Yesterday, during the second day of his third Apostolic visit to Switzerland, Pope John Paul II gathered with some 70,000 enthusiastic Catholics -many of them Spanish, Italian and Latin American immigrants- at the Allmend Square in Bern, in what turned out to be an unusually enthusiastic celebration of Catholicism.
In his homily, the Holy Father said that the "celebration of the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity constitutes for Christians every year an energetic call to our commitment to unity. It is a call that concerns us all, pastors and faithful, and it drives us to a renewed awareness of our own responsibility in the Church, Christ's bride.”
“How,” he asked, “can we not talk about our concern for ecumenism in light of these words of Christ? I reaffirm also on this occasion the will to go forward on the path, full of joy, to the full communion of believers."
"It is certain, however," he continued, "that a great contribution to the ecumenical cause comes from the commitment of Catholics to live unity amongst themselves.”
“A local Church in which the spirituality of communion flourishes will know how to completely purify itself of all the 'toxins' of selfishness which create jealousy, distrust, desires for auto-affirmation, and deleterious conflicts," affirmed the Pope.
The Pope indicated that taking the risk to overcome these toxins and ardently pursue a true unity “requires spontaneous prayer to the Holy Spirit whom Jesus has promised to send us.
He said that “'When the Spirit of truth comes, it will guide you into all the truth.' What is the truth? Jesus said one day: 'I am the way, the truth and the life.' Therefore, the proper way to phrase the question is not 'what is the truth,' but rather 'who is the truth?'”
“This is the question that men of the third millennium ask themselves,” said the Pope. “We cannot suppress the response because we know what it is! The truth is Jesus Christ, ... and we are called to bear witness to this truth with the words and especially with our life."
After emphasizing that the Church "is mission," John Paul II said that the moment had arrived "to prepare young generations of apostles who are not afraid to proclaim the Gospel. All baptized persons must move on from a faith of convenience to a mature faith which is expressed in clear personal choices that are decisive and courageous.”
“Only this kind of faith,” he continued, “celebrated and shared in the liturgy and in fraternal charity can nourish and strengthen the community of disciples of the Lord and build up a missionary Church free of false fears because it is sure of the Father's love."
The Holy Father said that "we do not deserve God's love, but it is a gratuitous gift. Despite our sins, God has called us and has redeemed us, through Christ's blood. His grace has profoundly cured us. ... How great is the Lord's love for me, for others and for every human being!" he exclaimed.
God’s love for him is "the true source of man's greatness, the root of his indestructible dignity. The image of God is reflected in all human beings. Here is the deepest 'truth' of man which must not be denied or violated in any case. Any outrage perpetrated against man is an outrage against His creator who loves him with the love of a father."
"Switzerland," he concluded, "has a great tradition of respect for man. It is a tradition which is behind the sign of the Cross: the Red Cross! Christians of this noble country, always be equal to your glorious past! Know how to recognize and to honor God's image in every human being! In man, created by God, the glory of the Most Holy Trinity is reflected."Consecrating Switzerland to Mary
Upon concluding the Mass and before praying the Angelus, the Pope entrusted the Swiss people to Our Lady.
"May Mary watch over families, preserving their conjugal love and sustaining their mission as parents! May she comfort the elderly and help them to make a precious contribution to society! May she nourish in young people a sense of values and a commitment to live them!” prayed the Holy Father.
“May she obtain for the national community the constant and harmonious will to build together a peaceful and prosperous country, with great attention and profound solidarity with those in difficulty."
He continued: "I wanted to entrust the youth of Switzerland, for whom the Pope feels affection and gratitude, in a special way to Mary.”
“For five centuries,” he said, “the young people of this country have assured the Successor of Peter and the Holy See the precious and esteemed service of the Pontifical Swiss Guard. Everyone can admire the spirit of faith and love for the Church of many Swiss Catholics in the generous fidelity of the Swiss Guards."
John Paul II concluded by asking Our Lady to help Switzerland "to maintain harmony and unity among the different liturgical and ethnic groups that compose it, valuing the contribution of each one."