Listening to the Spirit

John Paul II

Listening to what the Spirit is saying to the Church and to the Churches is expressed in acceptance of the charisms which he distributes in abundance. Their rediscovery and appreciation has developed a more intense communion between the various vocations of the People of God, such as a renewed, joyful enthusiasm for evangelization.

Today especially, the Holy Spirit is spurring the Church to promote the vocation and mission of the lay faithful. Their participation and co-responsibility in the life of the Christian community and the many forms of their apostolate and service in society give us reason, at the dawn of the third millennium, to await with hope a mature and fruitful "epiphany" of the laity. A similar expectation concerns the role that woman is called to assume. As in civil society, so in the Church the "feminine genius" is becoming more and more apparent, and it must be increasingly promoted in ways appropriate to the vocation of woman according to God’s plan.

Moreover, we cannot forget that one of the gifts the Spirit has generously bestowed in our time is the flourishing of ecclesial movements, which from the beginning of my Pontificate I have continued to point to as a cause of hope for the Church and for society. They "are a sign of the freedom of forms in which the one Church is expressed, and they represent a sound newness, which still waits to be adequately understood in all its positive effectiveness for the kingdom of God at work in the present moment of history."

Our century has also seen the seed of the ecumenical movement blossom and grow. In this movement the Holy Spirit has led the members of the various Ecclesial Communities to seek the ways of dialogue in order to re-establish full unity.

In particular, thanks to the Second Vatican Council, the search for unity and ecumenical concern have unquestionably become a necessary dimension of the whole life of the Church, and a priority commitment to which the Catholic Church wants to contribute in every possible way. The dialogue of truth, preceded and accompanied by the dialogue of charity, is gradually achieving remarkable results. There is also a stronger awareness that the real soul of the movement to restore Christian unity is spiritual ecumenism, that is, conversion of heart, prayer and holiness of life.

Lastly, among the many other signs of hope, I would like to mention the increased interest in dialogue with other religions and with contemporary culture. As to the former, one need only recall the prophetic significance that the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration Nostra aetate on the Church’s relations with non-Christian religions has gradually assumed. Many experiences of meeting and dialogue at various levels have taken place and are taking place in every part of the world between representatives of the different religions. I am pleased to mention in particular the great progress that has been made in the dialogue with the Jews, our "elder brothers."

An important sign of hope for humanity is that the religions are trustingly engaged in dialogue and feel the urgent need to join forces to encourage progress and to contribute to the moral commitment of nations. Faith in the constant action of the Spirit gives us hope that also by this path of mutual concern and esteem it will be possible for everyone to be open to Christ, the true Light that "enlightens every man" (Jn 1: 9).

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