Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. I am pleased to welcome you today during the Eighth International Mariological Colloquium on the theme: "St Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort: Trinitarian Spirituality in Communion with Mary". An affectionate greeting to you all: the organizers, moderators and participants. I extend special thanks to Bishop François Garnier of Luçon for his cordial words expressing the sentiments you all share.
Today's meeting recalls the one held here in Rome in 1706 between my venerable predecessor Clement XI and the Breton missionary, Grignion de Montfort, who had come to ask the Successor of Peter for light and strength in the apostolate he had undertaken. I also remember with gratitude the pilgrimage to the tomb of this great saint in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre, which Providence allowed me to make on 19 September 1996.
For me, St Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort is a significant person of reference who has enlightened me at important moments in life. When I was working as a clandestine seminarian at the Solvay factory in Kraków, my spiritual director advised me to meditate on the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Many times and with great spiritual profit I read and reread this precious little ascetical book with the blue, soda-stained cover. By relating the Mother of Christ to the Trinitarian mystery, Montfort helped me to understand that the Virgin belongs to the plan of salvation, by the Father's will, as the Mother of the incarnate Word, who was conceived by her through the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary's every intervention in the work of the regeneration of the faithful is not in competition with Christ, but derives from him and is at his service. Mary's action in the plan of salvation is always Christocentric, that is, it is directly related to a mediation that takes place in Christ. I then realized that I could not exclude the Mother of the Lord from my life without disregarding the will of God-the-Trinity, who wanted to "begin and complete" the great mysteries of salvation history with the responsible and faithful collaboration of the humble Handmaid of Nazareth.
Now I also thank the Lord for enabling me to experience what you too have had the opportunity to study at this colloquium, i.e., that when the believer accepts Mary into his life in Christ and the Spirit, he is brought into the very heart of the Trinitarian mystery.
2. Dear brothers and sisters, during your symposium you have reflected on Trinitarian spirituality in communion with Mary: an aspect which is characteristic of Montfort's teaching.
He does not, in fact, offer a theology without influence on practical life, nor a Christianity "by proxy" without the personal acceptance of the commitments stemming from Baptism. On the contrary, he invites us to an intensely lived spirituality; he encourages us to make a free and conscious gift of ourselves to Christ and, through him, to the Holy Spirit and to the Father. In this light, we understand how reference to Mary makes the renewal of our baptismal promises perfect, since Mary is indeed the creature "most conformed to Jesus Christ" (True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, n. 120).
Yes, the whole Christocentric and Marian spirituality taught by Montfort flows from the Trinity and leads back to it. In this connection, we are struck by his insistence on the action of the three divine Persons in Mary's regard. God the Father "gave his Only-begotten Son to the world only through Mary" and "wishes to have children through Mary until the end of the world" (ibid., nn. 16, 29). God the Son "became man for our salvation but only in Mary and through Mary" and "wishes to form himself and, so to speak, incarnate himself every day in his members through his dear Mother" (ibid., nn. 16, 31). God the Holy Spirit "has communicated his unspeakable gifts to Mary, his faithful Spouse" and "wishes to form elect for himself in her and through her" (ibid., nn. 25, 34).
3. Mary therefore appears as the place of the love and action of the Persons of the Trinity, and Montfort presents her in a relational perspective: "Mary is entirely relative to God. Indeed, I might well call her the relation to God. She exists only with reference to God" (ibid., n. 225). For this reason, the All-Holy One leads us to the Trinity. By repeating "Totus tuus" to her every day and living in harmony with her, we can attain an experience of the Father in confidence and boundless love (cf. ibid., nn. 169, 215), docility to the Spirit (cf. ibid., n. 258) and transformation of self into the likeness of Christ (cf. ibid., nn. 218-221).
It sometimes happens that in catechesis and exercises of piety "the Trinitarian and Christological note that is intrinsic and essential to them" remains implicit (Apostolic Exhortation Marialis cultus, n. 25). In Grignion de Montfort's vision, however, Trinitarian faith totally pervades his prayers to Mary: "Hail Mary, well-beloved daughter of the eternal Father, admirable Mother of the Son, most faithful spouse of the Holy Spirit, glorious temple of the Blessed Trinity" (Methods for Saying the Rosary, n. 15). Similarly, in the Prayer for Missionaries, addressed to the three divine Persons and focused on the last times of the Church, Mary is contemplated as "the mountain of God" (n. 25), the place of holiness that lifts us up to God and transforms us in Christ.
May every Christian make his own the doxology that Montfort puts on Mary's lips in the Magnificat: "May our one true God / be adored and blessed! / May the universe resound / and everyone sing: / Glory to the eternal Father, / glory to the adorable Word! / The same glory to the Holy Spirit / who unites them with his love in an unspeakable bond" (Canticles, 85, 6).
As I implore for each of you the constant help of the Blessed Virgin, so that you can live your vocation in communion with her, our Mother and model, I cordially give you a special Apostolic Blessing.
1. It is a great joy for me to welcome you, dear families, who have come here from the most diverse regions of the world! I also greet the families who, in every clime, are linked with us now by radio and television and are joining in this Jubilee of Families.
I thank Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, for his address to me in your name. I also greet the other Cardinals and my Brother Bishops present here, as well as the priests and religious who are taking part in this festive meeting.
I recently had the joy of going as a pilgrim to Nazareth, the place where the Word became flesh. On that visit I carried you all in my heart, fervently praying for you to the Holy Family, the sublime model of all families.
It is precisely the spiritual atmosphere of the House at Nazareth that we want to relive this evening. The great space where we are gathered, between the basilica and Bernini's colonnade, is like a house for us, a great, open-air house. Having gathered as a true family, "one heart and one soul" (cf. Acts Ac 4,32), we can sense and make our own the sweet and intimate savour of that humble home, where Mary and Joseph lived praying and working, and Jesus "was obedient to them" (Lc 2,51), gradually taking part in their common life.
2. In looking at the Holy Family, you, Christian spouses, are prompted to ask yourselves about the tasks that Christ assigns to you in your wonderful and demanding vocation.
The theme of your Jubilee - Children: springtime of the family and society - can offer you some significant suggestions in this regard. Do not children themselves in a way continually "examine" their parents? They do so not only with their frequent "whys?", but with their very faces, sometimes smiling, sometimes misty with sadness. It is as if a question were inscribed in their whole existence, a question which is expressed in the most varied ways, even in their whims, and which we could put into questions like these: Mama, papa, do you love me? Am I really a gift for you? Do you accept me for what I am? Do you always try to do what is really best for me?
These questions perhaps are asked more with their eyes than in words, but they hold parents to their great responsibility and are in some way an echo of God's voice for them.
3. Children are a "springtime": what does this metaphor chosen for your Jubilee mean?
It takes us into that panorama of life, colours, light and song which belongs to the spring season. Children are all of this by nature. They are the hope that continually blossoms, a project that starts ever anew, the future that opens without ceasing. They represent the flowering of married love, which is found and strengthened in them. At their birth they bring a message of life which in the ultimate analysis refers back to the very Author of life. In need of everything as they are, especially in the first stage of life, they naturally appeal to our solidarity.
Not by chance did Jesus invite his disciples to have a child's heart (cf. Mk Mc 10,13-16). Today, dear families, you wish to give thanks for the gift of children and, at the same time, to accept the message that God sends you through their existence.
4. Unfortunately, as we know so well, the situation of children in the world is not always what it should be. In many regions, and paradoxically right in the more prosperous countries, bringing children into the world has become a decision taken with great hesitation, well beyond that prudence which is necessarily required for responsible procreation. It could be said that at times children are seen as more of a threat than a gift.
And what can we say then of the other sad sight of abused and exploited children, to which I called attention in the Letter to Children?
But you are here this evening to bear witness to your conviction, based on trust in God, that this trend can be reversed. You are here for a "feast of hope", making your own the active "realism" of this fundamental Christian virtue.
5. The situation of children is really a challenge for society as a whole, a challenge posed directly to families. No one knows as you do, dear parents, how essential it is for children to be able to count on you, on both of you - fathers and mothers - in the complementarity of your gifts. No, it is not a step forward for civilized society to support trends that obscure this elementary truth and even demand to be legally recognized.
Are children not already too heavily penalized by the scourge of divorce? How sad it is for a child to have to divide his love between parents in conflict! So many children will always bear the psychological scar of the suffering that their parents' separation caused them.
6. As for the many broken families, the Church feels called not to express a harsh, detached judgement, but rather to shed the light of God's word, accompanied by the witness of his mercy, on the depths of so many human tragedies. This is the spirit in which the pastoral care of the family must also address the situation of divorced and remarried believers. They are not excluded from the community; they are invited, instead, to share in its life, undertaking a journey of growth in the spirit of what the Gospel requires. The Church, while not concealing from them the truth about the objective moral disorder of their situation and the resulting consequences for sacramental practice, wishes to show them all her maternal closeness.
Be certain of this, Christian spouses: the sacrament of Matrimony assures you of the necessary grace to persevere in the mutual love that your children need as much as bread.
Today you are called to question yourselves about this profound communion of love between you, as you ask for an abundance of Jubilee mercy.
7. At the same time, you cannot avoid the essential question about your mission as teachers. Having given life to your children, you are also obliged to accompany them, in a way appropriate for their age, in their directions and life-decisions, while being concerned for all their rights.
In our era, the recognition of children's rights has made doubtless progress, but the practical denial of these rights, as seen in the many terrible assaults on their dignity, remains a cause of distress. We must be on guard so that the good of the child is always given priority: beginning with the moment that a child is desired. The tendency to use morally unacceptable reproductive practices reveals the absurd mentality of a "right to a child", which has replaced the due recognition of the "right of a child" to be born and later to grow in a fully human way. How different and worthy of encouragement, on the other hand, is the practice of adoption! A true act of charity, which looks to the welfare of children before the demands of parents.
8. Dear friends, let us commit all our forces to defending the value of the family and respect for human life from the moment of conception. These are values which belong to the basic "grammar" of dialogue and human coexistence among peoples. I fervently hope that governments and national parliaments, international organizations and, in particular, the United Nations Organization will not lose sight of this truth. I ask all people of good will who believe in these values to join forces effectively so that the latter may prevail in daily life, in cultural trends and in the mass media, in political decisions and the laws of nations.
9. To you dear mothers, who bear deep within you an irrepressible instinct for the defence of life, I make a heartfelt appeal: always be sources of life, never of death!
I say to you both, mothers and fathers: you have been called to the exalted mission of cooperating with the Creator in the transmission of life (Letter to Families LF 8); do not be afraid of life! Together proclaim the value of the family and of life. Without these values, there is no future worthy of man!
May the marvellous sight of your lighted torches in this square accompany you at length as a sign of the One who is the light and who calls you to shed the light of your witness on humanity's way along the paths of the new millennium!
1. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (2Co 1,2). With these words of St Paul I cordially greet all those present at today's audience in the Vatican.
Dear friends, you have come as pilgrims to the Eternal City to participate in the Jubilee of Families during the Great Jubilee of Divine Redemption. I am delighted with your presence, especially as I look at your children - the youngest participants in this meeting. I cordially greet you all, both individuals and whole families. I extend a welcome first to the priests involved in family ministry, to Bishop Stanislaw Stefanek, President of the Council for the Family, to all those involved in this pastoral work in Poland: priests, men and women religious and laity. I greet the members of the Association of Catholic Families and the listeners to Radio Maria, the members of the Association of Catholic Jurists and also the professors of Poznan who are present here, as well as the readers of Przewodnik Katolicki also from Poznan. I greet the representatives of the Institute of Lomianki. I greet the representatives of the Order of the Knights of Malta and I take this occasion to extend a special word of thanks to them for their service as Good Samaritans to mankind and for their generous charitable activity, which is also well known in Poland. I extend a welcome to the numerous parish groups that have already been mentioned and to the pilgrims who have come here individually.
2. Today, as I already said, we meet during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. You came to Rome to renew yourselves interiorly and to increase your spiritual strength. You have crossed the threshold of the Holy Door, symbol of the passage from sin to grace. Jesus very clearly said of himself: "I am the door" (Jn 10,7). This means that he is the only and definitive way that leads to the Father. Only in him, in the Son of God, lies our salvation. Christ became man, suffered death on the wood of the cross and rose again to show man his authentic greatness, to restore full dignity to his humanity and the meaning of his existence in the world. What value every man must have in the eyes of the creator, if he gave "his only Son" so that man "should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3,16). We are filled with deep wonder before this enormous dignity of the human person created in the image and likeness of God.
What great value must every human life, every human being, even those not yet born but already alive in their mother's womb, have in the eyes of the Creator.
3. You are taking part in the Jubilee of Families, which can be called the great feast of the Church in honour of the family. You came here to say "yes" to love, to a noble, chaste love, to a love that gives life, to a responsible love. You came to show that for you the family and the life that is born, grows and finds shelter in it is a most precious value.
On this occasion I wish to express my appreciation to all who are actively working to build up the "culture of life" and who, sensing this great responsibility before God, their conscience and their nation, defend human life and the dignity of marriage and the family. To all of them and to those here, I say: be courageous! This is a great mission, a great mandate entrusted to you by divine Providence. I sincerely thank you for this attitude and for all that you are doing. May your reward be Christ himself. He said to the Apostles: "No longer do I call you servants, ... but I have called you friends, for you do what I command you" (cf. Jn Jn 15,14-15). Today I say the same to you.
I hope that every family, all the families of Poland and the world may increasingly discover the greatness and holiness of their vocation: to be faithful guardians of "fair love" and of every life conceived; to know how to defend in our time the precious patrimony of the faith and to transmit it to future generations.
4. My dear friends, I thank you for this meeting. I thank my compatriots in our homeland and throughout the world for the prayer that accompanies me in my Pontificate. I feel its strength and its fruits. It is a precious gift for me and a spiritual support. I thank you for your attachment to the Pope, to the Church and to your pastors. May it bear fruit in the Christian attitude you show in personal, family and social life.
I entrust all my compatriots in Poland and the world to the protection of Our Blessed Mother and cordially bless them.
Your Royal Highness,
With enduring memories of our first meeting in the Vatican in 1980 and of your gracious welcome to me in London two years later, I am happy to greet you once again in this Apostolic Palace to which you are no stranger. My predecessors Pope Pius XII and Pope John XXIII first bade you welcome here, and I do the same with a still greater sense of occasion in this Jubilee Year when all Christians sing the praises of Almighty God for the gift of the Word made flesh, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Your Majesty’s visit immediately brings to mind the rich heritage of British Christianity and all that Great Britain has contributed to the building of Christian Europe, and indeed to the spread of Christianity throughout the world, since Saint Augustine of Canterbury preached the Gospel in your lands. Through that long history, relations between the United Kingdom and the Holy See have not always been untroubled; long years of common inheritance were followed by the sad years of division (cf. Address in Canterbury Cathedral, 29 May 1982, No. 5). But in recent years there has emerged between us a cordiality more in keeping with the harmony of earlier times and more genuinely expressive of our common spiritual roots. There can be no turning back from the ecumenical goal we have set ourselves in obedience to the Lord’s command.
Yet it is not only the past which prompts us to pursue the path of ever greater understanding and, from the religious perspective, of ever more perfect communion. The future too demands of us a sense of shared purpose. I am thinking first of Europe, which stands at a turning-point in its history as it seeks a unity capable of excluding for ever the kind of conflicts which have been so much a part of its past. You and I have personally lived through one of Europe’s most terrible wars, and we see clearly the need to build a deep and enduring European unity, firmly rooted in the genuine human and spiritual genius of Europe’s peoples. However, the unity to which Europeans aspire cannot be a structure without content. Only by preserving and reinvigorating the highest ideals and achievements of its heritage – in politics, in law, in art, in culture, in morality and in spirituality – will the Europe of the near future be a viable and worthwhile endeavour.
Moreover, at the dawn of the third millennium our gaze must go beyond the bounds of Europe, for the world as a whole has become increasingly interactive and interdependent. The Commonwealth and the Catholic Church are institutions of a very different kind, but both have a proven experience in universality, both know the rich diversity of the one human family.
To set the common good as the aim and focus of human thought and action becomes more important than ever at a time when there are increasing disparities in the way the world’s resources are shared. Even as we see the forces of globalization holding out the promise of greater prosperity and cohesion, there is an ever growing gap between rich and poor, a gap which is in danger of becoming more fixed and intractable as some benefit from the advances of technology while others are completely left out. This troubling phenomenon has many causes, but the problem will certainly not be solved unless peoples and their leaders accept worldwide solidarity and cooperation as ethical imperatives that impel and mobilize the consciences of individuals and nations. I cannot but express my appreciation of Britain’s recent undertaking to effect a total cancellation of the debt owed to it by the heavily indebted poor countries. The new millennium calls upon us all to work effectively to achieve a world not contaminated by greed, self-interest and the lust for dominance, but open to and respectful of the human dignity, inalienable rights and fundamental equality of every member of the human family.
Your Majesty, for many years now and through times of great change you have reigned with a dignity and sense of duty which have edified millions of people around the world. May the Almighty grant Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness and the members of the Royal Family his unfailing light and strength amid the challenges and difficulties of your calling. May he bless the citizens of the United Kingdom with happiness and peace; the Commonwealth with the benefits of a heightened sense of solidarity and cooperation; and the Christian people of your realm with a fresh outpouring of the grace of Jesus Christ, "the same yesterday, today and for ever" (cf. Heb He 13,8).
To my Venerable Brother Antonio Mattiazzo
Archbishop-Bishop of Padua
1. Among the glories of this Church, the special relationship that links her to the memory of the Evangelist Luke is highly significant. According to tradition, his relics are preserved in the splendid Basilica of St Justina: a precious treasure and truly remarkable gift that arrived there after a providential journey. For, according to ancient testimonies, St Luke died in Boeotia and was buried in Thebes. From there, as St Jerome relates (cf. De vir. ill., VI, I), his bones were brought to Constantinople, to the Basilica of the Holy Apostles. Subsequently, according to sources that historical research is still exploring, they were transferred to Padua.
An opportune occasion for reviving attention and veneration for this "presence", which is rooted in the city's Christian history, has now been offered by the recognition of the body of the holy Evangelist, as well as by the International Congress dedicated to him. The intention was to give it a significant ecumenical dimension, which was also stressed by the fact that the Orthodox Archbishop of Thebes, Hieronymus, has asked to be given a fragment of the relics, to be placed where the first tomb of the Evangelist is still venerated today.
The celebrations taking place on the occasion of this Congress offer a new incentive for this beloved Church in Padua to rediscover the true treasure that St Luke has left us: the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles.
While congratulating you on the efforts made in this regard, I wish to reflect briefly on several aspects of Luke's message, so that this community may draw guidance and encouragement from it for its spiritual and pastoral journey.
2. As a minister of God's Word (cf. Lk Lc 1,2), Luke leads us to knowledge of the discreet yet penetrating light that radiates from it, while illustrating the reality and events of history. The theme of the Word of God, the golden thread woven through the two works that comprise Luke's writing, also unites the two periods treated by him: the time of Jesus and that of the Church. As if narrating the "history of the Word of God", Luke's story follows its advance from the Holy Land to the ends of the earth. The journey proposed by the third Gospel is profoundly marked by listening to this Word which, like a seed, must be received with goodness and promptness of heart, overcoming the obstacles that prevent it from taking root and bearing fruit (cf. Lk Lc 8,4-15).
An important aspect that Luke highlights is the fact that the Word of God mysteriously grows and spreads even through suffering and in a context of opposition and persecution (cf. Acts Ac 4,1-31 Ac 5,17-42 passim ). The Word that St Luke points to is called to become for each generation a spiritual event capable of renewing life. Christian life, instilled and sustained by the Spirit, is an interpersonal dialogue that is based precisely on the Word which the living God addresses to us, asking us to receive it without reservation in mind and heart. In short, it means becoming disciples who are willing to listen to the Lord with sincerity and openness, following the example of Mary of Bethany, who "had chosen the better portion", because she "sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching" (cf. Lk Lc 10,38-42).
In this perspective, I wish to encourage, in the pastoral programming of this beloved Church, the proposal of "Biblical Weeks", the biblical apostolate and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, that place where the Word became flesh (cf. Jn Jn 1,14). I would also like to urge everyone - priests, religious and lay people - to practise and promote lectio divina, so that meditation on Sacred Scripture will become an essential element of their lives.
3. "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Lc 9,23).
To be a Christian for Luke means to follow Jesus on the path that he takes (Lc 9,57 Lc 10,38 Lc 13,22 Lc 14,25). It is Jesus himself who takes the initiative and calls us to follow him, and he does it decisively, unmistakably, thus showing his extraordinary identity, his mystery of being the Son who knows the Father and reveals him (cf. Lk Lc 10,22). At the origin of the decision to follow Jesus lies the fundamental option in favour of his person. If we have not been attracted by the face of Christ, it is impossible to follow him with fidelity and constancy. This is also because Jesus walks a difficult road; he lays down extremely demanding conditions and heads for a paradoxical destiny, that of the Cross. Luke emphasizes that Jesus does not like compromises and requires a commitment of the whole person, a decisive detachment from any nostalgia for the past, from family demands, from material possessions (cf. Lk Lc 9,57-62 Lc 14,26-33).
Man will always be tempted to lessen these radical demands and to adapt them to his own weaknesses, or to give up the path undertaken. But the authenticity and quality of the Christian community's life depends precisely on this. A Church that lives by compromise would be like salt that has lost its taste (cf. Lk Lc 14,34-35).
We must abandon ourselves to the power of the Spirit, who is able to infuse light and especially love for Christ; we must open ourselves to the inner fascination that Jesus works in the hearts of those who aspire to authenticity, while fleeing from half measures. This is certainly difficult for human beings, but it becomes possible with the grace of God (cf. Lk Lc 18,27). On the other hand, if following Christ means carrying the Cross each day, the latter in turn is the tree of life leading to the resurrection. Luke, who emphasizes the radical requirements for following Christ, is also the Evangelist who describes the joy of those who become Christ's disciples (cf. Lk Lc 10,20 Lc 13,17 Lc 19,6).
4. The importance that Luke gives in his writings to the presence and action of the Spirit is well known, beginning with the Annunciation, when the Paraclete descends on Mary (cf. Lk Lc 1,35), until Pentecost, when the Apostles, moved by the gift of the Spirit, receive the necessary strength to announce the grace of the Gospel throughout the world (cf. Acts Ac 1,8 Ac 2,1-4). It is the Holy Spirit who moulds the Church. Among the characteristics of the first Christian community, St Luke describes the model which the Church should reflect in every age: it is a community that is united in "one heart and soul", diligent in listening to the Word of God; a community that lives by prayer, that joyfully breaks the Eucharistic bread, that opens its heart to the needs of the poor, even to sharing its material goods with them (Ac 2,42-47 Ac 4,32-37). All ecclesial renewal must draw the secret of its authenticity and freshness from this inspiring source.
Beginning with the mother Church of Jerusalem, the Spirit widens their horizons and spurs the Apostles and witnesses all the way to Rome. The history of the early Church unfolds against the background of these two cities: a Church that grows and spreads despite the opposition that threatens her from without and the crises that burden her progress from within. But throughout this whole journey, Luke's real concern is to present the Church in the essence of her mystery: this mystery consists in the everlasting presence of the Lord Jesus who, by acting in her by the power of his Spirit, imbues her with consolation and courage in the trials on her way through history.
5. According to a pious tradition, Luke is thought to have painted the image of Mary, the Virgin Mother. But the real portrait that Luke draws of Jesus' Mother is the one that emerges from the pages of his work: in scenes that have become familiar to the People of God, he draws an eloquent image of the Virgin. The Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Presentation in the Temple, life in the home of Nazareth, Jesus' discussion with the doctors and his being lost, and Pentecost have provided abundant material down the centuries for the ever new creations of painters, sculptors, poets and musicians.
So it is fitting that a reflection on the theme of art was planned for the International Congress, accompanied by an exhibition of valuable works.
What is most important however is to discover that, through pictures of Marian life, Luke introduces us to Mary's interior life, helping us at the same time to understand her unique role in salvation history.
Mary is the one who says fiat, a personal and total "yes" to God's invitation, calling herself the "handmaid of the Lord" (Lc 1,38). This attitude of total assent to God and unconditional acceptance of his Word represents the highest model of faith, the anticipation of the Church as the community of believers.
The life of faith grows and develops in Mary through sapiential meditation on the words and events of Christ's life (cf. Lk Lc 2,19). She "ponders in her heart" to understand the deep meaning of his words, in order to assimilate it and share it with others.
The Magnificat hymn (cf. Lc 1,46-55) shows another important aspect of Mary's "spirituality": she embodies the figure of the poor person, capable of putting all her trust in God, who casts down the mighty from their thrones and raises up the lowly.
Luke also describes the figure of Mary in the early Church, showing that she is present in the Upper Room as they await the Holy Spirit: "All these [the 11 Apostles] with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren" (Ac 1,14).
The group gathered in the Upper Room forms the original nucleus of the Church. Within it Mary carries out a double role: on the one hand, she intercedes for the birth of the Church through the Holy Spirit; on the other, she shares her experience of Jesus with the newborn Church.
Luke's work thus offers the Church in Padua a powerful stimulus to make the most of the "Marian dimension" of Christian life as she follows the way of Christ.
6. Another essential dimension of Christian and Church life, on which Luke's account throws vivid light, is that of the evangelizing mission. Luke indicates the permanent foundation of this mission, that is, the uniqueness and universality of the salvation wrought by Christ (cf. Acts Ac 4,12). The saving event of Christ's death and resurrection does not close the history of salvation, but marks the beginning of a new phase, characterized by the mission of the Church, which is called to communicate the fruits of the salvation achieved by Christ to all nations. For this reason, Luke's Gospel is followed, as its logical consequence, by the history of the mission. It is the Risen One himself who gives the missionary "mandate" to the Apostles: "Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high'" (Lc 24,45-49).
The Church's mission begins at Pentecost "from Jerusalem" to expand "to the ends of the earth". Jerusalem does not mean just a geographical point. Rather it signifies a focal point of salvation history. The Church does not leave Jerusalem to abandon her, but to graft the pagan nations onto the olive tree of Israel (cf. Rom Rm 11,17).
It is the Church's task to put the leaven of God's kingdom (cf. Lk Lc 13,20-21) into history. A demanding task, it is described in the Acts of the Apostles as a tiring and difficult journey, but one that is entrusted to "witnesses" full of enthusiasm, initiative and joy, who are ready to suffer and give their lives for Christ. This inner energy is communicated to them by their communion of life with the Risen One and by the power of the Spirit that he gives.
What a great resource it can be for the Church in Padua to compare herself constantly with the message of the Evangelist, whose mortal remains she preserves!
7. In the light of Luke's vision, I hope that this diocesan community, in total docility to the breath of the Spirit, will be able to bear witness to Jesus Christ with creative boldness, both in its own territory and, in accord with its wonderful tradition, in missionary cooperation with the Churches of Africa, Latin America and Asia.
May this missionary commitment be further encouraged by this Jubilee Year, which celebrates the 2,000th anniversary of Christ's birth and calls the Church to a profound renewal of life. It is precisely the Gospel of Luke that recalls the discourse in which Jesus, at the synagogue of Nazareth, proclaimed "the year of grace of the Lord", announcing salvation as liberation, healing and good news to the poor (cf. Lk Lc 4,14-20). The Evangelist also presents the healing power of the Saviour's merciful love in touching passages such as those of the lost sheep and the prodigal son (cf. Lk Lc 15).
Our time needs this message more than ever. I therefore fervently encourage this community so that its commitment to the new evangelization may be ever stronger and more effective. I also urge you to continue to develop the ecumenical initiatives you have begun with some Orthodox Churches in terms of cooperation in works of charity, theological study and pastoral activities. May the International Congress on St Luke be a significant step on the journey of this Church, helping her to be rooted ever more deeply in the soil of God's Word and to open herself with renewed enthusiasm to communion and mission.
With these wishes, I sincerely impart to you, venerable Brother, and to all those entrusted to your pastoral care, a special Apostolic Blessing.
From the Vatican, 15 October 2000.