S. John Paul II Homil. 645




Cathedral of St Lucia, Colombo

Friday, 20 January 1995

My Brother Bishops,
Dear Priests and Sisters,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

646 1. Our prayer this evening is one of joy and thanksgiving. This beautiful Cathedral of Saint Lucia, modelled upon Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, is a symbol of our communion in the one faith, the faith which Peter and the other Apostles were sent to proclaim to all the world. As Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter, I am truly happy to be able to visit the Catholic community of Sri Lanka and to confirm you in your dedication to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (cf. Lk. Lc 22,32). I am grateful to Bishop Edmund Fernando for his kind words on your behalf. I am also pleased to acknowledge the presence of distinguished representatives of the various Christian Communities established in Sri Lanka, and I thank them for wishing to share this Evening Prayer with us.

The seed of faith, planted on this Island by the first missionaries and revived through the tireless apostolate of Father Joseph Vaz, has borne abundant fruits of ecclesial life. Truly the Church in Sri Lanka has come of age! You are guided by a native hierarchy, served by many clergy, religious and lay leaders, and blessed with abundant vocations. Although you are a "little flock" (cf. Lk. Lc 12,32), you contribute much to the life of the nation by your spiritual witness and your achievements in many fields of service, especially in education and human development.

In giving thanks for these blessings, remember that God’s gifts are the foundation upon which each generation is called to build. Let us pray that tomorrow’s celebration in honour of Father Joseph Vaz will be an occasion for the Catholics of Sri Lanka to recommit themselves to living fully the faith for which their forefathers were willing to suffer so much.May Father Vaz be a perennial inspiration to the Church in Sri Lanka as she carries out her mission of bearing witness to the Gospel, which "is the power of God for salvation" (Rm 1,16).

2. In the sacred text which we have just heard, we see how Jesus applied to himself the ancient prophecy of Isaiah, which foretold that the Messiah, filled with the Spirit, would preach the good news of God’s grace to the poor, freedom to the oppressed, and peace where there was hostility and conflict (cf. Lk. Lc 4,21). To proclaim the message of salvation is the first priority of the Church’s life and the most important service which she renders to individuals and society (Cf. John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio RMi 44). Every other work which Christians carry out flows from and leads back to the Church’s commitment to evangelization, understood not only as the proclamation of a message but as the communication of a "new life" in the grace of Christ. Every aspect of the apostolate – education, healthcare, social service, solidarity, interreligious dialogue – is meant to manifest the love which the Father has given the world in Jesus his Son, the love which he pours into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (cf. Rm. Rm 5,5). Dear Brothers and Sisters, be joyful messengers of Christ, eager to share with others the new life you have received, in complete respect for the freedom and conscience of every individual. This witness is not always easy and it may often meet with rejection, but true disciples of Christ, like the Apostles, cannot fail to "speak about what we have seen and heard" (Ac 4,20).

3. Dear Brother Priests, your whole being is permeated by the sacramental configuration to the Lord which you received in Holy Orders. Centre your lives on Christ, the High Priest, whom you meet each day in the mysteries which you celebrate and administer. Your spiritual development must be marked by constant conversion – metànoia – and growth in the Lord’s image. The pillars of your interior life ought to be the Eucharist and Penance, for in these encounters with God’s grace you come to know most deeply both your own sinfulness and the efficacy of God’s infinite mercy. Your union with the Lord should be clearly visible to the faithful, who should know you as living signs of the transforming power of divine grace, just as Father Vaz was.

Your holiness of life is the indispensable condition for the authentic inculturation of the Gospel in this land of ancient religious traditions. Beware therefore of the temptation to allow the more immediate and practical aspects of your apostolate to take away from the time you need each day in order to "be with the Lord" (Cf. Mc 3,14-15). Be renewed in your minds and hearts, so that you will increasingly think with the mind of the Church – sentire cum Ecclesia – seeing things with her eyes, and judging all things in the light of the surpassing power of Christ’s Cross. This is the encouragement which I wish to leave with you and all your fellow priests, especially those who are burdened by interior troubles or wounded in their hearts by the consequences of the sad conflict which has ravaged your beautiful land.

4. I am especially glad to meet so many Men and Women Religious. Dear Brothers and Sisters, you are signs of God’s love, messengers of his Kingdom and witnesses to the joy which comes from following Christ with an undivided heart. Seek to draw nearer each day to the Lord, in a spirit of communion with all the members of his Body. As men and women consecrated to Christ, you must be examples of evangelical poverty, reflecting simplicity and self-denial in the way you live. Let your consecration be shown by your rejection of styles of life which go against the values of the Gospel.

A precious contribution to the growth of God’s Kingdom in Sri Lanka has been made by Religious involved in catechizing and educating young people.To co-operate with parents in passing on the faith, whole and entire, to the next generation is a fundamental act of evangelical love. It is a service which nothing else can replace. Likewise, your work of educating the young in schools and other centres is of vital importance for the future of the Church, as well as for the progress of society as a whole (cf. Gravissimum Educationis ). Because the service you offer to God’s people is so important in each particular Church, you rightly count on receiving encouragement and guidance from the Bishops, with whom you co-operate in the Lord’s vineyard.

Certain elements of division which exist in your society can present particular challenges to Religious Communities, communities which must be marked by harmony, fraternal love and unity. I wish to encourage you therefore to bear witness to true communion and peace, thus showing that you are all children of the same Father.

I wish to say a special word of paternal encouragement and gratitude to the members of the Contemplative Orders who, through their constant prayer and their total self-giving love, "impart a hidden apostolic fruitfulness" to the whole Church (Perfectae Caritatis PC 7). Dearest Sisters, continue to pray for the needs of the human family, which everywhere suffers hunger and thirst for many things, but most of all for God, who alone can quiet our restless hearts. And please pray for me too.

5. Dear members of the lay faithful: in the time of Father Vaz, the Church in Ceylon was able to survive persecution and flourish once more because of the fidelity of its laity. As individual men and women, and as members of lay movements and associations, your contribution to the Church’s mission is absolutely necessary, especially in the face of attitudes of secularism and materialism which are so contrary to the deep spirituality and respect for religious values which are part of your national heritage. Your specific task is to bring the light of the Gospel to your families and to the communities in which you live and work. In particular, as the Second Vatican Council pointed out, the laity "are called to seek the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and ordering them according to the plan of God" (Lumen Gentium LG 30). Sri Lankan Catholics are being challenged to play their proper part in the Church, and to take the initiative in being a leaven of Gospel values in the worlds of business, the professions and politics. It is my hope that the forthcoming National Pastoral Convention, now in the preparatory stage, will help the laity and clergy alike to fulfil their respective roles and responsibilities within the Christian community. I hope that all will work together to face the challenges of this moment in the Church’s life in your land.

647 6. May the Lord to whom we raise our hearts in praise at this Evening Prayer grant all of you, the members of the Catholic community of Sri Lanka, the strength to recommit yourselves, in the spirit of your great apostle, Father Joseph Vaz, to the Church’s mission of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Father Vaz is an outstanding model for Bishops, priests, Religious and laity alike. His example of profound love of God and neighbour, his authentic piety and humility, his witness of evangelical poverty and his loving zeal for souls should be an inspiration to each of you, and to each of us.

This is "the acceptable year of the Lord" (
Lc 4,19), the year in which the Beatification of Joseph Vaz challenges every Sri Lankan Catholic to be deeply renewed in holiness and zeal for the Gospel. May Mary, Mother of the Church, to whom the Catholics of your country have always had a tender devotion, help you all to achieve this! Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

And at the end I offer my gratitude to the Archbishop of Colombo for inviting us in this very beautiful Cathedral for this evening prayer, Thank you very much.

Remarks of the Holy Father at the conclusion of the meeting:

It is a very beautiful Cathedral, but one thing I observe, it is not very easy to enter. It is nor easy... You are very strong in faith and you are very strong... in attacking the Pope? no?

Beautiful hospitality. I admire greatly your hospitality. The hospitality of the Catholic community of Sri Lanka... I am very grateful.





Galle Face Green, Colombo

Saturday, 21 January 1995

"Praise the Lord all nations! Praise him, all peoples!" (Ps 118,1).

Dear Sri Lankan Brothers and Sisters,

1. The Responsorial Psalm of today’s Mass speaks to the whole world, to every nation and people. The nations and peoples of the vast continent of Asia also are called to join in a chorus of praise to God. Today, in Colombo, I thank God for enabling me to add my voice to yours in this great symphony of praise, and to rejoice with you for the Beatification of Father Joseph Vaz. I express my gratitude to everyone gathered here, to Archbishop Fernando, my brother Bishops, the priests, religious women and men and all of you whose presence makes this joyful celebration possible. I greet the civil authorities and thank them for their presence at this ceremony.

648 This is a day of special happiness for Christ’s followers in Sri Lanka! From the very beginning of my Pontificate, whenever I have had occasion to meet your Bishops they have told me of your great desire to see Father Vaz raised to the honours of the Altar. Today Joseph Vaz, the apostle of Sri Lanka, has been proclaimed one of the Blessed in heaven. Sri Lanka’s Catholics, with gratitude for all that God has done in the history of his People on this Island, can truly repeat with the Psalmist: "His love for us is strong! His faithfulness is eternal!" (Ps 118,2).

2. Joseph Vaz is rightly considered the second founder of the Church in your country. From his native India he came, a dedicated priest of Jesus Christ, to this land of ancient spiritual traditions, a land steeped in respect for the Sanyasi, the man of holiness, the man of God. During the last few months, as I prepared for today’s Beatification, my thoughts often turned to the respect for things spiritual which characterizes the peoples of Asia. This brought to mind the passage of the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Non-Christian Religions, which expresses the Church’s deep esteem for the ancient religions of Asia, and especially for Buddhism and Hinduism.

This is what we read in the document "Nostra Aetate". The Church respects these religions because of their ability to instil deep religious meaning into the lives of their followers. Men and women look to the different religions for answers to the profound and troubling mysteries which surround human existence: Who is man? What is the meaning and purpose of our life? What is the origin and purpose of suffering? How do we attain true happiness? What is the meaning of death, and what is that ultimate mystery which surrounds and penetrates our whole being, the Mystery which is our origin and towards which we are always journeying? (cf. Nostra Aetate NAE 1-2)

3. And now I read other texts from "Gaudium et Spes", the Constitution "Gaudium et Spes" – part of that document. The Catholic Church "rejects nothing of what is true and holy in other religions, for she sees in them a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men" (Nostra Aetate NAE 2). At the same time she exists to proclaim that the fullest answer to life’s questions is found in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God. He is the Eternal Word of the Father and the New Adam. Through him all things were made and in him all people find that light which is the life of the world (cf. Jn. Jn 1,3-4). Christ, by revealing the mystery of the Father and his Love, "fully reveals man to himself and makes clear his sublime calling" (Gaudium et Spes GS 22).

For this reason, the Church never ceases to proclaim that Jesus Christ is "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14,6), the One "in whom the fulness of religious life is found and in whom God has reconciled all things to himself" (Nostra Aetate NAE 2). Father Joseph Vaz came to this land in order to proclaim this same message. He preached the name of Christ out of obedience to the Truth and out of a desire to share with others the way that leads to eternal life.

4. Father Joseph Vaz was a great missionary priest, belonging to the unending line of ardent heralds of the Gospel, missionaries who, in every age, have left their own land to bring the light of the Faith to peoples not their own. Among those following in the footsteps of Saint Paul who became all things to all men for the sake of the Gospel (cf. 1Cor. 1Co 9,22-23), the figure of Saint Francis Xavier shines before us as the great apostle of Asia and the universal Patron of the Missions. Father Vaz was a worthy heir of Saint Francis Xavier; he was also a true son of his native Goa, outstanding for its deep Christian and missionary traditions. Father Vaz was a son of Asia who became a missionary in Asia. The Church today needs more such missionary men and women among the different continents.

Who was Father Joseph Vaz? Above all, what moved him to come to Sri Lanka? The Gospel we have heard today sheds light on his missionary vocation. Jesus went about proclaiming the Kingdom of God in his native Galilee. People brought their sick to him and he healed them. He freed others from the grip of evil spirits. When he went off by himself to pray, people started looking for him. They did not want him to leave them. But he replied: "I must preach the Good News about the Kingdom of God in other towns also, because that is what God sent me to do" (Lc 4,43).

Father Joseph strove to follow in the path of his Divine Master. He too had been sent by God in order to proclaim "a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace" (Roman Missal, Preface, "Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe"). Heeding the call of the Holy Spirit, he left his homeland to come to this country where the Church had had no priests for over three decades. He came here in absolute poverty and lived as a beggar, driven by a burning desire to draw people to Christ. Before he had even arrived he learned the Tamil language, and later when he was imprisoned in Kandy he learned Sinhala, so as to make the name of Jesus Christ resound in the languages and culture of your country.

Joseph Vaz was on fire with faith. Guided by the example of his Divine Master, he travelled the whole Island, going everywhere, often barefoot, with a rosary round his neck as a sign of his Catholic faith. As a true disciple of Jesus, he endured innumerable sufferings with joy and confidence, knowing that in those sufferings too God’s plans were being fulfilled. His heroic charity, shown in a particular way in his selfless devotion to the victims of the epidemic in 1697, earned him the respect of everyone.

5. Dear Brothers and Sisters, Christians of Sri Lanka! What is the message of Joseph Vaz? Blessed Joseph should inspire you to be tireless and spirit-filled witnesses to the Gospel in your families and in your communities. In Baptism you were remade in the likeness of Christ and given a mission to proclaim prophetically his presence in the world. In Confirmation you were strengthened by the Holy Spirit and sent forth to profess your faith in word and deed. To some of you is addressed a further call: to be Asian missionaries to Asia. On the eve of the Third Christian Millennium, the whole Church is called to take up with fresh vigour the missionary mandate she received from Christ, and to meet the challenges of a new evangelization. Among the peoples of this continent, holiness will always be the first and most effective form of teaching the truths and values of the Gospel. Asia’s venerable traditions of silence, reflection, prayer, asceticism and self-denial will find their fullest meaning in a living encounter with the Spirit of Jesus Christ, an encounter which will certainly take place if you are people of deep personal holiness, filled with love and zeal for the Church and God’s Kingdom. Through your witness, "all the nations of the world will know that the Lord alone is God – that there is no other" (1R 8,60).

6. In the first reading of today’s Mass, King Solomon prays: "May the Lord our God be with us, as he was with our ancestors; may he never leave us, or abandon us; may he make us obedient to him, so that we will always live as he wants us to live" (Ibid. 8: 57). These words call to mind how your ancestors in the faith joyfully received Father Vaz. At a time when the Catholic Church was banned and persecuted, and all her priests had been expelled, Sri Lanka’s Catholics did not lose heart. They remained faithful to the Gospel they had received.And God did not abandon them. Joseph Vaz could count on the laity in the task of rebuilding the Church in your country; he trained lay leaders to look after Christ’s scattered flock in the hour of difficulty.

649 Can we not see here a lesson for our own times? The Church in Sri Lanka needs fervent Catholics who are "obedient to God’s law, living as he would have us live, and keeping all his laws and commands" (Ibid. 8: 58). She needs dedicated priests to proclaim the Gospel and celebrate the mysteries of our redemption; she needs Religious who are living signs of the joy which comes from total dedication to the Lord and his works. I should say that this joy I find in you, in your priests, your religious, men and women especially, I find this great joy of being Christian, being religious. There is also need for married couples whose faithful love will reflect the unbreakable bond of unity between Christ and his Church; there is a need for Christian parents who will be the first teachers of the faith to their children. The Church needs young people who will be apostles to their own generation: like the hundreds of thousands and millions of young people who gathered in Manila for the Tenth World Youth Day and recommitted themselves to transforming the world around them according to the Gospel demands of justice, peace and love. Like Joseph Vaz, who freely shared the truth he had received, everyone who has received the gift of faith is called to share that gift with others.

7. "Praise the Lord who has given his people peace" (Ibid. 8: 56).

My Brothers and Sisters: it is my ardent hope that the Beatification of Father Joseph Vaz will inspire Sri Lankans to work with ever greater commitment for peace in this beloved country, to bring about a definitive end to the tragic violence which has cost so many lives.

Peace is the fruit of love! Saint Paul reminds us that our love is shown in the way we treat others. He says: "Love one another warmly... and be eager to show respect for one another... Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles and pray at all times" (
Rm 12,10-12). These words which Paul wrote to the first Christians living in Rome are also the message of Blessed Joseph Vaz, a man known for his meekness and humility of heart. These words are addressed to you – and to all who earnestly strive for peace in this country. Saint Paul insists: "If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good" (Ibid. 12:17). This is God’s will for you. This is God’s will for Sri Lanka! Forgiveness, reconciliation, peace: this is the challenge before you: all of you, Sinhalese and Tamils – Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Christians and all men and women of good will. This is the challenge before you all.

May the example of Father Joseph Vaz speak to your hearts. Father Joseph loved your nation and all its people. He welcomed everyone as a child of God. And because of this love his name is now invoked as a blessing, here in Sri Lanka and throughout the world. "Blessed are the peacemakers" (Mt 5,9). When lasting peace comes, all Sri Lankans will be blessed and your country will be restored in its full dignity and greatness. May Almighty God achieve this through you. Amen.

May Almighty God through the intercession of Our Lady and of blessed Joseph Vaz achieve this through you.

Remarks of the Holy Father after the Apostolic Blessing:

Dear brothers and sisters, priests, friends, my heart is filled with gratitude to God for all the beauty of this wonderful island and for its marvellous people. I am grateful to all of you for the unique welcome you gave me, for this splendid ceremony of beatification so deeply marked by the signs of your culture, by the dignity which distinguishes you as people. May blessed Joseph Vaz watch over you, over your families. May he intercede for the peace and harmony which you all desire and pray for. May Almighty God abundantly bless Sri Lanka.

Really I admire the beauty, the beauty of your land, the beauty and the nature of this island and the beauty of the human beings of all men and women and the beauty in all your gestures, your way of dressing, your participation in the liturgy. All that is very beautiful. Sri Lanka is a homeland of beauty. I thank God for this opportunity of having the possibility to meet Sri Lanka immediately.

I invite you to come to Rome sometime. Be beautiful and courageus and peaceful.

Thank you very much.





Johannesburg (South Africa)

Sunday, 17 September 1995

"Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you" says the Lord (
Jn 14,27).

In Africaans:
“Vrede laat ek vir julle na, my vrede gee ek san julle”, se die Here.

In Zulu:
“Uxolo ngilushiya kinina, uxolo lwami ngininika lona”. Usho njalo uNkulunkulu.

In Sesotho:
“Ke le siela kgotso, ke le neha kgotso ea ka”, ho rialo Morena.

In Xhosa:
“Uxolo ndilushiya kuni, uxolo lwami ndininika lona”, utsho njalo uThixo.

651 Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Every time we celebrate the Eucharist we hear these words before giving each other the sign of peace and receiving Holy Communion. These are the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, when he bade farewell to his disciples before going to his Passion and Death. He knew that his Passion would be a great trial for them too, and so he said: "Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid" (
Jn 14,27). It was as if he were anticipating the moment on Easter Sunday when he would come back to them through the closed doors of the Cenacle and would say to them: "Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so am I sending you... Receive the Holy Spirit" (Ibid. 20: 21-22).

Today I invoke this peace upon all the people of South Africa. I warmly greet Bishop Orsmond, the Pastor of this local Church of Johannesburg, and all the members of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, as well as those of the Inter-Regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa. I greet the clergy, Religious and lay faithful; our brothers and sisters of the other Christian denominations and religious traditions; the civil authorities of city, province and nation.

I express a special word of greeting and gratitude to His Excellency, President Mandela, for his gracious presence as well as the vice presidents and other authorities.

The peace of Christ is not just any peace. It is none other than the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, "the Lord, the giver of life". On Holy Thursday Jesus called the Holy Spirit with the name of Advocate. He said: "I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you for ever, that Spirit of truth whom the world can never receive, since it neither sees nor knows him" (Ibid. 14:16-17). The Advocate, the Spirit of truth, is the real source of peace: that peace which comes from God, and is stronger than anything that gives rise to anguish and concern in people’s lives.

2. Meditating on today’s Gospel we learn the truth about peace. We hear the Gospel of peace which, ever anew, the Church proclaims to humanity and to the world. Each year on 1 January the Church celebrates the “World Day of Peace” in order to draw attention to this immense good, and in order to implore it wherever it is lacking: as in Europe in the Balkans; and in Africa especially in Rwanda and Burundi, Sudan, Algeria, and until recently in the Republic of South Africa because of apartheid. The whole Church is comforted and people everywhere rejoice in the change that has come about in South Africa during the last few years. Seeing what is happening here, men and women of good will hope that in other parts of this Continent too, and throughout the world, violence will give way to dialogue and agreement, and the lives of innocent men, women and children will no longer be in danger for reasons which, more often than not, they neither share nor understand.

The Church believes that peace is a gift from God, but that it is at the same time a task entrusted to us all. To all of you: to my Brother Bishops, to the Catholic community of Johannesburg and of all the other Dioceses of South Africa and the neighbouring countries, to our brothers and sisters of the other Christian denominations, to the followers of other religious traditions, to all men and women whatever your origin, race or culture, I would repeat the words of today’s reading from the Prophet Isaiah: "Open up, open up, clear the way, remove all obstacles from the way of my people... Peace, peace to far and near" (Is 57,14-19).

3. The invitation to work strenuously for true peace is the guiding thought of today’s liturgical celebration here at Gosforth Park, where we are gathered to present solemnly the results of the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops – the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa. In fact, one of the themes to which the Synod gave special attention is the connection between the Gospel of our salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and the advancement of justice and peace at every level of human relations.

This connection – always a part of the Church’s thought and action – and the consequent duty of Christians to build a society worthy of their human dignity, was given new impetus by the Second Vatican Council, especially in the Pastoral Constitution “Gaudium et Spes”, promulgated exactly 30 years ago. An immediate result of that renewed awareness of the link between evangelization and human liberation was the setting up of the Pontifical Council "Justice and Peace", which has its corresponding councils in each Episcopal Conference, and indeed in most Dioceses around the world.

Many excellent initiatives have come from the Pontifical Council over the years. Not least deserving of mention was the Meeting at Assisi in 1986, of Christians of all denominations and representatives of the world’s religions, who gathered to pray for peace, which was gravely threatened at that particular moment in history. Can we not say that subsequent events have shown that that prayer in the City of St Francis has been truly heard, insofar as the changes in the world situation since then open new possibilities not only for the continents of Europe and America, but for peoples everywhere?

The changed world situation has had a profound effect on Africa. The time of ideological contrasts is over; the real problems of the peoples of Africa have to be tackled, with all available resources. The Apostolic Exhortation which we are here to celebrate does not offer a blueprint for material and political development, which is the competence of responsible citizens and leaders in each country. It offers a vision of the moral duty which belongs to everyone, and it indicates the path which the Church intends to follow to serve the integral well-being of the African peoples. The Church knows the immensity of the challenges involved. She therefore turns to her Lord and to the strength and inspiration that come from the transforming power of his word and sacramental presence.

652 4. "Christ is our peace" (cf. Eph. Ep 2,14), says the reading from the Letter to the Ephesians. And St Paul adds this magnificent commentary: "Now in Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Jesus Christ" (Ep 2,13). By giving his life to the Father, on the Cross, Christ became the fountainhead of a new relationship between individuals and peoples. St Paul explains it this way: "Christ has made the two parts of the human race into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart, actually destroying in his own person the hostility" (Cf. ibid. 2: 14). He is referring to the way of thinking of Israel which separated the members of the Chosen People from the rest of peoples, who did not enter into God’s preference. If Jesus Christ has broken down the wall of separation, this means that in Christ all men and women, and all peoples, are chosen by God: "There are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek... but all of you are one in Christ Jesus", as St Paul writes in the Letter to the Galatians (Ga 3,28). Every discrimination of origin, race and language is overcome!

O primeiro desafio para os povos da África é actualmente o de uma conversão à solidariedade, com magnanimidade, mútuo perdão e reconciliação. Para alguns, estas palavras poderão soar muito acima da sua experiência e dos seus propósitos. Mas é o único caminho possível, para sair da completa falência moral dos preconceitos raciais e das rivalidades étnicas. A verdadeira solidariedade é possível, porque pertencemos todos à única família humana. A nossa criação à imagem de Deus é o fundamento e a raiz da nossa dignidade humana, e, portanto, de qualquer direito, bem como dos direitos das nações. A Morte e Ressurreição de Jesus Cristo conferem uma nova e superior motivação para o nosso empenho pela causa da paz e da solidariedade.

5. The Prophet Isaiah exclaims: "Open up, clear the way, remove all obstacles from the way of my people" (Is 57,14). The Synod for Africa addresses this call and this encouragement to all the peoples of this Continent. In a special way this call and encouragement goes out to the women of Africa. The Synod gave ample space to the special burdens which lie on you, to the specific injustices which you undergo, to the violence and crimes committed against you. The Church in Africa deplores whatever deprives you of your rights and the respect due to you (Cf. John Paul II, Ecclesia in Africa ).

The Church knows that you, the women of Africa, have an irreplaceable part to play in humanizing society. You are more sensitive to the implications of justice and the demands of peace because you are closer to the mystery of life and the wonder of its transmission. The Church therefore appeals to you in a special way to respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life, from conception to natural death! As mothers, you bring your children into life; you educate them for life. Every shedding of blood is a wound to your unique genius. With all your strength you tend to defend the life that was conceived in you, the life that is the object of your great love. History shows that wars are made above all by men. It has always been so, and it is still so today.

What can you do to change this situation? No one can teach as you can the reality of respect for every human being. By educating in respect and love, you teach peace and serve peace, in your families, in your countries and in the world. This was the theme of my "World Day of Peace Message" this year: Women: Teachers of Peace. And I have recently written a "Letter to the Women" of the World calling for the dignity of women to be universally recognized and urging an effective and intelligent campaign for the promotion of women (Cf. John Paul II, Letter to Women, 6).

6. Faced with the huge task of educating consciences to justice and peace, the Church turns to a woman for inspiration and help: to Mary the Mother of Christ, the Queen of Peace. Christians have always invoked Mary in times of danger and difficulty. Let us entrust to her the advancement of justice and peace in Africa. I do so with all the more confidence, certain that if the teaching of the Synod is widely spread and practiced, the Church on this Continent will accompany its peoples to a life that is ever more worthy of their God-given dignity.

With Mary, the whole Church in Africa proclaims the greatness of the Lord, because he looks upon his needy people in order to rout the proud of heart and exalt the lowly; he fills the hungry with good things and comes to the help of his servants (cf. Lk. Lc 1,46-52).

May God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ accomplish this in us. Amen.

S. John Paul II Homil. 645