S. John Paul II Homil. 1505
1505 I also greet the Minister of the Interior, who represents the French Government at today’s celebration, and the other civil and military authorities present.
My thoughts and prayers go also to the pilgrims assembled here from different parts of Europe and from throughout the world, and to all those spiritually united with us by radio and television. With special affection I greet the sick and all who have come to this holy place to seek consolation and hope. May the Blessed Virgin enable you to sense her presence and give comfort to your hearts!
3. "In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country..." (Lc 1,39). The words of the Gospel story have once more brought before the eyes of our hearts the young maiden of Nazareth as she makes her way to that "city of Judah" where her kinswoman Elizabeth lived, in order to be of help to her.
What strikes us about Mary is above all her loving concern for her elderly relative. Hers is a practical love, one which is not limited to words of understanding but is deeply and personally involved in giving help. The Blessed Virgin does not merely give her cousin something of herself; she gives her whole self, asking nothing in return. Mary understood perfectly that the gift she received from God is more than a privilege; it is a duty which obliges her to serve others with the selflessness proper to love.
4. "My soul magnifies the Lord..." (Lc 1,46). Mary’s sentiments in her meeting with Elizabeth are forcefully expressed in the canticle of the Magnificat. Her words convey the hope-filled expectation of the "poor of the Lord" and at the same time an awareness that God has fulfilled his promises, for he "has remembered his mercy" (cf. Lk Lc 1,54).
This same awareness is the source of that joy of the Virgin Mary which pervades the whole canticle: joy in knowing that she has been "looked upon" by God despite her own "lowliness" (cf. Lk Lc 1,48); joy in the "service" she is able to offer because of the "great things" to which the Almighty has called her (cf. Lk Lc 1,49); joy in her foretaste of the eschatological blessedness promised to "those of low degree" and "the hungry" (cf. Lk Lc 1,52-53).
The Magnificat is followed by silence: nothing is said to us about the three months that Mary stayed with her kinswoman Elizabeth. Yet perhaps we are told the most important thing: that goodness works quietly, the power of love is expressed in the unassuming quietness of daily service.
5. By her words and her silence the Virgin Mary stands before us as a model for our pilgrim way. It is not an easy way: as a result of the fall of our first parents, humanity is marked by the wounds of sin, whose consequences continue to be felt also among the redeemed. But evil and death will not have the last word! Mary confirms this by her whole life, for she is a living witness of the victory of Christ, our Passover.
The faithful have understood this. That is why they throng to this grotto in order to hear the maternal counsels of the Blessed Virgin. In her they acknowledge "the woman clothed in the sun" (Ap 12,1), the Queen resplendent before the throne of God (cf. Responsorial ), ever interceding on their behalf.
6. Today the Church celebrates Mary’s glorious Assumption body and soul into Heaven. The two dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption are closely related. Both proclaim the glory of Christ the Redeemer and the holiness of Mary, whose human destiny is even now perfectly and definitively realized in God.
"When I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also" (Jn 14,3). Mary is the pledge of the fulfilment of Christ’s promise. Her Assumption thus becomes for us "a sign of sure hope and consolation" (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 68).
1506 7. Dear brothers and sisters! From this grotto of Massabielle the Blessed Virgin speaks to us too, the Christians of the third millennium. Let us listen to her!
Listen to her, young people who seek an answer capable of giving meaning to your lives. Here you can find that answer.It is a demanding one, yet it is the only answer which is genuinely satisfying. For it contains the secret of true joy and peace.
From this grotto I issue a special call to women.Appearing here, Mary entrusted her message to a young girl, as if to emphasize the special mission of women in our own time, tempted as it is by materialism and secularism: to be in today’s society a witness of those essential values which are seen only with the eyes of the heart. To you, women, falls the task of being sentinels of the Invisible! I appeal urgently to all of you, dear brother and sisters, to do everything in your power to ensure that life, each and every life, will be respected from conception to its natural end. Life is a sacred gift, and no one can presume to be its master.
Finally, Our Lady of Lourdes has a message for everyone. Be men and women of freedom! But remember: human freedom is a freedom wounded by sin. It is a freedom which itself needs to be set free. Christ is its liberator; he is the one who "for freedom has set us free" (cf. Gal Ga 5,1). Defend that freedom!
Dear friends, in this we know we can count on Mary, who, since she never yielded to sin, is the only creature who is perfectly free. I entrust you to her. Walk beside Mary as you journey towards the complete fulfilment of your humanity!
Wednesday, 25 August 2004
Liturgy of the Word in honour
of the Icon of the Mother of God of Kazan
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Today, as I announced last Sunday, our traditional weekly meeting has a special profile. Indeed, here we are gathered in prayer around the venerable Icon of the Mother of God of Kazan, which is on the point of setting out on the return journey to Russia, which it left one day long ago.
1507 After passing through various countries and staying a long time at the Shrine of Fatima in Portugal, it providentially arrived at the Pope's dwelling more than 10 years ago. Since then, it has found a home with me and has accompanied my daily service to the Church with its motherly gaze.
How often since that day have I called on the Mother of God of Kazan, asking her to protect and guide the Russian people who venerate her, and to hasten the moment when all the disciples of her Son, recognizing one another as brothers and sisters, will be able to fully restore the compromised unity.
2. From the very first, I wanted this holy Icon to return to its own Land of Russia, where, according to reliable historical accounts, it was for a great many years the object of profound veneration on the part of entire generations of the faithful. It was around the Icon of the Mother of God of Kazan that the history of that great people developed.
Russia is a Nation which has been Christian for many centuries; it is the Holy Rus'. Even when hostile forces furiously attacked the Church and endeavoured to cancel the holy Name of God from human lives, that people remained profoundly Christian, witnessing in many cases with blood to their fidelity to the Gospel and the values it inspires.
Therefore, deeply moved, I give thanks with you to divine Providence, which today has granted me to send this holy Icon as a gift to the venerable Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.
3. May the ancient image of the Mother of the Lord tell His Holiness Alexei II and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Successor of Peter's affection for them and for all the faithful entrusted to their care. May it speak of his esteem for the great spiritual tradition of which the Holy Russian Church is custodian. May it speak of the desire and firm determination of the Pope of Rome to progress with them on the journey of reciprocal knowledge and reconciliation, to hasten the day of that full unity of believers for which the Lord Jesus ardently prayed (cf. Jn Jn 17,20-22).
Dear brothers and sisters, join me in invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as I entrust her Icon to the Delegation which, in my name, will be taking the Icon to Moscow.
Sunday, 5 September 2004
1. For what man can learn the counsel of God? (Sg 9,13). The question asked in the Book of Wisdom has one answer: only the Son of God, made man for our salvation in the virginal womb of Mary, can reveal God's design to us.Jesus alone knows which is the path that "leads to wisdom of heart" (cf. Responsorial ) and to peace and salvation.
And what is this way? He has given us the answer in today's Gospel: it is the way of the Cross. His words are clear: "Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple" (Lc 14,27).
1508 "Carrying the cross, following Jesus", means being prepared to make any sacrifice for love of him. It means not putting anything or anyone before him, not even those you love the most, not even your own life.
2. Dear brothers and sisters gathered in this "splendid valley of Montorso", as Archbishop Comastri has described it: I cordially thank him for his warm words to me. With him, I greet the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops who are here; I greet the priests, the men and women religious, the consecrated persons; and above all I greet you young people, members of Catholic Action, led by your General Chaplain, Mons. Francesco Lambiasi, and by the [Italian] National President, Dr Paola Bignardi, whom I thank for her warm address. You have desired to gather here, under the gaze of Our Lady of Loreto, to renew your commitment of faithful attachment to Jesus Christ.
You know it: adhering to Christ is a demanding decision. It is not by chance that Jesus speaks of the "cross". However, he straightaway explains: "after me". These are the important words: we are not alone in carrying our cross. He walks ahead of us, showing us the way with the light of his example and the power of his love.
3. The cross accepted through love gives birth to freedom. The Apostle Paul experienced it when he was old "and now a prisoner also for Jesus Christ", as he himself says in his Letter to Philemon, but inwardly totally free. It is this impression that the passage just proclaimed conveys to us: Paul is in chains but his heart is free, because it is filled with Christ's love. Therefore, in the dark prison in which he suffers for his Lord, he can speak of freedom to a friend who is outside it. Philemon was a Christian of Colossae; Paul turns to him to ask him to free Onesimus, who was still a slave according to the law of the time, but is henceforth a brother through baptism. By renouncing the other as a possession, Philemon will receive the gift of a brother.
A clear lesson can be learned from this incident, viewed as a whole: there is no greater love than that of the cross; there is no truer freedom than that of love; there is no more complete brotherhood than that which is born from the Cross of Jesus.
4. The three new Blesseds were humble disciples and heroic witnesses of the Cross of Jesus.
Pere Tarrés i Claret, first a doctor, then a priest, dedicated himself to the lay apostolate among the young people of Catholic Action in Barcelona, whose adviser he subsequently became. As a medical practioner, he devoted himself with special concern to the poorest of the sick, convinced that "the sick person is a symbol of the suffering Christ".
Ordained a priest, he devoted himself with generous daring to the tasks of his ministry, ever faithful to the commitment he had made on the eve of his Ordination: "A single resolution, Lord, cost what it may". He accepted with faith and heroic patience a serious illness from which he died at the age of only 45. Despite his suffering, he would frequently repeat: "How good the Lord is to me! And I am truly happy".
5. Alberto Marvelli, a young man who was strong and free and a generous son of the Church of Rimini and of Catholic Action, considered his brief life of only 28 years as a gift of love to Jesus for the good of his brethren. "Jesus has enfolded me in his grace", he wrote in his diary; "I no longer see anyone but him, I think only of him". Alberto had made the daily Eucharist the centre of his life. In prayer he also sought the inspiration for political commitment, convinced of the need to live to the full as children of God in history in order to make it a history of salvation.
In the difficult time of the Second World War, which sowed death and multiplied violence and atrocious suffering, Bl. Alberto fostered an intense spiritual life, from which flowed the love for Jesus that led him constantly to forget himself and to take on the cross of the poor.
6. Bl. Pina Suriano, a native of Partinico in the Diocese of Monreale [Sicily], loved Jesus with an ardent and faithful love to the point that she wrote in all sincerity: "I do nothing other than live for Jesus". She spoke to Jesus from her bride's heart: "Jesus, make me more and more your own. Jesus, I want to live and die with you and for you".
1509 Since childhood, she had been a member of the female branch of Catholic Action, of which she later became parish director, finding important incentives in the Association for human and cultural growth in an intense atmosphere of fraternal friendship.She gradually developed a simple, steadfast desire to give her young life to God as an offering of love and especially for the sanctification and perseverance of priests.
7. Dear brothers and sisters, friends of Catholic Action who have gathered in Loreto from Italy, from Spain, from many parts of the world! Today, through the beatification of these three Servants of God, the Lord is saying to you: the greatest gift you can make to the Church and to the world is holiness.
May you have at heart what the Church has at heart: that numerous men and women of our time be won over by fascination for Christ; may his Gospel shine once more as a light of hope for the poor, the sick, those who hunger for justice; may Christian communities be ever more lively, open and attractive; may our cities be hospitable and liveable for all; may humanity follow the paths of peace and brotherhood.
8. It is up to you lay people to witness to the faith through your own specific virtues: fidelity and gentleness in the family, competence at work, tenacity in serving the common good, solidarity in social relations, creativity in doing useful deeds for evangelization and human promotion. It is also up to you, in close communion with the Pastors, to show that the Gospel is timely and that faith does not tear the believer from history but roots him in it more deeply.
Courage, Catholic Action! May the Lord guide you on your journey of renewal!
May the Immaculate Virgin of Loreto accompany you with tender concern; the Church looks to you with confidence; the Pope greets you, supports you and wholeheartedly blesses you.
Italian Catholic Action, thank you!
Sunday, 3 October 2004
1. "Verbum Domini manet in aeternum - The Word of the Lord will endure for ever". The Gospel acclamation takes us back to the very roots of the faith. As we face the passing of time and the continuous upheavals of history, the revelation that God offered us in Christ endures for ever and opens horizons of eternity to us on our earthly journey.
This is the unique experience of the five new Blesseds: Peter Vigne, Joseph-Marie Cassant, Anne Catherine Emmerick, Maria Ludovica De Angelis and Charles of Austria. They let the Word of God guide them as a bright and safe beacon that never ceased to enlighten them on their way.
2. Contemplating Christ present in the Eucharist and the saving Passion, Fr Peter Vigne was led to be a true disciple and a faithful missionary of the Church. May his example give the faithful the desire to draw daring for the mission from the love of the Eucharist and from the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament! Let us ask him to move the hearts of the young so that, if God calls them, they are ready to dedicate themselves to him without reserve in the priesthood or in the Religious life. May the Church in France find in Fr Vigne an example to raise up new sowers of the Gospel!
1510 3. Fr Joseph-Marie always put his trust in God, in contemplation of the mystery of the Passion and in communion with Christ present in the Eucharist.
Thus, he was imbued with love for God and abandoned himself to him, "the only true happiness on earth", detaching himself from worldly goods in the silence of the Trappist monastery. In the midst of trials, his eyes fixed on Christ, he offered up his sufferings for the Lord and for the Church.
May our contemporaries, especially contemplatives and the sick, discover following his example the mystery of prayer, which raises the world to God and gives strength in trial!
4. "God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control" (II Tm 1: 7). St Paul's words invite us to collaborate in building the Kingdom of God in the perspective of faith. They can be aptly applied to the life of Bl. Ludovica De Angelis, whose existence was totally dedicated to the glory of God and the service of her peers.
She was a person with an outstanding mother's heart, leadership qualities and the daring typical of saints. She also showed concrete and generous love to sick children, making sacrifices to bring them relief; with her co-workers in La Plata Hospital, she was a model of cheerfulness and responsibility, creating a family atmosphere. As a Daughter of Our Lady of Mercy, she set an authentic example to the Sisters in her community. She was sustained in all this by prayer and by making her life a continuous communication with the Lord.
5. Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerick told of "the sorrowful passion of our Lord Jesus Christ" and lived it in her body. The fact that the daughter of poor peasants who sought tenaciously to be close to God became the well-known "Mystic of the Land of Münster" was a work of divine grace. Her material poverty contrasted with her rich interior life. We are equally impressed by the new Blessed's patience in putting up with physical weakness and her strong character, as well as her unshakable faith.
She found this strength in the Most Holy Eucharist. Her example opened the hearts of poor and rich alike, of simple and cultured persons, whom she instructed in loving dedication to Jesus Christ.
Still today, she passes on to all the saving message: Through the wounds of Christ we have been saved (cf. 1P 2,24).
6. The decisive task of Christians consists in seeking, recognizing and following God's will in all things. The Christian statesman, Charles of Austria, confronted this challenge every day. To his eyes, war appeared as "something appalling". Amid the tumult of the First World War, he strove to promote the peace initiative of my Predecessor, Benedict XV.
From the beginning, the Emperor Charles conceived of his office as a holy service to his people. His chief concern was to follow the Christian vocation to holiness also in his political actions. For this reason, his thoughts turned to social assistance. May he be an example for all of us, especially for those who have political responsibilities in Europe today!
7. Let us praise and thank the Lord with the entire Church for the marvels he has worked through these good and faithful servants of the Gospel. May Mary Most Holy, who in this month of October we invoke in a special way with the prayer of the Rosary, help us to become in turn generous and courageous apostles of the Gospel. Amen!
1511 Friday 22 October 2004
1. I am also pleased this year to greet in the Vatican Basilica the vast and varied communities of Roman Ecclesiastical Universities that are returning to their academic life. I greet with gratitude Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, who is celebrating the Holy Eucharist; I greet the other Prelates here, the Officials of the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Rectors, lecturers and students of the Athenaeums and of the other Institutes and Pontifical Faculties. I offer my most cordial welcome to each and all of them.
2. "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call (Ep 4,4). These words that St Paul addressed to the Ephesians are addressed this evening to the ecclesiastical academic community of Rome, the number and variety of whose members make it unique in the world. Indeed, the Roman Ecclesiastical Universities contribute in their own way to expressing the unity and universality of the Church. It is a multiform unity that is based on the same "calling", that is, on the common vocation to the following of Christ. I especially ask you, dear students, to make sure that your training in these years helps you to "lead a life" that is ever more worthy of the Christian vocation (cf. Eph Ep 4,1); I urge you to be ready to place your talents at the service of the Church in all humility.
3. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 24) has just evoked a "generation" of those who "seek the face of God" (v. 6). I am thinking of you, dear lecturers and students, who have in common your desire to know God and to penetrate his mystery of salvation, fully revealed in Christ. To ascend the mountain of the Lord, the Psalmist cautions that "clean hands and a pure heart" are required (Ps 24: 4). And he adds that those who want to know the truth must work hard to practise it in what they say and do (cf. ibid.). "Such is the generation of those who seek... God": be like them, dear friends! Be men and women committed to creating unity between faith and life at the cognitive level but above all at the existential level.
4. In the Eucharist we find a key to a rapid interpretation of what the Word of God is telling us in today's liturgy. On the one hand, the Eucharist is the principle of unity in charity, of communion in the multiplicity of gifts. On the other, it is the mysterium fidei that in itself contains the invitation to move on from the superficial to the profound reality that lies beneath appearances. Through the Eucharist, the Holy Spirit illuminates the eyes of our heart, enabling us to understand the signs of the new times (Gospel Acclamation;cf. Eph Ep 1,17 Lc 21,29-31). The Eucharistic mystery is the school at which Christians train in the "intellectus fidei" (knowledge of the faith), by learning to know through adoration and to believe through contemplation. In doing this, at the same time they develop their true Christian personality, to be able to witness in charity to the truth.
5. Dear brothers and sisters, this academic year coincides with the Year of the Eucharist.
Following the example of St Thomas Aquinas and all of the Doctors of the Church, strive to draw from the Sacrament of the Altar the renewed enlightenment of wisdom and the constant strength of evangelical life. May Mary, "Woman of the Eucharist" and Virgin of obedient listening, accompany you and guide you every day to the Eucharist, the perennial fount of salvation.
1. "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever" (Jn 6,51). Jesus speaks these words to the crowd following the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. He presents himself as the true manna, given by the heavenly Father so that man may have eternal life (cf. Jn Jn 6,26-58). In some way, his words foreshadow the great gift of the Eucharist, the sacrament that he will institute in the Upper Room during the Last Supper.
The mystery of his death and Resurrection are fulfilled in the Paschal event; it is a mystery unceasingly kept alive in the Eucharist, the mystical banquet. Here, the Messiah offers himself as food for the guests, uniting them to himself in a bond of love and life stronger than death.
2. Your Eminences, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, dear brothers and sisters, the theme of the messianic banquet guides our reflection throughout this celebration, held in memory of our recently-deceased brother Cardinals and Bishops.
1512 Each time that we celebrate the Eucharist, we participate in the Lord's Supper, foretaste of the banquet of heavenly glory. In the first reading we have just heard, the prophet Isaiah invites us to look upon this glorious banquet. It will be held on the holy mountain of Jerusalem and will swallow up death and mourning for ever (cf. Is Is 25,6). Psalm 23 also evokes this banquet in the comforting vision of the man of prayer who receives hospitality from God himself, who prepares the table for him and anoints his head with oil (cf. Ps 23: 5).
3. How much light the Word of God casts upon today's liturgy as we offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice, united in prayer around the altar, in suffrage for the venerable Cardinals and Bishops who have passed from this world to the Father during this year.
It is with affection that I recall in a particular way their Eminences: Paulos Tzadua, Opilio Rossi, Franz König, Hyacinthe Thiandoum, Marcelo González Martín, Juan Francisco Fresno Larraín, James Aloysius Hickey and Gustaaf Joos.
Let us pray for them and the deceased Archbishops and Bishops, who we entrust with filial trust to divine mercy.
4. Remembering them and calling to mind their generous service to the Church, it is as if to hear them repeating with the Apostle: "Hope does not disappoint" (Rm 5,5)!
Yes, dear brothers and sisters, God is faithful and our hope in him is not vain. We thank the Lord for all of the benefits the Church has received through the priestly ministry of these late Pastors.
For them, let us call upon the maternal intercession of Mary Most Holy, so that they may participate in the eternal banquet, that same banquet which, with faith and love, they had a foretaste of during their earthly pilgrimage. Amen.
OF THE 40th ANNIVERSARY OF THE PROMULGATION
"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace" (Ep 2, 13ff.).
1. With these words from his Letter to the Ephesians the Apostle proclaims that Christ is our peace. We are reconciled in him; we are no longer strangers but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone (cf. Eph Ep 2, 19ff.).
1513 We have listened to Paul's words on the occasion of this celebration that sees us gathered in the venerable Basilica built over the Apostle Peter's tomb. I cordially greet those taking part in the ecumenical conference organized for the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of the Decree Unitatis Redintegratio of the Second Vatican Council. I extend my greeting to the Cardinals, Patriarchs and Bishops taking part, to the Fraternal Delegates of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, and to the Consultors, guests and collaborators of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. I thank you for having carefully examined the meaning of this important Decree and the actual and future prospects of the ecumenical movement. This evening we are gathered here to praise God from whom come every good endowment and every perfect gift (cf. Jc 1,17), and to thank him for the rich fruit the Decree has yielded with the help of the Holy Spirit during these past 40 years.
2. The implementation of this Conciliar Decree desired by my Predecessor, Bl. Pope John XXIII, and promulgated by Pope Paul VI, has been one of the pastoral priorities of my Pontificate from the outset (cf. Ut Unum Sint UUS 99). Since ecumenical unity is not a secondary attribute of the community of Christ's disciples (cf. ibid., n. 9), and ecumenical activity is not just some sort of appendix added to the Church's traditional activity (cf. ibid., n. 20) but is based on God's saving plan to gather all [Christians] into unity (cf. ibid., n. 5), it corresponds to the desire of our Lord Jesus Christ, who wanted only one Church and on the eve of his death prayed to the Father that they might all be one (cf. Jn Jn 17,21).
Basically, to seek unity is to comply with Jesus' prayer. The Second Vatican Council, in making its own this desire of Our Lord, made no innovation. Guided and enlightened by the Spirit of God, it cast new light on the true, deep meaning of the Church's unity and universality. The way of ecumenism is the way of the Church (cf. Ut Unum Sint UUS 7); she is not a reality closed in on herself but permanently open to the missionary and ecumenical dynamic (cf. ibid., n. 5).
The commitment to re-establishing full and visible communion among all the baptized does not apply merely to a few ecumenical experts; it concerns every Christian, from every Diocese and parish and from every one of the Church's communities. All are called to take on this commitment and no one can refuse to make his own the prayer of Jesus that all may be one; all are called to pray and work for the unity of Christ's disciples.
3. Today, faced with a world moving towards unification, this ecumenical process is particularly necessary, and the Church must accept new challenges to her evangelizing mission. The Council noted that the division between Christians "scandalizes the world and damages that most holy cause, the preaching of the Gospel" (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 1). Ecumenical and missionary activity are therefore connected. They are the routes that the Church takes in carrying out her mission in the world and are a concrete expression of her catholicity. In our time we are observing the growth of an erroneous, Godless humanism, and we note with deep sorrow the conflicts that are staining the world with blood. The Church is called especially in this situation to be a sign and an instrument of unity and reconciliation between God and humankind (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 1).
The Decree on Ecumenism was one of the practical ways in which the Church responded to this situation, taking heed of the Spirit of the Lord who teaches people to interpret carefully the signs of the times (cf. Ut Unum Sint UUS 3). Our epoch has a deep yearning for peace. The Church, a credible sign and instrument of Christ's peace, must always endeavour to overcome the divisions between Christians and thereby become increasingly a witness of the peace that Christ offers to the world. How is it possible in this sad situation not to remember the Apostle's moving words: "I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ep 4,1-3)?
4. The many ecumenical meetings at all ecclesial levels, the theological dialogues and the rediscovery of common witnesses to the faith have strengthened, deepened and enriched the communion with other Christians which to a certain extent already exists, even if it is not yet full. We no longer consider other Christians as distant or strangers but see them as brothers and sisters. "The "universal brotherhood' of Christians has become a firm ecumenical conviction.... Christians have been converted to a fraternal charity which embraces all Christ's disciples" (Ut Unum Sint UUS 42).
We are grateful to God to see that in recent years many of the faithful across the world have been moved by an ardent desire for the unity of all Christians. I warmly thank those who have made themselves instruments of the Spirit and have worked and prayed for this process of rapprochement and reconciliation.
However, we have not yet reached the goal of our ecumenical journey: full and visible communion in the same faith, the same sacraments and the same apostolic ministry. Thanks be to God, a certain number of differences and misunderstandings have been overcome, but many stumbling blocks still stand in our way. Sometimes it is not only misunderstandings and prejudices that persist, but also deplorable slowness and closed-heartedness (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 48), and above all, differences in faith that focus mainly on such topics as the Church, her nature and her ministries. Unfortunately, we have run up against new problems that hinder our common witness, especially in the area of ethics where further differences are surfacing.
5. I know well, as I explained in the Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (cf. n. 43-46), that our being prevented by all these reasons from immediately taking part in the sacrament of unity, sharing the Eucharistic Bread and drinking from the common Cup at the table of the Lord, causes much suffering and disappointment.
None of this should lead to resignation; indeed, on the contrary, it must spur us to continue and to persevere in praying and working for unity. Even if in all probability the path that lies ahead is still long and arduous, it will be full of joy and hope. Indeed, every day we discover and experience the action and dynamism of the Spirit of God, whom we rejoice to see at work also in the Churches and Ecclesial Communities that are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church. Let us recognize "the riches of Christ and virtuous works in the lives of others who are bearing witness to Christ, sometimes even to the shedding of their blood" (Unitatis Redintegratio UR 4). Rather than complaining about what is not yet possible, we must be grateful for and cheered by what already exists and is possible. Doing what we can do now will cause us to grow in unity and will fire us with enthusiasm to overcome the difficulties. A Christian can never give up hope, lose heart or be drained of enthusiasm. The unity of the one Church that already subsists in the Catholic Church and can never be lost is our guarantee that the full unity of all Christians will also one day be a reality (cf. ibid., n. 4).
1514 6. How should we imagine the future of ecumenism? First of all, we must strengthen the foundations of ecumenical activity, that is, our common faith in all that is expressed in baptismal profession, in the Apostolic Creed and in the Nicene-Constantinople Creed. These doctrinal foundations express the faith professed by the Church since the time of the Apostles. Then, on the basis of this faith we must develop the concept and spirituality of communion. "The communion of saints" and full communion do not mean abstract uniformity but a wealth of legitimate diversities in gifts shared and recognized by all, according to the well-known proverb: "in necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas".
7. A spirituality of communion also means an ability to think of our Christian brothers or sisters, in the deep unity born from Baptism, "as "those who are a part of me'. This makes us able to share... and attend to their needs, to offer them deep and genuine friendship" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 43).
A spirituality of communion "implies also the ability to see what is positive in others, to welcome it and prize it as a gift from God: not only as a gift for the brother or sister who has received it directly, but also as a "gift for me'. A spirituality of communion means, finally, to know how to "make room' for our brothers and sisters, bearing "each other's burdens' (Ga 6,2) and resisting the selfish temptations which constantly beset us and provoke competition, careerism, distrust and jealousy. Let us have no illusions: unless we follow this spiritual path, external structures of communion will serve very little purpose. They would become mechanisms without a soul, "masks' of communion rather than its means of expression and growth" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 43).
To sum up, therefore, a spirituality of communion means travelling together towards unity in the integral profession of faith, in the sacraments and in ecclesiastical ministry (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 14 Unitatis Redintegratio UR 2).
8. To conclude, I would particularly like to refer to spiritual ecumenism which, according to the Decree Unitatis Redintegratio, is the heart and soul of the entire ecumenical movement (cf. n. 8; Ut Unum Sint UUS 15-17 UUS 21-27). I am grateful to you all for having stressed at the conference the central aspect of ecumenism for the future. There is no true ecumenism without inner conversion and the purification of memory, without holiness of life in conformity with the Gospel, and above all, without intense and assiduous prayer that echoes the prayer of Jesus. In this regard, I am pleased to note the development of joint initiatives for prayer and the formation of study groups to share their reciprocal traditions of spirituality (cf. Ecumenical Directory, n. 114).
We must act as the Apostles did with Mary, the Mother of God, after the Lord's Ascension; they gathered in the Upper Room and prayed for the outpouring of the Spirit (cf. Acts Ac 1,12-14). He alone, who is the Spirit of communion and love, can give us the full communion that we so ardently desire.
"Veni creator Spiritus!". Amen.
HOLY MASS ON THE OCCASION OF THE 150th ANNIVERSARY
S. John Paul II Homil. 1505