MESSAGE OF JOHN PAUL II
Dear Sons of Don Bosco,
1. I greet you warmly, as you come together from the five continents for the celebration of the 25th General Chapter of your Institute. It is the first one in the third millennium and gives you an opportunity to reflect on the challenges of the education and evangelization of young people, challenges that Salesians want to take up by following in the footsteps of their founder, St John Bosco. I hope you will find the Chapter a time of communion and useful work, of sharing in the spirit that unites you in your mission to youth, in your love for the Church and in your desire to be open to new apostolic frontiers.
At this time I naturally recall the late Major Rector, Fr Juan Vecchi, who died recently after a long illness, offered up to God for the whole Congregation and especially for this Chapter. As I thank the Lord for his service to your religious family and to the Church, and for the witness of evangelical fidelity that always distinguished him, I assure you that I will pray for the happy repose of his soul. It is now up to you to pursue the work that he carried out so successfully, following in the footsteps of his predecessors.
As attentive teachers and competent spiritual guides, you will be able to meet the needs of young people who long to "see Jesus". You will be able to lead them gently but firmly towards the high goals of Christian fidelity. "Duc in altum!".
May you adopt this dynamic motto for your Congregation and may the present chapter assembly motivate all the members to give a courageous fresh start to their own evangelizing activity.
Do everything to be educators of young people for holiness, practising the typical pedagogy of happy and serene holiness that defines you. Be welcoming and fatherly, so that you can ask young men on every occasion with your own example, "Do you want to become holy?". And do not hesitate to hold up before them the high standard of ordinary Christian living, guiding them on the path of radical dedication to Christ who proclaims in the Sermon on the Mount: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5,48).
Yours is a history full of saints, many of whom were young. On "the Hill of the Youthful Beatitudes", as you call the Colle Don Bosco (Don Bosco Hill) where the saint was born, during my visit on 3 September 1988, I had the joy of beatifying Laura Vicuña, the young Chilean Salesian girl whom you know well. Other Salesians are on their way towards that goal: two are confreres, Artemide Zatti and Luigi Variara, and one is a Daughter of Mary Help of Christians, Sr Maria Romero. The value and timeliness of the Salesian lay brother's role shine out in Artemide Zatti; and Don Luigi Variara, priest and founder, manifests a further realization of your missionary charism.
At the beginnining of this millennium, the great challenge of the Church, as I recalled in my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte, consists in making the Church "the home and the school of communion" (n. 43). If the apostolate is to bear fruits of good, it is indispensable that the communities live a spirit of real mutual brotherhood. To carry out a single educational and pastoral project, all the communities must be linked by a firm family spirit. May every community be a true school of faith and prayer open to young men, where it becomes possible to share in their expectations and difficulties, and to respond to the challenges that adolescents and young people must face.
But where is the secret of the union of hearts and of apostolic action if not in fidelity to the charism? Always keep your gaze fixed on Don Bosco. He lived entirely in God and recommended the unity of his communities around the Eucharist. Only from the Tabernacle will flow that spirit of communion that becomes a wellspring of hope and dedication for every believer.
May the love of your father continue to inspire and sustain you. His teaching invites you to mutual confidence, daily forgiveness, fraternal correction, the joy of sharing. This is the path on which he walked, on which you too will be able to attract the laity, and especially young men, to share the evangelical and vocational mission that unites you.
This challenging pastoral action puts you in touch with the many realities operating in the field of education of the new generations. Be ready to make your contribution generously at various levels, cooperating with those who draft the educational policies in the countries where you live. Defend and promote human and Gospel values: from respect for the person to love for neighbour, especially the poor and the marginalized. Work hard to direct the multicultural and multireligious reality of contemporary society towards an ever more harmonious and peaceful integration.
The Pope shows his delight in your apostolic and educational dedication, and prays that you may continue in full fidelity to the Church and in close collaboration with one another. May Don Bosco and the host of Salesian saints and blesseds go with you!
I reinforce these wishes with a special Apostolic Blessing, which I send to you, members of the General Chapter, to your confreres across the world and to the whole Salesian family.
From the Vatican, 22 February 2002, the Feast of the Chair of St Peter.
JOHN PAUL II