Saturday, 17 November 2001
Dear Brother Bishops,
1. In the name of the Lord who is "the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the source of Godís creation" (Ap 3,14), I greet you the Bishops of Myanmar as you make your quinquennial pilgrimage ad Limina Apostolorum. I embrace you with joy in the bond of faith, for "I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance" (Ap 2,2). As you come to pray at the Tombs of Saints Peter and Paul, the Bishop of Rome in turn wishes to honour the witness given by Christís faithful in your land. Myanmar is a land where the Church in her early years knew martyrdom, and still today lives close to the Cross of the Saviour. But the Cross is the source of our hope and certainty: for every grace that enlightens and strengthens human hearts flows from the wounded side of the Crucified Lord. From this saving mystery, you will acquire the strength to set out once more on the sea of the Churchís mission: the great ocean of evangelization which stretches before us at the dawn of the Third Christian Millennium.
2. On your ad Limina visit you bring with you the joys and sorrows, the hopes and disappointments, not only of the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care but of the people of Myanmar as a whole. The difficulties include widespread poverty despite the abundant resources of the land, and limits placed on fundamental rights and freedoms. These problems are in many ways aggravated by isolation, which is all the more harmful when interaction between peoples and between nations is increasing and growing more complex by the day. Moreover, these are troubled times in the world, when a deep and unexpected turmoil has gripped the international community. In this situation the Churchís Pastors must be all the more concerned to remain close to their people and lead them in the path of the Gospel.
In this task we are guided by the Lord himself: "I am the way, the truth and the life" (Jn 14,6). Jesus Christ himself is the way, for he alone is the saving truth which leads to the fullness of life for which all peoples long. This is the grandeur of our faith which shone forth so splendidly during the Year of the Great Jubilee. In that time of grace, the whole Church contemplated more deeply and joyfully the face of Christ, marred by suffering but radiant with the glory of God (cf. 2Co 4,6 Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 25-28). On that face we see both the greatness of divine love and the greatness of human dignity. It is of these that Christ now speaks to the heart of the Church in Myanmar, summoning you and the faithful to a fresh discovery of "the immeasurable riches of [Godís] grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Ep 2,7).
3. In contemplating the face of Christ, you and your people will find the strength to live the humility, poverty and even solitude of your situation not as a burden but as an evangelical virtue, uplifting and freeing. "As the unequivocal words of the Gospel remind us, there is a special presence of Christ in the poor, and this requires the Church to make a preferential option for them" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 49). I know, dear Brothers, that even with your scant resources you have chosen this path. Your testimony will be all the more convincing in so far as others see "with still greater clarity to what length of dedication the Christian community can go in charity towards the poorest" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 49). This was one of the principal exhortations of the recent Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, at which the Fathers stressed the need for Bishops to be truly patres pauperum.
4. Dear Brothers, be resolute in following the path of evangelical freedom, which is the path of an ever deeper obedience to Christ. There is a paradox in the fact that when human power prevails, restrictions enslave; but when we submit to the power of Christ, our obedience is actually liberating. This is the paradox of life in Christ, the One who has already "overcome the world" (Jn 16,33). We must rely on the truth of the Apostleís words: "I can do all things in him who strengthens me" (Ph 4,13), and on the truth of the Lordís own promise: "No one will take your joy from you" (Jn 16,22). In the midst of affliction, we can taste the freedom and the joy of Easter!
To live in this way is to be drawn into that love which is the heart of the "spirituality of communion" (Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 43) to which Bishops especially are called. The communion of which we are servants and stewards is the wondrous fruit of the Thrice Holy Godís decision to dwell within us (cf. ibid.). It is this newness of grace in our hearts that enables the Bishop to live an affective and effective collegiality with the Successor of Peter and the episcopate throughout the world; it enables him to live close to his priests in a bond of brotherly openness and fatherly concern; to work in a spirit of collaboration with the consecrated Religious and lay people of the Diocese; to embrace with a particular love the poor and oppressed, as he sees shining on the face of these brothers and sisters the light of God himself (cf. ibid.; Mt 25,35-37). In this grace you will find the strength to foster genuine ecumenical understanding between all Christians, and to promote that interreligious dialogue which is so important at a time when relations between peoples of different cultures and traditions are subjected to great stress.
I urge you, therefore, dear Brothers, to allow your spiritual life and your pastoral ministry to be more and more shaped by this spirituality of communion, without which the episcopal office will be without life and energy, becoming disheartening and burdensome. I exhort you to meditate unceasingly on the practical demands of this spirituality, and confidently and courageously to act as examples and teachers of that communion. Then you will find an ever greater fulfilment in the ministry to which you have been called by him who desires "that your joy may be complete" (Jn 16,24).
5. The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia made it clear that "communion and mission are inseparably connected" (No. 24). As a sequel to the Great Jubilee, the whole Church is called to a new evangelization, drawing inspiration from the words of Christ: "Duc in altum!" (Lc 5,4). Now is the time for fresh pastoral efforts! All the baptized Ė Bishops, priests, religious and laity Ė must be prepared to play their part in the task before the Church in Myanmar. The signs of grace are everywhere to be seen among you. One of these is the reassuring number of vocations to both the priestly and consecrated life; another is your peopleís devotion and enthusiasm. But more is needed. The key to success is proper training at every level, especially for your priests. You will know what initiatives to take in order to provide spiritual, intellectual and pastoral training, including formation in the Churchís social teaching. Likewise, whatever you can do to improve the preparation of catechists will be of great benefit, for they play an indispensable role in transmitting the faith and sustaining the vigour of your communities. The consecrated life too, with its abundance of vocations, calls for each Bishopís attention and that of the Episcopal Conference, so that its structures may be strengthened and its members provided with a solid training.
6. Dear Brother Bishops, the demands on your ministry are unending and you are not unfamiliar with obstacles and even opposition, but you remain Ė in the words of the recent Synod Ė undaunted servants of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the hope of the world. May this hope never cease to grow richer and stronger within you "until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts" (2P 1,19). Invoking upon you a fresh outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and entrusting the entire household of God in Myanmar to the mighty intercession of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of endless mercy in Jesus Christ, the First and the Last, and the One who lives (cf. Rev Ap 1,17-18).
Dear Cardinal Kasper,
Dear Friends in Christ,
It gives me great pleasure to greet you, the participants in the Plenary Session of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, at the conclusion of your weekís meeting.
In truth and love: these could be the words which express the essence of your study and discussions during these days, as you have sought to take stock of the progress made in recent times in ecumenical dialogue. I hope that my Message at the beginning of your meeting will have confirmed for you that for the Bishop of Rome and for the Catholic Church the movement towards the visible communion of all Christís followers is not merely an appendix of the Churchís activity, but an essential feature of her life and mission.
In thanking each one of you for the dedication and competence with which you serve the Church in this delicate task, I wish to encourage you to even greater efforts. More and more it is becoming clear that the world needs the united witness of Christians. In a world that is increasingly globalized, divisions among Christians are more than ever a hindrance to the proclamation of the Gospel.
Upon all of you I invoke the Holy Spiritís gifts of wisdom and strength, and express my personal appreciation and gratitude.
You are joined here by representatives of the American Episcopalian Communities in Europe who are meeting this weekend in Rome for their annual convention.
Dear Friends, I greet you and thank you for your presence. Among you are a number of young people, a sure sign of hope that the search for Christian unity will be carried on by a new generation of men and women committed to making a reality of the Lordís prayer: "that all may be one" (Jn 17,20). I ask God to pour out upon you his richest blessings during these days of your meeting and visit to Rome. Through you I send greetings and good wishes in the Lord to all the American Episcopalian parishes in Europe. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (1Co 1,3).
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It gives me great pleasure to greet you, the members of Unda, the International Catholic Association for Radio and Television, and OCIC, the International Catholic Organization for Cinema and Audiovisuals, as you prepare in just a few days to merge your two organizations and form SIGNIS, the new international Catholic organization for all audiovisual media. It is my hope, and yours too I am sure, that SIGNIS will expand and make ever more effective the work which your two organizations have undertaken for the past seventy years, the work of evangelizing in and through the communications media, proclaiming the Lordís saving Gospel in the world of cinema, radio, television and, most recently, internet.
The formation of this Organization at the beginning of the new millennium seems particularly appropriate. Indeed, with the great advances in communications technology and the continuing process of globalization, the Churchís mission of making Christ known and loved by all people finds itself with ever new opportunities, and ever new challenges as well. The past years have seen remarkable growth in Catholic radio broadcasts in various countries of Africa and Europe, and there has also been great development in Catholic television, due especially to satellite transmission and cable distribution. SIGNIS must continue to create new audiences for Catholic programming and work with other involved bodies to ensure that positive religious and spiritual content is not lacking in the various media productions.
People spend enormous amounts of time absorbed in media consumption, particularly children and adolescents. An important part of your work, therefore, is to teach wise and responsible media use. This means setting high standards not for the general public alone but also for the leaders of the communications industry. It means bringing people to a keen awareness of the great influence that the media has in their lives. It means monitoring the quality of content and promoting constructive dialogue between media producers and consumers.
Dear Friends, these are some of the tasks that lie before you, tasks that demand courage and commitment, tasks that you willingly take up as part of your Christian vocation. The Lord Jesus himself is with you to support you and strengthen you: as he told the Apostles when giving them his final mandate to make disciples of all nations, "I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28,20). May the soon-to-be-founded SIGNIS organization be an ever effective instrument of the Lordís enduring presence in our world and of his abiding love for all men and women.
To all of you I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing
Thursday, 22 November 2001
"Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad, let the sea and all within it thunder praise" (Ps 96,11).
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
1. From the far corners of the world you have come, witnesses to the glorious life which is ours in Christ Jesus, and in particular witnesses to the faith and love of Godís People in Oceania. With gratitude for the successful celebration of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Oceania we join in the great hymn of praise which rises ceaselessly from the heart of the Church to the Most Holy Trinity.
I would have wished to visit Oceania once again, in order to present the fruits of the Synodís work, the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania. But it was not to be! Therefore the Pacific comes to the Bishop of Rome, and "with the affection of Christ Jesus" (Ph 1,8) I greet you and all whom you represent. In you I see the boundless ocean glimmering in the sun; the Southern Cross shining in the night sky; the islands great and small; the cities and the villages; the beaches and the forests. But most of all I see in you the peoples who are the true wealth of Oceania: the Melanesian, Polynesian and Micronesian peoples in their wonderful array; the Aborigines of Australia; the Maoris of New Zealand; the many immigrant peoples who have made Oceania their home. In the mighty symphony of Oceania we hear as it were "the Lordís voice resounding on the waters, the Lord on the immensity of waters, the voice of the Lord full of power, the voice of the Lord full of splendour" (Ps 29,3-4).
2. The Special Assembly was an experience of intense communion, and one of its many graces was that all the Bishops could take part. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council Ė and I was one Ė were marked for ever by the experience of communion in that event which was without doubt the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 57). In the Special Assembly for Oceania, a new generation of Bishops who had not been at the Council could taste something of its extraordinary atmosphere and effect, and thus be better equipped to implement its teaching, as the whole Church must do more boldly than ever as we move into the new millennium. Far from having exhausted its potential, the Second Vatican Council remains the guiding light of the Churchís pilgrimage.
Like the Great Jubilee for which it prepared, the Special Assembly was both "a remembrance of the past [and] a prophecy of the future" (ibid., 3). Together we looked back upon the story of evangelization in Oceania, and gave thanks to the Father of all mercies for the magnificent work of the early missionaries, and for the welcome which the peoples of Oceania gave to the Lord Jesus himself, "walking his way, telling his truth and living his life". We heard the story of the remarkable development of the Church in your lands, acknowledging with deep gratitude that it is "God alone who gives the growth" (1Co 3,7). The Synod rejoiced at the countless signs of holiness and justice present among the peoples of Oceania, a pledge of the springtime of faith for which we yearn and work.
But we recognized too that the many challenges facing the peoples of Oceania at this time are summoning the Church to engage the Pacific peoples and their cultures with renewed vigour and conviction. The Synod heard of economic crises, political instability, corruption, ethnic conflicts, the erosion of traditional forms of social organization, the breakdown of law and order, the threat of global warming and, especially in the wealthier societies, of a genuinely spiritual crisis of meaning which shows itself most clearly in the erosion of respect for human life. Yet the Bishops were in no way daunted by all of this. On the contrary, it became clearer as the Special Assembly went on that the Holy Spirit is calling the Church in Oceania to embark upon the great task of a new evangelization. In that sense the Synod became "a prophecy of the future", and the Bishops felt ever more deeply that they are "servants of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the hope of the world", that hope of which the recent Tenth Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops spoke so tellingly.
3. This new missionary adventure is rooted in the "contemplation of the face of Christ", which is the core of the legacy that the experience of the Great Jubilee leaves us (cf. Novo Millennio ineunte NM 15). There must be a great new movement of contemplation among all the baptized and everywhere in Oceania! May the inhabitants of the Pacific repeat unceasingly: "Your face, Lord, do I seek" (Ps 26,8)! May they joyfully proclaim, with the Gospel: "We have seen the Lord" (Jn 20,25)! From the depths of contemplation comes the spirituality and the experience of communion which the bishops emphasized at the Special Assembly. They brought with them the rich array of their experiences and cultural treasures, and in turn they were strengthened by the bond of communion, at the local and universal level. For them it was a source of deep renewal and encouragement for the future (cf. Ecclesia in Oceania, n. 9). Communion is the form of the mission; it will supply the necessary energy for the new evangelization. May the Church in your countries show great ingenuity and courage when she sets out once again on the deep of the Pacific! For the Lord's commandment is clear "Duc in altum!" (Put out into the deep) (Lc 5,4).
4. Dear brothers and sisters, as you sail the waves of the ocean of the future, you are not alone. The universal Church goes with you. The "great cloud of witnesses" (He 12,1), which constitutes the Communion of Saints surrounds you. The saints of Oceania, who reflect God's glory, "who have shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" ( II Cor 4,6), are close to you: St Peter Chanel, Blesseds Diego Luis de San Vitores, Pedro Calungsod, Giovanni Mazzuconi, Mary MacKillop and Peter To Rot. In their burning love, may they continue to intercede for the peoples for whom in burning love they lived and died! At the heart of the Communion of Saints we find the Mother of Christ, Star of the Sea, particularly venerated by the peoples of the Pacific. I especially entrust to her the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania. May Mary, Help of Christians and Queen of Peace and all the saints, support you, bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful, when you are putting into practice in the scattered places of your vast territories the teachings and instructions of this document. As a pledge of grace and peace in the Son of God, "he who holds the seven stars in his right hand" (Ap 2,1), I warmly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you.
Friday, 23 November 2001
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
1. I am happy to receive you this morning during your ad limina visit which allows you to renew the bonds of communion of your particular Churches with the Bishop of Rome. I greet you all with great affection, and ask you to express my esteem and closeness to the beloved Salvadoran people whom you serve with love, generosity and dedication, mindful of the Apostle Paul's witness in his service to the community of Corinth: "I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls" (II Cor 12,15).
I am grateful for the sentiments Archbishop Fernando SŠenz of San Salvador, President of the Bishops' Conference, expressed to renew your support. His words show the spirit in which you carry out your pastoral ministry. For my part, I respond by expressing my appreciation of the work you are achieving in your dioceses, with the help of God and the collaboration of so many servants of the Gospel.
2. In the reports you gave me and at the meetings I have had with each one of you, I saw the reconstruction which the Church has launched in your nation. At the end of my second Pastoral Visit, I told you as I departed: "I leave with great confidence in the future of this beloved land: live in the light of faith, with the strength of hope and the generosity of fraternal love" (Farewell Address at San Salvador Airport, 8 February 1996, n. 5). I had in mind the aspirations and hopes of this beloved people that I was able to get to know and appreciate more deeply. It is a people who suffered the difficult years of a fratricidal war from which, fortunately it had emerged and was beginning to undertake its own development with determination in order to build a serene future of solidarity for its children.
Continue to guide your faithful as ministers of reconciliation, so that the flock entrusted to you can advance on paths of concord and sincere love without exception! You know well that the country's future must be built on peace, for justice to flourish (cf. Jas Jc 3,18). If you take this path, all the effort put into the signing of the Peace Agreements in 1992 which ended the terrible years of civil war, will have proved beneficial. Help to build a society that fosters harmony and respect for the person and his fundamental rights. Keeping in mind the common good, you must encourage everyone, starting with those who have political, administrative and juridical responsibility, to promote a higher standard of living, work and housing.
The Salvadoreans' capacity for hard work, their moral strength and spirit of sacrifice in the face of adversity are well known. They showed these qualities on the occasion of Hurricane Mitch and the two earthquakes, one month apart, which struck them at the beginning of this year. On those occasions, I immediately expressed my closeness, appealing for solidarity and help for the victims of those appalling natural disasters that rendered the very existence of many Salvadoreans precarious, and damaged so many buildings.
Although external aid is certainly necessary, given the magnitude of the phenomenon, it should be recalled that the Salvadoreans, with the rich qualities that distinguish them, must themselves play the lead and be the principal architects of the country's reconstruction. Through their own work and commitment, they must overcome this situation that is so difficult and aggravated by the extreme poverty of many, unemployment and the lack of decent housing. It is only right to highlight Caritas' work which seeks to answer these needs.
4. As your main pastoral goal, you propose to foster evangelization. Indeed, one of the Bishop's most important tasks is to confirm the faith of his faithful, by helping the teachings of the Gospel mature in them by expounding the mystery of Christ fully, so that they may give glory to God and follow the path to eternal happiness (cf. Christus Dominus CD 12).
In our day, when the modern media constantly bombard us with detailed reports of the latest news, it is necessary to give priority to the Word of God and its proclamation. When the believer welcomes Jesus Christ and his word and puts it into practice, it is then that truth attains its fullness, as Peter confesses before Jesus: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6,68). Thus it is crucially important that the ministries of preaching, catechesis and teaching continue to flourish, so that all the faithful may "have life and have it abundantly" (Jn 10,10).
The preaching of the Word acquires special prominence when it is proclaimed during the liturgy, for Christ "is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the Holy Scriptures are read in the church" (Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 7). However, since the Church's action is not exhausted in the liturgy, you must persevere in proclaiming the Word and use every means to ensure that the message of salvation reaches believers and non-believers. The media today must also be used for evangelization and catechesis, so as to make the most of their enormous potential, the better to fulfil Jesus' mandate to preach the Good News to the whole creation (cf. Mk Mc 16,15). I urge you to implement the means at your disposal and to put them at the service of the spread of the Gospel. Through them the message of salvation can reach everyone.
5. Priests are the Bishop's immediate collaborators. In his name they preside over the communities of the particular Church, nourish them with the Bread of the Word and of the Eucharist, celebrate the sacraments and through their closeness to everyone, must be the image of the living presence of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, in the midst of his People. To live joyfully the mystery that has been entrusted to them through priestly ordination, they must zealously safeguard the grace they have been granted. To this end, you must always encourage your priests to be men of diligent and frequent prayer, since "prayer develops that conversation with Christ which makes us his intimate friends" (Novo Millennio ineunte NM 32), lets us penetrate the profound mystery of God and fill life with hope in the face of the challenges of the present time, which for priests are often particularly difficult.
Priests must be available to all. They must know how to listen, how to guide the growth in the faith of their brothers and sisters and how to be a source of comfort for the troubled or afflicted, since at every instant they witness to the values of the Kingdom. In brief, they must be and present themselves as ministers of Jesus Christ and of his grace.
The close bond that unites the priest with his Bishop requires that you always be close and attentive to each one of them, so that he may look to you as a true father and teacher. Relying on the charism of your episcopal ministry, encourage each of them to persevere on the path of genuine priestly holiness and pastoral charity. Give them the best means so that they can continue their formation, develop those virtues necessary for their state and face courageously the problems they may meet.
6. I know that in your concern for the number of people dedicated to the mission, you are doing much to encourage the pastoral care of vocations, to develop the Church's life. The first step is recourse to prayer, since the Lord himself commands us to ask him to send out labourers into his harvest (cf. Mt Mt 9,38). You must organize an effective, broad and far-reaching vocations ministry, in parishes, movements, schools and families, so that young people may know the values and demands of the Kingdom of God and respond when asked to make the complete gift of themselves for the sake of the Gospel.
7. The celebration of the Eucharist reinforces communion and hope; it is a source of harmony and peace and ensures that everyone feels he or she belongs to the same family where the dignity of each one is recognized. You must encourage Sunday Mass attendance, since in the process of strengthening the faith, the Eucharist is the privileged moment for meeting the living Jesus Christ. Since Sunday Mass must be a constant duty of the faithful, dedicate yourselves together with your priests, to promoting this important aspect of ecclesial life. Recently, I pointed out that it was necessary "to stress particularly the Sunday Eucharist and Sunday itself experienced as a special day of faith, the day of the Risen Lord and of the gift of the Spirit, the true weekly Easter" (Novo Millennio ineunte NM 35).
In the life of the Church in your nation, Eucharistic devotion is widespread. You mention how adoration of the Blessed Sacrament takes place in almost all the parishes, especially on Thursdays. I rejoice that this practice has been kept alive among the faithful, since it proclaims faith in Christ's real presence in the Eucharist, and it also encourages union with and trust in the One who promised to stay with his disciples "always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28,20).
8. One of the urgent needs of our time, as I stressed in my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte, is attention to families since they are experiencing "a radical and widespread crisis" (n. 47) because of the serious threats that beset them today: the breakup of marriages, the scourge of abortion, the contraceptive mentality, moral corruption, infidelity and violence in the home, factors that endanger the family, which is the primary cell of society and of the Church.
In marriage, raised by the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament, the sacrament not only signifies the great mystery of Christ's love as Bridegroom for his Church (cf. Eph Ep 5,32) but, in accordance with God's plan, that man and woman also realize their conjugal vocation and collaborate with him in creation. A sound preparation for couples preparing to contract marriage and the follow-up of Christian families will guarantee that they offer convincing examples of what Christian families should be and of their irreplaceable role in society and in the Church. Consequently, young people with a vocation to marriage, as well as already established families, must be formed to withstand the pressures of a culture that is opposed to marriage and to the institution of the family, to live in accordance with God's plan and the inner demands of the hearts of man and woman. So much is at stake in the institution of the family that if it is not properly defended and promoted, humanity will reach the point of jeopardizing its future.
9. In the face of the challenges presented by the future of El Salvador, the laity have to play an important role. If they become open to the presence of the Lord in their hearts, lay Christians will be able to offer their brethren the witness of a renewed life; they will have the necessary freedom and spiritual strength to transform social relationships and society itself according to God's plan.
To make the values of the Gospel present in the world, Christians must be firmly rooted in love of God and fidelity to Christ. I urge you to redouble your efforts to form an adult laity that will take an active part in the Church's life and mission; for this purpose you have useful organizations such as the Institute for Advanced Catechetical Studies in San Salvador, where catechists can be formed for their mission. In this work, I also urge you to pay special attention to young people who are exposed to the attractions of illusory ways of life. Present the full truth of Christian life and spirituality to them, so that they may learn the effective values and models to face the challenges of today.
10. Finally, I want to thank you for your tireless work in every sector of pastoral activity. I encourage you to continue with renewed hope the mission of leading the People of God towards the goal of the heavenly home as you exercise your apostolic ministry and perform a service for the whole nation. Please greet warmly and convey my blessing to your priests, religious and faithful, especially those who are dedicated to the work of evangelization and those who are suffering and who therefore have a special place in the Pope's heart. In these days we are celebrating the Feast of Our Lady Queen of Peace, Patroness of El Salvador. As I invoke her motherly protection, I ask her to intercede for the holiness of the faithful, for the well being of families and for the prosperity of your country in justice and peace, and I cordially impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.