S. John Paul II Homil. 8580
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
1. A little less than ten years ago, the first Pan African and Malagasy Meeting of the Laity was held here in Accra. As Archbishop of Krakow and also consultor to the Council for the Laity I had the opportunity at that time, although I was not present, to follow with particular attention, interest and admiration the highlights of that historic event. The lay men and women who had come from thirty-six African countries were, in effect, saying in unison: "Present!". They were telling the world: "We are present in the communion of the faithful; we are present in the mission of the Church of Christ in Africa!".
2. Ten years later, God has granted me the opportunity to come to Accra, to be with you today, to celebrate the Eucharist together with you, to speak to you, and through you to address a message to all the Catholic laity of Africa. Today it is the Successor of Peter, it is Pope John Paul II who says: "Present!". Yes, I am present with the laity of Africa; I come as your father and as Pastor of the universal Church. I am present as your brother in the faith! As a brother in Christ I wish to tell you how close I am to you in the infinite charity of the Crucified and Risen Lord, how much I love you, how much I love the laity of Africa!
As your Pastor, I wish to confirm you in your efforts to remain faithful to the Gospel, and in your mission to carry to others the Good News of our salvation. I wish to exhort you, the laity, to renew through the Eucharist the strength of your Christian commitment, to revive the joy of being members of the Body of Christ, to dedicate yourselves once again as Christians in Africa to promote the true and integral development of this great continent. Together with you I wish to give thanks to the heavenly Father, remembering "how you have shown your faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope, in your Lord Jesus Christ” .
3. Brothers and sisters in Christ, I desire to direct my words, my greeting and my blessing to the Catholic laity in every country of Africa. I went to reach beyond the boundaries of language, geography and ethnic origin, and, without distinction, to entrust each one to Christ the Lord. Thus I ask everyone of you who hears my message of fraternal solidarity and pastoral instruction to pass it on. I ask you to make my message travel from village to village, from home to home. Tell your brothers and sisters in the faith that the Pope loves you all and embraces you in the peace of Christ.
4. This vast continent of Africa has been endowed by the Creator with many natural resources. In our own day we have witnessed how the development and use of these numerous resources have greatly served to advance the material and social progress of your individual countries. As we thank God for the benefits of this progress, we must not forget, we dare not forget, that the greatest resource and the greatest treasure entrusted to you or to anyone is the gift of faith, the tremendous privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as Lord.
You who are laypersons in the Church, and who possess faith, the greatest of all resources - you have a unique opportunity and crucial responsibility. Through your lives in the midst of your daily activities in the world, you show the power that faith has to transform the world and to renew the family of man. Even though it is hidden and unnoticed like the leaven or the salt of the earth spoken of in the Gospel, your role as laity is indispensable for the Church in the fulfilment of her mission from Christ. This was clearly taught by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council when they stated: "The Church is not truly established and does not fully live, nor is she a perfect sign of Christ among people, unless there exists a laity worthy of the name, working alongside the hierarchy. For the Gospel cannot be deeply imprinted on the mentality, life and work of any people without the active presence of lay people" .
5. The role of lay people in the mission of the Church extends in two directions: in union with your pastors and assisted by their guidance you build up the communion of the faithful; secondly, as responsible citizens you permeate with the leaven of the Gospel the society in which you live, in its economic, social, political, cultural and intellectual dimensions. When you faithfully carry out these two roles as citizens of both the earthly city and the heavenly Kingdom, then are the words of Christ fulfilled: "You are the salt of the earth... You are the light of the world" .
181 6. Today our brothers and sisters receive new life through water and the Holy Spirit . By Baptism they are incorporated into the Church and reborn as children of God. They receive the greatest dignity possible for any person. As Saint Peter said, they become "a chosen race, a royal
priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praises of God" . In the sacrament of Confirmation they are more intimately joined to the Church and endowed by the Holy Spirit with special strength . By means of these two great sacraments Christ summons his people, Christ summons each one of the laity to assume a share in the responsibility for building up the communion of the faithful.
As members of the laity, you are called to take an active part in the sacramental and liturgical life of the Church, especially in the Eucharistic sacrifice. At the same time you are called to spread the Gospel actively through the practice of charity and through involvement in catechetical and missionary efforts, according to the gifts which each one of you has received . In every Christian community, whether it be the "domestic Church" constituted by ‘the family, or the parish collaborating with the priest, or the diocese united around the Bishop, the laity strive, like the followers of Christ in the first century, to remain faithful to the teaching of the Apostles, faithful to fraternal service, faithful to prayer and to the celebration of the Eucharist .
7. Your Christian vocation does not take you away from any of your other brothers and sisters. It does not inhibit your involvement in civic affairs nor exempt you from your responsibilities as a citizen. It does not divide you from society nor relieve you of the daily trials of life. Rather your continued engagement in secular activities and professions is truly a part of your vocation. For you are called to make the Church present and fruitful in the ordinary circumstances of life - in married and family life, in the daily conditions of earning a living, in political and civic responsibilities and in cultural, scientific and educational pursuits. No human activity is foreign to the Gospel. God wishes all of creation to be ordered to his Kingdom, and it is especially to the laity that the Lord has entrusted this task.
8. The laity of the Church in Africa have a crucial role to play in meeting the urgent problems and challenges which face this vast continent. As Christian laity, the Church expects you to help shape the future of your individual countries, to contribute to their development in some particular sphere. The Church asks you to bring the influence of the Gospel and the presence of Christ into every human activity, and to seek to build a society where the dignity of each person is respected and where equality, justice and freedom are protected and promoted.
9. Today, I also wish to emphasize the need for the continuing instruction and catechesis of the laity. For only a serious spiritual and doctrinal formation in your Christian identity, together with an adequate civic and human preparation in secular activities, can make possible that contribution of the laity to the future of Africa which is so greatly desired. In this regard we are reminded of the exhortation of Saint Paul: "... we urge you and appeal to you in the Lord Jesus to make more and more progress in the kind of life you are meant to live: the life that God wants..." . In order to accomplish this goal, greater knowledge is needed of the mystery of Christ. It is necessary for the laity to enter into this mystery of Christ and to be trained especially in the word of God, which leads to salvation. The Holy Spirit is calling upon the Church to pursue this path withf loving tenacity and perseverance. Hence I wish to encourage the worthy initiatives on all levels which have already been undertaken in this field. May these efforts continue and increasingly equip the laity for their mission, so that with holiness of life they may meet the many needs that lie ahead, so that the whole Church in Africa will ever more effectively communicate Christ.
10. My brothers and sisters, we were reminded today by the second reading that Jesus Christ "is the living stone..." . Jesus Christ is the one on whom the future of the world is built, on whom the future of every man and woman depends. At all times we must look to him. At all times we must build on him. Thus I repeat to you what I said to the world on Easter Sunday of this year: "Do not reject him, you who, in whatever way and in whatever sphere, are building the world of today and of tomorrow: the world of culture and civilization, the world of economics and of politics, the world of science and information. You who are building the world of peace... Do not refuse Christ: he is the cornerstone!".
11. With the words of the Apostle Peter, I invite you to "set yourselves close to him so that you too... may be living stones making a spiritual house” , building up the Church in Africa, advancing the Kingdom of God on earth.
It is in this spirit that we pray to our heavenly Father: "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". Amen.
Chers frères et Soeurs du Togo et du Bénin,
Merci d’être venus si nombreux, d’avoir marché longuement pour rencontrer le Vicaire du Christ. Je vous invite vous aussi à demeurer fermes dans la foi, et très unis entre vous. Le Seigneur est fìdèle; il ne vous abandonnera pas si vous lui donnez votre confiance. Et il vous rendra forts pour que vous témoigniez de votre foi, non seulement à l’église, mais dans les actes de votre vie quotidienne, où il faut sans cesse choisir de vivre selon la vérité, selon la pureté, selon la charité de l’Evangile. Continuez à vous instruire des vérités de la foi. Et approchez-vous avec joie des sacrements de pénitence et de l’Eucharistie, en pensant que c’est le Seigneur qui vous pardonne, qui vous nourrit, qui vous donne sa grâce. C’est le signe visible de sa présence invisible. Comme disait Jésus ressuscité: “Paix à vous”. “Ne craignez pas”. Que le Seigneur vous bénisse.
Dear brothers and sisters,
1. Today is a day of great joy, and I have looked forward to this day for a long time. I have wanted to come ànd teil the catechists how much I love them, how much the Church needs them. Today is also a day of deep meaning because Jesus Christ - the Son of God, the Lord of history, the Saviour of the world - is present in our midst. Through his holy Gospel he speaks to us in the words that he once addressed to his disciples: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of ail nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and so, I am with you always..." .
2. This command and this promise of Jesus were the inspiration for the evangelization of Ghana and all Africa, and they have shaped the lives of all who have collaborated in the cause of the Gospel. In a special way these words have been taken to heart by numerous catechists over the past century. And today I wish to manifest the Church’s profound esteem for these devoted workers in the service of the Gospel. I express the gratitude of the whole Catholic Church to these catechists who are here today, to their predecessors in the faith and, to their fellow catechists throughout the continent of Africa - gratitude for helping to make disciples for Christ; for helping people to believe that Jesus is the Son of God; for helping to instruct their brothers and sisters in his life, and thus to build up his Body, the Church. This catechizing activity has been accomplished by word and example, and the dedication of countless catechists and their deep attachment to the person of Jesus Christ remain a chapter of glory in the history of this land and this continent.
3. The Church recognizes in these catechists people called to exercise a particular ecclesial role, a special sharing in the responsibility for the advancement of the Gospel. She sees them as witness of faith, servants of Jesus Christ and his Church, effective collaborators in the mission of establishing, developing and fostering the life of the Christian community. In the history of evangelization many of these catechists have in fact been teachers of religion, leaders in their communities, zealous lay missionaries, and examples of faith. They have stood faithfully by the missionaries and the local clergy, supporting their ministry while fulfilling their own distinctive task. The catechists have rendered many services connected with communicating Christ, implanting the Church and bringing the transforming and regenerative power of the Gospel ever more into the lives of their brothers and sisters. They have assisted people in many human needs and contributed to development and progress.
4. In all of this they have explicitly made known the name and person of Jesus Christ, his teaching, his life, his promises and his Kingdom. The communities that they have helped to build up were based on the same elements as were found in the early Church: on the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, on the Eucharist and prayers . Thus the Lordship of Christ was fostered in one community after another, from one generation to the next. Through their generous work, Christ’s command is continually fulfilled and his promise verified.
5. The Church is not only grateful for what has been accomplished by the catechists in the past, but she is confident for the future. Despite new conditions, new requirements and new obstacles, the relevance of this great apostolate will remain undiminished, because there will always be a need to develop an initial faith and to lead people to the fullness of Christian life. An increased realization of the dignity and importance of the role of the catechist is but one consequence of the Second Vatican Council’s insistence on the fact that the whole Church shares responsibility for the Gospel. Only with the collaboration of her catechists will the Church be able to fulfil adequately the challenge that I described in my Apostolic Exhortation on Catechesis in our time: "As the twentieth century draws to a close, the Church is bidden by God and by events - each of them a call from him - to renew her trust in catechetical activity as a prime aspect of her mission. She is bidden to offer catechesis her best resources in people and energy, without sparing effort, toil or material means, in order to organize it better and to train qualified personnel. This is no mere human calculation; it is an attitude of faith" .
6. The Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, numerous Bishops and Episcopal Conferences have placed strong emphasis on the formation’ of catechists, and in this they are worthy of the highest praise. The destiny of the Church in Africa is undoubtedly linked with the success of this initiative. I wish therefore to give full encouragement to this wonderful work. The future of catechetical activity will depend on sound programmes of preparation, where there is ever greater instruction for the catechists, where priority is given to the spiritual and; doctrinal formation of the catechists, and where catechists are able to experience in some measure the authentic sense of Christian community that they are called upon to build.
The instruments of catechesis must also be given due attention, including effective catechetical materials that take into account the need for the incarnation of the Gospel in determined local cultures. Moreover, the whole Church must feel committed to help face the difficulties and problems inherent in sustaining catechetical programmes. In a special way, the whole community of the Church must show its esteem for the important vocation of catechists, who must feel supported by their brothers and sisters.
7. Above all, to ensure the success of all catechetical activity, the aim of catechesis itself must remain crystal clear: catechesis is a work of faith that is far beyond any technique; it is a commitment of Christ’s Church. Its primary and essential object is the mystery of Christ; its definitive aim is to put people in communion with Jesus Christ . Through catechesis the activity of Jesus the Teacher goes on; he elicits from his brethren and adherence to his person, and through his word and sacraments he leads them to his Father and to the fullness of life in the Most Holy Trinity.
8. Gathered here today to celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice, we express our trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to continue to raise up and sustain, for the glory of God’s Kingdom, new generations of catechists, who will faithfully transmit the Good News of salvation and bear witness to Christ and him crucified.
183 9. Today the Church offers to the catechists the sign of Christ’s love, the great symbol of Redemption: the Cross of the Saviour. For catechists of every age the Cross is the credential of authenticity and the measure of success. The message of the Cross is truly "the power of God" .
Dear catechists, dear brothers and sisters: in fulfilling your role, in communicating Christ, remember the words of a pioneer catechist of the fourth century, Saint Cyril of Jerusalem: “The Catholic Church is proud of all Christ’s actions, but her greatest boast is the Cross” .
With this Cross, with the crucifix that you receive today as a sign of your mission in the Church, go forward confidently and joyfully. And remember too that Mary is always standing next to Jesus, close to you; she is always by the Cross. She will lead you safely to the victory of the Resurrection; and she will help you to communicate to others the Paschal Mystery of her Son.
Beloved catechists of Ghana and all Africa: Christ calls you to his service; the Church sends you forth. The Pope blesses you, and he commends you to the Queen of heaven. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters from Long Tower Parish,
1. I know that for a long time you have looked forward to your visit to Rome. You have kept your goal constantly in mind; you have made plans well in advance; you have prepared yourselves spiritually for this pilgrimage of faith. And now your hopes and plans have become a reality, and this reality brings joy to your hearts and also to mine.
Moreover, this present: moment is the highlight of your journey, because we are celebrating together the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is - as the Second Vatican Council reminds us - "the source and summit of all Christian life" .
2. You have come with your joys and your sorrows, carrying in your hearts, your intentions and those of your loved ones. You have come to invoke the intercession of the holy Apostles of Rome, Peter and Paul, who from the walls of this chapel direct your gaze to the Lord. Above all, you have come to seek Jesus Christ at the centre of his Church, and to renew your trust in him. It is as though you heard and obeyed the words of the inspired author urging you to go to Christ: "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace in time of need" .
3. And today your whole expectation has yielded to fulfillment.. You have drawn near to Christ and he has united you in his Eucharistic worship of the Father. He gives you his grace and mercy, his love and peace.
4. The sense of expectation that preceded your visit during these months, even years, since you first made your plans is the symbol of another expectation - an expectation that is part of Christian living. The prayer in the Mass speaks about this when it says that "we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ".
184 The coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ in glory is the great future event that gives a whole new dimension to our lives. We are citizens of an earthly city, where toil and pain, where work and striving, are part of the fabric of our existence. God wills our temporal condition as much aside wills our future destiny, but it is precisely in the light of the future that everything in the present falls into perspective. In other words, the fullness of reality will be revealed only when Christ comes again to take us to himself - all of us who have been redeemed by his precious blood, "the precious blood of a lamb without spot or stain" . His coming for each of us at a moment known only to the Father, and his final coming in glory, give a new dimension to our outlook on life.
5. It is part of our temporal responsibility to work for the advancement of God’s Kingdom on earth, to promote the dignity of every human being, to combat violence, to spread understanding and compassion, and to build the edifice of peace on the secure foundation of justice and love. Like the Son of man, we are here "not to be served, but to serve". In doing this we find great joy and happiness, and yet we know that "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him" .
6. The element of expectation is then part of our Christian vocation. It corresponds to God’s plan. Awaiting our Saviour Jesus Christ, far from giving us an excuse for inactivity or lack of sensitivity to the needs of the world, encourages us to "live temperately, justly and devoutly in this age” .
Dearly beloved: this is the witness that we must give to the world: to show by our actions that we really do believe that "Christ will come again". In this expectation we discover the immense value of our efforts at Christian living. In this expectation we find deep joy for our lives.
And on your return home, I would ask you to take my message to all the members of your parish, to all the people of the Diocese of Derry. Tell everyone that the Pope asks you to live in joyful hope, in the firm conviction of the coming of "our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ" . Tell them all that the Pope thanks them for their deep fidelity to Christ and to His Vicar on earth. To you here present and to all your dear ones at home with all my heart I impart my Apostolic Blessing.
"Long live the Mother of God and ours, conceived without sin!
Long live the Immaculate Virgin, Our Lady Aparecida!"
1. Since I set foot on Brazilian soil, in the various places through which I have passed, I have heard this canticle. It is, in the sincerity and simplicity of its words, a cry of the soul, a greeting, an invocation full of filial devotion and confidence, to her who, being the real Mother of God, was given to us by her Son Jesus at the last moment of his life (cf. Jn Jn 19,26) to be our Mother.
In no other place does this song assume such significance and such intensity as in this place where the Virgin, over two centuries ago, had an extraordinary meeting with the Brazilian people. Since then, the anxieties of this people lightly turn to this place; since then, the Catholic heart of Brazil beats here. This is the goal of incessant pilgrimages from all over the country and has been called the "spiritual Capital of Brazil".
This is a particularly moving and happy moment of my Brazilian pilgrimage, this one in which, with you who represent here the whole Brazilian people, I have my first meeting with Our Lady Aparecida.
2. Preparing spiritually for this pilgrimage to Aparecida, I read with religious attention the simple and enchanting story of the image we venerate here. The fruitless toil of the three fishermen in search of fish in the waters of Paraiba, in that far-off year of 1717. The unexpected discovery of the body, and then of the head, of the little ceramic image, blackened by the mud. The abundant catch that followed the discovery. The devotion, which began immediately, to Our Lady of Conception as represented by that brown statue, affectionately called the "Aparecida" (the one that appeared). The abundant graces of God for those who invoke the Mother of God here.
From the primitive and crude oratory—the "wooden altar" of the old documents—to the chapel that replaced it and the various successive additions, up to the old basilica in 1908, the materiel temples that have arisen here are always the work and symbol of the faith of the Brazilian people and its love of the Blessed Virgin.
The pilgrimages in which, in the course of the centuries, persons of all social classes and from the most diverse and distant regions of the country have taken part, are well known. Last year there were over five million, five hundred thousand pilgrims who passed here. What were the ancient pilgrims seeking? What are the pilgrims of today seeking? Precisely what they were seeking on the day, more or less distant, of baptism: faith and the means of nourishing it. They seek the sacraments of the Church, particularly reconciliation with God and eucharistic nourishment. And they set off again strengthened, and grateful to Our Lady the Mother of God and ours.
3. As graces and spiritual benefits multiply in this place. Our Lady of Conception Aparecida is solemnly, crowned in 1904, and exactly 50 years ago in 1930, is proclaimed the main Patroness of Brazil. Later, in 1967, it is the good fortune of my venerated predecessor Paul VI to grant this Shine the Golden Rose, wishing by this gesture to honour the Virgin and this sacred place and to stimulate Marian devotion.
And we come to our day. In response to the need for a larger and more adequate temple to meet the needs of the increasing number of pilgrims, here is the bold project of a new basilica. Years of incessant work for the construction of the imposing edifice. Today, after considerable difficulties have been overcome, the splendid reality that we contemplate. Many names of architects and engineers, of humble workers, of generous benefactors, of priests dedicated to the shrine, will remain attached to it. One name stands out among them all and is the symbol of them all that of my brother Cardinal Carlos Carmelo de Vasconcelos Motta, the great promoter of this new temple, the maternal house and the historic legacy of the Queen, Our Lady Aparecida.
4. I come, therefore, to consecrate this Basilica, a witness to the faith and Marian devotion of the Brazilian people, and I shall do so with deeply felt joy, during the celebration of this Eucharist.
This temple is the dwelling of the "Lord of lords and King of kings" (cf. Rev. Ap 17,14). In it, like Queen Esther, the Immaculate Virgin who "won the heart" of God and in whom the Almighty does "great things" (cf. Est 5,5 Lc 1,49), will not cease to welcome numerous sons and to intercede for them "Let my people be spared" (cf. Esther Est 7,3).
The material building, which houses the real eucharistic presence of the Lord, in which the family of the Son of God gathers to offer with Christ "spiritual sacrifices" made up of joys and sorrows, hopes and struggles, is also the symbol of another spiritual edifice, in the construction of which we are called to enter as living stones (cf. 1P 2,5). As St Augustine said, "this is the house of our prayers, but we ourselves are God's house. We are constructed as God's house in this world and we will be solemnly dedicated at the end of time. The edifice, or rather, the construction, is done with toil; the dedication is carried out with joy" (cf. St. Augustine, Sermo 336, 1.6, PL 38,
ed. 1851, 1471-72).
5. This temple is the image of the Church, which "imitating the mother of her Lord, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, keeps faith intact, hope firm and charity sincere" (Lumen Gentium LG 64).
The figure of this Church is the woman whom the seer of Patmos contemplated and described in the text of the Apocalypse, which we have just heard in the second reading. In this woman crowned with twelve stars, popular piety throughout the ages has also seen Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Moreover, as St Ambrose recalled and as Lumen Gentium declares, Mary is herself a figure of the Church.
186 Yes, beloved brothers and sons, Mary—the Mother of God—is a model for the Church and a mother for the redeemed. Because of her prompt and unconditional adherence to the divine will which was revealed to her, she became the Mother of the Redeemer (cf. Lk. Lc 1,32), with a deep and very special participation in salvation history. Owing to the merits of her Son, she is immaculate: in her conception, conceived without original sin, preserved from all sin, and full of grace.
Faced with the hunger for God which can be seen in many men today, but also with secularism which, at times imperceptible like dew, at other times violent like a cyclone, sweeps along so many persons, we are called to form a Church.
6. Sin takes God from the central place that is due to him in human history and in the personal history of each man. It was the first temptation "You will be like God" (cf. Gen Gn 3,5). After original sin, man, leaving God out of the picture is subjected to tensions, torn between "love for the Father" and love that "is not of the Father but is of the world" (cf. 1Jn 2,15-16) and, worse still, man becomes a stranger to himself, opting for the "death of God' which inevitably brings with it also the death of man (cf. John Paul II, Easter Message of 1980).
Recognizing that she is "the handmaid of the Lord" (cf. Lk. Lc 1,38) and pronouncing her "yes", welcoming "in her heart and in her womb" (cf. St. Augustine, De Virginitate, 6, PL 40, 399) the mystery of Christ the Redeemer, Mary was not a merely passive instrument in the hands of God, but cooperated in the salvation of men with spontaneous faith and complete obedience. Without removing or diminishing anything and without adding anything to the action of him who is the one mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ. Mary points out to us the ways of salvation, ways that all converge in Christ, her Son, and his work of redemption.
Mary brings us to Christ, as the Second Vatican Council accurately affirms "Mary's function as mother of men, in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power (...), it does not hinder in any way the immediate union of the faithful with Christ but on the contrary fosters it" (Lumen Gentium LG 60).
7. Mother of the Church, the Blessed Virgin is present in a special way in the life and action of the Church. Precisely for this reason the Church always looks to her who, remaining a virgin, through the action of the Holy Spirit begot the Word made flesh. What is the mission of the Church if not that of making Christ be born in the hearts of the faithful (cf. ibid., 65), through the action of the same Holy Spirit, by means of evangelization. Thus, the "Star of Evangelization", as my predecessor Paul VI called her, points out and illuminates the ways of the proclamation of the Gospel. This proclamation of Christ the Redeemer, of his message of salvation, cannot be reduced to a mere human enterprise for well-being and temporal happiness. It certainly has an impact on collective and individual human history, but it is fundamentally a proclamation of liberation from sin for communion with God in Jesus Christ. But this communion with God does not exclude communion of men among themselves, because those who are converted to Christ, the author of salvation and the principle of unity, are called to unite in the Church, the visible sacrament of this salvific unity (cf. ibid., 9).
Therefore all of us who form the present generation of disciples of Christ, with perfect fidelity to ancient tradition and with full respect and love for members of all Christian communities, wish to unite with Mary, driven by a deep necessity of faith, hope and charity (cf. John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis RH 22). Disciples of Christ at this crucial moment of human history, with complete fidelity to the uninterrupted tradition and the constant sentiment of the Church, moved by a deep imperative of faith, hope and charity, we wish to unite with Mary. And we wish to do so through the expressions of Marian piety of the Church of all time.
8. Love and devotion to Mary, fundamental elements of Latin-American culture (John Paul II, Homily at Zapopan, Mexico: AAS 71, 1979, 228; Puebla Document, n. 283), are one of the characteristic features of the piety of the Brazilian people. I am certain that the Pastors of the Church will know how to respect this peculiar character, cultivate it and help it to find the best expression, in order to realize the saying: to arrive "at Jesus through Mary". For this purpose it would not be useless to keep in mind that devotion to the Mother of God has a soul, something essential, incarnate in multiple external forms. What is essential and stable and immutable in it, remains an intrinsic element of Christian worship and, if rightly understood and realized, constitutes in the Church, as my predecessor Paul VI stressed, an excellent witness to her rule of action (lex orandi)and an invitation to revive in consciences her rule of faith (lex credendi). The external forms are, by their nature, subject to the wear and tear of time and, as the late Paul VI declared, require constant renewal and updating. carried out, however, in full respect for Tradition (Paul VI, Murialis Cultus, 24).
9. Devotees of Our Lady and pilgrims to Aparecida present here, and you who follow us on radio and television, preserve jealously this tender and trusting love for the Virgin, which is characteristic of you. Never allow it to become lukewarm! Let it not be an abstract love, but an incarnate love. Be faithful to the exercises of Marian piety traditional in the Church: the Angelus prayer, the month of Mary, and especially the Rosary. Would that the fine custom—once so widespread, today still present in some Brazilian families—of the family recitation of the Rosary, would spring up again.
I know that, some time ago, as a result of a regrettable accident, the little image of Our Lady Aparecida was broken. I was told that among the myriad fragments there were found the two hands of the Virgin united in prayer. The fact is like a symbol: Mary's clasped hands in the midst of the ruins are an invitation to her sons to make room in their lives for prayer, for the Absolute Being of God, without which all the rest loses meaning, value and efficacy. The true son of Mary is a Christian who prays.
187 Devotion to Mary is a source of deep Christian life, it is a source of commitment to God and to brothers. Remain in the school of Mary, listen to her voice, follow her example. As we heard in the Gospel, she guides us to Jesus: "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2,5). As once at Cana in Galilee, she points out to her Son the difficulties of men, obtaining from him the graces desired. Let us pray with Mary and through Mary: She is always the "Mother of God and ours".
Lady Aparecida, a son of yours / who belongs to you unreservedly— totus tuus!— / called by the mysterious Plan of Providence to be Vicar of your Son on earth, / wishes to address you at this moment.
He recalls with emotion, / because of the brown colour of this image of yours, / another image of yours / the Black Virgin of Jasna Gora!
Mother of God and ours, / protect the Church, the Pope, the bishops, the priests / and all the faithful people; / welcome under your protecting mantle / men and women religious, families, children, young people and their educators!
Health of the sick and Consoler of the afflicted, / comfort those who are suffering in body and in soul; / be the light of those who are seeking Christ, the Redeemer of man: / show all men that you are the Mother of our confidence.
Queen of Peace and Mirror of Justice, / obtain peace for the world, / ensure that Brazil may have lasting peace, / that men will always live together as brothers, / as sons of God!
Our Lady Aparecida, / bless this Shrine of yours and those who work in it / bless this people praying and singing here, / bless all your sons, / bless Brazil. Amen.
S. John Paul II Homil. 8580