Mexico Visit 1999
Homily at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
[Official Vatican text]
May the Continent of Hope also be
the Continent of Life! Life with dignity for all!
The focal point of the Holy Father's Pastoral Visit to America was the Mass he
celebrated at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, Mexico, on Saturday
morning, 23 January, to conclude the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops,
held in the Vatican from 16 November to 12 December 1997. Concelebrating with the Pope
were approximately 500 Bishops and 5,000 priests from all of America. The Holy Father
preached the homily and at the end of the liturgy he gave copies of his Post-Synodal
Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America to various Church representatives. Here
is a translation of the Pope's homily, which he preached in Spanish, Portuguese, French
Beloved Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
1. "When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman ...
" (Gal 4:4). What is the fullness of time? From the standpoint of human history, the
fullness of time is a concrete fact. It is the night when the Son of God came into the
world in Bethlehem, as foretold by the prophets and as we have heard in the first reading:
"The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and
bear a son, and you shall call his name Emmanuel" (Is 7:14). These words, spoken
many centuries ago, were fulfilled on the night when the Son conceived by the Holy Spirit
in the womb of the Virgin Mary entered the world.
Christ's birth was preceded by the message of the angel Gabriel. Afterwards, Mary went
to the home of her cousin Elizabeth to be of service to her. We were reminded of this by
the Gospel of Luke, which puts before us Elizabeth's unusual, prophetic greeting and
Mary's splendid response: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in
God my Saviour" (1:46-47). These are the events referred to in today's
God's revelation fulfils all human longings
2. The reading from the Letter to the Galatians, for its part, reveals to us the divine
dimension of this fullness of time. The words of the Apostle Paul sum up the whole
theology of Jesus' birth, at the same time explaining the meaning of this frailness. It is
something extraordinary: God has entered human history. God, who in himself is the
unfathomable mystery of life; God, who is Father and is himself reflected from all
eternity in the Son, consubstantial with him and through whom all things were made (cf. Jn
1: 1, 3); God, who is the unity of the Father and the Son in the flow of eternal love
which is the Holy Spirit.
Despite the poverty of our words for expressing the ineffable mystery of the Trinity,
the truth is that man, in his temporal condition, has been called to share in this divine
life. The Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary to obtain this divine adoption for us.
The Father has poured out in our hearts the Spirit of his Son, through whom we can say "Abba,
Father!" (cf. Gal 4:4). Here, then, is the fullness of time which fulfils all the
yearnings of history and of humanity: the revelation of God's mystery, given to human
beings through the gift of divine adoption.
3. The frailness of time to which the Apostle refers is related to human history. By
becoming man, God in a certain way has entered our time and has transformed our history
into the history of salvation, A history that includes all the vicissitudes of the world
and of mankind, from creation to their conclusion, but advances through important moments
and dates. One of them is the 2,000th year, now close at hand, since the birth of Jesus,
the year of the Great Jubilee, for which the Church has also been preparing by holding
Extraordinary Synods dedicated to each continent, such as the one held in the Vatican at
the end of 1997.
4. Today in this Basilica of Guadalupe, the Marian heart of America, we thank God for
the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops - a true Upper Room of ecclesial
communion and collegial affection among all the Pastors from the north, centre and south
of the continent - shared with the Bishop of Rome as a fraternal experience of encounter
with the risen Lord, the way to conversion, communion and solidarity in America.
Now, one year after the celebration of that Synod Assembly, and in conjunction with the
centenary of the Plenary Council of Latin America held in Rome, I have come here to place
at the feet of the mestiza Virgin of Tepeyac, Star of the New World, the Apostolic
Exhortation Ecclesia in America, which incorporates the contributions and pastoral
suggestions of that Synod, entrusting to the Mother and Queen of this continent the future
of its evangelization.
Blessed are you, America, for believing, hoping and loving
5. I wish to express my gratitude to those whose work and prayer enabled that Synod
Assembly to reflect the vitality of the Catholic faith in America. I also thank this
Primatial Archdiocese of Mexico City and its Archbishop, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera,
for their cordial welcome and generous cooperation. I affectionately greet the large group
of Cardinals and Bishops who have come from every part of the continent and the great many
priests and seminarians present here, who fill the Pope's heart with joy and hope. My
greeting also extends beyond the walls of this basilica to embrace those who are following
the celebration from outside, as well as to all the men and women of various cultures,
ethnic groups and nations which form the rich and multifaceted reality of America.
6. "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was
spoken to her from the Lord' (Lk 1:45). Elizabeth's words to Mary, who is carrying
Christ in her womb, can also be applied to the Church on this continent. Blessed are you,
Church in America, for you have welcomed the Good News of the Gospel and given birth in
faith to numerous peoples! Blessed are you for believing, blessed are you for hoping,
blessed are you for loving, because the Lord's promise will be fulfilled! The heroic
missionary efforts and the wonderful evangelization of these five centuries were not in
vain. Today we can say that, as a result, the Church in America is the Church of Hope. We
need only look at the vigour of her many young people, the exceptional value put on the
family, the blossoming of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life and, above
all, the deep piety of her peoples. Let us not forget that in the next millennium, now
close at hand, America will be the continent with the largest number of Catholics.
7. However, as the Synod Fathers stressed, if the Church in America has many
reasons to rejoice, she also faces serious problems and important challenges. Should we be
discouraged by all that? Not at all: "Jesus Christ is Lord!" (Phil 2:11).
He has conquered the world and sent his Holy Spirit to make all things new. Would it be
too ambitious to hope that after this Synod Assembly - the first American Synod in history
- a more evangelical way of living and sharing would grow on this continent where
Christians are the majority? There are many areas where the Christian communities of
North, Central and South America can demonstrate their fraternal ties, practise real
solidarity and with each one contributing the spiritual and material wealth at its
8. The Apostle Paul teaches us that in the fullness of time God sent his Son,
born of a woman, to redeem us from sin and to make us his sons and daughters. Accordingly,
we are no longer servants but children and heirs of God (cf. Gal 4:4-7). Therefore,
the Church must proclaim the Gospel of life and speak out with prophetic force against the
culture of death. May the Continent of Hope also be the Continent of Life! This is our
cry: life with dignity for all! For all who have been conceived in their mother's womb,
for street children, for indigenous peoples and Afro-Americans, for immigrants and
refugees, for the young deprived of opportunity, for the old, for those who suffer any
kind of poverty or marginalization.
Dear brothers and sisters, the time has come to banish once and for all from the
continent every attack against life. No more violence, terrorism and drug-trafficking! No
more torture or other forms of abuse! There must be an end to the unnecessary recourse to
the death penalty! No more exploitation of the weak, racial discrimination or ghettoes of
poverty! Never again! These are intolerable evils which cry out to heaven and call
Christians to a different way of living, to a social commitment more in keeping with their
faith. We must rouse the consciences of men and women with the Gospel, in order to
highlight their sublime vocation as children of God. This will inspire them to build a
better America. As a matter of urgency, we must stir up a new springtime of holiness on
the continent so that action and contemplation will go hand in hand.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, look with mercy on the peoples of America
9. I wish to entrust and offer the future of the continent to Blessed Mary, Mother of
Christ and of the Church. For this reason, I have the joy now of announcing that I have
declared that on 12 December Our Lady of Guadalupe will be celebrated throughout America
with the liturgical rank of feast.
O Mother! You know the paths followed by the first evangelizers of the New World, from
Guanahani Island and Hispaniola to the Amazon forests and the Andean peaks, reaching to
Tierra del Fuego in the south and to the Great Lakes and mountains of the north. Accompany
the Church which is working in the nations of America, so that she may always preach the
Gospel and renew her missionary spirit. Encourage all who devote their lives to the cause
of Jesus and the spread of his kingdom.
O gentle Lady of Tepeyac, Mother of Guadalupe! To you we present this countless
multitude of the faithful praying to God in America. You who have penetrated their hearts,
visit and comfort the homes, parishes and Dioceses of the whole continent. Grant that
Christian families may exemplarily raise their children in the Church's faith and in love
of the Gospel, so that they will be the seed of apostolic vocations. Turn your gaze today
upon young people and encourage them to walk with Jesus Christ.
O Lady and Mother of America! Strengthen the faith of our brothers and sisters, so that
in all areas of social, professional, cultural and political life they may act in accord
with the truth and the new law which Jesus brought to humanity. Look with mercy on the
distress of those suffering from hunger, loneliness, rejection or ignorance. Make us
recognize them as your favourite children and give us the fervent charity to help them in
Holy Virgin of Guadalupe, Queen of Peace! Save the nations and peoples of this
continent. Teach everyone, political leaders and citizens, to live in true freedom and to
act according to the requirements of justice and respect for human rights, so that peace
may thus be established once and for all.
To you, O Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, belong all the love,
honour, glory and endless praise of your American sons and daughters!
At the end of Mass the Holy Father said in Spanish:
Thank you for this splendid gift which I will take with me. I had the joy once again of
celebrating in this basilica which is loved so much by all Mexicans, all Americans,
children of peace. I thank you for the prayers you offer each day for me and for my
Petrine ministry. I know that you will always continue to do so. Thank you.