Wednesday 16 February 2000

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. After the opening of the Holy Doors at the four Roman basilicas, we are now advancing at a great pace in the ecclesial journey of conversion and reconciliation offered by the Jubilee. As you know, one of the most significant and profoundly spiritual aspects of the Jubilee is a pilgrimage, a sign of every individual's condition as homo viator. As I stressed in the Bull of Indiction of the Jubilee, a pilgrimage is "an exercise of practical asceticism, of repentance for human weaknesses, of constant vigilance over one's own frailty, of interior preparation for a change of heart" (cf. Incarnationis mysterium, n. 7).

This inner meaning of pilgrimage is further deepened and complemented by the elements of faith and spirituality stemming from sacred places, which by ancient tradition are the destination of individual and community pilgrimages. Indeed, like time, space may also bear the stamp of particular saving actions of God, and for precisely this reason there are some places where the encounter with the divine may be experienced more intensely (cf. Letter Concerning Pilgrimage, n. 2).

2. Aware of this basic spiritual meaning of pilgrimage, I decided to visit, in connection with the Jubilee celebrations, the land that was uniquely marked by God's interventions in salvation history. Therefore in the coming weeks I will go on pilgrimage, please God, to some of the places particularly linked to the Incarnation of the Word of God.

I would have liked first to visit Ur of the Chaldees (cf. Letter Concerning Pilgrimage, n. 5), the present day Tell el-Muqayyar in southern Iraq, the native land of Abraham, who later moved with his family to Haran (cf.
Gn 11,31), where, according to the biblical account, he heard the Word of the Lord inviting him to leave his country for the land that God would show him (cf. Gn 12,1-3).

With this invitation, Abraham became the instrument of a plan of salvation which embraced the future people of the Covenant and indeed all the peoples of the world. He obeyed and set out on his journey. With him God's salvation began to travel the paths of human history.

9 3. It is therefore important "to follow Abraham's footprints", to rediscover the signs of God's loving presence to man and to relive the faith experience of the person St Paul described as the father of all believers, whether circumcised or uncircumcised (cf. Rm 4,11-12). With his faith expressed in concrete and at times even dramatic decisions, such as abandoning the safety of his own land or the sacrifice of his only son Isaac, Abraham attained that righteousness which made him a friend of God; he fully accepted the divine plan for himself and his descendants, and became the father of a multitude of believers.

Walking "in Abraham's footprints", therefore, teaches us to appreciate in practical terms the demands of a genuine attitude of faith and to experience the dynamism of God's initiative, which will culminate in Christ.

Aware of their own indissoluble bond with the ancient people of the Covenant, Christians acknowledge Abraham as their "father in faith" par excellence and are happy to imitate his example by walking "in his footprints".

4. It is for these reasons that I would have liked to go, in the name of the whole Church, to pray and reflect in that place, Ur of the Chaldees, from which Abraham set out. Since this has not been possible for me, I would like at least spiritually to make a similar pilgrimage. Therefore, next Wednesday at a special celebration in the Paul VI Hall, together we will relive the key events of Abraham's experience, knowing well that it is not only those who boast physical descent from the great Patriarch who look to him, but also all those who regard themselves as his spiritual offspring.
After this it will be possible to continue with grateful hearts on to the other places where salvation history unfolded, beginning with Mount Sinai, where Moses received the revelation of God's Most Holy Name and first came to know his mystery.

I invite you now to accompany me in prayer on my pilgrimage to the places linked to salvation history, which will begin next Wednesday with the special celebration dedicated to Abraham, father of all believers.

The Pope also prayed for the unity and reconciliation of the Congolese nation.

Worrying news continues to come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A few days ago Archbishop Emmanuel Kataliko of Bukavu was prevented by the local authorities from returning to his Archdiocese. This is a grave violation that painfully wounds all Catholics!

As I express my solidarity with the clergy and faithful of Bukavu, I hope that this worthy prelate can return without delay to the flock entrusted to his care.

At the same time, I make a heartfelt appeal that the Lusaka Peace Accords be implemented as quickly as possible, as I pray the Lord for the unity and reconciliation of that beloved nation.
* * * * * *

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

Today I extend a special welcome to the many pilgrims from Scotland, led by Cardinal Thomas Winning, as well as to the staff and students of the English College in Valladolid. Upon all the English- speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from Great Britain, Ireland, Sweden, Japan and the United States, I invoke the blessings of Almighty God.

Wednesday 23 February 2000


I extend a special greeting to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, meeting in Rome during these days. I thank you for the dedication with which you put your knowledge and experience at the service of the Holy See in your important field of investigation. I greet the Deacons from the Archdiocese of Southwark, the ecumenical groups from Great Britain and Sweden, and the pilgrims from Hong Kong and Taiwan. I warmly welcome the many Diocesan and parish pilgrimages from the United States of America and from Ireland. As we reflect on the example of Abraham during this Jubilee Year, let us seek to grow in faith and acceptance of Godís saving initiative in our lives. I invoke Almighty Godís blessings upon you and your families.

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Wednesday 1 March 2000


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. With great joy I was able to go on pilgrimage to Egypt last week in the footsteps of Moses. The high point of this extraordinary experience occurred at the foot of Mount Sinai, the Holy Mountain: holy because it was here that God revealed himself to his servant, Moses, and told him his Name; holy, too, because it was here that God gave his people the gift of his Law, the Ten Commandments; holy, lastly, because by their constant presence believers have made Mount Sinai a place of prayer.

I am grateful to God for allowing me to pray in the place where he introduced Moses to a clearer knowledge of his mystery by speaking to him from the burning bush and offering him and the chosen people the law of the Covenant, the law of life and freedom for every person. God made himself the foundation and guarantor of this Covenant.

2. As I had the opportunity to say last Saturday, the Ten Commandments disclose to us the only authentically human future, and this is because they are not the arbitrary imposition of a tyrannical God. Yahweh wrote them in stone, but above all he inscribed them in every human heart as the universal moral law, valid and current in every time and place. This law prevents egoism, hatred, falsehood and contempt from destroying the human person. By constantly recalling the divine Covenant, the Ten Commandments emphasize that the Lord is our only God, and that any other divinity is false and ultimately enslaves the human being, leading him to degrade his human dignity.

"Hear, O Israel.... 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 ... to your children" (
Dt 6,4-7). These words, which devout Jews repeat each day, also echo in the heart of every Christian. "Hear! These words which I command you shall be upon your heart!". We cannot think of being faithful to God if we do not observe his Law. Being faithful to God, moreover, means also being faithful to ourselves, to our true nature and to our deepest and irrepressible aspirations.

3. I am grateful to Archbishop Damianos, the Hegumen of St Catherine's Monastery, and to his monks for the very cordial welcome they gave me. The Archbishop, who waited for me at the monastery entrance, spoke to me of the precious "biblical relics" preserved there: Jethro's Well and, especially, the roots of the "burning bush", before which I knelt, recalling the words in which God revealed the mystery of his being to Moses: "I am who I am". I was also able to admire the marvellous works of art that the prayer and contemplation of the monks have produced down the centuries.

Before the Liturgy of the Word, Archbishop Damianos recalled that Mount Horeb rose right above us with the summit of Sinai, the peak of the Decalogue, the place where God spoke to Moses "in fire and darkness". For centuries in these surroundings a community of monks have pursued the ideal of Christian perfection in "continual contemplation of nature and tireless control of the senses", availing themselves of the traditional means of spiritual dialogue and asceticism. At the end of the meeting the Archbishop kindly accompanied me to the airport with some of his monks.

4. I gladly take this opportunity to express my thanks once again to President Mubarak, to the Egyptian authorities and to everyone who helped to make this journey possible. Egypt is the cradle of a most ancient civilization. The Christian faith arrived there in apostolic times, especially with St Mark, a disciple of Peter and Paul and the founder of the Church of Alexandria.

During the pilgrimage I had talks with His Holiness Patriarch Shenouda III, head of the Orthodox Coptic Church, and with Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar and religious leader of the Muslim community. I express my gratitude to them and also to His Beatitude Stephanos II Ghattas, Patriarch of Catholic Copts, and the other Archbishops and Bishops there.

I renew my greeting to the small but fervent Catholic community, whom I met at the solemn celebration of Holy Mass in Cairo, in which all of Egypt's Catholic Churches took part: Coptic, Latin, Maronite, Greek, Armenian, Syrian and Chaldean. Gathered round the Lord's Table we celebrated our common faith and entrusted to God the zeal for life and apostolic activity of our Egyptian brothers and sisters, who with great sacrifice and generosity give proof of their fidelity to the Gospel in the country where the Holy Family found refuge 2,000 years ago.

I cherish fond memories of the significant meeting with representatives and faithful of the non-Catholic Churches and Ecclesial Communities in Egypt. May the ecumenical progress which has been made in the 20th century by the grace of the Holy Spirit undergo further development that will bring us ever closer to the goal of full unity, for which the Lord Jesus ardently prayed.

5. Today Mount Sinai reminds me of another mountain which, God willing, I will have the joy of visiting at the end of this month: the Mount of the Beatitudes in Galilee. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said he did not come to abolish the old Law but to perfect it (cf. Mt 5,17). In fact, since the Word of God became incarnate and died on the Cross for us, the Ten Commandments make themselves heard through his voice. He roots them, through the new life of grace, in the hearts of those who believe in him. Thus Jesus' disciples do not feel oppressed by a multitude of prescriptions, but, spurred by the power of love, see God's Commandments as a law of freedom: the freedom to love through the internal action of the Spirit.

The Beatitudes are the evangelical completion of the Law of Sinai. The Covenant made then with the Hebrew people finds its fulfilment in the new and eternal Covenant established in Christ's Blood. Christ is the New Law, and in him salvation is offered to all nations.

I entrust to Jesus Christ the next stage of my Jubilee Pilgrimage, which will be the Holy Land. I ask everyone to accompany me with prayer, especially as I spiritually prepare for this important event.
* * * * * * *

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

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at todayís audience, especially those from England, Ireland, Norway, Finland, the Faeroe Islands, Japan and the United States. Upon you and your families, I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday 8 March 2000


1. Lent is the culminating point of that journey of conversion and reconciliation which the Jubilee Year, a special time of grace and mercy, offers to all the faithful, so that they can renew their fidelity to Christ, man's only Saviour. So I wrote in my Message for Lent 2000, and with this conviction today, Ash Wednesday, we undertake the Lenten journey of penance. Today's liturgy invites us to pray that the heavenly Father will grant the Christian people to embark on the path of true conversion by fasting, so that with the arms of penance they may triumph in the struggle against the spirit of evil.

This is the message of the Great Jubilee, which becomes even more eloquent in Lent. The human person, every human person, is called to conversion and repentance, is spurred to friendship with God, in order to receive the gift of supernatural life which satisfies the deepest longings of his heart.

2. By receiving ashes on our head, we are reminded today that we are dust and to dust we will return. This thought, which is a human certainty, is not emphasized to make us passively resigned to our fate. On the contrary, while the liturgy stresses that we are mortal creatures, it reminds us of God's merciful initiative in wanting to give us a share in his own eternal and blessed life.

In the moving rite of giving ashes, believers hear an invitation not to be tied to material concerns which, however valuable, will eventually fade away. Instead, they must let themselves be transformed by the grace of conversion and repentance in order to scale the arduous yet gratifying heights of the supernatural life. Only in God does man fully find himself and discover the ultimate meaning of his life.

The Jubilee door is open to all! Let anyone enter who knows he is oppressed by guilt and poor in merit; let anyone enter who feels like dust that the wind scatters; let the weak and discouraged come to draw renewed strength from the Heart of Christ.

3. Today the distribution of ashes is accompanied by the traditional practice of fast and abstinence.

These are not mere external observances, ritual gestures, but eloquent signs of a necessary change of life. Fast and abstinence primarily strengthen the Christian for his struggle against evil and his service of the Gospel.

Penance and fasting call the believer to give up lawful material goods and satisfactions in order to gain greater interior freedom, enabling him to hear the Word of God and generously help his brothers and sisters in need.

Fast and abstinence, therefore, must be accompanied by acts of solidarity towards those who are suffering or going through difficult moments. Penance thus becomes a sharing with the marginalized and the needy. This too is the spirit of the Great Jubilee, which urges us all to show Christ's love in a practical way to our brothers and sisters who lack the necessities of life, who suffer hunger, violence or injustice. In this regard, I wrote in my Message for Lent: "How can we ask for the grace of the Jubilee if we are insensitive to the needs of the poor; if we do not work to ensure that all have what is necessary to lead a decent life?" (n. 5).

4. "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" (
Mc 1,15). Let us open our hearts to these words which we will hear many times during the Lenten season. May the journey of conversion and fidelity to the Gospel, which we are beginning today, enable us all to realize that we are children of one Father and reinvigorate the longing for Christian unity and harmony among peoples. I pray the Lord that in this Jubilee Lent every Christian will deeply sense his duty to be reconciled with God, with himself and with his brothers and sisters. This is the way to achieve the full communion of all Christ's disciples that we desire. May the time quickly come when, through the prayer and faithful witness of Christians, the world will acknowledge Jesus as the one Saviour and attain peace by believing in him.

May Mary most holy guide us on the first steps of our Lenten journey, so that we may all cross the threshold of the holy door of conversion and experience the grace of being transformed into the image of Christ.

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

I am happy to welcome all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims, especially those from Denmark and the United States. Praying that your visit will strengthen your faith and love, I invoke upon you and your families the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday 29 March 2000

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Following the commemoration of Abraham and my brief but intense visit to Egypt and Mount Sinai, my Jubilee pilgrimage to the Holy Places brought me to the land that saw the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the beginning of the Church. My heart is filled with inexpressible joy and gratitude for this gift of the Lord, to which I had so looked forward. After visiting the Holy Land during the Second Vatican Council, I have now had the grace of returning there, together with some of my collaborators, in the year of the Great Jubilee, the 2,000th anniversary of Christ's birth. It was a return, in a sense, to the origins, to the roots of our faith and of the Church.

I thank the Latin Patriarch and the Bishops of the various Eastern Catholic Churches in the Holy Land, as well as the Franciscans of the Custody for their warm welcome and for all they did. I warmly thank the Jordanian, Israeli and Palestinian authorities who welcomed and assisted me during my religious journey. I appreciated their generous efforts to ensure the success of my visit and I reassured them of the Holy See's concern for a just peace among all the peoples of the region. I am grateful to the communities of those lands for the warm welcome they gave me.

2. The first stop - Mount Nebo - was a continuation of my visit to Sinai: from the top of that mountain Moses beheld the Promised Land after fulfilling the mission entrusted to him by God and before giving up his soul to him. I began my journey, in a certain sense, with Moses' own gaze, realizing its evocative power that transcends centuries and millennia.

That gaze was turned to the Jordan Valley and the Judean desert, where, in the fullness of time, the voice would ring out of John the Baptist, sent by God, like a new Elijah, to prepare the way for the Messiah. Jesus wanted to be baptized by him, revealing that he was the Lamb of God who took upon himself the sin of the world. The figure of John the Baptist led me in the footsteps of Christ. I joyfully celebrated a solemn Mass in Amman Stadium for the Christian community living in that area, whom I found fervently religious and well integrated into the country's society.

3. After leaving Amman I stayed at the Apostolic Delegation in Jerusalem. From there my first destination was Bethlehem, the city where 3,000 years ago King David was born and where 1,000 years later, according to the Scriptures, the Messiah was born. In this year 2000 Bethlehem is the focus of the Christian world's attention: from there came the Light of nations, Christ the Lord; from there spread the proclamation of peace for all men whom God loves.

Along with my collaborators, the Catholic Ordinaries, a number of Cardinals and many other Bishops, I celebrated Holy Mass in the city's main square, which is next to the cave where Mary gave birth to Jesus and laid him in a manger. The joy of Christmas, the joy of the Great Jubilee, is renewed in mystery. It was as if we could hear Isaiah's prophecy again: "To us a child is born, to us a son is given" (
Is 9,6), with the angel's message: "I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for behold to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Lc 2,10-11).

In the afternoon, I knelt with deep emotion in the cave of the Nativity, where I felt the whole Church spiritually present, all the world's poor among whom God chose to pitch his tent. A God who became an exile and a refugee in order to bring us back to his house. This thought accompanied me - before leaving the Palestinian Autonomous Territories - as I visited one of the many camps in Bethlehem where over three million Palestinian refugees have been living for too long. With everyone's effort may this sad problem finally be resolved!

14 4. The memory of Jerusalem can never be erased from my heart. Great is the mystery of this city where the fullness of time became, so to speak, the "fullness of space". Indeed, Jerusalem hosted the central, culminating event of salvation history: Christ's paschal mystery. It was there that the purpose for which the Word became flesh was revealed and fulfilled: in his death on the Cross and his Resurrection "everything was finished" (cf. Jn 19,30). On Calvary the Incarnation was manifested as the Redemption in accordance with God's eternal plan.

The stones of Jerusalem bear a silent but eloquent witness to this mystery, starting with the Upper Room, where we celebrated the Holy Eucharist in the very place where it was instituted by Jesus. There, where the Christian priesthood was born, I remembered all priests and signed the Letter I addressed to them for next Holy Thursday.

Witness is also borne to this mystery by the olive trees and the rock of Gethsemane where Christ, seized with mortal anguish, prayed to the Father before his Passion. In a very special way Calvary and the empty tomb, the Holy Sepulchre, testify to those dramatic hours. Last Sunday, the Lord's Day, I renewed in that very place the message of salvation which spans the centuries and millennia: Christ is risen! That was the moment when my pilgrimage reached its climax. For this reason I felt the need to pray again in the afternoon on Calvary, where Christ shed his blood for humanity.

5. In Jerusalem, the Holy City for Jews, Christians and Muslims, I met the Chief Rabbis of Israel and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. I then had a meeting with representatives of the other two monotheistic religions, Judaism and Islam. Despite great difficulties, Jerusalem is called to become the symbol of peace among those who believe in the God of Abraham and submit to his law. May men and women hasten the fulfilment of this plan!

At Yad Vashem, the Shoah Memorial, I paid homage to the millions of Jewish victims of Nazism. Once again I expressed my deep sorrow for that terrifying tragedy and reaffirmed that "we want to remember" in order to commit ourselves together - Jews, Christians and people of good will - to overcoming evil with good, so as to walk on the way of peace.

Today many Churches, heirs to ancient traditions, live their faith in the Holy Land. This diversity is a great treasure as long as it is accompanied by a spirit of communion in total fidelity to the faith of the Fathers. The Ecumenical Meeting held at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem with everyone's enthusiastic participation marked an important step on the journey towards full unity among Christians. It gave me great joy to be able to speak with His Beatitude Diodoros, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, and with His Beatitude Torkom Manoogian, Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem. I invite everyone to pray that the process of understanding and of collaboration among the Christians of the various Churches will be strengthened and developed.

6. A special grace of this pilgrimage was to celebrate Mass on the Mount of the Beatitudes near the Sea of Galilee with a large number of young people from the Holy Land and from all over the world. A moment filled with hope! As I proclaimed and entrusted to young people the Commandments of God and the Beatitudes, I saw in them the future of the Church and the world.

Also on the shores of that lake, I was deeply moved in visiting Tabgha, where Christ multiplied the loaves, the "place of the primacy", where he entrusted to Peter the pastoral guidance of the Church, and lastly in Capernaum the remains of Peter's house and the synagogue where Jesus revealed himself as the Bread come down from heaven for the life of the world (Jn 6,26-58).

Galilee! Homeland of Mary and the first disciples; homeland of the Church sent on mission among the nations! I think that Peter always had cherished it in his heart, and so does his Successor!

15 7. On the liturgical feast of the Annunciation, we went back in a sense to the sources of the mystery of faith and knelt in the grotto of the Annunciation in Nazareth where, in Mary's womb, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1,14). There, reflected in the Virgin's "fiat", one can hear in silent adoration God's loving "yes" to man, the amen of the eternal Son, who opens the path of salvation to every human being. There, in the reciprocal self-giving of Christ and Mary, are the hinges of every "holy door". There, where God became man, man rediscovers his dignity and high calling.

I thank everyone in the various Dioceses, religious houses and contemplative communities who spiritually followed the steps of my pilgrimage, and I assure them that I took the whole Church with me in prayer to the places I visited. Once again, as I express my gratitude to the Lord for this unforgettable experience, I ask him with humble trust to draw from it abundant fruits for the good of the Church and of humanity.

Peace appeal for Mindanao:

My thoughts now turn to the beloved peoples of the Philippines where, on the large island of Mindanao, tensions have unfortunately increased and are causing violent clashes.

I pray for all the inhabitants of that region and, in particular, for the political and military leaders, that the Lord will enlighten and move them to do all they can to stop the violence and to seek peaceful solutions to the existing problems.

I express my closeness and solidarity to the families who are suffering because of this situation.
* * * * * * *

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

I welcome the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's audience, especially those from Estonia, England, Japan, Australia and the United States. I pray that your faith will be strengthened during your Jubilee pilgrimage and that you will be filled with a desire to serve God and neighbour, and to work for unity, justice and peace in the world. May God bless you and your families.

Dear Brothers and Sisters from Estonia!

I warmly welcome you on the occasion of your national Jubilee pilgrimage, led by Archbishop Erwin Josef Ender, Apostolic Administrator of Estonia and Apostolic Nuncio. May your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul strengthen your faith and your commitment to live according to the standards of the Gospel. As you walk in the footsteps of the holy martyrs of Rome, may you deepen your love of the Lord and his Church, and become ever more ready to serve your less fortunate brothers and sisters. Be courageous witnesses and joyful messengers of Christ's living presence in the world!

God bless you! God bless Estonia!

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Wednesday 5 April 2000

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. "One source and one root, one form shines out in threefold splendour. From the bright depths of the Father bursts forth the power of the Son, the wisdom that created the whole world, the fruit born of the Father's heart! And there blazes the unifying light of the Holy Spirit". So sang Synesius of Cyrene in Hymn II at the beginning of the fifth century, celebrating the divine Trinity, one in source and threefold in glory, at the dawn of a new day. This truth of the one God in three equal and distinct Persons is not relegated to heaven; it cannot be regarded as a sort of "heavenly mathematical theorem" with no implications for human life, as the philosopher Kant supposed.

2. In fact, as we heard in the Evangelist Luke's account, the glory of the Trinity becomes present in time and space and finds its manifestation in Jesus, his Incarnation and his history. Luke interprets the conception of Christ precisely in the light of the Trinity: this is attested by the angel's words to Mary, spoken inside the modest home in the Galilean village of Nazareth, which archaeology has brought to light. The transcendent divine presence is revealed in Gabriel's announcement: the Lord God - through Mary and in the line of David's descendants - gives his Son to the world: "You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David" (
Lc 1,31-32).

3. Here the word "son" has a twofold sense, because the filial bond with the heavenly Father and with the earthly mother are closely united in Christ. But the Holy Spirit also shares in the Incarnation, and indeed it is his action which makes that conception unique and unrepeatable: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God" (Lc 1,35). The angel's words are like a short Creed which sheds light on the identity of Christ in relation to the other Persons of the Trinity. It is the Church's unanimous faith which Luke already places at the dawn of the saving fullness of time: Christ is the Son of the Most High God, the Great One, the Holy One, the King, the Eternal One, whose conception in the flesh takes place through the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, as John will say in his First Letter, "no one who denies the Son has the Father. He who confesses the Son has the Father also" (1Jn 2,23).

4. At the centre of our faith is the Incarnation, in which the glory of the Trinity and the Trinity's love for us is revealed: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us ... we have beheld his glory" (Jn 1,14). "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son" (Jn 3,16). "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him" (1Jn 4,9). Through these words of the Johannine writings, we can understand how the revelation of the Trinity's glory in the Incarnation is not a flash of light dispelling the darkness for a moment, but a seed of divine life sown in the world and in human hearts for ever.

In this regard a statement by the Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Galatians is emblematic: "When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!'. So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir" (Ga 4,4-7 cf. Rm 8,15-17). The Father, the Son and the Spirit are present and active, then, in the Incarnation in order to involve us in their life. "All men", the Second Vatican Council stressed, "are called to this union with Christ, who is the light of the world, from whom we go forth, through whom we live, and towards whom our whole life is directed" (Lumen gentium LG 3). And, as St Cyprian stated, the community of God's children is "a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" (De Dom Orat., 23).

5. "To know God and his Son is to accept the mystery of the loving communion of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit into one's own life, which even now is open to eternal life because it shares in the life of God. Eternal life is therefore that life of God himself and at the same time the life of the children of God. As they ponder this unexpected and inexpressible truth which comes to us from God in Christ, believers cannot fail to be filled with ever new wonder and unbounded gratitude" (Evangelium vitae EV 37-38).

In this wonder and acceptance we must adore the mystery of the Holy Trinity, which "is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 234).

17 In the Incarnation we contemplate the Trinitarian love which is revealed in Jesus: a love that does not remain closed in a perfect circle of light and glory, but shines forth in human flesh and in human history; it pervades man, giving him new birth as a son in the Son. For this reason, as St Irenaeus said, the glory of God is the living man: "Gloria enim Dei vivens homo, vita autem hominis visio Dei". He is not so only because of his physical life, but especially because "man's life consists in the vision of God" (Adversus Haereses IV, 20, 7). And to see God is to be transfigured in him: "We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (1Jn 3,2).

Holy Father calls for Gypsies' human dignity to be respected:

The International Day for Gypsies (Rom and Sinti) will be observed on Saturday, 8 April; this year it is dedicated to the plight of Gypsies who have been victims of the conflict in Kosovo.
I hope that the day will promote full respect for the human dignity of these brothers and sisters and foster their proper integration into society. I also look forward with special joy to the meeting I will have during the Jubilee celebrations for migrants and itinerant people at the beginning of next June.
* * * * * * * *

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

I am happy to welcome to this audience the many school groups, as well as the parish and Diocesan pilgrimages, especially from Denmark, Finland, Australia, the Philippines, Japan and the United States. As you pray at the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, may you be strengthened in your faith and in your resolve to serve Christ in others. Upon you and your families I invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Saviour.