Commission for information of the
16 November-12 December 1997
"Encounter with the
Living Jesus Christ,
The Bulletin of the Synod of Bishops is only a working instrument for journalistic use and the translations from the original are not official.
32 - 12.12.1997
Pope John Paul II presided during the solemn Eucharistic concelebration in St. Peterís Patriarchal Basilica, at 10:30 this morning, Friday, 12 December 1997, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, on the occasion of the conclusion of the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, the theme of which is "Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: The Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America."
While the Holy Father and the Concelebrants processed towards the altar, the "Salve, Mater Misericordiae" entrance hymn was sung. Before the Benediction, imparted by the Pope, the assembly sang "Santa Maria del Cammino," in Italian, Castilian and Portuguese.
Concelebrating with the Holy Father were 41 Cardinals, 81 Archbishops, 98 Bishops and 76 Priests.
During the sacred rite, after the proclamation of the Gospel, Pope John Paul II gave the homily, of which we publish herein the entire text in unofficial translation, under embargo until the moment in which it is pronounced :
"Mary set out at that time... " (Lk 1:39).
1. How suggestive it is to hear again in this celebration the page from the Gospel about the Visitation, to conclude the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops!
The Church is always "journeying", always on the move. She is sent and exists to move through time and space, announcing and testifying the Gospel to the furthest corners of the earth.
About five centuries ago, the Church on her pilgrimage through history journeyed to the American continent, which had just been discovered. Since then she has been established in the various cultures of those lands; her face has taken on the features of the local people, as shown by the eloquent icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose memory we celebrate in todayís liturgy.
And so the continental Synod has been held this year, while the entire People of God is proceeding towards the great Jubilee of 2000. This is certainly a point of arrival; but even more so, a new point of departure: the Christian community, based on the model of Mary, is journeying again, driven by the love of Christ, to undertake the new evangelization of the American continent. It is the beginning of a new mission, which has found its "supper" and "pentecost" in the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, at the very beginning of a year wholly dedicated to the Holy Spirit.
It is the Holy Spirit who ceaselessly guides the Christian people along the road of the history of salvation. We want to thank the Lord for this today, recognizing that Christ Himself is present among us and walks with us.
Venerable brothers in the Episcopate, dear Brothers and Sisters, let us go together on a spiritual pilgrimage to Bethlehem and offer the fruits of our commitment at the feet of the Son of God, who has come to save us: "Regnum venturum, Dominum, venite adoremus!".
2. In these weeks we have made our own the last words of Christ the incarnate Son of God, his testament, which is also his great missionary mandate for the baptized: "Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28:18-20).
In fidelity to this mandate upon which our ministry is founded, you, the pastors of the Churches in America, do not tire of proclaiming to a world hungry for truth the living Christ, our sole salvation. He alone is our peace, he alone is that richness from which we can always receive strength and inner joy.
During the course of the Synod, we have heard echoes of the voices of the first great evangelizers of America, reminding us of our duty to be profoundly converted to Christ, the one source of authentic communion and solidarity. Now is the time of the new evangelization, a providential occasion to lead the People of God in America to cross the threshold of the third millennium with renewed hope.
How can we fail to thank God today for all those missionaries who for five centuries of history were committed to the evangelization of the Continent? The Church is greatly indebted to them. Many of their names are known to us, because they have been raised to the glory of the altars. But most of those missionaries remain unknown, the majority of them Religious, to whom America owes much, not only religiously but also culturally. Just as in Europe, from where the missionaries came, so too in America intimate link between faith, evangelization and culture gave rise to countless works of art, architecture and literature, as well as many popular celebrations and traditions. A rich tradition thus arose, one which represents a significant patrimony of the peoples of South, Central and North America.
Between these regions there are differences which go back to the very origins of evangelization. The Synod, however, has highlighted very clearly how the Gospel harmonized them. Those taking part in the Synod have personally experienced this unity, the source of fraternal solidarity. In this way, the Synod has accomplished its principle task, indicated by its very name, syn-odos, that is communion of paths. We thank the Lord for this communion of paths, on which whole generations of Christians on that great Continent have journeyed.
3. Dear Brothers and Sisters, during the synodal assembly, the problems and perspectives of the new evangelization in America have been examined. Any solution is based on the awareness of the urgent duty of ardently and courageously proclaiming Jesus Christ, Redeemer of all mankind and of every man. It is only in drawing from this living source that we can effectively face up to all the challenges.
I would like to recall some of these: the authentic teaching of the doctrine of the Church and catechesis based on the Gospel, adapted to the needs of the times; the tasks and interaction of the different vocations and different ministries in the Church; the defense of human life from the moment of conception till its natural end; the fundamental role of the family in society; the need to ensure that society, with its laws and institutions, is in harmony with the teachings of Christ; the value of human work, by which the human person cooperates in the Godís activity of creation; the evangelization of the cultural world in its different aspects. Thanks to an apostolic action rooted in the Gospel and open to the challenges of society, you can contribute to spreading throughout America that much desired civilization of love, which places much value on the primacy of man and the promotion of human dignity in all its dimensions, starting from the spiritual dimension.
The Church in America can realize more profoundly and more extensively the consequences of authentic reconciliation with Christ, who opens hearts and enables the brothers and sisters in the faith to renew their way of working together. For the new evangelization, it is essential to have a concrete collaboration between the different vocations, the different ministries and the different apostolates and gifts granted by the Holy Spirit, whether traditional religious institutions or new movements and associations created more recently by the faithful are involved.
4. Venerable and beloved Synodal Fathers, who formed the Special Assembly of the Synod for America, I now express to you my cordial greetings and my most heartfelt thanks. I have tried as much as possible to be present at the work of the Synod. This was a significant experience for me, making it easier to reinforce the bonds of loving and pastoral communion which unite me with you in Jesus Christ. This spiritual unity is now concluding in the celebration of the Eucharist, center and culmination of the life of the Church and all her apostolic plan.
As you leave Rome, returning to the various dioceses in America, I impart my blessing to you and transmit it to your faithful, especially to the priests, your collaborators, the religious men and women who are part of your communities, to the lay faithful committed to the apostolate, to the young, to adolescents and the elderly. I promise them my prayers and my affection. The Holy Spirit, in this year specially dedicated to him, helps us to walk together in the name of the Lord!
We have concluded the works of the Synod on the day dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe, first witness to the presence of Christ in America. Her shrine in the heart of the American continent is an indelible memory of the evangelization achieved in the past five centuries. The Mother of Christ appeared to a humble man, an Indian called Juan Diego. She chose him as the representative of all her beloved sons and daughters of those lands, in order to announce that divine Providence called for the salvation of men of all races and cultures; the indigenous peoples, who lived there centuries ago, as well as people who came from Europe, in order to bring, despite their limitations and faults, the immense gift of the Good News.
During the Synod, we experienced the special presence of Our Lady, the Mother of God, venerated in the Basilica of Guadalupe. And today we want to entrust her with the future path of the Church in the great continent of America.
A few days ago, to conclude the works of the Synod, accepting the proposal of the three Presidents Delegate, you expressed the desire that for the promulgation of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation I return as a pilgrim to her shrine in Mexico City. In this respect I place all my trust, my plans and my desires in her. However, as of now I prostrate myself spiritually at her feet, recalling my first pilgrimage in January 1979, when I knelt before that wonderful image to invoke her maternal help and protection on my recently begun pontifical service. On that occasion I placed the evangelization of America - especially Latin America - in her hands, and took part afterwards in the Third General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate in Puebla.
In your name, I renew today the call that I made to her then: Mary, Virgin of Guadalupe, Mother of all America, help us to be faithful promulgators of the great mysteries of God, Help us to teach the truth which your Son announced and to spread love, which is the first commandment and first fruit of the Holy Spirit. Help us to confirm our brothers in the faith. Help us to spread hope in eternal life. Help us to guard the great spiritual treasures of the members of the people of God, who are entrusted to us.
Queen of the Apostles! Accept our willingness to serve the cause of your Son unreservedly, the cause of the Gospel and of peace, founded on justice and love among men and between peoples.
Queen of peace! Save the nations and the peoples of the whole continent who trust in you; save them from wars, hate and subversion. May all, governors and the governed, learn to live in peace; may they be educated for peace, and undertake everything required by peace and justice, and the respect for the rights of each person so that peace may be strengthened.
Listen to us, "morenita" Virgin, Mother of Hope, Mother of Guadalupe!
[00291-02.05]  [Original text: plurilingual]
After the solemn Eucharistic concelebration for the closure of the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, Pope John Paul II invited the participants to a luncheon at the Hospice of Saint Martha, as a sign of communal joy at the conclusion of these days of intense, collegial work.