are called to bear witness to love
On Sunday, 28 May, the Holy Father celebrated Mass in St Peter's
Square for the Jubilee of the Diocese of Rome. Concelebrating with
him were the Cardinal Vicar, the Vicegerent, the Auxiliary Bishops
and the parish priests of the Diocese. Men and women religious and
thousands of the faithful from every walk of life participated in
the solemn liturgy for the Sixth Sunday of Easter. In his homily,
the Pope emphasized Rome's unique vocation and its particular
mission in the Jubilee Year: "Church of Rome, know how
extraordinary your mission also is in relation to the Jubilee! Do
not be discouraged by the difficulties you meet on your daily path.
You will be sustained by the witness of the Apostles Peter and Paul,
who consecrated your beginnings with their blood". Here is a
translation of the Holy Father's homily, which was given in Italian.
1. "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide
in my love" (Jn 15:9). Christ, on the eve of his death, opens
his heart to the disciples gathered in the Upper Room. He leaves
them his spiritual testament. In the Easter season the Church
constantly returns in spirit to the Upper Room, to listen again with
reverence to the Lord's words and to draw light and strength from
them for her journey on the paths of the world.
Today our Church of Rome, which is celebrating her
Jubilee, returns with trembling heart to the Upper Room. She returns
there to be summoned by the divine Master, to meditate on his words
and to discover the most fitting response to what he asks of
The words that our Church hears today on her Lord's lips are strong
and clear: "Abide in my love!... This is my commandment,
that you love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 15:9, 12).
How could we not feel that Jesus' words are meant particularly for
us? Does the Church of Rome not have the specific task of
"presiding in charity" over the entire Christian world
(cf. St Ignatius, Ad Rom., Pref.)? Yes, the commandment of
love involves our Church of Rome with special force and urgency.
The message given to the Apostles is passed on to us
And love is demanding. Christ says: "Greater love has no man
than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Jn
15:13). Love will lead Jesus to the cross. Every disciple must
remember this. Love comes from the Upper Room and leads back to the
Upper Room. In fact, after the Resurrection it will be in the Upper
Room again that the Apostles will think back to the words Jesus
spoke on Holy Thursday and will become aware of their salvific
meaning. By accepting and reciprocating Christ's love, from now on
they are his friends: "No longer do I call you servants, for
the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have
called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have
made known to you" (Jn 15:15).
Gathered in the Upper Room after the divine Master's Resurrection
and Ascension into heaven, the Apostles will fully understand the
meaning of his words: "I appointed you that you should go and
bear fruit and that your fruit should abide" (Jn 15:16). By the
action of the Holy Spirit these words will make them the saving
community which is the Church. The Apostles will understand that
they have been chosen for a special mission, to bear witness to
love: "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide
in my love".
Today this message is passed on to us: as Christians we are
called to be witnesses to love. This is the "fruit" which
we are called to bear, and it is this fruit Which "abides"
in time and in eternity!
2. The second reading from the Acts of the Apostles speaks
of the apostolic mission which flows from this love. Peter, sent for
by the Roman centurion Cornelius, goes to him in Caesarea and helps
him with his conversion, the conversion of a pagan. The Apostle
himself comments on that very important event: "Truly I
perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one
who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him"
(Acts 10:34-35). When the Holy Spirit later descends on that group
of believers of pagan origin, Peter comments: "Can any one
forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy
Spirit just as we have?" (Acts 10:47). Enlightened from on
high, Peter understands and testifies that all are called by
Here we are at a decisive turning-point in the Church's life: a
turning-point to which the Book of Acts attaches great
importance. The Apostles, and Peter in particular, had not yet
clearly perceived that their mission was not limited to the children
of Israel. What happened in Cornelius' house convinced them that
this was not the case. From that time on, Christianity began to grow
outside Israel and an ever deeper awareness of the Church's
universality started to take hold: every man and every woman is
called, without distinction of race or culture, to receive the
Gospel. Christ's love is for everyone and the Christian is a witness
to this divine and universal love.
Do not squander the fruits of this ecclesial renewal
3. Firmly convinced of this truth, Peter went first to Antioch
and finally to Rome. The Church of Rome owes its origins to him.
Today's meeting of the Ecclesial Community of Rome, in the heart of
the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, rekindles in all of us the
memory of these apostolic origins, the memory of Peter, the first
Pastor of our city. Numerous pilgrims from every part of the world
are coming to his tomb in these months to celebrate the Jubilee of
the Incarnation of the Lord and to profess the same faith as Peter's
in Christ, Son of the living God.
Once again this shows the particular vocation which divine
Providence has reserved for Rome: to be a reference-point for the
communion and unity of the whole Church and for the spiritual
renewal of all humanity.
4. Dear faithful of the beloved Church of Rome, I am pleased to
extend my affectionate greeting to you on this occasion which brings
us together to celebrate our Diocesan Jubilee. I greet the Cardinal
Vicar, the Vicegerent and the Auxiliary Bishops, the priests and
deacons, the men and women religious and all of you, lay people
actively involved in parishes, movements, groups and the various
milieus of the city's work and life. I also greet the mayor and the
This day is the symbolic peak of an intense preparatory
journey. From the Diocesan Synod to the City Mission, our Church
of Rome, through her various members, has shown great pastoral
vitality and ardent evangelizing zeal in these years. Today we want
to thank the Lord for this. Through appropriate pastoral
initiatives, the entire city was able to hear the Gospel message
again in homes and workplaces. In this way it became clear how much
the Church has been woven into the fabric of the people, and how
close she is to the poorest and most marginalized.
At the end of the City Mission, on the evening of the Vigil of
Pentecost last year, I told you: we must not squander the fruits of
this season richly blessed with the Lord's gifts. This is why
today's meeting is, yes, the point of arrival, but also an
indispensable startingpoint. From now on, there must be a
general effort to make the "spirit of the City Mission"
penetrate more and more deeply into the ordinary, everyday pastoral
life of parishes and ecclesial realities. Everyone must consider
this an "ongoing commitment" and the entire People of God
must be involved, starting with the "missionaries", the
priests, religious and lay persons who have experienced first-hand
the beauty and joy of evangelization. Precisely because of this
necessary renewal of the city's families and milieus, it is most
appropriate that in the coming pastoial year we should undertake an
attentive discernment of our journey thus far.
Do not be discouraged by everyday problems
5. Let us thank God for all that the Diocese is experiencing; let
us thank him above all for the events which are being celebrated at
various times in this Jubilee Year. We are now on the eve of great,
demanding events which require the broadest and most generous
collaboration. I am thinking first of the International
Eucharistic Congress, the "heart of the Jubilee",
which celebrates the living presence among us and for us of the Word
made flesh, "bread of life for the world".
Then there is the 15th World Youth Day. This will see a
multitude of young people coming to Rome in August from every part
of the world; they expect to be welcomed with joy and friendliness
by their Roman peers and to receive hospitality from families and
from the entire Christian and civil community.
In addition, in the month of October we will celebrate the Jubilee
of Families, which will require special care on the part of the
Diocese and of Christian families. Let us prepare for these events
with heartfelt concern.
6. Church of Rome, know how extraordinary your mission also is in
relation to the Jubilee! Do not be discouraged by the difficulties
you meet on your daily path. You will be sustained by the witness of
the Apostles Peter and Paul, who consecrated your beginnings with
their blood; may you be encouraged by the examples of the saints and
martyrs who have given you the torch of unswerving dedication to the
Gospel. Be not afraid! Through your children's efforts may Christ's
love reach all the city's inhabitants; may it spread to every
milieu, to bring joy and hope everywhere.
And you, Mary, Salus populi Romani, Our Lady of Divine
Love, help us. We entrust ourselves to you with confidence. Through
your motherly intercession, may the Church of Rome receive a new
descent of the Holy Spirit, the principle of her unity and the
strength for her mission.
Praised be Jesus Christ!