S. John Paul II Homil. 1392
1392 I respectfully greet the other religious and civil authorities taking part, as well as the organizers, speakers and participants in the symposium on "The path of beauty for a more just and dignified world", commemorating the 700 years since the birth of St Bridget. My affectionate greeting goes to the dear Sisters of the Order of the Most Holy Saviour of St Bridget, gathered here with the Abbess General.
3. Here, at the tombs of the Apostles and in the places sanctified by the blood of the martyrs, St Bridget spent many hours in prayer during the time she was in Rome. Here she drew strength and steadfastness in order to be able to fulfil that extraordinary charitable, missionary and social commitment which made her one of the most notable people of her day.
Contemplating the crucified Lord and in intimate union with his Passion, she was able, with prophetic determination, to complete the mission which Christ had entrusted to her for the good of the Church and society at that time.
The marble statue situated on the outside of the Vatican Basilica, near the entrance commonly called the "Door of Prayer", aptly expresses the ardour of her life and of her spirituality. St Bridget is portrayed in an attitude of pryaer, with the book of her "Revelations" open, carrying a pilgrim's staff and scrip, intent on contemplating the crucified Christ.
4. I strongly desire to bring out another aspect of the personality of this great missionary of faith whom I wished to proclaim co-patronness of Europe: her active and zealous longing for Christian unity. In a difficult and complicated age of the history of the Church and of Europe, this indomitable disciple of the Lord never stopped working for the cohesion and genuine progress of the unity of believers. I wish to repeat what I recently wanted to recall to the Brigittine Sisters in a Message for the Seventh Centenary of her birth. I wrote of St Bridget "as a woman of unity, comes before us as a witness of ecumenism. Her harmonious personality inspires the life of the order that traces its origins to her in the direction of an ecumenism that was both spiritual and active" (n. 6; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 9 October 2002, p. 4). I offer it as a spiritual heritage to be maintained, a common commitment to be continued with joyful generosity. However, because the unity of the Church is a gift of the Spirit, we are conscious that we must first implore it constantly in prayer and then build it with tireless tenacity, each making his own personal contribution.
5. Dear Brothers and Sisters, today is the Feast of St Francis of Assisi. Everyone knows of the admiration and devotion of this Franciscan Tertiary to the "Poor Man" of Assisi. Among the pilgrimages that she made to the chief sanctuaries of her day, her pilgrimage to Assisi in the summer of 1352 is notable. The visit left in her mind and heart an indelible memory.
May these two great saints who have had such an influence on the life of the Church and on the history of the European continent, help us to be, like them, courageous witnesses of Christ and of his perennial message of salvation. May Mary, to whom St Bridget was always deeply devoted, intercede for us so that we may contribute effectively to establishing the Kingdom of Christ and building the civilization of love.
1. "All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God" (Rm 8,14). These words of the Apostle Paul, which we have just heard, help us understand better the significant message of today's canonization of Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer. With docility he allowed himself to be led by the Spirit, convinced that only in this way can one fully accomplish God's will.
This fundamental Christian truth was a constant theme in his preaching. Indeed, he never stopped inviting his spiritual children to invoke the Holy Spirit to ensure that their interior life, namely, their life of relationship with God and their family, professional and social life, totally made up of small earthly realities, would not be separated but would form only one life that was "holy and full of God". He wrote, "We find the invisible God in the most visible and material things" (Conversations with Josemaría Escrivá, n. 114).
This teaching of his is still timely and urgent today. In virtue of the Baptism that incorporates him into Christ, the believer is called to establish with the Lord an uninterrupted and vital relationship. He is called to be holy and to collaborate in the salvation of humanity.
1393 2. "The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it" (Gn 2,15). The Book of Genesis, as we heard in the first reading, reminds us that the Creator has entrusted the earth to man, to "till" it and "keep" it. Believers acting in the various realities of this world contribute to realize this divine universal plan. Work and any other activity, carried out with the help of grace, is converted into a means of daily sanctification.
"The ordinary life of a Christian who has faith", Josemaría Escrivá used to say, "when he works or rests, when he prays or sleeps, at all times, is a life in which God is always present" (Meditations, 3 March 1954). This supernatural vision of life unfolds an extraordinarily rich horizon of salvific perspectives, because, even in the only apparently monotonous flow of normal earthly events, God comes close to us and we can cooperate with his plan of salvation. So it is easier to understand what the Second Vatican Council affirmed: "there is no question, then, of the Christian message inhibiting men from building up the world ... on the contrary it is an incentive to do these very things" (Gaudium et spes GS 34).
3. To elevate the world to God and transform it from within: this is the ideal the holy founder points out to you, dear brothers and sisters, who rejoice today to see him raised to the glory of the altars. He continues to remind you of the need not to let yourselves be frightened by a materialist culture that threatens to dissolve the genuine identity of Christ's disciples. He liked to repeat forcefully that the Christian faith is opposed to conformism and interior inertia.
Following in his footsteps, spread in society the consciousness that we are all called to holiness whatever our race, class, society or age. In the first place, struggle to be saints yourselves, cultivating an evangelical style of humility and service, abandonment to Providence and of constant listening to the voice of the Spirit. In this way, you will be the "salt of the earth" (cf. Mt Mt 5,13) and "your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (ibid., 5,16).
4. Those who want to serve the cause of the Gospel faithfully will certainly encounter misunderstandings and difficulties. The Lord purifies and shapes all those he calls to follow him with the mysterious power of the Cross; but "in the Cross", the new saint repeated, "we find light, peace and joy: Lux in Cruce, requies in Cruce, gaudium in Cruce!".
Ever since 7 August 1931 when, during the celebration of holy Mass, the words of Jesus echoed in his soul: "when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all to myself" (Jn 12,32), Josemaría Escrivá understood more clearly that the mission of the baptized consists in raising the Cross of Christ above all human reality and he felt burning within him the impassioned vocation to evangelize every human setting. Then, without hesitation, he accepted Jesus' invitation to the Apostle Peter, which we just heard in this square: "Duc in altum!" (Put out into the deep). He transmitted it to his entire spiritual family so that they might offer the Church a valid contribution of communion and apostolic service. Today this invitation is extended to all of us: "Put out into the deep", the divine Teacher says to us, "and let down your nets for a catch" (Lc 5,4).
5. To fulfil such a rigorous mission, one needs constant interior growth nourished by prayer. St Josemaría was a master in the practice of prayer, which he considered to be an extraordinary "weapon" to redeem the world. He always recommended: "in the first place prayer; then expiation; in the third place, but very much in third place, action" (The Way, n. 82). It is not a paradox but a perennial truth: the fruitfulness of the apostolate lies above all in prayer and in intense and constant sacramental life. This, in essence, is the secret of the holiness and the true success of the saints.
May the Lord help you, dear brothers and sisters, to accept this challenging ascetical and missionary instruction. May Mary sustain you, whom the holy founder invoked as "Spes nostra, Sedes Sapientiae, Ancilla Domini!" (Our Hope, Seat of Wisdom, Handmaid of the Lord).
May Our Lady make everyone an authentic witness of the Gospel, ready everywhere to make a generous contribution to building the Kingdom of Christ! May the example and teaching of St Josemaría be an incentive to us so that at the end of the earthly pilgrimage, we too may be able to share in the blessed inheritance of heaven! There, together with the angels and all the saints, we will contemplate the face of God and sing his glory for all eternity.
The Holy Father introduced Patriarch Teoctist to the faithful who then addressed the Pope and the faithful at the Mass. Here is a translation of the Pope's words.
1394 Today our liturgical assembly has the great joy of welcoming our beloved Brother, H.B. Teoctist, Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Romania. His visit fills us with great hope; he is here to direct his fervent prayers, as we do, to the one Lord Jesus Christ for the full unity of all Christians.
Welcome Your Beatitude! Thank you for your gracious presence and for the words you will now address to us.
Homily of Patriarch Teoctist
1. "To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever" (Ph 4,20).
The passage of the Letter to the Philippians just proclaimed concludes this way. The Letter of the Apostle Paul is permeated with fervent joy. Today the same joy fills the heart of the Bishop of Rome on account of the gracious visit of his beloved Brother, His Beatitude Teoctist, Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Romania, and for having been able to listen with him to the Good News.
With fraternal affection, I greet you, Your Beatitude, and those who work with you. Spiritually, I cordially greet the Holy Synod, the clergy and the faithful of the Orthodox Church of Romania, who opened their arms and hearts to me on the occasion of my visit to Bucharest in the spring of 1999 three years ago.
2. I listened with great attention to your inspired reflections, that vibrate with ardent longing for the full communion of our Churches. In them I discerned an encouraging harmony of sentiments and will desiring to obey the commandment that Christ entrusted to his disciples during the Last Supper: "Ut omnes unum sint - that they all may be one" (Jn 17,21).
Your Beatitude, I am delighted to be able to celebrate in your presence this sacred liturgy, the mystery of our faith, and with you to beg the Lord for unity and peace in the holy Church and in the world. Together, in this church, we are witnesses of the common journey we have set out on towards the reunion of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church of Romania. I praise the Lord for all he has already obtained for us us in our pilgrimage of communion. I beg his grace, so that he may grant us to bring to fulfilment what he has inspired between us, in support of the dedication to full communion.
3. "Behold I have prepared everything ... all is ready, come!" (cf. Mt Mt 22,4).
In the passage of the Gospel just proclaimed in Latin and in Romanian, almost breathing "with two lungs", we heard resound the invitation to the royal wedding feast. We are all invited. The call of the merciful and faithful Father constitutes the very core of divine revelation and, particularly, of the Gospel. We are all called, called by name.
"Come!". The Lord has called us to be part of his Church, one, holy, catholic and apostolic. Through one Baptism we are incorporated into the one Body of Christ. But has our answer always been an unconditional "yes'? Unfortunately, have we not sometimes refused this invitation? Have we not perhaps torn the seamless tunic of the Lord by separating ourselves from one another? Yes! This reciprocal division of ours is contrary to his will.
1395 May this harsh judgement not be applied to us: "The wedding is ready but those invited were not worthy" (Mt 22,8). One day we will be asked to account for all that we have done for the unity of Christians.
4. In his grace to us sinners, God has in these last times granted us to come much closer to one another, in prayer, word and action, moving toward the fullness of the unity that Jesus wanted for his disciples (cf. Unitatis redintegratio UR 1). The consciousness of the fact that we are invited together to the royal wedding feast has grown in us. Christ left to us as his legacy, on the eve of his Passion, the living memorial of his Death and Resurrection, in which, under the appearances of the bread and the wine, he gives us his Body and his Blood. As the Second Vatican Council reaffirmed, the Eucharist is the source and the summit of all Christian life, the radiating centre of the ecclesial community (cf. the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 10, and cf. Decree Christus Dominus CD 30).
The Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, celebrating the true Eucharist in accordance with their respective traditions, already live at this moment in a profound, though not full, communion. May the blessed day come soon on which we will be able truly to live in its fullness our perfect communion. Today the invitation of the Gospel is addressed specifically to us. May God put us on guard from doing what they did: "one went one to his farm, another to his business" (Mt 22,5).
5. The king, in the Gospel parable, asked one of the guests: "Friend, how did you enter without a wedding-garment?" (Mt 22,12). These words challenge us. They remind us that we must prepare ourselves for the royal marriage feast by putting on the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Rom Rm 13,14 Ga 3,27).
Participation in the Eucharist presupposes conversion to a new life. Common participation, full communion also presupposes conversion. There is no true ecumenism without interior conversion and renewal of the mind (cf. Unitatis redintegratio UR 6-7), without overcoming prejudices and suspicion; without eliminating words, opinions and acts that do not reflect equitably and truthfully the condition of our separated brethren; without the will to begin to esteem the other, to create a reciprocal friendship, to foster fraternal love.
To reach full communion we must overcome our laziness and narrow-mindedness (cf. Novo Millennio ineunte NM 48). We must foster the spirituality of communion, which is an ability "to think of our brothers and sisters in faith within the profound unity of the mystical Body, and therefore as "those who are a part of me'. This makes us able to share their joys and sufferings, to sense their desires and attend to their needs, to offer them deep and genuine friendship" (ibid., n. 43). We must ceaselessly nurture the passion for unity.
Your Beatitude has opportunely stressed that in Europe and in the world, that are largely secularized, there is a worrisome spiritual crisis. The common witness of Christians is thus becoming much more urgent.
6. Dear brothers and sisters, I entrust to the Lord these reflections which today acquire a special importance. In fact, this liturgy sees together the Successor of Peter, Bishop of Rome, and the Orthodox Patriarch of Romania. We are both witnesses of the growing desire for unity and communion of our Churches. Although we are familiar with the continuing difficulties, we both trust that our example may find a deep echo in every place where Catholics and Orthodox live side by side. May our witness foster the desire to recognize the other as a brother or sister and to be reconciled with him/her. This is the first indispensable condition for approaching, together, the one Table of the Lord.
Let us invoke the Spirit of unity and love and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, for this.
7. Finally, I would like to send an affectionate greeting to the Romanian people, in the rich variety that makes up their nation. I will never forget the historic visit that divine Providence granted me to make three years ago to Bucharest. The welcome, the warm feelings, the intense sentiments, the spiritual fervour and enthusiasm, the expectations of the people, especially of the young, and the words of hope: all of this has remained impressed on my heart. Unitate, unitate, unforgettable words at the end of my visit. Unitate, unitate! I thank God, for he now grants me to repay, in a certain way, the kindness that you showed me.
Your Beatitude, on your return home, assure everyone that Romania, which tradition describes with the beautiful title of, "the Garden of the Mother of God" is in the heart of the Bishop of Rome, who prays every day for the beloved Romanian people. May God always bless Romania!
1396 World Mission Sunday
Sunday, 20 October 2002
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
1. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 28,19).
The Risen Lord took his leave of the Apostles in this way before returning to the Father, "Go". His last word is an invitation to the mission, that is at the same time a promise, a testament and a duty. Christ entrusts his message of salvation to his disciples and asks them to spread it and to witness to it to the ends of the earth.
This is the meaning of today's World Mission Sunday. By a providential coincidence, on this very day, we proclaim new Blesseds who in an extraordinary way fulfilled the commandment of proclaiming and witnessing to the Gospel. They are Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa, Andrea Giacinto Longhin, Marcantonio Durando, Mary of the Passion and Liduina Meneguzzi.
Their Beatification on the very day of World Mission Sunday reminds us that the primary service we can give to the mission is the sincere and constant quest for holiness. We cannot witness to the Gospel genuinely, if first of all we do not live it faithfully.
2. My thoughts turn first of all to the two young catechists from Uganda, Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa. These two courageous witnesses were no more than boys when, with simplicity and faith, they shed their blood for Christ and his Church. With youthful enthusiasm for their mission of teaching the faith to their fellow countrymen, they set out in 1918 for northern Uganda. It was there, as evangelization was just beginning in that region, that they chose to embrace death rather than abandon the area and forsake their duties as catechists. Truly, in their lives and witness we can see that they were "beloved by God and chosen by him" (cf. I Thes 1,4).
Daudi and Jildo are today raised to the glory of the altar. They are given to the entire Christian community as examples of holiness and virtue, and as models and intercessors for catechists throughout the world, especially in those places where catechists still suffer for the faith, sometimes facing social marginalization and even personal danger. May the life and witness of these two dedicated servants of the Gospel inspire many men and women - in Uganda, in Africa and elsewhere - to answer with generosity the call to be a catechist, bringing knowledge of Christ to others and strengthening the faith of those communities that have recently received the Gospel of salvation.
3. "I have called you by name" (Is 45,4). The words which the prophet Isaiah uses to show the mission entrusted by God to his elect express well the vocation of Andrea Giacinto Longhin, the humble Capuchin who for 32 years was Bishop of the Diocese of Treviso at the beginning of the twentieth century. He was a simple, poor, humble, generous Pastor always available for his neighbour, in accord with the genuine tradition of the Capuchins.
They called him the Bishop of essential things. In an age that was noted for tragic and painful events, he was outstanding as a father for his priests and a zealous pastor of the people, always close to the people, especially in moments of difficulty and danger. In this way he anticipated what the Second Vatican Council emphasized when it taught that evangelization was "one of the principal duties of bishops" (Christus Dominus CD 12 cf. Redemptoris missio RMi 63).
1397 4. "Remembering ... your work of faith, and labour of love and your steadfastness of hope" (1Th 1,2-3). The words of the Apostle draw the spiritual portrait of Father Marcantonio Durando, of the Congregation of the Mission and worthy son of the Piedmont region. He lived the faith and a burning spiritual zeal, shunning every kind of compromise or interior tepidity.
At the school of St Vincent de Paul, he learned how to recognize in the humanity of Christ the greatest, most accessible and disarming expression of the love of God for every human being. Still today he indicates to us the mystery of the Cross as the culminating moment in which the unsearchable mystery of God's love is revealed.
5. "We know, brethren beloved of God, that you were chosen by him" (1Th 1,4). Mary of the Passion let herself be seized by God who was able to satisfy the thirst for truth that motivated her. Founding the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, she burned to communicate the torrents of love that sprang up in her and wished to extend them over the world. At the heart of the missionary commitment, she placed prayer and the Eucharist because for her adoration and mission blended to become the same work. Drawing on Scripture and the Fathers of the Church, combining a mystical and an active vocation, passionate and intrepid, she gave herself with an intuitive and bold readiness to the universal mission of the Church. Dear Sisters, learn from your Foundress, in profound communion with the Church, and welcome the invitation to live, with renewed fidelity, the intuitions of your founding charism, so that the number of those who discover Jesus, who makes us enter into the mystery of the love that is God, may be more abundant.
6. "Give to the Lord, families of peoples, give to the Lord glory and power" (Ps 95 ,7). The words of the responsorial Psalm express well the missionary yearning, that permeated the heart of Sr Liduina Meneguzzi, of the Sisters of St Francis de Sales. In the course of her brief but intense life, Sr Liduina poured herself out for her poorer and suffering brothers, particularly at the hospital of the mission of Dire Dawa in Ethiopia.
With fervent apostolic zeal, she sought to make known to everyone the only Saviour Jesus. At the school of Him who was "meek and humble of heart" (cf. Mt Mt 11,29), she learned to spread the charity that flows from a pure heart, overcoming mediocrity and inner inertia.
7. "Behold, I am with you all days even to the end of the world" (Mt 28,20). This is the promise that Christ made to his disciples as he prepared to leave the world to return to his Father.
I am with you all days! Jesus says, I am with you, pilgrim Church in the world. I am with you, young ecclesial communities in missionary lands. Do not be afraid to enter into dialogue with everyone. Take the message of salvation to everyone. Take courage.
May Mary, Star of evangelization, and the new Blesseds protect and accompany your steps on the highways of the world. Amen.
1. "Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face" (cf. Ps 23,6).
The words we have sung as the refrain to the responsorial psalm acquire a special meaning today, in this Basilica. Indeed, the rectors, professors and students of the Roman ecclesiastical universities have gathered here for the traditional celebration at the start of the new academic year.
1398 I extend my cordial greetings to everyone. In a special way, I want to thank Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, who is presiding at the Eucharistic celebration, and his collaborators for the work they do every day at the Congregation for Catholic Education.
2. Turning my gaze to you, dear brothers and sisters, with gratitude I reflect: Here, Lord, "this is the people that longs to see your face". In fact, what is the study of theology other than a particular way of seeking [to see] God's face? The dedication to the other branches of knowledge that are taught in your universities: what else is it but the approach to the reality of man, of the Church, of history, in which God reveals himself and his unfathomable mystery of salvation?
"The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein" (Ps 23 ,1). From whatever perspective he approaches reality, the believer knows he is moving "on holy ground" (cf. Ex Ex 3,5), because there is nothing positive within or outside man which does not in some way reflect divine wisdom. "O Lord, our Lord, how great is your name through all the earth!" (Ps 8,2 Ps 8,10).
3. The Gospel passage just proclaimed speaks to us of two levels of "wisdom": a first level consists in the ability to "interpret the countenance of the earth and of the heavens" (Lc 12,56), that is, to grasp the connections between cause and effect in natural phenomena. At another level, a deeper one, we find the ability to judge the "time" in which the history of salvation develops, the time in which God works and awaits the collaboration of the human person.
In "the fullness of time", St Paul recalls (Ga 4,4), God sent his Only-begotten Son. John the Evangelist observes that he "came to his own home, and his own people received him not" (Jn 1,11). The presence of the incarnate Word imparts a unique quality to time: he makes it "decisive", in the sense that in it the eternal destiny of each person and of all humanity is decided. The greatest gift of God must be matched by the greatest responsibility of man.
4. Christ's criticism of the crowd can be applied to our time, in which humanity has developed a very skilful ability to analyze and interpret phenomena in a certain sense "on the surface", but tends to avoid the deeper questions about ultimate meanings, the meaning of life and death, of the good and evil of history.
The stinging rebuke: "Hypocrites!" (Lc 12,56), coming from Jesus' lips, says clearly that it is not so much a question of not knowing how to judge what is just (cf. Lk Lc 12,57), but of not wanting to accept it. Hypocrisy thus consists in a false wisdom which is pleased with so much knowledge but very careful not to be committed to facing weighty questions of a religious and moral nature.
Synthesis of gift of truth and concrete way of life
5. Today's first reading from the Letter of St Paul to the Ephesians presents a wonderful synthesis between faith and life, between theology and evangelical wisdom: it is the perspective of unity. It is nourished by several virtues that the Apostle lists: humility, meekness, patience, mutual tolerance in love (cf. Eph Ep 4,2). Paul's moral exhortation is entirely based on contemplation of the mystery and its translation in the concrete way of life of community members.
The antidote to hypocrisy is therefore a constant circularity between what is known and what is lived, between the message of truth received as a gift in the Christian vocation and concrete personal and community attitudes. In other words, between knowledge of the faith and holiness of life.
6. These reflections, inspired by the Word of God, especially challenge those who are involved in the ecclesiastical universities. Teachers and students are called to exercise constant attention to interpret the signs of the times in relation to the central Sign of divine Revelation, Christ the Lord.
1399 They are particularly called to put themselves at the service of the unity of the Church. This unity, open by its nature to the Catholic dimension, here in Rome finds the ideal environment to be believed, studied and served.
Dear brothers and sisters, the unity of the ecclesial Body is preserved and built up through the bond of peace in truth and in charity (cf. Eph Ep 4,3). For this reason, it is necessary that your universities should be places of authentic Christian wisdom, in which each person is personally committed to creating a coherent synthesis between faith and life, between the content of his studies and his practical behaviour.
May the Saints teach you this, especially the Doctors of the Church and those who spent their lives studying and teaching. They are the "people who long to see the face [of God]" (Ps 23 ,6) in the loftiest sense; and precisely because they were passionate contemplators of God's face, they also knew how to transmit to others the bright reflections of truth, beauty and goodness that flow from it.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom, always watch over your academic communities and over each one of you. May she obtain from the Holy Spirit, an abundance of wisdom, knowledge and intelligence for you so that, as St Paul says in his Letter to the Ephesians, you may be able to "comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses all understanding, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" (Ep 3,18-19).
Brothers in the Episcopate,
Brothers and Sisters,
1."How good is the Lord for those who hope in him, for the soul who seeks him" (Lm 3,25).
The solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed each year arouses in the ecclesial community an intense and widespread atmosphere of prayer. It is a mournful and serene atmosphere in which the consoling certainty of the communion of saints softens the sadness that never totally subsides, for the persons who have passed away.
1400 Surrounded by this particular spiritual atmosphere, we find ourselves around the altar of the Lord, united in prayer for the Cardinals and Bishops who in the course of the last twelve months have concluded their earthly day. While, through Christ, we offer for them our prayers, we are thankful for the example they left to support us on our way.
2. At this time, the deceased Prelates are very much present to our spirit. Bonds of deep friendship bound us to some among them and I know that I express the sentiments of many among you. I am pleased to mention in a particular way the venerable Cardinals who have left us: Paolo Bertoli, Franjo Kuharic, Louis-Marie Billé, Alexandru Todea, Johannes Joachim Degenhardt, Lucas Moreira Neves, François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân, John Baptist Wu Cheng-Chung. To their memory I wish to unite that of the Archbishops and Bishops, who in many parts of the world reached the end of their earthly journey.
These our brothers have reached the goal. There was a day in which each of them with fresh energy pronounced his "Here I am" at the moment of being ordained a priest. First in their hearts, then with a loud voice they said, "Here I am". All were united in a special way to Christ, joined with his Priesthood.
At the hour of death, they pronounced the last "Here I am", in union with that of Jesus, who died surrendering his spirit into the hands of the Father (cf. Lk Lc 23,46). For their entire lives, especially after having consecrated themselves to God, they sought "the things above" (Col 3,1). And by word and example they exhorted the faithful to do the same.
3. They were Pastors, pastors of the flock of Christ. How many times with the holy People of God they recited the Psalm "Out of the depths". At funerals, in the cemeteries, in the houses where death entered: "Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord, ... with you is found forgiveness ... my soul is hoping in the Lord ... because with the Lord there is mercy and with him fullness of redemption" (Ps 129 ,22.214.171.124).
To proclaim this pardon of Christ, the mercy of Christ, the redemption of Christ, each of them spent his life until for each one the final hour arrived. Now we are here to pray for them, to offer the Divine Sacrifice for these chosen souls: "Lord, hear my voice" (Ps 129,2).
4. They were Pastors. With their preaching they instilled into the hearts of the faithful the earthshaking and comforting truth of the love of God: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him might not die but have eternal life" (Jn 3,16). In the name of the God of love, their hands blessed, their words comforted, their even silent presence witnessed effectively that the mercy of God has no limit, that his compassion is inexhaustible (cf. Lam Lm 3,22).
Some of them had the grace to give witness in a heroic way, facing harsh trials and inhuman persecutions. In this Eucharist we give praise to God begging him to be able worthily to honour their memory and the undying bond of brotherly friendship, before we are able to embrace them in the house of the Father.
5. "When Christ, our life, will be manifested, then you will be manifested with him in glory" (Col 3,4).
These words of St Paul that we heard in the second reading, invite us to look to the eternal life, into which our Venerable Brothers have completed the final move. In the light of the Paschal Mystery of Christ, their death is really the entrance into the fullness of life. In fact, as the Apostle says, the Christian is already "dead" through Baptism and his life is mysteriously "hidden with Christ in God" (Col 3,3).
In this light of faith, we feel even closer to our deceased brothers: death has apparently separated us but the power of Christ and of his Spirit unite us in a more profound way. Nourished with the Bread of life, we too, along with those who have gone before us, await with firm hope our full manifestation.
1401 May the Blessed Virgin Mary watch over them and over us, and obtain for us to come to occupy the "place" in the house of the Father, that Christ our life, has prepared for us (cf. Jn Jn 14,2-3).
S. John Paul II Homil. 1392