S. John Paul II Homil. 621
Sunday, 15 August 1993
"God who is mighty has done, great things for me" (Lc 1,49).
622 Beloved Young People and Dear Friends in Christ,
1. Today the Church finds herself, with Mary, on the threshold of the house of Zechariah in Ain–Karim. With new life stirring within her, the Virgin of Nazareth hastened there, immediately after the Fiat of the Annunciation, to be of help to her cousin Elizabeth.
It was Elizabeth who first recognized the "great things" which God was doing in Mary. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth marvelled that the mother of her Lord should come to her (Cfr. Luc Lc 1,43). With deep insight into the mystery, she declared: "Blest is she who believed that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled" (Lc 1,45). With her soul full of humble gratitude to God, Mary replied with a hymn of praise: "God who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is his name" (Lc 1,49).
On this Feast the Church celebrates the culmination of the "great things" which God has done in Mary: her glorious Assumption into Heaven. And throughout the Church the same hymn of thanksgiving, the "Magnificat", rings out as it did for the first time at Ain–Karim: All generations call you blessed (Cfr. Lc 1,48).
Gathered at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, which remind us that Jerusalem too was surrounded by hills (Cfr. Ps Ps 124,2) and that Mary had gone up into those hills (Cfr. Luc Lc 1,39), we are here to celebrate Mary’s "going up" to the heavenly Jerusalem, to the threshold of the eternal Temple of the Most Holy Trinity. Here in Denver, at the "World Youth Day", the Catholic sons and daughters of America, together with others "from every tribe and tongue, people and nation" (Ap 5,9), join all the generations since who have cried out: God has done great things for you, Mary – and for all of us, members of his pilgrim people! (Cfr. Luc Lc 1,49).
With my heart full of praise for the Queen of Heaven, the sign of hope and source of comfort on our pilgrimage of faith to "the heavenly Jerusalem" (Hebr 12,22), I greet all of you who are present at this Solemn Liturgy. It is a pleasure for me to see so many priests, Religious and lay faithful from Denver, from the State of Colorado, from all parts of the United States, and from so many countries of the world, who have joined the young people of the World Youth Day to honor the definitive victory of grace in Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer.
2. The Eighth "World Youth Day" is a celebration of Life. This gathering has been the occasion of a serious reflection on the words of Jesus Christ: "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10,10). Young people from every corner of the world, in ardent prayer you have opened your hearts to the truth of Christ’s promise of new Life. Through the Sacraments, especially Penance and the Eucharist, and by means of the unity and friendship created among so many, you have had a real and transforming experience of the new Life which only Christ can give. You, young pilgrims, have also shown that you understand that Christ’s gift of Life is not for you alone. You have become more conscious of your vocation and mission in the Church and in the world. For me, our meeting has been a deep and moving experience of your faith in Christ, and I make my own the words of Saint Paul: "I have great confidence in you, I have great pride in you; I am filled with encouragement, I am overflowing with joy" (2Co 7,4).
These are not words of empty praise. I am confident that you have grasped the scale of the challenge that lies before you, and that you will have the wisdom and courage to meet that challenge. So much depends on you.
3. This marvelous world – so loved by the Father that he sent his only Son for its salvation (Cfr. Io Jn 3,17) – is the theater of a never – ending battle being waged for our dignity and identity as free, spiritual beings. This struggle parallels the apocalyptic combat described in the First Reading of this Mass. Death battles against Life: a "culture of death" seeks to impose itself on our desire to live, and live to the full. There are those who reject the light of life, preferring "the fruitless works of darkness" (Ep 5,11). Their harvest is injustice, discrimination, exploitation, deceit, violence. In every age, a measure of their apparent success is the death of the Innocents. In our own century, as at no other time in history, the "culture of death" has assumed a social and institutional form of legality to justify the most horrible crimes against humanity: genocide, "final solutions", "ethnic cleansings", and the massive "taking of lives of human beings even before they are born, or before they reach the natural point of death" (Dominum et vivificantem DEV 57).
Today’s Reading from the Book of Revelation presents the Woman surrounded by hostile forces. The absolute nature of their attack is symbolized in the object of their evil intention: the Child, the symbol of new life. The "dragon" (Ap 12,3), the "ruler of this world" (Jn 12,31) and the "father of lies" (Jn 8,44), relentlessly tries to eradicate from human hearts the sense of gratitude and respect for the original, extraordinary and fundamental gift of God: human life itself. Today that struggle has become increasingly direct.
4. Dear Friends, this gathering in Denver on the theme of Life should lead us to a deeper awareness of the internal contradiction present in a part of the culture of the modern "metropolis".
623 When the Founding Fathers of this great nation enshrined certain inalienable rights in the Constitution – and something similar exists in many countries and in many International Declarations – they did so because they recognized the existence of a "law" – a series of rights and duties – engraved by the Creator on each person’s heart and conscience.
In much of contemporary thinking, any reference to a "law" guaranteed by the Creator is absent. There remains only each individual’s choice of this or that objective as convenient or useful in a given set of circumstances. No longer is anything considered intrinsically "good" and "universally binding". Rights are affirmed but, because they are without any reference to an objective truth, they are deprived of any solid basis. Vast sectors of society are confused about what is right and what is wrong, and are at the mercy of those with the power to "create" opinion and impose it on others.
The family especially is under attack. And the sacred character of human life denied. Naturally, the weakest members of society are the most at risk: the unborn, children, the sick, the handicapped, the old, the poor and unemployed, the immigrant and refugee, the South of the world!
5. Young pilgrims, Christ needs you to enlighten the world and to show it the "path to life" (Ps 16,11). The challenge is to make the Church’s "yes" to Life concrete and effective.The struggle will be long, and it needs each one of you. Place your intelligence, your talents, your enthusiasm, your compassion and your fortitude at the service of life!
Have no fear. The outcome of the battle for Life is already decided, even though the struggle goes on against great odds and with much suffering. This certainty is what the Second Reading declares: "Christ is now raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. ...so in Christ all will come to life again" (1Co 15,20-22). The paradox of the Christian message is this: Christ – the Head – has already conquered sin and death. Christ in his Body – the pilgrim People of God – continually suffers the onslaught of the Evil One and all the evil which sinful humanity is capable of.
6. At this stage of history, the liberating message of the Gospel of Life has been put into your hands. And the mission of proclaiming it to the ends of the earth is now passing to your generation. Like the great Apostle Paul, you too must feel the full urgency of the task: "Woe to me if I do not evangelize" (1Co 9,16). Woe to you if you do not succeed in defending life. The Church needs your energies, your enthusiasm, your youthful ideals, in order to make the Gospel of Life penetrate the fabric of society, transforming people’s hearts and the structures of society in order to create a civilization of true justice and love. Now more than ever, in a world that is often without light and without the courage of noble ideals, people need the fresh, vital spirituality of the Gospel.
Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places, like the first Apostles who preached Christ and the Good News of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel (Cfr. Rom Rm 1,16). It is the time to preach it from the rooftops (Cfr. Mt 10,27). Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living, in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern "metropolis". It is you who must "go out into the byroads" (Mt 22,9) and invite everyone you meet to the banquet which God has prepared for his people. The Gospel must not be kept hidden because of fear or indifference. It was never meant to be hidden away in private. It has to be put on a stand so that people may see its light and give praise to our heavenly Father.
Jesus went in search of the men and women of his time. He engaged them in an open and truthful dialogue, whatever their condition. As the Good Samaritan of the human family, he came close to people to heal them of their sins and of the wounds which life inflicts, and to bring them back to the Father’s house. Young people of "World Youth Day", the Church asks you to go, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to those who are near and those who are far away. Share with them the freedom you have found in Christ. People thirst for genuine inner freedom. They yearn for the Life which Christ came to give in abundance. The world at the approach of a new millennium, for which the whole Church is preparing, is like a field ready for the harvest. Christ needs laborers ready to work in his vineyard. May you, the Catholic young people of the world, not fail him. In your hands, carry the Cross of Christ. On your lips, the words of Life. In your hearts, the saving grace of the Lord.
7. At her Assumption, Mary was "taken up to Life" – body and soul. She is already a part of "the first fruits" (1Co 15,20) of our Savior’s redemptive Death and Resurrection. The Son took his human life from her; in return he gave her the fullness of communion in Divine Life. She is the only other being in whom the mystery has already been completely accomplished. In Mary the final victory of Life over death is already a reality. And, as the Second Vatican Council teaches: "In the most holy Virgin the Church has already reached the perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle" (Lumen gentium LG 65). In and through the Church we too have hope of "an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us" (Cfr. 1P 1,4).
You are blessed, O Mary! Mother of the Eternal Son born of your virgin womb, you are full of grace (Cfr. Luc Lc 1,28). You have received the abundance of Life (Cfr. Io Jn 10,10) as no one else among the descendants of Adam and Eve. As the most faithful "hearer of the Word" (Cfr. Luc Lc 11,28), you not only treasured and pondered this mystery in your heart (Cfr. Luc Lc 11,2 Lc 11,19 Lc 11,51), but you observed it in your body and nourished it by the self–giving love with which you surrounded Jesus throughout his earthly life. As Mother of the Church, you guide us still from your place in heaven and intercede for us. You lead us to Christ, "the Way, and the Truth, and the Life" (Jn 14,16), and help us to increase in holiness by conquering sin (Cfr. Lumen gentium LG 65).
8. The Liturgy presents you, Mary, as the Woman clothed with the sun (Cfr. Apoc Ap 12,1). But you are even more splendidly clothed with that Divine Light which can become the Life of all those created in the image and likeness of God himself: "this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (Jn 1,4-5).
624 O woman clothed with the sun, the youth of the world greet you with so much love; they come to you with all the courage of their young hearts. Denver has helped them to become more conscious of the Life which your Divine Son has brought.
We are all witnesses of this.
These young people now know that Life is more powerful than the forces of death; they know that the Truth is more powerful than darkness; that Love is stronger than death (Cfr. Ct 8,6).
Your spirit rejoices, O Mary, and our spirit rejoices with you because the Mighty One has done great things for you and for us, – for all these young people gathered here in Denver, for all of us, for all the young people of the world, for all the young people, this generation, the future generation. The Mighty One has done great things for you, Mary, and for us. For you and for us, for us with you. The Mighty One – and holy is his name!
His mercy is from age to age.
We rejoice, Mary, we rejoice with you, Virgin assumed into heaven.
The Lord has done great things for you! The Lord has done great things for us! Alleluia. Amen.
8 April 1994
"We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen."
1. Today we are entering the Sistine Chapel to admire the marvellously restored frescoes. They are the works of the greatest Renaissance masters: first and foremost Michelangelo, but also Perugino, Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Pinturicchio and others. At the end of this delicate work of restoration, I would like to thank all of you present, and particularly those who in various ways have contributed to such a noble undertaking. This is a priceless cultural and universal heritage. This is confirmed by the countless pilgrims from every nation in the world who come to admire the work of the supreme masters and to recognize in this Chapel a sort of wonderful synthesis of painting.
625 Lovers of art and beauty have then given proof of their sensitivity by their concrete and remarkable contribution towards the restoration of the Chapel's original bright colours. It was also possible to rely on the work of experts with a thorough knowledge of art restoration work, who made use of the most advanced and reliable technologies in order to carry out their interventions. The Holy See expresses to all of them its cordial gratitude for the splendid results they have achieved.
2. The frescoes that we contemplate here introduce us to the world of Revelation. The truths of our faith speak to us here from all sides. From them the human genius has drawn its inspiration, committing itself to portraying them in forms of unparalleled beauty. This is why the Last Judgement above all awakens within us the keen desire to profess our faith in God, Creator of all things seen and unseen. And at the same time, it stimulates us to reassert our adherence to the risen Christ, who will come again on the Last Day as the supreme Judge of the living and the dead. Before this masterpiece we confess Christ, King of the ages, whose kingdom will have no end.
It is precisely this eternal Son to whom the Father has entrusted the cause of human redemption, who speaks to us in the dramatic setting of the Last Judgement. We are in front of an extraordinary Christ.He is endowed with an ancient beauty that is somehow detached from the traditional pictorial model. In the great fresco he strikingly reveals the whole mystery of his glory linked to the Resurrection. To be gathered here during the Easter Octave is extremely propitious. More especially we stand before the glory of Christ's humanity. In fact, he will return in his humanity to judge the living and the dead, penetrating the depths of the human conscience and revealing the power of his redemption. For this reason we find his Mother, the "Alma socia Redemptoris' next to him. Christ in the history of humanity is the true cornerstone, of whom the Psalmist says: "the stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone" (Ps 117 :22). This stone therefore cannot be rejected. As the only Mediator between God and men, from the Sistine Chapel Christ expresses in himself the whole mystery of the visibility of the Invisible.
3. The frescoes therefore are at the centre of the theological question. The Old Testament excluded any kind of representational image of the invisible Creator. Such in fact, was the command Moses received from God on Mount Sinai (cf Ex 20,4), since there was the risk that the people, who were inclined to idolatry, might choose to worship an image of God who is unimaginable, since he surpasses all human imagination and understanding. The Old Testament was faithful to this tradition, not allowing any image of the Living God either in the houses of prayer or in the Temple of Jerusalem. The members of the Muslim religion who believe in an invisible, omnipotent and merciful Creator and judge of every creature are inspired by a similar tradition.
But God himself meets the needs of man who nurtures in his heart an ardent desire to be able to see him. Did not Abraham welcome the same invisible God in the wonderful visit of the three mysterious personages? "Tres vidit et Unum adoravit" (cf. Gn Gn 18,1-14). Before these three people, Abraham, the father of our faith, had a deep experience of the presence of the One and Only. This meeting was to become the subject of the superb icon by Andrei Rublev, the apex of Russian painting. Rublev was one of those holy artists whose creativity was the fruit of profound contemplation, prayer and fasting. The soul's gratitude to the invisible God who grants man the power to represent him in a visible way was expressed through their work.
4. All this was assimilated by the Second Council of Nicea, the last council of the undivided Church, which definitively rejected the position of the iconoclasts, confirming the legitimacy of the tradition of expressing the faith through artistic works. Consequently the icon is not only a work of pictorial art. It is, in a certain sense, like a sacrament of Christian life, since in it the mystery of the incarnation becomes present. In it the Mystery of the Word made flesh is reflected in a way that is ever new, and man - the author and at the same time participant - is gladdened by the sight of the Invisible.
Was it not Christ himself who laid the foundations of this spiritual joy? "Master, show us the Father and that will be enough for us" Philip asked in the Upper Room, on the eve of Christ's Passion. And Jesus replied.: "Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father ... Do you not believe that I am in the Father and that the Father is in me?" (Jn 14,8-10). Christ is the visible sign of the invisible God. Through him the Father penetrates the whole of creation and the invisible God makes himself present among us and communicates with us, just as the three Figures described in the Bible sat at table and ate with Abraham.
5. Did not Michelangelo draw precise conclusions from Christ's words: "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father?". He had the courage to admire this Father with his own eyes at the very moment when he offered his creating "fiat" and called the first man into existence. Adam was created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gn Gn 1,26). While the eternal Word is the invisible icon of the Father, the man Adam is his visible icon. Michelangelo strove in every way to restore to Adam's presence his corporeity, the features of ancient beauty. With great daring he even transferred this visible and corporal beauty to the Creator himself. We are probably witnesses to an extraordinary piece of artistic audacity, since it is impossible to impose the likeness proper to man on the invisible God. Would this not be blasphemy? It is difficult however, not to recognize in the visible and humanized Creator, God clad in infinite majesty. Indeed, as far as the image with its intrinsic limits permits, everything which could be expressed has been expressed here. The majesty of the Creator, like that of the Judge, speaks of divine grandeur: a moving and univocal word just as, in a different way, the Pietà in St Peter's Basilica and the Moses in the Basilica of St Peter in Chains are univocal.
6. In the human expression of the divine mysteries is not the "kenosis" necessary as a consummation of what is corporeal and visible? Such a consummation has forcefully entered the tradition of the Eastern Christian icons. The body is certainly the "kenosis" of God. In fact we read in St Paul that Christ "emptied himself, taking the form of a slave" (Ph 2,7). If it is true that the body represents the kenosis of God and that in the artistic representation of the divine mysteries the great humility of the body must be expressed so that what is divine can be revealed, it is also true that God is the source of the integral beauty of the body.
It seems that Michelangelo, in his own way, allowed himself to be guided by the evocative words of the Book of Genesis which, as regards the creation of the human being, male and female, reveals: "The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame" (Gn 2,25). The Sistine Chapel is precisely - if one may say so - the sanctuary of the theology of the human body. In witnessing to the beauty of man created by God as male and female, it also expresses in a certain way, the hope of a world transfigured, the world inaugurated by the Risen Christ, and even before by Christ on Mount Tabor. We know that the Transfiguration is one of the main sources of Eastern devotion; it is an eloquent book for mystics, just as for St Francis Christ crucified contemplated on the mountain of La Verna was an open book.
If we are dazzled as we contemplate the Last Judgement by its splendour and its terror, admiring on the one hand the glorified bodies and on the other those condemned to eternal damnation, we understand too that the whole composition is deeply penetrated by a unique light and by a single artistic logic: the light and the logic of faith that the Church proclaims, confessing: "We believe in one God... maker of heaven and earth, of all things seen and unseen". On the basis of this logic in the context of the light that comes from God, the human body also keeps its splendour and its dignity. If it is removed from this dimension, it becomes in some way an object, which depreciates very easily, since only before the eyes of God can the human body remain naked and unclothed, and keep its splendour and its beauty intact.
626 7. The Sistine Chapel is the place which contains the memory of a particular day in the life of every Pope. For me, it was October 16, 1978. Precisely here, in this holy place, the Cardinals gather to await the manifestation of God's will as regards the Successor of St Peter. Here I heard from the mouth of my former Rector, Maximilien de Furstenberg, the significant words: "Magister adest et vocat te". In this place, Stefan Wyszynski, the Cardinal Primate of Poland, said to me: "If they elect you, I beg you not to refuse". And here, in a spirit of obedience to Christ and entrusting myself to his Mother, I accepted the election that issued from the Conclave, declaring to the Cardinal Camerlengo, Jean Villot, my availability to serve the Church. Thus once again the Sistine Chapel became for the entire Catholic community the place for the action of the Holy Spirit who appoints the Bishops in the Church, and in particular the one who is to become Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter.
Celebrating the sacrifice of the Mass today in this very Chapel, in the 16th year of my service to the Apostolic See, I pray the Spirit of the Lord to be ever present and active within the Church. l pray that he may conduct her joyously into the third millennium.
I invoke Christ, the Lord of history, so that he may be with every one of us to the end of the world, as he himself promised.- "Ego vobiscum sum omnibus diebus usque ad consummationem saeculi" (Mt 28,20).
1. “Questo è il giorno fatto dal Signore: rallegriamoci ed esultiamo in esso! . . .” (Sal 118, 24).
Così canta la Chiesa per tutta l’Ottava di Pasqua, mentre gioisce del Cristo che è la “pietra angolare” della sua costruzione eterna (cf. Ef 2, 20).
Questo è il giorno fatto dal Signore “Questo è il giorno fatto dal Signore . . .”. Così canta oggi in modo particolare la Chiesa che è nel continente africano, la Chiesa che condivide le sorti dei popoli e delle nazioni di questo antico continente. Lì essa ha radici così antiche, come in poche altre parti del mondo. Guardando indietro, verso l’Antico Testamento, troviamo che lì, attraverso l’Egitto, già passava la strada di Abramo, padre della nostra fede, e poi la strada di Israele. Lì ha inizio la Pasqua dell’Antica Alleanza, la liberazione dalla schiavitù, lì sta il Monte Sinai dove Mosè ricevette i Dieci Comandamenti, lì si svolsero i quarant’anni del popolo eletto nel deserto. Tutto sta lì.
L’Africa è anche in un certo senso la seconda patria di Gesù. Piccolo bimbo, fu lì che cercò rifugio contro la crudeltà di Erode.
Vengono, poi, i tempi apostolici. E la Chiesa torna nuovamente in Africa per mezzo del diacono Filippo, che battezza un funzionario della regina d’Etiopia. In questo modo nasce la Chiesa in quell’antica, venerata parte del continente africano.
Seguono, poi, i tempi dei martiri. Il periodo del primo Concilio, l’indimenticabile attività della Chiesa alessandrina, sant’Atanasio, un po’ più tardi sant’Agostino, sant’Antonio Eremita e la grande tradizione ascetica dei Padri del Deserto. Tutto questo è l’Africa! Come si vede, il giorno dell’Africa nella Chiesa dura ormai da quasi 2000 anni.
2. We must remember this today, as we begin the Synod of the Church for the African Continent, the first in history.
627 Naturally, we remember the African Synods of the first centuries, the activity of Origen and Saint Cyprian, the ecclesiological controversies which then divided Christianity. But, those events were concentrated above all along the Northern coasts of the Continent. Today for the first time there is taking place a Synod of the African Church involving the whole Continent: from Alexandria to the Cape of Good Hope, from the Persian Gulf to Gorée and the Atlantic islands of Cape Verde.
All of Africa is present today in Saint Peter's Basilica. With deep affection the Bishop of Rome greets Africa. He greets it in the persons of the Bishops gathered for the Synod, the great majority of whom are now sons of the African peoples: chosen from among those peoples and appointed on their behalf (cf. Heb. He 5,1). The Holy Spirit has placed you as Bishops in the Churches of Africa. The Bishop of Rome greets all the peoples of your Continent, dearest Brothers, who represent all the races and cultures, the languages, traditions and customs through which these cultures have been expressed for centuries. From the very beginning of the Christian era, and even before that, Rome has felt united to Africa. Sons and daughters of Africa were already coming to Italy in the time of the ancient Roman Empire, just as they come today. It is not possible to recall all the historical details from the times before Christ, but it must be mentioned that from the beginning of the new era the children of Africa were present in the Church, and exercised various ministries within the Church. There were also Africans among the Popes.
3. Today the Bishop of Rome greets the Church which is in Africa, in every part of that great Continent: in the immense Sahara, as in the depths of the African savannas and the lush tropical forests where very ancient peoples live. The Church of Rome salutes these peoples especially their religious traditions, in which is expressed the ardent search for the one God through veneration of their ancestors.
These traditions are still the heritage of the majority of the inhabitants of Africa. They are traditions which are open to the Gospel, open to the truth, expressed today by Saint John, who affirms that Jesus is the Messiah: "Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God, and every one who loves the parent loves the child" (1Jn 5,1).
The sons and daughters of Africa love life. It is precisely this love for life which leads them to give such great importance to the veneration of their ancestors. They believe instinctively that the dead continue to live and remain in communion with them. is this not in some way a preparation for belief in the Communion of Saints? The peoples of Africa respect the life which is conceived and born. They rejoice in this life. They reject the idea that it can be destroyed, even when the so-called "progressive civilizations" would like to lead them in this direction. And practices hostile to life are imposed on them by means of economic systems which serve the selfishness of the rich.
The Church which at this moment is speaking through my words rejoices in the fact that the peoples of Africa with their cultures and traditions are living today in their own States and systems, that they are sovereign in their own Continent. This sovereignty enables them to evaluate all that was positive in what Europeans brought for the development of their Continent; it also enables them to judge critically all the injustices suffered during the colonial period and even earlier, resulting from the cruel practice, which lasted so long, of reducing to slavery many sons and daughters of Africa in order to deport them to the New World.
4. Mais si, d'un côté, nous constatons avec satisfaction que l'ouverture à la vie constitue une des caractéristiques les plus belles et les plus typiques du Continent africain, d'un autre côté, nous voyons avec grande douleur et grande inquiétude que ce continent est déchiré par des tensions anciennes et par des luttes sanglantes. Nous ne pouvons qu'être profondément frappés et troublés par ce contraste dramatique entre l' amour et la haine, entre la joie de vivre et la terreur, entre la solidarité et le fratricide, entre la vie et la mort.
Dans ce contexte qui concerne malheureusement de nombreux pays, je tiens évoquer maintenant spécialement le peuple et l'Église du Rwanda, éprouvés en ces jours par une tragédie bouleversante, en lien notamment avec l'assassinat dramatique des Présidents du Rwanda et du Burundi. Je partage votre souffrance avec vous, les Évêques, devant cette vague nouvelle, catastrophique, de violence et de mort qui, recouvrant ce pays bien-aimé, a fait couler, dans des proportions que l'on n'avait plus connues depuis longtemps, le sang de prêtres, de religieuses et de catéchistes, victimes innocentes d'une haine absurde.
Avec vous, réunis en ce Synode africain, et en communion d'esprit avec les Évêques du Rwanda qui n'ont pu être avec nous aujourd'hui, je ressens le devoir de lancer un appel afin que l'on arrête la main homicide des violents. Avec vous, j'élève la voix pour dire à tous: arrêtez ces violences! Arrêtez ces tragédies! Arrêtez ces massacres fratricides!
Au Rwanda et au Burundi, durement éprouvés ces derniers temps, de même que dans toute l'Afrique, l'Eglise doit apporter sa contribution précieuse et irremplaçable pour promouvoir une oeuvre urgente et radicale de réconciliation, afin de faire du Continent africain une terre où règnent la paix et l'amour pour la vie.
5. Le Concile Vatican II, qui est la principale source d'inspiration du Synode africain, a ouvert un dialogue fécond non seulement avec les chrétiens, mais avec les religions non chrétiennes. En Afrique, ce dialogue prend une grande ampleur. Cela concerne spécialement ceux qui se considèrent comme la descendance spirituelle d'Abraham, c'est-à-dire les musulmans. L'Église de Rome salue tous les disciples de l'Islam qui vivent dans le Continent africain, en particulier dans sa partie septentrionale. Elle leur souhaite de recevoir la bénédiction de Dieu tout-puissant et miséricordieux.
628 En même temps, notre Église, qui est répandue sur toute la terre et qui s'exprime aujourd'hui d'une manière particulière par la présence des Évêques africains, croit fermement que la toute-puissance et la miséricorde du Dieu unique se sont manifestées avant tout par l'Incarnation du Fils de Dieu, le Fils qui est consubstantiel au Père, qui agit avec le Père dans l'Esprit Saint et qui, dans cette unité trinitaire, reçoit en plénitude gloire et honneur. L'homme et l'humanité entière sont appelés à honorer ce Dieu en esprit et en vérité. Jésus-Christ est celui qui est venu, comme le dit saint Jean, « par l'eau et par le sang: pas seulement l'eau, mais l'eau et le sang. Et celui qui rend témoignage, c'est l'Esprit, car l' Esprit est la vérité » (cfr. ibid., 5:6). Telle est notre foi, telle est la foi de l'Église. telle es la foi de toutes les Églises particulières qui avancent sur le Continent africain dans leur pèlerinage vers la maison du Père. Telle est la foi qui remporte la victoire sur le monde. Il est vainqueur du monde, celui qui croit que Jésus est le Fils de Dieu. Il est vainqueur du monde, celui qui est né de Dieu.
6. Devant vous, croyants qui professez un seul Dieu, nous rendons témoignage de ce mystère ineffable que Dieu a voulu révéler à l'homme en Jésus-Christ, en lui apportant la justification par la fois et la rémission des péchés. Jésus est le Fils de Marie, la Vierge de Nazareth, comme vous le reconnaissez, vous aussi. Ce Jésus, Dieu-Homme crucifié et ressuscité, est l'espérance de toute l'humanité. Il est aussi l'espérance de l'Afrique!
En ouvrant le Synode des Évêques pour l'Afrique, nous vous demandons de prier le Dieu unique, par Abraham, père de notre foi., afin que nous puissions répondre pleinement à la vocation que les peuples d'Afrique reçurent de Dieu il y a deux mille ans, par le Christ, dans sa sainte Église.
La liturgie de ce jour, deuxième Dimanche de Pâques, nous renvoie aux plus anciennes époques de l'Église, lorsque «la multitude de ceux qui avaient adhéré à la foi avait un seul coeur et une seule âme..., que les Apôtres portaient témoignage de la résurrection. du Seigneur Jésus et jouissaient tous d'une grande estime» (Act. 4:32-33). Nous demandons à l'Esprit Saint que cette «grande estime» anime notre assemblée synodale. Cette assemblée est le fruit d'un long travail. L'Église qui est dans toute l'Afrique a d'abord cherché une forme appropriée pour cette rencontre. Puis on s'est rendu compte que cette forme existait déjà depuis bien longtemps dans de nombreux Synodes africains. Aujourd'hui cette forme se réalise dans le Synode des Évêques de l'Église qui est dans le Continent africain, en communion avec l'Evêque de Rome. De cette manière, le présent Synode revêt un caractère totalement africain et, en même temps, il participe de la pleine universalité de l'Église, telle qu'elle se traduit par le ministère du Successeur de Pierre.
7. Desideriamo dunque che questo sia un Sinodo africano fino in fondo, che vada alle radici stesse, mediante ciò per cui la Chiesa in Africa è africana e allo stesso tempo universale. Desideriamo che esso confronti la vita di tutte le Chiese dell’Africa con il comandamento dell’amore di Dio e del prossimo e con tutto il ricco messaggio cristiano della verità morale, che ha la sua dimensione personale, familiare, sociale, nazionale ed internazionale. Desideriamo che questo Sinodo studi l’applicazione alle necessità dell’Africa dei principi della dottrina sociale cattolica, ravvivando al tempo stesso il bisogno di giustizia e di pace nella dimensione internazionale e continentale. Se l’Africa subì dagli altri molti torti nel corso della storia, dobbiamo porci la domanda: che cosa occorre fare perché questo stato di cose muti? A chi bisogna rivolgersi e con quale messaggio, convincendo e pretendendo, esortando nel nome di Dio, ed anche nel nome dei diritti dell’uomo e del bene comune di tutta la famiglia umana, della quale i figli e le figlie dell’Africa sono una parte importante?
Così dunque il Sinodo africano deve scaturire da tutto il patrimonio del Magistero della Chiesa, deve anche leggere in profondità dalla propria specifica angolatura tutte le verità del recente Catechismo della Chiesa Cattolica. Dopo la fase romana dei lavori, il Sinodo si trasferirà con il proprio patrimonio in Africa, e là, nei luoghi opportuni, darà testimonianza di quanto esso sia un Sinodo nato in Africa e destinato all’Africa. .
Il movimento ecumenico contemporaneo ha preso inizio tra le missioni africane
8. L’odierno Vangelo ricorda come Gesù, otto giorni dopo la risurrezione, venne per la seconda volta al cenacolo e si rivolse a Tommaso il quale prima era assente. Gesù gli disse: “Metti qui il tuo dito e guarda le mie mani; stendi la tua mano, e mettila nel mio costato; e non essere più incredulo ma credente” (Gv 20, 27). Tommaso gli rispose: “Mio Signore e mio Dio!” (Gv 20, 28).
La confessione di fede con cui Tommaso si rivolge a Gesù Cristo, Dio-Uomo, unisce tutti noi che oggi iniziamo i lavori del Sinodo africano. Questa confessione ci unisce anche ai nostri fratelli cristiani, che non permangono con noi nella piena unità della Chiesa universale. Oggi in modo particolare diamo anche a loro il benvenuto. Salutiamo sia i rappresentanti delle Chiese ortodosse, specialmente dell’antichissima Chiesa copta in Egitto e in Abissinia, sia quelli delle Chiese e delle comunità nate dopo la Riforma: anglicani, luterani e riformati. Salutiamo quanti confessano che Gesù è il Cristo, il Figlio di Dio, vero Dio e vero uomo, sia che appartengano alla popolazione indigena o siano venuti da altri Paesi come missionari. È proprio a loro che dobbiamo in modo particolare il rilancio dell’impegno per l’unità dei cristiani nell’epoca moderna. Annunziando Cristo e il Vangelo, essi sperimentarono ben presto quanto le divisioni confessionali ostacolassero la loro missione evangelizzatrice nel Continente africano. Si fecero perciò promotori dell’attività ecumenica per il superamento di tale divisione e la ricomposizione dell’unità dei cristiani. Si può dunque dire che il movimento ecumenico contemporaneo ha preso inizio tra le missioni africane.
Salutiamo tutti questi nostri fratelli e sorelle nella fede in Cristo risorto e li invitiamo a partecipare al Sinodo africano che si svolge nel tempo pasquale. In questo periodo, tutti confessiamo insieme a Tommaso: “Mio Signore e mio Dio!” e tutti, come Tommaso, udiamo dalla bocca di Gesù il monito: “Perché mi hai veduto, hai creduto: beati quelli che pur non avendo visto crederanno” (Gv 20, 29). Davvero beati, beati tutti coloro che nel Continente africano, senza vedere il Cristo con i propri occhi, hanno creduto in Lui. Beati i santi martiri ugandesi, beata suor Giuseppina Bakita del Sudan, beata suor Anuarite dello Zaire, beato Joseph Gérald O. M. I. missionario del Lesoto - beati tutti i Servi di Dio, come Isidoro Bakanja ed altri, la cui elevazione agli altari attendiamo.
Africa, gioisci nel Signore!
629 “Questo è il giorno fatto dal Signore!”. Gioisci, Africa, di tutti i tuoi figli e figlie che, anche se non hanno visto, hanno creduto! Allietati dei tuoi uomini di Stato, degli uomini di cultura. Gioisci di tutti coloro che sviluppano le ricchezze della vita e del pensiero africani, di coloro che sono fedeli, allo stesso tempo, agli autentici valori del Continente nero e a Cristo - quel Cristo che all’uomo ha rivelato l’uomo e la sua altissima vocazione.
Africa, gioisci nel Signore!
S. John Paul II Homil. 621