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Commitment to the building of the "civilization of love"

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the History of Salvation
General Audience, Wednesday 15 December 1999 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. "Mindful of the words of the Lord:  "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another' (Jn 13: 35), Christians can yearn for nothing more ardently than to serve the people of this age with an ever growing generosity and success" (Gaudium et spes, n. 93).

This task, which the Second Vatican Council gave us at the end of the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, responds to the fascinating challenge of building a world enlivened by the law of love, a civilization of love, "founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice and liberty, which find their full attainment in Christ" (Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 52).

This civilization is based on recognition of the universal sovereignty of God the Father, the inexhaustible source of love. Precisely  on  the  acceptance  of this fundamental value, a sincere examination at the end of the millennium should be made for  the  Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, in order to set out more promptly towards the future that awaits us.

We have seen the decline of ideologies which deprived so many of our brethren of spiritual reference-points, but the baneful fruits of a secularism that breeds religious indifference continue to exist, especially in more developed regions. The return to a confused religiosity, caused by fragile compensatory needs and the search for a psycho-cosmic balance, which appears in many of the new religious paradigms that proclaim a religiosity without reference to a transcendent and personal God, is certainly not a valid response to this situation.

Instead, we must carefully analyze the reason for this loss of the sense of God and courageously proclaim the message of the Father's face, revealed by Jesus Christ in the light of the Spirit. This revelation does not diminish but exalts the dignity of the human person created in the image of God-Love.

2. In recent decades, the loss of the sense of God has coincided with the advance of a nihilistic culture that impoverishes the meaning of human life and, in the ethical field, relativizes even the fundamental values of the family and of respect for life. This does not often occur visibly, but through a subtle methodology of indifference that makes all kinds of behaviour seem normal, so that moral problems are no longer acknowledged. It is paradoxically demanded that the State recognize as "rights" many forms of conduct which threaten human life, especially the weakest and the most defenceless, not to mention the enormous difficulties in accepting others because they are different, inconvenient, foreign, sick or disabled. It is precisely this ever more prevalent rejection of others because of their otherness that challenges our conscience as believers. As I said in the Encyclical Evangelium vitae:  "We are confronted by an even larger reality, which can be described as a veritable structure of sin ... characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and in many cases takes the form of a veritable "culture of death'" (n. 12).

3. In face of this death-loving culture our responsibility as Christians is expressed in commitment to the "new evangelization", one of whose most important fruits is the civilization of love.

"The Gospel, and therefore evangelization, are certainly not identical with culture, and they are independent in regard to all cultures" (Evangelii nuntiandi, n. 20), but they possess a regenerating power that can have a positive influence on culture. The Christian message does not demean cultures by destroying their particular features; on the contrary, it acts within them, making the most of that original potential which their genius can express. The Gospel's influence on culture purifies and uplifts what is human, making the beauty of life, the harmony of peaceful coexistence and the originality that every people contributes to the human community shine resplendently. This influence finds its strength in a love that does not impose but proposes, relying on free assent in an atmosphere of respect and mutual acceptance.

4. The Gospel message of love liberates human needs and values, such as solidarity, the yearning for freedom and equality, and respect for pluralism in forms of expression. The cornerstone of the civilization of love is recognition of the value of the human person and, concretely, of all human beings. Christianity's great contribution is recognized precisely in this area. In fact, the anthropological doctrine of the human person as a relational being gradually developed precisely from reflection on the mystery of the Trinitarian God and on the person of the Word made flesh. This precious discovery gave rise to the idea of a society which has made the human person its starting-point and goal. The Church's social teaching, which the spirit of the Jubilee invites us to reflect on again, has also helped to base the laws of social coexistence on the rights of the person. The Christian vision of the human being as the image of God, in fact, implies that the rights of the person, by their very nature, demand the respect of society, which does not create but merely recognizes them (cf. Gaudium et spes, n. 26).

5. The Church realizes that this doctrine can remain a dead letter if social life is not enlivened by the influence of authentic religious experience, especially by a Christian witness continuously nourished by the Holy Spirit's creative and healing action. She knows that the crisis of society and of contemporary man is largely caused by the reduction of the human person's specific spiritual dimension.

Christianity makes its contribution to building a more human society precisely by providing it with soul and by proclaiming the demands of God's law, on which all social organization and legislation should be based if they intend to guarantee human advancement, liberation from every kind of slavery and true progress.

The Church makes this contribution principally through the witness given by Christians, particularly lay people, in their daily lives. Indeed, contemporary man accepts the message of love more from witnesses than from teachers, and if he does accept it from teachers, it is because they are authentic witnesses (cf. Evangelii nuntiandi, n. 41). This is the challenge to be met so that new horizons will be opened for the future of Christianity and of humanity itself."

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages:

Je salue cordialement les personnes de langue française présentes ce matin, spécialement le groupe d'accueil de la Trinité des Monts. Je souhaite que les quelques jours qui nous séparent de l'ouverture du grand Jubilé soient pour chacun l'occasion d'une préparation fervente à la célébration de la venue du Fils de Dieu dans notre humanité. À tous, je donne de grand cœur la Bénédiction apostolique.

I warmly welcome the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from England, Sweden, Japan and the United States of America. I pray that you will be strengthened in your love of God this Christmas, so that you will enter the Jubilee Year with renewed hearts and minds. Upon all present I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Mit dem Wunsch, daß auch Ihr die Liebe Gottes glaubwürdig bezeugt, grüße ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher sehr herzlich. Gern erteile ich den hier Anwesenden und allen, die mit uns über Radio Vatikan oder das Fernsehen verbunden sind, den Apostolischen Segen.

Saludo con afecto a los peregrinos venidos de España y Latinoamérica. En especial a las Religiosas Oblatas al Divino Amor que participan en su Capítulo General en Roma. A todos os aliento a comprometeros en la construcción de una sociedad digna del hombre, dotándola de un alma y proclamando sin cesar las exigencias de la ley de Dios. Feliz Navidad.

Amados peregrinos de língua portuguesa, a minha saudação cordial a todos os presentes. Como sabeis, durante as festividades do Jubileu do nascimento de Jesus Cristo, serão celebrados os 500 [quinhentos] anos do descobrimento e da evangelização do Brasil; daqui envio ao querido povo brasileiro minha Bênção especial e uma mensagem de esperança no seu futuro.

Witam pielgrzymów z Polski: abpa Józefa Michalika z Przemyśla, trzy parafie z Zakopanego oraz pielgrzymów z Limanowej, Laskowej, Słopnic i Tymbarku.

Jeszcze raz gorąco dziękuję góralom z Zakopanego za choinki, które przynieśli na Boże Narodzenie, Źyczę wam Wesołych Świąt i Do siego roku.

Szczęść Boże!

Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua croata

Cari fratelli e sorelle, il perdono di cuore e la riconciliazione sono frutti della conversione e della sincera adesione al Vangelo. A questo ci invita, in particolare, il Grande Giubileo dell’Anno 2000, che avrà inizio tra pochi giorni e che rievoca il Mistero dell’Incarnazione e dell’immenso amore di Dio Uno e Trino verso l’uomo. La prossima celebrazione si manifesta per tali ragioni straordinariamente ricca di nuove speranze e di sovrabbondante gioia.

Saluto cordialmente i partecipanti al Simposio internazionale dedicato al “padre della linguistica croata”, il gesuita Bartol Kašic, come pure il personale dell’Istituto Lessicografico Croato “Miroslav Krleza” di Zagabria. Vi accompagni tutti la mia benedizione.

Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!

* * *

Rivolgo ora un cordiale saluto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. In particolare, ai Dirigenti del Ministero della Sanità che collaborano con il Gran Ospedaliere del Sovrano Militare Ordine di Malta, i cui membri si occuperanno delle postazioni di pronto soccorso durante l'Anno giubilare, presso le quattro Basiliche romane. Ad essi ed ai loro familiari esprimo il mio grato compiacimento e formulo i più cordiali auguri.

Con grande piacere saluto il numeroso gruppo di militari e civili, operatori di pace e solidarietà nel Kosovo, che attraverso "Radio West" mi ascoltano e si apprestano ad iniziare il Grande Giubileo dell'Anno 2000. Carissimi, mi sento molto vicino a voi ed alle vostre famiglie e vi manifesto il mio compiacimento per il quotidiano servizio di ricostruzione di un Paese duramente provato. Mentre invoco su tutti copiosi doni e ricompense celesti, auspico di cuore che il Giubileo ormai vicino rinsaldi il comune impegno per la tutela e la promozione del rispetto della dignità della persona e dei diritti di ogni essere umano.

Saluto, poi, i fedeli della Parrocchia Santa Maria Assunta in Balze di Verghereto, venuti con i membri dell'Arciconfraternita di Misericordia di Firenze e li ringrazio per il gentile dono del muschio, che servirà per il presepe in Piazza San Pietro. Saluto pure i fedeli della Basilica di Santa Caterina in Bolsena, ed il gruppo della Patriarcale Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi.

Saluto anche l'Unione Provinciale Agricoltori di Siena, l'Unione Cattolica Artisti Italiani, i membri del Corso Allievi Marescialli dell'Esercito Italiano e della Scuola Tecnica della Polizia di Stato.

Vi ringrazio tutti di cuore per la vostra partecipazione, invocando su ciascuno la continua protezione di Dio e della Vergine Santissima.

Un particolare saluto rivolgo a voi, giovani, malati e sposi novelli.

A voi, cari giovani, specialmente a voi studenti che siete così numerosi, auguro di disporre i vostri cuori ad accogliere Gesù, che viene a salvarci con la potenza del suo amore.

A voi, cari malati, che nella vostra esperienza di malattia condividete con Cristo il peso della Croce, le prossime feste natalizie apportino serenità e conforto.

Invito voi, cari sposi novelli, che da poco tempo avete fondato la vostra famiglia, a crescere sempre più in quell'amore che Gesù nel suo Natale ci ha donato.

A tutti imparto la Benedizione Apostolica.

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