CARDINALS’ SYMPOSIUM, 15-18 OCTOBER 2003: TALK 1
I deem it a singular honour to be able to address
this august gathering as we humbly thank God for his gift of Pope John
Paul II to the Church and to the world at large, and offer our warm and
affectionate congratulations to His Holiness on the Silver Jubilee of his
The theme of this conference opens before us the vast
horizon of the missionary mandate which the Church has received from its
Founder, Christ Jesus Our Lord: "Go out into the whole world and preach
the Gospel to the whole of creation" (Mk 16:15). This mandate has
challenged the Church ever since its inception, but the more so in recent
times when the winds of secularization and globalization are blowing ever
strongly all over the world and threaten to invade the sacred precincts of
the Church itself.
Christ's missionary mandate to the Church is a
continuation of the one which he himself received from his Father, "who so
loved the world that he sent his only Son so that all those who believe in
him may have eternal life".1 Jesus, the Divine emissary of the
Father, sends forth his disciples to carry on his own divine and salvific
mission: "As the Father has sent me, so do I send you".2
Though this mandate is one and unique,3
Pope John Paul II has indicated its three expressions: as "missio ad
gentes or first evangelization" of those who have not yet fully
received the Good News of Jesus Christ; as the "pastoral care" of those
who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour; and as a "new evangelization"
of those already evangelized who need to refresh and deepen their
These three expressions of the missionary mandate may
at times be found together in a particular setting. Speaking of the
European continent, for instance, in his Post-Synodal Exhortation
Ecclesia in Europa the Holy Father states: "In various parts of Europe
— which is known as a Christian continent — a first proclamation of the
Gospel is needed: the number of the unbaptized is growing, both
because of the significant presence of immigrants of other religions and
because children born into families of Christian tradition have not
received baptism, either as a result of the Communist domination or the
spread of religious indifference. Indeed, Europe is now one of those
traditionally Christian places which, in addition to a new evangelization,
require in some cases a first evangelization.... On the old
continent too, there are vast social and cultural areas which stand in
need of a true missio ad gentes".5
Besides these traditional three expressions of
evangelization the Pope has indicated new areas which cross all
geographical, cultural and social divisions: he speaks of them as an "areopagus",
and mentions among them the world of culture and research, of migrants and
poverty, of social communication and international relations underlining
the importance of information technology and the media in all its forms,
commitment to peace, development and the liberation of peoples, the rights
of individuals and groups, especially of minorities, the empowerment of
women and the education of children, the ecological safeguard of the
created world. All these, says the Pope, need to be illuminated with the
light of the Gospel, and hence come within the missionary purview of the
Church.6 In all of them the Church must continue Christ's
divine and salvific mission, and consequently always be in statu
As we consider the vast topic of "missions" in theory
and in practice during the Pontificate of Pope John Paul II, we shall
first take a general view of the actual missionary status of the Church in
countries receiving the first proclamation of the Gospel; second, we shall
consider the missionary thrust of our Holy Father in his many apostolic
visits; and third, briefly outline the missionary vision of the Church
today as exposed in the Pope's Magisterium.
I. Missionary status of the Church in
countries of the first Gospel proclamation
These countries are primarily, though not
exclusively, in Africa and Asia. It is indeed consoling to note that
during the past 25 years the missionary activity in these two continents
has registered remarkable and constant progress. If we compare the latest
statistics published by the Holy See (2001) with those at the beginning of
Pope John Paul II's Pontificate (1978), we see that the number of the
baptized rose by 148 percent in Africa8 and by 71 percent in
Asia.9 The number of Bishops went up by 43 percent in Africa10
and 28 percent in Asia,11 and most of these are native Africans
and Asians. The Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) — with its
three Churches sui iuris and almost 200 Bishops, including those
retired — is the fourth largest in the world, following those in Brazil,
Italy and the U.S.A. The diocesan and religious clergy increased by 65
percent in Africa12 and 60 percent in Asia.13
Religious women went up by 49 percent in Africa14 and 54
percent in Asia,15 and the religious brothers by 38 percent in
Africa16 and 23 percent in Asia.17 The candidates to
the priesthood and the men religious rose by 273 percent in Africa18
and 136 percent in Asia.19
Such a praiseworthy upward trend in the number of
priests, Religious and seminarians in Africa and Asia is in contrast with
the sharp decline registered in the other three continents. Besides, there
has also been a greater involvement of the Church in the fields of
education and health care, as well as in social and human development
All in all, the Church's missionary thrust in Africa
and Asia seems to have progressed remarkably well during the Pontificate
of Pope John Paul II and augurs well for the future. This optimism is
echoed in the Pope's Post-Synodal Exhortations.
In Ecclesia in Africa the Holy Father wrote:
"The Lord has visited his people in Africa. Indeed, this continent is
today experiencing what we can call a sign of the times, an
acceptable time, a day of salvation. It seems that the 'hour of
Africa' has come, a favourable time which urgently invites Christ's
messengers to launch out into the deep and to cast their nets for the
catch (cf. Lk 5:4)".20
In Ecclesia in Asia the Pope said: "With the
Church throughout the world, the Church in Asia will cross the threshold
of the Third Christian Millennium marvelling at all that God has worked
from its beginnings until now, and strong in the knowledge that just as in
the first millennium the Cross was planted on the soil of Europe, and in
the second on that of the Americas and Africa, we can pray that in the
Third Christian Millennium a great harvest of faith will be
reaped in this vast and vital continent".21 Deo gratias!
II. John Paul II is seen as
a ‘missionary Pope'
The many pastoral visits of the Holy Father to the
parishes in Rome, to the Dioceses in Italy and to numerous countries all
over the world have rightly won him the title of "a missionary Pope". In
fact, he has travelled the world over holding high the banner of the
Gospel as a harbinger of peace and a staunch defender of human dignity and
the inalienable rights of the human person. During his 102 international
visits alone the Pope has covered about a 1.2 million kilometres, which
would mean three times the distance from the earth to the moon and over 29
times the circumference of the earth.
The Holy Father has himself explained the missionary
thrust of his visits: "Indeed, since the day when I was elected Bishop of
Rome, 16 October 1978, Jesus' commandment: 'Go into all the world and
preach the Gospel to the whole creation' (Mk 16:15) has resounded in the
depths of my heart with special intensity and urgency. I felt it was my
duty, therefore, to imitate the Apostle Peter who 'went here and there
among them all' (Acts 9:32) to build up and to consolidate the Church's
vitality in fidelity to the Word and in the service of truth; to tell them
all... that God loves them, that the Church loves them, that the Pope
loves them and also wants to receive from them the encouragement and
example of their goodness, their faith. Furthermore, the apostolic
journeys have highlighted a specific dimension of the ministry proper to
the Successor of Peter, the 'lasting and visible source and foundation of
the unity both of faith and of communion' (Lumen Gentium, n.
III. ‘Mission' in Pope John Paul II's Magisterium
The Holy Father's vision of the Church's "mission"
today is a continuation of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and
Pope Paul VI's Encyclical Evangelii Nuntiandi. He has
elaborated the "mission" parameters in many documents and allocutions: in
particular, in the Encyclicals Redemptor Hominis and Redemptoris
Missio, where the Pope solemnly affirms that the foundation and end of
all mission in the Church is the sacred person of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
This teaching is reiterated in the continental Post-Synodal Apostolic
A. Christ the
Redeemer: foundation and end of all mission
Redemptor Hominis (4 March 1979)
The Holy Father solemnly affirms that "Jesus Christ
is the stable principle and fixed centre of the mission that God himself
has entrusted to man", and he urges all Christians to "consciously join in
the great mission of revealing Christ to the world, to help each person to
find himself in Christ, and to help the contemporary generations of our
brothers and sisters, the peoples, nations, States, mankind, developing
countries and countries of opulence — in short, to help everyone to get to
know 'the unsearchable riches of Christ', since these riches are for every
individual and are everybody's property".24
The Pope courageously applies to man what is proper
to Christ, and affirms that man, considered concretely both as a person
and as belonging to a community, "is the primary route that the Church
must travel in fulfilling her mission: he is the primary and fundamental
way for the Church, the way traced out by Christ himself, the way that
leads invariably through the mystery of the Incarnation and the
Redemption.... This man is the way for the Church — a way that, in a
sense, is the basis of all the other ways that the Church must walk —
because man, every man without any exception whatever, has been redeemed
by Christ, and because with man, with each man without any exception
whatever, Christ is in a way united, even when man is unaware of it:
Christ, who died and was raised up for all, provides man — each man and
every man — with the light and the strength to measure up to his supreme
For this reason our sense of "mission" must be
carefully attentive to and deeply appreciative of the strides made by man
in the course of history, as far as culture and religion are concerned.
"We approach them with the esteem, respect and discernment that has marked
the missionary attitude since the time of the Apostles. Suffice it to
mention St Paul and, for instance, his address in the Areopagus at
Athens".26 The Church's solicitude for the progress of humanity
has Christ at its root. It is in this perspective that Pope John Paul II
places his wide teaching on work and peace, on justice and liberation, on
the preferential love for the poor.
Redemptoris Missio (7 December 1990)
The Encyclical Redemptoris Missio is written
in a cultural and ecclesial framework which takes up the challenge of the
"gradual secularization of salvation",27 whereby divine sonship
is forgotten and people, often misled by New Age sciences, are made to
believe that the supernatural is irrelevant and that the task of
self-salvation is the product of their own personal efforts. The Pope
warns against a form of theological relativism, which will later be
stressed in Dominus Iesus,28 and strongly emphasizes
that the "unique and universal mediation of Jesus... is the way ordained
by God himself",29 and that it is impossible to "separate in
any way the Word and Jesus Christ".30
The new element of the Encyclical is in the frank
acknowledgement that the unique and universal mediation of Jesus Christ
can be prepared through intermediary means. The Holy Spirit, who is the
prime agent of mission and blows where he wills, is found even beyond the
borders of the Church, but his action will always be directed towards the
proclamation of Jesus Christ as Saviour of all humankind.31
Such a vision opens new horizons in interreligious
dialogue. Far from being rigidly exclusivist, it is appreciative of
religious elements from other faiths which are conducive to knowing and
appreciating the Lord of heaven and earth. This explains the
interreligious meetings at Assisi and the spirit which led the Holy Father
to visit a Jewish synagogue and a Muslim mosque and to engage in a
wide-ranging interreligious dialogue with world religious leaders. In
Redemptoris Missio the Pope explained the reason underlying these
acts, reaffirming what he had previously said in Manila and Tokyo in 1981,
and at Madras in 1986: "Respect for man in his quest for answers to the
deepest questions of his life, and respect for the action of the Spirit in
corollaries and challenges
Four important corollaries flow logically from the
fact that the Church's mission is founded on and geared towards the
proclamation of Jesus Christ as the one and only Saviour of all humankind.
1. The Church — as a whole and in each of its
parts — "exists primarily to evangelize".33
"There is a new awareness", says the Pope, "that
missionary activity is a matter for all Christians, for all Dioceses
and parishes, Church institutions and associations".34 This
ushers in a "new springtime for Christianity"35 and is a
historic step in its missionary dynamism in which all the baptized must
get involved with the diversity of their charisms and which make them
break all geographical and cultural barriers.
2. Christians must give an authentic witness to
The great Indian sage Mahatma Gandhi once said of
Christianity, which he deeply appreciated: "I love Christ", he said, "but
I do not love Christians, because they do not do what Christ has
commanded". Christian witness is the "first and irreplaceable form of
mission",36 and must exude the presence and the signs of "holiness
which is the essential prerequisite for an authentic evangelization....
It is not enough that truth and grace are offered through the proclamation
of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments; they need to be
accepted and experienced in every practical situation, in the way
Christians and ecclesial communities lead their lives. This is one of the
greatest challenges set before the Church... at the beginning of the new
millennium".37 The Pope also repeats emphatically what Pope
Paul VI had said: "Our contemporaries listen more willingly to witnesses
than to teachers, and if they do listen to teachers, it is because they
3. Christians must be formed in mission
"Now more than ever this is needed in all Christians,
beginning with bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, catechists
and teachers of religion".38 Missionary formation or training
in mission-mindedness must hold a privileged place in our Church
programmes. It may take diverse forms as far as methodology is concerned,
and vary according to the standard of culture of the destinataries and the
competence of the trainees, but the aim of the formation programme is
common to all: to prepare "credible evangelizers, whose lives...
radiate the beauty of the Gospel".39
Here special mention must be made of the role of
the laity. The historic meeting of many ecclesial lay groups with the
Holy Father in St Peter's Square on the eve of Pentecost 1999, was a sign
that the hour of the laity has dawned with the arrival of the Third
Christian Millennium, and that the Holy Spirit has quickened to maturity
many lay men and women, associations, ecclesial movements and new
communities and has launched them forth, as indispensable co-workers of
the bishops, priests and Religious, to evangelize the world for Christ.
What the Church needs today is apologists, not apologizers, namely,
persons who are not on the defensive, but who can defend their faith
because they know the tenets of Christian doctrine and the ethos of their
Catholic identity and are able "to give an account of the hope which is in
4. Primacy of the proclamation of the faith.
Whoever may be the instrument of evangelization — a
lay person, a member of a religious institute, a priest or a bishop — the
proclamation of the Gospel must hold pride of place. We still vividly
recall the image of our Holy Father who, at the beginning of the
Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, stepped through the
Holy Door of St Peter's Basilica holding high the Book of the Gospels. The
Pope himself gives a missionary explanation of this gesture in his
exhortation Ecclesia in Europa: "I held high the Book of the
Gospels, showing it to the Church and to the world. This same ritual
action, carried out by all the Bishops in the different cathedrals of the
world, points to the task awaiting the Church... now and for ever".41
"Holding high the Gospel" is indeed a symbolic
gesture which synthesizes the all-embracing and demanding character of our
Christian identity. It means that, wherever the Church finds itself, it is
called to reveal the love of God the Father, to proclaim Jesus Christ as
the only Mediator between God and humankind and the sole Redeemer of the
world, to make people encounter the love of God which is being poured out
through the Holy Spirit; it means that Christians are to be messengers of
hope to everyone, that they must further a culture of life, defending it
from its conception to its natural end, and they must uphold the dignity
and the inalienable rights of every man, woman and child; it means that
Christians consider a preferential love for the poor to be a necessary
dimension of their love for Christ and of their service of the Gospel,
that they believe that the Lord is present and at work in the Church and
in the history of humankind; it shows their determination to promote a
harmonious conviviality and to build a civilization of love worthy of the
human person founded on the solid foundations of justice, truth, liberty
and solidarity.42 This is indeed a very challenging task for
the Church as a whole and for every Christian in particular.
C. Channels for missionary proclamation
Evangelization is the work of the Holy Spirit whose
ways are varied: sometimes they are direct, at other times
indirect. The Holy Spirit started proclaiming the Good News at the
very moment that Christ Our Lord was born in Bethlehem. He did it
directly through the Angels announcing the glad tidings of Jesus'
birth to shepherds who kept watch over their flock that night and telling
them where they could find him, and they did. And indirectly, by
making a star to rise in the East and leading some Wise Men laden with
precious gifts to Jesus, the new-born King and Saviour of the world. The
Wise Men were restless until they found Jesus and placed their treasures
at his feet and adored him.
This is the final outcome of both direct and indirect
evangelization: the Holy Spirit leads one and all — some already here on
earth, others in the hereafter — to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Saviour
of humankind. As far as indirect evangelization is concerned, the Holy
Spirit avails himself of three main instruments: inculturation, ecumenical
and interreligious dialogue, and social and human development works. These
are particularly useful in countries receiving the first evangelization.
One understands then why the Holy Father has made special mention of them
in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortations for Africa, Asia and Oceania.
Of course, none of these three instruments exhausts
the missionary-evangelizing activity of the Church. They are complementary
to each other and, if well integrated among themselves, can show how the
Church continues Christ's divine mission to give life to everyone, and to
give it in abundance.43
Inculturation is the continuation of the mystery of
the Incarnation, whereby "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us".44
Genuine inculturation makes the Gospel to "take flesh" in diverse
cultures, so that the Christian faith can be expressed in and through
them. It is a challenge for the Church to evangelize cultures and to
inculturate the Gospel, being aware that "the presence and activity of the
Holy Spirit, who is the prime agent of evangelization, affect not only
individuals, but also society and history, peoples, cultures and
religions.... It is the Spirit who sows the seeds of the Word
present in various customs and cultures, preparing them for full maturity
in Christ".45 This is an important observation which echoes
what Jesus asserted very solemnly: "I have come not to abolish (the law
and the prophets) but to bring them to fulfilment",46 that is,
to full maturity.
Pope John Paul II has often insisted on this theme in
his Magisterium and during his pastoral visits, because he considers
inculturation "an urgent priority in the life of the particular Churches".47
He spoke of it in the Encyclical Slavorum Apostoli48
where Sts Cyril and Methodius were hailed as the pioneers of a
well-conducted inculturation among the Slav peoples. He touched on it in
the Post-Synodal Exhortations Ecclesia in Africa,49
Ecclesia in Asia50 and Ecclesia in Oceania,51
and clearly outlined the concept of inculturation as a continuation of the
mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption.
For the Gospel to "take flesh" in various cultures
the Church has a twofold approach: "it transmits to them its own values,
at the same time it takes the good elements which already exist in them
and renews them from within".52 Like in the parable of the
sower, the Gospel seed puts deep roots in a given culture after absorbing
elements agreeable to its nature from the soil where it is planted, and
then puts out shoots, branches and leaves, and finally produces fruit
depending' to the quality of the soil and the favourable or adverse
conditions which surround it.53
The Pope encourages theologians to "develop an
inculturated theology, specially in the area of Christology... in
faithfulness to the Scriptures and to the Church's Tradition, in sincere
adherence to the Magisterium and with an awareness of pastoral
realities... with a view to strengthening people's faith. The test of true
inculturation is whether people become more committed to their Christian
faith because they perceive it more clearly with the eyes of their own
culture".54 Inculturation thus becomes a faith expression of a
given culture, and a cultural expression of the Christian faith.
Inculturation is a very useful and necessary
instrument for evangelization, especially in countries receiving the first
Gospel proclamation, in order to avoid the risk that Christianity there be
reduced to a sort of stunted "bonsai" and be considered alien or even an
intruder to the local culture. The Church enriches itself every time the
Gospel "takes flesh" in a given culture and absorbs its wholesome values.
It becomes indeed a "sponsa ornata monilibus suis"; a
"spouse bedecked with her precious jewels".55
2. Ecumenical, interreligious dialogue
This dialogical approach can draw much inspiration
from Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman, with Nicodemus, Nathaniel,
Zaccheus and others. The Papal Magisterium on missionary activity places
special emphasis on "dialogue". Ecumenical dialogue, in the
first place, which is none other than "a journeying together towards
Christ and towards the visible unity he wills... it entails one going
towards the other and then walking together as Christians".56
Such a commitment is based on the conviction that "evangelization and
unity, evangelization and ecumenism are bound together indissolubly".57
As far as interreligious dialogue is
concerned, in Redemptoris Missio the Holy Father considers it a
"part of the Church's evangelizing mission. Understood as a method and
means of mutual knowledge and enrichment, it is not in opposition to the
mission ad gentes; indeed, it has special links with that
mission and is one of its expressions".58
This affirmation closes a period which had contrasted
mission and dialogue and brings dialogue within the ambit of mission. Such
an interreligious dialogue "does not originate from tactical concerns or
self-interest.... It is demanded by a deep respect for everything which
has been brought about in human beings by the Spirit who blows where he
wills. Through it the Church seeks to discover the seeds of the Word, a
ray of truth which illumines all men: these are found in individuals
and in religious traditions of humankind".59
In his various documents and allocutions the Pope
gives suggestions on how interreligious dialogue could be effectively
carried out. In Ecclesia in Asia he points out the value of
"personal contacts" which present the Christian faith as a way of life
rather than a set of dogmas, and he recommends the use of "images which
would be intelligible to Asian minds and cultures and, at the same time,
be faithful to Sacred Scripture and Tradition".60 This Asian
face of Christ could be presented as the fullness and mature fruition
of those "seeds of Divine Wisdom already present in the lives,
religions and peoples of Asia", 61 leading them to welcome more
easily the universal value of salvation in Christ Jesus.
For instance, in the ancient Hindu scriptures there
are expressions of a deep-seated yearning in the human heart which is
beautifully expressed in the Upanishad: "From untruth lead me to truth,
from darkness lead me to light, from death lead me to immortality" (Brihadaranyaka
Upanishad, 1, 3, 28). We know that only Jesus Christ can fully satisfy
this yearning to be led "from darkness to light", for He is the Way and
the Light; "from untruth to truth", for He is the Truth; from "death to
immortality", for He is Life, and Life in abundance. As in the Assisi
meeting between the Catholic Church and representatives of other world
religious traditions," the Pope asks each religious person, without
abandoning his/her tradition, to be committed to pray and work for peace
and the good of humanity. Christians, on their part, must bring to this
dialogue "the firm conviction that the fullness of salvation comes from
Christ alone and that the Church community to which they belong is the
ordinary means of salvation".63
In Ecclesia in Africa,64 the Holy
Father gives various suggestions for fruitful ecumenical relationships,65
and has a special word encouraging a patient dialogue with Muslims of good
will.66 The Pope also exhorts everyone to engage with "great
respect and esteem" in "a serene and prudent dialogue" with the
traditional African religions "to foster the assimilation of the positive
values they contain".67 They can even be seen as "a preparation
for the Gospel, because they contain precious semina Verbi which
can lead... a great number of people to be open to the fullness of
Revelation in Jesus Christ through the proclamation of the Gospel".68
Even in Ecclesia in Oceania the Holy Father
insists on a "thorough study of the traditional religions of the
indigenous populations, in order to enter more effectively into the
dialogue which Christian proclamation requires. Proclamation and dialogue
are, each in its own place, component elements and authentic forms of the
one evangelizing mission of the Church. They are both oriented toward the
communication of salvific truth".69
To sum up this consideration on ecumenical and
interreligious dialogue I would like to recall what Pope John Paul II said
at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi on 7 November 1999 on the occasion of his
meeting with representatives of various religions and other Christian
confessions: "Dialogue is never an attempt to impose our own views upon
others, since such dialogue would become a form of spiritual and cultural
domination. This does not mean that we abandon our own convictions. What
it means is that, holding firmly to what we believe, we listen
respectfully to others, seeking to discern all that is good and holy, all
that favours peace and cooperation".
3. Social and Human development
Even through social and human development the Church
carries out her missionary mandate and keeps Jesus' command: "Let your
light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory
to your Father who is in heaven".70 The Church thus follows
Christ's example: he "went about doing good" and was filled and led by the
Holy Spirit "to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the
captives and give sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are
Echoing Pope Paul VI's Evangelii Nuntiandi,
Pope John Paul II states that "between evangelization and human
advancement — development and liberation — there are profound links... of
an anthropological order... of a theological order... of an eminently
evangelical order".72 This commitment to social and human
promotion has many dimensions: the development of every man and the whole
man, the defence of the dignity of every person, commitment to justice and
peace issues, the denunciation of what humiliates and destroys man, the
furthering of a globalization of solidarity, the building up of a world
worthy of man. We must make a very special mention of the preferential
love for the poor and the promotion of the culture of life. It is such
involvement of the Church in the fields of education and health care and
in social and human development programmes which is appreciated and
admired all over the world.
In India, for instance, the Christians are barely 2.3
percent of the total population of over a billion (of these 1.8 percent
are Catholics), and yet they cater to 20 percent of all the primary
education in the country, 10 percent of the literacy and community
health-care programmes, 25 percent of the care of the orphans and widows,
and 30 percent of the care of the handicapped, lepers and AIDS patients.
The happy circumstance which brings us together today
has led us to consider the powerful thrust given to the Church's
missionary mandate all through the Pontificate of Pope John Paul II. As
the Bishop of Rome, the Pope has ably blended the apostolic Petrine and
Pauline charisms, commonly known as "fides Petri et cor Pauli": "fides
Petri", with which he confirms his brethren in the unshakeable
faith of the Church founded on Peter the rock, whose successor he is; and
"cor Pauli ", which has taken him to the four corners of the world
holding high the blazing torch of the Good News of Jesus Christ in the
spirit of the Apostle of the Gentiles: "Woe to me if I do not preach the
Christ the Redeemer of Man has been at the core of
the Holy Father's missionary activity and Magisterium. The biblical icon
with which the Pope begins Novo MillennioIneunte — that of Peter
told to put out into the deep: duc in altum — is the expression of
that apostolic hope with which he urges Christians to become fishers of
"The Christ whom we have contemplated and loved
(during the Jubilee Year) bids us to set out once more on our journey: 'Go
therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of
the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit' (Mt 28:19). The
missionary mandate accompanies us into the Third Millennium and urges us
to share the enthusiasm of the first Christians: we can count on the power
of the same Spirit who was poured out at Pentecost and who impels us still
today to start out anew, sustained by the hope 'which does not disappoint'
(Rom 5:5). At the beginning of this new century, our steps must quicken as
we travel the highways of the world.... I have often invoked Mary as the
Star of the New Evangelization. Now I point to her once again as
the radiant dawn and sure guide for our steps".74
This august meeting is therefore not only a moment of
gratitude to God for the 25 years of Pope John Paul II's Pontificate, but
also a moment of deeper awareness of the Church's "mission" identity. It
reminds us of the clarion call made by our Holy Father in 1978 as he began
his ministry as the Vicar of Christ on earth, and which he forcefully
reiterated in his Encyclical Redemptoris Missio: "Peoples
everywhere, open the doors to Christ! His Gospel in no way detracts
from man's freedom, from the respect that is owed to every culture and to
whatever is good in each religion. By accepting Christ, you open
yourselves to the definitive Word of God, to the One in whom God has made
himself fully known and has shown us the path to himself".75
May the Good Lord give all the peoples of the world
the courage to welcome this urgent appeal which surges from the heart of
an indomitable "missionary" Pope John Paul II. Ad multos annos,
1 Jn 8:16.
2 Jn 20:21.
3 Redemptoris Missio, n. 15.
4 Ad Gentes, n. 6; Redemptoris
Missio, n. 31.
5 Ecclesia in Europa, n. 46.
6 Redemptoris Missio, n. 37.
7 Ibid., n. 20.
8 from 54 to 135 million.
9 from 63 to 108 million.
10 from 432 to 616.
11 from 519 to 665.
12 from 16.926 to 27.988.
13 from 27.000 to 46.446.
14 from 35.473 to 52.695.
15 from 91.585 to 140.826.
16 from 5.248 to 7.249.
17 from 6.508 to 7.972.
18 from 5.636 to 20.094.
19 from 11.536 to 27.265.
20 Ecclesia in Africa, n. 6.
21 Ecclesia in Asia, n. 1.
22 12 June 2003: on the occasion of his
23 Ecclesia in Africa (14 September
1995), Ecclesia in America (22 January 1999), Ecclesia in Asia
(6 November 1999), Ecclesia in Oceania (22 November 2001),
Ecclesia in Europa (28 June 2003).
24 Redemptor Hominis, n. 11.
25 Jn 14:6: "I am the way, the truth and
the life". Already in the Acts the
term "way" is applied to the Church, probably based
on Lk 20:21: cf. also Acts 9:2; 16:17; 18:25, 26; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14.
26 Redemptor Hominis, n. 12.
27 Ibid., n. 11.
28 Dominus Iesus, n. 4.
29 Redemptoris Missio, n. 5.
30 Ibid., n. 6.
31 Ibid., n. 29. Similar statements
can be found in Redemptoris Missio nn. 10,
28. They repeat and explain the Vatican II teaching
in Gaudium et Spes n. 22; Ad
Gentes n. 7; after this Encyclical the subject
will be taken up again in Dialogo e Annuncio, n. 35.
32 Redemptoris Missio, n. 29.
33 Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 14;
Redemptoris Missio, n. 44.
34 Redemptoris Missio, n. 2.
35 Ibid., n. 2.
36 Ibid., n. 42.
37 Ecclesia in Europa, n. 49.
40 1 Pt 3:15.
41 Ecclesia in Europa, n. 65.
42 These topics are developed at length in
the Magisterium of Pope John Paul II. Some are explicitly mentioned in the
Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in Europa, nn. 20-21,
27, 84-86, 96-98.
43 Jn 10:10.
44 Jn 1:14.
45 Redemptoris Missio, n. 28.
46 Mt 5:17.
47 Ecclesia in Africa, n. 49.
48 Nn. 9-13.
49 Nn. 55-67.
50 Nn. 20-22.
51 Nn. 16.
52 Redemptoris Missio, n. 52;
Ecclesia in Africa, n. 50.
53 Mt 13:3-23.
54 Ecclesia in Asia, n. 21.
55 Cf. Is 61:10.
56 Ecclesia in Europa, nn. 30, 54.
57 Discourse at the ecumenical celebration
of the Word in the cathedral at Paderborn on 22 January 1996.
58 Redemptoris Missio, n. 55.
59 Ibid., n. 56.
60 Ecclesia in Asia, n. 20: For
example, "Jesus Christ the Teacher of Wisdom, the Healer, the Liberator,
the Spiritual Guide, the Enlightened One, the Compassionate Friend of the
Poor, the Good Samaritan, the Good Shepherd, the Obedient One".
61 Ibid., n. 20.
62 27 October 1986.
63 Redemptoris Missio, n. 31.
64 Nn. 65-67.
65 Like a common translation of the Bible,
deepening the theological contents of their respective beliefs, giving a
common witness to Gospel values concerning justice, peace and respect for
66 "Particular care will therefore be
taken so that Islamic-Christian dialogue respects on both sides the
principle of religious freedom with all that this involves, also including
external and public manifestations of faith. Christians and Muslims are
called to commit themselves to promoting a dialogue free from the risks of
false irenicism or militant fundamentalism, and to raising their voices
against unfair policies and practices, as well as against the lack of
reciprocity in matters of religious freedom" (n. 66).
67 "such as belief in a Supreme Being who
is Eternal, Creator, Provident and Just Judge, values which are readily
harmonized with the content of the faith".
68 Ecclesia in Africa, n. 67.
69 Ecclesia in Oceania, n. 25.
70 Mt 5:16.
71 Is 61:1-2.
72 Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 31;
Ecclesia in Africa, n. 68.
73 I Cor 9:16.
74 Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 58.
75 Redemptoris Missio, n. 3.