FRIDAY
March 3-5, 2000
volume 11, no. 45

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THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS         INTRODUCTION

    Today we bring you the Holy Father's weekly message from his Papal Audience this past Wednesday in which he spoke of the "culminating" point of his trip to Egypt, reflecting on the spiritual "high" of his time on Mount Sinai and in looking ahead to a visit to another mountain - the Mount of Beatitudes in the Holy Land which he will undertake in three weeks. The full English text was translated and provided by ZENIT news agency ZE00030120.


The Holy Father's Wednesday Papal Audience for March 1, 2000

    Dearest Brothers and Sisters!

    1. With great joy I was able to go on a pilgrimage last week to Egypt, in the footsteps of Moses. This extraordinary experience culminated with the stop at the foot of Mount Sinai, the Holy Mountain: holy because in it God was revealed to his servant Moses and made manifest his Name to Moses; holy, moreover, because there God gave to his people the gift of the Law, the Ten Commandments; holy, finally, because the constant presence there of believers made Mount Sinai a place of prayer.

        I am grateful to God for His having allowed me to stop in prayer in the place where He introduced Moses to a more clear understanding of his mystery, speaking to him from the Burning Bush, and where he offered to Moses and the chosen people the Law of the Covenant, that is, the law of life and of freedom for everyone. God made himself the foundation and guarantee of this covenant.

    2. As I mentioned last Saturday, the Ten Commandments open before us the only authentically human future, because they are not the arbitrary imposition of a tyrannical God. Yahweh wrote them in stone, but he inscribed them above all in the human heart as the universal moral law, valid and current in every place and time. This law prevents egotism and hatred, lying and contempt, which destroy the human person. The Ten Commandments, with their constant recalling of the divine Covenant, show that the Lord is our only God, and that every other divinity is false and ends up reducing the human being to slavery, making him degrade his own human dignity.

        "Hear, O Israel... You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children..." (Dt 6:4-7). These words, which the pious Hebrew repeats daily, also resounds in the heart of every Christian. "Listen! Fix these precepts in your heart!" We cannot think of being faithful to God without observing his Law. Besides, to be faithful to God is to be faithful to ourselves, to our profound and unsupressible aspirations.

    3. I am grateful to Archbishop Damianos, Ecumenicos of St. Catherinešs Monastery, and to his monks for the great cordiality with which they welcomed me. The Archbishop, who met me at the entrance of the Monastery, showed me the precious "Biblical relics" kept there, such as Jethro's Well, and above all the roots of the "Burning Bush," next to which I knelt, thinking over the words with which God revealed the mystery of his being to Moses: "I am who am." I was also able to admire the stupendous works of art there, which flourished in the course of centuries of monastic contemplation and prayer.

        Before the celebration of the Word, Archbishop Damianos recalled that, right above us rose Mount Horeb, with the summit of Sinai, the mountaintop of the Decalogue, in which "in fire and obscurity" God spoke to Moses. For centuries in this context a monastic community pursued the ideal of Christian perfection in "a constant compulsion of nature and an indefatigable control of the senses," availing itself of the traditional means of spiritual dialogue and ascetic practice. At the end of this meeting, the Archbishop and some of his monks kindly accompanied me to the airport.

    4. I willingly take this opportunity to once again express my thanks to Present Mubarak, to the Egyptian authorities and to those who contributed to the realization of my trip. Egypt is the cradle of a very ancient civilization. The Christian faith has been there since the time of the apostles, especially with St. Mark, disciple of Peter and Paul and founder of the Church in Alexandria.

        During the pilgrimage I met with His Holiness Patriarch Shenouda III, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and with Mohamed Sayed Tantawi, Great Sheik of Al-Azhar and religious head of the Muslim community. To them I express my gratitude, which extends also to His Beatitude Stephanos II Ghattas, Patriarch of the Coptic Catholics, and to the other Archbishops and Bishops present.

        Renewing my salutations to the small but fervent Catholic community that I met during the solemn celebration of the Holy Mass in Cairo, in which all the Catholic churches of Egypt participated: the Coptics, the Latins, the Maronites, the Greeks, the Armenians, the Syriacs, and the Chaldeans. Within the Lord's Supper we celebrated our common faith and appealed to God the enthusiasm of life and of apostolate of our Egyptian brothers and sisters, who with many sacrifices and much generosity witnessed to their faithful adherence to the Gospel in the country in which the Holy Family took refuge two thousand years ago.

        I retain a grateful memory of that significant meeting with representatives and faithful of the Churches and non-Catholic ecclesiastical communities present in Egypt. The ecumenical progress that, thanks to the Holy Spirit, was made during the twentieth century can enjoy further developments which bring us ever closer to the goal of full unity, for which the Lord Jesus ardently prayed.

    5. Today, Mount Sinai makes me think of another mount which, God willing, I will have the joy to visit at the end of this month: the Mount of the Beatitudes in Galilee. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that he did not come to abolish the Old Law, but to perfect it (cf Mt 5:17). In fact, from the time the Word of God took flesh and died on the cross for us, we hear the Ten Commandments through his voice. Jesus makes the Ten Commandments take root in the hearts of those who believe in Him by means of the new life of grace. However, Jesus' disciples did not feel oppressed by a multitude of prescriptions, but, compelled by the force of love, they recognized God's Commandments as a law of freedom: freedom to love, thanks to the interior action of the Spirit.

        The Beatitudes constitute the evangelical completion of the Law of Sinai. The Covenant, drawn up with the Hebrew people, found its perfection in the new and eternal Covenant ratified in the blood of Christ. Christ is the New Law, and in Him salvation is offered to all people.

        To Christ Jesus I entrust the next stop of my jubilee pilgrimage: the Holy Land. I ask you all to accompany me with prayer in preparation, especially spiritual, for this important event.


          

March 3-5, 2000
volume 10, no. 45
THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS

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