John Paul II 105

Corpus Domini


by Pope John Paul II

3 June 1999

1. Lauda, Sion, Salvatorem! Zion, praise your Saviour!

Praise your Saviour, Christian commnity of Rome gathered in front of this cathedral basilica dedicated to Christ the Saviour and to his Precursor, John the Baptist! Praise him, because "he makes peace in your borders; he fills you with the finest of the wheat" (Responsorial Psalm, 147:14).

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi is a feast of praise and thanksgiving. On this day the Christian people gather round the altar to contemplate and adore the Eucharistic Mystery, the memorial of the sacrifice of Christ who has brought everyone salvation and peace. This year our solemn celebration and, in a while, the traditional procession which will take us from this square to St Mary Major have a specific aim: they are meant as a heartfelt and unanimous prayer for peace.

As we adore the Body of the One who is our Head, how can we not show our solidarity with his members who are suffering because of war? Yes, dear brothers and sisters, Romans and pilgrims, this evening we want to pray together for peace, especially for peace in the Balkans. May the Word of God, which we have just heard, enlighten and guide us.

2. In the first reading the Lord's command resounded: "Remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you" (Dt 8,2). "Remember ..."! This is the first word. It is not an invitation, but a command that the Lord gives his people before leading them into the promised land. He commands them not to forget.

To have peace, which sums up all the good things promised by God, it is first necessary not to forget past experiences but to treasure them. From errors, too, we can learn a lesson to give better direction to our journey.

In looking at this century and the end of this millennium, how could we forget the terrible sufferings endured by humanity? We must not forget: on the contrary, we must remember. God our Father, help us to learn the right lessons from our history and that of those who have gone before us!

3. History speaks of great yearning for peace, but also of the recurring disappointments humanity has had to suffer amid tears and blood. John XXIII, the Pope of Pacem in terris, died precisely today, 3 June, 36 years ago. What a unanimous chorus of praise welcomed that document which outlined the principles for building true peace in the world! But in recent years, how many times have we had to witness the outbreak of violent warfare in one part of the world or another.

The believer, however, does not give up. He knows he can always count on God's help. In this regard, Jesus' words at the Last Supper sound particularly eloquent: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you" (Jn 14,27). Today we want once again to welcome and understand these words in depth. Let us enter into the spirit of the Upper Room to contemplate Christ, who under the appearances of bread and wine gives his Body and his Blood, anticipating Calvary in this sacrament. This is how he gave us peace. St Paul would later remark: "He is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility ... through the cross" (Ep 2,14, 16).

In giving himself, Christ gave us peace. His peace is not that of the world, often made of shrewdness and compromises, and of oppression and violence. Christ's peace is the fruit of his Passover, that is, the fruit of his sacrifice which uproots hatred and violence and reconciles human beings with God and with one another; it is the trophy of his victory over sin and death, of his peaceful war against the evil of the world, a war fought and won with the weapons of truth and love.

4. It is not by chance that this greeting is frequently heard on the lips of the risen Christ. Appearing to the Apostles, he first shows the signs in his hands and side of the hard struggle he endured, and then he greets them: "Peace be with you!" (Jn 20,19, 21, 26). He communicates his peace to the disciples as a precious gift, not to keep jealously hidden, but to share with others through their witness.

This evening, dear friends, as we carry the Eucharist, the sacrament of Christ our Passover in procession through the streets of Rome, we will be bringing the message of that peace which he left us and which the world cannot give. As we walk, we will ask ourselves about our personal witness to peace. It is not enough, in fact, to speak of peace if we do not strive to foster sentiments of peace in our hearts and to express them in our daily relations with those who live around us.

We will carry the Eucharist in procession and raise our heartfelt prayers to the "Prince of Peace" for the neighbouring land of the Balkans, where already too much innocent blood has been shed and where too many violations have been committed against the dignity and rights of individuals and peoples.

Our prayer this evening is strengthened by the hopeful prospects which are finally emerging.

5. "The bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh" (Jn6:51). In the Gospel passage we have just heard, these words of Jesus have helped us understand what the source of true peace is. Christ is our peace, the "bread" offered for the life of the world. He is the "bread" which God the Father prepared, so that humanity might have life and have it abundantly(cf. Jn 10,10).

God did not spare his Son, but gave him as the salvation of all, as the Bread we must eat if we wish to have life. Christ's words are clear: to have life it is not enough to believe in God; it is necessary to dwell in him (cf. Jas 2,14). This is why the Word was made flesh, died and rose and gave us his Spirit; this is why he left us the Eucharist, so that we could live on him as he lives on the Father. The Eucharist is the sacrament of the gift Christ made of himself for us: he is the sacrament of love and peace, which is the fullness of life.

6. "Living bread, who gives life!".

Lord Jesus, before you, our Passover and our peace, we commit ourselves to non-violently opposing man's violence against man.

Prostrate at your feet, O Christ, today we want to share the bread of hope with our brothers and sisters in despair; the bread of peace with our brothers and sisters tortured by ethnic cleansing and war; the bread of life with our brothers and sisters threatened each day by weapons of destruction and death.

O Christ, we want to share the living Bread of your peace with the innocent and most defenceless victims.

"We offer you this sacrifice of praise for ourselves and those who are dear to us" (Roman Canon), so that you, O Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, may be for us, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the source of life, love and peace.



Sunday 8 October 2000

1. "Woman, behold your Son!" (Jn 19,26). As we near the end of this Jubilee Year, when you, O Mother, have offered us Jesus anew, the blessed fruit of your womb most pure, the Word made flesh, the world's Redeemer, we hear more clearly the sweet echo of his words entrusting us to you, making you our Mother: «Woman, behold your Son!" When he entrusted to you the Apostle John, and with him the children of the Church and all people, Christ did not diminish but affirmed anew the role which is his alone as the Saviour of the world. You are the splendour which in no way dims the light of Christ, for you exist in him and through him. Everything in you is fiat: you are the Immaculate One, through you there shines the fullness of grace. Here, then, are your children, gathered before you at the dawn of the new millennium. The Church today, through the voice of the Successor of Peter, in union with so many Pastors assembled here from every corner of the world, seeks refuge in your motherly protection and trustingly begs your intercession as she faces the challenges which lie hidden in the future.

2. In this year of grace, countless people have known the overflowing joy of the mercy which the Father has given us in Christ. In the particular Churches throughout the world, and still more in this centre of Christianity, the widest array of people have accepted this gift. Here the enthusiasm of the young rang out, here the sick have lifted up their prayer. Here have gathered priests and religious, artists and journalists, workers and people of learning, children and adults, and all have acknowledged in your beloved Son the Word of God made flesh in your womb. O Mother, intercede for us, that the fruits of this Year will not be lost and that the seeds of grace will grow to the full measure of the holiness to which we are all called.

3. Today we wish to entrust to you the future that awaits us, and we ask you to be with us on our way. We are the men and women of an extraordinary time, exhilarating yet full of contradictions. Humanity now has instruments of unprecedented power: we can turn this world into a garden, or reduce it to a pile of rubble. We have devised the astounding capacity to intervene in the very well-springs of life: man can use this power for good, within the bounds of the moral law, or he can succumb to the short-sighted pride of a science which accepts no limits, but tramples on the respect due to every human being. Today as never before in the past, humanity stands at a crossroads. And once again, O Virgin Most Holy, salvation lies fully and uniquely in Jesus, your Son.

4. Therefore, O Mother, like the Apostle John, we wish to take you into our home (cf. Jn 19,27), that we may learn from you to become like your Son.
«Woman, behold your son!" Here we stand before you to entrust to your maternal care ourselves, the Church, the entire world. Plead for us with your beloved Son that he may give us in abundance the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth which is the fountain of life. Receive the Spirit for us and with us, as happened in the first community gathered round you in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (cf. Ac 1,14). May the Spirit open our hearts to justice and love, and guide people and nations to mutual understanding and a firm desire for peace. We entrust to you all people, beginning with the weakest: the babies yet unborn, and those born into poverty and suffering, the young in search of meaning, the unemployed, and those suffering hunger and disease. We entrust to you all troubled families, the elderly with no one to help them, and all who are alone and without hope.

5. O Mother, you know the sufferings and hopes of the Church and the world: come to the aid of your children in the daily trials which life brings to each one, and grant that, thanks to the efforts of all, the darkness will not prevail over the light. To you, Dawn of Salvation, we commit our journey through the new Millennium, so that with you as guide all people may know Christ, the light of the world and its only Saviour, who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

Apostolic Letter Proclaiming Saint Bridget of Sweden, Saint Catherine of Siena, and Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross Co-Patronesses of Europe

by Pope John Paul II

Issued Motu Proprio

His Holiness Pope John Paul II for Perpetual Remembrance

1. The hope of building a more just world, a world more worthy of the human person, stirred by the expectation of the impending Third Millennium, must be coupled with an awareness that human efforts are of no avail if not accompanied by divine grace: «Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain» (Ps 127,1). This must also be a consideration for those who in these years are seeking to give Europe a new configuration which would help the Continent to learn from the richness of her history and to eliminate the baneful inheritances of the past, so as to respond to the challenges of a changing world with an originality rooted in her best traditions.

There can be no doubt that, in Europe's complex history, Christianity has been a central and defining element, established on the firm foundation of the classical heritage and the multiple contributions of the various ethnic and cultural streams which have succeeded one another down the centuries. The Christian faith has shaped the culture of the Continent and is inextricably bound up with its history, to the extent that Europe's history would be incomprehensible without reference to the events of the first evangelization and then the long centuries when Christianity, despite the painful division between East and West, came to be the religion of the European peoples. Even in modern and contemporary times, when religious unity progressively disintegrated as a result both of further divisions between Christians and the gradual detachment of culture from the horizon of faith, the role played by faith has continued to be significant.

The path to the future cannot overlook this fact, and Christians are called to renew their awareness of it, in order to demonstrate faith's perennial potential. In the building up of Europe, Christians have a duty to make a specific contribution, one which will be all the more valid and effective to the extent that they themselves are renewed in the light of the Gospel. In this way they will carry forward that long history of holiness which has traversed the various regions of Europe in the course of these two millennia, in which the officially recognized Saints are but the towering peaks held up as a model for all. For through their upright and honest lives inspired by love of God and neighbour, countless Christians in a wide range of consecrated and lay vocations have attained a holiness both authentic and widespread, even if often hidden.

2. The Church has no doubt that this wealth of holiness is itself the secret of her past and the hope of her future. It is the finest expression of the gift of the Redemption, which ransoms man from sin and gives him the possibility of new life in Christ. The People of God making their pilgrim way through history have an incomparable support in this treasure of holiness, sensing as they do their profound union with the Church in glory, which sings in heaven the praises of the Lamb (cf. Rev 7,9-10) and intercedes for the community still on its earthly pilgrimage. Consequently, from very ancient times the Saints have been looked upon by the People of God as their protectors, and by a singular practice, certainly influenced by the Holy Spirit, sometimes as a request of the faithful accepted by the Bishops, and sometimes as an initiative of the Bishops themselves, individual Churches, regions and even Continents have been entrusted to the special patronage of particular Saints.

Accordingly, during the celebration of the Second Special Assembly for Europe of the Synod of Bishops, on the eve of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, it has seemed to me that the Christians of Europe, as they join their fellow-citizens in celebrating this turning-point in time, so rich in hope and yet not without its concerns, could draw spiritual benefit from contemplating and invoking certain Saints who are in some way particularly representative of their history. Therefore, after appropriate consulation, and completing what I did on 31 December 1980 when I declared Co-Patrons of Europe, along with Saint Benedict, two Saints of the first millennium, the brothers Cyril and Methodius, pioneers of the evangelization of the East, I have decided to add to this group of heavenly patrons three figures equally emblematic of critical moments in the second millennium now drawing to its close: Saint Bridget of Sweden, Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Theresa Benedicta of the Cross. Three great Saints, three women who at different times--two in the very heart of the Middle Ages and one in our own century--were outstanding for their fruitful love of Christ's Church and their witness to his Cross.

3. Naturally the vistas of holiness are so rich and varied that new heavenly patrons could also have been chosen from among the other worthy figures which every age and region can vaunt. Nevertheless I feel that the decision to choose this «feminine» model of holiness is particularly significant within the context of the providential tendency in the Church and society of our time to recognize ever more clearly the dignity and specific gifts of women.

The Church has not failed, from her very origins, to acknowledge the role and mission of women, even if at times she was conditioned by a culture which did not always show due consideration to women. But the Christian community has progressively matured also in this regard, and here the role of holiness has proved to be decisive. A constant impulse has come from the icon of Mary, the «ideal woman» , Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church. But also the courage of women martys who faced the cruelest torments with astounding fortitude, the witness of women exemplary for their radical commitment to the ascetic life, the daily dedication of countless wives and mothers in that «domestic Church» which is the family, and the charisms of the many women mystics who have also contributed to the growth of theological understanding, offering the Church invaluable guidance in grasping fully God's plan for women. This plan is already unmistakably expressed in certain pages of Scripture and, in particular, in Christ's own attitude as testified to by the Gospel. The decision to declare Saint Bridget of Sweden, Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross Co-Patronesses of Europe follows upon all of this.

The real reason then which led me to these three particular women can be found in their lives. Their holiness was demonstrated in historical circumstances and in geographical settings which make them especially significant for the Continent of Europe. Saint Bridget brings us to the extreme north of Europe, where the Continent in some way stretches out to unity with the other parts of the world; from there she departed to make Rome her destination. Catherine of Siena is likewise well-known for the role which she played at a time when the Successor of Peter resided in Avignon; she brought to completion a spiritual work already initiated by Bridget by becoming the force behind the Pope's return to his own See at the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles. Finally, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, recently canonized, not only lived in various countries of Europe, but by her entire life as thinker, mystic and martyr, built a kind of bridge between her Jewish roots and her commitment to Christ, taking part in the dialogue with contemporary philosophical thought with sound intuition, and in the end forcefully proclaiming by her martyrdom the ways of God and man in the horrendous atrocity of the Shoah. She has thus become the symbol of a human, cultural and religious pilgrimage which embodies the deepest tragedy and the deepest hopes of Europe.

4. The first of these three great figures, Bridget, was born of an aristocratic family in 1303 at Finsta, in the Swedish region of Uppland. She is known above all as a mystic and the foundress of the Order of the Most Holy Saviour. Yet it must not be forgotten that the first part of her life was that of a lay woman happily married to a devout Christian man to whom she bore eight children. In naming her a Co-Patroness of Europe, I would hope that not only those who have received a vocation to the consecrated life but also those called to the ordinary occupations of the life of the laity in the world, and especially to the high and demanding vocation of forming a Christian family, will feel that she is close to them. Without abandoning the comfortable condition of her social status, she and her husband Ulf enjoyed a married life in which conjugal love was joined to intense prayer, the study of Sacred Scripture, mortification and charitable works. Together they founded a small hospital, where they often attended the sick. Bridget was in the habit of serving the poor personally. At the same time, she was appreciated for her gifts as a teacher, which she was able to use when she was required to serve at Court in Stockholm. This experience was the basis of the counsel which she would later give from time to time to princes and rulers concerning the proper fulfilment of their duties. But obviously the first to benefit from these counsels were her children, and it is not by chance that one of her daughters, Catherine, is venerated as a Saint.

But this period of family life was only a first step. The pilgrimage which she made with her husband Ulf to Santiago de Compostela in 1341 symbolically brought this time to a close and prepared her for the new life which began a few years later at the death of her husband. It was then that Bridget recognized the voice of Christ entrusting her with a new mission and guiding her step by step by a series of extraordinary mystical graces.

5. Leaving Sweden in 1349, Bridget settled in Rome, the See of the Successor of Peter. Her move to Italy was a decisive step in expanding her mind and heart not simply geographically and culturally, but above all spiritually. In her desire to venerate the relics of saints, she went on pilgrimage to many places in Italy. She visited Milan, Pavia, Assisi, Ortona, Bari, Benevento, Pozzuoli, Naples, Salerno, Amalfi and the Shrine of Saint Michael the Archangel on Mount Gargano. Her last pilgrimage, made between 1371 and 1372, took her across the Mediterranean to the Holy Land, enabling her to embrace spiritually not only the many holy places of Catholic Europe but also the wellsprings of Christianity in the places sanctified by the life and death of the Redeemer.

Even more than these devout pilgrimages, it was a profound sense of the mystery of Christ and the Church which led Bridget to take part in building up the ecclesial community at a quite critical period in the Church's history. Her profound union with Christ was accompanied by special gifts of revelation, which made her a point of reference for many people in the Church of her time. Bridget was recognized as having the power of prophecy, and at times her voice did seem to echo that of the great prophets of old. She spoke unabashedly to princes and pontiffs, declaring God's plan with regard to the events of history. She was not afraid to deliver stern admonitions about the moral reform of the Christian people and the clergy themselves (cf. Revelations, IV, 49; cf. also IV, 5). Understandably, some aspects of her remarkable mystical output raised questions at the time; the Church's discernment constantly referred these back to public revelation alone, which has its fullness in Christ and its normative expression in Sacred Scripture. Even the experiences of the great Saints are not free of those limitations which always accompany the human reception of God's voice.

Yet there is no doubt that the Church, which recognized Bridget's holiness without ever pronouncing on her individual revelations, has accepted the overall authenticity of her interior experience. She stands as an important witness to the place reserved in the Church for a charism lived in complete docility to the Spirit of God and in full accord with the demands of ecclesial communion. In a special way too, because the Scandinavian countries from which Bridget came were separated from full communion with the See of Rome during the tragic events of the sixteenth century, the figure of this Swedish Saint remains a precious ecumenical «bridge» , strengthened by the ecumenical commitment of her Order.

6. Slightly later in time is another great woman, Saint Catherine of Siena, whose role in the unfolding history of the Church and also in the growing theological understanding of revelation has been recognized in significant ways, culminating in her proclamation as a Doctor of the Church.

Born in Siena in 1347, she was blessed from her early childhood with exceptional graces which enabled her to progress rapidly along the spiritual path traced by Saint Dominic on a journey of perfection which combined prayer, self-denial and works of charity. Catherine was twenty years old when Christ showed his special love for her through the mystical symbol of a wedding ring. This was the culmination of an intimacy which had matured in hiddenness and in contemplation, thanks to her constantly abiding, even outside the monastic walls, in that spiritual dwelling-place which she loved to call her
«interior cell» . She was quickly able to blend the silence of this cell, which rendered her completely docile to God's inspirations, with remarkable apostolic activity. Many people, including members of the clergy, gathered around her and became her disciples, recognizing in her the gift of spiritual motherhood. Her letters circulated throughout Italy and Europe as a whole. Indeed, by the assurance of her bearing and the ardour of her words, the young woman of Siena entered into the thick of the ecclesiastical and social issues of her time.

Catherine was tireless in her commitment to resolving the many conflicts which afflicted the society of her time. Her efforts to bring peace reached the level of European rulers such as Charles V of France, Charles of Durazzo, Elizabeth of Hungary, Louis the Great of Hungary and Poland, and Giovanna of Naples. Her attempts to reconcile Florence with the Pope were also notable. Placing «Christ crucified and sweet Mary» before the parties involved, she made it clear that in a society inspired by Christian values there could never be grounds for conflict so serious that the reasons of force need prevail over the force of reason.

7. Yet Catherine was well aware that such a conclusion was unthinkable if souls had not first been moulded by the power of the Gospel. This was why she stressed the reform of morals to all, without exception. To monarchs she insisted that they could not govern as if the realm was their
«property» : knowing that they must render to God an account of their exercise of power, they must instead uphold «holy and true justice» and become «fathers of the poor» (cf. Letter 235 to the King of France). The exercise of sovereignty was not to be separated from the exercise of charity, which is the soul both of one's personal life and one's political responsibility (cf. Letter 357 to the King of Hungary).

With the same vigour, Catherine addressed Churchmen of every rank, demanding of them the most exacting integrity in their personal lives and their pastoral ministry. The uninhibited, powerful and incisive tone in which she admonished priests, Bishops and Cardinals is quite striking. It is essential--she would say--to root out from the garden of the Church the rotten plants and to put in their place «new plants» which are fresh and fragrant. And strengthened by her intimacy with Christ, the Saint of Siena was not afraid to point out frankly even to the Pope, whom she loved dearly as her
«sweet Christ on earth» , that the will of God demanded that he should abandon the hesitation born of earthly prudence and worldly interests, and return from Avignon to Rome, to the Tomb of Peter.

With similar energy Catherine then strove to overcome the divisions which arose in the papal election following the death of Gregory XI: in that situation too she once more appealed with passionate ardour to the uncompromising demands of ecclesial communion. That was the supreme ideal which inspired her whole life as she spent herself unstintingly for the sake of the Church. She herself declared this to her spiritual children on her death-bed: «Hold firm to this, my beloved--that I have given my life for the holy Church» (Blessed Raymond of Capua, Life of Saint Catherine of Siena, Book III, Chap. IV).

8. With Edith Stein--Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross--we enter a very different historical and cultural context. For she brings us to the heart of this tormented century, pointing to the hopes which it has stirred, but also the contradictions and failures which have disfigured it. Unlike Bridget and Catherine, Edith was not from a Christian family. What we see in her is the anguish of the search and the struggle of an existential
«pilgrimage» . Even after she found the truth in the peace of the contemplative life, she was to live to the full the mystery of the Cross.

Edith was born in 1891 to a Jewish family of Breslau, which was then in German territory. Her interest in philosophy, and her abandonment of the religious practice which she had been taught by her mother, might have presaged not a journey of holiness but a life lived by the principles of pure
«rationalism» . Yet it was precisely along the byways of philosophical investigation that grace awaited her: having chosen to undertake the study of phenomenology, she became sensitive to an objective reality which, far from ultimately dissolving in the subject, both precedes the subject and becomes the measure of subjective knowledge, and thus needs to be examined with rigorous objectivity. This reality must be heeded and grasped above all in the human being, by virtue of that capacity for
«empathy» --a word dear to her--which enables one in some way to appropriate the lived experience of the other (cf. Edith Stein, The Problem of Empathy).

It was with this listening attitude that she came face to face, on the one hand, with the testimony of Christian spiritual experience given by Teresa of Avila and the other great mystics of whom she became a disciple and an imitator, and, on the other hand, with the ancient tradition of Christian thought as consolidated in Thomistic philosophy. This path brought her first to Baptism and then to the choice of a contemplative life in the Carmelite Order. All this came about in the context of a rather turbulent personal journey, marked not only by inner searching but also by commitment to study and teaching, in which she engaged with admirable dedication. Particularly significant for her time was her struggle to promote the social status of women; and especially profound are the pages in which she explores the values of womanhood and woman's mission from the human and religious standpoint(cf. E. Stein, Woman. Her Role According to Nature and Grace).

9. Edith's encounter with Christianity did not lead her to reject her Jewish roots; rather it enabled her fully to rediscover them. But this did not mean that she was spared misunderstanding on the part of her family. It was especially her mother's disapproval which caused her profound pain. Her entire journey towards Christian perfection was marked not only by human solidarity with her native people but also by a true spiritual sharing in the vocation of the children of Abraham, marked by the mystery of God's call and his
«irrevocable gifts» (cf. Rm 11,29).

In particular, Edith made her own the suffering of the Jewish people, even as this reached its apex in the barbarous Nazi persecution which remains, together with other terrible instances of totalitarianism, one of the darkest and most shameful stains on the Europe of our century. At the time, she felt that in the systematic extermination of the Jews the Cross of Christ was being laid on her people, and she herself took personal part in it by her deportation and execution in the infamous camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Her voice merged with the cry of all the victims of that appalling tragedy, but at the same time was joined to the cry of Christ on the Cross which gives to human suffering a mysterious and enduring fruitfulness. The image of her holiness remains for ever linked to the tragedy of her violent death, alongside all those who with her suffered the same fate. And it remains as a proclamation of the Gospel of the Cross, with which she identified herself by the very choice of her name in religion.

Today we look upon Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and, in her witness as an innocent victim, we recognize an imitation of the Sacrificial Lamb and a protest against every violation of the fundamental rights of the person. We also recognize in it the pledge of a renewed encounter between Jews and Christians which, following the desire expressed by the Second Vatican Council, is now entering upon a time of promise marked by openness on both sides. Today's proclamation of Edith Stein as a Co-Patroness of Europe is intended to raise on this Continent a banner of respect, tolerance and acceptance which invites all men and women to understand and appreciate each other, transcending their ethnic, cultural and religious differences in order to form a truly fraternal society.

10. Thus may Europe grow! May it grow as a Europe of the spirit, in continuity with the best of its history, of which holiness is the highest expression. The unity of the Continent, which is gradually maturing in people's consciousness and receiving a more precise political definition, certainly embodies a great hope. Europeans are called to leave behind once and for all the rivalries of history which often turned the Continent into a theatre of devastating wars. At the same time they must work to create conditions for greater unity and cooperation between peoples. Before them lies the daunting challenge of building a culture and an ethic of unity, for in the absence of these any politics of unity is doomed sooner or later to failure.

In order to build the new Europe on solid foundations it is certainly not enough to appeal to economic interests alone; for these, while sometimes bringing people together, are at other times a cause of division. Rather there is a need to act on the basis of authentic values, which are founded on the universal moral law written on the heart of every person. A Europe which would exchange the values of tolerance and universal respect for ethical indifference and skepticism about essential values would be opening itself to immense risks and sooner or later would see the most fearful spectres of its past reappear in new forms.

To remove this threat, the role of Christianity--which tirelessly points to the horizon of ultimate truth--is once again seen to be vital. Also, in light of the many areas of agreement with other religions acknowledged by the Second Vatican Council (cf. Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions Nostra Aetate), it must be strongly emphasized that openness to the Transcendent is a vital dimension of human existence. It is essential, therefore, for all Christians who live in the different nations of the Continent to renew their commitment to bear witness to their faith. Theirs is the task of nourishing the hope of full salvation by the proclamation which properly belongs to them: the proclamation of the Gospel, the «Good News» that God has drawn near to us and in his Son Jesus Christ has offered us redemption and fullness of divine life. In the power of the Spirit who has been given to us we can lift our eyes to God and call upon him with the tender name of «Abba» , Father! (cf. Rm 8,15:Gal 4,6).

11. It is precisely this proclamation of hope that I have wished to strengthen by calling for a renewed devotion, in a «European» context, to these three great women, who in different historical times made so significant a contribution to the growth of the Church and the development of society.

Through the Communion of Saints, which mysteriously unites the Church on earth with the Church in heaven, they take our cares upon themselves in their unceasing intercession before the throne of God. At the same time, a more fervent invocation of these Saints, and a more assiduous and careful attention to their words and example, will not fail to make us ever more aware of our common vocation to holiness and inspire in us the resolve to be ever more generous in our commitment.

Wherefore, after much consideration, in virtue of my Apostolic Authority I establish and declare Saint Bridget of Sweden, Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross heavenly Co-Patronesses of all of Europe before God, and I hereby grant all the honours and liturgical privileges belonging by law to the principal patrons of places.

Glory be to the Holy Trinity, whose radiant splendour shines uniquely in their lives and in the lives of all the Saints. Peace to men and women of good will, in Europe and throughout the world.

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on the first day of October in the year1999, the twenty-first of my Pontificate.

John Paul II 105