The quest for reconciliation addresses society’s desires for unity and peace

From Pope St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Pænitentia (1984):

Therefore every institution or organization concerned with serving people and saving them in their fundamental dimensions must closely study reconciliation in order to grasp more fully its meaning and significance and in order to draw the necessary practical conclusions.

The church of Jesus Christ could not fail to make this study. With the devotion of a mother and the understanding of a teacher, she earnestly and carefully applies herself to detecting in society not only the signs of division but also the no less eloquent and significant signs of the quest for reconciliation. For she knows that she especially has been given the ability and assigned the mission to make known the true and profoundly religious meaning of reconciliation and its full scope. She is thereby already helping to clarify the essential terms of the question of unity and peace.

My predecessors constantly preached reconciliation and invited to reconciliation the whole of humanity and every section and portion of the human community that they saw wounded and divided.6 And I myself, by an interior impulse which—I am certain—was obeying both an inspiration from on high and the appeals of humanity, decided to emphasize the subject of reconciliation and to do this in two ways, each of them solemn and exacting. In the first place, by convoking the Sixth General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops; in the second place, by making reconciliation the center of the jubilee year called to celebrate the 1,950th anniversary of the redemption.7 Having to assign a theme to the synod, I found myself fully in accord with the one suggested by many of my brothers in the episcopate, namely, the fruitful theme of reconciliation in close connection with the theme of penance.8

6 The encyclical Pacem in Terris, John XXIII’s spiritual testament, is often considered a “social document” and even a “political message,” and in fact it is if these terms are understood in their broadest sense. As is evident more than twenty years after its publication, the document is in fact more than a strategy for the peaceful coexistence of people and nations; it is a pressing reminder of the higher values without which peace on earth becomes a mere dream. One of these values is precisely that of reconciliation among people, and John XXIII often referred to this subject. With regard to Paul VI, it will suffice to recall that in calling the church and the world to celebrate the Holy Year of 1975, he wished “renewal and reconciliation” to be the central idea of that important event. Nor can one forget the catechesis which he devoted to this key theme, also in explaining the jubilee itself.
7 As I wrote in the bull of indiction of the Jubilee Year of the Redemption: “This special time, when all Christians are called upon to realize more profoundly their vocation to reconciliation with the Father in the Son, will only reach its full achievement if it leads to a fresh commitment by each and every person to the service of reconciliation, not only among all the disciples of Christ but also among all men and women”: bull Aperite Portas Redemptori, 3: Acta Apostolicæ Sedis 75 (1983), 93.
8 The theme of the synod was, more precisely, “Reconciliation and Penance in the Mission of the Church.”

Reconciliatio et Pænitentia 4

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