S. John Paul II Homil. 1401


First Sunday of Advent, 1 December 2002

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Your Excellencies the Ambassadors,
Brothers and Sisters,
Mabuhay ang Filipinas
[Long live the Filipinos].

1. "For you, Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name" (Is 63,16 cf. RSV). At the beginning of Advent, the liturgy invites us once again to savour the comforting message of God's fatherhood. The words from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah we have just heard take us to the heart of Jesus' teaching. To the direct request of his disciples: "Lord, teach us to pray", he replies by encouraging them to call God by the loving name of "Father" (cf. Lk Lc 11,1-4).

Yes, God is our Father! He takes care of us because we are the work of his hands. He is always ready to pardon repentent sinners and to welcome lovingly those who trust in his infinite mercy (cf. Is Is 64,4).

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Filipino Catholic Centre in Rome! I am thrilled to share this consoling message with you as we begin our Advent journey. I would have liked to visit you last 24 February and to celebrate the Eucharist in the Basilica of Santa Pudenziana on the Viminal Hill.

1402 It was not possible, so today I cordially welcome you at the Vatican, thus resuming my regular meetings with the parishes and communities of our diocese.

2. With great affection I greet you and, through you, the many thousands of Filipino men and women living in Rome and in other cities throughout Italy. I greet the Cardinal Vicar and the Auxiliary Bishop for the central zone, who are constantly concerned for your pastoral care. I also greet your fellow countryman, Cardinal José Sanchez, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, who honours us by his presence here today.

I likewise respectfully acknowledge the presence of their Excellencies, the Ambassadors of the Philippines to the Holy See and to the Republic of Italy, together with other Representatives of the Filipino community.

My cordial greeting also goes to the priests, to the men and women religious and to the lay faithful who in various ways serve your large and lively community. In a special way I greet your hard-working Chaplain, Father Alberto Mena Guevara. I thank him for his kind words at the beginning of this celebration and his introduction to the many activities taking place at the Basilica of Santa Pudenziana, which was entrusted in 1991 to the Sentro Pilipino. Just a few months ago he took over the rich legacy of pastoral care left behind by the much-loved Father Remo Bati after ten years of generous and faithful service to the community. I also thank Mr Exequiel Garcia and young Mark Angelo who spoke on behalf of all of you.

The Church's concern for the Filipino faithful can also be seen in 39 pastoral centres located throughout the City where you can foster your own noble Christian traditions and give them new life, thanks to the liturgical and apostolic services offered there.

Continue on the path of faith and solidarity with one another to build the civilization of love
3. Dear Brothers and Sisters, hold fast to the rich cultural and religious heritage that is an integral part of your identity. Many of you have had the chance to find employment here in Italy and have attained a standard of living that enables you to help your family members at home. For others, however - and I hope that they are few - your status as immigrants has brought you serious problems, including loneliness, the separation of families, the loss of the values handed down from the past and at times even the loss of your faith.

I would like to renew to all of you, and in particular to the many women present here, the words of encouragement which we heard in today's Liturgy: Do not lose heart! We must not grow weak in faith, for the Lord is near. The fact that you are immigrants makes you all the more dear to Jesus who, as we recall during Advent, came on earth to save us.

Continue, then, with trust and determination, along the path of faith and solidarity so well expressed in the motto mentioned by your Chaplain, which calls you to "communion", "witness" and "the proclamation of the Gospel". The witness of an authentically Christian life will keep you united among yourselves and will continue to win you the respect and help of others. I ask those who employ you to welcome you and love you as cherished brothers and sisters in Christ. All of us must work together to build the civilization of love.

4. "Watch ... watch". This admonition that Jesus addresses to us in the Gospel (cf. Mk
Mc 13,33) is the basic message of the Advent season: to be vigilant while waiting for the Messiah. Let us remain alert, dear brothers and sisters, to be ready to meet the Saviour who comes to reveal to us the face of the heavenly Father.

May Mary, the humble Virgin of Nazareth, chosen by God to become Mother of the Redeemer, make fruitful our prayerful and attentive waiting for the Redeemer. Amen!

1403 Mabuhay ang Filipinas [Long live the Filipinos].



Tuesday, 10 December 2002

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God" (Is 40,1).

With this invitation the section of the Book of Isaiah known as the "Book of Consolation" begins. In it the Second Isaiah brings to the people in exile the joyful proclamation of liberation. The time of punishment is over; Israel can look forward confidently to the future: at long last it awaits the return to its native soil.

This joyful proclamation also applies to us. Basically, we are all travellers on the road of life. Life is a long road on which each human being, a pilgrim of the Absolute, struggles to find a safe and stable dwelling place. The passing of time confirms to the human person that this dwelling place is not to be found here on earth. Our true and definitive home is heaven. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews will say: "For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come" (He 13,14).

In this perspective the word of the prophet is consoling. He confirms for us that God walks with us: "Comfort, comfort my people.... And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together" (Is 40,1 Is 40,5). In the night of Bethlehem, the Word of God became our travelling companion. He took our flesh and accepted to share even to death our condition. So then in faith we can accept in all its force his hopeful wish: "Comfort, comfort my people!".

2. With this sense of intimate joy, I greet you, distinguished rectors and professors, and you, dear students of the Roman universities. I express my gratitude to each one of you for not wanting to miss our traditional meeting in the Advent season.

I especially greet the [Italian] Vice Minister for Universities, and the delegation of Italian university rectors present at this celebration, and the representatives of the historic European universities. I thank the Rector of the University of "Tor Vergata" and the student of "La Sapienza" for their kind expression of your sentiments. I feel completely at home with you.

The mystery of Christmas brings a message of truth about God's realization of his saving plan
3. Let us listen to the prophet. He helps us to understand better the message of joy that the mystery of Christmas brings to the people of every time and culture. The birth of Christ is a consoling proclamation for all humanity.

1404 Yes, "the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together" (Is 40,5). We can all contemplate it and be enlightened by it. Before this glory, the prophet continues, "all flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field" (Is 40,7).

The glory of God and the glory of humanity: can human glory ever compare with divine glory? Can any power on earth ever compare with the Lord? The great persons of the earth like Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, Cyrus are "like grass", like the flower that "fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it" (Is 40,7). Nothing resists God. With his omnipotence, he alone rules the universe and guides the fortunes of persons and history.

Let us reflect on the century that has just ended and on our times: how fragile have the powers proven to be that claimed to impose their supremacy! Even when science, technology and culture claim omnipotence, basically they prove to be like grass that soon shrivels, like a flower that withers and dies.

4. May these words of the prophet that we have heard resound in every heart. They do not mortify human freedom; on the contrary, they enrich it by guiding it on paths of genuine human progress. In this light, the pastoral care of the university, which the Church promotes with great care in centres of study and scientific research, can be of great help.

I remember my own experience of the university. From daily contact with students and professors I learned that it is essential to provide an integral formation that will prepare young people for life: an education that educates them to assume their role in the family and in society with responsibility and with not just a professional, but also a human and spiritual competence. From those years that left their mark on my life, I drew useful lessons which I sought to put forward in my essay on Christian ethics, "Love and Responsibility", and in my play about marriage, "The Jeweller's Shop".

5. Let us return to the prophet's text, which today's liturgy offers us. It is a page, rich in meaning, that to the discouraged people foretold: "Behold, the Lord God comes with might, his arm rules for him" (Is 40,10). As we will understand better in the mystery of Christmas, tenderness and mercy permeate God's omnipotence. It is a power of love, that prefers to bend down to the weak and humble.

The Gospel, just proclaimed, helps us to perceive more deeply this message of hope. The pastor, whom Jesus depicts, leaves ninety-nine sheep on the hills to go in search of the one who was lost (cf. Mt Mt 18,12-14). God does not conceive of humanity as an anonymous mass, but he dwells on each person, he personally takes care of each one. Christ is the true Shepherd who in his arms gathers his flock: "he will carry the lambs in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young" (Is 40,11).

6. The parable of the lost sheep is very telling. Sheep, unlike other animals, for example the dog, are unable to find their way home and need the guidance of the shepherd. We are like that, unable to save ourselves by our own efforts. We need the intervention from on High. At Christmas this prodigy of love takes place: God became one of us to help us find the road that leads to happiness and salvation.

Distinguished rectors and professors, dear students, let us open our hearts to the Child who will be born for us in Bethlehem! Let us prepare to receive his light to guide our steps and his love that gives vigour to our lives. May the Blessed Virgin, Seat of Wisdom, accompany us in our attentive expectation.

With these sentiments, I express my cordial best wishes to you and to your families. May the celebration of Christmas be peaceful and holy! To all of you a Blessed Advent and Merry Christmas! Amen.



Sunday, 15 December 2002

1405 Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. "Brethren, rejoice always (
1Th 5,16). The invitation of the Apostle Paul to the faithful of Thessalonica, that has just been read, expresses well the atmosphere of today's liturgy. Indeed, today is the third Sunday of Advent, traditionally known as "Gaudete" (Rejoice) Sunday, from the Latin Word with which the Entrance Antiphon begins.

"Rejoice in the Lord always". In the face of the inevitable difficulties of life, the uncertainties and fears for the future, the temptation to give in to despair and disappointment, the Word of God always proclaims again the "glad tidings" of salvation: the Son of God comes to heal "the wounds of the broken-hearted" (cf. Is Is 61,1). May this joy, anticipation of the coming joy of Christmas, fill each of our hearts and every corner of our lives.

2. Dear brothers and sisters of the Parish of St John Nepomucene Neumann: Welcome! It is wonderful to meet you just before Christmas! As we know, Christmas is a feast that families and children especially enjoy, and you are a parish made up of many young families.

I offer all of you my cordial greeting. I greet Cardinal Ruini, Vicar of Rome, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Western sector, Bishop Apicella, your parish priest, Fr Danilo Bissacco, and his vicars, to whom the care of the community is entrusted. I thank those who, on your behalf, expressed sentiments of affection and communion to me at the beginning of the celebration. Through you who are here, I would like to convey a word of heartfelt closeness to the almost 10,000 people who live in the parish territory.

Gathered round the Eucharist, we realize more easily how it is the mission of every Christian community to bring the message of God's love to all people. This is the reason why it is important that the Eucharist always be the heart of the life of the faithful, as it is today for your parish, even if all its members have not been able to take part personally.

3. Two years after its foundation, your community still does not have a proper place of worship. On this very day, the Third Sunday of Advent, the diocese observes the Day of Prayer and Awareness so that all the areas of the city, especially those on the outskirts, may have a church with the necessary structures for the normal round of liturgical, formative and pastoral activities.

I hope that you too will be able to achieve this plan as soon as possible, but without losing the missionary style that in recent years has made your parish family lively and dynamic.

I am conscious of the difficulties your parish has to face every day. The ancient Borgata Fogaccia, today known as Borgata Montespaccato, in which the parish is located, is a densely populated area, where buildings have shot up without respect for the zoning plan, without social structures, and where there is a noticeable presence of non-Italian immigrants and people in search of permanent work.

4. However, you must not lose heart. Besides, your young community is full of initiative, thanks to the Redemptorist Fathers who, in the year of the Great Jubilee as true sons of St Alphonsus, agreed to take charge of the parish. Despite the lack of structures and the burdens of daily life, you already take care of those in difficulty.

Dear brothers and sisters, continue on this path. Above all, take care of the children and adolescents, ensuring that they do not lack attention, friendship or confidence. Support families, especially young and poor ones, and those in difficulty.

1406 May your heavenly Patron, St John Nepomucene Neumann, protect you even though you may not know him as well as he deserves. In the mid-19th century, this great missionary bishop, an extraordinary pioneer of the Gospel in North America, spent himself for the Lord, for the Church and for the people entrusted to his care. Imitate his zeal for proclaiming the Gospel and his burning love for the Church and for his neighbour in need.

5. "Make straight the way of the Lord" (
Jn 1,23). Let us accept the Evangelist's invitation! The approach of Christmas calls us to a more vigorous expectation as we await the Lord who comes, even as today's liturgy presents John the Baptist to us as an example to imitate.

Finally, let us turn our gaze to Mary, "cause" of our true and profound joy, so that she may obtain for each one that joy which comes from God and which no one can ever take from us. Amen!



Christmas, 24 December 2002

1. "Dum medium silentium teneret omnia..."– "While earth was rapt in silence and night only half through its course, your almighty Word, O Lord, came down from his royal throne" (Antiphon to the Magnificat, 26 December).

On this Holy Night the ancient promise is fulfilled: the time of waiting has ended and the Virgin gives birth to the Messiah.

Jesus is born for a humanity searching for freedom and peace; he is born for everyone burdened by sin, in need of salvation, and yearning for hope.

On this night God answers the ceaseless cry of the peoples: Come, Lord, save us! His eternal Word of love has taken on our mortal flesh. "Your Word, O Lord, came down from his royal throne". The Word has entered into time: Emmanuel, God-with-us, is born.

In cathedrals and great basilicas, as well as in the smallest and remotest churches throughout the world, Christians joyfully lift up their song: "Today is born our Saviour" (Responsorial Psalm).

2. Mary "gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger" (Lc 2,7).

This is the icon of Christmas: a tiny newborn child, whom the hands of a woman wrap in poor cloths and lay in a manger.

1407 Who could imagine that this little human being is the "Son of the Most High" (Lc 1,32)? Only she, his Mother, knows the truth and guards its mystery.

On this night we too can "join" in her gaze and so recognize in this Child the human face of God. We too – the men and women of the third millennium – are able to encounter Christ and to gaze upon him through the eyes of Mary.

Christmas night thus becomes a school of faith and of life.

3. In tonight's second reading, the Apostle Paul helps us to understand the Christ-event which we celebrate on this radiant night. He writes: "The grace of God has appeared, offering salvation to all men" (Tt 2,11).

The "grace of God" appearing in Jesus is God's merciful love, which dominates the entire history of salvation and guides it to its definitive fulfilment. The self-revelation of God who "humbled himself to come among us as a man" (Preface of Advent, I) is the anticipation, here on earth, of his glorious "appearing" at the end of time (cf. Tt 2,13).

But there is more. The historical event which we are experiencing in mystery is the "way" given to us as a means of encountering the glorious Christ. By his Incarnation Jesus teaches us, as the Apostle observes, "to reject godless ways and worldly desires, and live temperately, justly and devoutly in this age as we await our blessed hope" (Tt 2,12-13).

O Birth of the Lord, you have inspired Saints of every age! I think, among others, of Saint Bernard and his spiritual ecstasy before the touching scene of the Crib. I think of Saint Francis of Assisi, the inspired creator of the first live depiction of the mystery of Christmas night. I think of Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus, who by her "little way" suggested anew to the proud modern mind the true spirit of Christmas.

4. "You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger (Lc 2,12).
The Child laid in a lowly manger: this is God's sign. The centuries and the millennia pass, but the sign remains, and it remains valid for us too – the men and women of the third millennium. It is a sign of hope for the whole human family; a sign of peace for those suffering from conflicts of every kind; a sign of freedom for the poor and oppressed; a sign of mercy for those caught up in the vicious circle of sin; a sign of love and consolation for those who feel lonely and abandoned.
A small and fragile sign, a humble and quiet sign, but one filled with the power of God who out of love became man.

5. Lord Jesus, together with the shepherds
1408 we draw near to your Crib.
We contemplate you, wrapped in swaddling cloths
and lying in the manger.

O Babe of Bethlehem,
we adore you in silence with Mary,
your ever-Virgin Mother.
To you be glory and praise for ever,
Divine Saviour of the World! Amen.



Tuesday 31 December 2002

1. "Born of woman, born under the law" (Ga 4,4).

With these words the Apostle Paul sums up the mystery of the Son of God, "begotten not made, one in being with the Father".

1409 "Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius" (You are the eternal Son of the Father), we have just sung in the hymn Te Deum. In the inscrutable abyss of God, Christ's mission has its origin ab aeterno (from eternity), and is destined "to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth" (Ep 1,10).

Time, beginning with creation, reaches its fullness when it is "visited" by God in the Person of the Only-Begotten Son. At the moment when Jesus is born in Bethlehem, an event of incalculable importance in the history of salvation, God's goodness acquires a visible, tangible "face" (cf. Ti Tt 3,4).

Before the Child whom Mary wraps in swaddling clothes and lays in a manger everything seems to stand still. The One who is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, cries in the arms of a woman: the Creator is born among us!

In Jesus the heavenly Father wanted to redeem us from sin and to adopt us as sons (cf. Gal Ga 4,5). With Mary let us pause in worshipful silence before so great a mystery!

2. These are the sentiments that pervade us as we celebrate the First Vespers of the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. The liturgy makes this important Marian feast coincide with the end of the year and the beginning of the new year. This evening, to the contemplation of the mystery of the Virgin's divine motherhood let us join our hymn of gratitude for the ending of 2002, while on the horizon of history 2003 appears. Let us thank God from the depths of our hearts for all the benefits he has bestowed upon us during the past 12 months.

I think especially of the generous response of so many young people to the Christian message; I think of the increasing ecclesial sensitivity to the values of peace, life and the safeguard of creation; I also think of certain significant steps on the not easy ecumenical route. For everything let us thank God. Indeed, his gifts always precede and accompany every positive gesture we make.

3. I am pleased to live these moments, as I do every year, with all of you dear brothers and sisters, who represent the diocesan community of Rome. I warmly greet each of you. I greet the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishops, the priests and the women religious involved in pastoral service in many parishes and diocesan offices. I greet the Mayor of Rome, the members of the municipal administration and council, as well as the other provincial and regional authorities. My thoughts go to everyone who lives in our city and in our region, particularly those who are going through situations of difficulty or hardship.

This year, the path of the Church of Rome has been marked by a special dedication to recruiting and fostering priestly and religious vocations. The diocesan convention last June focused on this theme, so crucial for the present and future of evangelization. The various pastoral initiatives and activities promoted by the diocese converge on this objective. Attention to vocations belongs correctly to the option for mission which, following the City Mission, has become the direction of the life and pastoral service of the Church of Rome.

4. Everyone must feel personally involved in this far-reaching missionary and vocational activity. However, in the first place, it is the task of priests to work for vocations by living joyfully the great gift and mystery that God has planted in them, so as to "generate" new and holy vocations.

The pastoral care of vocations should be a priority for parishes, that are called to be schools of holiness and prayer, training grounds for charity and service to the brothers and sisters, and especially for families, who, as vital cells, make up the parish community. When there is love between spouses, the children grow up morally healthy and vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life take root more easily.

Dear families of Rome, this year, which I have proclaimed the "Year of the Rosary", I invite you to recite the Rosary daily, so that an atmosphere may be created in you that fosters listening to God and faithfully doing his will.

1410 5. "Fiat misericordia tua, Domine, super nos, quemadmodum speravimus in Te May your mercy always be upon us, Lord, as we have hoped in you".

Your mercy, Lord! In this liturgy at the end of the year, praise and thanksgiving should be joined to a sincere examination of conscience, made individually and as a community. Let us ask the Lord's pardon for the shortcomings of which we are guilty, certain that God, who is rich in mercy, is infinitely greater than our sins.

"In you we have hoped". "In you Lord" we repeat this evening, "is our hope". At Christmas you brought joy to the world, making shine on the paths of persons and peoples your light. Anxieties and worries cannot put it out; the brightness of your presence is a constant comfort.

May every man and woman of good will approach and experience the power of your love and your peace! May the city of Rome and all humanity welcome you as their only Saviour. This is what I hope for all of you; a hope that I place in the hands of Mary, Mother of God, Salus Populi Romani (Salvation of the Roman People).




Wednesday, 1 January 2003

Brothers and Sisters,

1. "The Lord bless you and keep you.... The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace" (NM 6,24 NM 26): this is the blessing that the priests of the Old Testament gave the Chosen People on the great religious feast days. Today, the ecclesial community listens to it again, while it asks the Lord to bless the new year we have just begun.

"The Lord bless you and keep you". In the face of the events that unsettle the planet, it is very clear that only God can touch the depths of the human soul; his peace alone can restore hope to humanity. We need him to turn his face towards us, to bless us, to protect us and give us his peace.

For this reason, we must begin the new year by asking him for this precious gift. Let us do so through the intercession of Mary, Mother of the "Prince of Peace".

2. At this solemn celebration I wish to address a respectful greeting to the distinguished Ambassadors of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. I also warmly greet my Secretary of State and the other heads of the departments of the Roman Curia, with a special greeting for the new President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. I would like to express my gratitude to the Council for their daily work to foster peaceful coexistence among the peoples, along the lines of the Messages for the World Day of Peace.This year's Message commemorates Pacem in terris on the 40th anniversary of its publication. The content of this authoritative and historical document of Pope John XXIII is a "permanent mandate" for believers and people of good will in this time burdened with tensions, and also rich with many positive expectations.

1411 3. When Pacem in terris was written, there were menacing clouds on the horizon and the nightmare of an atomic war hung over humanity.

My venerable Predecessor, whom I had the joy of raising to the honours of the altar, was not overcome by the temptation to discouragement. On the contrary, relying on his firm confidence in God and on the capacity of the human heart, he forcefully pointed out "truth, justice, love and freedom" as the "four pillars" on which to build a lasting peace (cf. Message for World Day of Peace, 1 January 2003, n. 3).

His teaching remains timeless. Today, as then, despite the serious, repeated attacks on the peaceful, solidary harmony of peoples, peace is possible and necessary. Indeed, peace is the most precious good to ask of God and to build with every effort, by means of concrete gestures of peace on the part of every man and woman of good will (cf. ibid., n. 9).

4. The Gospel passage we have just heard takes us back in spirit to Bethlehem, where the shepherds went to adore the Child on Christmas night (cf. Lk
Lc 2,16). How can we not go in spirit with fear and sadness to visit that holy place where Jesus was born?

Bethlehem! The Holy Land! The tragic, enduring tension this Middle Eastern region lives in, makes the search for a positive solution to the fratricidal and senseless conflict which has shed blood for too long, more urgent. It requires the cooperation of all who believe in God, who know that true religious feeling far from setting individuals and peoples against one another, urges them to build together a world of peace.

In my Message for today's World Day of Peace, I wished strongly to repeat: "Religion has a vital role in fostering gestures of peace and in consolidating conditions for peace". And I added that "it exercises this role all the more effectively if it concentrates on what is proper to it: attention to God, the fostering of universal brotherhood and the spreading of a culture of human solidarity" (ibid., n. 9).

Faced with today's conflicts and the threatening tensions of the moment, once again I ask you to pray to find the "peaceful means" for a solution inspired by "a desire for genuine and constructive dialogue", in harmony with the principles of international law (cf. ibid., n. 8).

5. "God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law ... so that we might receive adoption as sons" (Ga 4,4-5). In the fulness of time, St Paul recalls, God sent into the world a Saviour, born of a woman. Thus the new year opens under the sign of a woman, under the sign of a mother: Mary.

As a spiritual continuation of the Great Jubilee, whose echo has not died away, last October, I chose to proclaim the Year of the Rosary. After having vigorously presented Christ as the only Redeemer of the world, I wished to mark this year with Mary's special presence. In the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (The Rosary of the Virgin Mary), I wrote that "the Rosary is by its nature a prayer for peace, since it consists in the contemplation of Christ, the Prince of Peace, the one who is "our peace' (Ep 2,14). Anyone who assimilates the mystery of Christ - and this is clearly the goal of the Rosary - learns the secret of peace and makes it his life's project" (n. 40).

May Mary help us discover the face of Jesus, Prince of Peace. May she support and accompany us in this new year; may she obtain for us and for the whole world the desired gift of peace! So be it!



Monday, 6 January 2003

1412 1. "Rise up in splendour" (Is 60,1).

Notice how the prophet Isaiah speaks to the city of Jerusalem. He invites her to let herself be enlightened by her Lord, the infinite light that makes his glory shine over Israel. The people of God are called to become light themselves in order to direct the way of the nations, over whom hang "darkness" and "thick clouds" (Is 60,2).

The prophetic word resounds with full meaning on this solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. The Magi, who come from the East to Jerusalem, are guided by a heavenly body (cf. Mt Mt 2,1-2) and represent the first fruits of the peoples attracted by the light of Christ. They recognize in Jesus the Messiah, and they show before hand that now is the fulfilment of the "mystery" of which St Paul speaks in the second reading: "that the Gentiles are called in Christ Jesus ... to be co-heirs of the promise through the preaching of the Gospel" (Ep 3,6).

2. Beloved Brothers chosen for the Episcopate, today you become fully empowered ministers of this mystery by receiving the sacrament that makes you successors of the Apostles.

Your names and your faces speak of the universal Church: in the language of the Fathers, the Catholica. Indeed, you come from many nations and continents; and you are newly appointed for many countries.

Faith in Christ, the light of the world, has guided your steps from your youth to your offering of yourselves in priestly ordination. To the Lord you did not give gold, incense and myrrh, but your lives. Now Christ asks you to renew that self-offering, so that you may exercise in the Church the episcopal ministry. As he did once with the Twelve, he invites each of you to participate fully in his life and mission (cf. Mk Mc 3,13-15).

You receive the fullness of the gift; at the same time, you are asked to give the fullness of dedication.

3. I greet you with affection and I embrace each of you spiritually.

I greet you, dear Archbishop Paul Tschang In-Nam, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Archbishop Pierre Nguyęn Van Tot, Archbishop Pedro López Quintana, who will be my representatives in countries of Asia and Africa and at the UN. I thank you for the valuable service you have given till now to the Holy See, and I pray that your pastoral ministry may contribute to make the light of Christ shine among the peoples. In respect for their institutions and cultures, may you invite the nations to whom you are being sent, to be open to the Gospel. Only Christ can guarantee a profound renewal of consciences and of peoples.

I greet you, dear Archbishop Angelo Amato and Bishop Brian Farrell, to whom in the Roman Curia I have entrusted the offices of the Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and of the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Fidelity to the Catholic Tradition and dedication to the ecumenical dialogue: on this track your service will always proceed securely.

I greet you, dear Bishop Calogero La Piana of Mazara del Vallo, Italy; Bishop René-Marie Ehuzu of Abimey, Benin; Bishop Ján Babjak of the Eparchy of Presov, Slovakia; Bishop Andraos Abouna, Auxiliary of the Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Iraq; Bishop Milan Sasik, Apostolic Administrator "ad nutum Sanctae Sedis" of the Eparchy of Mukacheve, Ukraine; Bishop Giuseppe Nazzaro, Apostolic Vicar of Alep of the Latins, Syria.

May the beloved ecclesial communities who will receive you, whom I greet with affection, be able to find in you diligent and generous Pastors. Following the example and with the help of the Good Shepherd, may you always lead believers to the pastures of eternal life.

4. "By this they will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 13,35).

Dear and venerable Pastors, the divine Master asks you to live and give witness to his love. In fact, the proclamation of the saving love of God is the synthesis of the mission that today, on the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, the Church entrusts to you.

Make the beauty of the Gospel, the compendium of divine charity, shine forth in the sight of the flock entrusted to you. To the entire Christian people, offer a shining witness of holiness. Always be an epiphany of Christ and of his merciful love, and let nothing prevent you from bringing this mission to fulfilment.

May the Blessed Virgin Mary, teacher of perfect conformity to her divine Son, sustain and protect you in the various duties you are called to fulfill.

As the Apostle urges us, be concerned to reflect "the glory of the Lord as in a mirror" and "you will be transformed into his image, from glory to glory" (cf. II Cor 3,18). May this take place in each of you for the glory of God and the good of souls. Amen.

S. John Paul II Homil. 1401