Each year, the Pope get together with Curial officials just before Christmas, to exchange greetings and to look back on the work of the passing year. After a formal Christmas greeting from the Curia, represented by the dean of the College of Cardinals (in this case Cardinal Bernardin Gantin), the Pope offered his own comments.
The Holy Father cited a passage from the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead-- who, as he pointed out, was not a Catholic, and in fact had no ties with any Christian church-- to open his remarks. "The life of Christ is not a demonstration of omnipotent force," Whitehead wrote. "His glory is for those who are able to discover it; it is not of this world. His power rests in the fact that he has renounced force." Whitehead argued that Jesus thus set the highest ethical ideals for Christianity, and also divided the course of human history.
For this reason, the Pope continued, the Church now sets her sights on the celebration of the 2000th anniversary of the Incarnation. He insisted, "we cannot forget that the Jubilee is, above all, a great gift of the Lord, through his Church, for all of humanity."
Looking back across 1997, the Pope recalled his six international voyages: to Sarajevo, the Czech Republic, Lebanon, Poland, Paris, and Rio de Janeiro. He also mentioned his anticipation of his January 1998 trip to Cuba.
As particularly significant events in Rome, he mentioned the publication of the official "editio typica"-- that is, the final Latin- language version-- of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the proclamation of St. Therese of Lisieux as a Doctor of the Church.
Looking around the world's stage, he mentioned the death of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, "who the Lord called to Himself after a life totally spent in the service of the poorest of the poor." He said that Mother Teresa's example "remains for believers and non-believers alike" a challenge that must be respected and accepted.
Speaking of the steps taken toward ecumenical unity, and of the work of the Synod (especially the Synod of the Americas, which concluded recently), the Pope said that the work accomplished in these areas reflected the promptings of the Second Vatican Council. The "aggiornamento" proposed by that Council, he said, was an act of "double fidelity to God and to man," insofar as it exemplifies the desire to serve mankind, "but without compromise with the contemporary world."