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+ Virgil Bercea

The «Kingdom of God» is the place of grace: «the Church cannot prepare for the new millennium "in any other way than in the Holy Spirit"»(TMA 44). Europe, «old» Europe, can only await the third millennium «in the Holy Spirit» because it was he, the Spirit, who guide her «ark» along these two millennia which are about to close. Known to all is the travailed history of the Church on the old continent from the early beginnings until today. Looking at the past who would dare to say that the ark of the Church in Europe was guided by men alone and not by the «Paraclete» sent by the «Father» (cfr Jn 15,27).

The past is no longer ours, it is history. Let us look serenely at the history of the Church, at the history of the peoples of Europe: this history is ours. At times it was happy but other times it was sad. It teaches us, it helps us to open the doors of our souls and hearts and to look with reality and courage towards «tomorrow» which awaits us. The history of our continent calls for solidarity among our peoples. Curtains have fallen, walls have tumbled: «It is necessary to organize the peace of the post cold-war era and the freedom of post 1989, taking as a basis moral values» (Speech to Diplomatic Corps, 13/1/1997). With how much hope the people of the East look to towards the West, but with how much diffidence westerners regard the East… A Europe of 2000 must be thought of as a «Europe of peoples and nations» free first of all in Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, but free from prejudice and opposition between East and West, North and South. This would be a Europe of peoples walking «along the path of peace», of truth of love.

«The now imminent new millennium opens with firm determination to build an era of civil growth in harmony» (Regina Coeli, Sarajevo, 13th April 1997). The new millennium challenges us all to break down the barriers and misunderstandings, to revive the religious sense of life, those human values, Christian values that will lead these peoples of the continent to reciprocal self-giving for the common good of Europe and of the Church. To live this solidarity we must heal our peoples’ consciences wounded in the past and also recently, beginning with forgiveness and reconciliation: «Spirit of God, pour your Light and your love into our hearts…, Spirit of God may your power unite all the sons and daughters of Europe», the Pope prays. There is much expectation, much hope for a tomorrow of peace.

«The historic and pressing time has come to take a decisive step…the step necessary to claim full human dignity and the right to life for every human being…The Church today feels the historic need to safeguard life for the salvation of mankind and of civilization» (14 November 1997), (Academy for Life). The Pope, in the name of the Church warns the old continent which is becoming ever «older». «Now is the time» to renounce the «culture of death» (Angelus 2 November 1997): a continent «which kills its own children is a "continent" without a future»(cfr Angelus 20th October 1997), «life is God’s greatest gift» (Angelus 2 November 1997).

«Never again fratricidal war» between European peoples, never again abortion in European countries, never again euthanasia, never again nationalistic and communist «isms» never again lagers, ghettos, gulags, never again egoism and hatred, revenge and kidnapping: «in the name of totalitarian and deceitful ideologies, this century has sacrificed millions of human lives» (Bologna, 20 September 1997). The «old» continent needs to revive through faith a «culture of life», love and peace, serenity and respect: «The fundamental struggle for human dignity today is fought around the family and life» (Rio de Janeiro, 3 October 1997).

Let us look instead with confidence and love, with certainty and hope to the young people of Europe. In them we find all expression of a future for the continent and for the Church. Their hearts and their minds are open wide, they are in search of Love, Truth, and sincerity, they search for Life and peace. They show solidarity to one another, they know how to share hopes and anxieties: let us help them to fly towards a clear sky, towards a Christian Europe. «Go out into the whole world…Christ is demanding» (20 March 1997). The Pope tells young people «the vocation to love is your fundamental vocation» (Prague, 26 April 1997 ), «the Spirit sends you as a letter of Christ in the present Church» (Rome, 8 November 1997 ), «Jesus shows you a path which is steep, difficult to travel, but a path which opens to the eyes of the heart horizons ever broader» (Bologna, 27 September 1997), - because the Pope believes in the values of young people, in the force which they represent for Europe and for the Church.

Young people of Europe, listen to the words of the Lord: «You are the light of the world, you are the salt of the earth», «the Spirit of God is sending you to be with all your brothers and sisters of Europe, builders of a reconciled civilization» (Paris, 23 August 1997). You are the light, you are the candles which will shed light, in you has been placed the trust of so many parents, the trust of the Church, the Pope, you are the hope of the new Europe: be responsible for a future which will be yours. We will build a new Europe in the Tertio Millennio Adveniente if we are able to cling deeply to Christ: there is only one Master, Christ. Jesus Christ who was born in a stable, whom we have met on the banks of the Jordan of our souls, who has taken upon himself all the sins of the people of the "old continent"; Christ who opened and continues to open his arms on the cross, but Christ who is risen from the dead and gives us Life: he is the model, the Master.

There is need for re-evangelization everywhere on the continent: the west lives in plenty which drives it away from Christ? Perhaps, But the East, which still lives with deep Christian sense, has it anything to give the West? As the year 2000 draws near we are ever more aware of Jesus’ prayer «that they may be one» (Jn 17,21). The Continent shows the world Christ’s tunic which is all in pieces: «the second Christian millennium which is coming to a close, saw divisions and even hostility and conflict between Christians» (Common declaration, 5 December 1996). Where are we going tomorrow? Let us continue along the «furrow of ecumenism» with «vitally important dialogue», in «theological and pastoral spheres…in other dimensions of life and witness of believers» (25 January 1997) consolidating «the dialogue of charity» (Angelus, 22 June 1997) placing all our confidence in Christ: «Europe needs to have us all united around the Cross and the Gospel» (Wroclaw, 31 May 1997).

These are the hopes and expectations of the continent of Europe for the Great Jubilee. «Lord Jesus, fulness of time and Lord of history, prepare our hearts to celebrate with faith the Great Jubilee», Holy Spirit, divine guest of hearts, reveal to us the deep significance of the Great Jubilee. «To you, Spirit of love, with the Almighty Father and only Son, be praise, honour and glory for ever».