THE JUBILEE IN THE WORLD
Small Christian communities together toward 2000
"Walking together in faith - Our journey towards 2000" is the commitment presented by the Bishops Conference of Malawi in a recent Pastoral Letter, the eighth in a series begun in 1992. The letter officially opens preparatory activity for celebrations of the Great Jubilee and the centenary of the Catholic Church's presence in Malawi.
In harmony with the findings and guidelines of the Special Synod for Africa, in Malawi as elsewhere in Africa, preparation for the Jubilee will continue along the main themes of the Synod: evangelization, inculturation, ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, justice and peace, integral development and the means of social communications. Through meditation and implementation in every parish community, family, Small Christian Community, Religious community, the Bishops hope that the Church in Malawi will truly advance as "The Family of God" towards the Third Christian Millennium. In particular, three commitments highlighted by the African Synod will be objectives for the Church in Malawi during the years of preparation for the Jubilee: a new springtime of Evangelization (1996-1998); Dialogue in the Church and among the Churches (1998-1999); efforts to achieve social justice and peace (1990-2000).
In their Pastoral Letter the Bishops hold up the example of the countless missionaries in Africa who planted the Church in Malawi, bringing the Gospel message of loving all people, also enemies. "I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..." (Mt 5,44) is the mandate underlined by the Bishops as encouragement to go beyond ethnic differences and recognise all men and women as brothers and sisters, children of the one Father.
They call on all the members of the Church, priests, Religious and laity to continue efforts for spiritual renewal. Special attention must be given to young people, who need to be instructed in the social teaching of the Church in order to grow into mature and responsible citizens. Every Christian, each according to their own calling, must help to infuse the Gospel message into everyday life, liberating the oppressed and giving voice to the voiceless.
The family, Christ's witness
In a letter addressed to the all laity, Religious and clergy in Zimbabwe, on the implementation of the African Synod in preparation for the Jubilee in the Church in Africa, the Bishops say that preparation began, in one sense, already in April 1994 with that Special Synod for Africa which dealt in particular with the growth and development of the Church on the African continent. The main themes were raised once again by Pope John Paul II when he travelled to the continent to officially present the fruits of the Synod contained in the post-Synodal document Ecclesia in Africa, entrusting it to the dioceses for implementation.
The document has been made available in a simplified form and it is this book "The African Synod Comes Home" which the Bishops use for a Jubilee Programme of preparation for the three years leading to the Jubilee, of which the main objective is to build up the Family of God in Zimbabwe.
Underlining the African peoples' deep sense of family - the place of good human relationships, acceptance, dialogue, trust, solidarity, and that efforts must be made to strengthen this basic unit of society, the Bishops say that Small Christian Communities are the place where the Church as family is best experienced. "We must intensify our efforts to deepen the faith in our families and in our communities. Very often in the past - the Bishops say - people have joined the family of God in baptism, without understanding and living out its reality in their lives. There is a great need for renewed catechesis, so that people become truly Christian in word and deed, and not just in name. (...) Throughout 1997 let us focus on nurturing and building up our existing Christian communities. The 1997 Winter School will focus on assisting our Christian communities to evangelize themselves, pray and listen to God's Word, commit themselves to living Chris's love for everybody, a love which transcends the limits of natural solidarity of clans, tribes and other interest groups". Pastoral attention, the Bishops say, during Year one, dedicated to reflection on "Jesus Christ the one Saviour of the World, yesterday, today and forever" will concentrate on Liturgical celebration, Inculturation, Basic Christian Communities, Marriage and Family Life Women's role in the Church and society, Catechesis.
National Committee prepares 'Jubilee magazine'
The Lebanese Episcopal Commission for preparation for the Jubilee, adopting the programme of the National Committee, presided by Mgr. George Scanda has launched an heartfelt appeal to the entire local Church, dioceses, parishes, institutions and movements, to engage in serious preparation, consisting above all of spiritual renewal, for the Jubilee of the Year 2000. The three-year period of immediate preparation was officially opened with a solemn concelebration of Mass with the participation of about three thousand Catholics from different parts of the country. In view of sound spiritual preparation, the National Committee has begun the publication of a periodical, "Jubilee magazine". The magazine is published in Arabic and in French and contains information and also formation: for priests, suggestions for homilies; for Religious themes for meditation; teaching material for catechists; passages for reflection for the laity. As all over the Church, according to the indications given by Pope John Paul II the Church in the Lebanon is devoting reflection this year to Jesus Christ "Only Saviour of the World, the same yesterday, today and for ever". The dioceses have undertaken a variety of initiatives in preparation for the Jubilee: besides encouraging among the faithful a more frequent participation in daily Mass, every diocese receives the official Jubilee Magazine and sees that it is circulated and explained throughout the territory; there are talks and debates on various themes presented in the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente; conferences on the figure of Christ; penitential liturgies; pilgrimages to Marian shrines. Not lacking are also religious-cultural events and moments to show solidarity. Various Commissions have been set up to specialise in different fields of preparation, to encourage Catholics and all Christians to respond to Pope John Paul II's call to conversion of heart and reconciliation, especially through a renewed appreciation of the significance of Baptism and gratitude for the gift of Faith. By means of the Jubilee Magazine, the National Committee reports regularly on its activities and plans for the future.
A special Commission for preparation
The first step of the Catholic Church in Japan in view of the Holy Year has been the translation into Japanese of the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio adveniente. This was followed by the setting up of a Special Commission for the preparation of the Great Jubilee composed of eleven members: seven bishops, two priests and a secretary, and the President, the Archbishop of Tokyo, Cardinal Peter Shirayanagi. The Special Commission has met already five times since December 1996 to discuss various themes pertaining to the Jubilee. The point of departure for this first phase devoted to Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of the world, yesterday, today and for ever, are the dioceses which have been asked to respond to the question: "How is the Church in Japan preparing for the Jubilee?". The majority of Japanese Catholics will participate in preparation for the Jubilee making the first step along the path indicated by the Pope as a journey of "Reflection and action on the universal level" making space also for "Penance and reconciliation". The year 1997, the first year of immediate preparation, sees several concrete activities on the part of the Special Commission: each diocese has received the necessary information about the Jubilee, including, a summary of the TMA, literature on certain themes contained in the TMA, a Message from the Special Committee, pastoral guidelines and examples of homilies. Each diocese seeks to ensure maximum preparation in all of its parishes. Two important events for the Church in Japan, also being included in the Jubilee preparation are the 450th anniversary of the arrival in Japan of Saint Francis Xavier, and the 400th anniversary of twenty-six Japanese martyrs.
For a culture of life in the 3rd Christian millennium
The department for Social Pastoral of the Seoul Archdiocese published special a document to mark the beginning, in Advent 1996, of the first year of preparation for the Great Jubilee, inviting all Korean Catholics to ask God for the gift of a change of heart and consequent reconciliation. The main areas demanding conversion and reconciliation, according to the document, are human dignity, national reconciliation between South and North Korea, sharing with brothers and sisters in North Korea and the protection of foreign workers. Explaining the Biblical roots of the Jubilee the document invites Catholics to live true significance of the Jubilee year which was taught and lived by Jesus himself and is the heart of his message, the Good News.
The Church in Korea is soon to celebrate the 200th anniversary of its foundation. This should be a call for profound interior renewal for all Korean Christians, called to infuse the Christian message in the realities of Korea today, indicated as the following: the struggle against the culture of death, which means fighting abortion, the death penalty, both authorised by the law, upholding human rights, particularly of political prisoners. Furthermore, life, the order of Creation is not represented only by human beings and therefore the environment, damaged by exploitation for economic gain, must be given new attention, and there is a need for greater solidarity between city populations and rural populations. In this sense a Co-operative-Life-Movement will seek to encourage action in defence of the countryside against industrial aggression and recalling the ancient custom of restoring the land during the Jubilee Year. Today social justice is taking on a new meaning, consequently attention must be given to the right of every individual to a dignified dwelling, proper social assistance, equal rights for immigrant workers, particularly those of Chinese origin often prone to discrimination and humiliation. Regarding the delicate political situation which for decades has divided the two Koreas, the Jubilee could be an occasion for development in the process of nation reconciliation, in the general climate of forgiveness and sharing.
Communicating love to renew society
The Church in the Philippines has already set out on the journey of preparation for the Great Jubilee, involving every member of the Church, priests, men and women Religious and the laity. The Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente with its programme for the three-year period leading to the Holy Year, has been widely publicised in a series of different publications highlighting one or several of its main themes. The permanent objective is to connect preparations for the Jubilee to the social and religious situation of the Philippines, emphasizing motives for reflection and hope on the part of the people of this nation.
Particularly important in this context is a Pastoral Letter which the Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Jaime Sin, addressed to his faithful on the occasion of the opening of the three-year period of preparation for the Jubilee. A letter entitled "With Jesus, to the Third Millennium" which focuses on three fundamental points: the aim of the three-year period according to indications of the Pope, the celebration of the year of Jesus Christ, and some practical guidelines. «With this pastoral Letter - Cardinal Sin writes - I would like to ask all our faithful of the archdiocese of Manila, priests, Religious and in a very special way the laymen, laywomen and young people (the youth of World Youth Day 1995!) and children, to tell the Holy Father that they are accepting the challenge he has given us in his Apostolic Letter TMA. Let us tell him that we will - with special readiness, sincerity and generosity - make use the three years ahead of us to prepare our individual selves, yes, but also our families, our parishes and other communities, for that renewal of the Christian faith and witness to which Tertio Millennio Adveniente summons us».
Outlining the objectives of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, Cardinal Sin emphasizes the need to make every effort to strengthen faith in a world which today finds it difficult believe, and witness of Christian living in an era in which "Only witness really speaks". To achieve this purpose there must be authentic conversion of heart and spiritual renewal through constant prayer, acts of solidarity towards the poor, the abandoned and those in any sort of need. «Personal conversion and personal renewal are to go hand in hand with the work of social renewal within our communities and in our the nation - he says - the Jubilee Year calls us to both these tasks. Personal conversion and witnessing, plus with social reform and the realization of social justice: these make up the mandate and the agenda for our next three years».
Speaking in particular of the year 1997, the year of Jesus Christ, Cardinal Sin recalls that, following a remark made by Pope John Paul II in 1984 (at the end of the Extraordinary Holy Year of the Redemption 1983-1984) about celebrating the 'bi-millennium of the birth of Mary' (about 15 years before the birth of Jesus), the Bishops of the Philippines made 1985 a Marian Year of prayer penance and petition. The national was living a crisis, wrought by the ruinous dictatorship which had brought the people to their knees. At the end of that year of intense prayer entrusted to the intercession of Mary, the Philippines enjoyed a new freedom, restored democratic space and even shaped a shared unity. «We are, you may say, not in a similar situation now - Cardinal Sin continues - But we are perhaps at an equally significant moment of our journey forward as a people. As our Asian continent is rapidly changing, a new millennium opens up for our people - new in so many ways: in challenges, in far-reaching opportunities, in option which will shape our future».
After stressing certain concerning aspects of social life, materialism, "a secularized Christianity" which compromise authentic inculturation, Cardinal Sin affirms that the year devoted to Jesus Christ must lead us to study and make more our own "Christ - his person, his message and its meaning for today, his presence in our lives and the on-going history of our people." This will call for renewed efforts at catechesis and religious instruction for both children and adults and also through the liturgy. This Christological catechesis must be undertaken in parishes, schools and other groups and communities: "Not merely as an academic or scholastic exercise, it must flow into prayer and into deeds of witness".
Cardinal Sin concludes his Letter emphasizing that Christians must not see the Year 2000 as «some portentous moment of signs and wonders at the end times» but rather to get involved in TMA programmes, «to collaborate with God in "renewing (...) hope in the definitive coming of the Kingdom" TMA 46, and it is precisely in this new "dynamic" Asia, marked by changes and contradictions, that the Church must be Sacrament or sign of Christ in a new way: «It is to this Asia of the living present that we must bring Christ anew and in fresh challenging ways».
The Church in the Philippines has already issued several publications to encourage sincere preparation for the Jubilee, in the situations and context of the Philippines today, following carefully the directions given by Pope John Paul II. Particularly important in this aspect was an Act of Commitment of the Laity of the Philippines made on July 7th 1996: "During this Advent of the Third Millennium with Mary which will bring a new Springtime for our Church". The laity pledge themselves to implement the decrees of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines and to aim for three priority objectives: in the first place to become men and women of prayer, encouraging the families to pray daily; secondly to proclaim the Good News of Jesus the Risen Lord and to witness the joy of brotherly love; thirdly, to share with the needy, recognising every man women and child as neighbour.
Another commitment in view of the Jubilee was taken by delegates from the Philippines to the International Marian Congress held in Czestochowa, Poland in August 1996, who signed a Joint Resolution with all the delegates present in which they commit themselves to respond to the Pope's call for renewal and strengthening of faith. The Delegates drafted an agenda for living the "Advent of the Third Millennium with Mary", committing themselves to «renew hope in the definitive coming of the Kingdom. In 1997 this year dedicated to Our Lord Jesus Christ we shall endeavour to become his authentic disciples as 'Communicators of Faith' in a society that seems resigned to incredulity».
In 1998, devoted to the Holy Spirit of God, the commitment will be "to endeavour to become 'communicators of hope' in a world that is frequently tempted to despair". Lastly, in 1999, the year of God the Father, they will seek to be 'communicators of Love' in the midst of a society where there is "much suffering and unbridled egoism". In this long Advent 1997-1999, individuals, families, parishes and dioceses in every nation are encouraged to consecrate themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary so that «all men and women of the new millennium shall be led towards the One who is "the true light that enlightens every man". And all peoples may be united in Love and Peace».
National Eucharistic Congress and liturgical year in a spirit of the Jubilee
This year, according to the indications in the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente , the Church in Italy has entered the second phase of immediate preparation for the Jubilee - preparation which will be a three year meditation on the Most Holy Trinity - in the light of the general theme proposed by Pope John Paul II: «Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and for ever» (Cfr Heb 13,8). The 23rd National Eucharistic Congress, to be held in Bologna 20-28 September this year, following the themes of the Jubilee preparation, has the same primary objective as the Jubilee: to strengthening of faith and of the witness of Christians (TMA 42.)
During the pastoral year 1996-1887 the Italian Bishops' Conference has proposed to all the local Churches, five special moments of communion in harmony with the ordinary path of pastoral and in the context of the liturgical year:
1). Feast of Christ the King 1996. Every local Church was invited to emphasize, with some particular initiative on the diocesan level, the beginning of the journey towards the Jubilee and the also the year of the 23rd National Eucharistic Congress.
2). The 1st Sunday of Advent. The official opening in every parish of the journey towards the Jubilee and the Eucharistic Congress.
3). Holy Week 1997, for which it was suggested that in all dioceses and parishes the Easter Liturgies would be given renewed attention.
4). The Solemnity of Corpus Christi 1997, is to be for dioceses and parishes an opportune occasion to live this Feast of the Most Holy Eucharist in a pre-congress spirit of fervour.
5). The Celebration of the National Eucharistic Congress 20-28 September 1997. Every Church is encouraged to consider the possibility of participating with as large a delegation as possible in this Congress, the last of the century. In the context of initiatives to achieve the primary objective of the Jubilee, namely, the strengthening of faith and the witness of Christians (TMA 42) the preparatory Committee for the Eucharistic Congress, together with the National Liturgical Office has selected a melody to propose to the Church in Italy with which to recuperate the liturgical use of the Apostles Creed. The Congress in Bologna will be then a happy occasion to re-launch this Creed which is part of the heritage of the People of God and belongs to the earliest traditions of the Church. Furthermore, every ecclesial community is invited to recite the prayer of the 23 Eucharistic Congress and to become familiar its official hymn "Gesu Signore" - "Jesus, the Lord" composed by Ma Leonida Peterlini, for a text prepared by the Archbishop of Bologna, Cardinal Giacomo Biffi.
Steps of preparation for the Great Jubilee
A pastoral plan 1997-2000 prepared by the Spanish Bishops' Conference has already commenced. The Plan, as Mgr Elias Yanes, Archbishop of Saragoza and President of the Spanish Bishops Conference explains in the forward of a hand-book on the plan, is a combination of elements of continuity and of renewal. The plan proposes new undertakings and new objectives in harmony with the indications given by the Holy Father in the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente. Archbishop Yanes underlines that the plan is only a general outline of guidelines offered to the particular Churches, which they may then develop according to the local needs and their own pastoral plans in full autonomy. In fact the plan is meant to serve as a common basis. In the first place because the Bishops who approved it are the resident Bishops of the same diocesan communities and in the second place because the direct or indirect objective of the proposed initiatives is to foster growth in the life of faith of the whole of the pilgrim Church which is in Spain.
The hand-book consists of an introduction and three chapters. The introduction summarises briefly the ante-preparatory phase and gives a general outline of the pastoral plan in view of the great Jubilee of the Year 2000. Chapter 1 dwells on the figure of Christ and a rediscovery of the Church through personal and community conversion for spiritual renewal. Attention is focused on themes such as unity and communion and the Second Vatican Council is indicated as a sure point of reference for the jubilee event. Chapter 1 concludes by proposing reflection on the need for new evangelization.
Chapter 2 gives a general panorama of the situation of the Church in Spain with particular reference to the problems of the present day, the positive realities and hopes, to man moving towards the Church and more specifically, pastoral considerations regarding the present situation. The chapter ends with reflection on the need to assimilate the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.
The third and final chapter illustrates the primary pastoral objectives and initiatives chosen by the Spanish Bishops Conference for preparation for the Jubilee. Archbishop Augustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia has published a guide on catechesis for this year in preparation for the Jubilee Year 2000. The guide, entitled "Catechesis for the Year 1997" is composed of Pastoral and Catechetical Notes with the addition of doctrinal notes on some Christological questions and ecclesiological implications. Mgr Garcia-Gasco had already published last year a similar guide to increase awareness among the Christian communities in view of immediate preparation for the Holy Year and a also a Letter to Young People.
A guide for the spirit
The Polish Episcopal Commission for Pastoral has published a Pastoral Programme for the year 1996/1997 entitled: "Jesus Christ, only Saviour of the world, yesterday, today and for ever".
The basis of the programme is the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, in which Pope John Paul II indicates the ways and stages of immediate preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. The themes of the three stages, corresponding to the three years, have a theological-Trinitarian character.
The Pastoral Programme takes up the central theme of the first year of preparation that is Jesus Christ, offering a series of reflections aiming to achieve two objectives: a rediscovery of Jesus Christ Saviour and Evangelizer; a deeper awareness of the Christian identity, as the foundation of Christian living and a desire for holiness.
To reach these objectives there is need of renewed catechesis, in-depth study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and decisive pastoral action by the Church to achieve greater witness of Christian living among Catholics also to further individual commitment to working for unity among Christians. These themes are discussed in detail in six chapters, followed by chapters on two important events in the life of the Church in Poland: the 46th International Eucharistic Congress and the 1000th anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Adalbert. The last part of the programme offers suggestions for homilies and subjects for individual or group reflection.
2000 ago ... Jubilee tomorrow
In her journey towards the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, the Church in France is achieving ever great harmony between all the different realities, traditional and new, thanks to which the path of preparation for the event is developing. In close cooperation the bishops' Conference and the National Committee for the Jubilee have produced a substantial guide to help Catholics participate fully in the three-years of preparation. The publication is one of a series entitled: "The events of the Year 200 - in View of the jubilee".
For Advent of the liturgical year 1996-1997 the diocese of Nanterre was entrusted with presenting an in-depth study of the Christological theme. Bishop F Favreau, in the opening article of the guide explains the significance of the Jubilee in human history, yesterday, today and tomorrow. This is followed by brief chapters on various aspects of the life and the example of Jesus Christ, and the relevance in our present-day situations also with the help of the witness given by the fathers of the Church and the prophets of the Old Testament. So from reflection on the mission of John and the Baptism of Jesus comes an invitation to return to the spirit of the early Christians and martyrs whose blood watered the growing Church. After reflection comes prayer: with the words of the fathers of the Church to rediscover the roots of Christianity, with Mary and John the Baptist to introduce the theme of the family and the great Christian family.
Other dossiers are being prepared for the next Advents, before the Jubilee. There is also an interesting publication in this stage entitled Fetes et Saisons.
On the occasion of Advent of the first year of preparation for the Jubilee an whole issue was devoted to the theme "Christ living forever". In the editorial, Cardinal Etchegaray underlined that "the time has come to begin a glorious spiritual initiative, which daily life renders in the commonplace word - conversion ..."
In twelve chapters, the publication, prepared by the Bishop of Chartres, Mgr Jaques Perrier, outlines the journey of faith to be undertaken in 1997, proposing for each theme, several readings from Scripture, and a questionnaire to stimulate answers to questions which the Christian vocation poses to each of us. Beginning with the significance of the words Jesus and Christ, attention focuses on the hope of Israel and the faith of Christians. A call to faith offers an opportunity to underline faith's indispensable importance for understanding the Gospels and the mysteries they contain, starting with the Incarnation.
Three years of action
The Germans Bishops' Conference recently published a Plan of Action for the preparation and celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 entitled: "The Third Millennium is approaching - we are all invited". As explained in the preface, by the Auxiliary Bishop of Hamburg, Mgr. H. Jaschke appointed by the Episcopal Conference as officer for the Jubilee, preparations for the journey towards the Jubilee have already begun. The Plan of Action give precise and exhaustive information on the present situation of the initiatives undertaken and the work of the organizing structures. Furthermore, the publication offers suggestions and guidelines for the three years of preparation at all levels of Church life in Germany. On the basis of these suggestions the plan addresses in the first place those who in the dioceses and communities are involved in preparing for the Great Jubilee and at the regional and local levels.
Regarding the basic direction and thematic priorities which should reflect the life of the Church and her pastoral experience in Germany, the following objectives are indicated: more general awareness of the salvific dimensions of the Jubilee; initiatives to emphasize positive prospects for the future; the ecumenical character which has particular importance in the specific situation of Germany; Christians' attitude towards the Church and their relations with the world and solidarity towards others as impulse to the Church open towards society.
To effectively realise these objectives the Bishops' Conference and the dioceses have set up diocesan work-structures to facilitate rapid and constant co-operation between diocesan jubilee officers and Bishop Jaschke, the Bishops' Conference officer for the Jubilee.
The general plan of action also presents an individual plan of action for each of the three years of preparation:
1997 - Jesus Christ - the human face of God; Year of growing in awareness, of sharing, of deepening our faith.
1998 - The Spirit of God in the world - a year to discover the signs of hope
1999 - The God of Jesus Christ - Father of all mankind; a year to remember and to orientate.
2000 - The Trinity - year of the celebration of God's presence in the world.
According to the theme for each year and specific reference to the indications proposed by Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio adveniente, the publication suggests concrete ways of implementing the proposals in dioceses, parishes, communities, associations and movements, presenting each proposal in the three principal expressions of Christian life: Martyria (witness), Diakonia (service) and Liturgia (Liturgy).
Rediscovering the wonder of the Incarnation
With a pastoral letter entitled "The Church in Jubilee", the Bishops' Conference of New Zealand officially inaugurate that Particular Church's journey towards the Great Jubilee and give the reasons for which Catholics prepare to celebrate with joy and solemnity the two thousand years since the birth of Christ. «The purpose of this Letter - the Bishops say in the introduction - is to explain the special nature of this event to all interested, particularly Pastoral Councils, priests, religious communities and diocesan and national agencies and to identify the themes proper to the celebration of the Jubilee».
The Bishops' Letter is based on the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, but with New Zealand in mind. They underline that preparation for this great event does not demand extra work or new programmes, it should be incorporated into ordinary programmes and activities They also suggest that the Catholic Communicators use the Pope's Letter as a basis for simpler communiqués to be issued from time to time over the next three years.
They recall that from the outset of his pontificate Pope John Paul II has been calling Christians to celebrate the year 2000 as a Jubilee and to regard the remainder of the millennium as a kind of "advent" during which to prepare for the 2000th anniversary of Christ's Incarnation: «We would appreciate your assistance - the Bishops write - in helping people rediscover the wonder of the Incarnation and what it implies for all our relationships with one another».
The Letter then highlights the Biblical origin of the Jubilee Year, a year for "redeeming people", a time of "perfect redemption, the fullness of peace, mercy and justice". Starting from what we learn in the Scriptures concerning the Incarnation and the spirit of the Jubilee, and following the TMA, the Bishops put forward nine themes "proper to our celebration of the Jubilee" seen as a favourable time: the time to re-live the wonder, joy and praise and thanksgiving that comes from knowing God shares our journey through history and has a marvellous destiny in store for us; the time for full immersion into the mystery of Christ; the time to renew commitment to working for unity among Christians; the time to take inculturation seriously; the time for new initiatives for evangelization; the time to review Christian witness in the past, repent of our poor witness, apologise for "counter-witness and scandal" and, as it were to start again; a time for the Church to re-identify with its origins as the community of Jesus' disciples; a time for renewed application of the teachings of Vatican II; a time for the Church to renew its "preferential option for the poor and the outcast". The Bishops welcome suggestions for events to mark the Jubilee and they recommend prayer, in parishes, homes, individual prayer and especially prayer to Mary the Mother of God, who played such an important part in he Incarnation. «Nothing short of prayer together - they conclude - will break through the apathy, fear and sterility that presently hinder the Gospel».
A four-year plan of activities is ready
A calendar of activities for the Church in Australia on the journey from now until the year 2001 has already been planned. The Bishops' Committee for the Jubilee Year has convoked representatives of every diocese for an ad hoc Conference in Sidney. But already last November over five hundred delegates participating in a Congress 'People first' organized by the Bishops' Committee for Justice, Peace and Development, identified a series of initiatives to be undertaken in a 'spirit of preparation for the Jubilee': the objective being to 'eliminate poverty'.
The Bishops' Committee for the Jubilee meets only a few times a year but it is permanently represented by a Committee in the National Council of Churches in Australia, which has drafted a plan of activities for the next four years; furthermore it is already distributing throughout the country a special Prayer Book to encourage every Christian to deepen faith and renew Christian living in view of the third millennium. Each diocese of the country is invited to organize diocesan and parish programmes of conferences and meetings on the themes of the three-years of preparation indicated in the Tertio Millennio Adveniente
Tercer Milenio booklets and a theological conference
The Episcopal Conference of Latin American nations, CELAM has made another important step towards the great Jubilee, with two publications: a set of hand-books for 1997, belonging to the Tercer Milenio series presented last year by CELAM secretary general, Mgr Jorge E.J. Jimenez Carvajal, and a volume containing the acts of a meeting on future theological reflection in Latin America.
The 16 titles of the 1997 series focus on the re-discovery of the Liturgy understood as listening to the Word and putting it into practice, and also reflecting on the example given by Christ.
The first booklet of the series is a proper liturgical itinerary on "the Year of Jesus Christ" for which reflections by Father A. Aranda offer themes for celebrations and homilies during 1997. The second booklet is on Jesus, Evangelizer and pilgrim, Father Miguel Ortega Riquelme refers in particular to Chapter 4 of Luke's Gospel. The third booklet is devoted to Mary, the Mother of God. The fourth, "In the foot-steps of Jesus Christ" prepared by the Brazilian Bishops' Conference, deals with themes taken from the Gospel of Mark with a distinct pedagogical character. The fifth takes its title and inspiration from the Gospel invitation to follow the example of Christ: "Master where do you live? Come and see!"
This is followed by a booklet entitled "Lay Christians - Witnesses of the Lord", dealing with lay participation in the Church - a sign of new times. It was written by a committed lay-couple from Chile, Francisco and Dolores Lopez. The seventh is called "Service in the Faith". Number eight, "Christ's Witnesses in the world", is the work of Brother Camilo Maccise. Devoted entirely to Religious Brothers and Sisters and other consecrated people, it offers valuable inspiration for preparing for a worthy celebration of the Great Jubilee of 2000. "Liturgical Catechesis for Baptism", booklet number nine, underlines the bond between catechetical preparation and baptismal liturgy. The author draws inspiration from both the catechumenate of the early Church and recent pastoral experience. The tenth booklet, "Directions for the celebration of Baptism" completes reflection on the sacrament of Baptism focusing on certain aspects in particular.
CELAM proposes in the eleventh booklet "Inspired words on Jesus Christ - Readings and prayers for the Year of Jesus": a collection of texts, some taken from the Liturgy of the Hours, and coming from all over the world; valuable testimony of the spiritual experience of the Church down through the centuries. The CEAS (Peruvian Episcopal Commission for Social Action) prepared the thirteenth booklet called: "For a culture of Life", a reflection on the human person understood as "Temple of the Lord", to be defended against today's culture of death of which abortion, euthanasia, the death penalty, torture and oppression of the marginalised, are only some of the more visible effects. The fourteenth booklet, "The Christian Churches" on the subject of Ecumenism is by Fr Francisco Nieto CM who underlines elements which unite and those which still divide the Christian Churches, very helpful for ecumenical dialogue. "I believe in the Resurrection", number fifteen, stresses the need to help the faithful to put the mystery of Christ's Resurrection at the centre of their life, removing the confusion and doubt which assail many Christians today. The booklet was prepared by Fr Carlos Bazarra S. OFM Cap. The last booklet for 1997, "Listening to the Master - Praying the Bible" is an introduction to the practice of Lectio Divina. The reflections, by Fr Fidel Consuegra, are based on the teachings of Cistercian monk Guigo II and the mystical and poetical works of Saint John of the Cross and Sister Isabella of the Trinity. The booklet proposes concrete examples of praying the Bible, individually and also in community.
"The Future of Theological Reflection in Latin America" was the theme of a meeting of theological experts, bishops, priests and lay people of the Latin American continent. The meeting organised by CELAM, was held in September 1996. Now available are the texts presented during the seven conferences, presided by Mgr Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga. Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was among those present.
The meeting sought to identify guidelines for the future development of theological reflection on the continent. This was done first of all by viewing the progress of the Latin American episcopate "From Rio to Santo Domingo 1955-1992" (a Paper given by Mgr Luciano Mendes de Almeida of Brazil); then through discerning the characteristic features which geographically qualify theological thinking "Features of Latin American Theology" (Juan Noemi, Chile). Finally, an analysis of the questions which theology is already called to answer but which will be revealed in full in the future, was the subject of a paper given by Dr Enrique Iglesias, Uruguay: "Latin America and the Third Millennium - tendencies and challenges".
Following this outline of the historical and present-day social context, looking towards the future, four speakers presented the fundamental points of four theological aspects which have characterised pastoral activity on the continent since the Second Vatican Council. A theological presentation in the light of community living (Juan Carlos Scanone SJ Argentina); in the light of culture (Carlos Maria Galli, Argentina); in the light of the Church's Social Teaching (Riccardo Antoncich SJ, Peru) and lastly according to Liberation Theology (Gustavo Gutierrez, Peru).
At the end of the meeting, enriched by an atmosphere of dialogue, brotherhood and comprehensive agreement, the participants drafted a paper: «Some projections of Latin American Theological Reflection: guidelines of the thought which, from different aspects, will accompany and illuminate the life of believers in the 21st century».
A Project for life and hope
"Jesus Christ, life and hope of Mexico" is the name of the new pastoral project prepared in view of the year 2000 and explained in a recent document by the Mexican Bishops' Conference. The project is the result of in-depth analysis of important changes, in society, culture, social communications and the ecclesial reality itself, all rapidly developing in this central American nation.
Growing poverty and marginalization of large sectors of society, Mexican youth, the crisis of the family, religious indifference but also individual religious piety which fails to open to the community, are some of the themes taken up by the Bishops in this document on preparation for the Jubilee. Taking inspiration from words of Pope John Paul II, they underline that for the Church every Christian has a most important role to play in the journey of preparation for the Third Millennium. There should be renewed expectation of the final coming of the Lord and the Christian community should strive to discern the signs of the times in these final years of the millennium.
By coming into the world and proclaiming the Gospel, Jesus brought good news to all those in the world who suffer or are oppressed. The nucleus of Christian faith and hope - the Bishops remind their people - is the Paschal Mystery: the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. God of the Old Testament who showed himself to be Creator of life, becomes in the New testament the God of salvation and eternal life.
Christian life must never be lived in passive expectation of a better future, it must, through conversion of heart, be lived in hope and confidence in God and in the service of our brothers and sisters. In fact Christ's death has regenerated us in a new life of service to others. The Church, sacrament of Christ and community of life and hope, has her fundamental mission in evangelization which consists in proclaiming, celebrating, living in love, the mystery of Christ who died for our sins and is Risen for our justification.
Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is a model of faith and a perfect example of love of God and love of neighbour. She can accompany us on our journey of faith and gather us reconciled around her Son.
In the second part of their document the Bishops speak of the pastoral challenges facing the Church in Mexico, providing some guidelines for facing the problems in this central American society.
They underline the fundamental importance of the Church's pastoral activity and the need to promote dynamic, integral catechesis at all levels of society. For the urgent work of New Evangelization the lives of the early evangelizers and martyrs can be seen as examples to be honoured and followed. Also necessary, is serious Social Pastoral with well-trained pastoral workers. Special attention must be given to popular piety, which in the past has never been properly inculturated. Priests must be provided with integral formation adequate for their mission. They must also seek to have an ever closer relationship with Jesus, in a constant attitude of conversion so as to carry out their ministry of charity. Religious communities, male and female must be drawn to participate more in the pastoral activity of the dioceses: they are a treasure to be recognised and employed.
Lay Catholics must be given sound formation and education in their faith so as to be able to fulfil their duty to transform society with the power of the Gospel. Lay movements and groups, especially youth groups, must be given support and encouragement. The renewal of the world passes by way of the family and evangelizing activity in the dioceses and parishes.
Another serious pastoral problem is the spreading of new sects or pseudo religious groups. It is important to re-affirm the centrality of Jesus Christ in history in the light of the Holy Spirit. The whole people of God is being evangelized while it evangelizes, through the richness and variety of each one's charisma and ministry: however there must be renewed ardour in the life of faith and charity. Witness must be present in the life of the Church and her evangelizing activity and mission must always be accompanied by prayer because only renewed spirituality can inspire authentic human promotion and promote a truly Christian way of life. Young people and women are categories demanding special pastoral attention as well as families: this will call for on-going formation for catechists and educators. Adequate preparation for the Sacraments is another pastoral urgency, requiring thematic catechesis based on the figure of Jesus Christ, the Word of God. Popular piety and devotions, correctly presented, can help to revitalise participation in the Sunday Liturgy.
The increasing poverty of millions of Mexicans, forced to live under conditions of extreme misery, continues to be a major concern of the Bishops. There is also widespread mistrust of the government and political leaders. When working for human development, every effort must be made to promote a society of justice and solidarity. The country's economy is in a state of grave unbalance and the currency is being rapidly devaluated.
Other serious problems highlighted in the Bishops' analysis of Mexican society are: the drug market, lack of respect for human rights, dangerous secularisation which is filtering its way into the national culture. Mexican country people and peasants suffering from poverty and often marginalised, are another special concern of the Church. The Gospel option for the poor must include defence of human rights in particular the right to life, work education, health, rest, religious freedom and social peace. When the media are badly employed they promote violence, consumerism, destruction of the family: the laity must be helped to make proper use of the means of social communication, as media workers and as audience. By promoting the culture of life and the Gospel of life, Christians can and must overcome the culture of death.
Meditations on the Jubilee of the Incarnation
"With the Lord at the dawning of the Third Millennium - Meditations to prepare for the Jubilee of the Incarnation". This guide-book, prepared by Fr Carlos Ignacio Gonzales, is one of the first fruits of the journey of preparation along which the Peruvian Bishop are leading their people. The guide-book focuses on a central theme, an invitation to rediscover the power and value of Christian prayer through a series of fourteen meditations, based on the words of Jesus: "The Kingdom of God is among you".
The book begins by introducing the Jubilee theme and the concept of the "fullness of time", and then examines in a series of meditations the mysteries of Christ's Incarnation and Passion as aspects of one love, God's love for mankind. Reflection centres on themes such as conversion, penance, baptism and hope, culminating with the example of Jesus, the model for new evangelization.
A collection of hand-books for new evangelization
A collection of pastoral hand-books entitled "New Millennium" is the most recent contribution offered by the diocese of Pereira in Colombia, towards a "Diocesan Process of New Evangelization". The diocese has created specific structures to organize the activities which will lead the Church in Colombia towards the Third Millennium. These activities have been grouped under the title "Promotion of Christian Culture and Education" and following indications given in the Tertio Millennio Adveniente, they will address, by means of the New Millennium handbooks, a variety of questions, which have in common one fact: they arise spontaneously "from the problems, the difficulties, the hopes and the fears of our people", to which the Church has always sought to tend with loving concern.
The first number of the series focuses on "The Church, as Missionary Communion". Prepared by Mgr Fabio Siescun Mutis, the booklet, with the help of indications contained in the Tertio Millennio Adveniente encourages Catholics to take an active part in new evangelization, urged on by the Gospel call, recorded by Matthew «You are the salt of the earth (...) you are the light of the world (...) Let your light shine among men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven» (Mt 5,13-16). The invitation to mission is addressed to the whole Church, to communities as well as individuals, keeping in mind also the words of Pope John Paul II during COMLA 4, when he urged the continent courageously ("do not be afraid") to progress from a "pastoral of preservation" to being a "Church on mission".
The second booklet addresses the problem of the New Age phenomena, giving pastoral advice on how to face the challenge it represents. Mgr. Norberto Rivera Carrera exposes the danger of this pseudo-religion which takes advantage of the acute psychological vulnerability of humanity preparing to cross the threshold of a new millennium.
The booklets which follow, focus on various themes such as Evangelization, Rediscovering moral values, the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, the World of the Angels, and others, forming a complete and exhaustive collection.
A popular edition of the TMA
"Fullness of life for Uruguay" is the motto which marks intense pastoral activity throughout the country, guided by of the National Committee, for preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. The motto is also used as a title for a guide-book presenting a plan for the three years of preparation and the actual celebration of the Jubilee. The book has six chapters and ,with the help of illustrations, focuses, among other things, on the history of the Jubilee, the Mystery of the Incarnation, and directions from the Church for the preparation of the Great Jubilee of 2000, starting from the Second Vatican Council. The activities proposed by the Bishops' Conference are numerous, but they can be summarised in a series of questions which the guide-book poses to its readers: How to foster a deeper awareness of Baptism? How to take concrete action to defend human life and human rights, in a spirit of ecumenism with our brothers and sisters of other Christian communions? How to increase expectation for the Kingdom, working for justice and peace, also from an international point of view, regarding the foreign dept of developing countries?
Following the example of Jesus the man of prayer, "the same yesterday, today and for ever" the Church in Uruguay urges all the faithful to pray constantly so as to be ready for the great Jubilee of the Year 2000.
Young people and the family, "on mission"
During a Plenary Assembly, the Bishops of Haiti made a heartfelt appeal to the local Church, underlining the need for spiritual growth to be reached by means of a series of concrete undertakings in view of conscious preparation for the Jubilee of 2000, according to the directions contained in the Tertio Millennio Adveniente . The phrase taken from the Letter to the Hebrews, highlighted by the TMA in reference to the year 1997 ,«Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and for ever» (Heb 13,8) should lead to reflection on the need to see Christ as Word who became man in order to give mankind a perfect example to follow, yesterday, today and always. Consequently all Christians are called, at all times, to be "on mission" and to seek to eliminate immorality and corruption which have gravely damaged the nation.
The struggle to obtain agricultural and tax reforms, to reach an acceptable level of legality, to fight widespread corruption and inefficiency in public administration and to defend young people and families is a battle which can only be fought by souls who are strong.
The Bishops of Haiti have already stressed, in a declaration on the "Foundations of the Church's Intervention in the social and political fields" (April 1983), that to achieve the common good it is necessary to refer to values indicated by Pope John XXIII in "Pacem in Terris" (n. 167); truth, justice, love and liberty. The new society of the nation which "appears like a house that must be built", must be built on these pillars (Message of the Bishops of Haiti, February 7th 1987);
The Church in Haiti therefore, its priests, religious and lay people, fully commits itself to being "on mission".
During a National Meeting, which the Bishops have organized for this year, delegates of every diocese will seek to outline more in detail the realities in which to diffuse an efficacious message to reach all people of good will. In the meantime, every parish and every diocese, the entire Church in Haiti, is preparing, by means of careful catechesis and reflection, a great Feast to celebrate Baptism.
Similar attention will be given to the family also in view of the International Meeting for Families scheduled for 4-5 October in Rio de Janeiro. The Jubilee of the Year 2000 must pass through this fundamental nucleus of the Church and society, and Haitian representatives to the Rio meeting will testify to the primary importance which the Church in Haiti gives to the pastoral care of married couples and of families, seen as images of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Three handbooks on: evangelization, liturgy, the community
So far the Bishops Conference of Brazil (CNBB) has published three handbooks to guide Catholics in their preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. The first, Proceeding towards the New Millennium, takes up with enthusiasm the words of Pope John Paul II who, in continuity with the Second Vatican Council, invites the Church the bear witness in the world of her faith, promoting dialogue and unity. The project presented in the book, in conformity with the directions given in the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio adveniente, has as its primary objective to foster new ardour and greater courage in the evangelizing mission so that, by finding new ways of expression, the saving message of Jesus Christ made be ever more widely known and, consequently, followed with love and generosity, particularly by young people. The hand-book sets out in general terms, contents, directions and guidelines for the years 1996-2000. Last year, 1996, was a year for increasing awareness throughout the ecclesial community in view of the project Proceeding towards the New Millennium through striving for five basic objectives:
1) more efficacious evangelization on two levels, the national level with cooperation from institutes of formation and universities; the other, more capillary, through the parishes;
2) the preparation of a national pastoral plan on two levels, regional and diocesan;
3) the formation of agents of evangelization;
4) deeper awareness of: the meaning of the Jubilee, celebrations for the 5th Centenary of the beginning of the work of evangelization in Brazil;
5) the pastoral project itself.
The second hand-book is essentially a liturgical guide for the Christian communities of Brazil. The aim of the publication is to offer some examples of prayers for liturgical celebrations, including the celebration of the Eucharist, as well as giving specific indications for the preparation of the church or chapel, entrance hymns, choice of readings and homilies.
The last of the three books, on community, "Walking in the Way of Jesus", deals with the central theological theme indicated for this Year in the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio adveniente. "The first year will therefore be devoted to reflection on Christ, the Word of the Father, made man by the power of the Holy Spirit" (TMA 40). In this hand-book the Bishops' Conference of Brazil bases reflection on the figure of Jesus on the Gospel according to Saint Mark - the Gospel which the Church is reading in this liturgical year -.The aim is not only to help people to become more familiar with Mark's Gospel and grasp its message, but : «to lead the reader and every Christian community to renew their faith in Christ, their personal adherence to his teaching and firm commitment to follow his way of life». The book's introduction is addressed mainly to leaders of Bible Groups and Prayer Groups, but will also be useful for priests as a guide for homilies on the Sunday Scripture readings. The book, planned as a guide for biblical, liturgical and catechetical activity during 1997, is made up of 9 chapters. Chapter one is the introduction. Chapters 2 to 7 deal with the public life of Jesus, from Galilee to Jerusalem and the hill of Calvary. Chapter 8 explains the importance of the faith in order to follow Jesus. Finally, reflection in the last chapter includes not only on the Gospel of Mark, but also other passages of Scripture.
The joy of conversion
The first initiative undertaken by the Argentinean Bishops' Conference (CEA) in view of preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 has been the publication of a series of spiritual reflections entitled: "The Joy of Conversion". In an introduction to the volume, Mgr Juan Carlos Maccarone, President of the Episcopal Commission for Faith and Culture, says: «to prepare for the joy of conversion and to have a precise understanding of the latter, is the basis of one of the essential elements of the celebration of a Jubilee, namely: the experience of joy for forgiveness received».
The book has two parts: part one, by Mgr Luis Rivas, a reflection on different aspects highlighted by the Tertio Millennio Adveniente regarding the Church's penitential attitude, underlines that holiness is a divine attribute. God is holy because he is unique and cannot be compared to any one of his creatures. «It cannot be denied - Mgr. Rivas continues - that the Church is holy; just as it is not possible to think of dis-associating the Holy Church from the sinful Church. The Church is holy thanks to her calling by God and because Jesus loved her and sacrificed himself for her, making her holy (cf Eph 5, 25-26). While a pilgrim on this earth, the Church still strives towards her final perfection».
The second part of the book - written by Dr Jose Rovai - follows on from the first, focusing reflection on the Church and sin, noting, in this regard, certain fundamental points: «The Church is holy by her birth and by her foundation: holy with the holiness of Christ who sacrificed himself for her, and by doing so established an everlasting covenant. The Church is the bride of Christ and sacrament of salvation. The sin in the Church is due - Dr Rovai explains - to the conditions of her history, her being a pilgrim, since her members are sinners and these members belong to the Church. Furthermore, the sins in the Church are her condition, but not her structure; she does not live of them, she suffers from them, she suffers and purifies herself, so as to be fully converted. The Church is sinful because of the sins of each one of us, of all her members, who are truly her living stones. What characterises her permanently is her holiness. The Holy Spirit truly lives in her, keeping her alive, although she will always have to struggle to live ever more perfectly the Gospel precepts and give authentic witness to the world. "This is why - concludes Dr Rovai - we see that one of way bearing witness is to recognise the Church's sinfulness through her history, by means of constant self-examination so that the world may see that salvation and redemption exist only in the Paschal Sacrifice of the Lord».
Reporting on preparatory activities
Announcing the beginning of this year devoted to meditation and catechesis on the figure of Jesus Christ, the Bishops Conference of El Salvador reported on preparation so far for the Great Jubilee. Last year a National Jubilee Committee was set up. It is presided by the Archbishop of San Salvador, Mgr. Fernando Saenz Lacalle, and the members are Mgr. Jose Oscar Barahona, Mgr. Romeo Tovar Astorga, Mgr. Gregorio Rosa Chavez and eight priests, delegates from the dioceses.
Among the initiatives already undertaken: an information-day for the clergy in each diocese; formation courses for parish missions; the drafting of work plans and preparation of material for various hand-books.