Church Commemorates Thousand-Year Old Roots

Author: John Paul II


Pope John Paul II

General Audience, September 11, 1996

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Today I would like to reflect on the Apostolic Visit I made to Hungary last Friday and Saturday. It was my second Pastoral Visit to that country, after the one I made in 1991. My first sentiment is of fervent thanksgiving: to the Lord first of all, because with his Providence he has guided the footsteps of the Successor of Peter and has once again made him a pilgrim on the ways of the Church, the Church of today which is celebrating her origins, the Church of the Year 2000 which is commemorating her thousand-year old roots. This was the slogan of the pilgrimage: Christ is our hope!

I address my heartfelt thanks to Mr Arpad Goncz, President of the Republic of Hungary, and to the other civil authorities for the welcome they gave me. I renew the kiss of peace and communion with the venerable Pastors of the Church which is in Hungary, especially with the Abbot of Pannonhalma and the Bishop of Gyor, and I cordially extend it to the entire Magyar Christian community.

Remember full unity and overcome divisions

2. My pilgrimage on Friday and Saturday followed the Church's paths through time: a journey that penetrated into the past, to illuminate the present and project towards the future. It was a journey back 1,000 years, to compare ourselves with the generation which crossed the threshold of the Year 1000, to gather its witness and treasure it on the eve of the third millennium which is now imminent. The Church is a deep-rooted tree: while she extends towards the Year 2000, in every part of the world she celebrates the most meaningful moments in her own development down the centuries in the various nations, according to the mandate of the risen Christ. I myself, in the course of my Pontificate, make myself the witness and promoter of this historic memory, which is the guarantee of the future journey. This is why I chose to go to Pannonhalma and to Gyor that is, to where the Magyar people preserve the memory of their 1,000 year-old Christian tradition.

3. Pannonhalma is the place where Hungary's most ancient monastery stands on St Martin's Hill. The Archabbey of the same name, founded 1,000 years ago by some monks who came from Rome, confreres and disciples of St Adalbert, Bishop of Prague, protomartyr and patron of Poland, is therefore also venerated by Bohemians, Poles and Hungarians. Pannonhalma Abbey, together with the many others of the Order of St Benedict which stud the European continent, has been a most significant beacon of culture down the centuries and has carried out an important role in defending freedom and truth, especially in the face of the Turkish invasions, and recently, during the communist dictatorship. Celebrating its millennium in a certain sense meant recalling and presenting once again Europe's spiritual and cultural foundations which the Benedictine tradition has effectively contributed to consolidating. The liturgy of Vespers was held in its splendid Gothic church. The evocative place of worship, the chanting of the monks, the intense participation of the faithful, conferred extraordinary eloquence on that moment of prayer, on those solemn Vespers of the Millennium during which we prayed several times for Christian unity.

In fact, my pilgrimage to Pannonhalma also had an important ecumenical value. The ancient abbey which came into being at the end of the first millennium witnessed to the age in which Christians of the East and West were still in full communion. This urges us as we prepare for the Jubilee of the Year 2000, to remember this full unity in order to overcome the divisions that followed afterwards.

4. Gyor is one of the most ancient Hungarian cities, rich in monuments. The great Eucharistic concelebration took place there, dominated by the figure of Christ the Good Shepherd, source of confidence, hope and strength for the persons and nations who commend themselves to his guidance.

In Gyor, a Diocese founded at the dawn of the second millennium, in King St Stephen's time, I renewed to the Church in Hungary a fervent call to hope, in the name of Christ the Good Shepherd, pointing to the example of all those in past decades who paid in person, even with their life, for resisting violence and suppression. As well as the fearless Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty, I also recalled, in particular as I prayed at his tomb, the Servant of God Vilmos Apor, Bishop of Gyor, who in 1945 paid with his life for wanting to defend some women who had taken refuge at the Bishop's house from the Soviet soldiers. This heroic Bishop's beatification process has now reached the final stage.

With my visit, I desired to bring a witness of solidarity and support in a special way to the venerable Pastors of the People of God in Hungary, with whom I left a message of encouragement for their committed work of evangelization.

Christ is source of hope and authentic renewal

5. This time too, dear brothers and sisters, the Bishop of Rome was Christ's messenger on the paths of the world, certain that the Gospel is a word of perennial truth about man and society the only firm guarantee of freedom and solidarity in the changing of ideological systems and political policies.

I went to the beloved Hungarian people and their Pastors in the name of Christ who is the same, yesterday, today and forever, source of hope and authentic spiritual, cultural and social renewal. While my memory of the faces and places of my Magyar journey is still vivid, it is my dear wish to entrust all the persons and communities I met and all Hungary to the' protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Magna Domina Hungarorum, that she may grant them strength and constancy in their faith in Christ our hope!

After his greetings in the various languages, the Holy Father spoke of Archbishop Joachim Ruhuna of Gitega, Burundi, who was murdered on 9 September:

The news of the murder, in Burundi the day before yesterday, of Archbishop Joachim Ruhuna and six other people in tragic circumstances, fills us all with deep sadness. The prelate was a person esteemed by all for his calm judgement and pastoral balance, as well as his loving dedication to the people entrusted to him.

As I recommend this generous minister of God and those who died with him to your prayers, I express my deep participation in the bereavement to his dear ones, and my spiritual closeness to the faithful of the Diocese and the entire community of Burundi.

I deplore this new act of cruelty which is added to a chain of unheard-of violence, often exalted as a method of political struggle, and I renew my heartfelt appeal for reconciliation in truth and charity.

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