LETTER OF JOHN PAUL II
ON THE 100th ANNIVERSARY OF THE CONSECRATION
OF THE HUMAN RACE TO THE DIVINE HEART OF JESUS
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
The 100th anniversary of the Consecration of the Human Race to the Divine Heart of Jesus, prescribed for the whole Church by my Predecessor Leo XIII in the Encyclical Letter Annum sacrum (25 May 1899: Leonis XIII P. M. Acta, XIX , 71- 80) and carried out on 11 June 1899, prompts us first of all to give thanks to “him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father” (Rv 1:5-6).
This happy occasion seems a particularly appropriate one for reflecting on the meaning and value of that important ecclesial act. With the Encyclical Annum sacrum, Pope Leo XIII confirmed all that had been done by his Predecessors carefully to preserve and highlight the devotion and spirituality of the Sacred Heart. With that consecration he wished to obtain “extraordinary benefits first for Christianity, but also for the whole human race” (Annum sacrum, p. 71). Asking that not only believers but all people should be consecrated, he gave a new direction and sense to the consecration which had already been practised for two centuries by individuals, groups, Dioceses and nations.
The consecration of the human race to the Heart of Jesus was thus presented by Leo XIII as “the summit and crowning of all the honours which have been customarily paid to the Most Sacred Heart” (Annum sacrum, p. 72). Such a consecration, the Encyclical explains, is owed to Christ, Redeemer of the human race, for what he is in himself and for what he has done for human beings. Since in the Sacred Heart the believer encounters the symbol and the living image of the infinite love of Christ, which in itself spurs us to love one another, he cannot fail to recognize the need to participate personally in the work of salvation. For this reason every member of the Church is invited to see consecration as the giving and binding of oneself to Jesus Christ, the King “of prodigal sons”, the King of all who are waiting to be led “into the light of God and of his kingdom” (Formula of Consecration). Consecration thus understood is to be joined to the missionary activity of the Church herself, because it answers the desire of Jesus’ Heart to propagate in the world, through the members of his Body, his total dedication to the kingdom, and to unite the Church ever more closely to his offering to the Father and his being for others.
The value of what took place on 11 June 1899 was authoritatively confirmed in the writings of my Predecessors, who offered doctrinal reflections on the devotion to the Sacred Heart and mandated the periodic renewal of the act of consecration. Among these I am pleased to recall the holy successor of Leo XIII, Pope Pius X, who directed in 1906 that the consecration be renewed every year; Pope Pius XI of revered memory, who recalled it in his Encyclicals Quas primas, in the context of the Holy Year of 1925, and in Miserentissimus Redemptor; his successor, the Servant of God Pius XII, who treated it in his Encyclicals Summi Pontificatus and Haurietis aquas. The Servant of God Paul VI, then, in the light of the Second Vatican Council, wished to make reference to it in his Apostolic Epistle Investigabiles divitias and in his Letter Diserti interpretes, addressed on 25 May 1965 to Major Superiors of institutes named after the Heart of Jesus.
I too have not failed on several occasions to invite my Brothers in the Episcopate, priests, religious and the faithful to cultivate in their lives the most genuine forms of devotion to the Heart of Christ. In this year dedicated to God the Father, I recall what I wrote in the Encyclical Dives in misericordia: “The Church seems in a particular way to profess the mercy of God and to venerate it when she directs herself to the Heart of Christ. In fact, it is precisely this drawing close to Christ in the mystery of his Heart which enables us to dwell on this point – a point in a sense central and also most accessible on the human level – of the revelation of the merciful love of the Father, a revelation which constituted the central content of the messianic mission of the Son of Man” (n. 13). On the occasion of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart and the month of June, I have often urged the faithful to persevere in the practice of this devotion, which “contains a message which in our day has an extraordinary timeliness”, because “an unending spring of life, giving hope to every person, has streamed precisely from the Heart of God’s Son, who died on the Cross. From the Heart of Christ crucified is born the new humanity redeemed from sin. The man of the year 2000 needs Christ’s Heart to know God and to know himself; he needs it to build the civilization of love” (8 June 1994; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 15 June 1994, p. 3).
The consecration of the human race in 1899 represents an extraordinarily important step on the Church’s journey and it is still good to renew it every year on the feast of the Sacred Heart. The same should be said of the Act of Reparation which is customarily recited on the feast of Christ the King. The words of Leo XIII still ring true: “We must have recourse to him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We have gone astray and we must return to the right path; darkness has overshadowed our minds, and the gloom must be dispelled by the light of truth; death has seized upon us, and we must lay hold of life” (Annum sacrum, p. 78). Is this not the programme of the Second Vatican Council and of my own Pontificate?
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