A document submitted to his Holiness, Pope John Paul II, by the Ecumenical Conference on the Jubilee Year 3000. Inspired by the Bible's theocentric view of history and by Twentieth Century ecumenism, the Conference proposed that the Holy See of Rome extend a special millennial invitation to all Christians to partake in a 33 year ecumenical enterprise that will conclude with the dedication of the Pontifical Millennium Time Capsule in Vatican City at the Great Jubilee of Easter in 2033. To be buried under the centre of St. Peter's Square, this "envelope for a message to the future" will remain in the custody of the Holy See for nearly ten centuries until it is unsealed by the Successor of Saint Peter at the Great Jubilee of the Year 3000 so that humanity living at the turn of the Fourth Millennium can receive letters of testimony written by the followers of Jesus Christ living at the turn of the Third Millennium, letters addressed to the future age from a Christian generation that witnessed an unprecedented century of progress and an unparalleled century of horrors and whose message to the future will contain personal testimonies about past and present events of history in which signs of the Redemption of Mankind and the coming Kingdom of God are recognized.
THE ECUMENICAL CONFERENCE
ON THE JUBILEE YEAR 3000
TO HIS HOLINESS
IOANNES PAULUS P.P. II
SERVANT OF THE SERVANTS OF GOD
For the unity of all Christians
And for future humanity
AN ECUMENICAL INITIATIVE
FOR THE JUBILEE YEAR 3000:
AN INVITATION TO ALL CHRISTIANS
12 April 1998 Easter
Pope John Paul II
The Apostolic Palace
00120 Vatican City
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the sevenfold Spirit before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
We wish to express our appreciation for your half century of dedicated service to the Universal Church as a member of the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. In this "year of the Lord's favour" we also wish to express our congratulations on the fortieth anniversary of your consecration as an apostle and on the twentieth anniversary of your election to the Chair of Saint Peter. You are among the most blessed of individuals. May grace and peace be yours in abundance.
It is reassuring to see you able to continue the programme of apostolic journeys that have become a distinguished characteristic of the longest pontificate in this century. We observed the heartwarming reception you received during your last visit to the country of your birth which must have brought back memories for you as it did for us when it evoked the brief encounter several of us had with Your Holiness during a papal visit to the United States. That occasion is still vivid in our memories, especially your reply to comments made by Mr. Lu Yee Chang about Character, a statement of ideals for all young persons. Also just as memorable are your comments about a topic that is of keen interest to you: the forthcoming Jubilee of the Year 2000, the preparation for which has become, as it were, a "hermeneutical key" of your Pontificate.
We wish to inform you that your interest in the Jubilee made an impression on all of us and has been the topic of frequent discussion among us over the last several years. In response to your concerns about leading the Church into the new millennium, we wish to place before you a proposal that is the result of our discussions and request that it be considered for inclusion in the programme of activities that will celebrate the beginning of the Third Millennium of the Christian Era.
|Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.|
|Ps 102:18 (NIV)|
"Everything ought to focus on the primary objective of the Jubilee: the strengthening of faith and of the witness of Christians." Having taken this idea expressed in the apostolic letter of November 1994 as a point of departure in our discussions and with this objective in mind, we suggest that the programme of activities include an invitation to all Christians that has no precedent in any of the prior Jubilees the Church has celebrated since their inception in the year 1300: an invitation to partake in a grand ecumenical enterprise in writing the opening chapter of the new millennium as witnesses to the faith.
Humanity upon reaching the year 2000 will not be leaving behind just one century but a period of ten centuries, a millennium. The beginning of the Third Millennium in 2001 marks the beginning of the observance of the two-thousandth anniversary of when the Word of God came down into human history in an epoch that began with the Nativity of one man and ended with the Resurrection and Ascension of that same man, Jesus of Nazareth, whose life has had an unparalleled effect upon the course of history. Hence, the dawn of the new millennium marks the inaugural of the bimillenary of the Founding Epoch of the Christian Era, a bimillenary that will reach its climax thirty-three years later in 2033 at the Great Jubilee of Easter. All millennia of the Christian Era that follow the First Millennium commence with a millennial anniversary of the earthly existence of the Word of God whose Redemptive Incarnation embraces every age of the past, present, and future.
In light of these facts, we propose that the years from 2001 to 2033 which we shall henceforth refer to as the Bimillenary be a time dedicated and sanctified in a special way to God when Christians will look at all that has happened in human history since the Birth of Christ with a sense of gratitude for the gift of the Redemptive Incarnation of the Son of God. Whereas God's entrance into history in the life of the person of Jesus of Nazareth was an outward, visible, audible, and tangible event, it is appropriate that this sense of gratitude have special expression during each bimillenary year of the earthly life of Jesus Christ.
We propose that this special expression be done by the generation of Christians who will live during the Bimillenary and be in a written form that will bear witness to what effect the life of the man from Nazareth has had on history after the passage of two millennia as well as bear witness to the ongoing activity of the risen Christ. To be more specific, we propose that during the Bimillenary the Holy See of Rome annually extend to all Christians an invitation to transmit to the Holy See during the Season of Lent a written personal witness to the truth as revealed by the teaching and example of Jesus Christ, an invitation to look with a sense of gratitude and yet with a sense of responsibility at the events of our own time, at the events of this century, at the events of the millennium now reaching its conclusion, at all that has happened in human history since the birth of Christ, and search out whatever bears witness not only to man's history but also bears witness to God's intervention in human affairs and the coming Kingdom of God, and then give a written testimony thereof, a testimony addressed to the people of another age, an affirmation of faith, of hope, and of charity addressed to a thousand years hence, a letter of Christian witness for persons who will be living at the threshold of the Fourth Millennium of the Christian Era.
|All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change
Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee.
|Job 14:14-15 (AV)|
We propose that at the end of the Bimillenary in 2033 at the Great Jubilee of Easter that the Bishop of Rome dedicate these letters of Christian witness to future humanity by having them encapsulated and buried within the territory of the State of Vatican City at a substantial depth under the centre of Saint Peter's Square where they will remain until they are unsealed by the Successor of Saint Peter at the Great Jubilee of the Year 3000.
We propose that the Great Jubilee of Easter in 2033 include the dedication of a time capsule that will span the remainder of the Third Millennium, a "millennial" time capsule which, being consigned to the custody of the papacy for that period of time, we have come to style in our discussions as the Pontifical Millennium Time Capsule.
And finally, we propose that during the Jubilee of the Year 2000 that a formal announcement be made of the Holy See's intention to dedicate to the future age letters of Christian witness written by Christians of the present age.
The dedication of a time capsule as part of a jubilee celebration with an international scope is not unknown in recent history. Precedent can be found in our own century with jubilees associated with international expositions such as the New York World's Fairs of 1939-1940 and of 1964-1965 where time capsules were dedicated to future humanity of the year 6939. What is unprecedented is a time capsule project involving the efforts of millions of individuals around the world for a period of three decades. We believe that such a long collection period is necessary to give all Christians--especially those living in the poorest, least technologically developed countries--ample opportunity to transmit letters of Christian testimony to the Holy See in order to provide for the future a comprehensive witness from the generation of Christians living at the turn of the millennium.
Of major concern is the practicality of the idea being presented here for the first time. Educational achievements and technological developments have overcome obstacles that would have made this idea an impractical one in prior Jubilees. Much discussion focused on four areas of concern: creation, transmission, encapsulation, and decipherability of the letters of testimony.
1. Creation of the Letters of Testimony
One of the outstanding developments of the Second Millennium is the growth of literacy among the world's population since the invention of the printing press in the Fifteenth Century. In the year 1000 literacy was limited to a tiny fraction of the world's population. In the West, for example, very few people of that time could read and write and those who could were usually members of the learned professions. Considering the achievements in education over the last several centuries and most especially the Twentieth Century, we believe that illiteracy has been overcome to such a degree that letters of testimony can now be written by a substantial portion of the Christian population of the world.
2. Transmission of the Letters of Testimony
For centuries paper has been the most popular medium for the transmission of information across vast distances and the storage of information for long periods of time. In spite of the utility of paper in the past and present, we wish to emphasize that it has no place in the idea being proposed here. Its low storage density makes it unsuitable as a transmission and storage medium for the anticipated volume of information. Furthermore, the transfer of information from handwritten and typewritten documents to a more suitable storage medium for the Time Capsule is a labor-intensive activity that would render the whole effort a prohibitively long and expensive undertaking if carried out on the scale envisioned here. If not paper, then what medium of communication should be used between the writers of these letters and the Holy See?
We believe the answer is found in a medium of communication that has its antecedents in the invention of electrical telegraphy in the last century which initialized a trend that continues to the present. With the development of analogue and digital communications systems in this century, we are witnessing the dawn of what has been called "The Age of Information" during which most of the record of the era will be stored, processed, and disseminated by electronic means. In recent years we have seen the global interconnection of electronic data communications networks that have become accessible to the world's population for the nearly instantaneous transmission of messages, i.e., "electronic mail" between sender and recipient. This global interconnection which has come to be known in the English-speaking world as "the Internet" is rapidly becoming an important feature of contemporary life in the industrialized nations with possibilities not fully understood. Although the poorer, non-industrialized nations are behind in these developments in communications, the technology is steadily being deployed worldwide and will become available to the inhabitants of these nations during the Bimillenary.
With these developments in communications in mind, we propose that all letters of testimony be transmitted electronically to the Holy See where they will be temporarily stored on electronic storage media. The receipt of letters in machine-readable form from their point of origin will enable the automatic and economical conversion of the letters into a compact and durable form suitable for storage in the Time Capsule.
The discontinuous time period suggested for the receipt of letters serves not only an important religious purpose by its coincidence with the annual Lenten Season, a time for spiritual renewal and expectation observed by many Christians, but also provides a means to facilitate management and control of the receipt of information by the Holy See than otherwise would be the case.
3. Encapsulation of the Letters of Testimony
Only the most durable artifacts can survive exposure to the elements. Without the protection of an enclosure, many of the artifacts of history now extant would have been destroyed long ago by the ravages of time. This is especially true for written records. But storage space is something a time capsule does not have in abundance so the economizing of space will be necessary if a large volume of information is to be placed inside of it. Furthermore, a secure enclosure has little value if its contents lack the physical stability to endure a millennium without deterioration.
Is there a medium of information storage that meets the spatial economy requirement for the storage of millions of pages of text in the small volume of a time capsule and the physical stability requirement to endure a millennium without deterioration? One that is not prohibitively expensive? Almost all media in use today for the storage of information fail to meet one or more of these requirements. Although specially treated paper is an archivally certifiable storage medium and the least expensive, its drawback is the aforementioned low storage density. Electronic storage media may appear at first to offer an attractive solution because of high storage density and advantages in facilitating the high-speed processing of information. But electronic storage media are not stable enough for the period of storage under consideration and for this reason alone cannot be seriously considered for a millennial time capsule. Furthermore, at the current pace of technological change, electronic storage media have a substantial risk of technological obsolescence within the period of a quarter century which by the end of a millennium will render indecipherable all machine-readable contents of the Time Capsule. The electronic apparatus needed for the conversion of information from machine-readable to human-readable form is a complex device that cannot function indefinitely; and it is by no means certain that such a apparatus placed in the Time Capsule will be functional after a thousand years. Furthermore, we should not expect the inhabitants of the future to build and maintain such an apparatus. If not paper or an electronic storage medium, then what medium should be used for the storage of information inside the Time Capsule?
We believe the answer is found in an applied science that has demonstrated its usefulness over a long enough period of time to merit serious consideration as a method for the storage of information in the Time Capsule. The invention of photography in the last century not only introduced to the world a method for the storage of images but also introduced a method for the storage of text: microphotography. Microfilm was the medium chosen for the storage of thousands of pages of information deposited inside the time capsules dedicated at the two aforementioned international expositions. Microphotographic materials exist that meet the requirements for a millennial time capsule at reasonable cost. Furthermore, the compression and storage of information in human-readable form by optical and chemical methods does not carry the risk of technological obsolescence. Experience has shown that silver halide photographic film processed to archival standards is essentially permanent in dark storage and will last a thousand years if carefully sealed in an airtight container with an inert atmosphere at the proper moisture content. (The Time Capsule was often conceived in our discussions as a fortified underground vault enclosing any number of these hermetically sealed containers.)
In view of the foregoing and of the fact that the advantages of microphotography over other technologies for the purpose being described here is a situation that is not likely to change in the foreseeable future, we propose that at the conclusion of the Bimillenary in 2033 that all letters of testimony transmitted to the Holy See and temporarily stored on electronic storage media be converted from machine-readable form to human-readable form and transferred for permanent storage onto microfilm by high-speed media conversion devices before placement in the Time Capsule.
4. Decipherability of the Letters of Testimony
There remains, however, a compelling issue that must be given due consideration here because it concerns a Twenty-First Century artifact in the Thirtieth Century: Will the contents of the Time Capsule be intelligible to the people of that distant time? If so, how will they come to regard its messages?
These questions are, of course, unanswerable. "Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come?" (Ecc 8:7 NIV) Hence, the future is always a mystery and for this reason we are in the realm of speculation when dealing with matters of the distant future. So in our speculative discussions about the Thirtieth Century we have chosen to make suppositions about the distant future that rest upon the continuance of the historical trends of the past two millennia as opposed to a catastrophic change in the course of history that would render the projection of trends meaningless. So what can we say here about the Thirtieth Century and its people in relation to the Pontifical Millennium Time Capsule?
First, we believe that humanity in the Thirtieth Century will continue to have an interest in the past that will enable it to recognize the Time Capsule as an artifact of immense historical value.
Second, we believe that the people of that time will deem it imperative that its contents be studied and all the more so when it is understood--and perhaps remembered--that such an artifact involved the efforts of possibly millions of individuals and has no precedent in history.
Third, we believe that the languages in use today will continue to evolve, as they have in the past, to the degree where the contents of the Time Capsule as originally written by the people of the Twenty-First Century may be unintelligible to the people of the Thirtieth Century. Though unintelligible, this does not mean that the contents will be indecipherable. We believe that the obstacle posed by the evolving nature of all living languages will be overcome by advances in the new field of artificial intelligence which will at the end of ten centuries bring that science to a level of refinement and sophistication that will make possible the existence of aids that will facilitate the translation of all unintelligible languages of the Twenty-First Century and the processing of the information contained in the Time Capsule in ways impossible with the current state of the art.
Fourth, we believe that the contents of the Time Capsule will be highly esteemed by the inhabitants of the future for providing through the writings of so many individuals from many different walks of life a unique opportunity to gain insight into a particular era and consequently enable a greater understanding of humanity's experience at the beginning of the Third Millennium as well as enable a greater understanding of the history of salvation and the universal message of Christianity.
Fifth, we believe that if what is being proposed here becomes the first observance of a millennial tradition, the years 2001-2033 will be the first and last time that for such an occasion letters of Christian witness will be placed into the custody of the Holy See by the inhabitants of the earth exclusively. Thereafter, we believe that the turn of the millennium will see letters written by the followers of Christ living out a Christian witness in environments with cultural experiences very different from anything known on earth today as the history of salvation unfolds within an ever-expanding sphere of human activity beyond the earth itself.
And finally, we will acknowledge here that our suppositions about the future are optimistic; nevertheless, this proposal was written with an awareness of the tragedy and failure of civilization, especially in the Twentieth Century, and of the possibility that a change in the course of history can indeed occur within the next millennium that will bring our civilization to an end.
|For there is no way to read the future of the world: peoples, nations, and cultures move onward into inscrutable time. In our day it is difficult to conceive of a future less happy, less civilized than our own. Yet history teaches us that every culture passes through definite cycles of development, climax, and decay. And so, we must recognize, ultimately may ours.|
|The Book of Record of the Time Capsule of Cupaloy (1938)|
Hence, to best safeguard the value of the Time Capsule's information to future generations we believe that keys to the deciphering of its contents must be placed inside of it and methods for finding its location at the appointed time--or possibly thousands of years afterward--should be published around the world to minimize the risk of it being lost to history.
Having addressed these matters regarding literacy, transmission, encapsulation, and decipherability, it is fortuitous that enough obstacles have been overcome to make this idea a practical one at the turn of the millennium. What immediate benefits are there to be gained by taking advantage of this opportunity? We give several below although this list is not meant to be all-inclusive.
(1) It would help promote throughout the Bimillenary an awareness of the value and meaning of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, God's gift to mankind. "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6 NIV) For individuals living in a profane world obsessed with matters of a transitory nature, giving a written witness to the people of another age would help focus attention on matters that transcend time itself, namely, on Jesus Christ, "the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End" (Rev 22:13 NIV) whose Incarnation and Resurrection embrace all history which thus becomes part of the "fullness of time."
|Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according
to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:|
That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.
|Eph 1:9-10 (AV)|
Given an opportunity to affix their names to words that will long outlast their author while being entrusted to the custody of the Holy See, it is expected that Christians will bring the appropriate solemnity to a task that concerns a religious avowal before posterity. To be clearly understood the words must be carefully chosen. There will be no request for clarification. There will be no reply. All communication with the future is one way. Indeed, after the passage of a thousand years, the words may be the only evidence that the writer ever existed and the only thing by which the writer will ever be remembered. The thought process involved when one considers what will be written to the future transcends the usual concerns to a broader, more inclusive line of thought that can be very powerful and becomes all the more meaningful when it makes one realize in a tangible way a truth about the Christian witness and about history itself: What we do today has an effect on the world of tomorrow.
(2) It would further demonstrate the Church's commitment to continuing the ecumenical initiatives, many of which began since the Second Vatican Council. The invitation to write a Christian affirmation to the people of the Thirtieth Century is extended to all Christians and not only to those in full communion with the Holy See of Rome. It is our fervent hope that the universal character of the life and public ministry of Jesus Christ be reflected in an ecumenical enterprise undertaken by Christians of the various confessions so that the Bimillenary will bear witness before the world that the disciples of Christ are fully resolved to reach full unity in the certainty that "nothing is impossible with God." (This letter's nine authors from several countries include four Roman Catholics, four Protestant Christians, and one Orthodox Christian.)
(3) It would further demonstrate the Church's embrace of modern methods of communication in its witness to the Redeemer of Mankind.
(4) And finally, it would enact in a highly visible fashion the theme of the Jubilee of the Year 2000: "Jesus Christ, the one Saviour of the world, yesterday, today, and forever." (cf. Heb 13:8) The Church celebrates and sanctifies time which is imbued with the presence of God. Within the dimensions of time, the history of salvation unfolds. Each age witnesses this unfolding and proclaims to the next and all succeeding ages its culmination in the return of the Son of Man and the coming of the Kingdom of God. When viewed from this perspective, "the envelope for a message to the future" not only has historical value but symbolic value as well.
|Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord.|
They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn--for he has done it.
|Ps 22:30-31 (NIV)|
The present age is a different world from the one termed "the Medieval Age,"
"the Middle Ages," "the Age of Faith," "the Age of Feudalism," or even
"the Dark Ages." However a millennium ago is styled, that age has since
come to an end. Today humanity encounters new problems and dilemmas that
challenge obedience to God and to his Commandments. Yet in spite of the
differences between eras of history, would it be worthwhile for the people
of the present age to read letters of testimony written by ordinary Christians
of the preceding age? Letters written ten centuries ago by a long-deceased
people with a different world view? With a different outlook on history?
We believe that it would be. Imagine,
your Holiness, as we have in our discussions, if you were only so fortunate
as to be the one who will open during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000
a long-buried time capsule dedicated by your remote predecessor at the
Great Jubilee of Easter in 1033 and unseal thousands upon thousands of
letters giving witness to the man from Nazareth, his effect on the course
of individual lives, his effect on the course of history. Could such letters help advance
"the strengthening of faith and of the witness of Christians"? We believe
that the Age of Faith would have something important to tell to a humanistic
age where the spiritual ideals of the Middle Ages are being replaced by
a reverence for what is purely human, to an age where the exaltation of
man has gradually eroded an awareness of the transcendent power of the
Creator, to an age where mankind increasingly sees itself as the centre
of the universe and master of its own destiny. Such an age does not reflect
the will of the Lord of History. Such a world cannot endure. History shows
that no humanistic civilization ever survived, and the chronicle of the
Twentieth Century alone shows that a state hostile to all religious belief
contains the seeds of its own destruction. We cannot see the future but
we can see the past and present. We believe that something that enables
a clearer perspective of the past enables a clearer perspective of the
present. The world of the Fourth Millennium will be as different to us
as the world of the First. In our discussions about the distant future,
we have asked ourselves the following question: Would it be worthwhile
for the people of that time to read letters of testimony written by ordinary
Christians of our time? Letters written ten centuries earlier by a long-deceased
people who witnessed an unprecedented century of progress--and an unparalleled
century of horrors? And again we believe that it would be. The witness of
Christians stretches across the centuries "from age to age." We believe
that the testimonies of contemporary Christian men and women regarding
the signs of the coming Kingdom of God in man's history can help advance
the strengthening of faith and of the witness of Christians who will live
in the Fourth Millennium or beyond and who will face new problems and dilemmas
that will challenge obedience to God and to his Commandments. When they
read these letters and look back at our time what will they see? The witness
of persons who lived in a dark age? Or the witness of persons who were blessed with a golden one? And
what exactly will this message from the past mean to the people of the future? No one can answer these
questions because the world of tomorrow is always a secret hidden from the
eyes of mankind. What can be said here and now for certain is that affirmations
of faith in God who revealed himself in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ,
affirmations of hope in the coming Kingdom of God which gives value to
life, and affirmations of love that reflect the love of a just and merciful
God who sent his Son as Redeemer of Mankind will serve to underscore the
fact that in spite of all the differences between eras of history, one
thing is clear: God alone remains constant. There are realities which do
not change and which have their ultimate foundation in Christ. Through
dark ages and golden ages, in its sanctification of time itself, Christianity
proclaims that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And his Kingdom
May grace and peace be to you from God our Father and from his Son, our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ, the beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega, all time belongs to him, and all the ages, to him be glory and power through every age forever.
Thor Balthasar Christopher Gasparri
Melchior Christianson N. C. Marshall
Christina Grace Lillehammer Lu Yee Chang
<This document first published on the Internet in 1999 at www.crosswinds.net/~jubilee3000>