S. John Paul II Homil. 1068
New Delhi — Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium
1069 Sunday, 7 November 1999
"Walk as children of light, for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true" (Ep 5,8-9).
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Today throughout this vast country many people are celebrating the Festival of Lights. We rejoice with them, and in this Eucharist here in New Delhi, in India, on the continent of Asia, we too exult in the light and bear witness to the One who is "the true light that enlightens every man" (Jn 1,8).
God, the Father of mercies, has given me the joy of coming among you to promulgate the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia, the result of the labours of the Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of Bishops held last year in Rome. What was this Synod for Asia? It was a gathering of Bishops representing the Church on this continent. What did the Bishops do? Above all, they listened in prayer to the Spirit; they reflected on the path followed so far by the Church among the peoples of Asia; they recognized the grace of the "hour" that the Church is now living on this continent; they committed the entire People of God to ever greater fidelity to the Lord and to the evangelical task which he has entrusted to all the baptized for the good of the human family.
2. Here today, dear brothers and sisters, you represent the Catholic community not only of India but of the whole Asian continent, and I place in your hands the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation as a guide for the spiritual and pastoral life of the Church on this continent as we enter a new century and a new Christian Millennium.
It is fitting that this document has been signed and issued in India, the home of many of Asia’s time-honoured cultures, religions and spiritual traditions. These ancient Asian civilizations have shaped the lives of the peoples of this continent and have left an indelible mark on the history of the human race. Distinguished representatives of various Christian Communities and of the great religions of India are present here today. I greet them all with esteem and friendship, and I place before them my hope and dream that the next century will be a time of fruitful dialogue, leading to a new relationship of understanding and solidarity among the followers of all religions.
3. I wish to thank Archbishop Alan de Lastic, the pastor of the Archdiocese which is hosting this Eucharistic assembly, for his kind words of welcome. I greet all my brother Bishops of the Latin Church, of the Syro-Malabar Church and the Syro-Malankara Church. I embrace the Cardinals and Bishops who have come from other countries to share the joy of this occasion.
I am grateful to the large number of priests present, who share the one priesthood of Jesus Christ with the Bishops and priests of Asia and the world. Dear brother priests, take as your rule of life those words of the Ordination liturgy: "Receive the Gospel of Christ whose servant you are, meditate on the Law of God, believe what you read, preach what you believe and practise what you preach".
With great affection in the Lord I greet the men and women Religious. Whether you are engaged in contemplation or working in the active apostolate, your witness to the supremacy of the spirit places you at the very heart of the Church’s life and mission in Asia. For this, I thank you and encourage you.
In a special way I entrust the fruits of the Synod to the members of the laity, for it is you above all who are called to transform society by infusing the "mind of Christ" into the mentality, customs, laws and structures of the world in which you live (cf. Ecclesia in Asia ). One of the main challenges before you is to bring the light of the Gospel to bear on the family, and on the defence of human life and dignity. You bear witness to your faith in a world of contrasts. On the one hand there has been enormous economic and technological progress, on the other there still exist situations of extreme poverty and injustice. The Synod re-echoed the cry of the ancient Prophets, the cry for justice, for the right ordering of human society, without which there can be no true worship of God (cf. Is Is 1,10-17 Am 5,21-24 Ecclesia in Asia ). The Church looks to the lay men and women of Asia to reflect the light of Christ wherever the darkness of sin, division and discrimination distorts the image of God in his children.
1070 4. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (Jn 1,5).
These words of Saint John in today’s Gospel speak to us of Jesus Christ. His life and work are the light which illumines our journey to our transcendent destiny. The Good News of the Saviour’s Incarnation, and of his Death and Resurrection for our sake, illumines the Church’s path as she makes her pilgrim way through history towards the fullness of Redemption.
The Synod which we are closing today rejoiced at the thought of Jesus’s birth on Asian soil. The Eternal Word took flesh as an Asian! And it was on this continent, through the preaching of the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, that the Church went forth to spread the Good News. With Christians throughout the world, the Church in Asia will cross the threshold of the new millennium, giving thanks for all that God has worked from those beginnings until now. Just as the first millennium saw the Cross firmly planted in the soil of Europe, and the second in that of America and Africa, so may the Third Christian Millennium witness a great harvest of faith on this vast and vital continent (cf. Ecclesia in Asia ).
5. As we stand on the threshold of the Great Jubilee which will commemorate the two thousandth anniversary of the Birth of Jesus Christ, the community of his disciples is called to redress the great refusal mentioned in the Prologue of Saint John’s Gospel: "the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to his own, but his own did not accept him" (1:10-11). The Eternal Word, "the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world" (ibid., 1:9). But instead of spreading freely, that light is often hindered and obscured by darkness. In the heart of the sinner, that light is rejected. And the sins of individuals coalesce and harden into social structures of injustice, into economic and cultural imbalances which discriminate against people and force them to the margins of society. The sign that we are truly celebrating the Jubilee as the year of the Lord’s favour (cf. Is Is 61,2) will be our conversion to the light and our efforts to restore equity and to advance justice at every level of society.
6. "To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God" (Jn 1,12).
In the Eucharist we give thanks to God the Father for his many gifts to us, and especially for the gift of his beloved Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the faithful and true witness (cf. Rev Ap 3,14).
The Synod reminds Asian Christians that "Jesus' perfectly human life, devoted wholly to the love and service of the Father and of man, reveals that the vocation of every human being is to receive love and give love in return" (ibid., 13). In the Saints we marvel at the inexhaustible capacity of the human heart to love God and man, even when this involves great suffering. Does not also the legacy of so many wise teachers in India and in the other lands of Asia point in a similar direction? Such teaching is still valid today. Indeed, it is needed more than ever! The world will only be transformed if men and women of good will, and whole nations, genuinely accept that the only path worthy of the human family is the path of peace, of mutual respect, understanding and love, and solidarity with those in need.
Dear brothers and sisters, what does the Church need of her members at the dawn of a new millennium? Above all, that you be witnesses who are convincing because you embody in your lives the message you proclaim. As Ecclesia in Asia reminds us all: a fire can only be lit by something that is itself on fire. The Gospel can only be preached if Bishops, clergy, those in the consecrated life, and the laity are themselves on fire with the love of Christ and burning with zeal to make him known, loved and followed (cf. No. 23).
This is the Synod’s message: a message of love and hope for the peoples of this continent. May the Church in Asia heed this message so that all "may have life and have it abundantly" (Jn 10,10). Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Tbilisi Stadium, 9 November 1999
1. «God so loved the world that he gave his only Son» (Jn 3,16).
1071 Dear Brothers and Sisters of Georgia, I am coming to you with this message of hope: God loves you! Our Father in heaven has given his only-begotten Son also for you, beloved children of this land rich in history. In this final year of the century and of the millennium, the year dedicated to God the Father, the whole Church is, so to speak, plunged into the mystery of God’s love, so that renewed by the divine mercy, it will be able to cross the Holy Door of the Great Jubilee.
Without God, man cannot fully find himself, nor can he find his true happiness. Without God, man ends up, in fact, going against himself, because he is unable to build a social order sufficiently respectful of the fundamental rights of the person and of civic coexistence.
Church of God in this land of Kartveli, I come to you as a pilgrim from the See of Rome, honoured by the blood of Saints Peter and Paul, and I repeat to you the words of the Apostle of the nations: «You are God’s field, God’s building ... God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are» (1Co 3,9).
2. I am greatly moved and deep is the joy I feel as I visit you, Brothers and Sisters of the noble Georgian People. In the first place, I greet the President of Georgia, Mr Shevardnadze, and I thank him for having wished to honour this gathering with his presence.
With sincere affection, I embrace the entire Catholic community of the Latin rite living in this country, and its Apostolic Administrator, Monsignor Giuseppe Pasotto, the community of the Armenian Catholic rite, whose Ordinary, Archbishop Nerses Der Nersessian, is recovering in hospital: to him I wish to send my affection and best wishes. I also embrace the Assyro-Chaldean community, with its parish priest. In a special way, I greet all the priests and consecrated men and women.
I think also of those who are with us in spirit, in particular the sick and elderly, as well as those who have come from other countries. Georgia has always been in my heart in the difficult and sad years of persecution and now I am happy to be here to pray with you and give thanks to God for the regained freedom.
3. «God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but should have eternal life» (Jn 3,16). This is the «good news» in which the source of hope for every man and woman is to be found! This is the Gospel seed which Christ, after his resurrection, entrusted to the Church, so that she might sow it in the soil of history: «God is love» (1Jn 4,8) and his providence stretches to all creatures. The supreme sign of this love is the sacrifice of his only-begotten Son and the gift of the Holy Spirit who renews the human heart and the face of the earth.
The Church is about to celebrate in the Great Jubilee the two-thousandth anniversary of the birth of Christ, which coincides with the third millennium of the Georgian nation. I come among you, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on the eve of the great Jubilee event, and I invite you to welcome in its fullness the great gift of this «year of the Lord’s favour» (Lc 4,19).
I address this message not only to you, Brothers and Sisters of Georgia, but from this beloved land I proclaim it also to the Christian world of Europe, of which you have been an outpost. With its culture, history and faith, Georgia has always looked towards the West and has made its own contribution to Christian Europe. To the heart of every man and woman, I wish to repeat that God «has given his only Son» for each individual and for everyone. By his Incarnation, the Son of God has united himself in some way with every individual (cf. Gaudium et Spes GS 22).
4. «God is for us a refuge and strength» (Ps 45,2). In this invocation, echoed in the Responsorial Psalm, I hear your voice, Brothers and Sisters of Georgia! I hear the voice of your ancestors, who have defended the Christian faith down the centuries with their love and sacrifices, sometimes facing hard and weighty persecutions. Together with other Christian brothers and sisters, the Catholics have contributed to the culture and civilization of Georgia. Even beyond the boundaries of Georgia and often in very difficult times, they have made known and appreciated the values and the illustrious people of their country.
Continue to live in the love of Christ, who calls his disciples to be merciful and understanding towards each other. This love requires Christians to commit themselves to make progress along the path to the full unity for which Christ prayed to his Father shortly before his Passion: «... may they all be one» (Jn 17,21).
1072 Georgia has also been a land of special hospitality and welcome, serving as a model of respect and tolerance towards the followers of other religions. An eloquent sign of this deeply rooted capacity of yours to live and work together with all people of good will is the fact that not far from here the chief places of worship for Christians, Jews and Moslems stand close together.
5. Formed from early times in Christian values, the Georgian people have a keen sense of the sacredness of the family. May you always guard this great heritage: defend and promote the family in the social and political arena, but above all in your own lives be witnesses to fidelity in marriage and to responsibility in educating children.
Let Christian spouses and their families take the lead in announcing to the whole of society the Gospel of love by their example of a life which is simple, hard-working, hospitable, attentive to the poor, like the Holy Family of Nazareth. Today with great affection I bless your families, your children, your young people and your older people. Take the Pope’s greeting into your homes!
6. Brothers and sisters, commit yourselves so that the whole of society may become one great family, open to true solidarity and peace. I know that this is not easy, partly because of the long period when atheism held sway here, a period in which all believers paid dearly. Through those many years, the Catholic community saw its presence reduced to a bare minimum. Brave priests, true examples of what the shepherd is called to be, made extraordinary efforts to nourish the faith, in so far as this was possible.
Today you find yourselves in a very fragmented situation, afflicted on the one hand by poverty, and tempted on the other hand by secular consumerism. Do not lose heart! Let the light and strength of the Gospel sustain you on your journey!
Always be generous towards those among you who are in need, as you are already doing in your support of Caritas and other praiseworthy forms of sharing. I know how much the Georgian people appreciate the tireless work of these ministries of charity which are offered in service of all, without distinction, looking only to the real need. With the help of Christian social doctrine, form honest and competent people who are willing to commit themselves in the social and political field in service of the common good.
7. Church of God in Georgia, let the living water of the Holy Spirit flow far and wide in your midst! Help your children to reject the mentality of this world and always to have an ear open to the Spirit of Christ the Redeemer, that they may discern what is good and perfect in the eyes of God (cf. Rom Rm 12,2). Then you will be like a city set on a hilltop, whose light is not hidden, but which is for everyone a witness to truth and freedom, to love and peace.
May Mary most holy, living icon of God’s love, protect you and accompany you always. As you enter the third Christian millennium, I entrust you to her maternal care and to the intercession of your patron saints.
People of God journeying in this beloved land of Georgia, go forth in confidence: God has loved you so much! May his love be your strength today and for ever! Amen.
12 November 1999
1. "He will raise us up to live in his presence" (Os 6,2).
1073 The liturgical celebrations for the Solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of All Souls in the past few days have turned our attention to the great mystery of death and eternal life. It is in this spiritual climate that we have gathered today in St Peter's Basilica to offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice for the Cardinals and Bishops who have gone to the Father's house this year.
I would like to recall in particular the venerable Cardinals Carlos Oviedo Cavada, Raúl Silva Henríquez and George Basil Hume. We are moved and grateful to remember them and the Archbishops and Bishops who died during the year. In their apostolic work based on faith and in their attentive pastoral service, they directed their gaze well beyond earthly limits, hoping in the Lord, proclaiming his name to their brothers and sisters, and praising him in the assembly of believers. May they now rest in the heavenly Father's house, a dwelling-place of peace for God's children!
2. "For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God" (Rm 8,14).
How many times did these Brothers, whom we commemorate today, refer in their lives and in the exercise of their ministry to the fundamental truth enunciated by the Apostle! How many times did they invoke the divine Paraclete and pray to him to pour out his grace upon the Christian people!
Their example invites us to strengthen our faith in the person of our Saviour and in the life-giving power of his Spirit. Faith imbues us with the comforting certainty that death is a passing to eternal life. The Preface for Christian Death reminds us of this: "Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death, we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven".
3. "The Son gives eternal life to all" (Jn 17,2).
In the Gospel we heard the beginning of Jesus' great prayer to the Father before his Passion. Its background is the Cross but it gives us a glimpse of the joy of the Resurrection.
Fixing our gaze on the Crucified One, we understand that precisely in the Son's ultimate gift of himself the Father poured out the fullness of the Holy Spirit upon the world. The Good Shepherd, who came that men might "have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10,10), thus brings his mission to fulfilment and gives the Holy Spirit for the salvation of all humanity.
4. In light of this most comforting truth we address the God of life, asking him to welcome our deceased brothers, who were generous workers in his vineyard for long years. Now that the Lord has called them to himself, may they experience the consoling truth of Christ's promise: "The Son gives eternal life to all".
As we remember them and pray for them, let us advance with trust on our way towards the heavenly homeland. May Blessed Mary, whom Jesus on the Cross gave us as a Mother, support us every day. Let us turn our trusting gaze to her and seek refuge under her protection. May she, the glorious and blessed Virgin, set us free from every danger and accompany us to our encounter with God.
1074 13 November 1999
1. “Behold, I make all things new...these words are trustworthy and true” (Ap 21,5)
Christ makes all things new. Saint Bridget, an illustrious daughter of Sweden, believed in Christ intensely and with deep love. With her song of faith and her good works she adorned the Church, which she recognized as the community of believers, the dwelling-place of the Spirit of God.
Today we remember this extraordinary holy woman, and I am especially glad that beside me in this celebration there are the highest representatives of the Lutheran Churches of Sweden and Finland, together with my venerable Brother Bishops of Stockholm and Copenhagen. I welcome each of them with great affection.
I also greet respectfully the King and Queen of Sweden, who have chosen to honour this celebration with their presence. My greeting goes also to the political leaders here with us. And finally I greet all of you, dear Sisters of the Most Holy Saviour of Saint Bridget, led by your Superior General.
2. Once again we are gathered to renew before the Lord the commitment to unity of faith and unity of the Church which Saint Bridget undertook with such conviction in troubled times. A passion for Christian unity sustained her entire life. And, thanks to her witness and the witness of Mother Elizabeth Hesselblad, this commitment has come down to us through the mysterious stream of grace which overflows the bounds of time and space.
Today’s celebration encourages us to meditate upon the message of Saint Bridget, whom I recently chose to proclaim a Co-Patroness of Europe, together with Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Saint Bridget’s dynamic love for the Church of Christ and her witness to the Cross are a rallying-point for us all as we prepare to cross the threshold of the new millennium.
I am very pleased at the end of our celebration this evening to inaugurate and bless a statue which will make more vibrant here in the Vatican the memory of this great witness of faith. Placed on the outside of this Basilica and just beside the so-called “Door of Prayer”, the marble image of Saint Bridget will be an enduring invitation to pray and work always for Christian unity.
3. My thoughts now turn to 5 October 1991, when a solemn ecumenical celebration was held in this same basilica for the sixth centenary of St Bridget's canonization. On that occasion I said: "For 25 years Lutherans and Catholics have been working to rediscover their common path....
Theological dialogue has brought to light again the vast heritage of faith which unites us.... Everyone knows that the Protestant Reformation began from the doctrine of justification and that it destroyed the unity of the Christians of the West. A common understanding of justification ... will, we are sure, help us to resolve the other controversies directly or indirectly linked to it".
This "common understanding", which I had hoped for eight years ago, today, thank God, has become an encouraging reality. On 31 October last, in the city of Augsburg, a Joint Declaration was solemnly signed in which Lutherans and Catholics expressed a consensus on basic truths of the doctrine of justification. This achievement of the ecumenical dialogue, a milestone on the way to full and visible unity, is the result of an intense work of research, meetings and prayer.
1075 However, we still have a long way to go: "grandis restat nobis via". We must do even more, conscious of the responsibilities we all have on the threshold of the third millennium. We must continue to walk together, supported by Christ, who prayed to the Father in the Upper Room on the night before his death that his disciples would "all be one" (Jn 17,21).
4. The Joint Declaration says very appropriately that the consensus reached by Catholics and Lutherans "in basic truths of the doctrine of justification must come to influence the life and teachings of our Churches" (n. 43).
On this path we trust in the ceaseless action of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, we also trust in those before us who loved Christ and his Cross so much, and prayed, like St Bridget, for that indelible note of the Church which is her unity.
We do not know the day when we will meet the Lord. The Gospel therefore calls us to watch, keeping our lamps lighted, so that when the Bridegroom comes we can be ready to welcome him. In this watchful expectation, the Divine Master's prayer echoes in the heart of every believer: "Ut unum sint".
May St Bridget be our example and intercessor. In a special way I ask you, her dear spiritual daughters of the Order of the Most Holy Saviour, to continue faithfully your precious apostolate of service to unity.
The new millennium is now at hand: may "Christ yesterday, today and for ever" be the focus and goal of all our aspirations. It is he who makes all things new and marks out for his faithful ones a journey of joyful hope. Let us pray unceasingly that he will grant the wisdom and strength of his Spirit; let us beseech him that all Christians may achieve unity as soon as possible. Nothing is impossible for God!
1. The angel "showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God" (Ap 21,10-11).
The passage from the Book of Revelation, which we have just heard, invites us to lift our gaze to the heavenly Jerusalem, filled with light and shining like a precious jewel, as if it were jasper clear as crystal. The images depicted in this chapel, which we are dedicating today, reflect the visions that John had on the island of Patmos, where he found himself "on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus" (Ap 1,9).
On the opposite wall we see the Holy City, which "had a great, high wall, with twelve gates" (Ap 21,12). It radiates the glory of the Trinity, which is poured out onto the multitude of the blessed, placed lower down, three by three, like living icons of the great Mystery. Looking, then, at the other walls, the eye can follow through images and symbols a grand synthesis of the whole "economy" of salvation.
2. The image of the Redemptoris Mater, standing out on the central wall, unveils to our eyes the mystery of the love of God, who became man in order to give us human beings the ability to become God's children (cf. St Augustine, Serm. 128: PL 39, 1997).
1076 Now on the threshold of the third millennium, I would like to emphasize this message of salvation and the joy which Christ, born of Mary, brought to humanity.
As we contemplate the image of the Virgin Mother, we hear echoing in our hearts the invitation proclaimed in the first reading taken from the Book of Nehemiah: "Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength" (8: 10).
3. I am pleased to dedicate the altar and to inaugurate the renovated chapel, whose mosaics bring to life the wealth of the Eastern tradition, reinterpreted with the knowledge of one who also knows the Western heritage. Here East and West, far from being in opposition, exchange their gifts in order to give greater expression to the unfathomable riches of Christ.
I thank everyone who has worked with dedication and love to complete this work, which is offered as an expression of that theology with two lungs from which the Church of the third millennium can draw new vitality.
I particularly thank the Cardinals who wanted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of my priesthood with this gift: it is a joy for me that the event should be linked with the Redemptoris Mater, under whose protection I have given my service to the Church all these years, and to whose intercession I entrust whatever time the Lord may further grant me.
4. The Gospel passage we have heard took us to the region of Caesarea Philippi, where Christ asked his disciples the crucial question: "Who do you say that I am?" (Mt 16,15). Looking at the message depicted in the mosaics on these walls, we can discern the answer which the Church today continues to give to the Lord's question. It is the same answer which Peter gave that day: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16,16).
With humble trust let us make our own that profession of faith, knowing that it does not come "from flesh or blood", but from the Father "who is in heaven" (cf. Mt Mt 16,17).
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God"; the same "yesterday, and today and for ever".
Sunday 21 November 1999
1. "He will sit on his glorious throne" (Mt 25,31).
1077 Today's liturgical solemnity is dominated by Christ the King of the universe, Pantocrator, as we see him shining resplendently in the apse of ancient Christian basilicas. We contemplate this majestic image today, the last Sunday of the liturgical year.
The kingship of Jesus Christ, according to the world's criteria, is paradoxical: it is the triumph of love, accomplished in the mystery of the Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Son of God. This saving kingship is fully revealed in the sacrifice of the Cross, the supreme act of mercy in which the salvation and judgement of the world are simultaneously brought about.
Every Christian shares in Christ's kingship. In Baptism he receives by grace the inner drive to make his life a free and generous gift to God and his brethren. This appears most eloquently in the witness of the saints, who are models of humanity renewed by divine love. Today we joyfully enrol among them Cirilo Bertrán and his eight companions, Inocencio de la Inmaculada, Benedict Menni and Thomas of Cori.
2. "Christ must reign", we heard St Paul say in the second reading. The reign of Christ is already being established on earth through service of neighbour, by fighting against evil, suffering and human misery until death is defeated. Faith in the risen Christ makes it possible for so many men and women to be dedicated and committed to transforming the world in order to restore it to the Father: so that "God will be everything to everyone".
This same commitment motivated Bro. Cirilo Bertrán and his eight companions, Brothers of the Christian Schools of Our Lady of Covadonga College. Born in Spain, and one of them in Argentina, their lives were crowned with martyrdom in Turón (Asturias) in 1934, together with the Passionist Father, Inocencio de la Inmaculada. Not afraid to shed their blood for Christ, they conquered death and now share in the glory of God's kingdom. This is why I have the joy of enrolling them among the saints today, holding them up to the universal Church as models of Christian life and our intercessors with God.
Joined with the group of martrys of Turón is Bro. Jaime Hilario, of the same religious congregation, who was killed in Tarragona three years later. While forgiving his executioners, he said: "My friends, to die for Christ is to reign".
As witnesses recount, they all prepared for death as they had lived: with persevering prayer in a spirit of brotherhood, without hiding their religious state and with the firmness of those who know they are citizens of heaven. They are not heroes of a human war in which they did not participate, but educators of youth. Because of their state as consecrated persons and teachers, they faced their tragic destiny as an authentic testimony of faith, giving the last lesson of their life by martyrdom.
May their example and intercession touch the entire De La Salle family and the whole Church!
3. "Come O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world ... for I was sick and you visited me" (Mt 25,34-36). These words of the Gospel proclaimed today would certainly have been familiar to Benedict Menni, a priest of the Order of St John of God. His devotion to the sick, lived according to the Hospitaller charism, guided his life.
His spirituality was born of his own experience of God's love for him. In his great devotion to the Heart of Jesus, King of heaven and earth, and to the Virgin Mary, he found the strength for his charitable service to others, especially the suffering: the elderly, children with scrofula and poliomyelitis and the mentally ill. He carried out his service to the order and to society with a humility based on hospitality and blameless integrity, which made him a model for many. He organized various initiatives, guiding some young women who formed the first nucleus of a new religious institute, and founding the Hospitaller Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Ciempozuelos (Madrid). His spirit of prayer led him to contemplate deeply Christ's paschal mystery, the source for understanding human suffering and the path to resurrection. On this day of Christ the King, the example of St Benedict Menni's life sheds light on those who want to follow in the footsteps of the Master along the paths of welcoming hospitality.
4. "I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out (Ez 34,11). Thomas of Cori, a priest of the Order of Friars Minor, was the living image of the Good Shepherd. As a loving guide, he knew how to lead the brothers entrusted to his care towards the pastures of faith, ever inspired by the Franciscan ideal.
1078 In the friary he showed his spirit of charity, making himself available for any need, even the humblest. He lived the kingship of love and service, according to the mind of Christ who, as today's liturgy sings, "offered his life on the altar of the Cross and redeemed the human race by this one perfect sacrifice of peace" (Preface of Christ the King).
As a genuine disciple of the "Poverello" of Assisi, St Thomas of Cori was obedient to Christ, the King of the universe. He meditated upon and incarnated in his life the Gospel requirement of poverty and of self-giving to God and neighbour. Thus his whole life appears as a sign of the Gospel, a witness to the heavenly Father's love revealed in Christ and active in the Holy Spirit for human salvation.
5. We give thanks to God who, on the paths of time, never ceases to raise up shining witnesses to his kingdom of justice and peace. May the 12 new saints, whom I have the joy today of presenting for the veneration of the People of God, show us the way to be prepared for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. Indeed, it is not difficult to recognize in their example certain elements which characterize the Jubilee. I am thinking in particular of martyrdom and charity (cf. Incarnationis mysterium, nn. 12-13). More generally, today's celebration recalls the great mystery of the communion of saints, which is the basis of the other distinctive element of the Jubilee, the indulgence (cf. ibid., nn. 9-10).
The saints show us the way to the kingdom of heaven, the way of the Gospel radically lived. At the same time, they support our serene certitude that every created reality finds its fulfilment in Christ and that, through him, the world will be presented to God the Father fully renewed and reconciled in love.
May St Cirilo Bertrán with his eight Companions, St Inocencio de la Inmaculada, St Benedict Menni and St Thomas of Cori help us also to follow the way of spiritual perfection. May Mary, Queen of All Saints, whom today we contemplate in her presentation in the temple, sustain and protect us always. Following her example, may we too cooperate faithfully in the mystery of Redemption. Amen!
S. John Paul II Homil. 1068