Advent 1999: John Paul II addressed Havel and Czech Pilgrims

Advent 1999: John Paul II addressed Havel and Czech Pilgrims
Czech Republic President Vaclav , left, speaks with Pope during a private audience at the Vatican in Rome, Dec 18, 1999.  Havel, the dissident playwright who wove theater into politics to peacefully bring down communism in Czechoslovakia  died Sunday Dec. 18, 2011 in Prague. He was 75. (AP Photo/Massimo Sambucetti, File)

Vaclav Havel died on December 18, 2011. On that day twelve years ago he met with Pope John Paul II and joined pilgrims from the Czech republic in greeting the Pope. My friend Dr. John Le encourages me to seek in the liturgical calendar some light for understanding events of the day. This is particularly true of the life of Pope John Paul II. December 18th is a week from Christmas day; the antiphon of the day is: O Adonai: “O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.” (11:4-5); and “Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us.” (33:22). Mr Havel and Blessed John Paul spoke the truth by which they struck the ruthless Soviet system. (see next blog). On that day twelve years ago Pope John Paul spoke to the Czech pilgrims and thanked them for a special Christmas tree they brought as a gift. The lights on the tree remind us that truth is a light in the darkness and truth is the light of Christ: John Paul said: “He is, according to the Evangelist John, ‘the true light that enlightens every man’1: 9. The lights sparkling on the Christmas tree symbolize this Light, to strengthen our knowledge of the great mystery: in Christ is the light that can change the human heart.” Here is the Holy Father’s address to the pilgrims from the Czech Republic on December 18, 1999:

 Mr President,
Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

 Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Czech Republic,

 1. With great joy I greet all of you who have come to present the fir tree which has arrived from the beloved Czech nation. This Christmas gift testifies to the sense of respect and esteem that the beloved Czech people has for the Holy See, and at the same time, it is a symbol of warm participation in the joy of the Christmas festivities being celebrated here in the Vatican, in keeping with the particular solemnity that the beginning of the Great Jubilee requires.

Yesterday I was able to meet numerous representatives of the Czech Republic at the audience for those taking part in the International Convention on Jan Hus, an important moment of reflection on a sorrowful page in the religious and civil history of the nation. And now I have the joy of extending my cordial welcome to President Václav Havel of the Czech Republic and to his distinguished wife.

Thank you, Mr President, for your noble words in which you drew attention to the Government’s initiative in giving the Pope the beautiful Christmas tree, which rises majestically next to the crèche in St Peter’s Square.  . . . A special greeting to the “Valasský-vojvoda” band which has accompanied the joyful meeting for lighting the tree. Thanks to you the feast of the Lord’s Birth, here in St Peter’s Square, will certainly be more solemn.

 2. This fir tree, which for several days now has stood pointing to heaven decorated with evocative lights, comes from Mount Beskydy in the region of Ostrava and Opava near Morávka. Along with this tree, you have been pleased to offer other small fir trees that will be put in various places in the Apostolic Palace and in the Curia, all decorated with handmade ornaments from that same region. In addition, you have also presented three figures, dressed in the traditional costumes of Valassko, which have been put beside those traditionally used in the crèche in St Peter’s Square.

The Christmas tree, with the crib, creates a typical Christmas atmosphere and can help us understand better the message of salvation that Christ came to bring us through his Incarnation.

From the stable of Bethlehem to the Cross on Golgotha, with his whole life he bore witness to God’s love for mankind. He is, according to the Evangelist John, “the true light that enlightens every man” (1: 9).

The lights sparkling on the Christmas tree symbolize this Light, to strengthen our knowledge of the great mystery: in Christ is the light that can change the human heart.

 3. Dear brothers and sisters, as I wholeheartedly thank you for this visit, I express to you all and to your loved ones my best wishes for a Happy Christmas and a Joyful New Year in the warmth of your families.

May the imminent Christmas festivities awaken and strengthen in everyone faith in the presence and love of God.

With these sentiments, I willingly impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, to your families and to your entire nation..

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