'The right to do what we ought' THE POPE IN BALTIMORE

October 09, 1995

Text of homily by Pope John Paul II at Camden Yards:

"Oh, that today you would hear his voice: harden not your hearts."

(Psalms 95:7-8)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Each day, the church begins the liturgy of the hours with the Psalm which we have just prayed together: "Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord!" In that call, ringing down the centuries and echoing across the face of the globe, the Psalmist summons the people of God to sing the praises of the Lord and to bear great witness to the marvelous things God has done for us.

Maryland's role

The Psalmist's call to hear the Lord's voice has particular significance for us as we celebrate this Mass in Baltimore. Maryland was the birthplace of the church in colonial America. More than three hundred and sixty years ago, a small band of Catholics came to the New World to build a home where they could "sing joyfully to the Lord" in freedom. They established a colony whose hallmark was religious tolerance, which would later become one of the cultural cornerstones of American democracy. Baltimore is the senior metropolitan see in the United States. Its first bishop, John Carroll, stands out as a model who can still inspire the church in America today. Here were held the great Provincial and Plenary councils which guided the church's expansion as waves of immigrants came to these shores in search of a better life. Here in Baltimore, in 1884, the bishops of the United States authorized the Baltimore Catechism, which formed the faith of tens of millions of Catholics for decades. In Baltimore, the country's Catholic school system began under the leadership of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.

The first seminary in the United States was established here, under the protection of the Virgin Mother of God, as was America's first Catholic College for women. Since those heroic beginnings, men and women of every race and social class have built the Catholic community we see in America today, a great spiritual movement of witness, of apostolate, of good works, of Catholic institutions and organizations.

Cardinal's leadership

Today, with warm affection, therefore I greet your archbishop, Cardinal Keeler, and thank him for his sensitive leadership in this local church and his work on behalf of the bishops' conference. With esteem I greet the other cardinals and bishops present here in great numbers. I greet the priests, deacons and seminarians, the women and men religious, and all God's people, the "living stones" whom the spirit uses to build up the body of Christ. I gladly greet the members of the various Christian Churches and ecclesial communities. I assure them of the Catholic Church's ardent desire to celebrate the Jubilee of the Year 2000 as a great occasion to move closer to overcoming the divisions of the Second Millennium. I thank also the civil authorities who have wished to share this sacred moment with us.

Spanish greeting

[In Spanish] I greet the Spanish-speaking faithful present here .. and all those following this Mass on radio or television. The Church is your spiritual home. Your parishes, associations, schools and religious education programs need your cooperation and the enthusiasm of your faith. With special affection, I encourage you to transmit your Catholic traditions to the younger generations.

[Returns to English] Our celebration today speaks to us not only of the past. The Eucharist always makes present anew the saving mystery of Christ's Death and Resurrection, and points to the future definitive fulfillment of God's plan of salvation. Two years ago, at Denver, I was deeply impressed by the vitality of America's young people as they bore enthusiastic witness to their love of Christ, and showed that they are not afraid of the demands of the Gospel. Today I offer this Mass for a strengthening of that vitality and Christian courage at every level of the Church in the United States: among the laity, among the priests and religious, among my brother Bishops. The whole Church is preparing for the Third Christian Millennium. The challenge of the great Jubilee of the Year 2000 is the new evangelization: a deepening of faith and a vigorous response to the Christian vocation to holiness and service. This is what the Successor of Peter has come to Baltimore to urge upon each one of you: the courage to bear witness to the Gospel of our Redemption.

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