S. John Paul II Homil. 925




Sunday, 15 November 1998

1. "Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (Mt 24,42).

These words from the Gospel acclamation help us to understand better the meaning of the present liturgical season. We are now approaching the end of the liturgical year and the Church invites us to consider the recent events of life and history.

The biblical readings we have just heard present the waiting for Christ’s second coming in the vivid expressions of the prophet Malachi, who describes the “day of the Lord” (cf. Mal Ml 4,1) as God's sudden and decisive intervention in history. The Lord will definitively overcome evil and re-establish justice, punishing evildoers and bringing with him the reward for the righteous.

In the final perspective of the world, the invitation to be ready, proclaimed in the Gospel acclamation, is all the more pressing. The Christian is called to live with a view to meeting Christ, constantly aware that every day he must contribute, by his own efforts, to gradually establishing the divine kingdom.

2. “If anyone will not work, let him not eat” (2Th 3,10).

The Apostle Paul’s invitation to the community of Thessalonica emphasizes that the expectation of the “day of the Lord” and God’s final intervention does not mean that the Christian should flee the world or have a passive attitude to daily problems.

On the contrary, the revealed Word gives us a basis for the certainty that, although human events are subject to pressures and reversals that are sometimes tragic, they remain firmly in God’s hands.

926 In this way, the expectation of the “day of the Lord” prompts believers to work more energetically for the integral progress of humanity. At the same time, it inspires them to have an attitude of prudent watchfulness and healthy realism, as they live day after day in the hope of their definitive meeting with the Lord.

3. Dear brothers and sisters of St Matthew's Parish in Morena! As I continue my Pastoral Visits to the Roman parishes, God’s Providence has brought me here today, to the border between the Dioceses of Rome and Frascati. Geographically, your parish is located in an area which is far from the Pope’s home, but it is not so from the standpoint of ecclesial affection and communion. Moreover, like every parish community, it is very close to me and it is a great joy for me to meet you on this happy occasion.

I greet you all with warm affection! First of all, I greet the Cardinal Vicar and the Vicegerent, who has direct responsibility for pastoral ministry in the Eastern Sector of the Diocese to which this community belongs. I next greet your parish priest, Fr Pedro Martínez Pedromingo, and his co-workers, the priests who belong to the Identes Missionaries. I extend my cordial thanks to them for their generous ministry in this parish over the past five years.

I extend a special greeting to the Parish Handmaids of the Holy Spirit, who, by their presence, witness and pastoral assistance, make a valuable contribution to your community. I also greet the members of the numerous parish groups and all who in various ways are involved in evangelizing this area. In this regard, I must mention specifically the missionaries of your parish involved in the City Mission.

With regard to the City Mission, on Sunday, 29 November, in the Vatican Basilica, during the Eucharistic celebration for the opening of the third year of preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, God willing I will have the joy of conferring their mandate on the men and women missionaries of the Diocese, so that they can go to proclaim the Gospel in the various contexts of the city's life and work. In this significant celebration, during which the Bull of Indiction of the Holy Year will be promulgated, I will have the opportunity to give them the crucifix they will take to each of these places.

The proclamation of God the Father’s love, fully revealed in the Death and Resurrection of Christ, knows no boundaries of space or time. Through the City Mission this proclamation must resound in every corner of the Diocese, because the Gospel is meant for all people; it is the message of salvation to be proclaimed always and everywhere.

4. As I wrote in the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente, in the third year of immediate preparation for the Jubilee of the Year 2000, “if we recall that Jesus came to ‘preach the good news to the poor’ (
Mt 11,5 Lc 7,22), how can we fail to lay greater emphasis on the Church’s preferential option for the poor and the outcast?” (n. 51). I am therefore pleased with you, dear parishioners, that you would like to create, especially starting this year, a volunteer service which responds more and more adequately to the needs of the less fortunate residents in your neighbourhood. I am referring especially to the elderly, to families who have lost the joy of living together, to the children and young people who do not have sufficient or suitable spaces for recreation.

With regard to young people, I must recall the World Youth Day which the Diocese of Rome will host in August of the Year 2000. I am certain that for you, as for every other parish, it will be an opportune occasion to reinvigorate your youth ministry and to increase the entire Diocesan community’s attention to the younger generation. I hope that from now on all the parishes, religious institutes, Catholic schools, other ecclesial structures and families will make an effort to welcome the many young people who will gather in Rome for that significant event.

5. “By your endurance you will gain your lives” (Lc 21,19).

These are the last words of today’s Gospel passage. They frame the scene of the end of the world and the last judgement in a setting of trustful expectation and Christian hope. Christ’s disciples know by faith that the world and history come from God and are going to God. Christian perseverance, which prompts believers to face optimistically the inevitable difficulties and trials of daily life, is based on this awareness.

With our gaze fixed on this definitive goal, let us make our own the words of the responsorial psalm: “Come, Lord, to judge the world”. Yes, come, Lord Jesus, to establish the kingdom in the world! The kingdom of your Father and our Father; a kingdom of life and salvation; a kingdom of justice, love and peace.




Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

22 November 1998

1. “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”. This is the title put on the cross. Shortly before Christ’s death, one of the two condemned men crucified with him said to him: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. What kingdom? The object of his request was certainly not an earthly kingdom but another one.

The good thief speaks as if he had heard the words exchanged earlier between Pilate and Christ. Indeed, it was before Pilate that Jesus had been accused of wanting to make himself king. Pilate had questioned him about this: “Are you the King of the Jews” (
Jn 18,33). Christ had not denied it; he had explained: “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world” (Jn 18,36). Jesus had replied directly to Pilate’s repeated question as to whether he were a king: “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice” (Jn 18,37).

2. Today’s Liturgy speaks of the earthly kingdom of Israel by recalling the anointing of David as King. Yes, God had chosen Israel; he sent it not only prophets but even kings, when the Chosen People insisted on having an earthly ruler. Of all the kings who sat upon the throne of Israel, the greatest was David. When the first reading of this celebration speaks of that kingdom, it does so to recall that Jesus of Nazareth was of the line of King David, but also, and above all, to emphasize that the royalty proper to Christ is of a different kind.

The words which Mary heard at the Annunciation are significant: “The Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lc 1,32-33). This kingdom, then, is not only the earthly kingdom of D avid, which came to an end. It is the Kingdom of Christ, which will never end, the eternal Kingdom, the Kingdom of truth, of love and of eternal life.

The Good Thief crucified with Jesus came in some way to the heart of this truth. Indeed, in a certain sense he became a prophet of this eternal Kingdom when, hanging on the cross, he said: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Lc 23,42). Christ said in reply: “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lc 23,43).

3. To this Kingdom, which is not of this world, Jesus invited us to look when he taught us to pray: “Thy Kingdom come”. Obedient to his command, the Apostles, the disciples and the missionaries of all times have done their best to extend, through evangelization, the boundaries of this Kingdom. For it is both the gift of the Father (cf. Lk Lc 12,32) and the result of man’s personal response. In the “new creation”, we will be able to enter into the Kingdom of the Father only if we have followed the Lord during our earthly pilgrimage (cf. Mt Mt 19,28).

This, then, is the programme of every Christian: to follow the Lord, the Way, and the Truth, and the Life, in order to possess the Kingdom which he has promised and given. Today, in this solemn Eucharistic concelebration, we are inaugurating the Special Assembly for Oceania of the Synod of Bishops, which has as its theme: “Jesus Christ and the Peoples of Oceania: Walking his Way, Telling his Truth and Living his Life”.

Welcome, venerable and dear Brothers in the Episcopate, who have the pastoral care of the particular Churches of the Continent of Oceania. Together with you I greet all those who will take part in the work of the Synod and all who have been active in its preparation. I would also like to extend a cordial greeting to the Christian communities and the peoples of Oceania who are spiritually united with us at this moment.

“Jesus, the Incarnate Word, was sent by the Father to the world to bring it salvation, to proclaim and establish the Kingdom of God... The Father, in raising him from the dead, made him, perfectly and for ever, the Way, and the Truth, and the Life, for all who believe” (Instrumentum Laboris, 5). That farflung portion of the Church, which extends over the immense spaces of Oceania, knows the Way and it knows that there it will find the Truth and the Life: the way of the Gospel, the way pointed out by the Saints and the Martyrs who gave their lives for the Gospel (cf. Instrumentum Laboris, 4).

928 4. As the universal Church prepares to cross the threshold of the third Christian millennium, the Pastors of Oceania are gathered in communion, united with the Successor of Peter, to give new energy to the pastoral concern which spurs them to proclaim the kingship of Christ in the diversity of cultures and human, social and religious traditions, and in the remarkable variety of their peoples.

In the second reading the Apostle Paul explains the nature of the kingdom of which Jesus speaks. He writes to the Colossians: we must give thanks to God who “has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (1:13-14). It is precisely this forgiveness of sins which the good thief inherited on Calvary. He was the first to experience the fact that Christ is King, because he is the Redeemer.

The Apostle then explains what Christ’s kingship is: “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (
Col 1,15-17). Thus Christ is King above all as the first-born of all creation.

The Pauline text continues: “He is the head of the body, the Church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (ibid., 1:18-20). With these words the Apostle again confirms and justifies what he had revealed about the essence of Christ’s kingship: Christ is King as the first-born of the dead. In other words, as Redeemer of the world, the risen and crucified Christ is King of the new humanity.

5. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Lc 23,42).

On Calvary Jesus had a rather unusual companion in his passion, a thief. For this unhappy man the way of the cross became, infallibly, the way to paradise (cf. Lk Lc 23,43), the way to truth and life, the way to the kingdom. Today we remember him as the “good thief”. On this solemn occasion when we gather round the altar of Christ to open a Synod concerned with an entire continent and its problems and hopes, we can make the “good thief's” prayer our own:

“Jesus, remember me, remember us, remember the peoples to whom the Pastors gathered here daily give the living and true bread of your Gospel, across immense spaces, by sea and by land. As we pray that your kingdom come, we see that your promise is becoming a reality: after following you, we come to you in your kingdom, drawn by you when you were lifted up on the Cross (cf. Jn Jn 12,32); to you, lifted up over history and its centre, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (cf. Rv Ap 22,13), the Lord of time and the ages!

We address you in the words of an ancient hymn:

It is through your sorrowful death, King of eternal glory,
that you obtained eternal life for the nations;
therefore the whole world calls you King of humanity.
929 Reign over us, Christ the Lord!”.





Sunday, 29 November 1998

1. “Let us go joyfully to meet the Lord” (refrain, Responsorial Psalm; Italian Lectionary).

These are the words of the Responsorial Psalm for today’s liturgy of the First Sunday of Advent, a liturgical season which from year to year renews our expectation of Christ’s coming. Advent has taken on a new, unique aspect in these years as we look forward to the third millennium. Tertio millennio adveniente: 1998, which is coming to an end, and 1999, now close at hand, bring us to the threshold of a new century and a new millennium.

Our celebration today also began “on the threshold”: on the threshold of the Vatican Basilica, in front of the Holy Door, with the presentation and reading of the Bull of Indiction of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

“Let us go joyfully to meet the Lord” is a refrain perfectly in tune with the Jubilee. It is, so to speak, a “jubilee refrain”, according to the etymology of the Latin word iubilare, which in itself contains a reference to joy. Let us go joyfully, then! Let us walk with joy and watchfulness, as we wait for the season that recalls God’s coming in human flesh, a time which reached its fullness when Christ was born in a stable in Bethlehem. It is then that the time of waiting was fulfilled.

In Advent we await an event which occurs in history and at the same time transcends it. As it does every year, this event will take place on the night of the Lord’s Birth. The shepherds will hasten to the stable in Bethlehem; later the Magi will arrive from the East. Both the one and the other in a certain sense symbolize the entire human family. The exhortation that rings out in today’s liturgy: “Let us go joyfully to meet the Lord” spreads to all countries, to all continents, among every people and nation. The voice of the liturgy — that is, the voice of the Church — resounds everywhere and invites everyone to the Great Jubilee.

2. The last three years preceding the Year 2000 form a very intense period of waiting, aimed at meditation on the meaning of the forthcoming spiritual event and on its necessary preparation.

The content of this preparation is modeled on the Trinitarian formula which is repeated at the end of every liturgical prayer. Let us therefore go with joy to the Father, through the way which is our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with him in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

That is why the first year was dedicated to the Son, the second to the Holy Spirit, and the one that begins today — the last year before the Great Jubilee — will be the year of the Father. Invited by the Father, we are going to him through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. This three-year period of immediate preparation for the new millennium, because of its Trinitarian character, speaks to us not only of God in himself, as an ineffable mystery of life and holiness, but also of God who comes to us.

930 3. For this reason the refrain “Let us go joyfully to meet the Lord” sounds so appropriate. We can meet God, because he has reached out to us. He did so as the father in the parable of the prodigal son (cf. Lk Lc 15,11-32), because he is rich in mercy, dives in misericordia, and wants to meet us from wherever we come and wherever our journey is taking us. God comes to us whether we have sought him, ignored him and or even avoided him. He reaches out to us first, his arms open wide like a loving and merciful father.

If God is moved to reach out to us, can we turn our backs on him? But we cannot go alone to meet the Father. We must join the company of all who are members of “God’s family”. To prepare for the Jubilee properly, we must be ready to accept everyone. They are all our brothers and sisters because they are all children of the same heavenly Father.

We can interpret the Church’s 2,000year history in this perspective. It is comforting to note how, in this passage from the second to the third millennium, the Church is experiencing a fresh missionary impulse. This is one of the results of the continental Synods held in recent years, including the current one for Australia and Oceania. It can also be seen in the information received by the Committee for the Great Jubilee about activities planned by the local Churches in preparation for this historic event.

I would like to offer a special greeting to the Cardinal President of the Committee, the General Secretary and their staff. I also extend my greeting to the Cardinals, Bishops and priests present, as well as to all of you, dear brothers and sisters who are taking part in this solemn liturgy. And I offer a particular greeting to the clergy, religious and committed lay people of Rome, who together with the Cardinal Vicar and the Auxiliary Bishops are here this morning to open the final phase of the City Mission, directed to various social contexts.

It is an important phase that will see the entire Diocese focused on a vast work of evangelization in every context of life and work. At the end of this Holy Mass, I will give the missionaries their Mission Cross. We must proclaim and bear witness to Christ in every place and in every situation. I invite everyone to support this great undertaking with prayer. I am counting in particular on the contribution of cloistered religious, of the sick and the elderly who, although unable to take part directly in this great apostolic initiative, can contribute so much by their prayer and the offering of their suffering to preparing hearts to receive the Gospel message.

May Mary, whom the season of Advent urges us to contemplate in eager expectation of the Redeemer, help you all to be generous apostles of her Son, Jesus.

4. In today’s Gospel we heard the Lord’s invitation to be watchful: “Watch, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming”. And then immediately: “Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Mt 24,42). The exhortation to be watchful resounds many times in the liturgy, especially in Advent, a season of preparation not only for Christmas, but also for Christ’s definitive and glorious coming at the end of time. It therefore has a distinctly eschatological meaning and invites the believer to spend every day and every moment in the presence of the One “who is and who was and who is come” (Ap 1,4), to whom the future of the world and of man belongs. This is Christian hope! Without this prospect, our existence would be reduced to living for death.

Christ is our Redeemer: Redemptor mundi et Redemptor hominis, Redeemer of the world and of man. He came among us to help us cross the threshold that leads to the door of life, the “holy door” which is he himself.

5. May this consoling truth always be clearly present before our eyes, as we advance on our pilgrimage towards the Great Jubilee. It is the ultimate reason for the joy which today’s liturgy urges us to have: “Let us go joyfully to meet the Lord”. By believing in the crucified and risen Christ, we also believe in the resurrection of the flesh and in eternal life.

Tertio millennio adveniente.In this perspective the years, centuries and millenniums acquire that definitive meaning of life which the Jubilee of the Year 2000 is meant to reveal to us.

Looking to Christ, we make our own the words of a popular old Polish hymn:

931 “Salvation came through the Cross,
this is a great mystery.
All suffering has meaning: it leads
to fullness of life”.

With this faith in our hearts, which is the Church’s faith, today, as Bishop of Rome, I open the third year of preparation for the Great Jubilee. I open it in the name of the heavenly Father, who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (
Jn 3,16). Praised be Jesus Christ!


Second Sunday of Advent, 6 December 1998

1. "Prepare the way of the Lord" (Mt 3,3). These words, taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah (cf. Is Is 40,3), are spoken by John the Baptist, whom Jesus himself once described as the greatest among those born of woman (cf. Mt Mt 11,11). The Evangelist Matthew presents him as the Precursor, the one who received the mission of "preparing the way" for the Messiah.

His insistent invitation to repentance and conversion continues to resound in the world and urges believers, on their pilgrimage to the Jubilee of the Year 2000, to welcome worthily the Lord who comes. The third year of immediate preparation for the Jubilee has just begun and our spiritual journey must gain momentum.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us prepare to meet Christ! Let us prepare the way for him in our hearts and in our communities. The figure of the Baptist, who is simply clad and lives on locusts and wild honey, is a powerful call to be watchful and to look for the Saviour's coming.

2. "There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse" (Is 11,1). During the season of Advent, the liturgy highlights another great figure: the prophet Isaiah, who kept alive the hopeful expectation of the entire chosen people for the coming of the promised Saviour. As we heard in the first reading, Isaiah describes the Messiah as a shoot that springs from the ancient stump of Jesse. On him the Spirit of God will rest in its fullness, and his kingdom will be characterized by the reestablishment of justice and the consolidation of universal peace.

We too need to renew this trusting expectation of the Lord. Let us listen to the prophet's words. They invite us to look with hope to the definitive foundation of the kingdom of God, which he describes with highly poetic images that can shed light on the triumph of justice and peace to be brought about by the Messiah. "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb ... the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them" (Is 11,6). These are symbolic expressions which anticipate the reality of universal reconciliation. We are all called to collaborate in this work of cosmic renewal, sustained by the certainty that one day all creation will be completely subject to the universal lordship of Christ.

932 3. Let us welcome with joy the message that today's liturgy communicates to us! Dear brothers and sisters of the Parish of St Rose of Viterbo, I greet you all with great affection. I greet the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishop of the sector, your parish priest, Fr Maurizio Vismara, and the priests who work with him, members of the Congregation of Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Bétharram. I extend a cordial thought to Fr Pierino Donini, who was your parish priest for 35 years. I also greet the members of the recently established pastoral council and all who, in one way or another, are involved in the groups that enliven parish life.

Your community, which numbers about 10,000 souls, waited a long time for a suitable and definitive place to hold liturgical celebrations and pastoral activities. I rejoice with you today because at last you have a beautiful church, thanks to the generosity of the Sisters, Daughters of the Cross. In expressing to these dear religious sincere appreciation in the name of the Diocese for their previous hospitality to the parish and their generous donation a few years ago, I wish them a fruitful apostolate in the school, following the shining example of their holy founders, André Hubert Fournet and Jeanne Élizabeth Bichier des Ages.

I greet the superiors and students of the Scots College, which is based in the territory of the parish, as well as the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother who run the nursery school and the "Ancilla Domini" nursery.

I would like to address a special thought to the personnel, teachers and pupils of the Catholic schools present in the area. My thanks go to all those who work in them, for their daily commitment and for the educational enthusiasm with which they follow their pupils, in close collaboration with the families. The educational project and specific identity inspired by the Gospel make the Catholic school a real educational community, open to acceptance and interreligious and intercultural dialogue among all students, for their full human, spiritual and social development.

4. Dear brothers and sisters, in coming to visit you, I have been able to note the fruits that through the City Mission the grace of the Lord is producing in your community. I thank God for the good results of this great apostolic initiative proposed to the city. This year the Mission involves the areas of life and work and, within this parish, there are important work centres.

I am also aware that in this neighbourhood the population in general is characterized by quite a high social and economic level. While I hope that this comfortable life-style will be an incentive to a more widely shared solidarity, I invite all the parishioners to become more involved in the mission. The proclamation of the Gospel must be taken wherever man works, suffers, studies and rests. Every environment is important for evangelization, so closely connected with man's overall development. Christ must be proclaimed everywhere! It is only in this way that the Christian community can effectively prepare for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

5. "Welcome one another ... as Christ has welcomed you" (
Rm 15,7). In pointing out to us the profound meaning of Advent, St Paul emphasizes the need for acceptance and brotherhood in every family and community. To welcome Christ and open our hearts to our brothers: this is our daily task, to which the spiritual climate of this liturgical season spurs us.

The Apostle continues: "May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rm 15,5-6). May Advent and the approaching celebration of the birth of Jesus strengthen this sense of unity and communion in every believer.

May Mary, the Virgin of listening and acceptance, accompany us during Advent, and guide us to be credible and generous witnesses to the saving love of God.






Tuesday, 8 December 1998

1. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.... He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (
Ep 1,3-4).

Today’s liturgy shows us the dimension of what was “before the foundation of the world”. Other New Testament texts refer to that “before”, including the wonderful Prologue of John’s Gospel. Before creation, the eternal Father chose man “in” Christ, his eternal Son. This choice is the fruit of love and expresses love.

Through the eternal Son made Man, the order of creation was linked for ever with that of redemption, that is, grace. This is the meaning of today’s solemnity, which, significantly, is celebrated during Advent, the liturgical season in which the Church prepares to commemorate the Messiah’s coming at Christmas.

2. “All creation rejoices and even he who holds heaven in his hands takes part in the celebration. Everyone gathers with the same feeling of joy, everyone is filled with the same sense of beauty: the Creator, all creatures, the very Mother of the Creator who enabled him to share in our nature, in our assemblies, in our feasts” (Nicholas Cabasilas, “Homily II on the Annunciation”, in La Madre di Dio, Abbey of Praglia, 1997, p. 99).

This text by an ancient Eastern author is well suited to today’s feast. On our journey to the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a time of reconciliation and joy, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception marks a step filled with deep meaning for our lives.

As we heard in the Gospel of St Luke, “the divine messenger says to the Virgin: ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!’” (Lc 1,28). The angel’s greeting puts Mary at the very heart of the mystery of Christ, for the Incarnation of the eternal Son, a gift of God for all humanity, is accomplished in her who is “full of grace” (cf. Encyclical Letter, Redemptoris Mater, n. 8).

In the coming of God's Son, all people are blessed; the evil tempter is defeated once and for all and his head is crushed, so that no one can be unhappily associated with that curse recalled a few moments ago in the words of the Book of Genesis (Gn 3,14). In Christ, the Apostle Paul writes to the Ephesians, the heavenly Father fills us with every spiritual blessing, chooses us for true holiness, destines us to be his adoptive sons (cf. Eph Ep 1,3-5). In him we become a sign of the holiness, love and glory of God on earth.

3. For these reasons Italian Catholic Action has chosen Immaculate Mary as Queen and special patroness of their formation courses in missionary involvement. That is why, dear brothers and sisters, you are here today, in the see of Peter, taking part in your 10th National Assembly. One hundred thiry years have past since your foundation, and this year you are commemorating the 30th anniversary of your new statutes, which puts into action the Second Vatican Council’s teaching on the laity and their mission in the Church.

I cordially greet the General Chaplain, Bishop Agostino Superbo, and the National President, Prof. Giuseppe Gervasio, and thank them for their words. I greet my venerable Brothers, Cardinals and Bishops, a well as the many diocesan chaplains attending this celebration. I greet all of you who represent the numerous ranks of those belonging to Catholic Action in every Italian Diocese.

4. Dear brothers and sisters, your mission on the threshold of the third millennium becomes even more urgent in view of the new evangelization. With your daily involvement you are called to foster an ever more fruitful encounter between the Gospel and culture, as is required by your Christian-oriented cultural project.

934 For the Churches in Italy, as I already recalled at the Ecclesial Convention in Palermo, it is a question of renewing the commitment to authentic Christian spirituality, so that every baptized person can co-operate with the Holy Spirit, “the principal agent of the new evangelization” (n. 2).

Within this framework your work as members of Catholic Action must be carried out in accordance with several clear directives, which I would like to recall here: the faith formation of an adult laity; the development and spreading of a mature Christian conscience which will guide people’s choices of life; leadership in civil society and in culture, in co-operation with all those who put themselves at the service of the human person.

To proceed according to these directions, Catholic Action must strengthen its own nature as an ecclesial association, that is, one at the service of the growth of the Christian community, in close union with the ordained ministers. This service requires a living, attentive and willing Catholic Action in order to contribute effectively to giving ordinary pastoral work a missionary dimension, to proclamation, to meeting and to dialogue with all, even the baptized, who only partially live their membership in the Church or show attitudes of indifference, aloofness and, perhaps at times, antipathy.

The meeting between the Gospel and culture, in fact, has an intrinsic missionary dimension and this requires — in the current cultural context and in daily life — the witness and service of the lay faithful, not only as individuals, but also as associates in the service of evangelization. Individuals and associations, precisely because of their secular nature, are called to take the path of sharing and dialogue which leads each day to the proclamation of the Word and to growth in faith.

5. A new meeting between the Gospel and culture is also the soil in which Catholic Action, as an ecclesial association of lay people, can develop a specific and significant service for the renewal of Italian society, its morals and its institutions: to give a Christian inspiration to society, civil life and the dynamics of the economy and politics.

Your rich history shows that Christian leadership is particularly necessary in circumstances like those today, when Italy is called to face issues which are crucial for the future of the country and its millenary civilization. It is urgently necessary to search for effective strategies and to implement pratical solutions, while always keeping in mind the common good and the inalienable dignity of the person. Among the important matters requiring your efforts, we should remember the acceptance of and sacred respect for life, the protection of the family, the defence of the guarantees of freedom and justice in the formation and education of the new generations and the effective recognition of the right to work.

6. Dear brothers and sisters, here is a sketch of your mission on the threshold of the third millennium: work so that Italy never lacks the shining light of the Gospel, which you must always proclaim with honesty and live with consistency. Only in this way will you be credible witnesses of Chistian hope who can communicate it to everyone.

May Mary “full of grace”, whom we contemplate today radiant in the glory and holiness of God, protect you.

S. John Paul II Homil. 925