'Christ our Hope' Apostolic
Visit: strengthening Catholics in faith, fostering brotherhood and
calling Nations to unite in human rights.
On Wednesday, 30 April , at the
General Audience in St Peter's Square the Holy Father commented on his
recent Apostolic Visit to the United States of America, from 15 to 21
April , and the the United Nations Organization on 18 April. The
following is a translation of the Pope's Catechesis, given in Italian.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Although several days have already passed since my
return, I would like, nevertheless, to devote today's Catechesis, as
usual, to the Apostolic Journey I made to the United Nations
Organizations and to the United States of America from 15 to 21 April. I
first of all renew the expression of my most heartfelt gratitude to the
United States Bishops' Conference, and likewise to President Bush for
having invited me, and for the warm welcome they gave me.
I would like, however, to extend my "thank you" to
all those in Washington and in New York who came to greet me and to
express their love for the Pope or who accompanied and sustained me with
their prayers and the offering of their sacrifices.
As is well known, the occasion of the Visit was the
200th anniversary of the elevation of the Country's first Diocese —
Baltimore — to a metropolitan Archdiocese and the establishment of the
Sees of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville. On this
characteristically ecclesial occasion, I therefore had the joy of going
in person, for the first time as Successor of Peter, to visit the
beloved People of the United States of America, to strengthen Catholics
in the faith, to renew and to increase brotherhood among all Christians
and to proclaim to all the Message of "Christ our Hope" which resounds
as the motto of my Journey.
During the Meeting with the President at his
residence, I was able to pay tribute to this great Country which was
built from the outset on the foundations of a felicitous combination of
religious, ethical and political principles which still constitute a
valid example of healthy secularism where the religious dimension, with
the diversity of its expressions, is not only tolerated but appreciated
as the Nation's "soul" and a fundamental guarantee of human rights and
In this context the Church can carry out her mission
of evangelization and human promotion with freedom and commitment and
also as a "critical conscience". She thus contributes to building a
society worthy of the human person and, at the same time, encourages a
Country such as the United States — to which everyone looks as to one of
the principal actors on the international stage — toward global
solidarity, ever more necessary and urgent, and the patient exercise of
dialogue in international relations.
The mission and role of the ecclesial Community were
naturally the focus of the Meeting with the Bishops, which was
held at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington. In
the liturgical context of Vespers, we praised the Lord for the progress
made by the People of God in the United States for the zeal of its
Pastors and the fervour and generosity of its faithful. This is
expressed in the high and candid esteem in which faith is held and in
countless charitable and humanitarian initiatives, at home and abroad.
At the same time, I supported my Brothers in the
Episcopate in their far from easy task of sowing the Gospel in a society
marked by many contradictions, which even threaten the coherence of
Catholics and the clergy themselves.
Laity: leaven in the community
I encouraged them to make their voice heard on the
current moral and social issues and to form the lay faithful to be good
'leaven" in the civil community, starting with the fundamental cell
which is the family. In this regard I urged them to repropose the
Sacrament of Matrimony as a gift and an indissoluble commitment between
a man and a woman, the natural context for welcoming and raising
The Church and the family, together with school,
especially schools of Christian inspiration — must cooperate in order to
offer young people a sound moral education, but in this task those who
work in communications and entertainment also have a great
In thinking of the painful matter of the sexual abuse
of minors committed by ordained ministers, I wanted to express my
closeness to the Bishops, encouraging them in their endeavour to bind up
the wounds and to strengthen relations with their priests.
In responding to some of the questions the Bishops
asked, I took the opportunity to stress several important aspects: the
intrinsic relationship between the Gospel and "natural law"; a healthy
conception of freedom that is understood and realized in love; the
ecclesial dimension of Christian experience; the need for a new way to
proclaim "salvation" as fullness of life, especially to young people,
and to teach prayer, from which generous responses to the Lord's call
In the great and festive Eucharistic Celebration
at Nationals Park Stadium in Washington we invoked the Holy Spirit
upon the whole Church in the United States of America so that, firmly
rooted in the faith. transmitted by the Fathers and profoundly united
and renewed, she may face present and future challenges with courage and
hope, the hope that "does not disappoint us, because God's love has been
poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Rom 5:5).
One of these challenges is certainly that of
education. I therefore met at the Catholic University of America
the Rectors of Catholic universities and colleges, diocesan heads of
teaching and representatives of teachers and students.
The duty to educate is an integral part of the
Church's mission and the American ecclesial community is increasingly
involved in it, at the same time rendering an important social and
cultural service to the entire Country. It is important that this
service continue, and it is likewise important to care for the quality
of Catholic institutes so that in them people may truly be formed in
accordance with "measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (cf.
Eph 4:13), combining faith and reason, freedom and truth. Thus with joy
I strengthened teachers in their precious task of intellectual charity.
In a Country with a multicultural vocation such as
the United States of America the meetings with the representatives of
other religions have acquired special importance: in Washington, at
the John Paul II Cultural Center, with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists
and Jains; in New York, the Visit to the Synagogue. these were very
cordial moments, especially the latter, which confirmed the common
commitment to dialogue, and to the promotion of peace of of spiritual
and moral values.
Education in respect, non-violence
In what can be considered the homeland of religious
freedom, I wanted to recall that the latter should always be defended
with united efforts, to avoid any form of discrimination and prejudice.
And I emphasized the great responsibility of religious leaders both in
teaching respect and non-violence, as well as keeping alive the deepest
questions of the human conscience.
The ecumenical celebration
in Parish Church of St Joseph
was also marked by great cordiality. Together we prayed the Lord to
increase in Christians the ability to account, with ever greater unity,
for the one great hope that is in them (cf. I Pt 3:15) through their
common faith in Jesus Christ.
Another important objective of my journey was the
Visit to the Headquarters of the UN,
the fourth Visit of a Pope after Paul
VI's in 1965 and the two Visits of John Paul II in 1979 and 1995.
On the 60th anniversary of the "Universal Declaration of Human
Rights" Providence gave me the opportunity to confirm the value of this
Charter at the broadest and most authoritative supra-national Assembly.
I referred to its universal foundations, that is, the dignity of the
human person, created by God in his image and likeness so that he might
cooperate in the world with God's great plan of life and peace.
Like peace, respect for human rights is also rooted
in "justice", in other words, in a valid ethical order for all epochs
and all peoples, which can be summarized in the famous maxim: "Do not do
to others what you would not like them to do to you" or, expressed in a
positive form in Jesus' words: "Treat others the way you would have them
treat you" (Mt 7:12).
On this basis, which constitutes the Holy See's
characteristic contribution to the United Nations Organization, I
renewed and I renew again today the effective commitment of the Catholic
Church to contribute to strengthening international relations marked by
the principles of responsibility and solidarity.
The other moments of my stay in New York also remain
deeply impressed on my heart. In St Patrick's Cathedral, in the
heart of Manhattan — truly a "house of prayer for all peoples" I
celebrated Holy Mass for priests and consecrated people who came from
every part of the Country. I shall never forget the great warmth with
which they congratulated me on the third anniversary of my election to
the Chair of Peter. It was a moving moment in which I experienced in a
tangible way all of the Church's support for my ministry.
I can say the same about the Meeting with Young
People and Seminarians at the diocesan Seminary which was preceded
by a very significant stop among disabled children and young people with
To the youth, who by their nature thirst for truth
and love, I proposed several outstanding men and women who bore an
exemplary witness to the Gospel in American territory, the Gospel of
truth which makes them free in love, in service and in a life spent for
By coming to grips with the problems that threaten
young people today, they can find in the saints the light that dispels
this darkness: the light of Christ, hope for every person!
This hope, stronger than sin and death,
enlivened the moment charged with emotion that I spent in silence in the
abyss of Ground Zero, where I lit a candle, praying for all the
victims of that terrible tragedy. Lastly, my Visit culminated in the
Eucharistic celebration in New York's Yankee Stadium: I still
carry in my heart that celebration of faith and brotherhood with which
we celebrated the 200th anniversary of the oldest dioceses in North
Enriched with faith and with the traditions of
successive waves of immigrants, the little flock of the origins has
developed enormously. To that Church, which now faces the challenges of
the present time, I had the joy of proclaiming anew "Christ our Hope"
yesterday, today, and for ever.
Dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to join me in
thanksgiving for the comforting success of this Apostolic Visit and in
asking God, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, to make it bear
a fruitful harvest for the Church in America and in every part of the