S. John Paul II Homil. 665
St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York
Saturday, 7 October 1995
Dear Cardinal O’Connor and my other Brother Cardinals and Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
666 and Distinguished Guests,
1. It is a great joy for me to be here once more in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, which is a kind of spiritual landmark for all New Yorkers; in a sense, for all Catholics in the United States.
From this "house of God", I greet the "household of God in the Spirit" (cf. Eph. Ep 2,19): all who have been given "a new birth... unto hope which draws its life from the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1P 1,3). In the first place I hail my dear friend Cardinal O’Connor, the Shepherd of this huge Archdiocese, whose dauntless leadership you all know. I greet all of you who have prayed the Rosary with me here today on the very Feast of the Holy Rosary, especially the sick and the handicapped. I offer respectful greetings as well to the civil authorities of City, State and Nation.
2. I am pleased that Cardinal O’Connor has invited two very special categories of people to pray together this afternoon: representatives of the Religious Institutes in the Archdiocese, and families from every one of the over four hundred Parishes. These vocations complement each other. The family, the typical lay vocation, witnesses to God’s presence in history, through the mutual love of the spouses and their service to life. Religious, living the radical consecration of the evangelical counsels, bear witness that God is absolute and that his Kingdom of justice, peace and love is our supreme destiny. Both vocations therefore play an essential part in the Church’s mission and in the great enterprise of humanizing the world.
3. Dear Religious, by following Christ along the "narrow and hard way" (cf. Mt. Mt 7,14), you experience how true it is that "with him is plenteous redemption": copiosa apud eum redemptio (). For some of you, perhaps, this has been a cross made heavy by temptations to doubt the meaning and purpose of your witness, by attacks on the religious life and on the Church herself. But, your fidelity has withstood the challenges from within and without, and remains a singular example to a world so much in need of the "newness of life in Christ" (cf. Rom. Rm 6,4) which is made present through the self-giving love that inspires your entire lives (cf. Perfectae Caritatis PC 1).
Every day in my prayer I praise and thank the Father of mercies for the heroic efforts of so many women and men Religious who live by "the law of the Spirit, the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Rm 8,2). We must beseech God that, by his grace and through the intercession of Mary and your holy founders and foundresses, a new Pentecost will take hold in consecrated life so that it will become clear to everyone, especially the young, that religious life is a vital, necessary force in the Church. To each one of you and to all the faithful Religious of the United States, in words taken from the Letter to the Hebrews I say: "Do not, then, surrender your confidence; it will have great reward" (Hebr. 10: 35). Society needs your prophetic and unmistakable testimony of God’s closeness.
4. Dear Families, Dear mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, grandparents: I was supposed to come to New York last year for the celebration of the United Nations’ Year of the Family. In the "Letter to Families" which I wrote on that occasion, I indicated that "the family is placed at the center of the great struggle between good and evil, between life and death, between love and all that is opposed to love" (John Paul II, Letter to Families LF 23). The family therefore is at the heart of the Church’s mission and of her concern for humanity.
When a man and a woman bind themselves to each other without reservation in their decision to be faithful "in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad", to the exclusion of every other physical love, they become cooperators with the Creator in bringing new life into the world. You parents can look with love at your children and say: this is "flesh of my flesh" (Gn 2,23). Your life is defined by your fatherly and motherly desire and duty to give your children the best: a loving home, an upbringing, a healthy and positive start on the road of life, now and for eternity. Above all, through Baptism you make it possible for your children to become God’s beloved sons and daughters, mystically united with Christ, incorporated into his Church! Consider how important it is for you to foster the life of faith and the life of grace in yourselves and in your children. Beneath the high altar of this Cathedral, together with the former Cardinals and Archbishops of New York, there is buried the Servant of God Pierre Toussaint, a married man, a one-time slave from Haiti. What is so extraordinary about this man? He radiated a most serene and joyful faith, nourished daily by the Eucharist and visits to the Blessed Sacrament. In the face of constant, painful discrimination he understood, as few have understood, the meaning of the words: "Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing" (Lc 23,34). No treasure is as uplifting and transforming as the light of faith.
From many points of view, these are difficult times for parents who wish to pass on to their children the treasure of the Catholic faith. Sometimes you yourselves are not sure what the Church stands for. There are false teachers and dissenting voices. Bad examples cause great harm. Furthermore, a self-indulgent culture undermines many of the values which are at the basis of sound family life.
5. There are two immediate things which the Catholic families of America can do to strengthen home-life. The first is prayer: both personal and family prayer. Prayer raises our minds and hearts to God to thank him for his blessings, to ask him for his help. It brings the saving power of Jesus Christ into the decisions and actions of everyday life.
One prayer in particular I recommend to families: the one we have just been praying, the Rosary. And especially the Joyful Mysteries, which help us to meditate on the Holy Family of Nazareth. Uniting her will with the will of God, Mary conceived the Christ Child, and became the model of every mother carrying her unborn child. By visiting her cousin Elizabeth, Mary took to another family the healing presence of Jesus. Mary gave birth to the Infant Jesus in the humblest of circumstances and presented him to Simeon in the Temple, as every baby may be presented to God in Baptism. Mary and Joseph worried over the lost Child before they found him in the Temple, so that parents of all generations would know that the trials and sorrows of family life are the road to closer union with Jesus. To use a phrase made famous by the late Father Patrick Peyton: The family that prays together, stays together!
667 6. The second suggestion I make to families is to use the Catechism of the Catholic Church to learn about the faith and to answer the questions that come up, especially the moral questions which confront everyone today. Dear Parents, you are educators because you are parents. I exhort and encourage the Bishops and the whole Church in the United States to help parents to fulfill their vocation to be the first and most important teachers of the faith to their children. And I wish to say a special word of thanks to all those who make sacrifices, sometimes heroic sacrifices, to ensure that Catholic children receive formation in the faith either through the Catholic School system or through Religious Education Programs in your parishes. I know that the Archdiocese of New York is proud of its Catholic schools and its Religious Education Programs. Immense effort goes into these undertakings, in the face of great odds. May God reward everyone involved!
7. Families in difficulties or couples in irregular situations also have a claim on the Church’s pastoral care. Other stronger and spiritually mature families can play a wonderful role in bringing encouragement and help to such couples and families. Every strengthening of family bonds is a victory for society. I appeal to all of you to promote respect for the mystery of life and love which God has entrusted in a special way to families.
And to Religious, I appeal to you to be, in the heart of the Church in the United States, what the Second Vatican Council called you: "a blazing emblem of the heavenly kingdom" (Perfectae Caritatis PC 1).
God bless you all!
God bless the Church in New York!
Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore
Sunday, 8 October 1995
"Oh, that today you would hear his voice: harden not your hearts" (Ps 95,7-8).
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. Each day, the Church begins the Liturgy of the Hours with the Psalm which we have just prayed together: "Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord!" (Ibid.). In that call, ringing down the centuries and echoing across the face of the globe, the Psalmist summons the People of God to sing the praises of the Lord and to bear great witness to the marvellous things God has done for us. Priests, women and men Religious, and increasing numbers of lay people daily recite the Liturgy of the Hours, giving rise to a powerful mobilization of praise to God – officium laudis – to God who, through his Word, created the world and all that is in it: "In his hands are the depths of the earth, and the tops of the mountains are his. His is the sea, for he has made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed" (Ps 95,4-5).
Not only are we God’s creatures. In his infinite mercy, God has chosen us as his beloved people: "For he is our God, and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides" (Ibid. 7). He chose us in Christ, the Good Shepherd, who gave his life for his sheep and who calls us to the banquet of his Body and Blood, the Holy Eucharist which we are celebrating together this morning.
668 2. The Psalmist’s call to hear the Lord’s voice has particular significance for us as we celebrate this Mass in Baltimore. Maryland was the birthplace of the Church in colonial America. More than three hundred and sixty years ago, a small band of Catholics came to the New World to build a home where they could "sing joyfully to the Lord" (Ibid. 1) in freedom. They established a colony whose hallmark was religious tolerance, which would later become one of the cultural cornerstones of American democracy. Baltimore is the senior Metropolitan See in the United States. Its first Bishop, John Carroll, stands out as a model who can still inspire the Church in America today. Here were held the great Provincial and Plenary Councils which guided the Church’s expansion as waves of immigrants came to these shores in search of a better life. Here in Baltimore, in 1884, the Bishops of the United States authorized the "Baltimore Catechism", which formed the faith of tens of millions of Catholics for decades. In Baltimore, the country’s Catholic school system began under the leadership of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. The first Seminary in the United States was established here, under the protection of the Virgin Mother of God, as was America’s first Catholic College for women. Since those heroic beginnings, men and women of every race and social class have built the Catholic community we see in America today, a great spiritual movement of witness, of apostolate, of good works, of Catholic institutions and organizations.
With warm affection therefore I greet your Archbishop, Cardinal Keeler, and thank him for his sensitive leadership in this local Church and his work on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference. With esteem I greet the other Cardinals and Bishops present here in great numbers, the priests, deacons and seminarians, the women and men Religious, and all God’s people, the "living stones" (1P 2,5) whom the Spirit uses to build up the Body of Christ.
I gladly greet the members of the various Christian Churches and Ecclesial Communities. I assure them of the Catholic Church’s ardent desire to celebrate the Jubilee of the Year 2000 as a great occasion to move closer to overcoming the divisions of the Second Millennium (Cf. John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 34). I thank the civil authorities who have wished to share this sacred moment with us.
Doy gracias a los fieles de lengua española presentes aquí y a todos los que siguen esta misa por radio o televisión. La Iglesia es su casa espiritual. Sus parroquias, asociaciones, escuelas y programas educativos religiosos necesitan su cooperación y el entusiasmo de su fe. Con especial afecto, les exhorto a transmitir sus tradiciones católicas a las generaciones jóvenes.
3. Our celebration today speaks to us not only of the past. The Eucharist always makes present anew the saving mystery of Christ’s Death and Resurrection, and points to the future definitive fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation. Two years ago, at Denver, I was deeply impressed by the vitality of America’s young people as they bore enthusiastic witness to their love of Christ, and showed that they were not afraid of the demands of the Gospel. Today, I offer this Mass for a strengthening of that vitality and Christian courage at every level of the Church in the United States: among the laity, among the priests and Religious, among my brother Bishops. The whole Church is preparing for the Third Christian Millennium. The challenge of the great Jubilee of the Year 2000 is the new evangelization: a deepening of faith and a vigorous response to the Christian vocation to holiness and service.This is what the Successor of Peter has come to Baltimore to urge upon each one of you: the courage to bear witness to the Gospel of our Redemption.
In today’s Gospel reading, the Apostles ask Jesus: "Increase our faith" (Lc 17,5). This must be our constant prayer. Faith is always demanding, because faith leads us beyond ourselves. It leads us directly to God. Faith also imparts a vision of life’s purpose and stimulates us to action.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a private opinion, a remote spiritual ideal, or a mere program for personal growth. The Gospel is the power which can transform the world! The Gospel is no abstraction: it is the living person of Jesus Christ, the Word of God, the reflection of the Father’s glory (Cf. Hebr. 1: 2), the Incarnate Son who reveals the deepest meaning of our humanity and the noble destiny to which the whole human family is called (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 22). Christ has commanded us to let the light of the Gospel shine forth in our service to society. How can we profess faith in God’s word, and then refuse to let it inspire and direct our thinking, our activity, our decisions, and our responsibilities towards one another?
4. In America, Christian faith has found expression in an impressive array of witnesses and achievements.We must recall with gratitude the inspiring work of education carried out in countless families, schools and universities, and all the healing and consolation imparted in hospitals and hospices and shelters. We must give thanks for the practical living out of God’s call in devoted service to others, in commitment to social justice, in responsible involvement in political life, in a wide variety of charitable and social organizations, and in the growth of ecumenical and interreligious understanding and cooperation. In a more global context, we should thank God for the great generosity of American Catholics whose support of the foreign missions has greatly contributed to the spiritual and material well-being of their brothers and sisters in other lands. The Church in the United States has sent brave missionary men and women out to the nations, and not a few of them have borne the ultimate witness to the ancient truth that the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christianity. In my visits to Catholic communities around the world I often meet American missionaries, lay, Religious and priests.
I wish to make an appeal to young Catholics to consider the missionary vocation. I know that the "spirit of Denver" is alive in many young hearts. Christ needs many more committed men and women to take that "spirit" to the four corners of the world.
5. Today though, some Catholics are tempted to discouragement or disillusionment, like the Prophet Habakkuk in the First Reading. They are tempted to cry out to the Lord in a different way: why does God not intervene when violence threatens his people; why does God let us see ruin and misery; why does God permit evil? Like the Prophet Habakkuk, and like the thirsty Israelites in the desert at Meribah and Massah, our trust can falter; we can lose patience with God. In the drama of history, we can find our dependence upon God burdensome rather than liberating. We too can "harden our hearts".
And yet the Prophet gives us an answer to our impatience: "If God delays, wait for him; he will surely come, he will not be late" (cf. Hb. Ha 2,3). A Polish proverb expresses the same conviction in another way: "God takes his time, but he is just". Our waiting for God is never in vain. Every moment is our opportunity to model ourselves on Jesus Christ – to allow the power of the Gospel to transform our personal lives and our service to others, according to the spirit of the Beatitudes. "Bear your share of the hardship which the Gospel entails": writes Paul to Timothy in today’s Second Reading (2Tm 1,8). This is no idle exhortation to endurance. No, it is an invitation to enter more deeply into the Christian vocation which belongs to us all by Baptism. There is no evil to be faced that Christ does not face with us. There is no enemy that Christ has not already conquered. There is no cross to bear that Christ has not already borne for us, and does not now bear with us. And on the far side of every cross we find the newness of life in the Holy Spirit, that new life which will reach its fulfillment in the resurrection. This is our faith. This is our witness before the world.
669 6. Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ: openness to the Lord – a willingness to let the Lord transform our lives – should produce a renewed spiritual and missionary vitality among American Catholics. Jesus Christ is the answer to the question posed by every human life, and the love of Christ compels us to share that great good news with everyone. We believe that the Death and Resurrection of Christ reveal the true meaning of human existence; therefore nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in our hearts. Christ died for all, so we must be at the service of all. "The Spirit God has given us is no cowardly spirit... Therefore, never be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord" (2Tm 1,7-8).
Thus wrote Saint Paul to Timothy, almost two thousand years ago; thus speaks the Church to American Catholics today.
Christian witness takes different forms at different moments in the life of a nation. Sometimes, witnessing to Christ will mean drawing out of a culture the full meaning of its noblest intentions, a fullness that is revealed in Christ. At other times, witnessing to Christ means challenging that culture, especially when the truth about the human person is under assault.
America has always wanted to be a land of the free. Today, the challenge facing America is to find freedom’s fulfillment in the truth: the truth that is intrinsic to human life created in God’s image and likeness, the truth that is written on the human heart, the truth that can be known by reason and can therefore form the basis of a profound and universal dialogue among people about the direction they must give to their lives and their activities.
7. One hundred thirty years ago, President Abraham Lincoln asked whether a nation "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" could "long endure". President Lincoln’s question is no less a question for the present generation of Americans. Democracy cannot be sustained without a shared commitment to certain moral truths about the human person and human community. The basic question before a democratic society is: "how ought we to live together?" In seeking an answer to this question, can society exclude moral truth and moral reasoning? Can the Biblical wisdom which played such a formative part in the very founding of your country be excluded from that debate?
Would not doing so mean that America’s founding documents no longer have any defining content, but are only the formal dressing of changing opinion? Would not doing so mean that tens of millions of Americans could no longer offer the contribution of their deepest convictions to the formation of public policy? Surely it is important for America that the moral truths which make freedom possible should be passed on to each new generation. Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.
8. How appropriate is Saint Paul’s charge to Timothy! "Guard the rich deposit of faith with the help of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us" (2Tm 1,14). That charge speaks to parents and teachers; it speaks in a special and urgent way to you, my brother Bishops, Successors of the Apostles. Christ asks us to guard the truth because, as he promised us: "You will know the truth and the truth will make you free" (Jn 8,32). Depositum custodi! We must guard the truth that is the condition of authentic freedom, the truth that allows freedom to be fulfilled in goodness.
We must guard the deposit of divine truth handed down to us in the Church, especially in view of the challenges posed by a materialistic culture and by a permissive mentality that reduces freedom to license. But we Bishops must do more than guard this truth. We must proclaim it, in season and out of season; we must celebrate it with God’s people, in the sacraments; we must live it in charity and service; we must bear public witness to the truth that is Jesus Christ.
9. Catholics of America! Always be guided by the truth – by the truth about God who created and redeemed us, and by the truth about the human person, made in the image and likeness of God and destined for a glorious fulfillment in the Kingdom to come. Always be convincing witnesses to the truth. "Stir into a flame the gift of God" that has been bestowed upon you in Baptism. Light your nation – light the world – with the power of that flame! Amen.
ON THE OCCASION OF THE 350th ANNIVERSARY
670 Sunday, 27 October 1996
“Ecco quanto è buono e quanto è soave che i fratelli vivano insieme!” (Sal 132, 1).
Carissimi Fratelli e Sorelle in Cristo!
1. È veramente buono e soave per tutti noi celebrare oggi questa Divina Liturgia presso la Tomba dell’apostolo Pietro, in ricordo dei 350 anni trascorsi dall’Unione di Užhorod. Lodiamo e ringraziamo insieme il Signore per quell’importante evento, che portò al ristabilimento della piena comunione della Chiesa di rito bizantino-ruteno con la Sede Apostolica di Roma. Allo stesso tempo, vogliamo invocare ancora una volta lo Spirito Santo, perché con la sua luce e la sua forza illumini e sostenga il cammino di tutti i cristiani verso la piena unità per la quale pregò Gesù nel Cenacolo (cf. Gv 17, 20-21).
Il vincolo di amore fraterno, che ha “come pietra angolare lo stesso Cristo Gesù” (cf. Ef 2, 20), viene pienamente e perfettamente espresso nella nostra odierna partecipazione all’unica Eucaristia, che è “banchetto di comunione fraterna e pregustazione del convito del cielo” (Gaudium et Spes GS 38). Ci rallegriamo di essere “concordi” (At 1, 14) in forza dell’effusione dello Spirito Santo, che nell’Eucaristia, mediante la grazia divina, approfondisce la comunione tra noi e con la Santissima Trinità (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio UR 15).
2. It is with immense joy that I welcome you, the Bishops, priests, men and women Religious, and lay faithful of the Byzantine Catholic Ruthenian Church. You are the heirs of the evangelizing work of Sts Cyril and Methodius, the Apostles of the Slavs, and at the same time heirs of the act of ecclesiastical union celebrated 350 years ago in the chapel of the Castle of Užhhorod, in Transcarpathian Ukraine, which was then in the Kingdom of Hungary. That was an act of profound faith and trust. It was a beginning full of promise. It was a gesture of spiritual courage, leading, under the impulse of the Divine Spirit, to new heights of fidelity to Christ and new efforts in the building up of his Body, which is the Church (cf. Col. Col 1,24).
I therefore offer thanks to God who gives us the grace of this meeting and this celebration at the tomb of the humble and glorious Apostle Peter, Prince of the Apostles and first servant of the unity of all Christians (cf. John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint UUS 94). You have come on pilgrimage from different countries and continents in order to testify to your gratitude to Christ, the Chief Shepherd (1P 5,4), for the gift of full communion between your Church and the Catholic Church: "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity".
3. It was on 24 April 1646 that 63 priests of the Eparchy of Mukacheve, gathered in the Castle of Užhhorod, made a profession of faith and were received into full communion with the Catholic Church by George Jakusics, Bishop of Eger. This step taken by your forebears had been a long time in preparation, and was part of that process of reunification between the Churches advanced by the Council of Florence (1439), and which found a particularly significant expression in the Union of Brest (1595), whereby the Bishops of the Metropolitan See of Kyiv had re-established communion with the See of Rome. The Ruthenian clergy at Užhhorod were moved by a number of reasons, some connected with civil rights and freedom of conscience. But what those priests hoped for most of all from union with Rome was confirmation in faith and doctrine at a time of confessional rivalry and conflict. As an indispensable condition, they justly insisted on respect for and exercise of their own Byzantine rite under a Bishop of their own.
You have paid dearly for this union. In fact, you have never been without the experience of the Cross. Yet, as it was for St Paul whose words we have just heard, this is your boast: "Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ga 6,14). From the way in which the Ruthenian faithful have remained steadfast in the face of successive trials and tribulations, the light of Christ has shone ever more brightly on your people, your families and communities in Eastern Europe and in the New World. I am deeply moved to think that you are here today with the Bishop of Rome, in communion of spirit with your martyrs, to give thanks for the new opportunities now opening up before you. Your Church exults today, as you prepare for a new stage of your journey of faith For you too the approaching Jubilee of the Year 2000 must signal the dawn of a new era of evangelization and growth.
4. Dear Brothers and Sisters: your spiritual identity is intimately connected with the search for the unity of all Christians. Your special vocation is to work through love for the fulfilment of the ardent prayer which the Lord Jesus Christ himself uttered on the eve of his Passover of suffering and glory: "That they may all he one; even as you, Father are in me, and I in you ... so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (Jn 17,21). This you do above all in your dealings with your Eastern brethren, "first of all. by prayer, then by the example of your lives, by scrupulous fidelity to the ancient traditions of the East, by better knowledge of each other, by working together, and by a brotherly attitude towards persons and things" (Orientalium Ecclesiarum OE 24). In this search, your guide and comfort will be the Most Holy Theotokos whom you venerate with tender devotion in the Liturgy, and whom you honoured this year in a special way at the Shrine of Mariapocs, in Hungary, on the third centenary of the miraculous weeping of the icon preserved there.
As clearly indicated in today's Gospel Reading, in the eyes of God the poor and humble Lazarus is to be comforted while the man rich according to the world's standards remains in anguish" (cf. Lk. Lc 16,19-24). May you who have suffered dearly for the faith put your whole trust in Divine Providence which has always guided your steps and will not fail you as you face the great challenges ahead."Peace and mercy be upon you all!" (cf. Gal. Ga 6,16). Amen.
671 Church of Sts Andrew and Gregory on the Caelian Hill in Rome
Thursday, 5 December 1996
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing" (Ep 1,3).
1. It is in this same spirit of profound thanksgiving that we are gathered for this evening prayer. For me this is a particularly happy moment, also because we are meeting in the very place from which Pope Gregory the Great sent the monk Augustine and his companions to Britain. Many centuries separate us from that event, centuries during which the Gospel seed sown in your land has put down solid roots and produced a rich harvest. Pope St Gregory the Great and St Augustine of Canterbury are both held in great veneration by Anglicans and Catholics alike. As I did seven years ago when meeting Archbishop Runcie in this same place, I invoke their intercession upon this gathering, for they were men who held dearly to the bond of unity between Christian England and the See of Rome.
In greeting Your Grace this evening, I cordially thank you for your visit, and I join you and your party in giving thanks for the seed that St Augustine of Canterbury planted in England, and for the manifold fruits which that seed is still producing at the threshold of the Third Millennium.
2. Ecumenical prayer such as this reveals the reality of our brotherhood in Christ, and impels us to entrust to his merciful love the future of our unity, the strengthening of the bonds which already unite us (cf. John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint UUS 26). When we pray together, we do so with the longing "that there may be one visible Church of God, a Church truly universal and sent forth to the whole world that the world may be converted to the Gospel and so be saved, to the glory of God" (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 1). In shared prayer we stand before our one Father, acknowledging and giving thanks for our real though not yet full communion.We become more aware of how much unites us, and we gain the courage to work ever more assiduously to overcome our remaining divisions (cf. John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint UUS 22).
The Father's plan is to "unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth" (cf. Eph. Ep 1,10). The lack of unity among Christians is clearly in contradiction to this divine plan. But by the Father's mercy, the Holy Spirit, especially in this century, has been bringing about a change of heart that has led many Christians to embark on the ecumenical venture, "not merely as individuals but also as members of the corporate groups in which they have heard the Gospel" (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 1).
The search for Christian unity has not been undertaken just for pragmatic reasons or practical convenience. Quite simply, we know it to be God's will, and we seek to give glory to his name by our obedience.
3. Thirty years ago, the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, moved by the Holy Spirit, set out with determination along the path that would lead to the restoration of unity. It is a journey that is proving more difficult than was expected at its beginning. Sadly, we are faced with disagreements which have arisen since we entered into dialogue, including disagreement about conferring priestly ordination on women. This question puts into clear relief the need to reach an understanding of how the Church authoritatively discerns the teaching and practice which constitute the apostolic faith entrusted to us.
Moreover, if Christians cannot agree over the claims which the Gospel makes on their lives, far from giving common witness, they may actually contribute to society's moral confusion and loss of bearings. The recent statement of ARCIC II, Life in Christ, is a timely encouragement to Anglicans and Catholics to engage in further theological reflection about the moral life, so as to resolve existing divergences and ensure that new areas of divergence do not arise, and in order to establish a firmer basis for joint witness before the many moral dilemmas facing men and women today.
672 Ever since the time, 18 years ago, when Divine Providence entrusted me with the particular responsibility to be, in the words of Pope St Gregory, servus servorum Dei, I have been conscious that for many other Christians the ministry of Peter constitutes a difficulty, still overshadowed by painful memories. In my Encyclical Letter "Ut Unum Sint", I have appealed for a patient and fraternal dialogue on the ministry of unity of the Bishop of Rome (cf. John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint UUS 88,95-96). So I pray this evening, in the Church of St Gregory, for a hastening of the day when, without renouncing in any way what is essential to this ministry in accordance with Christ's will, we may together discover the forms in which it will be accepted by all Christians as a service of love.
4. Dear Brothers and Sisters, it is significant that our meeting is taking place during Advent. This holy season quickens our expectation of the Lord's coming in glory. We are a people whose gaze is ever drawn to the future and who look forward with confidence to the advent of our Saviour. In the words of St Paul, "we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience" (Rm 8,25). While we wait we must work to recover the unity that has been weakened and damaged down the centuries. For this reason we are praying here this evening that on the Day of Judgement the Lord will acknowledge our sincere efforts to restore that unity among his followers for which he prayed on the night before he died for us (cf. Jn. Jn 17,21). We ask that the dawn of the Third Christian Millennium will find us, if not fully united, at least less divided, closer to each other, more faithful to the words of Christ's priestly prayer: ut unum sint.
May the Father of all mercies hear and answer the pleas which we Anglicans and Catholics are making to him in this holy place. Let us entrust our hopes to "him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think. To him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus; to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen" (Ep 3,20-21).
S. John Paul II Homil. 665