From Pope St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Pænitentia (1984):
The mission of reconciliation is proper to the whole church, also and especially to that church which has already been admitted to the full sharing in divine glory with the Virgin Mary, the angels and the saints, who contemplate and adore the thrice-holy God. The church in heaven, the church on earth and the church in purgatory are mysteriously united in this cooperation with Christ in reconciling the world to God.
The first means of this salvific action is that of prayer. It is certain that the Blessed Virgin, mother of Christ and of the church,53 and the saints, who have now reached the end of their earthly journey and possess God’s glory, sustain by their intercession their brethren who are on pilgrimage through the world, in the commitment to conversion, to faith, to getting up again after every fall, to acting in order to help the growth of communion and peace in the church and in the world. In the mystery of the communion of saints, universal reconciliation is accomplished in its most profound form, which is also the most fruitful for the salvation of all.
There is yet another means: that of preaching. The church, since she is the disciple of the one teacher Jesus Christ, in her own turn as mother and teacher untiringly exhorts people to reconciliation. And she does not hesitate to condemn the evil of sin, to proclaim the need for conversion, to invite and ask people to “let themselves be reconciled.” In fact, this is her prophetic mission in today’s world, just as it was in the world of yesterday. It is the same mission as that of her teacher and head, Jesus. Like him, the church will always carry out this mission with sentiments of merciful love and will bring to all people those words of forgiveness and that invitation to hope which come from the cross.
There is also the often so difficult and demanding means of pastoral action aimed at bringing back every individual—whoever and wherever he or she may be—to the path, at times a long one, leading back to the Father in the communion of all the brethren.
Finally there is the means of witness, which is almost always silent. This is born from a twofold awareness on the part of the church: that of being in herself “unfailingly holy,”54 but also the awareness of the need to go forward and “daily be further purified and renewed, against the day when Christ will present her to himself in all her glory without spot or wrinkle,” for, by reason of her sins, sometimes “the radiance of the church’s face shines less brightly” in the eyes of those who behold her.55 This witness cannot fail to assume two fundamental aspects. This first aspect is that of being the sign of that universal charity which Jesus Christ left as an inheritance to his followers, as a proof of belonging to his kingdom. The second aspect is translation into ever new manifestations of conversion and reconciliation both within the church and outside her, by the overcoming of tensions, by mutual forgiveness, by growth in the spirit of brotherhood and peace which is to be spread throughout the world. By this means the church will effectively be able to work for the creation of what my predecessor Paul VI called the “civilization of love.”
53 Cf Pope Paul VI, Allocution at the Closing of the Third Session of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, November 21, 1964: Acta Apostolicæ Sedis 56 (1964), 1015-1018.
54 Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 39.
55 Second Vatican Council, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, 4.
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