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Reconciliation with God and one another

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the History of Salvation
General Audience, Wednesday 22 September 1999 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Continuing our reflection on the sacrament of Penance, today let us explore a dimension which is one of its essential features:  reconciliation. This aspect of the sacrament serves as an antidote or remedy to the destructive nature of sin. By sinning, man not only distances himself from God, but sows the seed of division in himself and in his relations with others. The process of returning to God therefore implies restoration of the unity jeopardized by sin.

2. Reconciliation is the Father's gift:  he alone can achieve it. This is why it is primarily an appeal which comes from on high:  "In Christ's name:  be reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5: 20). As Jesus explains in the parable of the prodigal son (cf. Lk 15: 11-32), forgiving and reconciling people to himself is a celebration for him. In this as in other Gospel passages, the Father not only offers his forgiveness and reconciliation, but at the same time shows how these gifts are a source of joy for everyone.

In the New Testament there is a significant link between the divine fatherhood and the festive joy of a banquet. The kingdom of God is compared to a joyful feast at which the host is actually the Father (cf. Mt 8: 11; 22: 4; 26: 29). The fulfilment of all salvation history is again expressed in the image of a banquet prepared by God the Father for the wedding feast of the Lamb (cf. Rv 19: 6-9).

3. The reconciliation that comes from the Father is concentrated in Christ himself, the Lamb without blemish offered for our sins (1 Pt 1: 19; Rv 5: 6; 12: 11). Jesus Christ is not only the Reconciler, but Reconciliation itself. As St Paul teaches, our becoming new creatures, renewed by the Spirit, "is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation" (2 Cor 5: 18-19).

It is precisely through the mystery of the Cross that our Lord Jesus Christ overcomes the tragedy of the division between man and God. Indeed, with Easter the mystery of the Father's infinite mercy penetrates the darkest roots of human iniquity. There a movement of grace begins which, if accepted with free consent, leads us to taste the sweetness of full reconciliation.

The abyss of Christ's pain and abandonment is thus turned into an inexhaustible source of compassionate and reconciling love. The Redeemer retraces a path leading back to the Father, making it possible to experience again the filial relationship that was lost and to confer on human beings the necessary strength to preserve this deep communion with God.

4. Unfortunately, even in redeemed existence there is the possibility of sinning again and this calls for constant vigilance. Furthermore, even after forgiveness, the "residue of sin" remains and must be removed and combatted by a programme of penance involving a greater commitment to doing good. This requires first of all the reparation of physical or moral wrongs done to groups or individuals. Conversion thus becomes a continual journey, in which the mystery of reconciliation made present in the sacrament is the point of arrival and departure.

The encounter with the forgiving Christ increases in our hearts that dynamism of Trinitarian love which the Ordo Paenitentiae describes in the following way:  "In the sacrament of Penance the Father receives the repentant children who come back to him, Christ places the lost sheep on his shoulders and brings them back to the sheepfold, and the Holy Spirit resanctifies those who are the temple of God or dwells more fully in them. The expression of all this is the sharing in the Lord's table, begun again or made more ardent; such a return of children from afar brings great rejoicing at the banquet of God's Church" (n. 6; cf. also nn. 5 and 19).

5. In the formula of absolution, the "Rite of Penance" expresses the relationship between forgiveness and peace, offered by God the Father in the Death and Resurrection of his Son, and the mediation of "the ministry of the Church" (Ordo Paenitentiae, n. 46). While the sacrament signifies and brings about the gift of reconciliation, it also highlights the fact that reconciliation concerns our relationship not only with God the Father, but also with our brothers and sisters. These two aspects of reconciliation are closely correlated. Christ's reconciling work occurs in the Church. She cannot reconcile on her own but only as a living instrument of Christ's pardon, on the basis of the Lord's precise mandate (cf. Jn 20: 23, Mt 18: 18). This reconciliation in Christ is achieved in a pre-eminent way in the celebration of the sacrament of Penance. But the Church's whole inner being in its community dimension is characterized by a permanent disposition to reconciliation.

It is necessary to overcome a certain individualism in the way one thinks of reconciliation:  the entire Church cooperates in the conversion of sinners through prayer, exhortation, fraternal correction and charitable support. Without reconciliation with our brothers and sisters, love would not take flesh in the individual. Just as sin damages the tissue of the Body of Christ, so reconciliation restores solidarity among the People of God.

6. Ancient penitential practice highlighted the community-ecclesial aspect of reconciliation, particularly at the final moment of absolution by the Bishop with full readmission of the penitents into the community. The Church's teaching and the penitential discipline promulgated after the Second Vatican Council urge the faithful to rediscover and restore to honour this community-ecclesial dimension of Reconciliation (cf. Lumen gentium, n. 11 and also Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 27), while maintaining the doctrine on the need for individual confession.

In the context of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, it will be important to offer effective and updated paths of reconciliation which will lead to rediscovering the community dimension not only of penance, but of the Father's entire plan of salvation for humanity. Thus the teaching of the Constitution Lumen gentium will be put into practice:  "God has willed to make men holy and save them, not as individuals without any bond or link between them, but rather to make them into a people who might acknowledge him and serve him in holiness" (n. 9)."

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

Je vous salue cordialement, chers pèlerins francophones, notamment vous qui venez de la région apostolique Midi-Pyrénées, avec Monseigneur Périer, Mgr Gaidon, Mgr Ghirard, Mgr Housset et Mgr Fréchard. Je vous salue aussi, vous qui participez au douzième chapitre général de la Congrégation du Cœur immaculé de Marie. Que votre séjour à Rome affermisse votre foi! Avec ma Bénédiction apostolique.

Je salue affectueusement le groupe de fidèles de l’Église syrienne orthodoxe, conduits par leur évêque, Son Excellence Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim. Chers amis, que votre séjour vous confirme dans la joie et dans la force de la foi en Jésus Christ ! Que la Vierge Marie, la Theotokos, vous protège et vous garde sur tous vos chemins ! Je profite de cette occasion pour souhaiter à l’Église syrienne orthodoxe une heureuse célébration du huitième centenaire de la mort du Patriarche Mar Michel le Grand, et je vous prie de transmettre mes salutations fraternelles à Sa Sainteté le Patriarche Mar Ignatius Zakka Iwas.

I extend a warm welcome to the new students of the Pontifical Beda College, and I encourage them to grow each day in their love of the Church, built on the foundation of the Apostles. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia and the United States of America, I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

Today it is our joy to have among us three young people from the Middle East, representing the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, and belonging to the three monotheistic religions of the region.

To this representative group I will present a personal written message which, I hope, will encourage the efforts being made by young people in the Middle East to build a society where peace and harmony among peoples and the followers of different religions will reign supreme. This is our prayer for the entire region, so dear to all the children of Abraham.

Sehr herzlich grüße ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher. Eine große Freude ist es mir, unter Euch eine Gruppe von Universitätsprofessoren der Theologischen Fakultät Regensburg in Begleitung Seiner Eminenz Joseph Kardinal Ratzinger willkommen zu heißen. Des weiteren grüße ich die CDU-Bundestagsabgeordnetn aus Thüringen, die Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeiter des Bischöflichen Generalvikariates in Münster sowie die vielen Schülerinnen und Schüler. Gern erteile ich Euch und Euren Lieben daheim sowie allen, die über Radio Vatikan und das Fernsehen mit uns verbunden sind, den Apostolischen Segen.

Saludo con afecto a todos los fieles de lengua española. En especial al Grupo de Voluntarios de Radio María, de Panamá. También a los distintos grupos venidos de Españña, El Salvador, México, Uruguay, Chile y Argentina. Que vuestra peregrinación a Roma os ayude a fortalecer vuestra fe. Muchas gracias por vuestra atención.

As minhas saudações cordiais aos ouvintes e presentes neste encontro: a todos desejo felicidades, paz e graça do Senhor! Em particular, saúdo os peregrinos de Portugal e do Brasil. Agradeço vossa participação nesta Audiência, e desejo todo o bem, com as graças divinas, na caminhada para o Reino de Deus: abençoando-vos, penso nas vossas famílias. Que sejais felizes.

Witam pielgrzymów Z Polski. W szczególności pozdrawiam księży biskupów z diecezji siedleckiej: Jana Wiktora Nowaka i Henryka Tomasika, z diecezji elbkąskiej: Andrzeja Śliwinskiego i Józefa Wysockiego, oraz kapłanów diecezji sandomierskiej i radomskiej z okazji 25-lecia święceń, a także siostry dominikanki z różnych miejscowości Polski. Pozdrawiam grupy parafialne z Będzina, Częstochowy, Gdańska, Gdyni, Kędzierzyna-Koźla, Sulechowa, Tych oraz Polską, Misję Katolicką z Dortmundu, Bielefeld i Paderborn. Pozdrawiam także grupy młodzieżowe: z Dęblina wojskowych, z Gliwic, Krakowa, Legionowa, Nowego Sącza, Olsztyna, Szczecina, Tarnowa oraz profesorów, studentów i duszpasterzy Wyższej Szkoły Menadżerskiej z Warszawy. Pozdrawiam serdecznie pielgrzymów z Siedlec i z Elbląga, w sposób szczególny pasterzy tych diecezji, władze administracyjne, a także przedstawicieli duchowieństwa oraz wiernych. Wyrażam wszystkim wdzięczność za to przybycie, dzięki któremu powracają wspomnienia moich odwiedzin w Polsce oraz niezapomnianego pobytu w Siedlcach i Elblągu w czerwcu tego roku.

Nawiązując do katechezy dzisiejszej, życzę wszystkim owocnego przygotowania do Wielkiego Jubileuszu Drugiego Tysiąclecia. W tym duchu, o jakim była mowa w dzisiejszej katechezie, a mianowicie w duchu pokuty odnawiającej serce i sumienie człowieka na spotkanie z Chrystusem w trzecim tysiącleciu.

Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus!

Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua neerlandese

Adesso saluto tutti i pellegrini neerlandesi e belgi, in particolare i pellegrini della parrocchia San Lorenzo a Voerendaal.

Il Signore ci invita ad ascoltare la sua Parola, a conoscere a fondo la sua Persona, ed a condividere il suo cammino. Auguro che il vostro pellegrinaggio alle vi dia l’esperienza della presenza viva del Signore nella sua Chiesa.

Di cuore imparto la Benedizione Apostolica. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo !

Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua ungherese

Saluto cordialmente i pellegrini ungheresi da Tápiószele e Farmos (Diocesi di Vác).

Carissimi, la visita alle tombe dei santi Apostoli Pietro e Paolo vi fortifichi nella testimonianza cristiana.

Di cuore benedico voi e tutti vostri cari. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua lituana

Mi rivolgo con affetto ai pellegrini e ai visitatori lituani.

Cari Fratelli e Sorelle, vi saluto di cuore e vi ringrazio per la vostra partecipazione. Auspico che la Lituania sviluppi ulteriormente il suo ricco patrimonio religioso e culturale, affrontando il futuro con fede rinnovata in Cristo, che salva e cambia il mondo.

A tutti assicuro la mia preghiera ed imparto la Benedizione Apostolica. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo.

Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua ceca

Do un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini provenienti dalla Boemia Meridionale e dalla Moravia (Ostrava a Karviná)!

Ieri abbiamo celebrato la festa di San Matteo, Apostolo ed Evangelista. La sua risposta alla vocazione da parte di Cristo continui ad illuminare la nostra vita cristiana: anche a noi Gesù ripete: "Seguimi!" (cfr. Mt 9, 9).

Con questi voti vi benedico di cuore. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua slovacca

Cordialmente saluto il gruppo dei pellegrini slovacchi da Bardejov, Janíkovce, Vel’ký Lapáš, gli studenti del ginnasio cattolico da Trebišov e i francescani del terzo ordine da Bratislava.

Oggi nell’antica diocesi di Nitra si celebra la memoria di San Emeramo. La dedicazione della cattedrale a questo vescovo missionario e martire ci ricorda gli inizi della cristianizzazione del vostro paese. A questa prima missione si ricollega l’evangelizzazione dei Santi fratelli Cirillo e Metodio. Cercate di conoscere e di promuovere sempre più questa eredità di fede.

Vi aiuti in ciò l’esempio di tutti i santi missionari della vostra Patria e la mia Benedizione Apostolica. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua croata

Cari fratelli e sorelle, il Padre ha riservato alla sua scelta i tempi e i momenti della venuta finale del Regno di Dio con il ritorno di Cristo nella gloria (cfr At 1, 7). Essi sono conosciuti soltanto da Lui (cfr Mt 24, 36). Tale avvenimento per il cristiano non può essere causa di paura, ma motivo di viva speranza e di grande gioia, perché esso segnerà la salvezza definitiva (cfr Ap 11, 15-18; 12, 10-11).

Saluto di cuore i gruppi di pellegrini croati di Sinj e di Marija Bistrica ed imparto loro la Benedizione Apostolica. Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!

* * *

Rivolgo ora un cordiale saluto a tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare alle Suore Teatine dell’Immacolata Concezione che, durante la loro Assemblea generale di studio e formazione, sono venute ad esprimere al Successore di Pietro sentimenti di affetto e di profonda comunione ecclesiale.

Sono lieto di accogliere i sacerdoti, provenienti da varie Nazioni, studenti presso i Pontifici Collegi San Paolo apostolo e San Pietro apostolo in Roma. Carissimi, nel rivolgervi i migliori auguri per il vostro impegno di studio, vi assicuro un particolare ricordo nella preghiera.

Saluto i giornalisti dell’Unione Cattolica della Stampa Italiana, venuti in occasione del quarantesimo anniversario dell’associazione. Mentre esprimo vivo apprezzamento per il prezioso servizio reso all’informazione e particolarmente alla Comunità cristiana, vi incoraggio a riproporre costantemente e fedelmente i valori umani e cristiani necessari per costruire una società realmente libera e solidale.

Saluto altresì la rappresentanza di ragazzi provenienti dalla Toscana e dall’Abruzzo, che hanno partecipato al concorso nazionale promosso dal Movimento per la Vita italiano, dal titolo “Essere padre, essere madre, ieri, oggi, domani”; gli Ufficiali, i Sottoufficiali e i Cadetti dell’Accademia Militare dell’Esercito, i membri della Federazione Nazionale Cooperative della Pesca e i partecipanti al Campionato Europeo di Pallavolo Femminile.

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

Con speciale affetto il mio pensiero va infine ai giovani, ai malati, ed agli sposi novelli.

L’amicizia nei confronti di Gesù, cari giovani, sia per voi fonte di gioia e motivo per compiere scelte impegnative.

Questa amicizia, cari malati, vi rechi conforto nei momenti difficili ed infonda serenità al corpo ed allo spirito.

Cari sposi, alla luce dell’amicizia con Gesù, impegnatevi a corrispondere alla vostra vocazione e missione nell’amore reciproco, nell’apertura alla vita e nella testimonianza cristiana.

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