Wednesday, 17 September 2003 - Reflection on the recent Apostolic Journey to Slovakia


Faithful to Christ and Church!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Today I would like to reflect with you on the Apostolic Visit that I had the joy of making to Slovakia last week. I thank the Lord who enabled me to visit that noble country for the third time. I once again express my gratitude to all those who welcomed me with such warmth. I first thank my venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, the President of the Republic and the other Authorities, as well as all those who saw to every aspect of my stay in that country.

2. Faithful to Christ and to the Church: this is the characteristic that Slovakia has revealed down through history. By going there in person, I wanted to strengthen Slovakia in this fidelity as it starts out confidently towards the future. I admired with pleasure the economic and social development that has been achieved in recent years. I am sure that the Slovak people, on entering the European Union, will also know how to make their own effective contribution to building Europe at the level of values. Thanks be to God, in fact, they possess a rich spiritual heritage which, despite the harsh persecution of the past, they have been able to keep intact. An eloquent proof of this is the promising flourishing, found here today, of Christian life and of vocations to the priesthood and to the Religious life. I pray that this beloved Nation will continue confidently in this direction.

3. The first stop on my pilgrimage was the visit to the Cathedral of Trnava, the mother church of the Archdiocese of Bratislava-Trnava. At that church, dedicated to St John the Baptist, I asked Christians to be ever more fearless Gospel witnesses.

The following days were centred on beautiful and evocative Eucharistic Celebrations, with carefully prepared liturgies and songs and intensely devout participation on the part of the Christian people. The first celebration took place in Banská Bystrica Square, in the heart of the Country. Commenting on the Gospel of the Annunciation, I stressed the need, starting with the family, to foster a mature freedom.This is the only way to be able to respond to God's call, after the example of the Virgin Mary.

While in Banská Bystrica, I met the members of the Bishops' Conference of Slovakia. I encouraged them to persevere in the immense task of nurturing Christian life, after the dark years of isolation and of the Communist dictatorship.

4. I then went to Roznava, the capital of an agricultural region. In this context, the Parable of the Sower was particularly eloquent. Yes! The Word of God is a seed of new life. Addressing the farm workers in particular, I emphasized the importance of their contribution to building the Nation. However, they must remain soundly rooted in their age-old Christian tradition. Also in Roznava, I was granted to greet a large Hungarian-speaking community.

The last and most important stage of my Apostolic Journey was in the capital, Bratislava. During a solemn Holy Mass, I had the joy of beatifying two children of that land: Bishop Vasil' Hopko and Sr Zdenka Cecilia Schelingová, victims of the atrocious persecutions of the Communist regime in the 1950s; both of them were 20th-century witnesses of the faith, raised to the honour of the altars on the very day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. They remind us that in the dramatic hours of suffering, the Slovak people found strength and hope in the Cross of Christ: O Crux, ave spes unica!

5. Our Lady of Sorrows was a support for the Church in Slovakia and is her principal Patroness. United to her as she stood next to her Son on Calvary, our Slovak brethren in our day too intend to stay faithful to Christ and to the Church. May the Sorrowful Virgin protect Slovakia, so that it may jealously guard the Gospel, the most precious good, in order to proclaim and to witness to it with holiness of life.

God bless you, dear Slovakia! Thank you for your love for the Church and for the Successor of Peter!

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors

I offer greetings to the English-speaking visitors present today, especially those from England, Scotland, Ireland, India, Australia and the United States. Upon all of you I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

To young people, the sick and newly-weds

My thoughts go lastly to the young people, the sick people and the newly-weds.
May friendship with Jesus be for you, dear young people, a cause of inspiration for every demanding decision; for you, dear sick people, may it be a support in moments of suffering; and for you, dear newly-weds, may it spur you to live up to your family vocation.

Wednesday, 24 September 2003

On Wednesday, 24 September, illness prevented the Holy Father from conducting the General Audience. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State, standing in for the Pope, informed the faithful accordingly and read the Holy Father's Catechesis to them, while the Pope watched the proceedings on television. At the conclusion, a television link-up with Castel Gandolfo enabled the Holy Father to express his disappointment over not attending the Audience in person, and to impart his final blessing to the pilgrims present.

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

Due to an indisposition, the Holy Father is unable to be present at this General Audience. Let us pray for him together, confident that he will make a speedy recovery.

For his part, the Pope wants you to know that he is watching us on television, and at the end of this meeting, he will be connected via a television link-up so that he can speak to us. Let us thank him straightaway.

I will now read the text, as the Pope has requested, which he had prepared for this meeting, a commentary on Psalm 8 that extols the greatness of the Lord and the dignity of the human being. Here is the text of the Pope's Message:

Psalm 8 - O Lord, our Lord!

1. In meditating on Psalm 8, a wonderful hymn of praise, we come to the end of our long journey through the Psalms and Canticles that make up the prayerful heart of the Liturgy of Lauds. In these catecheses, we have reflected on 84 biblical prayers whose spiritual intensity we have especially tried to emphasize, without overlooking their poetic beauty.

Indeed, the Bible invites us to start our day with a hymn that not only proclaims the marvels wrought by God and our response of faith, but celebrates them with "music" (cf.
Ps 47,8 [46]), that is, in a beautiful, luminous way, gentle and strong at the same time.

Psalm 8 is the most splendid example of all; in it, man, engulfed in night, feels like a grain of sand compared to infinity and the boundless space that arches above him, when the moon rises and the stars begin to twinkle in the vast expanse of the heavens (cf. Ps 8,4).

2. In fact, in the middle of Psalm 8, a twofold experience is described. On the one hand, the human person feels almost overwhelmed by the grandeur of creation, "the work of the divine fingers". This curious phrase replaces the "works of the hands" of God (cf. Ps 8,7), as if to suggest that the Creator had traced a drawing or an embroidery with the shining stars, casting them over the immensity of the firmament.

Yet on the other hand, God bends down to man and crowns him as his viceroy: "you crown him with glory and honour" (Ps 8,6). Indeed, he entrusts the whole universe to this frail creature, so that he may draw from it knowledge and the means for his survival (cf. Ps 8,7-9).

The horizon of man's dominion over the other creatures is specified, as it were, recalling the opening page of Genesis: flocks, herds, the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea were entrusted to man so that in giving them a name (cf. Gn 2,19-20), he might discover their profound reality, respect it and transform it through work, perfecting it so that it might become a source of beauty and of life. The Psalm makes us aware of our greatness, but also of our responsibility for creation (cf. Sg 9,3).

3. Reinterpreting Psalm 8, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews discovered in it a deeper understanding of God's plan for humankind. The human vocation cannot be restricted to the "here and now" of the earthly world; if the Psalmist says that God has put all things under man's feet, this means that he also wants him to subdue "the world to come" (He 2,5), the "kingdom that cannot be shaken" (He 12,28). In short, man's call is a "heavenly call" (He 3,1). God wants "[to bring] to glory" in heaven "many sons" (He 2,10). In order for this divine plan to take place, God had to trace out the life of "a pioneer" (cf. ibid. He 2,10), in which the human vocation could find its first complete fulfilment. This pioneer is Christ.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews remarked on this subject that the Psalm's words apply in a privileged way to Christ, that is, more specifically to him than to other men. In fact, the Psalmist uses the verb "to make less", saying to God: "you made him for a little while lower than the angels, you crowned him with glory and honour" (cf. Ps 8,6 He 2,6). For ordinary people this verb is inappropriate: they have not been "made lower" than the angels since they were never above them.

70 Instead, for Christ it is the right verb, because he was above the angels as the Son of God, and was made lower when he became man; then he was crowned with glory in his Resurrection. Thus, Christ fulfilled completely the vocation of man and, the author explains, he has done this "for every one" (He 2,9).

4. In this light, St Ambrose comments on the Psalm and applies it to us. He starts with the sentence that describes the "crowning" of man: "you crown him with glory and honour" (Ps 8,6). He sees in that glory, however, the reward that the Lord keeps in store for us, when we shall have overcome the test of temptation.

These are the words of this great Father of the Church in his Expositio Evangelii secundum Lucam [Exposition of the Gospel according to Luke]: "The Lord has also crowned his beloved with glory and magnificence. That God who desires to distribute crowns, procures temptations: thus, when you are tempted, know that he is preparing a crown for you. Abolish the heroic fight of the martyrs and you will abolish their crowns; abolish their suffering and you will abolish their blessedness" (cf. IV, 41: SAEMO 12, pp. 330-333).

God weaves that "crown of righteousness" for us (2Tm 4,8) as the reward for our fidelity to him which we were able to preserve, even when storms batter our heart and mind. But in all seasons he is attentive to his beloved creature and wants the divine "image" to shine perpetually in him (cf. Gn 1,26), so as to radiate a sign of harmony, light and peace in the world.

After the Catechesis, officials of the Secretariat of State summarized the homily in various languages and read the greetings prepared by the Holy Father to the pilgrims present.

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, India, Indonesia, Australia, Canada, the Philippines and the United States of America. Upon all of you I cordially invoke joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

To young people, the sick and newly-weds

As is customary, my thoughts now go to the young people, the sick and the newly-weds. Dear young people, may you always be faithful to the Gospel ideal and carry it out in your daily activities. May you, dear sick people, entrust yourselves each day to the grace of the Lord to find strength in your trials. And may you, dear newly-weds, open your hearts to divine love, so that it may give vibrance to your family life.

The Holy Father then imparted his final blessing to the faithful, broadcast live on television from Castel Gandolfo.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I address my cordial greeting to you all. I am sorry that I was unable to be with you for our customary weekly meeting. I carry you all in my heart, and I bless you with affection.

Following John Paul II's Blessing via radio-television link-up, Cardinal Sodano greeted the Bishops, the sick and the faithful.

                                                                                  October 2003

Wednesday, 1 October 2003 - Benedictus

1. Having reached the end of our long journey through the Psalms and Canticles of the Liturgy of Lauds, let us pause to consider the prayer that marks the Office of Lauds every morning. It is the Benedictus, the Canticle intoned by Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, when the birth of that son changed his life, wiping away the doubt that caused him to go mute, a serious punishment for his lack of faith and praise.

Now, instead, Zechariah can celebrate God who saves him, and he does so with this hymn, set down by Luke the Evangelist in a form that undoubtedly reflects the liturgical usage current in the original Christian community (cf.
Lc 1,68-79).

The Evangelist himself describes it as a prophetic hymn, inspired by the breath of the Holy Spirit (cf. Lc 1,67). Indeed, we have before us a benediction proclaiming the saving actions and liberation offered by the Lord to his people. Thus, it is a "prophetic" interpretation of history, the discovery of the intimate, profound meaning of all human events that are guided by the hidden but active hand of the Lord which clasps the more feeble and hesitant hands of men and women.

2. The text is solemn and, in the original Greek, is composed of only two sentences (cf. Lc 1,68-75 Lc 76-79). After the introduction, marked by the benediction of praise, we can identify in the body of the Canticle, as it were, three strophes that exalt the same number of themes, destined to mark the whole history of salvation: the covenant with David (cf. Lc 1,68-71), the covenant with Abraham (cf. Lc 1,72-75) and the Baptist who brings us into the new Covenant in Christ (cf. Lc 1,76-79). Indeed, the tension of the whole prayer is a yearning for the goal that David and Abraham indicate with their presence.

It culminates in one of the last lines: "The day shall dawn upon us from on high..." (Lc 1,78). This phrase, which at first sight seems paradoxical with its association of "dawn" and "on high", is actually full of meaning.

72 3. Indeed, in the original Greek, the "rising sun" is anatolč, a word which in itself means both the light of the sun that shines on our planet and a new shoot that sprouts. Both these images have messianic value in the biblical tradition.

On the one hand, Isaiah reminds us, speaking of the Emmanuel, that "the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined" (
Is 9,1). On the other, referring once again to the king-Emmanuel, he describes him as the "shoot from the stump of Jesse", that is, from the house of David, a shoot upon which the Spirit of the Lord was to rest (cf. Is 11,1-2).

With Christ, therefore, appears the light that enlightens every creature (cf. Jn 1,9) and makes life flourish, as John the Evangelist was to say, combining the two realities: "in him was life, and the life was the light of men" (Jn 1,4).

4. Humanity that was engulfed "in darkness and in the shadow of death" is illumined by this dazzling revelation (cf. Lc 1,79). As the Prophet Malachi had announced: "For you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays" (Ml 3,20). This sun "guides our feet into the way of peace" (Lc 1,79).

So let us move on, taking that light as our reference point; and may our faltering steps which, during the day, often stray to dark and slippery paths, be sustained by the light of the truth that Christ spreads in the world and in history.

At this point, let us listen to a teacher of the Church, one of her Doctors, the Englishman Venerable Bede (seventh-eighth centuries). In his Homily for the Birth of St John the Baptist he commented on the Canticle of Zechariah as follows: "The Lord... has visited us as a doctor visits the sick, because to heal the deep-rooted sickness of our pride, he gave us the new example of his humility; he redeemed his people, for at the price of his blood he set us free when we had become servants of sin and slaves of the ancient enemy.... Christ found us lying "in darkness and in the shadow of death', that is, oppressed by the long-lasting blindness of sin and ignorance.... He brought to us the true light of his knowledge, and banishing the darkness of error, he has shown us the sure way to the heavenly homeland. He has directed the steps of our actions to make us walk on the path of truth, which he has pointed out to us, and to enable us to enter the home of eternal peace, which he has promised us".

5. Lastly, drawing from other biblical texts, the Venerable Bede concluded, giving thanks for the gifts received: "Given that we are in possession of these gifts of eternal bounty, dear brethren... let us also praise the Lord at all times (cf. Ps 34,2 [33]), for "he has visited and redeemed his people'.

May praise be always on our lips, let us cherish his memory and in turn, proclaim the virtue of the One who has "called you [us] out of darkness into his marvellous light' (1P 2,9). Let us ceaselessly ask his help, so that he may preserve in us the light of the knowledge that he brought to us, and lead us onwards to the day of perfection" (Omelie sul Vangelo, Rome, 1990, pp. 464-465).


To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors

I offer greetings to the English-speaking visitors present today, especially those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Canada and the United States. I am pleased to offer a warm welcome and express my appreciation to the members of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums, accompanied by His Eminence Cardinal Szoka. Upon all of you I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

To young people, the sick and newly-weds

I then address an affectionate thought to the young people, to the sick and to the newly-weds. On this very day October begins, a month that has special importance in this year that is dedicated to the Holy Rosary. I invite you, dear young people, dear sick people and dear newly-weds, to recite with devotion this prayer that is so dear to the tradition of the Christian people. Abandon yourselves confidently in the hands of Mary, ceaselessly calling upon her with the Rosary, a prayerful meditation of the mysteries of Christ.

Wednesday, 8 October 2003 - The origins of the Liturgy of Vespers and the symbolism of light


1. Since "every day of our pilgrimage on earth is a gift ever new" of God's love (Preface for Sundays in Ordinary Time, VI), the Church has always felt the need to devote the days and hours of human life to divine praise. Thus, for Christians, sunrise and sunset, characteristically religious moments for every people and formerly made sacred in the biblical tradition of offering a burnt sacrifice in the morning and evening (cf.
Ex 29,38-39) and of burning incense (cf. Ex 30,6-8), have been two special times of prayer since the earliest centuries.

Sunrise and sunset are not anonymous moments in the day. They have unmistakable features: the joyful beauty of dawn and the triumphant splendour of sunset follow the cosmic rhythms that deeply involve human life. Furthermore, the mystery of salvation that is actuated in history has moments linked to various phases of time. So it is that together with the celebration of Lauds at daybreak, the celebration of Vespers at nightfall gradually became a regular practice in the Church. Both these Liturgical Hours have an evocative charge of their own that recalls the two essential aspects of the paschal mystery: "In the evening the Lord is on the Cross, in the morning, he rises to new life.... In the evening I relate the sufferings he bore in dying; in the morning I proclaim the life that dawns from him anew" (St Augustine, Expositions on the Psalms, [Esposizioni sui Salmi] XXVI, Rome, 1971, p. 109).

Precisely because they are associated with the memory of the death and Resurrection of Christ, the two Hours, Lauds and Vespers, constitute, "by the venerable tradition of the universal Church,... the two hinges on which the daily office turns" (Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium SC 89a).

2. In antiquity, the lighting of the oil lamp after sunset brought a note of joy and communion to the home. In lighting the lamp at dusk, the Christian community also prayed with gratitude in their hearts for the gift of spiritual light. This was the so-called "lucernarium" - that is, the ritual lighting of the lamp whose flame is the symbol of Christ, "the Sun that never sets".

Indeed, Christians also know that at nightfall God brightens the darkness of night with the radiance of his presence and the light of his teachings. In this regard, we should remember the very ancient lamp-lighting hymn, Fôs Hilarón, that is part of the Armenian and Ethiopian Byzantine liturgies: "Joyful light of the Holy Glory of the Father, immortal, heavenly, holy, blessed, O Jesus Christ! Now that we have reached the sunset and gazed upon the light of the evening, let us sing praises to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, God. It is right to praise you always and at all times with harmonious voices, O Son of God, you who give life to us: thus, the universe proclaims your glory". The West also composed many hymns celebrating Christ the Light.

Drawing inspiration from the symbolism of light, the prayer of Vespers developed as an evening sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for the gift of physical and spiritual light, and for the other gifts of the Creation and the Redemption. St Cyprian writes: "The sun has set and, with the dying day, once again we need to pray. Indeed, since Christ is the true Sun, let us pray while the sun sets and the day fades in this world, imploring that the light shine on us anew; and let us call for the coming of Christ who will bring us the grace of eternal light" (De Oratione Dominica, 35: PL 4, 560).

3. The evening is a favourable time for reviewing our day before God in prayer. It is the time "to give thanks for what has been given to us or for what we have been able to do with rectitude" (St Basil, Regulae Fusius Tractatae, Resp. 37, 3: PG 3,1015). It is also the time to ask forgiveness for all the evil we have done, imploring divine mercy to obtain that Christ return with his radiance to our hearts.

74 Yet the arrival of evening also suggests the "mysterium noctis". Twilight is perceived as a time of frequent temptations, of particular weakness and of succumbing to the onslaught of the Evil One. Night, with its hazards, becomes the symbol par excellence of all the wickedness from which Christ came to set us free. On the other hand, at every nightfall, prayer allows us to share in the Easter mystery in which "night is clear as day" (Exultet). So it is that prayer makes hope flourish, the hope of passing from our ephemeral day into the dies perennis, from uncertain lamplight to the lux perpetua, from our watchful expectation of dawn, to the encounter with the King of eternal glory.

4. For the ancients even more than for us, the succession of night and day regulated life, generating thought on the great problems of life. Modern progress has partly changed the relationship between human life and cosmic time, but its rapid pace has not completely removed the people of today from the rhythms of the solar cycle.

Consequently, the two fulcra of daily prayer have kept their full value, for they are tied to unchanging phenomena and vivid symbols. The morning and evening are always appropriate times to devote to prayer, both in the company of others and in private. Linked to the important moments of our life and work, the Hours of Lauds and Vespers thus prove an effective orientation for our daily journey, guiding it to Christ, "the light of the world" (
Jn 8,12).

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors

I am pleased to offer special greetings today to the deacon candidates from the Pontifical North American College and their family members. May the light of Christ always shine brightly in your lives! Upon all the English-speaking visitors present, especially those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Nigeria, Indonesia, Taiwan, Korea and the United States of America, I invoke the grace and peace of the Lord Jesus.

To young people, the sick and newly-weds

I then address an affectionate thought to the young people, to the sick and to the newly-weds.

The Holy Father then mentioned his visit to Pompei the previous day.

I thank Our Lady who gave me the opportunity to pay a visit to the Shrine dedicated to her in Pompei yesterday.

Wednesday, 15 October 2003 - Vespers, Prayer of Sunset

Structure of Evening Prayer in the Roman rite

1. We know from numerous testimonies that from the fourth century onwards Lauds and Vespers had become an established institution in all the great Eastern and Western Churches. This is borne out by St Ambrose: "Just as every day, in going to church or devoting ourselves to prayer at home, we start from God and end in him, so the entire day of our life here below and the course of every single day always starts from him and ends in him" (De Abraham, II, 5, 22).

Just as Lauds is prayed at daybreak, so Vespers is prayed close to sunset, at the hour when, in the temple of Jerusalem, the burnt offering was made with incense. At that hour, after his death on the Cross, Jesus was lying in the tomb, having offered himself to the Father for the salvation of the world.

The various Churches, following their respective traditions, organized the Divine Office in accordance with their own rites. Here, let us consider the Roman rite.

2. The invocation Deus in adiutorium in the first verse of Psalm 69 opens the prayer that St Benedict prescribes for every Hour. The verse recalls that the grace to praise God as befits him can come only from God. The "Glory be to the Father" follows, because the glorification of the Trinity expresses the essential approach of Christian prayer. Finally, except in Lent, the Alleluia is added. This Hebrew word means "Praise the Lord" and, for Christians, it has become a joyful manifestation of faith in the protection that God reserves for his people.

The singing of the Hymn is vibrant with the reasons for the Church's praise in prayer, evoking with poetic inspiration the mysteries wrought for the salvation of man at the hour of Vespers and, in particular, the sacrificial work of Christ on the Cross.

3. The Psalmody of Vespers consists of two Psalms suitable for this hour and of a canticle from the New Testament. The typology of the Psalms for Vespers displays various nuances. There are Psalms that deal with the ritual lighting of the lamp in which "evening", the "lamp" or "light" are explicitly mentioned; Psalms that express trust in God, the stable refuge in the precariousness of human life; Psalms of thanksgiving and praise; Psalms from which flow the eschatological meaning suggested by the end of the day; and others with a sapiential character or penitential tones. We also find Psalms of the Hallel, with a reference to the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples. In the Latin Church, elements have been handed down that facilitate the understanding of the Psalms and their Christian interpretation, such as the themes, the psalm prayers and especially the antiphons (cf. Principles and Norms for the Liturgy of the Hours, nn. 110-120).

The brief Reading at Vespers that is taken from the New Testament has an important place. Its purpose is to propose some sentences from the Bible forcefully and effectively, and impress them on hearts so that they will be expressed in practice (cf. ibid., nn. 45, 156, 172). To make it easier to interiorize what has been heard, the Reading is followed by an appropriate silence and by a Responsorial whose function is to "respond" to the message of the Reading with the singing of some verses, fostering their warm acceptance by those taking part in the prayer.

4. The Gospel Canticle of the Blessed Virgin Mary is chanted (cf.
Lc 1,46-55) with great honour and introduced by the sign of the Cross. Already attested by the Rule of St Benedict (chapters RB 12 and RB 17), the custom of singing the Benedictus at Lauds and the Magnificat at Vespers "is confirmed by the age-old and popular tradition of the Roman Church" (Principles and Norms for the Liturgy of the Hours, n. 50). In fact, these Canticles are exemplary for their expression of the sense of praise and thanksgiving to God for his gift of Redemption.

In the community celebration of the Divine Office, the gesture of incensing the altar, the priest and the people while the Gospel Canticles are being sung, is reminiscent - in light of the Hebrew tradition of offering incense morning and evening on the altar of incense - of the sacrificial character of the "sacrifice of praise" expressed in the Liturgy of the Hours. Surrounding Christ in prayer, may we be able to live personally what is said in the Letter to the Hebrews: "Through him, then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name" (He 13,15; cf. Ps 50,14 Ps 50,23 [49];Os 14,2).

76 5. After the Canticle, the Intercessions addressed to the Father or, sometimes, to Christ, express the supplicant voice of the Church which is mindful of God's solicitude for humanity, the work of his hands. The character of the Intercessions at Evening Prayer is, in fact, a petition for divine help: for people of every class, for the Christian community and for civil society. Lastly comes the remembrance of deceased faithful.

The liturgy of Vespers is crowned in Jesus' prayer, the Our Father, which sums up all the praise and all the petitions of God's children, reborn from water and the Spirit. At the end of the day, Christian tradition has connected the forgiveness implored from God in the Our Father and the brotherly reconciliation of men with one another: the sun must never go down on anyone's anger (cf.
Ep 4,26).

The prayer of Vespers concludes with a Prayer which, in harmony with the crucified Christ, expresses the entrustment of our lives into the hands of the Father, knowing that his blessing will never be lacking.

To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors

I offer a warm welcome to the Sisters of St Joseph of Chambéry celebrating their General Chapter. My greeting also goes to the Delegation of Paramount Chiefs from Sierra Leone, and to the members of the Euro-American Urological Association. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, Canada and the United States, I cordially invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus.

To special persons, with a closing thought

I hope that you, dear young people, sick people and newly-weds, will imitate the example of St Teresa of Avila, whose Memorial we are celebrating today: strive, like her, to live your Christian vocation authentically.

Lastly, I would like to express my gratitude to you all for your good wishes and for the reassurance of your prayers for the 25th Anniversary of my Pontificate. I invite Romans and pilgrims to join me here in St Peter's Square, at six o'clock tomorrow evening, to praise the Lord and thank him on this happy occasion.
Appeal for prayer for the people of Bolivia

The news from Bolivia where a serious crisis is causing death and injuries is giving rise to deep concern.

I would like to express my spiritual solidarity to those who are suffering, as I ask everyone to pray that the Lord will inspire the parties involved to give priority to civil dialogue and to seek just solutions, with respect for the law, to the problems that are afflicting the country.