The Church is changing the world. That's the secret Pope John Paul II knows that allows him to do such great things.
The Church is changing the world. Not the other way around.
The secular media has been speculating wildly about what secret agenda is on the table in the May 21-24 consistory. The fact is that the basic text of what the cardinals are discussing has been on the Vatican Web site for months: It's the January apostolic letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (At the Beginning of the Third Millennium).
The tone is set in the introduction where the Holy Father declares that “the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and operative.” The Church is still at the center of human history, he says.
The document seems eager to correct a misunderstanding about the Jubilee. It was not an event that happened for one year in Rome; it was a renewal of the Church that is meant to have consequences in every diocese around the world.
The same paragraph continues by locating the place the Church will change the world: each of our neighborhoods: “It is above all in the actual situation of each local church that the mystery of the one People of God takes the particular form that fits it to each individual context and culture” (No. 3).
The document is written with authority and confidence. To the Holy Father, Christ is not someone from the past; he is God-with-us, the Lord of the universe, waiting only for man's cooperation to finish his work.
The Pope is not worrying about saving the Church. He's anxious to see the Church save mankind.
And he wants to see the task begun, right away, with concrete projects: “the experiences we have had should inspire in us new energy, and impel us to invest in concrete initiatives the enthusiasm which we have felt” (No. 15).
The Holy Father warns against expecting it to be easy, saying, “We are certainly not seduced by the naive expectation that, faced with the great challenges of our time, we shall find some magic formula” (No. 29).
Nonetheless, he adds, “It is not … a matter of inventing a ‘new program.’ The program already exists: it is the plan found in the Gospel and in the living Tradition, it is the same as ever.”
And how will such an effort succeed? “Ultimately,” writes the Pope, “it has its center in Christ himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history until its fulfillment in the heavenly Jerusalem” (No. 29).
All that's left is that Christ's program “must be translated into pastoral initiatives adapted to the circumstances of each community.”
Then, the document directly addreses the bishops: “I therefore earnestly exhort the Pastors of the particular Churches, with the help of all sectors of God's People, confidently to plan the stages of the journey ahead, harmonizing the choices of each diocesan community with those of neighboring Churches and of the universal Church” (No. 29).
He even lists what he thinks are the priorities for the Church in the years ahead: the universal call to holiness, education in prayer, the Sunday Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
So, the Holy Father doesn't have a secret agenda to talk to the cardinals about. He's made his plans perfectly clear.
He wants Catholics to change the world.