GENERAL AUDIENCE 1997 51
1. In the Letter to the Ephesians St Paul explains the spousal relationship between Christ and the Church in the following words: "Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Ep 5,25-27).
The Second Vatican Council takes up the Apostleís assertions and recalls that "in the most Blessed Virgin the Church has already reached perfection", while "the faithful still strive to conquer sin and increase in holiness" (Lumen gentium LG 65).
In this way the difference between Mary and the faithful is emphasized, although both belong to the holy Church which Christ made "without spot or wrinkle". In fact, while the faithful receive holiness through Baptism, Mary was preserved from all stain of original sin and was redeemed antecedently by Christ. Futhermore, although the faithful have been freed "from the law of sin" (cf. Rm 8,2), they can still give in to temptation, and human frailty continues to manifest itself in their lives. "We all make many mistakes", says the Letter of James (Jc 3,2). For this reason the Council of Trent teaches: "No one can avoid all sins, even venial sins, throughout his life" (DS 1573). By divine privilege, however, the Immaculate Virgin is an exception to this rule, as the Council of Trent itself recalls (ibid. DS 1573).
2. Despite the sins of her members, the Church is first and foremost the community of those who are called to holiness and strive each day to achieve it.
In this arduous path to perfection they feel encouraged by her who is the "model of virtues". The Council notes: "Devoutly meditating on her and contemplating her in the light of the Word made man, the Church reverently penetrates more deeply into the great mystery of the Incarnation and becomes more and more like her Spouse" (Lumen gentium LG 65).
So the Church looks to Mary. She not only contemplates the wondrous gift of her fullness of grace, but strives to imitate the perfection which in her is the fruit of her full compliance with Christís command: "You, therefore, must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5,48). Mary is all-holy. For the community of believers she represents the paradigm of the authentic holiness that is achieved in union with Christ. The earthly life of the Mother of God is characterized by perfect harmony with the person of her Son and by her total dedication to the redeeming work he accomplished.
The Church turns her gaze to the maternal intimacy that grew in silence during life in Nazareth and reached perfection at the moment of sacrifice, and she strives to imitate it in her daily journey. In this way, she is increasingly conformed to her Spouse. United like Mary with the Redeemerís Cross, the Church, amid the difficulties, contradictions and persecutions that renew in her life the mystery of her Lordís Passion, constantly seeks to be fully configured to him.
3. The Church lives by faith, seeing in her "who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (Lc 1,45), the first and perfect expression of her faith. On this journey of trusting abandonment to the Lord, the Virgin goes before the disciples, adhering to the divine Word with an increasing intensity that embraces all the stages of her life and spreads to the very mission of the Church.
Her example encourages the People of God to practise their faith and to study and develop its content, by keeping in their heart and meditating on the events of salvation.
Mary also becomes a model of hope for the Church. In listening to the angelís message, the Virgin first directs her hope to the kingdom without end, which Jesus had been sent to establish.
She stands firm near the cross of her Son, waiting for the divine promise to be fulfilled. After Pentecost, the Mother of Jesus sustains the Churchís hope despite the threat of persecution. She is thus the Mother of hope for the community of believers and for individual Christians, and she encourages and guides her children as they await the kingdom, supporting them in their daily trials and throughout the events of history, however tragic.
Lastly, the Church sees in Mary the model of her charity. By looking at the situation of the first Christian community, we discover that the unanimity of their hearts, which was shown as they awaited Pentecost, is associated with the presence of the Holy Virgin (cf. Ac 1,14). And precisely because of Maryís radiant charity, it is possible to maintain harmony and fraternal love at all times within the Church.
53 4. The Council expressly underscores Maryís exemplary role for the Churchís apostolic mission, with the following observation: "The Church, therefore, in her apostolic work too, rightly looks to her who gave birth to Christ, who was thus conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin, in order that through the Church he could be born and increase in the hearts of the faithful. In her life the Virgin has been a model of that motherly love with which all who join in the Churchís apostolic mission for the regeneration of mankind should be animated" (Lumen gentium LG 65).
After having co-operated in the work of salvation by her motherhood, her association with Christís sacrifice and her motherly aid to the newborn Church, Mary continues to support the Christian community and all believers in their generous commitment to proclaiming the Gospel.
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:
I am pleased to extend special greetings to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at todayís Audience, especially those from England, Malta, Uganda, Malaysia, the Philippines and the United States. May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always!
In greeting the Polish pilgrims and visitors attending the General Audience, the Holy Father recalled the outbreak of the Second World War and the tremendous hardships that the Polish people had to endure in that conflict.
Dear friends, today I cannot forget 1 September 1939: the outbreak of the Second World War and the whole experience of the Second World War in our homeland.
Today is 3 September, which then fell on a Sunday. The war was already underway and the German divisions were approaching Krakůw.
On this occasion let us especially call upon Mary, Queen of Poland, with the words of the song: "How much you suffered, Mary, at the foot of your Sonís cross!". As we recall her sufferings at the cross, we commend to her our country and particularly those who are suffering. We pray that she will shorten their sufferings. And for those who cannot endure them, we ask for the gift of perseverance and victory.
The song to the Mother of God, Queen of Poland, is a sort of historical summary of our experiences in 1939 and throughout the world war, which cost us so much hardship, so many sufferings and sacrifices, in order to achieve the final victory.
Today and in the days ahead we particularly commend our homeland to God. Praised be Jesus Christ!
1. In the Apostolic Exhortation Marialis cultus the Servant of God Paul VI, of venerable memory, presents the Blessed Virgin as a model of the Church at worship. This assertion is a corollary as it were to the truth that points to Mary as a paradigm for the People of God on the way to holiness: "That the Blessed Virgin is an exemplar in this field derives from the fact that she is recognized as a most excellent exemplar of the Church in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ, that is, of that interior disposition with which the Church, the beloved spouse, closely associated with her Lord, invokes Christ and through him worships the eternal Father" (n. 16).
2. She who at the Annunciation showed total availability for the divine plan represents for all believers a sublime model of attentiveness and docility to the Word of God.
In replying to the angel: "Let it be to me according to your word" (Lc 1,38) and in stating her readiness to fulfil perfectly the Lordís will, Mary rightly shares in the beatitude proclaimed by Jesus: "Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!" (Lc 11,28).
With this attitude, which encompasses her entire life, the Blessed Virgin indicates the high road of listening to the Word of the Lord, an essential element of worship, which has become typical of the Christian liturgy. Her example shows us that worship does not primarily consist in expressing human thoughts and feelings, but in listening to the divine Word in order to know it, assimilate it and put it into practice in daily life.
3. Every liturgical celebration is a memorial of the mystery of Christ in his salvific action for all humanity and is meant to promote the personal participation of the faithful in the paschal mystery re-expressed and made present in the gestures and words of the rite.
Mary was a witness to the historical unfolding of the saving events, which culminated in the Redeemerís Death and Resurrection, and she kept "all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Lc 2,19) She was not merely present at the individual events, but sought to grasp their deep meaning, adhering with all her soul to what was being mysteriously accomplished in them.
Mary appears therefore as the supreme model of personal participation in the divine mysteries. She guides the Church in meditating on the mystery celebrated and in participating in the saving event, by encouraging the faithful to desire an intimate, personal relationship with Christ in order to co-operate with the gift of their own life in the salvation of all.
4. Mary also represents the model of the Church at prayer. In all probability Mary was absorbed in prayer when the angel Gabriel came to her house in Nazareth and greeted her. This prayerful setting certainly supported the Blessed Virgin in her reply to the angel and in her generous assent to the mystery of the Incarnation.
55 In the Annunciation scene, artists have almost always depicted Mary in a prayerful attitude. Of them all we recall Fra Angelico. This shows to the Church and every believer the atmosphere that should prevail during worship.
We could add that for the People of God Mary represents the model of every expression of their prayer life. In particular, she teaches Christians how to turn to God to ask for his help and support in the various circumstances of life.
Her motherly intercession at the wedding in Cana and her presence in the Upper Room at the Apostlesí side as they prayed in expectation of Pentecost suggest that the prayer of petition is an essential form of co-operation in furthering the work of salvation in the world. By following her model, the Church learns to be bold in her asking, to persevere in her intercessions and, above all, to implore the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Lc 11,13).
5. The Blessed Virgin also represents the Churchís model for generously participating in sacrifice.
In presenting Jesus in the temple and, especially, at the foot of the Cross, Mary completes the gift of herself which associates her as Mother with the suffering and trials of her Son. Thus in daily life as in the Eucharistic celebration, the "Virgin presenting offerings" (Marialis cultus, n. 20) encourages Christians to "offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1P 2,5).
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:
I am pleased to greet the participants in the Colloquium sponsored by the International Council of Christians and Jews: may your discussions and reflections lead to ever greater understanding, respect and co-operation between the followers of the Jewish and Christian faiths. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims, especially those from England, South Africa, Australia, Japan, Canada and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1. After proclaiming Mary a "pre-eminent member", the "type" and "model" of the Church, the Second Vatican Council says: "The Catholic Church, taught by the Holy Spirit, honours her with filial affection and devotion as a most beloved mother" (Lumen gentium LG 53).
To tell the truth, the conciliar text does not explicitly attribute the title "Mother of the Church" to the Blessed Virgin, but it unmistakeably expresses its content by repeating a statement made in 1748, more than two centuries ago, by Pope Benedict XIV (Bullarium Romanum, series 2, t. 2, n. 61, p. 428).
In this document my venerable Predecessor, in describing the filial sentiments of the Church, which recognizes Mary as her most beloved mother, indirectly proclaims her Mother of the Church.
2. This title was rather rarely used in the past, but has recently become more common in the pronouncements of the Churchís Magisterium and in the devotion of the Christian people. The faithful first called upon Mary with the title "Mother of God", "Mother of the faithful" or "our Mother", to emphasize her personal relationship with each of her children.
Later, because of the greater attention paid to the mystery of the Church and to Maryís relationship to her, the Blessed Virgin began more frequently to be invoked as "Mother of the Church".
Before the Second Vatican Council, this expression was found in Pope Leo XIIIís Magisterium, in which it is affirmed that Mary is "in all truth mother of the Church" (Acta Leonis XIII, 15, 302). The title was later used many times in the teachings of John XXIII and Paul VI.
3. Although the title "Mother of the Church" was only recently attributed to Mary, it expresses the Blessed Virginís maternal relationship with the Church as shown already in several New Testament texts.
Since the Annunciation, Mary was called to give her consent to the coming of the messianic kingdom, which would take place with the formation of the Church.
When at Cana Mary asked the Son to exercise his messianic power, she made a fundamental contribution to implanting the faith in the first community of disciples, and she co-operated in initiating Godís kingdom, which has its "seed" and "beginning" in the Church (cf. Lumen gentium LG 5).
On Calvary, Mary united herself to the sacrifice of her Son and made her own maternal contribution to the work of salvation, which took the form of labour pains, the birth of the new humanity.
In addressing the words "Woman, behold your son" to Mary, the Crucified One proclaims her motherhood not only in relation to the Apostle John but also to every disciple. The Evangelist himself, by saying that Jesus had to die "to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad" (Jn 11,52), indicates the Churchís birth as the fruit of the redemptive sacrifice with which Mary is maternally associated.
The Evangelist St Luke mentions the presence of Jesus' Mother in the first community of Jerusalem (Ac 1,14). In this way he stresses Maryís maternal role in the newborn Church, comparing it to her role in the Redeemerís birth. The maternal dimension thus becomes a fundamental element of Maryís relationship with the new People of the redeemed.
4. Following Sacred Scripture, patristic teaching recognizes Maryís mother-hood in the work of Christ and therefore in that of the Church, although in terms which are not always explicit.
57 According to St Irenaeus, Mary "became a cause of salvation for the whole human race" (Haer. 3, 22, 4; PG 7,959), and the pure womb of the Virgin "regenerates men in God" (Haer. 4, 33, 11; PG 7,1080). This is re-echoed by St Ambrose, who says: "A Virgin has begotten the salvation of the world, a Virgin has given life to all things" (EP 63,33 PL 16,1198), and by other Fathers who call Mary "Mother of salvation" (Severian of Gabala, Or. 6 in mundi creationem, 10, PG 54,4 Faustus of Riez, Max. Bibl. Patrum, VI, 620-621).
In the Middle Ages, St Anselm addressed Mary in this way: "You are the mother of justification and of the justified, the Mother of reconciliation and of the reconciled, the mother of salvation and of the saved" (Or. 52, 8; PL 158, 957), while other authors attribute to her the titles "Mother of grace" and "Mother of life".
5. The title "Mother of the Church" thus reflects the deep conviction of the Christian faithful, who see in Mary not only the mother of the person of Christ, but also of the faithful. She who is recognized as mother of salvation, life and grace, mother of the saved and mother of the living, is rightly proclaimed Mother of the Church.
Pope Paul VI would have liked the Second Vatican Council itself to have proclaimed "Mary Mother of the Church, that is, of the whole People of God, of the faithful and their Pastors". He did so himself in his speech at the end of the Councilís third session (21 November 1964), also asking that "henceforth the Blessed Virgin be honoured and invoked with this title by all the Christian people" (AAS 1964, 37).
In this way, my venerable Predecesser explicitly enunciated the doctrine contained in chapter eight of Lumen gentium, hoping that the title of Mary, Mother of the Church, would have an ever more important place in the liturgy and piety of the Christian people.
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:
I am pleased to greet the group sponsored by the "Foyer Unitas" Institute in Rome. I pray that your activities will foster greater unity among Christians. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims, especially those from England, Sweden, Norway, Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan and the United States, I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1. Mary is mother of humanity in the order of grace. The Second Vatican Council highlights this role of Mary, linking it to her co-operation in Christís Redemption. "In the designs of divine Providence, she was the gracious mother of the divine Redeemer here on earth, and above all others and in a singular way the generous associate and humble handmaid of the Lord" (Lumen gentium LG 61).
With these statements, the Constituion Lumen gentium wishes to give proper emphasis to the fact that the Blessed Virgin was intimately associated with Christís redemptive work, becoming the Saviourís "generous associate", "in a singular way".
With the actions of any mother, from the most ordinary to the most demanding, Mary freely co-operated in the work of humanityís salvation in profound and constant harmony with her divine Son.
2. The Council also points out that Maryís co-operation was inspired by the Gospel virtues of obedience, faith, hope and charity, and was accomplished under the influence of the Holy Spirit. It also recalls that the gift of her universal spiritual motherhood stems precisely from this co-operation: associated with Christ in the work of Redemption, which includes the spiritual regeneration of humanity, she becomes mother of those reborn to new life.
In saying that Mary is "a mother to us in the order of grace" (cf. ibid. LG 61), the Council stresses that her spiritual motherhood is not limited to the disciples alone, as though the words spoken by Jesus on Calvary: "Woman, behold your son" (Jn 19,26), required a restrictive interpretation. Indeed, with these words the Crucified One established an intimate relationship between Mary and his beloved disciple, a typological figure of universal scope, intending to offer his Mother as Mother to all mankind.
On the other hand, the universal efficacy of the redeeming sacrifice and Mary's conscious co-operation with Christís sacrificial offering does not allow any limitation of her motherly love.
Maryís universal mission is exercised in the context of her unique relationship with the Church. With her concern for every Christian, and indeed for every human creature, she guides the faith of the Church towards an ever deeper acceptance of Godís Word, sustains her hope, enlivens her charity and fraternal communion and encourages her apostolic dynamism.
3. During her earthly life, Mary showed her spiritual motherhood to the Church for a very short time. Nonetheless, the full value of her role appeared after the Assumption and is destined to extend down the centuries to the end of the world. The Council expressly states: "This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the Cross, until the eternal fulfilment of all the elect" (Lumen gentium LG 62).
Having entered the Fatherís eternal kingdom, closer to her divine Son and thus closer to us all, she can more effectively exercise in the Spirit the role of maternal intercession entrusted to her by divine Providence.
4. The heavenly Father wanted to place Mary close to Christ and in communion with him who can "save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them" (He 7,25): he wanted to unite to the Redeemerís intercession as a priest that of the Blessed Virgin as a mother. It is a role she carries out for the sake of those who are in danger and who need temporal favours and, especially, eternal salvation: "By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress and Mediatrix" (Lumen gentium LG 62).
These titles, suggested by the faith of the Christian people, help us better to understand the nature of the Mother of the Lordís intervention in the life of the Church and of the individual believer.
5. The title "Advocate" goes back to St Irenaeus. With regard to Eveís disobedience and Maryís obedience, he says that at the moment of the Annunciation "the Virgin Mary became the Advocate" of Eve (Haer. 5, 19, 1; PG 7,1175-1176). In fact, with her "yes" she defended our first mother and freed her from the consequences of her disobedience, becoming the cause of salvation for her and the whole human race.
Mary exercises her role as "Advocate" by co-operating both with the Spirit the Paraclete and with the One who interceded on the Cross for his persecutors (cf. Lc 23,34), whom John calls our "advocate with the Father" (1Jn 2,1). As a mother, she defends her children and protects them from the harm caused by their own sins.
59 Christians call upon Mary as "Helper", recognizing her motherly love which sees her childrenís needs and is ready to come to their aid, especially when their eternal salvation is at stake.
The conviction that Mary is close to those who are suffering or in situations of serious danger has prompted the faithful to invoke her as "Benefactress". The same trusting certainty is expressed in the most ancient Marian prayer with the words: "We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin" (from the Roman Breviary).
As maternal Mediatrix, Mary presents our desires and petitions to Christ, and transmits the divine gifts to us, interceding continually on our behalf.
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:
I greet the new students of the Venerable English College and pray that the Lord will bless them abundantly as they begin their studies.
I extend a cordial welcome to the various ecumenical groups present, especially to the Executive Committee of the World Methodist Council. Thankful to God for the progress made so far in our official dialogue, I pray that the Holy Spirit will guide the Joint Commission in its current work. I send a special greeting to the General Secretary Dr Hale, who could not be here due to his wifeís recent accident, and I pray for her prompt recovery.
I am so pleased to welcome the Delegation of the Disciples of Christ on the 20th anniversary of the dialogue between us. May the International Commissionís continuing work on the theme of the Churchís mission lead us steadily along the path towards ever greater unity.
I warmly greet the representatives of the Center of Christian-Jewish Understanding. I hope that your visit will further strengthen our mutual understanding and co-operation in the face of so many shared concerns.
Upon all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims, especially those from England, Wales, Ireland, Nigeria, Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan and the United States, I invoke an abundance of divine grace and peace.
1. Among the titles attributed to Mary in the Churchís devotion, chapter eight of Lumen gentium recalls that of "Mediatrix". Although some Council Fathers did not fully agree with this choice of title (cf. Acta Synodalia III, 8, 163-164), it was nevertheless inserted into the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church as confirmation of the value of the truth it expresses. Care was therefore taken not to associate it with any particular theology of mediation, but merely to list it among Maryís other recognized titles.
Moreover the conciliar text had already described the meaning of the title "Mediatrix" when it said that Mary "by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation" (Lumen gentium LG 62).
As I recalled in my Encyclical Redemptoris Mater: "Maryís mediation is intimately linked with her motherhood. It possesses a specifically maternal character, which distinguishes it from the mediation of the other creatures" (RMA 38).
From this point of view it is unique in its kind and singularly effective.
2. With regard to the objections made by some of the Council Fathers concerning the term "Mediatrix", the Council itself provided an answer by saying that Mary is "a mother to us in the order of grace" (Lumen gentium LG 61). We recall that Maryís mediation is essentially defined by her divine motherhood. Recognition of her role as mediatrix is moreover implicit in the expression "our Mother", which presents the doctrine of Marian mediation by putting the accent on her motherhood. Lastly, the title "Mother in the order of grace" explains that the Blessed Virgin co-operates with Christ in humanityís spiritual rebirth.
3. Maryís maternal mediation does not obscure the unique and perfect mediation of Christ. Indeed, after calling Mary "Mediatrix", the Council is careful to explain that this "neither takes away anything from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one Mediator" (Lumen gentium LG 62). And on this subject it quotes the famous text from the First Letter to Timothy: "For there is one God and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all" (1Tm 2,5-6).
In addition, the Council states that "Maryís function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power (Lumen gentium LG 60).
Therefore, far from being an obstacle to the exercise of Christ's unique mediation, Mary instead highlights its fruitfulness and efficacy. "The Blessed Virginís salutary influence on men originates not in any inner necessity but in the disposition of God. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it" (Lumen gentium LG 60).
4. The value of Maryís mediation derives from Christ and thus the salutary influence of the Blessed Virgin "does not hinder in any way the immediate union of the faithful with Christ but on the contrary fosters it" (ibid. LG 60).
The intrinsic orientation to Christ of the "Mediatrix's" work spurred the Council to recommend that the faithful turn to Mary "so that, encouraged by this maternal help they may the more closely adhere to the Mediator and Redeemer" (Lumen gentium LG 62).
In proclaiming Christ the one mediator (cf. 1Tm 2,5-6), the text of St Paulís Letter to Timothy excludes any other parallel mediation, but not subordinate mediation. In fact, before emphasizing the one exclusive mediation of Christ, the author urges "that supplications prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all men" (1Tm 2,1). Are not prayers a form of mediation? Indeed, according to St Paul, the unique mediation of Christ is meant to encourage other dependent, ministerial forms of mediation. By proclaiming the uniqueness of Christís mediation, the Apostle intends only to exclude any autonomous or rival mediation, and not other forms compatible with the infinite value of the Saviourís work.
61 5. It is possible to participate in Christís mediation in various areas of the work of salvation. After stressing that "no creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer" (LG 62), Lumen gentium describes how it is possible for creatures to exercise certain forms of mediation which are dependent on Christ. In fact, "just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful, and as the one goodness of God is radiated in different ways among his creatures, so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold co-operation which is but a sharing in this one source" (Lumen gentium LG 62).
This desire to bring about various participations in the one mediation of Christ reveals the gratuitous love of God who wants to share what he possesses.
6. In truth, what is Maryís maternal mediation if not the Father's gift to humanity? This is why the Council concludes: "The Church does not hesitate to profess this subordinate role of Mary, which it constantly experiences and recommends to the heartfelt attention of the faithful" (ibid. LG 62).
Mary carries out her maternal role in constant dependence on the mediation of Christ and from him receives all that his heart wishes to give mankind.
On her earthly pilgrimage the Church "continuously" experiences the effective action of her "Mother in the order of grace".
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:
I am pleased to greet the new students of the Pontifical Beda College: I invoke upon you Godís gifts of wisdom and discernment. To the students of the Pontifical North American College present with their families and friends on the eve of their ordination to the diaconate, I also extend prayerful greetings: may Godís grace sustain you in charity and humility in your service of his People. Upon those participating in the Fifth European Radiocommunications Office Council Meeting, and upon all the English-speaking pilgrims, especially those from England, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Indonesia, Japan, Canada and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1. "The Family, Gift and Commitment, Hope for Humanity": this was the theme of the Second World Meeting with Families which has just taken place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The images and emotions of this event, which is one of the most significant phases of the Churchís journey towards the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, are still vivid in my mind and in my heart.
I am profoundly grateful to God who, after World Youth Day in Paris, has granted me the joy of experiencing this gathering with families. With young people, with the family! Yes, because if it is true that young people are the future, it is also true that there is no future for humanity without the family. To assimilate the values that give life meaning, the new generations need to be born and raised in that community of life and love which God himself wanted for man and woman, in that "domestic church", which constitutes the divine and human architecture necessary for the harmonious development of every new-born being on earth.
The meeting with the worldís families offered me the happy opportunity to visit the Brazilian land for the third time. Thus I have been able to meet that people again, who are so dear to the Church and to me personally, a people rich in history, culture and humanity, as well as faith and hope. The city of Rio de Janeiro, a symbol both of Brazilís beauty and of its contradictions, gave the meeting a very significant atmosphere, characterized by its many races and cultures. From the peak of the Corcovado, the great statue of Christ, his arms wide open, seemed to say to the families of the whole world: Come to me!
I address a respectful greeting to the President of the Republic, with whom I had a cordial talk in Rio: I once again thank him and the cityís civil and military authorities for their warm welcome. To Cardinal EugÍnio de Araķjo Sales, Archbishop of S„o Sebasti„o do Rio de Janeiro, and to the Brazilian Episcopate, courageously committed to the cause of the family, I also express my gratitude, which I extend to everyone who collaborated for this great feast of love and life. I invoke the Lordís constant blessing upon the Brazilian people so that, with the efforts of all, the nation may grow in justice and solidarity.
2. The meeting in Rio was the second great world meeting of families with the Pope. The first took place in Rome in 1994, on the occasion of the International Year of the Family. These meetings, which the Church arranges on a world scale, express the will and commitment of the People of God to walk united on a privileged "path": the "path" of the Gospel, the "path" of peace, the "path" of youth, and, in this case, the "path" of the family.
Yes, the family is eminently the "path of the Church" which recognizes in it an essential and irreplaceable element of Godís plan for humanity. The family is the privileged place for personal and social development. Whoever fosters the family, fosters the human person; whoever attacks it, attacks the human person. Today the family and life are confronted by a fundamental challenge which affects human dignity itself.
3. This is why the Church feels the need to witness to everyone the beauty of Godís plan for the family, pointing it out as the hope of humanity. The great gathering of Rio de Janeiro had this aim: to proclaim the "good news" of the family to the world. This witness was given by men and women, parents and children of different cultures and languages, united to one another by their adherence to the Gospel of love of God in Christ.
Marriage and the family were the subject of deep reflection at the Pastoral Theology Congress I had the pleasure to conclude, addressing the participants in a talk on the centrality these themes must have in the Churchís pastoral ministry.
In Rio, in the great Maracan„ Stadium, we heard as it were the "symphony" of families: a unique symphony but one that was expressed in different cultural tones. The common basis of all the experiences was the sacrament of Marriage, as it is preserved by the Church on the basis of divine Revelation.
In the Eucharistic celebrations ó in the Cathedral, but above all on Sunday at the Flamengo Embankment ó the words of Sacred Scripture resounded, words which are the basis of the Christian concept of the family, words written in the Book of Genesis and confirmed by Christ in the Gospel: "He who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said ĎFor this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become oneí" (Mt 19,4-5). "So", Jesus added, "they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder" (Mt 19,6). This is the truth about marriage, on which the truth about the family is based. Here is the secret of its success and at the same time the source of its mission, which is to light up the world with a reflection of the love of the Triune God, Creator and Redeemer of life.
The Rio meeting was thus an eloquent "epiphany" of the family which was shown in the variety of its contingent expressions, but also in the unity of its substantial identity: of a communion of love, founded on marriage and called to be the sanctuary of life, the small church, the cell of society. From Rio de Janeiroís Maracan„ Stadium, become almost an immense cathedral, a message of hope, confirmed by lived experiences, was transmitted to the whole world: it is possible and joyful, although demanding, to live faithful love that is open to life; it is possible to participate in the Church's mission and in building society.
Today I would like to make this message ring out, at the end of my sixth journey abroad this year. With Godís help and the special protection of Mary, Queen of the family, may the experience of Rio de Janeiro be a pledge of the Churchís renewed journey on the privileged "path" of the family, and a hope of society's growing attention to the cause of the family, which is the very cause of humanity and civilization.
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, the Holy Father said:
Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims, especially those from England, Scotland, Denmark, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, and the United States, I invoke Godís abundant blessings.
GENERAL AUDIENCE 1997 51