Speeches 1998 - 21 May 1998





22 May 1998

Dear Minister,

The feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius has brought you once more on pilgrimage to Rome, the city privileged to preserve the relics of Saint Cyril. I am pleased to greet you as you come to pay homage to this co-Patron of Europe and to re-affirm your own commitment to the ideals of unity and solidarity which he and his brother so effectively embodied in their lives dedicated to the spreading of the Christian faith.

In a very real way, the holy Brothers from Salonika are bridges between East and West, links connecting different cultures and traditions into one rich heritage for the good of the entire human family. They remain, for modern Europe and especially the Balkans, a compelling witness to the need for “reconciliation, friendly coexistence, human development and respect for the intrinsic dignity of every nation” (Encyclical Epistle Slavorum Apostoli, 1) — values which, on the threshold of the new Millennium, are more important than ever. The witness of their lives reveals the ageless truth that only in charity and justice can peace become a reality enfolding all human hearts, overcoming hatred and conquering evil with good.

Dear friends, I pray that your pilgrimage will fill your minds and hearts with this peace, and I ask Almighty God to bless you and your fellow citizens with unity and good will.




Friday, 22 May 1998

1. Welcome, dear Brothers and Sisters, members of the Pro-Life Movement. You have come to Rome from various Italian cities once again to renew your "yes" to the fundamental value of life and to give a voice to the many innocents whose right to be born is jeopardized. I affectionately greet Bishop Elio Sgreccia, Vice-President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, and the movement?s President, Mr Carlo Casini, whom I thank for his strong, beautiful words to me on behalf of you all. I also greet all who in these years have actively worked to defend and promote human life.

As I recalled in the Encyclical Evangelium vitae: "Humanity today offers us a truly alarming spectacle, if we consider not only how extensively attacks on life are spreading but also their unheard- of numerical proportion, and the fact that they receive widespread and powerful support from a broad consensus on the part of society, from widespread legal approval and the involvement of certain sectors of health-care personnel" (n. 17).

With profound sorrow we must observe that these serious phenomena also occur in Italy, where in the last 20 years no less than three and a half million babies were killed with the approval of the law, in addition to those destroyed illegally. However, in view of these disturbing figures, your presence, in large numbers and with great conviction, is an encouraging sign which nourishes the hope that truth will triumph over the false justifications given for abortion. The truth is that every human being has a right to life from his conception until his natural end. For the faithful the hope that this truth will prevail finds its basis in Christ, who died and rose again, and who sends his Spirit into the world to instil courage and to raise up tireless defenders and witnesses of truth and life.

2. Encouraging signs also come today from those who observe the failure of permissive abortion laws at the political level. Not only have they failed to eliminate illegal abortion, but, on the contrary, they have contributed to the growing decline in the birth rate and, not infrequently, to the degeneration of public morality. These data highlight the urgent need for a commitment to the promotion and defence of the family institution, the first resource of human society, especially with regard to the gift of children and the affirmation of women's dignity. In fact, there are many who, in consideration of the dignity of woman as a person, wife and mother, see permissive abortion laws as a defeat and humiliation for woman and her dignity.

Another encouraging sign is your work, dear members of the Pro-Life Movement: as a result of the widespread and timely commitment of the Aid Centres you sponsor, it has been possible to save over 40,000 babies and to assist an equal number of women. This promising result demonstrates that where concrete support is offered, despite problems and influences which are sometimes critical, women are able to make the sense of love, life and motherhood triumph within them.

Your praiseworthy commitment has had a positive influence on the consciences of individuals, where often "the eclipse of the sense of God and of man, with all its various and deadly consequences for life, is taking place" (Evangelium vitae EV 24) and on the "moral conscience of society", which "is responsible, not only because it tolerates or fosters behaviour contrary to life, but also because it encourages the culture of death, creating and consolidating actual structures of sin which go against life" (Evangelium vitae ).

The network of concern for unborn life, which your Movement has been able to construct, attracting the attention of political institutions and broad levels of society, lets us think that if the action of so many volunteers, supported with more explicit solidarity, were allowed in public health structures, it would achieve even greater results for many innocent lives.

I hope that parishes and Dioceses will treasure your experience in order to set up organized structures for aiding the life not only of unborn children, but also of adolescents, the elderly and people who are alone and abandoned.

3. Concrete help and widespread educational activity, which involve the entire ecclesial community, must be accompanied by political efforts for the full recognition of the dignity and rights of the unborn child and for the revision of laws that legalize its suppression. No human authority, not even the State, can morally justify the killing of the innocent. This tragic transformation of a crime into a right (cf. Evangelium vitae EV 11) is a sign of the disturbing decadence of a society.

Actually, in addition to striking at the law impressed by the Creator on the heart of every man, permissive abortion laws express an incorrect form of democracy, present a reductive concept of society and reveal a lack of commitment by the State to the promotion of values.

Effective action in this area must, therefore, aim at reconstructing a horizon of values, which translates into a clear affirmation of the "right to life" in international charters and national laws.

4. On the other hand, economic and social progress cannot have a sure foundation and concrete hope if there is a basic refusal to acknowledge the right to life. There is no future for a society that is incapable of duly appreciating the wealth represented by a newborn child and of valuing a woman's vocation to motherhood.

As I recalled in the Encyclical Evangelium vitae, in the modern world there is "a surprising contradiction. Precisely in an age when the inviolable rights of the person are solemnly proclaimed and the value of life is publicly affirmed, the same right to life is being denied or trampled upon, especially at the more significant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the moment of death" (n. 18).

In view of such ambiguous positions, I wish to stress that respect for life from its conception until natural death is the essential issue in the modern social question. The lack of such respect in developed societies has serious consequences in developing countries, where pernicious anti-birth campaigns are still promoted, and it is especially apparent in the area of artificial human procreation and the euthanasia debate

5. Dear brothers and sisters of the Pro-Life Movement, persevere in your courageous efforts! Every sacrifice and every hardship will be compensated by the smile of the many children who, thanks to you, can enjoy the priceless gift of life. I warmly encourage you to make every effort so that everyone's right to life will be recognized and an authentic democracy, inspired by the values of the civilization of love, will be built.

I entrust each of you and all your good projects to Mary, "Mother of the living", and, as I assure you of a daily prayer, I gladly impart to you and your endeavours my Apostolic Blessing.




(MAY 23-24, 1998)




Saturday, May 23 1998

Mr Minister,
Mr Mayor,
Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Brothers and Sisters of Vercelli,

1. I express my great joy for being in your midst and I extend my thanks to God who has given me the opportunity to visit your illustrious city.

I thank the Mayor for his courteous words of welcome on behalf of the civic community. I thank and cordially greet the Minister, as well as the representatives of the civil and military institutions who have wished to honour this meeting of ours with their presence. I also extend my affectionate greeting to the venerable Pastor of this Archdiocese, dear Archbishop Enrico Masseroni, to his predecessor who now works with me in Rome, dear Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, and to all of you who are gathered here, as well as to all who have been unable to be physically present but are linked with us through radio and television. I address a respectful greeting to the representatives of the ancient Jewish community and to those of the Islamic community, who are with us today.

2. My first meeting with the people of Vercelli takes place in this ancient church dedicated to the Apostle St Andrew and cared for by the worthy Lateran Canons, represented here by the Abbot General. As a symbol of the city, the basilica is well-known for its splendid artistic beauty: a true masterpiece of Gothic-Romanesque architecture. Recognized as the city's most important monument, St Andrew's Basilica is a marvellous synthesis of a long tradition in which the city's two essential dimensions are interwoven: the civil and the religious. Thus, while it represents a glorious memorial to the past, it acquires value as an indication and admonition for a promising impetus towards the future.

This "memorial" has crystallized down the centuries and has been expressed in the many forms of art which make Vercelli one of the cities with the greatest number of monuments and paintings in Piedmont. But St Andrew's Basilica, with its dynamic architecture and bold lines, invites one to look upwards. This is the first message that comes to us from this church, as well as from the other great symbols of faith built throughout the centuries in the neighbourhoods of your city. They remind us that the meaning of life and human experience is not exhausted in earthly concerns but needs the light that comes from above. In fact, the values of faith expressed by these ancient monuments are not foreign to our daily efforts and anxieties. They indicate the right direction and give full meaning to history and to your personal and community projects.

3. Dear people of Vercelli, throughout your city's long history, two souls, two sensibilities, almost two cultures have coexisted here: the urban and the rural. How can we forget, for example, that in 1228 Piedmont's first university, the Studium, which boasted prestigious teachers in the juridical and medical disciplines, was founded here? In recent times this Province has been recognized as one of the rice-producing capitals. What else can we say about the rich cultural resources that illumined your city's past and continue to distinguish its present? The 1,650th anniversary of the episcopal ordination of St Eusebius, with the celebration of the Eusebian Year, was a fitting occasion for refreshing your memory of the glories of the past and for committing the people of Vercelli to keeping alive in the young an awareness of the values which over the centuries have made the city great. It is a priceless heritage to be faithfully handed on to new generations.

To this end, it will be useful for the civil and ecclesial communities to collaborate, with mutual respect for one another's roles and in agreement about meeting the expectations of those who will be adult citizens in the new millennium. Young people need to be strongly committed to solving urgent practical problems such as education and employment. At the same time, they have the right to live in a city where they can tangibly experience harmony, solidarity and acceptance. Only in this way will the inhabitants of Vercelli preserve the image of a peaceful city open to the positive developments of progress.

4. Dear brothers and sisters who live in this city: your history is extraordinarily rich in culture and faith. It is now up to you, as heirs to a glorious past, to dedicate yourselves to passing on to those who will come the torch of such a shining tradition. You well know how urgent it is to instill the Gospel leaven of the Beatitudes in a contemporary culture too often exposed to the icy winds of indifference and selfishness. To form consciences, courageous action is vital. However, experience teaches that nothing succeeds better than faith in keeping a sense of moral values alive in souls. The convinced Christian can responsibly combine competence and integrity in the fulfilment of his duties.

This applies in particular to anyone called to serve in public office. The Church is accustomed to praying to the Lord for those responsible for the common good. In this year dedicated to the Holy Spirit, she especially implores for them the gifts of counsel and fortitude which are so necessary for promoting the fundamental value of justice in society. Indeed, great courage is required of public administrators in preferring the common good to any form of partiality, and in assuming responsibility for the needs of the weakest. This is what people expect, especially from Christians who are active in the various areas of civil life. Much has been achieved in this direction, but there is still much to be done. I encourage you, dear brothers and sisters, to continue on this road, making the most of the positive energies in the community and accepting the contribution of all people of goodwill.

5. City of Vercelli, thank you for your cordial welcome! I entrust you and your inhabitants to St Andrew, patron of this basilica, and to St Eusebius, the first Bishop of the diocesan community. I commend you to Mary, venerated in the principal shrine of the Archdiocese with the title "Our Lady of the Sick".

To you, Holy Virgin, I entrust the children and the elderly and every inhabitant of this region. Lead each one to the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 and increase everyone's faith, so that authentic witnesses to Christ and the Gospel may continue to flourish in this land of Eusebius.

To you, Mary, I entrust all who are lonely or in difficulty, the sick and, in a special way, the patients in St Andrew's Hospital, which is historically linked to the origins of this basilica of the same name. Blessed Virgin, who shared the passion of Christ on Calvary, obtain for the suffering the comfort of Christian hope!

I impart my affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you all, dear people of Vercelli, and and I hold you close in a great embrace.




(MAY 23-24, 1998)



Saturday 23 May 1998

At the end of this solemn Eucharistic celebration, I would like once again to address a few words to you, dear young people of Vercelli, to propose this young priest whom I have just beatified as a model and guide for you.

Perhaps there are some among you who perceive a heartfelt urge to follow him on the path of the priesthood. May Fr Secondo Pollo obtain for these chosen ones the courage of saying a generous "yes" to God's call. But there is one thing he proposes to everyone this evening: bet with him on holiness. Whatever way each of you will choose in life, no one is excluded from that goal, because God calls everyone to be holy.

Fr Secondo Pollo realized this and that is why he was able, in just a few years, to scale the heights of Gospel perfection, living in deep friendship with God and with love for his brothers and sisters. In this he is an example to all of you, dear young people! If you want to imitate him, you must learn from him how to live your life as a gift. It is by starting with others that you will be able to rediscover yourselves. It is by giving yourselves to others that you will fully achieve your deepest aspirations. Reject those who dissuade you from loving and suggest calculation and selfishness. Those who speak in this way are actually spurring you to give up being complete men and women. In his short life, Fr Pollo was not guided by the search for selfish and fleeting emotions, but by his passion for Christ and for his brothers and sisters.

This young priest now stands before you, young people of Vercelli, and he is speaking to you through the witness of his whole life. From heaven, where he shares the joy of the blessed, he is telling you: do not be afraid; the Spirit of Christ is with you. Listen to him!

I cordially bless you all




(MAY 23-24, 1998)


Sunday, 24 May 1998

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. With my gaze turned to the Shroud, I would like to extend a cordial greeting to you all, the faithful of the Church of Turin. I greet the pilgrims who have come from every part of the world at the time of this public exposition to look at one of the most unsettling signs of the Redeemer's suffering love.

As I entered the cathedral, which still shows the scars of last year's terrible fire, I paused in adoration before the Eucharist, the sacrament which is the focus of the Church's attention and, under humble appearances, contains the true, real and substantial presence of Christ. In the light of Christ's presence in our midst, I then stopped before the Shroud, the precious Linen that can help us better to understand the mystery of the love of God's Son for us. Before the Shroud, the intense and agonizing image of an unspeakable torment, I wish to thank the Lord for this unique gift, which asks for the believer's loving attention and complete willingness to follow the Lord.

2. The Shroud is a challenge to our intelligence. It first of all requires of every person, particularly the researcher, that he humbly grasp the profound message it sends to his reason and his life. The mysterious fascination of the Shroud forces questions to be raised about the sacred Linen and the historical life of Jesus. Since it is not a matter of faith, the Church has no specific competence to pronounce on these questions. She entrusts to scientists the task of continuing to investigate, so that satisfactory answers may be found to the questions connected with this Sheet, which, according to tradition, wrapped the body of our Redeemer after he had been taken down from the cross. The Church urges that the Shroud be studied without pre-established positions that take for granted results that are not such; she invites them to act with interior freedom and attentive respect for both scientific methodology and the sensibilities of believers.

3. For the believer, what counts above all is that the Shroud is a mirror of the Gospel. In fact, if we reflect on the sacred Linen, we cannot escape the idea that the image it presents has such a profound relationship with what the Gospels tell of Jesus' passion and death, that every sensitive person feels inwardly touched and moved at beholding it. Whoever approaches it is also aware that the Shroud does not hold people's hearts to itself, but turns them to him, at whose service the Father's loving providence has put it. Therefore, it is right to foster an awareness of the precious value of this image, which everyone sees and no one at present can explain. For every thoughtful person it is a reason for deep reflection, which can even involve one's life. The Shroud is thus a truly unique sign that points to Jesus, the true Word of the Father, and invites us to pattern our lives on the life of the One who gave himself for us.

4. The image of human suffering is reflected in the Shroud. It reminds modern man, often distracted by prosperity and technological achievements, of the tragic situation of his many brothers and sisters, and invites him to question himself about the mystery of suffering in order to explore its causes. The imprint left by the tortured body of the Crucified One, which attests to the tremendous human capacity for causing pain and death to one's fellow man, stands as an icon of the suffering of the innocent in every age: of the countless tragedies that have marked past history and the dramas that continue to unfold in the world. Before the Shroud, how can we not think of the millions of people who die of hunger, of the horrors committed in the many wars that soak nations in blood, of the brutal exploitation of women and children, of the millions of human beings who live in hardship and humiliation on the edges of great cities, especially in developing countries? How can we not recall with dismay and pity those who do not enjoy basic civil rights, the victims of torture and terrorism, the slaves of criminal organizations? By calling to mind these tragic situations, the Shroud not only spurs us to abandon our selfishness but leads us to discover the mystery of suffering, which, sanctified by Christ's sacrifice, achieves salvation for all humanity. Death is not the ultimate goal of human existence

5. The Shroud is also an image of God's love as well as of human sin. It invites us to rediscover the ultimate reason for Jesus' redeeming death. In the incomparable suffering that it documents, the love of the One who "so loved the world that he gave his only Son" (Jn 3,16) is made almost tangible and reveals its astonishing dimensions. In its presence believers can only exclaim in all truth: "Lord, you could not love me more!", and immediately realize that sin is responsible for that suffering: the sins of every human being.

As it speaks to us of love and sin, the Shroud invites us all to impress upon our spirit the face of God's love, to remove from it the tremendous reality of sin. Contemplation of that tortured Body helps contemporary man to free himself from the superficiality of the selfishness with which he frequently treats love and sin. Echoing the word of God and centuries of Christian consciousness, the Shroud whispers: believe in God's love, the greatest treasure given to humanity, and flee from sin, the greatest misfortune in history.

6. The Shroud is also an image of powerlessness: the powerlessness of death, in which the ultimate consequence of the mystery of the Incarnation is revealed. The burial cloth spurs us to measure ourselves against the most troubling aspect of the mystery of the Incarnation, which is also the one that shows with how much truth God truly became man, taking on our condition in all things, except sin. Everyone is shaken by the thought that not even the Son of God withstood the power of death, but we are all moved at the thought that he so shared our human condition as willingly to subject himself to the total powerlessness of the moment when life is spent. It is the experience of Holy Saturday, an important stage on Jesus' path to Glory, from which a ray of light shines on the sorrow and death of every person. By reminding us of Christ's victory, faith gives us the certainty that the grave is not the ultimate goal of existence. God calls us to resurrection and immortal life.

7. The Shroud is an image of silence. There is a tragic silence of incommunicability, which finds its greatest expression in death, and there is the silence of fruitfulness, which belongs to whoever refrains from being heard outwardly in order to delve to the roots of truth and life. The Shroud expresses not only the silence of death but also the courageous and fruitful silence of triumph over the transitory, through total immersion in God's eternal present. It thus offers a moving confirmation of the fact that the merciful omnipotence of our God is not restrained by any power of evil, but knows instead how to make the very power of evil contribute to good. Our age needs to rediscover the fruitfulness of silence, in order to overcome the dissipation of sounds, images and chatter that too often prevent the voice of God from being heard.

8. Dear brothers and sisters: your Archbishop, dear Cardinal Giovanni Saldarini, the Pontifical Guardian of the Holy Shroud, has offered the following words as the motto of this Solemn Exposition: "All will see your salvation". Yes, the pilgrimage that great throngs are making to this city is precisely a "coming to see" this tragic and enlightening sign of the Passion, which proclaims the Redeemer's love. This icon of Christ abandoned in the dramatic and solemn state of death, which for centuries has been the subject of significant representations and for 100 years, thanks to photography, has been so frequently reproduced, urges us to go to the heart of the mystery of life and death, to discover the great and consoling message it has left us.

The Shroud shows us Jesus at the moment of his greatest helplessness and reminds us that in the abasement of that death lies the salvation of the whole world. The Shroud thus becomes an invitation to face every experience, including that of suffering and extreme helplessness, with the attitude of those who believe that God's merciful love overcomes every poverty, every limitation, every temptation to despair.

May the Spirit of God, who dwells in our hearts, instil in everyone the desire and generosity necessary for accepting the Shroud's message and for making it the decisive inspiration of our lives.

Anima Chrisi, sanctifica me! Corpus Christi, salva me! Passio Christi, conforta me! Intra vulnera tua, absconde me!





To Fr Mariano Labarca Araya
Master General of the
Order of Our Lady of Mercy,

1. I am pleased to extend a cordial greeting to those taking part in the General Chapter of the Order of Our Lady of Mercy, and especially to the new Master General, Fr Mariano Labarca Araya. As I congratulate him on his election, I express my best wishes that, with renewed fidelity to the Mercedarian charism, he may lead his brothers into the new millennium with courage and far-sightedness. I also greet Fr Emilio Aguirre Herrera and express to him my appreciation of his generosity and dedication in guiding the Order for the last 12 years.

I hope that this General Chapter will renew in all Mercedarians the necessary zeal and enthusiasm to follow Christ the Redeemer and, sustained by his grace, to “preach good news to the poor ... proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Lc 4,18-19) in new contexts and countries, especially those of Africa and Asia.

2. The centuries-old history of your order originated in the hearts and faith of great and determined men who, in accepting the challenges of their time, were “open to the interior promptings of the Holy Spirit, who invites us to understand in depth the designs of Providence” (Vita consecrata VC 73), and offered new answers and new plans of evangelization to witness to God’s love for the poorest. This was the initiative of St Peter Nolasco, who with the help and advice of St Raymond of Penyafort and King James I, gathered together a group of devout men under the rule of St Augustine and requested approval for it from Pope Gregory IX.

This providential decision gave rise to an admirable history of holiness and charity which has enriched the life of the Church. In this respect, the generous concern they showed Christian prisoners, paying for their freedom and returning them to their home countries through the heroic generosity of so many brothers should be remembered. We should also point out the admirable work of evangelization, supported by the Mercedarians following the discovery of the New World, in which the great saints and theologians who have enriched your 780-year history distinguished themselves.

3. Deep charity and discernment of the signs of the times in the light of the Gospel, after the abolition of slavery and the difficult period of the French Revolution, led your order to new dimensions of the Gospel, consistent with its original charism and the needs of the concrete historical situation. Thus, Pedro Armengol Valenzuela gave fresh vigour to the order, opening up new horizons where it could fulfil its vocation as a champion of freedom and prophet of charity. From that time, your apostolates have been the preservation of the faith, assistance to those suffering the consequences of the new forms of slavery, the apostolate of penance, education, missions and parishes, ever new areas where, in the name of Christ, you have fought every type of oppression in order to restore to man the liberating, saving truth.

In this regard, the Second Vatican Council encouraged the updating of your order. In accepting the impulse of renewal prompted by the Holy Spirit throughout the Church, it has placed its rich spiritual heritage at the service of the Gospel message and the advancement of our poor and marginalized brethren.

4. The rapid, continual changes that are affecting contemporary society and the coming of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 call you to give new horizons to your generosity, together with your traditional holiness and heroism. How, then, should your redemptive charism be presented to the men and women of the next millennium? Following the example of St Peter Nolasco and the great clerical and lay figures who have shared this charism, you have raised this question at the General Chapter, invoking the Holy Spirit to shed light and grace on it. The response calls for those courageous decisions which characterize the Church’s mission and which have involved the Chapter’s work and reflections.

The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata recalls that for every ecclesial renewal conversion and holiness are needed. “This need in the first place challenges the consecrated life. In fact, the vocation of consecrated persons to seek first the kingdom of God is first and foremost a call to complete conversion, in self-renunciation, in order to live fully for the Lord, so that God may be all in all. Called to contemplate and bear witness to the transfigured face of Christ, consecrated men and women are also called to a ‘transfigured’ existence” (n. 35).

The holiness of each religious must be matched by a deep and fruitful fraternal communion that “will give power and forcefulness to their apostolic activity which, in the context of the prophetic mission of all the baptized, is generally distinguished by special forms of co-operation with the hierarchy. In a specific way, through the richness of their charisms, consecrated persons help the Church to reveal ever more deeply her nature as the sacrament ‘of intimate union with God, and of the unity of all mankind’” (ibid., n. 46).

5. Your charism leads you to look attentively at the various forms of slavery present in human life today, with its moral and material poverty. It demands of you an ever greater commitment to proclaiming the Gospel.

As the Apostolic Exhortation recalls: “Another challenge today is that of a materialism which craves possessions, heedless of the needs and sufferings of the weakest, and lacking any concern for the balance of natural resources. The reply of the consecrated life is found in the profession of evangelical poverty, which can be lived in different ways and is often expressed in an active involvement in the promotion of solidarity and charity” (ibid., n. 89).

Your order’s long tradition calls you to a life of poverty strengthened and sustained by obedience and chastity, “with the Mercedarian spirit”, that is, as a continuous act of love for those who are the victims of slavery, as a capacity for sharing their sufferings and hopes, and as readiness to offer a warm welcome.

6. From its beginning, your order has venerated the Virgin Mary by the title of Mother of Mercy, and has chosen as its model her spirituality and apostolic action. By experiencing her continuous presence and imitating her availability, Mercedarians have faced with trust and courage the frequently burdensome and difficult obligations of their mission of redemption.

By contemplating her great faith and her total obedience to the Lord’s will, they will learn to interpret God’s call in historical events and to be ready with renewed generosity to serve the victims of poverty and violence. To her, a woman who was free because she was full of grace, they have directed their gaze, to discover in prayer and in the love of God the secret for living and proclaiming the freedom Christ won for us with his blood.

At the threshold of the new millennium, as the Church is preparing to celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of the In- carnation of the Son of God, I would like to entrust your apostolic projects, the decisions of your Chapter and the hopes that sustain you to the Mother of God, so that she may give you the joy of being docile and generous instruments in proclaiming the Gospel to the people of our time.

With these heartfelt wishes, as I invoke the protection of St Peter Nolasco and all the saints of your order, I affectionately impart to the whole Mercedarian family a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 25 May 1998.

Speeches 1998 - 21 May 1998