S. John Paul II Homil. 706
1. Each year this Basilica of Saint John Lateran welcomes the assembly gathered for the solemn Memorial of the Last Supper.
From the City of Rome and from throughout the world the faithful come to renew the memory of the event which took place in the Upper Room on that Thursday so many years ago, an event which the Liturgy commemorates today as ever present. It continues to be present as the Sacrament of the Altar, the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. It continues to be present as the Eucharist.
We are called together in the first place to repeat the gesture which Christ performed at the beginning of the Last Supper: the washing of the feet. The Gospel of John has once more offered for our consideration Peter's reluctance to have the Master humble himself, and the teaching by which Christ explained this gesture: "You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you" (13:13-15).
When the time comes for the Eucharistic Banquet, Christ again stresses the need to serve. "For the Son of Man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mc 10,45).
We are called together, then, to express anew the living memorial of the greatest commandment, the commandment of love: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Jn 15,13). Christ's gesture is a living presentation of this to the Apostles: "His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father"; the hour of greatest love: "Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (Jn 13,1).
2. All this reaches its culmination at the Last Supper, in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. We have been called together to re-live this event, the institution of the marvellous Sacrament from which the Church never ceases to draw life, the Sacrament which, at the level of the most authentic and profound reality, constitutes the Church. There is no Eucharist without the Church, but, even before that, there is no Church without the Eucharist.
707 Eucharist means thanksgiving. That is why we have prayed in the Responsorial Psalm: "How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me?" (cf. Psalm Ps 116,12). We present on the altar the offerings of bread and wine, as an unending act of thanksgiving for all the blessings we have received from God, for the blessings of creation and redemption. Our Redemption has been wrought by the Sacrifice of Christ. The Church, which proclaims this Redemption and draws her life from it, must continue to make this Sacrifice sacramentally present, from this Sacrifice she must draw the strength to be herself.
3. The Eucharistic Celebration in Cena Domini reminds us of this with singular eloquence. The first reading, taken from the Book of Exodus, calls to mind that moment in the history of the people of the Old Covenant which most clearly foreshadowed the mystery of the Eucharist: the episode of the institution of the Passover. The people were to be freed from slavery in Egypt, they were to leave the land of slavery in freedom and the price of their ransom was the blood of the lamb.
That lamb of the Old Covenant found its fullness of meaning in the New Covenant. This was brought about also through the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist, who, pointing to Jesus of Nazareth as he came to the River Jordan to be baptized, had said: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (Jn 1,29).
It is no coincidence that these words are found at the centre of the Eucharistic Liturgy. The readings of this Holy Mass of the Lord's Supper remind us of them, to show us that by this living Memorial we are entering the hour of Christ's Passion. It is precisely at this hour that the mystery of the Lamb of God will be revealed. The words spoken by the Baptist at the Jordan will thus receive their clear fulfilment. Christ is going to be crucified. As Son of God he will accept death, in order to free the world from sin.
Let us open our hearts, let us take part with faith in the great mystery and let us proclaim, with the whole Church called together in this Eucharistic assembly: "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again".
Holy Saturday, 29 March 1997
1. "Let there be light!" (Gn 1,3).
During the Easter Vigil, the Liturgy proclaims these words taken from the Book of Genesis. They constitute an eloquent theme running through this wonderful celebration. At the beginning the "new fire" is blessed, and is used to light the Paschal candle, which is then carried in procession to the altar. The candle enters and moves forward at first in darkness, until the moment when, after the intonation of the third "Lumen Christi", light returns in the whole Basilica.
In this way, an interconnection has been made between the elements of darkness and light, of death and life. Against this background the biblical account of creation is retold. God says: "Let there be light" (Gn 1,3). This is, in a certain sense, the first step towards life. On this night there is to take place a singular passing from death to life, and the rite of light, together with the words from the Book of Genesis, offer the first proclamation of this.
2. In the Prologue to his Gospel, Saint John writes of the Word made flesh: "In him was life, and the life was the light of men" (1:4). This holy night therefore becomes an extraordinary manifestation of that life which is the life of men. The whole Church takes part in this manifestation and, in a special way, the catechumens who during this Vigil receive Baptism.
In this solemn celebration Saint Peter's Basilica welcomes you, dear Brothers and Sisters, who in a little while will be baptized into Christ our Passover. Two of you come from Albania and two from Zaire, countries which are experiencing tragic moments in their history: may the Lord hear the cries of the poor and lead them on the path to peace and freedom! Others of you come from Benin, from Cape Verde, from China, from Taiwan. I pray for each of you, who in this assembly represent the firstfruits of the new humanity redeemed by Christ, that you may always be faithful witnesses to his Gospel.
708 The Liturgical Readings of this Easter Vigil link together the two elements of fire and water. The element of fire, which gives light, and the element of water, which becomes the matter of the sacrament of rebirth, namely of Holy Baptism. "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (Jn 3,5). The passing of the Israelites through the Red Sea, that is to say their liberation from slavery in Egypt, is a figure and a sort of anticipation of the Baptism which frees us from the slavery of sin.
3. The many different themes which in this Easter Vigil Liturgy find expression in the Biblical Readings come together and blend into a single image. In the most complete manner, it is the Apostle Paul who presents these truths in his Letter to the Romans, which has just been read: "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (6:3-4).
These words lead us to the very heart of the Christian truth. Christ's death, his redeeming death, is the beginning of the passage to life, revealed in his resurrection. "If we have died with Christ," Saint Paul continues, "we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him" (Rm 6,8-9).
4. Carrying the torch of God's Word in her hands, the Church which celebrates the Easter Vigil halts as it were at a final threshold. She stops with great expectation throughout this night. At the tomb, we await the event that took place two thousand years ago. The first witnesses of that extraordinary event were the women of Jerusalem: they came to the place where Jesus had been buried on Good Friday and found the tomb empty. A voice surprised them: "You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you" (Mc 16,6-7).
No one saw with his own eyes the Resurrection of Christ. The women who had come to the tomb were the first to learn of the event that had already taken place.
The Church, gathered for the Easter Vigil, listens anew, in silent expectation, to this testimony and then manifests her great joy. We have just heard it proclaimed from the lips of the deacon: "Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum . . .", "I announce to you tidings of great joy, Alleluia!".
Let us welcome this news with open hearts, let us share together in the Church's great joy.
Christ is truly risen! Alleluia!
MASS AT THE PARISH OF St JUDE THADDEUS IN ROME
Sunday, 6 April 1997
709 1. “Eight days later ... the doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, ‘Peace be with you’” (Jn 20,26).
The Gospel passage for today, “Dominica in albis”, tells of the twofold appearance of the Risen One to the Apostles: on Easter day itself and eight days later. On the evening of the first day after the Sabbath, while the Apostles were gathered in one room, the doors being locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus comes and says to them: “Peace be with you” (cf. Jn Jn 20,19). With this greeting he is in fact offering them the gift of genuine peace, the fruit of his Death and Resurrection. Indeed, in the Easter mystery humanity’s definitive reconciliation with God was achieved; it is the source of all real progress towards the full restoration of peace between individuals and peoples with one another and with God.
Jesus then gives the Apostles the task of continuing his saving mission, so that through their ministry salvation may reach every time and place of human history: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (Jn 20,21). The gift of the Spirit is also closely linked to his entrusting them with the mission of evangelization and the power to forgive sins, as the following words of Jesus indicate: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven” (Jn 21,22-23).
With these words Jesus entrusts the ministry of mercy to his disciples. In fact the saving love of God, rich in mercy — “dives in misericordia” (cf. Eph Ep 2,4) — is fully manifest in the paschal mystery. On this Second Sunday of Easter, the liturgy invites us to reflect specifically on divine mercy, which overcomes all human limitations and shines forth in the darkness of evil and sin. The Church urges us to have trust as we approach Christ, who through his Death and Resurrection fully and definitively reveals the extraordinary riches of God’s merciful love.
2. The Apostle Thomas was not present when the Risen One appeared on Easter evening. When told of this extraordinary event, he did not believe the testimony of the other Apostles but wanted to verify the truth of their assertion personally.
Eight days later — that is, on the octave day of Easter, just like today — the appearance is repeated: Jesus himself challenges Thomas’ disbelief by giving him the opportunity to touch with his hands the marks left by the passion, and by inviting him to turn from disbelief to the fullness of Easter faith.
In response to Thomas’ profession of faith: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20,28), Jesus utters a beatitude that broadens the horizon to include the multitude of future believers: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (Jn 20,29). The Easter experience of the Apostle Thomas was greater than his own request.Indeed, he was not only able to recognize the authenticity of the marks of the Passion and the Resurrection, but through personal contact with the Risen One, he understood the profound meaning of Jesus’ Resurrection and, inwardly transformed, he openly declared his full and total faith in his Lord, risen and present among the disciples. Therefore, in a certain sense he could “see” the divine reality of the Lord Jesus, who died and rose for us. The Risen One himself is the definitive proof of both his divinity and his humanity.
3. All of us are invited as well to see with the eyes of faith Christ living and present in the Christian community. Dear brothers and sisters of the parish of St Jude Thaddeus, I am very pleased to be among you at last in your lovely parish. I greet you all with great affection! This visit was delayed a little because of an illness, but it is finally taking place and taking place on the most solemn day possible. I address a cordial greeting to the Cardinal Vicar, to the Vicegerent, to your zealous parish priest, Fr Gabriele Zuccarini, and to the priests who work with him in the pastoral care of your community.
I likewise greet the sisters of the Institute of sisters of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy and the Daughters of Charity of the Precious Blood. My thoughts also turn to the residents of the neighbourhood, especially to those who were unable to be present because of some hindrance. I am thinking specifically of the sick, the elderly and those who, for various reasons, are in difficulty.
Dear brothers and sisters, in your parish, where in recent years the number of elderly or single people has increased and where the settlement of a second young generation of families has begun, a far-reaching work of new evangelization is more necessary than ever. In fact, the pastoral challenge is to help all families, especially the youngest, to discover the riches of the Gospel and to persevere in the duties of the Christian faith.
I entrust you especially, dear faithful, members of the many parish groups, with the task of being messengers of hope, bringing the Gospel to your brothers and sisters who live in the neighbourhood. Do not expect them to come to you, but go to them, trusting in the power of the Word that you bring. In fact the city mission with its many initiatives is now calling every Christian in Rome to rediscover the missionary mandate entrusted by the risen Jesus to all the baptized through the ministry of the Apostles. According to what the Cardinal Vicar and the Auxiliary Bishops of the various sectors tell me, there are many people willing to take part in the city mission.These people are coming forward to participate actively in the new evangelization of Rome.
710 4. The evangelization offered by the city mission however will be all the more effective the more the missionaries’ work is supported and accompanied by prayer. I therefore congratulate you on the many initiatives of prayer and weekly — including nocturnal — Eucharistic adoration held in this beautiful community. Prayer is the soul of the mission.Persevere, dear brothers and sisters, because contact with God guarantees the authenticity of apostolic activity.
In the Gospels we read that even while doing all he could for so many men and women, Jesus himself would withdraw for long periods in solitude and prayer (cf. Mt Mt 14,23 Mc 1,35 Lc 6,12 Lc 9,18 Lc 11,1 Jn 6,15 etc. ). We must imitate him and encounter him in the moments of solitude and silence dedicated to prayer. These providential spiritual pauses will help you all to be authentic missionaries of the Gospel in this great city of ours.
5. “The company of those who believed were of one heart and soul” (Ac 4,32).
The apostolic community of Jerusalem described in the Acts of the Apostles is a model for every Christian community. We who now live on the threshold of the third Christian millennium must also become increasingly of one heart and mind in our liturgical celebrations, as well as in our apostolic activity and our witness of charity. We must strive to give a forceful witness to the Resurrection of Jesus (cf. Acts Ac 4,33), in communion with the successors of the Apostles.
“This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith”, the First Letter of John (5:4) has just reminded us. Through faith, expressed in keeping the commandments, we too are called to defeat the powers of evil in order to prepare with our apostolate the full manifestation of the kingdom of God.
With the words of the responsorial psalm, we want to express our exultation at the marvels God continues to work in our time as well. In the Passover of his dead and risen Son, he in fact reaches out to every person, showing forth the infinite riches of his boundless mercy.
“This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps 118,24).
12 April 1997
My Brother Bishops of Bosnia-Hercegovina and other Bishops present,
711 Dear Priests, Men and Women Religious and Seminarians!
1. "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation" (1P 2,9). With these words of the Apostle Peter to the early Christians, I offer you my cordial greeting. God has "called you out of darkness into his marvellous light". And you have been given the task of proclaiming before the world his "wonderful deeds" (ibid.).
What are these "wonderful deeds"? Countless are the "wonders" which God has accomplished in human history! But the most "wonderful deed" of all is surely the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which gave birth to that new People to which we belong.
In the Paschal Mystery ancient enmities have been overcome: those who once were "no people", because they had not "received mercy", have now become, or are called to be, the one "People of God", which has "received mercy" in the blood of Christ (1P 2,10).
This is the joyful message which the Church re-lives and proclaims at this Easter season, as she raises a song of praise and gratitude to Christ Jesus, "who was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification" (Rm 4,25).
2. Dear Brothers and Sisters, I offer heartfelt thanks to the Lord who has enabled me to make this long-desired and long-awaited pilgrimage. I rejoice to be here, in this Cathedral, together with you, and to join in your prayer to Him who "is our peace" (Ep 2,14).
I greet all of you with affection, particularly Cardinal Vinko Puljic, to whom I express my gratitude for the sentiments which he has expressed in the name of all present. At this moment my thoughts turn to the priests and consecrated persons who have suffered most in these difficult years. I cannot forget those who have died, like Fathers Grgic and Matanovic, and I ask that light be shed on the circumstances of their deaths. I recall in a special way all those who bore witness to their love of Christ and the brethren at the cost of their blood. May the blood which they shed give renewed vigour to the Church, which seeks only to be able freely to preach in Bosnia- Hercegovina the Gospel of eternal salvation, with respect for every human being, every culture and every religion.
I have come to Sarajevo in order to repeat in this war-torn land the message of the Apostle Paul: "Christ is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility" (Ep 2,14). In the high "dividing wall", before which the world felt all but powerless, "the breach of peace" has at last been opened.
The insistent and heartfelt prayer symbolized by the lamp burning in Saint Peter's Basilica during the terrible days of the war has been heard. That lamp is now given to you, so that from this Cathedral it may continue to foster trust in the maternal assistance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and remind everyone of the duty to work tirelessly in the service of peace.
3. Here, in this "martyr city", and throughout Bosnia-Hercegovina, still scarred by a violent and crazed "logic" of death, division and annihilation, there were people who strove to "break down the dividing wall". You were among them, as, amid all sorts of sufferings and dangers, you worked actively to open the way to peace. I think especially of you priests, who during the bleak period of the war remained at your people's side and suffered with them, continuing to exercise your ministry with courage and fidelity. Thank you for this sign of love for Christ and his Church! In these years you have written a chapter of authentic heroism, which can never be forgotten.
Today I have come to say to you: Do not grow weary in your efforts to advance the peace which was so long awaited! The dawn of God is already present in your midst. The light of a new day is already illuminating your path.
712 Dear priests, I urge you to remain, even at the cost of great sacrifice, among the sheep of the flock entrusted to you, as bearers of hope and transparent witnesses of Christ's peace. In carrying out your mission, firmly maintain the sense of your vocation and your identity as priests of Christ. Let it be a source of pride for you to be able to say with Saint Paul: "as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way, through great endurance in afflictions... by purity, knowledge, forbearance, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love" (2Co 6,4-6).
4. To you also, dear Men and Women Religious, I wish to express the Church's gratitude for the important work which you have done and continue to do in serving the People of God, as you bear witness to the Gospel by your profession of the evangelical counsels and by the many forms of the apostolate.
Rekindle the genuine charism entrusted to you by your Founders and Foundresses. Strive constantly to discover its richness and live it out with ever greater conviction and intensity.
In this Cathedral how can I fail to recall Monsignor Josip Stadler, the first Archbishop of the revived see of ancient Vrhbosna, modern Sarajevo, and the founder of the Congregation of the Handmaids of the Child Jesus, the only Religious Congregation founded in Bosnia-Hercegovina? May the living memory of this great Bishop, utterly faithful to the Apostolic See and ever ready to serve his brothers and sisters, encourage and sustain the missionary commitment of all the consecrated persons who work in this region, so dear to me!
I wish to address a special word to you, dear Friars Minor, whom I greet together with your Minister General who has joined us this evening. Down the centuries you have worked untiringly to spread and preserve the Christian faith in Bosnia- Hercegovina, making an effective contribution to the preaching of the Gospel among its people. Your glorious past demands of you an unstinting generosity in the present moment, in imitation of Saint Francis who, as his first biographer says, was completely filled, "in his heart, on his lips, in his ears, in his eyes, in his hands and in his whole body", with the passionate remembrance of Christ crucified (I Cel. 115), bearing the marks of his passion on his heart even before he bore them on his body (II Cel. 11). How very timely are the words which he addressed to his friars: "I counsel, admonish and exhort my friars in the Lord Jesus Christ that, when they go throughout the world, they not quarrel and that they avoid verbal disputes, and that they not judge others; instead, they should be gentle, peaceful and modest, meek and humble, speaking sincerely with all, as is fitting" (Regula Bullata, Chapter III). What benefits there will be for the unity of the Church, apostolic activity and the cause of peace from such a witness of Franciscan meekness!
5. A word also to you, dear Seminarians, the hope of the Church in this land. Following the example of the Servant of God Petar Barbaric, let yourselves be captivated by Christ! Discover the beauty of giving your life to him, in order to bring his Gospel of salvation to your brothers and sisters. A vocation is an adventure worth living to the full! A generous and persevering response to the Lord's call is the secret to a life which is completely fulfilled.
To all of you, priests, men and women Religious and seminarians, I wish to leave a double exhortation: Practise among yourselves that solidarity and "union in the same mind and judgment" (cf. 1Co 1,10), which is an unmistakable sign that Christ is present and at work among you.
In a spirit of humility and obedience, foster communion and effective pastoral cooperation with your Bishops, following the exhortation of Saint Ignatius of Antioch: "I beseech you, take care to do all things in the concord of God, under the guidance of the Bishop" (Ad Magn. 6,1). This teaching was echoed by the Second Vatican Council, which recalled that "Bishops govern the particular Churches entrusted to them as the vicars and ambassadors of Christ" (Lumen Gentium LG 27). As a consequence of this duty, the Council goes on to say, "Bishops have the sacred right and the duty before the Lord to make laws for their subjects, to pass judgment on them, and to moderate everything pertaining to the ordering of worship and the apostolate" (ibid.). Therefore, the Council concludes, the faithful "must cling to their Bishop, as the Church does to Christ, and Jesus Christ to the Father, so that everything may harmonize in unity, and abound to the glory of God" (ibid.).
6. Dear friends, the time has come for a profound examination of conscience. The time has come for a decisive commitment to reconciliation and peace.
As ministers of God's love, you have been sent to dry the tears of the many people who grieve for their murdered relatives, to hear the impotent cry of those who have seen their rights trampled and their families torn apart. As brothers and sisters to all, be near to the refugees and the evacuees, to those driven from their homes and deprived of the resources with which they planned to build their future. Give support to the elderly, orphans and widows. Encourage the young, who have often been cheated of a serene passage into adult life and forced by the harshness of conflict to grow up much too soon.
We need to say loud and strong: Never again war! We need each day to make a renewed effort to encounter others and to make a personal examination of conscience, not only about one's failings, but also about the energy one is willing to invest in building peace. We need to acknowledge the primacy of ethic, moral and spiritual values, by defending the right of every individual to live in peace and harmony, and by condemning every form of intolerance and persecution rooted in ideologies which show contempt for persons in their inviolable dignity.
713 7. Dear Brothers and Sisters! The Successor of Peter is here among you as a pilgrim of peace, reconciliation and communion. He is here to remind everybody that God forgives only those who have the courage, in turn, to forgive others. We need to open our minds to God's way of thinking in order to become part of his people and to be able to proclaim "the wonderful deeds of his love" (cf. 1P 2,9). The power of your example and your prayer will obtain from the Lord, for those who have not yet found it, the courage to ask for, and to offer, forgiveness.
Let us ask Mary, venerated in so many shrines in this land, to take us by the hand and to teach us that it is precisely the courage to ask for and to offer forgiveness which is the beginning of the way toward true peace. Let us entrust to her the difficult but necessary resolve to persevere in building the "civilization of love".
Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!
13 April 1997
"We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1Jn 2,1).
1. We have an advocate who speaks in our name. Who is this advocate who makes himself our spokesman? Today's liturgy offers a comprehensive answer: "We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1Jn 2,1).
We read in the Acts of the Apostles: "The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus" (Ac 3,13). He is the one who was betrayed and denied by his own people, even when Pilate wanted to free him. They asked for a murderer, Barabbas, to be reprieved in his place. In this way the Author of life was sentenced to death (cf. Acts Ac 3,13-15).
But "God raised him from the dead" (cf. Acts Ac 3,15). These are the words of Peter who was an eyewitness of Christ's Passion, Death and Resurrection. It was as a witness that he was sent to the children of Israel and to all the nations of the world. But when he speaks to his own people, he not only accuses but also excuses: "Brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers" (Ac 3,17).
Peter is a witness aware of the truth about the Messiah who, on the Cross, brought to fulfilment the ancient prophecies: Jesus Christ has become the advocate with the Father, the advocate of the chosen people and of all humanity.
Saint John adds: "We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world" (1Jn 2,1-2). This truth is repeated to you today by the Successor of Peter, who has finally come among you. People of Sarajevo and of all Bosnia-Hercegovina, I come today to tell you: you have an advocate with God. His name is Jesus Christ the righteous!
2. Peter and John, as well as the other Apostles, became witnesses of this truth, for they saw with their own eyes the Crucified and Risen Christ. He had come among them in the Upper Room, showing them the wounds of his Passion; he had let them touch him so that from their own experience they would be convinced that he was that same Jesus whom they had known before as "the Master". And in order to confirm beyond any doubt the truth of his Resurrection, he accepted the food that they offered him, eating it with them as he had done so many Times New Roman before his death.
714 Jesus had kept his own identity, despite the extraordinary transformation wrought in him after his Resurrection. And he keeps that identity still. He is the same today as he was yesterday, and he will remain the same for ever (cf. Heb He 13,8). As such, as true Man, he is the advocate of all people with the Father. Indeed, he is the advocate of all creation, redeemed by him and in him.
He stands before the Father as the most expert and competent witness of what, by his Cross and Resurrection, has been accomplished in the history of humanity and of the world. His is the language of redemption, that is, of liberation from the slavery of sin. Jesus addresses the Father as the Consubstantial Son, and at the same time as true man, speaking the language of all human generations and of the whole of human history: the language of victories and defeats, of all the sufferings and all the sorrows of individual men and women, of the individual peoples and nations of the whole earth.
Christ speaks your language, dear Brothers and Sisters of Bosnia- Hercegovina, a land so long and grievously tried. He said: "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer"; but he added: "and on the third day rise from the dead . . . You are witnesses of these things" (Lc 24,46). Sarajevo, Bosnia- Hercegovina, arise! You have an advocate with God. His name is Jesus Christ the righteous!
3. Sarajevo: a city that has become a symbol, in a certain sense the symbol of the twentieth century. In 1914, the name Sarajevo came to be associated the outbreak of the First World War. At the end of this same century, there is linked with the name of this city the painful experience of the war that, in the course of five long years, has left behind in this region a terrible wake of death and destruction.
During this period, the name of your city has not ceased to occupy the news reports and to be the subject of political interventions by leaders of nations, strategists and generals. The entire world has continued to speak of Sarajevo in historical, political and military terms. Nor did the Pope fail to raise his voice concerning this tragic war, and many Times New Roman and in different circumstances he has had on his lips and always in his heart the name of your city. For several years he ardently desired to be able to come among you in person.
Today, finally, that desire has been fulfilled. The Lord be thanked! The words with which I offer you my affectionate greeting are the ones which Christ, after the Resurrection, spoke to the disciples: "Peace to you" (Lc 24,36). Peace to you, men and women of Sarajevo! Peace to you, people of Bosnia-Hercegovina! Peace to you, Brothers and Sisters of this beloved land!
I greet Cardinal Vinko Puljic, the devoted Bishop of this local Church, and I thank him for the words of welcome and communion that he has addressed to me also on behalf of his Auxiliary, Bishop Pero Sudar, and of all present. I greet the esteemed and courageous Bishop Franjo Komarica, with his faithful people from the Diocese of Banja Luka, as also the esteemed and zealous Bishop Ratko Peric, with the faithful from the Dioceses of Mostar-Duvno and Trebinje-Mrkan.
I greet the Cardinals and Bishops present and all of you — priests, consecrated persons, laity. My respectful thoughts go also to the civil authorities and the diplomats gathered here, and to the representatives of other Religious Confessions who have honoured us with their presence.
The peace that Jesus gives to his disciples is not the peace imposed by conquerors on the conquered, by the stronger on the weaker. It does not receive its legitimacy by force of arms but, on the contrary, is born of love. The love of God for man and the love of man for man. God's commandment resounds loud and clear today: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart . . . you shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Dt 6,5 Lv 19,18). Upon these two firm foundations the peace that has been achieved can be consolidated and built up. And "blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God" (Mt 5,9).
4. As the servant of the Gospel, the Pope, in union with the Bishops of Bosnia- Hercegovina and with the whole Church, wishes to reveal a still more profound dimension hidden in the reality of the life of this region, for which the whole world has been concerned for years.
Sarajevo, Bosnia-Hercegovina, your history, your sufferings, the experiences of the years marked by war, which we hope will never return, have an advocate with God: Jesus Christ, who alone is righteous. In him, the many dead, whose tombs have multiplied in this land; those who are mourned by their mothers, their widows, their orphaned children: they have an advocate with God. Who else can be, with God, an advocate for all these sufferings and all these tribulations? Who else can fully understand this page of your history, Sarajevo? Who can fully understand this page of your history, O Balkan nations, and of your history, O Europe?
715 It cannot be forgotten that Sarajevo has become the symbol of the suffering of the whole of Europe. It was so at the beginning of the 1900s, when the First World War had its beginning here; it was so in a different way this second time, when the conflict took place entirely in this region of yours. Europe took part in it as a witness. But we must ask ourselves: was it always a fully responsible witness? This question cannot be avoided. Statesmen, politicians, military men, scholars and people of culture must try to give an answer. The hope of all people of good will is that what Sarajevo symbolizes will remain confined to the twentieth century, and that its tragedies will not be repeated in the Millennium about to begin.
5. For this reason we turn our gaze trustingly to Divine Providence. We ask the Prince of Peace, through the intercession of Mary his Mother, so loved by the peoples of this entire region, that Sarajevo may become a model of coexistence and peaceful cooperation between peoples of different ethnic origins and religions for the whole of Europe.
Gathered in the celebration of Christ's sacrifice, we do not cease thanking you, City so sorely tried, and you, Brothers and Sisters who live in this land of Bosnia-Hercegovina, for in some way, by your sacrifice, you have taken upon yourselves the weight of this terrible experience, in which all have a share. I repeat to you: we have an advocate with God, he is Christ, the only righteous one.
Before you, O Crucified and Risen Christ, there come today Sarajevo and all Bosnia-Hercegovina, with the heavy burden of its history. You are our great advocate. This people implores you, to permeate the painful history experienced here with the power of your Redemption. You, incarnate Son of God, walk as Man among the events of people and nations. Walk through the history of this people and of these peoples most closely linked to the name of Sarajevo, to the name of Bosnia-Hercegovina.
6. Dear Brothers and Sisters! When in 1994 I wanted so intensely to come here among you, I referred to a thought that had come to be extraordinarily significant at a crucial moment of European history: "Let us forgive and let us ask for forgiveness". It was said then that the time was not yet right. Has not that time now come?
I return today, therefore, to this thought and to the words, which I wish to repeat, so that they can come into the minds of all those who are united in the painful experience of your city and land, of all the peoples and nations torn apart by war: "Let us forgive and let us ask for forgiveness". If Christ is to be our advocate with the Father, we cannot fail to utter these words. We cannot fail to undertake the difficult but necessary pilgrimage of forgiveness, which leads to a profound reconciliation.
"Offer forgiveness and receive peace", I recalled in this year's Message for the World Day of Peace; and I added: "Forgiveness, in its truest and highest form, is a free act of love" (No. 5), as was the reconciliation offered by God to man through the Cross and Death of his incarnate Son, he the only righteous one. Of course, "forgiveness, far from precluding the search for truth, actually requires it", because an "essential requisite for forgiveness and reconciliation is justice" (ibid.). But it still remains true that "asking and granting forgiveness is something profoundly worthy of man" (ibid., 4).
7. While the light of this truth appears clearly today,
my thoughts turn to you, Mother of the Crucified and Risen Christ,
to you who are loved and venerated in so many shrines of this tormented land.
Implore for all believers the gift of a new heart!
716 Let forgiveness, a key word of the Gospel, become a reality here.
Holding firmly to the Cross of Christ,
the Church gathered today in Sarajevo asks this of you,
O clement, O loving,
Mother of God and our Mother,
O sweet Virgin Mary!
S. John Paul II Homil. 706