To His Holiness Bartholomew I
Archbishop of Constantinople Ecumenical Patriarch
"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Ep 1,2).
The feast of St Andrew, celebrated by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the feast of Sts Peter and Paul in Rome, bring us together in a fraternal meeting of dialogue and prayer. Mutual charity, regular meetings and the praise we offer God together are many ways which contribute to full unity between our Churches and enable us to witness to communion in our one Saviour, Christ.
Our reciprocal participation in the celebrations of the holy Apostles who are the patrons of our Churches is also a source of joy, the joy we feel when we desire to fulfil the Lord's will.
The delegation I am sending this year to Your Holiness and to our Sister Church of Constantinople is once again led by Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He is accompanied this year by the Most Reverend Walter Kasper, Bishop emeritus of Rottenburg-Stuttgart and the Council's new Secretary. I have given them the task of conveying my warmest wishes to you, Venerable Brother, to the Holy Synod assembled around you, and to the clergy and faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. May the peace of the Lord be with you all!
At the end of this century, as the new Christian millennium is appearing on the horizon, our desire to advance on the path of dialogue and fraternal relations in order to achieve full communion becomes a more pressing need, a more ardent desire to heal our painful wounds which "openly contradict the will of Christ and are a cause of scandal to the world" (Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 34). This desire, however, is still saddened by the thought of what we should have done to make the true face of Christ more radiant and to make the face of his Church, which through the Spirit's gift will receive the grace of full unity between us, shine with even more beautiful light in the eyes of the world.
In my conviction that "among the sins which require a greater commitment to repentance and conversion should certainly be counted those which have been detrimental to the unity willed by God for his People" (ibid.), I recalled in my Letter the many ecumenical initiatives undertaken with generosity and determination, and I stressed the enormous effort that is still required to pursue the doctrinal dialogue and to inspire a more generous commitment to ecumenical prayer (cf. ibid.). As I entrust to the holy Apostles Andrew, Peter and Paul these intentions, which continue to be one of the Jubilee's essential goals for the Church's future, I would like once again to assure you that the Catholic Church is prepared to do all she can to overcome obstacles, to support dialogue and to collaborate on every initiative aimed at helping us advance towards full communion in faith and witness.
Inspired by these sentiments and with a view to the importance of direct exchanges and of our Churches' participation in the important events of their lives, I thank Your Holiness for sending fraternal delegates to the recent Special Assembly for Europe of the Synod of Bishops in the person of our Venerable Brother Jérémias, Metropolitan of France, and to the Interreligious Assembly in the person of our Venerable Brother Damaskinos, Metropolitan of Switzerland. Their presence gave us great joy and was an example of the sharing for which Christ's disciples strive. I am just as delighted at the prospect of having representatives of Your Holiness with me on 18 January next for the opening of the Holy Door at the Basilica of St Paul-Outside-the-Walls and for the solemn opening of the celebrations which will exalt the One who is "the true light that enlightens every man" (Jn 1,9). Through your representative on the Ecumenical Commission for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, you have wished, Your Holiness, to show your support and thus to express your communion of intention for these Jubilee celebrations. I would also like to thank you for this presence and collaboration.
As I wholeheartedly rejoice that on the threshold of the new millennium we are granted, in a certain way, to proclaim together to the new generations that Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world, I exchange the kiss of peace with Your Holiness and assure you of my fraternal affection.
From the Vatican, 24 November 1999.
Thursday, 25 November 1999
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I am pleased to have this meeting which allows me to greet you, the representatives of Lux Vide and the co-producers of the film Jesus, which in the coming weeks will be broadcast on television channels in many countries.
I greet Dr Ettore Bernabei, President of Lux Vide, and thank him for his address to me on your behalf as well. I extend my greetings to each of you here and congratulate you on the dedication to evangelization which marks your work. Through you I would like to extend my gratitude to those who in various ways have collaborated and are collaborating in the production of television films on religious and, particularly, biblical themes.
My fondest hope is that such films will help make the revealed message better known to our contemporaries, offering them a satisfying answer to the questions and doubts they bear in their hearts.
2. I also trust that your film productions will be an effective aid in the indispensable dialogue that is developing between culture and faith in our time. In the world of cinema and television, where history, art and expressive language converge, your work as professionals and believers is proving particularly useful and necessary.
By its very nature, culture is communication: of individuals with one another and of people with the environment in which they live. Enlightened by faith, culture is able to reflect the individual's dialogue with God in Christ. Faith and culture are thus called to meet and interact precisely in the field of communications. Especially in our time, marked by the development of the mass media, culture is conditioned and, in many respects, moulded by these new possibilities of communication. It is important to keep this in mind.
I ardently hope that your work will be a vehicle of evangelization and help our contemporaries to meet Christ, true God and true man. With this wish, I entrust all your broadcast projects to Mary, Star of Evangelization, as I cordially bless you all.
It is indeed a great pleasure for me to welcome you, the students and staff of the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, as you come to the end of your pilgrimage to Rome. Your visit takes place on the threshold of the Great Jubilee, when Christians throughout the world will celebrate the Birth of Christ in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. The Jubilee Year is an opportunity for all Christians to give thanks to the Father for bringing about in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the salvation of humanity. At the same time, the Jubilee invites the pilgrim Church on earth to lift up her gaze in joyful expectation of the fullness of salvation to come at the end of time.
In the past three months you have been reflecting on the important theme of “Christians in a Religiously Plural World”. This theme has profound implications for the Church’s universal mission at the dawn of the new Millennium. In an increasingly pluralistic religious context, Christians are called to offer common witness to their faith in Jesus Christ the Saviour of the universe, to show esteem for the spiritual and moral values present in other religions, and to dialogue with the followers of those religions in building a world of peace, freedom and respect for human dignity.
Dear friends, may this experience of ecumenical study and discernment inspire you to ever greater efforts on behalf of Christian unity. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. It is a joy for me to welcome you today, employees of the Bank of Italy, who have come with your families to Rome from the various branches in Italy. Today's meeting takes place on a particular occasion: you are celebrating 30 active years of service in the Bank of Italy, where highly skilled people work, their activity being of great importance for Italy's economic life. I cordially greet Governor Antonio Fazio and I thank him for the kind words he spoke to me. My affectionate welcome is extended to you, members of the Board of Directors, the Executive Board and the Board of Auditors of the Bank of Italy. I also greet the senior executives, the Treasury representative who attends the meetings of the Executive Board and the Commander of the Carabinieri detail in charge of security at the institute. Lastly, I greet your family members, who have accompanied you on this happy occasion.
Your welcome visit brings back memories of the warm welcome you gave my words on 27 January 1994, the first centenary of the foundation of your prestigious bank. This morning's meeting allows me to express once again the esteem I have for the institution you work in and which you represent here this morning.
2. For some years your bank has felt the need to create, within the organization, a unique opportunity of fraternal reflection and friendly conversation which is summed up in the "Convention for the 30th Anniversary of Employment". This occasion, aimed at appreciating each "honouree" for his specific human and professional experience, also represents a strong reminder of the ideals of the ethics, dignity and solidarity that cause work to be considered not just a means of support, but also something ennobling the person. May this initiative help you to develop this awareness, so that your daily efforts may become a generous and significant contribution to the creation of an economy based on a correct hierarchy of values in which the dignity of the person always takes precedence.
The new role that the Italian nation and Europe today entrust to the Bank of Italy, in terms of well-qualified participation in the European system of central banks, confers a special importance on the "Convention for the 30th Anniversary of Employment". Economic and financial questions depend to a great extent on the decisions made within the central banks and, ultimately, on the skills of the people that work there, on their good will as well as on their abilities and expertise in dealing with problems; in a word, on their "responsibility".
3. The Church is close to those who, like you, wish to draw inspiration for their commitment from those Christian values that are an inalienable component of the Italian and European heritage. In this regard she hopes that the individual States or particular communities will also seek effective ways to regulate relations between them, adapting them to the common good, that is, by taking into account the issues of the autonomous or integrated local communities, the moral aspects as well as the economic concerns of the whole human family.
In particular, I cannot forget in this context the complex problems connected with the regulation of the indebtedness of economically underdeveloped countries in relation to those more economically developed. The central banks' authoritative voice can suggest appropriate guidelines for identifying and reaching equitable solutions that will give hope to people in need of solidarity, necessary at times for their very survival.
4. Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to accept my observations as a sign of the esteem I have for you and for your important role. May the Lord, to whom I remember you together with your loved ones, enlighten your minds and strengthen your wills so that, thanks also to your contribution, everyone can look to the future with greater confidence, in the certainty that God comes to the aid of those who work for the good of their brothers and sisters.
For this reason I invoke on you an abundance of heavenly favours, as I bless you from my heart.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear People of Friuli!
1. It is a joy for me to welcome all of you, who have come to Rome to prepare for the imminent celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, and to recall the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the "Fogolâr Furlan" in this city.
I affectionately greet Archbishop Alfredo Battisti of Udine, and I thank him for his warm words a few moments ago expressing the sentiments you share. With him I greet the Bishops and priests, and the authorities and representatives of the various civil, cultural and social institutions, together with the numerous pilgrims from the beloved land of Friuli. Friuli is well represented at our gathering!
A special thought goes to the members of the "Fogolâr Furlan" of Rome, the association of Friulians residing in the capital and to the representatives of Aprilia, Latina and the Pontine area, as well as those of Umbria and Sardinia.
Your pilgrimage "ad Petri sedem", on the eve of the Jubilee, has a special ecclesial significance: it shows that Friuli's Christian communities wish to prepare themselves with renewed faith for the celebration of the 2,000 years of the great event of the Redeemer's birth by first of all reliving your historical memory.
2. The origins of the mother Church of Aquileia date back to St Mark, interpreter and "son" (cf. 1P 5,13) of St Peter. According to the Passio of St Hermagoras, St Mark was sent by Peter to the great and prosperous Adriatic metropolis of Aquileia, thus becoming the first to preach the Gospel in the land of Friuli. He brought to Rome an illustrious representative of that community, Hermagoras, whom the Prince of the Apostles consecrated as the first Bishop of Aquileia.
Your visit to the "Tombs of the Apostles", therefore, signifies a return to the sources of the Christian faith in Friuli, to strengthen the genuine spirit and the missionary spirit of your communities, following the example of Peter, Mark and the many martyrs and saints of Friuli who have marked your history down the centuries.
The leaven of the Gospel has reinforced the traditional virtues of the Friulian people, who have strengthened their identity with the Christian faith, developing a particular civilization and culture, of which the Friulian language is the key and in a certain sense the soul.
Friuli can be seen in the heart of Europe as an example of coexistence among peoples who differ ethnically and linguistically. Heirs to the great Patriarchate of Aquileia, which welcomed many peoples of different cultures, the Friulian people of today also feel strongly committed to promoting a harmony based on respect for individual cultural identities. This must continue to characterize the attitudes and behaviour of your Christian communities. I am pleased here to recall the meetings promoted among the Friulian, Carinthian and Slovenian peoples, as well as the generous hospitality extended to the many refugees during the tragic events in the Balkans and the solidarity shown to the suffering populations.
3. At a time like this we certainly want to glance at the situation in your region which, starting with the disastrous earthquake of 1976, has shown rapid development, reaching a considerable level of prosperity. But some of the consequences have not been positive: for example, a certain desertification of the mountains, particularly in the Carnic region and the Valleys of Natisone, and a considerable demographic reduction, with the consequent ageing of the population as a whole. No less important are the sociocultural effects which are affecting the community ethos: scholars of religious sociology notice a certain loss of identity by the people with a weakening of their sense of tradition. Many individuals seem disoriented and subject to forms of moral relativism, accompanied by individualistic and consumeristic impulses. Even the family, which enjoyed proverbial respect in Friuli, is today subject to a powerful upheaval, the most evident signs being the instability of marriages and a fall in the birth rate.
4. Fortunately, most people still have a deep sense of religion: it is so rooted in Friulian culture as to define its identity. The religious sense, however, is also affected - and how could it not be? - by the difficulties just mentioned. These risks must be transformed into a new challenge for your communities. Friuli can and must shape its future in continuity with the great ecclesial, cultural and family values of its own Christian tradition.
Venerable Brothers in the episcopate and the priesthood, in your pastoral work make the family and the young the focus of your concern, and do everything possible to foster a greater awareness of the authentic leadership of the laity. Popular missions with the people will be of great assistance in this regard: they in fact spur the communities themselves and the lay faithful to become missionaries in their towns and districts by deepening their knowledge of their Christian vocation and bearing witness to the faith in daily life.
5. Dear people, the history of the Church in Friuli teaches us to treasure the "sign of Jonah" (cf. Mt Mt 16,4), the sign indicated by Christ as a symbol of his Resurrection and the new life of the Christian reborn in Baptism. The Book of Jonah was particularly commented on by Chromatius of Aquileia, one of the great Fathers of the Western Church in the fourth century. Jonah is also the centre point of the magnificent mosaic floor in the Southern Basilica of Aquileia.
But Jonah can also be the symbol of man and of the Christian, who sometimes feels immersed "in the abysses of the sea and in the belly of the great fish" (Chromatius, Tractatus in Matthaeum, 27), and also a symbol of the evangelical labours of the apostolic Church and of the present-day Churches in Friuli, heirs to the great Patriarchate of Aquileia. Jonah, therefore, is not only a prefiguration of the Risen One, but a sign of the challenge that the faith involves for every believer and of the evangelizing mission of our Churches.
6. At the end of our meeting I wish to repeat the wish that I addressed to all Friulians at the end of the intense Pastoral Visit that I made to your beloved region in May 1992: "Friulian brethren, I greet you in your mother tongue and I invite you to hold fast to your traditions, the Christian faith and the values of the home and to let them grow in the heart of your children" (Fourth Eucharistic Congress in Udine, Italy, 3 May 1992).
As I bless you with affection, together with all the members of the "Fogolârs" and with all the beloved people of Friuli, I entrust you to the maternal protection of Our Lady of Castelmonte, so revered in your land, and I greet you with the characteristic expression of the Friulian language "Mandi!", which I extend to you here and to all the people of your "Little Homeland": "Mandi Friul"!
Monday, 29 November 1999
Venerable Brother in the Lord,
1. I am pleased to welcome you on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the Pontifical Seminary of Umbria. I cordially greet Bishop Sergio Goretti of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, and I thank him for his kind expression of the sentiments you all share. I also greet the group of teachers led by the rector of the seminary. In a special way my thoughts and my affection are addressed to you, dear young people, who in the specific educational context of the seminary are preparing to make important and critical decisions for your future.
It is precisely as part of the celebration of the 75th anniversary of your seminary's foundation, desired by my Predecessor St Pius X, that this visit to the Successor of Peter is taking place.
Besides expressing the profound spirit of ecclesial communion that animates you, it is also meant to underscore how much my Predecessors did for an institution that is among the most significant and valuable for the particular Churches of Umbria. The seminary is the spiritual heart of the region: what is done to support it redounds to the benefit of all.
2. I know that your community is steadily growing and that now there are 38 young men preparing for Holy Orders and the pastoral ministry. I congratulate you on these promising prospects and I encourage you to continue by expanding the preparatory course for entering the major seminary, already present in the individual Dioceses of Umbria, so that those who sense the gift of the divine call may enjoy a suitable period of discernment, finish any incomplete studies and grow in the spiritual life. Despite the difficulties of the moment, the Spirit of God continues to prompt in hearts the desire to give oneself totally in the service of the kingdom.
I bless all who devote their work and prayer to promoting vocations. It is a holy and absolutely necessary task. May the beloved land of Umbria, which has continually given the Church many priests, missionaries and religious, be always rich in vocations, so that the Christian communities may never lack wise and capable leaders.
3. In our time, which seems to have fewer sound reference-points, it is important that future priests attend to their cultural training, so that they can adequately face the complex situations of the modern world with the light of faith and the living ecclesial tradition. During the years spent in the seminary, they should be concerned to acquire a capacity for wise discernment, so that they will not find themselves unprepared for the challenges and the rapid and often unforeseeable changes in the years ahead. Dear seminarians, the serious and enthusiastic study both of the human sciences and of theology forms part of your preparation.
It is also essential that you now acquire that personal maturity which will enable you to live the seminary life with a sense of responsibility and discipline, and your priestly ministry tomorrow with its commitments and demands. Learn to support and build up one other by sharing your gifts and talents. This is the most effective preparation for that witness of unity which must characterize your pastoral mission in the various communities of your region. Celibacy too, when lived responsibly and generously in the footsteps of Christ and for love of the Church, will help you to grow in the spirit of fatherhood, making you watchful, ready and attentive to the People of God.
4. The world awaits and asks for holy pastors, endowed with deep priestly spirituality. The effectiveness of pastoral service depends not so much on pastoral organization and methods, but on prayer and the depth of one's interior life. It is only those who grow in a mature relationship with God through personal and community prayer, by meditation on the Word, by participation in the Eucharist, who will then be able to offer themselves freely for the work of evangelization, to use earthly goods with moderation, to be strong and persevering in times of difficulty, to have a heart open to the needs of the poor and the suffering and to respond with humble and joyful docility to the Church's teachings.
Dear seminarians, dear teachers, your Bishops look to you with confidence and great hope. The new millennium awaits a fruitful, profound and renewed pastoral ministry. I urge you not to lose heart in the face of difficulties. May Mary, Mother of priests and a model of humble, faithful service, protect and sustain you in your daily efforts. May the great saints of your region intercede for you: St Benedict of Norcia, a sure guide in discipleship; St Francis of Assisi, who was in love with God and the Gospel; St Rita of Cascia, who worked for reconciliation, together with all the other witnesses to Christ who have made your land loved and visited by so many pilgrims from every part of the world.
I willingly accompany you with my affection and my prayer, as I sincerely impart to you and to your loved ones a special Apostolic Blessing.
Dear Pastors of the Church in Portugal!
1. Your presence here for your ad limina visit gives me great joy and satisfaction, knowing that I am a brother among brothers who share with me my "anxiety for all the Churches" (2Co 11,28); indeed your visit is an expression and a celebration of that special bond of communion which unites us in the Episcopal College as successors of the Apostles. Welcome! In the person of each of you I welcome and greet the priests and deacons, consecrated persons and all the Christian faithful of the various Dioceses of the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Braga, Évora and Lisbon.
I thank Bishop António Marcelino for his greeting in which, as Vice-President of your Episcopal Conference, he described the situation of the Church in Portugal, her fidelity to Christ and the great challenges facing her at the moment. I fervently hope your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul will be filled with blessings and consolations from on high so that, strengthened with new vigour in your service to the particular Churches that divine Providence has entrusted to your care, you can continue, with humble and joyful hearts, to praise God for the abundant graces you experience and spread day after day through your pastoral ministry, since you have been anointed by the Spirit and sent to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour (cf. Lk Lc 4,18-19).
2. Trusting in the great goodness of the heart of our God, let us hope, within a month and in fulfilment of our mission as stewards of the grace of Redemption, that we will be able to open and enter through the sacred doors of our basilicas, cathedrals and co-cathedrals, imploring the full indulgence and heavenly forgiveness for the sins of all humanity which, 2,000 years ago, saw the Only-begotten Son of God, our Saviour, come down to earth and assume our human nature.
Since it is taking place shortly before the beginning of the Great Jubilee of the Incarnation, I would like to make the most of this special meeting with the Portuguese Church to tear down for her own benefit - if I may use this metaphor - a wall behind the Holy Door which still prevents it from being opened. On the other hand, in recent years many worthwhile initiatives have been promoted both by your Episcopal Conference and by each of the Dioceses; I mention - only as an example, as it would be impossible to compile an exhaustive list - the successive Letters and Pastoral Instructions published in the years of preparation for the Jubilee, and the many Diocesan Assemblies (some of which were explicitly synodal) convoked to prepare and to increase the ecclesial community's awareness of this year of grace which will bring us into the new Christian millennium. Yes, many effective projects have been implemented. Perhaps it is necessary to knock at the door of each person, at the heart of each individual, because this is where the ultimate and decisive possibility of openness and acceptance of the Jubilee is found. This is why I told you that I would like to take advantage of this collegial meeting to tear down, with you, the "wall" that might still be preventing Portuguese hearts from entering into the Jubilee grace through the "Holy Door" which is the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Esteemed Brothers, it is God's will that the grace of the Jubilee be extended - according to each individual's adherence and response to the action of the Holy Spirit - to all the Catholic faithful, to all Christians "who have been baptized and share the same faith in the Lord Jesus" (Bull Incarnationis mysterium, n. 4), and also to all the "brothers and sisters in the one human family" who will together cross "the threshold of a new millennium", and whose expectations, problems and solutions, because of their increasing globalization, will require harmonious collaboration on everyone's part.
In fact, a reading of the times indicates globalization, but the diagnosis of the human heart is not encouraging: there is an enormous sense of emptiness; there is also a deep repugnance to this emptiness which fills it with fleeting trivialities, increasing its loss of direction. Not knowing how to find itself on its own, it cannot find itself among others: it ends up quite alone in the midst of an anonymous crowd. Well then! The Church offers the Holy Year to this perplexed human heart, disappointed and deceived by the most varied forms of alienation, as a favourable time to enter into itself and fully experience the life for which it yearns. This is the Church's prayer, since "the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us" (1Jn 1,2) in Jesus of Nazareth.
With his coming, our history ceased to be arid ground, as it had appeared before and without the Incarnation, and aquired meaning and the value of universal hope. In fact, "by his Incarnation, he, the Son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us" (Gaudium et spes, GS 22); "to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God" (Jn 1,12). In this way, the Christian way of life not only gives meaning to what exists, but also opens "to all people the prospect of being "divinized' and thus of becoming more human" (Bull Incarnationis mysterium, n. 2). Divine love penetrates their hearts and, through Baptism, gives them rebirth as children of God, making them members of Christ's Body which is the Church.
4. This fullness of life does not come essentially from ideas or the clear and precise reasoning about salvation that an individual seeeks to achieve, but from the union of love that is established between Jesus and his faithful, and through Jesus with the Father. We must overcome the rather widespread tendency to reject any salvific mediation and to put the individual sinner in direct contact with God, because salvation came to us first of all from the mediation of Jesus' historical humanity and then, since the Resurrection, through his Mystical Body, the Church. Consequently, God's plan is sacramental, that is, he makes himself present in a finite figure such as the humanity of Jesus or the sacramental signs of the Church.
At the school of faith, we learn that "for a Christian, the sacrament of Penance is the ordinary way of obtaining forgiveness and the remission of serious sins committed after Baptism.... It would therefore be foolish, as well as presumptuous, to wish arbitrarily to disregard the means of grace and salvation which the Lord has provided and, in the specific case, to claim to receive forgiveness while doing without the sacrament which was instituted by Christ precisely for forgiveness" (Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, RP 31). The Church "would be lacking an essential aspect of [her] being and failing in an indispensable function if the "message of reconciliation' (2Co 5,19) were not proclaimed with clarity and tenacity, in season and out of season, and if the gift of renunciation were not offered to the world" (ibid., n. 23). To this end, a few theoretical statements are not enough; precise minsterial functions at the service of penance and reconciliation are required.
Therefore, dear Brothers, never cease to remind your priests of ecclesiastical discipline in this regard, helping them to carry it out effectively: "All to whom the care of souls is committed by reason of an office are obliged to provide that the confessions of the faithful entrusted to their care be heard when they reasonably ask to be heard and that the opportunity be given to them to come to individual confession on days and hours set for their convenience" (Code of Canon Law, CIC 986). Given that "the People of God have entered into the Holy Years, seeing them as a time when Jesus' invitation to conversion makes itself more deeply felt" (Bull Incarnationis mysterium, n. 5), may one of the fruits of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 be the general return of the Christian faithful to the sacramental practice of Confession.
5. In the parable of the prodigal son (cf. Lk Lc 15,11-32), the Father's embrace is followed by the festive banquet given for the son who had been found. In the same way, because of sacramental pardon he "can once more take part in the Eucharist as the sign that he has found communion with the Father and with his Church" (Incarnationis mysterium, n. 9). We know that "in the sign of the consecrated Bread and Wine, Christ Jesus risen and glorified, the light of the nations, reveals the enduring reality of his Incarnation" (ibid., n. 11). It is he who is being celebrated: it is his 2,000th anniversary. And 2,000 years later, "he remains living and real in our midst in order to nourish the faithful with his Body and Blood" (ibid., n.11).
In the Eucharist, we really have the Holy Door of the Jubilee, Christ the Lord, who said of himself: "I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture" (Jn 10,9). Beloved Pastors of the Portuguese Church, it is towards these pastures that we are leading the flock entrusted to us: with our best efforts and supported by the power of the Holy Spirit, we proclaim, celebrate and lead people to the Eucharistic Jesus. But how many follow us? How many ignore our call? The census on Sunday Mass attendance which you conducted in 1991 showed that an average of 26 per cent of Portugal's resident population practise the faith; this is an important indication of the immense need for pastoral work, but also a serious concern if one thinks that almost three times as many habitually live without the Eucharist.
If, in the multiplication of the loaves (cf. Lk Lc 9,12-17), the disciples had not given the crowd what remained of the five loaves and two fish blessed by the divine Teacher, it would certainly have been impossible to say that "all ate and were satisfied". Now, with regard to Portugal and the Eucharist, we should recognize that many have not eaten and few are satisfied. Of course, the generosity of the Church in providing Christ with "the five loaves and two fish" is not lacking, just as their multiplication is not lacking. The apostolic zeal expressed in your pastoral initiatives and activities is truly admirable, and the pastoral decisions and projects you have prepared are praiseworthy. However, has the utmost been done to take a piece to everyone? Has that necessary review of life been made to see whether everyone has eaten and been satisfied?
I am sure that with sensitive pastoral pedagogy, you will be able to make this Holy Year a favourable time to lead non-practising Christians from occasional and self-centred, so to speak, participation (to obtain the gift of the indulgence) in the celebration of the Eucharist, to being accustomed and committed to weekly participation, like the martyrs of Abitina (304), who said: "We cannot live without the Lord's Supper" (Apostolic Letter Dies Domini, n. 46). May every Eucharist during the Jubilee have and exert all the fascination and mystery of Christmas, since "for 2,000 years, the Church has been the cradle in which Mary places Jesus and entrusts him to the adoration and contemplation of all peoples" (Incarnationis mysterium, n. 11)! Every Eucharist must first of all offer its participants the opportunity for a meeting and personal conversation with the divine Emmanuel, God-with-us (cf. Mt Mt 1,23), the result of which will be spiritual and, if possible, sacramental communion.
6. As we all know, here we find the secret of the fidelity and perseverance of Christians, of the security and solidity of their interior "house" amid the afflictions and hardships of the world; in fact, the Gospel teaches that the stability of a house essentially depends, not on the violence of the storms or the fury of the winds, but on whether or not it has been built on rock (cf. Mt Mt 7,24-27). Recently too, the Second Assembly for Europe of the Synod of Bishops called for reinvigorating the inner foundations of that "dwelling of God" which is every Christian, every ecclesial community, the whole of humanity which received God made man: "In a society and culture often closed to the transcendent, stifled by consumerist attitudes, enslaved by old and new idolatries, let us rediscover with awe the sense of "mystery'. Let us renew our liturgical celebrations, so that they may be a more eloquent sign of the presence of Christ the Lord. Let us ensure new space for silence, prayer and contemplation" (Final Message, n. 5). Therefore it is necessary to avoid the reefs of activism where the best pastoral programmes and so many lives dedicated to the limits of their strength have been shipwrecked, and of secularism, where God has no voice and no place, which prevents his coming down to our earth.
Esteemed Brothers, as sentinels of God's House, see that all ecclesial life reflects in a way the twofold rhythm of Holy Mass with the liturgy of the word and the Eucharistic liturgy. Take as your example the case of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, who only recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread (cf. Lc 24,13-35). In recent decades some people, in reaction to an excessive sacramentalism, have put the primary, if not the exclusive, emphasis on the word. Now, according to the Council's teaching, the "economy of Revelation is realized by deeds and words, which are intrinsically bound up with each other. As a result, the works performed by God in the history of salvation show forth and bear out the doctrine and realities signified by the words; the words, for their part, proclaim the works, and bring to light the mystery they contain" (Dei Verbum, DV 2). In conclusion, we need the word - the "the word of God which is at work in you believers" (1Th 2,13) - and the sacrament which makes present and extends in history the saving action of Jesus.
7. Dear Brothers, these are a few thoughts which I leave with you on the occasion of your ad limina visit about a month before the opening of the Holy Door. Desiring to open it wide so that all the People of God can enter and quench their thirst at the springs of salvation, I do not want any "wall" to block the access of Portuguese Christians to the special grace of the Lord associated with the Jubilee of the Year 2000 (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente, TMA 55). At Fátima we find a shining example of the personalization of the apostolic plans and commitments which must be taken up and bear fruit in every Christian's heart; teaching them as a mother, Our Lady asks the shepherd children: "Do you want to offer yourselves to God?". "Yes, we do", they reply to her (Apparition, 13 May 1917). Francisco and Jacinta are soon to be raised to the honour of the altars, extending the Mother of God's appeal to the whole Church by the example of their lives.
With this appeal I ask you to convey my encouragement to the priests, deacons, consecrated persons, seminarians, novices and pastoral workers, the Christian faithful and all who seek Christ's truth, as well as to Christian families and parish communities. Be assured of my constant prayers for the Church in Portugal on pilgrimage to heaven, so that all her members can courageously and generously respond to the year of grace about to begin. Invoking upon everyone the happiness of the Triune God's embrace, I wholeheartedly impart to you my Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to your closest collaborators and to all the faithful of your Dioceses.