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The Word, the Eucharist and divided Christians (Jn 17, 20-21)

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the History of Salvation
General Audience, Wednesday 15 November 2000 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. In the programme for this Jubilee Year we could not omit the dimension of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, as I had indicated earlier in Tertio millennio adveniente (cf. nn. 53 and 55). The Trinitarian and Eucharistic line we developed in our previous catecheses now prompts us to reflect on this aspect, examining first of all the problem of restoring unity among Christians. We do so in the light of the Gospel account of the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24: 13-35), observing the way that the two disciples who were leaving the community were spurred to reverse their direction to rediscover it.

2. The two disciples turned their backs on the place where Jesus had been crucified, because the event had been a cruel disappointment to them. For this very reason they were leaving the other disciples and returning, as it were, to individualism. "They were talking with each other about all these things that had happened" (Lk 24: 14), without understanding their meaning. They did not realize that Jesus had died "to gather into one the children of God who are scattered" (Jn 11: 52). They only saw the tremendously negative aspect of the cross, which had destroyed their hopes:  "We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel" (Lk 24: 21). The risen Jesus comes up and walks beside them, "but their eyes were kept from recognizing him" (Lk 24: 16), because from the spiritual standpoint they were in the darkest shadows. Then Jesus, with wonderful patience, endeavours to bring them back into the light of faith through a long biblical catechesis:  "Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself" (Lk 24: 27). Their hearts began to burn (cf. Lk 24: 32). They begged their mysterious companion to stay with them. "When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight" (Lk 24: 30-31). Thanks to the clear explanation of the Scriptures, they emerged from the gloom of incomprehension into the light of faith and were able to recognize the risen Christ "in the breaking of the bread" (Lk 24: 35).

The effect of this profound change was an impulse to set out again without delay and return to Jerusalem to join "the Eleven gathered together and those who were with them" (Lk 24: 33). The journey of faith had made fraternal union possible.

3. The connection between the interpretation of the word of God and the Eucharist also appears in other parts of the New Testament. In his Gospel John links this word with Eucharist, when in the discourse at Capernaum he presents Jesus recalling the gift of manna in the wilderness and reinterpreting it in a Eucharistic key (cf. Jn 6: 32-58). In the Church of Jerusalem, diligent listening to the didache, that is, the apostolic teaching based on the word of God, preceded participation in the "breaking of bread" (Acts 2: 42).

At Troas, when the Christians gathered around Paul "to break bread", Luke relates that the gathering began with a long speech by the Apostle (cf. Acts 20: 7), which was certainly intended to nurture their faith, hope and charity. It is clear from all this that unity in faith is the necessary condition for common participation in the Eucharist.

With the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharist - as the Second Vatican Council reminds us, citing St John Chrysostom (In Joh. hom., 46) - "the faithful, united with their Bishops, have access to God the Father through the Son, the Word made flesh who suffered and was glorified, in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And so, made "sharers of the divine nature' (2 Pt 1: 4), they enter into communion with the most holy Trinity. Hence, through the celebration of the Eucharist of the Lord in each of these Churches, the Church of God is built up and grows in stature, and through concelebration their communion with one another is made manifest" (Unitatis redintegratio, n. 15). This link with the mystery of divine unity thus produces a bond of communion and love among those seated at the one table of the Word and of the Eucharist. The one table is a sign and expression of unity. "Thus Eucharistic communion is inseparably linked to full ecclesial communion and its visible expression" (Directory for the Application of the Principles and Norms of Ecumenism, 1993, n. 129).

4. In this light we can understand how the doctrinal divisions between the disciples of Christ grouped in the various Churches and Ecclesial Communities limit full sacramental sharing. Baptism, however, is the deep root of a basic unity that links Christians despite their divisions. Therefore, although Christians who are still separated are excluded from participation in the same Eucharist, it is possible to introduce into the Eucharistic celebration, in specific cases provided for in the Ecumenical Directory, certain signs of participation that express the unity already existing and move in the direction of the full communion of the Churches around the table of the Word and of the Lord's Body and Blood. Consequently, "on exceptional occasions and for a just cause, the Bishop of the Diocese may permit a member of another Church or Ecclesial Community to take on the task of reader" during a Eucharistic celebration in the Catholic Church (n. 133). Likewise, "whenever necessity requires or a genuine spiritual advantage suggests, and provided that the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided", a certain reciprocity regarding the sacraments of Penance, the Eucharist and the Anointing of the Sick is lawful between Catholics and Eastern Christians (cf. nn. 123-131).

5. Nevertheless, the tree of unity must grow to its full extent, as Christ implored in his great prayer in the Upper Room, proclaimed here at the start of our meeting (cf. Jn 17: 20-26; Unitatis redintegratio, n. 22). The limits to intercommunion at the table of the Word and of the Eucharist must become a call to purification, to dialogue and to the ecumenical progress of the Churches. They are limits that make us feel all the more strongly, in the Eucharistic celebration itself, the weight of our divisions and contradictions. The Eucharist is thus a challenge and a summons in the very heart of the Church to remind us of Christ's intense, final desire:  "that they may be one" (Jn 17: 11, 21).

The Church must not be a body of divided and suffering members, but a strong, living organism that moves onward, sustained by the divine bread as prefigured in Elijah's journey (cf. 1 Kgs 19: 1-8), to the summit of the definitive encounter with God. There, at last, will be the vision of Revelation:  "And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Rv 21: 2)."

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

I warmly welcome the group from the NATO Defense College: I encourage you always to see your professional duties as a service to the cause of peace. I extend a special greeting to the members of the Irish Defence Forces, the Gardaí and the Prison Service, led by the Head Chaplain. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from Ireland, Japan and the United States of America, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Je salue cordialement les francophones présents ce matin. Je suis heureux d'accueillir en particulier les pèlerins du diocèse de Vannes, avec leur Évêque, Mgr François-Mathurin Gourvès, ainsi que ceux qui viennent de plusieurs diocèses du Viêt-Nam. Que votre pèlerinage jubilaire vous permette d'ouvrir largement vos cœurs à l'amour du Seigneur et de vos frères ! À tous, je donne de grand cœur la Bénédiction apostolique.

Diese eindringliche Bitte, sich um die wahre Einheit der Christen zu mühen, lege ich allen deutschsprachigen Pilgern und Besuchern ans Herz. Besonders heiße ich die Dillinger Franziskanerinnen willkommen, die an dieser Audienz teilnehmen, ehe sie ihr Haus in La Storta verlassen: Gott begleite Euren Neuanfang! Euch allen, Euren lieben Angehörigen daheim und denen, die mit uns über Radio Vatikan und das Fernsehen verbunden sind, erteile ich gern den Apostolischen Segen.

Amados peregrinos de língua portuguesa, saúdo cordialmente todos os presentes e, de modo especial, os grupos brasileiros da diocese de Novo Hamburgo e da paróquia de São Marcos no Rio de Janeiro. Desejo-lhes, como fruto desta peregrinação jubilar, aquela renovação de vida que nasce do encontro pessoal com Cristo e frutifica num serviço solidário e desinteressado aos mais pobres da comunidade. Com estes votos, de bom grado a todos abençoo.

Saludo con afecto a los peregrinos de lengua española, especialmente a los Sacerdotes latinoamericanos del CIAM, a las religiosas de la Consolación y Mercedarias de la Caridad, así como a los Cadetes de la Escuela de Aviación de Córdoba (Argentina) y a los demás grupos de España y América Latina. En este Año Jubilar os invito a tener muy presente el compromiso ecuménico, porque la Iglesia debe ser un organismo vivo y fuerte, sostenido por el pan divino en su camino hacia el encuentro definitivo con Dios.

Saluto ai pellegrini di lingua ceca

Srdecne zdravim poutníky z Ceské republiky, zvlášte pak z Olomoucké a Ostravaské diecéze.

Drazí, ze srdce vám peji, aby tato jubilejní pou ješte vice posílila vaše spojení s Kristem a horlivost v hlásání evangelia! S temito myšlenkami vyprošuji vám a vašim drahým hojnost nebeského poéhnaní.

Chvála Kristu!

Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua ceca:

Saluto cordialmente i pellegrini provenienti dalla Repubblica Ceca, in particolare dalla Diocesi di Olomouc e Ostrava.

Carissimi, auspico di cuore che questo vostro pellegrinaggio giubilare rafforzi ancor di più la vostra adesione a Cristo e l'impegno di testimonianza evangelica. Con questi pensieri, invoco su di voi e sui vostri cari copiose benedizioni del cielo.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Saluto in lingua slovacca:

Zo srdca vítam pútnikov zo Slovenska: z Bardejova, Prešova a okolia, Košíc, Tatranskej Javoriny, Kysúc a Povaia, Jacoviec, Topocian ako aj grécko-katolícke farnosti z Humenného a Vranova.

Drahí pútnici, búducu sobotu budeme slavi Výrocie posviacky bazilík svätých Petra a Pavla. Nech jubilejná pu do týchto bazilík prehlbi vašu lásku k Cirkvi, ktorá je postavená na základe apoštolov.

Ochtone udeujem apoštolské poehnanie vám a vašim drahým.

Pochválený bud Jeiš Kristus!

Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua slovacca:

Saluto cordialmente i pellegrini provenienti dalla Slovacchia: da Bardejov, Prešov e dintorni, Košice, Tatranská Javorina, Kysúce e Povazie, Jacovce, Topol'cian, e dalle Parrocchie greco-cattoliche di Humenné e di Vranov.

Cari pellegrini, sabato prossimo celebreremo la Dedicazione delle Basiliche dei Santi Pietro e Paolo. Il pellegrinaggio giubilare in queste Basiliche approfondisca il vostro amore per la Chiesa, fondata sugli Apostoli.

Volentieri imparto la Benedizione Apostolica a voi ed ai vostri cari.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Saluto ai pellegrini croati:

Draga braco i sestre, svojom blizinom ljudima sam Bog poziva covjeka i enu na nadu, te im u Isusu Kristu nudi spasenje. Ta pak nada, puna ljubavi, sve više i više širi obzore ljudskoga roda i usmjerava ga prema buducnosti, koja nam je objavljena u Isusu Kristu.

Srdacno pozdravljam sve nazocne hrvatske hodocasnike medu kojima je takoder skupina sestara i novakinja Drube sluavki maloga Isusa zajedno s vrhovnom glavaricom majkom Sandrom Midenjak. Svima rado udjeljujem apostolski blagoslov.

Hvaljen Isus i Marija!

Versione italiana del testo croato:

Cari Fratelli e Sorelle, con la sua vicinanza all'uomo e alla donna, Dio stesso li invita alla speranza, offrendo loro la salvezza in Gesù Cristo. Questa vicinanza, piena di amore, allarga sempre di più gli orizzonti dell'umanità, proiettandola verso il futuro rivelatoci in Gesù Cristo.

Saluto cordialmente i pellegrini croati qui presenti, tra i quali il gruppo di Suore e Novizie della Congregazione delle Ancelle del Bambin Gesù con la Superiora Generale, Madre Sandra Midenjak. Volentieri imparto a tutti la Benedizione Apostolica.

Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!

Saluto in lingua neerlandese:

Ik groet nu alle Nederlandse en Belgische pelgrims !

Ik wens u toe dat de viering van het Jubileumjaar het verlangen naar een oprechte bekering doet groeien, en u op edelmoedige wijze doet openstaan voor Gods genade.

Van harte verleen ik u de Apostolische Zegen.

Geloofd zij Jezus Christus !

Versione italiana del saluto in lingua neerlandese:

Adesso saluto tutti i pellegrini belgi e neerlandesi !

Auspico che la celebrazione dell’Anno giubilare accresca in voi il desiderio di autentica conversione, per iniziare un generoso cammino di apertura alla grazia divina.

Di cuore imparto la Benedizione Apostolica.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo !

* * *

Saluto ora i fedeli delle diocesi di Mantova e di Massa Marittima-Piombino, venuti in pellegrinaggio giubilare insieme ai loro rispettivi Vescovi: Monsignor Egidio Caporello e Monsignor Giovanni Santucci.

Nel darvi il benvenuto, cari Fratelli e Sorelle, vi esprimo il mio compiacimento per questa vostra visita. Auspico cordialmente che il vostro pellegrinaggio sia ricco di frutti spirituali a beneficio delle intere vostre Comunità ecclesiali. La visita alla Città degli apostoli Pietro e Paolo rinsaldi in voi la fede nel Redentore, perché siate sempre più autentici e credibili testimoni del suo Vangelo in famiglia, nel lavoro ed in ogni ambito della società.

Saluto ora tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana. In particolare, rivolgo un cordiale pensiero ai sacerdoti dell'Arcidiocesi di Cagliari, con il loro Pastore Monsignor Ottorino Pietro Alberti, dell'Arcidiocesi di Gaeta, ed a quelli dell'Opera "Servi di Nazareth", come pure ai religiosi ed alle religiose presenti.

Saluto i gruppi parrocchiali provenienti da varie regioni, tra i quali ricordo quello di San Gabriele dell'Addolorata in Atri, dello Spirito Santo in Avezzano e di Santa Maria Antesaecula in Napoli.

Saluto, poi, l'Associazione Nazionale Piccoli Comuni d'Italia, i membri del Consorzio per la Formazione Internazionale ed i diversi gruppi di studenti.

Mi rivolgo, infine, ai giovani, ai malati ed agli sposi novelli.

Celebriamo oggi la memoria di Sant'Alberto Magno, Vescovo e Dottore della Chiesa, grande teologo, che seppe unire in modo esemplare un'intensa vita di preghiera ad un appassionato studio delle verità della fede.

Cari giovani, non stancatevi mai di conoscere, amare e seguire il Signore. Egli solo ha parole di vita eterna, capaci di dare pieno significato all'esistenza. Voi, cari malati, che sperimentate la fatica della sofferenza, sappiate sentire la presenza consolante di Cristo, che vi invita a partecipare con fede alla potenza salvifica della sua Croce. Voi, infine, cari sposi novelli, fedeli alla vostra vocazione, siate nel mondo immagine luminosa dell'amore di Dio, attraverso la fedeltà, l'unità e la fecondità del vostro amore.


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