VATICAN CITY, Jan. 6 (AP) - Following are excerpts from the Vatican's official English language translation of Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter ``Novo Millennio Ineunte'' (``as the new millennium starts'') issued Saturday:

``From the beginning of my pontificate, my thoughts had been on this Holy Year 2000 as an important appointment. I thought of its celebration as a providential opportunity during which the Church, 35 years after the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, would examine how far she had renewed herself, in order to be able to take up her evangelizing mission with fresh enthusiasm.''

  • On his 2000 Middle East pilgrimage:
  • ``In those places, still so troubled and again recently afflicted by violence, I received an extraordinary welcome not only from the members of the Church but also from the Israeli and Palestinian communities. Intense emotion surrounded my prayer to the Western Wall and my visit to the Mausoleum of Yad Vashem, with its chilling reminder of the victims of the Nazi death camps. My pilgrimage was a moment of brotherhood and peace, and I like to remember it as one of the most beautiful gifts of the whole Jubilee event. Thinking back to the mood of those days, I cannot but express my deeply felt desire for a prompt and just solution to the still unsolved problems of the Holy Places, cherished by Jews, Christians and Muslims together.''

  • On holiness:
  • ''... it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity ...''

  • On prayer:
  • ``Is it not one of the signs of the times that in today's world, despite widespread secularization, there is a widespread demand for spirituality, a demand which expresses itself in large part as a renewed need for prayer? ... Intense prayer, yes, but it does not distract us from our commitment to history: By opening our hearts to the love of God it also opens it to the love of our brothers and sisters, and makes us capable of shaping history according to God's plan.''

  • On evangelization:
  • ``Over the years I have often repeated the summons to the new evangelization. I do so again now, especially in order to insist that we must rekindle in ourselves the impetus of our beginnings and allow ourselves to be filled with the ardor of the apostolic preaching which followed the Pentecost ... This should be done, however, with the respect due to the different paths of different peoples and with sensitivity to the diversity of cultures in which the Christian message must be planted. ...''

  • Ecumenical commitment:
  • ``Unhappily, as we cross the threshold of the new millennium, we take with us the sad heritage of the past. The Jubilee has offered some truly moving and prophetic signs, but there is still a long way to go. ... In the perspective of our renewed post-Jubilee pilgrimage, I look with great hope to the Eastern Churches, and I pray for a full return to that exchange of gifts which enriched the Church of the first millennium. A similar commitment should lead to the fostering of ecumenical dialogue with our brothers and our sisters belonging to the Anglican Communion and the Ecclesial Communities born of the Reformation.

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