Pope John Paul II officially began the preparations for the journey towards the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 with his Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio adveniente, published on 10 November 1994.
On 10 Nov 1994, Pope John Paul II promulgated an Apostolic Letter, Tertio Millennio adveniente, addressed to “the Bishops, the clergy and lay faithful on preparation for the Jubilee of the Year 2000”. The document contains a brief introduction and five chapters. The introduction presents the main subject of the letter: the Jubilee is a celebration of the redeeming Incarnation of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Chapter I JESUS CHRIST IS THE SAME YESTERDAY AND TODAY, explains the significance and importance of the birth of Christ. He, the Son of God, became one of us in order to reveal to us God’s plan for the whole of creation, and for mankind in particular. This is the essential point which makes Christianity different from other religions: it is God who comes in search of mankind, and shows the way for us to reach him. The incarnation of Christ is God’s coming, to show us that we have taken the wrong road, the road of evil. “Overcoming evil: this is the meaning of the Redemption” (TMA 7) Christianity therefore, is the religion of the Incarnation, of the world’s Redemption.
Chapter II, THE JUBILEE OF THE YEAR 2000, explains the origin of a Holy Year and the deep significance of this next one which will mark the end of one millennium and the beginning of another. With the Incarnation, God entered human history, eternity entered time: Christ is the Lord of time. In Christianity, time has a fundamental importance. Since God has entered our human time, there arises the duty to sanctify time. Against this background we can understand the custom of Jubilees which began in Bible times and continues in the history of the Church. Jesus himself proclaims the year of the Lord’s favour. For the Church the Jubilee is a year of special grace, of remission of sins and the punishment due to them, a year of reconciliation between disputing parties. Our own lives are marked with jubilees, anniversaries of birthdays, and weddings and, for Christians, anniversaries of Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, Priestly or Episcopal Ordination. Communities, dioceses and parishes also celebrate Jubilees for anniversaries of foundation etc. Hence with regard to its content, this great Jubilee will be, in a sense, like any other. But at the same time it will be different, greater than any other for Christians and for all people of goodwill.
Chapter III, PREPARATION FOR THE GREAT JUBILEE, highlights the various events which can be seen as providential preparation for the Jubilee of the second Christian millennium. First of all the Second Vatican Council, “an event, focused on the mystery of Christ and his Church and at the same time open to the world. This openness was an evangelical response to recent changes in the world, including the profoundly disturbing experiences of the 20th century, … the first and second World Wars …” experiences which demonstrate the world’s need for purification. The best preparation for the new millennium, the Pope writes, will be renewed commitment to apply the teachings of Vatican II to the life of every individual and of the whole Church. Other events seen as preparation for the Jubilee are the regular series of meetings of the Synod of Bishops, since Vatican II, synods which can be, universal, continental, regional, but also national and diocesan and which discuss and address various questions and matters regarding the life of the Church. The underlying theme of them all is evangelisation, or rather the new evangelisation. The ministry of the Bishop of Rome has special tasks and responsibilities with regard to the Jubilee of the Year 2000. In a sense all the Popes of this century have prepared for this Holy Year with numerous documents and messages, concerning social doctrine, for example the annual Message for Peace first delivered by Pope Paul VI in 1968. The present Pope, John Paul II, in his first Encyclical, (Redemptor hominis), spoke explicitly of the Great Jubilee as a time to be lived as a “new Advent”. Papal journeys too, have become an important element in the work of implementing the Second Vatican Council. In this Letter he expresses the desire to visit Sarajevo, Lebanon, Jerusalem and the Holy Land, “the places on the road taken by the People of God of the Old Covenant, starting from the places associated with Abraham and Moses, through Egypt and Mount Sinai as far as Damascus, the city which witnessed the conversion of Saint Paul.”
The Pope also affirms the important role of local Jubilees, in preparation for the Great Jubilee, heralded also by the extraordinary 1983 Holy Year of the Redemption, and the Marian year, 1986/87. “The Marian year was as it were an anticipation of the Jubilee and contained much of what will find fuller expression in the Year 2000”. Furthermore, the Tertio Millennio adveniente was written in the Year of the Family, “a celebration closely connected with the mystery of the incarnation and with the very history of humanity”
Chapter IV, IMMEDIATE PREPARATION, presents a specific programme of initiatives for preparation for the Jubilee in three phases: ante-preparatory (1994-96) in which to revive in the Christian people an awareness of the value and meaning of the Jubilee of the Year 2000 in human history; the second, (1997-99) a three year period centred on Christ, the Son of God made Man, and so, Trinitarian. Reflection will therefore focus in 1997 on Christ; in 1998 on the Holy Spirit and in 1999 on God the Father, from whom the Lord was sent and to whom he has returned.
The main points indicated by the Pope for this immediate preparation which must be, he says, a profound general and individual examination of conscience, can be presented briefly as follows:
- Recognition of sinfulness: “The Holy Door of the Jubilee of the Year 2000 should be symbolically wider than those of the previous Jubilees – the Pope writes – because humanity upon reaching this goal, will leave behind not just a century but a millennium. It is fitting that the Church should make this passage with a clear awareness of what has happened to her during the last ten centuries. She cannot cross the threshold of the new millennium without encouraging her children to purify themselves, through repentance of past errors and instances of infidelity, inconsistency and slowness to act”;
- Yearning for unity among Christians, a deep desire present throughout the Letter. The Pope speaks of wounds of division which must be healed, and calls again for examination of conscience and promotion of fitting ecumencial initiatives, ecumenical dialogue on all levels, and above all prayer for unity.
- Promotion of social justice in keeping with the Biblical tradition of the Jubilee, (universal destination of the produce of the land, re-establishment of equality among the children of Israel)
- Remembering the martyrs. A Church which forgets the martyrs of the past or fails to recognise the martyrs of today is not worthy to be the Church of Christ. Here the Pope says “In our own century the martyrs have returned” and “as far as possible their witness should not be lost to the Church.” For this purpose he has asked that documentation be gathered and martyrologies be updated, particularly to foster the recognition of the heroic virtues of men and women who have lived their Christian vocation in marriage.
During the three-year period of preparation the Church will give special attention in 1997 to renewed appreciation of the Bible, of Baptism, of catechesis “the Apostles’ teaching”, and a strengthening of faith and the witness of Christians. In 1998 efforts will be made for a renewed appreciation of the presence and activity of the Spirit, the principal agent of the new evangelisation, and attention for the signs of hope present in this past part of the century, in society and in the Church. In the third and final year of immediate preparation, according to the indications given by Pope John Paul II, the sense of being on a journey to the Father should encourage everyone to undertake an authentic journey of conversion, through renewed appreciation and better celebration of the Sacrament of Penance. Conversion is an indispensable condition of Christian love. Love which is expressed n the Church’s preferential option for the poor and the outcast. The Jubilee could also be an opportune moment to reduce, of not cancel the international debt which weighs on many nations. The eve of the Year 2000 will also be a good time for interreligious dialogue; a time to hold joint meetings in significant places.
The celebration of the Great Jubilee, which will take place simultaneously in the Holy Land, in Rome and in all the local Churches throughout the world, will give glory to the Trinity, God, the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.
– Chapter V of Tertio Millennio adveniente, “JESUS CHRIST IS THE SAME … FOR EVER, speaks of the mission of the Church, called to carry on the work of Christ. Like the mustard seed in the Gospel, the Church has grown to become a great tree, able to cover the whole of humanity with her branches. Ever since the time of the Apostles, the Church’s mission has continued without interruption within the whole human family. With the fall of the great anti-Christian systems in Europe, first of Nazism and then of Communism, there is urgent need to bring once more the liberating message of the Gospel to the men and women of today, and to the young generation in particular.