S. John Paul II Homil. 1453





Bratislava, Esplanade of Petržalka

Sunday, 14 September 2003

1. O Crux, ave spes unica! Hail, O Cross, our only hope!

During the celebration of this Sunday Liturgy, Dear Brothers and Sisters, we are invited to look upon the Cross. It is the “privileged place” where the love of God is revealed and shown to us. Bishop Vasil’ Hopko and Sister Zdenka Schelingová, whom I have had the joy of enrolling today among the Blessed, looked upon the Cross with invincible faith.

On the Cross human misery and divine mercy meet. The adoration of this unlimited mercy is for man the only way to open himself to the mystery which the Cross reveals.

The Cross is planted in the earth and would seem to extend its roots in human malice, but it reaches up, pointing as it were to the heavens, pointing to the goodness of God. By means of the Cross of Christ, the Evil One has been defeated, death is overcome, life is given to us, hope is restored, light is imparted. O Crux, ave spes unica!

2. In the name of the crucified and risen Lord, I greet affectionately all of you gathered here on the esplanade of Petržalka. I greet you, dear brother Bishop Ján Sokol, Pastor of this Church of Bratislava-Trnava, which today has given me so festive a welcome. I greet your Auxiliary Bishops and all the Bishops of Slovakia, especially the Venerable Cardinal Ján Chryzostom Korec. I joyfully unite myself to your common thanksgiving for the tenth anniversary of the establishment of your Episcopal Conference.

I greet the Cardinals and the Bishops who have come from the neighbouring countries together with large numbers of the faithful. Your fraternal presence eloquently manifests the bond of communion which unites the different local Churches.

1454 I greet the President of the Republic and the other civil and military authorities. I thank you all for having generously cooperated in the preparation of every aspect of my apostolic visit.

Finally with warm affection I greet you, beloved Slovak people here present or listening by radio or television. I thank God because you have been able to safeguard, even in difficult times, your fidelity to Christ and to his Church. And I exhort you: never be ashamed of the Gospel (cf. Rom
Rm 1,16)! Guard it in your heart as the most precious treasure, from which you may draw light and strength in the everyday pilgrimage of life.

3. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn 3,14-15), says Jesus. What do we see then when we bring our eyes to bear on the cross where Jesus was nailed (cf. Jn Jn 19,37)? We contemplate the sign of God’s infinite love for humanity.

O Crux, ave spes unica! Saint Paul speaks of the same theme in the letter to the Ephesians which we have just heard. Not only did Christ Jesus become man, in everything similar to human beings, but he took on the condition of a servant and humbled himself even more by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (cf. Phil Ph 2,6-8).

Yes, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3,16). We admire – overwhelmed and gratified – the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge (cf. Eph Ep 3,18-19)! O Crux, ave spes unica!

4. Certainly, it was meditation on this great and wonderful mystery that sustained Blessed Bishop Vasil’ Hopko and Blessed Sister Zdenka Schelingová in their choice of the consecrated life and especially in the sufferings endured during their terrible imprisonment.

Both shine before us as radiant examples of faithfulness in times of harsh and ruthless religious persecution. Bishop Vasil’ never repudiated his attachment to the Catholic Church and to the Pope. Sister Zdenka did not hesitate to risk her life so as to assist God’s ministers.

Both faced up to an unjust trial and an ignoble condemnation, to torture, humiliation, solitude, death. And so the Cross became for them the way that led them to life, a source of fortitude and hope, a proof of love for God and man. O Crux, ave spes unica!

5. In the Garden of Eden, at the foot of the tree, there was a woman, Eve (cf. Gen Gn 3). Seduced by the Evil One, she takes possession of what she thinks is divine life. Instead it is a seed of death which enters into her (cf. Jas Jc 1,15 Rm 6,23).

On Calvary, at the foot of the tree of the cross, there was another woman, Mary (cf. Jn Jn 19,25-27). Accepting God’s plan, she shares intimately in the Son’s gift of self to the Father for the life of the world and, receiving from Jesus the entrustment of John the Apostle, she becomes the Mother of all mankind.

It is the Virgin most Sorrowful, whom we will remember tomorrow in the liturgy and whom you, with tender devotion, venerate as your Patroness. To her I entrust the present and the future of the Church and Nation of Slovakia, so that they will grow at the foot of the Cross of Christ, and will always know how to seek out and accept its message of love and salvation.

1455 Through the mystery of your Cross and your resurrection, save us O Lord! Amen.



Saturday, 27 September 2003

1. "To this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living" (Rm 14,9).

The words of the Apostle Paul from his Letter to the Romans recall the central mystery of our faith: Christ, died and risen, is the ultimate reason for all human existence.

Every Sunday, the Day of the Lord, the Christian people relive this mystery of salvation in a special way. They increasingly deepen their knowledge of it. The Church, Bride of Christ, proclaims with joy and certain hope his victory over sin and death; she walks through the centuries, awaiting his glorious return. The acclamation rings out in the heart of every Holy Mass: "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again".

2. Today we celebrate this great Mystery of the faith in special memory of my Venerable Predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul I. They both departed this world 25 years ago, respectively on 6 August and 28 September 1978.

I have had various opportunities in recent months to recall the Servant of God Paul VI who, 40 years ago, received the heritage of the Second Vatican Council from Bl. John XXIII. He brought it to completion with wisdom and firmness, guiding the Christian people through the complex and difficult period that followed the Council.

I spoke of John Paul I last 26 August, on the anniversary of his election to the See of Peter.
Let us now link them in prayer, while we like to think of them as having entered into "God's time": that "eighth day" which "the Lord has made" (cf. Ps. 118[117]: 24), the goal and accomplishment of our earthly days.

3. "The precepts of the Lord give joy". This is what we have just repeated in the Responsorial Psalm. Paul VI's frequent invitation to Christian joy springs to mind: an invitation which, despite all the difficulties, stemmed from the knowledge that he was constantly adhering to the divine will.

I think again of the reassuring smile of Pope Luciani, who conquered the world in the brief span of a month. That smile was the fruit of docile abandonment to the hands of heavenly Providence.

1456 Both these Pontiffs mirror the peace-giving joy of the Church. Even when she is tried by great suffering she is not afraid; she does not withdraw into herself but trusts in the Lord. She knows she is guided by the Holy Spirit, and for this reason rejoices in the signs of God's mercy; she admires the marvels that the Almighty works in the little, the poor and those who fear him.

4. "Whoever is not against us is for us" (
Mc 9,40). This is what Jesus says in this Sunday's Gospel reading, echoing the First Reading that presents Moses in a state of deep inner freedom motivated by trust in God (cf. Nm NM 11,29).

We recognize this same attitude in Paul VI and John Paul I, who never yielded to the opinions of the moment or to visions connected to contingent interests. Firmly anchored to the Truth, they did not hesitate to enter into dialogue with all people of good will. They were inwardly free, because they knew that the Holy Spirit "blows where [he] wills" (cf. Jn 3,8), to direct the journey of the history of salvation in different ways.

In an address to journalists the day after his election, Pope Luciani said: "You will often have to present the Church, to speak about the Church - at times you will have to comment on Our humble ministry. We are confident that you will do so with a love of truth...". And with extreme finesse, he added: "We would also ask you to be willing to contribute to the safeguarding in today's society of a deep respect for the things of God and for the mysterious relationship between God and each of us. It is this that constitutes the sacred dimension of human reality" (1 September 1978; ORE, 7 September, p. 3).

5. "None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself... whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's" (Rm 14,7). St Paul recalls that Christ's lordship is a supreme source of freedom; a freedom from one's own judgment and that of others, because the only judge is God before whose judgment seat we will all stand (cf. Rm 14,10). What a grace to be able to count on such a judge! And the Apostle notes further: Jesus Christ (it is) "who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us" (Rm 8,34). What peace is imbued in our hearts by the certainty that He is our Redeemer!

Both my Venerable Predecessors, enlightened by this truth, dedicated their entire life to the service of the Gospel.

Let us continue to pray for them, sustained by the hope that one day we too will stand before the merciful Judge in the glory of Heaven. Together with Mary, merciful Mother of the Church and of humanity.

So be it!


Sunday, 5 October 2003

1. "Preach the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mc 16,15). With these words before the Ascension the Risen One entrusted the universal missionary mandate to the Apostles. Immediately afterwards, he assured them that in this demanding mission they would always be able to count on his help (cf. Mk Mc 16,20).

These same words rang out eloquently at today's solemn celebration. They constitute the message that these three new Saints renew for us: Daniel Comboni, Bishop, founder of the Congregation of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus and of the Comboni Missionary Sisters; Arnold Janssen, priest, founder of the Society of the Divine Word and of the Congregation of Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit and the Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration; Joseph Freinademetz, priest, of the Society of the Divine Word.

1457 Their lives show clearly that the proclamation of the Gospel "is the primary service which the Church can render to every individual and to all humanity" (Redemptoris Missio RMi 2). These new Saints teach us that evangelization always involves an explicit proclamation of Christ in addition to contributing to human advancement that has sometimes even proven dangerous, as the experience of so many missionaries shows. This is the example, the precious heritage that the three Saints, raised today to the glory of the altars, have bequeathed, especially to their religious families. The priority of missionary institutes is the mission "ad gentes", which must come before any other social or humanitarian commitment, however necessary.

2. "All the peoples will see the glory of the Lord". The Responsorial Psalm, which we have just sung, emphasizes the urgency of the mission "ad gentes", even in our time. We need evangelizers with the enthusiasm and apostolic outreach of Bishop Daniel Comboni, an apostle of Christ among the Africans. He relied on the resources of his rich personality and solid spirituality to make Christ known and welcomed in Africa, a continent he loved deeply.

How could we fail, also today, to turn our gaze with affection and concern to those beloved peoples? Africa, a land rich in human and spiritual resources, continues to be scarred by many difficulties and problems. May the international community actively help it build a future of hope. I entrust my appeal to the intercession of St Daniel Comboni, an outstanding evangelizer and protector of the "Black Continent".

3. "Nations shall come to your light" (Is 60,3). The prophetic image of the new Jerusalem that spreads divine light on all the peoples clearly illustrates the life and tireless apostolate of St Arnold Janssen. He zealously carried out his priestly work, spreading the Word of God by means of the new mass media, especially the press.

Obstacles did not dismay him. He liked to repeat: "Proclamation of the Good News is the first and most significant expression of love for one's neighbour". He now helps his religious family from Heaven, to continue faithfully along the tracks he marked out that witness to the permanent value of the Church's evangelizing mission.

4. "And they went forth and preached everywhere" (Mc 16,20). The Evangelist Mark ends his Gospel with these words. He then adds that the Lord never ceases to accompany the activity of the Apostles with the power of his miracles. Echoing these words of Jesus, the words of St Joseph Freinademetz are filled with faith: "I do not consider missionary life as a sacrifice I offer to God, but as the greatest grace that God could ever have lavished upon me". With the tenacity typical of mountain people, this generous "witness of love" made a gift of himself to the Chinese peoples of southern Shandong. For love and with love he embraced their living conditions, in accordance with his own advice to his missionaries: "Missionary work is useless if one does not love and is not loved". An exemplary model of Gospel inculturation, this Saint imitated Jesus, who saved men and women by sharing their existence to the very end.

5. "Go into all the world". The three Saints whom we joyfully honour today remind us of the missionary vocation of every baptized person. All Christians are sent on mission, but to be authentic witnesses of Christ, one must strive constantly for holiness (cf. Redemptoris Missio RMi 90).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us accept this invitation that comes to us from today's evocative celebration. May the Queen of the Saints, the Star of the New Evangelization, shine upon us from Heaven. We turn to her with trust, especially in this month of October, dedicated to the Rosary and to the missions. Mary Most Holy, Queen of Missions, pray for us!


Thursday, 16 October 2003

Address of Card. Ratzinger at the beginning of Thanksgiving Mass

1. "Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo - I will sing of your mercies, O Lord, for ever (cf. Ps 89[88]: 1).

1458 Twenty-five years ago I had a special experience of divine mercy. At the Conclave, through the College of Cardinals, Christ said to me, as he once said to Peter by the Lake of Genesaret: "Tend my sheep" (Jn 21,16).

I heard echo in my soul the question he addressed to Peter at that moment: "Do you love me? Do you love me more than these...?" (cf. Jn Jn 21,15-16). Humanly speaking, how could I not have been apprehensive? How could so great a responsibility not burden me? I had to turn to divine mercy in order to answer the question "Do you accept?" with confidence: "In the obedience of the faith, before Christ my Lord, entrusting myself to the Mother of Christ and of the Church, aware of the great difficulties, I accept".

Today, dear brothers and sisters, I am pleased to share with you an experience that has now lasted for a quarter of a century. Every day that same dialogue between Jesus and Peter takes place in my heart. In spirit, I focus on the benevolent gaze of the risen Christ. Although he knows of my human frailty, he encourages me to answer confidently, like Peter: "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you" (Jn 21,17). And then he invites me to take on the responsibilities that he himself has entrusted to me.

2. "The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (Jn 10,11). While Jesus was saying these words, the Apostles did not realize that he was referring to himself. Not even his beloved Apostle John knew it. He understood on Calvary, at the foot of the Cross, when he saw Jesus silently giving up his life for "his sheep".

When the time came for John and the other Apostles to assume this same mission they then remembered his words. They realized that they would be able to fulfil their mission only because he had assured them that he himself would be working among them.

As Peter, a "witness of the sufferings of Christ" (1P 5,1), was particularly aware of this, he admonished the elders of the Church: "Tend the flock of God that is your charge" (1P 5,2).

Down the centuries, the successors of the Apostles, guided by the Holy Spirit, have continued to gather Christ's flock and lead it toward the Kingdom of Heaven, knowing that only "for Christ, with Christ and in Christ" could they assume so great a responsibility.

I was conscious of the same thing when the Lord called me to carry out Peter's mission in this beloved city of Rome and at the serivce of the whole world. From the beginning of my Pontificate, my thoughts, prayers and actions were motivated by one desire: to witness that Christ, the Good Shepherd, is present and active in his Church. He is constantly searching for every stray sheep, to lead it back to the sheepfold, to bind up its wounds; he tends the sheep that are weak and sickly and protects those that are strong. This is why, from the very first day, I have never ceased to urge people: "Do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power!" (Homily at the Mass Inaugurating the Pontifical Ministry of John Paul II, 22 October 1978, L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 2 November 1978, p. 12). Today I forcefully repeat: "Open, indeed, open wide the doors to Christ!" (cf. ibid.). Let him guide you! Trust in his love!

3. When I was beginning my Pontificate I appealed to all: "Help the Pope and all who wish to serve Christ and with Christ's power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind!". As I thank God with you for these 25 years totally steeped in his mercy, I feel a special need to express my gratitude to you too, brothers and sisters of Rome and of the whole world, who have responded and continue to respond in various ways to my request for help. Only God knows what sacrifices, prayers and sufferings have been offered to sustain me in my service to the Church. How much kindness and concern, how many signs of communion have surrounded me each day. May the good Lord reward everyone generouslyl! I implore you, dear brothers and sisters, do not stop your great work of love for the Successor of Peter. I ask you once again: help the Pope, whoever wants to serve Christ, to serve man and all humanity!

4. To you, Lord Jesus Christ,
The one Pastor of the Church
1459 I offer the fruit of these 25 years of ministry
at the service of the people you have entrusted to my care.
Forgive the evil done and multiply the good:
All is your work and you alone deserve glory.
With full confidence in your mercy
I commend to you, again today, those whom years ago
you entrusted to my pastoral care.
Keep them in love, gather them into your sheepfold,
take the weak upon your shoulders,
bind up the wounded, take care of the strong.
Be their Shepherd, so that they do not stray.

1460 Protect the beloved Church which is in Rome
and the Churches of the whole world.
Instil the light and power of your Spirit
in those you have chosen to guide your flock:
May they carry out their mission enthusiastically
as guides, teachers and sanctifiers,
while they await your glorious return.

I renew to you, through the hands of the Beloved Mother, Mary,
the gift of myself, of the present and of the future:
May all be done according to your will.
Supreme Pastor, stay with us,
1461 so that with you we may safely journey onwards
to the house of the Father,
to the house of the Father. Amen!

At the conclusion of the Thanksgiving Mass for the 25th Anniversary of his Pontificate the Holy Father spoke briefly to the pilgrims and visitors present:

Before ending the celebration, I would like to offer my cordial greeting to everyone present, thanking in particular the numerous pilgrimages, from Italy, Poland and from other countries.
I greet the Cardinals with a special thought for Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Dean of the Sacred College, whom I thank for his affectionate words. Likewise I extend my fraternal greeting to the many Bishops present.

I greet the diocesan community of Rome, gathered here with the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, the Auxiliary Bishops and the parish priests.

I greet with respect the Heads of State, especially the President of Italy, Hon. Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, whom I thank for the courteous greetings and good wishes addressed to me yesterday evening in a special television message. I also greet the President of Poland and all the authorities and representatives of various Italian and international institutions.

I thank all those, in so many parts of the earth, who support my daily apostolic ministry with prayer and with the offering of their sufferings.

The Holy Father then thanked the pilgrims in French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Belarusian and Polish. To the English-speaking faithful he said:

Thank you for the affection which you have shown toward the Successor of Peter.

1462 The Holy Father ended in Italian:

Thank you to everyone. May the Lord bless you!


World Mission Sunday

Sunday, 19 October 2003

1. "Whoever would be first among you must be slave of all" (Mk10: 44). Jesus' words to his disciples that have just rung out in this Square show us the way to evangelical "greatness". It is the way walked by Christ himself that took him to the Cross: a journey of love and service that overturns all human logic. To be the servant of all!

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Foundress of the Missionaries of Charity whom today I have the joy of adding to the Roll of the Blesseds, allowed this logic to guide her. I am personally grateful to this courageous woman whom I have always felt beside me. Mother Teresa, an icon of the Good Samaritan, went everywhere to serve Christ in the poorest of the poor. Not even conflict and war could stand in her way.

Every now and then she would come and tell me about her experiences in her service to the Gospel values. I remember, for example, her pro-life and anti-abortion interventions, even when she was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace (Oslo, 10 December 1979). She often used to say: "If you hear of some woman who does not want to keep her child and wants to have an abortion, try to persuade her to bring him to me. I will love that child, seeing in him the sign of God's love".

2. Is it not significant that her beatification is taking place on the very day on which the Church celebrates World Mission Sunday? With the witness of her life, Mother Teresa reminds everyone that the evangelizing mission of the Church passes through charity, nourished by prayer and listening to God's word. Emblematic of this missionary style is the image that shows the new Blessed clasping a child's hand in one hand while moving her Rosary beads with the other.

Contemplation and action, evangelization and human promotion: Mother Teresa proclaimed the Gospel living her life as a total gift to the poor but, at the same time, steeped in prayer.

3. Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant" (Mc 10,43). With particular emotion we remember today Mother Teresa, a great servant of the poor, of the Church and of the whole world. Her life is a testimony to the dignity and the privilege of humble service. She had chosen to be not just the least but to be the servant of the least. As a real mother to the poor, she bent down to those suffering various forms of poverty. Her greatness lies in her ability to give without counting the cost, to give "until it hurts". Her life was a radical living and a bold proclamation of the Gospel.

The cry of Jesus on the Cross, "I thirst" (Jn 19,28), expressing the depth of God's longing for man, penetrated Mother Teresa's soul and found fertile soil in her heart. Satiating Jesus' thirst for love and for souls in union with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, had become the sole aim of Mother Teresa's existence and the inner force that drew her out of herself and made her "run in haste" across the globe to labour for the salvation and the sanctification of the poorest of the poor.

1463 4. "As you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25,40). This Gospel passage, so crucial in understanding Mother Teresa's service to the poor, was the basis of her faith-filled conviction that in touching the broken bodies of the poor she was touching the body of Christ. It was to Jesus himself, hidden under the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor, that her service was directed. Mother Teresa highlights the deepest meaning of service - an act of love done to the hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick, prisoners (cf. Mt Mt 25,34-36) is done to Jesus himself.

Recognizing him, she ministered to him with wholehearted devotion, expressing the delicacy of her spousal love. Thus, in total gift of herself to God and neighbour, Mother Teresa found her greatest fulfilment and lived the noblest qualities of her femininity. She wanted to be a sign of "God's love, God's presence and God's compassion", and so remind all of the value and dignity of each of God's children, "created to love and be loved". Thus was Mother Teresa "bringing souls to God and God to souls" and satiating Christ's thirst, especially for those most in need, those whose vision of God had been dimmed by suffering and pain.

5. "The Son of man also came... to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mc 10,45). Mother Teresa shared in the Passion of the crucified Christ in a special way during long years of "inner darkness". For her that was a test, at times an agonizing one, which she accepted as a rare "gift and privilege".

In the darkest hours she clung even more tenaciously to prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. This harsh spiritual trial led her to identify herself more and more closely with those whom she served each day, feeling their pain and, at times, even their rejection. She was fond of repeating that the greatest poverty is to be unwanted, to have no one to take care of you.

6. "Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you". How often, like the Psalmist, did Mother Teresa call on her Lord in times of inner desolation: "In you, in you I hope, my God!".

Let us praise the Lord for this diminutive woman in love with God, a humble Gospel messenger and a tireless benefactor of humanity. In her we honour one of the most important figures of our time. Let us welcome her message and follow her example.

Virgin Mary, Queen of all the Saints, help us to be gentle and humble of heart like this fearless messenger of Love. Help us to serve every person we meet with joy and a smile. Help us to be missionaries of Christ, our peace and our hope. Amen!



Tuesday, 21 October 2003

Venerable and Dear Brothers,

1. Today's meeting is another moment of grace in these days that have been particularly full of ecclesial events. At this Consistory I have had the joy of presenting the Cardinal's biretta to 30 praiseworthy ecclesiastics, reserving in pectore the name of another. Some have worked closely with me in the Roman Curia; others carry out their ministry in venerable Churches of ancient tradition or of recent foundation; yet others have distinguished themselves in the study and defence of Catholic doctrine and in ecumenical dialogue.

My cordial greeting goes to each and every one of them. I offer Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran a special greeting, and thank him for his thoughtful words on behalf of those who are entering the College of Cardinals today. I also greet with affection the Cardinals, the Venerable Patriarchs, the Bishops, the priests, the men and women religious and the faithful from all parts of the world who have come to support those being raised today to the dignity of Cardinal.

1464 In this square, as has been aptly pointed out, the old and new Church of Christ shines out today, assembled round the Successor of Peter.

2. While the College of Cardinals, enriched with new members, more clearly reflects the multiplicity of races and cultures that is a feature of the Christian people, it places a new emphasis on the unity of every part of Christ's flock with the See of the Bishop of Rome.

Venerable Brother Cardinals, by the "title" attributed to you, you belong to the clergy of this city, of which the Successor of Peter is Bishop. Therefore, in a way, you make the ecclesial community in Rome larger, extending it to the farthest boundaries of the earth, in addition to making the Universal Church present in it. Thus, it expresses the very nature of Christ's mystical Body, the Family of God that embraces peoples and nations from everywhere, drawing them into the bond of the one faith and charity. And Peter is the visible foundation of this communion. In exercising his ministry, the Successor of the Fisherman of Galilee counts on your faithful collaboration; he asks you to accompany him with prayer, while he invokes the Holy Spirit so that communion among all whom the Lord "has chosen as vicars of his Son and constituted pastors" may never lessen (Roman Missal, Preface of the Apostles, I).

3. The crimson of the Cardinal's attire symbolizes the colour of blood and recalls the heroism of the martyrs. It is a symbol of a love for Jesus and for his Church that knows no bounds: love to the point of sacrificing one's life, "usque ad sanguinis effusionem".

A great gift has therefore been given to you and it entails as great a responsibility. The Apostle Peter, in his First Letter, recalls the fundamental tasks of every Pastor, saying: "Tend the flock of God that is your charge... being examples to the flock" (
1P 5,1-3). You must preach with your words and your example, as I made quite clear in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis, which I signed last Thursday in the presence of many of you. If this is true for every Pastor, it is true especially for you, dear and venerable members of the College of Cardinals.

4. In the Gospel passage just proclaimed, Jesus shows by his example how to bring this mission to completion, saying to his disciples, "Whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mc 10,44). Only after his death, however, would the Apostles understand the full meaning of these words and, with the help of the Spirit, fully accept their demanding "logic".

The Redeemer continues to propose this same programme to those who, through the sacrament of Orders, are most closely associated with his mission. He asks them to convert to his "logic" that contrasts starkly with that of the world: to die to oneself to become humble, disinterested servants of one's brethren, shunning every temptation to make a career and to seek personal advancement.

5. Dear and Venerable Brothers, only if you make yourselves the servants of all will you bring your mission to completion and help the Successor of Peter to be, in turn, the "servant of the servants of God", as my saintly Predecessor Gregory the Great liked to describe himself.

This is undoubtedly a difficult ideal to achieve, but the Good Shepherd assures us of his support. We can also rely on the protection of Mary, Mother of the Church, and the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, the pillars and foundations of the Christian people.

As for me, I once again express my esteem to you and accompany you with constant remembrance in prayer. May God grant, in the various offices he entrusts to you, that you spend your whole life for souls.

To you all, I impart an affectionate Blessing.

S. John Paul II Homil. 1453