January 1999

Wednesday 13 January 1999 - God gradually reveals his fatherhood

1. "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you" (Conf. 1, 1). This famous statement which introduces the Confessions of St Augustine vividly expresses the irrepressible need that prompts man to seek the face of God. The various religious traditions testify to this experience. "Throughout history even to the present day there is found among different peoples a certain awareness of a hidden power, which lies behind the course of nature and the events of human life. At times there is present even a recognition of a supreme being, or still more of a Father" (Nostra aetate
NAE 2).

In fact, many prayers of the world's religious literature express the conviction that the Supreme Being can be perceived and called upon as a father, who is reached through experience of the affectionate care received from one's earthly father. It is precisely this relationship which in certain currents of contemporary atheism has given rise to the suspicion that the very idea of God is a projection of the father figure. This suspicion, in fact, is groundless.

It is true however that, on the basis of his experience, man is sometimes tempted to imagine the divinity with anthropomorphic features that too closely reflect the human world. The search for God thus continues "gropingly", as Paul says in his discourse to the Athenians (cf. Ac 17,27). It is therefore necessary to bear in mind this chiaroscuro aspect of religious experience by recognizing that only the full revelation in which God manifests himself can dispel these shadows and ambiguities and make the light shine brightly.

2. After the example of Paul who, precisely in his discourse to the Athenians, cites a verse about man's divine origins by the poet Aratus (cf. Ac 17,28), the Church looks with respect on attempts to discern the face of God made by the different religions, distinguishing in their beliefs what is acceptable from what is incompatible with Christian Revelation.

In this sense, the perception of God as universal Father of the world and of mankind must be considered a positive religious insight. However, the idea of a divinity ruled by his own wilfulness and caprice is unacceptable. Among the ancient Greeks, for example, the Good as a supreme and divine being was also called father, but the god Zeus displayed his fatherhood in anger and malice as much as in kindness. In the Odyssey we read: "Father Zeus, you are the most deadly of gods: you take no pity on men after begetting them and abandoning them to misfortune and oppressive sorrows" (XX, 201-203).

However the need for a God who is above capricious wilfulness was also found among the ancient Greeks, as evidenced for example by the poet Cleanthes' "Hymn to Zeus". The idea of a divine father, prepared to make the generous gift of life and providing for its necessities, but who at the same time is severe and punishing, and not always for an obvious reason, is linked in ancient societies to the institution of patriarchy and transfers the way it is most commonly conceived to the religious level.

3. In Israel the recognition of God's fatherhood is gradual and is continually endangered by the temptation to idolatry which the prophets vigorously denounce: "They say to a tree, "You are my father", and to a stone, "You gave me birth"" (Jr 2,27). In fact, for biblical religious experience the perception of God as Father is linked less to his creative work than to his saving interventions in history by which he establishes a special covenant relationship with Israel. God often laments that this fatherly love has not received a suitable response: "The Lord has spoken: "Sons have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me"" (Is 1,2).

To Israel, God's fatherhood seems more solid than human fatherhood: "For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up" (Ps 27,10). The psalmist, who had this painful experience of abandonment and found in God a father more caring than his earthly parent, shows us how he reached this goal: "Of you my heart speaks, you my glance seeks; your presence, O Lord, I seek" (Ps 27,8). To seek the face of God is a necessary journey, to be taken with sincerity of heart and constant commitment. Only the hearts of the righteous can rejoice in seeking the face of the Lord (cf. Ps 105,3f.) and so it is on them that the fatherly face of God can shine (cf. Ps 119,135 cf. also Ps 31,17 Ps 67,2 Ps 80,4 Ps 80,8 Ps 80,20). By observing the divine law one also fully enjoys the protection of the God of the covenant. The blessing with which God rewards his people through the priestly mediation of Aaron insists precisely on this luminous revealing of God's face: "The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace" (Nb 6,25f.).

4. From the time Jesus came into the world, the search for the face of God the Father has taken on an even more significant aspect. Jesus based his teaching on his own experience as Son and confirmed the conception of God as Father already outlined in the Old Testament; in fact, he constantly stressed it, lived it in an intimate and ineffable way, and offered it as a plan of life for anyone wishing to be saved.

Above all, Jesus stands in an absolutely unique relationship to the divine fatherhood, revealing himself as "son" and offering himself as the one way to reach the Father. To Philip, who asked "show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied" (Jn 14,8), he replies that knowing him means knowing the Father, because the Father works through him (cf. Jn 14,8-11). Therefore those who want to meet the Father must believe in the Son: through him God does not merely assure us of his providential fatherly care, but communicates his own life, making us "sons in the Son". This is what the Apostle John emphasizes with a deep sense of gratitude: "See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are" (1Jn 3,1).
* * * * *

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:

I warmly welcome to this audience the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from Great Britain, Denmark, the Philippines, Japan and the United States of America. Upon you and your families, I cordially invoke the blessings of Almighty God.

Wednesday 20 January 1999 - God shows himself a father to Israel

1. The people of Israel - as we already said in our last catechesis - experienced God as father. Like all other peoples, they sensed in him the fatherly feelings drawn from the universal experience of an earthly father. Above all, they discerned in God a particularly paternal attitude, based on direct knowledge of his special saving action (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church
CEC 238).

From the first point of view, that of universal human experience, Israel recognized the divine fatherhood through wonder at the creation and renewal of life. The miracle of a child being formed in his mother's womb cannot be explained without God's intervention, as the psalmist recalls: "For you formed my inward parts, you knit me together in my mother's womb" (Ps 139,13 [138]). Israel could also see God as a father by analogy with other figures who had a public and especially religious function and were considered fathers, such as priests (cf. Jg 17,10 Jg 18,19 Gn 45,8) or prophets (cf. 2R 2,12). Moreover, it is easy to understand how the respect for fathers required by Israelite society led Jews to see God as a demanding father. In fact, Mosaic law is very severe with children who do not respect their parents, to the point of prescribing the death penalty for anyone who strikes or merely curses his father or mother (Ex 21,15 Ex 21,17).

2. But beyond this representation suggested by human experience, a more specific image of the divine fatherhood develops in Israel on the basis of God's saving interventions. By saving them from slavery in Egypt, God calls Israel to enter into a covenant relationship with him, and even to consider itself his first-born. God thereby shows he is a father in a unique way, as is clear from his words to Moses: "You shall say to the Pharaoh, "Thus says the Lord, Israel is my first-born son"" (Ex 4,22). In their hour of desperation, this people-son will be able to call upon the heavenly Father by the same privileged title, so that he will once again renew the miracle of the Exodus: "Have mercy, O Lord, upon the people called by your name, upon Israel, whom you have likened to a first-born son" (Si 36,11). By virtue of this situation, Israel is bound to observe a law that distinguishes it from the other peoples to whom it must bear witness of the divine fatherhood that it enjoys in a special way. Deuteronomy stresses this in the context of the commitments stemming from the Covenant: "You are the sons of the Lord your God.... For you are a people holy to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for his own possession, out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth" (Dt 14,1f.).

By not observing God's law, Israel acts in opposition to its filial status, earning reproofs from the heavenly Father: "You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth". This filial status includes all the members of the people of Israel, but it is applied in a unique way to the descendant and successor of David, according to Nathan's wellknown prophecy in which God says: "I will be his father and he shall be my son" (2S 7,14 1Ch 17,13). On the basis of this prophecy, the messianic tradition affirms a divine sonship for the Messiah: "You are my son, today I have begotten you" (Ps 2,7 cf. Ps 110,3 [109]).

3 3. The divine fatherhood in Israel's regard is marked by an intense, constant and compassionate love. Despite the people's infidelities and the consequent threats of punishment, God shows himself incapable of forsaking his love. And he expresses it in terms of deep tenderness, even when he is forced to lament his children's lack of response: "It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of compassion, with the bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks, and I bent down to them and fed them.... How can I give you up, O Ephraim! How can I hand you over O Israel? ... My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender" (Os 11,3f., Os 11,8; Jr 31,20).

Even the reproof becomes the expression of a privileged love, as the Book of Proverbs explains: "My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights" (Pr 3,11-12).

4. Such a divine fatherhood, which at the same time is so "human" in its forms of expression, includes all the features which are usually attributed to a mother's love. Although rare, the Old Testament images in which God is compared to a mother are extremely significant. We read, for example, in the Book of Isaiah: "Zion said, "The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me". "Can a woman forget her suckling child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?". Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you" (Is 49,14-15). And again: "As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you" (Is 66,13).

Thus, God's attitude to Israel also appears with maternal features, which express tenderness and understanding (cf. CEC 239). This love which God lavishes on his people in such abundance prompts the elderly Tobit to proclaim: "Acknowledge him before the nations, O sons of Israel; for he has scattered us among them. Make his greatness known there, and exalt him in the presence of all the living; because he is our Lord and God, he is our Father for ever" (Tb 13,3-4).
* * * * *

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, the Holy Father said:

I welcome the Viva Vox Cathedral Choir from Helsinki and I encourage you to continue to devote your talents to singing God's praises. I greet the many English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from Denmark, Finland, Australia, Japan and the United States of America. Upon you and your families, I invoke the abundant blessings of almighty God.


Prospects for peace are still threatened in many parts of the world. In recent days outbursts of ruthless savagery have occurred, particularly in Kosovo and Sierra Leone.

Let us ask God with renewed trust that wherever hatred abounds, he will make his fatherly mercy even more abound, reawakening the consciences of those who guide the destiny of peoples and moving their hearts to intentions of peace.

I express my particular closeness and solidarity to the Archbishop of Freetown, to the men and women missionaries who are being held hostage by those fighting in Sierra Leone, despite their tireless dedication to serving the peoples of that African country. I appeal to those responsible to give these hostages their freedom and allow them to return to their ministry of evangelization and charity.

                                                                              February 1999

Wednesday, 3 February 1999

A seasonal illness has forced me to interrupt my activities for a few days. Today, however, I could not fail to address you who have come for our usual Wednesday gathering.

Dear brothers and sisters, I greet you all with affection. May the Lord, whom we contemplated in yesterday's feast as the Light which illumines the way of salvation for every human being, shine in the life of all and fill them with his joy and peace. I extend a special greeting to the deacons of the Archdiocese of Milan and to all the priests and religious present.

I would like to offer a cordial thought to those who are suffering most from the cold, especially the homeless, the earthquake victims, the sick, the elderly and children. May everyone receive the necessary help.

I hope, as a well-known proverb says, that "with the coming of Candlemas, winter we have passed", and that lovely, warm, sunny days will soon return. A special blessing to you all. I greet the French-speaking pilgrims, particular the students from the Madeleine Daniélou Centre in Rueil and the other young people. I grant you all my Apostolic Blessing.

I greet the pilgrims from the United States, as well as all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors from other countries. Upon you and your families I invoke the abundant blessings of almighty God.

I cordially greet the Spanish-speaking pilgrims. I invite you to nourish your faith with the strength of the martyrs and the fidelity of the Apostles. I bless you all from my heart.

I greet the priests from the Archdioceses of Kraków and Lublin, and from Zamosc, the catechists from Krosno, the teachers from Zakopane, Skawina and Lublin, the young people from Poznan, School no. 42 from Sosnowiec and the other pilgrims from Poznan, Opole and Bydgoszcz. God bless you!

Wednesday 10 February 1999 - Reflection on the recent Pastoral Visit to Mexico and the United States of America


1. I still have vivid impressions of my recent pilgrimage to Mexico and the United States, on which I want to reflect today.

Gratitude to the Lord flows spontaneously from my soul: in his providence he wanted me to return to America, exactly 20 years after my first international journey, to conclude at the feet of Our Lady of Guadalupe the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, which took place in the Vatican at the end of 1997. From this Assembly - as I did for Africa and will also do for Asia, Oceania and Europe - I gathered the analyses and suggestions into an Apostolic Exhortation entitled Ecclesia in America, which in Mexico City I officially presented to those to whom it is addressed.

Today I would like to express again my most heartfelt thanks to those who helped organize this pilgrimage. First of all, I am grateful to the Presidents of Mexico and the United States of America, who welcomed me with great courtesy; to the Archbishops of Mexico City and St Louis and to my other venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, who gave me an affectionate welcome. I also thank the priests, the religious and the countless brothers and sisters who accompanied me with such faith and warmth during those days of grace. Together we had the moving experience of an "encounter with the living Jesus Christ, the way to conversion, communion and solidarity".

2. I have laid the fruits of the first pan-American Synod in history at the feet of Our Lady of Guadalupe, under whose maternal protection the evangelization of the New World advanced. She is rightly invoked today as the Star of its new evangelization. This is why I decided that the liturgical celebration dedicated to her, 12 December, should be extended throughout the American continent as a feast.

The Church in America accepted the Good News of the Gospel after Our Lady's example, and, in the span of almost five centuries, gave birth to many peoples in the faith. Now - as the motto of the visit to Mexico said: "A millennium is born: Let us reaffirm our faith" - the Christian communities of the North, the Centre, the South and the Caribbean are called to renew their faith in order to develop an ever stronger solidarity. They are invited to collaborate in coordinated pastoral projects, each contributing his own spiritual and material riches to the common effort.

Of course, this spirit of cooperation is also indispensable at the civil level and therefore requires shared ethical foundations, as I had occasion to emphasize at my meeting with the Diplomatic Corps in Mexico.

3. Christians are the "light" and "soul" of the world: I recalled this truth to the immense crowd which gathered for the Eucharistic celebration on Sunday at the racetrack in the Mexican capital. To everyone, especially the young people, I made the appeal contained in the Great Jubilee: repent and follow Christ. Mexicans responded with their unmistakable enthusiasm to the Pope's invitation, and on their faces, in their ardent faith, in their convinced commitment to the Gospel of life, I once again saw consoling signs of hope for the vast American continent.

I also experienced these signs firsthand at the meeting with the world of suffering, where love and human solidarity bring to weakness the strength and concern of the risen Christ.

In Mexico City, the Azteca Stadium, famous for memorable sporting events, was the scene of an extraordinary moment of prayer and celebration with representatives of all the generations of the 20th century, from the oldest to the youngest: a marvellous proof of how faith is able to unite generations and respond to the challenges of every season of life.

In this passing of the century and the millennium, the Church in America and throughout the world sees in young Christians the most beautiful and promising fruits of her work and her suffering. I am overjoyed to have met a great number of young people both in Mexico and in the United States. With their participation, full of enthusiasm but also attentive and anxious, with their applause for the passages of the speech in which I presented the most demanding aspects of the Christian message, they showed their desire to take the lead in a new season of courageous witness, active solidarity and generous commitment to the service of the Gospel.

4. I am pleased to add that I found American Catholics very concerned and committed to the defence of life and the family, inseparable values which are a great challenge for the present and future of humanity. In a certain sense, my journey was a great appeal to America to accept the Gospel of life and the family in order to reject and combat any form of violence against the human person, from conception to natural death, with moral consistency. No to abortion and to euthanasia; enough of the unnecessary recourse to the death penalty; no to racism and to the exploitation of children, women and indigenous peoples; put an end to the arms trade, to drug trafficking and to the destruction of the environmental patrimony!

To win these battles, we must spread the culture of life, which does not separate freedom and truth. The Church works each day for this by proclaiming Christ, the truth about God and the truth about man. She is particularly active in families, which are sanctuaries of life and fundamental schools for the culture of life: it is in the family that freedom learns to grow on firm moral foundations and, ultimately, on the law of God. America will only be able to play its important role in the Church and in the world if it defends and promotes the immense spiritual and social patrimony of its families.

5. Mexico and the United States are two great countries which well represent the multifaceted wealth of the American continent, as well as its contradictions. Woven deeply into the cultural and social fabric, the Church invites everyone to meet Jesus Christ, who continues today to be the "way to conversion, communion and solidarity".

This meeting, with the motherly assistance of Our Lady of Guadalupe, has indelibly marked America's history. I entrust to the intercession of the patroness of that beloved continent the hope that the encounter with Christ will continue to bring light to the peoples of the New World in the millennium which is about to begin.

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:

I extend a special greeting to the faculty and students of the University of Dallas, Rome Campus. I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors and I pray that, as you visit the Christian monuments of this city, your faith will be deepened and enriched. I invoke the blessings of almighty God upon you and your families.

Wednesday 17 February 1999


1. Today, with the austere ceremony of the distribution of ashes, the penitential journey of Lent begins. This year is particularly marked by the call to divine mercy: in fact we are in the Year of the Father, which prepares us directly for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

“Father, I have sinned ... before you” (
Lc 15,18). In the season of Lent these words inspire strong feeling, since this is a time when the ecclesial community is invited to profound conversion. If it is true that sin closes man to God, on the other hand, a sincere confession of sins reawakens his conscience to the regenerating action of God's grace. In effect, man is not restored to friendship with God until the words “Father, I have sinned” flow from his lips and his heart. His efforts are then made effective by the encounter with salvation which takes place through Christ's Death and Resurrection. It is in the paschal mystery, the heart of the Church, that the penitent receives the gift of the forgiveness of his sins and the joy of being born again to eternal life.

2. In the light of this extraordinary spiritual reality, the parable of the prodigal son, in which Jesus wanted to tell us of the heavenly Father's tender mercy, becomes powerfully eloquent. There are three key stages in the story of this young man with whom, in a certain sense, each of us can identify when we yield to temptation and fall into sin.

The first stage: the distancing. We distance ourselves from God, like that son from his father, when we forget that the goods and talents we possess were given to us by God as a task and we thoughtlessly squander them. Sin is always a waste of our humanity, a waste of very precious values such as the dignity of the person and the inheritance of divine grace.

The second stage is the process of conversion. Man, who by sin voluntarily left his Father's house, realizes what he lost and gradually makes the decisive step of coming to himself: “I will arise and go to my Father” (Lc 15,18). The certainty that God “is good and loves me” is stronger than shame and discouragement: it sheds new light on one’s sense of guilt and personal unworthiness.

Lastly, the third stage: the return. The one important thing for the father is that his son has been found. The embrace between him and the prodigal son becomes a celebration of forgiveness and joy. This is a moving Gospel scene that reveals in full detail the attitude of our Father in heaven, who is “rich in mercy” (cf. Ep 2,4).

7 3. How many people throughout the ages have recognized in this parable the basic elements of their own story! The way that leads back to the Father's house after the bitter experience of sin comes through an examination of conscience, repentance and the firm intention to be converted. It is an interior process which changes the way one looks at reality; it makes a person realize his own frailty and it spurs the believer to throw himself into God's arms. When man, supported by grace, goes over these steps in his mind, he feels an acute need to rediscover himself and his own dignity as a son in the Father's embrace.

Therefore, this parable, so dear to the Church's tradition, expresses in a simple and profound way the reality of conversion, giving us the most concrete expression of the work of divine mercy in the human world. God's merciful love “promotes and draws good from all the forms of evil existing in the world and in man ... mercy constitutes the fundamental content of the messianic message of Christ and the constitutive power of his mission” (cf. Dives in misericordia,
DM 6).

4. At the start of Lent, it is important to prepare our spirit to receive abundantly the gift of divine mercy. The Word of God warns us to repent and believe in the Gospel, and the Church indicates that prayer, penance, fasting and generous aid to our brethren are the means to enter into the atmosphere of authentic interior and community renewal. In this way we can experience the superabundant love of the heavenly Father, given in fullness to all humanity in the paschal mystery. We can say that Lent is the time of a particular concern on God's part to pardon and forgive our sins: it is the time of reconciliation. For this reason it is a most appropriate time for the fruitful reception of the sacrament of Penance.

Dear brothers and sisters, knowing that our reconciliation with God takes place through authentic conversion, let us begin our Lenten pilgrimage with our eyes fixed on Christ, our only Redeemer.

Lent will help us return to ourselves and courageously renounce whatever prevents us from faithfully following the Gospel. Especially in these days let us contemplate the image of the Father embracing the son who returned to his paternal home, which well symbolizes the theme this year that leads us into the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

The embrace of reconciliation between the Father and all sinful humanity took place on Calvary. May the Crucifix, sign of the love of Christ who sacrificed himself for our salvation, instil in the hearts of every man and woman of our time that same trust which prompted the prodigal son to say: “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned'”. He received the gift of forgiveness and joy.
* * * * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The beginning of the season of Lent invites us to turn to God our Father with great trust in his mercy and love.

The parable of the Prodigal Son speaks to us of sin and conversion. As in the case of the Prodigal Son, every sin creates a distance between ourselves and the Father. But the Father, who is “rich in mercy”, continually calls us to examine our conscience, to repent and to be converted.

Lent is a time for us to seek the gift of the Father’s mercy through authentic personal and community renewal. This renewal involves prayer, fasting and charitable acts, and is most intensely experienced in the Sacrament of Penance. As we look forward to Easter, may our Lenten journey help us to put aside whatever hinders our friendship with God.

I am happy to welcome all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims, especially those from England, Ireland, Japan and the United States of America. Upon you and your families, I invoke the strength and joy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

                                                                                 March 1999

Wednesday 3 March 1999 - Jesus' experience of God as Father and his intimate relationship with him


1. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (
Ep 1,3). Paul's words are a good introduction to the newness of our knowledge of the Father as it unfolds in the New Testament. Here God appears in his Trinitarian reality. His fatherhood is no longer limited to showing his relationship with creatures, but expresses the fundamental relationship which characterizes his inner life; it is no longer a generic feature of God, but the property of the First Person in God. In his Trinitarian mystery, in fact, God is a father in his very being; he is always a father since from all eternity he generates the Word who is consubstantial with him and united to him in the Holy Spirit "who proceeds from the Father and the Son". In his redemptive Incarnation, the Word unites himself with us, precisely in order to bring us into this filial life which he possesses from all eternity. The Evangelist John says: "To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God" (Jn 1,12).

2. Jesus' experience is the basis for this specific revelation of the Father. It is clear from his words and attitudes that he experiences his relationship with the Father in a wholly unique way. In the Gospels we can see how Jesus distinguished "his sonship from that of his disciples by never saying "Our Father", except to command them: "You, then, pray like this: "Our Father"" (Mt 6,9); and he emphasized this distinction saying, "my Father and your Father"" (CEC 443).

Even as a boy he answered Mary and Joseph, who had been looking for him anxiously: "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (Lc 2,48f.). To the Jews who had been persecuting him because he had worked a miraculous cure on the Sabbath he replied: "My Father is working still, and I am working" (Jn 5,17). On the cross he prayed to the Father to forgive his executioners and to receive his spirit (Lc 23,34 Lc 23,46). The distinction between the way Jesus perceives God's fatherhood in relation to himself and in relation to all other human beings is rooted in his consciousness and emphasized by him in the words he addresses to Mary Magdalen after the Resurrection: "Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (Jn 20,17).

3. Jesus' relationship with the Father is unique. He knows he is always heard; he knows that through him the Father reveals his glory, even when men may doubt it and need to be convinced by him. We see all this in the episode of the raising of Lazarus: "So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, "Father I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you hear me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that you sent me"" (Jn 11,41f.). Because of this unique understanding, Jesus can present himself as the One who reveals the Father with a knowledge that is the fruit of an intimate and mysterious reciprocity, as he emphasizes in his joyful hymn: "All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Mt 11,27) (cf. CEC 240). For his part, the Father expresses the Son's unique relationship with him by calling him his "beloved" son: as he did at the baptism in the Jordan (cf. Mc 1,11), and at the moment of the Transfiguration (cf. Mc 9,7). Jesus is also depicted as the son in a special sense in the parable of the wicked tenants who first mistreat the two servants and then the "beloved son" of the vineyard owner, sent to collect some of the fruit of the vineyard (Mc 12,1-11, especially Mc 12,6).

9 4. The Gospel of Mark has preserved for us the Aramaic word "Abba" (cf. Mc 14,36) with which Jesus, during his painful hour in Gethsemane, called on God, praying to him to let the cup of the Passion pass him by. In the same episode Matthew's Gospel has given us the translation "my Father" (cf. Mt 26,39, cf. also Mt 26,42), while Luke simply has "Father" (cf. Lc 22,42). The Aramaic word, which we can translate into contemporary language as "dad" or "daddy", expresses the affectionate tenderness of a child. Jesus uses it in an original way to address God and, in the full maturity of his life which is about to end on the cross, to indicate the close relationship which even at that critical moment binds him to his Father. "Abba" indicates the extraordinary closeness that exists between Jesus and God the Father, an intimacy unprecedented in the biblical or non-biblical religious context. Through the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, the only Son of this Father, we too, as St Paul said, are raised to the dignity of sons and have received the Holy Spirit who prompts us to cry "Abba! Father!" (cf. Rm 8,15 Ga 4,6). This simple, childish expression in daily use in Jesus' time and among all peoples thus acquired a highly significant doctrinal meaning to express the unique divine fatherhood in relation to Jesus and his disciples.

5. Although he felt united with the Father in so intimate a way, Jesus admitted that he did not know the hour of the final and decisive coming of the kingdom. "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only" (Mt 24,36). This is an indication of the "emptying of himself" proper to the Incarnation, which conceals the eschatological end of the world from his human nature. In this way Jesus disappoints human calculations in order to invite us to be watchful and to trust in the Father's providential intervention. On the other hand, from the standpoint of the Gospels, the intimacy and absoluteness of his being "Son" is in no way prejudiced by this lack of knowledge. On the contrary, precisely because he is so united with us, he becomes crucial for us before the Father: "Every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven" (Mt 10,32f.)

Acknowledging Jesus before men is indispensable for being acknowledged by him before the Father. In other words, our filial relationship with the heavenly Father depends on our courageous fidelity to Jesus, his beloved Son.
* * * * *

I extend a special greeting to the group of Knights of Columbus, as well as to the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre. I warmly welcome our Lutheran visitors from Stockholm and the students and faculty of the Theological University of Helsinki. Upon all the English- speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Ireland, Sweden, Finland and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Holy Father expressed his satisfaction that Ethiopia and Eritrea had accepted the peace proposals of the Organization of African Unity following their recent clashes:

Following the sad news of the brutal, deadly clashes in recent days between Ethiopia and Eritrea, we have now learned that both countries have accepted the peace proposals formulated by the Organization of African Unity. I applaud this wise decision, to which I join my fervent prayers. It is the only way to end this fratricidal struggle, to calm hearts and to promote a new style of government and harmony on the African continent.