Dearest Brothers and Sisters,
"Recalling the Lord's words, 'because of this all will know that your
are My disciples, that you love one another' (John 13,35), Christians
cannot desire anything more ardently than to serve men and women of the
contemporary world with greater generosity and effectiveness" (Gaudium
et Spes, 93).
This task, which Vatican Council II assigned us in closing the Pastoral
Constitution on 'The Church in the Modern World,' responds to the
fascinating challenge to build a world animated by the law of love, a
civilization of love, "based on universal values of peace, solidarity,
justice and liberty, which find their fulfillment in Christ" (Tertio
Millennio Adveniente, 52).
The foundation of this civilization is the recognition of the universal
sovereignty of God the Father, as inexhaustible source of love. On the
occasion of the Great Jubilee of 2000, there must be a sincere
examination of our acceptance of this fundamental value at the end of
the millennium, to set off more rapidly toward the anticipated future.
We have witnessed the decline of ideologies that deprived so many of our
brothers of spiritual references, but the deadly fruits of a secularism
that generates religious indifference continue to exist, especially in
more developed areas. Given the situation, undoubtedly it is not a valid
answer to return to a vague religiosity, motivated by fragile instances
of compensation or the search for a psycho-cosmic balance, which are
manifest in many new religious paradigms that proclaim a religiosity
without reference to a transcendent and personal God.
It is important, therefore, to analyze carefully the causes of the loss
of the sense of God and re-propose courageously the announcement of the
Father's face, revealed in Jesus Christ in the light of the Spirit. This
revelation does not lessen but exalts the dignity of the human person as
image of God who is Love.
2. Over the past decades, the loss of the sense of God has coincided
with the progress of a nihilistic culture that impoverishes the sense of
human existence and, in the ethical field, relativizes even the
fundamental values of the family and respect for life. All this is
carried out not in a flashy way but, rather, with the subtle method of
indifference that makes all forms of behavior appear as normal, so that
moral problems will no longer stand out. Paradoxically, there is a
demand that governments recognize as 'rights' many forms of behavior
that attack human life, especially the weakest and defenseless, not to
mention the enormous difficulty of accepting another who is different,
disturbing, foreign, sick, handicapped. In fact, the increasingly strong
rejection of others as 'other' is a challenge to our conscience as
believers. As I said in the encyclical 'Evangelium Vitae': "We are faced
by a more vast reality, which can be considered a real and proper
structure of sin, characterized by the imposition of a culture that is
against solidarity, that is configured in many cases as a real 'culture
of death.' " (n.12).
3. Faced with this death-loving culture our responsibility as Christians
is expressed in the determination of the 'new evangelization,' among
whose most important fruits is the civilization of love.
The Gospel and, consequently, evangelization, are of course not
identified with one culture and are independent of all cultures
(Evangelii Nuntiandi,20), yet they possess a regenerating force that can
positively influence culture. The Christian message does not weaken
culture, destroying its peculiar characteristics; on the contrary it
acts on these interiorly, appreciating that original power that their
genius is capable of expressing. The influence of the Gospel on culture
purifies and elevates the human, making shine the beauty of life, the
harmony of peaceful coexistence, the genius that each nation contributes
to the community of men. Such an influx has its force in love, which
does not impose but proposes, giving an incentive for free adhesion, in
an atmosphere of respect and mutual acceptance.
4. The message of love that is proper to the Gospel frees situations and
human values, like solidarity, the desire for liberty and equality,
respect for pluralism in forms of expressions. The cornerstone of the
civilization of love is acknowledgement of the value of the human person
and, concretely, of all human persons. The great contribution of
Christianity is recognized in this very area. In fact, from reflection
on the mystery of the Triune God Himself and on the Person of the Word
made flesh, the anthropological doctrine of the human person as a being
in relation gradually arose. This precious acquisition has matured the
awareness of society, establishing the person as the point of departure
and the objective to reach. The social doctrine of the Church, which the
spirit of the Jubilee calls us to readdress, has contributed to base the
very laws of social coexistence on the rights of the person. The
Christian vision of the human being as image of God implies, in fact,
that the rights of the person by their nature exact respect from
society, which does not create them, but simply recognizes them (Cf.
'Gaudium et Spes', 26)
5. The Church is conscious that this doctrine can remain dead letter if
social life is not animated by the breath of an authentic religious
experience and, in particular, by Christian witness continually
nourished by the creative and healing action of the Holy Spirit. Indeed,
it is conscious that the crisis of society and of modern man is caused
to a great extent by the reduction of the specific spiritual dimension
of the human person.
Christianity offers its contribution to the construction of society in
keeping with the measure of the human person, assuring the him of a soul
and proclaiming the demands of God's law, with which every organization
and legislation of society must comply, if they intend to guarantee
human development, freedom from every kind of slavery, and genuine
This contribution of the Church takes place especially in the testimony
offered by Christians, and in particular the laity, in their daily life.
Modern man in fact accepts the message of love from witnesses far more
than from teachers, or from thse when they are authentic witnesses (Cf.
EN, 41). This is the challenge that must be addressed, so that new
horizons will open for the future of Christianity and of humanity