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Saint John Paul II's 1st Apostolic Pilgrimage to the Dominican Republic

25th - 26th January 1979

Pope John Paul II was first a pilgrim to the Dominican Republic in 1979, on his first ever apostolic journey during which he also visited Mexico and the Bahamas. He returned to the Dominican Republic in 1984 & 1992.

After being welcomed at the airport on Thursday 25 January, John Paul II visited the Cathedral of the Annunciation and spoke to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Dominican Republic before celebrating Mass in Independence Square, Santo Domingo. On the Friday, Papa Juan Pablo II celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of Santo Domingo before meeting residents in the "Barrio Los Minas" and then leaving from Santo Domingo.

Discurso del Papa Juan Pablo II a la Ceremonia de bienvenida
a la República Dominicana, Jueves 25 de enero de 1979 - in English, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Señor Presidente, hermanos en el Episcopado, hermanos y hermanas:
Doy gracias a Dios, que me permite llegar a este pedazo de tierra americana, tierra amada de Colón, en la primera etapa de mi visita a un continente al que tantas veces ha volado mi pensamiento, lleno de estima y confianza, sobre todo en este período inicial de mi ministerio de Supremo Pastor de la Iglesia.

El anhelo del pasado se hace realidad con este encuentro, en el que con afecto entusiasta participan –y tantos otros lo habrán deseado– tan numerosos hijos de esta querida tierra dominicana, en cuyo nombre y en el suyo propio usted, señor Presidente, ha querido darme una cordial bienvenida con significativas y nobles palabras. A ellas correspondo con sentimientos de sincero aprecio y honda gratitud, testimonio del amor del Papa para con los hijos de esta hospitalaria nación.

Pero en las palabras escuchadas y en la acogida jubilosa que me tributa hoy el pueblo dominicano siento también la voz, lejana pero presente, de tantísimos otros hijos de todos los países de América Latina, que desde las tierras mexicanas hasta el extremo sur del continente se sienten unidos al Papa por vínculos singulares, que tocan los ámbitos más recónditos de su ser de hombres y de cristianos. A todos y a cada uno de estos países y a sus hijos, llegue el saludo más cordial, el homenaje de respeto y afecto del Papa, su admiración y aprecio por los estupendos valores de historia y cultura que guardan, el deseo de una vida individual, familiar y comunitaria de creciente bienestar humano, en un clima social de moralidad, de justicia para todos, de cultivo intenso de los bienes del espíritu.

Me trae a estas tierras un acontecimiento de grandísima importancia eclesial. Llego a un continente donde la Iglesia ha ido dejando huellas profundas, que penetran muy adentro en la historia y carácter de cada pueblo. Vengo a esta porción viva eclesial, la más numerosa, parte vital para el futuro de la Iglesia católica, que entre hermosas realizaciones no exentas de sombras, entre dificultades y sacrificios, da testimonio de Cristo y quiere hoy responder al reto del momento actual, proponiendo una luz de esperanza, para el aquí y para el más allá, a través de su obra de anuncio de la Buena Nueva, que se concreta en el Cristo Salvador, Hijo de Dios y Hermano mayor de los hombres.

El Papa quiere estar cercano a esta Iglesia evangelizadora para alentar su esfuerzo, para traerle nueva esperanza en su esperanza, para ayudarle a mejor discernir sus caminos, potenciando o modificando lo que convenga, para que sea cada vez más fiel a su misión: la recibida de Jesús, la de Pedro y sus Sucesores, la de los Apóstoles y los continuadores suyos.

Y puesto que la visita del Papa quiere ser una empresa de evangelización, he deseado llegar aquí siguiendo la ruta que, al momento del descubrimiento del continente, trazaron los primeros evangelizadores. Aquellos religiosos que vinieron a anunciar a Cristo Salvador, a defender la dignidad de los indígenas, a proclamar sus derechos inviolables, a favorecer su promoción integral, a enseñar la hermandad como hombres y como hijos del mismo Señor y Padre, Dios.

Es este un testimonio de reconocimiento que quiero tributar a los artífices de aquella admirable gesta evangelizadora, en esta misma tierra del Nuevo Mundo donde se plantó la primera cruz, se celebró la primera Misa, se recitó la primera Avemaría y de donde, entre diversas vicisitudes, partió la irradiación de la fe a les otras islas cercanas y de allí a la tierra firme.

Desde este evocador lugar del continente, tierra de férvido amor a la Virgen María y de ininterrumpida devoción al Sucesor de Pedro, el Papa quiere reservar su recuerdo y saludo más entrañable a los pobres, a los campesinos, a los enfermos y marginados, que sienten cercana a la Iglesia, que la aman, que siguen a Cristo aun en medio de obstáculos y que con admirable sentido humano ponen en práctica la solidaridad, la hospitalidad, la alegría honesta y esperanzada, a la que Dios prepara su premio.

Pensando en el mayor bien de estos pueblos buenos y generosos, abrigo la confianza de que los responsables, los católicos y hombres de buena voluntad de la República Dominicana y de toda América Latina comprometerán sus mejores energías, ensancharán las fronteras de su creatividad, para edificar un mundo más humano y a la vez más cristiano. Es el llamado que el Papa os hace en este primer encuentro en vuestra tierra."

John Paul II's Address at the Cathedral of the Annunciation
Santo Domingo, Thursday 25 January 1979 - in English, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Lord Cardinal, Brothers in the Episcopate, Beloved Sons,
It is but a few moments since I had the happiness to arrive in your country, and now I feel a new joy on meeting you in this cathedral, dedicated to the Annunciation, where so many of you have desired to come to see the Pope: the primatial cathedral, which stands beside what was the first archiepiscopal see in America.

My thanks go in the first place to you, Lord Cardinal, for your kind words; they have filled my spirit with satisfaction, admiration and hope. I wish to tell you that the Pope, too, desires to be with you, in order to know you and love you even more. My only regret is not to be able to meet and speak with each one of you. But although that is not possible, rest assured that no one is excluded from the affection, from the memory, of the common father who, even though far away, thinks of you and prays for your intentions.

In order that this meeting may be more intimate, let us pray for a moment and ask the Lord, through the intercession of Our Lady of High Grace, whose image is present here, to grant that you may always be good children of the Church, that you may grow in the faith, and that yours may be a life worthy of Christians. I very willingly impart my Blessing to you, to your fellow countrymen and members of your families, and, above all, to the sick and to those who are suffering. And you, too, pray for the Pope."

John Paul II's Meeting with the Diplomatic Corps
accredited to the Dominican Republic, Thursday 25 January 1979 - in English, Italian & Portuguese

"Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would not like this short visit of mine to this country to pass without this meeting with you, who, for many varied reasons, are due a token of special attention on the part of the Pope. You have wished to come to render your homage of respect and support as representatives of your respective countries, as wielders of authority at different levels in the Dominican nation, as persons bound to the Holy See by special ties, or as exponents of the cultural world

I express my sincere gratitude to you all for your benevolent presence; as well as my deep appreciation of your respective functions. I wish you all success in your tasks which can, and must, have a clear orientation of service for the common good, for the cause of human society, for the welfare of civil society and, for many, also of the Church. Many thanks."

Pope John Paul II's Homily at Mass with the Bishops
Independence Square, Santo Domingo 25 January 1979 - in English, French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Brothers in the Episcopate, Beloved Sons:
1. In this Eucharist in which we share the same faith in Christ, the Bishop of Rome and of the universal Church, present among you, gives you his greeting of peace: "Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ." (Gal 1:3.) I come to these American lands as a pilgrim of peace and hope, to take part in an ecclesial event of evangelization, urged in my turn by the words of the Apostle Paul: "If I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Cor 9:16.)

The present period of the history of humanity calls for a renewed transmission of faith, to communicate to modern man the perennial message of Christ, adapted to his concrete conditions of life. This evangelization is a constant and an essential exigency of ecclesial dynamics. In his encyclical Evangelii Nuntiandi, Paul VI affirmed: "Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize..." (n 14) And the same Pontiff states that "as an evangelizer, Christ first of all proclaims a kingdom, the kingdom of God". "As the kernel and centre of his Good News, Christ proclaims salvation, this great gift which is, above all, liberation from everything that oppresses man but which is, above all, liberation from sin and the Evil One." (n 89)

2. The Church, faithful to her mission, continues to present to the men of every age, with the help of the Holy Spirit and under the Pope's guidance, the message of salvation of her divine Founder.

This Dominican land was once the first to receive, and then to give impetus to a grand enterprise of evangelization which deserves great admiration and gratitude. From the end of the fifteenth century, this beloved nation opens us to the faith of Jesus Christ; to this it has remained faithful up to the present. The Holy See, on its side, creates the first episcopal sees of America precisely in this island, and subsequently the archiepiscopal and primatial see of Santo Domingo. In a comparatively short period, the paths of faith crossed the Dominican land and the continent in all directions, laying the foundations of the heritage, become  life, that we contemplate today in what was called the New World. From the first moments of the discovery, there appears the concern of the Church to make the kingdom of God present in the heart of the new peoples, races, and cultures; in the first place, among your ancestors.

If we wish to express our well-deserved thanks to those who transplanted the seeds of faith, this tribute must be paid in the first place to the religious orders which distinguished themselves, even at the cost of offering their martyrs, in the task of evangelization: above all, the Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinians, Mercedarians and then the Jesuits, who made the tender plant grow into a spreading tree. The fact is that the soil of America was prepared to receive the new Christian seeds by movements of spirituality of its own. Nor is it a question, moreover, of a spreading of the faith detached from the life of those for whom it was intended; although it must always keep its essential reference to God. Therefore the Church in this island was the first to demand justice and to promote the defence of human rights in the lands that were opening to evangelization.

Lessons of humanism, spirituality and effort to raise man's dignity, are taught to us by Antonio Montesinos, Córdoba, Bartolomé de las Casas, echoed also in other parts by Juan de Zumárraga, Motolinia, Vasco de Quiroga, José de Anchieta, Toribio de Mogrovejo, Nóbrega and so many others. They are men in whom pulsates concern for the weak, for the defenceless, for the natives; subjects worthy of all respect as persons and as bearers of the image of God, destined for a transcendent vocation. The first International Law has its origin here with Francisco de Vitoria.

3. The fact is that the proclamation of the Gospel and human advancement cannot be dissociated — this is the great lesson, valid also today. But for the Church, the former cannot be confused or exhausted, as some people claim, in the latter. That would be to close to man infinite spaces that God has opened to him. And it would be to distort the deep and complete meaning of evangelization, which is above all the proclamation of the Good News of Christ the Saviour. The Church, an expert in humanity, faithful to the signs of the times, and in obedience to the pressing call of the last Council, wishes to continue today her mission of faith and defence of human rights. She calls upon Christians to commit themselves to the construction of a more just, human and habitable world, which is not shut up within itself, but opens to God.

To construct this more just world means, among other things, making every effort in order that there will be no children without sufficient food, without education, without instruction; that there will be no young people without a suitable preparation; that, in order to live and to develop in a worthy way, there will be no peasants without land; that there will be no workers ill-treated or deprived of their rights; that there will be no systems that permit the exploitation of man by man or by the State; that there will be no corruption; that there will be no persons living in superabundance, while others through no fault of their own lack everything; that there will not be so many families badly formed, broken, disunited, receiving insufficient care; that there will be no injustice and inequality in the administration of justice; that there will be no one without the protection of the law, and that law will protect all alike; that force will not prevail over truth and law, but truth and law over force; and that economic or political matters will never prevail over human matters.

4. But do not be content with this more human world. Make a world that is explicitly more divine, more in accordance with God, ruled by faith, and in which this latter inspires the moral, religious and social progress of man. Do not lose sight of the vertical dimension of evangelization. It has strength to liberate man, since it is the revelation of love. The love of the Father for men, for one and all; a love revealed in Jesus Christ. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (Jn 3:16.) Jesus Christ manifested this love above all in his hidden life — "He has done all things well" (Mk 7:37) — and by proclaiming the Gospel; then, by his death and resurrection, the paschal mystery in which man meets with his definitive vocation to eternal life, to union with God. This is the eschatological dimension of love.

Beloved Sons: I conclude by exhorting you always to be worthy of the faith that you have received. Love Christ, love man through him, and live devotion to our beloved Mother in heaven, whom you invoke with the beautiful name of Our Lady de la Altagracia (of the High Grace) and to whom the Pope wishes to leave a diadem as a homage of devotion. May she help you to walk towards Christ, preserving and fully developing the seed planted by your first evangelizers. This is what the Pope hopes from all of you. From you, sons of Cuba, present here, from you sons of Jamaica, Curaçao and the Antilles, Haiti, Venezuela, and the United States. Above all, from you, sons of the Dominican land. Amen."

John Paul II's Homily at Mass with Priests, Seminarians & Religious
Cathedral of Santo Domingo, 26 January 1979 - in English, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
Blessed be the Lord who has brought me here, to this soil of the Dominican Republic, where fortunately, for the glory and praise of God in this new Continent, there also dawned the day of salvation. I have wished to come to this cathedral of Santo Domingo to be for a moment in your midst, beloved priests, deacons, men and women religious, and seminarians, to manifest to you my special affection for you all, in whom the Pope and the Church put their best hopes, in order that you may feel more joyful in faith, so that your pride in being what you are may overflow because of me (cf Phil 1, 26).

Above all, however, I wish to join you in thanksgiving to God. Thanksgiving for the growth and zeal of this Church which has to its credit so many noble initiatives, and which shows such commitment in service of God and of men. I thank God with immense joy — to use the words of the Apostle Paul — "for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Phil 1, 3)

I really wish I had time to stay with you, to learn your names, and to hear from your lips "that which overflows from the heart" (cf Mt 12:34), the marvellous things you have experienced in your soul — "fecit mihi magna qui potens est" (Lk 1:49): for he who is mighty has done great things for me — having been faithful to the meeting with the Lord. A meeting of preference on his side! It is precisely this, the paschal meeting with the Lord, which I wish to propose to your reflection, in order to renew your faith and your enthusiasm in this eucharistic celebration; a personal, living meeting — with eyes wide open and a heart beating fast — with the Risen Christ (cf Lk 24:30), the objective of your love and of your whole life.

It sometimes happens that our harmony of faith with Jesus remains weak or fades — which is at once noticed by the faithful people, who are infected with sadness by it — because, although we bear him within us, it is sometimes in a way that is mingled with our human inclinations and reasonings (cf Lk 15), without letting all the magnificent light that he contains for us shine forth. On some occasions we may perhaps speak of him from the stand-point of some changing premises or data of a sociological, political, psychological, linguistical character; instead of drawing the basic criteria of our life and our activity from a Gospel lived with integrity, joy, with that immense confidence and hope that the Cross of Christ contains.

One thing is clear, beloved brothers: faith in the Risen Christ is not the result of technical knowledge or the fruit of scientific qualifications (cf 1 Cor 1, 26). What is asked of us is to announce the death of Jesus and to proclaim his resurrection. Jesus is alive. "God raised him up, having loosed the bonds of death" (Acts 2, 24.) What was at the beginning a trembling murmur among the first witnesses, soon changed into the joyful experience of real life of those who "ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead" (Acts 10, 41). Yes, Christ really lives in the Church; he is in us, bearers of hope and immortality.

So if you have met Christ, live Christ, live with Christ! Proclaim him in the first person, as real witnesses: "To me to live is Christ." (Phil 1:21.) Here, too, is real liberation: to proclaim Jesus free of bonds, present in men, who are transformed, made new creatures. Why is our testimony sometimes vain? Because we present Jesus without the whole attractive power of his Person; without revealing the riches of the sublime ideal that following him involves; because we do not always succeed in showing a conviction, expressed in real life, with regard to the stupendous value of our dedication to the great ecclesial cause that we serve.

Brothers and Sisters: Men must see in us the dispensers of God's mysteries (cf 1 Cor 4, 1), the credible witnesses of his presence in the world. Let us think frequently that God, when he calls us, does not ask for just a part of our person, but he asks us for our whole person and all our vital energies in order to proclaim to men the joy and peace of the new life in Christ, in order to guide them to the meeting with him. Therefore, let our first care be to seek the Lord, and once we have met him, to ascertain where and how he lives, remaining with him the whole day (Jn 1:39). Remaining with him, particularly, in the Eucharist, where Christ gives himself to us; and in prayer, by means of which we give ourselves to him. The Eucharist must be completed and prolonged through prayer, in our everyday affairs as a "sacrifice of praise". In prayer, in familiar intercourse with God our Father, we discern better where is our strength and where is our weakness, because the spirit comes to our help (cf Rom 8, 26). The same Spirit speaks to us and gradually immerses us in the divine mysteries, in the plans of love for men which God carries out by means of our offer in his service.

Like St Paul, during a meeting at Troas to break bread, I, too, would continue to speak to you until midnight (cf Acts 20, 6). I would have many more things to say but I cannot do so now. In the meantime time I urge you to read carefully what I said recently in Rome, to the clergy, to men and women religious, and to seminarians. That will widen this meeting, which will continue spiritually with other similar ones in the next few days. May the Lord and our sweet Mother, the Blessed Virgin, accompany you always and fill your lives with great enthusiasm in the service of your noble ecclesial vocation.

Let us continue with Mass, placing on the table of offerings our desire to live the new life, our necessities and our supplications, the necessities and supplications of the Dominican Church and nation. Let us also put there the work and the fruits of the third General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate at Puebla."

Discurso de Juan Pablo II a los Habitantes del Barrio 'Los Minas'
Viernes 26 de enero de 1979 - in English, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Amadísimos hijos del barrio “Los Minas”
Desde el primer momento de la preparación de mi viaje a vuestro país, he colocado en puesto prioritario una visita a este barrio, a fin de poder encontrarme con vosotros.

Y he querido venir aquí precisamente porque se trata de una zona pobre, para que tuvierais la oportunidad –diría por título más alto– de estar con el Papa. El ve en vosotros una presencia más viva del Señor, que sufre en los hermanos más necesitados, que sigue proclamando bienaventurados a los pobres de espíritu, a quienes padecen por la justicia y son puros de corazón, trabajan por la paz, son compasivos y mantienen la esperanza en el Cristo Salvador.

Pero al invitaros a cultivar esos valores espirituales y evangélicos, deseo haceros pensar en vuestra dignidad de hombres y de hijos de Dios. Quiero alentaros a ser ricos en humanidad, en amor a la familia, en solidaridad con los demás. A la vez, os animo a desarrollar cada vez más las posibilidades que tenéis de lograr una mayor dignificación humana y cristiana.

Mas no acaba aquí mi discurso. La vista de vuestra realidad debe hacer pensar a tantos en la acción que pueda ser llevada a cabo para remediar eficazmente vuestra condición.

En nombre de estos hermanos nuestros, pido a cuantos puedan hacerlo que les ayuden a vencer su actual situación, para que, sobre todo con una mejor educación, perfeccionen sus mentes y corazones, y sean artífices de su propia elevación y de una más proficua inserción en la sociedad.

Con esta urgente llamada a las conciencias, el Papa alienta vuestros deseos de superación y bendice con gran afecto a vosotros, a vuestros hijos y familiares, a todos los habitantes del barrio."

Despedida de Juan Pablo II al Dejar la República Dominicana
Viernes 26 de enero de 1979 - in English, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Señor Presidente:
Con hondo sentimiento por mi parte, llega el momento de tener que dejar esta querida tierra de la República Dominicana, donde la brevedad de mi permanencia se ha visto compensada con una gran abundancia de intensas vivencias religiosas y humanas.

He podido admirar algunas de las bellezas del país, de sus monumentos histórico-religiosos y sobre todo he podido constatar con profunda satisfacción el sentido religioso y humano de sus habitantes.

Son recuerdos imborrables que me acompañan y continuarán haciéndome presente las hermosas jornadas vividas en esta cuna del catolicismo en el Nuevo Mundo.

Gracias, Señor Presidente, por les innumerables atenciones que se me han prestado y por su presencia en este momento. Gracias a todo el querido pueblo dominicano por su entusiasta recibimiento, por sus constantes pruebas de amor al Papa y por su fidelidad a la fe cristiana."

 

 

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