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In Creation God Calls the World into Existence from Nothingness

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on God the Father
General Audience, Wednesday, 29 January 1986 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. The truth that states that God has created—that he has drawn forth from nothingness all that exists outside himself, both the world and man—is already expressed on the first page of Sacred Scripture, even though its full exposition is found only in the later development of revelation.

The beginning of the Book of Genesis has two accounts of creation. Biblical scholars judge that the second account is more ancient. It has a more figurative and concrete character; it addresses God by the name of "Yahweh," and for this reason it is known as the "Yahwistic source."

The first account, later in time of composition, is more systematic and theological. It uses the term Elohim to designate God. It distributes the work of creation over a series of six days. Scholars have concluded that this text had its origin in the priestly and cultic circles, since the seventh day is presented as the day on which God rests. It proposes to man the worker the example of God the Creator. The author of the first chapter of Genesis wished to confirm the teaching contained in the Decalogue by inculcating the obligation to keep holy the seventh day.

2. The account of the work of creation deserves to be read and meditated upon frequently in the liturgy and outside of it. As regards the individual days, one detects between one account and the other a strict continuity and a clear analogy. The account begins with the words: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," that is, the entire visible world. Then, in the description of the individual days, the expression recurs: "God said: Let there be...." Through the power of this word of the Creator—"fiat, let there be," the visible world gradually arises. In the beginning the earth is "without form and void." Later, under the action of God's creative word, it becomes suitable for life and is filled with living beings, with plants and animals, in the midst of which God finally created man "in his own image" (Gen 1:27).

3. Above all, this text has a religious and theological importance. It doesn't contain significant elements from the point of view of the natural sciences. Research on the origin and development of the individual species in nature does not find in this description any definitive norm or positive contributions of substantial interest. Indeed, the theory of natural evolution, understood in a sense that does not exclude divine causality, is not in principle opposed to the truth about the creation of the visible world, as presented in the Book of Genesis.

4. Taken as a whole, the image of the world is delineated by the pen of the inspired author with the characteristics of the cosmogonies of the time. In them, he inserts with absolute originality the truth about the creation of everything by the one God: this is the revealed truth.

The biblical text affirms the total dependence of the visible world on God, who as Creator has full power over every creature (the so-called dominium altum). It sets out in relief the value of all creatures in God's eyes. At the end of each day the phrase recurs: "God saw that it was good." On the sixth day, after the creation of man, the center of the cosmos, we read: "God saw everything that he had made and behold, it was very good" (Gen 1:31).

The biblical description of creation has an ontological character, that is, it speaks of being. At the same time it has an axiological character because it bears witness to value. By creating the world as the manifestation of his infinite goodness, God created it good. Such is the essential teaching we draw from the biblical cosmogony, and in particular from the introductory description of the Book of Genesis.

5. Together with all that Sacred Scripture says in different places about the work of creation and about God the Creator, this description enables us to set out certain elements in relief: 1) God created the world by himself. The creative power is not transmissible: incommunicabilis; 2) God freely created the world, without any exterior compulsion or interior obligation. He could create or not create; he could create this world or another one; 3) The world was created by God in time, therefore, it is not eternal. It has a beginning in time; 4) The world created by God is constantly maintained in existence by the Creator. This "maintenance" is, in a certain sense, a continual creation (conservatio est continua creatio).

6. For almost two thousand years the Church has consistently professed and proclaimed the truth that the creation of the visible and invisible world is the work of God. It has done this in continuity with the faith professed and proclaimed by Israel, the People of God of the old covenant. The Church explains and thoroughly examines this truth by making use of the philosophy of being, and she defends it from the distortions that arise from time to time in the history of human thought.

In the First Vatican Council, in reply to the trends of the pantheistic and materialistic thought of the time, the Church's Magisterium has confirmed with particular solemnity and force the truth that the creation of the world is the work of God. Those same tendencies are present also in our century in certain developments of the exact sciences and of the atheistic ideologies.

In the Constitution Dei Filius of the First Vatican Council we read: "This one true God, in his goodness and 'omnipotent power,' not to increase his own happiness, nor to acquire, but to manifest his perfection through the gifts he distributes to creatures, by a supremely free decision, 'simultaneously from the beginning of time drew forth from nothingness both the one creature and the other, the spiritual and the corporeal, that is, the angelic and the material, and then the human creature, who as it were shares in both orders, being composed of spirit and body' [1] " (DS 3002).

7. According to the "canons" added to this doctrinal text, the First Vatican Council confirmed the following truths:
1) The one, true God is Creator and Lord "of visible and invisible things" (DS 3021).
2) It is contrary to faith to affirm that only matter exists (materialism) (DS 3022).
3) It is contrary to faith to assert that God is essentially identified with the world (pantheism) (DS 3023).
4) It is contrary to faith to maintain that creatures, even spiritual ones, are an emanation of the divine substance, or to affirm that the divine Being by its manifestation or evolution becomes everything (DS 3024).
5) Also contrary to faith is the idea that God is the universal or indefinite being which in becoming determinate constitutes the universe divided into genera, species and individuals (DS 3024).
6) It is likewise contrary to faith to deny that the world and all things contained in it, whether spiritual or material, in their entire substance have been created by God out of nothing (DS 3025).

8. It will be necessary to treat separately of the finality of the work of creation. This aspect takes up much space in revelation, in the Magisterium of the Church and in theology. For the present, to conclude our reflection let it suffice to refer to a beautiful text of the Book of Wisdom which sings the praises of God for the love with which he created the universe and keeps it in being:

"For you love all things that exist,
and loathe none of the things
which you have made,
for you would not have made anything
if you had hated it.
How would anything have endured
if you had not willed it?
Or how would anything not called forth
by you have been preserved?
You spare all things, for they are yours,
O Lord who loves the living"
(Wis 11:24-26).

[1]   Conc. Lat. IV"

After the Catechesis, Pope John Paul II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai gruppi di espressione francese 

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Je salue spécialement les Sœurs Missionnaires du Cœur Immaculé de Marie qui tiennent actuellement leur Chapitre général. Votre Congrégation, chères Sœurs, a été fondée par une Sœur belge en Inde où je m’apprête à partir en visite apostolique, et elle comprend des religieuses des divers pays et continents, à l’image de la mission universelle de l’Eglise que vous voulez servir, selon les besoins des Eglises locales. Que l’Esprit Saint, accueilli selon le cœur de Marie, approfondisse toujours en vous l’amour de Dieu et la charité missionnaire! Je vous bénis de grand cœur, vous et toutes les Sœurs que vous représentez.

Ai gruppi di fedeli di espressione inglese 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am happy to welcome the Volunteer Lay Apostles from Taiwan who have come to Rome on pilgrimage. May the Lord Jesus strengthen you in faith and love as you bear witness to him by word and example.

And to all the English-speaking visitors, especially those from Denmark and the United States, I offer my heartfelt greetings and the assurance of prayers that God will bless you abundantly with his gifts of joy and peace.

A fedeli di espressione spagnola

Queridos hermanos y hermanas,

Deseo saludar ahora de modo particular a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española.

En primer lugar, a las Hermanas Carmelitas Misioneras Teresianas, que se encuentran en Roma haciendo un curso de renovación espiritual. A vosotras, así como a todas las personas consagradas presentes en esta Audiencia, os aliento a ser testigos vivos del amor de Dios en su Iglesia.

* * *

Saludo también al grupo de jóvenes, hijos de emigrantes italianos en Argentina; y, juntamente, al grupo de estudiantes de la Universidad Nacional de Tucumán.

A todas las personas, familias y grupos procedentes de los diversos Países de América Latina y de España imparto con afecto la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai suoi connazionali polacchi

Witam serdecznie pielgrzymów z Polski, z parafii Najswiętszego Salwatora w Krakowie oraz z archidiecezji warszawskiej, jako też uczestników grup turystycznych Orbisu, Amicizia, PTTK i Turysty. Pozdrawiam serdecznie wszystkich obecnych, a za waszym pośrednictwem wszystkich rodaków w Ojczyźnie. Proszę o modlitwę na podróż do Indii.

Ai pellegrini provenienti dalle diverse diocesi italiane

Va ora il mio saluto ai religiosi, alle religiose ed ai laici, che sono convenuti a Roma da varie nazioni, per partecipare alla XII Settimana di Spiritualità della Famiglia Salesiana, durante la quale è stato approfondito il testo della laicità come dimensione di specifico apostolato.

Mentre vi invito a perseverare nel vostro impegno di formazione giovanile, con la consueta dedizione, che caratterizza i Figli di Don Bosco, vi esorto a rispondere alle attese dei giovani presentando Cristo come risposta autentica e favorendo quelle forme di apostolato secolare, che sono consone all’essere comunitario della Chiesa ed alle esigenze dell’evangelizzazione del mondo attuale.

Vi accompagni la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

* * *

Saluto il gruppo di giovani del Pontificio Seminario regionale “Pio XII” di Fano. Carissimi, vivete l’offerta di voi a Gesù, interamente e semplicemente, mediante l’impegno quotidiano dello studio e della preghiera, affinché egli vi conceda di perseverare in quel cammino vocazionale, che vi condurrà, quali sacerdoti, ad essere il dono di Cristo alla sua Chiesa. Vi affido alla Vergine Maria. Ella abbia cura di voi. Da parte mia, di cuore vi benedico.

* * *

La presenza del Comandante Generale della Marina, insieme con l’Ammiraglio Fontana ed i marinai, che, durante un tratto della mia visita pastorale a Genova, mi hanno egregiamente accompagnato, è lieta l’occasione per esprimere nuovamente il mio affetto e la mia stima per quella città.

Mentre ringrazio per questo gesto di cortesia, che ricambio con l’augurio di serena operosità e di cristiano benessere, imparto a voi ed alle vostre famiglie la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Ai Giovani

Il mio discorso si rivolge ora a voi, giovani e ragazzi, per rinnovarvi l’invito ad un solidale impegno per la pace. Questo è l’anno internazionale della pace. Lo scorso 25 gennaio, nella Basilica di san Paolo, ho lanciato un appello a tutti i cristiani e a tutte le persone di buona volontà perché si uniscano in un movimento mondiale di preghiera per la pace. Tra tutte le utili iniziative a favore della pace, questa è la prima e più necessaria: la pace, infatti, comincia dalla conversione del cuore, e la conversione si ottiene pregando.

Carissimi giovani, pregate per la pace e impegnatevi ad essere costruttori di pace per un domani più giusto e più umano.

Agli ammalati 

Anche a voi, carissimi malati, rivolgo il mio affettuoso saluto e il mio augurio.

Desidero oggi invitarvi ad offrire le vostre preghiere e le vostre vite per la pace del mondo. La pace si costruisce, senz’altro, con l’apporto concreto di persone sane, attive, che possano muoversi ed industriarsi in suo favore. Ma occorre anche, e soprattutto, meritarla. E perciò nulla, è per questo spiritualmente fecondo del dono nascosto, ma a Dio gradito, delle proprie sofferenze. Lasciatevi sostenere da questi pensieri che, se accettati, serviranno a dare uno scopo nobilissimo al vostro soffrire, su cui di cuore imparto l’Apostolica Benedizione.

Agli sposi novelli 

Agli sposi novelli il mio cordiale saluto. Celebrando il Matrimonio cristiano, voi avete promesso di impostare la vostra unione nella concordia e nella pace, come condizione fondamentale per una armoniosa vita di coppia e di famiglia. In questo diventate veramente segno di Dio. Il Dio dell’amore, infatti, che ha benedetto il vostro patto, è il Dio della vita, per la quale vi ha scelti ad essere suoi collaboratori, e perciò stesso si rivela il Dio della pace. Egli ci insegna che ogni esistenza fiorisce solo se desiderata ed accolta in un’atmosfera di pace. Di questa grazia fa dono a quanti, come voi, se ne assumono l’impegno come dimensione della propria ed altrui vita. Vi siano di stimolo e di sostegno tali verità, poiché grande è l’opera che vi attende e che ridonderà, se ben compiuta, a beneficio della comunità degli uomini. Vi accompagni la mia Benedizione.

Dolore per la tragedia dello “Shuttle”, partecipazione allo strazio dei familiari e sentita solidarietà alla Nazione americana sono stati espressi dal Santo Padre al termine dell’udienza generale. Queste le parole del Papa.

Profondo dolore ha suscitato nel nostro animo, nell’animo di tutti, la notizia dell’improvvisa tragedia che si è consumata ieri nei cieli di Cape Canaveral, ove la navetta spaziale Challenger si è disintegrata.

Nell’esprimere accorata partecipazione allo strazio dei familiari dei sette astronauti periti nell’incidente e sentita solidarietà alla Nazione americana, elevo a Dio una fervorosa preghiera perché accolga nel suo abbraccio le anime di questi coraggiosi pionieri del progresso della scienza e dell’uomo.

© Copyright 1996 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana