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[Aggiornamento: 22.11.2001]




Giovedì 22 novembre 2001, durante una breve cerimonia che si svolgerà, alle ore 11.30, nella Sala Clementina del Palazzo Apostolico, il Santo Padre renderà pubblica l’Esortazione Apostolica post-sinodale Ecclesia in Oceania in seguito all’Assemblea Speciale per l’Oceania del Sinodo dei Vescovi tenutasi in Vaticano dal 22 novembre al 12 dicembre 1998.

A questa cerimonia saranno presenti oltre ai membri del Consiglio post-sinodale per l’Oceania, i membri del Comitato esecutivo della Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania (FCBCO), altri presuli dell’Oceania presenti a Roma, i Capi Dicasteri membri dell’Assemblea speciale, nonché sacerdoti, religiosi, religiose e laici del Continente. Dopo la firma del documento, il Santo Padre trasmetterà via Internet a tutte le diocesi dell’Oceania il testo dell’Esortazione nelle versioni inglese e francese. Infatti, data la dispersione geografica e l’estensione del continente, la comunicazione elettronica ha avuto un ruolo di rilievo durante tutto il processo sinodale sin dalla preparazione iniziale. L’invio elettronico del documento pontificio ad opera del Santo Padre, un primato nella storia della Chiesa, sottolineerà notevolmente questo aspetto.

Dopo la cerimonia il Consiglio post-sinodale dell’Assemblea Speciale per l’Oceania del Sinodo dei Vescovi terrà la sua quinta riunione nella Sede romana della Segreteria Generale.

Il documento "Ecclesia in Oceania" - in italiano, inglese, francese e portoghese - sarà a disposizione dei giornalisti accreditati dalle ore 9.00 di giovedì 22 novembre 2001 con EMBARGO fino alla ore 12.00 del giorno stesso. Per le agenzie, EMBARGO anche di trasmissione. Sarà parimenti a disposizione una sintesi dell’Esortazione Apostolica in inglese e italiano.

[01869-01.01] [Testo originale: Italiano]



The opening words of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania are a clear indication of the document’s relation to the series of papal documents, employing the same formula, which have concluded the various continental synodal assemblies called by the Holy Father in preparation for the Third Millennium in Tertio millennio adveniente, 38 (2). The Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Oceania, in the course of its celebration 22 November - 12 December 1998, "analyzed and discussed the present situation of the Church in Oceania in order to plan more effectively for the future [and to focus] the attention of the universal Church on the hopes and challenges, the needs and opportunities, the sorrows and joys of the vast tapestry which is Oceania" (2). The document is, therefore, an instrument of the papal post-synodal Magisterium which sets forth in an ordered manner the fruits of the work of the special synodal assembly and provides particularly applicable pastoral teaching to assist the Church in Oceania in her work of evangelizing all–Church members and others–in the Pacific region.

Ecclesia in Oceania is mainly composed of four chapters based on the elements in the formulation of the synod theme: "Jesus Christ and the Peoples of Oceania: Walking His Way, Teaching His Truth, Living His Life". In this regard, the Holy Father states: "the theme is inspired by the words of John’s Gospel where Jesus refers to himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6) and it recalls the invitation which he extends to all the peoples of Oceania; they are invited to meet him, to believe in him, and to proclaim him as the Lord of all. It also reminds the Church in Oceania that she gathers together as the People of God journeying on pilgrimage to the Father. Through the Holy Spirit, the Father calls believers–individually and in community–to walk the way that Jesus walked, to tell all nations the truth that Jesus revealed, to live fully the life that Jesus lived and continues to share with us now" (8). The Holy Father has also chosen to introduce each chapter with Scriptural icons, indicative of Oceania and its peoples who are scattered, for the most part, on innumerable islands in a vast expanse of water and are dependent on the sea for food and travel.

The document’s brief Introduction (1-2) is Oceania’s song of praise to God at the beginning of the New Christian Millennium and a proclamation of hope in Jesus Christ for the future as a result of the many gifts of peoples which the region and its peoples have received in the past through "God’s infinite goodness in Christ" (1), not the least, the Christian Faith brought by missionaries to the region. This faith has "yielded an abundant harvest among the peoples of Oceania" (2).

The Scriptural passage of Christ’s call of Peter and Andrew as they were casting their nets by the sea of Galilee (cf. Mt 4: 18-20) introduces Chapter I , entitled "Jesus Christ and the Peoples of Oceania" (3-9). Besides presenting the rich diversity of peoples and cultures in the Pacific region, the chapter relates that "during the synodal assembly, the universal Church came to see more clearly how the Lord Jesus is encountering the many peoples of Oceania in their lands and on their many islands" (3), which leads to an awareness–as in the case of Peter and Andrew–that "the Lord has called the Church in Oceania to himself: as always the call involves a sending forth on mission" (3). The Holy Father, therefore, insists, that "Christ is now calling the Church to share in his mission with new energy and creativity" (3), requiring the Church in the region to search "appropriate ways of presenting to the peoples of Oceania today Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour" (4). What follows is a brief theological explanation of the Person of Jesus Christ, "Shepherd, Prophet and Priest" (5). After the presentation of the call to mission and its emphasis on the personal encounter with Jesus Christ, the chapter then proceeds to describe the history of the faith in the region and the rich, vibrant diversity of the "Peoples of Oceania, whose joyful acceptance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is evident in their enthusiastic celebration of the message of salvation" (6). The Holy Father states that not to be forgotten in presenting Christ is the variety of cultures in Oceania, a fact which requires a "careful discernment to see what is of the Gospel and what is not, what is essential and what is less so" (7) and a consideration of "the worldwide process of modernization which has effects both positive and negative" (7). In fulfilling her mission, the Church–the Pope continues–is performing a service to all the peoples of the region, since "the peoples of the Pacific are struggling for unity and identity; among them there is a concern for peace, justice and the integrity of creation; and many people are searching for life’s meaning" (8). In this regard, it is with firm conviction that he states: "Only in accepting Jesus Christ as the Way will the peoples of Oceania find that for which they are now searching and struggling. The way of Christ cannot be walked without an ardent sense of mission; and the core of the Churches mission is to proclaim Jesus Christ as the living Truth–a truth revealed, a truth explained, understood and welcomed in faith, a truth passed on to new generations" (8). The chapter concludes by emphasizing that through the synodal experience many participants discovered "the religious gifts, the cultures and the histories of the peoples of Oceania" (9); became "more aware of the often hidden or unrecognized graces that the Lord has bestowed on his Church...a source of great encouragement" (9); and, through dialogue and discernment, "opened the eyes of heart and soul to discover what can be done to live the Christian faith more fully and effectively (9).

Chapter II, "Walking the Way of Jesus Christ in Oceania" (10-17), begins with the Biblical passage of the call of James and John to discipleship as they were mending their nets near their father Zebedee’s boat (cf. Mt 4:21-22), and treats Church communio, its effects and challenges in the Pacific region. Using the image of the Church as mystery and gift of communio, the Holy Father quotes from a homily given in the region by his predecessor, Pope Paul VI: "‘Prompted by the Holy Spirit, the Church must walk the same road which Christ walked, and the Church means all of us, joined together like a body receiving its life-giving influence from the Lord Jesus.’ The way of Jesus is always the path of mission; and he is now inviting his followers to proclaim the Gospel anew to the peoples of Oceania..." (10). After the explanation of the concept of Church communio, the chapter proceeds to illustrate the various examples of communio, that is, the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Oceania, the unity of the episcopal college, the unity of the local Churches and the unity of the universal Church. Quoting again Pope Paul VI on the subject, the Holy Father augurs: "May we always find ways to support one another in our united efforts to build up the church and to live out this communion in service and faith" (11). These words are given practical form in the chapter’s treatment of episcopal conferences–national and regional–and the presence of Eastern Churches in the region. On these subjects and the concept of communio in general, the Holy Father then states that "the challenge for the Church in Oceania is to come to a deeper understanding of local and universal communio and a more effective implementation of its practical implications" (12).

The emphasis in the initial part of Chapter II on communio logically gives way in the latter part to the subject of mission in which "the present generation of Christians is called and sent now to accomplish a new evangelization among the peoples of Oceania..."(13), a mission which involves many challenges "to reach out to those who live in unfulfilled hopes and desires, to those who are Christians in name only, and to those who have drifted away from the Church, perhaps because of painful experiences" (14). Above all, "the Synod Fathers wanted to touch the hearts of young people (14). Generally speaking, "the Church is challenged to interpret the Good News for the peoples of Oceania according to their present needs and circumstances" (14). What follows is a paragraph on how the Church in Oceania as a "Church of Participation" is approaching these challenges in providing missionaries beyond Oceania, in the increasingly significant role of catechists and in programmes for renewal and lay involvement, just to mention a few (15). "The Synod Fathers expressed both deep appreciation for these efforts and strong support for those prepared to offer themselves for work in the Church’s mission" (15). Similarly, the Church’s mission involves "‘a dialogue which includes identifying what is and what is not of Christ.’ Every culture needs to be purified and transformed by the values which are revealed in the Paschal Mystery. In this way, the positive values and forms found in the cultures of Oceania will enrich the way the Gospel is preached, understood and lived" (16). The Holy Father concludes Chapter II with the reminder, "to guide the process, fidelity to Christ and the authentic Tradition of the Church is required" (17).

Chapter III, "Telling the Truth of Jesus Christ in Oceania" (18-35) opens with a citation from the Gospel of Luke, 5:1-3, in which Christ uses Simon’s boat to teach the crowd. Relating this image to the Church’s charism to teach, the Holy Father emphasizes that the truth of "the Gospel must be heard in Oceania ...A new evangelization is needed today so that everyone may hear, understand and believe in God’s mercy destined for all people in Jesus Christ" (18). To achieve this goal will require not only "new ways and methods of evangelization" (18), but also an interior renewal in all the Church’s members which is geared towards strengthening the faith, properly assessing the contemporary situation and courageously proclaiming "once again to human society the entire Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ" (18). Where the Bishop in his Church is the prime witness to the truth of Christ, "all Christ’s faithful–clergy, religious and laity–are called to proclaim the Gospel" (19) as a result of communio, which needs always to be renewed and fostered to "bring to the peoples of Oceania the wonderful fruits of the Holy Spirit" (19).

The entire group of agents of evangelization is to proclaim the truth of Christ in the particularly challenging areas in Oceania, that is, "traditional religions and cultures and...the modern process of secularization" (20); "the media of social communications" (21); "catechesis, instruction and formation in the faith" (22); "the work of ecumenism" (23); "fundamentalist religious groups and movements" (24) and "interreligious dialogue" (25). This proclamation of truth is not only in words but in actions. The Holy Father points out, therefore, that "the Church regards the social apostolate as an integral part of her evangelizing mission to speak a word of hope to the world; and her commitment in this regard is seen in her contribution to human development (29), her promotion of human rights (27), the defence of human life and dignity (30), social justice (28) and protection of the environment (31)" (26). The chapter concludes with a treatment of the Church’s "remarkable contribution" (32) in Oceania in the fields of education (32-33), health care (34) and social services (35).

The Biblical icon introducing Chapter IV, "Living the Life of Jesus Christ in Oceania" , is the account of the miraculous draught of fish (Lk 5:4-7), whose note of abundance aptly convokes the treatment of the Spiritual and Sacramental Life of the Church (36-52), in which "living in Christ implies a way of life made new by the Spirit" (36). The Holy Father points out in this chapter that the Synod Fathers "emphasized the fundamental importance for the Church in Oceania of prayer and the interior life in union with Christ...and recognized the need to give fresh impetus and encouragement to the spiritual life of the faithful" (37). Such renewal will necessarily focus not only on God’s Word in the Bible, since "holiness of life and effective apostolic activity are born of constantly listening to God’s word" (38), but also on the Liturgy (39), particularly in placing the Sacred Eucharist at the center of the Christian’s life (40) and having recourse to the Sacrament of Penance, with its "healing grace" (41) and the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, where "Christ’s compassionate life is offered in a special way to the sick and suffering" (42).

In the latter part of the chapter, the Holy Father addresses various groups in the People of God in Oceania (43-47). He speaks to lay people, recalling that "in Baptism, all Christians have received a call to holiness. Each personal vocation is a call to share in the Church’s mission; and, given the needs of the new evangelization, it is especially important now to remind lay people in the Church of their particular call" (43); to youth, praying that "they always be drawn to the overwhelmingly attractive figure of Jesus, and stirred by the challenge of the Gospel’s sublime ideals!" (44); to married couples and families, who "will always need the concerted pastoral care of the Church" (45); to women who need to be provided with opportunities to "offer their gifts more abundantly in service of the Church’s mission" (46); and to new ecclesial movements, "a sign of the times" (47) in the region, asked to "work within the structures of the local Church in order to help build up the communio of the Diocese in which they find themselves" (47).

The section concludes with a treatment of the ordained ministry and the consecrated life (48-52). "Given the essential role of the priesthood and the great importance of the consecrated life in the mission of the Church, the Bishops at the Special Assembly affirmed the witness offered by Bishops, priests and those in the consecrated life through their prayer, fidelity, generosity and simplicity of life" (48). In this regard, the Holy Father points out that "the promotion of vocations is an urgent responsibility of every Catholic community" (48) and that "each bishop is responsible for the formation of the local clergy in the context of the local culture and tradition" (48). While praising priests for "their ongoing fidelity and commitment" (49), the Holy Father also reminded them that "every priest needs unceasing conversion and openness to the Spirit in order to deepen his priestly commitment in fidelity to Christ" (49), particularly in priestly celibacy and the communio of the presbyterium. "The life of Bishops, priests and deacons requires continuing formation and opportunities to renew their zeal in their vocation" (49), if they are to avoid the problems which can sometimes arise in the course of their ministry. The Holy Father also notes that the "permanent diaconate has been introduced in some dioceses of Oceania, where it has been well received" (50) and that "faithful to the charisms of the consecrated life, congregations, institutes and societies of apostolic life have courageously adjusted to new circumstances, and have shown forth in new ways the light of the Gospel" (51). At the same time, "...the life of prayer in the contemplative vocation is vital for the Church in Oceania" (51). The Pope ends the chapter by marvelling: "Pondering God’s generosity in Oceania and his infinite love for its peoples, how can we fail to give thanks to him from whom every good gift comes" (52)?

In the Conclusion of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania (53), the Holy Father, recalling that Our Lady is revered in Oceania under the titles of Our Lady of Peace and Help of Christians, invokes the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus and Mother of the Church with a lengthy prayer: "O Mary, Help of Christians...Our Lady of Peace... Plead for the Church in Oceania that she may have strength to follow faithfully the way of Jesus Christ, to tell courageously the truth of Jesus Christ, to live joyfully the life of Jesus Christ. (53).

[01852-02.01] [Original text: English]


Les mots par lesquels s'ouvre l'Exhortation apostolique post-synodale Ecclesia in Oceania indiquent clairement que le document est relié à la série des documents pontificaux, en utilisant la même formule qui concluait les assemblées synodales des différents continents réunies par le Saint-Père en préparation du Troisième millénaire dans Tertio millennio adveniente 38 (2). Pendant sa célébration (22 novembre - 12 décembre 1998), l'Assemblée spéciale du Synode des Evêques pour l'Océanie avait "analysé et discuté la situation actuelle de l'Eglise en Océanie afin de programmer plus efficacement l'avenir et de concentrer l'attention de l'Eglise universelle sur les espoirs et les défis, les besoins et les opportunités, les peines et les joies de l'immense tapisserie qu'est l'Océanie" (2). Aussi, le document constitue-t-il un instrument du Magistère pontifical post-synodal qui organise de façon ordonné les fruits des travaux de l'Assemblée synodale spéciale et fournit un enseignement pastoral particulier et applicable pour aider l'Eglise en Océanie dans son travail d'évangélisation de tous les membres de l'Eglise mais aussi les autres, dans la région du Pacifique.

Ecclesia in Oceania est composée principalement de quatre chapitres basés sur les éléments de formulation du thème synodal : "Jésus-Christ et les Peuples de l'Océanie : suivre son chemin, proclamer sa vérité et vivre sa vie". A ce propos, le Saint-Père déclare : "Le thème est inspiré des mots de l'Evangile de Jean où il se réfère à lui-même comme étant le Chemin, la Vérité et la Vie (Jn 14,6) et il reprend l'invitation qu'il étend à tous les peuples de l'Océanie : ceux-ci sont invités à le rencontrer, à croire en lui et à le proclamer comme le Seigneur de toute chose. Est aussi rappelé à l'Eglise en Océanie qu'elle se rassemble comme peuple de Dieu en route dans un pèlerinage vers le Père. Par l'Esprit Saint, le Père appelle les croyants - individuellement et en communauté - à suivre le chemin emprunté par Jésus, à enseigner aux nations la vérité révélée par Jésus, à vivre pleinement la vie que Jésus a vécue et qu'il continue de partager maintenant avec nous" (8). Le Saint-Père a aussi choisi d'introduire chaque chapitre par des icônes des Ecritures, indicatives de l'Océanie et de ses populations qui, pour la plupart, sont éparpillées dans d'innombrables îles sur une immense étendue d'eau et qui dépendent de la mer pour leur nourriture et leurs déplacements.

La brève Introduction au document (1-2) est le chant de l'Océanie qui loue le Seigneur au début du nouveau millénaire chrétien, et une proclamation d'espérance en Jésus-Christ pour l'avenir, résultat des nombreux dons que la région et ses populations ont reçus dans le passé, à travers l"infinie bonté de Dieu dans le Christ" (1), sans oublier non plus la foi chrétienne apportée à la région par les missionnaires. Cette foi a donné "une moisson abondante parmi les peuples de l'Océanie" (2).

Le passage des Ecritures reprenant l'appel du Christ à Pierre et à André alors qu'ils lançaient leurs filets sur la mer de Galilée (cf. Mt 14,18-20) introduit le premier Chapitre , intitulé "Jésus-Christ et les peuples de l'Océanie" (3-9). Outre présenter la riche diversité des peuples et des cultures dans la région pacifique, le chapitre rapporte que "pendant l'assemblée synodale, l'Eglise universelle a pu voir plus clairement comment le Seigneur Jésus rencontre les nombreux peuples de l'Océanie, sur leurs terres et sur leurs nombreuses îles" (3), ce qui a conduit à une prise de conscience - comme dans le cas de Pierre et d'André - de ce que "le Seigneur a appelé à lui l'Eglise en Océanie ; comme toujours, cet appel implique aussi un envoi en mission" (3). Aussi, le Saint-Père insiste-t-il sur ce que le "Christ appelle maintenant l'Eglise à partager sa mission avec une énergie et une créativité renouvelées" (3), en demandant à l'Eglise dans la région de rechercher "des manières appropriées de présenter Jésus-Christ, Seigneur et Sauveur, aux peuples de l'Océanie" (4). Le paragraphe suivant constitue une brève explication théologique de la Personne de Jésus-Christ, "Pasteur, Prophète et Prêtre" (5). Après avoir présenté l'appel à la mission et son accent sur la rencontre personnelle avec Jésus-Christ, le chapitre se poursuit en décrivant l'histoire de la foi dans la région, et la riche et vibrante diversité des "peuples d'Océanie dont l'acceptation joyeuse de l'Evangile de Jésus-Christ est évidente dans leurs célébrations du message de salut" (6). Le Saint-Père déclare qu'en présentant le Christ, il ne faut pas oublier la variété des cultures en Océanie, un fait qui nécessite un "discernement attentif pour comprendre ce qui appartient ou non à l'Evangile, ce qui est essentiel et ce qui l'est moins" (7), et de considérer "le processus mondial de modernisation, avec ses effets à la fois positifs et négatifs" (7). En réalisant sa mission, l'Eglise - continue le Pape - assure un service à toutes les populations de la région, car "les peuples du Pacifique luttent pour leur unité et leur identité ; ils sont habités par un souci pour la paix, la justice et l'intégrité de la création ; et nombreux sont les peuples qui sont à la recherche du sens de leur vie" (8). A cet égard, c'est avec une conviction profonde qu'il affirme : "Ce n'est qu'en acceptant Jésus-Christ comme le Chemin que les peuples de l'Océanie trouveront ce qu'ils recherchent actuellement et ce pourquoi ils luttent. Le Chemin du Christ ne peut pas être entrepris sans un sens ardent de la mission ; et le coeur de la mission de l'Eglise est de proclamer Jésus-Christ comme la Vérité vivante - une vérité révélée, une vérité expliquée, comprise et accueillie dans la foi, une vérité transmise aux nouvelles générations" (8). Le chapitre se termine en soulignant que, grâce à l'expérience synodale, de nombreux participants ont découvert "les dons apportés par la religion, les cultures et les histoires des peuples de l'Océanie" (9) ; ils sont devenus "davantage conscients des grâces souvent cachées ou méconnues que le Seigneur a octroyé à Son Eglise … une source de grand encouragement" (9) ; et, à travers le dialogue et le discernement, ils ont ouvert les yeux du coeur et de l'âme pour découvrir ce qu'il fallait faire pour vivre la foi chrétienne de façon plus effective et plus pleine" (9).

Le second Chapitre, "Suivre le chemin du Christ en Océanie" (10-17) commence par le passage de la Bible sur l'appel de Jacques et de Jean à être des disciples, tandis qu'ils préparaient leurs filets près du bateau de leur père Zébédée (cf. Mt 4,21-22), et il traite de la communio de l'Eglise, de ses effets et de ses défis dans la région du Pacifique. Employant l'image de l'Eglise en tant que mystère et don de communio, le Saint-Père cite un passage de l'homélie que son prédécesseur, le Pape Paul VI, avait donnée dans cette même région : "«Poussée par le Saint-Esprit, l'Eglise doit suivre la même route que le Christ a suivie ; l'Eglise, c'est-à-dire nous tous, ensemble, comme un seul corps qui reçoit son élan vital du Seigneur Jésus». Le chemin de Jésus est toujours celui de la mission ; et il invite maintenant tous ses adeptes à proclamer à nouveau l'Evangile aux peuples de l'Océanie …". Après avoir expliqué le concept de communio de l'Eglise, le chapitre se poursuit en illustrant les différents exemples de communio, c'est-à-dire l'Assemblée spéciale du Synode des Evêques pour l'Océanie, l'unité du collège épiscopal, l'unité des églises locales et l'unité de l'Eglise universelle. Citant à nouveau le Pape Paul VI à ce propos, le Saint-Père souhaite : "Que nous puissions toujours trouver les façons de nous aider les uns les autres dans nos efforts communs pour construire l'Eglise et pour vivre cette communion dans le service et la foi" (11). Ces mots reçoivent une forme concrète dans le passage du chapitre sur les conférences épiscopales – nationales et régionales – et la présence des églises occidentales dans la région. A ce propos et sur le concept de communio en général, le Saint-Père déclare ensuite que "le défi devant lequel se trouve l'Eglise en Océanie est de réaliser une compréhension plus profonde de la communio universelle et locale, et une application effective de ses implications pratiques" (12).

Cet accent mis sur la communio dans la première partie du second chapitre entraîne logiquement à parler de la mission dans la partie suivante, la mission à laquelle "l'actuelle génération de chrétiens est appelée et pour laquelle ils sont envoyés maintenant pour accomplir une nouvelle évangélisation parmi les peuples de l'Océanie…" (13), une mission qui implique de nombreux défis "pour arriver à ceux qui vivent avec des espérances et des désirs insatisfaits, à ceux qui ne sont chrétiens que de nom, et à ceux qui se sont éloignés de l'Eglise progressivement, peut-être à cause d'expériences douloureuses" (14). Avant tout, "les Pères synodaux entendent toucher le cœur des jeunes" (14). De façon générale, "l'Eglise se trouve devant le défi d'interpréter la Bonne Nouvelle pour les peuples de l'Océanie selon les circonstances présentes et selon leurs nécessités actuelles" (14). Le paragraphe suivant porte sur la façon dont l'Eglise en Océanie, en tant qu'Eglise de la participation, aborde ces défis en assurant l'envoi de missionnaires au-delà de l'Océanie, dans le cadre des rôles croissants des catéchistes et des programmes pour le renouveau et pour l'engagement des laïcs, pour n'en mentionner qu'une partie (15). "Les Pères synodaux ont exprimé à la fois leur profonde appréciation pour ces efforts et leur soutien vigoureux à tous ceux qui se sont préparés à s'offrir pour travailler à la mission de l'Eglise" (15). De même, la mission de l'Eglise implique "«un dialogue qui comprend l'identification de ce qui est et de ce qui n'est pas du Christ». Chaque culture a besoin d'être purifiée et transformée par les valeurs révélées dans le Mystère pascal. Ainsi, les valeurs et les modèles positifs identifiés dans les cultures de l'Océanie enrichiront la façon dont l'Evangile est prêché, compris et vécu" (16). Le Saint-Père conclut le second chapitre en rappelant que " la fidélité au Christ et la Tradition authentique de l'Eglise sont nécessaires pour guider le processus" (17).

Le troisième Chapitre, "Annoncer la Vérité de Jésus-Christ en Océanie" (18-35) commence par une citation de l'Evangile de saint Luc (5,1-3), où le Christ monte sur le bateau de Simon pour enseigner à la foule. En reliant cette image au charisme de l'Eglise à enseigner, le Saint-Père souligne que la vérité de "l'Evangile doit être entendue en Océanie … Une nouvelle évangélisation est nécessaire aujourd'hui afin que chacun puisse entendre, comprendre la grâce de Dieu offerte à tous les peuples en Jésus-Christ et qu'il puisse y croire" (18). La réalisation de cet objectif nécessitera non seulement de "nouveaux moyens et de nouvelles méthodes d'évangélisation" (18), mais aussi un renouveau intérieur de tous les membres de l'Eglise, qui soit adapté pour renforcer la foi, évaluer correctement la situation contemporaine et proclamer courageusement "une fois encore, à la société des hommes, l'Evangile intégral du salut en Jésus-Christ" (18). Là où, dans son Eglise, l'évêque est le premier témoin du Chemin du Christ, "tous les fidèles du Christ – clergé, religieux et laïcs – sont appelés à proclamer l'Evangile" (19) comme aboutissement de la communio, qui doit sans cesse être renouvelée et promue pour "apporter aux peuples de l'Océanie les fruits merveilleux de l'Esprit Saint" (19).

Tout le groupe des agents de l'évangélisation doit proclamer la vérité du Christ dans les domaines de l'Océanie qui constituent un défi particulier, c'est-à-dire les "religions et les cultures traditionnelles et … le processus actuel de sécularisation" (20) ; "les moyens de communication sociale" (21) ; "la catéchèse, l'instruction et la formation à la foi" (22) ; "l'activité œcuménique" (23) ; "les groupes et mouvements religieux fondamentalistes" (24) et le "dialogue interreligieux" (25). Cette proclamation de la vérité ne doit pas se faire seulement par les mots : elle doit se faire par les actions. Aussi, le Saint-Père souligne-t-il que "l'Eglise considère l'apostolat social comme un élément faisant intégralement partie de sa mission évangélisatrice d'apporter au monde des paroles d'espérance ; et son engagement dans ce sens est identifiable dans sa contribution au développement humain (29), sa promotion des droits humains (27), la défense de la vie et de la dignité humaines (30), la justice sociale (28) et la protection de l'environnement (31)" (26). Le chapitre se termine par la "remarquable contribution" de l'Eglise (32) en Océanie, pour ce qui touche aux domaines de l'éducation (32-33), de la santé (34) et des services sociaux (35).

L'icône biblique introduisant le quatrième Chapitre, "Vivre la vie de Jésus-Christ en Océanie" est le récit de la pêche miraculeuse (Lc 5,4-7), dont la note d'abondance convient parfaitement au discours sur la vie spirituelle et sacramentelle de l'Eglise (36-52), vie dans laquelle "vivre dans le Christ implique un mode de vie renouvelé par l'Esprit" (36). Dans ce chapitre, le Saint-Père souligne que les Pères synodaux "ont mit l'accent sur l'importance fondamentale, pour l'Eglise en Océanie, de la prière et de la vie intérieure en union avec le Christ … et ont reconnu le besoin d'imprimer un élan et un encouragement nouveaux à la vie spirituelle des fidèles" (37). Un tel renouveau sera nécessairement centré non seulement sur les paroles de Dieu dans la Bible, puisque "la sainteté de vie et l'activité apostolique réelle sont engendrées par l'écoute constante de la Parole de Dieu" (38), mais aussi sur la Liturgie (39), en particulier en plaçant la Sainte Eucharistie au centre de la vie chrétienne (40) et en ayant recours au Sacrement de Pénitence, avec sa "grâce qui guérit" (41) et au Sacrement de l'Onction des malades, par lequel "la vie compatissante du Christ est offerte de manière spéciale aux malades et à ceux qui souffrent" (42).

Dans la dernière partie du chapitre, le Saint-Père parle de différents groupes du Peuple de Dieu en Océanie (43-47). Il s'adresse aux laïcs, en rappelant que "dans le baptême, tous les chrétiens ont été appelés à la sainteté. Chaque vocation personnelle est un appel à partager la mission de l'Eglise ; et, étant donné les besoins de la nouvelle évangélisation, il est particulièrement important aujourd'hui de rappeler aux laïcs dans l'Eglise cet appel particulier qui leur est adressé" (43) ; aux jeunes, en priant pour qu"'ils soient toujours attirés par la beauté irrésistible du visage de Jésus, et stimulés par le défi des idéaux sublimes de l'Evangile " (44) ; aux couples mariés et aux familles, qui "auront toujours besoin de la pastorale concertée de l'Eglise" (45) ; aux femmes qui ont besoin qu'on leur offre la possibilité d'"offrir davantage leurs dons au service de la mission de l'Eglise" (46) ; et aux nouveaux mouvements ecclésiaux, "un signe des temps" (47) dans la région, auxquels il est demandé de "travailler dans les structures des Eglises locales afin de les aider à édifier la communio du diocèse dans lequel ils se trouvent " (47).

La section se conclut par un passage sur le ministère ordonné et la vie consacrée (48-52). "Etant donné le rôle essentiel du sacerdoce et la grande importance de la vie consacrée dans la mission de l'Eglise, pendant l'Assemblée spéciale les évêques ont affirmé la force du témoignage offert par les évêques, les prêtres et tous les personnes consacrées à travers leur prière, leur fidélité, leur générosité et la simplicité de leur vie" (48). A ce propos, le Saint-Père souligne que "la promotion des vocations revient avec urgence à toute communauté catholique" (48) et que "chaque évêque est responsable de la formation du clergé local, dans le contexte de la culture et de la tradition locales" (48). Tout en estimant grandement les prêtres "pour leur fidélité et leur engagement permanents" (49), le Saint-Père leur rappelle aussi que "chaque prêtre a constamment besoin de se convertir et de s'ouvrir à l'Esprit, afin d'approfondir son engagement sacerdotal dans la fidélité au Christ" (49), en particulier dans le célibat des prêtres et dans la communio du presbyterium. "La vie des évêques, des prêtres et des diacres demande une formation continue et des occasions pour renouveler leur zèle de leur vocation" (49) s'ils veulent éviter les problèmes pouvant naître tout au long de leur ministère. Le Saint-Père remarque aussi que "le diaconat permanent a été introduit dans certains diocèses de l'Océanie, où il a été reçu favorablement" (50) et que "les fidèles aux charismes de la vie consacrée, les congrégations, les instituts et les sociétés de vie apostolique se sont adaptés courageusement aux nouvelles circonstances, et ont diffusé la lumière de l'Evangile de façons nouvelles" (51). En même temps, "… la vie de prière dans la vocation contemplative est vitale pour l'Eglise en Océanie" (51). Le Pape termine le chapitre par une expression d'émerveillement: "Si l'on considère la générosité de Dieu et son amour infini pour tous les peuples, comment pouvons-nous ne pas remercier Celui dont viennent tous les dons" (52)?

Dans la Conclusion de l'Exhortation apostolique post-synodale Ecclesia in Oceania (53), en rappelant que Notre Dame est révérée en Océanie sous les titres de Notre Dame de la Paix et Secours des chrétiens, le Saint-Père invoque la Vierge Marie, Mère de Jésus et Mère de l'Eglise, dans une longue prière : "O Marie, Secours des chrétiens … Notre Dame de la Paix … Intercède pour l'Eglise en Océanie, afin qu'elle puisse avoir la force de suivre fidèlement le chemin de Jésus-Christ, de proclamer courageusement la vérité de Jésus-Christ, de vivre joyeusement la vie de Jésus-Christ" (53).

[01852-03.01] [Texte original: Anglais]


Le parole iniziali dell'Esortazione Apostolica Post-Sinodale "Ecclesia in Oceania" indicano chiaramente che il Documento è collegato con la serie di documenti pontifici, che impiegano la stessa formula, redatti al termine delle varie Assemblee Sinodali a carattere continentale, convocate dal Santo Padre in preparazione al Terzo Millennio nella "Tertio millennio adveniente", 38 (2). L'Assemblea Speciale per l'Oceania del Sinodo dei Vescovi, svoltasi dal 22 novembre al 12 dicembre 1998, "ha analizzato e discusso la situazione attuale della Chiesa in Oceania, per poter programmare più efficacemente il suo futuro. Inoltre, ha focalizzato l'attenzione della Chiesa universale sulle speranze e le sfide, i bisogni e le opportunità, le lacrime e le gioie nel vasto arazzo umano che è l'Oceania" (2). Il Documento è, quindi, uno strumento del Magistero Pontificio post-sinodale che espone in modo organico i frutti del lavoro dell'Assemblea Speciale del Sinodo e offre insegnamenti pastorali particolarmente adatti per assistere la Chiesa in Oceania nella sua opera evangelizzatrice che interessa tutti - i membri della Chiesa e gli altri - nella regione del Pacifico.

"Ecclesia in Oceania" si compone principalmente di quattro capitoli basati su elementi derivanti dalla formulazione del tema del Sinodo: "Gesù Cristo e i popoli dell'Oceania: seguire la sua Via, proclamare la sua Verità, vivere la sua Vita". In merito il Santo Padre afferma: "L'argomento è ispirato alle parole del Vangelo di Giovanni, là dove Gesù presenta se stesso come la Via, la Verità e la Vita (cfr 14,6). Tale tema richiama l'invito che Gesù estende a tutti i popoli dell'Oceania: essi sono invitati ad incontrarlo, a credere in lui e a proclamarlo Signore di tutti. Esso ricorda inoltre che la Chiesa in Oceania è riunita come Popolo di Dio che cammina in pellegrinaggio verso il Padre. Mediante lo Spirito Santo, il Padre chiama i credenti, sia individualmente sia comunitariamente, a camminare sulla via sulla quale Cristo ha camminato, ad annunciare a tutte le nazioni la verità rivelata da Gesù, a vivere in pienezza l'esistenza che Gesù ha vissuto e continua a condividere con noi" (8). Il Santo Padre ha anche scelto di introdurre ogni capitolo con immagini della Scrittura, indicative dell'Oceania e delle sue popolazioni disseminate, per la maggior parte, in innumerevoli isole, in una vasta distesa d'acqua, e che dipendono dal mare per il sostentamento e gli spostamenti.

La breve Introduzione del documento (1-2) è il canto di lode a Dio dell'Oceania all'alba del Nuovo Millennio Cristiano ed una proclamazione della speranza in Gesù Cristo per il futuro, che scaturisce dai numerosi doni che l'Oceania ha ricevuto - la ricchezza di popoli e di culture - la "infinità bontà di Dio in Cristo" (1), e non meno importante, la fede cristiana portata dai missionari nella regione. Questa fede ha "portato una messe tanto abbondante tra i popoli dell'Oceania" (2).

Il passaggio della Scrittura nel quale Cristo chiede ai fratelli Pietro ed Andrea di seguirlo, mentre lanciano le loro reti nel mare di Galilea (cf. Mt 4: 18-20) introduce il Capitolo I , intitolato: "Gesù Cristo e i Popoli dell'Oceania" (3-9). Oltre a presentare la ricchezza di popoli e di culture nella regione del Pacifico, il capitolo riferisce che: "Durante l'Assemblea Sinodale, la Chiesa universale giunse a vedere più chiaramente come il Signore Gesù incontra i molti popoli dell'Oceania, nelle loro terre e nelle molte isole" (3), ciò rende consapevoli - come Simon Pietro e suo fratello Andrea - che "il Signore ha chiamato a sé la Chiesa in Oceania: è una chiamata che, come sempre, comporta anche un invio in missione" (3). Il Santo Padre quindi sottolinea che "Cristo chiama ora la Chiesa a condividere la sua missione con energia e creatività nuove" (3), per cui è necessario che la Chiesa nella regione cerchi "vie adeguate per presentare oggi ai popoli dell'Oceania Gesù Cristo quale Signore e Salvatore" (4). Segue una breve spiegazione teologica della Persona di Gesù Cristo, "Pastore, Profeta e Sacerdote" (5). Dopo la presentazione della chiamata alla missione e l'accento posto sull'incontro personale con Gesù Cristo, il capitolo continua con la descrizione della storia della fede nella regione e la ricca varietà di "popoli indigeni, la cui gioiosa accettazione del Vangelo di Gesù Cristo è evidente nella loro celebrazione entusiastica del messaggio della salvezza" (6). Il Santo Padre afferma che non si deve dimenticare, nel presentare Cristo, la ricchezza delle culture dell'Oceania, un fatto che richiede "accurato discernimento per vedere ciò che appartiene al Vangelo e ciò che non gli appartiene, ciò che è essenziale e ciò che lo è meno" (7) e la considerazione riguardo al "processo mondiale di modernizzazione, che ha effetti sia positivi che negativi" (7). Nel compimento della sua missione, la Chiesa - prosegue il Papa - compie un servizio per tutti i popoli della regione, poiché "i popoli del Pacifico si stanno battendo per la propria unità e identità; tra essi vi è la preoccupazione per la pace, per la giustizia e per l'integrità del creato, e molti sono alla ricerca di un significato della vita" (8). A questo proposito con ferma convinzione il Pontefice afferma: "Soltanto accettando Gesù Cristo come Via, i popoli dell'Oceania troveranno ciò che ora stanno cercando e per cui stanno lottando. La via di Cristo non può essere percorsa senza un senso ardente della missione; ed il cuore della missione della Chiesa è quello di proclamare Gesù Cristo Verità vivente, una verità rivelata, una verità spiegata, compresa e accolta nella fede, una verità trasmessa alle nuove generazioni" (8). Il capitolo si conclude sottolineando che l'esperienza sinodale fu per i partecipanti una reale scoperta "dei doni religiosi, delle culture e delle storie dei popoli dell'Oceania" (9); essi sono ora "maggiormente coscienti delle grazie spesso nascoste o non riconosciute che il Signore ha elargito alla sua Chiesa: anche questo è stata sorgente di grande incoraggiamento" (9); e, il dialogo e il discernimento, "hanno aperto gli occhi del cuore e dell'anima per scoprire cosa può essere fatto per vivere la fede cristiana in modo più pieno ed efficace". (9)

Il Capitolo II, "Camminare sulla via di Gesù Cristo in Oceania" (10-17), comincia con il passaggio biblico della chiamata di Giacomo e Giovanni al discepolato mentre riassettano le reti accanto alla barca del padre Zebedeo (cf. Mt 4:21-22), e tratta della Chiesa come "communio" , i suoi effetti e le sue sfide nella regione del Pacifico. Usando l'immagine della Chiesa come mistero e dono di "communio", il Santo Padre cita le parole di un'omelia pronunciata, nella regione, dal suo predecessore, Papa Paolo VI: "È dunque sulla medesima strada percorsa da Cristo stesso che deve procedere, sospinta dallo Spirito di Cristo, la Chiesa, e la Chiesa vuol dire tutti noi, uniti come un solo organismo che riceve il suo influsso vitale dal Signore Gesù'. La via di Gesù è sempre la strada della missione; egli ora invita i suoi seguaci a proclamare nuovamente il Vangelo ai popoli dell'Oceania…" (10). Dopo la spiegazione del concetto di Chiesa come 'communio', il capitolo illustra i vari esempi di 'communio', vale a dire, l'Assemblea Speciale per l'Oceania del Sinodo dei Vescovi, l'unità del Collegio Episcopale, l'unità delle Chiese locali e l'unità della Chiesa universale. Citando nuovamente Papa Paolo VI, il Santo Padre auspica che: "Ci sia dato di trovare sempre le strade per sostenerci a vicenda nei nostri sforzi, uniti nella costruzione della Chiesa e per vivere questa comunione nel servizio e nella fede" (11). Queste parole sono messe in pratica nel capitolo che tratta delle Conferenze Episcopali - nazionali e regionali - e della presenza delle Chiese Orientali nella regione. Su questi argomenti e sul concetto di 'communio' in generale, il Santo Padre scrive che: "La sfida per la Chiesa in Oceania è di pervenire ad una più profonda comprensione della 'communio' locale e universale e ad una maggiore attuazione delle sue implicazioni pratiche". (12)

L'enfasi sulla 'communio', nella parte iniziale del Capitolo II, sfocia logicamente, nell'ultima parte, nella chiamata alla missione nella quale "La generazione attuale di cristiani è chiamata e inviata a realizzare una nuova evangelizzazione tra i popoli dell'Oceania…" (13), una missione che pone grandi sfide: "raggiungere quanti vivono con speranze e desideri non soddisfatti, quanti sono cristiani soltanto di nome, e quanti si sono allontanati dalla Chiesa, forse a causa di esperienze dolorose" (14). "Soprattutto i Padri Sinodali hanno voluto toccare i cuori dei giovani" (14). Generalmente "La Chiesa viene sfidata ad interpretare la Buona Novella per i popoli dell'Oceania, secondo gli attuali loro bisogni e circostanze" (14). Segue un paragrafo che spiega come la Chiesa in Oceania, "Chiesa di partecipazione" abbia risposto a queste sfide inviando missionari al di fuori dell'Oceania, nel ruolo sempre più significativo di catechisti ed in programmi di rinnovamento e di coinvolgimento dei laici, solo per menzionarne alcune (15). "I Padri Sinodali hanno espresso profondo apprezzamento per tali sforzi, e forte sostegno per quanti sono pronti ad offrirsi per operare nella missione della Chiesa" (15). Allo stesso modo, la missione della Chiesa implica "'un dialogo che include l'identificazione di ciò che è e di ciò che non è di Cristo'. Ogni cultura necessita di essere purificata e trasformata dai valori rivelati nel Mistero pasquale. Così, i valori e le forme positivi che si trovano nelle culture dell'Oceania arricchiscono la maniera in cui il Vangelo è annunciato, compreso e vissuto". (16) Il Santo Padre conclude il II Capitolo ricordando che "Per guidare questo processo, è necessaria la fedeltà a Cristo e alla Tradizione autentica della Chiesa" (17).

Il Capitolo III , "Annunciare la verità di Gesù Cristo in Oceania" (18-35) si apre con una citazione dal Vangelo di Luca, 5:1-3, nella quale Cristo sale nella barca di Simone e ammaestra la folla. Collegando quest'immagine alla missione evangelizzatrice della Chiesa, il Santo Padre sottolinea che il "Vangelo deve essere udito in Oceania da tutti (…). Oggi occorre una nuova evangelizzazione, così che ognuno possa udire, comprendere e credere nella misericordia di Dio destinata, in Cristo Gesù, a tutti i popoli" (18); ma è necessario anche il rinnovamento interiore in tutti i membri della Chiesa, rivolto a rafforzare la fede, valutando adeguatamente la situazione contemporanea e coraggiosamente proclamando "ancora una volta alla società umana l'intero Vangelo di salvezza in Gesù Cristo" (18). Dove il Vescovo nella sua Chiesa è il primo testimone della verità di Cristo, "tutti i fedeli di Cristo - sacerdoti, consacrati e laici - sono chiamati a proclamare il Vangelo" (19), quale risultato dalla 'communio' che "si esprime in uno spirito di collaborazione" per "portare frutti meravigliosi dello Spirito Santo ai popoli dell'Oceania" (19).

Gli agenti di evangelizzazione devono proclamare la verità di Cristo nelle aree particolarmente difficili dell'Oceania, vale a dire, "le religioni e le culture tradizionali, (…) il moderno processo di secolarizzazione" (20); "i mezzi della comunicazione sociale" (21); "la catechesi, l'istruzione e la formazione nella fede" (22); "l'Ecumenismo" (23); "i gruppi o movimenti religiosi fondamentalisti" (24) e il "dialogo interreligioso" (25). La proclamazione della verità non è solo nella parola ma anche nelle azioni. Il Santo Padre sottolinea perciò che "la Chiesa guarda all'apostolato sociale come ad una parte integrante della missione evangelizzatrice, per dire al mondo una parola di speranza; il suo impegno in tal senso può essere visto nel contributo che offre allo sviluppo umano (29), nella promozione dei diritti umani (27), nella difesa della vita umana e della sua dignità (30), nella giustizia sociale (28) e nella protezione dell'ambiente (31)". (26). Il capitolo si conclude con l'esame dei "contributi eccezionali" (32) della Chiesa in Oceania nel campo dell'educazione (32-33), della salute (34) e del benessere sociale (35).

L'immagine biblica della pesca miracolosa (Luca 5: 4-7), che introduce il IV Capitolo, "Vivere la vita di Gesù Cristo in Oceania" , con la sua evocazione della abbondanza, presenta in modo adeguato la trattazione della Vita Spirituale e Sacramentale della Chiesa (36-52), nella quale "Vivere in Cristo implica un modo di esistere reso nuovo dallo Spirito" (36). Il Santo Padre sottolinea in questo capitolo che "L'Assemblea Speciale ha sottolineato l'importanza fondamentale che per la Chiesa in Oceania hanno la preghiera e la vita interiore di unione con Cristo. (…) I Padri del Sinodo hanno riconosciuto la necessità di dare nuovo impeto ed incoraggiamento alla vita spirituale di tutti i fedeli" (37). Tale rinnovamento si concentra necessariamente sulla Parola di Dio nell'Antico e nel Nuovo Testamento, poiché: "La santità di vita e l'attività apostolica efficace nascono dal costante ascolto della parola di Dio" (38), ma si concentra anche sulla Liturgia (30), comprendendo "il posto centrale dell'Eucaristia" nella vita del cristiano (40), ricorrendo al Sacramento della Penitenza "come sorgente di grazia che risana" (41) e al Sacramento dell'unzione degli infermi, per cui "L'amore compassionevole di Cristo viene offerto in una maniera speciale al malato e al sofferente" (42).

Nella seconda parte del Capitolo, il Santo Padre si rivolge a vari gruppi del Popolo di Dio in Oceania (43-47). Ai laici, ricorda che: "Nel Battesimo tutti i cristiani hanno ricevuto la chiamata alla santità; ogni vocazione personale è una chiamata a condividere la missione della Chiesa e, data le necessità della nuova evangelizzazione, è davvero importante ora ricordare ai laici nella Chiesa tale chiamata particolare" (43). Ai giovani: "L'auspicio è che siano sempre attratti dalla figura affascinante di Gesù e stimolati dalla sfida dei valori sublimi del Vangelo" (44). Ai coniugi e alle famiglie, il Papa ricorda che: "Come istituzione, la famiglia avrà sempre bisogno della cura pastorale concertata della Chiesa" (45). Alle donne nella Chiesa occorre offrire: "ruoli di responsabilità che consentano loro di porre i propri doni più abbondantemente al servizio della missione della Chiesa" (46). Ai nuovi movimenti ecclesiali, "uno dei 'segni dei tempi' (47) nella regione, "i Padri del Sinodo hanno chiesto che essi operino all'interno delle strutture delle Chiese particolari per aiutare la costruzione della 'communio' della Diocesi in cui si trovano" (47).

Il Capitolo si conclude con la trattazione dei Ministeri Ordinati e della Vita Consacrata (48-52). "Dati il ruolo essenziale del sacerdozio e la grande importanza della vita consacrata nella missione della Chiesa, i Padri dell'Assemblea Speciale hanno sottolineato la testimonianza offerta da Vescovi, sacerdoti e consacrati mediante la preghiera, la fedeltà, la generosità e la semplicità di vita" (48). In merito il Papa ribadisce che: "La promozione delle vocazioni è una responsabilità urgente di ogni comunità cristiana" (48) e che: "Ciascun Vescovo è responsabile della formazione del clero locale nel contesto della cultura e della tradizione del posto" (48). Lodando i sacerdoti per la loro "perseverante fedeltà" e per "l'impegno" (49), il Santo Padre ricorda anche che: "Ogni sacerdote ha bisogno di una continua conversione e apertura allo Spirito per approfondire il suo affidamento sacerdotale in fedeltà a Cristo" (49), particolarmente in merito al celibato sacerdotale e nella "communio" del "presbyterium". "La vita di Vescovi, sacerdoti e diaconi esige una continua formazione e occasioni per rinnovare lo zelo nella divina vocazione" (49), per evitare i problemi che a volte sorgono nell'esercizio del loro ministero. Il Santo Padre nota anche che: "il Diaconato permanente (…) è stato introdotto in alcune Diocesi dell'Oceania, dove è stato ben accolto" (50) e "Fedeli ai carismi della vita consacrata, le Congregazioni, gli Istituti e le Società di Vita Apostolica si sono coraggiosamente adattati alle nuove circostanze e hanno manifestato in modo nuovo la luce del Vangelo" (51). Allo stesso tempo, "(...) la vita di preghiera nella vocazione contemplativa è vitale per la Chiesa in Oceania" (51). Il Papa conclude il capitolo chiedendosi: "Considerando la generosità di Dio in Oceania e il suo infinito amore per i popoli che la abitano, come potremmo non rendere grazie a Lui, dal quale proviene ogni cosa buona?" (52).

Nella Conclusione dell'Esortazione Apostolica Post-Sinodale "Ecclesia in Oceania" (53), il Santo Padre, ricordando che la Vergine Maria è venerata in Oceania sotto il titolo di Nostra Signora della Pace e Aiuto dei Cristiani, si rivolge alla Vergine Maria, Madre di Gesù e Madre della Chiesa con una lunga preghiera: "O Maria, Aiuto dei Cristiani (…) Nostra Signora della Pace (…) intercedi per la Chiesa in Oceania, affinché abbia la forza di seguire fedelmente la via di Gesù Cristo, di proclamare coraggiosamente la verità di Gesù Cristo, di vivere gioiosamente la vita di Gesù Cristo". (53).

[01852-01.01] [Testo originale: Inglese]


Questa mattina alle ore 11.30, nella Sala Clementina del Palazzo Apostolico Vaticano, Giovanni Paolo II promulga l’Esortazione Apostolica Post-Sinodale "Ecclesia in Oceania".
La cerimonia prevede la partecipazione di circa 17 Cardinali, 25 Vescovi, una trentina di sacerdoti e suore invitati dal Sinodo dei Vescovi, e un Coro di 21 persone.

Svolgimento della cerimonia:

  • Introduzione del Card. Jan Peter Schotte, Segretario Generale del Sinodo dei Vescovi [Plurilingue]
  • Presentazione del Card. Thomas Stafford Williams, Arcivescovo di Wellington [Inglese]
  • Il Santo Padre firma l’Esortazione Apostolica
  • Discorso del Santo Padre [Plurilingue]
  • Distribuzione dell’Esortazione Apostolica ai presenti
  • Il Santo Padre trasmette in E-mail l’Esortazione Apostolica
  • Canto del Coro
  • Preghiera conclusiva
  • Benedizione Apostolica
  • Canto finale

del Card. Jan Peter Schotte
Segretario Generale del Sinodo dei Vescovi

Most Holy Father,

Here we are today at the conclusion of our synodal journey for Oceania. This Special Assembly was one in the series of special continental assemblies of the Synod of Bishops, convoked by your Holiness in preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. These synodal assemblies as well as the Great Jubilee have been celebrated; now the moment has come to gather the many fruits of these events and offer them to the entire Church.

Today’s ceremony provides a dual opportunity for the Church in Oceania gathered cum Petro et sub Petro: first of all, to relive the synod and its climate of brotherhood and also to receive from your hands, Holy Father, the expression of your solicitude for the Church’s sons and daughters who people an immense area distant because of geography yet close because of a commonly shared faith in the Lord Jesus.

Little by little the series of continental Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortations is being completed. To the gifts of Ecclesia in Africa (1995), Ecclesia in America (1999) and Ecclesia in Asia (1999), we now add Ecclesia in Oceania so that the beneficial effects of this synod might endure and the life of the Church in Oceania might be fostered.

Ainsi, puisse cette « exhortation » nous encourager tous, chacun selon sa vocation propre, à faire mieux connaître, aimer et suivre Jésus-Christ « afin que toute langue proclame qu’il est Seigneur à la gloire de Dieu le Père » (Ph 2, 11).

En cette occasion, je désire rendre hommage à tous ceux et celles qui ont contribué au succès de l’Assemblée Spéciale pour l’Océanie : les Pères synodaux, les auditeurs et auditrices, les experts et les délégués fraternels. En particulier, je désire remercier les trois Présidents Délégués : Leurs Éminences les Cardinaux Thomas Stafford Williams, Archevêque de Wellington (Nouvelle-Zélande), Pio Taofinu’u, s.m., Archevêque de Samoa-Apia (Samoa) et Edward Idris Cassidy, Président -aujourd’hui émérite- du Conseil Pontifical pour la promotion de l’unité des chrétiens ; le Rapporteur Général, S. Ex. Mgr Barry James Hickey, Archevêque de Perth (Australie) et le Secrétaire Spécial, S. Ex. Mgr Michel Marie Bernard Calvet, s.m., Archevêque de Nouméa (Nouvelle-Calédonie).

Très Saint-Père, nous sommes heureux de recevoir de vos mains l’Exhortation Apostolique Post-synodale, nous vous remercions pour les paroles que vous voudrez nous adresser en cette occasion et nous vous prions de bien vouloir accorder votre Bénédiction Apostolique à l’effort synodal en cours.

Je cède maintenant la parole à Son Éminence le Cardinal Thomas Stafford Williams qui présentera succinctement les principaux thèmes développés dans le document de manière à en donner un avant-goût et susciter ainsi le désir ardent d’en faire un livre de référence pour la pastorale des prochaines décennies en Océanie.

del Card. Thomas Stafford Williams
Arcivescovo di Wellington

Most Holy Father,
Your Eminences,
Your Excellencies,
Congregational Leaders,
Members of the Post-Synodal Council,
Executive members of the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania,
Participants in the Oceania Synod : members, experts, auditors, assistants,
Staff members of the General Secretariat,
Honoured guests.


It is exactly three years ago today that all the active bishops of Oceania met in a Special Assembly to share pastoral concerns and insights.

Holy Father, we are deeply grateful to you for calling us together and enabling us to meet with you and with one another and to celebrate the manifold gifts of divine grace through the Oceania Synod. We share the very real disappointment you must feel in not being able to promulgate the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on Oceania soil.

The members of the four Episcopal Conferences and especially the faithful of New Caledonia, their Religious and clergy, were preparing to welcome and honour you. They will want me to greet you on their behalf, and assure you of their affectionate loyalty and their steadfast fidelity to the See of Peter.

It was fitting that the Synod began with an opening liturgy incorporating signs and symbols drawn from our Pacific Island cultures. That liturgy expressed the unity of faith in diversity, and gave witness to the very real communio that exists between the Church of Rome and the local Churches of Oceania (n 9).

The area of Oceania constitutes one-third of the earth’s surface but most of it is water, and its population is relatively small and unevenly distributed. Yet we brought to Rome our rich array of experiences and cultural treasures from the colourful mosaic of many different peoples: Aboriginal, Melanesian, Polynesian, Micronesian, and the descendants of migrants from the West and East (n 6,7).

It is with heartfelt gratitude that today we receive back from you, Holy Father, the gift of the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania. The document will strengthen further the communio so clearly expressed in the Synod, and will help us to meet the challenges which the Synod identified and discussed (n 9).

Synod theme and communio

The focus of the Synod was the person of Jesus Christ and how we walk his way, tell his truth and live his life. Christ has called the Church in Oceania to himself but the purpose of being with Jesus is to go forth from Jesus. His way cannot be walked unless we are possessed by an ardent and resolute desire to proclaim Jesus Christ as the living truth, the truth which is always greater than ourselves and demands that we respond with new energy and creativity (n 3, 8).

Communio is the fruit of God’s loving initiative. That the Church is essentially a mystery of communion was the spiritual and doctrinal background of all the Synod’s deliberations. The Church as communion recognizes the basic equality of all Christ’s faithful and our self-understanding as the People of God and the community of disciples (n 10).

The challenge for the Church in Oceania is to come to a deeper understanding of local and universal communio and a more effective implementation of its practical implications. A custom characteristic of many parts of Oceania is the exchange of gifts. It can serve as a model in understanding communio. This model encourages an exchange of spiritual gifts which fosters relations of mutual love, respect and trust. These are the basis for open dialogue, participation and consultation as practical expressions of the communio within the Church (n 11, 12).

The first communion is that of faith, and the Synod paid tribute to the many missionaries in the past - clergy, women and men religious as well as lay people - who have spent themselves in carrying the Gospel to Oceania (n 13). Yet even today, a full century and more after initial evangelisation, it still remains our central concern to find appropriate ways of presenting to the peoples of Oceania Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour (n 4, 14).


In this respect the importance of inculturation for an authentic Christian life in Oceania was emphasized. Authentic inculturation of the Christian faith is grounded in the mystery of the Incarnation; it is born out of respect for both the Gospel and the culture in which it is proclaimed and welcomed. While remaining wholly faithful to the spirit of communio, local Churches seek to express the faith and life of the Church in legitimate forms appropriate to indigenous cultures. Oceania offers many examples of unique cultural expressions in the areas of theology, liturgy and the use of religious symbols. The Synod Fathers saw further inculturation of the Christian faith as the way leading to the fulness of ecclesial communio (n 16, 17).

Re-presentation of the Gospel

Communio is also to be the theme and aim of all evangelization in Oceania, and the basis for our pastoral planning. All the baptized have the responsibility of proclaiming the Gospel in word and action. The Bishops are aware that the time is ripe for a re-presentation of the Gospel to the peoples of the Pacific through new ways and methods of evangelization and a further building on the directives of the Second Vatican Council (n 18). We recognized that we are ourselves the first called to a renewed Christian life and witness. More prayerful study of the Scriptures and tradition will lead us to a deeper knowledge and love of the faith.

Local communities are invited to contribute to the new evangelization by a spirit of fellowship at their liturgies, in their social and apostolic activities; by reaching out to non-practising and alienated Catholics; by strengthening the identity of catholic schools, by providing opportunities for adults to grow in their faith through programmes of study and formation; by teaching and explaining Catholic doctrine effectively to those outside the Christian community, and by bringing the social teachings of the Church to bear on civic life in Oceania. As a result of these and allied initiatives, the Gospel will be presented to society more convincingly and influence culture more deeply (n 19).

The Synod Fathers called for a greater awareness of the power of the media, and the potential we have through the media for more effective evangelisation. Where possible, the Church should devise a pastoral plan for communications, possibly even through establishing a Catholic media centre for the whole of Oceania (n 21). The media’s impact on people’s life and way of thinking illustrates the need for fresh ways of presenting the faith (n22). The Church in Oceania has given ecumenism a high priority, aware that the disunity among Christians is a great obstacle to the credibility of the Church’s witness. The strong desire for unity in faith and worship is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to Oceania, where there is a freshness and openness to ecumenical activities (n 23).

Hope for society

The Church regards the social apostolate as an integral part of her evangelizing mission. The Bishops of Oceania have taught the social doctrine effectively and are one with the people in expressing determination to act against injustices, corruption, threats to life, especially of the most vulnerable, and new forms of poverty which are the results of so-called economic rationalism (n 26, 27).

Unjust economic policies are especially damaging to indigenous peoples, young nations and their traditional cultures. It is the Church’s task to help indigenous cultures preserve their identity and maintain their traditions. The Synod strongly encouraged the Holy See to continue its advocacy of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and supported the establishment of "Truth Commissions" to help resolve historical injustices and bring about reconciliation within the wider community or the nation. It asked that the Church in the more wealthy parts of Oceania share her resources more generously with the other local churches in the Pacific (n 28, 29).

The Bishops are aware of their special responsibility as stewards of the Pacific ocean which contains over one half of the earth’s total supply of water. The continued health of this and other oceans is crucial for the welfare of peoples not only in Oceania but in every part of the world (n 31).

The social apostolate extends to the remarkable contributions of the Church in Oceania in the fields of education, health care and social welfare. A distinguishing feature to Catholic education in Oceania is that it is open to all, especially to the poor and the weakest in society. The contribution of religious men and women and lay people who have established and staffed Catholic schools and hospitals, often in the face of great difficulty and with personal sacrifice has been and still is inestimable. Though still in its early stages, the commitment to education is being extended today to tertiary education (n 32, 33). Catholic hospitals and health care institutions are at the forefront of the Church’s promotion of human life from the moment of conception until natural death (n 30, 34).

Sadly, the problems confronted by the local Churches in Oceania have intensified. In the three years since the Synod, social, political and economic stability have been threatened by a political coup in Fiji, the after-effects of ten years’ warfare in Bougainville, armed insurrection in the Solomon Islands, displaced East Papuans from Irian Jaya crossing into the Papua New Guinea border provinces, Asian boat-people desperately seeking sanctuary, economic recession causing a quarter of Cook Islanders to migrate from their home islands, and Oceania’s nearest neighbours, the East Timorese, suffering terrible bloodshed and devastation in revenge for their referendum vote in favour of independence.

These are but some instances which exemplify our need for the encouragement and guidance you have given us, Holy Father, in that section of the document devoted to the application of the Church’s social teaching.

Interior life

Evangelization cannot take place without prayer and the interior life in union with Christ. The Synod Fathers recognized the need to give fresh impetus and encouragement to the spiritual life of all the faithful, which is nourished by a renewed appreciation of Scripture (n 37, 38).

The Catholics of Oceania understand well the central place of the Eucharist in their lives. Concern was expressed that many communities throughout Oceania go without the celebration of the Eucharist for long periods because of the growing scarcity of priests and the vast distances. There is a need for great wisdom and courage in addressing this most regrettable situation (n 40). There are also serious pastoral challenges with regard to the Sacrament of Penance. A renewed catechesis and practice of this great Sacrament of mercy is urgent (n 41).

Community of disciples

The Synod Fathers rejoiced in the work and witness of religious, both men and women, and also lay people who have been an integral part of the growth of the Church in Oceania and will continue to do so, especially as catechists, instructors in sacramental preparation, youth work, and as leaders of small groups and communities (n 43, 51).

In many countries of Oceania, young people form the majority of the population. We wished them to know that they are a vital part of the Church today, not just in the future as adults, but now as maturing disciples of Jesus. Youth live in a culture which is uniquely their own. It is therefore essential that Church leaders incorporate the positive aspects of that culture into the Church’s life and mission. Young people are to be applauded for their acute sense of justice, personal integrity and respect for human dignity, for their care for the needy and their concern for the environment. These are signs of a great generosity of spirit which will not fail to bear fruit in the life of the Church (n 44, 45).

Equally, not only the Church but society also in Oceania depends heavily on the quality of family life. This implies great responsibility for Christians who enter the marriage covenant. It calls for suitable pastoral preparation, which must include a careful and convincing explanation of the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family (n 45).

Because of the serious shortage of priests, the promotion of vocations to the priesthood is an urgent responsibility of every Catholic community. As each Bishop is responsible for the formation of local clergy in the context of the local culture and tradition, serious consideration must be given to more flexible and creative models of formation and learning (n 48). All clergy are urged to renew their efforts to model their prayer life on that of Christ and to adopt a life-style that reflects Christ’s life of simplicity and identification with the powerless (n 49).


Communio, inculturation and a renewed proclamation of the Gospel in ways appropriate for the peoples of Oceania today - these were the key themes and insights which emerged from the Synod three years ago.

We are filled with deep gratitude, Holy Father, that you called us together, that you have listened to us, that you have accepted the gifts we brought to the universal Church and that, in return, you have given us this document today, Ecclesia in Oceania. It offers many directions and suggestions for the guidance of the local Churches in Oceania (n 52).

Holy Father, I was privileged to speak on behalf of participants at the close of the final session of the Special Assembly for Oceania three years ago, and concluded with these words :

"We promise you that, when you have promulgated the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation among us, we will strive our utmost to build its guidance into our own lives as pastors and into the lives of the faithful in our local Churches."

I emphatically reaffirm that promise!

The Oceania Bishops will disseminate widely the content of "Ecclesia in Oceania". We will work together to prepare discussion material in the different languages of our region so that our peoples may understand and apply the directions indicated by their Universal Pastor.

We are fortunate in having an effective structure for collaboration and joint action in the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania. We have already agreed to meet in Rabaul in the East New Britain Province of Papua New Guinea next May to plan extensive implementation of "Ecclesia in Oceania", and to continue our pastoral planning in the light of "Novo millennio ineunte".

Please be sure, Holy Father, that through our Federation and Episcopal Conferences, and in our local Churches, we will do all possible to follow faithfully the way of Jesus Christ, tell courageously the truth of Jesus Christ, and live joyously the life of Jesus Christ.

May we never cease to praise God who in his love will bring new and ever more wonderful graces to the lands within the Great Ocean.

And may the Holy Spirit guide us, and the Mother of Jesus, Our Lady of Peace, intercede for us, as the local Churches of Oceania enter the new millennium.

Discorso del Santo Padre

"Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad, let the sea and all within it thunder praise" (Ps 96:11).

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

1. From the far corners of the world you have come, witnesses to the glorious life which is ours in Christ Jesus, and in particular witnesses to the faith and love of God’s People in Oceania . With gratitude for the successful celebration of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Oceania we join in the great hymn of praise which rises ceaselessly from the heart of the Church to the Most Holy Trinity.

I would have wished to visit Oceania once again, in order to present the fruits of the Synod’s work, the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania. But it was not to be! Therefore the Pacific comes to the Bishop of Rome, and "with the affection of Christ Jesus" (Phil 1:8) I greet you and all whom you represent. In you I see the boundless ocean glimmering in the sun; the Southern Cross shining in the night sky; the islands great and small; the cities and the villages; the beaches and the forests. But most of all I see in you the peoples who are the true wealth of Oceania: the Melanesian, Polynesian and Micronesian peoples in their wonderful array; the Aborigines of Australia; the Maoris of New Zealand; the many immigrant peoples who have made Oceania their home. In the mighty symphony of Oceania we hear as it were "the Lord’s voice resounding on the waters, the Lord on the immensity of waters, the voice of the Lord full of power, the voice of the Lord full of splendour" (Ps 29:3-4).

2. The Special Assembly was an experience of intense communion, and one of its many graces was that all the Bishops could take part. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council – and I was one – were marked for ever by the experience of communion in that event which was without doubt the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte, 57). In the Special Assembly for Oceania, a new generation of Bishops who had not been at the Council could taste something of its extraordinary atmosphere and effect, and thus be better equipped to implement its teaching, as the whole Church must do more boldly than ever as we move into the new millennium. Far from having exhausted its potential, the Second Vatican Council remains the guiding light of the Church’s pilgrimage.

Like the Great Jubilee for which it prepared, the Special Assembly was both "a remembrance of the past [and] a prophecy of the future" (ibid., 3). Together we looked back upon the story of evangelization in Oceania, and gave thanks to the Father of all mercies for the magnificent work of the early missionaries, and for the welcome which the peoples of Oceania gave to the Lord Jesus himself, "walking his way, telling his truth and living his life ". We heard the story of the remarkable development of the Church in your lands, acknowledging with deep gratitude that it is "God alone who gives the growth" (1 Cor 3:7). The Synod rejoiced at the countless signs of holiness and justice present among the peoples of Oceania, a pledge of the springtime of faith for which we yearn and work.

But we recognized too that the many challenges facing the peoples of Oceania at this time are summoning the Church to engage the Pacific peoples and their cultures with renewed vigour and conviction. The Synod heard of economic crises, political instability, corruption, ethnic conflicts, the erosion of traditional forms of social organization, the breakdown of law and order, the threat of global warming and, especially in the wealthier societies, of a genuinely spiritual crisis of meaning which shows itself most clearly in the erosion of respect for human life. Yet the Bishops were in no way daunted by all of this. On the contrary, it became clearer as the Special Assembly went on that the Holy Spirit is calling the Church in Oceania to embark upon the great task of a new evangelization . In that sense the Synod became "a prophecy of the future", and the Bishops felt ever more deeply that they are "servants of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the hope of the world ", that hope of which the recent Tenth Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops spoke so tellingly.

3. Cette nouvelle aventure missionnaire s’enracine dans «la contemplation du visage du Christ», qui est le cœur du riche héritage que l’expérience du grand Jubilé nous a légué (cf. Novo millennio ineunte, n. 15). Puisse-t-il y avoir chez tous les baptisés, en tout point de l’Océanie, un grand et nouvel élan de contemplation ! Que les habitants du Pacifique redisent sans cesse: «C’est ta face, Seigneur, que je cherche» (Ps 26, 8) ! Qu’ils proclament toujours joyeusement avec l’Évangile : «Nous avons vu le Seigneur» (Jn 20, 25)! Des profondeurs de la contemplation jaillit cette spiritualité et cette expérience de communion que les Évêques ont tellement soulignées à l’occasion de l’Assemblée spéciale. Ayant apporté avec eux le riche éventail de leurs expériences et de leurs trésors culturels, ils ont été fortifiés en retour par le lien de la communio, au niveau local et universel. Elle fut pour eux source de profond renouvellement et d’encouragement pour l’avenir (cf. Ecclesia in Oceania, n. 9). La communion est la matrice de la mission; elle donnera les énergies nécessaires à la nouvelle évangélisation. Puisse l’Église dans vos pays faire preuve d’une ingéniosité et d’un courage toujours plus grands alors qu’elle s’élance à nouveau dans les profondeurs du Pacifique ! Car le commandement du Seigneur est clair : «Duc in altum !» (Lc 5, 4).

4. Chers Frères et Sœurs, alors que vous vous vous engagez sur les flots de l’avenir, vous n’êtes pas seuls. L’Église universelle vous accompagne. Cette «foule immense de témoins» (Heb 12, 1), qui constitue la Communion des Saints, vous entoure. Les saints de l’Océanie, reflets de la gloire de Dieu «qui rayonne sur le visage du Christ» (2 Co 4, 6), sont proches de vous en ce moment: saint Pierre Chanel, les bienheureux Diego Luis de San Vitores, Pedro Calungsod, Giovanni Mazzuconi, Mary MacKillop et Peter To Rot. Qu’ils ne cessent jamais d’intercéder pour les peuples parmi lesquels ils ont vécu et pour lesquels ils sont morts, brûlants d’amour ! Au cœur de la Communion des Saints se trouve la Mère du Christ, Stella Maris, si vénérée par les peuples du Pacifique. Je lui confie tout spécialement l’Exhortation apostolique post-synodale Ecclesia in Oceania. Que Marie, Secours des chrétiens et Reine de la Paix, et que tous les saints vous soutiennent, vous, Évêques, prêtres, religieux et fidèles laïcs, au moment où vous mettrez en œuvre les enseignements et les indications de ce document dans les divers contextes de vos vastes territoires. En gage de grâce et de paix dans le Fils de Dieu, «qui tient les sept étoiles dans sa main droite» (Ap 2, 1), je vous accorde une affectueuse Bénédiction apostolique.

[01898-XX.01] [Testo originale: Plurilingue]

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