Wednesday 3 November 1999

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. "Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink ..." (
Mt 25,34-35).

These words of the Gospel help us to reflect on charity in practical terms, prompting us to focus, as suggested in Tertio millennio adveniente (cf. TMA 51), on some forms of action that are particularly in keeping with the spirit of the Great Jubilee we are preparing to celebrate.

For this reason, it is appropriate to recall the biblical jubilee. As described in chap. 25 of the Book of Leviticus, in certain respects it retraces and gives more complete expression to the role of the sabbatical year (cf. Lv 25,2-7 Lv 25,18-22), which was the year when the land was to remain uncultivated. The jubilee year occurred after a period of 49 years. In this year, too, the soil was not to be cultivated (cf. Lv 25,8-12), but the jubilee included two laws to the Israelites' advantage. The first concerned the return of land and buildings (cf. Lv 25,13-17 Lv 25,23-34); the second involved the freeing of Israelite slaves who had been sold because of debt to one of their compatriots (cf. vv. Lv 25,39-55).

2. The Christian jubilee, which was first celebrated by Boniface VIII in 1300, has its own specific features, but includes elements related to the biblical jubilee.

As for the ownership of immovable property, the biblical jubilee's law is based on the principle that the "land is the Lord's" and is thus given for the benefit of the whole community. For this reason, if an Israelite had alienated his land, the jubilee year allowed him to repossess it. "The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me. And in all the country you possess, you shall grant a redemption of the land" (Lv 25,23-24).

The Christian jubilee refers in an increasingly explicit way to the social values of the biblical jubilee, which it interprets and reproposes in the contemporary context, reflecting on the demands of the common good and on the fact that the world's resources are meant for everyone. With this in mind,

I proposed in Tertio millennio adveniente that the Jubilee be seen as "an appropriate time to give thought, among other things, to reducing substantially, if not canceling outright, the international debt which seriously threatens the future of many nations" (TMA 51).

3. In his Encyclical Populorum progressio, Pope Paul VI said in regard to this problem, typical of many economically weak countries, that dialogue is needed between those who contribute wealth and those who benefit from it, in order to make "an assessment of the contribution necessary, not only drawn up in terms of the generosity and the available wealth of the donor nations, but also conditioned by the real needs of the receiving countries and the use to which the financial assistance can be put. Developing countries will thus no longer risk being overwhelmed by debts whose repayment swallows up the greater part of their gains" (PP 54). In the Encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis, I had to note that changed circumstances both in the debtor nations and in the international financial market have unfortunately made financing itself a "counterproductive mechanism", because "the debtor nations, in order to service their debt, find themselves obliged to export the capital needed for improving or at least maintaining their standard of living. It is also because, for the same reason, they are unable to obtain new and equally essential financing" (SRS 19).

4. The problem is complex and not easy to solve. It should be clear, however, that the problem is not only economic but involves fundamental ethical principles and should have a place in international law, in order to be addressed and to be adequately resolved in the middle and long term. A "survival ethics" should govern relations between creditors and debtors, so that debtors at risk are not put under unbearable pressure. It is a question of avoiding abusive speculation, of devising solutions so that lenders will be more confident and borrowers will feel obliged to make effective overall reforms at the political, bureaucratic, financial and social level in their countries (cf. Pontifical Commission "Iustitia et Pax", At the Service of the Human Community: An Ethical Approach to the International Debt Question, II).

Today, in the context of a "globalized" economy, the problem of the international debt has become even thornier, but "globalization" itself requires that the path of solidarity be taken, if we do not want to suffer a general catastrophe.

5. Precisely in the context of these considerations, we welcome the almost universal request we have received from recent Synods, from many Episcopal Conferences or from individual Brother Bishops, as well as from many representatives of the religious, priests and laity, to make a heartfelt appeal for the partial or total cancellation of debts incurred at the international level. In particular, the demand for payments at exorbitant rates would impose political decisions that could reduce entire populations to hunger and distress.

This vision of solidarity, which I called attention to in Centesimus annus (cf. CA 35), has become even more urgent in the world situation of recent years. The Jubilee can be an appropriate occasion for goodwill gestures: may wealthier countries give signs of confidence in the economic recovery of poorer nations; may business leaders realize that in the dizzying process of economic globalization, one cannot be saved alone. May the goodwill gesture of canceling or at least reducing these debts be the sign of a new way of understanding wealth in terms of the common good.

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

I extend a cordial welcome to the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims. In particular I greet the Catholic-Jewish pilgrimage of the Archdiocese of Boston and the New England Anti-Defamation League. Upon all of you from England, Finland, the Philippines and the United States, I invoke almighty God's abundant blessings.

Wednesday 10 november 1999


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I greet you affectionately. Yesterday evening I returned from my apostolic pilgrimage to India and Georgia. In New Delhi I met many Asian Bishops and faithful; in Tbilisi I visited the Catholic community and its Apostolic Administrator. I prayed with them all, sharing their respective hopes and expectations.

I also ask you, dear brothers and sisters, to join me in asking God to make fruitful the seed sown during this apostolic visit. We entrust this prayer to Blessed Mary, Star of Evangelization.

I will talk about this interesting journey next Wednesday at the General Audience, but for now I would like to express my gratitude to the Presidents and Government Authorities of India and Georgia.

I extend special thanks to Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II for his warm welcome.

I thank you for your presence and cordially bless you all.

I see Croatians, and there are Poles here. I cordially greet you all.

I extend a warm welcome to you, dear German-speaking brothers and sisters who have come to Rome. I gladly give you my Apostolic Blessing.

Wednesday 17 November 1999


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Today I would like to reflect on the visit I made a few days ago to India and Georgia. Remembering this journey gives me the opportunity first of all to thank the heavenly Father "for whom and by whom all things exist" (
He 2,10). With his help I was also able to fulfil this task of my service to the Gospel and to the cause of Christian unity.

The first destination on my spiritual pilgrimage was the city of New Delhi in India, for the signing and promulgation of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia, in which I gathered the fruit of the study and suggestions of the Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of Bishops which was held in Rome in 1998. India is the cradle of ancient cultures, religions and spiritual traditions, which continue to shape the life of millions of people in a social context marked for centuries by a notable degree of mutual tolerance. Christianity, which has had a considerable share in this history of peaceful relations, has been present there, according to the Christians of southern India, since the preaching of the Apostle Thomas himself.

Today that spirit of mutual respect is threatened in some ways, and so it was important to reaffirm the Church's keen desire for fruitful dialogue with the followers of all religions, which will lead to renewed relations of understanding and solidarity at the service of the entire human family.

2. The synodal document Ecclesia in Asia helps us to understand that this interreligious dialogue and the Church's mandate to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth are not mutually exclusive; indeed they complement one another. On the one hand, the proclamation of the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ must always be made with deep respect for the conscience of those who hear it and with respect for all that is good and holy in the culture and religious tradition to which they belong (cf. Nostra aetate, NAE 2). On the other hand, freedom of conscience and the free practice of religion in society are basic human rights, rooted in the value and dignity inherent in every person and recognized in many international documents and agreements, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

With great pleasure I recall the Mass I concelebrated with numerous Bishops from India and other Asian countries at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Sunday, 7 November. I again thank Archbishop Alan de Lastic and the Archdiocese of Delhi for organizing the solemn liturgy, marked by active and devout participation and enlivened by carefully selected hymns and colourful traditional local dances. The theme of the Mass was: Jesus Christ, Light of the World, become flesh in the land of Asia. At that Eucharistic celebration, the Catholic community of India represented in a way all of Asia's Catholics, to whom I entrusted the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia as a guide for their spiritual growth on the threshold of the new millennium. I am sure that with God's grace they will be steadfast and faithful!

3. The second stage of my journey was Georgia, to repay the visit which President Shevardnadze and His Holiness Ilia II, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, had previously made to Rome. I ardently desired to pay homage to the witness borne by the Church in Georgia down the ages and to establish new points of contact between Christians, so that at the beginning of the third Christian millennium they can join forces in proclaiming the Gospel to the world with one heart and one mind.

Georgia is going through a very important period. As it prepares to celebrate the 3,000th anniversary of its history in a context of regained independence, it faces great economic and social challenges. However, it is determined to meet them with courage in order to become a trustworthy member of a united Europe. Christian Georgia can boast a glorious millenary history, which began in the fourth century when the testimony of a woman, St Nino, converted King Mirian and the whole nation to Christ. Since that time a flourishing monastic tradition has given that land lasting monuments of religious culture, civilization and architecture, such as the Cathedral of Mtskheta, which I was able to visit in the company of the Catholicos-Patriarch after the cordial meeting I had with him privately.

4. Now, after 70 years of communist repression, when many Orthodox and Catholic martyrs bore heroic witness to their faith, the small but fervent Catholic community of the Caucasus is gradually strengthening its life and structures. The joy I noted among the priests, religious and lay people who had gathered in unexpectedly large numbers for Mass at the stadium in Tbilisi is a sign of sure hope for the Church's future throughout this region. The meeting with them at Sts Peter and Paul Church in Tbilisi, the only Catholic church which remained open during the totalitarian period, was a particularly joyful occasion. I pray that Georgian Catholics will always be able to make their own specific contribution to building their homeland.

The meeting with the men and women of the world of culture, science and art, chaired by President Shevardnadze and held in the presence of the Catholicos-Patriarch, was an intense moment of reflection on Georgia's specific vocation as a crossroads between East and West. As I said at that meeting, the century now coming to an end, one marked by many shadows but also full of light, stands as a witness to the enduring power of the human spirit to triumph over all that tries to stifle the irrepressible quest for truth and freedom.

5. I thank the civil authorities and all those in both countries who worked to make this visit successful and peaceful. With heartfelt gratitude, I think of the Bishops, priests, religious and lay people of India and Georgia, and cherish an unforgettable memory of them all.

I entrust those I was able to meet to Mary, Mother of the Church; to her I commend the Church in Asia and the Caucasus, "trusting absolutely that hers is an ear that always listens, hers a heart that always welcomes, and hers a prayer that never fails" (Ecclesia in Asia, ).

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

I extend a special welcome to the members of the NATO Defense College, and I encourage you always to see your commitment as a service of peace. I pray that the pilgrims from Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Brooklyn will be strengthened by their profession of faith at the tomb of Peter.

Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Kenya, the Philippines, Japan and the United States of America, I invoke the abundant blessings of almighty God.

Wednesday 24 November 1999


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Among the challenges of this historical moment on which the Great Jubilee spurs us to reflect, I drew attention in my Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente to the issue of respect for women's rights (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente,
TMA 51). Today I would like to recall certain aspects of the women's question, which I have also spoken of on other occasions.

Sacred Scripture sheds great light on the theme of women's advancement, pointing out God's plan for man and woman in the two accounts of creation.

The first one says: "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gn 1,27). This statement is the basis of Christian anthropology, because it identifies the foundation of man's dignity as a person in his creation "in the likeness" of God. At the same time, the passage clearly says that neither man nor woman separately are the image of the Creator, but man and woman in their reciprocity. Both are equally God's masterpiece.

In the second account of creation, through the symbolism of the creation of woman from man's rib, Scripture stresses that humanity is not in fact complete until woman is created (cf. Gn 2,18-24).

She is given a name whose verbal assonance in Hebrew indicates a relationship to man (is/issah). "God created man and woman together and willed each for the other" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 371). That woman is presented as a "helper fit for him" (Gn 2,18) should not be interpreted as meaning that woman is man's servant - "helper" is not the equivalent of "servant"; the psalmist says to God: "You are my help" (Ps 70,5 cf. Ps 115,9 Ps 115,10 Ps 115,11 Ps 118,7 Ps 146,5); rather the whole statement means that woman is able to collaborate with man because she complements him perfectly. Woman is another kind of "ego" in their common humanity, which consists of male and female in perfectly equal dignity.

2. There is good reason to rejoice in the fact that in contemporary culture reflection on what it means to be feminine has led to a deeper understanding of the human person in terms of his "being for others" in interpersonal communion. Today, to think of the person in his self-giving dimension is becoming a matter of principle. Unfortunately it is often disregarded at the practical level. Thus, among the many assaults on human dignity, that widespread violation of woman's dignity manifested in the exploitation of her person and her body should be strongly condemned. All practices that offend woman's freedom or femininity must be vigorously opposed: so-called "sexual tourism", the buying and selling of young girls, mass sterilization and, in general, every form of violence to the other sex.

A very different attitude is required by the moral law, which proclaims the dignity of woman as a person created in the image of God-Communion! Today it is more necessary than ever to present the biblical anthropology of relationality, which helps us genuinely understand the human being's identity in his relationship to others, particularly between man and woman. In the human person considered in his "relationality", we find a vestige of God's own mystery revealed in Christ as a substantial unity in the communion of three divine Persons. In the light of this mystery it is easy to understand the statement of Gaudium et spes that the human being, who "is the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake, can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself" (Gaudium et spes, GS 24). The difference between man and woman calls for interpersonal communion, and meditation on the dignity and vocation of woman strengthens the concept of the human being based on communion (cf. Mulieris dignitatem, MD 7).

61 3. Precisely this capacity for communion, which the feminine dimension strongly evokes, enables us to reflect on God's fatherhood, thus avoiding the imaginative projections of a patriarchal sort that are so challenged, and not without reason, in some currents of contemporary literature. It is a question, in fact, of discerning the Father's face within the mystery of God as Trinity, that is, as perfect unity in distinction. The figure of the Father must be reconsidered in his relationship to the Son, who is turned towards him from all eternity (cf. Jn 1,1) in the communion of the Holy Spirit. It should also be stressed that the Son of God became man in the fullness of time and was born of the Virgin Mary (cf. Ga 4,4), and this too sheds light on the feminine dimension, showing Mary as the model of woman as willed by God. The greatest event in human history took place in her and through her. The fatherhood of God the Father is related not only to God the Son in his eternal mystery, but also to his Incarnation in a woman's womb. If God the Father, who "begets" the Son from all eternity, turned to a woman, Mary, to "beget" him in the world, thus making her "Theotokos", Mother of God, this is not without significance for understanding woman's dignity in the divine plan.

4. Therefore, the Gospel message about God's fatherhood, far from restricting woman's dignity and role, serves instead as a guarantee of what the "feminine" humanly symbolizes, that is, to welcome, to care for the human person and to give birth to life. All this is rooted, in a transcendent way, in the mystery of the eternal divine "begetting". Certainly God's fatherhood is entirely spiritual.

Nevertheless it expresses that eternal reciprocity and relationality which are truly Trinitarian and are the origin of all fatherhood and motherhood, and the basis of the riches common to male and female.

Reflection on woman's role and mission is particularly appropriate this year, which is dedicated to God the Father, and spurs us to work with ever greater effort so that all the possibilities that are proper to woman in the Church and in society will be acknowledged.

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

I extend a cordial welcome to the Lutheran visitors from Karlstad in Sweden, and I thank the Saint Louis Cathedral Choir from New Orleans for their song. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially from England, India, the United States and Taiwan, I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

                                                                            December 1999

Wednesday 1 December 1999


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. In order to be properly prepared for the Great Jubilee, the Christian community should be seriously committed to rediscovering the value of the family and marriage (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente,
TMA 51). This is all the more urgent since today this value is questioned at many levels of culture and society.

Not only are certain models of family life being challenged, which change under the pressure of social transformations and new working conditions. It is the concept itself of the family, as a community founded on marriage between a man and a woman, that is attacked in the name of ethical relativism, which is spreading in wide areas of public opinion and in civil legislation itself.

The crisis of the family becomes, in turn, a cause of the crisis in society. Many pathological phenomena - from loneliness to violence and drugs - are also due to the fact that families have lost their identity and purpose. Wherever the family falls apart, society loses its connective tissue with disastrous consequences that affect individuals, especially the weakest: from children to adolescents, to the handicapped, the sick and the elderly, etc.

2. It is therefore necessary to encourage a reflection that will help not only believers, but all people of good will to rediscover the value of marriage and the family. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read: "The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security and fraternity within society" (CEC 2207).

Reason itself can rediscover the family by listening to the moral law inscribed in the human heart. As a community "which is founded and given life by love" (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, FC 18), the family draws its strength from the definitive covenant of love by which a man and a woman give themselves to each other, becoming together God's collaborators in the gift of life.

On the basis of this fundamental relationship of love, the relationships that are established with and among the other family members must also be inspired by love and marked by affection and mutual support. Far from closing the family in on itself, genuine love opens it to all society, since the little domestic family and the great family of all human beings are not in opposition, but in a close and primordial relationship. At the root of all this is the very mystery of God, which the family evokes in a special way. Indeed, as I wrote a few years ago in my Letter to Families, "in the light of the New Testament it is possible to discern how the primordial model of the family is to be sought in God himself, in the Trinitarian mystery of his life. The divine "We' is the eternal pattern of the human "we', especially of that "we' formed by the man and the woman created in the divine image and likeness" (LF 6).

3. God's fatherhood is the transcendent source of all human fatherhood and motherhood. As we lovingly contemplate it, we feel impelled to rediscover that wealth of communion, procreation and life that characterize marriage and the family.

In families, interpersonal relations develop in which each member is entrusted with a specific task, although without rigid patterns. I do not intend to refer here to those social and functional roles which are expressions of specific historical and cultural contexts. I am thinking, rather, of the importance, in the mutual conjugal relationship and the shared parental commitment, of man and woman as they are called to realize their natural characteristics in the context of a deep, enriching and respectful communion. "To this "unity of the two' God has entrusted not only the work of procreation and family life, but the creation of history itself" (Letter to women, n. 8).

4. Children, then, must be seen as the greatest expression of the communion between man and woman, or rather of their reciprocal receiving/giving which is fulfilled and transcended in a "third", in the child himself. A child is a blessing from God. He transforms husband and wife into father and mother (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, FC 21). Both "come out of themselves" and express themselves in a person, which, although the fruit of their love, goes beyond them.

The ideal expressed in the priestly prayer of Jesus, in which he asks that his unity with the Father be extended to the disciples (cf. Jn 17,11) and to those who believe through their word (cf. Jn 17,20-21), applies to the family in a special way. Christian families, "domestic churches" (cf. Lumen gentium, LG 11), are especially called to achieve this ideal of perfect communion.

5. Therefore, as we reach the end of this year dedicated to meditation on God the Father, let us rediscover the family in the light of the divine fatherhood. Our contemplation of God the Father prompts an urgent concern which is particularly in keeping with the challenges of this moment in history.

Looking at God the Father means understanding the family as a place where life is welcomed and nurtured, a workshop of brotherhood where, with the help of Christ's Spirit, "a new fraternity and solidarity, a true reflection of the mystery of mutual self-giving and receiving proper to the Most Holy Trinity" (Evangelium vitae, EV 76) is created among men.

From the experience of renewed Christian families, the Church herself can learn how to foster among all the members of the community a more family-like dimension, by accepting and encouraging a more human and fraternal style of relationship (cf. Familiaris consortio, FC 64).

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

I warmly welcome the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Audience. I pray that you will be strengthened in faith, hope and love during this season of Advent, so that you may celebrate Christmas and enter the Jubilee Year with renewed hearts and minds. Upon all present I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday 15 December 1999


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. "Mindful of the words of the Lord: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another' (
Jn 13,35), Christians can yearn for nothing more ardently than to serve the people of this age with an ever growing generosity and success" (Gaudium et spes, GS 93).

This task, which the Second Vatican Council gave us at the end of the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, responds to the fascinating challenge of building a world enlivened by the law of love, a civilization of love, "founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice and liberty, which find their full attainment in Christ" (Tertio millennio adveniente, TMA 52).

This civilization is based on recognition of the universal sovereignty of God the Father, the inexhaustible source of love. Precisely on the acceptance of this fundamental value, a sincere examination at the end of the millennium should be made for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, in order to set out more promptly towards the future that awaits us.

We have seen the decline of ideologies which deprived so many of our brethren of spiritual reference-points, but the baneful fruits of a secularism that breeds religious indifference continue to exist, especially in more developed regions. The return to a confused religiosity, caused by fragile compensatory needs and the search for a psycho-cosmic balance, which appears in many of the new religious paradigms that proclaim a religiosity without reference to a transcendent and personal God, is certainly not a valid response to this situation.

Instead, we must carefully analyze the reason for this loss of the sense of God and courageously proclaim the message of the Father's face, revealed by Jesus Christ in the light of the Spirit. This revelation does not diminish but exalts the dignity of the human person created in the image of God-Love.

2. In recent decades, the loss of the sense of God has coincided with the advance of a nihilistic culture that impoverishes the meaning of human life and, in the ethical field, relativizes even the fundamental values of the family and of respect for life. This does not often occur visibly, but through a subtle methodology of indifference that makes all kinds of behaviour seem normal, so that moral problems are no longer acknowledged. It is paradoxically demanded that the State recognize as "rights" many forms of conduct which threaten human life, especially the weakest and the most defenceless, not to mention the enormous difficulties in accepting others because they are different, inconvenient, foreign, sick or disabled. It is precisely this ever more prevalent rejection of others because of their otherness that challenges our conscience as believers. As I said in the Encyclical Evangelium vitae: "We are confronted by an even larger reality, which can be described as a veritable structure of sin ... characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and in many cases takes the form of a veritable "culture of death'" (EV 12).

3. In face of this death-loving culture our responsibility as Christians is expressed in commitment to the "new evangelization", one of whose most important fruits is the civilization of love.

"The Gospel, and therefore evangelization, are certainly not identical with culture, and they are independent in regard to all cultures" (Evangelii nuntiandi, EN 20), but they possess a regenerating power that can have a positive influence on culture. The Christian message does not demean cultures by destroying their particular features; on the contrary, it acts within them, making the most of that original potential which their genius can express. The Gospel's influence on culture purifies and uplifts what is human, making the beauty of life, the harmony of peaceful coexistence and the originality that every people contributes to the human community shine resplendently. This influence finds its strength in a love that does not impose but proposes, relying on free assent in an atmosphere of respect and mutual acceptance.

64 4. The Gospel message of love liberates human needs and values, such as solidarity, the yearning for freedom and equality, and respect for pluralism in forms of expression. The cornerstone of the civilization of love is recognition of the value of the human person and, concretely, of all human beings. Christianity's great contribution is recognized precisely in this area. In fact, the anthropological doctrine of the human person as a relational being gradually developed precisely from reflection on the mystery of the Trinitarian God and on the person of the Word made flesh. This precious discovery gave rise to the idea of a society which has made the human person its starting-point and goal. The Church's social teaching, which the spirit of the Jubilee invites us to reflect on again, has also helped to base the laws of social coexistence on the rights of the person. The Christian vision of the human being as the image of God, in fact, implies that the rights of the person, by their very nature, demand the respect of society, which does not create but merely recognizes them (cf. Gaudium et spes, GS 26).

5. The Church realizes that this doctrine can remain a dead letter if social life is not enlivened by the influence of authentic religious experience, especially by a Christian witness continuously nourished by the Holy Spirit's creative and healing action. She knows that the crisis of society and of contemporary man is largely caused by the reduction of the human person's specific spiritual dimension.

Christianity makes its contribution to building a more human society precisely by providing it with soul and by proclaiming the demands of God's law, on which all social organization and legislation should be based if they intend to guarantee human advancement, liberation from every kind of slavery and true progress.

The Church makes this contribution principally through the witness given by Christians, particularly lay people, in their daily lives. Indeed, contemporary man accepts the message of love more from witnesses than from teachers, and if he does accept it from teachers, it is because they are authentic witnesses (cf. Evangelii nuntiandi, EN 41). This is the challenge to be met so that new horizons will be opened for the future of Christianity and of humanity itself.

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

I warmly welcome the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from England, Sweden, Japan and the United States of America. I pray that you will be strengthened in your love of God this Christmas, so that you will enter the Jubilee Year with renewed hearts and minds. Upon all present I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.