreseen as a memorial of the bicentenary of the birth of the Mexican nation, bringing together many differences towards one destiny and one common quest, we ask Christ for a pure heart, where he as Prince of Peace may dwell “thanks to the power of God who is the power of goodness, the power of love”. But for God to dwell in us, we need to listen to him; we must allow his Word to challenge us every day, meditating upon it in our hearts after the example of Mary (cf. Luke 2:51). In this way we grow in friendship with him, we learn to understand what he expects from us and we are encouraged to make him known to others.
At Aparecida, the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean saw with clarity the need to confirm, renew and revitalize the newness of the Gospel rooted deeply in the history of these lands “on the basis of a personal and community encounter with Jesus Christ which raises up disciples and missionaries” (Final Document, 11). The Continental Mission now taking place in the various dioceses of this continent has the specific task of transmitting this conviction to all Christians and ecclesial communities so that they may resist the temptation of a faith that is superficial and routine, at times fragmentary and incoherent. Here we need to overcome fatigue related to faith and rediscover “the joy of being Christians, of being sustained by the inner happiness of knowing Christ and belonging to his Church. From this joy spring the energies that are needed to serve Christ in distressing situations of human suffering, placing oneself at his disposition and not falling back on one’s own comfort” (Address to the Roman Curia, 22 December 2011). This can be seen clearly in the saints who dedicated themselves fully to the cause of the Gospel with enthusiasm and joy without counting the cost, even of life itself. Their heart was centred entirely on Christ from whom they had learned what it means to love until the end.
In this sense the Year of Faith, to which I have convoked the whole Church, “is an invitation to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the only Saviour of the world […]. Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy” (Porta Fidei 6, 7).
Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to assist us in purifying our hearts, especially in view of the coming Easter celebrations, that we may enter more deeply the salvific mystery of her Son, as she made it known in this land. And let us also ask her to continue accompanying and protecting her Mexican and Latin American children, that Christ may reign in their lives and help them boldly to promote peace, harmony, justice and solidarity. Amen.
10 May 2015, 15:00 SGT