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Pope John Paul II's Pilgrimage To Ukraine (3)

... transcripts from





Tuesday 26 June 2001
Lviv (Racecourse)

1. "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5).

The Gospel passage just proclaimed tells of Mary’s first intervention in the public life of Jesus and brings to light her cooperation in the mission of her Son. During a wedding feast at Cana attended by Mary and Jesus and his disciples, the wine runs out. Showing faith in her Son and coming to the help of the embarrassed bride and groom, Mary encourages the Saviour to respond to their need and so he performs his first miracle.

"Woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come" (Jn 2:4), says Jesus in reply. But Mary is not put off by these words, and turning to the servants she says: "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5). She shows fresh confidence in her Son and sees her plea rewarded by the miracle.

The Gospel episode invites us today to contemplate Mary as "Help of Christians" in our every need. It would be instructive to retrace the history of a people that has been faithful in order to recognize the signs of the maternal protection of Mary, who is always concerned for the well-being of her children. We would be able to gather so many testimonies of Mary’s interventions on behalf of individuals and communities. But the most beautiful testimonies we find in the lives of your saints.

Let our gaze rest upon two sons of this land whose devotion to the Blessed Virgin inspired them to follow a path of perfection, as today we are solemnly recognizing. They are Archbishop Józef Bilczewski and Father Zygmunt Gorazdowski, both of whom had nurtured a deep love for the Mother of the Lord. Their lives and their pastoral service were an unceasing response to her summons: "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5). Heroically obedient to the Lord’s teaching, they travelled the narrow path of holiness. Both lived here in Lviv, at almost the same time. Today their names are inscribed together in the book of the Blessed.

2. In remembering them, I am happy to greet all of you here present. I greet especially Cardinal Marian Jaworski and Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, the Bishops of the Ukrainian Episcopal Conference and those of the Synod of Bishops of the Greek Catholic Ukrainian Church. I greet as well the priests, the men and women religious, the seminarians and all of you who are actively engaged in different pastoral activities. I send an affectionate greeting to the young people, the families, the sick and the entire community gathered here in spirit to welcome the spiritual message of the newly Beatified.

I am pleased that the Archdiocese of Lviv now has a second Archbishop beatified. The year 1790 saw the beatification of Jakub Strzemi", who was the leader of this Church from 1391-1409, and now another Pastor of the Archdiocese, Józef Bilczewski, is raised to the honours of the altar. Does this not testify to the continuity of the faith of this people and to the blessing of God, who sends them Pastors worthy of their calling? How can we fail to give thanks to God for this gift to the Church in Lviv?

Archbishop Józef Bilczewski invites us to be generous in living the love of God and neighbour. This was his supreme rule of life. From the early years of his priesthood he cultivated a burning passion for revealed Truth, and this led him to make theological research an original way of translating the command to love God into practical behaviour. In his priestly life, as in the various important positions he held at the Jan Casimir University in Lviv and at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, he always gave example of his great love of neighbour as well as his love of God. He was especially concerned for the poor, and developed warm and respectful relations with his colleagues and students, who invariably reciprocated with esteem and affection.

His appointment as Archbishop gave him the chance to widen and expand the range of his charity. In the especially difficult period of the First World War, Blessed Józef Bilczewski was like a living icon of the Good Shepherd, ready to encourage and support his people with inspired words full of kindness. He came to the aid of the needy, for whom he nurtured such a love that even beyond death he wanted to be with them, choosing to be laid to rest in the Janow cemetery in Lviv, where paupers were buried. A good and faithful servant of the Lord, motivated by deep spirituality and unceasing charity, he was loved and esteemed by all his fellow citizens, regardless of their religious convictions, rite or nationality.

Today his testimony shines among us as a source of encouragement and inspiration, so that our apostolic activity too, nourished by deep prayer and tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin, will be wholly dedicated to the glory of God and to the service of Holy Mother Church for the good of souls.

3. For me personally, this beatification is a special cause for rejoicing. The Blessed Archbishop Bilczewski is part of the line of my own apostolic succession. He in fact consecrated Archbishop Boles»aw Twardowski, who in turn ordained Bishop Eugeniusz Baziak, from whose hands I received episcopal ordination. Today, therefore, I too am receiving a new patron. I thank God for this marvellous gift.

There is also another detail which should not be overlooked on this occasion. Blessed Archbishop Bilczewski was consecrated by Cardinal Jan Puzyna, Bishop of Kraków. With him as co-consecrators were Blessed Józef Sebastian Pelczar, Bishop of PrzemyÑl, and the Servant of God Andrzej Szeptycki, the Greek Catholic Archbishop. Was this not an amazing event? At that moment, the Holy Spirit brought together three great Pastors, two of whom have been beatified and the third will be with God’s help. Truly this land deserved to see them together at the solemn ordination of a successor of the Apostles. It deserved to see them united. Their union remains a sign and a call for the faithful of their respective flocks, summoned by their example to build the communion which remains threatened by the memory of past experiences and by the prejudices stirred up by nationalism.

Today, in praising God for the indomitable fidelity to the Gospel of these his Servants, let us feel ourselves gently nudged to recognize the infidelities to the Gospel of not a few Christians of both Polish and Ukrainian origin living in these parts. It is time to leave behind the sorrowful past. The Christians of the two nations must walk together in the name of the one Christ, towards the one Father, guided by the same Holy Spirit, the source and principle of unity. May pardon given and received spread like a healing balm in every heart. May the purification of historical memories lead everyone to work for the triumph of what unites over what divides, in order to build together a future of mutual respect, fraternal cooperation and true solidarity. Today Archbishop Józef Bilczewski and his companions Pelczar and Szeptycki exhort you: be united!

4. During the years of Archbishop Bilczewski’s episcopal ministry, Father Zygmunt Gorazdowski, a true pearl of the Latin clergy of this Archdiocese, lived in Lviv the last part of his life. His extraordinary charity led him to dedicate himself unstintingly to the poor, despite his precarious health. The figure of the young priest who, disregarding the grave risk of infection, moved among the sick people of Wojnilow and personally prepared for burial the bodies of those who had died of cholera, remained in the memory of his contemporaries as a living sign of the merciful love of the Saviour.

He had a burning passion for the Gospel, which led him into schools, into the field of publishing and various catechetical undertakings, especially on behalf of young people. His apostolic activity was bolstered by a commitment to charity which knew no pause. In the memory of the faithful of Lviv, he remains "the father of the poor" and "the priest of the homeless". His creativity and dedication in this area were almost boundless. As secretary of the "Institute of Poor Christians", he was present wherever he heard the anguished cry of the people, to which he strove to respond with many charitable institutions right here in Lviv.

Because of his total fidelity to the poor, chaste and obedient Christ, he was acknowledged when he died as "a true religious, even if he had no special vows", and he remains for everyone a privileged witness to God’s mercy. For you in particular he is a witness, dear Sisters of Saint Joseph, as you seek to follow him faithfully in spreading love for Christ and for our brothers and sisters through your educational and charitable work. From Blessed Zygmunt Gorazdowski, you have learnt to nourish your apostolic activity with an intense life of prayer. It is my hope that you will be able, like him, to combine action and contemplation, strengthening your piety with an ardent devotion to the Passion of Christ, a tender love of Mary Immaculate and a very special veneration for Saint Joseph, whose faith, humility, prudence and courage Father Zygmunt strove to imitate.

5. May the example of Blessed Józef Bilczewski and Blessed Zygmunt Gorazdowski be an encouragement for you, dear priests, consecrated men and women, seminarians, catechists and theological students. You are especially in my mind at this time, and I invite you to learn the spiritual and apostolic lesson of these two Blessed Pastors of the Church. Imitate them! In various ways you offer a special service to the Gospel, and like them you must do everything possible so that, by means of your witness, people of every age, background, education and social status will experience the love of God in the depth of their hearts. This is your mission.

Let your prime commitment be to love everyone and to be available to everyone, never flagging in your faithfulness to Christ and the Church. This is certainly a path strewn with difficulties and misunderstandings, which can sometimes lead even to persecution.

The oldest among you are well aware of this. In your midst there are many who, in the second half of the last century, suffered greatly for their attachment to Christ and the Church. I wish to pay homage to all of you, dear priests and consecrated men and women who remained faithful to this People of God. And to you, who now stand with these generous servants of the Gospel seeking to carry on their mission, I say: do not be afraid! Christ does not promise an easy life, but always gives the assurance of his help.

6. Duc in altum! Cast your nets into the deep, Church of Lviv of the Latins! The Lord is with you! Do not be afraid when you face the difficulties which even today threaten your journey. With Christ you will be victorious. Bravely choose holiness: therein lies the sure foundation of true peace and lasting progress.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I entrust you to the protection of Mary, the loving Mother of God, who for centuries you have venerated in the image which it will be my joy to crown today. I am happy to be able to bow before this image which recalls the vows of King Jan Casimir. May the "Gracious Star of Lviv" be your support and bring you the fullness of grace.

Church of Lviv of the Latins, may all the saints who have enriched your history intercede for you. May Blessed Archbishop Jakub Strzemi" and Blessed Józef Bilczewski, with Father Zygmunt Gorazdowski, protect you in a special way. Go forward trusting in the name of Christ, the Redeemer of man! Amen.




Lviv (Sykhiv Square)
Tuesday, 26 June 2001

1. "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6:68).

Dear young people of Ukraine, the Apostle Peter spoke these words to Jesus, who had presented himself to the crowds as the bread come down from heaven to give life to men (cf. Jn 6:58). Today I have the joy of repeating these words in your presence, indeed of repeating them in your name and together with you.

Today Christ asks you the same question that he asked the Apostles: "Will you also go away?". And you, young people of Ukraine, how do you reply? I am sure that with me you too will make your own the words of Peter: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life".

Seeing so many of you, and so enthusiastic, my thoughts go back to the World Youth Day which took place in Rome in August last year and at which many of you were present. There I invited the young people of the whole world to open a great "school of faith", a place in which to search for and examine more deeply the reasons for following Christ the Saviour . Today we are experiencing a significant moment of the "school of faith" here in your land, where the proclamation of the Gospel arrived more than a thousand years ago.

Once again, at the beginning of the third millennium, Christ asks you: "Who do you say that I am?" (Mt 16:15). Dear young people, the Pope has come among you to encourage you to answer: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:16); "You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6:68).

2. Yes, dear young people, Christ has the "words of eternal life". His words last for ever and above all they open for us the gates of eternal life. When God speaks, his words give life, they call things into existence, they direct our journey, they restore disappointed and broken hearts and pour fresh hope into them.

Reading the Bible, we discover right from the first page that God speaks to us. He speaks to us as he gives life to creation: the heavens, the earth, light, water, living things, man and woman, everything exists by his word. His word gives meaning to all things, rescuing them from chaos. For this reason nature is an immense book in which we can see with ever fresh wonder the traces of divine Beauty.

Even more than in creation, God speaks in the story of humanity. He reveals his presence in world events, by beginning time after time a dialogue with men and women created in his image, in order to establish with each one of them a communion of life and love. History becomes a journey in which the Creator and the individual come to know each other, a dialogue of which the ultimate purpose is to lead us our of the slavery of sin to the freedom of love.

3. Dear young people, when lived in this way, history becomes a path to freedom. Do you wish to travel this path? Do you too wish to be part of this adventure? The future of Ukraine and of the Church in this country depends also on your reply. You are not alone on this journey. You are part of a great people of believers who look back to an ancient Patriarch, Abraham. He listened to the call of the Lord and set out, becoming our "father in faith", because he believed and trusted the Lord who promised him land and descendants.

From Abraham’s faith came the chosen people, who under the guidance of Moses undertook the exodus from slavery in Egypt to the freedom of the Promised Land. At the centre of the exodus is the Sinai covenant, based on the ten words of God: the "Decalogue", the "Ten Commandments". These are "words of eternal life", because they are always valid, and because they give life to those who observe them.

4. Dear friends! One day a young man, who was very rich, asked Jesus: "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?" (Mt 19:16). And Jesus replied: "If you would enter life, keep the commandments" (Mt 19:17). Christ did not come to abolish the first covenant but to bring it to fulfilment. The Ten Commandments have permanent value, because they are the fundamental law of humanity, written in the conscience of every person. They are the first step to freedom and eternal life, because by observing them man places himself in the right relationship with God and neighbour. They "make explicit the response of love that man is called to give to his God" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2083). This law is written naturally in the heart of every human person and is to be faithfully accepted and carried out. It should become the rule of our daily life.

In today’s world we see profound and rapid social changes and many moral points of reference have become shaky, throwing people into confusion and sometimes despair. The Decalogue is like a compass in a stormy sea which enables us to keep on course and reach land. This is why today I wish to present the commandments of the Decalogue to you anew, young people of Ukraine, in a symbolic way, so that they will be your "compass", the solid point of reference for building your present and your future.

5. "You shall love the Lord your God." We must give God the first place in our lives. For this reason the first three commandments are concerned with our relationship with him. He rightly deserves to be loved with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our strength (cf. Dt 6:5). God is one, and he is not to be exchanged for false gods. To you too, dear young people, he says: "I am the Lord your God, I wish to lead you into the fullness of life: do not put something else in my place".

The pressure is strong today to replace the true God with false gods and deceptive aims. Material things are today’s idols. If they are sought and used as means and instruments of good, they are a help to us. However, they should never occupy the first place in man’s heart, even less in the heart of young people, who are called to fly high, towards the most beautiful and most noble ideals!

The name of God is Father, Love, Faithfulness, Mercy. How can we fail to desire that everyone should know and love him? His day – the Sabbath, which for us Christians became Sunday, the day of the Lord’s Resurrection – is an anticipation of the Promised Land. How can we fail not to make it holy by taking part in the Eucharist, the festive meeting of the Christian community?

6. "Love your neighbour." The other seven commandments refer to our relations with our neighbours. They show us the path which enables us to establish relationships with other human beings marked by respect and love, based on truth and justice.

Those who put this divine law into practice often find themselves going against the current. Young people of Ukraine, Christ asks you to go against the current! He asks you to be defenders of his law and to put it into practice in proper behaviour in daily life. This ancient and ever valid law finds its perfect fulfilment in the Gospel. It is love that animates our lives, and it is to true, free and profound love that faithful observance of the ten commandments leads. With this divine law solidly rooted in your hearts, do not be afraid: you will fulfil yourselves and contribute to the building of a world marked by greater solidarity and justice.

7. Dear young people, your country is going through a difficult and complex transition from the totalitarian regime which oppressed it for so many years to a society at last free and democratic. Freedom however needs strong, responsible and mature consciences. Freedom is demanding, and in a sense is more costly than slavery!

For this reason, as I embrace you like a father, I say to you: choose the narrow path that the Lord is showing you through his commandments. They are words of truth and life. The path that often seems wide and easy later shows itself to be deceptive and false. Do not go from the slavery of the Communist regime to the slavery of consumerism, another form of materialism which, without explicitly rejecting God, actually does deny him by excluding him from life.

Without God you will not be able to do anything good. With his help, however, you will be able to face all the challenges of the present moment. You will succeed in making demanding choices, against the current, as for example the decision to stay confidently in your own country, without giving in to the illusions of an easy life abroad. You are needed here, young people, ready to make your contribution to improving the social, cultural, economic and political situation of your own country. Here the talents in which you are rich are needed for the future of your land, which has such a glorious history behind it.

The future of Ukraine depends in large part on you and the responsibilities that you will undertake. God will not fail to bless your efforts, if you commit your lives to generous service to family and society, placing the common good before private interests. Ukraine needs men and women dedicated to serving society, having as their aim the promotion of the rights and well-being of all, especially the weakest and most deprived. This is the logic of the Gospel, but it is also the logic that makes the civil community grow. True civilization, in fact, is measured not by economic progress alone but also and mainly by the human, moral and spiritual progress of a people.

8. Dear young people! I thank God who has given me the joy of meeting you! Before leaving you, I wish to add a final word: love the Church! She is your family and the spiritual building of which you are called to be the living stones. She has a particularly fascinating appearance here on account of the different traditions which enrich her. In a spirit of brotherhood, go on your way and grow in unity as you are today, so that the different traditions will not be a reason for division but rather an encouragement towards mutual knowledge and esteem.

May the Virgin Mary, who is so greatly venerated here in the land of Ukraine, accompany you on this journey. Love her and listen to her. She will teach you to make a sincere and generous gift of yourselves to God and to others. She will inspire you to seek in Christ the fullness of life and joy. In this way you will be in the Church the new generation of saints of your land, faithful to God and man, apostles of the Gospel, above all among your own contemporaries.

Let your spiritual food be the Eucharistic Bread, Christ himself! Strengthened by him in the Eucharist, you will remain always in his love and you will bear much fruit. And if the path will sometimes be steep, if the path of faithfulness to the Gospel will appear too demanding, because it will certainly require sacrifice and courageous decisions, remember our meeting. In this way you will be able to relive the enthusiasm of the profession of faith that we have made together today: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." Repeat it and do not fear! Christ will be your strength and your joy.

Thank you, dear friends! The Pope loves you and sees you as the sentinels of a new dawn of hope. He praises God for your generosity, while he prays for you with affection and with all his heart he blesses you.


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