Wo r d f r o m t h e Va t i c a n Contents.
1. Pope John Paul urging creation 2. Holy Father speaks on justice and peace in BosniaHerzegovina. 3. The Bishops Conference of Bosnia-Herzegovina press release 2001. 4. Apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Marie 5. Apostolic letter in the form of Motu Proprio. 6. Internet. A new forum for proclaiming the Gospel. 7. The Church and the internet. 8. Ethics in Internet. 9. Liturgical Pastoral Guidelines on the fast and prayer for peace. 10.Holy Fathers prayer to Our Lady of Peace.
JOHN PAUL II URGED CREATION OF ACCEPTABLE POLITICAL, SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC CONDITIONS IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA
On November 30, 2002, when receiving Mr. Ivan Misic, the new ambassador of BosniaHerzegovina to the Vatican, John Paul II urged reconciliation and forgiveness so that peace might to take hold in this country. “It is true that what has happened in the past cannot be erased from the memory, but one can and must free hearts from rancor and vengeance,” the Holy Father said. “The memory of errors and injustices must remain as a severe warning not to repeat one or the other, so that new, perhaps even greater, tragedies might be avoided,” he explained. The Holy Father said that, “although the war ended almost seven years ago, concrete solutions are still not seen for the drama of numerous refugees and exiles who wish to return to their homes. These peoples see how they are denied the right to live peacefully in their native soil”, he said. They ask for guarantees for their own security “as well as the creation of acceptable political, social and economic conditions,” the Pope emphasized. Moreover, John Paul II pointed out that these people are entitled to “the restitution of their property, of which they were deprived with violence during the war.”
HOLY FATHER SPEAKS ON JUSTICE AND PEACE IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA
On Friday, February 9th, 2001, the Holy Father interceded for refugees and exiles from Bosnia-Herzegovina. During the meeting with a humanitarian organization from Sarajevo, the Pope said in Croatian that we cannot and must not forget this injustice.
“Tens of thousands of persons from the region of Banja Luka, from Bosnian Posavina and other parts of the country wait to return to their homes”, he said, “and wait for a satisfying solution in the light of the accords of Washington and Dayton”. It is necessary “to correct the existing injustices and to pay attention to legitimate expectations of those who are directly concerned, and who demand the respect of their inalienable rights. This is the only basis of the future in a multiethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious country as Bosnia-Herzegovina”. all.
At the end of the meting, the Pope reminded the unconditional need of religious freedom for
THE BISHOPS CONFERENCE OF BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA PRESS RELEASE
The members of the Bishops Conference of Bosnia-Herzegovina gathered in Sarajevo on 8 March 2001 and discussed amongst other things, the recently created situation of the Croatian people in the country and with regard to the same, release the following communiquĂŠ: 1. They express their profound gratitude to the Holy Father who in his address to the representatives of the International League of Humanists on 9 February 2001, expressed his fatherly care for the peoples of Bosnia-Herzegovina and amongst other things stated: "Support and understanding are required: support, so that the current social, political and economic difficulties can be overcome; understanding, so that the best solutions can be found which would correspond to the legitimate expectations of all three constitutive nations of the country". 2. They collectively adopt the principles expressed by Msgr. Ratko PeriÄ‡ in his capacity as local Bishop, which he stated in his Address to the Croatian National Assembly in Mostar on 3 March 2001. 3. They manifest their disaccord with the way in which the representatives of the International Community in Bosnia-Herzegovina are ignoring the political will of the Croatian people, expressed in the elections of November 2000. 4. Since the Croatian people, just as the other two peoples are constitutive in the entire territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina, they consider that the decisions of the International Community on the election law, on the method of electing the members of the Presidency, on the role of the Chamber of nations, in effect abolish the rights and equality of the Croatian people in relation to the other two national groups. 5. They invite the competent representatives of the International Community to search through dialogue with the representatives the Croatian electoral body gave their democratic political trust to, for an adequate solution to the current crisis. 6. They encourage the political representatives, who were legally and legitimately elected to represent the national interests of the Croatian people in the entire territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina, to be open for dialogue with all those who are searching for a just social-political solution for this country and all of it's citizens. 7. They distance themselves from all those who would usurp the essential interests of the Croatian people for their own private aims, as well as all those who would reduce this nation to a national minority, so that their preconceived goals may be attained, and by doing so, instead of helping this national group come back to their own homes, constrain the same to leave the country. 8. They invite all the members of the Croatian nation to maintain a dignified level of conduct and especially invite all the Catholic faithful to prayer and to completely put their trust in Divine Providence. Sarajevo, 8 March 2001. The Secretariat of the Bishops Conference of Bosnia-Herzegovina
APOSTOLIC LETTER ROSARIUM VIRGINIS MARIAE OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF JOHN PAUL II TO THE BISHOPS, CLERGY AND FAITHFUL ON THE MOST HOLY ROSARY
INTRODUCTION 1. The Rosary of the Virgin Mary, which gradually took form in the second millennium under the guidance of the Spirit of God, is a prayer loved by countless Saints and encouraged by the Magisterium. Simple yet profound, it still remains, at the dawn of this third millennium, a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness. It blends easily into the spiritual journey of the Christian life, which, after two thousand years, has lost none of the freshness of its beginnings and feels drawn by the Spirit of God to “set out into the deep” (duc in altum!) in order once more to proclaim, and even cry out, before the world that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour, “the way, and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6), “the goal of human history and the point on which the desires of history and civilization turn”.(1) The Rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christocentric prayer. In the sobriety of its elements, it has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety, of which it can be said to be a compendium.(2) It is an echo of the prayerof Mary, her perennial Magnificat for the work of the redemptive Incarnation which began in her virginal womb. With the Rosary, the Christian peoplesits at the school of Mary and is led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ and to experience the depths of his love. Through the Rosary the faithful receive abundant grace, as though from the very hands of the Mother of the Redeemer. The Popes and the Rosary 2. Numerous predecessors of mine attributed great importance to this prayer. Worthy of special note in this regard is Pope Leo XIII who on 1 September 1883 promulgated the Encyclical Supremi Apostolatus Officio,(3) a document of great worth, the first of his many statements about this prayer, in which he proposed the Rosary as an effective spiritual weapon against the evils afflicting society. Among the more recent Popes who, from the time of the Second Vatican Council, have distinguished themselves in promoting the Rosary I would mention Blessed John XXIII(4) and above all Pope Paul VI, who in his Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus emphasized, in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, the Rosary's evangelical character and its Christocentric inspiration. I myself have often encouraged the frequent recitation of the Rosary. From my youthful years this prayer
has held an important place in my spiritual life. I was powerfully reminded of this during my recent visit to Poland, and in particular at the Shrine of Kalwaria. The Rosary has accompanied me in moments of joy and in moments of difficulty. To it I have entrusted any number of concerns; in it I have always found comfort. Twentyfour years ago, on 29 October 1978, scarcely two weeks after my election to the See of Peter, I frankly admitted: “The Rosary is my favourite prayer. A marvellous prayer! Marvellous in its simplicity and its depth. [...]. It can be said that the Rosary is, in some sense, a prayer-commentary on the final chapter of the Vatican II Constitution Lumen Gentium, a chapter which discusses the wondrous presence of the Mother of God in the mystery of Christ and the Church. Against the background of the words Ave Maria the principal events of the life of Jesus Christ pass before the eyes of the soul. They take shape in the complete series of the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries, and they put us in living communion with Jesus through – we might say – the heart of his Mother. At the same time our heart can embrace in the decades of the Rosary all the events that make up the lives of individuals, families, nations, the Church, and all mankind. Our personal concerns and those of our neighbour, especially those who are closest to us, who are dearest to us. Thus the simple prayer of the Rosary marks the rhythm of human life”.(5) With these words, dear brothers and sisters, I set the first year of my Pontificate within the daily rhythm of the Rosary. Today, as I begin the twenty-fifth year of my service as the Successor of Peter, I wish to do the same. How many graces have I received in these years from the Blessed Virgin through the Rosary: Magnificat anima mea Dominum! I wish to lift up my thanks to the Lord in the words of his Most Holy Mother, under whose protection I have placed my Petrine ministry: Totus Tuus! October 2002 – October 2003: The Year of the Rosary 3. Therefore, in continuity with my reflection in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, in which, after the experience of the Jubilee, I invited the people of God to “start afresh from Christ”,(6) I have felt drawn to offer a reflection on the Rosary, as a kind of Marian complement to that Letter and an exhortation to contemplate the face of Christ in union with, and at the school of, his Most Holy Mother. To recite the Rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ. As a way of highlighting this invitation, prompted by the forthcoming 120th anniversary of the aforementioned Encyclical of Leo XIII, I desire that during the course of this year the Rosary should be especially emphasized and promoted in the various Christian communities. I therefore proclaim the year from October 2002 to October 2003 the Year of the Rosary. I leave this pastoral proposal to the initiative of each ecclesial community. It is not my intention to encumber but rather to complete and consolidate pastoral programmes of the Particular Churches. I am confident that the proposal will find a ready and generous reception. The Rosary, reclaimed in its full meaning, goes to the
very heart of Christian life; it offers a familiar yet fruitful spiritual and educational opportunity for personal contemplation, the formation of the People of God, and the new evangelization. I am pleased to reaffirm this also in the joyful remembrance of another anniversary: the fortieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council on October 11, 1962, the “great grace” disposed by the Spirit of God for the Church in our time.(7) Objections to the Rosary 4. The timeliness of this proposal is evident from a number of considerations. First, the urgent need to counter a certain crisis of the Rosary, which in the present historical and theological context can risk being wrongly devalued, and therefore no longer taught to the younger generation. There are some who think that the centrality of the Liturgy, rightly stressed by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, necessarily entails giving lesser importance to the Rosary. Yet, as Pope Paul VI made clear, not only does this prayer not conflict with the Liturgy, it sustains it, since it serves as an excellent introduction and a faithful echo of the Liturgy, enabling people to participate fully and interiorly in it and to reap its fruits in their daily lives. Perhaps too, there are some who fear that the Rosary is somehow unecumenical because of its distinctly Marian character. Yet the Rosary clearly belongs to the kind of veneration of the Mother of God described by the Council: a devotion directed to the Christological centre of the Christian faith, in such a way that “when the Mother is honoured, the Son ... is duly known, loved and glorified”.(8) If properly revitalized, the Rosary is an aid and certainly not a hindrance to ecumenism! A path of contemplation 5. But the most important reason for strongly encouraging the practice of the Rosary is that it represents a most effective means of fostering among the faithful that commitment to the contemplation of the Christian mystery which I have proposed in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte as a genuine “training in holiness”: “What is needed is a Christian life distinguished above all in the art of prayer”.(9) Inasmuch as contemporary culture, even amid so many indications to the contrary, has witnessed the flowering of a new call for spirituality, due also to the influence of other religions, it is more urgent than ever that our Christian communities should become “genuine schools of prayer”.(10) The Rosary belongs among the finest and most praiseworthy traditions of Christian contemplation. Developed in the West, it is a typically meditative prayer, corresponding in some way to the “prayer of the heart” or “Jesus prayer” which took root in the soil of the Christian East. Prayer for peace and for the family
6. A number of historical circumstances also make a revival of the Rosary quite timely. First of all, the need to implore from God the gift of peace. The Rosary has many times been proposed by my predecessors and myself as a prayer for peace. At the start of a millennium which began with the terrifying attacks of 11 September 2001, a millennium which witnesses every day innumerous parts of the world fresh scenes of bloodshed and violence, to rediscover the Rosary means to immerse oneself in contemplation of the mystery of Christ who “is our peace”, since he made “the two of us one, and broke down the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph 2:14). Consequently, one cannot recite the Rosary without feeling caught up in a clear commitment to advancing peace, especially in the land of Jesus, still so sorely afflicted and so close to the heart of every Christian. A similar need for commitment and prayer arises in relation to another critical contemporary issue:the family, the primary cell of society, increasingly menaced by forces of disintegration on both the ideological and practical planes, so as to make us fear for the future of this fundamental and indispensable institution and, with it, for the future of society as a whole. The revival of the Rosary in Christian families, within the context of a broader pastoral ministry to the family, will be an effective aid to countering the devastating effects of this crisis typical of our age. “Behold, your Mother!” (Jn 19:27) 7. Many signs indicate that still today the Blessed Virgin desires to exercise through this same prayer that maternal concern to which the dying Redeemer entrusted, in the person of the beloved disciple, all the sons and daughters of the Church: “Woman, behold your son!” (Jn19:26). Well-known are the occasions in the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries on which the Mother of Christ made her presence felt and her voice heard, in order to exhort the People of God to this form of contemplative prayer. I would mention in particular, on account of their great influence on the lives of Christians and the authoritative recognition they have received from the Church, the apparitions of Lourdes and of Fatima;(11) these shrines continue to be visited by great numbers of pilgrims seeking comfort and hope. Following the witnesses 8. It would be impossible to name all the many Saints who discovered in the Rosary a genuine path to growth in holiness. We need but mention Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, the author of an excellent work on the Rosary,(12) and, closer to ourselves, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, whom I recently had the joy of canonizing. As a true apostle of the Rosary, Blessed Bartolo Longo had a special charism. His path to holiness rested on an inspiration heard in the depths of his heart: “Whoever spreads the Rosary is saved!”.(13) As a result, he felt called to build a Church dedicated to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Pompei, against the background of the ruins of the ancient city, which scarcely heard the proclamation of Christ before
being buried in 79 A.D. during an eruption of Mount Vesuvius, only to emerge centuries later from its ashes as a witness to the lights and shadows of classical civilization. By his whole life's work and especially by the practice of the “Fifteen Saturdays”, Bartolo Longo promoted the Christocentric and contemplative heart of the Rosary, and received great encouragement and support from Leo XIII, the “Pope of the Rosary”.
CHAPTER I CONTEMPLATING CHRIST WITH MARY A face radiant as the sun 9. “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun” (Mt 17:2). The Gospel scene of Christ's transfiguration, in which the three Apostles Peter, James and John appear entranced by the beauty of the Redeemer, can be seen as an icon of Christian contemplation. To look upon the face of Christ, to recognize its mystery amid the daily events and the sufferings of his human life, and then to grasp the divine splendour definitively revealed in the Risen Lord, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father: this is the task of every follower of Christ and therefore the task of each one of us. In contemplating Christ's face we become open to receiving the mystery of Trinitarian life, experiencing ever anew the love of the Father and delighting in the joy of the Holy Spirit. Saint Paul's words can then be applied to us: “Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being changed into his likeness, from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2Cor 3:18). Mary, model of contemplation 10. The contemplation of Christ has an incomparable model in Mary. In a unique way the face of the Son belongs to Mary. It was in her womb that Christ was formed, receiving from her a human resemblance which points to an even greater spiritual closeness. No one has ever devoted himself to the contemplation of the face of Christ as faithfully as Mary. The eyes of her heart already turned to him at the Annunciation, when she conceived him by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the months that followed she began to sense his presence and to picture his features. When at last she gave birth to him in Bethlehem, her eyes were able to gaze tenderly on the face of her Son, as she “wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger” (Lk2:7). Thereafter Mary's gaze, ever filled with adoration and wonder, would never leave him. At times it would be a questioning look, as in the episode of the finding in the Temple: “Son, why have you treated us so?” (Lk 2:48); it would always be a
penetrating gaze, one capable of deeply understanding Jesus, even to the point of perceiving his hidden feelings and anticipating his decisions, as at Cana (cf. Jn 2:5). At other times it would be a look of sorrow, especially beneath the Cross, where her vision would still be that of a mother giving birth, for Mary not only shared the passion and death of her Son, she also received the new son given to her in the beloved disciple (cf.Jn 19:26-27). On the morning of Easter hers would be a gaze radiant with the joy of the Resurrection, and finally, on the day of Pentecost, a gaze afire with the outpouring of the Spirit (cf.Acts 1:14). Mary's memories 11. Mary lived with her eyes fixed on Christ, treasuring his every word: “She kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19; cf. 2:51). The memories of Jesus, impressed upon her heart, were always with her, leading her to reflect on the various moments of her life at her Son's side. In a way those memories were to be the “rosary” which she recited uninterruptedly throughout her earthly life. Even now, amid the joyful songs of the heavenly Jerusalem, the reasons for her thanksgiving and praise remain unchanged. They inspire her maternal concern for the pilgrim Church, in which she continues to relate her personal account of the Gospel. Mary constantly sets before the faithful the “mysteries” of her Son, with the desire that the contemplation of those mysteries will release all their saving power. In the recitation of the Rosary, the Christian community enters into contact with the memories and the contemplative gaze of Mary. The Rosary, a contemplative prayer 12. The Rosary, precisely because it starts with Mary's own experience, is an exquisitely contemplative prayer. Without this contemplative dimension, it would lose its meaning, as Pope Paul VI clearly pointed out: “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul, and its recitation runs the risk of becoming a mechanical repetition of formulas, in violation of the admonition of Christ: 'In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard for their many words' (Mt 6:7). By its nature the recitation of the Rosary calls for a quiet rhythm and a lingering pace, helping the individual to meditate on the mysteries of the Lord's life as seen through the eyes of her who was closest to the Lord. In this way the unfathomable riches of these mysteries are disclosed”.(14) It is worth pausing to consider this profound insight of Paul VI, in order to bring out certain aspects of the Rosary which show that it is really a form of Christocentric contemplation. Remembering Christ with Mary
13. Mary's contemplation is above all a remembering. We need to understand this word in the biblical sense of remembrance (zakar) as a making present of the works brought about by God in the history of salvation. The Bible is an account of saving events culminating in Christ himself. These events not only belong to “yesterday”; they are also part of the “today” of salvation. This making present comes about above all in the Liturgy: what God accomplished centuries ago did not only affect the direct witnesses of those events; it continues to affect people in every age with its gift of grace. To some extent this is also true of every other devout approach to those events: to “remember” them in a spirit of faith and love is to be open to the grace which Christ won for us by the mysteries of his life, death and resurrection. Consequently, while it must be reaffirmed with the Second Vatican Council that the Liturgy, as the exercise of the priestly office of Christ and an act of public worship, is “the summit to which the activity of the Church is directed and the font from which all its power flows”,(15) it is also necessary to recall that the spiritual life “is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy. Christians, while they are called to prayer in common, must also go to their own rooms to pray to their Father in secret (cf. Mt 6:6); indeed, according to the teaching of the Apostle, they must pray without ceasing (cf.1Thes 5:17)”.(16) The Rosary, in its own particular way, is part of this varied panorama of “ceaseless” prayer. If the Liturgy, as the activity of Christ and the Church, is a saving action par excellence, the Rosary too, as a “meditation” with Mary on Christ, is a salutary contemplation. By immersing us in the mysteries of the Redeemer's life, it ensures that what he has done and what the liturgy makes present is profoundly assimilated and shapes our existence. Learning Christ from Mary 14. Christ is the supreme Teacher, the revealer and the one revealed. It is not just a question of learning what he taught but of “learning him”. In this regard could we have any better teacher than Mary? From the divine standpoint, the Spirit is the interior teacher who leads us to the full truth of Christ (cf. Jn 14:26; 15:26; 16:13). But among creatures no one knows Christ better than Mary; no one can introduce us to a profound knowledge of his mystery better than his Mother. The first of the “signs” worked by Jesus – the changing of water into wine at the marriage in Cana – clearly presents Mary in the guise of a teacher, as she urges the servants to do what Jesus commands (cf. Jn 2:5). We can imagine that she would have done likewise for the disciples after Jesus' Ascension, when she joined them in awaiting the Holy Spirit and supported them in their first mission. Contemplating the scenes of the Rosary in union with Mary is a means of learning from her to “read” Christ, to discover his secrets and to understand his message. This school of Mary is all the more effective if we consider that she teaches by obtaining for us in abundance the gifts of the Holy Spirit, even as she offers us the
incomparable example of her own “pilgrimage of faith”.(17) As we contemplate each mystery of her Son's life, she invites us to do as she did at the Annunciation: to ask humbly the questions which open us to the light, in order to end with the obedience of faith: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). Being conformed to Christ with Mary 15. Christian spirituality is distinguished by the disciple's commitment to become conformed ever more fully to his Master (cf. Rom 8:29; Phil 3:10,12). The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Baptism grafts the believer like a branch onto the vine which is Christ (cf. Jn 15:5) and makes him a member of Christ's mystical Body (cf.1Cor 12:12; Rom 12:5). This initial unity, however, calls for a growing assimilation which will increasingly shape the conduct of the disciple in accordance with the “mind” of Christ: “Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5). In the words of the Apostle, we are called “to put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. Rom 13:14; Gal 3:27). In the spiritual journey of the Rosary, based on the constant contemplation – in Mary's company – of the face of Christ, this demanding ideal of being conformed to him is pursued through an association which could be described in terms of friendship. We are thereby enabled to enter naturally into Christ's life and as it were to share his deepest feelings. In this regard Blessed Bartolo Longo has written: “Just as two friends, frequently in each other's company, tend to develop similar habits, so too, by holding familiar converse with Jesus and the Blessed Virgin, by meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary and by living the same life in Holy Communion, we can become, to the extent of our lowliness, similar to them and can learn from these supreme models a life of humility, poverty, hiddenness, patience and perfection”.(18) In this process of being conformed to Christ in the Rosary, we entrust ourselves in a special way to the maternal care of the Blessed Virgin. She who is both the Mother of Christ and a member of the Church, indeed her “pre-eminent and altogether singular member”,(19) is at the same time the “Mother of the Church”. As such, she continually brings to birth children for the mystical Body of her Son. She does so through her intercession, imploring upon them the inexhaustible outpouring of the Spirit. Mary is the perfect icon of the motherhood of the Church. The Rosary mystically transports us to Mary's side as she is busy watching over the human growth of Christ in the home of Nazareth. This enables her to train us and to mold us with the same care, until Christ is “fully formed” in us (cf. Gal 4:19). This role of Mary, totally grounded in that of Christ and radically subordinated to it, “in no way obscures or diminishes the unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power”.(20) This is the luminous principle expressed by the Second Vatican Council which I have so powerfully experienced in my own life and have made the basis of my episcopal motto: Totus Tuus.(21) The motto is of course inspired by the teaching
of Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, who explained in the following words Mary's role in the process of our configuration to Christ: “Our entire perfection consists in being conformed, united and consecrated to Jesus Christ. Hence the most perfect of all devotions is undoubtedly that which conforms, unites and consecrates us most perfectly to Jesus Christ. Now, since Mary is of all creatures the one most conformed to Jesus Christ, it follows that among all devotions that which most consecrates and conforms a soul to our Lord is devotion to Mary, his Holy Mother, and that the more a soul is consecrated to her the more will it be consecrated to Jesus Christ”.(22) Never as in the Rosary do the life of Jesus and that of Mary appear so deeply joined. Mary lives only in Christ and for Christ! Praying to Christ with Mary 16. Jesus invited us to turn to God with insistence and the confidence that we will be heard: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Mt 7:7). The basis for this power of prayer is the goodness of the Father, but also the mediation of Christ himself (cf. 1Jn 2:1) and the working of the Holy Spirit who “intercedes for us” according to the will of God (cf. Rom 8:26-27). For “we do not know how to pray as we ought” (Rom 8:26), and at times we are not heard “because we ask wrongly” (cf. Jas 4:2-3). In support of the prayer which Christ and the Spirit cause to rise in our hearts, Mary intervenes with her maternal intercession. “The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary”.(23) If Jesus, the one Mediator, is the Way of our prayer, then Mary, his purest and most transparent reflection, shows us the Way. “Beginning with Mary's unique cooperation with the working of the Holy Spirit, the Churches developed their prayer to the Holy Mother of God, centering it on the person of Christ manifested in his mysteries”.(24) At the wedding of Cana the Gospel clearly shows the power of Mary's intercession as she makes known to Jesus the needs of others: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3). The Rosary is both meditation and supplication. Insistent prayer to the Mother of God is based on confidence that her maternal intercession can obtain all things from the heart of her Son. She is “all-powerful by grace”, to use the bold expression, which needs to be properly understood, of Blessed Bartolo Longo in his Supplication to Our Lady.(25) This is a conviction which, beginning with the Gospel, has grown ever more firm in the experience of the Christian people. The supreme poet Dante expresses it marvellously in the lines sung by Saint Bernard: “Lady, thou art so great and so powerful, that whoever desires grace yet does not turn to thee, would have his desire fly without wings”.(26) When in the Rosary we plead with Mary, the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk 1:35), she intercedes for us before the Father who filled her with grace and before the Son born of her womb, praying with us and for us. Proclaiming Christ with Mary
17. The Rosary is also a path of proclamation and increasing knowledge, in which the mystery of Christ is presented again and again at different levels of the Christian experience. Its form is that of a prayerful and contemplative presentation, capable of forming Christians according to the heart of Christ. When the recitation of the Rosary combines all the elements needed for an effective meditation, especially in its communal celebration in parishes and shrines, it can present a significant catechetical opportunity which pastors should use to advantage. In this way too Our Lady of the Rosary continues her work of proclaiming Christ. The history of the Rosary shows how this prayer was used in particular by the Dominicans at a difficult time for the Church due to the spread of heresy. Today we are facing new challenges. Why should we not once more have recourse to the Rosary, with the same faith as those who have gone before us? The Rosary retains all its power and continues to be a valuable pastoral resource for every good evangelizer.
CHAPTER II MYSTERIES OF CHRIST – MYSTERIES OF HIS MOTHER The Rosary, “a compendium of the Gospel” 18. The only way to approach the contemplation of Christ's face is by listening in the Spirit to the Father's voice, since “no one knows the Son except the Father” (Mt 11:27). In the region of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus responded to Peter's confession of faith by indicating the source of that clear intuition of his identity: “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 16:17). What is needed, then, is a revelation from above. In order to receive that revelation, attentive listening is indispensable: “Only the experience of silence and prayer offers the proper setting for the growth and development of a true, faithful and consistent knowledge of that mystery”.(27) The Rosary is one of the traditional paths of Christian prayer directed to the contemplation of Christ's face. Pope Paul VI described it in these words: “As a Gospel prayer, centred on the mystery of the redemptive Incarnation, the Rosary is a prayer with a clearly Christological orientation. Its most characteristic element, in fact, the litany- like succession of Hail Marys, becomes in itself an unceasing praise of Christ, who is the ultimate object both of the Angel's announcement and of the greeting of the Mother of John the Baptist: 'Blessed is the fruit of your womb' (Lk 1:42). We would go further and say that the succession of Hail Marys constitutes the warp on which is woven the contemplation of the mysteries. The Jesus that each Hail Mary recalls is the same Jesus whom the succession of mysteries proposes to us now as the Son of God, now as the Son of the Virgin”.(28)
A proposed addition to the traditional pattern 19. Of the many mysteries of Christ's life, only a few are indicated by the Rosary in the form that has become generally established with the seal of the Church's approval. The selection was determined by the origin of the prayer, which was based on the number 150, the number of the Psalms in the Psalter. I believe, however, that to bring out fully the Christological depth of the Rosary it would be suitable to make an addition to the traditional pattern which, while left to the freedom of individuals and communities, could broaden it to include the mysteries of Christ's public ministry between his Baptism and his Passion. In the course of those mysteries we contemplate important aspects of the person of Christ as the definitive revelation of God. Declared the beloved Son of the Father at the Baptism in the Jordan, Christ is the one who announces the coming of the Kingdom, bears witness to it in his works and proclaims its demands. It is during the years of his public ministry thatthe mystery of Christ is most evidently a mystery of light: “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (Jn 9:5). Consequently, for the Rosary to become more fully a “compendium of the Gospel”, it is fitting to add, following reflection on the Incarnation and the hidden life of Christ (the joyful mysteries) and before focusing on the sufferings of his Passion (the sorrowful mysteries) and the triumph of his Resurrection (the glorious mysteries), a meditation on certain particularly significant moments in his public ministry (the mysteries of light). This addition of these new mysteries, without prejudice to any essential aspect of the prayer's traditional format, is meant to give it fresh life and to enkindle renewed interest in the Rosary's place within Christian spirituality as a true doorway to the depths of the Heart of Christ, ocean of joy and of light, of suffering and of glory. The Joyful Mysteries 20. The first five decades, the “joyful mysteries”, are marked by the joy radiating from the event of the Incarnation. This is clear from the very first mystery, the Annunciation, where Gabriel's greeting to the Virgin of Nazareth is linked to an invitation to messianic joy: “Rejoice, Mary”. The whole of salvation history, in some sense the entire history of the world, has led up to this greeting. If it is the Father's plan to unite all things in Christ (cf. Eph 1:10), then the whole of the universe is in some way touched by the divine favour with which the Father looks upon Mary and makes her the Mother of his Son. The whole of humanity, in turn, is embraced by the fiat with which she readily agrees to the will of God. Exultation is the keynote of the encounter with Elizabeth, where the sound of Mary's voice and the presence of Christ in her womb cause John to “leap for joy” (cf. Lk 1:44). Gladness also fills the scene in Bethlehem, when the birth of the divine
Child, the Saviour of the world, is announced by the song of the angels and proclaimed to the shepherds as “news of great joy” (Lk 2:10). The final two mysteries, while preserving this climate of joy, already point to the drama yet to come. The Presentation in the Temple not only expresses the joy of the Child's consecration and the ecstasy of the aged Simeon; it also records the prophecy that Christ will be a “sign of contradiction” for Israel and that a sword will pierce his mother's heart (cf Lk 2:34-35). Joy mixed with drama marks the fifth mystery, the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple. Here he appears in his divine wisdom as he listens and raises questions, already in effect one who “teaches”. The revelation of his mystery as the Son wholly dedicated to his Father's affairs proclaims the radical nature of the Gospel, in which even the closest of human relationships are challenged by the absolute demands of the Kingdom. Mary and Joseph, fearful and anxious, “did not understand” his words (Lk 2:50). To meditate upon the “joyful” mysteries, then, is to enter into the ultimate causes and the deepest meaning of Christian joy. It is to focus on the realism of the mystery of the Incarnation and on the obscure foreshadowing of the mystery of the saving Passion. Mary leads us to discover the secret of Christian joy, reminding us that Christianity is, first and foremost, euangelion, “good news”, which has as its heart and its whole content the person of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, the one Saviour of the world. The Mysteries of Light 21. Moving on from the infancy and the hidden life in Nazareth to the public life of Jesus, our contemplation brings us to those mysteries which may be called in a special way “mysteries of light”. Certainly the whole mystery of Christ is a mystery of light. He is the “light of the world” (Jn 8:12). Yet this truth emerges in a special way during the years of his public life, when he proclaims the Gospel of the Kingdom. In proposing to the Christian community five significant moments – “luminous” mysteries – during this phase of Christ's life, I think that the following can be fittingly singled out: (1) his Baptism in the Jordan, (2) his self-manifestation at the wedding of Cana, (3) his proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with his call to conversion, (4) his Transfiguration, and finally, (5) his institution of the Eucharist, as the sacramental expression of the Paschal Mystery. Each of these mysteries is a revelation of the Kingdom now present in the very person of Jesus.The Baptism in the Jordan is first of all a mystery of light. Here, as Christ descends into the waters, the innocent one who became “sin” for our sake (cf. 2Cor 5:21), the heavens open wide and the voice of the Father declares him the beloved Son (cf. Mt 3:17 and parallels), while the Spirit descends on him to invest him with the mission which he is to carry out. Another mystery of light is the first of the signs, given at Cana (cf. Jn 2:1- 12), when Christ changes water into wine and opens the hearts of the disciples to faith, thanks to the intervention of Mary, the first
among believers. Another mystery of light is the preaching by which Jesus proclaims the coming of the Kingdom of God, calls to conversion (cf. Mk 1:15) and forgives the sins of all who draw near to him in humble trust (cf. Mk 2:3-13; Lk 7:47- 48): the inauguration of that ministry of mercy which he continues to exercise until the end of the world, particularly through the Sacrament of Reconciliation which he has entrusted to his Church (cf. Jn 20:22-23). The mystery of light par excellence is the Transfiguration, traditionally believed to have taken place on Mount Tabor. The glory of the Godhead shines forth from the face of Christ as the Father commands the astonished Apostles to “listen to him” (cf. Lk 9:35 and parallels) and to prepare to experience with him the agony of the Passion, so as to come with him to the joy of the Resurrection and a life transfigured by the Holy Spirit. A final mystery of light is the institution of the Eucharist, in which Christ offers his body and blood as food under the signs of bread and wine, and testifies “to the end” his love for humanity (Jn13:1), for whose salvation he will offer himself in sacrifice. In these mysteries, apart from the miracle at Cana, the presence of Mary remains in the background. The Gospels make only the briefest reference to her occasional presence at one moment or other during the preaching of Jesus (cf. Mk 3:315; Jn 2:12), and they give no indication that she was present at the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist. Yet the role she assumed at Cana in some way accompanies Christ throughout his ministry. The revelation made directly by the Father at the Baptism in the Jordan and echoed by John the Baptist is placed upon Mary's lips at Cana, and it becomes the great maternal counsel which Mary addresses to the Church of every age: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). This counsel is a fitting introduction to the words and signs of Christ's public ministry and it forms the Marian foundation of all the “mysteries of light”. The Sorrowful Mysteries 22. The Gospels give great prominence to the sorrowful mysteries of Christ. From the beginning Christian piety, especially during the Lenten devotion of the Way of the Cross, has focused on the individual moments of the Passion, realizing that here is found the culmination of the revelation of God's love and the source of our salvation. The Rosary selects certain moments from the Passion, inviting the faithful to contemplate them in their hearts and to relive them. The sequence of meditations begins with Gethsemane, where Christ experiences a moment of great anguish before the will of the Father, against which the weakness of the flesh would be tempted to rebel. There Jesus encounters all the temptations and confronts all the sins of humanity, in order to say to the Father: “Not my will but yours be done” (Lk 22:42 and parallels). This “Yes” of Christ reverses the “No” of our first parents in the Garden of Eden. And the cost of this faithfulness to the Father's will is made clear in the following mysteries; by his scourging, his crowning with thorns, his carrying the Cross and his death on the Cross, the Lord is cast into the most abject suffering: Ecce homo!
This abject suffering reveals not only the love of God but also the meaning of man himself. Ecce homo: the meaning, origin and fulfilment of man is to be found in Christ, the God who humbles himself out of love “even unto death, death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). The sorrowful mysteries help the believer to relive the death of Jesus, to stand at the foot of the Cross beside Mary, to enter with her into the depths of God's love for man and to experience all its life-giving power. The Glorious Mysteries 23. “The contemplation of Christ's face cannot stop at the image of the Crucified One. He is the Risen One!”(29) The Rosary has always expressed this knowledge born of faith and invited the believer to pass beyond the darkness of the Passion in order to gaze upon Christ's glory in the Resurrection and Ascension. Contemplating the Risen One, Christians rediscover the reasons for their own faith (cf. 1Cor 15:14) and relive the joy not only of those to whom Christ appeared – the Apostles, Mary Magdalene and the disciples on the road to Emmaus – but also the joy of Mary, who must have had an equally intense experience of the new life of her glorified Son. In the Ascension, Christ was raised in glory to the right hand of the Father, while Mary herself would be raised to that same glory in the Assumption, enjoying beforehand, by a unique privilege, the destiny reserved for all the just at the resurrection of the dead. Crowned in glory – as she appears in the last glorious mystery – Mary shines forth as Queen of the Angels and Saints, the anticipation and the supreme realization of the eschatological state of the Church. At the centre of this unfolding sequence of the glory of the Son and the Mother, the Rosary sets before us the third glorious mystery, Pentecost, which reveals the face of the Church as a family gathered together with Mary, enlivened by the powerful outpouring of the Spirit and ready for the mission of evangelization. The contemplation of this scene, like that of the other glorious mysteries, ought to lead the faithful to an ever greater appreciation of their new life in Christ, lived in the heart of the Church, a life of which the scene of Pentecost itself is the great “icon”. The glorious mysteries thus lead the faithful to greater hope for the eschatological goal towards which they journey as members of the pilgrim People of God in history. This can only impel them to bear courageous witness to that “good news” which gives meaning to their entire existence. From “mysteries” to the “Mystery”: Mary's way 24. The cycles of meditation proposed by the Holy Rosary are by no means exhaustive, but they do bring to mind what is essential and they awaken in the soul a thirst for a knowledge of Christ continually nourished by the pure source of the Gospel. Every individual event in the life of Christ, as narrated by the Evangelists, is resplendent with the Mystery that surpasses all understanding (cf.Eph 3:19): the
Mystery of the Word made flesh, in whom “all the fullness of God dwells bodily” (Col 2:9). For this reason the Catechism of the Catholic Church places great emphasis on the mysteries of Christ, pointing out that “everything in the life of Jesus is a sign of his Mystery”.(30) The“duc in altum” of the Church of the third millennium will be determined by the ability of Christians to enter into the “perfect knowledge of God's mystery, of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:2-3). The Letter to the Ephesians makes this heartfelt prayer for all the baptized: “May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith, so that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power... to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (3:17-19). The Rosary is at the service of this ideal; it offers the “secret” which leads easily to a profound and inward knowledge of Christ. We might call it Mary's way. It is the way of the example of the Virgin of Nazareth, a woman of faith, of silence, of attentive listening. It is also the way of a Marian devotion inspired by knowledge of the inseparable bond between Christ and his Blessed Mother:the mysteries of Christ are also in some sense the mysteries of his Mother, even when they do not involve her directly, for she lives from him and through him. By making our own the words of the Angel Gabriel and Saint Elizabeth contained in the Hail Mary, we find ourselves constantly drawn to seek out afresh in Mary, in her arms and in her heart, the “blessed fruit of her womb” (cfLk 1:42). Mystery of Christ, mystery of man 25. In my testimony of 1978 mentioned above, where I described the Rosary as my favourite prayer, I used an idea to which I would like to return. I said then that “the simple prayer of the Rosary marks the rhythm of human life”.(31) In the light of what has been said so far on the mysteries of Christ, it is not difficult to go deeper into this anthropological significance of the Rosary, which is far deeper than may appear at first sight. Anyone who contemplates Christ through the various stages of his life cannot fail to perceive in himthe truth about man. This is the great affirmation of the Second Vatican Council which I have so often discussed in my own teaching since the Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis: “it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man is seen in its true light”.(32) The Rosary helps to open up the way to this light. Following in the path of Christ, in whom man's path is “recapitulated”,(33) revealed and redeemed, believers come face to face with the image of the true man. Contemplating Christ's birth, they learn of the sanctity of life; seeing the household of Nazareth, they learn the original truth of the family according to God's plan; listening to the Master in the mysteries of his public ministry, they find the light which leads them to enter the Kingdom of God; and following him on the way to Calvary, they learn the meaning of salvific suffering. Finally, contemplating Christ and his Blessed Mother in glory, they see the goal towards which each of us is called, if we allow ourselves to be healed and
transformed by the Holy Spirit. It could be said that each mystery of the Rosary, carefully meditated, sheds light on the mystery of man. At the same time, it becomes natural to bring to this encounter with the sacred humanity of the Redeemer all the problems, anxieties, labours and endeavours which go to make up our lives. “Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you” (Ps 55:23). To pray the Rosary is to hand over our burdens to the merciful hearts of Christ and his Mother. Twenty-five years later, thinking back over the difficulties which have also been part of my exercise of the Petrine ministry, I feel the need to say once more, as a warm invitation to everyone to experience it personally: the Rosary does indeed “mark the rhythm of human life”, bringing it into harmony with the “rhythm” of God's own life, in the joyful communion of the Holy Trinity, our life's destiny and deepest longing.
CHAPTER III “FOR ME, TO LIVE IS CHRIST” The Rosary, a way of assimilating the mystery 26. Meditation on the mysteries of Christ is proposed in the Rosary by means of a method designed to assist in their assimilation. It is a method based on repetition. This applies above all to the Hail Mary, repeated ten times in each mystery. If this repetition is considered superficially, there could be a temptation to see the Rosary as a dry and boring exercise. It is quite another thing, however, when the Rosary is thought of as an outpouring of that love which tirelessly returns to the person loved with expressions similar in their content but ever fresh in terms of the feeling pervading them. In Christ, God has truly assumed a “heart of flesh”. Not only does God have a divine heart, rich in mercy and in forgiveness, but also a human heart, capable of all the stirrings of affection. If we needed evidence for this from the Gospel, we could easily find it in the touching dialogue between Christ and Peter after the Resurrection: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Three times this question is put to Peter, and three times he gives the reply: “Lord, you know that I love you” (cf. Jn21:15-17). Over and above the specific meaning of this passage, so important for Peter's mission, none can fail to recognize the beauty of this triple repetition, in which the insistent request and the corresponding reply are expressed in terms familiar from the universal experience of human love. To understand the Rosary, one has to enter into the psychological dynamic proper to love. One thing is clear: although the repeated Hail Mary is addressed directly to Mary, it is to Jesus that the act of love is ultimately directed, with her and through her. The
repetition is nourished by the desire to be conformed ever more completely to Christ, the true programme of the Christian life. Saint Paul expressed this project with words of fire: “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). And again: “It is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). The Rosary helps us to be conformed ever more closely to Christ until we attain true holiness. A valid method... 27. We should not be surprised that our relationship with Christ makes use of a method. God communicates himself to us respecting our human nature and its vital rhythms. Hence, while Christian spirituality is familiar with the most sublime forms of mystical silence in which images, words and gestures are all, so to speak, superseded by an intense and ineffable union with God, it normally engages the whole person in all his complex psychological, physical and relational reality. This becomes apparent in the Liturgy. Sacraments and sacramentals are structured as a series of rites which bring into play all the dimensions of the person. The same applies to non-liturgical prayer. This is confirmed by the fact that, in the East, the most characteristic prayer of Christological meditation, centred on the words “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”(34) is traditionally linked to the rhythm of breathing; while this practice favours perseverance in the prayer, it also in some way embodies the desire for Christ to become the breath, the soul and the “all” of one's life. ... which can nevertheless be improved 28. I mentioned in my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte that the West is now experiencinga renewed demand for meditation, which at times leads to a keen interest in aspects of other religions.(35) Some Christians, limited in their knowledge of the Christian contemplative tradition, are attracted by those forms of prayer. While the latter contain many elements which are positive and at times compatible with Christian experience, they are often based on ultimately unacceptable premises. Much in vogue among these approaches are methods aimed at attaining a high level of spiritual concentration by using techniques of a psychophysical, repetitive and symbolic nature. The Rosary is situated within this broad gamut of religious phenomena, but it is distinguished by characteristics of its own which correspond to specifically Christian requirements. In effect, the Rosary is simply a method of contemplation. As a method, it serves as a means to an end and cannot become an end in itself. All the same, as the fruit of centuries of experience, this method should not be undervalued. In its favour one could cite the experience of countless Saints. This is not to say, however, that the method cannot be improved. Such is the intent of the addition of the new series of mysteria lucis to the overall cycle of mysteries and of the few suggestions which I am proposing in this Letter regarding its manner of recitation. These suggestions,
while respecting the well-established structure of this prayer, are intended to help the faithful to understand it in the richness of its symbolism and in harmony with the demands of daily life. Otherwise there is a risk that the Rosary would not only fail to produce the intended spiritual effects, but even that the beads, with which it is usually said, could come to be regarded as some kind of amulet or magic object, thereby radically distorting their meaning and function. Announcing each mystery 29. Announcing each mystery, and perhaps even using a suitable icon to portray it, is as it were to open up a scenario on which to focus our attention. The words direct the imagination and the mind towards a particular episode or moment in the life of Christ. In the Church's traditional spirituality, the veneration of icons and the many devotions appealing to the senses, as well as the method of prayer proposed by Saint Ignatius of Loyola in the Spiritual Exercises, make use of visual and imaginative elements (the compositio loci), judged to be of great help in concentrating the mind on the particular mystery. This is a methodology, moreover, which corresponds to the inner logic of the Incarnation: in Jesus, God wanted to take on human features. It is through his bodily reality that we are led into contact with the mystery of his divinity. This need for concreteness finds further expression in the announcement of the various mysteries of the Rosary. Obviously these mysteries neither replace the Gospel nor exhaust its content. The Rosary, therefore, is no substitute for lectio divina; on the contrary, it presupposes and promotes it. Yet, even though the mysteries contemplated in the Rosary, even with the addition of themysteria lucis, do no more than outline the fundamental elements of the life of Christ, they easily draw the mind to a more expansive reflection on the rest of the Gospel, especially when the Rosary is prayed in a setting of prolonged recollection. Listening to the word of God 30. In order to supply a Biblical foundation and greater depth to our meditation, it is helpful to follow the announcement of the mystery with the proclamation of a related Biblical passage, long or short, depending on the circumstances. No other words can ever match the efficacy of the inspired word. As we listen, we are certain that this is the word of God, spoken for today and spoken â€œfor meâ€?. If received in this way, the word of God can become part of the Rosary's methodology of repetition without giving rise to the ennui derived from the simple recollection of something already well known. It is not a matter of recalling information but of allowing God to speak. In certain solemn communal celebrations, this word can be appropriately illustrated by a brief commentary. Silence
31. Listening and meditation are nourished by silence. After the announcement of the mystery and the proclamation of the word, it is fitting to pause and focus one's attention for a suitable period of time on the mystery concerned, before moving into vocal prayer. A discovery of the importance of silence is one of the secrets of practicing contemplation and meditation. One drawback of a society dominated by technology and the mass media is the fact that silence becomes increasingly difficult to achieve. Just as moments of silence are recommended in the Liturgy, so too in the recitation of the Rosary it is fitting to pause briefly after listening to the word of God, while the mind focuses on the content of a particular mystery. The “Our Father” 32. After listening to the word and focusing on the mystery, it is natural for the mind to be lifted up towards the Father. In each of his mysteries, Jesus always leads us to the Father, for as he rests in the Father's bosom (cf. Jn 1:18) he is continually turned towards him. He wants us to share in his intimacy with the Father, so that we can say with him: “Abba, Father” (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). By virtue of his relationship to the Father he makes us brothers and sisters of himself and of one another, communicating to us the Spirit which is both his and the Father's. Acting as a kind of foundation for the Christological and Marian meditation which unfolds in the repetition of the Hail Mary, the Our Father makes meditation upon the mystery, even when carried out in solitude, an ecclesial experience. The ten “Hail Marys” 33. This is the most substantial element in the Rosary and also the one which makes it a Marian prayer par excellence. Yet when the Hail Mary is properly understood, we come to see clearly that its Marian character is not opposed to its Christological character, but that it actually emphasizes and increases it. The first part of the Hail Mary, drawn from the words spoken to Mary by the Angel Gabriel and by Saint Elizabeth, is a contemplation in adoration of the mystery accomplished in the Virgin of Nazareth. These words express, so to speak, the wonder of heaven and earth; they could be said to give us a glimpse of God's own wonderment as he contemplates his “masterpiece” – the Incarnation of the Son in the womb of the Virgin Mary. If we recall how, in the Book of Genesis, God “saw all that he had made” (Gen 1:31), we can find here an echo of that “pathos with which God, at the dawn of creation, looked upon the work of his hands”.(36) The repetition of the Hail Mary in the Rosary gives us a share in God's own wonder and pleasure: in jubilant amazement we acknowledge the greatest miracle of history. Mary's prophecy here finds its fulfilment: “Henceforth all generations will call me blessed” (Lk 1:48). The centre of gravity in the Hail Mary, the hinge as it were which joins its two parts, is the name of Jesus. Sometimes, in hurried recitation, this centre of gravity can be overlooked, and with it the connection to the mystery of Christ being contemplated. Yet it is precisely the emphasis given to the name of Jesus and to his mystery that is
the sign of a meaningful and fruitful recitation of the Rosary. Pope Paul VI drew attention, in his Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus, to the custom in certain regions of highlighting the name of Christ by the addition of a clause referring to the mystery being contemplated.(37) This is a praiseworthy custom, especially during public recitation. It gives forceful expression to our faith in Christ, directed to the different moments of the Redeemer's life. It is at once a profession of faith and an aid in concentrating our meditation, since it facilitates the process of assimilation to the mystery of Christ inherent in the repetition of the Hail Mary. When we repeat the name of Jesus – the only name given to us by which we may hope for salvation (cf. Acts 4:12) – in close association with the name of his Blessed Mother, almost as if it were done at her suggestion, we set out on a path of assimilation meant to help us enter more deeply into the life of Christ. From Mary's uniquely privileged relationship with Christ, which makes her the Mother of God,Theotókos, derives the forcefulness of the appeal we make to her in the second half of the prayer, as we entrust to her maternal intercession our lives and the hour of our death. The “Gloria” 34. Trinitarian doxology is the goal of all Christian contemplation. For Christ is the way that leads us to the Father in the Spirit. If we travel this way to the end, we repeatedly encounter the mystery of the three divine Persons, to whom all praise, worship and thanksgiving are due. It is important that the Gloria, the high-point of contemplation, be given due prominence in the Rosary. In public recitation it could be sung, as a way of giving proper emphasis to the essentially Trinitarian structure of all Christian prayer. To the extent that meditation on the mystery is attentive and profound, and to the extent that it is enlivened – from one Hail Mary to another – by love for Christ and for Mary, the glorification of the Trinity at the end of each decade, far from being a perfunctory conclusion, takes on its proper contemplative tone, raising the mind as it were to the heights of heaven and enabling us in some way to relive the experience of Tabor, a foretaste of the contemplation yet to come: “It is good for us to be here!” (Lk 9:33). The concluding short prayer 35. In current practice, the Trinitarian doxology is followed by a brief concluding prayer which varies according to local custom. Without in any way diminishing the value of such invocations, it is worthwhile to note that the contemplation of the mysteries could better express their full spiritual fruitfulness if an effort were made to conclude each mystery with a prayer for the fruits specific to that particular mystery. In this way the Rosary would better express its connection with the Christian life. One fine liturgical prayer suggests as much, inviting us to pray that,
by meditation on the mysteries of the Rosary, we may come to “imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise”.(38) Such a final prayer could take on a legitimate variety of forms, as indeed it already does. In this way the Rosary can be better adapted to different spiritual traditions and different Christian communities. It is to be hoped, then, that appropriate formulas will be widely circulated, after due pastoral discernment and possibly after experimental use in centres and shrines particularly devoted to the Rosary, so that the People of God may benefit from an abundance of authentic spiritual riches and find nourishment for their personal contemplation. The Rosary beads 36. The traditional aid used for the recitation of the Rosary is the set of beads. At the most superficial level, the beads often become a simple counting mechanism to mark the succession ofHail Marys. Yet they can also take on a symbolism which can give added depth to contemplation. Here the first thing to note is the way the beads converge upon the Crucifix, which both opens and closes the unfolding sequence of prayer. The life and prayer of believers is centred upon Christ. Everything begins from him, everything leads towards him, everything, through him, in the Holy Spirit, attains to the Father. As a counting mechanism, marking the progress of the prayer, the beads evoke the unending path of contemplation and of Christian perfection. Blessed Bartolo Longo saw them also as a “chain” which links us to God. A chain, yes, but a sweet chain; for sweet indeed is the bond to God who is also our Father. A “filial” chain which puts us in tune with Mary, the “handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38) and, most of all, with Christ himself, who, though he was in the form of God, made himself a “servant” out of love for us (Phil 2:7). A fine way to expand the symbolism of the beads is to let them remind us of our many relationships, of the bond of communion and fraternity which unites us all in Christ. The opening and closing 37.At present, in different parts of the Church, there are many ways to introduce the Rosary. In some places, it is customary to begin with the opening words of Psalm 70: “O God, come to my aid; O Lord, make haste to help me”, as if to nourish in those who are praying a humble awareness of their own insufficiency. In other places, the Rosary begins with the recitation of the Creed, as if to make the profession of faith the basis of the contemplative journey about to be undertaken. These and similar customs, to the extent that they prepare the mind for contemplation, are all equally legitimate. The Rosary is then ended with a prayer for
the intentions of the Pope, as if to expand the vision of the one praying to embrace all the needs of the Church. It is precisely in order to encourage this ecclesial dimension of the Rosary that the Church has seen fit to grant indulgences to those who recite it with the required dispositions. If prayed in this way, the Rosary truly becomes a spiritual itinerary in which Mary acts as Mother, Teacher and Guide, sustaining the faithful by her powerful intercession. Is it any wonder, then, that the soul feels the need, after saying this prayer and experiencing so profoundly the motherhood of Mary, to burst forth in praise of the Blessed Virgin, either in that splendid prayer the Salve Reginaor in the Litany of Loreto? This is the crowning moment of an inner journey which has brought the faithful into living contact with the mystery of Christ and his Blessed Mother. Distribution over time 38. The Rosary can be recited in full every day, and there are those who most laudably do so. In this way it fills with prayer the days of many a contemplative, or keeps company with the sick and the elderly who have abundant time at their disposal. Yet it is clear – and this applies all the more if the new series of mysteria lucis is included – that many people will not be able to recite more than a part of the Rosary, according to a certain weekly pattern. This weekly distribution has the effect of giving the different days of the week a certain spiritual “colour”, by analogy with the way in which the Liturgy colours the different seasons of the liturgical year. According to current practice, Monday and Thursday are dedicated to the “joyful mysteries”, Tuesday and Friday to the “sorrowful mysteries”, and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday to the “glorious mysteries”. Where might the “mysteries of light” be inserted? If we consider that the “glorious mysteries” are said on both Saturday and Sunday, and that Saturday has always had a special Marian flavour, the second weekly meditation on the “joyful mysteries”, mysteries in which Mary's presence is especially pronounced, could be moved to Saturday. Thursday would then be free for meditating on the “mysteries of light”. This indication is not intended to limit a rightful freedom in personal and community prayer, where account needs to be taken of spiritual and pastoral needs and of the occurrence of particular liturgical celebrations which might call for suitable adaptations. What is really important is that the Rosary should always be seen and experienced as a path of contemplation. In the Rosary, in a way similar to what takes place in the Liturgy, the Christian week, centred on Sunday, the day of Resurrection, becomes a journey through the mysteries of the life of Christ, and he is revealed in the lives of his disciples as the Lord of time and of history.
CONCLUSION “Blessed Rosary of Mary, sweet chain linking us to God” 39. What has been said so far makes abundantly clear the richness of this traditional prayer, which has the simplicity of a popular devotion but also the theological depth of a prayer suited to those who feel the need for deeper contemplation. The Church has always attributed particular efficacy to this prayer, entrusting to the Rosary, to its choral recitation and to its constant practice, the most difficult problems. At times when Christianity itself seemed under threat, its deliverance was attributed to the power of this prayer, and Our Lady of the Rosary was acclaimed as the one whose intercession brought salvation. Today I willingly entrust to the power of this prayer – as I mentioned at the beginning – the cause of peace in the world and the cause of the family. Peace 40. The grave challenges confronting the world at the start of this new Millennium lead us to think that only an intervention from on high, capable of guiding the hearts of those living in situations of conflict and those governing the destinies of nations, can give reason to hope for a brighter future. The Rosary is by its nature a prayer for peace, since it consists in the contemplation of Christ, the Prince of Peace, the one who is “our peace” (Eph 2:14). Anyone who assimilates the mystery of Christ – and this is clearly the goal of the Rosary – learns the secret of peace and makes it his life's project. Moreover, by virtue of its meditative character, with the tranquil succession of Hail Marys, the Rosary has a peaceful effect on those who pray it, disposing them to receive and experience in their innermost depths, and to spread around them, that true peace which is the special gift of the Risen Lord (cf. Jn 14:27; 20.21). The Rosary is also a prayer for peace because of the fruits of charity which it produces. When prayed well in a truly meditative way, the Rosary leads to an encounter with Christ in his mysteries and so cannot fail to draw attention to the face of Christ in others, especially in the most afflicted. How could one possibly contemplate the mystery of the Child of Bethlehem, in the joyful mysteries, without experiencing the desire to welcome, defend and promote life, and to shoulder the burdens of suffering children all over the world? How could one possibly follow in the footsteps of Christ the Revealer, in the mysteries of light, without resolving to bear witness to his “Beatitudes” in daily life? And how could one contemplate Christ carrying the Cross and Christ Crucified, without feeling the need to act as a “Simon of Cyrene” for our brothers and sisters weighed down by grief or crushed by despair? Finally, how could one possibly gaze upon the glory of the Risen Christ or
of Mary Queen of Heaven, without yearning to make this world more beautiful, more just, more closely conformed to God's plan? In a word, by focusing our eyes on Christ, the Rosary also makes us peacemakers in the world. By its nature as an insistent choral petition in harmony with Christ's invitation to “pray ceaselessly” (Lk18:1), the Rosary allows us to hope that, even today, the difficult “battle” for peace can be won. Far from offering an escape from the problems of the world, the Rosary obliges us to see them with responsible and generous eyes, and obtains for us the strength to face them with the certainty of God's help and the firm intention of bearing witness in every situation to “love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col 3:14). The family: parents... 41. As a prayer for peace, the Rosary is also, and always has been, a prayer of and for the family. At one time this prayer was particularly dear to Christian families, and it certainly brought them closer together. It is important not to lose this precious inheritance. We need to return to the practice of family prayer and prayer for families, continuing to use the Rosary. In my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte I encouraged the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours by the lay faithful in the ordinary life of parish communities and Christian groups;(39) I now wish to do the same for the Rosary. These two paths of Christian contemplation are not mutually exclusive; they complement one another. I would therefore ask those who devote themselves to the pastoral care of families to recommend heartily the recitation of the Rosary. The family that prays together stays together. The Holy Rosary, by age-old tradition, has shown itself particularly effective as a prayer which brings the family together. Individual family members, in turning their eyes towards Jesus, also regain the ability to look one another in the eye, to communicate, to show solidarity, to forgive one another and to see their covenant of love renewed in the Spirit of God. Many of the problems facing contemporary families, especially in economically developed societies, result from their increasing difficulty in communicating. Families seldom manage to come together, and the rare occasions when they do are often taken up with watching television. To return to the recitation of the family Rosary means filling daily life with very different images, images of the mystery of salvation: the image of the Redeemer, the image of his most Blessed Mother. The family that recites the Rosary together reproduces something of the atmosphere of the household of Nazareth: its members place Jesus at the centre, they share his joys and sorrows, they place their needs and their plans in his hands, they draw from him the hope and the strength to go on. ... and children
42. It is also beautiful and fruitful to entrust to this prayer the growth and development of children. Does the Rosary not follow the life of Christ, from his conception to his death, and then to his Resurrection and his glory? Parents are finding it ever more difficult to follow the lives of their children as they grow to maturity. In a society of advanced technology, of mass communications and globalization, everything has become hurried, and the cultural distance between generations is growing ever greater. The most diverse messages and the most unpredictable experiences rapidly make their way into the lives of children and adolescents, and parents can become quite anxious about the dangers their children face. At times parents suffer acute disappointment at the failure of their children to resist the seductions of the drug culture, the lure of an unbridled hedonism, the temptation to violence, and the manifold expressions of meaninglessness and despair. To pray the Rosary for children, and even more, with children, training them from their earliest years to experience this daily “pause for prayer” with the family, is admittedly not the solution to every problem, but it is a spiritual aid which should not be underestimated. It could be objected that the Rosary seems hardly suited to the taste of children and young people of today. But perhaps the objection is directed to an impoverished method of praying it. Furthermore, without prejudice to the Rosary's basic structure, there is nothing to stop children and young people from praying it – either within the family or in groups – with appropriate symbolic and practical aids to understanding and appreciation. Why not try it? With God's help, a pastoral approach to youth which is positive, impassioned and creative – as shown by the World Youth Days! – is capable of achieving quite remarkable results. If the Rosary is well presented, I am sure that young people will once more surprise adults by the way they make this prayer their own and recite it with the enthusiasm typical of their age group. The Rosary, a treasure to be rediscovered 43. Dear brothers and sisters! A prayer so easy and yet so rich truly deserves to be rediscovered by the Christian community. Let us do so, especially this year, as a means of confirming the direction outlined in my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, from which the pastoral plans of so many particular Churches have drawn inspiration as they look to the immediate future. I turn particularly to you, my dear Brother Bishops, priests and deacons, and to you, pastoral agents in your different ministries: through your own personal experience of the beauty of the Rosary, may you come to promote it with conviction. I also place my trust in you, theologians: by your sage and rigorous reflection, rooted in the word of God and sensitive to the lived experience of the Christian people, may you help them to discover the Biblical foundations, the spiritual riches and the pastoral value of this traditional prayer.
I count on you, consecrated men and women, called in a particular way to contemplate the face of Christ at the school of Mary. I look to all of you, brothers and sisters of every state of life, to you, Christian families, to you, the sick and elderly, and to you, young people: confidently take up the Rosary once again.Rediscover the Rosary in the light of Scripture, in harmony with the Liturgy, and in the context of your daily lives. May this appeal of mine not go unheard! At the start of the twenty-fifth year of my Pontificate, I entrust this Apostolic Letter to the loving hands of the Virgin Mary, prostrating myself in spirit before her image in the splendid Shrine built for her by Blessed Bartolo Longo, the apostle of the Rosary. I willingly make my own the touching words with which he concluded his well-knownSupplication to the Queen of the Holy Rosary: â€œO Blessed Rosary of Mary, sweet chain which unites us to God, bond of love which unites us to the angels, tower of salvation against the assaults of Hell, safe port in our universal shipwreck, we will never abandon you. You will be our comfort in the hour of death: yours our final kiss as life ebbs away. And the last word from our lips will be your sweet name, O Queen of the Rosary of Pompei, O dearest Mother, O Refuge of Sinners, O Sovereign Consoler of the Afflicted. May you be everywhere blessed, today and always, on earth and in heavenâ€?. From the Vatican, on the 16th day of October in the year 2002, the beginning of the twenty- fifth year of my Pontificate. JOHN PAUL II
1) Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 45.
2) Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus (2 February 1974), 42: AAS 66 (1974), 153. (
3) Cf. Acta Leonis XIII, 3 (1884), 280-289.
4) Particularly worthy of note is his Apostolic Epistle on the Rosary Il religioso convegno (29 September 1961): AAS 53 (1961), 641-647. (
5) Angelus: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, I (1978): 75-76.
6) AAS 93 (2001), 285.
7) During the years of preparation for the Council, Pope John XXIII did not fail to encourage the Christian community to recite the Rosary for the success of this
ecclesial event: cf. Letter to the Cardinal Vicar (28 September 1960): AAS 52 (1960), 814-816. (
8) Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 66.
9) No. 32: AAS 93 (2001), 288.
10) Ibid., 33: loc. cit., 289.
11) It is well-known and bears repeating that private revelations are not the same as public revelation, which is binding on the whole Church. It is the task of the Magisterium to discern and recognize the authenticity and value of private revelations for the piety of the faithful. (
12) The Secret of the Rosary.
13) Blessed Bartolo Longo, Storia del Santuario di Pompei, Pompei, 1990, 59.
14) Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus (2 February 1974), 47: AAS (1974), 156.
15) Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10.
16) Ibid., 12.
17) Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 58. (
18) I Quindici Sabati del Santissimo Rosario, 27th ed., Pompei, 1916, 27.
19) Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 53. (
20) Ibid., 60.
21) Cf. First Radio Address Urbi et Orbi (17 October 1978): AAS 70 (1978), 927.
22) Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
23) Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2679.
24) Ibid., 2675.
25) The Supplication to the Queen of the Holy Rosary was composed by Blessed Bartolo Longo in 1883 in response to the appeal of Pope Leo XIII, made in his first Encyclical on the Rosary, for the spiritual commitment of all Catholics in combating social ills. It is solemnly recited twice yearly, in May and October.
26) Divina Commedia, Paradiso XXXIII, 13-15.
27) John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January 2001), 20: AAS 93 (2001), 279. (
28) Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus (2 February 1974), 46: AAS 6 (1974), 155. (
29) John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January 2001), 28: AAS 93 (2001), 284. (
30) No. 515.
31) Angelus Message of 29 October 1978 : Insegnamenti, I (1978), 76.
32) Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 22. (
33) Cf. Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus Haereses, III, 18, 1: PG 7, 932.
34) Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2616.
35) Cf. No. 33: AAS 93 (2001), 289.
36) John Paul II, Letter to Artists (4 April 1999), 1: AAS 91 (1999), 1155.
37) Cf. No. 46: AAS 66 (1974), 155. This custom has also been recently praised by the Congregation for Divine Worship and for the Discipline of the Sacraments in its Direttorio su pietà popolare e liturgia. Principi e orientamenti (17 December 2001), 201, Vatican City, 2002, 165. (
38) “...concede, quaesumus, ut haec mysteria sacratissimo beatae Mariae Virginis Rosario recolentes, et imitemur quod continent, et quod promittunt assequamur”. Missale Romanum 1960, in festo B.M. Virginis a Rosario. (
39) Cf. No. 34: AAS 93 (2001), 290.
Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana
APOSTOLIC LETTER IN THE FORM OF MOTU PROPRIO MISERICORDIA DEI ON CERTAIN ASPECTS OF THE CELEBRATION OF THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE.
By the mercy of God, the Father who reconciles us to himself, the Word took flesh in the spotless womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary to save “his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21) and to open for them “the way of eternal salvation”.(1) By identifying Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29), Saint John the Baptist confirms this mission. In all his deeds and preaching, the Precursor issues a fervent and energetic summons to repentance and conversion, the sign of which is the baptism administered in the waters of the Jordan. Jesus himself underwent this penitential rite (cf. Mt 3:13-17), not because he had sinned, but because “he allows himself to be numbered among sinners; he is already `the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world' (Jn1:29); already he is anticipating the `baptism' of his bloody death”.(2) Salvation is therefore and above all redemption from sin, which hinders friendship with God, a liberation from the state of slavery in which man finds himself ever since he succumbed to the temptation of the Evil One and lost the freedom of the children of God (cf. Rom 8:21). Christ entrusts to the Apostles the mission of proclaiming the Kingdom of God and preaching the Gospel of conversion (cf. Mk 16:15; Mt 28:18-20). On the evening of the day of his Resurrection, as the apostolic mission is about to begin, Jesus grants the Apostles, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the authority to reconcile repentant sinners with God and the Church: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn 20:22-23).(3) Down through history in the constant practice of the Church, the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor5:18), conferred through the Sacraments of Baptism and Penance, has always been seen as an essential and highly esteemed pastoral duty of the priestly ministry, performed in obedience to the command of Jesus. Through the centuries, the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance has developed in different forms, but it has always kept the same basic structure: it necessarily
entails not only the action of the minister – only a Bishop or priest, who judges and absolves, tends and heals in the name of Christ – but also the actions of the penitent: contrition, confession and satisfaction. I wrote in my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte: “I am asking for renewed pastoral courage in ensuring that the day-to-day teaching of Christian communities persuasively and effectively presents the practice of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As you will recall, in 1984 I dealt with this subject in the PostSynodal Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, which synthesized the results of a General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops devoted to this question. My invitation then was to make every effort to face the crisis of `the sense of sin' apparent in today's culture. But I was even more insistent in calling for a rediscovery of Christ as mysterium pietatis,the one in whom God shows us his compassionate heart and reconciles us fully with himself. It is this face of Christ that must be rediscovered through the Sacrament of Penance, which for the faithful is `the ordinary way of obtaining forgiveness and the remission of serious sins committed after Baptism'. When the Synod addressed the problem, the crisis of the Sacrament was there for all to see, especially in some parts of the world. The causes of the crisis have not disappeared in the brief span of time since then. But the Jubilee Year, which has been particularly marked by a return to the Sacrament of Penance, has given us an encouraging message, which should not be ignored: if many people, and among them also many young people, have benefited from approaching this Sacrament, it is probably necessary that Pastors should arm themselves with more confidence, creativity and perseverance in presenting it and leading people to appreciate it”.(4) With these words, I intended, as I do now, to encourage my Brother Bishops and earnestly appeal to them – and, through them, to all priests – to undertake a vigorous revitalization of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is a requirement of genuine charity and true pastoral justice,(5) and we should remember that the faithful, when they have the proper interior dispositions, have the right to receive personally the sacramental gift. In order that the minister of the Sacrament may know the dispositions of penitents with a view to granting or withholding absolution and imposing a suitable penance, it is necessary that the faithful, as well as being aware of the sins they have committed, of being sorry for them and resolved not to fall into them again,(6) should also confess their sins. In this sense, the Council of Trent declared that it is necessary “by divine decree to confess each and every mortal sin”.(7) The Church has always seen an essential link between the judgement entrusted to the priest in the Sacrament and the need for penitents to name their own sins,(8) except where this is not possible. Since, therefore, the integral confession of serious sins is by divine decree a constitutive part of the Sacrament, it is in no way subject to the discretion of pastors (dispensation, interpretation, local customs, etc.). In the relevant disciplinary norms, the competent ecclesiastical authority merely indicates
the criteria for distinguishing a real impossibility of confessing one's sins from other situations in which the impossibility is only apparent or can be surmounted. In the present circumstances of the care of souls and responding to the concerned requests of many Brothers in the Episcopate, I consider it useful to recall some of the canonical laws in force regarding the celebration of this Sacrament and clarify certain aspects of them – in a spirit of communion with the responsibility proper to the entire Episcopate(9) with a view to a better administration of the Sacrament. It is a question of ensuring an ever more faithful, and thus more fruitful, celebration of the gift entrusted to the Church by the Lord Jesus after his Resurrection (cf.Jn 20:19-23). This seems especially necessary, given that in some places there has been a tendency to abandon individual confession and wrongly to resort to “general” or “communal” absolution. In this case general absolution is no longer seen as an extraordinary means to be used in wholly exceptional situations. On the basis of an arbitrary extension of the conditions required for grave necessity,(10) in practice there is a lessening of fidelity to the divine configuration of the Sacrament, and specifically regarding the need for individual confession, with consequent serious harm to the spiritual life of the faithful and to the holiness of the Church. Thus, after consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, and after hearing the views of venerable Brother Cardinals in charge of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, and reaffirming Catholic doctrine on the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation as summarized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church,(11) conscious of my pastoral responsibility and fully aware of the need for this Sacrament and of its enduring efficacy, I decree the following: 1. Ordinaries are to remind all the ministers of the Sacrament of Penance that the universal law of the Church, applying Catholic doctrine in this area, has established that: a) “Individual and integral confession and absolution are the sole ordinary means by which the faithful, conscious of grave sin, are reconciled with God and the Church; only physical or moral impossibility excuses from such confession, in which case reconciliation can be obtained in other ways”.(12) b) Therefore, “all those of whom it is required by virtue of their ministry in the care of souls are obliged to ensure that the confessions of the faithful entrusted to them are heard when they reasonably ask, and that they are given the opportunity to approach individual confession, on days and at times set down for their convenience”.(13) Moreover, all priests with faculties to administer the Sacrament of Penance are always to show themselves wholeheartedly disposed to administer it whenever the faithful make a reasonable request.(14) An unwillingness to welcome the wounded
sheep, and even to go out to them in order to bring them back into the fold, would be a sad sign of a lack of pastoral sensibility in those who, by priestly Ordination, must reflect the image of the Good Shepherd. 2. Local Ordinaries, and parish priests and rectors of churches and shrines, should periodically verify that the greatest possible provision is in fact being made for the faithful to confess their sins. It is particularly recommended that in places of worship confessors be visibly present at the advertized times, that these times be adapted to the real circumstances of penitents, and that confessions be especially available before Masses, and even during Mass if there are other priests available, in order to meet the needs of the faithful.(15) 3. Since “the faithful are obliged to confess, according to kind and number, all grave sins committed after Baptism of which they are conscious after careful examination and which have not yet been directly remitted by the Church's power of the keys, nor acknowledged in individual confession”,(16)any practice which restricts confession to a generic accusation of sin or of only one or two sins judged to be more important is to be reproved. Indeed, in view of the fact that all the faithful are called to holiness, it is recommended that they confess venial sins also.(17) 4. In the light of and within the framework of the above norms, the absolution of a number of penitents at once without previous confession, as envisaged by Can. 961 of the Code of Canon Law, is to be correctly understood and administered. Such absolution is in fact “exceptional in character”(18) and “cannot be imparted in a general manner unless: 1. the danger of death is imminent and there is not time for the priest or priests to hear the confessions of the individual penitents; 2. a grave necessity exists, that is, when in light of the number of penitents a supply of confessors is not readily available to hear the confessions of individuals in an appropriate way within an appropriate time, so that the penitents would be deprived of sacramental grace or Holy Communion for a long time through no fault of their own; it is not considered sufficient necessity if confessors cannot be readily available only because of the great number of penitents, as can occur on the occasion of some great feast or pilgrimage”.(19) With reference to the case of grave necessity, the following clarification is made: a) It refers to situations which are objectively exceptional, such as can occur in mission territories or in isolated communities of the faithful, where the priest can visit only once or very few times a year, or when war or weather conditions or similar factors permit. b) The two conditions set down in the Canon to determine grave necessity are inseparable. Therefore, it is never just a question of whether individuals can have
their confession heard “in an appropriate way” and “within an appropriate time” because of the shortage of priests; this must be combined with the fact that penitents would otherwise be forced to remain deprived of sacramental grace “for a long time”, through no fault of their own. Therefore, account must be taken of the overall circumstances of the penitents and of the Diocese, in what refers to its pastoral organization and the possibility of the faithful having access to the Sacrament of Penance. c) The first condition, the impossibility of hearing confessions “in an appropriate way” “within an appropriate time”, refers only to the time reasonably required for the elements of a valid and worthy celebration of the Sacrament. It is not a question here of a more extended pastoral conversation, which can be left to more favourable circumstances. The reasonable and appropriate time within which confessions can be heard will depend upon the real possibilities of the confessor or confessors, and of the penitents themselves. d) The second condition calls for a prudential judgement in order to assess how long penitents can be deprived of sacramental grace for there to be a true impossibility as described in Can. 960, presuming that there is no imminent danger of death. Such a judgement is not prudential if it distorts the sense of physical or moral impossibility, as would be the case, for example, if it was thought that a period of less than a month means remaining “for a long time” in such a state of privation. e) It is not acceptable to contrive or to allow the contrivance of situations of apparent grave necessity, resulting from not administering the Sacrament in the ordinary way through a failure to implement the above mentioned norms,(20) and still less because of penitents' preference for general absolution, as if this were a normal option equivalent to the two ordinary forms set out in the Ritual. f) The large number of penitents gathered on the occasion of a great feast or pilgrimage, or for reasons of tourism or because of today's increased mobility of people, does not in itself constitute sufficient necessity. 5. Judgement as to whether there exist the conditions required by Can. 961 §1, 2 is not a matter for the confessor but for “the diocesan Bishop who can determine cases of such necessity in the light of criteria agreed upon with other members of the Episcopal Conference”.(21) These pastoral criteria must embody the pursuit of total fidelity, in the circumstances of their respective territories, to the fundamental criteria found in the universal discipline of the Church, which are themselves based upon the requirements deriving from the Sacrament of Penance itself as a divine institution. 6. Given the fundamental importance of full harmony among the Bishops' Conferences of the world in a matter so essential to the life of the Church, the various Conferences, observing Can. 455 § 2 of the Code of Canon Law, shall send as soon as possible to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the
Discipline of the Sacraments the text of the norms which they intend to issue or update in the light of this Motu Proprio on the application of Can. 961. This will help to foster an ever greater communion among the Bishops of the Church as they encourage the faithful everywhere to draw abundantly from the foun tains of divine mercy which flow unceasingly in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this perspective of communion it will also be appropriate for Diocesan Bishops to inform their respective Bishops' Conferences whether or not cases of grave necessity have occurred in their jurisdictions. It will then be the task of each Conference to inform the above-mentioned Congregation about the real situation in their regions and about any changes subsequently taking place. 7. As regards the personal disposition of penitents, it should be reiterated that: a) “For the faithful to avail themselves validly of sacramental absolution given to many at one time, it is required that they not only be suitably disposed but also at the same time intend to confess individually the serious sins which at present cannot be so confessed”.(22) b) As far as possible, including cases of imminent danger of death, there should be a preliminary exhortation to the faithful “that each person take care to make an act of contrition”.(23) c) It is clear that penitents living in a habitual state of serious sin and who do not intend to change their situation cannot validly receive absolution. 8. The obligation “to confess serious sins at least once a year”(24) remains, and therefore “a person who has had serious sins remitted by general absolution is to approach individual confession as soon as there is an opportunity to do so before receiving another general absolution, unless a just cause intervenes”.(25) 9. Concerning the place and confessional for the celebration of the Sacrament, it should be remembered that: a) “the proper place to hear sacramental confessions is a church or an oratory”,(26) though it remains clear that pastoral reasons can justify celebrating the Sacrament in other places.(27) b) confessionals are regulated by the norms issued by the respective Episcopal Conferences, who shall ensure that confessionals are located “in an open area” and have “a fixed grille”, so as to permit the faithful and confessors themselves who may wish to make use of them to do so freely.(28) I decree that everything I have set down in this Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio shall have full and lasting force and be observed from this day forth, notwithstanding any provisions to the contrary. All that I have decreed in this
Letter is, by its nature, valid for the venerable Oriental Catholic Churches in conformity with the respective Canons of their own Code. Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on 7 April, the Second Sunday of Easter, the Feast of Divine Mercy, in the year of our Lord 2002, the twenty-fourth of my Pontificate. JOHN PAUL II
Roman Missal,Advent Preface I.
Catechism of the Catholic Church,536.
Cf. Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session XIV, De Sacramento Paenitentiae, Can. 3: DS 1703. (4)
No. 37: AAS 93 (2001) 292.
Cf. Code of Canon Law, Cans. 213 and 843 ยง 1.
Cf. Ecumenical Council of Trent, Session XIV, Doctrina de Sacramento Paenitentiae, Chap. 4: DS 1676. (7)
Ibid., Can. 7: DS 1707.
Ibid., Chap. 5: DS 1679; Ecumenical Council of Florence, Decree for the Armenians (22 November 1439): DS 1323. (9)
Cf. Can. 392; Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, Nos. 23, 27; Decree on the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops Christus Dominus, No. 16. (10)
Cf. Can. 961, ยง 1, 2.
Cf. Nos. 980-987; 1114-1134; 1420-1498.
Can. 986, ยง 1.
Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on the Ministry and Life of PriestsPresbyterorum Ordinis, 13; Ordo Paenitentiae, editio typica, 1974, Praenotanda, No. 10, b. (15)
Cf. Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Responsa ad dubia proposita: Notitiae, 37 (2001) 259-260
Can. 988, § 1.
Cf. Can. 988, § 2: John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia (2 December 1984), 32: AAS 77 (1985) 267; Catechism of the Catholic Church,1458. (18)
John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia (2 December 1984), 32: AAS 77 (1985) 267. (19)
Can. 961, § 1.
Cf. above Nos. 1 and 2.
Can. 961, § 2.
Can. 962, § 1.
Can. 962, § 2.
Can 964, § 1.
Cf. Can. 964 § 3.
Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, Responsa ad propositum dubium: de loco excipiendi sacramentales confessiones (7 July 1998): AAS 90 (1998) 711.
MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER JOHN PAUL II FOR THE 36th WORLD COMMUNICATIONS DAY "Internet: A New Forum for Proclaiming the Gospel" [Sunday, 12 May 2002]
Dear Brothers and Sisters, 1. The Church in every age continues the work begun on the day of Pentecost, when the Apostles, in the power of the Holy Spirit, went forth into the streets of Jerusalem to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in many tongues (cf. Acts 2:5-11). Through the succeeding centuries, this evangelizing mission spread to the far corners of the earth, as Christianity took root in many places and learned to speak the diverse languages of the world, always in obedience to Christ's command to preach the Gospel to every nation (cf. Mt 28:19-20). But the history of evangelization is not just a matter of geographic expansion, for the Church has also had to cross many cultural thresholds, each of which called for fresh energy and imagination in proclaiming the one Gospel of Jesus Christ. The age of the great discoveries, the Renaissance and the invention of printing, the Industrial Revolution and the birth of the modern world: these too were threshold moments which demanded new forms of evangelization. Now, with the communications and information revolution in full swing, the Church stands unmistakably at another decisive gateway. It is fitting therefore that on this World Communications Day 2002 we should reflect on the subject: “Internet: A New Forum for Proclaiming the Gospel". 2. The Internet is certainly a new “forum” understood in the ancient Roman sense of that public space where politics and business were transacted, where religious duties were fulfilled where much of the social life of the city took place, and where the best and the worst of human nature was on display. It was a crowded and bustling urban space, which both reflected the surrounding culture and created a culture of its own. This is no less true of cyberspace, which is as it were a new frontier opening up at the beginning of this new millennium. Like the new frontiers of other times, this one too is full of the interplay of danger and promise, and not without the sense of adventure which marked other great periods of change. For the Church the new world of cyberspace is a summons to the great adventure of using its potential to proclaim the Gospel message. This challenge is at the heart of what it means at the beginning of the millennium to follow the Lord's command to "put out into the deep”: Duc in altum! (Lk 5:4). 3. The Church approaches this new medium with realism and confidence. Like other communications media, it is a means, not an end in itself. The Internet can offer magnificent opportunities for evangelization if used with competence and a clear awareness of its strengths and weaknesses. Above all, by providing information and stirring interest it makes possible an initial encounter with the Christian message, especially among the young who increasingly turn to the world of cyberspace as a window on the world. It is important,
therefore, that the Christian community think of very practical ways of helping those who first make contact through the Internet to move from the virtual world of cyberspace to the real world of Christian community. At a subsequent stage, the Internet can also provide the kind of follow-up which evangelization requires. Especially in an unsupportive culture, Christian living calls for continuing instruction and catechesis, and this is perhaps the area in which the Internet can provide excellent help. There already exist on the Net countless sources of information, documentation and education about the Church, her history and tradition, her doctrine and her engagement in every field in all parts of the world. It is clear, then, that while the Internet can never replace that profound experience of God which only the living, liturgical and sacramental life of the Church can offer, it can certainly provide a unique supplement and support in both preparing for the encounter with Christ in community, and sustaining the new believer in the journey of faith which then begins. 4. There are nevertheless certain necessary, even obvious, questions which arise in using the Internet in the cause of evangelization. The essence of the Internet in fact is that it provides an almost unending flood of information, much of which passes in a moment. In a culture which feeds on the ephemeral there can easily be a risk of believing that it is facts that matter, rather than values. The Internet offers extensive knowledge, but it does not teach values; and when values are disregarded, our very humanity is demeaned and man easily loses sight of his transcendent dignity. Despite its enormous potential for good, some of the degrading and damaging ways in which the Internet can be used are already obvious to all, and public authorities surely have a responsibility to guarantee that this marvellous instrument serves the common good and does not become a source of harm. Furthermore, the Internet radically redefines a person's psychological relationship to time and space. Attention is riveted on what is tangible, useful, instantly available; the stimulus for deeper thought and reflection may be lacking. Yet human beings have a vital need for time and inner quiet to ponder and examine life and its mysteries, and to grow gradually into a mature dominion of themselves and of the world around them. Understanding and wisdom are the fruit of a contemplative eye upon the world, and do not come from a mere accumulation of facts, no matter how interesting. They are the result of an insight which penetrates the deeper meaning of things in relation to one another and to the whole of reality. Moreover, as a forum in which practically everything is acceptable and almost nothing is lasting, the Internet favours a relativistic way of thinking and sometimes feeds the flight from personal responsibility and commitment. In such a context, how are we to cultivate that wisdom which comes not just from information but from insight, the wisdom which understands the difference between right and wrong, and sustains the scale of values which flows from that difference? 5. The fact that through the Internet people multiply their contacts in ways hitherto unthinkable opens up wonderful possibilities for spreading the Gospel. But it is also true that electronically mediated relationships can never take the place of the direct human contact required for genuine evangelization. For evangelization always depends upon the personal witness of the one sent to evangelize (cf. Rom 10:14-15). How does the Church lead from the kind of contact made possible by the Internet to the deeper communication demanded by Christian proclamation? How do we build upon the first contact and exchange of information which the Internet makes possible?
There is no doubt that the electronic revolution holds out the promise of great positive breakthroughs for the developing world; but there is also the possibility that it will in fact aggravate existing inequalities as the information and communications gap widens. How can we ensure that the information and communications revolution which has the Internet as its prime engine will work in favour of the globalization of human development and solidarity, objectives closely linked to the Church's evangelizing mission? Finally, in these troubled times, let me ask: how can we ensure that this wondrous instrument first conceived in the context of military operations can now serve the cause of peace? Can it favour that culture of dialogue, participation, solidarity and reconciliation without which peace cannot flourish? The Church believes it can; and to ensure that this is what will happen she is determined to enter this new forum, armed with the Gospel of Christ, the Prince of Peace. 6. The Internet causes billions of images to appear on millions of computer monitors around the planet. From this galaxy of sight and sound will the face of Christ emerge and the voice of Christ be heard? For it is only when his face is seen and his voice heard that the world will know the glad tidings of our redemption. This is the purpose of evangelization. And this is what will make the Internet a genuinely human space, for if there is no room for Christ, there is no room for man. Therefore, on this World Communications Day, I dare to summon the whole Church bravely to cross this new threshold, to put out into the deep of the Net, so that now as in the past the great engagement of the Gospel and culture may show to the world "the glory of God on the face of Christâ€?(2 Cor 4:6). May the Lord bless all those who work for this aim. From the Vatican, 24 January 2002, the Feast of Saint Francis de Sales IOANNES PAULUS PP. II
ÂŠ Copyright 2002 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR SOCIAL COMMUNICATIONS
THE CHURCH AND INTERNET
I. Introduction II. Opportunities and challenges III. Recommendations and conclusion
I INTRODUCTION 1. The Church's interest in the Internet is a particular expression of her longstanding interest in the media of social communication. Seeing the media as an outcome of the historical scientific process by which humankind “advances further and further in the discovery of the resources and values contained in the whole of creation”,1 the Church often has declared her conviction that they are, in the words of the Second Vatican Council, “marvellous technical inventions” 2 that already do much to meet human needs and may yet do even more. Thus the Church has taken a fundamentally positive approach to the media. 3 Even when condemning serious abuses, documents of this Pontifical Council for Social Communications have been at pains to make it clear that “a merely censorious attitude on the part of the Church...is neither sufficient nor appropriate”.4 Quoting Pope Pius XII's 1957 encyclical letter Miranda Prorsus, the Pastoral Instruction on the Means of Social Communication Communio et Progressio, published in 1971, underlined that point: “The Church sees these media as ‘gifts of God' which, in accordance with his providential design, unite men in brotherhood and so help them to cooperate with his plan for their salvation”.5 This remains our view, and it is the view we take of the Internet. 2. As the Church understands it, the history of human communication is something like a long journey, bringing humanity “from the pride-driven project of Babel and the collapse into confusion and mutual incomprehension to which it gave rise (cf. Gen 11:1-9), to Pentecost and the gift of tongues: a restoration of communication, centered on Jesus, through the action of the Holy Spirit”.6 In the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, “communication among men found its highest ideal and supreme example in God who had become man and brother”.7 The modern media of social communication are cultural factors that play a role in this story. As the Second Vatican Council remarks, “although we must be careful to distinguish earthly progress clearly from the increase of the kingdom of Christ”, nevertheless “such progress is of vital concern to the kingdom of God, insofar as it can contribute to the better ordering of human society”.8 Considering the media of social communication in this light, we see that they “contribute greatly to the enlargement and enrichment of men's minds and to the propagation and consolidation of the kingdom of God”.9
Today this applies in a special way to the Internet, which is helping bring about revolutionary changes in commerce, education, politics, journalism, the relationship of nation to nation and culture to culture—changes not just in how people communicate but in how they understand their lives. In a companion document, Ethics in Internet, we discuss these matters in their ethical dimension.10 Here we consider the Internet's implications for religion and especially for the Catholic Church. 3. The Church has a two-fold aim in regard to the media. One aspect is to encourage their right development and right use for the sake of human development, justice, and peace—for the upbuilding of society at the local, national, and community levels in light of the common good and in a spirit of solidarity. Considering the great importance of social communications, the Church seeks “honest and respectful dialogue with those responsible for the communications media”—a dialogue that relates primarily to the shaping of media policy.11 “On the Church's side this dialogue involves efforts to understand the media—their purposes, procedures, forms and genres, internal structures and modalities—and to offer support and encouragement to those involved in media work. On the basis of this sympathetic understanding and support, it becomes possible to offer meaningful proposals for removing obstacles to human progress and the proclamation of the Gospel”.12 But the Church's concern also relates to communication in and by the Church herself. Such communication is more than just an exercise in technique, for it “finds its starting point in the communion of love among the divine Persons and their communication with us”, and in the realization that Trinitarian communication “reaches out to humankind: The Son is the Word, eternally ‘spoken' by the Father; and in and through Jesus Christ, Son and Word made flesh, God communicates himself and his salvation to women and men”.13 God continues to communicate with humanity through the Church, the bearer and custodian of his revelation, to whose living teaching office alone he has entrusted the task of authentically interpreting his word.14Moreover, the Church herself is a communio, a communion of persons and eucharistic communities arising from and mirroring the communion of the Trinity;15 communication therefore is of the essence of the Church. This, more than any other reason, is why “the Church's practice of communication should be exemplary, reflecting the highest standards of truthfulness, accountability, sensitivity to human rights, and other relevant principles and norms”. 16 4. Three decades ago Communio et Progressio pointed out that “modern media offer new ways of confronting people with the message of the Gospel”.17 Pope Paul VI said the Church “would feel guilty before the Lord” if it failed to use the media for evangelization.18 Pope John Paul II has called the media “the first Areopagus of the modern age”, and declared that “it is not enough to use the media simply to spread the Christian message and the Church's authentic teaching. It is also necessary to integrate that message into the ‘new culture' created by modern communications”.19 Doing that is all the more important today, since not only do the media now strongly influence what people think about life but also to a great extent “human experience itself is an experience of media”.20 All this applies to the Internet. And even though the world of social communications “may at times seem at odds with the Christian message, it also offers unique opportunities for proclaiming the saving truth of Christ to the whole human family. Consider...the positive capacities of the Internet to carry religious information and teaching beyond all barriers and frontiers. Such a wide audience would have been beyond the wildest imaginings of those who preached the Gospel before us...Catholics should not be afraid to throw open the doors of social communications to Christ, so that his Good News may be heard from the housetops of the world”.21
II. OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES 5. “Communication in and by the Church is essentially communication of the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is the proclamation of the Gospel as a prophetic, liberating word to the men and women of our times; it is testimony, in the face of radical secularization, to divine truth and to the transcendent
destiny of the human person; it is witness given in solidarity with all believers against conflict and division, to justice and communion among peoples, nations, and cultures”. 22 Since announcing the Good News to people formed by a media culture requires taking carefully into account the special characteristics of the media themselves, the Church now needs to understand the Internet. This is necessary in order to communicate effectively with people—especially young people—who are steeped in the experience of this new technology, and also in order to use it well. The media offer important benefits and advantages from a religious perspective: “They carry news and information about religious events, ideas, and personalities; they serve as vehicles for evangelization and catechesis. Day in and day out, they provide inspiration, encouragement, and opportunities for worship to persons confined to their homes or to institutions”.23 But over and above these, there also are benefits more or less peculiar to the Internet. It offers people direct and immediate access to important religious and spiritual resources—great libraries and museums and places of worship, the teaching documents of the Magisterium, the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church and the religious wisdom of the ages. It has a remarkable capacity to overcome distance and isolation, bringing people into contact with like-minded persons of good will who join in virtual communities of faith to encourage and support one another. The Church can perform an important service to Catholics and non-Catholics alike by the selection and transmission of useful data in this medium. The Internet is relevant to many activities and programs of the Church— evangelization, including both re-evangelization and new evangelization and the traditional missionary work ad gentes, catechesis and other kinds of education, news and information, apologetics, governance and administration, and some forms of pastoral counseling and spiritual direction. Although the virtual reality of cyberspace cannot substitute for real interpersonal community, the incarnational reality of the sacraments and the liturgy, or the immediate and direct proclamation of the gospel, it can complement them, attract people to a fuller experience of the life of faith, and enrich the religious lives of users. It also provides the Church with a means for communicating with particular groups— young people and young adults, the elderly and home-bound, persons living in remote areas, the members of other religious bodies—who otherwise may be difficult to reach. A growing number of parishes, dioceses, religious congregations, and church-related institutions, programs, and organizations of all kinds now make effective use of the Internet for these and other purposes. Creative projects under Church sponsorship exist in some places on the national and regional levels. The Holy See has been active in this area for several years and is continuing to expand and develop its Internet presence. Church-related groups that have not yet taken steps to enter cyberspace are encouraged to look into the possibility of doing so at an early date. We strongly recommend the exchange of ideas and information about the Internet among those with experience in the field and those who are newcomers. 6. The Church also needs to understand and use the Internet as a tool of internal communications. This requires keeping clearly in view its special character as a direct, immediate, interactive, and participatory medium. Already, the two-way interactivity of the Internet is blurring the old distinction between those who communicate and those who receive what is communicated, 24 and creating a situation in which, potentially at least, everyone can do both. This is not the one-way, top-down communication of the past. As more and more people become familiar with this characteristic of the Internet in other areas of their lives, they can be expected also to look for it in regard to religion and the Church. The technology is new, but the idea is not. Vatican Council II said members of the Church should disclose to their pastors “their needs and desires with that liberty and confidence which befits children of God and brothers of Christ”; in fact, according to knowledge, competence, or position, the faithful are not only able but sometimes obliged “to manifest their opinion on those things which pertain to the good of the Church”.25Communio et Progressio remarked that as a “living body” the Church “needs public opinion in order to sustain a giving and taking among her
members”.26 Although truths of faith “do not leave room for arbitrary interpretations”, the pastoral instruction noted “an enormous area where members of the Church can express their views”.27 Similar ideas are expressed in the Code of Canon Law 28 as well as in more recent documents of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.29 Aetatis Novae calls two-way communication and public opinion “one of the ways of realizing in a concrete manner the Church's character as communio”.30 Ethics in Communications says: “A two-way flow of information and views between pastors and faithful, freedom of expression sensitive to the well being of the community and to the role of the Magisterium in fostering it, and responsible public opinion all are important expressions of ‘the fundamental right of dialogue and information within the Church'”. 31 The Internet provides an effective technological means of realizing this vision. Here, then, is an instrument that can be put creatively to use for various aspects of administration and governance. Along with opening up channels for the expression of public opinion, we have in mind such things as consulting experts, preparing meetings, and practicing collaboration in and among particular churches and religious institutes on local, national, and international levels. 7. Education and training are another area of opportunity and need. “Today everybody needs some form of continuing media education, whether by personal study or participation in an organized program or both. More than just teaching about techniques, media education helps people form standards of good taste and truthful moral judgment, an aspect of conscience formation. Through her schools and formation programs the Church should provide media education of this kind”. 32 Education and training regarding the Internet ought to be part of comprehensive programs of media education available to members of the Church. As much as possible, pastoral planning for social communications should make provision for this training in the formation of seminarians, priests, religious, and lay pastoral personnel as well as teachers, parents, and students.33 Young people in particular need to be taught “not only to be good Christians when they are recipients but also to be active in using all the aids to communication that lie within the media...So, young people will be true citizens of that age of social communications which has already begun” 34—an age in which media are seen to be “part of a still unfolding culture whose full implications are as yet imperfectly understood”.35 Teaching about the Internet and the new technology thus involves much more than teaching techniques; young people need to learn how to function well in the world of cyberspace, make discerning judgments according to sound moral criteria about what they find there, and use the new technology for their integral development and the benefit of others. 8. The Internet also presents some special problems for the Church, over and above those of a general nature discussed in Ethics in Internet, the document accompanying this one.36 While emphasizing what is positive about the Internet, it is important to be clear about what is not. At a very deep level, “the world of the media can sometimes seem indifferent and even hostile to Christian faith and morality. This is partly because media culture is so deeply imbued with a typically postmodern sense that the only absolute truth is that there are no absolute truths or that, if there were, they would be inaccessible to human reason and therefore irrelevant”.37 Among the specific problems presented by the Internet is the presence of hate sites devoted to defaming and attacking religious and ethnic groups. Some of these target the Catholic Church. Like pornography and violence in the media, Internet hate sites are “reflections of the dark side of a human nature marred by sin”.38 And while respect for free expression may require tolerating even voices of hatred up to a point, industry self-regulation—and, where required, intervention by public authority—should establish and enforce reasonable limits to what can be said. The proliferation of web sites calling themselves Catholic creates a problem of a different sort. As we have said, church-related groups should be creatively present on the Internet; and well-motivated, well-informed individuals and unofficial groups acting on their own initiative are entitled to be there as well. But it is confusing, to say the least, not to distinguish eccentric doctrinal interpretations,
idiosyncratic devotional practices, and ideological advocacy bearing a ‘Catholic' label from the authentic positions of the Church. We suggest an approach to this issue below. 9. Certain other matters still require much reflection. Regarding these, we urge continued research and study, including “the development of an anthropology and a theology of communication” 39— now, with specific reference to the Internet. Along with study and research, of course, positive pastoral planning for the use of the Internet can and should go forward.40 One area for research concerns the suggestion that the wide range of choices regarding consumer products and services available on the Internet may have a spillover effect in regard to religion and encourage a ‘consumer' approach to matters of faith. Data suggest that some visitors to religious web sites may be on a sort of shopping spree, picking and choosing elements of customized religious packages to suit their personal tastes. The “tendency on the part of some Catholics to be selective in their adherence” to the Church's teaching is a recognized problem in other contexts;41 more information is needed about whether and to what extent the problem is exacerbated by the Internet. Similarly, as noted above, the virtual reality of cyberspace has some worrisome implications for religion as well as for other areas of life. Virtual reality is no substitute for the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the sacramental reality of the other sacraments, and shared worship in a flesh-andblood human community. There are no sacraments on the Internet; and even the religious experiences possible there by the grace of God are insufficient apart from real-world interaction with other persons of faith. Here is another aspect of the Internet that calls for study and reflection. At the same time, pastoral planning should consider how to lead people from cyberspace to true community and how, through teaching and catechesis, the Internet might subsequently be used to sustain and enrich them in their Christian commitment.
III. RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSION 10. Religious people, as concerned members of the larger Internet audience who also have legitimate particular interests of their own, wish to be part of the process that guides the future development of this new medium. It goes without saying that this will sometimes require them to adjust their own thinking and practice. It is important, too, that people at all levels of the Church use the Internet creatively to meet their responsibilities and help fulfill the Church's mission. Hanging back timidly from fear of technology or for some other reason is not acceptable, in view of the very many positive possibilities of the Internet. “Methods of facilitating communication and dialogue among her own members can strengthen the bonds of unity between them. Immediate access to information makes it possible for [the Church] to deepen her dialogue with the contemporary world...The Church can more readily inform the world of her beliefs and explain the reasons for her stance on any given issue or event. She can hear more clearly the voice of public opinion, and enter into a continuous discussion with the world around her, thus involving herself more immediately in the common search for solutions to humanity's many pressing problems”.42 11. In concluding these reflections, therefore, we offer words of encouragement to several groups in particular—Church leaders, pastoral personnel, educators, parents, and especially young people.
To Church leaders: People in leadership positions in all sectors of the Church need to understand the media, apply this understanding in formulating pastoral plans for social communications 43 together with concrete policies and programs in this area, and make appropriate use of media. Where necessary, they should receive media education themselves; in fact, “the Church would be well served if more of those who hold offices and perform functions in her name received communication training”.44
This applies to the Internet as well as to the older media. Church leaders are obliged to use “the full potential of the ‘computer age' to serve the human and transcendent vocation of every person, and thus to give glory to the Father from whom all good things come”.45 They ought to employ this remarkable technology in many different aspects of the Church's mission, while also exploring opportunities for ecumenical and interreligious cooperation in its use. A special aspect of the Internet, as we have seen, concerns the sometimes confusing proliferation of unofficial web sites labeled ‘Catholic'. A system of voluntary certification at the local and national levels under the supervision of representatives of the Magisterium might be helpful in regard to material of a specifically doctrinal or catechetical nature. The idea is not to impose censorship but to offer Internet users a reliable guide to what expresses the authentic position of the Church.
To pastoral personnel. Priests, deacons, religious, and lay pastoral workers should have media education to increase their understanding of the impact of social communications on individuals and society and help them acquire a manner of communicating that speaks to the sensibilities and interests of people in a media culture. Today this clearly includes training regarding the Internet, including how to use it in their work. They can also profit from websites offering theological updating and pastoral suggestions. As for Church personnel directly involved in media, it hardly needs saying that they must have professional training. But they also need doctrinal and spiritual formation, since “in order to witness to Christ it is necessary to encounter him oneself and foster a personal relationship with him through prayer, the Eucharist and sacramental reconciliation, reading and reflection on God's word, the study of Christian doctrine, and service to others”.46
To educators and catechists. The Pastoral Instruction Communio et Progressio spoke of the “urgent duty” of Catholic schools to train communicators and recipients of social communications in relevant Christian principles.47 The same message has been repeated many times. In the age of the Internet, with its enormous outreach and impact, the need is more urgent than ever. Catholic universities, colleges, schools, and educational programs at all levels should provide courses for various groups—“seminarians, priests, religious brothers and sisters, and lay leaders...teachers, parents, and students” 48—as well as more advanced training in communications technology, management, ethics, and policy issues for individuals preparing for professional media work or decision-making roles, including those who work in social communications for the Church. Furthermore, we commend the issues and questions mentioned above to the attention of scholars and researchers in relevant disciplines in Catholic institutions of higher learning.
To parents. For the sake of their children, as well as for their own sakes, parents must “learn and practice the skills of discerning viewers and listeners and readers, acting as models of prudent use of media in the home”.49 As far as the Internet is concerned, children and young people often are more familiar with it than their parents are, but parents still are seriously obliged to guide and supervise their children in its use.50 If this means learning more about the Internet than they have up to now, that will be all to good. Parental supervision should include making sure that filtering technology is used in computers available to children when that is financially and technically feasible, in order to protect them as much as possible from pornography, sexual predators, and other threats. Unsupervised exposure to the Internet should not be allowed. Parents and children should dialogue together about what is seen and experienced in cyberspace; sharing with other families who have the same values and concerns will also be helpful. The fundamental parental duty here is to help children become discriminating, responsible Internet users and not addicts of the Internet, neglecting contact with their peers and with nature itself.
To children and young people. The Internet is a door opening on a glamorous and exciting world with a powerful formative influence; but not everything on the other side of the door is safe and wholesome and true. “Children and young people should be open to formation regarding media, resisting the easy path of uncritical passivity, peer pressure, and commercial exploitation”.51 The
young owe it to themselves—and to their parents and families and friends, their pastors and teachers, and ultimately to God—to use the Internet well. The Internet places in the grasp of young people at an unusually early age an immense capacity for doing good and doing harm, to themselves and others. It can enrich their lives beyond the dreams of earlier generations and empower them to enrich others' lives in turn. It also can plunge them into consumerism, pornographic and violent fantasy, and pathological isolation. Young people, as has often been said, are the future of society and the Church. Good use of the Internet can help prepare them for their responsibilities in both. But this will not happen automatically. The Internet is not merely a medium of entertainment and consumer gratification. It is a tool for accomplishing useful work, and the young must learn to see it and use it as such. In cyberspace, at least as much as anywhere else, they may be called on to go against the tide, practice counter-culturalism, even suffer persecution for the sake of what is true and good. 12. To all persons of good will. Finally, then, we would suggest some virtues that need to be cultivated by everyone who wants to make good use of the Internet; their exercise should be based upon and guided by a realistic appraisal of its contents. Prudence is necessary in order clearly to see the implications—the potential for good and evil—in this new medium and to respond creatively to its challenges and opportunities. Justice is needed, especially justice in working to close the digital divide—the gap between the information-rich and the information-poor in today's world.52 This requires a commitment to the international common good, no less than the “globalization of solidarity”.53 Fortitude, courage, is necessary. This means standing up for truth in the face of religious and moral relativism, for altruism and generosity in the face of individualistic consumerism, for decency in the face of sensuality and sin. And temperance is needed—a self-disciplined approach to this remarkable technological instrument, the Internet, so as to use it wisely and only for good. Reflecting on the Internet, as upon all the other media of social communications, we recall that Christ is “the perfect communicator” 54—the norm and model of the Church's approach to communication, as well as the content that the Church is obliged to communicate. “May Catholics involved in the world of social communications preach the truth of Jesus ever more boldly from the housetops, so that all men and women may hear about 0the love which is the heart of God's self-communication in Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and for ever”.55
Vatican City, February 22, 2002, Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle. John P. Foley President Pierfranco Pastore Secretary
(1) John Paul II, encyclical letter Laborem Exercens, n. 25; cf. Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, n. 34. (2) Vatican Council II, Decree on the Means of Social Communication Inter Mirifica, n. 1. (3) For example, Inter Mirifica; the Messages of Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II on the occasion of the World Communication Days; Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Pastoral Instruction Communio et Progressio,Pornography and Violence in the Communications Media: A Pastoral Response, Pastoral Instruction Aetatis Novae, Ethics in Advertising, Ethics in Communications. (4) Pornography and Violence in the Communications Media, n. 30. (5) Communio et Progressio, n. 2.
(6) John Paul II, Message for the 34th World Communications Day, June 4, 2000. (7) Communio et Progressio, n. 10. (8) Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 39. (9) Inter Mirifica, 2. (10) Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Ethics in Internet. (11) Aetatis Novae, 8. (12) Ibid. (13) Ethics in Communications, n. 3. (14) Cf. Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, n. 10. (15) Aetatis Novae, n. 10. (16) Ethics in Communications, n. 26. (17) Communio et Progressio, 128. (18) Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 45. (19) Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, n. 37. (20) Aetatis Novae, n. 2. (21) John Paul II, Message for the 35th World Communications Day, n. 3, May 27, 2001. (22) Aetatis Novae, n. 9. (23) Ethics in Communications, n. 11. (24) Cf. Communio et Progressio, n. 15. (25) Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, n. 37. (26) Communio et Progressio, n. 116. (27) Ibid., n. 117. (28) Cf. Canon 212.2, 212.3. (29) Cf. Aetatis Novae, n. 10; Ethics in Communications, n. 26. (30) Aetatis Novae, n. 10. (31) Ethics in Communications, n. 26. (32) Ethics in Communications, n. 25. (33) Aetatis Novae, n. 28. (34) Communio et Progressio, n. 107. (35) John Paul II, Message for the 24th World Communications Day, 1990. (36) Cf. Ethics in Internet. (37) John Paul II, Message for the 35th World Communications Day, n. 3. (38) Pornography and Violence in the Communications Media, n. 7. (39) Aetatis Novae, 8. (40) Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, n. 39. (41) Cf. John Paul II, Address to the Bishops of the United States, n. 5, Los Angeles, September 16, 1987. (42) John Paul II, Message for the 24th World Communications Day, 1990. (43) Cf. Aetatis Novae, nn. 23-33. (44) Ethics in Communications, n. 26. (45) Message for the 24th World Communications Day. (46) Message for the 34th World Communications Day, 2000. (47) Communio et Progressio, n. 107. (48) Aetatis Novae, n. 28. (49) Ethics in Communications, n. 25. (50) Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, n. 76. (51) Ethics in Communications, n. 25. (52) Cf. Ethics in Internet, nn. 10, 17. (53) John Paul II, Address to the UN Secretary General and to the Administrative Committee on Coordination of the United Nations, n. 2, April 7, 2000. (54) Communio et Progressio, n. 11. (55) Message for the 35th World Communications Day, n. 4.
PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR SOCIAL COMMUNICATIONS
ETHICS IN INTERNET
I. Introduction II. About the Internet III. Some Areas of Concern IV. Recommendations and Conclusion
I INTRODUCTION 1. “Today's revolution in social communications involves a fundamental reshaping of the elements by which people comprehend the world about them, and verify and express what they comprehend. The constant availability of images and ideas, and their rapid transmission even from continent to continent, have profound consequences, both positive and negative, for the psychological, moral and social development of persons, the structure and functioning of societies, intercultural communications, and the perception and transmission of values, world views, ideologies, and religious beliefs”.1 The truth of these words has become clearer than ever during the past decade. Today it takes no great stretch of the imagination to envisage the earth as an interconnected globe humming with electronic transmissions—a chattering planet nestled in the provident silence of space. The ethical question is whether this is contributing to authentic human development and helping individuals and peoples to be true to their transcendent destiny. And, of course, in many ways the answer is yes. The new media are powerful tools for education and cultural enrichment, for commercial activity and political participation, for intercultural dialogue and understanding; and, as we point out in the document that accompanies this one,2 they also can serve the cause of religion. Yet this coin has another side. Media of communication that can be used for the good of persons and communities can be used to exploit, manipulate, dominate, and corrupt. 2. The Internet is the latest and in many respects most powerful in a line of media—telegraph, telephone, radio, television—that for many people have progressively eliminated time and space as obstacles to communication during the last century and a half. It has enormous consequences for individuals, nations, and the world.
In this document we wish to set out a Catholic view of the Internet, as a starting point for the Church's participation in dialogue with other sectors of society, especially other religious groups, concerning the development and use of this marvelous technological instrument. The Internet is being put to many good uses now, with the promise of many more, but much harm also can be done by its improper use. Which it will be, good or harm, is largely a matter of choice—a choice to whose making the Church brings two elements of great importance: her commitment to the dignity of the human person and her long tradition of moral wisdom.3 3. As with other media, the person and the community of persons are central to ethical evaluation of the Internet. In regard to the message communicated, the process of communicating, and structural and systemic issues in communication, “the fundamental ethical principle is this: The human person and the human community are the end and measure of the use of the media of social communication; communication should be by persons to persons for the integral development of persons”.4 The common good—“the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily”5—provides a second basic principle for ethical evaluation of social communications. It should be understood inclusively, as the whole of those worthy purposes to which a community's members commit themselves together and which the community exists to realize and sustain. The good of individuals depends upon the common good of their communities. The virtue disposing people to protect and promote the common good is solidarity. It is not a feeling of “vague compassion or shallow distress” at other people's troubles, but “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all”.6 Especially today solidarity has a clear, strong international dimension; it is correct to speak of, and obligatory to work for, the international common good. 4. The international common good, the virtue of solidarity, the revolution in communications media and information technology, and the Internet are all relevant to the process of globalization. To a great extent, the new technology drives and supports globalization, creating a situation in which “commerce and communications are no longer bound by borders”.7 This has immensely important consequences. Globalization can increase wealth and foster development; it offers advantages like “efficiency and increased production... greater unity among peoples... a better service to the human family”.8 But the benefits have not been evenly shared up to now. Some individuals, commercial enterprises, and countries have grown enormously wealthy while others have fallen behind. Whole nations have been excluded almost entirely from the process, denied a place in the new world taking shape. “Globalization, which has profoundly transformed economic systems by creating unexpected possibilities of growth, has also resulted in many people being relegated to the side of the road: unemployment in the more developed countries and extreme poverty in too many countries of the Southern Hemisphere continue to hold millions of women and men back from progress and prosperity”.9 It is by no means clear that even societies that have entered into the globalization process have done so entirely as a matter of free, informed choice. Instead, “many people, especially the disadvantaged, experience this as something that has been forced upon them rather than as a process in which they can actively participate”.10 In many parts of the world, globalization is spurring rapid, sweeping social change. This is not just an economic process but a cultural one, with both positive and negative aspects. “Those who are subjected to it often see globalization as a destructive flood threatening the social norms which had protected them and the cultural points of reference which had given them direction in life....Changes in technology and work relationships are moving too quickly for cultures to respond”.11 5. One major consequence of the deregulation of recent years has been a shift of power from national states to transnational corporations. It is important that these corporations be encouraged
and helped to use their power for the good of humanity; and this points to a need for more communication and dialogue between them and concerned bodies like the Church. Use of the new information technology and the Internet needs to be informed and guided by a resolute commitment to the practice of solidarity in the service of the common good, within and among nations. This technology can be a means for solving human problems, promoting the integral development of persons, creating a world governed by justice and peace and love. Now, even more than when the Pastoral Instruction on the Means of Social Communications Communio et Progressio made the point more than thirty years ago, media have the ability to make every person everywhere “a partner in the business of the human race”.12 This is an astonishing vision. The Internet can help make it real—for individuals, groups, nations, and the human race—only if it is used in light of clear, sound ethical principles, especially the virtue of solidarity. To do so will be to everyone's advantage, for “we know one thing today more than in the past: we will never be happy and at peace without one another, much less if some are against others”.13 This will be an expression of that spirituality of communion which implies “the ability to see what is positive in others, to welcome it and prize it as a gift from God,” along with the ability “to ‘make room' for our brothers and sisters, bearing ‘each other's burdens' (Gal. 6, 2) and resisting the selfish temptations which constantly beset us”.14 6. The spread of the Internet also raises a number of other ethical questions about matters like privacy, the security and confidentiality of data, copyright and intellectual property law, pornography, hate sites, the dissemination of rumor and character assassination under the guise of news, and much else. We shall speak briefly about some of these things below, while recognizing that they call for continued analysis and discussion by all concerned parties. Fundamentally, though, we do not view the Internet only as a source of problems; we see it as a source of benefits to the human race. But the benefits can be fully realized only if the problems are solved.
II ABOUT THE INTERNET 7. The Internet has a number of striking features. It is instantaneous, immediate, worldwide, decentralized, interactive, endlessly expandable in contents and outreach, flexible and adaptable to a remarkable degree. It is egalitarian, in the sense that anyone with the necessary equipment and modest technical skill can be an active presence in cyberspace, declare his or her message to the world, and demand a hearing. It allows individuals to indulge in anonymity, role-playing, and fantasizing and also to enter into community with others and engage in sharing. According to users' tastes, it lends itself equally well to active participation and to passive absorption into “a narcissistic, self-referential world of stimuli with near-narcotic effects”.15 It can be used to break down the isolation of individuals and groups or to deepen it. 8. The technological configuration underlying the Internet has a considerable bearing on its ethical aspects: People have tended to use it according to the way it was designed, and to design it to suit that kind of use. This ‘new' system in fact dates back to the cold war years of the 1960s, when it was intended to foil nuclear attack by creating a decentralized network of computers holding vital data. Decentralization was the key to the scheme, since in this way, so it was reasoned, the loss of one or even many computers would not mean the loss of the data. An idealistic vision of the free exchange of information and ideas has played a praiseworthy part in the development of the Internet. Yet its decentralized configuration and the similarly decentralized design of the World Wide Web of the late 1980s also proved to be congenial to a mindset opposed to anything smacking of legitimate regulation for public responsibility. An exaggerated individualism regarding the Internet thus emerged. Here, it was said, was a new realm, the marvelous land of cyberspace, where every sort of expression was allowed and the only law was total individual liberty to do as one pleased. Of course this meant that the only community whose rights and interests would
be truly recognized in cyberspace was the community of radical libertarians. This way of thinking remains influential in some circles, supported by familiar libertarian arguments also used to defend pornography and violence in the media generally.16 Although radical individualists and entrepreneurs obviously are two very different groups, there is a convergence of interests between those who want the Internet to be a place for very nearly every kind of expression, no matter how vile and destructive, and those who want it to be a vehicle of untrammeled commercial activity on a neo-liberal model that “considers profit and the law of the market as its only parameters, to the detriment of the dignity of and the respect due to individuals and peoples”.17 9. The explosion of information technology has increased the communication capabilities of some favored individuals and groups many times over. The Internet can serve people in their responsible use of freedom and democracy, expand the range of choices available in diverse spheres of life, broaden educational and cultural horizons, break down divisions, promote human development in a multitude of ways. “The free flow of images and speech on a global scale is transforming not only political and economic relations between peoples, but even our understanding of the world. It opens up a range of hitherto unthinkable possibilities”.18When based upon shared values rooted in the nature of the person, the intercultural dialogue made possible by the Internet and other media of social communication can be “a privileged means for building the civilization of love”.19 But that is not the whole story. “Paradoxically, the very forces which can lead to better communication can also lead to increasing self-centeredness and alienation”.20 The Internet can unite people, but it also can divide them, both as individuals and as mutually suspicious groups separated by ideology, politics, possessions, race and ethnicity, intergenerational differences, and even religion. Already it has been used in aggressive ways, almost as a weapon of war, and people speak of the danger of ‘cyber-terrorism.' It would be painfully ironic if this instrument of communication with so much potential for bringing people together reverted to its origins in the cold war and became an arena of international conflict.
III SOME AREAS OF CONCERN 10. A number of concerns about the Internet are implicit in what has been said so far. One of the most important of these involves what today is called the digital divide—a form of discrimination dividing the rich from the poor, both within and among nations, on the basis of access, or lack of access, to the new information technology. In this sense it is an updated version of an older gap between the ‘information rich' and ‘information poor'. The expression ‘digital divide' underlines the fact that individuals, groups, and nations must have access to the new technology in order to share in the promised benefits of globalization and development and not fall further behind. It is imperative “that the gap between the beneficiaries of the new means of information and expression and those who do not have access to them...not become another intractable source of inequity and discrimination”.21 Ways need to be found to make the Internet accessible to less advantaged groups, either directly or at least by linking it with lowercost traditional media. Cyberspace ought to be a resource of comprehensive information and services available without charge to all, and in a wide range of languages. Public institutions have a particular responsibility to establish and maintain sites of this kind. As the new global economy takes shape, the Church is concerned “that the winner in this process will be humanity as a whole” and not just “a wealthy elite that controls science, technology and the planet's resources”; this is to say that the Church desires “a globalization which will be at the service of the whole person and of all people”.22
In this connection it should be borne in mind that the causes and consequences of the divide are not only economic but also technical, social, and cultural. So, for example, another Internet ‘divide' operates to the disadvantage of women, and it, too, needs to be closed. 11. We are particularly concerned about the cultural dimensions of what is now taking place. Precisely as powerful tools of the globalization process, the new information technology and the Internet transmit and help instill a set of cultural values—ways of thinking about social relationships, family, religion, the human condition—whose novelty and glamour can challenge and overwhelm traditional cultures. Intercultural dialogue and enrichment are of course highly desirable. Indeed, “dialogue between cultures is especially needed today because of the impact of new communications technology on the lives of individuals and peoples”.23 But this has to be a two-way street. Cultures have much to learn from one another, and merely imposing the world view, values, and even language of one culture upon another is not dialogue but cultural imperialism. Cultural domination is an especially serious problem when a dominant culture carries false values inimical to the true good of individuals and groups. As matters stand, the Internet, along with the other media of social communication, is transmitting the value-laden message of Western secular culture to people and societies in many cases ill-prepared to evaluate and cope with it. Many serious problems result—for example, in regard to marriage and family life, which are experiencing “a radical and widespread crisis”24 in many parts of the world. Cultural sensitivity and respect for other people's values and beliefs are imperative in these circumstances. Intercultural dialogue that “protects the distinctiveness of cultures as historical and creative expressions of the underlying unity of the human family, and...sustains understanding and communion between them” 25 is needed to build and maintain the sense of international solidarity. 12. The question of freedom of expression on the Internet is similarly complex and gives rise to another set of concerns. We strongly support freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas. Freedom to seek and know the truth is a fundamental human right, 26 and freedom of expression is a cornerstone of democracy. “Man, provided he respects the moral order and the common interest, is entitled to seek after truth, express and make known his opinions...he ought to be truthfully informed about matters of public interest”.27 And public opinion, “an essential expression of human nature organized in society,” absolutely requires “freedom to express ideas and attitudes”.28 In light of these requirements of the common good, we deplore attempts by public authorities to block access to information—on the Internet or in other media of social communication—because they find it threatening or embarrassing to them, to manipulate the public by propaganda and disinformation, or to impede legitimate freedom of expression and opinion. Authoritarian regimes are by far the worst offenders in this regard; but the problem also exists in liberal democracies, where access to media for political expression often depends on wealth, and politicians and their advisors violate truthfulness and fairness by misrepresenting opponents and shrinking issues to sound-bite dimensions. 13. In this new environment, journalism is undergoing profound changes. The combination of new technologies and globalization has “increased the powers of the media, but has also made them more liable to ideological and commercial pressures”,29 and this is true of journalism as well. The Internet is a highly effective instrument for bringing news and information rapidly to people. But the economic competitiveness and round-the-clock nature of Internet journalism also contribute to sensationalism and rumor-mongering, to a merging of news, advertising, and entertainment, and to an apparent decline in serious reporting and commentary. Honest journalism is essential to the common good of nations and the international community. Problems now visible in the practice of journalism on the Internet call for speedy correcting by journalists themselves.
The sheer overwhelming quantity of information on the Internet, much of it unevaluated as to accuracy and relevance, is a problem for many. But we also are concerned lest people make use of the medium's technological capacity for customizing information simply to raise electronic barriers against unfamiliar ideas. That would be an unhealthy development in a pluralistic world where people need to grow in mutual understanding. While Internet users have a duty to be selective and selfdisciplined, that should not be carried to the extreme of walling themselves off from others. The medium's implications for psychological development and health likewise need continued study, including the possibility that prolonged immersion in the virtual world of cyberspace may be damaging to some. Although there are many advantages in the capacity technology gives people to “assemble packages of information and services uniquely designed for them”, this also “raises an inescapable question: Will the audience of the future be a multitude of audiences of one?...What would become of solidarity—what would become of love—in a world like that?” 30 14. Standing alongside issues that have to do with freedom of expression, the integrity and accuracy of news, and the sharing of ideas and information, is another set of concerns generated by libertarianism. The ideology of radical libertarianism is both mistaken and harmful—not least, to legitimate free expression in the service of truth. The error lies in exalting freedom “to such an extent that it becomes an absolute, which would then be the source of values....In this way the inescapable claims of truth disappear, yielding their place to a criterion of sincerity, authenticity and ‘being at peace with oneself”'.31 There is no room for authentic community, the common good, and solidarity in this way of thinking.
IV RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSION 15. As we have seen, the virtue of solidarity is the measure of the Internet's service of the common good. It is the common good that supplies the context for considering the ethical question: “Are the media being used for good or evil?” 32 Many individuals and groups share responsibility in this matter—for example, the transnational corporations of which we spoke above. All users of the Internet are obliged to use it in an informed, disciplined way, for morally good purposes; parents should guide and supervise children's use.33 Schools and other educational institutions and programs for children and adults should provide training in discerning use of the Internet as part of a comprehensive media education including not just training in technical skills—‘computer literacy' and the like—but a capacity for informed, discerning evaluation of content. Those whose decisions and actions contribute to shaping the structure and contents of the Internet have an especially serious duty to practice solidarity in the service of the common good. 16. Prior censorship by government should be avoided; “censorship...should only be used in the very last extremity”.34 But the Internet is no more exempt than other media from reasonable laws against hate speech, libel, fraud, child pornography and pornography in general, and other offenses. Criminal behavior in other contexts is criminal behavior in cyberspace, and the civil authorities have a duty and a right to enforce such laws. New regulations also may be needed to deal with special ‘Internet' crimes like the dissemination of computer viruses, the theft of personal data stored on hard disks, and the like. Regulation of the Internet is desirable, and in principle industry self-regulation is best. “The solution to problems arising from unregulated commercialization and privatization does not lie in state control of media but in more regulation according to criteria of public service and in greater public accountability”.35 Industry codes of ethics can play a useful role, provided they are seriously intended, involve representatives of the public in their formulation and enforcement, and, along with giving encouragement to responsible communicators, carry appropriate penalties for violations, including public censure.36 Circumstances sometimes may require state intervention: for example, by setting up media advisory boards representing the range of opinion in the community.37
17. The Internet's transnational, boundary-bridging character and its role in globalization require international cooperation in setting standards and establishing mechanisms to promote and protect the international common good.38 In regard to media technology, as in regard to much else, “there is a pressing need for equity at the international level”.39 Determined action in the private and public sectors is needed to close and eventually eliminate the digital divide. Many difficult Internet-related questions call for international consensus: for example, how to guarantee the privacy of law-abiding individuals and groups without keeping law enforcement and security officials from exercising surveillance over criminals and terrorists; how to protect copyright and intellectual property rights without limiting access to material in the public domain—and how to define the ‘public domain' itself; how to establish and maintain broad-based Internet repositories of information freely available to all Internet users in a variety of languages; how to protect women's rights in regard to Internet access and other aspects of the new information technology. In particular, the question of how to close the digital divide between the information rich and the information poor requires urgent attention in its technical, educational, and cultural aspects. There is today a “growing sense of international solidarity” that offers the United Nations system in particular “a unique opportunity to contribute to the globalization of solidarity by serving as a meeting place for states and civil society and as a convergence of the varied interests and needs...Cooperation between international agencies and nongovernmental organizations will help to ensure that the interests of states—legitimate though they may be—and of the different groups within them, will not be invoked or defended at the expense of the interests or rights of other peoples, especially the less fortunate”.40 In this connection we hope that the World Summit of the Information Society scheduled to take place in 2003 will make a positive contribution to the discussion of these matters. 18. As we pointed out above, a companion document to this one called The Church and Internet speaks specifically about the Church's use of the Internet and the Internet's role in the life of the Church. Here we wish only to emphasize that the Catholic Church, along with other religious bodies, should have a visible, active presence on the Internet and be a partner in the public dialogue about its development. “The Church does not presume to dictate these decisions and choices, but it does seek to be of help by indicating ethical and moral criteria which are relevant to the process— criteria which are to be found in both human and Christian values”. 41 The Internet can make an enormously valuable contribution to human life. It can foster prosperity and peace, intellectual and aesthetic growth, mutual understanding among peoples and nations on a global scale. It also can help men and women in their age-old search for self-understanding. In every age, including our own, people ask the same fundamental questions: “Who am I? Where have I come from and where am I going? Why is there evil? What is there after this life?” 42 The Church cannot impose answers, but she can—and must—proclaim to the world the answers she has received; and today, as always, she offers the one ultimately satisfying answer to the deepest questions of life— Jesus Christ, who “fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling”.43 Like today's world itself, the world of media, including the Internet, has been brought by Christ, inchoately yet truly, within the boundaries of the kingdom of God and placed in service to the word of salvation. Yet “far from diminishing our concern to develop this earth, the expectancy of a new earth should spur us on, for it is here that the body of a new human family grows, foreshadowing in some way the age which is to come”.44
Vatican City, February 22, 2002, Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle. John P. Foley President Pierfranco Pastore Secretary
(1) Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Pastoral Instruction Aetatis Novae on Social Communications on the twentieth anniversary of Communio et progressio, n. 4. (2) Pontifical Council for Social Communications, The Church and Internet. (3) Cf. Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Ethics in Communications, n. 5. (4) Ibid., n. 21. (5) Vatican Council II, Gaudium et spes, n. 26; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1906. (6) John Paul II, Sollicitudo rei socialis, n. 38. (7) John Paul II, Address to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, n. 2, April 27, 2001. (8) John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America, n. 20. (9) John Paul II, Address to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, n. 3, January 10, 2000. (10) Address to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, n. 2. (11) Ibid., n. 3. (12) Pontifical Commission for Social Communications, Pastoral Instruction on the Means of Social Communication, Communio et progressio, n. 19. (13) Address to the Diplomatic Corps, n. 4. (14) John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte, n. 43. (15) Ethics in Communications, n. 2. (16) Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Pornography and Violence in the Communications Media: A Pastoral Response, n. 20. (17) Ecclesia in America, n. 56. (18) Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace 2001, n. 11. (19) Ibid., n. 16. (20) John Paul II, Message for the 33rd World Communications Day, n. 4, January 24, 1999. (21) John Paul II, Message for the 31st World Day of Communications, 1997. (22) Address to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, n. 5. (23) Ibid., n. 11. (24) Novo millennio ineunte, n. 47. (25) Message for the World Day of Peace 2001, n. 10. (26) John Paul II, Centesimus annus, n. 47. (27) Gaudium et spes, n. 59. (28) Communio et progressio, nn. 25, 26. (29) John Paul II, Address to the Jubilee of Journalists, n. 2, June 4, 2000. (30) Ethics in Communications, n. 29. (31) John Paul II, Veritatis splendor, n. 32. (32) Ethics in Communications, n. 1. (33) Cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, n. 76. (34) Communio et progressio, n. 86. (35) Aetatis Novae, n. 5. (36) Cf. Communio et progressio, n. 79. (37) Ibid., n. 88. (38) Cf. Address to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, n. 2. (39) Ethics in Communications, n. 22. (40) John Paul II, Address to the UN Secretary General and to the Administrative Committee on Coordination of the United Nations, nn. 2, 3, April 7, 2000. (41) Aetatis Novae, n. 12. (42) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Fides et ratio, n. 1. (43) Gaudium et spes, n. 22. (44) Ibid., n. 39.
LITURGICAL-PASTORAL GUIDELINES ON THE FAST AND PRAYER FOR PEACE IN PREPARATION FOR THE ASSISI MEETING OF 24 JANUARY 2002
After the grievous terrorist attacks in the United States of America on 11 September, the Holy Father has on a number of occasions deplored such violence and expressed his concern for the consequences of the military action taking place in Afghanistan. The Church prays and invites everyone to ensure that love will prevail over hatred, peace over war, truth over falsehood, and forgiveness over revenge. More than two months after the attacks of 11 September, the situation remains serious, tension is very high, and people everywhere are still greatly distressed. For this reason, at theAngelus Prayer of 18 November 2001 His Holiness asked that "for Catholics 14 December be a day of fasting, during which they should pray fervently that God will grant the world a stable peace, based upon justice".1 He added that it was his intention "to invite representatives of the religions of the world to come to Assisi on 24 January 2002 in order to pray for an end to hostilities and the advancement of true peace".2 Responding to this pastoral initiative by the Holy Father, this Note seeks to offer some thoughts on Christian fasting (14 December 2001), as well as on aspects of the Prayer Vigil of 23 January and the Pilgrimage of Prayer of 24 January 2002). Some practical suggestions are also given as to how these days might best be benefited from. 1. CHRISTIAN FASTING 1.1 The Essence of Christian Fasting Fasting has an important place in all the great religions. The Old Testament lists fasting among the corner-stones of the spirituality of Israel: "Prayer is good when accompanied by fasting, almsgiving and justice" (Tob 12:8).3 Fasting implies an attitude of faith, humility and complete dependence upon God. Fasting is used to prepare to meet God (cf. Ex 34:28; 1 Kgs 19:8; Dan9:3); to prepare for a difficult task (cf. Jgs 20:26; Es 4:16) or to seek pardon for an offence (cf. 1 Kgs 21:27); to express grief in the wake of domestic or national misfortune (cf. 1 Sam 7:6;2 Sam 1:12; Bar 1:5). Fasting, inseparable from prayer and justice, is directed above all to conversion of heart, without which – as the Prophets declared (cf. Is 58:2-11; Jer 14:12; Zech 7:5-14) – it is meaningless. Before beginning his public mission, Jesus, driven by the Holy Spirit, fasted for forty days as an expression of his trusting abandonment to the Father’s saving plan (cf. Mt 4:1-4). He gave precise instructions to his disciples that their fasting should never be tainted by ostentation and hypocrisy (cf. Mt 6:16-18). Following the biblical tradition, the Fathers held fasting in high esteem. In their view, the practice of fasting made the faithful ready for nourishment of another kind: the food of the Word of God (cf. Mt 4:4) and of fulfilment of the Father’s will (cf. Jn 4:34). Fasting is closely
connected to prayer, it strengthens virtue, inspires mercy, implores divine assistance and leads to conversion of heart. It is in this double sense – imploring the grace of the Almighty and profound inner conversion – that we are called to accept Pope John Paul II’s invitation to fast on 14 December. For without the Lord’s help it will not be possible to find a solution to the tragic situation now facing the world, and it is hard to see how terrorism will be tackled at its roots without a conversion of hearts. The practice of fasting looks to the past, present and future: to the past, as a recognition of offences committed against God and others; to the present, in order that we may learn to open our eyes to others and to the world around us; to the future, in order that we may open our hearts to the realities of God and, by the gift of divine mercy, renew the bond of communion with all people and with the whole of creation, accepting the responsibility which each of us has in history. 1.2 Pastoral Suggestions 1.2.1 It is the task of the Bishop or his equivalent in Canon Law: – to inform all the members of the particular Church over which he presides of the Holy Father’s request to promote a day of fasting, and to explain its meaning, with the help of his various co-workers in the areas of liturgy, ecumenism, charitable works, and justice and peace; – to assess whether it may be appropriate in his particular Church to extend to members of other Christian confessions and the followers of other religions the invitation which the Holy Father, out of respect, addressed only to Catholics. It should be remembered that 14 December coincides with the end of the month of Ramadan, which the followers of Islam devote to fasting; – to ensure that the fast is conducted with the discretion urged on us by Jesus, and that it is directed above all to obtaining the gift of peace and conversion of heart; – to encourage, either on 14 December or a date near to it, a serious examination of conscience on the Christian commitment to the cause of peace. Christians have always firmly believed with the Apostle Paul that "Christ is our peace" (Eph 2:14); but while it is true that peace bears the name of Jesus Christ, it has also been true throughout history that his followers have not always borne witness to our final destiny which is communion around the throne of the Lamb: the divisions among Christians are a scandal and a genuine counter-witness. 1.2.2. The "day of fasting" should be understood not just in terms of the legal norms set down in the Code of Canon Law (CIC 1249-1253; CCEO 882-883), but in a wider sense which freely involves all the faithful: children, who willingly make sacrifices to help other poor children; young people, who are especially sensitive to the cause of justice and peace; all adults, excluding the sick but including the elderly. Local tradition will suggest the best form of fasting to adopt: eating only one meal, or taking only "bread and water", or waiting until sundown before eating. 1.2.3. It will also be the responsibility of the Bishop to determine a simple and effective way of placing whatever is saved through fasting at the disposal of the poor, "especially those who at present are suffering the consequences of terrorism and war".4
2. PILGRIMAGE AND PRAYER 2.1. The meaning of pilgrimage and prayer In the Hebrew Scriptures conversion means above all returning with all one’s heart to the Lord and walking once more in his paths. Consequently, in accordance with tradition and the Holy Father’s proposal, the fast and conversion of 14 December 2001 should be accompanied by pilgrimage and prayer. The Church sees many Christian values in pilgrimage. In the Holy Father’s proposal, and in spiritual preparation for the Assisi meeting, pilgrimage becomes a sign of the demanding journey which each of Christ’s followers is called to undertake in order to attain conversion. It is an opportunity to consider once more in the silence of our hearts the path of history; to recall that we are indeed going towards the Lord "not by our footsteps but by our love, and God will be all the closer to our hearts the purer is the love drawing us towards him [...]. Not by our feet, then, but by the goodness of our lives can we go towards him, who is everywhere present";5 and to realize anew that every man and woman, made in God’s image, is walking with us towards a single destiny: the Kingdom.
Prayer is the central moment in which to listen to God and fill the "void" created in us by the purification of fasting and the silence of pilgrimage. The heart of each one of us in fact must be the starting-point for the building of peace: it is through the heart that God acts and judges, heals and saves. We must not forget: there can be no possibility of peace without prayer, in which we learn that "peace goes far beyond human efforts, especially in the present plight of the world, and therefore its source and realization is to be sought in that Reality which is beyond all of us".6 2.2 Pastoral Guidelines 2.2.1. For the pilgrimage, it is the responsibility of the Pastor of each particular Church: - to highlight, with the help of Diocesan agencies, the value and significance of making a pilgrimage, as part of the immediate preparation for the multi-religious meeting in Assisi on 24 January 2002, to be presided over by the Holy Father. - to indicate places to which the faithful may go on pilgrimage between 14 December 2001 and 24 January 2002, in order to implore from the Lord the gift of peace and the conversion of hearts; - to organize, wherever possible and appropriate, a pilgrimage at the diocesan level, led by the Bishop himself. 2.2.2. For the Vigil on 23 January, the Bishop should: - inform the Diocese about the meaning of the Vigil itself, as an immediate spiritual preparation for the Assisi meeting; - organize at the diocesan level a Vigil at which he himself will preside, and issue invitations to the members of other Christian confessions. Likewise, if appropriate in the circumstances, he should invite the followers of other religions, while avoiding any risk of religious indifferentism;
- ensure that the Vigil, to be celebrated as far as possible in the evening, follows in substance the theme proposed for the Octave of Christian Unity ("In You is the Source of Life"). The Vigil should consist of a Celebration of the Word, at which biblical and Church readings, psalms and prayers, moments of silence and of song follow one another in a characteristically liturgical format; - arrange for a similar Vigil to be held, if possible, in every parish and Religious community in the Diocese; - encourage the faithful to follow the Assisi meeting through the communications media, in prayerful union with the Holy Father. 3. ADVENT–CHRISTMAS: A TIME OF PEACE The period indicated by the Holy Father – 14 December 2001-24 January 2002 – coincides mostly with the Advent and Christmas season, a time in which Christ is repeatedly hailed as "the Prince of Peace" and "the King of Justice and Peace". Without interfering with the unfolding of the liturgical cycle, it will be easy to follow the Holy Father’s wishes and stress the theme of peace, universal peace, peace as the fruit of justice. In Christian churches throughout the world, in the stillness of Christmas night, the song of the Angels resounds: "Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth" (cf. Lk 2:14). Not without reason did Pope Paul VI decide that 1 January, the Octave of Christmas, should be celebrated as the World Day of Peace: a decision which, in view of the dramatic circumstances of the present hour and the timeliness of the Holy Father’s message – "No Peace without Justice, No Justice without Forgiveness"– should be respected with special emphasis on 1 January 2002. 1 January is also the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, the Mother of him who "is our peace" (Eph 2:14). Christians rightly invoke her as the "Queen of Peace", and it is to her that the Holy Father has entrusted "these initiatives [...] asking her to sustain our efforts and those of all of humanity in the search for peace".7 _____________________________ 1
Cf. L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, 21 November 2001, p. 1. Ibid. 3 For many centuries, the Roman Liturgy on Ash Wednesday at the start of Lent took as the Gospel reading Mk 6:1-6, 16-18, which presents Jesus’ teaching on almsgiving (mercy), prayer and fasting, which are in fact inseparable. "These three things, prayer, fasting and mercy, are a single thing, each drawing life from the others. Fasting is the soul of prayer and mercy the life of fasting. Let no one divide them, because alone they do not survive" (Saint Peter Chrysologus, Discourse 43: PL 52, 320). 4 John Paul II, Angelus Address, in L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, 21 November 2001, p. 1. "Let us give as alms whatever we save by fasting and abstaining from our usual fare" (Saint Augustine, Homily 209, 2: NBA XXX/1, p. 162). 5 Saint Augustine, Letter 155, 4, 13: NBA XXII, p. 574. 6 John Paul II, Concluding Address for the World Day of Prayer for Peace (27 October 1986), in Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, IX/2, p. 1267. [English OR translation]. 7 John Paul II, Angelus Address, in L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, 21 November 2001, p. 1. 2
[02013-02.01] [Original text: Italian]
Holy Father’s Prayer to Our Lady of Peace
In the Conclusion of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation ECCLESIA IN OCEANIA, given in Rome at Saint Peter's, on November 22, 2001, His Holiness Pope John Paul II invites the faithful to join him in turning to the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus and Mother of the Church: “In times of difficulty and pain, Mary has been an unfailing refuge for those seeking peace and healing. In churches, chapels and homes, the image of Mary reminds people of her loving presence and her maternal protection. In parts of the Pacific region, she is especially venerated under the title of Help of Christians; and the Bishops have proclaimed her as Patroness of Oceania under the title of Our Lady of Peace. In Jesus Christ, whom she nurtured in her womb, there is born a new world where justice and mercy meet, a world of freedom and peace. Through Christ's Cross and Resurrection, God has reconciled the world to himself, and he has made the Lord Jesus the Prince of Peace for every time and place. May Mary, Regina Pacis, help the peoples of Oceania to know this peace, and to share it with others! At the dawn of the Third Christian Millennium, may true justice and harmony be God's gift to Oceania and to all the nations of the world!”
Prayer to Our Lady of Peace O Mary, Help of Christians, in our need we turn to you with eyes of love, with empty hands and longing hearts. We look to you that we may see your Son, our Lord. We lift our hands that we may have the Bread of Life. We open wide our hearts to receive the Prince of Peace. Mother of the Church, your sons and daughters thank you for your trusting word that echoes through the ages, rising from an empty soul made full of grace, prepared by God to welcome the Word to the world that the world itself might be reborn. In you, the reign of God has dawned, a reign of grace and peace, love and justice, born from the depths of the Word made flesh. The Church throughout the world joins you in praising him whose mercy is from age to age.
O Stella Maris, light of every ocean and mistress of the deep, guide the peoples of Oceania across all dark and stormy seas,
that they may reach the haven of peace and light prepared in him who calmed the sea. Keep all your children safe from harm for the waves are high and we are far from home. As we set forth upon the oceans of the world, and cross the deserts of our time, show us, O Mary, the fruit of your womb, for without your Son we are lost. Pray that we will never fail on life's journey, that in heart and mind, in word and deed, in days of turmoil and in days of calm, we will always look to Christ and say, "Who is this that even wind and sea obey him?" Our Lady of Peace, in whom all storms grow still, pray at the dawn of the new millennium that the Church in Oceania will not cease to show forth the glorious face of your Son, full of grace and truth, so that God will reign in the hearts of the Pacific peoples and they will find peace in the world's true Saviour. 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. O Help of Christians, protect us! Bright Star of the Sea, guide us! Our Lady of Peace, pray for us!
Given in Rome at Saint Peter's, 22 November 2001, the twenty-fourth of my Pontificate. JOANNES PAULUS PP. II
Documents concerning Medjugorje issued from the Vatican