GENERAL AUDIENCE 1998 42
1. In view of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, ever since the Encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem I have invited you to see “with the eyes of faith the 2,000 years of the action of the Spirit of truth, who down the centuries has drawn from the treasures of the Redemption achieved by Christ and given new life to human beings, bringing about in them adoption in the Only-begotten Son, sanctifying them, so that they can repeat with St Paul: 'We have received ... the Spirit which is from God' (cf. 1Co 2,12)” (Dominum et Vivificantem DEV 53).
In our previous catecheses, we have described the manifestation of God’s Spirit in the life of Christ, at Pentecost, from which the Church came into being, and in the personal and community life of believers. Our gaze now extends to the horizons of the world and the whole of human history. Thus we are moving within the plan outlined by this same Encyclical on the Holy Spirit, in which it is stressed that it is impossible for us to limit ourselves to the 2,000 years which have passed since the birth of Jesus Christ. Indeed, we need “to go further back, to embrace the whole of the action of the Holy Spirit even before Christ — from the beginning, throughout the world, and especially in the economy of the Old Covenant” (ibid., DEV 53b). At the same time “we need to look further and go further afield, knowing that 'the wind blows where it wills' according to the image used by Jesus in his conversation with Nicodemus (cf. Jn 3,8)” (ibid., DEV 53c).
2. Moreover, the Second Vatican Council, focusing on the Church’s mystery and mission in the world, offered this breadth of vision. The Council holds that the Holy Spirit’s action cannot be limited to the institutional dimension of the Church, where the Spirit also works in a unique and full manner, but should be recognized outside the visible frontiers of Christ's Body as well (cf. Gaudium et spes GS 22 Lumen gentium LG 16).
For its part, the Catechism of the Catholic Church recalls with the whole of Tradition: “The Word of God and his Breath are at the origin of the being and life of every creature” (CEC 703). And a meaningful text of the Byzantine liturgy says: “It belongs to the Holy Spirit to rule, sanctify and animate creation, for he is God consubstantial with the Father and the Son.... Power over life pertains to the Spirit, for being God, he preserves creation in the Father through the Son” (ibid. CEC 703). Thus there is no corner of creation and no moment of history in which the Spirit is not at work.
It is true that all things were created by God the Father through Christ and in Christ (cf. Col 1,16), so that the meaning and the ultimate purpose of creation is to “unite all things in him” (Ep 1,10). However, it is just as true that all this happens through the power of the Holy Spirit. Illustrating this Trinitarian “rhythm” of salvation history, St Irenaeus says that “the Spirit prepares man beforehand for the Son of God, the Son leads him to the Father and the Father gives him incorruptibility and eternal life” (Adv. Haer., IV, 20, 5).
3. The Spirit of God, present in creation and active in all the phases of salvation history, directs all things towards the definitive event of the Incarnation of the Word. Obviously, this Spirit is no different from the one who was given “not by measure” (cf. Jn 3,34) by the crucified and risen Christ. The same identical Holy Spirit prepares the advent of the Messiah in the world and, through Jesus Christ, is communicated by God the Father to the Church and to all humanity. The Christological and pneumatological dimensions are inseparable and not only run through the history of salvation, but the entire history of the world.
Therefore we can legitimately think that the way to salvation is open wherever there are elements of truth, goodness, genuine beauty and true wisdom, wherever generous efforts are made to build a more human society in conformity with God’s plan. Even more so, wherever there is a sincere expectation of God’s revelation and a hope open to the saving mystery, we can recognize the hidden and effective work of the Spirit of God who spurs man to the encounter with Christ “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14,6). When we turn over certain wonderful pages of literature and philosophy, justly admire some masterpiece of art or listen to passages of sublime music, we spontaneously recognize in these expressions of human genius a radiant reflection of God’s Spirit. Of course, these reflections are on a different plane from those interventions which make the human being, raised to the supernatural order, a temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells together with the other Persons of the Blessed Trinity (cf. St Thomas, Summa Theol., I-II 109,1, ad 1). Thus the Holy Spirit, directly or indirectly, orients man to his integral salvation.
4. For this reason we would like to pause in the next catecheses to contemplate the Spirit’s action in the vast arena of humanity’s history. This vision will also help us grasp the deep relationship that unites the Church and the world, the overall history of man and the particular history of salvation. The latter is not actually a “separate” history, but rather plays a role with regard to the former that we could describe as “sacramental”, that is, as a sign and instrument of the one great offer of salvation which reached humanity through the Incarnation of the Word and the outpouring of the Spirit.
With this as the key, it is easy to understand several marvellous pages of the Second Vatican Council on the solidarity that exists between the Church and humanity. In this pneumatological perspective I am pleased to reread the preface of Gaudium et spes: “The joy and the hope, the grief and anguish of the men of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men, of men who, united in Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, press onwards towards the kingdom of the Father and are bearers of a message of salvation intended for all men. That is why Christians cherish a feeling of deep solidarity with the human race and its history” (GS 1).
It can be clearly seen here how the Church’s solidarity with the world and her mission to it must be understood as starting from Christ, in the light and power of the Holy Spirit. The Church thus experiences herself at the service of the Spirit who works mysteriously in hearts and in history. And we feel we are sent to transmit to all humanity the fullness of the Spirit received on the day of Pentecost.
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:
I cordially welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from Taiwan, Japan and the United States of America. I gladly invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ upon you and your families.
1. In the eighth chapter of his Letter to the Romans, as he explains the action of the Holy Spirit who makes us sons of the Father in Christ Jesus (cf. Rm 8,14-16), the Apostle Paul introduces the theme of the world’s path towards its fulfilment according to the divine plan. Indeed the Holy Spirit, as we have already explained in previous catecheses, is present and active in creation and in the history of salvation. We could say that he enfolds the cosmos in God’s love and mercy, and thus directs humanity’s history towards its definitive goal.
The cosmos is created by God as the dwelling place of man and the theatre of his adventure of freedom. In the dialogue with grace, every human being is called to accept responsibly the gift of divine sonship in Jesus Christ. For this reason, the created world acquires its true significance in man and for man. He cannot, of course, dispose as he pleases of the cosmos in which he lives, but must, through his intelligence, consciously bring the Creator’s work to completion.
“Man”, teaches Gaudium et spes, “was created in God’s image and was commanded to conquer the earth with all it contains and to rule the world in justice and holiness: he was to acknowledge God as maker of all things and relate himself and the totality of creation to him, so that through the dominion of all things by man the name of God would be majestic in all the earth” (GS 34).
2. For the divine plan to be fulfilled, man must use his freedom in harmony with God’s will and overcome the disorder introduced into human life and into the world by sin. Without the gift of the Holy Spirit, this twofold achievement cannot occur. The prophets of the Old Testament put great stress on this. Thus the prophet Ezekiel says: “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances ... you shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Ez 36,26-28).
This profound personal and community renewal, awaited in the “fullness of time” and brought about by the Holy Spirit, will to some extent involve the whole cosmos. Isaiah writes: “Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, / and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field... / Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, / and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. / And the effect of righteousness will be peace, / and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust for ever. / My people will abide in a peaceful habitation” (Is 32,15-18).
45 3. For the Apostle Peter, this promise is fulfilled in Christ Jesus, crucified and risen. In fact, through the Spirit Christ redeems and sanctifies whoever accepts his Word of salvation in faith, transforming his heart and consequently social relations.
Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, the world of men becomes a “spatium verae fraternitatis”, a place of true brotherhood (cf. Gaudium et spes GS 37). This transformation of man’s behaviour and of social relations is expressed in ecclesial life, in the commitment to temporal realities and in dialogue with all people of goodwill. This witness becomes a prophetic sign and leaven in history towards the advent of the kingdom, overcoming everything that prevents communion among men.
4. The cosmos is also called, in a mysterious but real way, to participate in this newness of life in the building up of universal peace through justice and love. As the Apostle Paul teaches, “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rm 8,19-23).
Creation, given life by the presence of the Creator Spirit, is called to become “a dwelling place of peace” for the entire human family. Creation achieves this goal by means of the freedom of man whom God has appointed as its guardian. If man selfishly withdraws into himself, through a false conception of freedom, he fatally involves creation itself in this perversion.
On the contrary, through the gift of the Holy Spirit which Jesus Christ pours out upon us from his side pierced on the Cross, man acquires the true freedom of a son in the Son. He can thus understand the true meaning of creation and work to make it a “dwelling place of peace”.
In this sense, Paul can say that creation is groaning and awaiting the revelation of the sons of God. Only if man, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, recognizes himself as a son of God in Christ and looks at creation with fraternal sentiment, can the whole cosmos be set free and redeemed in accordance with the divine plan.
5. The consequence of these reflections is truly comforting: the Holy Spirit is the true hope of the world. Not only does he work in the hearts of men into which he introduces that wonderful participation in the filial relationship which Jesus Christ lives with the Father, but he exalts and perfects human activities in the world.
As the Second Vatican Council teaches, they “must be purified and perfected by the Cross and Resurrection of Christ. Redeemed by Christ and made a new creature by the Holy Spirit, man can, indeed he must, love the things of God’s creation: it is from God that he has received them, and it is as flowing from God’s hand that he looks upon them and reveres them. Man thanks his divine benefactor for all these things, he uses them and enjoys them in a spirit of poverty and freedom: thus he is brought to a true possession of the world, as having nothing yet possessing everything: 'All [things] are yours; and you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s' (1Co 3,22-23)” (Gaudium et spes GS 37).
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, the Holy Father said:
I cordially welcome the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present, especially those from Ireland, Hong Kong, Japan and the United States of America. I gladly invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ upon you and your families.
1. The history of salvation is God’s gradual communication of himself to humanity, which reaches its summit in Jesus Christ. God the Father, in the Word made man, wishes to share his own life with everyone: in short, he wants to communicate himself. This divine self-communication takes place in the Holy Spirit, the bond of love between eternity and time, the Trinity and history.
If God opens himself to man in his Spirit, man, on the other hand, is created as a subject capable of accepting the divine self-communication. Man — as the tradition of Christian thought maintains — is “capax Dei”: capable of knowing God and of receiving the gift he makes of himself. Indeed, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gn 1,26), he is able to live a personal relationship with him and to respond with loving obedience to the covenant relationship offered to him by his Creator.
Against the background of this biblical teaching, the gift of the Spirit, promised to man and bestowed upon him “without measure” by Jesus Christ, therefore means a “call to friendship, in which the transcendent 'depths of God' become in some way opened to participation on the part of man” (Dominum et Vivificantem DEV 34).
In this regard, the Second Vatican Council teaches: “The invisible God (cf. Col 1,15 1Tm 1,17), from the fullness of his love, addresses men as his friends (cf. Ex 33,11 Jn 15,14f.), and moves among them (cf. Ba 3,38), in order to invite and receive them into his own company” (Dei Verbum DV 2).
2. Therefore, if God, through his Spirit, communicates himself to man, man is continuously called to give himself to God with his whole being. This is his deepest vocation. He is constantly asked to do so by the Holy Spirit, who, enlightening his mind and sustaining his will, brings him into the mystery of divine sonship in Jesus Christ and invites him to live it consistently.
Down the centuries, all the generous and sincere efforts of human intelligence and freedom to draw close to the ineffable and transcendent mystery of God are inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Particularly in the history of the Old Covenant made by Yahweh with the people of Israel, we see this meeting between God and man gradually taking place within the communion disclosed by the Spirit.
For example, there is the striking and intensely beautiful account of the prophet Elijah’s encounter with God in the breath of the Spirit: “And [the Lord] said: 'Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord'. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake, and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him, and said, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'” (1R 19,11-13).
3. But the complete and definitive meeting between God and man — awaited and contemplated in hope by the patriarchs and prophets — is Jesus Christ. He, true God and true man, “in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling” (Gaudium et spes GS 22). Jesus Christ accomplishes this revelation with his whole life. Indeed, under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, he always strives to fulfil the Father’s will, and on the wood of the Cross offers himself “once for all” to the Father, “through the eternal Spirit” (He 9,12).
Through the paschal event, Christ teaches us that, “if man is the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake, man can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself” (Gaudium et spes GS 24). Now, the Holy Spirit himself, communicated in fullness to the Church of Jesus Christ, ensures that man, by recognizing himself in Christ, will increasingly “discover himself in a sincere giving of himself”.
47 4. This eternal truth about man revealed to us by Jesus Christ has a particular timeliness in our day. Even amid sharp contradictions, the world today is experiencing a season of intense “socialization” (cf. Gaudium et spes GS 6), both with regard to interpersonal relationships within various human communities, and with regard to relations among peoples, races, different societies and cultures.
Throughout this journey towards communion and unity, the Holy Spirit’s action is also necessary for us to overcome the obstacles and dangers which threaten humanity’s progress. “As the Year 2000 since the birth of Christ draws near, it is a question of ensuring that an ever greater number of people 'may fully find themselves ... through a sincere gift of self’.... Through the action of the Spirit-Paraclete, may there be accomplished in our world a process of true growth in humanity, in both individual and community life. In this regard Jesus himself 'when he prayed to the Father, 'that all may be one ... as we are one' (Jn 17,21-22) ... implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine persons and the union of the children of God in truth and charity’” (Dominium et Vivificantem, DEV 59).
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:
I warmly welcome the group of pilgrims from Göteborg, Sweden. I extend a special greeting to the Buddhist groups from Japan. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from Japan, Sweden, Taiwan, Malta, Great Britain and the United States of America, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
At the General Audience of Wednesday, 26 August, the Holy Father expressed his sorrow at the massacre of a priest, three women religious, a seminarian and 32 lay people that occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 24 August. The Pope also prayed that this nation and all Africa would no longer be denied peace and prosperity.
I was deeply saddened to receive the news of the massacre that took place last Monday in Kasika, a parish in the Diocese of Uvira in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Fr Stanislas Bwabulakombe, three religious from the Congregation of the Daughters of the Resurrection, one seminarian and 32 lay people were slaughtered in retaliation. All the victims were Congolese. I firmly deplore this criminal act! May God welcome into his mercy these brothers and sisters of ours who have suffered the anguish of such a violent and unjust death. We implore the Lord that they will be the last victims of a war which has returned to strike another cruel blow to the Congolese people. May their innocent blood, united with Jesus' blood in his redeeming sacrifice, help to heal hearts laden with hatred and revenge and open them to sentiments of brotherhood and love, so that this nation and the entire African continent will no longer be denied peace and prosperity.
1. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “the human person participates in the light and power of the divine Spirit. By his reason, he is capable of understanding the order of things established by the Creator. By free will, he is capable of directing himself toward his true good. He finds his perfection 'in seeking and loving what is true and good' (cf. Gaudium et spes GS 15)” (CEC 1704).
The Holy Spirit, who “searches the depths of God”, is at the same time the light that illumines man’s conscience and the source of his true freedom (cf. Dominum et Vivificantem DEV 36).
In the sanctuary of his conscience, man’s most secret core, God makes his voice heard and his law known, that law which reaches its perfection in the love of God and neighbour as Jesus taught (cf. Gaudium et spes GS 16). By following this law in the light and power of the Holy Spirit, man achieves his full freedom.
2. Jesus Christ is the fully realized truth of God’s plan for man, who has received the highest gift of freedom. God wished “that man should 'be left in the hand of his own counsel' (Si 15,14) so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him” (Gaudium et spes GS 17 cf. CEC 1730). Adhering to God’s plan for man revealed in Christ Jesus and fulfilling it in one’s own life means discovering the authentic vocation of human freedom, as Jesus promised his disciples: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and truth will make you free” (Jn 8,31-32).
It is not only a question of listening to a message and obediently accepting a commandment. “More radically, it involves holding fast to the very person of Jesus, partaking of his life and his destiny, sharing in his free and loving obedience to the will of the Father” (Veritatis splendor VS 19).
The Gospel of John emphasizes that it is not Christ’s enemies who take his life with the brutal necessity of violence, but he who gives it freely (cf. Jn 10,17-18). By fully complying with the Father’s will, “the crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom; he lives it fully in the total gift of himself and calls his disciples to share in his freedom” (Veritatis splendor VS 85). Indeed, with the absolute freedom of his love he forever redeems man who, by abusing his freedom, had turned away from God; he frees man from the slavery of sin and, by granting him a share in his Spirit, gives him the gift of authentic freedom (cf. Rm 8,2 Ga 5,1 Ga 5,13).
3. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”, the Apostle Paul tells us (2Co 3,17). By the outpouring of his Spirit, the risen Jesus creates the vital space where human freedom can be fully realized.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ gift of himself to the Father in his Death and Resurrection becomes the source and model of every authentic human relationship with God and with one’s brethren. “God’s love”, St Paul writes, “has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rm 5,5).
By living in Christ through faith and the sacraments, the Christian also “freely commits his entire self” to God the Father (cf. Dei Verbum DV 5). The act of faith by which he makes a responsible decision for God, believes in his love revealed in the crucified and risen Christ, and abandons himself responsibly to the influence of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1Jn 4,6-10) is the highest expression of freedom.
By joyfully fulfilling the Father’s will in every circumstance of life, after Christ’s example and in the power of Spirit, the Christian advances on the path of authentic freedom and looks with hope to the time when he will enter into the “full life” of the heavenly homeland. “By the working of grace”, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “the Holy Spirit educates us in spiritual freedom in order to make us free collaborators in his work in the Church and in the world” (CEC 1742).
4. This new horizon of freedom created by the Spirit also guides our relationship with the brothers and sisters we meet on our way.
Precisely because Christ has freed me by his love and given me his Spirit, I can and must give myself freely in love to my neighbour. This profound truth is stated in the First Letter of the Apostle John: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1Jn 3,16). Jesus’ “new” commandment sums up the law of grace; the person who accepts it realizes his freedom to the full: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15,12-13).
No one can reach this height of love achieved by Christ crucified without the help of the Paraclete. Indeed, St Thomas Aquinas could write that the “new law” is the grace itself of the Holy Spirit, given to us through faith in Christ (cf. Summa Theologiae, I-II 105,1, conclus. and ad 2).
5. This “new law” of freedom and love is personified in Jesus Christ, but at the same time, in total dependence on him and his Redemption, it is expressed in the Mother of God. The fullness of freedom, which is the Spirit’s gift, “was manifested in a sublime way precisely through the faith of Mary, through the 'obedience of faith' (cf. Rm 1,5): truly, 'Blessed is she who believed'!” (Dominum et Vivificantem DEV 51).
May Mary, the Mother of Christ and our Mother, be the one to guide us then to an ever deeper and more joyful discovery of the Holy Spirit as the source of true freedom in our life!
To the English speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:
I welcome to this audience the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Ireland, Australia, Japan and the United States of America. I invite you to pray constantly and to open your hearts ever more widely to the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life. Upon you and your families, I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1. In Nostra aetate, the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, the Second Vatican Council teaches that “the Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrines which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men” (Nostra aetate NAE 2).
Taking up the Council’s teaching from the first Encyclical Letter of my Pontificate, I have wished to recall the ancient doctrine formulated by the Fathers of the Church, which says that we must recognize “the seeds of the Word” present and active in the various religions (Ad gentes AGD 11 Lumen gentium LG 17). This doctrine leads us to affirm that, though the routes taken may be different, “there is but a single goal to which is directed the deepest aspiration of the human spirit as expressed in its quest for God and also in its quest, through its tending towards God, for the full dimension of its humanity, or in other words, for the full meaning of human life” (Redemptor hominis RH 11).
The “seeds of truth” present and active in the various religious traditions are a reflection of the unique Word of God, who “enlightens every man coming into world” (cf. Jn 1,9) and who became flesh in Christ Jesus (cf. Jn 1,14). They are together an “effect of the Spirit of truth operating outside the visible confines of the Mystical Body” and which “blows where it wills” (Jn 3,8 cf. Redemptor hominis RH 6,12). Keeping this doctrine in mind, the celebration of the Jubilee of the Year 2000 “will provide a great opportunity, especially in view of the events of recent decades, for interreligious dialogue” (Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 53). Even now, during this pneumatological year, it is fitting to pause and consider in what sense and in what ways the Holy Spirit is present in humanity’s religious quest and in the various experiences and traditions that express it.
2. It must first be kept in mind that every quest of the human spirit for truth and goodness, and in the last analysis for God, is inspired by the Holy Spirit. The various religions arose precisely from this primordial human openness to God. At their origins we often find founders who, with the help of God’s Spirit, achieved a deeper religious experience. Handed on to others, this experience took form in the doctrines, rites and precepts of the various religions.
In every authentic religious experience, the most characteristic expression is prayer. Because of the human spirit’s constitutive openness to God’s action of urging it to self-transcendence, we can hold that “every authentic prayer is called forth by the Holy Spirit, who is mysteriously present in the heart of every person” (Address to the Members of the Roman Curia, 22 Dec. 1986, n. 11; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 5 Jan. 1987, p. 7).
We experienced an eloquent manifestation of this truth at the World Day of Prayer for Peace on 27 October 1986 in Assisi, and on other similar occasions of great spiritual intensity.
3. The Holy Spirit is not only present in other religions through authentic expressions of prayer. “The Spirit’s presence and activity”, as I wrote in the Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, “affect not only individuals but also society and history, peoples, cultures and religions” (RMi 28).
50 Normally, “it will be in the sincere practice of what is good in their own religious traditions and by following the dictates of their own conscience that the members of other religions respond positively to God’s invitation and receive salvation in Jesus Christ, even while they do not recognize or acknowledge him as their Saviour (cf. Ad gentes AGD 3 AGD 9 AGD 11)” (Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue – Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Instruction Dialogue and Proclamation, 19 May 1991, n. 29; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 1 July 1991, p. III).
Indeed, as the Second Vatican Council teaches, “since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of coming into contact, in a way known to God, with the paschal mystery” (Gaudium et spes GS 22).
This possibility is achieved through sincere, inward adherence to the Truth, generous self-giving to one’s neighbour and the search for the Absolute inspired by the Spirit of God. A ray of the divine Wisdom is also shown through the fulfilment of the precepts and practices that conform to the moral law and to authentic religious sense. Precisely by virtue of the Spirit’s presence and action, the good elements found in the various religions mysteriously prepare hearts to receive the full revelation of God in Christ.
4. For the reasons mentioned here, the attitude of the Church and of individual Christians towards other religions is marked by sincere respect, profound sympathy and, when possible and appropriate, cordial collaboration. This does not mean forgetting that Jesus Christ is the one Mediator and Saviour of the human race. Nor does it mean lessening our missionary efforts, to which we are bound in obedience to the risen Lord’s command: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28,19). The attitude of respect and dialogue is instead the proper recognition of the “seeds of the Word” and the “groanings of the Spirit”. In this sense, far from opposing the proclamation of the Gospel, our attitude prepares it, as we await the times appointed by the Lord’s mercy. “By dialogue we let God be present in our midst; for as we open ourselves in dialogue to one another, we also open ourselves to God” (Address to Members of Other Religions, Madras, 5 Feb. 1986, n. 4; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 10 Feb. 1986, p. 14).
May the Spirit of truth and love, in view of the third millennium now close at hand, guide us on the paths of the proclamation of Jesus Christ and of the dialogue of peace and brotherhood with the followers of all religions!
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:
I extend a special welcome to the members of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Workers, as well as to the participants in the Colloquium on Pope Innocent III, on the eighth centenary of his election as Pope. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Ireland, Denmark, Swe den, South Africa, Japan and the United States of America, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of almighty God.
GENERAL AUDIENCE 1998 42