Tertio Millennio Adveniente
Toward the Third Millennium
Page 8

21. Part of the preparation for the approach of the Year 2000 is the series of Synods begun after the Second Vatican Council: general Synods together with continental, regional, national and diocesan Synods. The theme underlying them all is evangelization, or rather the new evangelization, the foundations of which were laid down in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi of Pope Paul VI, issued in 1975 following the Third General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. These Synods themselves are part of the new evangelization: they were born of the Second Vatican Council's vision of the Church. They open up broad areas for the participation of the laity, whose specific responsibilities in the Church they define. They are an expression of the strength which Christ has given to the entire People of God, making it a sharer in his own Messianic mission as Prophet, Priest and King. Very eloquent in this regard are the statements of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium. The preparation for the Jubilee Year 2000 is thus taking place throughout the whole Church, on the universal and local levels, giving her a new awareness of the salvific mission she has received from Christ. This awareness is particularly evident in the Post-Synodal Exhortations devoted to the mission of the laity, the formation of priests, catechesis, the family, the value of penance and reconciliation in the life of the Church and of humanity in general, as well as in the forth coming one to be devoted to the consecrated life.

22. Special tasks and responsibilities with regard to the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 belong to the ministry of the Bishop of Rome. In a certain sense, all the Popes of the past century have prepared for this Jubilee. With his programme to renew all things in Christ, Saint Pius X tried to forestall the tragic developments which arose from the international situation at the beginning of this century. The Church was aware of her duty to act decisively to promote and defend the basic values of peace and justice in the face of contrary tendencies in our time. The Popes of the period before the Council acted with firm commitment, each in his own way: Benedict XV found himself faced with the tragedy of the First World War; Pius XI had to contend with the threats of totalitarian systems or systems which did not respect human freedom in Germany, in Russia, in Italy, in Spain, and even earlier still in Mexico. Pius XII took steps to counter the very grave injustice brought about by a total contempt for human dignity at the time of the Second World War. He also provided enlightened guidelines for the birth of a new world order after the fall of the previous political systems.

Furthermore, in the course of this century the Popes, following in the footsteps of Leo XIII, systematically developed the themes of Catholic social doctrine, expounding the characteristics of a just system in the area of relations between labour and capital. We may recall the Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno of Pius XI, the numerous interventions of Pius XII, the Encyclicals Mater et Magistra and Pacem in Terris of John XXIII, the Encyclical Populorum Progressio and the Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens of Paul VI. I too have frequently dealt with this subject: I specifically devoted the Encyclical Laborem Exercens to the importance of human labour, while in Centesimus Annus I wished to reaffirm the relevance, one hundred years later, of the doctrine presented in Rerum Novarum. In my Encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis I had earlier offered a systematic reformulation of the Church's entire social doctrine against the background of the East-West confrontation and the danger of nuclear war. The two elements of the Church's social doctrine—the safeguarding of human dignity and rights in the sphere of a just relation between labour and capital and the promotion of peace—were closely joined in this text. The Papal Messages of 1 January each year, begun in 1968 in the pontificate of Paul VI, are also meant to serve the cause of peace.

23. Since the publication of the very first document of my Pontificate, I have spoken explicitly of the Great Jubilee, suggesting that the time leading up to it be lived as "a new Advent".(9) This theme has since reappeared many times, and was dwelt upon at length in the Encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem.(10) In fact, preparing for the Year 2000 has become as it were a hermeneutical key of my Pontificate. It is certainly not a matter of indulging in a new millenarianism, as occurred in some quarters at the end of the first millennium; rather, it is aimed at an increased sensitivity to all that the Spirit is saying to the Church and to the Churches (cf. Rev 2:7 ff.), as well as to individuals through charisms meant to serve the whole community. The purpose is to emphasize what the Spirit is suggesting to the different communities, from the smallest ones, such as the family, to the largest ones, such as nations and international organizations, taking into account cultures, societies and sound traditions. Despite appearances, humanity continues to await the revelation of the children of God, and lives by this hope, like a mother in labour, to use the image employed so powerfully by Saint Paul in his Letter to the Romans (cf. 8:19-22).


1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 17 - 18 - 19