Monday 6 December 1999

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Members of the Christian Life Movement and Sodality,

I greet you affectionately on this visit you have paid me on the occasion of your First Plenary Assembly, which you are holding in Rome in order to pray and reflect at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. You are looking at the world from the centre of Catholicism, meditating on the meaning of the universality of the Gospel, which cannot exclude any culture, any region of the world or any social class. At the same time, you are renewing your complete fidelity to the Successor of Peter, whom Christ entrusted with confirming his brothers in the faith (Lc 22,32).

Founded on Peruvian soil in 1985, with an eminently evangelizing outreach, the Christian Life Movement has already spread to many American countries and has even reached beyond the continent to include, besides the Sodality, other groups and associations which are committed, according to their various vocations and states of life, to proclaiming Christ as Saviour of the human race.

On the eve of the Great Jubilee, I encourage you to prepare your hearts to receive God's mercy and to foster a deep and consistent spirit of Christian life in your surroundings and apostolic activities. In the formation of young people, see that the spirit of initiative is combined with fidelity to the Gospel, that culture is open to the meaning of transcendence and poverty, in all its forms, and receives a ray of hope from charity and effective solidarity. In this way you will be true artisans of reconciliation in today's world.

As I entrust the fruits of this First Plenary Assembly to the Virgin Mary, so that they will enliven the Christian commitment and evangelizing zeal of your communities and groups, I cordially give you my Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to all the members of the Christian Life Movement.





To my Venerable Brother Archbishop Francesco Saverio Toppi Pontifical Delegate

1. During the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the Church in Pompei will be gladdened by a further gift of grace, for 13 November will mark the 125th anniversary of the arrival of the picture of Our Lady of the Rosary. This "visit" of Mary changed the spiritual and civil face of Pompei, which since 1875 has been more and more transformed into a citadel of prayer, a centre of Gospel outreach, a place of countless graces and conversions, a stronghold of Marian piety, which is looked upon from every part of the world.

While spiritually joining the Ecclesial Community of Pompei on this happy occasion, I wish to thank the Lord for the gifts with which he has enriched it, imploring, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, special heavenly favours on you, Venerable Brother, and on all those who are entrusted to your pastoral care.

2. The Great Jubilee and this special anniversary of yours are interrelated and offer particular reasons for reflection and thanksgiving. The Holy Year calls the attention of the faithful to the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word and invites them to contemplate the One who, "though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men" (Ph 2,6-7). Pompei is the land of the Holy Rosary, where the fervent outpouring of the Hail Mary from the hearts of the faithful prompts them to contemplate the inner responsiveness of the Blessed Virgin in accepting with faith the announcement of the birth of God's Son in human flesh.

In the same way the Jubilee's resounding invitation to listen lovingly to the Word of God and to conform our lives to the Gospel finds a happy echo in the practice of the Fifteen Saturdays, which Bartolo Longo popularized among the faithful, with the intention of spurring them to contemplate Christ. How then could we fail to see the eloquent harmony between the Redeemer's poor, humble birth in the stable at Bethlehem and the equally simple, modest circumstances in which the picture of Our Lady arrived in Pompei?

The "mystical crown", which the Virgin offers to those who turn to her as "the sweet chain that reconnects us with God", also proves to be a precious means for better understanding and living the great dimensions of the Jubilee. The Rosary, which Bartolo Longo considers a bulwark against the enemies of the soul, unites us with the angels and is a "safe harbour in our common shipwreck" (Supplication to the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary of Pompei).

3. The most profound message of the Jubilee is the call to conversion and the urging of an authentic personal and social renewal. Entering the new millennium, the Christian community is invited to expand its vision of faith to new horizons for the proclamation of the kingdom of God. The awareness that it acquired at the Second Vatican Council of its mystery and of the apostolic task entrusted to it by its Lord commits it to live in the world with the knowledge that it must be "the leaven and, as it were, the soul of human society, destined to be renewed in Christ and transformed into the family of God" (cf. Incarnationis mysterium, n. 2).

Christians can find in the Rosary an effective aid in their efforts to achieve these objectives of the Jubilee in their own lives. By inviting them to welcome the announcement of the birth of God's Son in human flesh with the wonder of Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, the Magi and all the poor of Israel, the Joyful Mysteries arouse in Christians, as they did for the founder of the Shrine of Pompei and for many others devoted to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, the desire to bring the good news of the Saviour with renewed ardour to the people of our time.

Through contemplation of the Sorrowful Mysteries, the Rosary prompts the faithful to feel sorry for their sins and, by inviting them to trust in the help of the One who prays "for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death", it fosters a desire to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation in order to correct whatever is wrong in their lives. In this way, Bl. Bartolo Longo found the strength to reorient his own life and to become docile to the action of the Holy Spirit, who alone transforms sinners into saints.

Through contemplation of Christ in his Resurrection and Ascension into heaven, the Glorious Mysteries immerse us in the ocean of Trinitarian life, communicated by the Paraclete Spirit to all believers and, in a special way, to Mary our Mother and sister. By looking at her, assumed into heaven and into the glory of the saints, Christians are encouraged to seek and desire the "things that are above", and by yearning for the eternal goal they become aware of the necessary means for achieving it, that is, fidelity to the divine commandments, reception of the Church's sacraments and humble conformity to the will of God.

The commitment to the unity of believers in Christ and to fraternal harmony among nations, presented again by the Great Jubilee, also finds a special resonance in the anniversary that the Shrine of Pompei celebrates this year. In the Jubilee of 1900, at the beginning of our 20th century, Bl. Bartolo Longo wished to complete the shrine's monumental façade as a votive offering for peace. To this end he collected offerings and subscriptions from the faithful around the world. Even now, at the dawn of the third millennium, peace is the ardent wish of mankind, and we must pray for peace with confidence in every corner of the world.

4. Venerable Brother in the Episcopate, I fervently hope that, by following the example of Bl. Bartolo Longo, this diocesan community will see these occasions of grace as an urgent incentive to proclaim Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of man, with renewed fervour. In this regard, the pastoral plan prepared for this Jubilee year seems most appropriate. It is inspired by the three words "humility, simplicity, poverty", the three words that characterized the earthly life of Jesus, Mary's own manner and the ascetical programme of Bl. Bartolo Longo. How could we forget that from nothing and with poor, humble means, he, guided by the Spirit, erected in Pompei a shrine that today has a world outreach? The writings of Bl. Bartolo, which even then reached people of every language and nation, continue to offer useful encouragement for reflection and the spiritual life.

May this precious legacy, which is your special title of honour, be accepted by you and offered again to contemporary society, so that in the church of Pompei, where the Mother continues to show her divine Son as the only Saviour of the world, many men and women in search of peace may have the joyous experience of being "visited" by Christ, as did Elizabeth and John the Baptist when they met the Blessed Virgin (cf. Lk Lc 1,39-56).

With these wishes, I invoke, through the intercession of Bl. Bartolo Longo, the maternal protection of the Queen of the Holy Rosary on the priests, the men and women religious, the entire diocesan community, the pilgrims and the devoted faithful, and I willingly impart to all a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 8 December 1999, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.




Wednesday 8 December 1999

As we do every year on this day
so dear to the Christian people,
we are gathered here, in the heart of the city,
to offer once again our traditional floral tribute
to the Blessed Virgin, at the foot of the column
which Romans raised in honour
of her Immaculate Conception.

Today's celebration, on the eve of the Great Jubilee,
is a special preparation for our encounter
with Christ, "who abolished death
and brought life and immortality to light
through the Gospel" (2Tm 1,10).

This is how Scripture presents the saving mission
of the Son of God.
The Blessed Virgin, whom we contemplate
today in the mystery of the Immaculate Conception,
invites us to turn our gaze to the Redeemer,
born in the poverty of Bethlehem for our salvation.

Let us contemplate with her the gift
of the incarnation of God's Son, who
came among us to give meaning to human history.

May the prophet Isaiah's words echo in our hearts:
"The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light" (9: 2).

Mary is the radiant dawn of this day of sure hope.
Mary is the Mother of Christ, who became man
to inaugurate the new times foretold by the prophets.
ith Mary, the "dawn of Redemption",
we are observing Advent, a time of joyous
expectation, contemplation and hope.

Just as the rising of the sun is foretold
in the heavens by the morning star,
so the incarnation of the Son of God,
"the Dayspring" (Lc 1,78), is preceded
by the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary.

It is a sublime mystery of grace,
which we sense even more deeply this year,
at the end of a millennium
and the imminent beginning of the Jubilee Year.

Today we have hastened with deeper trust
to the Blessed Virgin's feet, asking her to help us
cross, with renewed commitment, the threshold
of the Holy Door, which will lead us
into the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

He will cross this threshold
with full awareness, supported and encouraged
by your help, O Immaculate Virgin.

Two thousand years ago in Bethlehem of Judea,
you gave birth to the Conqueror of death
and the Author of life, who through the Gospel
made all human life resplendent.

Christ came among us to restore full dignity
to man created in God's image.
Yes, human beings cannot remain in darkness;
they yearn for the true Light to illumine
their steps on this earthly pilgrimage.

Man does not love death:
endowed with a spiritual nature, he yearns
for the immortality of his whole being.

Jesus destroyed the power of death by his blood
and made it possible for this deep longing
of the human heart to be satisfied.

As we look to you, Virgin chosen
and full of grace, we pilgrims on earth
see the promise of immortality fulfilled
in complete communion with God.

The Apostle's words are fulfilled in you,
Mother of the living, as the first-fruits of glory:
the Lord Jesus "abolished death
and brought life and immortality to light".

This year too, on the threshold
of a new millennium, the Church
repeats this joyful message.

This is why today we come once again
to your feet, Immaculate Virgin full of Grace,
to implore you, who have become the voice
of the entire Christian people, to accept our tribute,
the expression of our faith and devotion,
as, with deep gratitude, we pass on
to the next millennium the beautiful tradition
of this devout meeting with you
at the column in Piazza di Spagna.

And you, Immaculate Virgin Mary, pray for us!



December 9, 1999

Mr President!

1. I very cordially welcome you to the Apostolic Palace, together with the delegates of the Lutheran World Federation. It was seven years ago that I had the joy of receiving your distinguished predecessor, President Gottfried Brakemeier, in the Vatican. At that time we were able to celebrate together the first 25 years of the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue. We could look with gratitude at the many significant fruits produced by the bilateral discussions. Since the Second Vatican Council Catholics and Lutherans have drawn considerably closer: with God's help it has been possible slowly and patiently to remove barriers separating us. At the same time the visible bonds of unity have also been strengthened. Ecumenical cooperation between Catholics and Lutherans has steadily increased at both the national and the international level. Signs of companionship in our faith journey are now a regular habit. Meanwhile collaboration in the charitable and social fields is particularly close.

2. A few weeks ago at Augsburg we received a particular fruit from the theological dialogue. The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by Faith was signed there: a subject that for centuries was a sort of symbol of the division between Catholics and Protestants. Thanks be to God for enabling us to achieve this milestone on the difficult path to re-establishing full unity among Christians (cf. Angelus, 31 October 1999).

Without doubt the document represents a sound basis for further ecumenical steps. It is an encouragement to continue theological research in the ecumenical field and to remove the obstacles that still stand in the way of the deeply longed-for unity at the Lord's table. In addition, we must join forces in working together so that the content of the doctrine is translated into the language and life of our contemporaries. So there is a need for good interpreters who can convey the truth in fidelity to their own identity and out of love for the person they are addressing.

3. With our gaze focused on the mystery of the Incarnation of God's Son, we have together reached the threshold of the third millennium. "Jesus is the genuine newness which surpasses all human expectations" (Incarnationis mysterium, n. 1).

I am delighted that you have agreed to celebrate the Jubilee Year together with the Catholic Church here in Rome and throughout the world. Two high points of our ecumenical cooperation deserve special mention. First is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, when I will solemnly open the Holy Door at St Paul-Outside-the-Walls. I would also like to commemorate the new Christian martyrs.

Especially in this century so plagued by violence and horror, the witness of the martyrs has become equally important for Catholics and Lutherans. It is "a sign of the truth of Christian love, ageless but especially powerful today". The martyrs are the ones "who have proclaimed the Gospel by giving their lives for love" (Incarnationis mysterium, n. 13).

In this way martyrdom acquires an ecumenical significance, since those who believe in Christ and are united by the long line of martyrs cannot remain divided (cf. Ut unum sint, UUS 1).

4. The joint celebration of the Great Jubilee is an opportunity to deepen our common witness to the faith. Today's world, in particular, yearns for Christians to draw closer together. The Holy Year calendar therefore includes other meetings of an ecumenical nature. Why should we still go our separate ways when we are already on the same road? As a spiritual event, the Jubilee Year offers Catholics and Lutherans various possibilities to take advantage of together.

We were given a foretaste of this by the ecumenical Vespers that we recently celebrated on the occasion of the elevation of St Bridget of Sweden to co-patroness of Europe. On that occasion, as we offered our thanks to God with hymns and psalms, I sensed the "spiritual space" in which Christians stand together before their Lord (cf. Ut unum sint, UUS 83). This common spiritual space is larger than many of the denominational barriers that still separate us on the threshold of the third millennium. If, despite our divisions, we can grow ever more united in common prayer around Christ, we will grow in the awareness of how little divides us in comparison to what unites us (cf. Ut unum sint, UUS 22).

Whoever is aware of this realizes that ecumenism "is not just some sort of "appendix' which is added to the Church's traditional activity" (Ut unum sint, UUS 20). Full unity is a goal for which it is worth striving. It is an incentive for the spiritual activity of the whole Church.

5. Regarding these hopeful thoughts, I am convinced that the good relations between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation provide a basis for all further discussions on resolving the questions that are still open.

Just as prayer to the Lord is the "'soul' of ecumenical renewal and of the yearning for unity" (Ut unum sint, UUS 28), so may our shared dialogue on the fundamental questions of doctrine also be supported in the future by insistent prayer in our communities. The prayer of believers is also a "tailwind" for ecumenical dialogue.

God grant that we will soon attain the unity that conforms to Christ's will! This prayer will be offered with our thanksgiving to the Lord of history. For we should not only look back at the 2,000 years since Christ, but be able, in view of the Year 2000, to advance confidently with Christ into future. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord yesterday, today and for ever, may the peace and blessing of God's incarnate Son be with you all.




9 December 1999

Your Eminence,
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. With the Eucharistic Liturgy earlier this morning in Saint Peter’s Basilica and your audience now with the Successor of Peter, the solemn celebrations marking the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine draw to an end. These celebrations, which began in New York City — where the Mission has its headquarters — and then moved to the Holy Land, Jordan and Libya, thus find a fitting conclusion in the City where the Apostles Peter and Paul bore their final heroic witness to Jesus Christ and to the salvation which he wrought for all mankind.

I thank Cardinal Achille Sivestrini for his kind words of greeting in the name of the Congregation for Oriental Churches and in that of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine. A particular word of appreciation goes to Cardinal John O’Connor, the Archbishop of New York, to Monsignor Robert Stern, current President of the Pontifical Mission, and to the Catholic community in the United States of America in general, which so generously supports the work of the Pontifical Mission. Nor can I fail to express my gratitude to all those involved in the Mission, whether at the central or regional levels, whose commitment and efforts allow it to meet the needs of the many peoples it seeks to serve.

2. In fact, it was the tragic suffering and destitution of the peoples of the Middle East at the end of the Second World War which gave rise to the desire in my predecessor Pope Pius XII to establish a Church organization specifically for the Middle East. He desired an agency which would lend needed assistance and support in the Holy Land to children, families, the wounded, the sick, the elderly, exiles. It was to this end that, in 1949, the Pontifical Mission for Palestine was founded; and today, fifty years later, the Mission has extended its charitable activity to Cyprus, Iraq and Syria.

In the past fifty years, the Middle East has not ceased to experience moments of great tension and conflict, often exploding in acts of violence and outright war. In these circumstances, the Pontifical Mission has increased its efforts aimed at helping the local populations to rebuild their lives: it is involved in reconstruction and development projects; it provides badly needed health care services; it has contributed to the re-establishment of agricultural, industrial and artisan activities. In this way, the Pontifical Mission is an eloquent expression of that “new culture of international solidarity and cooperation” (Incarnationis Mysterium, 12) which is so necessary in the modern world, and which must be a hallmark of the new millennium. This shared responsibility for the well-being of all, especially on the part of the wealthier nations and of the private sector, is part of the deeper meaning of the Great Jubilee upon which we are about to embark (cf. ibid.).

3. My dear friends, it is in no small way through you and your support of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine that the Church is able to be actively and effectively present in the Holy Land and in the Middle East. I pray that you and all those associated with the work of the Mission will be renewed in faith and love as you seek ever better ways of helping those in need not only of material support but especially of opportunities for personal and social development. This is the surest path for establishing a true and lasting peace in the lives of the peoples of the Middle East.

Commending you, your work and all the benefactors of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine, as well as those whom it seeks to help, to the powerful intercession of Mary of Nazareth, Mother of the Redeemer, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.




To the Venerable Brother
Domingos Lam Ka Tseung
Bishop of Macao

After almost 424 years from the day on which my predecessor Gregory XIII erected the diocese of Macao, the diocesan community entrusted to the care of Your Excellency prepares itself to live an important event in its plurisecular history, when on December 20 next the Territory will return under Chinese sovereignty.

Created to provide for the pastoral needs which were emerging with the spread of Christianity in the Asian Far East, the diocese of Macao included at the beginning all of China, with other bordering territories and adjacent islands. Its history was thus intertwined with the history of the evangelisation of the whole surrounding geographical area, in particular with that of China, a country of ancient philosophical-religious traditions. The function of gateway of the Church towards China, assigned by Divine Providence to the diocese of Macao and fulfilled during four centuries with alternating vicissitudes, will assume new forms now that the diocesan community will be part of the Church in China by full right: in particular, it must strengthen its missionary vocation in the midst of the Chinese world, so as to become a point of reference and of spiritual support also for the numerous brothers and sisters in the faith who live dispersed in the vast reaches of China.

The historic-cultural tradition of that particular Church is rich in significant values. Macao was not only the gateway of evangelisation for the Chinese continent, but also an advance post of Christian culture and a meeting point with the cultures of the Far East. In that city, in fact, with the creation of the prestigious "Colégio Universitário de S. Paulo", there was established the first University of Studies in the Far East, already in 1594, that is, just 39 years from the moment when the Portuguese navigators had disembarked for the first time in Macao. Thus, alongside the elementary instruction, which had been immediately organised by the Church, there was launched also that of the higher level.

Apart from the field of culture, the presence of the Catholics was notable in social work, as is shown, among others, by the "Santa Casa da Misericórdia", which was established in 1569 and has played a great part in the human history of the local population.

At this important moment, when the Territory returns to be an integral part of China, the Church that is in Macao, rich in tradition and dignity, is called to continue its commitment to spiritual, cultural and social service.

At the vigil of the new century, and in the context of the Holy Year, now imminent, may it know how to give impetus to its evangelic commitment, renewing with generosity and with audacity the methods and the forms both of the religious witness and of the valuable service which it provides in the educational, scholastic and assistential sectors.

May it be a prophetic Church which announces to man, seduced by avidity for material goods and disorientated in his aims, the high and inspiring reason of the moral life, the dignity and the freedom of every human person, the beauty of the Gospel, the joy of following Christ.

May it be a Church faithful to the significance of the name with which the city is adorned: "Macao, City of the Name of God". May it speak without fear to all of the love of God the Father, revealed in Jesus and poured out in the Holy Spirit. May it hold high its tradition, witnessed to by the innumerable and splendid sacred edifices which over the centuries it has dedicated to the Mother of God, to St. Joseph, to St. James, to St. Francis Xavier.

May it maintain in full its communion with the Universal Church, and, as in the past, may it always cherish its communion with the Church of all of China, to which it is now bound by a special civil link.

In formulating these wishes, I desire to assure of my prayer, and of that of the whole Church, for the diocesan community of Macao and for the wider Catholic family of all of Mainland China.

To you, Venerable Brother, I send my affectionate greeting and my Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to the clergy, to the men and women religious, to the laity and to all persons of good will.

From the Vatican, December 3, 1999, the feast of St. Francis Xavier, Patron of the Missions.
(John Paul II)



“And the Word was made flesh”

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Catholic Church in China,

On the eve of the Great Jubilee, when we will commemorate the two thousandth anniversary of the Birth of Christ, I greet all of you joyfully and with great affection in the love of God the Father and in the communion of the Holy Spirit.

All Catholics of Chinese origin are close to my heart as Pastor of the universal Church, but at this time I urgently wish to address in a special way the Shepherds and faithful of mainland China, who cannot as yet show forth, in a full and visible way, their communion with this Apostolic See.

1. Brothers and sisters of the Church in China, together with the faithful throughout the world who are preparing to celebrate the Great Jubilee and the beginning of a new Millennium, you have responded to the invitation of the Successor of Peter and the Bishop of Rome and you are approaching this event in faith.

The practical suggestions which I made in the Bull of Indiction Incarnationis Mysterium, and the provisions for gaining the Jubilee Indulgence laid down in the Decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary, will be for all Catholics the norm and guide for a fruitful celebration of this providential year of grace, not only in Rome and the Holy Land, but throughout the Church.

For very many Catholics around the world it will not be possible to pass through the Holy Door in Rome and to venerate the Tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. Nevertheless, wherever they live, all are invited to realize that “to pass through that door means to confess that Jesus is Lord; it is to strengthen faith in him in order to live the new life which he has given us. It is a decision which presumes freedom to choose, and also the courage to leave something behind, in the knowledge that what is gained is divine life (cf. Mt Mt 13,44-46)” (Bull of Indiction, Incarnationis Mysterium, 8).

2. Our hearts turn back to the moment in history when, in “the fullness of time” (Ga 4,4), the Son of God was born among us: an event which most of mankind has now accepted as the point fo reference for the measurement of time and history.

The birth of Jesus took place in a province of Palestine, an Asian land at the crossroads of the great cultural exchanges of East and West, a point where Asia, Europe and Africa meet.

This birth was, and still is today, a source of joy for all people in “the vast span under heaven”, exactly as the Angel announced to the shepherds at Bethlehem: “I bring you news of a great joy which will come to all the people: for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Lc 2,10-11).

The name given to the newborn child – Jesus, “God gives salvation”– is a synthesis of his mission and a promise for the whole human race: “God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1Tm 2,4); “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3,16).

3. During his lifetime, Jesus began to accomplish what was said of him at his birth: “To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation, to prisoners freedom and those in sorrow joy” (Fourth Eucharistic Prayer). To carry out God’s merciful and mysterious plan for the salvation of men and women, “he gave himself up to death, but by rising from the dead he destroyed death and restored life” (ibid).

Before his Ascension and his return to the Father, he commanded his disciples, and in them the infant Church: “Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28,19).

Obedient to the Lord and under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, the disciples carried out Jesus’ command, bringing the Good News to East and West, North and South.

4. The Jubilee not only recalls Jesus’ entry into history, but also his expanding presence among the peoples of the earth.

As you well know, dear brothers and sisters, in accordance with the mysterious plans of divine Providence the Gospel of salvation soon reached your own country: as early as the fifth and sixth centuries groups of Syrian monks crossed Central Asia and brought the name of Jesus to your forebears. Even today, a famous stele in the capital Chang’an (Xi’an) powerfully evokes that moment in history, from 635 onwards, which saw the official entrance into China of “the Religion of light”.

Some centuries later, that proclamation waned. But the fact that the Gospel of Jesus was preached to your ancestors at a time when much of Europe and the rest of the world had not yet heard it, should surely fill you with gratitude to God and intense joy.

5. The Gospel message, proclaimed in those distant beginnings, has lost none of its relevance, and it invites and impels you to make it known to those who have not yet received it.

The life of Jesus’ disciples, then as now, in China as elsewhere, must be inspired by the “Good News”, and the genuine living of the Gospel in your lives will be a shining witness borne to Christ in your surroundings. For this reason all of you, dear brothers and sisters, are called to proclaim the Gospel of salvation to the Chinese people of today with new vigour.

I realize that you feel unequal to such a great and demanding mission, but you know that you can count on the victorious power of Christ (cf. Jn 16,33), who promises you his presence and help. Led by your Pastors and in communion with them, you, dear priests, religious men and women, and lay people, will develop updated pastoral plans, placing primary emphasis on all that relates to the proclamation of Jesus and his word of life, and giving special attention to young people.

In this context, the celebration of the Jubilee will be an occasion for remembering the apostolic labours, the sufferings, the tears and the shedding of blood which have been part of the Church’s journey among the people of every time. In your midst, too, the blood of your martyrs has become the seed of a multitude of authentic disciples of Jesus. My heart overflows with wonder and gratitude to God for the generous witness given by a host of Bishops, priests, men and women religious, and lay people. And it seems that the time of trial, in some places, has not yet come to an end!

6. In your preparation for the Great Jubilee, remember that in the Biblical tradition this moment always entailed the obligation to forgive one another’s debts, to make satisfaction for injustices committed, and to be reconciled with one’s neighbour.

You too have heard the proclamation of the “great joy prepared for all peoples”: the love and mercy of the Father, the Redemption accomplished in Christ. To the extent that you yourselves are ready to accept this joyful proclamation, you will be able to pass it on, by your lives, to the men and women around you. My ardent desire is that you will respond to the interior promptings of the Holy Spirit by forgiving one another whatever needs to be forgiven, by drawing closer to one another, by accepting one another and by breaking down all barriers in order to overcome every possible cause of division.

Do not forget the words of Jesus at the Last Supper: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13,35).

I rejoiced when I learned that you intend your most precious gift on the occasion of the Great Jubilee to be unity among yourselves and unity with the Successor of Peter. This intention can only be a fruit of the Spirit who guides the Church along the arduous paths of reconciliation and unity.

7. “One sign of the mercy of God which is especially necessary today is the sign of charity, which opens our eyes to the needs of those who are poor and excluded” (Bull of Indiction Incarnationis Mysterium, 12).

The practical commitments that will evidence your striving for spiritual conversion and renewal must include charity towards your brothers and sisters in the traditional form of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. This concrete solidarity will also be your quiet but effective contribution to the good of your People. Thus you will give eloquent testimony to the name of Christian which you bear with courage and pride: as good Chinese and authentic Christians, you love your country and you love the Church, both local and universal.

8. The Jubilee of the Year 2000 will be a great prayer of praise and thanksgiving above all for the gift of the Incarnation of the Son of God and the Redemption which he has accomplished.

It will be praise and thanksgiving for the gift of the Church, founded by Christ as “a sacrament or sign of intimate union with God, and of the unity of all mankind” (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Lumen Gentium LG 1).

This thanksgiving “will embrace the fruits of holiness which have matured in the life of all those many men and women” — including those from your own People — “who in every generation and every period of history have fully welcomed the gift of Redemption” (Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 32).

9. United among yourselves in the truth and charity of Christ, in communion with the universal Church and with him who has been called by Jesus to be the Successor of Peter and the pledge of unity, cross the threshold of the new Millennium, confident that the one God and Father of the whole human race will continue to bless your steps and those of all your People. Be a leaven of good for your People, despite your small numbers! Be a sign and a sacrament of the salvation promised by God to all men and women, and invite your neighbours to hear and to believe the good news of the Great Jubilee: “To you is born a Saviour!”

May Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, Help of Christians and Queen of China, protect you and sustain you as you fulfil your vocation and strive, with ever more intent and generous hearts, to put these resolutions into practice.

10. At this point, my vision broadens to embrace, together with you, all the Chinese Catholics living outside of mainland China. To them goes my affectionate greeting along with my sincere hope that, during the Jubilee Year, they will be reassured “in the knowledge that they bring to the world the true light, Christ the Lord” (Bull of Indiction Incarnationis Mysterium, 2). They themselves will be a light and a leaven wherever Providence has placed them, and they will foster union of spirit with all their brothers and sisters of the great Chinese family.

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” With these sentiments I send all of you my heartfelt blessing!

From the Vatican, 8 December 1999, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.