sends us to proclaim the Gospel
On Saturday evening, 10 June, the Holy Father
celebrated Mass in St Peter's Square for the Vigil of Pentecost and
the Jubilee Day of "reflection and prayer on the duties of
Catholics towards others: proclamation of Christ, witness and
In his homily the Pope said that the Holy
Spirit gave the Apostles "the necessary light and strength to
teach the nations and to proclaim Christ's Gospel to them all. In
this way the Church was born and lives in the fruitful tension
between the Upper Room and the world, between prayer and
At the same time, awareness of the "seeds
of the Word" found in other cultures "cannot fail to
instill in Christ's disciples an attitude of openness and dialogue
towards those with different religious convictions".
Here is a translation of the Holy Father's
homily, which was given in Italian.
1. "When the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the
Father, even the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he
will bear witness to me" (Jn 15: 26). These are the words that
the Evangelist John received from Christ's lips in the Upper Room,
during the Last Supper on the eve of his Passion. Today they resound
with remarkable intensity for us on Pentecost of this Jubilee Year,
whose deepest meaning they reveal.
To understand this essential message, one must remain in the
Upper Room, as the disciples did. This is why the Church, through a
fitting selection of liturgical texts, has remained in the Upper
Room throughout the Easter season. This evening St Peter's Square is
transformed into a vast Upper Room in which our community has
gathered to pray for and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, reminded us of
what happened in Jerusalem 50 days after Easter. Before ascending
into heaven Christ had entrusted a great task to the Apostles:
"Go ... and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ...
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Mt 28:
19-20). He had also promised that after his departure they would
receive "another Counselor", who would teach them all
things (cf. Jn 14: 16, 26).
The Church knows she must proclaim the Gospel to all
This promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost: the Spirit,
descending upon the Apostles, gave them the necessary light and
strength to teach the nations and to proclaim Christ's Gospel to
them all. In this way the Church was born and lives in the fruitful
tension between the Upper Room and the world, between prayer and
2. When he promised the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus had spoken of
him as the "Counselor" and "Paraclete" whom he
would send from the Father (cf. Jn 15: 26). He had spoken of him as
the "Spirit of truth" who would guide the Church into all
the truth (16: 13). He had explained that the Holy Spirit would bear
witness to him (cf. Jn 15: 26), but had immediately added: "And
you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the
beginning" (Jn 15: 27). Now that the Spirit descends on the
community gathered in the Upper Room on Pentecost, this twofold
witness begins: that of the Holy Spirit and that of the Apostles.
The witness of the Spirit is divine in itself: it comes from the
depth of the Trinitarian mystery. The Apostles' witness is human: It
transmits, in the light of revelation, their experience of life with
Jesus. In laying the foundations of the Church, Christ attaches
great importance to the human witness of the Apostles. He wants the
Church to live by the historical truth of his Incarnation, so that
through the work of witnesses the memory of his Death on the cross
and of his Resurrection may always be alive and in her.
Dialogue opens the way to more effective proclamation
3. "And you also are witnesses" (Jn 15: 27). Enlivened
by the gift of the Spirit, the Church has always been keenly aware
of this duty and has faithfully proclaimed the Gospel message in
every time and place. She has done so with respect for the dignity
of peoples, of their culture, of their traditions. Indeed, she knows
quite well that the divine message entrusted to her is not hostile
to the deepest human aspirations; indeed, it was revealed by God to
satisfy, beyond every expectation, the hunger and thirst of the
human heart. For this very reason the Gospel must not be imposed but
proposed, because it can only be effective if it is freely accepted
and lovingly embraced.
As happened in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost, in every age
Christ's witnesses, filled with the Holy Spirit, have felt impelled
to reach out to others in order to express in various languages the
marvels God has accomplished. This continues to happen in our time
as well, and is the emphasis of this Jubilee Day dedicated to
"reflection on the duties of Catholics towards others:
proclamation of Christ, witness and dialogue".
The reflection we are invited to make cannot fail to dwell above
all on the work which the Holy Spirit carries out in individuals and
in communities. It is the Holy Spirit who scatters the "seeds
of the Word" in the various customs and cultures, preparing the
peoples of the most varied regions to accept the Gospel message.
This awareness cannot fail to instill in Christ's disciples an
attitude of openness and dialogue towards those with different
religious convictions. Indeed, it is only right to listen to what
the Spirit can also suggest to "others". They can offer
useful hints for reaching a deeper understanding of what the
Christian already possesses in the "revealed deposit".
Dialogue can thus open the way to a proclamation which is better
suited to the personal conditions of the listener.
4. However, if the proclamation is to be effective, a lived
witness remains crucial. Only the believer who lives what he
professes with his lips has any hope of being heard. One must bear
in mind that circumstances at times do not permit an explicit
proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour of all. It is then
that the witness of a life that is respectful, chaste, detached from
riches and free from the powers of this world, in a word, the
witness of holiness, can reveal all its convincing power, even if
offered in silence.
It is also clear that our firmness in being witnesses of Christ
by the power of the Holy Spirit does not prevent us from
collaborating in the service of man with those who belong to other
religions. On the contrary, it prompts us to work together with them
for the good of society and peace in the world.
At the dawn of the third millennium, Christ's disciples are fully
aware that this world appears as "a map of various
religions" (Redemptor hominis, n. 11). If the Church's children
known how to remain open to the Holy Spirit's action, he will help
them communicate Christ's one, universal saving message in a way
that respects the religious convictions of others.
5. "He will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses,
because you have been with me from the beginning" (Jn 15:
26-27). The whole logic of Revelation and the faith by which the
Church lives is contained in these words: the witness of the Holy
Spirit, which flows from the depth of the Trinitarian mystery of
God, and the human witness of the Apostles, linked to their
historical experience of Christ. Both are necessary. To be more
precise, it is a single witness: it is the Spirit who continues to
speak to our contemporaries in the language and life of those who
are Christ's disciples today.
We thank God for the witness of martyrs and confessors
On the day when we celebrate the memorial of the Church's birth,
we want to express heartfelt gratitude to God for this twofold, and
ultimately one, witness, which has involved the great family of the
Church since the day of Pentecost. We want to give thanks for the
witness of the first community of Jerusalem which, through the
generations of martyrs and confessors, has become the inheritance of
countless men and women down the ages around the world.
Encouraged by the memory of the first Pentecost, the Church today
eagerly awaits a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Devoted with
one accord to prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, she never
ceases to cry out: "Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew
the face of the earth" (cf. Ps 103: 30).
Veni, Sancte Spiritus: Come, Holy Spirit, kindle in the hearts of
your faithful the fire of your love! Sancte Spiritus, veni!