JOHN PAUL II: LETTER OF GOD
Professor Mario Agnes
Editor-in-Chief L'Osservatore Romano
For the 25th Anniversary of the Holy Father’s Pontificate
On the 25th anniversary of the Pontificate of John Paul II, the words of his Predecessor Paul VI to the United Nations on 4 October 1965 spring to mind: "We are like the messenger after a long journey who manages to deliver the letter entrusted to him.... Yes, and remember: we have been travelling for a long time and bring a long history with us
John Paul II has made himself a Journey and a Letter: his Pontificate, his being Successor of Peter, a concrete, visible, non-stop journey among individuals and peoples, a journey through the geography of the faith, the geography of situations, the geography of daily life, the geography of suffering, of disappointment, constriction, oppression, and of the hopes of every person, of every people, of every nation. He has truly inaugurated the new evangelization with a programme that in 25 years has been characterized and is increasingly characterized as Joannine, Pauline and Petrine.
His Pontificate is a Letter: he delivers himself to the expectations and hopes of individuals and peoples. He delivers himself in Christ's name; and in Christ's name he claims and proclaims respect for the dignity and freedom of every person and every people.The daring of the Truth
And he does so with biblical daring: the daring of the Truth. That daring of the Truth which contains the essence of a Magisterium and action developed with high moral tension, nourished by rare pastoral concern, proposed and reproposed through his tireless itinerant encounters.
The centrality of the Truth and an aptitude for proclaiming it in its entirety constitute the unifying motif of the speeches and gestures which cover the Pope's path.
If the Truth "is the Word of the living God", as he said in his homily on the anniversary of the First World War, "the word of the Father through the Son, the Word that was made flesh and expressed in the heart of the world, in the heart of the history of humanity", it should be proclaimed facing all problems, whether they come from human beings or from circumstances and situations.
The daring of the Truth is in shouting it out without weakening it, without obscuring it, without violating it, without reducing it, in the conviction that it is the Truth that gives existing reality its essence and constitutes the basis of a new and innovative history. The daring of the Truth is courageous fidelity to the Truth and of complete and total submission to it.
The daring of the Truth means opening wide the doors to Christ; it means making breaches in stone walls and in hearts that are even stonier. Breaches through which they can pass into the daily events of human life, in making history God's great Truth about man; the tender Gospel of life; the marvellous creative Project of God.
‘It is not I who am speaking, but God who speaks’
A breach that can avert the temptations of Lucifer in our days, disturbing God's creative plan for man and for his future; and it is with regard to these great realities that a few years ago in Mexico the Pope exclaimed: "It is not I who am speaking, but God who speaks". A trembling, impassioned cry. The cry of the Man of God.
It is for the sake of life and to help people overcome their fear that John Paul II has made himself the Beggar of peace. From the United Nations to Sardinia and Sicily; from Lithuania to America: from the Berlin Wall to Nigeria; from Croatia to Cuba; from Bolivia to Tunisia; from India to Australia; from the one Europe to the one America (his great visions that change the map of the world); from Czestochowa to Pompei, one clear, demanding request: Is there an organization in the world that could be an authentic Family of Nations? And why should not the United Nations Organization be such? Only a Family of Nations can guarantee peace.
And here is the Beggar before us: his "steps" are slow but sure. "Steps" that preserve his certainty of being a guide. A vigilant, acute gaze, with the extraordinary ability to embrace at the same time individual persons, crowds, places and problems. A gaze that photographs images and keeps them vivid in his mind and heart. "Steps" and a gaze that communicate the full tenderness of the Pastor. No one is distant, nothing escapes him. The joys, the expectations, the disappointments, the situations of suffering, the tragedies, the wounded freedom of each person and each people find room in his heart. They belong to his heart. And here, with intrepid words and actions, even in recent months he has raised his voice with the love and severity of a father in defence of his children whose right to exist and live, to live in peace and freedom, is violated, unaccepted, unrecognized.
In these days of blatant, sickening distractions at various levels, his is the one voice raised to recall that the human being, every human being wherever he or she may be, is worth far more than anything else. His voice alone sums up an invocation in four words: Truth, Life, Justice, Peace. The voice of the Guardian of human dignity.That journey over the Hill of Crosses
The Beggar of peace, Custodian of dignity, Helmsman of history, appears more and more clearly to the eyes of those who could make him out in Lithuania as he climbed the Hill of Crosses.
A unique moment: a gesture symbolic of a Pontificate that is already towering over history.
The higher the Pope climbed, penetrating further into that thick forest of crosses, trampling on that seed of faith, the more aptly did this gesture seem to symbolize his Pontificate.
That walk across a Hill on which converges and from which unfolds a unique panorama of faith: that journey in a place unique in the world for its poverty and for the riches of a faith that speaks the agonizing language of hope and love; that itinerary seems increasingly to sum up this Pontificate.
Climbing this hill with John Paul II was the history that he has pursued unremittingly, forcing it to be marvelled at and to marvel.
Climbing it were men and women, the anonymous "stars" of unforeseen events.
Climbing it were peoples and nations, crucified until a few years ago and who now find it hard to believe in the redemption of their dignity.
Climbing was the Church of silence which today strives to find words to ask all to overcome their fear.
Climbing it were the frailty of the oppressed and the brittle power of the violent. Those violent atheistic defeats before the world by the simple faith of those without a name and by the daring of the Truth of the Successor of Peter.
On the Hill of Crosses we can read, as it were, the autobiography of a Priest, a Bishop, a Pope. The autobiography of a Pontificate. The autobiography of the Church in these 25 years.
And the three stations made by the Pope as he climbed seem to confirm this.
The first was at the great wooden Cross, set up in May 1981 in memory of the attack in St Peter's Square.
The second was at a white marble Cross that will commemorate the pilgrimage of John Paul II: a Cross on which are carved the famous words: "in hoc signo vinces", which in that place reveal a historical warning. Twice, in fact, did the atheistic regime destroy the Crosses, and they sprung up again more numerous than before. And now they stand there as a sign of Redemption, confronting the ideologies of all kinds, the blocs, the systems that have collapsed and those that have lasted.
The third station was on the top of the hill before an image of Our Lady. An exalted and humble moment on a journey which began far away, to a far away destination.
Reaching out for a new evangelical springtime that will become a commitment and life in all those who thank the Lord for giving this Successor of Peter to the Church and to the world, this Man of God, this Wonder of history; this Wonder of the new generations for whose future his caress is always tender. The caress of John Paul II who unfolds new horizons.
The horizon revealed by the Jubilee pilgrimage to Mount Sinai, the Holy Mount of Truth and Freedom: God's horizon.
This man of God humbly obliges one and all — believers and non-believers — to raise their heads and look up on High, to rediscover the path that leads towards the "longed-for peaks of peace".
They did not succeed in destroying the Letter
And John Paul II continues to make himself a Letter and to deliver himself. The "envelope" is somewhat crumpled: in 25 years, it has been fingered by the faith and love of so many hands. It has also been fingered by murderous hands whose plan was to destroy the Letter. They failed. And if the envelope was violated — and the consequences are visible — the Letter has remained untouched and legible. Written in indelible and penetrating characters. It is the Letter of God.
Weekly Edition in English
29 October 2003, page 15
L'Osservatore Romano is the newspaper of the Holy See.
The Weekly Edition in English is published for the US by:
The Cathedral Foundation
L'Osservatore Romano English Edition
320 Cathedral St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
Subscriptions: (410) 547-5315
Fax: (410) 332-1069