To His Excellency Mr Kofi Annan
Secretary-General of the United Nations Organization
I have been informed that you are preparing to come to Europe to examine with political leaders the best way to end the violence that is so tragically afflicting the peoples of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
On this occasion I would like to express my prayerful solidarity and to wish you complete success in your mission. The Holy See greatly appreciates the fact that the United Nations Organization is regaining its full role in dealing with a crisis that challenges the whole international community. It is urgently necessary for the law and institutions to make themselves heard and not be silenced by the clash of arms.
As you know, since the beginning of the Kosovo crisis I have been keen to express without any hesitation my conviction that only honest, patient and realistic negotiations can offer an adequate response to the legitimate aspirations of the people concerned, and I encouraged all the efforts made in this regard.
In view of the deportation of terrified peoples, exactions of every sort and the bombings of the past month, today I can only encourage everyone who, like you and with you, is seeking to return to the path of dialogue in order to formulate a peace plan and thus put an end to a human tragedy which challenges everyone's conscience. My deep appreciation is also extended to all the organizations and volunteers who are so generously devoting themselves to comforting our many brothers and sisters in humanity. The Catholic Church is also present in the field and is involved in helping everyone she can reach. This humanitarian action is irreplaceable; it must continue and be intensified and diversified.
With all believers I am convinced that the spiral of hatred and violence can only be stopped by the force of brotherhood, law and justice.
Mr Secretary-General, many are looking to you and have confidence in you. This is why I commend you to God in prayer, so that courage and foresight may be given to you in abundance.
From the Vatican, 27 April 1999.
To My Venerable Brothers
The Bishops of Ethiopia and Eritrea
Filled with trust in the Lord I warmly greet Cardinal Paulos Tzadua, Archbishop emeritus of Addis Ababa, and the Pastors of the Church in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Prevented by the outbreak of hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea from easy access to one another in your own land, you have come to Rome in order to gather in one body as an Episcopal Conference. Building on the reflections and proposals of your ad limina visit of September 1997, you seek now to strengthen your collaboration on many common issues for the good of your local Churches.
The creation of the independent State of Eritrea and the ensuing period of peace and friendship between your countries were signs of hope after decades of armed uprisings. This transition from military aggression to fraternal harmony brought encouragement to other African nations, and the Church herself shared the satisfaction of your people and governments with the new prospects for mutual understanding and progress which arose. Thus the outbreak of hostilities last spring could not have been a cause of greater sorrow, as I have said on several occasions even as I appealed for a return to negotiations and concord. As Bishops and Pastors of the Catholic Church in Ethiopia and Eritrea, you are now in the process of preparing a message of peace to be addressed to your clergy, religious and laity, as well as to all Ethiopians and Eritreans of good will. The whole Church stands with you and supports every gesture of peace and every effort aimed at restoring unity and fraternity.
War brings nothing but tragedy and despair, reaping innocent victims as it destroys lives and homes, families and peoples. I repeat with urgency what I have said so many times in the past: every alternative to war must be pursued. God has blessed his children with an intelligence and creativity which can resolve tensions and conflict, and which can succeed in building a society whose cornerstone is respect for the inalienable dignity of every human person.
I know that this conviction is shared by the Eastern and Latin rite Catholic faithful of Ethiopia and Eritrea, and I am certain that the members of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities in your two countries feel likewise. Similarly, your Muslim brothers and sisters, as well as the followers of African traditional religion, are undergoing the same trials and sorrows of the present moment, and they too long for peace and security. It is your duty, my dear Brothers, to build on these common sentiments and to encourage every initiative aimed at restoring that harmony and friendship which formerly marked the relations between your countries. The Catholic Church throughout the world supports you in this task and spares no effort herself in promoting solidarity and peaceful coexistence among peoples.
With the Great Jubilee of the 2,000th anniversary of the Birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ drawing ever nearer, we reaffirm our belief that "Christ, who died and was raised up for all, can through his Spirit offer man the light and the strength to measure up to his supreme destiny" (Gaudium et spes GS 10). Therefore, I invite you to open your hearts to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and to lead with courage the people that God has entrusted to your pastoral care. Inspire in them the holiness of life and the knowledge of the Gospel which alone can make them witnesses to the truth, justice, universal goodwill and brotherhood which are the building- blocks of peace.
I pray for your countries and their leaders, that the hearts of all will turn towards the paths of dialogue and peace. I renew my appeal to the international community to be of assistance in ways that fully respect your countries' independence and your peoples' dignity. A practical way to achieve this goal is the immediate implementation of the Framework of Peace proposed by the Organization of African Unity and already agreed to by the two governments.
I commend the Church in Ethiopia and Eritrea to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, who 2,000 years ago brought into the world the Incarnate Word, the Light of the Nations. May she obtain for you, the Pastors, and for the priests, religious and lay faithful of your particular Churches, the comfort of grace and the strength of faith, hope and love that will sustain you all in the present difficulties. May "Jesus Christ, the one Saviour of the world, yesterday, today and for ever" (cf. Heb He 13,8) always be your hope and encouragement.
As a token of my concern for you, and with the assurance of my prayerful solidarity, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.
From the Vatican, 27 April 1999.
Rector Finazzi Agrò,
Distinguished Guests and Teachers,
Dear Technical and Administrative Staff,
1. I am very pleased to be with you today and I thank the Lord for offering me the opportunity to make this visit to your University of Rome 'Tor Vergata'. Every occasion I have to meet the university world reminds me of my personal experience as a student here in Rome and my work as a teacher at the Universities of Lublin and Kraków.
I therefore extend a very warm greeting to you, dear teachers, young students and the technical and administative staff. I thank the Rector, the Governor of the Bank of Italy and the young student who addressed me with kind words of welcome. I extend a respectful greeting to the Cardinal Vicar, the Minister for Universities and Scientific Research, the rectors of the Roman universities and the religious and civil authorities who have wished to attend this significant event.
2. "Blessed is the man who meditates on wisdom" (Si 14,20). The words we have just heard from the Book of Sirach show the principal way that the university becomes a community of teachers and students. Intellectual work, inspired by that gaudium de veritate of which St Augustine speaks ardently in his Confessions (cf. X, 23), places at the centre of speculative work the truth about the whole man. The humanistic dimension, in which the person is understood as the subject and goal, is the basis for the educational and cultural role of universities, because, as I said to UNESCO on 2 June 1980, "the primary and essential task of culture in general, and also of all culture, is education" (L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 23 June 1980, p. 10).
Therefore genuine humanism does not make man alien or antagonistic to God. On the contrary, by opening himself to the divine mystery, the true humanist finds scope for his own freedom, the enthusiasm of a search whose bounds are the true, the beautiful and the good, the elements of an irreplaceable formative influence at the service of genuine cultural progress.
The scientific conferences some of which have also been organized by your university and have been planned around the theme: "The university for a new humanism", correspond well to this vision. I fervently hope that they will be fitting occasions for a broadening of scientific knowledge, and, at the same time, for dialogue and discussion between teachers and students on these topics of great human and spiritual interest. Along these lines we find the Jubilee of University Teachers, which is being prepared with great diligence. The celebration of the Great Jubilee, some of whose most important events will be held on this university campus, including World Youth Day, which will take place not far from this institution, will be a unique occasion for an in-depth renewal of the horizions of research in every field of human knowledge.
3. "Blessed is the man who meditates on wisdom". The sacred author points to wisdom and intelligence as gifts of God and constant achievements of the human person. The vast field of culture is fertile soil for discussion and for consideration of the person and the requirements of the common good. It is a training-ground for missionary activity and evangelization.
How can we not think here of the City Mission in the living and working environments, which involves the whole Diocese of Rome? I know that in the context of this important pastoral initiative, many meetings of catechesis and cultural reflection have been held at your university. I also know that you are working with great generosity to give a new impetus to university ministry, considering it a privileged opportunity for the Christian-oriented cultural project to which the Church in Italy has been devoting her attention for several years.
In this perspective, the university chaplaincy, dedicated to the spiritual care of individuals and groups, assumes its proper role as a pastoral centre: this task entails closer and more active collaboration between the cultural components of the university community and the various experiences of the university's ecclesial groups.
The symbol and focus of your pastoral activity is the chapel, which is being erected at the heart of the university campus and which you have wished to dedicate to St Thomas Aquinas. With his open intelligence and passion for truth, this saint was able to grasp "the harmony which exists between reason and faith" (Fides et ratio FR 43). "When a man's will is ready to believe", he writes, "he loves the truth he believes, he thinks out and takes to heart whatever reasons he can find in support of it" (Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 2, a. 10). It is not a question of basing faith on reason, or of subordinating one to the other, but of illuminating reason with the light of faith. University culture also has need of this light.
4. I am grateful to those who have encouraged and supported the efforts to build this chapel set in the complex of university buildings like a bright lamp that "gives light to all in the house" (Mt 5,15).
As I reminded the university chaplains of Europe last year, the chapel - every university chapel - is a place of the spirit, where believers, involved in different aspects of the university's busy life, can pause for prayer and find nourishment and direction. It is a training-ground for Christian virtues, where the life received in Baptism grows and develops, and is expressed with apostolic zeal. It is a welcoming and open home for all those who, heeding the voice of the Teacher within, become seekers of truth and serve mankind by their daily commitment to a knowledge that goes beyond narrow and pragmatic goals.
Your chapel is called to be a vital centre for promoting the Christian renewal of culture. In a few minutes, therefore, I will be delighted to bless the chalice, the bell and the statue of Our Lady Queen of the Apostles, which have been prepared for it. I also thank you for the gift of two ambulances to be used in the humanitarian mission for the refugees from Kosovo. Along with the effective solidarity you have expressed for those suffering the consequences of this sorrowful conflict, I offer the fervent wish that the war will end as soon as possible and that the clash of arms will give way to dialogue and peace. I entrust these wishes to your prayers as well.
Lastly, in memory of our meeting, I would like to repeat the invitation we heard from St Thomas Aquinas: "If you are looking for where to go, follow Christ, because he is the truth.... If you are looking for where to stay, stay with Christ, because he is the life.... Therefore follow Christ if you want to be secure. You will never be lost, because he is the way".
May it be so for each of you, whom I entrust to the motherly protection of Mary, Seat of Wisdom.
I cordially bless you all.
Welcome! I extend a cordial greeting to each of you, as well as to all the sisters of your institute, the Sisters of Charity of Sts Bartolomea Capitanio and Vincenza Gerosa.
Thank you for your visit! On the occasion of your 24th General Chapter, you wanted to meet the Pope to express again your fidelity to the Apostolic See and to be strengthened in faith and in your total consecration to the Lord. During these days of prayer and reflection you are involved in studying your specific charism of charity for the good of your neighbour, seeking to discern the most suitable ways for living it in the sociocultural context of the present day. In this regard, you would like to stress your identity more clearly in the light of the Church's teachings and, by discerning the "signs of the times", you are preparing to meet the challenges presented by contemporary society now on the threshold of the third Christian millennium.
Be faithful to the original insight of your holy foundresses! In this way you will be able to incarnate in changing historical and social conditions your specific charism, which you will certainly study and further clarify in the course of the Chapter.
2. You were born in the Church, as your Rule of Life says, to express God's love for human beings by performing works of mercy. This is a unique form of apostolate, which spurs you to see in your brethren, especially in the poorest, most abandoned and lost, the very face of the suffering Christ.
In times like ours, marked by the contrast between the affluence of one part of humanity and the wretched conditions of many poverty-stricken people often reduced to hunger amid the indifference of so many, extra love is needed to awaken consciences and to encourage people of good will to open themselves to the demands of justice and solidarity.
In this context of immediate and urgent need, be messengers and witnesses of the Gospel of love by your words, your actions and your life itself. Rekindle hope and courage in the people you serve by proclaiming to them the tenderness of God, who never abandons his children.
However, for this witness to be genuine and lasting it needs to be continously regenerated at the pure springs of grace. You must listen to the Word of God and live it in real life. May your daily encounter with God in prayer motivate your service, so that everything you do is for the glory of the Lord and the good of souls.
3. Amid the expectations of their time, Sts Bartolomea Capitanio and Vincenza Gerosa felt the irresistible call to "that blessed charity". They saw Christ in the poor and told them that he was the complete answer to their deepest needs. Their example is a constant lesson to you, encouraging you to continue the same work, as valid today as it was then because it aims at proclaiming and bearing witness to Christ, the Redeemer of man and of the whole man. Incarnate this message in your daily service.
Your model is Jesus, who "has compassion on the crowd" (Mc 8,2). In his school, may charity continue to expand in your hearts so that you can reach as many people as possible. In this regard, I rejoice with you that in recent years your religious family, despite its small number, has increased its missionary activity in many countries, especially in Africa. This courageous initiative is a sign that the fruitfulness of charity is not measured by large numbers, but by constantly reviving the joy of religious consecration and generously opening your hearts to the needs of your brothers and sisters.
4. Dear sisters, continue on this path, letting the Holy Spirit, the principal agent of the new evangelization (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 45), continue to pour out his gifts of grace upon your entire congregation. I accompany these wishes with the assurance of my prayers.
May the Blessed Virgin whom you venerate as the Child Mary, guide the reflections and decisions of the General Chapter and help all who are called to assume the demanding responsibility of guiding your family for the next six years. I implore for all of you an abundant outpouring of the Spirit's gifts, so that the renewal of the institute will become a source of consolation and hope for many men and women. May my Apostolic Blessing, which I cordially impart to you and extend to all your sisters and to those who receive your daily apostolic care, be a comfort to you in your evangelizing mission and in your search for holiness.
To the Most Reverend Wilhelm Egger
President Catholic Biblical Federation
In the love of the Lord Jesus, I greet the members of the Executive Committee, the Administrative Board and the Sub-Regional Coordinators of the Catholic Biblical Federation as you gather in Rome to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Federation. This is an opportunity to thank God for all that the Federation has done to implement the vision of the Second Vatican Council that "easy access to Sacred Scripture be provided for all the faithful" (Dei Verbum DV 22).
Indeed, one of the many fruits of the Council has been a growth in knowledge and love of the Bible among Catholic people, bringing with it a deeper sense of the divine presence in their lives. It is my fervent hope that you and your colleagues will continue to do all you can to ensure that the inexhaustible riches of God's word are made ever more available to Christ's faithful, that they may be better prepared for the challenges that engage their faith.
Receiving the founding members of the Federation 30 years ago, Pope Paul VI made clear that the Bishops have the prime responsibility to help the faithful achieve a sound understanding of the Scriptures. He stressed how good and necessary it is that bodies such as yours come forward to help the Bishops in this task. What my revered Predecessor said then is no less true now.
Without a sound understanding of Scripture, there will not be that fullness of Christian prayer which begins with the experience of listening to God's word. Nor will there be that powerful Christian preaching which rises from the experience of hearing God's word and opens the ear of the faithful to hear what the preacher himself has heard first. Nor will there be a Christian theology which speaks the great truth of God's word rather than the uncertainties of human opinion. In helping the Bishops to teach the way of truly biblical prayer, preaching and theology, the Federation stands not on the margins of the Church's pastoral life but at its very heart; and that is a reason for great gratitude.
I also encourage you to continue to foster the ecumenical dialogue which follows when Scripture is studied and shared by people of different religious allegiances. It is vital now for all Christians to explore more deeply the shared resource of the Bible in the search for the unity which the Lord clearly wills and the world so urgently needs if it is to believe.
Entrusting you to Mary, Mother of the Word made flesh, and invoking upon the Federation a fresh outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, who breathes through the sacred text, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.
From the Vatican, 1 May 1999.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. It is a great joy for me to meet you again in this square which yesterday witnessed an event you waited so long for: the beatification of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. Today is the day of thanksgiving.
The solemn Eucharistic celebration, at which Cardinal Angelo Sodano, my Secretary of State, presided, ended a short while ago. I offer him a cordial greeting, which I extend to each of the other Cardinals and Bishops present, as well as to the many priests and faithful taking part.
Dear Capuchin Friars, I embrace you with special affection, as I do the other members of the great Franciscan family who are praising the Lord for the marvels he worked in the humble friar of Pietrelcina, an exemplary follower of the Poor Man of Assisi.
Many of you, dear pilgrims, are members of prayer groups founded by Padre Pio: I greet you affectionately together with all the other faithful who, prompted by their devotion to the new blessed, have wished to be here on this joyful occasion. Lastly, I would like to extend a special greeting to all the sick: you were dear to Padre Pio's heart and work; thank you for your treasured presence!
2. Divine Providence wanted Padre Pio to be beatified on the eve of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, as a dramatic century draws to a close. What is the message that the Lord would like to offer to believers and to all humanity with this event of major spiritual importance?
Padre Pio's witness, which is evident from his life and even from his physical condition, suggests to us that this message coincides with the essential meaning of the Jubilee now close at hand: Jesus is the one Saviour of the world. In him God's mercy was made flesh in the fullness of time, to bring salvation to humanity mortally wounded by sin. “By his wounds you have been healed” (1P 2,24), the blessed father repeated to all in the words of the Apostle Peter, he whose body was marked with those wounds.
In 60 years of religious life, practically all spent at San Giovanni Rotondo, he was totally dedicated to prayer and to the ministry of reconciliation and spiritual direction. This was well emphasized by the Servant of God Pope Paul VI: “Look what fame he had.... But why?... Because he said Mass humbly, heard confessions from dawn to dusk and was ... the one who bore the wounds of our Lord. He was a man of prayer and suffering” (20 February 1971).
Totally absorbed in God, always bearing the marks of Jesus' Passion in his body, he was bread broken for men and women starving for God the Father's forgiveness. His stigmata, like those of Francis of Assisi, were the work and sign of divine mercy, which redeemed the world by the Cross of Jesus Christ. Those open, bleeding wounds spoke of God's love for everyone, especially for those sick in body and spirit.
3. And what can be said of his life, an endless spiritual combat, sustained by the weapons of prayer, centred on the sacred daily acts of Confession and Mass? Holy Mass was the heart of his whole day, the almost anxious concern of all his hours, his moment of closest communion with Jesus, Priest and Victim. He felt called to share in Christ's agony, an agony which continues until the end of the world.
Dear friends, in our time, when we are still under the illusion that conflicts can be resolved by violence and superior strength, and frequently give in to the temptation to abuse the force of arms, Padre Pio repeats what he once said: “What a dreadful thing war is! In every person wounded in the flesh, there is Jesus suffering”. Nor should we fail to note that both his works — the “House for the Relief of Suffering” and the prayer groups — were conceived by him in 1940, as the catastrophe of the Second World War loomed in Europe. He was not idle, but from his secluded friary in Gargano he responded with prayer, works of mercy and love for God and neighbour. And today, from heaven, he is telling everyone again that this is the authentic way of peace.
4. The prayer groups and the “House for the Relief of Suffering”: these are two significant “gifts” which Padre Pio has left us. Conceived and desired by him as a hospital for the sick poor, the “House for the Relief of Suffering” was planned from the start as a health-care facility open to everyone, but this was no reason for it to be less equipped than other hospitals. Indeed, Padre Pio wanted it to have most advanced scientific and technological equipment, so that it would be a place of authentic hospitality, loving respect and effective treatment for every suffering person. Is it not a true miracle of Providence that it continues to grow in accordance with its founder's spirit?
As for the prayer groups, he wanted them to be like beacons of light and love in the world. He longed for many souls to join him in prayer: “Pray”, he used to say, “pray to the Lord with me, because the whole world needs prayers. And every day, when your heart especially feels the loneliness of life, pray, pray to the Lord together, because God too needs our prayers!”. It was his intention to create an army of praying people who would be a “leaven” in the world by the strength of prayer. And today the whole Church is grateful to him for this precious legacy, admires the holiness of her son and invites everyone to follow his example.
5. Dear brothers and sisters, Padre Pio's witness is a powerful call to the supernatural dimension, not to be confused with exaggerated concern for miracles, a deviation which he always and resolutely shunned. Priests and consecrated persons in particular should look to him.
He teaches priests to become the docile and generous instruments of divine grace, which heals people at the root of their ills, restoring peace of heart to them. The altar and the confessional were the two focal points of his life: the charismatic intensity with which he celebrated the divine mysteries is a very salutary witness, to shake priests from the temptation of habit and help them rediscover, day by day, the inexhaustible treasure of spiritual, moral and social renewal which is placed in their hands.
To consecrated persons and especially to the Franciscan family, he offers a witness of extraordinary fidelity. Francis was his baptismal name, and he was a worthy follower of the Seraphic Father in poverty, chastity and obedience from the time he first entered the friary. He practised the Capuchin rule in all its rigour, generously embracing the life of penance. He found no gratification in pain but chose it as a way of expiation and purification. Like the Poor Man of Assisi, he aimed at conformity with Jesus Christ, desiring only “to love and to suffer”, in order to help the Lord in the exhausting and demanding work of salvation. In “firm, constant and iron” obedience (Letter I, p. 488), he found the highest expression of his unconditional love for God and the Church.
What a consolation to feel we have Padre Pio close to us, one who only wanted to be “a poor friar who prays”: a brother of Christ, a brother of Francis, a brother of the suffering, a brother of each one of us. May his help guide us on the way of the Gospel and make us ever more generous in following Christ!
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom he loved and helped others to love with profound devotion, obtain this for us. May his intercession, which we confidently invoke, obtain this for us.
I accompany these hopes with my Apostolic Blessing, which I cordially impart to you, dear pilgrims present here, and to all who are united in spirit with our festive gathering.
Tuesday, 4 May 1999
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. In the glorious hope of Easter, I greet you, the Bishops of Ontario, rejoicing with you that the paschal promise "does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Rm 5,5). I pray that during these days of your visit ad limina Apostolorum the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead will move powerfully in your hearts, so that you may taste anew his peace and joy in "the priestly service of the Gospel of God" (Rm 15,16). You come from the cities, great and small, from the vast spaces of rural Canada, from cultures both English- speaking and French-speaking and from Churches of East and West. But you have come to the tombs of the Apostles united as brothers in hierarchical communion, as Pastors bearing the joys and hopes, the sorrows and concerns of the People of God whom Christ has called you to serve. The ministry of Bishops is complex and demanding, and its many pressures can at times blur our vision of what Christ calls us to be and to do. This time in Rome is a moment the Lord gives you to step aside awhile and focus once again upon what really matters, to take stock of your ministry in the light of the Lord's love for his Church, and to plan for the future with ever greater courage and confidence.
This is an hour of great challenge for the Catholic community, but it is also a time of abundant grace; and we who lead the People of God on their pilgrim way dare not overlook the gift that is now being offered. We stand at the threshold of a new millennium, at a time of profound cultural change which, like the millennium drawing to a close, is fraught with ambiguity. Yet in the midst of complexities and contradictions, the whole Church is preparing to celebrate the Great Jubilee of the 2,000th anniversary of the Saviour's birth, certain that the mercy of God will do great things for us (cf. Lk Lc 1,49). The signs are there that Christ, the fullness of God's mercy, is moving in new and marvellous ways. As at other significant moments of her history, the Church stands under judgement; and she will be judged on whether or not she succeeds in recognizing and responding to the demands of this "hour of grace". More than others, we Bishops stand under judgement: "it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy" (1Co 4,2).
2. The memory of the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops is still vivid in my mind: and how could it be otherwise, with so deep an experience of episcopal communion in the "care for all the churches" (2Co 11,28)? From Mexico City, the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America has gone forth to you and to the priests, religious and lay faithful of your Dioceses as an earnest invitation to engage in the "new evangelization". The Apostolic Exhortation contains many elements for thought and action; and it is one of these that I wish to consider with you today. The Exhortation notes that "the evangelization of urban culture is a formidable challenge for the Church. Just as she was able to evangelize rural culture for centuries, the Church is called in the same way today to undertake a methodical and far-reaching urban evangelization" (n. 21). What the Synod Fathers called for is nothing short of the evangelization which I have described as "new in ardour, methods and expression" (Address to the Assembly of CELAM, 9 March, 1983, III); and such an evangelization is certainly needed at the dawn of the third Christian millennium, especially in the large urban centres where a growing percentage of the population now lives. As the Synod Fathers observed, the Church in Europe and elsewhere has in the past succeeded in evangelizing rural culture, but that is no longer enough. A great new task now beckons, and it is unthinkable that we should fail in the evangelization of the cities. "He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it" (1Th 5,24).
3. The phenomenon of the megalopolis has long been with us, and the Church has not been slow to consider how best to respond. In his Apostolic Letter of 1971, Octogesima adveniens, Pope Paul VI noted how increasing and irreversible urbanization is a great challenge to human wisdom, imagination and powers of organization (n. 10). He emphasized how urbanization in an industrial society upsets traditional ways and structures of life, producing for people "a new loneliness ... in an anonymous crowd ... in which they feel themselves strangers" (ibid.). It also produces what the Pope called "new proletariats" on the edges of the big cities, "a belt of misery in silent protest at the luxury which blatantly cries out from centres of consumption and waste" (ibid.). There arises a culture of discrimination and indifference, "lending itself to new forms of exploitation and domination" which deeply undermine human dignity. This is not the whole truth of the modern megalopolis but it is a crucial part of it, and it presents the Church, especially her Pastors, with a pressing and inescapable challenge. Urbanization, it is true, provides new opportunities, creates new modes of community, stimulates many forms of solidarity; but "in the struggle against sin" (cf. Heb He 12,4) it is often the dark underside of urbanization which occupies your immediate pastoral attention.
In the years since 1971, the truth of Pope Paul's remarks has become clearer as the process of urbanization has gone on and increased. The Synod Fathers noted that the movement of people to the cities is most often caused by poverty, lack of opportunity and poor services in rural areas (Ecclesia in America ). The attraction grows stronger because the cities hold out the promise of employment and entertainment, appearing to be the answer to poverty and boredom when in fact they generate new forms of both.
For many people, especially the young, the city becomes an experience of rootlessness, anonymity and inequality, with the consequent loss of identity and sense of human dignity. The result is often the violence that now marks so many of the large cities, not least in your own country. At the core of this violence there is a protest bred of deepseated disappointment: the city promises so much and delivers so little to so many. This sense of disappointment is also linked to a loss of confidence in institutions - political, legal and educational institutions, but also the Church and the family. In such a world, a world of great absences, the heavens seem closed (cf. Is Is 64,1) and God seems a long way away. It becomes a profoundly secular world, a one-dimensional world which to many people can appear like a prison. In this "city of man", we are called to build "the city of God"; and before so daunting a duty we are tempted perhaps, like the prophet Jonah at Nineveh, to lose heart and flee from the task (cf. Jon Jon 4,1-3 Octogesima adveniens Jon 12). But, as with Jonah, the Lord himself will lead us resolutely along the path which he has chosen for us.
4. The Synod Fathers were not vague when advocating a new urban evangelization: they also specified elements of the pastoral strategy which it requires. They spoke of the need for "a methodical and far-reaching urban evangelization through catechesis, liturgy and the very way in which pastoral structures are organized" (Ecclesia in America ). Here we have three quite precise indications: catechesis, liturgy and the organization of pastoral structures - indications which are radically linked to the threefold ministry of a Bishop to teach, to sanctify and to govern. At this point, dear Brothers, we are at the heart of what Christ is calling us to be and to do in the new evangelization.
All three factors look towards a fresh and more profound experience of community in Christ, which is the only effective and enduring response to a culture of rootlessness, anonymity and inequality. Where this experience is weak, we may expect more of the faithful to lose interest in religion or to drift into the sects and pseudo-religious groups which feed off alienation and which flourish among Christians who are disenchanted with the Church for one reason or another. We can no longer expect people to come to our communities spontaneously: there must be instead a new missionary outreach in the cities, with dedicated men and women, and young people, going forth in Christ's name to invite people into the community of the Church. This is a crucial element of that "organization of pastoral structures" which a new evangelization of the cities will require. It will be a new surge of the same energy which brought the Church to birth in your land: the heroic outreach of Jean de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Marguerite Bourgeoys and Marguerite d'Youville. But the frontier now is the city, and it is there that the new missionary heroism must shine no less brightly than it did in other ways in the past. This will depend in large part upon the energy and dedication of urban lay missionaries, but they in turn will need the service of truly zealous priests who are themselves fired with the missionary spirit and who know how to kindle that spirit in others. It is vital that seminaries and houses of formation be seen clearly as schools for mission which train priests who can inspire the faithful to become the new evangelizers whom the Church now needs.
5. Once the faithful respond to the Lord's call and seek to enter more fully into the community of faith, they must be led ever closer to Christ through the experience of worship and catechesis of which the Synod Fathers spoke. The privileged place for this remains the parish, for all the great changes it is undergoing in today's urban context (cf. Ecclesia in America ). It is true that the parish needs to be adapted to meet rapidly changing circumstances; but it is also true that the parish has shown itself extraordinarily adaptable in the past and will show itself no less adaptable now.
Every adaptation, however, must keep clearly in mind that it is above all the Eucharist which reveals the unchanging truth of the Christian life. This is why the liturgy is so crucial and why Bishops and priests need to do all in their power to ensure that the Church's worship, especially the Mass, is centred on the real presence of the Lord - "for the Eucharist is the Church's entire spiritual wealth" (Presbyterorum ordinis PO 5). This demands both a systematic catechesis of young people and adults and a great spirit of fraternity among all who gather to worship the Lord. The anonymity of the city cannot be allowed to enter our Eucharistic communities. New ways and structures must be found to build bridges between people, so that there really is that experience of mutual acceptance and closeness which Christian fellowship requires. It may be that this, and the catechesis which must accompany it, would be better done in smaller communities: as the Post-Synodal Exhortation puts it, "one way of renewing parishes, especially urgent for parishes in larger cities, might be to consider the parish as a community of communities" (Ecclesia in America ). This will need to be done wisely, lest it lead to new forms of fragmentation; but its potential advantage is that "in such a human context, it will be easier to gather to hear the word of God, to reflect on the range of human problems in the light of this word, and gradually to make responsible decisions inspired by the all-embracing love of Christ" (ibid.).
Not only the parishes, but also Catholic schools and other institutions must be open to the pastoral imperative of evangelizing the city. But, for this, they must ensure that their Catholic identity is in no way eroded by the surrounding pressures of secularization. In Canada, those pressures are at times severe and you, dear Brothers, have struggled to withstand them. I strongly urge you to pursue that path with courage and clarity of vision, so that Catholic institutions, precisely because of their Catholic identity, may effectively contribute to the Church's great work of evangelization. All of this is very much a part of the task of vigilance which Christ has entrusted to the Bishops.
6. Yet it must never be forgotten that developments at the level of pastoral structure and strategy are intended to do one thing alone: to lead people to Christ. This was the simple and luminous vision of the Synod, and it is reflected in the Post-Synodal Exhortation. It is certainly this for which people long, even though they themselves sometimes fail to see it. Scripture leaves no doubt that Christ is not encountered apart from the experience of Christian community. We cannot have Christ without the Church, the community of faith and saving grace. Without the Church, it is certain that we shall create an idea of Christ in our own image, when our real task is to allow him to create us in his own image. The New Testament is also quite precise in its description of the encounter with Christ. We see this especially in the Easter season, when we read the accounts of the appearances of the risen Lord which were the very seed of Christianity understood as a religion not just of enlightenment but especially of encounter. The Gospels tell us that the encounter with Christ is always unexpected, unsettling and commissioning. The call of Christ, like the call of God in the Old Testament, comes to those who do not expect it - at a time, in a place and in a way they could never have predicted. It is unsettling in the sense that life can never be the same again: there is always a dislocating effect in the call of Christ who says, "Follow me" (Mt 4,19), with all the conversion of life that this implies. And finally, those who encounter Christ are always commissioned by him to go forth to share with others the gift which they themselves have received (cf. Mt Mt 28,19-20). This, then, will be the threefold shape of the encounter with Christ which leads people more deeply into the community of faith, and which remains the whole purpose of their journey of faith within the Church.
7. In a community more fully conscious of Christ's presence the megalopolis will find the God-given sign pointing beyond a culture of rootlessness, anonymity and inequality. There will be nurtured the culture of life which you, dear Brothers, have striven so consistently to promote; and this in turn will generate a culture of human dignity, that true humanism which is rooted in God's creative act and is always a sign of Christ's redemptive power. Such a community will be the seed of "the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God" (Ap 21,2). We are those who have seen that vision of the Church: therefore "we have learnt that there is a City of God and we have longed to become citizens of that City" (St Augustine, City of God, XI, 1), where "we shall be still and see; we shall see and we shall love; we shall love and we shall praise" (ibid., XXII, n. 30).
With the praise of the Most Holy Trinity in our hearts and on our lips, we look to Mary, "Mother of America" (Ecclesia in America ). May she through whom the light rose over the earth shed light upon your own path as you journey with your people through the darkness to meet the risen Lord. Entrusting the Church in Ontario to her unfailing care, and invoking the infinite mercy of God upon yourselves, and upon the priests, religious and lay faithful, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing.