February 21, 2000
volume 11, no. 36

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    Today, we bring you the words from His Holiness Pope John Paul II's message at his regular Wednesday Papal Audience on February 16th in which the Holy Father surprised many by officially announcing that he would begin his historic "Jubilee Journey" of Salvation History by walking in the "Father of Faith" Abraham's footsteps in spirit not at Ur, the birth of the great patriarch, but in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican this coming Wednesday where he has invited the universal Church to walk the path with him and then follow him to Egypt the next day to accompany him in spirit in walking in the footsteps of Moses. The full English text was translated and provided by ZENIT news agency ZE00021621.

The Holy Father's regular Papal Audience address from this past Wednesday, February 16, 2000

Reliving in spirit the salient moments of Abraham's experience
    Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    1. After opening the Holy Door at each of the four Roman basilicas, we are now advancing in great strides along the ecclesial itinerary of conversion and reconciliation proposed for the Jubilee Year of 2000. As we noted earlier, one of the most significant and profound spiritual aspects of the Jubilee is pilgrimage, symbolic of the condition of every human being as "homo viator." As I pointed out in the Papal Bull of Indiction for the Jubilee Year, it "is an exercise of active religious practice, of repentance for human weaknesses, of constant vigilance over our own fragility, and of interior preparation for the reformation of the heart" (cf "Incarnationis Mysterium," 7).

        This interior meaning of pilgrimage is further deepened and fulfilled by the faith and spirituality promoted by sacred places, which according to ancient traditions are the destinations of individual and group pilgrimages. In fact, as is time, so also is space marked by particular salvific interventions of God. For this very reason, some places can foster a special contact with the divine (cf "Letter on Pilgrimage," n. 2).

    2. Aware of these fundamental spiritual aspects of pilgrimage, I decided to visit, in reference to the Jubilee celebrations, the land that was marked in a singular way by the interventions of God in salvation history. Next week I will go on a pilgrimage, God willing, to some places particularly tied to the Incarnation of the Word of God.

        It was my desire to first visit Ur of the Chaldeans (cf "Letter on Pilgrimage," 5), modern-day Tal of Muqayyar in southern Iraq, which Abraham then left with his family for Canaan (cf Gen 11:31) According to the Biblical account, the Word of the Lord spoke to him at Ur and invited him to leave his land and set out for the place which God would show to him (cf Gen 12:1-3).

        With that invitation, Abraham became an instrument of a salvific design that would embrace the future people of the Covenant and eventually all peoples of the earth. Abraham obeyed and embarked on the journey. With him God's salvation began to walk the road of human history.

    3. It is therefore important "to follow Abraham's footsteps," to rediscover the tracks of God's loving presence alongside humanity, and to relive the faith experience of the one St. Paul will describe as father of all those who believe, circumcised or not (cf Rm 4:11-12). With his faith translated into concrete and at times even dramatic choices, such as abandoning the security of his own land or sacrificing his only son Isaac, Abraham obtained that righteousness which made him a friend of God, fully accepting the divine plan for himself and for his descendants and becoming the founder of a multitude of believers.

        Walking "in Abraham's footsteps" we learn to value concretely the demands of an authentically faithful attitude, and we hope in the dynamism of the divine initiative, which has its final end in Christ.

        Aware of their own inseparable ties with the ancient people of the Covenant, Christians recognize Abraham as "Father in Faith" par excellence, and they are happy to imitate his example by walking "in his footsteps."

    4. It is for these reasons that, in the name of the entire Church, I wanted to go in prayer and reflection to Ur of the Chaldeans, from which Abraham departed. Since it is not possible for me to do this, I want to at least realize spiritually a similar pilgrimage. Therefore, next Wednesday, in a special celebration that will take place in the Paul VI Hall, we will relive together the salient moments of Abraham's experience, ever mindful that not only his physical descendants, but also his spiritual descendants, look to this great Patriarch.

        After this first stop, we will be able to continue with hearts full of gratitude toward the other stages along which Salvation History developed, to the communication on Mount Sinai, where the Most Holy Name of God was revealed to Moses and where he was introduced to the knowledge of God's mystery.

        I invite you now to accompany me in prayer on this pilgrimage to the places tied to salvation history, which will begin next Wednesday with the special celebration dedicated to Abraham, father of all believers.


February 21, 2000
volume 10, no. 36

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