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Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God, 2002

New Year 2002 - 35th World Day of Peace
Theme: No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness

Pope Saint John Paul II's Homily
at the Te Deum & 1st Vespers of the Solemnity
Tuesday 31 December 2001 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. "Lord, is this the hour?": how often man asks this question, especially in history's dramatic moments! He has an acute desire to know the meaning and dynamics of the individual and community events in which he finds himself involved. He would like to know "in advance" what will happen "later", so as not to be taken by surprise.

Indeed, the Apostles were not free from this desire. However, Jesus did not favour their curiosity. Whenever he was asked this question, he would answer that it is only the heavenly Father who knows and fixes the times and seasons (cf Acts 1, 7). But he added: "you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses ... to the end of the earth" (Acts 1, 8). In other words, he asked them to adopt a "new" attitude towards time.

Jesus urges us not to pry, uselessly, into what is reserved for God to know - precisely the course of events - but to use the time that each of us is granted - the present - to work with filial love to spread the Gospel to every corner of the earth. This reflection is particularly appropriate for us, at the end of the year and a few hours before the beginning of the new year.

2. "When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman" (Gal 4, 4). Before Jesus was born, man was subject to the tyranny of time, like a slave who has no idea what his master is thinking. However, when "the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us" (Jn 1, 14), this perspective was completely reversed.

On Christmas night, which we celebrated a week ago, the Eternal One entered history, the "not yet" of time, marked by the ongoing succession of days, and mysteriously became the "already" of the manifestation of the Son of God. In the unfathomable mystery of the Incarnation, time attains its fullness. God embraces the history of men on earth to bring it to its definitive fulfillment.

For us believers therefore, the meaning and end of history and of every human event are recapitulated in Christ. In Him, the eternal Word made flesh in Mary's womb, eternity takes hold of you, because God wanted to make himself visible, revealing the purpose of history itself and the destiny of the labours of every person who lives on earth.

That is why, in this liturgy, as we take our leave of 2001, we feel the need to renew with deep joy our gratitude to God who, in his Son, has introduced us into his mystery by giving beginning to the new and definitive age.

3. Te Deum laudamus, /Te Dominum confitemur.

With the words of the ancient hymn, we express to God our deep thanks for all the good he has bestowed upon us in the past twelve months.

Whilst the many events of 2001 flash through our minds, I would like to greet with affection the Cardinal Vicar, accompanied by the Auxiliary Bishops and numerous parish priests, my precious collaborators in pastoral service to the Church of Rome. I extend my greeting to the Mayor of Rome, and to the members of the Regional Board and City Council as well as to the other authorities present and those who are here as representatives of other urban institutions.

From this Basilica, so dear to Rome's inhabitants, may my best wishes reach out to the entire population of the city, and especially those who are spending these holidays amid hardships and problems. I assure everyone that I keep you present in intense and fervent prayer, as I invite each one to continue his life of service, trusting in Providence, ever loving in his mysterious designs.

4. The echoe of the Great Jubilee still rings strongly in our city. It made a deep impression on the life of Rome and its citizens, spreading great riches of grace in the community of believers. The Diocesan Assembly of June 2001, that was extensively prepared within parishes and ecclesial communities, renewed the commitment to the permanent mission, as a goal for the coming years, in accord with the suggestions of the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte and the follow up in the diocesan pastoral programme.

Rome feels a constant need to proclaim Christ and to be one with him in listening to his word, in the Eucharist and in charity. May apostolic zeal grow in the hearts of priests, men and women religious and the many lay people who have understood their call to be witnesses of the Lord among their families and in the workplace.

I repeat to everyone what I wrote in the Message I sent to the Diocesan Assembly "Put out into the deep', in order to bring the Gospel into homes, workplaces, neighbourhoods and the entire city" (n 4).

May every Christian community be a school of prayer and a place for training in holiness, a family of families, where acceptance of the Lord and brotherhood around the Eucharist are expressed in the enthusiasm of a renewed evangelization.

5. In connection with the permanent mission there is another great objective, mentioned in the diocesan pastoral programme, which will be the object of special reflection at the Diocesan Convention in June 2002: the ministry of recruiting vocations.

Every parish and community is called to pray constantly so that the Lord will send workers to his harvest, and for a dynamic and confident work of formation among young people and families, so that God's call may be understood with its liberating power and accepted with joy and gratitude.

I turn especially to you, dear pastors and priests, to ensure that the joy of being Christ's ministers and the generosity of your service to the Church may define your services. This is an important condition if the ministry for recruiting is to be effective. At the root of every priestly and religious vocation there is almost always a priest who, by his example and spiritual direction, set the person who is searching on a path of "gift" and "mystery" and accompanied him.

6. Te Deum laudamus! This hymn of praise and thanksgiving rises from our hearts this evening:  thanksgiving for the benefits received, for the apostolic goals achieved, for the good that has been done. In particular, I would like to give thanks for the 300 parishes of our city that I have so far been able to visit. I ask God for the strength to continue faithfully, as long as he wills, to serve the Church of Rome and the whole world.

At the end of a year, dear brothers and sisters, it is particularly fitting to be aware of our own fragility and of the times when we have not been entirely faithful to the love of God. Let us ask the Lord's forgiveness for our failures and omissions: Miserere nostri, Domine, miserere nostri. Let us continue to abandon ourselves with confidence to the Lord's goodness. He will not fail to treat us mercifully and to help us continue in our apostolic mission.

7. In Te, Domine, speravi: non confundar in aeternum! Let us entrust ourselves and abandon ourselves to your keeping, Lord of time and eternity. You are our hope: the hope of Rome and of the world: the pillar of the weak and the comfort of the bewildered, the joy and peace of those who welcome and love you.

As this year draws to a close and we are already looking towards the new one, our hearts confidently embrace your mysterious plans of salvation.

Fiat misericordia tua, Domine, super nos, quaemadmodum speravimus in Te.

May your mercy always be with us: in you have we hoped. Our hope is in you alone, O Christ, Son of the Virgin Mary, your loving Mother and ours."

Papa Juan Pablo II's homily at Mass on the Feast of Mary, Mother of God
St Peter's Basilica, Wednesday 1 January 2002 - also in French, GermanItalian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. "Hail, holy Mother! The Child to whom you gave birth is the King of heaven and earth for ever" (cf Entrance Antiphon).

With this ancient greeting, today, the eighth day of the Octave of Christmas and the first of the year 2002, the Church greets Mary Most Holy, invoking her as Mother of God.

In her the eternal Son of the Father took our very flesh and through Her became "son of David and son of Abraham" (Mt 1, 1). Thus Mary is his true Mother: Theotokos, Mother of God!

If Jesus is Life, Mary is the Mother of Life.
If Jesus is Hope, Mary is the Mother of Hope.
If Jesus is Peace, Mary is the Mother of Peace, Mother of the Prince of Peace.

Entering the new year, let us ask this holy Mother to bless us. Let us ask Her to give us Jesus, our full Blessing, in whom the Father blessed all history once and for all, making it become the history of salvation.

2. Hail, holy Mother! I have placed the World Day of Peace under Mary's motherly gaze. Let us reflect on peace in this climate of widespread anxiety on account of the recent tragic events that have shaken the world. But although it may seem humanly difficult to look to the future with optimism, we must not give in to the temptation to despair. On the contrary, we must work for peace courageously, certain that evil will not prevail.

The light and hope for this commitment come to us from Christ. The Child born in Bethlehem is the eternal Word of the Father who became flesh for our salvation, he is "God-with-us", who brings with him the secret of true peace. He is the Prince of Peace.

3. With these sentiments, I respectfully greet the distinguished Ambassadors to the Holy See who have wished to take part in this solemn celebration. I warmly greet the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal François Nguyên Van Thuân, and all who work with him, thanking them for all they do to spread my annual Message for the World Day of Peace, whose theme this year is: "No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness".

Justice and forgiveness: these are the two "pillars" of peace, and I wanted to draw attention to them both. Between justice and forgiveness there is not opposition but complementarity, because both are essential for promoting peace. Indeed, far more than a temporary ceasefire, this is the deep healing of the wounds that weary souls (cf Message, n 3). Only forgiveness can quench the thirst for revenge and open hearts to an authentic and lasting reconciliation among peoples.

4. Today we turn our gaze to the Child whom Mary holds in her arms. In Him we recognize the One in whom mercy and truth meet, justice and peace embrace (cf Ps 84, 11). In Him we adore the true Messiah in whom, for our salvation, God joined together truth and mercy, justice and forgiveness.

In God's name I renew my heartfelt appeal to all, believers and non-believers, so that the two words, "justice and peace" may always be impressed upon relations between individuals, social groups and peoples.

This appeal is first and foremost for those who believe in God, in particular for the great "Abrahamic religions":  Judaism, Christianity and Islam, called to declare their firm and decisive rejection of violence. No one, for any reason, can kill in the name of God, who is one and merciful. God is life and the source of life. To believe in Him means to witness to His mercy and forgiveness, rejecting the exploitation of his holy Name.

An agonizing cry for peace is being raised from various parts of the world; it is rising particularly from the Land which God blessed with his Covenant and his Incarnation and for this reason is called "Holy". "The voice of your brother's blood" cries out to God from that land (cf Gn 4, 10); the blood of brothers poured out by brothers who hark back to the same Patriarch Abraham; sons, like every human being, of the same heavenly Father.

5. "Salve, Madre santa"! Virgin Daughter of Zion, how deeply must your Mother's heart suffer for this bloodshed!

The Child you embrace has a name that is dear to the peoples of biblical religion:  "Jesus", which means "God saves". So the Archangel named him before he was conceived in your womb (cf Lk 2, 21). In the face of the newborn Messiah, we recognize the face of all your children, who suffer from being despised and exploited. We recognize especially the faces of your children, to whatever race, nation or culture they may belong.

For them, O Mary, for their future, we ask you to move hearts hardened by hatred so that they may open to love and so that revenge may finally give way to forgiveness.

Obtain for us, O Mother, that the truth of this affirmation - No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness - be engraved on every heart. Thus the human family will be able to find the true peace, that flows from the union of justice and mercy.

Holy Mother, Mother of the Prince of Peace, help us!
Mother of Humanity and Queen of Peace, pray for us!"