Speeches 1998 - Saturday, 19 December 1998

5. The tree in St Peter's Square turns my thoughts in another direction also: you placed it near the crib and decorated it. Does this not remind us of paradise, of the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? With the birth of the Son of God the new creation began. The first Adam wanted to be like God and ate from the tree of knowledge. Jesus Christ, the new Adam, was in the form of God: despite this he did not wish to be God's equal, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave and becoming like men (cf. Phil Ph 2,6 and ff.): from his birth until his death, from the manger to the Cross. Death came from the tree of paradise; life sprung from the tree of the Cross. The tree therefore is next to the crib and points precisely to the Cross, the tree of life.

6. Your Excellency, dear brothers and sisters, once again I express my profound gratitude to you for your Christmas gift. Please accept in exchange the message of the tree as the psalmist put it: "Blessed is the man ... whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and whose leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers" (Ps 1,1-3).

With these thoughts I wish you and your loved ones and friends a blessed and joyous Christmas. With the help of God may all that you begin in the new year prosper! May the patron of your homeland, St Fridolin, be your powerful intercessor. I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all.




Saturday, 19 December 1998

Your Beatitude,

1. The Bishop of Rome receives you with immense joy for the first time since your election and enthronement as the Patriarch of Antioch for Syrians. With the holy kiss of peace we are exchanging today, Rome, the city which the holy Apostles Peter and Paul glorified by their martyrdom, opens her arms to welcome you and the Church over which you preside, and to recognize the special place of honour to which our common fidelity to the apostolic heritage entitles you.

It was in Antioch that the Lord's disciples were called Christians for the first time. It was from Antioch that blessed Peter came to Rome. Through you, I venerate the wealth of faith that belongs to your glorious see. I thank you, Your Beatitude, for this act of communion and affection which you have made a priority of your new ministry as Patriarch.

2. I wanted full communion no longer to be expressed by conferral of the pallium, but in a way better suited to acknowledging the dignity of the patriarchal office. Indeed, the Eucharist by its nature is the symbol that best expresses full communion, of which it is also the inexhaustible source. For this reason, in the solemn Eucharistic sacrifice celebrated last Wednesday at the Basilica of St Mary Major, Your Beatitude offered the holy Body and live-giving Blood of our Lord to Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, whom I had appointed Legate for this occasion, and the latter also offered the Holy Gifts to Your Beatitude. This action, which will remain engraved in the memory of the faithful, will now be repeated on the first visit of the new Patriarchs of the Eastern Churches in full communion with the See of Rome.

3. The Successor of Peter's concern for your Church, in addition to being a pledge of concrete support, is expressed in a prayerful petition that she will be radiant though her Gospel witness in the very difficult conditions of life experienced by a good number of her children. Today I once again hope that she will cultivate the liturgy, which closely links her to the very origins of Christianity, that she will seek in the Fathers and Doctors solid nourishment for her faith and find in the courage of the martyrs and the asceticism of the monks a strong encouragement to devote herself only to what is necessary.

You share this patrimony with the Syro- Malankara Catholic Church, which is actively working for the evangelization of India. Certain parts of this heritage are common to the Maronite Church. The bond of a common tradition is particularly close with the Syrian Orthodox Church. I am very pleased to learn that the ecumenical path is being pursued and that there are concrete prospects of collaboration, starting with the liturgical field.

4. I hope that your Church's future commitment will be made with full respect for her own tradition, as well as with efforts towards an ever greater understanding and participation of today's believers.

I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to all the Bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons and all the faithful, especially those who are suffering in body and spirit, and to all who are tried in these difficult days, as I ask Your Beatitude to bring them the assurance of the Pope's affection when you meet them. Your Beatitude, I offer you a new kiss of peace and hope that you will be an icon of Christ, Head and Shepherd, for the Church entrusted to your care.





Monday, 21 December 1998

Mr Ambassador,

1. I am pleased to welcome Your Excellency for the presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Bulgaria to the Holy See. I would be grateful if you would kindly convey my thanks to H.E. Mr. Petar Stoyanov, President of Bulgaria, for his message which you have delivered to me, and express to him my fervent best wishes for him and for his lofty mission at the service of the Bulgarian nation. I hope that all the country's inhabitants may achieve their deepest aspirations, in an increasingly united and fraternal society.

I am particularly moved by what you have just said in expressing the sentiments you feel as you begin your mission as the second Ambassador to the Holy See. You are adding a page to the long history of your country's relations with the Apostolic See. You mentioned my Predecessor, Pope John XXIII, who was Apostolic Delegate in Sofia and left in your compatriots' hearts the memory of a warm-hearted person whom they adopted to the point of calling him the Bulgarian Pope. I am pleased with the attention that you and your Government have paid to the activity of the Successor of Peter and of the Holy See in European and international affairs.

2. Since your State was founded, the Bulgarian people have developed down to our day a humanistic and religious culture which is rich in its depth and in its literary, theatrical and musical expression. Thanks to the followers of Sts Cyril and Methodius, evangelization has given a new impetus to the moral and spiritual values which are now part of the tradition and heritage of the Bulgarian nation (cf. Encyclical Epistle Slavorum Apostoli, n. 24). It is a treasure of wisdom from which your compatriots can draw abundantly to find the inspiration to encourage, enlighten and strengthen them in the difficulties they currently face. By deepening their contact with what constitutes their own identity, they will find new ways to respond to the questions they encounter and to strengthen social life with respect for particular sensitivities and concern for the unity of society. In seeking the common good, leaders have an important role in ensuring the stability of institutions, so that the whole people will be able to enjoy the essential goods. Indeed, they are called by their fellow citizens to administer the res publica in a spirit of service and with a keen sense of the common good, paying special attention to the weakest and poorest. Economic development, to which all aspire and to which each must contribute, will thus be a human development because it will be at the service of the dignity of every person, of the rights of the family and of the common good.

In this century your people have been harshly tried by many tragedies which have deeply affected the European continent. Your nation has had witnesses of peace and reconciliation who are models and examples for the future. One of them, who is a symbol for everyone, is the martyred Bishop Eugene Bossilkov, whom I beatified last 15 March in the presence of a considerable number of your fellow citizens. As I said on that day, "he is one of the many victims sacrificed by atheistic communism ... in its plan to destroy the Church" (L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 18 March 1998, p. 1). In a letter Bishop Bossilkov wrote towards the end of 1948 he said that the blood shed by the people would pave "the way to a splendid future; and even if we will not see it ourselves, others will reap what we sowed in suffering". May our contemporaries see this period come in our day, for the good of all!

3. You have recalled the fruitful relations, based on mutual esteem, which Bulgaria and the Holy See have maintained for centuries. The Catholic community of Bulgaria is small, but it is deeply rooted in the nation's life. Lay Catholics wish to be involved in public life and to see good opportunities opened to them for serving their country along with their compatriots. They would also like to pursue cordial ecumenical relations with their Orthodox brothers and sisters, by fostering sincere mutual knowledge and joint action at the spiritual and charitable levels, as the Second Vatican Council has already invited Christians to do (cf. Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis redintegratio UR 2-4). The Church wants to be close to the unfortunate through the many social institutions and she attaches paramount importance to the task of education.

All your compatriots are also invited to take part in the formation of the younger generation, so that they will become aware of the values of their heritage, of their responsibilities in building their country and of what they can do to achieve the civilization of love and truth. It is particularly important to give them a spiritual, moral and civic education that will make them young people who can lead a personal life rich in meaning and commit themselves to their homeland.

4. The different religious traditions are a treasure which should be shared more and more. The eminent figure of Bishop Bossilkov should be an example for everyone because of his constant ecumenical concern. For their part, Catholics want to devote all their energies to ensuring that relations among the Churches will support the country's material and spiritual development. You know that the co-cathedral of St Joseph in Sofia, now in need of repair, is an important sign of the centuries-old presence of the Catholic Church in your country. The faithful must have places of worship where they can gather round their pastors to pray. It is to be hoped that every effort will be made for all believers to benefit, not only in theory but also in their daily lives, from freedom of worship, which is one of the significant aspects of human rights.

In this spirit, I recently said in my Message for the World Day of Peace, 1 January 1999: "Religion expresses the deepest aspirations of the human person, shapes people's vision of the world and affects their relationships with others: basically it offers the answer to the question of the true meaning of life, both personal and communal. Religious freedom therefore constitutes the very heart of human rights" (n. 5). Another form of essential freedom, especially at a time when the European continent is changing, consists in the natural right of every person to freedom of movement in his own country and from one country to another, with respect for the local culture and lawful institutions, but without imposing restrictions based on race or creed. Europeans as a whole must be attentive to the rights of displaced persons and their families.

5. Recent history, which has seen so many victims of various ideologies, particularly invites us never to tire of promoting respect for human life, which has a sacred character, and for the dignity of every individual. In this spirit, I am pleased with the decision your leaders have recently made to abolish the death penalty, thereby showing that every human being's life, even that of a sinner or criminal, has immeasurable value and that "the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity 'are very rare, if not practically non-existent'"? (Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 2267 Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2267; cf. Evangelium vitae EV 56 EV 6 With you I hope that the Great Jubilee will be an invitation to justice and peace in the world. May Bulgaria make its voice heard in the concert of nations and be recognized for its significant contribution in this domain!

As you begin your mission as representative of Bulgaria to the Holy See, may I offer you my best wishess for its success. Rest assured, Mr. Ambassador, that those who work with me will always offer you the attentive understanding and sincere support you may need to fulfil your office.

I cordially invoke an abundance of divine blessings upon Your Excellency, your staff and your family, and upon the Bulgarian people and their leaders.





Tuesday, 22 December 1998

1. "Quam dilecta tabernacula tua, Domine virtutum! Concupiscit et deficit anima mea in atria Domini" (Ps 84 [83], 2-3).

These verses of the psalm which we recite are a good preparation for Holy Mass and draw us into the atmosphere of the Nativity of the Lord. Indeed, they recall Mary and Joseph's anxious search on the Holy Night for a tabernaculum, a suitable dwelling where Jesus could be born. An unfruitful search, "because there was no place for them in the inn" (Lc 2,7). The Son of Mary would be born in a stable, when he should have had his own house and a welcoming home, as is every child's right.

What feelings are stirred by this consideration! Christmas calls to mind the domestic hearth; it makes us think of the family atmosphere in which the child is welcomed as a gift and a source of deep joy. Tradition calls for Christmas to be spent in the family, together with those one loves. It is a Christmas custom to exchange greetings, to give thanks and to ask one another's forgiveness in a climate of authentic Christian spirituality.

2. I would like this atmosphere also to mark today's meeting with you, Your Eminences, Venerable Brothers in the episcopate and the priesthood, dear religious and lay people who work in the Roman Curia. I thank dear Cardinal Bernardin Gantin for his affectionate address, expressing the sentiments of all of you who are called to take part uniquely in the mystery of that household, that family which is the Church. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council rightly compared the Church to a house and a family. It described her as the household of God, of which we are "living stones" and in which we dwell (cf. Lumen gentium LG 6,18), it called her the family of God (cf. ibid, nn. 6, 28, 32, 51), to which we belong. The Roman Curia is a privileged expression of this "dwelling place". Indeed, the Bishops of the whole world pass through here on their ad limina visits and for other ordinary or extraordinary meetings, as recently happened with the Special Assembly for Oceania of the Synod of Bishops and previously for the other continental Synods. Yes, the Apostolic See wants to be the home of the whole Church, a home in which the birth of the Son of God is awaited with special intensity.

3. "Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum!" (Ps 133 [132]:1).

The now imminent Jubilee must find a climate of expectation and spiritual fervour throughout the Church and especially in the Roman Curia. The third and last stage of immediate preparation, in 1999, invites us to focus our gaze on the mystery of God the Father, who "so loved the world that he gave his only Son" (Jn 3,16). In past years thanks to the generous commitment of the Central Committee, the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, the national committees and the diocesan communities the celebration of the Jubilee and its spiritual dimension are becoming increasingly defined and distinctive.

This work has culminated in the publication of the Bull Incarnationis mysterium with which I officially announced the Holy Year. Then, in the background, there have been a few important moments of reflection, such as the symposiums on anti-Judaism and on the Inquisition, during which it was possible to reflect on several painful events of the past, in order to offer an ever freer and more consistent ecclesial witness. Other initiatives have blossomed in all the ecclesial communities throughout the world. In the Diocese of Rome, for example, the City Mission, which is being carried out under the direction of the Cardinal Vicar and the Auxiliary Bishops, is producing numerous and significant apostolic and missionary fruits. It is a question of spiritual zeal which I hope will continue to grow, so that the Church can offer the world a unanimous Gospel witness, proclaiming Christ the one Saviour of the world yesterday, today, and for ever (cf. Heb He 13,8)

4. "Confitemini Domino, quoniam bonus, quoniam in saeculum misericordia eius" (Ps 118 [117]:1).

In the month of October, the Lord granted me the grace to celebrate the 20th anniversary of my election as Bishop of Rome and Pastor of the universal Church. Once again I give him thanks for the gifts which he has showered upon me. In this Jubilee celebration I felt surrounded by the affection of the whole Catholic Church which was very close to me, with prayer and countless acts of devout participation. Together with those from the ecclesial community, I was pleased to receive congratulations from representatives of the other religious confessions, Heads of State, well-known figures of culture and the economy, as well as good wishes from individual people, including many children and elderly persons, the sick and the suffering, young people and families. I would like to express my deep gratitude to them all, as, thinking back on the question Jesus asked Peter: "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" (Jn 21,16), I ask everyone to continue to pray that every day I may serve the Lord and the brethren he has entrusted to me with renewed love.

5. "Omnium me servum feci, ut plures lucrifacerem" (1Co 9,19).

Concern for the universal Church has also led me this year to make several apostolic journeys, as the Cardinal Dean has emphasized. They were moments of great emotion and spiritual joy. How can I forget first of all my longed for visit to the island of Cuba, where the presence of the Successor of Peter awakened such enthusiasm and began a promising movement of spiritual renewal? Or my apostolic pilgrimage to Nigeria, where I had the joy of beatifying Fr Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi, holding him up as a model of evangelization and reconciliation precisely in the land where he was born, and which saw him as a tireless preacher of the Good News and peacemaker?

Last June I was able to make another visit to Austria to beatify three children of that nation Sr Restituta Kafka, Fr Schwartz and Fr Kern while in the last part of the year I went once again to Croatia, where I had the joy of proposing for the veneration of the faithful Bl. Alojzije Stepinac, the heroic Cardinal Archbishop of Zagreb who enriched the glorious ranks of the martyrs of that land with the offering of his life. Continuously harassed by the communist regime, he could courageously make an invincible gift of himself to Christ and to his brothers and sisters, sacrificing himself for the unity of the Church.

In thanking divine Providence for the pilgrimages I was able to make in 1998, I entrust to the Lord those which, with his help, I will be able to undertake this coming year, starting with my Pastoral Visit to Mexico where, please God, I will present the Apostolic Exhortation in which I have gathered the results of the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops.

6. "Vae enim mihi est, si non evangelizavero!" (1Co 9,16).

It is the awareness that she must constantly evangelize which guides the Church, called to proclaim Christ, the truth of man, at all times. To respond to this need, I have published a few important documents, first and foremost the Encyclical Letter Fides et ratio, with which I intended to express trust in the efforts of human thought, inviting my contemporaries to rediscover the role of reason and to recognize faith as a valuable ally in their progress toward the truth.

Witnesses of Gospel truth are also the blesseds and saints whom I have been able to raise to the honours of the altar. Among them, I would like to recall Sr Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, a Jewish woman, philosopher, nun and martyr. In a troubled century like that in which she was granted to live, she stands before us to invite us to take the narrow way of discernment and acceptance of the Cross, never separating love from the truth, so as to avoid exposing ourselves to the risk of destructive deceit.

Another valuable witness to the truth was offered by all those Bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay people during the year in various countries of Africa, Asia and America who suffered and in turn paid with their blood for their fidelity to Christ and the Church. I hope that their sacrifices will encourage believers and contribute to building an atmosphere of genuine freedom and peace in the world.

7. "Filius hominis non venit ut ministraretur ei ..." (Mc 10,45).

Conscious of her mission, the Church becomes a sharer in the joys and hopes of humanity, to continue the very work of Christ, "who came into the world to bear witness to the truth, to save and not to judge, to serve and not to be served" (Gaudium et spes GS 3). This apostolic and missionary aspiration spurs the Church to share in the problems and tragedies of humanity in every corner of the world. The signing of agreements between the Holy See and several States has contributed this year to making the Church concretely present and respected among the peoples.

My gratitude goes especially to all those who strive to make God's tenderness tangible for every human being with their faithful service which is often humble and unseen. This admirable dedication has become more generous and timely on the occasion of the painful natural disasters that have struck various regions of the world. It is enough to remember the devastating effects of Hurricane Mitch which the Cardinal Dean mentioned. In various circumstances, wonderful pages of human and Christian solidarity have been written.

8. "Ut omnes unum sint ... ut credat mundus" (Jn 17,21).

The family atmosphere evoked by the Christmas holidays, the approach of the beginning of the third Christian millennium and the urgent need for the new evangelization make Christ's invitation to unity ever more pressing for those who belong to him through the one Baptism.

Many meetings and ecumenical initiatives have contributed during this year to reinforcing this atmosphere of concern, dialogue and serene searching for unity among the Christian Churches, a necessary premise for achieving an ecumenism which is positive and fruitful.

Grateful to God, I recall the meetings with the Heads of the Christian confessions during my apostolic journeys and the participation of the Holy See's observers at the Eighth Assembly of the Ecumenical Council of Churches.

As I joyfully point out the serene collaboration that is taking place among believers in Christ, I hope that under the impetus of the Great Jubilee it will be possible to live a new ecumenical season.

9. Your Eminences, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the priesthood, men and women religious, dear lay collaborators, this rapid review of the most important aspects of the Holy See's activity in the year just coming to an end now traditional at this annual gathering highlights the daily service that each one of you accomplishes, to ensure that the Good News of the Incarnation of the Word reaches every human being in every corner of the earth.

Your presence close to the Bishop of Rome enables him to exercise concretely his mission of being the "rock" on which the Church of Christ is founded (cf. Mt Mt 16,18) and to strengthen, support and guide his brothers and sisters in the faith (cf. Lk Lc 22,31). I would therefore like to thank you individually for the generosity, competence and discretion with which you serve the Apostolic See. I hope that each one of you will become ever more aware and deeply happy with the service you offer the Church and the Gospel, and will see in your daily efforts the love of Christ, who, thanks to you, brings the joyful message of salvation to the poor, prisoners, the blind, the oppressed and all those in search of truth and peace (cf. Lk Lc 4,18).

May Christmas find us all, like Mary, filled with wonder at 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). May the mystery of Christmas awaken in each one the sentiments of humility and love present in Christ's heart, and make you all worthy sons and daughters of the one Father.

With these wishes, I implore the Christmas gift of joy for each of you, and, as I also express my fervent good wishes for the New Year, I cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you and to your loved ones.

Happy Christmas!




Tuesday, 22 December 1998

1. I welcome you with joy, dear boys and girls of Catholic Action!

You have come from various Dioceses in Italy to bring the Pope the greetings of Catholic Action. I cordially thank you for your presence and your enthusiasm. I know that you really love Catholic Action, which teaches you to be generous and faithful apostles of Christ in the Church. With you I greet your teachers, leaders and the chaplains of the entire association, which has just held its 10th assembly.

2. I like the theme of your programme for this year: "I have time for you". It first of all reminds us of God: yes, God has time for us, and he so loved us that he sent his Son into the world. By reading the Gospel we learn how our time must be used: we must follow the example of Jesus, who lived his life with complete devotion to his heavenly Father and to his brothers and sisters. Do you remember what he did when he was more or less your age? He stayed behind at the temple in Jerusalem, and then he explained to his mother, Our Lady, and to St Joseph that his mission was to dedicate his life to his Father's affairs (cf. Lk Lc 2,49). This was really his mission: to live his whole life for every man and every woman, to the point of dying on the cross.

By Baptism and Confirmation every believer is called to follow in the footsteps of the divine Master. This means a journey of continual growth. Catholic Action exists for this reason: to help you make this journey together, in the association, in the parish, in the Church. In this way you learn to devote your time and energy to others, whether near or far, like the young people whom you will probably never meet, but you consider your brothers and sisters because they are children of the one Father who is in heaven.

3. Always be faithful to Jesus, who wants you to be his disciples. I wish you a holy and peaceful Christmas, and a New Year full of good fruits. May God fill with his love each of you and all the young members of Catholic Action! I am always close to you in prayer and I bless you now with great affection. Happy Christmas!




Wednesday, 30 December 1998

Dear Seminarians!

1. I am very pleased to meet you on the occasion of your annual congress organized by the Focolare Movement. I greet Chiara. I also greet you with great affection and congratulate the organizers of this beautiful programme which is meant to offer young people who have started out on their journey to the priesthood in various parts of the world the chance to know each other, meet each other, exchange experiences and together look at the many unprecedented challenges of the modern world.

The joyful, festive atmosphere of the Christmas holidays further encourages the creation of warmer, more fraternal relations among you: you feel part of a family that is celebrating the birth of the Redeemer, as you meditate on his message of love which must be proclaimed and witnessed to before all men and women. It is precisely for this reason that your objective is to focus on Jesus, our only Saviour.

2. As the theme chosen for the congress, "Jesus crucified and abandoned: a bridge between heaven and earth", reminds us, you intend to pause and contemplate the person and saving mission of Christ. In fact, he is at the centre of every vocational path, and this is especially true for those who are preparing for the ministerial priesthood. Is it not the personal attraction of Christ, the intensity of his words and the compelling force of his prophetic deeds that today still draw so many young people to follow the path of the evangelical life and of humble and generous service to the kingdom of God and the good of others?

Dear friends, deepen your knowledge of Christ through prayer and the help of your teachers. In the supreme moment of death, Jesus crucified and abandoned reveals himself as the true bridge that unites heaven and earth: through his total sacrifice of love, he shows to all people the merciful face of his heavenly Father. A priest is called, like Jesus, to be a minister of God's mercy, to make living and active the saving mediation of the One who is the supreme bridge joining God to mankind.

May Mary, the Mother of Unity, who at the foot of the cross welcomed the Beloved Disciple entrusted to her by Jesus, help you more and more to resemble the image of her divine Son. To her I entrust all your desires, plans and commitments. May she accompany you and protect you by her maternal intercession and make your journey ever richer in spiritual fruit. May you also be supported by the Blessing that I affectionately impart to you present here, to your families and to your formation communities.

Seminarians and Focolarini, a good combination. In Castel Gandolfo it is even better. We are in the Christmas season. Today is 30 December; tomorrow is the last day of the year. I wish you a happy new year, Brazilians, Poles, Spaniards, Italians and others still. You are multinational. Praised be Jesus Christ.





To the Most Reverend Julián Barrio Barrio
Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela

1. In celebrating the rite of opening the Holy Door, which marks the beginning of the Holy Year of St James, I am spiritually united with the pastors and faithful of this Archdiocese of Santiago de Compostela with pilgrims from various regions of Galicia and with the whole Christian world which will come to the Porch of Glory in the hope of crossing the threshold of grace. In this way, they fulfil their longing for peace, for meeting the Lord and for strengthening their faith, after the example and through the intercession of the Apostle James, witness and martyr of the Gospel. The Jubilee that is now beginning, with the theme: "The Jubilee Year of Santiago de Compostela, Gateway to the Holy Year 2000", acquires a special significance from being celebrated near the end of the century and at the dawn of the third millennium, in which the Church and humanity await new challenges and new divine interventions in human affairs (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 17).

2. Down the centuries, the different routes of the "Road to Santiago" have been taken by pilgrims on their way to what was then called "finis terrae", to obtain the much desired "pardon" and, at the same time, to welcome again into their hearts the light of the Gospel handed down by the Apostles. Like Abraham, they left their homes in search of the land the Lord would show them (cf. Gn Gn 12,1); they left the deceptive security of their own small world to put themselves in the hands of God's gift. At the end of their journey, they found the light of Christ, who is the true hope of humanity and the true homeland of every human being. Traveled in this spirit, the Road to Santiago can be a true process of conversion, a progressive taking off of the old man to put on the new, who is "created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ep 4,24).

3. Recalling the indelible memories of my previous visits to Santiago, my thoughts turn at this time to the men and women, young and old, who will set out for Compostela from Galicia and Spain, from Europe and from overseas. They will follow an age-old route, filled with magnificent works of art and culture on which so many generations have impressed the witness of their vigorous faith. They will meet others and have the opportunity to appreciate the varied customs and cultures in which the human person can express the best of himself, thereby opening himself to a more universal vision and a better understanding of various peoples. Acts of kindness and fraternal welcome will give special significance to Jesus' words: "you did it to me" (cf. Mt Mt 25,40). Meditation and regular prayer will help the pilgrim enter into himself to find the deepest truth of his being, thus making an interior journey that prepares his heart to receive the Jubilee graces and to embrace the Saint, the traditional gesture that symbolizes joyful acceptance of faith in Christ, which the greatest of the Apostles preached tirelessly to the point of giving his life for it (Ac 4,33 Ac 12,1).

4. This Holy Year offers the noble Spanish people, who put their profound Christian roots under the protection of the Apostle James, the particular Churches and in a special way the beloved Archdiocese of Compostela, an auspicious occasion to give renewed vigour to their commitment to Gospel values, while offering them persuasively to the new generation and instilling them in personal, family and social life.

This year will give direction to the various pastoral activities planned for the Jubilee, among which should be emphasized the European Youth Meeting and the National Eucharistic Congress. These events show the vitality of the faith and the evangelizing spirit typical of every community founded on the apostolic preaching. In this way, while the Jubilee of Compostela imparts the bread of "pardon" and grace, it is changed into a bright flame of Christian life and a reserve of energy for the new paths of evangelization (cf. Address in Plaza del Obradoiro, 19 August 1989, n. 2).

5. I pray to the Almighty for all who will come to Santiago in this year which the universal Church, in preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, has dedicated to God, our "heavenly Father". I ask him to make them aware of his immense love for each and every person, and to give them the necessary strength to return home to receive the fatherly embrace of welcome and forgiveness. This experience of God's ineffable mercy will also make them tireless witnesses, who know how to make God's goodness known and to reflect it in concrete acts of love and solidarity towards their brothers and sisters (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente TMA 50-51).

Speeches 1998 - Saturday, 19 December 1998