Wednesday 18 September 2002 - Psalm 95£[96] - The Lord reigns from the Cross

57 Ps 96

1. "Say among the nations "the Lord reigns!'". This exhortation of Psalm 95 (Ps 96,10), just proclaimed, sets the tone that colours the whole hymn. Indeed, it is one of the "Psalms of the Lord's Kingship" that include Psalms 95-98[96-99] as well as 46[47] and 92[93].

In the past we have already had the chance to pray and comment upon Psalm 92[93] and we know that these canticles are centred on the great figure of God who rules the whole universe and governs human history.

Psalm 95[96] exalts both the Creator of beings and the Saviour of the peoples: God "establishes the world, it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity" (Ps 96,10). Indeed, in the original Hebrew, the verb translated as "judge" means "govern": thus we are certainly not left to the mercy of the dark forces of chaos or chance, but are always in the hands of a just and merciful Sovereign.

2. The Psalm begins with a joyful invitation to praise God, that opens immediately on to a universal perspective: "Sing to the Lord, all the earth!" (Ps 96,1). The faithful are invited to "declare his glory among the nations", and then to tell "of his marvellous deeds" (Ps 96,3). Indeed, the Psalmist directly calls on the "families of the peoples" (Ps 96,7) to invite them to glorify the Lord. Lastly, the Psalmist asks the faithful to "say among the nations, "the Lord reigns!'" (Ps 96,10), and explains that the Lord "judges the peoples" (Ps 96,10), and the whole "world" (Ps 96,13). This universal opening on the part of a small nation squeezed between two great empires is very important. This people know that their Lord is God of the universe and that "all the gods of the nations are nothing" (Ps 96,5).

The Psalm is substantially composed of two scenes. The first part (cf. Ps 96,1-9) portrays a solemn epiphany of the Lord "in his sanctuary" (Ps 96,6), that is, the Temple of Zion. It is preceded and followed by the songs and sacrificial rites of the congregation of the faithful. The current of praise flows steadily before the divine majesty: "Sing to the Lord a new song ... sing ... sing ... bless ... tell of his salvation ... tell God's glory ... declare his marvellous works ... ascribe to the Lord glory and power ... give to the Lord the glory ... bring offerings ... bow down before him!" (vv. Ps 96,1-3 Ps 96,7-9).

The fundamental gesture before the Lord King who manifests his glory in the history of salvation is therefore the hymn of adoration, praise and blessing. These attitudes must also be present in our daily liturgy and in our personal prayer.

3. At the heart of this choral song of praise, we find an anti-idolatrous declaration. Thus prayer is revealed as a way of reaching the purity of faith, according to the well known affirmation lex orandi, lex credendi: the norm of true prayer is also the norm of faith and is a lesson on divine truth. Indeed, the latter can really be discovered through the intimate communion with God achieved in prayer.

58 The Psalmist proclaims: "Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised, he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are nothing; but the Lord made the heavens" (Ps 96,4-5) Through the liturgy and prayer, the faith of every generation is purified, the idols to which one sacrifices so easily in daily life are abandoned, and we pass from fear of the transcendent justice of God to a living experience of his love.

4. So we come to the second scene, the one that opens with the prolamation of the Lord's kingship (cf. Ps 96,10-13). It is now the universe that sings, even through its most mysterious and dark elements, such as the sea, in accord with the ancient biblical concept: "Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, let the sea and what fills it resound; let all the plains exult, and all that is in them! Then let all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth" (Ps 96,11-13).

As St Paul will say, even nature with the human person, "waits with eager longing ... [to] be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the sons of God" (Rm 8,19 Rm 8,21).

And at this point we would like to make room for the Christian re-reading (rilettura) of the Psalm by the Fathers of the Church, who saw in it a prefiguration of the Incarnation and Crucifixion, a sign of the paradoxical lordship of Christ.

5. Thus at the beginning of his address in Constantinople, on Christmas Day in 379 or 380, St Gregory Nazianzen uses some expressions of Psalm 95: "Christ is born: glorify him! Christ comes down from heaven: go to meet him! Christ is on earth: Be exalted! "Sing to the Lord, all the earth!' (Ps 96,1) and, to combine the two concepts, "Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice' (Ps 96,11), because of Him who is of heaven and then of earth" (Omelie sulla natività, Discorso 38, 1, Rome 1983, p. 44; Oration 38 on the Birthday of Christ, 1., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol 7, p. 345, reprinted by Eerdmans March, 1989).

In this way the mystery of the divine lordship is manifested in the Incarnation. Indeed, he who reigns by "becoming earthly", reigns precisely in humiliation on the Cross. It is significant that many of the ancients interpreted v. 10 of this Psalm with a thought-provoking Christological integration: "The Lord reigned from the tree".

Thus the Letter of Barnabas taught that "the kingdom of Jesus is on the wood [of the cross]" (VIII, 5: I Padri Apostolici, Rome 1984, p. 198; The Apostolic Fathers, p. 282, Thomas Nelson, 1978) and the martyr St Justin, quoting almost the whole of the Psalm in his First Apology, ended by inviting all the Gentiles to rejoice because "the Lord hath reigned from the tree" of the Cross (Gli apologeti greci, Rome 1986, p. 121; The First Apology, chapter 41, p.78, Writings of St Justin Martyr, CUA Press).

From this terrain sprang the hymn Vexilla regis (The Royal Banners of the King, used in Passion week) written by the Christian poet, Venantius Fortunatus, that exalts Christ who reigns from the height of the Cross - a throne of love and not of dominion: Regnavit a ligno Deus (God has reigned from the tree). Indeed, already during his earthly life, Jesus warned: "Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For indeed, the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mc 10,43-45).

I extend a cordial welcome to the English-speaking visitors, and in particular to the Diocesan pilgrimages from Cloyne in Ireland, Thunder Bay in Canada, and Boston in the United States. Upon all of you present here, and upon your families and communities back home, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Pray for peace in the Middle East

The Holy Father mentioned the encouraging news of Iraq's promise to collaborate with the international community. The Pope renewed his appeal to avoid war and its potential fallout in the Mideast.

In recent days, after the winds of war that threatened to upset the whole Middle East region, the good news has arrived of the possibility of a resumption of the collaboration of Iraq with the international community. I exhort you to continue to pray so that the Lord may enlighten the leaders of nations, may keep alive and sustain the signs of good will and may lead humanity, already afflicted by so many evils, toward an existence free from war and the imposition of violence.

Wednesday 25 September 2002 - Psalm 84 £[85] - "Show us, O Lord, your Mercy; grant ... salvation"

59 Ps 85

1. Psalm 84 [85], which we have just heard sung, is a joyful hymn full of hope in the future of our salvation. It reflects the happy moment of Israel's return from the Babylonian Exile to the land of the fathers. The life of the nation begins again in that beloved homeland, burnt-out and destroyed in the conquest of Jerusalem by the army of King Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.

Indeed, in the original Hebrew of the Psalm one hears repeated the verb shûb, which refers to the return of the deported but it also means a spiritual "return", or a "conversion". The rebirth, therefore, does not only refer to the nation, but also to the community of the faithful who regarded the exile as a punishment for the sins they had committed, and now see their repatriation and new freedom as a divine blessing that is the result of their conversion.

2. We can follow the Psalm in its development according to two fundamental stages. The first is articulated by the subject of "return", with the two meanings we mentioned.

Israel's physical return is celebrated first of all. "Lord ... you did restore the fortunes of Jacob" (Ps 85,2); "Restore us again, O God of our salvation.... Will you not revive us again?" (Ps 85,5 Ps 85,7). This is a precious gift of God, who is concerned to deliver his People from oppression and promotes their prosperity. Indeed, you "love all things that exist ... spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord who love the living" (cf. Sg 11,24 Sg 11,26).

However, besides this "return" that concretely unifies those who were scattered, there is another more interior and spiritual "return". The Psalmist allows it ample room, attributing a special importance to it that applies not only to ancient Israel, but to the faithful of all time.

3. In this "return" the Lord acts effectively, revealing his love in forgiving the iniquity of his People, pardoning all their sins, withdrawing all his wrath and putting an end to his anger (cf. Ps 85,3-4 [85],3-4).

60 In fact, their deliverance from evil, the pardon of their faults and the purification of sins create the new People of God. This is expressed in an invocation that has also entered the Christian liturgy: "Show us, O Lord, your mercy and grant us your salvation" (Ps 85,8).

However, to the "return" of God who forgives must correspond the "return", that is, the "conversion", of the one who repents. In fact, the Psalm says that peace and salvation are offered "to those who turn to him in their hearts" (Ps 85,9). Those who set out with determination on the path of holiness receive the gifts of joy, freedom and peace.

It is well known that biblical terms for sin often refer to a mistaken direction, a missed goal, a deviation from the straight path. Conversion is, precisely, a "return" to the straight road that leads to the house of the Father who waits to embrace us, pardon us and make us happy (cf. Lc 15,11-32).

4. Thus we come to the second part of the Psalm (cf. Ps 85,10-14 [84],10-14), so dear to Christian tradition. It describes a new world in which God's love and his faithfulness embrace each other as if they were persons. Similarly, justice and peace meet and kiss each other. Truth sprouts up as if in a new springtime and justice, which for the Bible also means salvation and holiness, appears from heaven to begin its journey in the midst of humanity.

All the virtues, at first expelled from the earth by sin, now re-enter history and meet, drawing the map of a world of peace. Mercy, truth, justice and peace become the four cardinal points of this geography of the spirit. Isaiah also sings: "Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above, like gentle rain let the skies drop it down. Let the earth open and salvation bud forth; let justice also spring up. I, the Lord, have created this" (Is 45,8).

5. The Psalmist's words, already in the second century, were re-read by St Irenaeus of Lyons as a proclamation of the "generation of Christ from the Virgin" (Adversus haereses, III, 5, 1). Indeed, Christ's coming is the source of mercy, the springing up of truth, the flowering of justice, the splendour of peace.

For this reason, especially in the last part, the Psalm is reread by Christian tradition in terms of Christmas. This is how St Augustine interprets it in a discourse for Christmas. Let us allow him to conclude our reflection. ""Truth, then, is sprung out of the earth: Christ who said, "I am the truth', is born of a virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: man, believing in him who has been born, has been justified not by himself, but by God. Truth is sprung out of the earth, for the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven, for every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above. Truth is sprung out of the earth - flesh born of Mary. And justice looked down from heaven, for a man cannot receive anything, unless it be given him from heaven" (Discorsi, IV/1, Rome 1984, p. 11; Sermon 185, [Roman Breviary, 24 December, Second Reading]).

The Holy Father then summed up his catechesis and greeted the pilgrims and visitors in French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Polish and Italian. To the Polish he mentioned the arrest in 1953 of the Primate of Poland, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski.

I am pleased to greet the Felician Sisters meeting in Rome for their Biennial Assembly, as well as the Missionary Benedictine Sisters taking part in a Week of Encounter. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from England, Ireland, Australia and the United States, I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To the Polish-speaking

Today is the 49th anniversary of the arrest by the Communist regime of the Servant of God Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, Primate of the Millennium, on 25 September 1953. It was an act of persecution against the Church.

Today we speak of the Psalms. Perhaps what they express is expressed by the short psalm "Laudate Dominum" that was sung at the end of Benediction. I remember that we sang it in Poland, in Wadowice during Vespers.

"Praise the Lord all you nations, praise him all you peoples, for his mercy is confirmed upon us and his truth remains forever. Glory to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit ...".

                                                                                  October 2002

Wednesday 2 October 2002 - Canticle in chapter 26 of the Book of Isaiah

"My peace I give to you, my peace I leave you'

61 Is 26

1. In the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, over a broad span of time various voices converge, all of them under the name and inspiration of this great witness of the Word of God, who lived in the 8th century B.C.

Within this long scroll of prophecies, which Jesus also opened and read in the synagogue of his village Nazareth (cf. Lc 4,17-19), is a series of chapters, from 24 to 27, generally known by scholars as "the great apocalypse of Isaiah". A second and minor apocalypse can be found in chapters 34-35. In pages that are often passionate and packed with symbols a powerful, poetic description is given of the divine judgement of history that exalts the expectation of salvation on the part of the just.

2. Often, as happens in the Apocalypse of John, two opposing cities are contrasted with each other: the rebellious city, incarnated in some of the historical cities of the time, and the holy city where the faithful gather.

The Canticle we have just heard proclaimed, which is taken from the 26th chapter of Isaiah is the joyful celebration of the city of salvation. It stands strong and glorious, for the Lord himself laid its foundations and fortified it, making it a safe and peaceful dwelling-place (cf. Is 26,1). He now opens wide the gates to welcome the people of the just (cf. Is 26,2), who seem to repeat the Psalmist's words when, standing before the Temple of Zion, he exclaims: "Open to me the gates of justice, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the just shall enter through it (Ps 118,19-20 [117],19-20).

62 3. There is one fundamental prerequisite for those who enter the city of salvation: "firm purpose ... trust in you ... trust" (cf. Is 26,3-4). It is faith in God, a solid faith based on Him who is the "everlasting rock" (Is 26,4).

Confidence, already expressed in the etymological root of the Hebrew word "amen", sums up the profession of faith in the Lord, who - as King David sang - is "my strength, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer; my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold" (Ps 18,2-3 [17], 2-3; cf. 2S 22,2-3).

The gift that God offers to the faithful is peace (cf. Is 26,3), the messianic gift par excellence, the synthesis of life in justice, freedom and the joy of communion.

4. This gift is forcefully confirmed in the last verse of the Canticle of Isaiah. "O Lord, you will ordain peace for us, you have wrought for us all our works" (Is 26,12). This is the verse that attracted the attention of the Fathers of the Church: in that promise of peace they glimpsed the words of Christ that would resound centuries later: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you" (Jn 14,27).

In his Commentary on the Gospel of John, St Cyril of Alexandria reminds us that in giving us peace, Jesus gives us his Spirit. He does not, therefore, leave us orphans, but through his Spirit remains with us. St Cyril comments: The prophet "prays for the gift of the divine Spirit, through whom we have been readmitted to friendship with God the Father who were previously far from him because of the sin that held sway in us". His commentary then becomes a prayer: "Grant us peace, O Lord. Then we will acknowledge that we have all things, and we will realize that those lack nothing who have received the fullness of Christ. Indeed, it is the fullness of every good that God dwells in us through the Spirit (cf. Col 1,19)" (Commento al Vangelo di Giovanni, vol. III, Rome 1994, p. 165).

5. Let us give a last look at Isaiah's text. It presents a reflection on the "way of the just" (Is 26,7) and a declaration of adherence to the just decisions of God (cf. Is 26,8-9). The dominant image is that of the way, a classical biblical image, already used by Hosea, a prophet who lived just before Isaiah: "whoever is wise, let him understand these things ... for the ways of the Lord are right and the just walk in them, but sinners stumble in them" (Os 14,9-10).

The Canticle of Isaiah contains another theme that is also eloquent, also in its liturgical use in the Office of Lauds. Indeed, the dawn is mentioned, that is awaited after a night spent seeking God: "My soul yearns for you in the night, my spirit within me earnestly seeks you" (Is 26,9).

At daybreak, when work begins and the hum of daily life can already be heard in the city streets, the faithful must once again be resolved to walk "in the path of your judgements, O Lord" (Is 26,8), hoping in him and in his Word, our only source of peace.

Now the words of the Psalmist come to his lips, who has professed his faith since dawn: "O God, you are my God, for you I long, my soul thirsts for you ... your merciful love is better than life" (Ps 63,2 Ps 63,4 [62],2.4). His soul refreshed, he can face the new day.

I cordially welcome the new seminarians of the Pontifical Beda College. May your studies for the priesthood in Rome deepen your love of Christ and your commitment to be faithful and holy ministers of the Gospel. I also greet the Anglican Pastors taking part in a course offered by the Anglican Centre. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, especially those from England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Taiwan and the United States I invoke joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

I am pleased to welcome the priests from various nations, enrolled at the Pontifical Colleges of St Peter Apostle, St Paul Apostle and St Anselm in Rome for the completion of their studies.

Today's feast of the Guardian Angels invites us to think of these heavenly protectors whom God, in his loving providence, set beside each person.

Dear young people, let the Angels guide you, so that you will faithfully put God's commandments into practice in your life. Dear sick people, helped by your Guardian Angels, join your sufferings with those of Christ for the spiritual renewal of all society. Lastly, dear newly-weds, have frequent recourse to your Guardian Angels to make your family a place of mutual understanding and growing unity in Christ.

Wednesday 9 October 2002 - Psalm 66 £[67] - "God is offering His salvation to the whole world"

63 Ps 67

1. Now we have just heard the voice of the ancient Psalmist, who sang a joyful song of thanksgiving to the Lord. It is a brief but compelling text, which opens out on an immense horizon, to embrace in spirit all the peoples of the earth.

This universal openness probably reflects the prophetic spirit of the age that followed the Babylonian exile, when it was hoped that God would also lead foreigners to his holy mountain to fill them with joy. Their sacrifices and burnt offerings would be pleasing to him, for the temple of the Lord would become "a house of prayer for all peoples" (Is 56,7).

In our Psalm, 66 [67] too, the universal chorus of the nations is invited to join in the praise that Israel raises in the temple of Zion. Indeed, this antiphon is repeated twice: "Let the peoples praise you O God; let all the peoples praise you" (Ps 67,4-6).

2. Even those who do not belong to the community chosen by God receive a vocation from him: indeed, they are called to know the "way" revealed to Israel. The "way" is the divine plan of salvation, the kingdom of light and peace in whose realization the pagans are also involved since they are invited to listen to the voice of the Lord (cf. Ps 67,3). The result of this obedient listening is the fear of the Lord "to the ends of the earth" (Ps 67,8), an expression that does not evoke fear but rather adoring reverence for the transcendent and glorious mystery of God.

3. At the beginning and end of the psalm there is an insistent desire for the divine blessing: "May God be gracious to us and bless us, may God's face shed its light upon us ... God, our God, has blessed us. May God still give us his blessing" (Ps 67,2 Ps 67,7-8).

64 In these words it is easy to hear the echo of the famous priestly blessing which, in God's name, Moses taught Aaron and the descendants of the priestly tribe: "The Lord bless you and keep you: The Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you: the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace" (Nb 6,24-26).

Well, according to the Psalmist, this blessing of Israel was to be like a seed of grace and salvation planted in the soil of the whole world and of history, ready to sprout and become a flourishing tree.

We turn in thought to the promise the Lord made to Abraham on the day of his election: "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing ... and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves" (Gn 12,2-3).

4. In the biblical tradition, one of the effects of the divine blessing that was experienced is the gift of life, of fruitfulness and fertility.

In our Psalm there is an explict reference to this concrete reality, that is precious for existence: "The earth has yielded its fruit" (Ps 67,7). This observation has led scholars to link the Psalm with the rite of thanksgiving for an abundant harvest, the sign of divine favour and a witness for other peoples of the Lord's closeness to Israel.

The same sentence attracted the attention of the Fathers of the Church, who moved from the agricultural horizon to the symbolic perspective. Thus Origen applied the verse to the Virgin Mary and the Eucharist, that is, to Christ who came from the flower of the Virgin and becomes fruit that can be eaten. In this perspective, "the earth is the Blessed Virgin Mary, who comes from our earth, from our seed, from this mud, from this clay, from Adam". This earth has borne its fruit: what it lost in paradise, it has recovered in the Son. "The earth has borne its fruit: first it produced a flower ... then, this flower became a fruit, so that we could eat it, so that we could eat his flesh. Do you want to know what this fruit is? It is the Virgin from the Virgin, the Lord from the handmaid, God from man, the Son from the Mother, the fruit from the earth" (74 Omelie sul libro dei Salmi, Milan 1993, p. 141).

5. Let us conclude with St Augustine's words in his commentary on our Psalm. He identifies the fruit that sprouted on earth with the newness that is produced in the human being thanks to the coming of Christ, a newness of conversion, a fruit of praise to God.

Indeed, he describes "the earth as full of thorns". But "there came the hand of One rooting them up, there came a calling by His majesty and mercy, the earth began to confess; now the earth gives her fruit". Certainly, would she give her fruit "unless first she were rained on", "unless first the mercy of God had come from above?" Now we see a mature fruit in the Church thanks to the preaching of the Apostles: Then "by his sending rain through the clouds, by the sending of the Apostles and by their preaching the truth, "the earth has given her fruit' more abundantly, and that harvest has now filled the whole world" (Esposizioni sui Salmi, II, Rome, 1970, p. 551 [Exposition on the Psalms by St Augustine, Oxford 1849, vol. 3, pp. 308-309]).

The Holy Father then addressed and greeted the pilgrims and visitors in the European languages.

I extend a special greeting to the diaconate class of the Pontifical North American College: dear friends, keep your lives ever centred on Jesus Christ so that your ministry in the Church will always reflect his own self-sacrifice for the redemption of the world. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present today, especially those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Malta, the Philippines, Japan, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia and the United States of America, I invoke joy and peace in the Risen Saviour.

65 I now address a warm greeting to the young people, the sick and the newly-married couples. October, the month of the Holy Rosary, invites us to appreciate more and more this prayer that is dear to the tradition of the Christian people. I invite you, dear young people, to recite it every day. I encourage you, dear sick people, to abandon yourselves confidently into the hands of Mary, calling upon her continually with the Rosary. I urge you, dear newly-married couples, never to neglect this prayerful meditation of the mysteries of Christ, under the Virgin's gaze.

Tomorrow we will celebrate the "World Day of Sight". I express my spiritual closeness to all who are afflicted with eye diseases, and I encourage those who work for the prevention and cure of blindness to persevere in their dedication to this important activity.

Appeal for peace

At the end of the General Audience, the Holy Father appealed to the faithful to pray for peace and reconciliation in Africa, especially in Ivory Coast. Here is a translation of his appeal to pray for peace.

From the African continent, already sorely tried by disasters and wars, we continue to receive disturbing news about Ivory Coast, where the fundamental good of peace risks being compromised.

I invite you to join in my prayer that the Lord will inspire in everyone the determination for reconciliation, and that he will support the efforts of the International Community and especially those of the African Union that aim at promoting dialogue. Let us pray, singing the Our Father in Latin.

Wednesday 16 October 2002 - Signing Apostolic Letter, Year of the Rosary

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. During my recent trip to Poland, I prayed to Our Lady: "Most Holy Mother, ... obtain also for me strength in body and spirit, so that I may carry out to the end the mission given me by the Risen Lord. To you I give back all the fruits of my life and my ministry; to you I entrust the future of the Church ... in you do I trust and once more to you I declare: Totus Tuus, Maria! Totus tuus. Amen" (Mass at Shrine of Kalwaria, 19 August 2002, ORE, 21 August, p. 7).

Today I repeat the same words giving thanks to God for the twenty-four years of my service to the Church in the Chair of Peter. On this special day, I entrust anew into the hands of the Mother of God the life of the Church and that so sorely tried of humanity. To her I entrust my future. I put everything in her hands so that with a Mother's love she may present it to her Son, "for the praise of his glory" (
Ep 1,12).

2. The centre of our faith is Christ, Redeemer of the human person. Mary does not detract from him nor does she detract from his saving work. Assumed into heaven in body and soul, the Virgin Mary, the first to enjoy the fruits of the Passion and Resurrection of her own Son, is the One who in a sure way leads us to Christ, the final goal of our deeds and of our entire life. For this reason, in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte, directing to the entire Church the exhortation of Christ to "launch out into the deep", I added that "on this path the Blessed Virgin accompanies us to whom ... together with many bishops ... I entrusted the third millennium" (NM 58). Inviting believers to contemplate unceasingly the face of Christ, I desired that for everyone the teacher of such contemplation be Mary his Mother.

3. Today I intend to express this desire more clearly with two symbolic gestures. In a while I will sign the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (the Rosary of the Virgin Mary). Besides, together with this document, dedicated to the praying of the Rosary, I proclaim the year that goes from October 2002 to October 2003 "the Year of the Rosary". I do so not only because this year is the 25th year of my Pontificate, but also because there occurs the 120th anniversary of the Encyclical Supremi apostolatus officio of 1 September 1883 with which my venerable Predecessor, Pope Leo XIII began the publication of a series of documents dedicated to the Rosary. There is still another reason. In the history of the Great Jubilees there existed the happy custom, after the Jubilee Year dedicated to Christ and to the work of the Redemption, of dedicating a year in honour of Mary imploring her to make fruitful the graces received.

4. For the rigorous but very rich work of contemplating the face of Christ along with Mary, is there a better way than the praying of the Rosary? However, we need to rediscover the mystical depth contained in the simplicity of this prayer, so much loved by popular tradition. This Marian prayer in its structure is in effect above all meditation on the mysteries of the life and work of Christ.

Repeating the invocation of the "Hail Mary", we can deepen our comprehension of the essential events of the mission of the Son of God on earth, that have been passed down to us by the Gospel and by Tradition. So that such a synthesis of the Gospel might be more complete and offer greater inspiration, in the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae I decided to add another set of five mysteries to those already contemplated in the Rosary and I have called them "mysteries of light".

They cover the public life of the Lord from his Baptism in the Jordan to the beginning of his Passion. This suggestion has the goal of expanding the horizon of the Rosary so that it may be possible for those who recite it with devotion and not mechanically, to go more deeply into the content of the Good News and to conform their lives more to that of Christ.

5. I thank those who are present and those who on this special day are spiritually united with me. Thank you for your kindness and, especially, for the assurance of your constant support in prayer. I entrust this document on the Rosary to the Pastors and the faithful of the world. The Year of the Rosary, that we will observe together will certainly produce good fruit in the hearts of all, it will renew and intensify the work of grace of the Great Jubilee Year 2000 and will be a source of peace for the world.

May Mary, Queen of the Holy Rosary, whom we now see depicted in the venerable image honoured at Pompei, lead her children of the Church to the fullness of union with Christ in his glory.

The Holy Father greeted the pilgrims in the major European languages.

To the English-speaking

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors from England, Scotland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Australia, the Philippines, Japan and the United States of America. Commending you and your families to the Blessed Virgin Mary, I invoke upon you joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

To Italians

67 I greet those participating in the General Assembly of the Focolare Movement accompanied by the Foundress, Chiara Lubich. Dearly beloved, I thank you for your presence and I entrust to you the mission of taking my cordial greeting to all those who belong to the movement. I am grateful for the support of your prayer and for the warmth with which you always accompany me on my apostolic mission on the highways of the world.

I also give a warm welcome to the Italian pilgrims. Particularly, with affection I greet Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino of Pompei and the many pilgrims who wished to bring here the venerable image of Our Lady honoured in that famous shrine, founded by Blessed Bartolo Longo, apostle of the Rosary. God willing, I hope to return to Pompei to venerate again the image of Our Lady. From that sanctuary, built near the ruins of the ancient Roman city that was barely touched by the preaching of the Gospel, before the eruption of Vesuvius destroyed it, the invitation to pray the Rosary takes on a symbolic value as the expression of a renewed dedication of Christians to the new evangelization of a world that has in many ways become pagan again....

To young people, the sick and newly-weds

I greet the young people, the sick and newly-weds. May the prayer of the Rosary said every day with faith and devotion, help you to experience in your lives the centrality of the mystery of Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, and, alongside him, the motherly tenderness of Mary.

To Polish People

I greet my cities Wadowice and Krakow and my fellow countrymen in Poland and abroad on this special day, 16 October. I thank you for accompaning me faithfully in these 24 years. I hope that you will continue to support me in my service to the Roman and universal Church. I count on it a great deal. God bless you.