Missions in the Pontificate of John Paul II

Author: Cardinal Ivan Dias


Cardinal Ivan Dias
Archbishop of Bombay, India  


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 Pontificate.

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 Christian roots.4

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 missionis.7

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 programmes.

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 greatharvest of faith will be reaped in this vast and vital continent".21Deo 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' (LumenGentium, n. 18)".22III. ‘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 EvangeliiNuntiandi. 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 Exhortations.23A. 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 calling".25

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 man".32B. Mission: 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 their identity.

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 essentialprerequisite 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 are witnesses".

3. Christians must be formed in mission consciousness.

"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 "credibleevangelizers, 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 them".40

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 "sponsaornata 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". Ecumenicaldialogue, 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 adgentes; 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 oppressed...".71

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.Conclusion

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": "fidesPetri", 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 Gospel".73

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 men.

"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. Admultos annos, Beatissime Pater!NOTES

1 Jn 8:16.

2 Jn 20:21.

3Redemptoris Missio, n. 15.

4Ad Gentes, n. 6; Redemptoris Missio, n. 31.

5Ecclesia in Europa, n. 46.
6Redemptoris Missio, n. 37.
7Ibid., 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.

20Ecclesia in Africa, n. 6.

21Ecclesia in Asia, n. 1.

22 12 June 2003: on the occasion of his 100th visit.

23Ecclesia in Africa (14 September 1995), Ecclesia in America (22 January 1999), Ecclesia in Asia (6 November 1999), Ecclesia in Oceania (22 November 2001), Ecclesiain Europa (28 June 2003).

24Redemptor 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.

26Redemptor Hominis, n. 12.

27Ibid., n. 11.

28Dominus Iesus, n. 4.

29Redemptoris Missio, n. 5.
30Ibid., n. 6.

31Ibid., 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 eAnnuncio, n. 35.

32Redemptoris Missio, n. 29.

33Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 14; Redemptoris Missio, n. 44.

34Redemptoris Missio, n. 2.
35Ibid., n. 2.

36Ibid., n. 42.

37Ecclesia in Europa, n. 49.


40 1 Pt 3:15.

41Ecclesia 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.

45Redemptoris Missio, n. 28.

46 Mt 5:17.

47Ecclesia in Africa, n. 49.

48 Nn. 9-13.

49 Nn. 55-67.

50 Nn. 20-22.

51 Nn. 16.

52Redemptoris Missio, n. 52; Ecclesia in Africa, n. 50.

53 Mt 13:3-23.

54Ecclesia in Asia, n. 21.

55 Cf. Is 61:10.

56Ecclesia in Europa, nn. 30, 54.

57 Discourse at the ecumenical celebration of the Word in the cathedral at Paderborn on 22 January 1996.

58Redemptoris Missio, n. 55.

59Ibid., n. 56.

60Ecclesia 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".

61Ibid., n. 20.

62 27 October 1986.

63Redemptoris 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 human dignity.

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".

68Ecclesia in Africa, n. 67.

69Ecclesia in Oceania, n. 25.

70 Mt 5:16.

71 Is 61:1-2.

72Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 31; Ecclesia in Africa, n. 68.

73 I Cor 9:16.

74Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 58.
75Redemptoris Missio, n. 3.

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