CHRIST IS THE WAY FOR OCEANIA
Pope John Paul II
The Special Assembly for Oceania of the Synod of Bishops closed on
Saturday morning, 12 December, with a solemn Mass celebrated by Pope
John Paul II in St Peter's Basilica. Concelebrating with the Holy Father
were all the Synod Fathers and other participants in the Special
Assembly. The Pope spoke again of the Synod's general theme, "Jesus
Christ and the Peoples of Oceania: Walking His Way, Telling His Truth
and Living His Life", and of the need to pass on to future
generations the fruit of Oceania's first evangelization. Here is a
translation of the Holy Father's homily, which was given in Italian,
English and French.
1. "The love of Christ impels us": Caritas Christi urget
nos (2 Cor 5:14). These words of the Apostle Paul guide us in
our meditation during this Eucharistic celebration concluding the work
of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Australia and
Christ's love spurred the Apostles to every part of the world as
evangelization began. It particularly spurred St Paul, called the
Apostle of the Nations, because, after his conversion, he brought the
Gospel of Christ to many then-known countries. His was the Mediterranean
journey of evangelization: from Jerusalem to Rome, through Greece, all
the way to Spain.
Later, other routes were opened, expanding the horizons of
Christian preaching, as those proclaiming the Gospel came into contact
with new lands. Evangelization gradually reached North Africa and Europe
north of the Alps, the peoples of the Roman Empire, the Germanic peoples
and then the Slavs. The baptism of Rus' began the evangelization not
only of Eastern Europe but also, as time passed, of the vast territories
beyond the Caucasus. Southern Asia had already been reached by the first
generation of missionaries, one of whom was St Thomas, the Apostle of
the Indies, according to a tradition very dear to the Christian
Communities of that great country.
The Church has become a pilgrim throughout the world
2. The evangelization of Australia and Oceania took place later,
when the great navigators reached that part of the world more distant
from Europe. With them, the missionaries came to those lands, bringing
the Gospel and often confirming its divine truth by their martyrdom. We
need only mention, among others, St Peter Chanel.
We have had the opportunity to relive all this during these weeks of
the Special Assembly for Oceania of the Synod of Bishops. We have tried
to do so together - Bishops, priests, men and women religious and laity
- mindful of the words of St Paul: caritas Christi urget nos. The
general theme guiding us has been: "Jesus Christ and the Peoples of
Oceania: Walking His Way, Telling His Truth, Living His Life".
The Year 2000 is fast approaching and before us lies the great event
of the Holy Year. Soon we will celebrate the Jubilee marking the second
millennium of Christ's birth, which also recalls the beginnings of the
Gospel and of the Church. With the birth of Jesus, the Trinitarian
mystery of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, entered into human history,
in order to make man a new creature in Jesus Christ. In Christ there
appeared before the world the great law of love proclaimed in today's
liturgy: the new law of the Beatitudes, which we just heard in the
As the Year 2000 approaches - tertio millennio adveniente - the
Church has become a pilgrim, traveling along the paths of the whole
world. She feels a deep need to reflect and in some way to rediscover
herself along those paths where the Gospel has journeyed and even
"run", revealing Love by the power of Christ's Spirit. Along
the paths of the past the history of salvation continues to advance.
3. The Synod which ends today, like the previous Special Assemblies
dedicated to the various continents, corresponds precisely to this goal.
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever"
(Heb 13:8). In reaffirming this, we would like to transmit to the
centuries to come and the generations to follow the rich heritage of the
evangelization of Oceania. These peoples must, in fact, share fully in
the love of Christ which once spurred the heralds of the Good News along
all the paths of the world, where they encountered new peoples and new
nations who were also called to become heirs to the kingdom of God.
Dear Synod Fathers who are members of this Assembly for Australia and
Oceania, I address you with affection and thank you for the work you
have done and especially for the witness of communion you have given to
me and to the entire Church. I would like to thank Cardinal Schotte and
the staff of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops for their
service to the particular Churches.
You have come from Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific islands, Papua
New Guinea and Solomon Islands, bringing the spiritual wealth of your
peoples as well as the problems they encounter. In fact, how can we not
point out that even in your societies religion faces threats and
attempts to isolate it? How can we not stress that at times some people
would like to reduce it to an individual experience that can have no
influence on social life? You have spoken about the consequences of
colonization and immigration, the living conditions of ethnic minorities
and the faith problems of young people. The challenges of modernity and
secularization were also highlighted; they require pastoral concern and
charity in various areas: vocations, justice and peace, the family,
ecclesial communion, Catholic education, sacramental life, ecumenism and
May the Lord be praised from the ends of the earth
4. You have dialogued with one another and have united around the
basic theme: Jesus Christ is also the way to follow, the truth to
proclaim and the life to live for the peoples of Oceania. The new
evangelization follows this programme throughout the world and is
carried out in generous co-operation with the Holy Spirit, who renews
the face of the earth (cf. Ps 103:30).
Dear friends, in greeting each of you with an embrace of peace, I
entrust the Churches in Oceania to the Lord, the Way, the Truth and the
Life, and I address them with the words of the prophet Isaiah:
"Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the
earth: Let the sea and what fills it resound, the coastlands, and those
who dwell in them" (Is 42:10).
May Mary, Mother of the Church, accompany you. May the love of Christ
impel you and remain with you always. Amen!