Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos
Starting from the readings of the liturgy on the first day of the Congress, in his homily the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy highlighted the mission of priests today. It is letting themselves be formed in the life of communion by the new charisms, they become more open in recognising and welcoming the constant action of the Holy Spirit in his Church and they become more courageous in taking up the great adventure of the new evangelization.
“As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one thing” (Jn 17:21).
Dear concelebrants, venerable brothers in the priesthood, dear brothers and sisters in the Lord!
It is with profound affection and living joy that I turn to you who take part in this international congress organized by the Priests Centre of the Focolare Movement at the dawn of the Third Millennium since the incarnation of the Word.
The theme of the Congress is focused on “The Ecclesial Movements and the New Evangelization.” This theme harmonizes well with the recent exhortations of the Holy Father who, as is well known, in his apostolic letter Novo millennio ineunte, has declared: “Duc in altum: launch out into the deep!” (Lk 5:4). He wants this imperative to ring out in the whole Church. It is an imperative that was spoken one day to Peter. Let us go forward with hope!
“At the beginning of this new century”, writes the Pope, “our steps must quicken as we travel the highways of the world…The risen Christ asks us to meet him as it were once more in the Upper Room where, on the evening of ‘the first day of the week’ (Jn 20:19) he appeared to his disciples in order to ‘breathe’ on them his life-giving Spirit and launch them on the great adventure of proclaiming the Gospel”.
Dear brother priests, like the Apostles in the Upper Room we are invited to fix our gaze on the face of the risen Christ who assists us with the strength of his Spirit, making us holy and our pastoral ministry fruitful.
We must go! We must set out without delay. We have an imperative which in the light of this Congress takes on a precise meaning. It is an imperative to renew our life in Christ (Gal 2:20) by means of a greater openness and readiness to welcome the action of the Holy Spirit in our priestly life. He is the true protagonist of our personal holiness, he is the principal agent of the New Evangelization!
Jesus is the Sun who illumines and gives life to the world. The Paraclete, whom we have received in our priestly consecration and who conforms us ontologically to Christ, demands of us, especially today, a more vibrant fidelity in order to be the living and life-giving reflection of that Sun.
We know, besides, that it is the Holy Spirit who provides in this particular moment of history through the Movements and the new ecclesial Communities the living signs of his enlivening creativity. This is “one of the most significant fruits of that springtime of the Church already foretold by the Second Vatican Council”.
The deep towards which your Congress invites us to go is therefore a more intense and contemplative commitment and consequently a stronger apostolic and missionary dynamism.
With such thoughts I thank warmly the foundress and president of the Work of Mary, Chiara Lubich, for having invited me to meet you in this festive setting.
I greet all of you priests who are part in different ways of the Movements and the new Ecclesial Communities and who revitalize by your sacred ministry the freshness and the beauty of your priestly vocation, itself a gift and a mystery of inestimable value (2Tim 1:6). On your faces, some of which are youthful and others marked by time and fatigue, there shines out that proclamation of Peter and John to those who wanted to oppose their preaching, “We cannot not speak: we cannot be silent” (Acts 4:20). I say ‘thanks’ to you all, because your life is an incessant “proclamation of Jesus Christ” (Phil 2: 11).
My greeting extends through you besides to all the lay faithful who belong to the Movements spread out throughout the world. May you be blessed because, following Christ, you travel in the footsteps of the disciples of Emmaus along the roads of human suffering and of religious ignorance with a smile that emerges from the depths of the life of grace. You bring the light of Christ into the workplace, the family, schools, art and the media.
May you be blessed through your generous and un-wearying service of charity, and of that merciful love of the Lord by which each of you looks with the eyes of the good Samaritan at each neighbour who is materially and spiritually needy.
Service! You live it, not only in this splendid and exuberant Italy, but also in many and distant mission lands that are often hardened by division, hatred and violence. You do so in effective union with the Holy Father, for the good of the universal Church and of the particular Churches in which you work.
“When Pentecost day came around, they had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting” (Acts 2:1-2).
The first reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles reminds us of what happened in Jerusalem fifty days after Easter. In the prayerful presence of Mary in the Cenacle the apostles were gathered together in expectation of receiving “the power from on high”, that light and that strength needed to teach the Gospel of Christ to the nations and to proclaim this Gospel by means of the gift of tongues and witness of life. This Gospel which is always the same and always new, in every time, in the different cultures and in all places.
Like the apostles in “the large upper room” (Mk 14:15) you are also united today as in a new and great upper room around the altar of Sacrifice of this Mariapolis Centre in the company of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
“They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech” (Acts 2:4).
This eucharistic celebration, dearest priests, brings back to mind those poignant moments in the meeting of the ecclesial Movements and the new Communities with the Holy Father which took place, as you well remember, on the Vigil of Pentecost 1998 in St Peter’s Square where many of you were surely present.
On that occasion, John Paul II, in the presence of more than 350,000 of the gathered faithful, spoke this great prayer, “Come, Holy Spirit, come and renew the face of the earth…Come, Spirit of communion and of love…Come and make fruitful the charisms you have given. Give new strength and missionary zeal to your sons and daughters gathered here…Make them courageous messengers of the Gospel, witnesses of the Risen Christ!”
Today, dear priests of the new millennium, and now close to the solemnity of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, the Holy Spirit offers you a new light and a restoring strength. This enables you more fully to put on the mind of Christ in his one Church and to set out along the roads of the world in order to spread to all the lovable face of the incarnate Word right to the ends of the world.
The words of the Holy Father recently addressed to young people in the Greco-Melchite cathedral of Damascus on 7 May 2001 could also be addressed to you, “I invite you to proclaim Jesus Christ today with courage and fidelity to the young people of your generation. And I invite you, not only to proclaim Jesus Christ, but also and above all to show him. In looking at how you live, your colleagues should be led to inquire about what guides you and what constitutes your joy. Then you will reply to them: Come and see. And they will encounter Christ himself in you, lumen gentium [the Light of the Nations], the light of love, of hope and of truth!” (Eph 4:24).
Seeing your life in Christ, the faithful will be able to recognize in you the “manifestation of God as the hope of man, of God as the liberation of man, of God as the salvation of man”.
Let us therefore respond to the action of the Paraclete with concrete resolutions. This is the gift of tongues: in the service of the faithful in your care you want to repeat for them with greater generosity the signs of forgiveness and the offer of salvation, above all in dispensing the sacraments of Penance and Eucharist.
Mindful that “we must begin by purifying ourselves before purifying others,…to be holy in order to make holy”, as St Gregory Nazianzen loved to repeat, we should ourselves approach with a faithful regularity the sacrament of forgiveness, which is the sacrament of joy rediscovered and of divine friendship regained. “Only the person who has experienced the tenderness of the embrace of the Father, as the Gospel describes it in the parable of the Prodigal Son – he clasped him in his arms and kissed him (Lk 15:20) – only such a person can transmit to others the same warmth when from being the recipient of forgiveness he becomes the minister of forgiveness”.
And we will offer with ever greater willingness the incalculable treasure of sacramental reconciliation to all believers realizing that it is a sacrament of unity because it overcomes in man the fracture in the life of grace. It mends the tear of human pride found in the fabric of the mystical Body of Christ, making every son of man a son of God.
“I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me” (Jn 17: 21-23)
In the same parable of the Prodigal Son the festive banquet for the newfound son follows upon the embrace of the Father. In the same way sacramental forgiveness allows one to take part fruitfully in the Eucharist through communion with the Father and the Church that has been re-established.
Dear priests, be instruments of unity in the exercise of your ministry by bringing back the faithful to a meeting with Christ, above all by the celebration of the Eucharist, restoring all to the orthodoxy of doctrine and the reasoned observance of Church discipline.
We know that, above all in the Eucharist, we truly have that Door of salvation which the Great Jubilee has illumined and has left open, that living Door which is Christ himself. He said of himself, “I am the door. Anyone who enters through me will be safe; he will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture” (Jn 10:9).
It is towards those pastures that you should direct the flock in your care. With your best energies and sustained by the strength of the Holy Spirit continue to proclaim faithfully and to celebrate worthily the Eucharist which is the most effective evangelising and missionary event you could ever place in the history of the world!
It is from the Eucharist that every believer finds the strength to witness the Gospel of salvation to all. It is from the Eucharist that the abiding fountain flows which irrigates the earth with the fruitful water of the new life. The gift of broken bread opens up the life of lay faithful and the entire community to a sharing and gift of oneself “for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51). From every tabernacle Jesus makes himself the travelling companion of our daily pilgrimage.
All the Movements and Ecclesial Communities ought to be able to say as did the Martyrs of Abitiné, “We cannot exist without the supper of the Lord”.
Dear brother priests, we cannot be a wall blocking the way to the Door and the saving pasture. In fact, the apostolic zeal shown in your initiatives and pastoral activities are admirable. The pastoral initiatives you have drawn up are worthy of praise. Go forward with hope! The apostolic panorama that opens before your eyes is immense.
Like the disciples at the multiplication of the loaves you bring to all who follow the Lord the bread of the divine Master. May every Eucharist arouse the wonder of the faithful before the tremendum mysterium [‘awe-inspiring mystery’]. You in the Movements and in the Communities throw down the barriers of exclusion between persons who begin to realize they are members of the same body, all made “one in Christ” (Gal 3:28), in that sign of unity and bond of Charity of which the Eucharist is the source and summit.
Have the joy of being the bridges that unite heaven to the earth, humankind with the divine, the Son of God with the son of man, continuing the work begun by the Redeemer, “the mediator of a new covenant” ( Heb 9:15), in order to bring everything together in Christ himself.
“May they all be one so that the world will believe” (Jn 17:21).
I want to conclude, dearest brothers, by exhorting you to remain united among yourselves. Together with your communities shaped in the pulsating life of the universal Church, be “one heart and one soul”, persevering “in the teaching of the apostles and in brotherhood, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers” (Acts 2:42; 4:32).
Unity! This unity is not emotive but effective. It grows only around the objective truth that touches the very heart of the Church.
Notwithstanding the difficulties, commit yourselves with all your energy in the dialogue with those who are far away from the faith and with those who are indifferent in the faith, so that the way towards full unity among the followers of Christ may continue to unfold. He is with us and he offers us the Holy Spirit to lead us towards that unity for which he prayed to the Father. “It is on Jesus’ prayer and not on our own strength that we base the hope that even within history we shall be able to reach full and visible communion with all Christians”.
In this perspective continue along the way of promoting a lay spirituality that would assist the lay faithful in living profoundly their vocation to holiness “dealing with temporal realities and ordering them according to God”, and which will assist your brother priests to live to the full their specific identity. It is necessary to cultivate a profound awareness that the challenge of an effective evangelization can be met only if one appeals to the prophetical task that is proper to all the baptized. The formation of the laity, then, which you, dear priests, together with your Ordinaries and respective presbyterates, undertake with great diligence and exemplary commitment is of great urgency. Behind every well formed lay person there is always a priest who is truly and totally a priest. Well do we know that it is the task of formed lay faithful to become a leaven in society in order to protect those values on which the future of man depends. I refer in a special way to respect for human life which today is ever more undermined by a utilitarian culture driven by efficiency and which masquerades as a culture of freedom. I think of the family, the alliance of an indissoluble love, and of the responsibilities of the lay faithful in the professional and political fields that demand full coherence with Christian values.
To Mary Most Holy, “the gate of the dawn”, I entrust this Congress and the journey that awaits you. May the Queen of the Apostles and the Mother of priests gain for you the gift of fidelity to the mission you have received, the courage to continue with daring and the spirit of initiative in the proclamation of the Gospel, and the joy of witnessing to your identity who is Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of the world, “the true star that guides the whole of humankind”.