3. In this area, your organization's mission, close to the local situation, is very much in the forefront. Monitoring international life and suggesting many initiatives, the International Catholic Child Bureau assists local associations for promotion and development. With its many partners, it helps repair the human and emotional fabric surrounding children which is indispensable to their integral development, taking into account their innate frailty and basic needs. In fact, in the world of children we would like to see recognized everywhere as essential: the family with both father and mother present, an atmosphere of affection and warmth, school, games, laughter, the joyful and peaceful discovery of life, so that each child, in his family and in society, with his siblings and friends, may flourish and give the world the best of himself.
The 50th anniversary of the ICCB thus gives me a suitable opportunity to address all men and women of goodwill: I ask them to devote themselves to seeing that every child is protected, helped and supported as his personality is formed and he builds his personal, family and social future. In view of the Great Jubilee for which the Church is actively preparing, it is good to rediscover the theological virtue of hope, "the little daughter hope", in the expression of Charles Péguy (Le porche du mystère de la deuxième vertue). In fact, children are the hope of humanity; it is therefore up to adults to give them renewed trust in the future, so that they may play a leading and responsible role for the world of tomorrow.
4. To encourage and guide a child's development, it is particularly important to support the families and natural communities of young people; in this regard, I urge the directors, teachers and leaders of the ICCB to continue their work of prevention and of rehabilitating street children, in order to remove them from situations which lead to delinquency, to put them back in a family structure and to give them a human and moral education. The same should be done for handicapped children, who need special care and assistance if they are to have the place that is theirs by virtue of their intrinsic dignity. Projects for literacy, basic education and professional training should be continued and intensified, so that each child, after receiving the necessary instruction, may be prepared to enter social and economic life. I extend a special greeting to the women involved in these different projects. By their closeness to children they have a beneficial influence, for they establish an affective and educational relationship with them which is based on trust and gradually teaches them responsibility.
5. At the local, national and international levels, the ICCB is also a partner in dialogue and action with the various civil authorities and with institutions that have responsibility for children, so that youth policies can be reoriented with respect for their dignity, their culture and their human and religious development. Its participation in drafting the Convention on the Rights of the Child is a significant aspect of the work it has undertaken.
6. I would like warmly to thank all those who work in the International Catholic Child Bureau for youth and who thus have a very concrete part in evangelization. My gratitude is also extended to the organizations and individuals who support it with their donations. I urge them all to continue their presence with children, in order to bring them the comfort and support they need to become fully-fledged citizens who can build their future and take an active part in social life. Through those who are close to them, children thus discover the face of Christ, who is attentive to each of his little ones, for what one does to the least of these, one does to the Lord (cf. Mt Mt 25,45).
On this 50th anniversary of the International Catholic Child Bureau, I impart an Apostolic Blessing to those responsible for this international Catholic organization, to all its members and to all their co-workers.
From the Vatican, 3 March 1998.
To the Members of the Cistercian Family
on the Occasion of the Ninth Centenary
of the Foundation of the Abbey of Cîteaux
1. This year, when the Abbey of Cîteaux is fervently celebrating the ninth centenary of its foundation, I am pleased to join in the joy and thanksgiving of the great Cistercian family which through this event seeks to draw on the sources of its founding charism in order to discern there the promise of a new vitality.
2. At the approach of the third millennium, as the whole Church prepares for the Great Jubilee, we recall the prophetic work of Robert of Molesme and his companions, who established the "new monastery" in 1098, in order to fulfil their ardent desire "from now on to adhere more closely and more perfectly to the Rule of the blessed Benedict" (Exordium parvum), which they reinterpreted in the light of earlier spiritual tradition, while clarifying it by their reading of the signs of the times. In living the demands of monastic life more authentically, they were to find the inner harmony needed for seeking God in humility, obedience and holy zeal.
Indeed, by faithfully observing the Rule of St Benedict in its purity and rigour, the founders of Cîteaux, Robert, Alberic and Stephen, gave birth to a new form of monastic life. Their religious life would be totally given to the experience of the living God, an experience they would have by following Christ with their brothers, in simplicity and poverty according to the Gospel. Through solitude they would seek to live for God, while building a fraternal community. In self-denial, in an austere and laborious life, they would strive to foster the growth of the new man.
3. The charism of Cîteaux, which spread rapidly, made a very important contribution to the history of spirituality and culture in the West. From the 12th century, the 400 monasteries already in existence became centres of intense spiritual life throughout Europe. For the founders and their disciples - notably Bernard of Clairvaux, William of Saint-Thierry, Guerric of Igny, Aelred of Rievaulx, Isaac of Stella, Amadeus of Lausanne, Gilbert of Holland, Baldwin of Ford, John of Ford and Adam of Perseigne - the Rule offered eminent guidance and counsel for the interior life. In Benedict they discovered a wealth of teaching on humility, obedience, love and the fear of God; even more, they were spurred to draw directly from the Gospel and the Fathers of the Church.
The Cistercians very soon developed a profound spirituality based on a solid theological anthropology, itself centred on man's image and likeness to God. Similarly, other aspects of the spiritual life already hinted at in St Benedict, such as knowledge of self, the teaching on love and mystical contemplation, would be further developed. The dominici schola servitii also became a schola caritatis. Here one can see a deeper understanding of man in his ability to love and to respond freely to love while letting himself be guided by reason. This humanism was based on the divine economy and on grace, particularly on the Incarnation in its most human dimension.
4. The Cistercian reform would thus leave a deep mark on the renewal of the liturgy, which it simplified and unified. Today, in their community celebrations marked by nobility and restraint, monks and nuns give luminous expression to their vocation to praise God and to intercede for the Church and for the world, in communion with the prayer of all Christians. In the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours, which unfold the mystery of Christ and show the Church's true nature, they give a significant expression to their intimate union with the Lord and his work of salvation. Finding in it their daily nourishment, in serene balance with their life of work, they give powerful witness to the reason for their special mission among men.
Cistercian art too, put at in the service of monastic life, developed with harmonious beauty in buildings that proclaim the divine splendour and glory. By its elegance, stripped of everything that might hinder the encounter with the Creator, it leads man towards God, giving him a taste of his nobility and goodness. Thus it invites him to pray and to foster the interiority which leads to knowledge of the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, heirs of the Cistercian heritage, I ask you to remain ardent and enthusiastic witnesses to the search for God, by celebrating the liturgy, the source and summit of your monastic life, by lectio divina, the diligent listening to and meditation on God's Word received in humility and in joy, as well as by the frequent practice of mental prayer, in keeping with the invitation of your father, St Benedict. You will find it to be an inexhaustible source of interior peace which you will be eager to share generously with everyone.
5. Our age is experiencing a new fascination with the Cistercian cultural and spiritual heritage expressed in your monasteries, which are very familiar with the particular details of their history, the context of their presence or their way of responding to the expectations of the local Churches. For many people the essential spiritual questions can be expressed and explored thanks to the welcome which the monasteries offer them. A fraternal community of faith makes it possible to see a stabilizing influence in a society where the most fundamental reference points are disappearing, especially for the young. Sons and daughters of Cîteaux, the Church expects you to make your monasteries "eloquent signs of communion, welcoming abodes for those seeking God and the things of the spirit, schools of faith and true places of study, dialogue and culture for the building up of the life of the Church and of the earthly city itself, in expectation of the heavenly city" (Vita consecrata VC 6).
I also encourage you, according to the circumstances, to discern prudently and with a prophetic sense the participation of the lay faithful in your spiritual family as "so-called associate members or, in response to conditions present in certain cultures, as people who share fully for a certain period of time the institute's community life" (Vita consecrata VC 56), and its commitment to contemplation, provided that the specific identity of your monastic life does not suffer.
6. The commemoration of the foundation of Cîteaux also reminds us of the place of this great movement of spiritual renewal in the Christian roots of Europe. I am delighted to know that during this jubilee year a number of reminders will highlight this aspect of the Cistercian heritage. The fruitfulness of your charism is not limited to your monastic communities but indeed has become a common treasure for all Christianity. While Europe is being built, I hope that those who are its inspiration may find in the spirit of Cîteaux the elements of a profound spiritual renewal on which to base European society.
7. The desire for a new life by following Christ, which has marked Cîteaux since its beginning, remains a most timely insight. Indeed, the Rule offers each person a direct path to Gospel perfection, through a careful balance between the different traditional monastic observances. The monks find in these practices appropriate means for leading them to puritas cordis and unitas spiritus with God. This was recently stressed by the Synod on consecrated life, which wanted to highlight the prophetic and spiritual dimension of religious life. "In our world, where it often seems that the signs of God's presence have been lost from sight, a convincing prophetic witness on the part of consecrated persons is increasingly necessary. In the first place this should entail the affirmation of the primacy of God and of eternal life, as evidenced in the following and imitation of the chaste, poor and obedient Christ, who was completely consecrated to the glory of God and to the love of his brethren" (Vita consecrata VC 85).
In returning today to its original inspiration, after nine centuries of a continuous but not always trouble-free history, the Cistercian family is finding itself in the founding grace of the first Fathers. It is also discovering the legitimate diversity of its traditions, which are a treasure for everyone and express the vitality of its original charism; in it the Church sees the work of the one Spirit on the basis of the same gift.
In this celebration of Cîteaux's foundation, I warmly encourage the communities that form the great Cistercian family to enter the new millennium together, in true communion, in mutual trust and with respect for the traditions bequeathed by history. May this anniversary of the "new monastery", which for nine centuries has had such great influence in the Church and in the world, be for all a reminder of their common origins and lineage, as well as a symbol of the unity which must always be accepted and built!
8. The timeliness and vigour of the charism of Cîteaux at the end of this second millennium have been marked by the witness given to the Gospel in a particularly significant way by the many sons and daughters of the Cistercian family. I would like to mention Fr Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi whom, during the same days as the celebrations of the ninth centenary of Cîteaux, I will have the joy of beatifying in Nigeria, his native country, where he worked so hard to bring the Gospel to his compatriots.
The sacrifice of the Trappists of Tibhirine is still present in our hearts. Martyrs of God's love for all men, they became the artisans of peace by giving their lives. They invite Christ's disciples to keep their gaze fixed on God and to live love to the very end, remembering above all that one cannot follow Christ without renunciation. Remember them as a precious spiritual blessing for the Cistercian family and for the whole Church!
9. In borrowing St Bernard's words: "If Mary protects you, you will have nothing to fear; with her to lead you, you will never know fatigue; with her favour, you will reach your goal" (De laudibus Virginis Matris, Hom. 2), I commend you to Our Lady, Queen of Cîteaux, and as I extend a particular greeting to the community of the "new monastery", which is also celebrating the centenary of the monks' return after a long interval, I impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing to all the members of the Cistercian family.
From the Vatican, 6 March 1998.
1. At the end of this week's intense spiritual journey, I would like to thank Cardinal Ján Chryzostom Korec. In the reflections given during these exercises which are now ending, he has sought to guide us on the soul's traditional pilgrimage through Lent, bringing us to the abundant sources of God's Word and the liturgy. In the silence of the desert, we more sharply perceive the beneficial presence of God, who prepares great things for those who are ready to believe in him and live in his light.
The theme of the spiritual exercises this year is directly related to the journey of preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 - "Christus heri, hodie et in saecula" - since the whole Church is living with renewed hope and in anxious expectation of the new millennium. The mystery of Christ pervades her, enlivens her and spurs her on the arduous path of penance, so that, purified and cleansed, she can go out with a joyful heart to meet the Bridegroom who comes.
2. I warmly thank the preacher, who has expressed our wish to prepare with faith and love for Easter, towards which we are journeying. Our spiritual director's reflections led to a vision of optimism and hope. Through the beneficial effort of our spiritual pilgrimage, he has helped us to overcome the obtuseness of those who do not know how to fathom the mystery which enfolds us, and he has led us to contemplate the mysteries of the faith on which our life is based. We extend to him our cordial thanks, which are accompanied by the assurance of our prayer for his person and for his pastoral ministry.
The Holy Father then said in Slovak:
I would also like to express this gratitude, venerable Brother, in your language. Like everyone here, I am grateful for your spiritual reflections, and especially for the witness of courageous fidelity to Christ which you gave in the difficult years when you became a point of reference for priests and lay people in your country. I am also pleased that the spiritual exercises have been preached for the first time to the Roman Curia by a Slovak Cardinal.
The Pope continued in Italian:
I would also like to address a word of grateful appreciation to those who have wished to share this spiritual journey and to those who made all the arrangements so that it would be conducted smoothly and fruitfully.
3. Now, just as Moses descended the mountain where he had encountered the fascinating and tremendous beauty of God, we also return to the valley, to our daily work, to proclaim the marvels we have contemplated. The preacher has reminded us that we can count on the Holy Spirit's support in this. It is due to the silent but all-powerful action of the Third Person of the Trinity that the Church can continue to carry out her ministry with steadfast trust, proclaiming to the generations which succeed one another on the face of the earth Christ who is always the same "yesterday, today and for ever".
We are ending our spiritual exercises on this First Saturday of the month, dedicated particularly to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. With intense affection we call on Mary, who was the first to accept Christ with total docility to the Spirit's action. May she guide and support us on the Lenten journey we are undertaking, so that we may be ever faithful to the Lord of life and history.
My Blessing to all.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. I am pleased to receive you today, members of the Work of the Church, who have come in such large numbers and have wished to make this pilgrimage to Rome to express to the Pope, the Successor of Peter, your sentiments of love and affection and your dedicated commitment and service to the Church of Jesus Christ. You were spurred to do so by the recent papal approval of your Work, which has been recognized as an ecclesial institution, composed of the three branches of consecrated life: priests, lay men and lay women, around which are organized the other branches: members, militants and co-operators. In welcoming you, I thank you for coming and especially for all you do in the various fields of apostolate entrusted to you by the Bishops.
2. The Work of the Church was founded in 1959 by Mother Trinidad Sánchez Moreno, your President today. Later established as a pious union in the Archdiocese of Madrid, it went through various stages until it reached the moment, so longed-for by the foundress and all its members, of the promulgation of the Decree that recognizes it as an institution of pontifical right. During these years, the Work of the Church has distinguished itself by its fidelity and love for the Pope and its co-operation in the Dioceses where it has centres. This is why you wanted to be in Rome and offer your co-operation in several areas of the apostolate. I was able to observe this during my Pastoral Visit to Our Lady of Valmes Parish, entrusted to the priests of your institution, where I became more closely acquainted with your activities.
3. At our meeting today I would like to encourage you to live generously the mystery of the Church, which in Christ "is in the nature of sacrament - a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men" (Lumen gentium LG 1). Continue therefore to work in fidelity to the Pope and the Bishops, to show the people of our time the beauty and attraction of God's gift to humanity which is his Church.
In this regard, following the guidelines of my Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata, it is advisable that consecrated persons receive continuing formation through appropriate theological training, conscious that a new, shining offer of love is expected from them, by a witness of chastity that enlarges the heart, of poverty that eliminates barriers and of obedience that builds communion in the community, in the Church and in the world. In addition, you must study the teachings on the Church which we are given by Scripture and Tradition, so that your love for her will be based on sound doctrine, which you will then impart in your apostolates.
4. The Virgin Mary, proclaimed Mother of the Church, was presented by the Second Vatican Council as "a model of that motherly love with which all who join in the Church's apostolic mission for the regeneration of mankind should be animated" (ibid., n. 65). May her motherly intercession accompany you and make you faithful to the commitment which, docile to the Holy Spirit, you have made for the glory of God and the service of his Church. May you also be assisted by the Apostolic Blessing which I affectionately impart to you.
Saturday, 7 March 1998
After greeting the young people in Italian, French and Polish, the Pope also had a few words in English for those in Paul VI Auditorium:
I would like to greet the Salesian Sisters from countries on every continent, here in Rome to begin a course of permanent formation. Dear sisters: may the Blessed Virgin Mary accompany you in this new experience so that, as you meditate in your hearts on the things of God, you may be strengthened in your religious consecration and mission. The Church needs your witness and your special charism. Upon all of you and your families I invoke God's blessings!
1. I am pleased with this meeting which takes place during the fourth plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health-Care Workers. I greet your President, Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragán, and thank him for his cordial words expressing, together with the sentiments of affection you share, the vitality and commitment of your young dicastery.
I also greet you all, dear members, officials and consultors of the Pontifical Council, who are attending this Audience. Through you my greeting is extended with grateful appreciation to all the priests, religious, doctors, scientists, researchers and those who, with their human and ecclesial sensitivity, and according to their respective specialties, are involved in the complex world of health.
2. You intend to discuss demanding ing topics during these days of study, in which you will attentively examine the problems and challenges that the vast field of health care raises for the pastoral care of health.
These first 13 years of activity have witnessed the dicastery's zealous and dynamic commitment in a sensitive, frequently troubled area, and have confirmed the urgent need for the ecclesial service it carries out. I look with gratitude at the many things it has been possible to achieve because of your constant concern to support the admirable, sometimes heroic, willingness of doctors, sisters and chaplains to serve the sick. The health-care apostolate, born of the Church's charity and eminently witnessed to by many saints, among whom St John of God and St Camillus de Lellis are outstanding, flourished extraordinarily over the centuries due to the activity of the religious orders and institutes dedicated to serving the sick. Today it is coordinated and promoted by the institution to which, in various ways, you belong. I myself created it in 1985, entrusting it to the enterprise of Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini, whose intense activity I again wish to recall with appreciation and gratitude.
3. In receiving and continuing this precious legacy, you have taken charge, with a sense of reponsibility and love, of the tasks which the document creating this dicastery assigned to it. You therefore carefully follow the difficult problems of health care, helping those who dedicate themselves to the service of the sick and suffering, so that their work may ever more closely meet the enmerging needs in this delicate area. You are particularly concerned to collaborate with the local Churches to ensure that health-care workers are provided with appropriate spiritual assistance as well as with the opportunity to acquire a thorough knowledge of the Church's teaching on the moral aspects of illness and the meaning of human pain. Your dicastery is also attentively following the theoretical and practical problems of medicine, as well as legislative developments in the area of health-care law, with the intention of safeguarding respect for the dignity of the person in every situation.
Unfortunately the beneficial action of protecting and defending health not only encounters obstacles in the many pathogenic factors, both old and new, which threaten life on earth, but sometimes also in the mentality and conduct of individuals. Oppression, violence, war, drugs, kidnapping, the marginalization of immigrants, abortion and euthanasia are all threats to life that result from human initiative. The totalitarian ideologies that have degraded man by making him an object, trampling upon or evading basic human rights, find a worrying counterpart in certain exploitations of biotechnology that manipulate life in the name of an inordinate ambition for domination which distorts aspirations and hopes and increases anxiety and suffering.
4. "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10,10): the Church, which preserves and spreads the message of salvation, takes Jesus' vivid and inspiring affirmation as her programme. Defending human health, which is your programme, reflects this mission.
The concept of health cannot be limited to the mere absence of illness or of temporary organic dysfunctions. Health involves the well-being of the whole person, his biophysical, psychological and spiritual state. Therefore, in some way it also embraces his adaptation to the environment in which he lives and works.
"I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10,10). The objectives you pursue - such as the defence of the person's dignity in his physical and spiritual life; the promotion of study and research in the field of health care; the encouragement of adequate health-care policies; the guidance of hospital ministry - are the reflection on an operative level of the task which Jesus transmitted to his Church: to serve life! I can only urge you to fulfil this duty.
5. The Incarnation of the Word healed all our weaknesses and ennobled human nature, raising it to supernatural dignity and making the people of Redemption one body and one mind through the action of the Holy Spirit. Precisely for this reason, every act of helping the sick, whether in the foremost health-care structures or in the simple structures of developing countries, if done with a spirit of faith and fraternal sensitivity, becomes in a very real sense a religious act.
Care of the sick, if carried out in a context of respect for the person, is not limited to medical treatment or surgery, but aims at healing the whole man, restoring his interior harmony, the zest for life, the joy of love and communion.
This is also the aim of your dicastery's activities in the complex and varied world of holiness, and in collaboration with similar pastoral centres of the local Churches, which co-ordinate the service of the chaplains and nursing sisters with the generous service of volunteer workers. The common goal is respect for the life of every individual who, even if functionally or organically impaired, preserves whole and entire the human dignity that is his.
6. I keenly hope that in your work over the next few days, you will succeed in formulating appropriate practical guidelines. This is the way to achieve the original goals of the Pontifical Council, which will not fail to play its own particular role in the period of preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. You will thus help the faithful to become aware that "in suffering there is concealed a particular power that draws a person interiorly close to Christ" (Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris, n. 26). Human suffering, thus transformed into the mystery of the Redeemer's suffering, becomes "the irreplaceable mediator and author of the good things which are indispensable for the world's salvation" (ibid., n. 27).
Continue to offer your expert service to the national Episcopal Conferences and all the organizations involved in the health-care ministry, and the Holy Spirit, who "by his own power and by the interior union of the members ... produces and stimulates love among the faithful" (Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium LG 7), will continue to show himself to the Church at the beginning of the third millennium as "the principal agent of the new evangelization" (Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 45).
As I entrust these wishes to the Blessed Virgin, who after the Annunciation of the angel expressed her immediate willingness to serve life for her cousin Elizabeth, who was soon to give birth, I cordially impart my affectionate Blessing to you and willingly extend it to those who work with you to make the service to persons tried by illness ever more effective and human.
Dear Cardinal Bevilacqua,
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rm 1,7). Continuing this series of ad Limina visits by the Bishops of the United States, I welcome you, the Bishops of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. I entrust the outcome of our prayer and meetings to the grace of the Holy Spirit, who "down through the centuries has drawn from the treasures of the Redemption achieved by Christ and given new life to human beings" (Dominum et Vivificantem DEV 53). The Spirit is now preparing the Church for the Great Jubilee, a time to hear anew and answer ever more decisively the call to open our hearts to the Gospel, to embrace its saving message, and to allow it to transform our lives. Approaching the Jubilee, the Shepherds of God's people have a fresh opportunity to speak out and tell the men and women of today that God has indeed come among us and that the Gospel is "the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith" (Rm 1,16). Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will further enlighten our minds regarding the "hour" that we are living and regarding the opportunities and responsibilities which this "hour" entails for the future of the Church and of society.
2. As I mentioned to the first group of Bishops from your country, the reception given to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, and the renewal of the Church envisioned by the Council, will be the guiding light of our reflections during this series of visits ad Limina Apostolorum.Many Catholics today have no personal recollection of the Council. But those of us who had the marvelous opportunity to take part in it experienced it as a time of extraordinary spiritual dynamism and growth. The Council brought us into close and tangible contact with the wealth of nineteen centuries of holiness, doctrine and service to the human family; it revealed to us the unity and diversity of the Catholic community throughout the world; it taught us openness to our Christian brothers and sisters, to the followers of other religions, to mankind's joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties. It is clear that in his Providence, God wanted to prepare the Church for a new springtime of the Gospel - for the beginning of the next Christian Millennium - through the extraordinary grace of the Council.
Among the teachings which the Council has bequeathed to us, none has had so far-reaching an influence on the Catholic community as a whole, and on our own lives as priests and Bishops, as the Church's reflection on herself, ad intra and ad extra, in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes. How deeply has the Council's vision of the Church penetrated the life of our Christian communities? What must be done to ensure that the whole Church enters the next Millennium with a clearer awareness of her own mystery, with fuller confidence in her unique importance for the human family, with ardent commitment to her mission?
3. As Bishops, we have an urgent responsibility to help God's people to understand and appreciate the profound mystery of the Church: to see her above all as the community in which we meet the living God and his merciful love. It must be our pastoral objective to create a more intense awareness of the fact that God, who intervenes in history at times of his choosing, in the fullness of time sent his Son, born of a woman, for the salvation of the world (cf. Gal Ga 4,4). This is the great truth of human history: that the history of salvation has entered the history of the world, making it a history filled with God's presence and punctuated by events overflowing with meaning for the people God calls to be his own. The redemptive work of the Son continues in the Church and through the Church. Indeed, from the beginning God "planned to assemble in the Holy Church all those who would believe in Christ" (Lumen Gentium LG 2). In this transcendent, theological sense, the Church is the goal of all things: for God created the world in order to communicate his own infinite goodness and to draw his beloved creatures into communion with himself, a communion brought about by the convocation of all in Christ. This convocation is the Church (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 760). "Just as God's will is creation and is called ?the world', so his intention is the salvation of men, and it is called ?the Church'" (Clement of Alexandria, Paedagogus, I, 6, 27).
4. The fundamental truth about the Church which the Council Fathers sought to underline is that she is "the kingdom of Christ now present in mystery" (Lumen Gentium LG 3). Christ's disciples are "in the world" without being "of the world" (Jn 17,16); so they are obviously affected by the economic, social, political and cultural processes which determine how peoples and societies live and act. Thus, on her pilgrim journey through history, the Church adapts to changing circumstances while always remaining the same, in fidelity to her Lord, to his revealed word and to "what has been handed on" under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In the post-conciliar period we have been called to serve God's people in the midst of profound social change. The rapidity of change in the thirty years since the Council, and the tendency of western cultures to confine religious convictions within the private sphere, has made it difficult in some cases for Catholics to "receive" the Council's teaching on the Church's unique nature and mission. The cultural history of the United States has had a particular impact on how Catholics have perceived the Church in recent decades. It is necessary to remind everyone that, precisely because the Church is a "mystery," her reality can never be fully captured by sociological or political categories or analyses.
Following the lead of Pope Pius XII in his Encyclical Mystici Corporis, and after a period in which ecclesiology tended to focus primarily on the Church as an institution, the Second Vatican Council sought to deepen appreciation of the Church as the sacrament of encounter with the living Christ. As Shepherds of souls, we must ask ourselves to what degree the call of Lumen Gentium to a more profound sense of the interior mystery of the Church has been heard. Or have Catholics sometimes succumbed to the temptation, widespread in modern western culture, to judge the Church in predominantly political terms? It was surely not the Council's intention to "politicize" the Church so that every issue became susceptible to a political label. On the contrary, it was precisely to broaden and deepen our faith in and experience of the Church as a communion that the Council Fathers described the Church through that marvelous array of Biblical images we find in Lumen Gentium 5 and 6, rather than in the institutional categories to which they were accustomed.
Now, more than thirty years after Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes, we have sufficient perspective to see that while the fruits of the Council are manifold and everywhere there are signs that the Council has brought a new steadfastness in the faith, new signs of holiness, and a new love of the Church, there are still some tendencies towards a reductive understanding of the Church. As a result, inadequate ecclesiologies, radically different from what the Council and the subsequent Magisterium have presented, have found their way into theological and catechetical works. In pastoral practice these have become the basis of a more or less horizontal and sociological view of ecclesial realities on the part of some sectors of Catholicism. We must, therefore, look again at our efforts to teach the richly- textured ecclesiology of the Council.
5. We can only truly appreciate what the Church is when we understand that every aspect of her being is shaped by the new relationship, the new covenant, which God established between himself and mankind through the Cross of Christ. The mystery which envelops us is a mystery of communion, a sharing through grace in the life of the Father given us through Christ in the Holy Spirit. We should never cease to reflect on the call to enter into this intimate relationship of life and love with the Most Blessed Trinity. The whole purpose of our ministry is to lead others into this communion, which is not of our own making. We have to lead the faithful to understand that we do not enter into communion with God simply through a personal option in accordance with our private tastes; we do not join the Church as we join some voluntary association. Rather, we are incorporated into the Body of Christ through the grace of Baptism and through full participation in all that constitutes the divine- human reality of the Church.
The community of Christ's followers is therefore above all a spiritual solidarity, the communio sanctorum. We are the pilgrim People of God, journeying to our heavenly home, assisted by the intercession of Mary and the Saints who have preceded us. The Church embraces those who now see God as he is, and those who have died and are being purified. Perhaps our consciousness of this dimension of the Church's nature has decreased somewhat in recent years. More attention needs to be given to the intimate relationship between the Church on earth and the Church in heaven. Are younger Catholics sufficiently aware of the reality of Mary and the Saints? Do the example and intercession of Mary and the Saints sustain our people in responding to the universal vocation to holiness? Do we understand the Church's liturgy as a participation in the heavenly liturgy? Would a recovery of that understanding help to reinvigorate attendance at Sunday Mass?
6. The Church in the United States has been enriched by a great diversity of expressions of faith found among people of different ethnic backgrounds. This rich diversity indicates that the Church is catholic in the full sense, embracing all peoples and cultures. Yet the Church, with all her different members, remains the one Body of Christ. Diversity in the Church must serve the unity of the one faith, the one baptism (cf. Eph Ep 4,5), so that "speaking the truth in love, we grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together... builds itself up in love" (Ep 4,15-16). Respect for a specific culture and tradition must always be accompanied by faithfulness to the essential truth of the Gospel as passed down in the teaching of the Church.
A particularly rich form of the diversity which builds up the Body of Christ is found in the Eastern-rite Churches present alongside the Latin Church in many parts of your country. I am especially pleased to greet the Archeparchs and Eparchs taking part in this ad Limina visit. The Eastern Catholics who live in the United States constitute a natural bridge between East and West. On the one hand they make known by direct experience the Christian East and, on the other, they contribute to the development of the Oriental Churches in their countries of origin by witnessing to the acquisitions of the West and by providing spiritual and material support for people in their homeland. In order to fulfill this twofold task, it is essential that they maintain and deepen the sense of belonging to their specific ecclesial tradition, making use of the indications offered in the Instruction for the Application of the Liturgical Prescriptions of the Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches, issued by the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.
The Pastors of the Eastern Churches face new and demanding challenges in ensuring that the faithful recently arrived in the United States are properly integrated into their respective ecclesial communities. Serious consideration must also be given to ways of addressing the problems arising from the dispersal of the faithful, who continue to leave the areas where their community was traditionally present and where their ecclesial identity was more easily preserved, to live in other parts of the country.
These aspects highlight the great need for close collaboration between Latin and Oriental Bishops in order to safeguard and guarantee the legitimate diversity which constitutes the richness of the Church's universality. I urge my Brother Bishops of the Latin rite to foster greater knowledge and appreciation of the Eastern heritage which is an integral part of the Catholic expression of the faith. In this way all the faithful will have a more thorough understanding of the Christian experience, and the Catholic community will be capable of giving a more complete Christian response to the expectations of the men and women of today (cf. Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen, 5).
7. Dear Brother Bishops, as we look forward in hope to the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, I pray that the priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful of your Dioceses will be inspired to grow in their love of the Church, and thus come into an ever more profound union with Christ the Bridegroom. The most important aspect of our preparation for the celebration of the 2000th anniversary of the Incarnation is our response to the call to that holiness "without which no one shall see the Lord" (He 12,14). For it is only in the grace of the Holy Spirit that God's people can truly challenge society by their untiring and courageous witness to the truth. Entrusting you and all those whom you serve to the maternal care of Mary, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.