VATICAN, Jan. 8, 01 (CWNews.com) -- Pope John Paul II has been
honored with a special gold medal by the US Congress, in recognition
of his work in favor of human life and peace.
The Congressional medal has previously given to important
international figures since the end of the 18th century. Among the
previous recipients were Mother Teresa of Calcutta and last year
Cardinal John J. O'Connor of New York.
Pope John Paul received the medal in a private ceremony in the
Clementine room at the Vatican, at which about 50 American
legislators represented their Congressional colleagues. The award was
accompanied by a citation commending the Pontiff for his "message
of hope" to the world, his defense of the unborn, his support for
peace especially in the Middle East.
In accepting the award, Pope John Paul reflected that it was a
recognition of his ministry as successor to Peter. He said that during
the 23 years of his pontificate he had attempted to call attention to
Jesus Christ, "who alone reveals man to himself and makes him
acquainted with his sublime destiny."
The Pope also urged the American lawmakers to protect the dignity
of human life "without compromise."
Following is the text of the Holy Father's reply provided by ZENIT.
Members of Congress,
I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican this morning, and I am
honored by the gracious gesture which has brought you here. It is not
for the Successor of the Apostle Peter to seek honors, but I gladly
accept the Congressional Gold Medal as a recognition that in my
ministry there has echoed a word that can touch every human heart. It
has been my endeavor to proclaim the word of God, which on the very
first page of the Bible tells us that man and woman have been created
in his very image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26).
From this great truth there flows all that the Church says and does
to defend human dignity and to promote human life. This is a truth
which we contemplate in the glory of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
crucified and risen from the dead. In the years of my ministry, but
especially in the Jubilee Year just ended, I have invited all to turn
to Jesus in order to discover in new and deeper ways the truth of
man. For it is Christ alone Who fully reveals man to himself and
makes known his sublime destiny (cf. "Gaudium et Spes", 22). To see
the truth of Christ is to experience with deep amazement the worth
and dignity of every human being, which is the Good News of the
Gospel and the heart of Christianity (cf. "Redemptor Hominis", 10).
I accept this award as a sign that you, as legislators, recognize the
importance of defending human dignity without compromise, so that
your nation may not fail to live up to its high responsibilities in a
world where human rights are so often disregarded. Therefore, Ladies
and Gentlemen, I thank you for this Congressional Gold Medal. In
offering my good wishes for the New Year, I invoke upon you, your
families and all whom you represent "the peace of God which is beyond
understanding" (Philippians 4:7). May God bless you all!