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Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord 1999

Pope John Paul II's Homily at Mass
- in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

1. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (Jn 1:5).

"Today the whole liturgy speaks of the light of Christ, of that light which was kindled on the Holy Night. The same light which led the shepherds to the stable in Bethlehem shows the way, on the day of Epiphany, to the Magi who have come from the East to worship the King of the Jews, and it shines brightly for all men and women and for all peoples who long to meet God.

In his spiritual quest, the human being already enjoys a guiding light: it is reason, through which he can find the way, although gropingly, towards his Creator. But since it is easy to lose the way, God himself has come to his aid with the light of Revelation, which attained its fullness in the Incarnation of the Word, the eternal Word of truth.

Epiphany celebrates the appearance in the world of this divine Light in which God has reached out to the faint light of human reason. Today's solemnity suggests the close relationship between faith and reason, the two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth, as I recalled in the recent encyclical Fides et Ratio.

2. Christ is not only the light that illumines man's way. He also became the path for his uncertain steps towards God, the source of life. One day he will say to the Apostles: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him" (Jn 14:6-7). And in response to Philip's objection, he will add: "He who has seen me has seen the Father ... I am in the Father and the Father in me" (Jn 14:9-11). The epiphany of the Son is the epiphany of the Father.

Was this not the reason, after all, for Christ's coming into the world? He himself declared that he had come to "make the Father known", to "explain" to people who God is, to reveal his face, his "name" (Jn 17:6). Eternal life consists in meeting the Father. How appropriate, then, is this reflection, especially in the year dedicated to the Father!

Down the centuries the Church continues the mission of her Lord: her primary task is to make the Father's face known to all people by reflecting the light of Christ, lumen gentium, the light of love, truth and peace. For this reason, the divine Master sent the Apostles into the world, and in the same Spirit he continually sends Bishops as their successors.

3. In accordance with a significant custom, on the Solemnity of Epiphany the Bishop of Rome confers episcopal ordination on a number of prelates, and today I have the joy of consecrating you, dear brothers, so that in the fullness of the priesthood you may become ministers of God's epiphany among men. Each of you has been entrusted with specific tasks, different from each other but all aimed at spreading the one Gospel of salvation among men.

You, Archbishop Alessandro D'Errico, as Apostolic Nuncio in Pakistan; you, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, as my representative in Rwanda; and you, Archbishop Alain Lebeaupin, as Apostolic Nuncio in Ecuador, will be witnesses of unity and communion between the local Churches and the Apostolic See.

You, Bishop Cesare Mazzolari, are entrusted with the Diocese of Rumbek in Sudan, a land whose people, subjected to years of exhausting suffering, are waiting for a just peace with respect for the human rights of all, beginning with the weakest; and you, Bishop Pierre Tran Dinh Tu, have been called in turn to become a messenger of peace in the Diocese of Phú Cuong, Viêt Nam, among brothers and sisters in the faith who have suffered from many hardships.

You, Bishop Diarmuid Martin, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and you, Bishop José Luis Redrado Marchite, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health-Care Workers, will continue your valued service in the Roman Curia, keeping before your eyes the vast horizon of the entire Church.

Yours is a mission filled with expectations, Bishop Rafael Cob García, Vicar Apostolic of Puyo, Ecuador; and you, Bishop Mathew Moolakkattu, Auxiliary to the Bishop of Kottayam for Syro-Malabars in India; you remind me of Asia and America, continents for which we have recently celebrated two Special Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops.

The Lord grant that each of you, the new bishops on whom I will lay my hands today, may bring everywhere by word and deed the joyful message of Epiphany, in which the Son revealed to the world the face of the Father rich in mercy.

4. On the threshold of the third millennium, the world has greater need than ever to experience the divine goodness, to feel God's love for every person.

The oracle of the prophet Isaiah, which we have heard today, also applies to our age: "Darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds the peoples; but upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory" (Is 60:2-3). On the crest, so to speak, between the second and the third millennium, the Church is called to rise up in splendour, to shine as a city set on a hill: the Church cannot remain hidden, because people need to hear her message of light and hope and give glory to the Father who is in heaven.

Conscious of this apostolic and missionary task which belongs to all the Christian people, but especially to those whom the Holy Spirit has set as bishops to govern the Church of God, we go as pilgrims to Bethlehem to join the Magi from the East as they offer gifts to the newborn King.

But he is the true gift: Jesus, God's gift to the world. He is the One we must receive, in order to bring him in turn to everyone we will meet on our way. For everyone he is the epiphany, the manifestation of God the hope of man, of God the liberation of man, of God the salvation of man.

Christ was born for us in Bethlehem.
Come, let us adore him! Amen."

Papa Giovanni Paolo II's words at the Angelus in St Peter's Square
- in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dearest Brothers and Sisters,
1. The Eucharistic celebration during which I consecrated nine Bishop ended a short while ago in St Peter's Basilica. This inspiring rite has been held for several years now on the day of Epiphany, which recalls the manifestation of Christ to all nations, represented by the Magi who came to Bethlehem from the East.

Christ is the light of the world who illumines every individual and all peoples: this is the message of today's solemnity, a message which is entrusted first of all to Bishops, who from generation to generation have received the mandate given by the risen Christ to his Apostles: "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 28:19).

2. This missionary mandate is for all Christ's disciples. As the international community prepares to cross the threshold of the third millennium and looks with concern at the shadows still marking its path, the Church "ardently desires that the light of Christ will illumine all men and women" (Lumen gentium, n. 1), and for this reason she increases her efforts to proclaim the Gospel to every creature (cf. ibid.).

Humanity needs Christ: his Word of salvation, his consoling presence and his love that makes all things new. The world expects a brave and faithful witness from Christians.

Let us pray that every believer will have a growing missionary sense and there will be a greater number of those who in every corner of the world devote their energies to the Gospel cause. I am thinking in particular of the first lands to be evangelized and of all who are not afraid to face the risks and dangers of bringing them the Word of God; I am also thinking of those who, despite great physical and moral suffering, generously offer their lives to the Lord to contribute to his mysterious plan of salvation.

3. Dearest brothers and sisters, as we joyfully thank the heavenly Father for the gift of these new Bishops, may our prayerful remembrance extend to the whole ecclesial community, sent by Jesus to evangelize all nations: may the light of the Redeemer always shine brightly upon its face.

We ask this through the intercession of Blessed Mary, Mother of the Church and Queen of Apostles. May she, who showed the Child Jesus to the Magi in Bethlehem, help us to proclaim and bear witness to the Good News of God's merciful love to the people of our time."

After the Angelus

"Rivolgo un caloroso saluto ai pellegrini presenti, con uno speciale pensiero a quanti - familiari, amici, conoscenti - sono venuti per l'Ordinazione dei nuovi Vescovi.

Saluto, inoltre, gli organizzatori ed i figuranti del corteo storico-folcloristico "Viva la Befana", la cui scenografia si ispira quest'anno ai territori della Valle del Tevere e del Parco di Vejo, in particolare alla cittadina di Sacrofano. Possano queste tradizioni popolari tenere sempre desti i valori umani e religiosi sui quali si fondano le nostre comunità.

Rinnovo a tutti l'augurio di un nuovo anno ricco di serenità e di pace."

JPII - Wednesday, 6 January 1999 - © Copyright 1999 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana