3. Thus we understand the full meaning of Epiphany, presented by Paul in the way in which he himself understood and practised it. The Apostle’s task is to spread the Gospel throughout the world, proclaiming to mankind the redemption wrought by Christ and to lead all humanity on the path of salvation, manifested by God on the night in Bethlehem. The Church’s missionary activity, through its many stages down the centuries, finds its starting point and universal scope in the feast of Epiphany.


Precisely to stress the universal character of the Church’s mission, it has been the custom for a number of years that on the feast of Epiphany the Bishop of Rome lays his hands on priests from various countries and invokes the Holy Spirit for their episcopal service.


Today I have the joy of conferring the fullness of the priesthood on 12 brothers. During the episcopal consecration the Gospel Book will be placed on their head to emphasize that bringing the Good News is their fundamental mission, a mission filled with joy and labour for all those who are committed to carrying it out with responsibility and faith. Let us pray together that the light which illumined the Magi on their way to Bethlehem may also accompany these newly chosen Bishops.


4. Dear Brothers chosen by God for the episcopal ministry, I wish each of you the wealth and fullness of Christ's Epiphany. I wish this for you, Archbishop Luigi Pezzuto, who will be the papal representative in Congo and Gabon, in the heart of the African continent so dear to me. I pray for you, Archbishop Paolo Sardi, appointed Apostolic Nuncio with special duties, who will still be working beside me in the Secretariat of State, and I thank you for the service you have given thus far, hoping that you will continue in the same way with the same zeal. I greet you, Archbishop Varkey Vithayathil, to whom I give the very important task of administering the Major Archiepiscopal Church of Ernakulam-Angamaly for Syro-Malabars, in the Indian state of Kerala. I hope that the fullness of Christ’s Epiphany may shine for you, Bishop Delio Lucarelli, Pastor of the Diocese of Rieti; for you, Bishop Ignace Sambar-Talkena of Kara, Togo, and for you, Bishop Luciano Pacomio, Pastor of the Diocese of Mondovì. May the light of the Holy Spirit guide you, Bishop Angelo Massafra, the first Bishop of Rrëshen and Apostolic Administrator of Lezhë, Albania, and you, Bishop Florentin Crihãlmeanu, called to work as Auxiliary with the Bishop of your Diocese of Cluj-Gherla, Romania. May the Lord support you, Bishop Jean-Claude Périsset, in your office as Adjunct Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and you, dear Bishop Piotr Libera, who are to work with my brother, the Archbishop of Katowice, Poland, as his Auxiliary. May he be with you, Bishop Basilio do Nascimento, sent to the faithful of the new Diocese of Baucau, East Timor, and may the same Holy Spirit and his grace be with you, Bishop Hil Kabashi, whom Providence is sending to Southern Albania.


5. Dear and venerable Brothers, at this moment I like to think of you beside the Magi as you adore the King of peace, the Saviour of the world, and see the hand of the Child Jesus guided by that of his holy Mother in the act of blessing each one of you. It is the Lamb of God, the Shepherd of Shepherds, who is asking you to extend and spread his charity in the wondrous Body of the Church and in every part of the world, during these years of preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. Strengthened by his help, go forth without hesitating; be faithful and courageous apostles of Christ, proclaiming and witnessing to the Gospel, the light that illumines all peoples. Do not be afraid! Christ is with us every day, until the end of the world (cf. Matthew 28:20).


“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today ... and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).





Monday, 6 January 1997



1. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising(Isaiah 60:3).

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Epiphany, “a manifestation” of Christ to all peoples, represented by the Magi come from the East.


This feast helps us to discern the profound meaning of the Church’s universal mission, which can be understood as a movement of radiation: the radiation of Christ’s light, reflected on the face of his Mystical Body. Since this light is a light of love, truth and beauty, it is not forcibly imposed, but illumines minds and draws hearts.


By radiating this light, the Church obeys the mandate of the risen Christ: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). It is a movement that spreads in all directions from the centre, from the Eucharist, through the witness and proclamation of the Gospel. This “going” is motivated by an inner urge of charity, without which it would produce no fruit.


The experience of the Magi is particularly eloquent in this regard: they move, guided by the light of a star that draws them to Christ. The Church must be like that star, that is, able to reflect Christ’s light, so that individuals and peoples in search of truth, justice and peace may come to Jesus, the one Saviour of the world.


2. This missionary task is entrusted to the entire People of God, but it is especially incumbent on those called to the apostolic ministry, that is, Bishops and priests. Today, the feast of Epiphany, in accordance with a well-established tradition I had the joy of consecrating 12 new Bishops.

Let us pray together for these new Pastors and for all the Bishops of the world, that their service to the Gospel may be ever more generous and faithful.


3. On this day a special thought goes to our brothers and sisters of the Christian East, many of whom are celebrating Christmas today. Before the icon of the Child Jesus, lovingly watched over by Mary and St Joseph, let us invoke the grace of deeper relations of understanding and communion between Christians of the East and West. Indeed, not only must different liturgical traditions not become an obstacle to unity, but they must be an incentive to reciprocal knowledge and enrichment.


We commend this hope to the Blessed Virgin, as we ask her in a special way to guide the Bishops ordained this morning in their pastoral ministry.



After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father said:


I warmly greet the pilgrims, especially those who have come from various countries to take part in the episcopal ordinations. Your presence today, dear friends, is an eloquent sign of your affection for these new Pastors and a pledge of the spiritual closeness with which you will always accompany them in their ministry.


In the light of Epiphany, I renew my fervent wishes for the year that has just begun, the first stage in the journey of immediate preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. This year may every man and woman experience Christ’s redeeming and liberating presence in their own personal, family and social life.


I also address a cordial thought to the organizers and numerous participants in the traditional folkloristic procession, “Viva la Befana”, inspired this year by the history and culture of Ceccano in the province of Frosinone. I congratulate you for this lovely project, which is meant to pass on to the new generations the religious, historical and cultural values of today’s Solemnity of Epiphany. I gladly extend my greetings to the children, accompanied by their parents and grandparents, who have come from their ecological bicycle ride.



Tuesday, 6 January 1998



1. “Arise, shine, Jerusalem; for your light has come” (Isaiah 60:1).


Jerusalem, welcome the Light! Welcome the One who is the Light: “God from God, Light from Light..., begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man” (Profession of Faith). Jerusalem, welcome this Light!


This “light shines in the darkness” (John 1:5) and men already see it from afar. Look, they have set out on a journey. By following the star, they go towards this Light which was made manifest in Christ. They journey; they search for the road; they ask the way. They arrive at Herod’s court. They ask where the king of the Jews has been born: “We have seen his star ... and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).


2. Jerusalem, protect your Light! He who was born in Bethlehem is in danger. Having heard that a king was born, Herod immediately considers how to eliminate someone he believes to be a rival to the throne. But Jesus is saved from this threat and flees with his family to Egypt, far from the king's murderous hand. He will later return to Nazareth, and at 30 years of age he will begin to teach. Everyone will then know that the Light has come into the world and it will be seen that “his own people received him not” (John 1:11).


Jerusalem, you did not defend the Light of the world. You prepared a shameful death for Christ. He was crucified, and then taken down from the cross and buried in a tomb. After sunset the patibulum crucis remained on Golgotha. Jerusalem, you did not defend your Light. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). But look! On the third day Christ rose again. The darkness of death did not keep him.


Arise, shine, Jerusalem. Jerusalem, arise together with the one who has returned from the grave. Welcome the risen King, who has come to announce the kingdom of God and who wondrously established it on earth!


3. Jerusalem, share your Light! Share with all men this Light that shines in the darkness. Extend your invitation to everyone; be for all humanity the star that shows them the way to a new Christian millennium, just as once it guided the Magi of the East to the stable in Bethlehem. Invite everyone, so that “nations” may walk “by your light, and kings by the brightness of your rising” (Isaiah 60:3). Share your Light! Share this Light that shone in you with all men, with all the nations of the earth.


From this perspective I turn to you, dear Brothers, who are today receiving your episcopal ordination: be faithful ministers of the new evangelization, which spreads the light of Christ in the world.


You, Archbishop Mario Francesco Pompedda, have been in the service of the Holy See for many years: continue with your characteristic skill to fulfil your task as Dean of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, devoting yourself with pastoral spirit to the application of canonical justice.


May you, Archbishop Marco Dino Brogi, confidently assume your new tasks as Apostolic Nuncio in Sudan and Apostolic Delegate in Somalia, and represent the Pope's concern for those Churches that, not without difficulties and anxiety, proclaim Christ and his Gospel.



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