S. John Paul II Homil. 93
94 1. The joy of the paschal period in today's liturgy dictates to the Church words of deep gratitude. Here they are: "The love of God was made manifest among us" (1Jn 4,9); it was manifested in this way, that "God sent his only Son into the world" (1Jn 4,9). He sent him "so that we might live through him" (1Jn 4,9). He sent him "to be the expiation for our sins" (1Jn 4,10).
This sacrifice offered on Calvary on Good Friday was accepted. And lo, Easter Sunday brought us certainty of Life. He who broke the seals of the tomb, manifested victory over death, and thereby revealed the Life that we have "through him" (1Jn 4,9).
All men are called to this Life: "God shows no partiality" (Ac 10,34 cf. Gal Ga 2,6). And the Holy Spirit, as St Peter testifies in today's liturgy, "fell on all who heard the word" (Ac 10,44).
The work of salvation carried out by Christ has no limit in space and in time. It embraces one and all. Christ died on the cross for everyone and he won for everyone this divine life, the power of which was manifested in his Resurrection.
With this great and universal paschal joy of the Church I wish to associate particularly, today, the joy of my fellow-countrymen, the joy of the Church in Poland, expressed by the presence of so many pilgrims from all over the world, with the illustrious and beloved Primate of Poland, Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, with the Archbishops and Metropolitans of Krakow and of Wrocklaw, and with so many representatives of the Polish Episcopate. Celebrating this Holy Sacrifice, we wish to express to God, who is "Love", our gratitude for the millennium of faith and permanence of the union with the Church of Christ; for the millennium of the presence of Poland, always faithful, at this spiritual centre of catholicity and universality which is St Peter's tomb in Rome as also this splendid Basilica built on it.
2. This reason for our special joy is, this year, the jubilee of St Stanislaus, Bishop of Krakow, and Martyr. Nine hundred years have passed since this Bishop was martyred at the hands of King Boleslaus. He exposed himself to death by reprimanding the king and asking him to change his attitude. The royal sword did not spare the Bishop; it reached him during the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice and immediately deprived him of life. The precious relic of the Bishop's skull, on which the signs of the mortal blows are still visible, has remained a witness to this moment. This relic, preserved in a valuable reliquary, has for many centuries been carried in the month of May from Wawel cathedral to St Michael's Church at Skalka (Rupella) when the solemnities of St Stanislaus are celebrated in Poland. Throughout the centuries, there took part in this procession the Polish kings, successors of that Boleslaus who had inflicted death on the Bishop and who, according to tradition, ended his life as a converted penitent.
The liturgical hymn in honour of St Stanislaus was sung as the solemn hymn of the nation which took the martyr as its own patron saint. Here are the first words of this hymn:
"Gaude mater Polonia / Prole fecunda nobili / Summi Regis magnalia / Laude frequenta vigili."
3. Today I, the first Pope in the history of the Church of the race of Poles and Slav Peoples, celebrate with gratitude the memory of St Stanislaus, since up to a few months ago I was his successor in the episcopal see at Krakow. And together with my fellow-countrymen gathered here, I express deep gratitude to all those who take part in this solemnity here. In two weeks I shall have the fortune to go on a pilgrimage to Poland, to thank God there for the millennium of faith and of the Church which is founded on St Stanislaus as on a cornerstone. And even if this event is, above all, the jubilee of the Church in Poland, we express it also in the dimension of the universal Church; because the Church is a large family of peoples and nations, all of which have contributed, at the right moment, to make it a community by means of their own testimony and their own gift, and have thus highlighted their participation in universal unity. Such a gift was, nine hundred years ago, the sacrifice of St Stanislaus.
The Holy Father then delivered section 4 in Polish:
4. Beloved Fellow-Countrymen!
95 We cannot present the great mystery of St Stanislaus after 900 years, other than by going back to the Paschal Mystery of Christ. This is what the Polish Hierarchy did in their pastoral letter to prepare all Poles at home and abroad for the celebration of his feast this year.
Here is an extract from the letter:
"Dwelling prayerfully on his martyrdom, we have still in mind the recent Lenten memories of the Passion of our Saviour Jesus Christ: 'he who wishes to be my disciple, let him take up his cross... and follow me'. If, beginning from Christ's death and resurrection, the Lord's disciples will shed their blood down the ages as a witness of faith and love, this will always happen with him and in him. He will draw them to his pierced Heart, and thus they will be united in the death of Christ.
"The cross in the life of St Stanislaus and his death as a martyr were essentially very close to the Cross and Death of Jesus Christ on Calvary. They had a similar significance. Christ defended the truth of his Father, the Eternal God; he defended the truth of himself as the Son of God. He defended man who, indeed, lives under the temporal power, but lives in an incomparable manner under the divine power.
"Let the fruit of this holy jubilee be our fidelity to the Blood which Christ shed on Calvary for man's salvation, for the salvation of each one of us; fidelity to Christ's Mother of Sorrows; fidelity to the sacrificial martyrdom of St Stanislaus."
I read these words with great joy. They give us the best understanding of what is proclaimed in the liturgy of St Stanislaus: vivit Victor sub gladio! In fact, the weighty sword fell on the head of the Bishop of Krakow, Stanislaus of Szczepanowa in 1079 and terminated his life. Beneath that sword the bishop was conquered. Boleslaus had removed his adversary. The great drama had concluded within the short frontiers of time. However, even though the power of the sword had achieved its end at the moment of the sacrifice of death, yet the power of the Spirit, which is Life and Love, began to reveal itself and to grow at the same time. It irradiated from his relics, embracing the peoples of the lands of the Piasts and uniting them. Even though the sword and its material power can kill and destroy, yet only love and the spiritual power can revivify and unite in a lasting way. Love is revealed even in death—"when a man lays down his life for his friends" (Jn 15,13).
We rejoice that today we can praise God for the revelation of his love in the death of the Servant of the Eucharist and the Servant of the People of God in the see of Krakow, St Stanislaus.
5. The Church in Poland is grateful to Peter's See, because in 966, by means of Baptism, it accepted the nation into the great community of the family of Peoples.
The Church in Poland is grateful to St Peter's See, because the Bishop and Martyr St Stanislaus of Szczepanow was raised to the altars and proclaimed Patron Saint of the Poles.
The Church in Poland, by means of the memory of its Patron Saint, confesses the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of Love, which is stronger than death.
And with this confession it wishes to serve the men of our time. It wishes to serve the Church in her universal mission in the modern world. It wishes to contribute to the strengthening of faith, hope, and charity not only in its people, but also in the other nations and peoples of Europe and of the whole world.
96 Let us pray with the deepest humility at St Peter's tomb that this witness and this readiness to serve may be accepted by means of the Church of God, which is "all over the earth". Let us pray with humility, love, and with the deepest veneration that they may be accepted by Almighty God, the Searcher of our hearts and Father of the time to come.
Lord Cardinal Patriarch and revered Brothers in the Episcopate,
Beloved sons and daughters of "most faithful" Portugal,
May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all!
I greet you cordially with appreciation and gratitude for the joy of this meeting. And through you, particularly through the beloved bishops, my brothers, and the ambassadors, I greet the beloved Portuguese people.
Love of Christ has gathered us here with the purpose of praising and thanking God. The reason is a call and a response that reach us through eight centuries. The call made by my predecessor Alexander III in the Bull Manifestis Probatum, to your first king Don Alfonso Henriques, was addressed to Portugal and said: "Submissive and devoted to the Holy Roman Church, engaged in... the expansion of the frontiers of Christian faith: may the Apostolic See always rejoice in such a devoted and glorious son and rest in your love" (Bull Manifestis Probatum, 23 May 1179; Lisbon, Torre do Tombo, Codices de Bulas, m. 16, doc. 20). And the response was given by the people of Portugal throughout its history.
On this significant date, here in the church of St Anthony of the Portuguese in Rome, very near St Peter's tomb, among the reasons for common rejoicing—as the Cardinal Patriarch stated in his address—in our praise of God there stand out the relations between Portugal and the Apostolic See in eight centuries of history passed together.
What characterized this path as a whole can perhaps be summed up as follows: faithfulness to the Church, Mother and Teacher of peoples, on the part of Portugal, from the time that its first king, by means of his letter (Claves regni, Letter to Pope Lucius II, 13 December 1143) offered the Portuguese land to the Roman Church; and good will on the part of the Holy See which even granted Portugal the title of "most faithful" in the person of its Sovereigns (Benedict XIV, Bull Charissime in Christo to the king of Portugal Don Juan V, 17 December 1748. Bullarium Romanum, Venetiis 1778, t. II, page 1).
In the select representation that I contemplate here today praying with the Pope, I see the heritage and identity of Christian Portugal, with ancient and renewed faithfulness, with past and present aspirations. They are known to God and at this moment I leave in my heart the respectful evocations and due mentions of persons and facts that marked, in your country, the life of the Church, one and unique, concerned, always and everywhere, about man's vocation in Christ (cf. Redemptor Hominis RH 18).
97 In our liturgy of thanksgiving to the Lord, I would like to mention briefly three coordinates of the trajectory of faithfulness to God and to the Church in the Christian life and piety of the beloved Portuguese people, as so many other reasons for rejoicing in the Lord and for stimulation for the future. These coordinates are:
— It is no mere chance that Christ, the Redeemer and Saviour, figures as an eloquent symbol in the corners of the flag of your country, and that his cross distinguished the 16th-century caravels bound for glorious adventures, also because of "Christian daring" (Luis de Camoes, Lusiadas, canto VII, 14).
— The Blessed Virgin, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, Our Lady, as you prefer to call her, who, in "the Lusitanian home" and "land of St Mary", passed at a certain moment from being "Lady" to being "Queen of Portugal" (cf. Document of proclamation of Our Lady of Conception, as Patron Saint of Portugal, in the Cortes of Lisbon, in 1646. Quoted by Fr Miguel Oliveira in his Historia eclesiastica de Portugal, Lisbon 1958; pages 333 and ff.).
— The experience of an essential dimension of the Church, which is missionary by her very nature (Ad Gentes AGD 1): the work of evangelization carried out is one of the most genuine religious glories of Portugal.
In the light of the past, this agreeable meeting of today—Portugal of the present and the present of the Church in your country with the Successor of St Peter—is a resolution of continuity in the line of your faithfulness. Would that, seeking the common good—the supreme law of society, according to God—all Portuguese may dedicate themselves to cultivating spiritual values in a social climate of morality, justice, peace and brotherly love.
Yes, beloved Portuguese: cultivate personal dignity, preserve the good family spirit and respect life and the Lord of life and Lord of history. May you, living and bearing witness to your option for Christ, continue to listen to your epic writer and "do a great deal in holy Christianity" (Luis de Camoes, Lusiadas, canto VII, 3).
In you present here I bless your land and your people—persons, families and communities—and their leaders, thinking also of your emigrants and, with particular affection, of my brother bishops. The Pope loves you all and trusts in you.
And concentrating our minds and hearts on Christ "for whom and by whom all things exist" (He 2,10) in this Eucharist and through the mediation of Our Lady and of the saints of your land, let us continue praising, thanking and supplicating God the Father for Portugal, united in the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear sons and brothers and friends in Jesus Christ,
ON THIS SOLEMNITY of the Ascension of our Lord, the Pope is happy to offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice with you and for you. I am happy to be with the students and staff of the Venerable English College in this year in which you are celebrating your fourth centenary. And today, in a special way, I feel spiritually close to you, to your parents and families, and to all the faithful of England and Wales – to all who are united in the faith of Peter and Paul, in the faith of Jesus Christ. The traditions of generosity and fidelity that have been exemplified in the life of your College for four hundred years are present in my heart this morning. You have come to give thanks and praise to God for what has been accomplished by his grace in the past, and to find strength to go forward – under the protection of our Blessed Lady – in the fervour of your forefathers, many of whom laid down their lives for the Catholic faith.
98 A cordial word of welcome goes also to the new priests from the Pontifical Beda College. For you too this is a moment of special challenge to keep alive the ideals manifested in your patron, Saint Bede the Venerable, whom you will commemorate tomorrow. Welcome also to the staff and to your fellow studente.
With joy then and fresh resolves for the future, let us reflect briefly on the great mystery of today’s liturgy. In the Scripture readings the whole significance of Christ’s Ascension is summarized for us. The richness of this mystery is spelled out in two statements: Jesus gave instructions, and then Jesus took his place.
In the providence of God – in the eternal design of the Father – the hour had come for Christ to go away. He would leave his Apostles behind, with his Mother Mary, but only after he had given them his instructions. The Apostles now had a mission to perform according to the instructions that Jesus left, and these instructions were in turn the faithful expression of the Father’s will.
The instructions indicated, above all, that the Apostles were to wait for the Holy Spirit, who was the gift of the Father. From the beginning, it had to be crystal-clear that the source of the Apostles’ strength is the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who guides the Church in the way of truth; the Gospel is to spread through the power of God, and not by means of human wisdom or strength.
The Apostles, moreover, were instructed to teach – to proclaim the Good News to the whole world. And they were to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Like Jesus, they were to speak explicitly about the Kingdom of God and about salvation. The Apostles were to give witness to Christ to the ends of the earth. The early Church clearly understood these instructions and the missionary era began. And everybody knew that this missionary era could never end until the same Jesus, who went up to heaven, would come back again.
The words of Jesus became a treasure for the Church to guard and to proclaim, to meditate on and to rive. And at the same time, the Holy Spirit implanted in the Church an apostolic charism, in order to keep this revelation intact. Through his words Jesus was to live on in his Church: I am with you always. And so the whole ecclesial community became conscious of the need for fidelity to the instructions of Jesus, to the deposit of faith. This solicitude was to pass from generation to generation – down to our own day. And it was because of this principle that I spoke recently to your own Rectors, stating that the first priority for seminaries today is the teaching of God’s word in all its purity and integrity, with all its exigencies and in all its power. The word of God – and the word of God alone – is the basis for all ministry, for all pastoral activity, for all priestly action. The power of God’s word constituted the dynamic basis of the Second Vatican Council, and John XXIII pointed out clearly on the day it opened: ‘The greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be more effectively quarded and taught’. And if the seminarians of this generation are to be adequately prepared to take on the heritage and challenge of this Council they must be trained above all in God’s word: in ‘the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine’ Yes, dear sons, our greatest challenge is to be faithful to the instructions of the Lord Jesus.
And the second reflection on the meaning of the Ascension is found in this phrase: Jesus took his place. After having undergone the humiliation of his passion and death, Jesus took his place at the right-hand of God; he took his place with his eternal Father. But he also entered heaven as our Head. Whereupon, in the expression of Leo the Great, the glory of the Head became the hope of the body. For all eternity Christ takes is place as the firstborn among many brethren: our nature is with God in Christ. And as man, the Lord Jesus lives for ever to intercede for us with Father. At the same time, from his throne of glory, Jesus sends out to the whole Church a message of hope and a call to holiness.
Because of Christ’s merits, because of his intercession with the Father, we are able to attain justice and holiness of life, in him. The Church may indeed experience difficulties, the Gospel may suffer setbacks, but because Jesus is at the right-hand of the Father the Church will never know defeat. Christ’s victory is ours. The power of the glorified Christ, the beloved Son of the eternal Father, is superabundant, to sustain each of us and all of us in the fidelity of our dedication to God’s Kingdom and in the generosity of our celibacy. The efficacy of Christ’s Ascension touches all us in the concrete reality of our daily lives. Because of this mystery it is the vocation of the whole Church to wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Dear sons, be imbued with the hope that is so much a part of the mystery of the Ascension of Jesus. Be deeply conscious of Christ’s victory and triumph over sin and death. Realize that the strength of Chist is greater than our weakness, greater than the weakness of the whole world. Try to understand and share the joy that Mary experienced in knowing that her Son had taken his place with his Father, whom he loved infinitely. And renew your faith today in the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has gone to prepare a place for us, so that he can come back again and take us to himself.
This is the mystery of the Ascension of our Head. Let us always remember: Jesus gave instructions, and then Jesus took his place. Amen.
99 Beloved Brothers and Sisters!
I could not fail to visit this holy place, loved by the Romans, to venerate the one who was designated "The Apostle of Rome", St Philip Neri, the Joint Patron Saint of this noble City.
My coming was a duty, it was a need of the soul and it was also an anxious expectation! In this Church, where St Philip Neri's body rests, I address first of all my most cordial greeting to the priests, his confreres.
But then with special love I greet you the faithful, and in you I intend to reach all the faithful of Rome, the city of St Philip Neri, which he loved and benefited so much, and in which his living and sanctifying memory is still present.
You know that in the period in which he stayed in Rome, from 1534, when he arrived an unknown and poor pilgrim, to 1595, the year of his blessed death, St Philip Neri had a very deep love for Rome! He lived, worked, studied, suffered, prayed, loved, died, for Rome! He had Rome in his mind, his heart, his concerns, his plans, his institutions, his joys and also his sorrows! For Rome, St Philip was a man of culture and charity, of study and organization, of teaching and prayer. For Rome, he was a holy priest, a tireless confessor, a brilliant educator and a friend of all, and particularly he was an expert counsellor and a delicate director of consciences. Popes and cardinals, bishops and priests, princes and politicians, religious and artists, had recourse to him: illustrious persons, such as the historian Cesare Baronio and the famous composer Palestrina, St Charles Borromeo and St Ignatius of Loyola, and Cardinal Federigo Borromeo, confided in his heart, the heart of a father and friend.
But that poor, little room in his apartment was above all the goal of an immense multitude of humble persons of the people, the suffering, the disinherited, the outcasts of society, young people, children, who flocked to him, to receive advice, forgiveness, peace, encouragement, material and spiritual aid. St Philip's beneficial activity was such and so great that the Magistrature of Rome decreed to give a chalice to his church every year on the anniversary of his death, as a sign of veneration and gratitude.
Living in a dramatic age, intoxicated by the discoveries of human genius and of classical and pagan art, but which was going through a radical crisis owing to the change in mentality, St Philip, a man of deep faith and a fervent, brilliant and far-sighted priest, endowed also with special charisms, was able to maintain intact the deposit of truth received and handed it down, complete and pure, putting it into practice entirely in his life and proclaiming it uncompromisingly.
For this reason his message is always a topical one and we must listen to him and follow his example.
In the precious mine of his teachings and the anecdotes about his life, always so interesting and fascinating, some perspectives can be said to be particularly relevant for the world today.
This is St Philip's first appeal.
In fact, a fundamental danger is the pride of intelligence. St Philip saw it flourishing in a frightful way in that independent and rebellious age, and therefore he laid particular stress on the humility of reason and on interior penitence. Intelligence is a gift from God which makes man similar to Him; but intelligence must accept its limits.
100 Intelligence must reach the necessary and absolute Principle which governs the universe; recognize the historical proofs which show the divinity of Jesus Christ and the divine mission of the Church; and then stop before the mystery of God, who, being infinite, always remains obscure in his nature and in his operations. Intelligence must accept his law, which is a law of love and salvation and abandon itself trustfully to his plan, which, being eternal, transcends every human perspective ontologically.
St Philip emphasized this sense of humility before God. Putting his hand to his forehead, he was accustomed to say: "Holiness lies in the space of three fingers!", meaning that it depends essentially on the humility of the intelligence.
This is the second teaching of St Philip, a very valid one and still relevant today.
With Christian wisdom he was able to draw from the principles of faith the deep reasons for his activity and his whole life. And from this logic of faith there arose spontaneously a life-style marked by joy, trust, serenity, healthy optimism, which is not trivial and insensitive easy-goingness, but is a transcendent vision of history, an eschatological vision of human reality. From this interior joy, there sprang the extraordinary strength of his apostolate and his delicate and proverbial humor, for which he was called the "saint of joy" and his house was known as the "house of gaiety". On this gentle and austere, joyful and committed life-style, he founded the "Oratory", which spread all over the world and which, among so many other merits, had also that of the development of music and sacred song.
St Paul wrote: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance" (Ph 4,4-5).
Such was St Philip: a man of joy and forbearance. God grant that each of us may also be able to enjoy this joy which springs from convinced and lived Christian faith.
This is a third teaching of our saint, which is extremely topical and necessary.
St Philip, in full respect of individual personalities, based his "educational project" on the reality of "grace" and developed it along five main guidelines: delicate knowledge of every individual child and youth through patient and affectionate listening—the enlightening of the mind with the truths of faith by means of readings and meditations—eucharistic and Marian devotion—charity for one's neighbour—play in its most varied manifestations.
The world of today is in extreme need of sensitive and qualified educators, who will teach their pupils to overcome the sadness and sense of loneliness and incommunicability which torments so many young people and sometimes even destroys them.
Like St Philip, you, too, parents and educators, teach "whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise" (Ph 4,8).
Beloved Faithful of Rome!
101 How many things we can and must learn from our great Saint! He speaks to each of us: "Cor ad cor loquitur", as the great Cardinal Newman, converted from Anglicanism, used to say. When, after long and meticulous historical researches and after interior suffering, he was obliged by the evidence of the proofs to embrace Catholicism and enter the Church of Rome, becoming acquainted with the life and spirituality of St Philip, he became so enamoured of him, because of his depth, balance and discretion, that he wished to become an Oratorian priest. He founded the first Oratory in England, always followed his example, as his admirable addresses bear witness, and called him "my personal Father and Patron Saint". He concluded his most famous work: "Apologia pro vita sua" with the name of St Philip.
For us, too, St Philip continues to be our "Father". Let us invoke him! Let us listen to him! One of his most lovable characteristics was his tender love for the Blessed Virgin, whom he frequently invoked as "Mater gratiae", with complete and filial confidence.
He would say, full of tenderness for the Mother of Heaven: "This reason alone should be enough to keep a member of the faithful joyful, the knowledge that he has the Virgin Mary praying for him, close to God" (Vita di San Filippo Neri Fiorentino, written by Fr Pietro Giacomo Bacci).
Let us listen to him, St Philip Neri, convinced that he who loved Rome so much when he was alive, continues to protect and help his sons.
And now, before beginning the liturgy of the Sacrifice, let us think for a moment of what happened in our beloved city of Rome a few days ago: the atrocious death of a young Somalian, who had emigrated here, an unknowing victim of an absurd act, has raised a movement of indignation and protest all over the world and has rent also my fatherly heart. And now, let us raise a prayer for the poor deceased and for all the victims of cruelty and human violence, and above all let us promise, each one personally in his own sphere and under his own responsibility, to live the Gospel with absolute faithfulness, following in the footsteps of St Philip Neri.
1. "Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen" (Ac 1,24).
Thus the apostles prayed, gathered in the Upper Room at Jerusalem when, for the first time, they had to fill the place that had remained empty in their community. It was necessary, in fact, for the Twelve to continue to bear witness to the Lord and to his Resurrection. Christ had duly constituted the Twelve. And now, after the loss of Judas, it was necessary to face for the first time the duty of deciding in the Lord's name who was to take the vacant place.
Then those gathered pray precisely in this way: "Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship..." (Ac 1,24-25).
What took place so long ago in the early Church, is repeated also today. Behold, those who are to take the different places "in the ministry and apostleship", have been chosen. They have been chosen after the fervent prayer of the whole Church and of every community that needs them and which they will serve.
So you have been chosen, dear Brothers. Today you are here at St Peter's tomb to receive episcopal consecration. Certainly today, too, as during the whole preceding period of preparation for episcopal ordination, each of you repeats in this Basilica: "Lord, you know the hearts of all men. You know my heart too. Lord, you yourself have been pleased to choose me. You yourself once said to the apostles, after calling them: 'You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide'" (Jn 15,16).
102 2. "As far as the east is from the west..." (Ps 103,12).
You have really come here today, revered and dear Brothers, from the east and the west, from the south and the north. Your presence expresses the paschal joy of the Church, which can already testify in the various parts of the earth "that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world" (1Jn 4,14).
At this point, I would like, in beautiful and poetic and, at the same time, simple, language, to describe and, as it were, gather the countries from which you ordinands come, beginning with the most distant East, the Philippines, India, and then, through Africa (Sudan and Ethiopia), to arrive at South America (Brazil, Nicaragua, Chile) and North America (United States, Canada), and then back again to Europe (Italy, Bulgaria, Spain and Norway).
Time, unfortunately, does not allow me to do so. The presence among the ordinands of a Bishop from Bulgaria offers me, however, the welcome opportunity of addressing a special thought to that noble nation, which has been Christian for so many centuries. I take advantage of this happy occasion to send an affectionate greeting to all my Catholic brothers and sisters, of Latin and of Byzantine rite. Although their number is not large, they bear witness to the vitality of their faith in love for their country and in service of the communities to which they belong. A respectful greeting also to the venerable Bulgarian Orthodox Church and to all its children.
Among the ordinands there are also three archbishops, called to serve, particularly, the universal mission of the Apostolic See: the Secretary of the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church and two Pontifical Representatives. Their mandate springs, as a natural and necessary requirement, from the specific function entrusted to Peter within the Apostolic College and the whole ecclesial community. Their task is, therefore, to be ministers of "catholic" unity, as "servants of the servants of God", together with , the one whom they represent.
3. And now, shortly, by means of episcopal consecration, you will receive special participation in Christ's priesthood, the fullest participation. In this way you will become pastors of the People of God in different places of the earth, each one with his own duty in the service of the Church.
As the Second Vatican Council recalled, it was Christ himself who willed that "the successors of the apostles, that is, the Bishops, should be pastors in his Church for all ages" (cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium LG 8). Obedient to this will of their Master, the apostles "not only had various helpers in their ministry, but... in order that the mission entrusted to them might be continued after their death, they consigned... to their immediate collaborators the duty of completing and consolidating the work they had begun. ...Thus, according to the testimony of St Irenaeus, the apostolic tradition is manifested and preserved in the whole world by those who were made bishops by the apostles and by their successors down to our own time (ibid. n. 20). The Council illustrated amply the essential function that the Bishops carry out in the life of the Church. Among the many texts which refer to this subject, let it suffice to recall the vigorous synthesis contained in that passage of Lumen Gentium where, on the basis of the datum of faith according to which "in the person of the bishops... the Lord Jesus Christ is present...", it is deduced with logical consistency that Christ "above all through their signal service preaches the Word of God to all peoples and administers without cease to the faithful the sacraments of faith; that through their paternal care (cf. 1Co 4,15) he incorporates, by a supernatural rebirth, new members into his body; that finally, through their wisdom and prudence he directs and guides the people of the New Testament on their journey towards eternal beatitude" (n. 21).
In the light of these clear and rich conciliar affirmations, I express the deep joy it gives me to confer episcopal consecration on you today dear Brothers, and in this way bring you into the college of the Bishops of Christ's Church: with this act, in fact, I can show particular esteem and love for your fellow-countrymen, your nations and the local Churches from which you have been chosen and for the good of which you are constituted Pastors (cf. Heb He 5,1).
Together with you I meditate on the words of the Gospel today: "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you" (Jn 15,15). And I wish with my whole heart to congratulate you on this friendship. What could be greater? And therefore I wish you nothing else but this: abide in the love of Christ! (cf. Jn Jn 15,10); abide in his friendship. Abide in it as he abides in the Father's love.
May this love and this friendship fill your life completely and become the inspiring source of your works in the service you assume today. I wish you abundant and happy fruits in this ministry of yours: "that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide" (Jn 15,16), that the Father may give you everything you ask him for in the name of Christ (cf. Jn Jn 15,16)—his eternal Son.
May your mission and your ministry lead to the strengthening of mutual love, common love, and of the union of the People of God in Christ's Church, since it is in love and union that there is revealed, in all its luminous simplicity, the face of God: Father and Son and Holy Spirit; God who is love (cf. 1Jn 4,16).
103 And what the world, that world to which we are sent, needs most is precisely love!
S. John Paul II Homil. 93