S. John Paul II Homil. 1300
1."What shall I render to the Lord for what he has given me? I will raise the chalice of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord" (resp. Psalm).
The words of the responsorial Psalm, which we have just heard, are well suited to this Eucharistic liturgy, which I have the joy of celebrating with you, dear priests of the Diocese of Aosta. I greet each of you, thanking you for coming to Les Combes, where I am about to conclude my wonderful stay in the mountains of the Val d'Aosta. I want to greet your Bishop and thank him for his helpful presence, which I have very much appreciated. I greet the Salesian Community which has generously received me in this house. I renew my gratitude to all those who have contributed these days to make my stay a pleasant one. For each of you I offer to the Lord this Eucharistic celebration.
2. "I will offer you a sacrifice of praise" (ibid.).
The Eucharist is the sacrifice of praise par excellence. Every time we celebrate it, we offer to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit the sacrifice pleasing to him, for the salvation of the world.
The priest's life and mission are closely linked to the accomplishment of this Eucharistic sacrifice.
1301 Indeed, it could be said that the priest is called to become completely one with it, in order to become himself a sacrifice of praise. At this time, I think of the multitude of holy priests, who sacrificed themselves with Christ in the service of the Christian people. I think of those who spread the beautiful fragrance of Christ in this land of yours, serving St Anselm's Church to which you belong. "[Their] vows to the Lord [they] fulfilled before all his people" (ibid.).
3. Today's Gospel, taken from St Matthew, helps us to deepen our grasp of this truth when it reports the Lord's celebrated comment to the Pharisees: "If you had known what this means, I desire mercy, and not sacrifice" (Mt 12,7).
In fact, the mystery of divine mercy, which is revealed and fulfilled in the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Son of God is made present in the Eucharist. His sacrifice, which he, the Priest of the new and eternal Covenant offered to the Father and commanded to be perpetuated in the Eucharistic Memorial, is not fulfilled according to the old law but according to the Spirit, and brings about humanity's redemption because it realizes God's merciful plan.
Our priestly service and our entire life - through the goodness of the Lord who called us - also fit into the pattern of the same mystery. Christ's minister is a minister of his sacrifice and of his mercy: this is the priest as Jesus himself wanted him, indissolubly bound up with the two sacraments, the Eucharist and Reconciliation.
4. Dear Brothers, spiritually presenting to you the Letter which I wrote to the Priests of the whole world for Holy Thursday this year, I pray particularly for you and for all who work in this diocese. May the experience of divine mercy sanctify you and make you generous ministers of pardon and reconciliation.
All is grace! And so in a special way is the life of the Priest, minister of divine grace and for this reason called to "live the gift of the ministry with a sense of endless thanksgiving" (Letter to Priests, Holy Thursday 2001, n. 10).
Dear priests, do not be afraid to devote your time and energy to the sacrament of Reconciliation. Now more than ever the People of God need to rediscover the sacrament in its sober liturgical dignity, as the ordinary means of obtaining the remission of grave sins and also for its beneficial "humanizing" mission (cf. ibid., nn. 12-13). May the saintly Curé d'Ars be your model and your guide.
May our Lady, Mother of Mercy, watch over you and your ministry. I entrust all of you and your communities to her. For my part, I assure you of my constant remembrance in prayer, so that each day you may repeat with a thankful heart: "What shall I render to the Lord for what he has given me? I will raise the chalice of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord".
1. "The last enemy to be destroyed is death" (1Co 15,26).
Paul's words that we have just heard in the Second Reading help us to understand the significance of the solemnity we are celebrating today. Christ's definitive victory over death, which came into the world because of Adam's sin, shines out in Mary, assumed into Heaven at the end of her earthly life. It was Christ, the "new" Adam, who conquered death, offering himself as a sacrifice on Calvary in loving obedience to the Father. In this way he redeemed us from the slavery of sin and evil. In the Virgin's triumph, the Church contemplates her whom the Father chose as the true Mother of his Only-begotten Son, closely associating her with the salvific plan of the Redemption.
1302 This is why Mary, as the liturgy points out, is a consoling sign of our hope. In looking to her, carried up amid the rejoicing of the angelic hosts, the whole of human life, marked by lights and shadows, is opened to the perspective of eternal happiness. If our experience of daily life allows us to feel tangibly that our earthly pilgrimage is under the sign of uncertainty and strife, the Virgin assumed into heavenly glory assures us that we will never lack divine help.
2. "A great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun" (Ap 12,1). Let us look at Mary, dear brothers and sisters who are gathered here on a day so dear to the devotion of the Christian people. I greet you with deep affection. I greet in particular Cardinal Angelo Sodano, my primary collaborator, and the Bishop of Albano with his Auxiliary, and I thank them for heir courteous presence. I also greet the parish priest together with the priests who assist him, the religious and all the faithful present, especially the consecrated Salesians and the communities of Castel Gandolfo and of the Pontifical Villas. I greet the pilgrims speaking various languages who have wished to join in our celebration. I hope that each one will joyfully live today's solemnity, which offers so much food for meditation.
Today a great sign appears for us in heaven: the Virgin Mother! The sacred author of the Book of the Apocalypse speaks of her to us in the First Reading. What an extraordinary miracle meets our astonished eyes! Used to looking at earthly realities, we are invited to lift our gaze: to heaven, which is our definitive homeland, where the Blessed Virgin awaits us.
Perhaps, more than in the past, modern man is consumed by material interests and concerns. He seeks security and often feels lonely and anxious. Then what can be said of the enigma of death? Mary's Assumption is an event that concerns us precisely because every human being is destined to die. But death is not the last word. Death - the mystery of the Virgin's Assumption assures us - is the passage to life, the encounter with Love. It is the passage to the eternal happiness in store for those who toil for truth and justice and do their utmost to follow Christ.
3. "Henceforth all generations will call me blessed " (Lc 1,48). This is what the Mother of Christ exclaimed when she met Elizabeth, her elderly kinswoman. Once again the Gospel has just presented the Magnificat to us. It is Our Lady's response to St Elizabeth's prophetic words: "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (Lc 1,45).
In Mary the promise is fulfilled: the Mother is blessed and we her children will be blessed if, like her, we listen to and put into practice the Lord's words.
May today's solemnity open our hearts to this superior view of life. May the Virgin, whom today we contemplate in splendour at her Son's right hand, help contemporary man to live believing "in the fulfilment of the Lord's words".
4. "Today the children of the Church on earth are joyfully celebrating the Virgin's passing to the celestial city, the heavenly Jerusalem" (Laudes et hymni, VI). This is what the Armenian liturgy sings today. I make these words my own, thinking of my apostolic pilgrimage to Kazakhstan and Armenia on which, please God, I shall be setting out in just over a month. To you, Mary, I entrust the success of this new stage in my service to the Church and to the world. I ask you to help believers to be watchmen of the hope that does not disappoint and never to stop proclaiming that Christ is victorious over evil and death. Faithful Woman, enlighten the humanity of our time so that it may understand that every human life is not extinguished in a handful of dust, but is called to a destiny of eternal happiness. Mary, "who are the joy of heaven and of earth", may you watch over and pray for us and for the whole world, now and for ever. Amen!
1. Give us, Father, the joy of your pardon (cf. Responsorial ).
The joy of your pardon: this is the "good news" that the liturgy makes resound among us today. Pardon is the joy of God even before it becomes the joy of man. God rejoices in welcoming the repentant sinner; indeed, he himself, the Father of infinite mercy, "dives in misericordia", arouses in the human heart the hope of forgiveness and the joy of reconciliation.
1303 With this news of comfort and peace, I come to you, brothers and sisters of the beloved Church in Frosinone-Veroli-Ferentino, to repay the visit that you made to me in St Peter's Square last 2 December, on the occasion of your Jubilee pilgrimage. I thank divine Providence for bringing me among you.
I am grateful to your Bishop, Salvatore Boccaccio, for the warm greeting he has offered me on your behalf. May the Lord reward with abundant fruit his pastoral zeal! With him, I am pleased to greet the Bishop emeritus, Angelo Cella, and the Cardinals and bishops present, as well as the priests concelebrating, and I assure of my special prayer the elderly or sick who are united with us in spirit. I greet the Italian Government representatives and the regional, provincial and municipal authorities, with special gratitude to the Mayor and Administration of Frosinone. To each one of you, brothers and sisters who are gathered here, I extend my cordial greetings and sincere thanks for your warm welcome.
2. "God is greater than our hearts". So we sang in the Gospel acclamation. If in the First Reading Moses proves that he knows God's heart and can implore forgiveness for his unfaithful people (cf. Ex Ex 32,11-13), it is today's Gospel that fully introduces us to the mystery of God's mercy: Jesus reveals to all of us the countenance of God, enabling us to know intimately the heart of the Father, who is ready to rejoice when his lost son returns.
The Apostle Paul is also a privileged witness of divine mercy: as was proclaimed in the Second Reading, in writing to his faithful collaborator, Timothy, he holds up his own conversion as proof that Christ came into the world to save sinners (cf. 1Tm 1,15-16).
This is the truth that the Church never tires of proclaiming: God loves us with an infinite love. He gave to humanity his Only-begotten Son who died on the Cross for the remission of our sins. Believing in Jesus therefore means recognizing him as the Saviour to whom we can say, from the depths of our hearts: "You are my hope" and, with all our brethren, "You are our hope".
3. "Jesus our hope!". Dear friends, I know that this expression is now familiar to you. Indeed, it is the theme of your diocese's pastoral plan for the coming years. How I hope that my visit will help to impress this certainty more deeply on your hearts! The commitment, plans and work of each and every community must become a Gospel witness that is rooted in the joyful hope of God's love and forgiveness!
God's forgiveness! May this joyful announcement that in a special way today's world needs live at the heart of your lives, dear priests, who are called to be ministers of divine mercy, which is expressed in the pardon of sins in its highest degree. I wished to dedicate the Letter to Priests for last Holy Thursday to the sacrament of Reconciliation. Therefore, in spirit, I once again entrust this message to you, dear brothers in the priesthood, imploring for each of you and for the entire presbyterate the superabundance of grace of which the Apostle Paul spoke (cf. 1Tm 1,14).
As for you, men and women religious, by your example may you radiate the joy of those who have experienced the mystery of God's love, expressed in the Gospel acclamation: "We know and believe the love God has for us" (cf. 1Jn 4,16).
Meditating, loving and reflection on the Gospel means listening to the Word of the Lord
4. In our time we urgently need to proclaim Christ, Redeemer of man, so that his love may be known by all and may spread in every direction. The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 has been a providential opportunity to announce him. But we must continue on this path. At the closing of the Holy Year, I repeated to the Church and to the world Christ's invitation to Peter: "Duc in altum - Put out into the deep" (Lc 5,4).
I renew this invitation to you, people of the Diocese of Frosinone-Veroli-Ferentino, so that it may guide you in a courageous spiritual renewal, to become a concrete pastoral plan. Build your present and your future keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus. He is all: all for the Church, all for man's salvation. With the Jubilee, the universal Church set out to seek the face of Christ. She must be more conscious of the need, the passion of contemplating the light that comes from that face to reflect it in her own daily journey: Jesus-Son of God; Jesus-the Eucharist; Jesus-Charity. Jesus our hope! Jesus, all for us.
1304 May strong periods of study and reflection on the Word of God be multiplied in parish communities. Meditating, studying and loving Sacred Scripture means humbly and attentively listening to the Lord, so that the community may grow around the table of his Word: it enlightens approaches and choices, points to the goals to strive for, but, first and foremost, it kindles faith in souls, feeds hope and invigorates the desire to proclaim the Good News to one and all. This is the new evangelization for which your diocesan community has set up a special "pastoral centre".
5. Dear brothers and sisters! May the heart and guide of your spiritual and apostolic journey be the Eucharist. Indeed, sacramental life is the source of grace and salvation for the Church. Everything begins with Christ-the Eucharist, everything returns to the living Christ, heart of the world, heart of the diocesan and parish community. If you succeed, as I hope you will, in putting Christ at the centre of your lives, you will find not only that he asks each one of you personally to accept him, but to offer, give, dispense, and communicate him to others. You should do this in his name as "Good Samaritans" among the needy, the poor, the most underprivileged, and the many immigrants who have arrived in this region from far-away countries. You will find that all the pastoral activity of centres "for worship and sanctification" and for "ministeriality and the witness of charity" springs from the overflowing source of holiness that is the mystery of the Eucharist that calls everyone to aspire to holiness.
Walking in the footsteps of the men and women saints of this region of the Ciociaria, you too have set yourselves the fundamental goal of becoming holy, just as your heavenly Father is holy, as his Son Jesus Christ is holy and as the Spirit who dwells in our hearts is holy. And one becomes holy with prayer, with participation in the Eucharist, with works of charity, with the witness of a good life that is humble and generous.
6. I would like to address a special word to parents. Dear mothers and fathers, show your children by your own dedication that God is good and greatly loving. Show them with an honest and hard-working life that holiness is the "normal" way for Christians.
On Sunday, 21 October, I will have the joy of raising a couple, a Roman husband and wife to the honour of the altars: the married couple, Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi. Their beatification will be celebrated in the context of the National Meeting for Families organized by the Italian Bishops' Conference in St Peter's Square, Rome, on Saturday afternoon, 20, and on Sunday, 21 October. To both these events, in which I wish to take part personally, I invite the bishops, priests and all Italian families, especially those of the Lazio region in which the two new blesseds lived.
They will be an opportunity for us to reflect on the vocation to holiness of Christian families and at the same time, to acquire a greater knowledge of the social role of families and to ask institutions to protect and promote the family with proper laws and norms.
Diocese of Frosinone-Veroli-Ferentino, be a family of saints! In this beloved land of Ciociaria, the home of famous figures and generous servants of the Gospel, may you be the "salt of the earth" and "light of the world" (Mt 5,13-14).
May Mary, Mother of the Church accompany you with her intercession so that, just as you prayed intensely to prepare for this pastoral visit, you may continue to be a lively community, firm in faith, united in hope and persevering in charity.
At the end of Mass and before praying the Angelus, the Holy Father addressed a few words to the young people.
I cannot leave without first addressing a special greeting to you, young people of Ciociaria, who wanted to offer me this pleasant and lovely improvisation. I thank the two young people who have expressed your sentiments, sharing with me your enthusiasm and the desire to look at life with confidence, without allowing yourselves to be discouraged by difficulties.
1305 Dear young people, remember! Jesus Christ, "our hope" is a sure compass to guide you on your journey. Look to him and trust in him, advancing courageously on the path to holiness. Continue without hesitation, along with the entire diocesan community, under the guidance of your bishop and priests. The Lord is counting on each one of you; he wants you to play the lead in the civilization of life and love. Help one another to be witnesses of the Gospel and apostles among your peers.
I greet you individually and make an appointment with you, at least in spirit, for the great meeting of the Christian youth of the world which, please God, will take place in July next year, in Toronto, for World Youth Day. Prepare for this great youth meeting, which has henceforth become, as it were, a formative itinerary for thousands and thousands of young Catholics of every continent. Prepare yourselves for it with prayer and make sure that you take advantage of each day to grow in getting to know and love Christ and in serving in a concrete way your brothers and sisters.
The Pope follows you with prayer and blesses you with affection.
Astana – Square of the Motherland
Sunday, 23 September 2001
1. "There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all" (1Tm 2,5).
These words from the Apostle Paul’s First Letter to Timothy contain the central truth of Christian faith; and it is my joy to announce this truth to you today, dear Brothers and Sisters of Kazakhstan. I come among you as an apostle of Christ and a witness to him; I come as a friend to all people of good will. To each and every one I come to offer the peace and love of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
I know your history. I know the sufferings to which many of you have been subjected, when the previous totalitarian regime took you from your lands of origin and deported you here in a situation of distress and deprivation. I am happy to be here today among you and to tell you that you are close to the Pope’s heart.
With affection I embrace each of you, dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood. I extend special greetings to Bishop Tomasz Peta, Apostolic Administrator of Astana, and I thank him for the words he has spoken on your behalf. I greet the representatives of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, as well as the representatives of other Religions found in this vast Eurasian region. I greet His Excellency the President of the Republic, and the civil and military authorities and all who are united with us in this celebration.
2. "There is one God". The Apostle proclaims before all else the absolute oneness of God. This is a truth which Christians inherited from the children of Israel and which they share with Muslims: it is faith in the one God, "Lord of heaven and earth" (Lc 10,21), almighty and merciful.
In the name of this one God, I turn to the people of deep and ancient religious traditions, the people of Kazakhstan. I turn as well to those who belong to no religion and to those who are searching for truth. To them let me repeat the well-known words of Saint Paul, which it was my joy to hear repeated last May at the Areopagus in Athens: "[God] is not far from each one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being" (Ac 17,27-28). And I recall what was written by your great poet Abai Kunanbai: "Can his existence really be doubted / if every thing on the earth bears witness to him?" (Poetry, 14).
1306 3. "There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus". After proclaiming the mystery of God, the Apostle contemplates Christ, the one mediator of salvation. His is a mediation, Saint Paul notes in another of his Letters, which works through poverty: "Though he was rich, he became poor for your sake, so that by his poverty you might become rich" (2Co 8,9).
Jesus "did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped" (Ph 2,6); he did not want to appear before our humanity, which is poor and fragile, in his overwhelming superiority. Had he done so, he would have obeyed the logic not of God but of the potentates of this world, denounced unequivocally by the prophets of Israel, like Amos, from whom today’s First Reading is taken.
The life of Jesus was in full harmony with the saving plan of the Father, "who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1Tm 2,4). He bore faithful witness to the divine will, giving "himself as a ransom for all" (1Tm 2,6). Giving himself completely in love, Jesus won for us friendship with God, which had been lost because of sin. This "logic of love" is what he holds out to us, asking us to live it above all through generosity to those in need. It is a logic which can bring together Christians and Muslims, and commit them to work together for the "civilization of love". It is a logic which overcomes all the cunning of this world and allows us to make true friends who will welcome us "into the eternal dwelling-places" (Lc 16,9), into the "homeland" of heaven.
4. Dearly beloved, humanity’s homeland is the Kingdom of heaven! How compelling it is for us to ponder this truth in this place, in the Square which bears the name of the Mother Land, and where stands the monument symbolizing it. The Second Vatican Council taught that there is a link between human history and the Kingdom of God, between the various stages of society’s progress and the final goal towards which humanity is called by the free decision of God (cf. Gaudium et Spes, GS 33-39).
The tenth anniversary of the independence of Kazakhstan, which you celebrate this year, prompts us to view things in this perspective. What link is there between this earthly homeland, with its values and goals, and the heavenly homeland, into which the whole human family is called to enter beyond every injustice and conflict? The Council’s answer is enlightening: "Earthly progress must be distinguished from the unfolding of the Kingdom of Christ, but to the extent that it contributes to a better ordering of human society, it is most important for the Kingdom of God" (ibid., 39).
5. Christians are both inhabitants of this world and citizens of the Kingdom of heaven. They commit themselves wholeheartedly to the building of earthly society, but they remain focused upon the good things of eternity, as if looking to a superior and surpassing model in order to implement it ever more effectively in everyday life.
Christianity does not lead to alienation from the tasks of this earth. If at times, in some quite particular situations, it gives this impression, that is because many Christians do not live as they should. But in truth, when it is lived as it should be, Christianity is a leaven in society, producing growth and maturity on the human level and opening society to the transcendent dimension of the Kingdom of Christ, in which the new humanity will be fully accomplished.
This spiritual dynamism draws strength from prayer, as today’s Second Reading made clear. And in this celebration we want to pray for Kazakhstan and its inhabitants, so that this vast nation, with all its ethnic, cultural and religious variety, will grow stronger in justice, solidarity and peace. May it progress on the basis in particular of cooperation between Christians and Muslims, committed day by day, side by side, in the effort to fulfil God’s will.
6. Yet prayer must always be accompanied by appropriate works. Following Christ’s example, the Church never separates evangelization from human promotion, and she urges the faithful in every circumstance to work for social renewal and progress.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, may the "Mother Land" of Kazakhstan find in you her loving and concerned children, faithful to the spiritual and cultural heritage received from your forebears and able to adapt this heritage to new demands.
In keeping with the Gospel, distinguish yourself by your humility and integrity, offering your talents for the sake of the common good and showing special concern for the weakest and most disadvantaged. Respect for each one’s rights, even when that person has different personal beliefs, is the foundation of all truly human harmony.
1307 In deep and practical ways, have an attitude of communion among yourselves and towards everyone, drawing inspiration from what the Acts of the Apostles tell us of the first community of believers (Ac 2,44-45 Ac 4,32). At the Eucharistic table, your charity is nourished: bear witness to it in fraternal love and in service to the poor, the sick and the abandoned. Bring people together and work for reconciliation and peace between individuals and groups, nurturing genuine dialogue so that the truth will always emerge.
7. Love the family! Defend and promote it as the basic cell of human society; nurture it as the prime sanctuary of life. Give great care to the preparation of engaged couples and be close to young married couples, so that they will be for their children and the whole community an eloquent testimony of God’s love.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, deeply moved with joy, I want to exhort you and all the believers united with us in the words which I have often repeated as we begin this millennium: Duc in altum!
With affection I embrace you, people of Kazakhstan, and I encourage you to bring to completion all your projects of love and salvation. God will never abandon you. Amen.
Astana – Cathedral of the Vergin of Perpetual Help
Monday, 24 September 2001
1. Let the people "...rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel" (Esd 1,3)
With these words Cyrus, King of Persia, granted freedom to "the remnant of Israel" and ordered the exiles to rebuild in Jerusalem the holy place, where the name of God could be adored. This was a duty the exiles gladly accepted, and they set out with enthusiasm towards the land of their fathers.
We can imagine the excitement of their hearts, the haste of their preparations, the tears of joy and the hymns of gratitude which preceded and accompanied their steps as they returned to their Homeland. After the tears of the Exile, "the remnant of Israel" could laugh once again, as they hastened towards Jerusalem, the City of God. At last they could sing their songs of thanksgiving for the great wonders which the Lord had worked in their midst (cf. Ps Ps 126,1-2).
2. Similar feelings fill our own hearts today, as we celebrate this Eucharist in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace. After the Communist oppression, you too – not unlike exiles – once more return to proclaim together your common faith.Today, ten years after regaining your freedom, you remember the struggles of the past and you sing praise to the provident mercy of the Lord, who does not abandon his children in their distress. I have long looked forward to today’s meeting in order to share your joy.
With fraternal affection I greet Bishop Jan Pawel Lenga of Karaganda, who this year celebrates his tenth anniversary as a Bishop. I thank him for the gracious words which he addressed to me and I join him in thanking God for the good he has done in service of the Church. I would also have liked to visit his Diocese, but that was not possible. With similar affection I greet Bishop Tomasz Peta, the Apostolic Administrator of Astana, Bishop Henry Theophilus Howaniec, the Apostolic Administrator of Almaty, and the Reverend Janusz Kaleta, the Apostolic Administrator of Atyrau. I greet the Superiors of the Missions sui iuris and all my Brother Bishops here present.
1308 My cordial greeting also goes to you, dear priests, men and women religious and seminarians from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. I embrace you all with deep appreciation for the generosity and fidelity with which you carry out your labours. Through you I wish to be present to your communities and the individual Christians who form them. Dear Brothers and Sisters! Remain ever faithful to the Lord of life. Together rebuild his living temple which is the ecclesial community spread throughout this vast Eurasian region.
3. Rebuild the temple of the Lord: this is the mission to which you have been called and to which you have devoted yourselves. My thoughts turn at this time to your communities, once scattered and sorely tried. In heart and in spirit I relive the unspeakable trials of all those who suffered not only physical exile and imprisonment, but public ridicule and violence because they chose not to renounce the faith.
Here I wish to mention, among others, Blessed Oleksa Zarytsky, priest and martyr, who died in the gulag of Dolynka; Blessed Mykyta Budka, Bishop, who died in the gulag of Karadzar; Bishop Alexander Chira, for over twenty years the beloved and generous Pastor of Karaganda, who in his last letter wrote: "I consign my body to the earth, my spirit to the Lord, but my heart I give to Rome. Yes, with my final breath I desire to profess my complete fidelity to Christ’s Vicar on earth". I also recall Father Tadeusz Federowicz, whom I know personally and who "invented" a new form of pastoral care for deportees.
In this Eucharist, I remember them all with gratitude and affection. From their sufferings in union with the Cross of Christ the new life of your Christian community has blossomed.
4. Like the exiles who returned to Jerusalem, you too will find "brothers and sisters who will help you greatly" (cf. Ezra Esd 1,6). My presence among you today is meant to be a pledge of solidarity on the part of the universal Church. The challenging work before you depends, with God’s necessary help, upon your wisdom, your commitment, and your sensitivity. You are called to be the carpenters, the builders, the masons and the craftsmen of the spiritual temple to be rebuilt.
Dear priests, the spirit of communion and of genuine cooperation which you must foster between yourselves and the lay faithful will be the secret to the success of this exalting and demanding mission. In your daily ministry let yourselves be guided by the new commandment given us by Christ on the eve of his Passion: "Love one another" (Jn 13,34). This is the theme which you have fittingly chosen for my Pastoral Visit. It commits you to living the mystery of communion in the proclamation of the word of life, in liturgical worship, in caring for the younger generation, in training catechists, in promoting Catholic associations and in showing concern for those in material or spiritual need. In this way, in union with your Ordinaries and together with the men and women religious, you will be able to rebuild the temple of the Lord!
5. During these ten years of rediscovered liberty much has been accomplished, thanks to the tireless zeal for evangelization which has been your hallmark. External structures, however, must be matched by a solid interior foundation. It is important, then, to ensure the theological, spiritual and pastoral formation of those whom the Lord calls to his service.
I am very pleased at the opening of the new seminary in Karaganda for seminarians from the Republics of Central Asia. Together with the Diocesan Centre, you have chosen to dedicate it to a zealous priest, Father Wladyslaw Bukowinski, who throughout the difficult years of Communism continued to exercise his ministry in that city. "We have been ordained not to spare ourselves" – he wrote in his memoirs – "but, if necessary, to give our lives for the flock of Christ". I myself had the good fortune to know him and to appreciate his deep faith, the wisdom of his words, and his unshakeable confidence in God’s power. To him and to all those who spent their lives amid hardships and persecutions I wish to pay homage today, in the name of the whole Church.
May these faithful servants of the Gospel be an example and an encouragement for you too, dear consecrated men and women, who are called to be a sign of complete self-giving and love in the service of God’s Kingdom. As I observed in my Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata: "The Church and society itself need people capable of devoting themselves totally to God and to others for the love of God" (No. 105). You are asked to offer that spiritual uplift which the world so greatly needs.
6. Before being heralds of the Gospel, we need to be credible witnesses. Now that the political and social climate has been freed from the burden of totalitarian oppression – and let us hope that the State will never again seek to limit the freedom of believers – there is a great need for every disciple of Christ to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth (cf. Mt Mt 4,13-14). Indeed, this need is all the more urgent because of the spiritual devastation left behind by militant atheism, as well as the dangers present in today’s hedonism and consumerism.
To the power of witness, dear Brothers and Sisters, add the gentleness of dialogue.Kazakhstan is a land of people of diverse origins, followers of different religions, heirs to illustrious cultures and a rich history. The sage Abai Kunanbai, an authoritative representative of Kazakh culture, spoke from a great heart when he said: "Precisely because we worship God fully and have faith in him, we have no right to claim that we must force others to believe in him and worship him" (Sayings, Chapter 45).
1309 The Church has no wish to impose her own faith on others. It is clear, however, that this does not exempt the Lord’s disciples from communicating to others the great gift which they have received: life in Christ. "We should not fear that it will be considered an offence to the identity of others what is rather the joyful proclamation of a gift meant for all, and to be offered to all with the greatest respect for the freedom of each one: the gift of the revelation of the God who is love" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 56). The more we bear witness to the love of God, the more that love grows in our hearts.
7. Dear Brothers and Sisters, when your apostolic efforts are bathed in tears, when the road becomes steep and rocky, think of the good things the Lord is accomplishing by using your hands, your words and your hearts. He has put you here as a gift for your neighbour. May you ever be worthy of this mission.
Mary, Queen of Peace, sustain these your children. Today they entrust themselves to you with renewed confidence. Our Lady of Perpetual Help, from this Cathedral you embrace the whole Catholic community. Help the faithful to be generous and committed in bearing witness to their faith, so that the Gospel of your Son may resound throughout these vast, immense and beloved lands. Amen!
S. John Paul II Homil. 1300