With great sorrow and distress, I learned the new bad news of the terrorist attacks in Israel and in Russia in which many people died, defenceless and innocent victims.

Nor has the chain of blind violence been broken in Iraq, which prevents a prompt return to civil coexistence. Abhorrence at the barbaric execution of 12 Nepalese citizens is accompanied by fear for the fate of the two French journalists held hostage by their kidnappers.

I address a pressing appeal for the end everywhere of recourse to violence, which is always unworthy of any good cause; and I appeal for the humane treatment of the two French journalists and for their return unharmed, as before, to their loved ones.

Today, 1 September, is the anniversary of the invasion of Poland and of the beginning of the Second World War, which spread bereavement in Europe and on other continents. Thinking back to those days in this time of serious and widespread tension, let us implore God, Father of all men and women, for the precious gift of peace.

Wednesday, 8 September 2004 - Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Mary as "blessed among women"

1. The liturgy today commemorates the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast, very important to popular piety, leads us to admire in Mary the Child, the purest dawn of the Redemption. We are contemplating a little girl like every other, yet at the same time the only one who was "blessed among women" (
Lc 1,42). Mary was the immaculate "Daughter of Zion", destined to become the Mother of the Messiah.

2. Looking at the Child Mary, how can we fail to remember the many defenceless children of Beslan, in Ossezia, victims of a barbaric kidnapping and tragic massacre? They were inside a school, a place in which values are learned that give meaning to the history, culture and civilization of peoples: reciprocal respect, solidarity, justice and peace. Instead, between those walls they experienced outrage, hatred and death, the evil consequences of cruel fanaticism and an insane disregard for the human person.

At this moment our gaze broadens to take in all innocent children in every corner of the earth who are victims of the violence of adults. Children forced to use weapons and taught to hate and kill; children induced to beg in the streets, exploited for easy earnings; children ill-treated and humiliated by arrogant, abusive grown-ups; children left to themselves, deprived of the warmth of a family and prospects of a future; children who die of hunger, children killed in the many wars in various regions of the world.

3. It is a loud cry of pain from children whose dignity is offended. It cannot, it must not leave anyone indifferent. Dear brothers and sisters, before the cradle of the Infant Mary, let us respond with renewed awareness to the duty that behoves us all to protect and defend these frail creatures and to build them a future of peace. Let us pray together that the conditions for a serene and safe life may be created for them.


Brothers and Sisters, accepting the Holy Father's invitation, let us raise our prayer to God.
Let us say together: Lord, hear us!

1. For the children of Beslan who were torn from life with brutal violence while they were preparing to start the new school year, and for their parents and friends killed with them: that God in his mercy will throw open the doors of his house to them, let us pray:
Resp.: Lord, hear us!

55 2. For the injured, for the victims' families and for all the members of the Beslan community who are mourning with broken hearts the death of their loved ones: that, supported by the light of faith and comforted by the solidarity of so many persons throughout the world, they may be able to forgive those who have harmed them, let us pray:
Resp.: Lord, hear us!

3. For all the children in so many parts of the world who are suffering and dying because of the violence and abuse of adults: that the Lord will enable them to feel the comfort of his love and melt the hardness of hearts that is the cause of their suffering, let us pray:
Resp.: Lord, hear us!

4. For the many people abducted in the tormented Land of Iraq, and in particular, for the two young Italian volunteer workers kidnapped yesterday in Baghdad: that they may all be treated with respect and quickly restored unharmed to the affection of their loved ones, let us pray:
Resp.: Lord, hear us!

5. For justice and peace in the world, that the Lord may illumine the minds of those who are subjected to the fatal suggestion of violence and open all hearts to dialogue and reconciliation, so as to build a future of hope and peace, let us pray:
Resp.: Lord, hear us!

The Holy Father:

God, our Father, you created men and women so that they might live together in communion. Make us understand that every child is a treasure of humanity and that violence to others is a dead end with no future. We ask you this through the intercession of the Virgin Mother of Jesus Christ Our Lord, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

To Polish-speaking pilgrims

Today is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As we glorify the Immaculate Mother of the Son of God depicted as a Child, we cannot but recall the recent victims of terrorism at Ossezia and all children in different corners of the world who are suffering because of the violence of adults. Let us not cease to pray that every child may be welcomed with respect and love. According to this intention, let us pray for peace in the world.

To English-speaking pilgrims

Dear brothers and sisters, I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Audience. I greet particularly the groups from England, Ireland, Denmark, Japan, Canada, Singapore and the United States of America. I wish you a pleasant stay in Rome and I cordially invoke upon all of you joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

To youth, the sick and newly-weds

I greet you, dear young people, dear sick people and dear newly-weds. May the heavenly Mother of God whom today we commemorate as a Child always sustain you on the path of a more perfect attachment to Christ and his Gospel.

Wednesday, 15 September 2004 - Canticle in the Book of Revelation (19: 1-7)

"Alleluia... Praise our God!' (
Ap 19,1-7)

1. The Book of Revelation is studded with Canticles that are raised to God, Lord of the universe and of history. We have just heard one of them, which we constantly encounter in every one of the four weeks embraced by the Liturgy of Vespers.

"Alleluia", a word of Hebrew origin which means "praise the Lord", punctuates this hymn.

Curiously, in the New Testament it recurs only in this passage of the Book of Revelation, in which it is repeated five times. The Liturgy takes just a few verses of the text of chapter 19. Framed by the narrative, they are intoned in heaven by a "great multitude"; it is like a powerful chorus raised by all the elect who celebrate their Lord with joy and festivity (cf. Ap 19,1).

2. So it is that the Church on earth harmonizes her song of praise with the song of the just who already contemplate God's glory. Thus, a channel of communication between history and eternity is created: its starting point is the earthly liturgy of the ecclesial community, and its goal is the liturgy in Heaven where our brothers and sisters who preceded us on the path of faith have already arrived.

This communion of praise substantially celebrates three themes: first of all, the great attributes of God, his "salvation, glory and power" (Ap 19,1; cf. Ap 19,7), that is, his saving transcendence and omnipotence. Prayer is the contemplation of divine glory, of the ineffable mystery, of the ocean of light and love that is God.

Secondly, the Canticle exalts the "reign" of the Lord, that is, the divine plan of humanity's redemption. Taking up a theme dear to the so-called Psalms of the Kingdom of God (cf. Ps 47 [46]; Ps 96-99 [95]-[98]) our Canticle proclaims here: "the Lord our God the Almighty reigns!" (Ap 19,6), intervening in history with supreme authority. History, of course, is entrusted to human freedom which generates good and evil but is ultimately sealed by the decisions of divine Providence. The Book of Revelation precisely celebrates the goal towards which God's effective action leads history, even through the storms, distress and havoc wrought by evil, by man and by Satan.

Another passage from the Book of Revelation says: "We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who are and who were. For you have assumed your great power and have established your reign" (Ap 11,17).

3. Lastly, the third topic of the hymn is characteristic of the Book of Revelation and its symbology: "(for) the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready" (Ap 19,7). As we will have occasion to examine more deeply in future meditations on this Canticle, the definitive goal to which the last book of the Bible leads us is the nuptial encounter between the Lamb who is Christ and the purified and transfigured bride who is redeemed humanity.

The phrase "the marriage of the Lamb has come" refers to the supreme moment, as our "nuptial" text suggests, of intimacy between creature and Creator, in the joy and peace of salvation.

4. Let us end with the words from one of the discourses of St Augustine, who illustrates and eulogizes the spiritual significance of singing the "Alleluia". "We sing this word in unison, converging on it in a communion of sentiments and encouraging one another to praise God. However, only one who has done nothing to displease him can praise God with a peaceful conscience. Moreover, with regard to the present, when we are pilgrims on this earth, we sing Alleluia as a consolation, to be strengthened along the way; the Alleluia we are saying now is like the traveller's song; yet, as we take this difficult path, we are striving to reach that homeland where repose awaits us, where, once all that we are involved in today has passed away, all that will be left is the Alleluia" (n. 255, 1: Discorsi, IV/2, Rome, 1984, p. 597).

57 To English-speaking pilgrims

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking pilgrims present at this Audience, especially those from England, Sweden and the United States of America. Upon you and your loved ones, I invoke the Lord's blessings of peace and joy.

To Italian-speaking pilgrims

I warmly welcome the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular I greet the Franciscan Handmaids of the Good Shepherd, who have gathered here on the centenary of the birth of their Foundress, the Servant of God Mother Teresa Napoli; the participants in the course organized by the Athenaeum of the Holy Cross; the representatives of the Primosole Association of Palermo and of the Parents' Association in Florence, and those taking part in the San Pio da Pietrelcina Marathon.

To special groups

My thoughts also go to the young people, the sick people and the newly-weds.

Dear friends, today we are commemorating Our Lady of Sorrows, who remained faithfully by the Cross of Jesus. My hope for you is that you may find in her comfort and support, in order to overcome every obstacle in your daily lives.

Wednesday, 22 September 2004 - Canticle in I Peter 2: 21-24

The face of the suffering Christ and his patience in bearing the burden of the Cross (
1P 2,21-24)

1. Today, as we listened to the hymn in the passage from chapter 2 of St Peter's First Letter, the face of the suffering Christ stood out vividly before our eyes. This is how it was for readers of that Letter in the early times of Christianity, and how it was for centuries during the liturgical proclamation of the Word of God and in personal meditation.

This Canticle, inserted in the Letter, presents a liturgical tone and seems to mirror the prayer breathed by the early Church (cf. Col 1,15-20 Ph 2,6-11 1Tm 3,16). It is also marked by an ideal dialogue between the author and his readers, punctuated by the alternation of the personal pronouns "we" and "you": "Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.... He himself bore our sins in his body... that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds [we] have been healed" (1P 2,21 1P 2,24-25).

2. In the original Greek text, however, the most often repeated pronoun, virtually hammered out at the beginning of the principal verses (cf. 1P 2,22 1P 2,23 1P 2,24), is hos: "he", the patient Christ, he who had committed no sin, he who when reviled did not react by seeking revenge, he who bore on the Cross the burden of humanity's sins to take them away.

Peter, like the faithful who recite this Canticle, especially at the Liturgy of Vespers in the Lenten season, is remembering the Servant of Yahweh described in the fourth hymn of the First Book of the Prophet Isaiah. The suffering Servant is a mysterious figure interpreted by Christianity in a messianic and Christological key since he prefigures the details and importance of the Passion of Christ: "He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows... he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities... with his stripes we are healed.... He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth" (Is 53,4 Is 53,5 Is 53,7).

The profile of sinful humanity is also suggested by the image of a scattered flock in a verse that is not included in the Liturgy of Vespers (cf. 1P 2,25) but comes from that ancient prophetic poem. "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way" (Is 53,6).

3. Thus, two figures intersect in this Petrine hymn. First of all, there is he, Christ, who sets out on the inexorable journey of the Passion without protesting against the injustice and violence, without recrimination or outbursts, but entrusting himself and his sorrowful experience "to him who judges justly" (1P 2,23). This act of pure and total trust was to be sealed on the Cross with his famous last words, cried with a loud voice as his supreme abandonment to the will of the Father: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" (Lc 23,46 cf. Ps 31,6 [30]).

There is no question, therefore, of blind and passive resignation, but of courageous confidence destined to serve as an example to all of his disciples who are walking on the dark path of trial and persecution.

4. Christ is presented as the Saviour, in solidarity with us in his human "body". In being born of the Virgin Mary, he became our brother. So it is that he can stand beside us, share in our pain and bear our wickedness, "our sins" (1P 2,24). But he is also and always the Son of God, and his solidarity with us becomes radically transforming, liberating, expiatory and salvific (ibid. 1P 2,24).

So it is that our poor humanity is snatched from the deviating, twisted paths of evil and brought back to "righteousness", that is, to the beautiful plan of God. The last sentence of the Canticle is especially moving. It says: "By his wounds you have been healed" (1P 2,25). Here we see how dearly Christ paid to obtain our healing!

5. Let us conclude by leaving the floor to the Fathers of the Church, that is, to Christian tradition that has meditated and prayed with St Peter's hymn.

Interweaving a phrase of the hymn with other biblical remembrances, St Irenaeus of Lyons sums up in this way the figure of Christ the Saviour in a passage from his Treatise Adversus Haereses: "There is one and the same Jesus Christ, Son of God, who through his Passion reconciled us to God and was raised from the dead, is seated at the right hand of God and is perfect in all things: he was hit but did not return the blows, "he who, when he suffered, did not threaten", and while he suffered tyrannical violence, prayed to the Father to forgive those who had crucified him. He truly saved us, he is the Word of God, he is the Only Begotten Son of the Father, Christ Jesus Our Lord" (III, 16: 9, Milan, 1997, p. 270).


To English-speaking pilgrims

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Audience. I greet particularly the groups from England, Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, Latvia, Australia and the United States of America. Wishing you a pleasant stay in Rome, I cordially invoke upon you peace and consolation in our Lord Jesus Christ. Happy vacation!

To special groups

As usual, my thoughts now go to the young people, the sick and the newly-weds.

Dear friends, always be faithful to the Gospel ideal and put it into practice in your daily activities.

Wednesday, 29 September 2004 - Psalm 45£[44] - My heart overflows

1. "To the king I must speak the song I have made" (
Ps 45,1 [44]): these words at the beginning of the Psalm give the reader an idea of the basic character of this hymn. The court scribe who composed it reveals to us straightaway that it is a song in honour of the Jewish sovereign. Indeed, glancing through the verses of this composition, we realize that we are in the presence of an epithalamium, a nuptial song.

Scholars have endeavoured to identify the historical coordinates of the Psalm on the basis of certain clues, such as the linking of the queen with the Phoenician city of Tyre (cf. Ps 45,13), but have failed to identify the royal couple precisely. It is significant that a Jewish king comes into the scene. This allowed the Judaic tradition to transform the text into a hymn to the Messiah-King, and the Christian tradition to reinterpret the Psalm in a Christological key and, because of the queen's presence, also in a Marian perspective.

2. The Liturgy of Vespers treats this Psalm as a prayer, dividing it into two parts. We have just heard the first part (cf. Ps 45,2-10) which, after the introduction of the scribe who wrote the text already mentioned (cf. Ps 45,2), presents a splendid portrait of the sovereign who is about to celebrate his wedding.

This is why Judaism has recognized Psalm 45[44] as a nuptial song that exalts the beauty and intensity of the gift of love between the bride and the bridegroom. Women, in particular, can repeat with the Song of Songs: "My beloved is mine and I am his" (Ct 2,16). "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine" (Ct 6,3).

3. The traits of the royal bridegroom are outlined solemnly, with recourse to all the pomp of a court scene. He bears the military emblems (cf. Ps 45,4-6 [44]), to which are added sumptuous, scented robes, while music resounds in the background of the spacious ivory halls of shimmering palaces (Ps 45,9-10). The throne is set in the centre, and there is also a reference to the sceptre, both insignia of power and royal investiture (cf. Ps 45,7-8).

At this point we would like to highlight two elements. First of all, the beauty of the bridegroom, a sign of inner splendour and divine blessings: "You are the fairest of the children of men" (Ps 45,3). On the very basis of this verse, Christian tradition pictures Christ in the form of a perfect and attractive man. In a world that is all too often marred by ugliness and ugly deeds, this image is an invitation to rediscover the "via pulchritudinis" in faith, in theology and in social life, in order to ascend to the beauty of the divine.

61 4. Beauty, however, is not an end in itself. The second point we would like to make concerns the encounter between beauty and justice. Indeed, the sovereign "rides on in triumph for the cause of truth and goodness and right" (Ps 45,5); his "love is for justice; [his] hatred for evil" (Ps 45,8), and the sceptre of his kingdom is "a sceptre of justice" (Ps 45,7). Beauty must be combined with goodness and holiness of life so as to make the luminous face of God who is good, admirable and just shine out in the world.

In v. 7, experts have supposed that the name "God" is addressed to the king himself because he is consecrated to the Lord and therefore in a certain way belongs to the sphere of the divine: "Your throne, O God, shall endure for ever". Or it might be an invocation to the one supreme king, the Lord, who bends down to the Messiah-King. It is certain that the Letter to the Hebrews, in applying the Psalm to Christ, has no hesitation in recognizing the full and not merely symbolic divinity of the Son who has entered into his glory (cf. He 1,8-9).

5. Following this Christological interpretation, let us conclude by referring to the voice of the Fathers of the Church, who attribute further spiritual values to each verse. Thus, St John Chrysostom interweaves this Christological application with the sentence of the Psalm in which it says that "God has blessed" the Messiah-King "for ever more" (cf. Ps 45,3 [44]).

"The first Adam was subjected to an overwhelming curse, whereas the second Adam was filled with the greatest blessing. The former had heard: "cursed is the ground because of you' (Gn 3,17), and again: "cursed is he who does the work of the Lord with slackness' (Jr 48,10), "cursed be he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them' (Dt 27,26), and "a hanged man is accursed by God' (Dt 21,23). You see how many curses? Christ has set you free from all these curses, "having become a curse for us' (cf. Ga 3,13). Indeed, just as he humbled himself to lift you up and died to make you immortal, so he became a curse in order to crown you with blessings. Can anything ever compare to this blessing, when due to a curse he lavishes a blessing upon you? Indeed, he himself had no need of blessing, but he gives it to you" (Expositio in Psalmum XLIV, 4: PG 55,188-189).

To English-speaking pilgrims

I extend a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims here today, including groups from Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia and the United States of America. I greet especially the new students of the Venerable English College. Upon all of you I invoke the grace and peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

To special groups

I now address a cordial greeting to the Italian-speaking pilgrims, and in particular, to my Brothers in the Episcopate taking part in the meeting organized for Military Ordinaries, and to the numerous student priests of the Pontifical Colleges of St Peter and St Paul in Rome. I then greet the faithful of the Diocese of Belluno-Feltre, accompanied by their Pastor, Bishop Giuseppe Andrich, as well as the representatives of the Seniors Association of the Fiat Firm.

I thank you all for coming and wish you every desired good in the Lord.

Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick and the newly-weds.

Dear Friends, I assure each of you a special remembrance in prayer and I bless you from my heart.

                                                                                  October 2004

Wednesday, 6 October 2004 - Psalm 45£[44] - "Listen, O daughter!'

1. The sweet feminine portrait that the liturgy has offered us forms the second scene of the diptych which makes up Psalm 45[44]. It is a serene and joyful nuptial song that we read in the Liturgy of Vespers. Thus, after meditating on the king who is celebrating his wedding (cf.
Ps 45,2-10), our gaze now shifts to the figure of the queen, his bride (cf. Ps 45,11-18). This nuptial perspective enables us to dedicate the Psalm to all couples who live their marriage with inner intensity and freshness, a sign of a "great mystery", as St Paul suggests: the mystery of the Father's love for humanity and Christ's love for his Church (cf. Ep 5,32). However, the Psalm unfolds a further horizon.

In fact, the Jewish king is in the limelight and in view of this the subsequent Judaic tradition saw in him the features of the Davidic Messiah, whereas Christianity transformed the hymn into a song in honour of Christ.

2. Now, however, our attention is held by the profile of the queen which the court poet, the author of the Psalm (cf. Ps 45,2 [44]), paints with great delicacy and feeling. The reference to the Phoenician city of Tyre (cf. Ps 45,13) leads us to suppose that she is a foreign princess. The appeal to forget her own people and her father's house (cf. Ps 45,11), which she has had to leave, thus acquires particular meaning.

The vocation to marriage is a turning point in life and changes a person's existence, as has already emerged in the Book of Genesis: "Therefore, a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Gn 2,24). The queen-bride, with her wedding procession that is bearing gifts, now advances towards the king who is entranced by her beauty (cf. Ps 45,12-13 [44]).

3. The Psalmist's insistence in exalting the woman is important: she is "clothed with splendour" (Ps 45,14), and this magnificence is illustrated by her wedding robes, woven of gold and richly embroidered (cf. Ps 45,14-15).

The Bible loves beauty as a reflection of God's splendour; even clothing can be raised to a sign of dazzling inner light and purity of soul.

The thought runs parallel, on the one hand, to the marvellous pages of the Song of Songs (cf. Ps 45,4 and Ps 45,7), and on the other, to the echo in the Book of Revelation that portrays the "marriage of the Lamb", that is, of Christ, with the community of the redeemed, focusing on the symbolic value of the wedding robes: "The marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to be clothed with fine linen, bright and pure, for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints" (Ap 19,7-8).

63 4. Besides beauty, the joy is exalted that transpires from the festive procession of "maiden companions", the bridesmaids who accompany the bride "with joy and gladness" (Ps 45,15-16 [44]). True joy, far deeper than mere merriment, is an expression of love that shares with a serene heart in the good of the beloved.

Now, according to the concluding hopes expressed, another reality radically inherent in marriage is also described: fertility. Indeed, "sons" are mentioned, and "peoples" (cf. Ps 45,17-18). The future, not only of the dynasty but of humanity, is brought about precisely because the couple offers new creatures to the world.

In our time, this is an important topic in the West, which is often unable to entrust its existence to the future by begetting and protecting new creatures who will continue the civilization of peoples and realize the history of salvation.

5. Many Fathers of the Church, as is well known, interpreted the portrait of the queen by applying it to Mary, from the very first words of the appeal: "Listen, O daughter, give ear..." (Ps 45,11). This also happens, for example, in the Homily on the Mother of God by Chrysippus of Jerusalem. He was a Cappadocian who was part of the monks who founded the monastery of St Euthymius in Palestine. He became a priest and was the custodian of the Holy Cross in the Basilica of Anastasius in Jerusalem.

"My discourse is addressed to you", he says, turning to Mary, "to you who must go as bride to the great sovereign; to you I address my discourse, to you who are about to conceive the Word of God in the way that he knows.... "Listen, O daughter, give ear to my words'; indeed, the auspicious announcement of the world's redemption is coming true. Listen, and what you will hear will gladden your heart.... "Forget your own people and your father's house': pay no attention to your earthly parents, for you will be transformed into a heavenly queen. And "listen', he says, "to how much the One who is Creator and Lord of all things loves you'. Indeed, the "king', he says, "will desire your beauty'; the Father himself will take you as bride; the Holy Spirit will arrange all the conditions that are necessary for these nuptials.... Do not believe you will give birth to a human child, "for he is your Lord and you will adore him'. Your Creator has become your child; you will conceive and with all the others, you will worship him as your Lord" (Marian texts of the first millennium, I, Rome, 1988, pp. 605-606).

To English-speaking pilgrims

I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking pilgrims present at this Audience, especially those from Britain, Ireland and the United States of America. In a special way I greet the young people from Sudan and the deacon candidates from the North American College. Upon all of you I invoke the Lord's blessings of peace and joy.

To special groups

I address a cordial greeting to the Italian-speaking pilgrims, and in particular, to the young people, the sick and the newly-weds.

Dear friends, tomorrow the Church will be celebrating the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. I invite you to treasure this prayer, so dear to the tradition of the Christian people. Make the Rosary your daily prayer.

Wednesday, 13 October 2004 - Canticle in Ephesians 1: 3-10 - Blessed be God!

64 Ep 1,3-10

1. We have before us the solemn hymn of blessing that opens the Letter to the Ephesians, a page of great theological and spiritual depth, a marvellous expression of faith and perhaps also of the liturgy of the Church in apostolic times.

The canticle is presented four times during all the weeks into which the Liturgy of Vespers is divided. The faithful may thus contemplate and savour this grandiose image of Christ that is not only the heart of Christian spirituality and worship, but also the principle of unity and of a sense of the universe and of history in its entirety. The blessing rises from humanity to the Father, in the heavenly places (cf. Ep 1,3), starting from the saving work of the Son.

2. It begins with God's eternal plan which Christ is called to accomplish. In this design, our having been chosen as "holy and blameless" shines out first and foremost not so much at the ritual level - as these adjectives used in the Old Testament for sacrificial worship might seem to suggest - but rather "in love" (cf. Ep 1,4). Therefore, it is a question of holiness and of moral, existential, inner purity.

However, the Father has a further goal in mind for us: through Christ he destines us to receive the gift of filial dignity, becoming sons in the Son and brothers and sisters of Jesus (cf. Rm 8,15 Rm 8,23 Rm 9,4 Ga 4,5). This gift of grace is poured out through "the beloved Son", the Only-Begotten One par excellence (cf. Ep 1,5-6).

3. It is in this way that the Father works a radical transformation in us: our complete liberation from evil, "redemption though [the] blood" of Christ, "the forgiveness of our trespasses" through "the riches of his grace" (cf. Ep 1,7). Christ's sacrifice on the Cross, a supreme act of love and solidarity, bathes us in superb light, "wisdom and insight" (cf. Ep 1,8). We are transfigured creatures: our sin taken away, we fully know the Lord. And since knowledge, in biblical terms, is an expression of love, it introduces us more deeply into the "mystery" of the divine will (cf. Ep 1,9).

4. A "mystery", namely, a transcendent and perfect project that contains a wonderful saving plan: "to unite all things in him [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth" (Ep 1,10). The Greek text suggests that Christ has become the kefalaion, that is, the cardinal point, the central axis on which the whole of creation converges and acquires meaning. The same Greek word refers to another, dear to the Letters to the Ephesians and to the Colossians: kefalé, "head", which indicates the role carried out by Christ in the Body of the Church.

Here the gaze is broader and more universal, although it includes the more specific ecclesial dimension of Christ's work. He reconciled "to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross" (Col 1,20).

65 5. Let us end our reflection with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving for the redemption that Christ brought about in us. We do so with the words of a text that has been preserved on an ancient papyrus of the fourth century.

"We call on you, Lord God. You know all things, nothing escapes you, O Master of Truth. You have created the universe and you keep watch over every being. You guide on the path of truth those who walk in the darkness and the shadow of death. You desire to save all people and make them know the truth. All together, we offer you praise and hymns of thanksgiving".

The person praying continues: "You have redeemed us, with the precious and immaculate Blood of your Only Son, from all aberrations. You have released us from the devil and have obtained for us glory and freedom. We were dead and you have caused us, body and soul, to be reborn in the Spirit. We were unclean, and you have purified us. We pray therefore, Father of mercies and God of every consolation: strengthen us in our vocation, in adoration and in faithfulness".

The prayer ends with the invocation: "Fortify us, O benevolent Lord, with your strength. Illuminate our souls with your consolation.... Grant us to look at, seek and contemplate the goods of heaven and not those of the earth. Thus, by the power of your grace, glory will be rendered to the Almighty and most holy power worthy of all praise, in Jesus Christ, the beloved Son, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen" (A. Hamman, Preghiere dei Primi Cristiani, Milan 1955, pp. 92-94).

To English-speaking pilgrims

I greet the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor and I offer the assurance of my prayers for their General Chapter. I also welcome the diocesan pilgrimage groups from Indonesia and Scotland, and the American military chaplains. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, especially those from England, Denmark and the United States, I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace.

To special groups

I hope that you, dear young people, sick people and newly-weds will imitate the example of the Virgin Mary, woman of the Eucharist. At the beginning of the Year of the Eucharist, strive, as she did, to follow Jesus, the way, the truth and the life. Be assiduous adorers of the Most Holy Eucharist!