Monday, April 07, 2008

Pioneer Pilgrim, Pope of Peace

Speaking of the Boss, as a kid I found a book that spent years collecting dust under her coffee-table -- a commemorative of Paul VI's 12-hour 1965 trip to New York titled An Instrument of Your Peace.

However brief, the whirlwind visit was historic, even revolutionary: for the first time, a Pope had set foot on the American continent. Papa Montini's day took him from the Outer Boroughs, through Manhattan, up to the Bronx -- where Yankee Stadium was transformed into his cathedral -- and out to Flushing, Queens, where the pontiff paid a midnight visit to the Pieta (then on loan to the World's Fair) before returning to his plane and back to Rome.

(On a side note, though Paul was the first pontiff to visit St Patrick's Cathedral, only on the fourth papal pilgrimage to Gotham will B16 become the first to actually say Mass in the House That Hughes Built.)

John Paul II might've invented the PopeTrip spectacular as we know it, but it's important to remember that the pioneer "Pilgrim Pope" was actually Paul VI, whose 15-year pontificate brought the papacy to the world, including stops in India, the Philippines, Uganda, Australia, Turkey, Colombia, Iran... and even Pago-Pago.

Like next week's visit, the prime purpose of Paul's pilgrimage to these shores (on the feast of St Francis of Assisi was to appear before the United Nations. Best known for its emphatic plea "No more war! Never again war!" the onetime Sostituto of the Secretariat of State's talk was the first ever to address the global body in its five official languages -- a distinction only repeated by his successor, and one likely to be seen again when B16 ascends the rostrum of the General Assembly Hall next Friday morning.

However, the day's central message for the fold on shores was the Yankee homily, given in the context of a Votive Mass for Peace.

Snips... compare and contrast:
We feel, too, that the entire American people is here present, with its noblest and most characteristic traits: a people basing its conception of life on spiritual values, on a religious sense, on the rule of law, on freedom, on loyalty, on work, on the respect of duty, on family affection, on generosity and courage. We pay honour to the human and civil virtues of this great people, and in these virtues We recognize valuable derivations from Christian values, which We hope will ever remain living and active, safeguarding the American spirit from those dangers which prosperity itself can entail, and which the materialism of our day can make even more menacing. From its brief but heroic history, this young and flourishing country can derive lofty and convincing examples to encourage it in its future progress....

What are We to say to you, that can correspond to the duties of Our apostolic ministry and be adequate to the spirit of this unique occasion? Our words can only be the words to the Gospel, which has just been read to you; the words of the risen Jesus, which He repeated three times: Peace be to you!

Truly, verily, Peace be to you!

How rich in meaning, how abundant in good things, is this divine and human greeting of Peace! Repeated thousands of times, we all recognize it, we all desire it. And that is good. But allow Us to exhort you to consider it once again, to preserve it as the Gospel message of the Pope as He lands on this soil and proclaims to all those He meets: Peace be to this house, to this continent, and to all those who inhabit it!

We have, then, three things to say to you.

First of all, you must love peace. Here We can use the words of Christ: «Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the son of God» (Matth. 5, 9). If we truly wish to be Christians, we must love peace, we must make our own the cause of peace, we must meditate on the real meaning of peace, we must conform our minds to the thought of peace. In the past, it was not always so in the education of minds and the training of citizens; but today it must be so; we must love peace, because its dwelling is first in men’s hearts, and only afterwards in the external condition of society. Peace must live and reign in men’s consciences, as Holy Scripture teaches us: «May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts» (Col. 3, 15). Peace is order, in relation to God and in relation to men; it is wisdom, it is justice, it is civilization. Whoever loves peace loves mankind, without distinction of race or of colour.

Second thought: You must serve the cause of peace. Serve it, and not make use of it for aims other than the true aims of peace. Serve it, and not use this noble standard as a cover for cowardice or selfishness, which refuses to make sacrifices for the common good; not debilitate and pervert the spirit, by evading the call of duty and seeking one’s own interests and pleasure. Peace is not a state which can be acquired and made permanent. Peace must be built; it must be built up every day by works of peace. These works of peace are, first of all, social order; then, aid to the poor, who still make up an immense multitude of the world population, aid to the needy, the weak, the sick, the ignorant. Peace must be like a garden, in which public and private beneficence cultivates the choicest flowers of friendship, of solidarity, of charity and love.

Third thought: Peace must be based on moral and religious principles, which will make it sincere and stable. Politics do not suffice to sustain a durable peace. The absence of conflict does not suffice to make of peace a source of happiness and of true human progress. Peace must have its roots anchored in wisdom, and this wisdom must draw nourishment from the true concept of life, that is the Christian concept. Remember the words of the Lord Jesus: «Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you» (Io. 14, 27). Jesus, the Prince of Peace (Is. 9, 6), has His own original and characteristic peace, which can regulate every human relationship because, in the very first place, it regulates the relationship with God.

Coming among you at a moment, so beautiful, so brief but so important, as this, We have no better greeting, no better remembrance for you than to repeat that holy salutation of Christ: Peace, His peace!

First difference: you won't hear it given by "We."

As for the rest... stay tuned.