THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS INTRODUCTION|
Today we bring you the Holy Father's discourses for Thursday's schedule. If ever there was an ecumenical itinerary, this was it. First the Holy Father spoke where Christ pronounced the words "This is My Body", then he addressed Israel's two chief Rabbi's at the home of another Rabbi. Following this he gave a short speech at the residence of the president of Israel before his moving talk at Yad Vashem. He completed his day with a touching call for reconciliation, understanding and unity with representatives of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths at the Pontifical Institute of Notre Dame in Jerusalem. All of these in their entirety can be found in this issue. The full English text was translated and provided by ZENIT news agency ZE00032320, ZE00032323, ZE00032323, ZE00032324, and ZE00032325 .
God's covenant with His People is about to culminate in the sacrifice of His Son, the Eternal Word made flesh. The ancient prophecies are about to be fulfilled: "Sacrifices and offerings you desired not, but a body you have prepared for me... Lo, I have come to do your will, O God" (Heb 10:5,7). In the Incarnation, the Son of God, of one being with the Father, became Man and received a body from the Virgin Mary. And now, on the night before His death, He says to His disciples: "This is My Body, which will be given up for you."
It is with deep emotion that we listen once more to these words spoken here in this Upper Room two thousand years ago. Since then they have been repeated, generation after generation, by those who share in the priesthood of Christ through the Sacrament of Holy Orders. In this way, Christ Himself constantly says these words anew, through the voice of His priests in every corner of the world.
2. "This is the cup of My Blood, the Blood of the new and everlasting covenant; it will be shed for you and for all, for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of Me." In obedience to Christ's command, the Church repeats these words each day in the celebration of the Eucharist. Words which rise from the depths of the mystery of the Redemption. At the celebration of the Passover meal in the Upper Room, Jesus took the cup filled with wine, blessed it and gave it to His disciples. This was part of the Passover rite of the Old Testament. But Christ, the Priest of the new and eternal Covenant, used these words to proclaim the saving mystery of his Passion and Death.
Under the appearances of bread and wine He instituted the sacramental signs of the Sacrifice of his Body and Blood.
"By your Cross and Resurrection, you have set us free. You are the Saviour of the world". At every Holy Mass, we proclaim this "mystery of faith", which for two millennia has nourished and sustained the Church as she makes her pilgrim way amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God, proclaiming the Cross and Death of the Lord until he comes (cf. Lumen Gentium, 8). In a sense, Peter and the Apostles, in the person of their Successors, have come back today to the Upper Room, to profess the unchanging faith of the Church: "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again".
3. In fact, the First Reading of today's Liturgy leads us back to the life of the first Christian community. The disciples "devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42).
Fractio panis. The Eucharist is both a banquet of communion in the new and everlasting Covenant, and the sacrifice which makes present the saving power of the Cross. And from the very beginning the Eucharistic mystery has always been linked to the teaching and fellowship of the Apostles and to the proclamation of God's word, spoken first through the Prophets and now, once and for all, in Jesus Christ (cf. Heb 1:1-2). Wherever the words "This is my Body" and the invocation of the Holy Spirit are pronounced, the Church is strengthened in the faith of the Apostles and in the unity which has the Holy Spirit as its origin and bond.
4. Saint Paul, the Apostle of the Nations, saw clearly that the Eucharist, as our sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ, is also a mystery of spiritual communion in the Church. "We, many though we are, are one body, for we all partake of the same bread" (1 Cor 10:17). In the Eucharist, Christ the Good Shepherd, who gave His life for the sheep, remains present in His Church. What is the Eucharist, if not the sacramental presence of Christ in all who share in the one bread and the one cup? This presence is the Church's greatest wealth. Through the Eucharist, Christ builds up the Church. The hands which broke bread for the disciples at the Last Supper were to be stretched out on the Cross in order to gather all people to Himself in the eternal Kingdom of His Father. Through the celebration of the Eucharist, He never ceases to draw men and women to be effective members of His Body.
5. "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again". This is the "mystery of faith" which we proclaim in every celebration of the Eucharist. Jesus Christ, the Priest of the new and eternal Covenant, has redeemed the world by his Blood. Risen from the dead, He has gone to prepare a place for us in His Father's house. In the Spirit Who has made us God's beloved children, in the unity of the Body of Christ, we await His return with joyful hope.
This Year of the Great Jubilee is a special opportunity for priests to grow in appreciation of the mystery which they celebrate at the Altar. For that reason I wish to sign this year's Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday here in the Upper Room, where the one priesthood of Jesus Christ, in which we all share, was instituted.
Celebrating this Eucharist in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, we are united with the Church of every time and place. United with the Head, we are in communion with Peter and the Apostles and their Successors down the ages. In union with Mary, the Saints and Martyrs, and all the baptized who have lived in the grace of the Holy Spirit, we cry out: Maranatha! "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Cf. Rev 22:17).
Bring us, and all Your chosen ones, to the fullness of grace in Your eternal Kingdom. Amen.
It is with deep respect that I visit you here today and thank you for receiving me at Hechal Shlomo.
Truly this is a uniquely significant meeting which - I hope and pray - will lead to increasing contacts between Christians and Jews, aimed at achieving an ever deeper understanding of the historical and theological relationship between our respective religious heritages. Personally, I have always wanted to be counted among those who work, on both sides, to overcome old prejudices and to secure ever wider and fuller recognition of the spiritual patrimony shared by Jews and Christians. I repeat what I said on the occasion of my visit to the Jewish Community in Rome, that we Christians recognize that the Jewish religious heritage is intrinsic to our own faith: "you are our elder brothers" (cf. Address at the Synagogue of Rome, 13 April 1986, 4). We hope that the Jewish people will acknowledge that the Church utterly condemns anti-Semitism and every form of racism as being altogether opposed to the principles of Christianity. We must work together to build a future in which there will be no more anti-Judaism among Christians or anti-Christian sentiment among Jews.
There is much that we have in common. There is so much that we can do together for peace, for justice, for a more human and fraternal world. May the Lord of heaven and earth lead us to a new and fruitful era of mutual respect and cooperation, for the benefit of all! Thank you.
Members of the Knesset,
I am most grateful, Mr President, for the welcome you have given me to Israel. To this meeting we both bring long histories. You represent Jewish memory, reaching beyond the recent history of this land to your peoples unique journey through the centuries and millennia. I come as one whose Christian memory reaches back through the two thousand years since the birth of Jesus in this very Land.
History, as the ancients held, is the Magistra vitae, a teacher of how to live. This is why we must be determined to heal the wounds of the past, so that they may never be opened again. We must work for a new era of reconciliation and peace between Jews and Christians. My visit is a pledge that the Catholic Church will do everything possible to ensure that this is not just a dream but a reality. We know that real peace in the Middle East will come only as a result of mutual understanding and respect between all the peoples of the region: Jews, Christians and Muslims. In this perspective, my pilgrimage is a journey of hope: the hope that the twenty-first century will lead to a new solidarity among the peoples of the world, in the conviction that development, justice and peace will not be attained unless they are attained for all.
Building a brighter future for the human family is a task which concerns us all. That is why I am pleased to greet you, Government Ministers, members of the Knesset and Diplomatic Representatives of many countries, who must make and implement decisions which affect the lives of people. It is my fervent hope that a genuine desire for peace will inspire your every decision. With that as my prayer, I invoke abundant divine blessings upon you, Mr President, upon your country, and upon all of you who have honoured me with your presence. Thank you.
The words of the ancient Psalm rise from our hearts: "I have become like a broken vessel. I hear the whispering of many terror on every side! as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life. But I trust in You, O Lord; I say, 'You are my God'" (Ps 31:13-15).
1. In this place of memories, the mind and heart and soul feel an extreme need for silence. Silence in which to remember. Silence in which to try to make some sense of the memories which come flooding back. Silence because there are no words strong enough to deplore the terrible tragedy of the Shoah.
My own personal memories are of all that happened when the Nazis occupied Poland during the War. I remember my Jewish friends and neighbours, some of whom perished, while others survived. I have come to Yad Vashem to pay homage to the millions of Jewish people who, stripped of everything, especially of their human dignity, were murdered in the Holocaust. More than half a century has passed, but the memories remain. Here, as at Auschwitz and many other places in Europe, we are overcome by the echo of the heart-rending laments of so many. Men, women and children cry out to us from the depths of the horror that they knew. How can we fail to heed their cry? No one can forget or ignore what happened. No one can diminish its scale.
2. We wish to remember. But we wish to remember for a purpose, namely to ensure that never again will evil prevail, as it did for the millions of innocent victims of Nazism.
How could man have such utter contempt for man? Because he had reached the point of contempt for God. Only a Godless ideology could plan and carry out the extermination of a whole people. The honor given to the "just gentiles" by the State of Israel at Yad Vashem for having acted heroically to save Jews, sometimes to the point of giving their own lives, is a recognition that not even in the darkest hour is every light extinguished. That is why the Psalms, and the entire Bible, though well aware of the human capacity for evil, also proclaim that evil will not have the last word. Out of the depths of pain and sorrow, the believer's heart cries out: "I trust in you, O Lord; I say, 'You are my God'" (Ps 31:14).
3. Jews and Christians share an immense spiritual patrimony, flowing from God's self-revelation. Our religious teachings and our spiritual experience demand that we overcome evil with good. We remember, but not with any desire for vengeance or as an incentive to hatred. For us, to remember is to pray for peace and justice, and to commit ourselves to their cause. Only a world at peace, with justice for all, can avoid repeating the mistakes and terrible crimes of the past.
As Bishop of Rome and Successor of the Apostle Peter, I assure the Jewish people that the Catholic Church, motivated by the Gospel law of truth and love and by no political considerations, is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place. The Church rejects racism in any form as a denial of the image of the Creator inherent in every human being (cf. Gen 1:26).
4. In this place of solemn remembrance, I fervently pray that our sorrow for the tragedy which the Jewish people suffered in the twentieth century will lead to a new relationship between Christians and Jews. Let us build a new future in which there will be no more anti-Jewish feeling among Christians or anti-Christian feeling among Jews, but rather the mutual respect required of those who adore the one Creator and Lord, and look to Abraham as our common father in faith (cf. We Remember, V).
The world must heed the warning that comes to us from the victims of the Holocaust and from the testimony of the survivors. Here at Yad Vashem the memory lives on, and burns itself onto our souls. It makes us cry out: "I hear the whispering of many terror on every side! But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, 'You are my God'." (Ps 31:13-15).
1. In this year of the Two Thousandth Anniversary of the Birth of Jesus Christ, I am truly happy to be able to fulfil my long-cherished wish to make a journey through the geography of salvation history. I am deeply moved as I follow in the footsteps of the countless pilgrims who before me have prayed in the Holy Places connected with God's interventions. I am fully conscious that this Land is Holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Therefore my visit would have been incomplete without this meeting with you, distinguished religious leaders. Thank you for the support which your presence here this evening gives to the hope and conviction of so many people that we are indeed entering a new era of interreligious dialogue. We are conscious that closer ties among all believers are a necessary and urgent condition for securing a more just and peaceful world.
For all of us Jerusalem, as its name indicates, is the "City of Peace". Perhaps no other place in the world communicates the sense of transcendence and divine election that we perceive in her stones and monuments, and in the witness of the three religions living side by side within her walls. Not everything has been or will be easy in this co-existence. But we must find in our respective religious traditions the wisdom and the superior motivation to ensure the triumph of mutual understanding and cordial respect.
2. We all agree that religion must be genuinely centred on God, and that our first religious duty is adoration, praise and thanksgiving. The opening sura of the Qur'ân makes this clear: "Praise be to God, the Lord of the Universe" (Qur'an, 1:1). In the inspired songs of the Bible we hear this universal call: "Let everything that breathes give praise to the Lord! Alleluia!" (Ps 150:6). And in the Gospel we read that when Jesus was born the angels sang: "Glory to God in the highest heaven" (Lk 2:14). In our times, when many are tempted to run their affairs without any reference to God, the call to acknowledge the Creator of the universe and the Lord of history is essential in ensuring the well-being of individuals and the proper development of society.
3. If it is authentic, devotion to God necessarily involves attention to our fellow human beings. As members of the one human family and as God's beloved children, we have duties towards one another which, as believers, we cannot ignore. One of the first disciples of Jesus wrote: "If any one says, 'I love God', and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God Whom he has not seen" (1 Jn 4:20). Love of our brothers and sisters involves an attitude of respect and compassion, gestures of solidarity, cooperation in service to the common good. Thus, concern for justice and peace does not lie outside the field of religion but is actually one of its essential elements.
In the Christian view it is not for religious leaders to propose technical formulas for the solution of social, economic and political problems. Theirs is, above all, the task of teaching the truths of faith and right conduct, the task of helping people including those with responsibility in public life to be aware of their duties and to fulfil them. As religious leaders, we help people to live integrated lives, to harmonize the vertical dimension of their relationship with God with the horizontal dimension of service to their neighbour.
4. Each of our religions knows, in some form or another, the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". Precious as this rule is as a guide, true love of neighbour goes much further. It is based on the conviction that when we love our neighbour we are showing love for God, and when we hurt our neighbour we offend God. This means that religion is the enemy of exclusion and discrimination, of hatred and rivalry, of violence and conflict. Religion is not, and must not become, an excuse for violence, particularly when religious identity coincides with cultural and ethnic identity. Religion and peace go together! Religious belief and practice cannot be separated from the defence of the image of God in every human being.
Drawing upon the riches of our respective religious traditions, we must spread awareness that today's problems will not be solved if we remain ignorant of one another and isolated from one another. We are all aware of past misunderstandings and conflicts, and these still weigh heavily upon relationships between Jews, Christians and Muslims. We must do all we can to turn awareness of past offences and sins into a firm resolve to build a new future in which there will be nothing but respectful and fruitful cooperation between us.
The Catholic Church wishes to pursue a sincere and fruitful interreligious dialogue with the members of the Jewish faith and the followers of Islam. Such a dialogue is not an attempt to impose our views upon others. What it demands of all of us is that, holding to what we believe, we listen respectfully to one another, seek to discern all that is good and holy in each other's teachings, and cooperate in supporting everything that favours mutual understanding and peace.
5. The Jewish, Christian and Muslim children and young people present here are a sign of hope and an incentive for us. Each new generation is a divine gift to the world. If we pass on to them all that is noble and good in our traditions, they will make it blossom in more intense brotherhood and cooperation.
If the various religious communities in the Holy City and in the Holy Land succeed in living and working together in friendship and harmony, this will be of enormous benefit not only to themselves but to the whole cause of peace in this region. Jerusalem will truly be a City of Peace for all peoples.
Then we will all repeat the words of the Prophet: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord... that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths" (Is 2:3). To re-commit ourselves to such a task, and to do so in the Holy City of Jerusalem, is to ask God to look kindly on our efforts and bring them to a happy outcome. May the Almighty abundantly bless our common endeavours!
March 24-26, 2000 |
volume 10, no. 60
THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS
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