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Beatification of Pius IX, John XXIII, Tommaso Reggio, William Chaminade and Columba Marmion

Homily of His Holiness John Paul II

Sunday, 3 September 2000

1. In the context of the Jubilee Year, it is with deep joy that I have declared blessed two Popes, Pius IX and John XXIII, and three other servants of the Gospel in the ministry and the consecrated life: Archbishop Tommaso Reggio of Genoa, the diocesan priest William Joseph Chaminade and the Benedictine monk Columba Marmion.

Five different personalities, each with his own features and his own mission, all linked by a longing for holiness. It is precisely their holiness that we recognize today: holiness that is a profound and transforming relationship with God, built up and lived in the daily effort to fulfil his will. Holiness lives in history and no saint has escaped the limits and conditioning which are part of our human nature. In beatifying one of her sons, the Church does not celebrate the specific historical decisions he may have made, but rather points to him as someone to be imitated and venerated because of his virtues, in praise of the divine grace which shines resplendently in him.

I extend my respectful greetings to the official delegations of Italy, France, Ireland, Belgium, Turkey and Bulgaria which have come here for this solemn occasion. I also greet the relatives of the new blesseds, together with the Cardinals, Bishops, civil and religious dignitaries who have wished to take part in our celebration. Lastly, I greet you all, dear brothers and sisters who have come in large numbers to pay homage to the servants of God whom the Church today is enrolling among the blessed.

2. Listening to the words of the Gospel acclamation: «Lord, lead me on a straight road» , our thoughts naturally turn to the human and religious life of Pope Pius IX, Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti. Amid the turbulent events of his time, he was an example of unconditional fidelity to the immutable deposit of revealed truths. Faithful to the duties of his ministry in every circumstance, he always knew how to give absolute primacy to God and to spiritual values. His lengthy pontificate was not at all easy and he had much to suffer in fulfilling his mission of service to the Gospel. He was much loved, but also hated and slandered.

However, it was precisely in these conflicts that the light of his virtues shone most brightly: these prolonged sufferings tempered his trust in divine Providence, whose sovereign lordship over human events he never doubted. This was the source of Pius IX's deep serenity, even amid the misunderstandings and attacks of so many hostile people. He liked to say to those close to him: «In human affairs we must be content to do the best we can and then abandon ourselves to Providence, which will heal our human faults and shortcomings» .

Sustained by this deep conviction, he called the First Vatican Ecumenical Council, which clarified with magisterial authority certain questions disputed at the time, and confirmed the harmony of faith and reason. During his moments of trial Pius IX found support in Mary, to whom he was very devoted. In proclaiming the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, he reminded everyone that in the storms of human life the light of Christ shines brightly in the Blessed Virgin and is more powerful than sin and death.

3. «You are good and forgiving» (Entrance Antiphon). Today we contemplate in the glory of the Lord another Pontiff, John XXIII, the Pope who impressed the world with the friendliness of his manner which radiated the remarkable goodness of his soul. By divine design their beatification links these two Popes who lived in very different historical contexts but, beyond appearances, share many human and spiritual similarities. Pope John's deep veneration for Pius IX, to whose beatification he looked forward, is well known. During a spiritual retreat in 1959, he wrote in his diary: «I always think of Pius IX of holy and glorious memory, and by imitating him in his sacrifices, I would like to be worthy to celebrate his canonization» (Journal of a Soul, Ed. San Paolo, 2000, p. 560).

Everyone remembers the image of Pope John's smiling face and two outstretched arms embracing the whole world. How many people were won over by his simplicity of heart, combined with a broad experience of people and things! The breath of newness he brought certainly did not concern doctrine, but rather the way to explain it; his style of speaking and acting was new, as was his friendly approach to ordinary people and to the powerful of the world. It was in this spirit that he called the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, thereby turning a new page in the Church's history: Christians heard themselves called to proclaim the Gospel with renewed courage and greater attentiveness to the «signs» of the times. The Council was a truly prophetic insight of this elderly Pontiff who, even amid many difficulties, opened a season of hope for Christians and for humanity.

In the last moments of his earthly life, he entrusted his testament to the Church: «What counts the most in life is blessed Jesus Christ, his holy Church, his Gospel, truth and goodness» . We too wish to receive this testament, as we glorify God for having given him to us as a Pastor.

4. «Be doers of the word, and not hearers only» (Jas 1,22). These words of the Apostle James make us think of the life and apostolate of Tommaso Reggio, a priest and journalist who later became Bishop of Ventimiglia and finally Archbishop of Genoa. He was a man of faith and culture, and as a Pastor he knew how to be an attentive guide to the faithful in every circumstance. Sensitive to the many sufferings and the poverty of his people, he took responsibility for providing prompt help in all situations of need. Precisely with this in mind, he founded the religious family of the Sisters of St Martha, entrusting to them the task of assisting the Pastors of the Church especially in the areas of charity and education.

His message can be summed up in two words: truth and charity. Truth, first of all, which means attentive listening to God's word and courageous zeal in defending and spreading the teachings of the Gospel. Then charity, which spurs people to love God and, for love of him, to embrace everyone since they are brothers and sisters in Christ. If there was a preference in Tommaso Reggio's choices, it was for those who found themselves in hardship and suffering. This is why he is presented today as a model for Bishops, priest and lay people, as well as for those who belong to his spiritual family.

5. The beatification during the Jubilee Year of William Joseph Chaminade, founder of the Marianists, reminds the faithful that it is their task to find ever new ways of bearing witness to the faith, especially in order to reach those who are far from the Church and who do not have the usual means of knowing Christ. William Joseph Chaminade invites each Christian to be rooted in his Baptism, which conforms him to the Lord Jesus and communicates the Holy Spirit to him.

Fr Chaminade's love for Christ, in keeping with the French school of spirituality, spurred him to pursue his tireless work by founding spiritual families in a troubled period of France's religious history. His filial attachment to Mary maintained his inner peace on all occasions, helping him to do Christ's will. His concern for human, moral and religious education calls the entire Church to renew her attention to young people, who need both teachers and witnesses in order to turn to the Lord and take their part in the Church's mission.

6. Today the Benedictine Order rejoices at the beatification of one of its most distinguished sons, Dom Columba Marmion, a monk and Abbot of Maredsous. Dom Marmion left us an authentic treasure of spiritual teaching for the Church of our time. In his writings he teaches a simple yet demanding way of holiness for all the faithful, whom God has destined in love to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ (cf. Ep 1,5). Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and the source of all grace, is the centre of our spiritual life, our model of holiness.

Before entering the Benedictine Order, Columba Marmion spent some years in the pastoral care of souls as a priest of his native Archdiocese of Dublin. Throughout his life Bl. Columba was an outstanding spiritual director, having particular care for the interior life of priests and religious. To a young man preparing for ordination he once wrote: «The best of all preparations for the priesthood is to live each day with love, wherever obedience and Providence place us» (Letter, 27 December 1915). May a widespread rediscovery of the spiritual writings of Bl. Columba Marmion help priests, religious and laity to grow in union with Christ and bear faithful witness to him through ardent love of God and generous service of their brothers and sisters.

7. Let us confidently ask the new blesseds, Pius IX, John XXIII, Tommaso Reggio, William Joseph Chaminade and Columba Marmion, to help us live in ever greater conformity to the Spirit of Christ. May their love of God and neighbour illumine our steps at this dawn of the third millennium!

Address to the New Ambassador of Canada to the Holy See

by John Paul II

Thursday, 12 October

Mr Ambassador,

1. I am particularly pleased to welcome you on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Canada to the Holy See.

I appreciate the respectful words you just spoke to me, Mr Ambassador, as you recalled a post you previously held in Rome at your embassy to Italy. I thank you for the messages you have conveyed to me from His Excellency the Governor General and the Prime Minister; I would be grateful if you would express my gratitude in return and my cordial wishes for their mission at the service of their fellow citizens. Permit me to recall here Mr Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who has just died. He served his country for many years and I would like to pay homage to his memory.

2. As you have just mentioned, I wanted the next World Youth Day to take place in Toronto, thereby offering to all the young people of the world, especially to those of the vast American continent, the opportunity for a new experience of faith and ecclesial encounter. I would like to thank the Canadian authorities and the local Church for the support they have given this proposal and for the warm reception of this invitation, a welcome that is part of your country's tradition and culture. The recent World Youth Day celebrated in Rome during this Jubilee Year, which you have just recalled in particularly touching words, is a pressing invitation to the Church and to national communities at all levels of society. Last August, in fact, today's young people expressed, more strongly than at the previous meetings, their desire to lead a good and happy life by turning to God and serving their neighbour.

This reminds us of the attention we must pay to youth, to their intellectual and professional formation and, more generally, to their human, moral and spiritual education. It is especially important to teach them the value of life, of all life, from conception to its natural end, for life is God's gift and we are not its masters. Many technical procedures lead a large number of our contemporaries to think that what is scientifically feasible is also morally acceptable, especially regarding the techniques of human reproduction. Science, which is a valuable help, can never be the sole criterion of moral discernment merely because it opens up new possibilities, the power of man over man, and, in a certain way, a mastery of living things.

You also know the Holy See's concern and the Church's commitment in your country to pass on to young people the principles they need to lead a personal and social life based on essential values. It is important that a country's educational community as a whole be mobilized so that not only is knowledge transmitted to future generations through teaching and witness of life, but also appropriate behaviour and the values that make it possible to recognize the deep meaning of all life, as well as the principles needed for discernment, decision-making and concrete human action. In particular, it is essential to give individuals, young people and adults, the ability to judge the value of their decisions and personal actions, for they must take responsibility for them before those who may ask them to account for them in public life.

3. In this spirit, all the authorities concerned must aid and support the institutions and people involved in the educational system, while offering parents the possibility and means to choose places where they can have their children educated in a way that corresponds to what they are seeking; no one, in fact, can replace parental responsibility in this area, and the national community can only act in a subsidiary way. Consequently, this conjugal and family institution, as the basic cell and essential structure of society which no other structure can replace or enjoy an equal footing with, must be given a privileged place in political and economic decisions. Parents, father and mother, who are the first teachers of their children, fulfil a very important mission in their regard. It is they who are responsible for their spiritual, moral and civic education; to fulfil it properly, they must be fully recognized, supported and backed by their leaders. In the same way, religious groups, recognized by the legitimate authority, must be able to make their contribution to the educational system, in order to instil fundamental values and religious principles in young people whose parents so wish, while respecting freedom of conscience.

4. Canada is a large country and is made up of many different human groups which contribute to the nation's richness. It is important that all the cultures, some of which are among the oldest on the continent, be fully recognized and be able to play an active part in social life, with respect for their specific qualities and a natural concern for fairness and fraternal solidarity. Indeed, to respect these cultures, whose members are called to act in harmonious accord, is to further the development of individuals, understanding among all the country's constituents, social cohesion and the integration of the nation's vital forces so that everyone can work for the common good and the building of society. In particular, constant attention is required for all those in society who are becoming poorer and poorer and are excluded from the economic networks. In this same perspective, your compatriots are called to show ever greater care in welcoming foreigners; I encourage them to work so that every person without home or land may, with the help of others, regain his full dignity and lead a life that corresponds to this dignity. Concern for immigrants, especially those who come from the poorest countries or regions where conflicts are occurring, is a requirement of national and international life. No one can leave his neighbour without help or a place to settle, so that he can eat, be clothed and educated, live on his land and have all he needs to lead a decent life.

5. From this standpoint, the year of the Great Jubilee is also a particularly fitting occasion for Christians and all people of good will to increase their solidarity with their brethren in the poorest countries; through significant efforts to reduce the international debt, wealthier States should also support the public life of these countries by sending them qualified people who can contribute their help, for a limited time and with profound pedagogical concern, to a better organization and sounder administration of political, economic and social life, while respecting the specific features of the nations concerned. I also appreciate your country's commitment to peace and the fight against anti-personnel landmines; these still claim too many victims throughout the world, especially among children, who will always remain physically marked by the irresponsible decisions of warring countries to attack indirectly the defenceless civilian populations. In this Jubilee Year, when Christ invites us to be more and more responsible for one another, I once again appeal to the international community to do its utmost, wherever it may be necessary, to remove these fearful weapons as soon as possible from the areas where they are buried and to put a total halt to their manufacture.

Human beings are the world's greatest wealth, and to attack even one of them threatens all humanity.

6. Your presence at the Vatican gives me an opportunity to extend a cordial greeting to the Bishops and to all the Catholic faithful of Canada. I encourage them to live their Christian life faithfully with their pastors. In this way they will find the strength to bear renewed witness among their compatriots, by their words, their actions, their faith and the Gospel values by which they live. You know, Mr Ambassador, of the Church's long experience, especially in the areas of education, the family, health and charitable activity. In Canada, as throughout the American continent, the faithful work continually with their brethren, and the Catholic Church intends to participate fully in national life, in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation with all people of good will and in her own specific role.

As you begin your mission as Canada's representative to the Apostolic See, I offer you my best wishes. I can assure you that those who work with me will always give you a warm welcome and the attentive understanding you may need to fulfil the mission entrusted to you.

Through you, Mr Ambassador, I cordially greet His Excellency the Governor General, the Prime Minister, all the authorities and the entire Canadian people, as I extend my best wishes for happiness and prosperity to everyone.

I ask God to grant his blessings to you and your loved ones, to the embassy staff and to all your compatriots.

John Paul II 64