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Feast of the Baptism of the Lord 1979

Pope St John Paul II's homily at Holy Mass
celebrated in Polish in the Sistine Chapel
Sunday 7 January 1979 - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
With great emotion I celebrate the Eucharist in my native language. I do this in the Sistine Chapel, in this place where on 16 October 1978 I heard the new call of Christ the Lord and accepted it in the spirit of obedience of faith to my Saviour and of full confidence in Our Lady, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church. Today, for the first time, I am celebrating the Eucharist in the same place in my native language, taking advantage of the invitation of Vatican Radio, which will henceforth broadcast the Holy Mass in the Polish language every Sunday, for all those for whom it is difficult to take part in Mass in any other way.

So I express my great joy and thanks to God for this event, which fulfils the desire long expressed by my fellow countrymen in Poland and all over the world. It is known that, in the different countries of the world, the language of our fathers continues to be the language of prayer for many people. I am happy that today, thanks to the radio, I can reach them with all these people present here in the unity of the eucharistic sacrifice. I am confident that, in the same way, I will be able to meet and unite with my brothers and sisters also in other languages. I consider this unity in the Holy Eucharist, in the liturgy of the Word, in the liturgy of the sacrifice made by the body and blood of Jesus Christ, essential and fundamental for the Successor of Peter, for this apostle to whom the Lord said: "When you have turned again, strengthen your brethren" (Lk 22, 32).

When today, celebrating the sacrifice of Christ, I meet you, beloved fellow countrymen, I remember those annual meetings at which, as Archbishop of Krakow, I was honoured to find myself again with the representatives of all the parishes of our royal city. This always happened on the festivity of the Three Wise Kings. It was in the evening hours, during Mass in Wawel cathedral. At those moments we all wished one another a happy new year too. Today I want to repeat these wishes in such unusual circumstances. For at this moment the representatives of the archdiocese of Krakow and of the Poles resident in Rome, who carne here yesterday to take part in the episcopal consecration of my successor to the See of the archdiocese of Krakow, are in the Sistine Chapel. To all of them, and among them in particular to the Metropolitan of Krakow, I address my good wishes, which I take from the very heart of the Eucharist.

I am happy at your presence, beloved brothers and sisters, who have come from dear Krakow and the archdiocese. Allow me to extend these good wishes of mine even more: to the whole of our dear country, to all my fellow countrymen, to all those who are listening to me at this moment and also to all those who cannot listen to me now. I am addressing these good wishes of mine to all families, to all generations, to the old, the sick, the suffering, to men full of strength, to parents and educators; at the same time, to all young people and all children, to men engaged in hard, physical work, to scientists and men of culture. I address these good wishes of mine to all professions without exception. Every year, we used to meet in various groups, in the month of January, during the occasion of "oplatek" ("oplatek" is the blessed bread which families exchange with one another, breaking it among them, as a sign of unity). I do the same in spirit before you all. With this gesture at the beginning of the new year, with this gesture of the hand and of the heart, I want to reach the whole Church in Poland, all dioceses and parishes, religious men and women, all priests, all brothers in the episcopate with our beloved Primate, first of all. In spirit, I go to all Catholic centres of higher studies, to all seminaries, all novitiates, all communities of the young, gathered in spiritual retreats, in the work to form the new man in Jesus Christ.

The year 1979 is the year of the jubilee of Saint Stanislaus: it is 900 years since his martyrdom. In the jubilee of this patron saint of the Poles, in the first days of the jubilee year, I wish first and foremost for the spiritual unity for which Saint Stanislaus, his sacrifice first of all and then his canonization, became the source and inspiration for our ancestors. Today we need the same spiritual unity of our country, after so many trials in the course of its history. We need the unity of the spirit and the strength of the spirit. And these are my warmest wishes. I want these wishes to reach everyone. I hope that all those who are in power in our country may serve well the common good of the whole nation; the nation for which I desire peace with my whole heart; for which, as its son, I desire all good; it deserves to be respected in the large family of nations. This Church has lived for a thousand years in faithful and tenacious service of the nation and today, too, it serves this nation.

In today's liturgy the prophet Isaiah speaks of the future Messiah, Christ: "Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom my soul delights; I have endowed him with my spirit that he may bring true justice to the nations. He does not cry out or shout aloud, or make his voice heard in the streets. He does not break the crushed reed, nor quench the wavering flame. Faithfully he brings true justice; he will neither waver, nor be crushed until true justice is
established on earth, for the islands are awaiting his law" (Is 42, 1-4).

My wish for everyone is that Christ, Jesus Christ, may be with you in the year that has begun, the year 1979 after his birth, Anno Domini. Amen."

Papa San Giovanni Paolo II's words at the Angelus
Domenica, 7 gennaio 1979, Piazza San Pietro - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. On the feast of the Epiphany, the Church gives thanks to God for the gift of faith in which so many men, peoples and nations have participated and participate.

And just those three, according to tradition, men from the East, Wise Kings, who arrived in Bethlehem are among the first witnesses and bearers of this gift. In them faith, understood as interior opening of man, as the answer to the light, to the Epiphany of God, finds its limpid expression. In this opening to God man eternally aspires to self-fulfilment. Faith is the beginning of this fulfilment and its condition.

Giving thanks to God for the gift of faith, we thank him at the same time for the light: for the gift of the Epiphany and for the gift of the opening of our spirit to divine light. Such is also the significance of the feast through which the Church expresses, so to speak, right up to the end, the joy of Christmas, of the Birth of God.

2. For over a hundred years, a serious accusation has been levelled at the believer. Religion, according to the words of the accusation, "alienates man", that is, it allegedly deprives man of what is substantially human.

A radical division has been made between what is "substantially human" and what is "transcendental". In modern times the old formula "altiora te non quaeras" ("do not seek things that are above you") has been repeated.

Contrary to this accusation and this ban, the Wise Kings from the East hasten to go to Bethlehem. And together with them, so many, many other men. They all bear witness that what is "substantially human" is expressed not in the formula quoted, but in another one, equally old: "altiora te quaeras" ("seek things that are above you").

Is it possible to lay down what is "substantially human" without having recourse to man's full experience? Who has the right to affirm that this full experience of man's is expressed just in the formula "altiora te non quaeras"? Who has the right to affirm that man's complete fulfilment is equivalent to his closing and not, on the contrary, just to his opening that is, to that "altiora te quaeras"!?

3. In our times people often have recourse to the principle of religious freedom. And rightly. This is one of the most fundamental human rights. The Second Vatican Council dedicated one of its documents to religious freedom. More and more often this right has a key place in legislative documents. But a great deal still remains to be done for the correct operation of this principle in social, public, state and international life. And here there is no other way, there is only this one: it is necessary to free the believer from the accusation of alienation. Precisely this accusation is the cause of the great harm done to men in the name of man's "progress".

It is necessary to let the Wise Kings go to Bethlehem. Together with them walks every man who recognizes as the definition of his humanity the truth of the opening of his spirit to God, the truth that is expressed in the phrase "altiora te quaeras".

An opposite formula cannot be imposed on men. It is not possible, according to this formula, "altiora te non quaeras", to understand and interpret the very principle of religious freedom, in social and public life, because then it would be distorted.

Today the Church thanks God for faith, for the gift of the Epiphany and, at the same time, for the gift of openness.

The whole Church asks and operates in this direction in order that the double gift, which is at the basis of so many questions and human affairs, will find the right of citizenship in the lives of individuals, nations, states and continents; in the life of the whole of humanity."