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The Church shares the hopes of the human family

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Church
General Audience, Wednesday 21 June 1995 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. The Church's evangelizing mission raises the question of her relationship with the world. The Second Vatican Council addressed this problem, especially in Gaudium et Spes. In previous catecheses dealing with the role of lay people in the Church's life, we have also mentioned several aspects of this relationship. Now, at the conclusion of the catechesis dedicated to the Church's missionary activity, we would like to formulate some guidelines, the better to illustrate the general framework of her mission. This is precisely in relation to the world in which she lives and to which she communicates divine grace and salvation.

First of all, it should be remembered that the Church "has a saving and an eschatological purpose which can be fully attained only in the future world" (GS 40). We cannot therefore expect her energies to be exclusively or principally absorbed by the needs and problems of the earthly world. Nor is it possible to assess properly her action in the world today, as it was in past centuries, by looking at it only from the perspective of temporal ends or the material well-being of society. Orientation toward the future world is essential to her. She knows she is surrounded by the visible world, but she realizes that she must be concerned with it in its relationship with the invisible, eternal kingdom that she already mysteriously makes present (cf. LG 3), and to whose full expression she ardently aspires. This fundamental truth is well expressed in the traditional motto per visibilia ad invisibilia (through visible realities to the invisible).

2. On earth the Church is present as the family of God's children, "constituted and organized in the world as a society" (LG 8). This is why she feels that she shares in human events in solidarity with all humanity. As the Council recalls, she "goes forward together with humanity and experiences the same earthly lot which the world does" (GS 40). This means that the Church experiences in her members the trials and difficulties of nations, families and individuals, as she shares in humanity's arduous journey down the paths of history. In dealing with the Church's relations with the world, the Second Vatican Council begins precisely with the Church's sharing in the "joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age" (GS 1). Especially today, because of the new universal knowledge of the real conditions of the world, this sharing has become especially intense and profound.

3. The Council also states that the Church does not limit herself to sharing the lot that, in our time as in every other age in history, characterizes human experience. Indeed she knows that she "serves as a leaven and as a kind of soul for human society" (GS 40). Enlivened by the breath of the Holy Spirit, the Church wishes to implant a new striving in society, in order to make it a spiritually and, as far as possible, a materially well-ordered and happy community. As Thomas Aquinas said, it is a question of leading men to "live well," to live "in accordance with the virtues." This is the substance of the temporal common good at which all citizens should aim under the guidance of the state, but working with a view to their final end, to which the pastors and the whole Church direct individuals and peoples [1] .

Precisely in the light of the "supreme good" which regulates all human existence, even with regard to "intermediate ends" [2] , the Church "believes she can contribute greatly toward making the family of man and its history more human" (GS 40). She makes her own contribution by promoting the dignity of the person and the ties that bind individuals and peoples, as well as by emphasizing the spiritual significance of daily work in the great plan of creation and the proper development of human freedom.

4. The Council states clearly that the Church is a great help to men. In the first place she reveals to each person the truth about his existence and destiny. She then shows each one how God is the only true answer to the deepest longings of the heart, "which is never fully satisfied by what this world has to offer" (GS 41). Furthermore, she defends every person, by virtue of the Gospel entrusted to her, with the proclamation of "the basic rights of the person and the family" (GS 42) and with her beneficial influence on society, so that it will respect these rights and begin to change all those situations where they are obviously violated.

Lastly, the Church sheds light on and also proclaims the rights of the family, undeniably linked to those of individual persons and required by the human being as such. In addition to defending the dignity of the person at every stage of life, the Church never ceases to stress the value of the family, to which every man and woman belong by nature. In fact, a deep correlation exists between the rights of the person and those of the family. It is impossible to safeguard individuals effectively without a clear reference to their family context.

Although the Church has a mission which is not "in the political, economic or social order" but is "a religious one" (GS 42), she also carries out an activity which benefits society. This activity is expressed in different forms. She organizes projects at the service of all, especially the needy, and promotes "wholesome socialization and...association in civic and economic realms" (GS 42). She urges men to overcome dissension between races and nations, encouraging unity at the international and world levels. As far as she can, she supports and sustains institutions whose purpose is the common good.

She guides and encourages human activity (cf. GS 43) and spurs Christians to devote their energies in every field for the good of society. She exhorts them to follow the example of Christ, the workingman of Nazareth, to observe the precept of love of neighbor, and to fulfill in their life Jesus' exhortation to make personal talents fruitful (cf. Mt 25:14-30). She also encourages people to make their own contribution to the scientific and technical efforts of human society, to be involved in their own situation as lay people in temporal activities (cf. GS 42). This will further the progress of culture, and the promotion of justice and true peace.

5. In her rapports with the world, the Church not only offers but also receives aid and contributions from individual persons, groups and societies. The Council recognizes this openly: "Just as it is in the world's interest to acknowledge the Church as an historical reality, and to recognize her good influence, so the Church herself knows how richly she has profited by the history and development of humanity" (GS 44). Thus a "living exchange between the Church and the diverse cultures of people" (GS 44) takes place. The missionary Church, especially in her task of evangelization, always uses the languages, concepts and cultures of different peoples. From the earliest centuries, she has found in the wisdom of philosophers those semina verbi which are a true and proper preparation for the explicit proclamation of the Gospel. Well aware that she receives a great deal from the world, the Church thus professes her gratitude, but without losing sight of the conviction of her missionary vocation and of her capacity to give humanity the greatest and highest gift it can receive: divine life in Christ, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, who leads it to the Father. This is the essence of the missionary spirit with which the Church goes to the world and seeks to be close to it in communion of life.

[1]   cf. De Regimine Principum, ch. 1, 14, 15
[2]   cf. ibid., ch. 15"

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

Ai pellegrini di espressione tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit diesen Überlegungen lade ich Euch, liebe Schwestern und Brüder, dazu ein, Euch Eurer missionarischen Verpflichtung in der Welt bewut zu sein und an diesem kirchlichen Sendungsauftrag aktiv mitzuwirken. Ich grüe Euch dabei nochmals alle sehr herzlich, wobei ich unter den Jugendgruppen besonders die Schüler und Lehrkräfte der Deutschen Schule in Rom mit ihren Austauschschülern von der Ecole Provencale ”Le Vigan“ in Frankreich erwähnen möchte.

Euch allen, Euren lieben Angehörigen zu Hause sowie jenen, die uns über Radio und Fernsehen verbunden sind, erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli polacchi

Witam serdecznie i pozdrawiam wszystkich pielgrzymów z Polski, księży biskupów z Siedlec. Bardzo się cieszę waszą obecnością w Rzymie. W szczególności pozdrawiam: z Warszawy – parafię św. Stanisława i św. Augustyna, z Zabrza – parafię św. Anny, z Siemianowic – parafię Świętego Krzyża, z Mikołowa – siostry boromeuszki (mając imię Karola z chrztu, mogę liczyć na poparcie boromeuszek), z Lublina – parafię św. Stanisława oraz św. Antoniego, z Wrocławia – parafię św. Bonifacego, z Gdyni – parafię Świętego Ducha, ponadto chór dziecięcy z Kartuz – dziewczynki, z Poznania – liceum sióstr urszulanek, grupy pielgrzymkowe z Jarocina, Opola, Lubina, Gliwic i Tuchowa – redemptorystów, z Brzegu Dolnego, Chorzowa, Puław, Cieszanowa, Kraśnika, z Krakowa oraz z Neapolu.

Ai fedeli di espressione francese

Chers frères et sœurs,

Je vous salue cordialement, chers pèlerins de langue française. Je vous souhaite un bon séjour à Rome, à la découverte des richesses spirituelles et artistiques de la Ville. Que ce pèlerinage vous permette de repartir chez vous fortifiés dans la foi, dans l’espérance, dans l’amour de vos frères!

Que Dieu vous bénisse et vous garde!

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to greet the English–speaking visitors, especially the group from Asia and the Pacific taking part in a programme sponsored by the International Labour Organization, the pilgrims from Indonesia accompanied by the Bishop of Pangkalpinang, and those from England and the United States. Upon all of you I cordially invoke the joy and peace of Christ our Saviour.

Ai visitatori di espressione spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Deseo saludar a los visitantes venidos de España y de América Latina. Saludo en particular a los diversos grupos españoles y a los numerosos peregrinos de México. Invito a todos y cada uno, desde la propia condición, a colaborar generosamente en la actividad misionera de la Iglesia. Con gran afecto os imparto mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini giapponesi

Saluto i pellegrini del Giappone. Benvenuti a Roma. Sono particolarmente lieto di accogliere il gruppo di Buddisti della “Buzan School Shingon Buddhism”. Auspico che la visita a Roma sia, per i distinti Buddisti, incentivo a promuovere il dialogo interreligioso e, per i cattolici, occasione di crescita nella fede. Rendiamo grazie a Dio. 

Ai gruppi di pellegrini italiani

Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare ai Membri dell’Istituto Secolare Sacerdoti del Sacro Cuore, che accolgo con gioia proprio nel mese dedicato al Cuore di Cristo. Abbraccio con affetto i Sacerdoti della diocesi di Brescia che celebrano il venticinquesimo di Ordinazione: carissimi, vi auguro di progredire sempre con gioia nella via della santità. Saluto i fedeli di Clusone (diocesi di Bergamo) e, in particolare i quattro Sacerdoti novelli con i loro familiari. Il Signore vi benedica!

Saluto inoltre il gruppo dei Maestri del Lavoro della Provincia di Perugia.

* * *

Oggi sono particolarmente lieto di accogliere i numerosissimi partecipanti, soprattutto giovani, al pellegrinaggio della speranza, iniziativa promossa da Ernesto Olivero con i suoi amici del Ser. Mi. G. (Servizio Missionario Giovani) di Torino. Carissimi, questa è l’ultima tappa di un cammino col quale avete toccato più di 200 città e paesi d’Italia, per proporre pensieri e progetti di speranza, di pace, di aiuto alla vita. La vostra solidarietà si è tradotta in aiuto concreto per i “bambini di strada” del Brasile, la cui situazione costituisce un richiamo ad uscire dall’indifferenza e dall’egoismo. Cari giovani, il vostro camminare si inserisce bene nella preparazione ormai avviata del Grande Giubileo del 2000. Vi esorto a proseguire con generosità nel pellegrinaggio verso quello storico traguardo, perché il nuovo millennio sia un’era di concordia e di pace. Non temete, per questo, di andare anche “controcorrente”: contro il vuoto di ideali e i falsi valori che portano spesso al consumismo, alla droga, alla violenza. La vostra risposta sia sempre un impegno positivo: spendere la vita per gli altri. Questa è la strada giusta, la strada di Cristo! È la strada dei santi, di un san Luigi Gonzaga, ad esempio, di cui proprio oggi ricorre la memoria liturgica. A voi e a tutti i giovani presenti do appuntamento a Loreto, in settembre, per il pellegrinaggio europeo dei giovani, e con grande affetto anch’io vi dico: “Occhi giovani, osate sognare!”.

Agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Mi rivolgo ora, come di consueto, ai malati ed agli sposi novelli presenti.

Carissimi malati! Anche a voi ricordo la figura di san Luigi: quanto fu sensibile il suo cuore e quanto si prodigò per alleviare le sofferenze del corpo e dello spirito! Egli interceda per voi. E voi, cari sposi novelli, sappiate sempre purificare il vostro amore nel fuoco della divina carità.

A tutti imparto la Benedizione Apostolica.

Durante l’odierna Udienza generale, Giovanni Paolo II, in occasione dell’inaugurazione di una grande Moschea a Roma, pronuncia le seguenti parole. 

Si inaugura oggi a Roma una grande Moschea.

Tale avvenimento costituisce un segno eloquente della libertà religiosa qui riconosciuta ad ogni credente. Ed è significativo che a Roma, centro della Cristianità e sede del successore di Pietro, i Musulmani abbiano un loro proprio luogo di culto nel pieno rispetto della loro libertà di coscienza.

In una circostanza significativa come questa, si deve, purtroppo, rilevare come in alcuni Paesi islamici manchino altrettanti segni di riconoscimento della libertà religiosa. Eppure il mondo, alle soglie del terzo millennio, attende questi segni!

La libertà religiosa è entrata ormai a far parte di numerosi documenti internazionali e rappresenta uno dei pilastri della civiltà contemporanea.

Nell’essere lieto che i Musulmani possano riunirsi in preghiera nella nuova Moschea di Roma, auspico vivamente che ai Cristiani e a tutti i credenti sia riconosciuto in ogni angolo della terra il diritto ad esprimere liberamente la propria fede. Per questo prego il Signore ed invoco l’intercessione di Maria, Madre sua sempre Vergine, onorata anche dai fedeli dell’Islam.

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