the Very Reverend Timothy Radcliffe
Master General of the Order of Preachers
thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance
of "the saints in light" (Col 1:12), I greet you and the
Order of Preachers on the occasion of the Elective General Chapter
beginning in Rhode Island on 10 July 2001. As you gather for the
first Chapter of the new millennium to elect the eighty?fifth successor
of your blessed Founder, Saint Dominic, I invoke upon the members
of the Chapter the light of the Holy Spirit, so that everything
you think and say and do may bring strength to the Order and peace
to the Church, and may thus give glory to God.
the outset, one of the first tasks assigned to your Order was the
proclamation of the truth of Christ in response to the Albigensian
heresy, a new form of the recurrent Manichaean heresy with which
Christianity has had to contend from the beginning. At its core
there lay the denial of the Incarnation, a refusal to accept that
"the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us, full of grace
and truth" (Jn 1:14). To respond to this new form of the old
heresy, the Holy Spirit raised up the Order of Preachers, men who
would be pre?eminent for their poverty and mobility in the service
of the Gospel, who would unceasingly contemplate the truth of the
Incarnate Word in prayer and study, and through their preaching
and teaching would pass on to others the fruits ofthat contemplation.
Contemplata alüs tradere: the motto of the Order became its
great call to action, and it remains such to this day.
your Chapter, you will reflect upon the intimately related themes
"Preaching the Gospel in a globalized world" and "The
renewal of the contemplative life". The history of your Order
indicates that the Gospel will be preached in fresh and effective
ways in a fast?changing world only if Christians follow the path
of contemplation which leads to a deeper relationship with Christ,
"known through his manifold presence in the Church and in the
world, and confessed as the meaning of history and the light of
life's journey" (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 15).
is clear that the ancient afflictions of the human soul and the
great untruths never die but lie hidden for a time, to reappear
later in other forms. That is why there is always need for a new
evangelization of the kind to which the Holy Spirit is now summoning
the whole Church. We live in a time marked in its own way by a denial
of the Incarnation. For the first time since Christ's birth two
thousand years ago, it is as if he no longer had a place in an ever
more secularized world. Not that he is always denied explicitly:
indeed many claim to admire Jesus and to value elements of his teaching.
Yet he remains distant: he is not truly known, loved and obeyed,
but consigned to a distant past or a distant heaven.
is an age which denies the incarnation in a multitude of practical
ways, and the consequences of this denial are clear and disturbing.
In the first place, the individual's relationship with God is seen
as purely personal and private, so that God is removed from the
processes that govern social, political and economic activity. This
leads in turn to a greatly diminished sense of human possibility,
since it is Christ alone who fully reveals the magnificent possibilities
of human life, who truly "reveals man to himself' (Gaudium
et Spes, 22). When Christ is excluded or denied, our vision of human
purpose dwindles; and as we anticipate and aim for less, hope gives
way to despair, joy to depression. There also appears a profound
distrust of reason and of the human capacity to grasp the truth;
indeed the very concept of truth is cast into doubt. To their mutual
impoverishment, faith and reason part company, degenerating into
fideism on the one hand and rationalism on the other (cf. Fides
et Ratio, 48). Life is not valued and loved; and hence the advance
of a certain culture of death, with its dark blooms of abortion
and euthanasia. The body and human sexuality are not properly valued
and loved; hence the degradation of sex which shows itself in a
tide of moral confusion, infidelity and the violence of pornography.
Creation itself is not valued and loved; hence the spectre of destructive
selfishness in the misuse and exploitation of the environment.
such a situation, the Church and the Successor of the Apostle Peter
look to the Order of Preachers with no less hope and confidence
than at the timeof your foundation. The needs of the new evangelization
are great; and it is certain that your Order, with its many vocations
and outstanding heritage, must play a vital part in the Church's
mission to overturn the old untruths and proclaim the message of
Christ effectively at the dawn of the new millennium.
he lay dying, Saint Dominic said to his grieving brothers: "Do
not weep, for I shall be more useful to you beyond my death, and
I shall help you then more effectively than during my life".
I pray most fervently that the intercession of your Founder will
strengthen you for the tasks now at hand, and that the great host
of Dominican Saints who have adorned the Order's past will illumine
its path into the future. Entrusting the Order of Preachers to the
maternal care of Our Lady of the Rosary, I gladly impart my Apostolic
Blessing to you, to the members of the Chapter and to all the Friars
as a pledge of endless grace and peace in Jesus Christ, "the
image of the invisible God and the firstborn of all creation"
the Vatican, 28 June 2001