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St John Paul II's Apostolic Pilgrimage to Iceland

3rd - 4th June 1989
Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary - Seaman's Sunday

Pope Saint John Paul II was a pilgrim to Iceland during his 42nd apostolic journey, on which he also visited Norway, Finland, Denmark & Sweden.

After being welcomed to Iceland on Saturday 3 June, the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Papa San Giovanni Paolo II met with the Catholic community at Christ the King Cathedral in Reykjavik and then with an ecumenical group at the National Shrine of Thingvellir. On 4 June, Seaman's Sunday, St John Paul II celebrated Holy Mass and recited the Angelus in front of the Cathedral, before bidding a fond farewell to Iceland.

Pope Saint John Paul II's Address at the Welcome Ceremony
Airport of Reykjavik-Keflavik, Saturday 3 June 1989 - in English & Italian   

"Mr Prime Minister and Members of the Government, Dear Bishop Jolson,
Dear Children, Beloved People of Iceland,

1. It is with great joy and satisfaction that I set foot upon the soil of Iceland and greet her people. As I drew near to your country and marvelled at her magnificent landscapes and mountain peaks, I gave thanks to Almighty God for this moment and for the precious time that we will spend together. May God, who is the Lord of all creation and the Father of all nations, bless Iceland with peace and prosperity. May he continue to inspire you and your children to treasure all that is beautiful, all that is noble and all that is true.

For many centuries, Iceland has shared her natural beauty and her ancient traditions of generosity and honour with visitors who have come to this island from afar. I am deeply grateful to Her Excellency the President of the Republic, to you, Mr Prime Minister, and to the members of the Government for the kind invitation and the warm welcome which have been given to this most recent visitor to your land. My visit to Iceland is an expression of my own personal interest and deep esteem for your country and for her place within the family of nations. Indeed, because of the rich spiritual heritage reflected in the treasure of poetry and saga which your ancestors bequeathed to you, Iceland has much to say to a world that yearns to be inspired by the truth and to create a society of justice, peace and universal harmony.

2. I have come to Iceland, as you know, in fulfilment of my ministry as the Bishop of Rome. Within the Catholic Church, I have been entrusted with the task of building up the communion of the local Churches in the unity of faith, hope and love. This task has carried me to countries and peoples across the world, as I seek to be of service to my brothers and sisters in the faith, and to bear witness to Jesus Christ, “the Son of the living God” (Matth. 16, 16). In this pastoral visit to the Church in Iceland, I look forward to praying with Bishop Jolson, the priests and religious of the Diocese of Reykjavik, and the entire Catholic community. In our celebration of the Church’s liturgy, we shall praise God for the gift of faith and for the many blessings which he has bestowed upon us.

In addition, my pastoral visit seeks to encourage the good relations which have developed between Iceland’s Catholics and the members of other ecclesial communities. Despite the tragic divisions which have long separated Christians, all of us must strive, in fidelity to the Lord’s will, to be instruments of his reconciliation, maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Cfr. Eph. 4, 3). Here in Iceland, the name of Christ has been preached for a thousand years. The message of the Gospel has formed the heart and the conscience of your people throughout her history. At Thingvellir where Christ’s Church first took root in Iceland, I will join in prayer with our brothers and sisters from the Lutheran Church and other ecclesial communities. In thanking God for all that we have received, we shall pray for the peace of Iceland and the spiritual health of all her people.

3. Today, in Iceland and throughout the world, men and women of good will are increasingly aware of the need for enduring peace among nations and peoples. They understand that this peace can only be the fruit of a just economic and social order. In the face of new forms of violence and oppression, they continue to long for the day when all nations will be secure in their freedom, and all men and women will enjoy their just share of the world’s goods. In their concern for the future of the world in which their children will live, they have come to recognize the threat of a materialism that would sacrifice the environment itself to the pursuit of a sterile material progress.

Iceland and her people have much to say to a world that increasingly longs for stability, harmony and peace, yet senses its own fragile condition and the fateful choices that it must even now begin to make. The thousand-year history of your country has given you a vision that can still inspire a world that often fears to lose its very soul. Dear friends: I encourage you to stand firm and hold fast to the traditions you have received (Cfr. 2 Thess. 2, 15). Remain faithful to the noble values that have shaped your Christian history and your life as a people. Those values are Iceland’s greatest treasure, and they offer the surest hope for your future and the future of our world. They have the power to inspire and sustain you as you seek to build what my predecessor Pope Paul VI called “the civilization of love”: a society based on a genuine solidarity, an openness to the needs of all, and a respect for the weak and those least able to defend themselves.

4. Dear people of Iceland: the message I proclaim among every people I visit is the same. It is the message of the grace and peace which come from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Cfr. Rom. 1, 7). That message has inspired your ancestors and guided your growth as a people down through the centuries. May it continue to yield a rich harvest in your lives, in your homes and in the hearts of your children. May it inspire you to be faithful to the best of Iceland’s noble heritage, and guide you in your every contribution to a world that longs to know the truth, the truth that alone can set us free (Cfr. Io. 8, 32).

God bless Iceland! God bless you all!"

Papa Saint John Paul II's Address in the Cathedral of Christ the King
Reykjavik, Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Saturday 3 June 1989 - in English & Italian   

"Dear Bishop Jolson,
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

1. As I begin my pastoral visit to Iceland I make my own the words of Saint Paul: “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2Thess. 1, 2). I greet my brother in the episcopate, Bishop Jolson, and the priests, the religious and the lay people who are gathered here. I thank you for your presence and for your warm welcome.

Iceland has enjoyed a long Christian tradition. The roots of the Catholic Church go back to the year one thousand, when the Legislative Assembly (Althing) accepted Christianity. Even before that memorable date, the seeds of “new life” had already been sown thanks to the courageous efforts of the earliest settlers. Down to our own day, the Catholic faith in Iceland has been lived with perseverance, with an ecclesial spirit which is not easily dampened. Even though you are small in numbers, you provide a powerful witness of faithful perseverance, an indomitable will and a steadfastness which comes from knowing Christ.

2. I would now like to speak directly to my brothers in the priesthood. I wish to affirm straightaway that your ministry of word and sacrament is indispensable for the Christian life of God’s people in Iceland. As men who love Christ and keep his word, you can be confident that he and the Father have come to you and made their home with you (Cfr. Io. 14, 23). You in turn must abide in Christ through personal holiness rooted in an ever deeper spiritual life. Since you act in persona Christi when you celebrate the Eucharist and the other sacraments, you will want to make him the centre of your priesthood, of all that you are and do. With Saint Paul you must say “it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2, 20).

Today’s cultural and social environment also requires a deep doctrinal formation on the part of all priests. This is essential if you are to be effective teachers of Christian doctrine in collaboration with your bishop. Continuing formation ensures that you will be able to present the Church’s faith in all its fullness, “in season and out of season”, in response to the many questions of our day. It will also help you to deepen your understanding and love of the priesthood. Through serious study you will be challenged to seek the light, to grow in your knowledge of the mysteries of faith and to pray for the wisdom that can only come from the Holy Spirit.

Finally, I ask you to encourage and pray for vocations to the priesthood in Iceland. Young men will respond generously to this noble call when they are inspired by your faith, your commitment and your perseverance. They will respond to the challenge of the priesthood when they see Christ in holy and faithful priests. Do not be afraid to invite – to call by name – generous young men to give their lives in service to the Lord. Let them see by the example of your own priestly lives what a joy it is to be Christ’s priest in Iceland today.

3. I also wish to address the women religious who are present: your lives are a sign to all people, even to those who do not believe in God, that you have dedicated yourselves to something special. For people of faith, your profession of chastity, poverty and obedience is a gift which Christ has made to his Church. Within the entire People of God, you have been called to a particular consecration, one which is “rooted in that of Baptism and is a fuller expression of it” (Cfr. Perfectae Caritatis, 5). By responding to God’s call with a profound and free surrendering of self, you invite a response on the part of others to the Kingdom of God, already present in our midst. By God’s grace, you can show what it means to make a total gift of oneself as Jesus dad to the Father.

From the beginning of the Church’s life in Iceland, consecrated men and women have made an important contribution to the human and Christian development of the nation. At one point in history there were nine monasteries of the Benedictine and Augustinian Orders in Iceland and two convents of Benedictine Sisters. Many of the masterpieces of Icelandic literature were created during that time, thus linking the cultural and artistic patrimony of this land to the monastic presence. This outpouring of the Spirit was also manifested in the care of children, the sick and the elderly, a tradition that is continued today by the Sisters of Saint Joseph, the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary, the Carmelite Sisters and the Sisters of Mercy who devote themselves to the care of the sick and the education of children.

Heute möchte ich meine aufrichtige Dankbarkeit den Sankt-Josefsschwestern bekunden, die ihr Apostolat auf dieser Insel mit der Gründung eines Pflegeheimes für Kranke begonnen haben; zuerst für die Fischer in Faskruösfjöröur. Dann errichteten sie das erste Hospital Islands.

Durch Euch, liebe Schwestern, haben viele Menschen zum Glauben an Gott gefunden; durch Eure liebende Sorge sind verhärtete Herzen umgewandelt worden. Auch nach Eurem Ausscheiden aus dem aktiven Dienst setzt Ihr Euer apostolisches Wirken durch Gebet und Opfer fort. Ich grüße Euch alle von Herzen: Euch, die Ihr hier anwesend seid, aber auch Euch, die Ihr krank seid. Von Herzen versichere ich Euch meines beständigen Gebets mit meinem besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

J’adresse un salut cordial aux Sœurs Franciscaines Missionnaires de Marie, qui se dévouent si généreusement au soin des malades et à l’instruction des enfants. Au nom de l’Eglise, je vous remercie de votre présence à Stykkisholmur, Reykjavik et maintenant Hafnarfjöröut! Vous avez en héritage la joie de saint François! Il ne connaissait pas de plus grand bonheur que de se dévouer à ceux qui sont pauvres matériellement ou spirituellement. En approfondissant votre charisme franciscain, vous serez en mesure de toucher ceux qui, malgré l’abondance des biens de ce monde, demeurent angoissés et insatisfaits. Par votre vie consacrée et par les services que vous rendez, vous guidez votre prochain vers le Christ, source de vie et source de joie, d’une joie que nul ne peut ravir (Cfr. Io. 16, 22).

Wam, drogie Siostry Karmelitanki, dziękuję serdecznie za wasze modlitwy, poświęcenie i ofiarną pracę. Poprzez milczenie uważne wsłuchanie się w słowo Boże i szczególne nabożenstwo do Eucharystii, stajecie się narzędziami zbawienia, jak Maryja zjednoczona ze swym Boskim Synem. Dajecie wymowne świadectwo życiu oddanemu samotności, modlitwie i pokucie. Jako zakonnice kontemplacyjne zajmujecie uprzywilejowane miejsce w życiu Kościoła. Modlę sie gorąco o to, aby wielu młodych ludzi dostrzegło w waszym życiu tę radość, która jest owocem zupełnego oddania się Chrystusowi.

4. Finally, I wish to say a special word to all the lay people who are present. As I mentioned earlier, perseverance is the sign of Icelandic life and faith! The farmer and the fisherman struggle against the forces of nature and at times have to overcome great obstacles. We are on the eve of a day honouring the seamen of Iceland and their families – all of whom understand the meaning of courage and perseverance.

Perseverance and fidelity on the part of all is much needed in order to fulfil the Church’s mission. There is the perennial challenge of building up the community of believers, and of handing on the faith to young people, especially by good example as authentic followers of Christ. There is the challenge of upholding moral life in accordance with the Gospel. Icelandic Catholics are called to make a positive Christian contribution to society as did their ancestors before them. Like your national hero, Bishop Jon Arason, you are called to build on your Catholic identity and to reflect your obedience to Christ in all that you say and do.

In this great task you who are the lay faithful of Iceland – parents, single people and children – have an essential role to play. The recent Post-Synodal Exhortation spoke at length on your dignity as laity and the fruitfulness of your vocation (Cfr. Christifideles Laici, 5). Among other things, it pointed out that the distinctive feature of the lay state of life is its secular character. Your calling bears witness within the Church to the significance of earthly temporal realities in the salvific plan of God (Ibid. 55).

The concerns of marriage, family, work and home – the responsibilities of social, political, cultural and economic life: none of those are foreign to the call to holiness that you have received from God. Nor are these realities alien to your participation in the Church’s mission. The challenge for all of us is to renew the life of society with the Gospel. The task of re-evangelization summons each of us to a deeper love and knowledge of our faith and a stronger commitment to bring it to others: “Everyone is called to grow continually in intimate union with Jesus Christ, in conformity to the Father’s will, in devotion to others, in charity and justice” (Ibid. 60).

I wish also to say a special word of greeting to the young people present who will soon receive the Sacrament of Confirmation! Dear young people: Confirmation will bind you more closely to Christ and the Church. You will be strengthened with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, in order to bear the witness of faith to others in the community, especially to your own generation. Remember, Christ calls you to be his friends, and the Church needs each of you to carry the Good News of salvation to others.

5. My dear friends: priests, sisters and lay people, I appeal to all Catholics in Iceland and to all Christian believers to cooperate in making the gospel message of Jesus Christ the soul of your nation: its inspiration and strength, its light and its measure. In this way God will be glorified and all the citizens of Iceland will satisfy their deepest longings for what is true and good, for what is worthy of man’s life and eternal calling.

The challenge of Christian living is demanding, but we know by faith that “with God nothing will be impossible” (Luc. 1, 37). Christ’s grace and love will not be lacking. Never lose courage, for it is precisely in your weakness that God’s power will be manifested (cfr. 2Cor. 12, 9). Through his Spirit you will be able to say: “when I am weak, then I am strong” (Ibid. 12, 10). When you feel the burdens of the day or of the years, know that Christ is there to support you with the grace of your Christian calling.

To all of you who proclaim Christ’s Gospel by your perseverance in faith, hope and love I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing."

Pope Saint John Paul II's Address at the National Shrine of Thingvellir
Ecumenical Meeting at Iceland's National Shrine, Thingvellir, Saturday 3 June 1989 - in English & Italian   

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Thingvellir. This National Shrine is forever linked to the Christian and civil history of Iceland, and I am well aware of the particular significance of holding this ecumenical service in this place.

“Höfum allir ein lög og einn sid”
(“We all have one law and one religion”)

It was here, at “All Men’s Chasm”, Almanagja, that Thorgeir Ljosvetningagodi uttered this decision after the twenty-four hour “vigil of the cloak”. It was then, almost a thousand years ago, that Iceland became Christian.

Madam President: thank you for your presence at this special event which is also in tribute to great moments of the history of your country.

Bishop Jolson, and brothers and sisters of the Catholic faith: again I greet you all in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To you, Bishop Pétur Sigurgeirsson, I wish to extend a special word of thanks for all you have done to underline the significance of this event, as an expression of friendship and Christian charity. Your presence is dear to me, and I greet you in the fellowship which is ours through Christ. I also cordially greet you, Bishop Olafur Skulason and wish you well in the new ministry you will undertake shortly.

In the grace of God and the peace of Jesus Christ I salute this ecumenical gathering. Together with you, my Catholic and Lutheran brothers and sisters, I give thanks to the Father for the Good News of our salvation through our Baptism and faith in Jesus Christ.

2. The Christian religion was brought to Iceland by missionaries who responded to the words of Christ which we have just heard from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matth. 28, 19-20). Your ancestors answered this call by accepting Christ and striving to forge a society based on his teachings. A great Christian era of religion, culture and sanctity began so that the words of the Psalmist can well express what was accomplished by faith for centuries afterwards: “O Lord; you have been our refuge from one generation to the next” (Ps. 89, 1).

More than five hundred years later the divisions which shook Christian Europe were brought here. A painful time in Christian history had begun, and the effects of it persist to this day. The staunch Bishop Jon Arason resisted the shifts taking place in Icelandic faith and culture and gave his life for his beliefs. Frail and human though he was, he showed the typical courage of an Icelander, a churchman and a bishop, by shedding his blood at Skalholt.

Yet the changes became accepted. In this new context, too, many Icelanders served the Lord in holiness and were generous in works of evangelical love and mercy. To mention one example, the great Hallgrimur Petersson called the nation to the Lord through his Hymns of the Passion. A prayer which he wrote fits well the spiritual hopes and struggles of many in our own times:

“Oft am I unbelieving –
Thou knowest me, my Lord,
Fast to my error cleaving,
Unmindful of thy word.
Yet I would now seek truly
Thy counsels to obey,
Turn from my ways unruly.
Grant me thy grace, I pray”.

3. Deep wounds were inflicted on the western Christian world, wounds which are still in need of healing. We must persevere on the path to unity, not for reasons of convenience, but because this is the declared will of Christ, “the head of the Church, his body” (Eph. 5, 23).

It is important to remember that down the centuries Lutherans and Catholics and other Christians have continued to have much in common. Through Baptism we are all incorporated into the crucified and glorified Christ. In the reading we have just heard, Saint Paul addresses the Corinthians and, in recognition of the fact that they are united with him in one and the same faith, he reminds them that they “where all baptized into one body... and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1Cor. 12, 13). Baptism, as the beginning of salvation in each individual, contains an internal dynamism which is “wholly directed towards the acquiring of the fullness of life in Christ” (Cfr. Unitatis Redintegratio, 22). It is thus “oriented towards a complete profession of faith, a complete incorporation into the system of salvation as Christ himself willed it to be, and finally towards a complete participation in Eucharistic communion” (Ibid.). The challenge before us is to overcome little by little the obstacles to this communion and grow together into that unity of the one Church of Christ, that unity with which he endowed her from the beginning. The seriousness of the task forbids rashness or impatience, but the duty of responding to Christ’s will demands that we remain steadfast on the path towards peace and unity among all Christians.

We know that it is not ourselves who will heal the wounds of division and re-establish unity – we are merely instruments that God can use. Unity among Christians will be God’s gift, in his own moment of grace. Humbly we strive towards that day, growing in love, in mutual forgiveness and trust.

4. While we honour Iceland’s Christian foundations, our eyes turn to the future. We see on the horizon the approach of a new millennium, only a decade away. The headlong pace of modern life shows that this nation, indeed the world, is facing new challenges as we move towards the twenty-first century. Developments in economic and political life, and new possibilities in the life-sciences, call you to a wise discernment of the truths and values inherent in your best traditions. They are truths and values which must be firmly upheld if the spiritual freedom and genuine well-being of future generations of Icelanders is to be safeguarded.

Family life has already been deeply affected by change, and not always for the good. The traditional Icelandic home has always been a school of faith, love and moral teaching. Its spirit is reflected in a story written by your late beloved Father Jon Svensson, of the Society of Jesus, affectionately known as “Father Nonni”. Nonni’s mother bibs farewell to him in simple words which go to the heart of your traditions: “Be honest”, she says, “and don’t forget God”. But the fact is that families are facing new and serious pressures which can only be met by a renewed and deeper respect for life and love. It is essential to recover an awareness of the primacy of moral values, to reflect on the ultimate meaning of life and its transcendent destiny.

In this important matter there is so much that all Christians can do together. I encourage you to continue to cooperate in identifying the deeper questions affecting your society and to answer these questions with evangelical wisdom.

5. The uncertainty and confusion brought by certain changes in social and family life call to mind three priorities which are pastoral in nature and which are fully in conformity with the decision to accept Christianity which was made here a thousand years ago. These priorities have great meaning for Christians always and everywhere.

The first is this: as Christians, our lives must be rooted firmly in Christ. He is the “rock of our salvation” (Ps. 93, 22), “the Way, and the Truth and the Life” (Io. 14, 6). Iceland recognized this in the year 1000, and Iceland is called to renew that faith in our own time. It is significant that Jesus’ command to his disciples to go and teach all nations is immediately followed by his promise: “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matth. 28, 20). Yes, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever” (Hebr. 13, 8). In the midst of change, Christ remains our steadfast hope. No one should think that the Christian message is in some way contrary to human progress or to humanity’s legitimate aspirations to truth, freedom and justice.

Does not the Gospel of Saint John promise the fulfilment of such aspirations in the deepest possible sense when it proclaims: “the Son continues for ever... if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (Io. 8, 35-36).

The second priority is this: because we are rooted in Christ we must also bear public witness to him. It is of the very nature of being a Christian to evangelize, to spread the word in season and out of season (Cfr. 2Tim. 4, 2), to witness to the Gospel in times of calm and in times of turmoil, by the way we live. It is especially when civilization is in transition, and when it seems that a new set of secular values is emerging, that humanity needs to hear the Gospel of God’s love for us in Christ, the good news that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us... therefore we are now... reconciled to God” (Rom. 5, 8-10). Now especially is the time for all Christians to bear witness with vigour to the great act of reconciliation accomplished for us by God through Jesus Christ.

The third priority involves our responsibility for unity. Is it not obvious that those who witness to Christ, “through whom we have now received our reconciliation” with the Father (Ibid. 5, 11; cfr. 2Cor. 5, 18-20),  must also be reconciled to one another? We cannot ignore the ecumenical task. In this predominantly Lutheran country, I wish to express my encouragement for the international dialogue now taking place between the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, a dialogue which seeks to resolve the historical and doctrinal difficulties which have been obstacles between Lutherans and Catholics. Let us support these efforts and pray for their success.

6. It is true that the world is facing new challenges. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ is our hope. For Christians a time of change is not a time for fear, but a time to build and a time to bring the Good News of salvation to all. The decade ahead, leading to the third Christian millennium, offers the Christians of this celebrated nation of explorers, brave seafarers, hardy farmers and dedicated men and women a great opportunity to bear common witness to the Gospel in response to society’s deepest needs.

Here in “All Men’s Chasm” Almanagja, can we not imagine a decade in which Icelandic Catholics and Lutherans will go forward together in facing the tasks of our time? Prayerful dialogue can help clarify what you have in common and where the points of difference and division lie. You can come to know one another better, in order to build on the real though imperfect communion already existing between fellow Christians by reason of their Baptism and faith in Christ.

May this podium – specially built to mark this historic meeting – stand as a symbol of your determination to walk hand in hand as brothers and sisters in the One Lord.

7. Your ancestors worshipped the Lord and centred their lives in him. Among the ways in which they praised God down the centuries was the special reverence they showed to Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer. Children from generation to generation have been given her name: Maria. This reverence is immortalized in the Maria Saga. The Marian Hymn Lilja composed in 1350 sings Mary’s praises. Stefan fra Hvitadal reflected this devotion when he wrote:

“Lystu theim hédan
Er lokast bra
Heilaga Gudsmodir
Himnum fra”.

Today, when the Catholic Church is celebrating the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it is fitting for me to ask her to intercede for you and for Iceland. May the prayers of the Blessed Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ accompany you always!

Dear brothers and sisters: I thank you for your welcome and for this time of prayer we are sharing together in Thingvellir. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (2Thess. 3, 18). Amen."

Papa San Giovanni Paolo II's Homily at Mass in Reykjavik
in front of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Thingvellir, Seaman's Sunday, 4 June 1989 - in English & Italian   

“Lord,... I am not worthy to have you come under my roof” (Luc. 7, 6).

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. These are familiar words. We say them before Holy Communion every time we participate at Mass. Today they will be repeated here in Reykjavik, in Iceland, in this solemn assembly gathered in faith and love to celebrate the Eucharist with the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Apostle Peter.

[Text in Icelandic]
Kaeru börn; betta er hátídleg stund í lífi ykkar og mér er bad einstök ánaegja ad vera hér á Íslandi til ad veita ykkur sakramentid, er bid gangid í fyrsta sinn til altaris. Pid hafid nú nád beim broska ad geta tekid á móti altarissakramentinu. Pad er von mín ad bid vardveitid kaerleikann, sem bid synid Jesú Kristi í dag, alla aevidaga ykkar.

Ykkur, íslenskum börnum og ungmennum, fel ég bennan kross, sem ég nú hef blessad. Hann munu skátar reisa vid Ulfljótsvatn til minningar um heimsókn mína. Hann mun minna ykkur á búsund ára sögu kristni á Íslandi. Hann mun minna ykkur á, ad bessi trú er arfleifd ykkur. Tileinkid ykkur hana! Lifid hana til fullnustu! Petta er ósk mín til handa íslenskri aesku.

This solemn Eucharist, the memorial of the saving death of our Lord Jesus Christ, is a celebration of Iceland’s thousand years of Christian history. With gratitude we remember “those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith”: from the first hermits of the ninth century mentioned in the Sagas, who came possibly from Ireland, and the first Icelandic bishop, Isleifur Gissurarson, and the saintly Bishop Thorlakur Thorhallsson. We remember your national hero, Bishop Jon Arason, the Jesuit Father Jon Svensson, and Gunnar Einarsson who persevered like Simeon waiting for the Lord, and died one month after his son Johannes Gunnarsson returned as the first Icelandic Catholic bishop of modern times. And all the others, too numerous to mention by name. Both Catholics and Lutherans can look back on the fidelity of men and women of sincere and resolute faith who bore witness to Christ in this land. Christ is the Light of the nations, the Light of these Northern countries I am visiting, the Light of Iceland! To him be praise for ever and ever!

2. It was Christ himself who gave us the Eucharist. He gave it once for all when he offered himself on the Cross “for the life of the world”. In fact, during the Last Supper he instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood under the signs of bread and wine, and he told the Apostles to renew that memorial – “in memory of him” – until he comes again. Christ himself gave to them, and gives to us, his Body as food and his Blood as our spiritual drink.

The Eucharist, which is celebrated over and over again in the Church, is both a Sacrifice and a Banquet. It contains the Church’s whole spiritual wealth: Christ himself in the fullness of his humanity and in his marvellous divine equality with the Father. It is the very centre of the assembly of the faithful over which the priest presides (Cfr. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 5). The Second Vatican Council clearly states that no Christian community can be built up unless it has its basis and centre in the celebration of the Eucharist, in which all education in community spirit must originate (Cfr. ibid. 6). In fact, the Council boldly states that the principal manifestation of the Church consists in the full, active participation of God’s holy people in the Eucharist at which the bishop presides, surrounded by his priests and ministers (Cfr. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 41). All else in the Church’s life is directed to this.

It is therefore a great joy on this Sunday, during my visit to Iceland, to be able to celebrate this most holy of gifts with the Catholic community:
– with Bishop Jolson, and the priests who serve here;
– with the religious; with the laity;
– in the company of our beloved Lutheran brothers and sisters who have wished to join us in this moment of prayer.

I have been told that this is Seaman’s Sunday, when special prayers are offered throughout the country for those who work at sea. Let us remember those who have been lost or injured in this traditional Icelandic occupation, which demands so much effort, courage and perseverance. May God have mercy on the souls of the departed and may he comfort those who have been the victims of a sea that is so generous but at times so cruel.

3. The words “Lord,... I am not worthy” (Luc. 7, 6) were said for the first time by a Roman centurion, a man serving as a soldier in the land of Israel. Though he was a foreigner and a pagan, he loved the people of Israel, and – as the Gospel tells us – he had even built them a synagogue, a house of prayer. For that reason the Jews warmly supported the request he wished to make to Jesus, to heal his servant. In answer to the centurion’s petition Jesus set out for his house. But at that point the centurion, wanting to save Jesus the effort, said to him: “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; that is why I did not presume to come to you myself. Just give the order and my servant will be healed (Luc. 7, 6-7). Christ granted the centurion’s wish, but at the same time “he was amazed” at the centurion’s words and said to the crowd following him: “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith” (Ibid. 7, 9).

4. If we repeat the words of the centurion when we approach Holy Communion, we do so because these words express a faith that is strong and deep. The words are simple but in a sense they contain the fundamental truth which says who God is and who man is: God is all-holy, he is the Creator who gives us life and who makes all that exists in the universe. We are creatures and his children, in need of healing because of our sins.

In a highly developed society such as yours, where everyone has enough to eat, where education and health care are available to all, and where a high level of social justice has been achieved, it is easy to lose sight of the Creator, from whose loving hands all things come. It is easy to live as if God did not exist. Indeed, there is a powerful attraction to such an attitude, for it might seem that acknowledging God as the origin and end of all things lessens human independence and places unacceptable limits on human action. But when we forget God we soon lose sight of the deeper meaning of our existence, we no longer know who we are (Cfr. Gaudium et Spes, 36). Is this not an important part of the dissatisfaction that is common in highly developed societies?

Is it not fundamental for our psychological and social well-being to hear God’s voice in the wonderful harmony of the universe? Is it not in fact liberating to recognize that the stability, truth, goodness and order which the human mind increasingly discovers in the cosmos are a reflection of the unity, truth, goodness and beauty of the Creator himself?

A radical challenge facing the human family at the end of the twentieth century is to use the earth’s resources wisely and responsibly, which means with respect for the limits to which these resources are necessarily subject. To do this is to respect the will of the Creator. And in human affairs the challenge is to build a world of justice, peace and love, where the life and equal dignity of every human being, without discrimination, is defended and sustained. To do this is to recognize the face of God in every human face, and especially in the tears and sufferings of those who long to be loved or justly treated.

No single person can solve all the world’s problems. But every act of goodness is an important contribution to the changes we all wish to see. It was from a profound sense of justice that Einar Asmundsson took the destitute Father Baudoin, a foreigner, into his home. This act had consequences far beyond anything Einar Asmundsson himself could imagine. So it is that all our good actions constitute a victory for justice, peace and human dignity. But our selfishness and lack of moral courage lead to the persistence and even strengthening of injustice in the world.

5. The centurion’s words are the voice of the creature praising the Creator for his generosity and goodness. Indeed, those words contain the entire Gospel: the entire Good News of our salvation. They bear witness to the wonderful Gift of God himself, expressed in the Word of life. God bestows on humanity an absolutely free gift – a share in his own divine nature. He endows his creatures with eternal life in Christ. Man is graced by God.

The faith of the Roman centurion was great. He was aware of how much he had been “graced” by Christ. He knew that he was not worthy of such a gift, and that this gift was far beyond anything that he, a mere man, could humanly achieve or even desire, for the gift is truly supernatural. The wonder of this gift is that it makes it possible for us to achieve the object of our deepest longings: to live forever in intimate union with God who is the source of all good. In the Eucharist we share in this same gift sacramentally. The Eucharist is a memorial of the suffering and death of Jesus: it fills us with grace, and it is a pledge of our future glory. Through faith we must constantly renew our gratitude for the divine gift.

In Christ, who is the divine Gift, the gift of the Gospel, the gift of the Eucharist is offered to everyone. Everyone is invited to become a member of “the household of the faith” (Cfr. Gal. 6, 10). In this Church there are no strangers”. Even someone who comes from “a far country”, from very far away, is “at home” in the Church. That is what today’s First Reading from the Book of Kings tells us: when Solomon dedicates the great Temple in Jerusalem, he prays that “all the peoples of the earth may know your name” (1 Reg. 8, 43). In spite of differences of race, nationality, language and culture, all are called to share equally in the unity and fellowship of God’s people. While we are well aware that history has left to us Christians those divisions and differences in faith which make it impossible for us to share in the Eucharist, we earnestly pray for the time when Christ’s prayer will be fully answered: that all may be one, so that the world will believe (Cfr. Io. 17, 21).

6. “Praise the Lord, all you nations, acclaim him all you peoples! Strong is his love for us; he is faithful for ever” (Ps. 116, 1-2).

Today the Church everywhere sings these words – wherever Christians gather to celebrate the Sunday Eucharist, just as we are doing here on this island of the North Atlantic, in Iceland! In so many different languages the words of the centurion are being repeated: “Lord,... I am not worthy”. These words – like those of the Psalm – speak of God’s gifts to each one of us: our life, our family, the achievement of our society, our faith, and the greatest of all God’s gifts, his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

“Lord,... I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word and I shall be healed” (Cfr. Luc. 7, 6).

Lord Jesus Christ! I thank you for enabling me to proclaim the mystery of faith here in Iceland, in the midst of your faithful people: with those who are about to receive you sacramentally for the first time, with the entire Catholic community, and in the company of my Lutheran brothers and sisters.

Kæru kristnu vinir.
Ég pakka ykkur innilegar viŏtökur og óska ykkur og öllum Íslendingum allrar blessunar Guŏs."

Papa Santo Juan Pablo II's words at the Angelus in Reykjavik
Seaman's Sunday, 4 June 1989 - in English, Italian & Spanish  

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As we conclude this Liturgy, the traditional hour of the Angelus summons us in prayer before Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother. We have heard and repeated today the words of the centurion: “Lord,... I am not worthy to have you come under my roof” (Luc. 7, 6). At the Annunciation Mary experienced a similar sense of unworthiness, but she accepted God’s will by saying “Fiat” – “Let it be to me according to your word” (Ibid. 1, 38). To her I now entrust all the people here in Iceland and throughout the Nordic countries:

Our Lady, Help of Christians, you know how fervently the people of the North call on you in moments of joy, anxiety and fear:
– fishermen pray to you – Star of the Sea!
– travellers invoke your intercession – Lady of the Wayside!
– parents pray to you to protect and guide their children
– Mother of Good Counsel!
– soldiers of the Northern countries who serve with the Peacekeeping Forces of the United Nations call upon you
– Lady of Peace!

Blessed Mary, look with kindness today upon every home. Obtain for families the joy and harmony that filled the house at Nazareth. Unite parents in faithful love and bless all children. Help young adults to respond generously and faithfully to Christ. Teach everyone the value of forgiveness and fraternal love.

O Mother of Mercy, comfort the elderly and the sick. Help the injured and handicapped. Assist those who suffer from cancer, AIDS, or any incurable illness. Give hope and fresh courage to all who are afraid, depressed, lost or unwanted.

Touch the hearts of all who have given up the faith. Call them home! Tell them that the Father loves them and waits for them with open arms. Tell them the Church needs them!

Our lady of the North, strengthen the bishops, priests and religious of these lands. May they be filled with zeal and compassion, and may they always bear authentic witness to the Kingdom of God. Look with love upon all our Christian brothers and sisters. Heal the wounds of division. Help us to rejoice one day in unity.

Mother of God, you are the highest honour of our race! Spread your mantle of love over us so that in all things we too may say “fiat” – Let God’s will be done."

Pope Saint John Paul II's Address at the Farewell Ceremony
Airport of Reykjavik-Keflavik, Sunday 4 June 1989 - in English & Italian   

"Dear Friends,
1. As I prepare to leave Iceland, I wish to express once again my gratitude for the gracious hospitality which you have extended to me. I am particularly grateful to Her Excellency the President, the Prime Minister and the other civil authorities for all their help in making this visit possible. It is my heartfelt prayer that my pastoral journey may serve as a stimulus to a renewed spiritual vigour for all Iceland’s people.

2. During my stay I have borne witness to the message of God’s love as revealed in Jesus Christ. I have sought to confirm my Catholic brothers and sisters in the faith, and I have lifted up my heart in prayer together with many others who believe in Christ. In all that has been said and done, I have recalled the evangelical values that Christians hold in common and offer to mankind. We are firmly convinced that those values are a beacon of hope for a world that increasingly longs to know true peace and authentic human fulfilment.

Anchored in the message of the Gospel, Christian values form an integral part of Iceland’s culture and spiritual heritage. Throughout your history, you have grown in unity as a people through your shared belief in the dignity of each human person, in the respect which is due to human life, and in the nobility of the human soul in its quest for peace. Likewise, you have sought to promote those values within the family circle, among your youth, and in civic life. The modern Republic of Iceland was founded upon those values, and your continued well-being as a society depends upon the extent to which they do not cease to offer you inspiration for the future.

3. Dear friends: as I leave Iceland, I am grateful for the many ways in which I myself have experienced Iceland’s spiritual riches. The strong faith and ready love of my Catholic brothers and sisters made me feel fully at home among the members of the household of God (Cfr. Eph. 2, 19). The warmth of the welcome which I received from my Lutheran brothers and sisters at Thingvellir served as a vivid reminder not only of the great common heritage that we continue to share as Christians, but also of the power of the Holy Spirit, who even now urges us all to a deeper unity in the fellowship of faith and love. From all of Iceland’s people, from those who believe and those who profess no belief, I was shown respect and given a hearing that bespoke a hospitality that comes from the heart.

4. I thank God for all that I have received from you, and I pray that the message which I have brought will help all of you to discover greater happiness, peace and fulfilment. The many blessings which God has poured out upon Iceland in the past are a pledge for the future well-being of your country and her people. In him who is the author of peace and the source of all goodness, may you come to a clearer understanding of yourselves, your nation, and the calling which you have received within the larger community of the nations. As you work for peace in your own hearts, in your families, and in your Churches and communities, may you continue to know the abiding strength and lofty vision which faith alone can give.

May God bless Iceland and all her people!"



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