You would have to ask the Holy Spirit! The Pope prays as the Holy Spirit
permits him to pray. I think he has to pray in a way in which,
deepening the mystery revealed in Christ, he can better fulfill his
ministry. The Holy Spirit certainly guides him in this. But man must not
put up obstacles. "The Spirit too comes to help us in our weakness."
For what does the Pope pray? What fills the interior space of his prayer?
. . .
The subject of the Pope's prayer is the phrase that begins the last document of the Second Vatican Council, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: Gaudium et spes, luctus et angor hominum huius temporis (The joy and the hope, the grief and the anguish of the people of our time).
Gospel means "good news," and the Good News is always an invitation to joy. What is the Gospel? It is a grand affirmation of the world and of man, because it is the revelation of the truth about God. God is the
primary source of joy and hope for man. This is the God whom Christ revealed: God who is Creator and Father; God who "so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life" (cf. Jn 3:16).
The Gospel, above all else, is the joy of creation. God, who in creating saw that His creation was good (cf. Gn 1:1-25), is the source of joy for all creatures, and above all for humankind. God the Creator seems to say of all creation: "It is good that you exist." And His joy spreads especially through the "good news," according to which good is greater than all that is evil in the world. Evil, in fact, is neither fundamental nor definitive. This point clearly distinguishes Christianity from all forms of existential pessimism.
Creation was given and entrusted to humankind as a duty, representing not a source of suffering but the foundation of a creative existence in the world. A
person who believes in the essential goodness of all creation is capable of discovering all the secrets of creation, in order to perfect continually the work assigned to him by God. It must be clear for those who accept Revelation, and in particular the Gospel, that it is better to exist than not to exist. And because of this, in the realm of the Gospel, there is no space for any nirvana, apathy, or resignation. Instead, there is a great challenge to perfect creation-be it oneself, be it the world.
This essential joy of creation is, in turn, completed by the joy of salvation, by the joy of redemption. The Gospel, above all, is a great joy for the salvation of man. The Creator of man is also his Redeemer.
Salvation not only confronts evil in each of its ex-
isting forms in this world but proclaims victory over evil. "I have conquered the world," says Christ (cf.
Jn 16:33). The full promise of these words is found
in the Paschal Mystery. During the Easter vigil the Church sings with exultation: "O felix culpa, quae talem ac tantum meruit habere Redemptorem" ("Oh happy fault, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!" Exultet).
Therefore the cause of our joy is to give us the strength to defeat evil and to embrace the divine filiation which constitutes the essence of the Good News. God gives this power to humankind through Christ. "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him" (cf. Jn 3:17).
The work of redemption is to elevate the work of creation to a new level. Creation is permeated with a redemptive sanctification, even a divinization. It comes as if drawn to the sphere of the divinity and of the intimate life of God. In this realm the destructive power of sin is defeated. Indestructible life, revealed in the Resurrection of Christ, "swallows," so to speak, death. "Where, O death, is your victory?" asks the apostle Paul, with his eyes fixed on the Risen Christ
(1 Cor 15:55).
Because the Pope is a witness of Christ and a minister of the Good News, he is a man of joy and a man of hope, a man of the fundamental affirmation of the value of existence, the value of creation and of hope in the future life. Naturally, this is neither a naive joy, nor a vain hope. The joy of the victory over evil does not obfuscate-it actually intensifies-the realistic awareness of the existence of evil in the world and in every man. The Gospel teaches us to call good and evil by name, but it also teaches: "Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good" (cf. Rom 12:21).
Here Christian morality is fully expressed. If this morality, however, strives towards values, if it brings a universal affirmation of good, it can be nothing but extraordinarily demanding. Good, in fact, is not easy,
it is always the "hard road" of which Christ speaks
in the Gospel (cf. Mt 7:14). Therefore, the joy of good and the hope of its triumph in man and in the world do not exclude fear for this good, for the disappearance of this hope.
The Pope, like every Christian, must be keenly aware of the dangers to which man is subject in the world, in his temporal future, and in his final, eternal, eschatological future. The awareness of these dangers does not generate pessimism, but rather encourages the struggle for the victory of good in every realm. And it is precisely from this struggle for the victory of good in man and in the world that the need for prayer arises.
The Pope's prayer, however, has an added dimension. In his concern for all the churches every day the Pontiff must open his prayer, his thought, his heart to the entire world. Thus a kind of geography of the Pope's prayer is sketched out. It is a geography of communities, churches, societies, and also of the problems that trouble the world today. In this sense the Pope is called to a universal prayer in which the sollicitudo omnium Ecclesiarum (concern for all the churches; 2 Cor 11:28) permits him to set forth before God all the joys and hopes as well as the griefs and anxieties that the Church shares with humanity today.
Prayer in our time, prayer in the twentieth century, should also be discussed. The year 2000 marks a kind of challenge. We must look at the immensity of good that has sprung from the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word and, at the same time, not lose sight of the mystery of sin, which is continually expanding. Saint Paul writes that "where sin increased" ("ubi abundavit peccatum"), "grace overflowed all the more" ("superabundavit gratia"; cf. Rom 5:20).
This profound truth presents a perennial challenge for prayer. It shows how necessary prayer is for the world and for the Church, because in the end it constitutes the easiest way of making God and His redeeming love present in the world. God entrusted to men their own salvation; He entrusted to them the Church and, in the Church, the redeeming work of Christ. God entrusted this to all, both to individuals and to humanity as a whole. He entrusted all to one and one to all. The prayer of the Church, and especially the prayer of the Pope, must constantly reflect this awareness.
All of us are "children of the promise" (Gal 4:28). Christ said to the apostles: "Take courage, I have conquered the world" (Jn 16:33). But He also asked: "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" (Lk 18:8). This is the source of the missionary dimension of the prayer of the Church and of the Pope.
The Church prays that everywhere the work of salvation will be accomplished through Christ. The Church prays that it can live in constant dedication to God's mission. This mission constitutes, in a certain sense, the essence of the Church, as the Second Vatican Council has stated.
The Church and the Pope pray for the people to whom this mission must be particularly entrusted, they pray for vocations-not only for religious and for priestly vocations but also for the many vocations to holiness among God's people amid the laity.
The Church prays for the suffering. Suffering, in fact, is always a great test not only of physical strength but also of spiritual strength. Saint Paul's truth about "completing the sufferings of Christ" (cf. Col 1:24) is part of the Gospel. It contains the joy and the hope that are essential to the Gospel; but man will not cross the threshold of that truth without the help of the Holy Spirit. Prayer for the suffering and with the suffering is therefore a special part of this great cry that the Church and the Pope raise together with Christ. It is a cry for the victory of good even through evil, through suffering, through every wrong and human injustice.
The Church prays for the dead and this prayer says much about the reality of the Church itself. It says that the Church continues to live in the hope of eternal life. Prayer for the dead is almost a battle with the reality of death and destruction that weighs down upon the earthly existence of man. This is and remains a particular revelation of the Resurrection. In this prayer Christ Himself bears witness to the life and immortality, to which God calls every human being.
Prayer is a search for God, but it is also a revelation of God. Through prayer God reveals Himself as Creator and Father, as Redeemer and Savior, as the Spirit who "scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God"
(1 Cor 2:10), and above all "the secrets of human hearts" (cf. Ps 43:22). Through prayer God reveals Himself above all as Mercy-that is, Love that goes out to those who are suffering, Love that sustains, uplifts, and invites us to trust. The victory of good in the world is united organically with this truth. A person who prays professes such a truth and in a certain sense makes God, who is merciful Love, present in the world.