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The Apostles were sent into the whole world

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Church
General Audience, Wednesday 5 April 1995 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. In the progressive development of the catechesis on the Church, we started with the eternal plan of God who wanted her to be the sacrament, point of convergence and radiating center of the economy of salvation. Having considered the various aspects of the Church's mystery as the People of God, sacrament of the union between humanity and God, bride of Christ and priestly community, we explained the ministries she is called to carry out. Regarding these ministries, we considered the episcopal college's mission in the succession of the apostolic college; the mission of the Pope, Successor of Peter in the Roman episcopate and in his primacy over the universal Church; the mission of priests and its implications for their state of life; the mission of deacons, appreciated today as in early Christian times and rightly considered a fresh leaven of hope for the entire People of God. Further, we spoke of the laity, shedding light on their value and mission as "Christ's faithful" in general, and in their various conditions of personal, family and social life. Lastly, we focused on the consecrated life as a treasure of the Church, in its traditional forms and in its many expressions which are flourishing today.

During these talks we constantly referred to the mission of the Church and of each of her members. However, it is time to discuss them more systematically, to identify more clearly the essence of the Church's universal mission and at the same time to deal with the problems connected with it. Thus we will also have the opportunity to further clarify the significance of the catholicity that the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed attributes to the Church as an essential note, together with that of unity. In this way we will address topics of great timeliness and will analyze the problems posed by the growing commitment to ecumenism.

2. The Second Vatican Council recalled that the universality of the mission of the Church, which "strives ever to proclaim the Gospel to all men," is based on Christ's specific order and on the "inner necessity of her own catholicity" (AG 1).

Jesus entrusted a precise mandate to the apostles: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature" (Mk 16:15). "Make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28:19). Their preaching was destined to arouse "repentance, for the forgiveness of sins...." (Lk 24:47). At the time of the ascension the disciples limited their hope to the kingdom of Israel; in fact, they asked their Master: "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6). In his response, the Savior clearly showed them that they had to go beyond this viewpoint, that they themselves would become his witnesses not only in Jerusalem, but throughout Judea and Samaria, and "to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

The Redeemer did not rely merely on his disciples' docility to his word, but on the superior power of the Spirit whom he promised them: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you" (Acts 1:8). In this respect, the command to remain in Jerusalem was significant. In order to give a universal witness, the disciples were not to leave the city until they had received the promised divine power: "But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high" (Lk 24:49).

3. The universality of the mission entered the hearts of the disciples with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Thus the universal openness of the Church is not a characteristic imposed from without, but an expression of a property that belongs to her very essence. The Church is "catholic," "the universal sacrament of salvation" (LG 48), because by the power of the Holy Spirit, God's kingdom is anticipated in her.

Before quoting the disciples' question on the restoration of the kingdom of Israel, Luke tells how in the apparitions during the forty days after the resurrection, Jesus had spoken of "the kingdom of God." "God's kingdom" is the universal kingdom that reflects in itself the infinite being of God, without the borders and divisions which are typical of human kingdoms.

4. A trinitarian origin is present in Christian universalism. As we saw, Jesus attributed to the power of the Holy Spirit the work of the apostles, and therefore, of the Church in the universal evangelization. He spoke of the "Father's kingdom" (Mt 13:43; 26:29) and taught them to ask for the coming of this kingdom: "Our Father...your kingdom come" (Mt 6:9-10; cf. Lk 11:2). But he also said: "My kingdom" (Lk 22:30; Jn 18:36; cf. Mt 20:21; Lk 23:42), explaining that this kingdom had been prepared for him by his Father (cf. Lk 22:30) and did not belong to this world (cf. Jn 18:36).

For the disciples this meant going beyond the cultural and religious limits within which they were accustomed to thinking and living, to see themselves at the level of a kingdom of universal dimensions. In his conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus emphasized the need to overcome the cultural, national and ethnic conflicts historically associated with specific shrines, in order to establish the true worship of God: "The hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.... But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him" (Jn 4:21, 23). What Jesus asked of his disciples is his Father's will: to pass from God's kingdom in Israel alone, to God's kingdom in all nations. The Father has a universal heart and, through the Son and in the Spirit, he establishes a universal worship. As I said in the Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, the Church emerges from the Father's universal heart, and she is catholic because the Father extends his fatherhood to all humanity (cf. RM 12).

5. The universality of the Father's eternal plan shines forth concretely in the messianic work of his only Son made man, which is at the origin of Christianity.

In accordance with the Father's mandate, Jesus' preaching was limited to the Jewish people, "to the lost sheep of the house of Israel," as he himself declared (cf. Mt 15:24). However, this preaching was only a prelude to the universal evangelization and the entry of all nations into the kingdom proclaimed by Christ himself, in harmony with the deep meaning of the prophets' preaching: "I say to you, many will come from the East and the West, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven..." (Mt 8:11). This universalist vision is brought to light by Jesus' presentation of himself as "Son of Man" and not only "Son of David," since he himself was David's Lord (cf. Mt 22:45; Mk 12:37; Lk 20:44).

The title "Son of Man" in the language of Jewish apocalyptic literature, inspired by the prophet Daniel (7:13), is a reference to the heavenly figure who would receive the eschatological kingdom from God. Jesus used it to express the true nature of his Messianism as a mission fulfilled at the level of true humanity, but transcending all ethnic, national and religious particularism.

6. The universality which proceeds from the Father and the incarnate Son was definitively transmitted to the Church on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit filled the first Christian community and made it universal. The apostles then witnessed to Christ, addressing people of all nations, who understood them as though they were speaking each one's native language (cf. Acts 2:7-8). From that day on, the Church with the "power of the Holy Spirit," as Jesus had promised, acted incisively "in Jerusalem, in the whole of Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

Thus the Church's universal mission does not rise from below but descends from above, from the Holy Spirit, as if imbued with the universality of trinitarian love. The trinitarian mystery, through the mystery of the Redemption, by the influence of the Holy Spirit, communicates to the Church the property of universalism. Thus the mystery of the Church derives from the mystery of the Trinity."

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

Ai fedeli francesi

Chers frères et sœurs,

Je salue cordialement les personnes de langue française présentes à cette audience. J’accueille avec joie le groupe de prêtres du diocèse de Montréal, venus affermir leur foi et leur ministère sacerdotal sur le lieu des martyres de Pierre et de Paul. Je me réjouis de la présence de deux jeunes qui, avec des représentants du journal “La Croix”, m’apportent les réponses de plus de deux mille enfants à la lettre que je leur ai adressée l’an dernier. Je les charge de transmettre à tous leurs jeunes amis les encouragements du Pape, afin qu’ils acceptent de marcher toujours à la suite du Christ, source de notre bonheur. Le Christ et son glise leur font confiance, pour devenir des missionnaires de l’vangile et des apôtres de la paix. À tous, j’accorde de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extend a warm welcome to the group of Sri Lankan pilgrims from Florence celebrating the beatification of Father Joseph Vaz. Upon all the English–speaking visitors, especially the pilgrim groups from England, Sri Lanka and the United States, I cordially invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ai pellegrini di espressione tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung grüe ich herzlich die sehr zahlreichen deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher. Mein besonderer Gru gilt der Gruppe aus Stuttgart, die den Vatikanischen Museen ein Werk des Künstlers Otto Herbert Hayek überreicht hat. Ferner grüe ich die Chöre sowie die Jugend– und Schülergruppen. Euch allen wünsche ich bereits heute ein frohes und gesegnetes Osterfest. Von Herzen erteile ich Euch meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Saludo ahora con afecto a los visitantes de lengua española, en particular a los diversos grupos de estudiantes españoles, a los feligreses de la Parroquia Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Panamá, así como al grupo de militares argentinos (Cascos Azules), que prestan servicio en Croacia. Al alentaros a todos a sentiros miembros vivos de la Iglesia universal, os imparto mi Bendición.

Ai pellegrini di lingua portoghese

Caríssimos Irmãos e Irmãs,

Saúdo a todos os peregrinos de língua portuguesa, nomeadamente os portugueses da Diocese de Castelo Branco, e desejo–lhes todo o bem no Senhor. Que a vinda a Roma vos fortaleça na fé e avive no vosso ânimo a coragem para testemunhar a grandeza do amor de Jesus Cristo vencedor do mal, pelo seu sofrimento, e ressuscitado para ser a nossa esperança e a nossa paz. A todos, graça, paz e alegria em Cristo, numa feliz Páscoa!

Ai fedeli polacchi

Witam pielgrzymów z Polski. Nie tylu, co tydzień temu, gdy było Radio Maryja, ale i tak dość dużo. A więc pielgrzymka magistratu miasta Krakowa, pielgrzymka parafii św. Jana Chrzciciela z Lubnia, archidiecezja krakowska, skąd pochodzi bp Górny, grupa współpracowników Radia Mariackiego z Krakowa, grupa pielgrzymkowo–turystyczna nauczycieli i młodzieży z Technikum Ochrony Środowiska z Krakowa i Buska Zdroju, pielgrzymka parafii św. Józefa z Tomaszowa Lubelskiego, pielgrzymka chorej młodzieży z Lublina pod opieką trzeciego zakonu św. Franciszka, pielgrzymka parafii bł. Jadwigi Królowej z Gdańska–Oruni Dolnej, pielgrzymka parafii św. Jana Chrzciciela z Gliwic–Żernic, pielgrzymka parafii św. Augustyna z Wrocławia, pielgrzymka oazy III stopnia z Karlsbergu, grupa młodzieży i wychowawców I Liceum Ogólnokształcącego w Nowym Sączu, grupa Wojewódzkiego Klubu Techniki i Racjonalizacji z Lublina, grupa turystyczna z Głogówka koło Opola, grupa pracowników robót drogowych z Rzeszowa, pielgrzymka z parafii Matki Bożej Królowej Polski z Jastkowa, grupa nauczycieli z Krakowa oraz inni pielgrzymi nie objęci tymi grupami, pochodzący bądź z kraju, bądź też z emigracji. Wszystkich serdecznie witam.

Ai pellegrini italiani

Porgo un cordiale benvenuto a tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana; in particolare, alla “Pia Unione del Cristo Morto e della Vergine Addolorata” di Tolentino, benemerito sodalizio che anima le celebrazioni della Settimana Santa nella Cattedrale di quella città. Volentieri benedico oggi il nuovo Crocifisso, implorando grazie abbondanti per quanti lo venereranno con fede.

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Saluto inoltre le componenti del Movimento Femminile della Confederazione Provinciale Coltivatori Diretti di Verona, che incoraggio ad essere “artigiane della pace” nella famiglia e nella società.

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Sono lieto poi di accogliere i numerosi studenti specialmente di scuole cattoliche provenienti da varie regioni d’Italia. Cari ragazzi, sapete quanto stiano a cuore al Papa la scuola cattolica e i giovani. Si tratta di un binomio importante per la Chiesa e per la società. Auspico che da parte delle autorità civili e della Comunità dei credenti si guardi, com’è doveroso, con sempre maggiore attenzione alla scuola cattolica, perché essa possa svolgere al meglio il suo servizio culturale e morale. E voi, cari studenti, fate fruttificare al massimo le possibilità di crescita umana e spirituale che essa vi offre.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Mi rivolgo infine agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli. Carissimi, in questo ultimo tratto del cammino quaresimale, riviviamo con la mente ed il cuore la Passione del Signore, per trasformare il Getsemani in giardino di vita e di risurrezione.

A questa scuola di verità e di amore, voi, cari giovani, imparate il senso cristiano della vita; voi, cari ammalati, attingete forza dalla sapienza della Croce; e voi, cari sposi novelli, fatevi collaboratori del disegno d’amore di Dio.

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