Feb 15, 2001

Pope John Paul II issues Apostolic letter for the Third Millennium

Online Edition

Vol. VI, No. 10 –
February 2001

Pope John Paul II issues Apostolic letter for the Third Millennium

By Matthew Grantham

"Setting out anew from Christ. That is the program you must follow in this initial stage of the new millennium", Pope John Paul II told seminarians at Rome’s diocesan seminary in an address on January 15. "In this endeavor we are sustained by the example and intercession of countless saints and martyrs who, through 20 centuries of history, have remained faithful to Christ", he said.

Following the final Mass of the Jubilee year — the Mass of the Ephiany, the Holy Father signed an Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte ("At the Beginning of the New Millennium"), which calls for a "pastoral plan" for the new millennium, and expresses the Holy Father’s hope for the future in Catholic youth.

In the first chapter of his letter, "Meeting Christ, the Legacy of the Great Jubilee", the Holy Father reflects on the most significant events of the Jubilee year. Young people receive special mention in this part of the letter, in part because their Jubilee left a profound impression on the Holy Father and stressed the need for a committed pastoral outreach to them. (The pope has repeatedly emphasized the importance of Catholic youth in proclaiming the Gospel and reinvigorating the Church.)

A chapter, "A Face to Contemplate" calls us to meditate on the face of Christ; and the final two chapters focus on the pastoral challenges the Church faces at the dawn of the third millennium and on how the Church can meet these challenges. In the third chapter of his letter, "Starting Afresh from Christ", the pope calls again for a "New Evangelization" rooted especially in liturgical prayer, the "source and summit" of the Church’s life.

"Witness to Love", the final chapter, discusses themes of the Jubilee year, such as Christian unity, interreligious dialogue, pro-life issues, and the environment. The Holy Father reminded the faithful that even if the Church’s views are not popular, they "nevertheless, must be part of her mission of charity".

"I am speaking of the duty to be committed to respect for life of every human being, from conception until natural death", he writes. "Likewise, the service of humanity leads us to insist … that those using the latest advances of science must never disregard fundamental ethical requirements", for this can lead to "ignoring the dignity that belongs to every human being". He cautioned against the "temptation to turn Christian communities into mere social agencies". One is not free, therefore, to use the Catholic Church to promote the cause of social justice if he denies or intentionally neglects other Church teachings. Nevertheless, as the members of the Church "in the world", laity have a special role to play in bringing the light of Christ to the world.

Compiled from various news sources.

(Access the complete text of Novo Millennio Ineunte here.)

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Matthew Grantham