Novelties of John Paul II's Pontificate

Interview With Bishop Fisichella, Rector of the Lateran University

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ROME, MAY 9, 2003 (ZENIT.org-Avvenire).- Through Saturday, 23 speakers are attending a congress to highlight the novelties of John Paul II's 25-year pontificate.



The event, organized by the Lateran University, was opened by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano and presented by Bishop Rino Fisichella, rector of the school.

Among the speakers are cardinals and bishops, Polish intellectuals, and journalists from several countries.

The talks are contributing to a mosaic of John Paul II's work, "who has spent all his pontificate helping men to encounter Christ," Bishop Fisichella says.

Q: From what point of view are you looking at these 25 years of pontificate?

Bishop Fisichella: The fundamental principle in reviewing John Paul II's pastoral work is found in his first encyclical, "Redemptor Hominis," in which the Pope states that "every many, without any distinction, is called to encounter Christ."

In this journey, therefore, "the Church, which must proclaim this, cannot be stopped by anyone." It is not just a phrase, but a program of life that, in fact, Pope Karol Wojtyla has realized in everything and all over the world.

Q: Are you referring to his itinerant pontificate?

Bishop Fisichella: Also. By a wonderful coincidence, we are holding this congress after the 99th apostolic trip [to Spain] and in view of number 100 [to Croatia]. However, we do not forget that within a few days it will be May 13, anniversary of the attempt on his life.

Here we find in a certain sense the supreme testimony: The Pope, by the grace of God, was not stopped, not even by Ali Agca's bullet. I would say that John Paul II has really incarnated in himself the universal dimension of the Church, namely, the catholicity that drives him to go wherever man is to be found.

He has the anxiety of the apostle, the consciousness of the one who knows he has received a mission and is not spent until he has fulfilled it to the very end.

Q: What orientation has the congress had?

Bishop Fisichella: We have tried to highlight three aspects. The first is the one that pertains most directly to the Pope's university, the academic. This is why we have invited not only the Pope's closest collaborators and friends, but also men of learning.

The second aspect, linked to the first, will be to try to formulate an initial synthesis of the richness of this pontificate: beginning with "Redemptor Hominis," which is the Holy Father's programmatic letter, and attempting to see how this letter has been realized in so many aspects of his pontificate.

Q: In which, for example?

Bishop Fisichella: The international ministry, the service to all the Churches, the missionary character, the historic changes, the constant attention to holiness, which is one of the most characteristic aspects of these 25 years.

And, in addition, the relation with the movements and with young people, the creation of the World Youth Days, and many other aspects that, in a certain sense, take us to the aspect of the third level of our congress.

Q: That of issues more directly related to the Pope's person?

Bishop Fisichella: Exactly. His Marian devotion, the Pope's charism in communication, without forgetting that he himself, in addition to being a great communicator, is a poet. And we will conclude with "Duc in altum" [Put out into the deep], which is the sign with which the Pope wanted the Church to begin its journey in the third millennium.

Q: Will mention also be made of the Pontiff's commitment to peace?

Bishop Fisichella: Of course, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray did so in his address. The Pope is a messenger of peace always and everywhere. And I think that all heads of state have realized this and felt it a duty to meet with him.