January 1979

Wednesday, 3 January 1979

1. Mankind's last night of waiting, which is recalled to us every year by the liturgy of the Church on the eve and the feast of the Nativity of the Lord, is at the same time the night in which the Promise was fulfilled. The One who was awaited, who was, and does not cease to be, the end of the advent, is born. Christ is born. That happened once, in the night at Bethlehem, but in the liturgy it is repeated every year, in a certain way it "is actualized" every year. And every year, too, it is rich with the same content: divine and human, which is so superabundant that man is not capable of embracing it all with one glance; and it is difficult to find words to express it altogether. Even the liturgical period of Christmas seems to us too short to dwell on this event, which presents more the characteristics of "mysterium fascinosum", than those of "mysterium tremendum". Too short, to "enjoy" fully the coming of Christ, the birth of God in human nature. Too short, to untangle the single threads of this event and of this mystery.

2. The liturgy centres our attention on one of those threads and highlights it particularly. The birth of the Child in the night at Bethlehem started the Family. For this reason, the Sunday during the octave of Christmas is the feast of the Family of Nazareth. This is the Holy Family, because it was moulded for the birth of the One whom even his "Adversary" will be compelled to proclaim, one day, "the Holy One of God" (Mc 1,24). The Holy Family, because the holiness of the One who was born became the source of an extraordinary sanctification, both of his Virgin-Mother, and of her Bridegroom, who, as her lawful husband, was considered, before men as the father of the Child born during the census in Bethlehem.

This Family is at the same time a human Family, and therefore the Church, in the period of Christmas, addresses, through the Holy Family, every human family. Holiness imprints on this Family, in which the Son of God came into the world, a unique, exceptional, unrepeatable, supernatural character. And at the same time all that we can say of every human family, its nature, its duties, its difficulties, can be said also of this Sacred Family. In fact, this Sacred Family is really poor; at the moment of the birth of Jesus it is without a roof to its head; then it will be forced to go into exile, and when the danger is over, it remains a family which lives modestly, in poverty, with the work of its hands.

Its condition is similar to that of so many other families. It is the meeting-place of our solidarity with every family, with every community of a man and a woman in which a new human being is born. It is a Family which does not remain only on the altars, as an object of praise and veneration, but, through so many episodes well known to us from the Gospel of St Luke and St Matthew, approaches, in a certain way, every human family. It takes over those deep, beautiful and at the same time difficult problems which married and family life bring with it. When we read attentively what the Evangelists (particularly Matthew) wrote about the events lived by Joseph and Mary before the birth of Jesus, these problems, to which I referred above, become even more evident.

3. The solemnity of Christmas, and, in its context, the feast of the Holy Family, are particularly near and dear to us, just because we meet in them the fundamental dimension of our faith, that is, the mystery of the Incarnation, with the no less fundamental dimension of the affairs of man. Everyone must recognize that this essential dimension of the affairs of man is precisely the family. And in the family it is procreation: a new man is conceived and is born, and through this conception and this birth the man and the woman, in their capacity as husband and wife, become father and mother, parents, reaching a new dignity and assuming new duties.

The importance of these fundamental duties is very great from many points of view. Not only from the point of view of this concrete community, their family, but also from the point of view of every human community, every society, nation, state, school, profession and environment. Everything depends, generally speaking, on how the parents and the family carry out their first and fundamental duties, on the way and to the extent to which they teach this creature—who, thanks to them, has become a human being, has obtained "humanity"—to "be a man". The family cannot be replaced in this. Everything must be done in order that the family should not be replaced. That is necessary not only for the "private" good of every person, but also for the common good of every society, nation, and state of any continent. The family is placed at the very centre of the common good in its various dimensions, precisely because man is conceived and born in it. Everything possible must be done in order that this human being should be desired, awaited and experienced as a particular, unique and unrepeatable value right from the beginning, from the moment of his conception. He must feel that he is important, useful, dear and of great value, even if infirm or handicapped; even more loved, in fact, for this reason.

This is what the mystery of Incarnation teaches us. This is the logic of our faith. This is also the logic of all true humanism. I think, in fact, that it cannot be otherwise. We are not looking here for elements of contrast, but we are looking for meeting points, which are the simple consequence of the full truth about man. Faith does not take believers away from this truth, but brings them right to its heart.

4. And another thing. On Christmas night, the Mother who was to give birth (Virgo paritura) did not find a roof over her head. She could not find the conditions in which that great, divine, and at the same time, human Mystery of giving birth to a man, normally takes place.

Allow me to use the logic of faith and the logic of a consistent humanism. This fact of which I am speaking is a great cry, it is a permanent challenge to individuals and to all, particularly, perhaps, in our time, in which a great proof of moral consistency is often asked of the expectant mother. In fact, what is euphemistically defined as "interruption of pregnancy" (abortion) cannot be evaluated with truly human categories other than those of the moral law, that is, of conscience. Certainly, if not the confidences made in the confessionals, those in the advisory bureaux for responsible motherhood, could tell us a great deal in this connection.

Consequently, the mother who is about to give birth cannot be left alone with her doubts, difficulties and temptations. We must stand by her side, so that she will not put a burden on her conscience, so that the most fundamental bond of man's respect for man will not be destroyed. Such, in fact, is the bond that begins at the moment of conception, as a result of which we must all, in a certain way, be with every mother who must give birth; and we must offer her all the help possible.

Let us look to Mary: Virgo Paritura (the Virgin about to give birth). Let us, the Church, us men, look, and let us try to understand better what responsibility Christmas brings with it towards every man who is to be born on earth. For the present we will stop at this point and interrupt these considerations: we will certainly have to return to them again, and not just once.

Hall of Paul VI: Wednesday, 10 January 1979


1. The Christmas period has drawn to an end. The feast of the Epiphany has passed too. But the meditations of our Wednesday meetings will still refer to the fundamental content of the truths which the Christmas period puts before our eyes every year. They appear in a particular depth. It takes time to look at them with the open eyes of the spirit, which has the right and the need to meditate on the truth, to contemplate its whole simplicity and depth.

During the octave of Christmas, the Church turns the eyes of our spirit towards the mystery of Motherhood. The last day of the octave, which is also the first day of the new year, is the feast of the Motherhood of the Mother of God. In this way stress is laid on "the place of the Mother, the maternal "dimension" in the whole mystery of the birth of God.

2. This Mother bears the name of Mary. The Church venerates her in a special way. The cult it renders to her (cult of hyperdulia)surpasses the cult of all other saints. It venerates her precisely in this way because she was the Mother; because she was elected to be the Mother of the Son of God; because she gave that Son, who is the Eternal Word, his "body" in time, she gave him "humanity" at a moment of history. The Church inserts this particular veneration of the Mother of God in the whole cycle of the liturgical year, during which the moment of the human conception of the Son of God is stressed, discreetly but also very solemnly, by means of the feast of the Annunciation, celebrated on 25 March nine months before Christmas. It can be said that during this whole period, from 25 March to 25 December, the Church walks with Mary who, like every mother, waits for the moment of the birth: Christmas Day. And at the same time during this period Mary "walks" with the Church. Her maternal waiting is inscribed discreetly in the life of the Church every year. All that happened between Nazareth, Ain Karin, and Bethlehem, is the subject of the liturgy of the life of the Church, of prayer—especially the prayer of the rosary and of contemplation. A particular feast dedicated to the "Virgo Paritura", the feast of "the Virgin's maternal waiting" which used to be celebrated on 18 December, has now disappeared from the liturgical year.

3. Inserting in this way the Mystery of "the Virgin's maternal waiting" in the rhythm of its liturgy, the Church—against the background of the Mystery of those months which unite the moment of birth with the moment of conception—meditates on the whole spiritual dimension of the motherhood of the Mother of God.

This "spiritual" (quoad spiritum)motherhood began at the same time as the physical (quoad corpus) motherhood. At the moment of the annunciation, Mary had the following conversation with the announcing angel: "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" (
Lc 1,34); answer: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God" (Lc 1,35). Her spiritual motherhood (quoad spiritum) started at the same time as her physical motherhood (quoad corpus). Thus this motherhood filled the nine months of waiting for the moment of the birth, like the thirty years spent between Bethlehem, Egypt, and Nazareth, as well as the later years during which Jesus, after leaving his home in Nazareth, taught the Gospel of the Kingdom, the years that ended with the events of Calvary and the Cross. There the "spiritual" motherhood reached its key-moment, in a certain sense. "When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" (Jn 19,26).

Thus he bound her, his own Mother, in a new way, to man: to man, to whom he transmitted the Gospel. He bound her to every man. He bound her to the Church on the day of its historic birth, the day of Pentecost. From that day the whole Church has her as Mother. And all men have her as Mother. They understand the words spoken from the Cross as addressed to each of them. The Mother of all men. Spiritual motherhood knows no limits. It extends in time and in space. It reaches so many human hearts. It reaches whole nations. Motherhood is a favourite subject, and perhaps the most frequent one, of the creativity of the human spirit. It is an element which constitutes the inner life of so many men. It is the keystone of human culture. Motherhood: a great, splendid, fundamental human reality, from the beginning called with its own name by the Creator. Accepted again in the Mystery of the Birth of God in time. Contained in it, in this Mystery. Inseparably united with it.

3 4. In the first days of my ministry in the Roman See of St Peter, I had the pleasure of meeting a man who has become particularly close to me from that first meeting. Allow me not to pronounce here the name of this person whose authority in the life of the Italian nation is so great, and to whose words I, too, listened on the last day of the year with attention united with gratitude. They were simple, deep and full of concern for the good of man, of the country, of the whole of mankind, and of youth in particular. My distinguished interlocutor will forgive me if, though not saying his name, I take the liberty of referring in some way to the words that I heard from him during that first meeting. These words concerned mothers: his mother. After so many years of life, experience, political and social struggles, he remembered his mother as the one to whom he owed, together with life, everything that constitutes the beginning and structure of the history of his spirit. I listened to these words with sincere emotion. I stored them in my memory and I will never forget them. They were for me, a kind of announcement and at the same time a kind of appeal.

I am not speaking here of my mother, because I lost her too early; but I know that I owe her the same things as my distinguished interlocutor expressed so simply. For this reason I take the liberty of referring to what I heard from him.

5. And I am speaking of this today so as to carry our what I announced a week ago. Then I said that we must be close to every expectant mother; that we must surround with particular assistance motherhood and the great event connected with it, conception and the birth of man, which is always at the basis of human education. Education rests on trust in the woman who gave life. This confidence can never be exposed to danger. At Christmas time the Church puts before the eyes of our spirit the Motherhood of Mary, and it does so on the first day of the new year. It does so, also, to highlight the dignity of every mother, to define and recall the significance of motherhood, not only in the life of every man, but also in the whole of human culture. Motherhood is woman's vocation. It is an eternal vocation, and it is also a contemporary vocation. "The Mother who understands everything and embraces each of us with her heart": these are words of a song, sung by young people in Poland, which come into my mind at this moment. The song goes on to announce that today the world is particularly "hungry and thirsty" for that motherhood, which is woman's vocation "physically" and "spiritually", as it is Mary's.

Everything must be done in order that the dignity of this splendid vocation may not be broken in the inner life of the new generations; in order that the authority of the woman-mother may not be diminished in the family, social and public life, and in the whole of our civilization; in all our contemporary legislations, in the organization of work, in publications, in the culture of everyday life, in education and in study: in every field of life.

This is a fundamental criterion. We must do everything in order that woman may merit love and veneration. We must do everything in order that children, the family and society may see in her that dignity that Christ saw.

Mater genetrix, spes nostra!

At the close of the General Audience in the Paul VI Hall on 10 January, Pope John Paul paid tribute to the Hall's outstanding architect, Pier Luigi Nervi, who died the previous day:

Yesterday the architect Pier Luigi Nervi died in Rome at the age of 87. It was he who planned and brought to realization this Audience Hall whose architectural lines reveal an elegance and daring, a harmony and functionality. As you know, his constructions in reinforced concrete—in which the most advanced technique is transformed into expressions of true art—have made him known throughout the whole world.

In remembering with gratitude this outstanding artist, who has contributed in a masterly fashion to the planning of dwelling places ever more worthy of man, we offer a special prayer of suffrage that God may welcome his soul into the eternal habitation of heaven.

Wednesday, 17 January 1979


The world Week of prayer for the unity of Christians opens tomorrow. Today, therefore, I would like to reflect together with you on this important subject which commits every baptized person, pastors and faithful (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio
UR 5), each according to his own capacity, his function, and the place he occupies in the Church.

1. This problem is binding in a special way on the bishop of this ancient Church of Rome, founded on the preaching and the testimonies of the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul. Service of unity is the primary duty of the ministry of the bishop of Rome.

For this reason I am glad to know that in our diocese of Rome, as in so many other dioceses of the world, this week has been organized with care and with the aim of involving everyone: parishes, religious communities, Catholic organizations, schools, youth groups, and even environments of suffering, such as hospitals. I am glad to know that, where possible, the attempt is being made to organize also common prayers with the other brother Christians, in harmony of sentiments, in order that, in obedience to the Lord's will, we may grow in faith, towards full unity, for the building up of the body of Christ, "until we all attain to the unity of the faith", as the apostle Paul writes to the first Christian of Ephesus, "and the knowledge of the Son of God to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ep 4,13).

The pursuit of unity must penetrate all levels of the life of the Church, and involve the whole people of God, to arrive finally at a concordant and unanimous profession of faith.

2. A privileged instrument for participation in pursuit of the unity of all Christians is prayer. Jesus Christ himself left us his extreme desire for unity through a prayer to the Father: "that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (Jn 17,21).

Also the Second Vatican Council strongly recommended to us prayer for the unity of Christians, defining it "the soul of the whole ecumenical movement" (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 8). As the soul to the body, so prayer gives life, consistency, spirit, and finality to the ecumenical movement.

Prayer puts us, first and foremost, before the Lord, purifies us in intentions, sentiments, in our heart, and produces that "interior conversion", without which there is no real ecumenism (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 7).

Prayer, furthermore, reminds us that unity, ultimately, is a gift of God, a gift for which we must ask and for which we must prepare in order that we may be granted it. Thus also unity, like every gift, like every grace, depends "upon God's mercy" (Rm 9,16). Since the reconciliation of all Christians "transcends human powers and gifts" (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 24), continual and fervent prayer expresses our hope, which does not play us false, and our confidence in the Lord who will make everything new (cf. Rm 5,5 Ap 21,5).

3. But the action of God requires our answer, more and more faithful, more and more full. This holds good also and above all for the construction of the unity of all Christians.

This year, the subject of the Week of prayer for unity calls our attention precisely to the exercise of some fundamental virtues of Christian life. "Be in one another's service for the glory of God." This subject is taken from a passage of the First Letter of Peter (1P 4,7-11). The apostle addresses some communities of the diaspora, of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Bithynia, Asia, at a moment of particular difficulty. He recalls these communities to Christian faith and affirms that "the end of all things is at hand" (1P 4,7). The time in which we are living is eschatological time, the time, that is, which goes from the redemption operated by Christ to his glorious return. We must therefore live in active expectation. In this context the apostle Peter calls them to keep sober in order to dedicate themselves to prayer; he asks them to keep love "unfailing", to practise hospitality, that is, openness and generous giving to the brethren, in particular to the under-privileged and emigrants. He asks them to live according to the grace received and to put this grace in the service of others, as good stewards of God's varied grace.

Faithful listening to this advice and its practical application purifies, on the one hand, the relations between persons, because "love covers a multitude of sins" (1P 4,8), on the other hand it consolidates the community, strengthens it and makes it grow. It is a question of a real exercise of the pursuit of unity. The subject proposes to us to live together as much as possible the common heritage of Christians. Contacts, cooperation, mutual love, reciprocal service, make us get to know one another better, make us rediscover what we have in common, and make us also see how much is still divergent between us. These contacts also urge us to find ways to overcome these divergences.

The Second Vatican Council had pointed out to us that from cooperation one can easily learn "how the road to the unity of Christians may be made smooth" (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 12). In fact, prayer, mutual love, service of one another construct fellowship among Christians and put them on the way to full unity.

5 4. In this week our prayer for the unity of Christians must be, above all, prayer of thanks and supplication. Yes, we must thank the Lord who has brought forth among all Christians the desire for unity (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 1), and who has blessed this pursuit, which is extending and deepening more and more.

In recent times the Catholic Church has set up brotherly relations with all the other Churches and ecclesial Communities, relations which we wish to continue and deepen with trust and hope. With the Orthodox Churches of the East the dialogue of charity has made us rediscover a communion that is almost full, even if still imperfect. It is consoling to see how this new attitude of understanding is not limited only to the leaders of the Churches, but is gradually penetrating into the local Churches; for a change of relations on the local plane is indispensable for all further progress.

The practice of the virtues, to which this week of prayers calls us, can also cause new creative experiences of unity to spring forth.

In this connection I wish to recall that a theological dialogue is about to open between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Churches of Byzantine tradition in order to eliminate those difficulties which still prevent eucharistic concelebration and full unity. This is an important moment and we implore God's help for it. Dialogues have also been in progress for some time with our Western brothers, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Reformed Churches, and consoling convergences have been met with on subjects which, in the past, constituted deep divergences. Useful relations have also been set up with the World Council of Churches and with other confessional and interconfessional Christian organizations. The way, however, is not finished, and we must continue it, to reach the goal. So let us renew our prayer to the Lord, in order that he may give Christians light and strength to do everything possible to obtain full unity in truth as soon as possible, so that "speaking the truth in love, we (shall) grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love" (Ep 4,15-16).

5. And now, dear brothers and sisters, let us unite in prayer and make ours the intentions set forth above, with the following invocations, to which you are all invited to answer: "Listen to us, 0 Lord!"

— In the spirit of Christ, our Lord, let us pray for the Catholic Church, for the other Churches, for the whole of mankind.

— All: Listen to us, Lord.

— Let us pray for all those who suffer persecution for the sake of justice and for those who are striving for freedom and peace.

— All: Listen to us, Lord!

— Let us pray for those who exercise a ministry in the Church, for those who have special responsibilities in social life, and for all those who are in the service of the little and the weak.

— All: Listen to us, Lord!

— Let us ask God for ourselves for the courage to persevere in our commitment for the realization of the unity of all Christians.

— All: Listen to us, Lord!

Lord God we trust in you. Grant us to act in the way pleasing to you. Grant us to be faithful servants of your glory. Amen.

In the hope that during the week for unity you will continue to pray for these intentions, I willingly impart to you the Apostolic Blessing.

Wednesday, 24 January 1979


1. On the feast of the Epiphany we read the passage from the Gospel of St Matthew which describes the arrival of some Magi from the East at Bethlehem: "Going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh." (
Mt 2,11-12).

We have already spoken once here, of the shepherds who found the baby, the born Son of God, lying in a manger (Lc 2,16).

Today we return once more to those characters who, according to tradition, were three in number: the Magi Kings. St Matthew's concise text renders very well what is part of the very substance of man's meeting with God: "they fell down and worshipped him". Man meets God in the act of veneration, of worship, of cult. It is useful to note that the word "cult" (cultus) is closely related to the term "culture". Admiration, veneration for what is divine, for what raises man on high, belongs to the very substance of human culture, of the various cultures. A second element of man's meeting with God, highlighted by the Gospel, is contained in the words: "opening their treasures, they offered him gifts ... ". In these words, St Matthew indicates a factor that deeply characterizes the very substance of religion, understood both as knowledge and meeting. A merely abstract concept of God does not constitute, does not yet form this substance.

Man gets to knows God by meeting him, and vice versa he meets him in the act of getting to know him. He meets God when he opens up to him with the interior gift of his human "ego", to accept God's Gift and reciprocate it.

The Magi Kings, at the moment when they present themselves before the Child in his mother's arms, accept in the light of the Epiphany the Gift of God Incarnate, his ineffable dedication to man in the mystery of the Incarnation. At the same time, "opening their treasures, they offered him gifts"; it is a question of the concrete gifts of which the evangelist speaks, but above all they open themselves up to him, with the interior gift of their own heart. And this is the real treasure they offer, of which the gold, incense and myrrh are only an exterior expression. The fruit of the Epiphany consists in this gift: they recognize God and they meet him.

2, When I meditate in this way, together with you gathered here, on those words of the Gospel of Matthew, there come into my mind the texts of the Constitution Lumen Gentium which speak of the universality of the Church. The day of the Epiphany is the feast of the universality of the Church, of her universal mission. Well, we read in the Council: "The one People of God is accordingly present in all the nations of the earth, since its citizens, who are taken from all nations, are of a kingdom whose nature is not earthly but heavenly. All the faithful scattered throughout the world are in communion with each other in the Holy Spirit so that 'he who dwells in Rome knows those in most distant parts to be his members' (LG 9). Since the kingdom of Christ is not of this world (cf. Jn 18,36), the Church or People of God which establishes this Kingdom does not take away anything from the temporal welfare of any people. Rather, she fosters and takes to herself, in so far as they are good, the abilities, the resources and customs of peoples. In so taking them to herself she purifies, strengthens and elevates them. The Church indeed is mindful that she must work with that king to whom the nations were given for an inheritance (cf. Ps 2,8) and to whose city gifts are brought (cf. Ps 72,10 [71]; Is 60,4-7 Ap 21,24). This character of universality which adorns the People of God is a gift from the Lord himself whereby the Catholic ceaselessly and efficaciously seeks for the return of all humanity and all its goods under Christ the Head in the unity of his Spirit.

7 "In virtue of this catholicity each part contributes its own gifts to other parts and to the whole Church, so that the whole and each of the parts are strengthened by the common sharing of all things and by the common effort to fullness in unity. Hence it is that the People of God is... an assembly of various peoples ... " (Lumen Gentium LG 13).

Here we have before our eyes the same image present in the Gospel of St Matthew read at Epiphany; only it is far more developed. The same Christ who in Bethlehem, as a Child, accepted the gifts of the Magi Kings, is still the One to whom men and whole Peoples "open their treasures". The gifts of the human spirit, in the act of this opening before God Incarnate, take on a special value, become the treasures of various cultures, the spiritual riches of Peoples and Nations, the common heritage of the whole of mankind. This heritage is formed and grows continually through that "exchange of gifts", of which the constitution Lumen Gentium speaks. He is the centre of that exchange; the same one who accepted the gifts of the Magi Kings. He himself, who is the visible and incarnate Gift, causes the opening of souls and that exchange of gifts from which live not only individuals, but also peoples, nations, and the whole of mankind.

3. The whole preceding meditation is to some extent an introduction and preface to what I want to say now.

Tomorrow I am to undertake, with the grace of God, a journey to Mexico, the first of my pontificate. I wish here to follow the great Pope Paul and continue the tradition he began. I am going to Mexico, to Puebla, on the occasion of the Episcopal Conference of Latin America, which is beginning its work on Saturday next with the eucharistic concelebration in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Today, already, I express my gratitude, both to the representatives of the Episcopate for the invitation addressed to me, and to the representatives of the Mexican Authorities, particularly the President of that Republic for his favourable attitude to this journey, which makes it possible for me to carry out such an important pastoral duty.

I am referring at this moment to the liturgy of the feast of the Epiphany as well as to the words of the Constitution Lumen Gentium, which enable all of us to cast a glance at those particular gifts which the people and the Church that is in Mexico have contributed and continue to contribute to the common treasure of mankind and of the Church.

Who has not at least heard of the splendours of ancient Mexico? Of its art, its knowledge in the field of astronomy, its pyramids and its temples, in which its aspiration to the divine, though imperfect and still non-illuminated, was expressed?

And what are we to say of the cathedrals and churches, the palaces and city councils, built in Mexico and by Mexican artisans after its Christianization? These buildings are an eloquent expression of the marvellous symbiosis that the Mexican people has been able to operate between the best elements of its past and those of its Christian future which it was then entering.

But Mexico has made great progress also in the most recent period. Alongside the famous constructions in the so-called colonial style, today there are the skyscrapers, large streets, impressive public buildings, and industrial plants of modern Mexico. But—and here is another of its merits—in the midst of the modern political, technical, and civil progress, the Mexican soul shows clearly that it wishes to be and to remain Christian: even in his typical popular music, the Mexican sings also of his eternal nostalgia for God and his devotion to the Blessed Virgin. And in difficult times of the past, now fortunately over, the Mexican showed not only good religious sentiments but remarkable and in fact, sometimes, heroic fortitude and staunchness of faith, as many people will still remember.

I am convinced that, in the presence of Christ and his Mother, it will be possible to realize again that "opening and exchange of gifts" to which the Episcopate of Latin America, I myself, and the whole Church, attach such great hopes for the future.

4. Let us return once more to St Matthew's description. The Gospel says that that "opening of gifts" of the Magi Kings in Bethlehem was realized in the presence of the Child and his Mother.

Let us add that this situation continues to be repeated in just this way. Does not the history of Mexico and the history of the Church in that land, prove it? Going there, I rejoice particularly in the fact that I will find myself in the footsteps of so many pilgrims, who go from the whole of America, especially Latin America, to the Sanctuary of the Mother of God at Guadalupe.

I myself come from a land and a nation whose heart beats in the great Marian sanctuaries, especially in the sanctuary of Jasna Gora, I would like to repeat once more, as on the day of the inauguration of the pontificate, the words of the greatest Polish poet: "Holy Virgin, who defend bright Czestochowa, and shine forth in the Pointed Gate ... "

This enables me to understand the people, the peoples, the Church, the continent, whose heart beats in the Sanctuary of the Mother of God at Guadalupe.

I hope too that this will open the way for me to the heart of that Church

                                                                                  February 1979