Wednesday, 29 September 1999

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. In close connection with the sacrament of Penance, our reflection today turns to a theme particularly related to the celebration of the Jubilee: I am referring to the gift of indulgences, which are offered in particular abundance during the Jubilee Year, as indicated in the Bull Incarnationis mysterium and the attached decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary.

It is a sensitive subject, which has suffered historical misunderstandings that have had a negative impact on communion between Christians. In the present ecumenical context, the Church is aware of the need for this ancient practice to be properly understood and accepted as a significant expression of God's mercy. Experience shows, in fact, that indulgences are sometimes received with superficial attitudes that ultimately frustrate God's gift and cast a shadow on the very truths and values taught by the Church.

2. The starting-point for understanding indulgences is the abundance of God's mercy revealed in the Cross of Christ. The crucified Jesus is the great "indulgence" that the Father has offered humanity through the forgiveness of sins and the possibility of living as children (cf.
Jn 1,12-13) in the Holy Spirit (cf. Ga 4,6 Rm 5,5 Rm 8,15-16).

However, in the logic of the covenant, which is the heart of the whole economy of salvation, this gift does not reach us without our acceptance and response.

In the light of this principle, it is not difficult to understand how reconciliation with God, although based on a free and abundant offer of mercy, at the same time implies an arduous process which involves the individual's personal effort and the Church's sacramental work. For the forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism, this process is centred on the sacrament of Penance, but it continues after the sacramental celebration. The person must be gradually "healed" of the negative effects which sin has caused in him (what the theological tradition calls the "punishments" and "remains" of sin).

3. At first sight, to speak of punishment after sacramental forgiveness might seem inconsistent. The Old Testament, however, shows us how normal it is to undergo reparative punishment after forgiveness. God, after describing himself as "a God merciful and gracious ... forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin", adds: "yet not without punishing" (Ex 34,6-7). In the Second Book of Samuel, King David's humble confession after his grave sin obtains God's forgiveness (cf. 2S 12,13), but not the prevention of the foretold chastisement (cf. ibid., 2S 12,11 2S 16,21). God's fatherly love does not rule out punishment, even if the latter must always be understood as part of a merciful justice that re-establishes the violated order for the sake of man's own good (cf. He 12,4-11).

In this context temporal punishment expresses the condition of suffering of those who, although reconciled with God, are still marked by those "remains" of sin which do not leave them totally open to grace. Precisely for the sake of complete healing, the sinner is called to undertake a journey of conversion towards the fullness of love.

In this process God's mercy comes to his aid in special ways. The temporal punishment itself serves as "medicine" to the extent that the person allows it to challenge him to undertake his own profound conversion. This is the meaning of the "satisfaction" required in the sacrament of Penance.

4. The meaning of indulgences must be seen against this background of man's total renewal by the grace of Christ the Redeemer through the Church's ministry. They began historically with the ancient Church's awareness of being able to express the mercy of God by mitigating the canonical penances imposed for the sacramental remission of sins. The mitigation was offset, however, by personal and community obligations as a substitute for the punishment's "medicinal" purpose.

We can now understand how an indulgence is "a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints" (Enchiridion Indulgentiarum, Normae de Indulgentiis, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1999, p. 21; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 1471).

51 The Church has a treasury, then, which is "dispensed" as it were through indulgences. This "distribution" should not be understood as a sort of automatic transfer, as if we were speaking of "things". It is instead the expression of the Church's full confidence of being heard by the Father when - in view of Christ's merits and, by his gift, those of Our Lady and the saints - she asks him to mitigate or cancel the painful aspect of punishment by fostering its medicinal aspect through other channels of grace. In the unfathomable mystery of divine wisdom, this gift of intercession can also benefit the faithful departed, who receive its fruits in a way appropriate to their condition.

5. We can see, then, how indulgences, far from being a sort of "discount" on the duty of conversion, are instead an aid to its prompt, generous and radical fulfilment. This is required to such an extent that the spiritual condition for receiving a plenary indulgence is the exclusion "of all attachment to sin, even venial sin" (Enchiridion Indulgentiarum, p. 25).

Therefore, it would be a mistake to think that we can receive this gift by simply performing certain outward acts. On the contrary, they are required as the expression and support of our progress in conversion. They particularly show our faith in God's mercy and in the marvellous reality of communion, which Christ has achieved by indissolubly uniting the Church to himself as his Body and Bride.

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:

I am happy to greet the Capuchin Friars taking part in the Capuchin Heritage Programme: may this be a time of deep spiritual renewal for you! I also welcome the Maori Veterans from New Zealand.

Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Sweden, Australia, Japan, Canada and the United States of America, I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. God bless you all.

                                                                                October 1999

Wednesday 6 October 1999


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Conversion, which we treated in the previous catecheses, is aimed at fulfilling the commandment of love. In this year dedicated to God the Father, it is particularly appropriate to emphasize the theological virtue of charity, as indicated in the Apostolic Letter Tertio millennio adveniente (cf.
TMA 50).

The Apostle John urges us: "Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love" (1Jn 4,7-8).

While these sublime words reveal to us the very essence of God as a mystery of infinite charity, they also lay the basis for the Christian moral life, which is summed up in the commandment of love.

The human person is called to love God with total commitment and to relate to his brothers and sisters with a loving attitude inspired by God's own love. Conversion means being converted to love.

In the Old Testament the inner dynamics of this commandment can already be seen in the covenant relationship established by God with Israel: on the one hand, there is the initiative of God's love, and, on the other, the response of love that he expects from Israel. This is how, for example, the divine initiative is presented in the Book of Deuteronomy: "It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love upon you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples; but it is because the Lord loves you" (Dt 7,7-8). The basic commandment that directs Israel's entire religious life corresponds to this preferential, totally gratuitous love: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might" (ibid., Dt 6,5).

2. The loving God is a God who is not remote, but intervenes in history. When he reveals his name to Moses, he does so to assure him of his loving assistance in the saving event of the Exodus, an assistance which will last for ever (cf. Ex 3,15). Through the prophets' words, he would continually remind his people of this act of love. We read, for example, in Jeremiah: "Thus says the Lord: "The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from afar. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you'" (Jr 31,2-3).

It is a love which takes on tones of immense tenderness (cf. Os 11,8 f.; Jr 31,20) and normally uses the image of a father, but sometimes is also expressed in a spousal metaphor: "I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy" (Os 2,19 cf. vv. Os 18-25).

Even after seeing his people's repeated unfaithfulness to the covenant, this God is still willing to offer his love, creating in man a new heart that enables him to accept the law he is given without reserve, as we read in the prophet Jeremiah: "I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts" (Jr 31,33). Likewise in Ezekiel we read: "A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh" (Ez 36,26).

3. In the New Testament this dynamic of love is centred on Jesus, the Father's beloved Son (cf. Jn 3,35 Jn 5,20 Jn 10,17), who reveals himself through him. Men and women share in this love by knowing the Son, that is, by accepting his teaching and his work of redemption.

We can only come to the Father's love by imitating the Son in his keeping of the Father's commandments: "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love" (ibid., Jn 15,9-10). In this way we also come to share in the Son's knowledge of the Father: "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you" (ibid., Jn 15,15).

4. Love enables us to enter fully into the filial life of Jesus, making us sons in the Son: "See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him" (1Jn 3,1). Love transforms life and enlightens our knowledge of God to the point that it reaches that perfect knowledge of which St Paul speaks: "Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood" (1Co 13,12).

It is necessary to stress the relationship between knowledge and love. The inner conversion which Christianity offers is a genuine experience of God, in the sense indicated by Jesus in his priestly prayer at the Last Supper: "This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (Jn 17,3). Knowledge of God, of course, also has an intellectual dimension (cf. Rm 1,19-20), but the living experience of the Father and the Son occurs through love, that is, in the last analysis, in the Holy Spirit, because "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Rm 5,5).

The Paraclete is the One through whom we experience God's fatherly love. Moreover, the most comforting effect of his presence in us is precisely the certainty that this eternal and boundless love with which God loved us first will never abandon us: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? ... For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (ibid., Rm 8,35 Rm 8,38-39). The new heart, which loves and knows, beats in harmony with God who loves with an everlasting love.

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:

I gladly welcome the students of the Pontifical North American College who tomorrow will be ordained to the diaconate; and the new seminarians of the Venerable English College. I extend a special greeting to the pilgrims from Japan who will take back to their country a relic of St Francis Xavier, who preached the Gospel there four and a half centuries ago.

May the example of his holiness continue to inspire the Christian community today. I also greet the Japanese television company, NHK, which is making a documentary to present the Great Jubilee to Japanese audiences.

Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Ireland, Denmark, India, Australia, Japan, Korea and the United States of America, I invoke the abundant blessings of almighty God.

Wednesday 13 October 1999

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. In ancient Israel the fundamental commandment to love God was part of daily prayer: "The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise" (
Dt 6,4-7).

The basis of this requirement to love God totally is the love that God himself has for man. He waits for a true response of love from the people he loves with the fondest love. He is a jealous God (cf. Ex 20,5), who cannot tolerate the idolatry which constantly tempts his people. "You shall have no other gods before me" (ibid., Ex 20,3).

Israel gradually understood that, in addition to this relationship of profound respect and exclusive worship, its attitude to the Lord had to be filial or even nuptial. The Song of Songs should be understood and interpreted in this sense, transfiguring the beauty of human love into the spousal dialogue between God and his people.

The Book of Deuteronomy recalls two essential characteristics of this love. The first is that man would never be capable of it, if God did not give him strength through "circumcision of the heart" (cf. Dt 30,6), which frees it from every attachment to sin. The other is that this love, far from being reduced to sentiment, is concretely expressed by "walking in the ways" of God and by keeping "his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances" (ibid., Dt 30,16). This is the condition for "life and good", while turning the heart to other gods leads to "death and evil" (ibid., Dt 30,15).

2. The commandment in Deuteronomy remains unchanged in the teaching of Jesus, who describes it as "the great and first commandment", closely relating it to love of neighbour (cf. Mt 22,34-40). By expressing this commandment in the same terms as the Old Testament, Jesus shows that on this point Revelation had already reached its apex.

54 At the same time, the meaning of this commandment achieves its fullness precisely in Jesus' own person. In fact, it is in him that man's love for God reaches its greatest intensity. From now on, loving God with all our heart, with all our mind and with all our strength means loving that God who revealed himself in Christ and loving him by sharing in the very love of Christ "poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Rm 5,5).

3. Charity is the essence of the new "commandment" that Jesus taught. In fact, it is the soul of all the commandments, whose observance is further confirmed and indeed becomes a clear proof of one's love for God: "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments" (1Jn 5,3). This love, which is also love for Jesus, is the condition for being loved by the Father: "He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him" (Jn 14,21).

Love for God, made possible by the gift of the Spirit, is therefore based on the mediation of Jesus, as he himself says in his priestly prayer: "I made known to them your name, and I will make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them" (Jn 17,26).

This mediation becomes concrete especially in the gift he made of his life, a gift which, on the one hand, testifies to the greatest love and, on the other, demands the observance of what Jesus commands: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you" (Jn 15,13-14).

Christian charity draws from this source of love, which is Jesus, the Son of God offered for us. The ability to love as God loves is offered to every Christian as a fruit of the paschal mystery of his Death and Resurrection.

4. The Church has expressed this sublime reality by teaching that charity is a theological virtue, which means a virtue that refers directly to God and enables human creatures to enter the circuit of Trinitarian love. Indeed, God the Father loves us as he loves Christ, seeing his image in us. This image is painted in us, so to speak, by the Spirit, who, like an "iconographer", accomplishes it over time.

Again, it is the Holy Spirit who draws the basic traits of the Christian response in our inmost depths. The dynamism of love for God thus flows from a sort of "connaturality" brought about by the Holy Spirit who "divinizes" us, in the language of the Eastern tradition.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, charity shapes the moral activity of the Christian; it directs and strengthens all the other virtues, which build up the new man within us. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: "The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which "binds everything together in perfect harmony' (Col 3,14); it is the form of the virtues; it articulates and orders them among themselves; it is the source and the goal of their Christian practice. Charity upholds and purifies our human ability to love, and raises it to the supernatural perfection of divine love" (CEC 1827). As Christians, we are always called to love.

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:

I am pleased to greet the group of State Catholic Conference Directors from the United States on the occasion of their meeting in Rome. I also welcome the students and teachers of the Faculty of Divinity of the University of Copenhagen. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Indonesia, Japan, Canada and the United States, I cordially invoke God's abundant blessings.

Wednesday 20 October 1999

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. "If any one says, "I love God', and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also" (
1Jn 4,20-21).

The theological virtue of charity, of which we spoke in our last catechesis, is expressed in two dimensions: love of God and love of neighbour. In both these dimensions it is the fruit of the dynamism of Trinitarian life within us.

Indeed, love has its source in the Father; it is fully revealed in the Passover of the crucified and risen Son, and is infused in us by the Holy Spirit. Through it God lets us share in his own love.

If we truly love with the love of God we will also love our brothers or sisters as God loves them.

This is the great newness of Christianity: one cannot love God if one does not love one's brethren, creating a deep and lasting communion of love with them.

2. In this regard, the teaching of Sacred Scripture is unequivocal. The Israelites were already encouraged to love one another: "You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Lv 19,18). At first this commandment seems restricted to the Israelites, but it nonetheless gradually takes on an ever broader sense to include the strangers who sojourn among them, in remembrance that Israel too was a stranger in the land of Egypt (cf. Lv 19,34 Dt 10,19).

In the New Testament this love becomes a command in a clearly universal sense: it presupposes a concept of neighbour that knows no bounds (cf. Lc 10,29-37) and is even extended to enemies (cf. Mt 5,43-47). It is important to note that love of neighbour is seen as an imitation and extension of the merciful goodness of the heavenly Father who provides for the needs of all without distinction (cf. ibid., Mt 5,45). However it remains linked to love of God: indeed the two commandments of love are the synthesis and epitome of the law and the prophets (cf. Mt 22,40). Only those who fulfil both these commandments are close to the kingdom of God, as Jesus himself stresses in answer to a scribe who had questioned him (cf. Mc 12,28-34).

3. Abiding by these guidelines which link love of neighbour with love of God and both of these to God's life in us, we can easily understand how love is presented in the New Testament as a fruit of the Spirit, indeed, as the first of the many gifts listed by St Paul in his Letter to the Galatians: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Ga 5,22).

Theological tradition distinguishes, while correlating them, between the theological virtues, the gifts and the fruits of the Holy Spirit (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 1830-1832). While the virtues are dispositions permanently conferred upon human beings in view of the supernatural works they must do, and the gifts perfect both the theological and the moral virtues, the fruits of the Spirit are virtuous acts which the person accomplishes with ease, habitually and with delight (cf. St Thomas, Summa theologiae, I-II 70,1, ad 2). These distinctions are not contrary to what Paul says, speaking in the singular of the fruit of the Spirit. In fact, the Apostle wishes to point out that the fruit par excellence is the same divine charity which is at the heart of every virtuous act. Just as sunlight is expressed in a limitless range of colours, so love is manifest in the multiple fruits of the Spirit.

4. In this regard, it says in the Letter to the Colossians: "Above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Col 3,14). The hymn to love contained in the First Letter to the Corinthians (cf. 1Co 13) celebrates this primacy of love over all the other gifts (cf. vv. 1Co 13,1-3), and even over faith and hope (cf. 1Co 13,13). The Apostle Paul says of it: "Love never ends" (1Co 13,8).

Love of neighbour has a Christological connotation, since it must conform to Christ's gift of his own life: "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1Jn 3,16). Insofar as it is measured by Christ's love, it can be called a "new commandment" by which the true disciples may be recognized: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 13,34-35). The Christological meaning of love of neighbour will shine forth at the second coming of Christ. Indeed at that very moment, it will be seen that the measure by which to judge adherence to Christ is precisely the daily demonstration of love for our neediest brothers and sisters: "I was hungry and you gave me food ..." (cf. Mt 25,31-46).

Only those who are involved with their neighbour and his needs concretely show their love for Jesus. Being closed and indifferent to the "other" means being closed to the Holy Spirit, forgetting Christ and denying the Father's universal love.

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:

I extend a special welcome to the members of the Syriac Commission of the Foundation Pro Oriente and I thank you for your dedication to the task of promoting relations with the Ancient Churches of the East. I am happy today to greet the various ecumenical groups present. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Thailand, Australia, Canada and the United States of America, I invoke the abundant blessings of almighty God.

Wednesday 27 October 1999

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. The Second Vatican Council underscores a specific dimension of charity which prompts us, following Christ's example, to reach out to those who are most poor: "Christ was sent by the Father "to bring good news to the poor ... to heal the contrite of heart' (
Lc 4,18), "to seek and to save what was lost' (Lc 19,10). Similarly, the Church encompasses with her love all those who are afflicted by human misery and she recognizes in those who are poor and who suffer, the image of her poor and suffering founder. She does all in her power to relieve their need and in them she strives to serve Christ" (Lumen gentium, LG 8).

Today let us look closely at the teaching of Sacred Scripture about the reasons for the Church's preferential love of the poor.

2. It should be noted first of all that there is a development from the Old to the New Testament in evaluating the poor and their situation. In the Old Testament we often see the common human conviction that wealth is better than poverty and is the just reward for the upright and God-fearing person: "Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments.... Wealth and riches are in his house" (Ps 112,1 Ps 112,3). Poverty is considered a punishment for those who reject the instruction of wisdom (cf. Pr 13,18).

However, from another perspective, the poor become the object of special attention as victims of perverse injustice. The prophets' invectives against the exploitation of the poor are famous. The prophet Amos (cf. Am 2,6-15) includes oppression of the poor among his accusations against Israel: "They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes - they that trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and turn aside the way of the afflicted" (ibid., Am 2,6-7). The connection between poverty and injustice is also stressed in Isaiah: "Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey" (Is 10,1-2).

This connection also explains why there are numerous laws defending the poor and those who are socially the weakest: "You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you do afflict them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry" (Ex 22,22-23 cf. Pr 22,22-23 Si 4,1-10). To defend the poor is to honour God, Father of the poor. Generosity to them is therefore justified and recommended (Dt 15,1-11 Dt 24,10-15 Pr 14,21 Pr 17,5).

In the developing reflection on the theme of poverty, the latter acquires a religious value. God speaks of "his" poor (cf. Is 49,13) who are identified with the "remnant of Israel", described as a humble and lowly people by the prophet Zephaniah (cf. So 3,12). It is also said of the future Messiah that he will take the poor and the oppressed to heart, as Isaiah states in the famous text about the shoot that would sprout from the stump of Jesse: "With righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth" (Is 11,4).

3. This is why in the New Testament the good news of deliverance is announced to the poor, as Jesus himself stresses, applying to himself the prophecy of the Book of Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to 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 cf. Is 61,1-2).

To possess the "kingdom of heaven", it is necessary to have the interior attitude of the poor (cf. Mt 5,3 Lc 6,20). In the parable of the great feast, the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame - in a word the most suffering and marginalized social categories - were invited to the banquet ( cf. Lc 14,21). St James would later say that God has "chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him" (Jc 2,5).

57 4. "Evangelical" poverty always implies great love for the poorest of this world. In this third year of preparation for the Great Jubilee, we must rediscover God as the provident Father who has compassion on human suffering in order to relieve all who are afflicted. Our charity too must be expressed in sharing and in human development understood as the integral growth of each person.

Throughout history Gospel radicalism has spurred many of Jesus' disciples to seek poverty to the point of selling their own goods and giving them as alms. Poverty here becomes a virtue which, besides alleviating the lot of the poor, becomes a spiritual path to true wealth, that is, to an unfailing treasure in heaven (cf.
Lc 12,32-34). Material poverty is never an end in itself, but a means of following Christ, about whom Paul said to the Corinthians: "though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich" (2Co 8,9).

5. Here I can only stress again that the poor represent today's challenge especially for the wealthy peoples of our world, where millions of people are living in inhuman conditions and many are literally dying of hunger. We cannot proclaim God the Father to these brethren without the commitment to work together in Christ's name to build a more just society.

The Church, especially in her social Magisterium from Rerum novarum to Centesimus annus, has always strived to address the theme of the very poor. The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 must be another opportunity for deep conversion of heart, so that the Spirit may raise up new witnesses to this cause. Christians, together with all people of good will, must contribute, by appropriate economic and political measures, to those structural changes which are so necessary for humanity to be freed from the plague of poverty (cf. Centesimus annuns, CA 57).

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:

I warmly greet the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood. I extend a special welcome to the members of the Catholic Police Guild, and to the group of Judicial Vicars from Great Britain. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from Great Britain, Ireland, the Philippines, Japan and the United States of America, I invoke the abundant blessings of almighty God.

                                                                             November 1999