S. John Paul II Homil. 716


Fourth Sunday of Easter, 20 April 1997

1. “I am the good shepherd” (Jn 10,11).

Today, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, “Good Shepherd Sunday”, I have the joy of ordaining 31 new priests trained in Rome’s diocesan seminaries. This is a happy custom which fits well in the liturgical and spiritual context of this day dedicated to prayer for vocations. As I give thanks to the Lord for the gift of the priesthood, dear brothers and sisters, I would like to pause and consider with you what Christ says about the good shepherd.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (ibid.). How can we fail to see in these words an implicit reference to the mystery of the Lord’s Death and Resurrection? “I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord, and I have power to take it again” (Jn 10,17-18). Christ freely offered himself on the Cross and rose by virtue of his own divine power. Therefore the allegory of the good shepherd has a strongly paschal character and for this reason the Church proposes it for our reflection during this Easter season.

717 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father” (Jn 10,14-15). From the mystery of God's eternal knowledge, from the intimacy of Trinitarian love spring the priesthood and the pastoral mission of Christ, who says: “I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd” (Jn 10,15-16). Christ’s pastoral mission is a universal mission, which is not limited to the sons and daughters of Israel, but, by virtue of his sacrifice on the Cross, embraces all men and all peoples.

2. By attentively reading this Gospel passage, we discover that it is an evocative summary of the theology of Christ’s priesthood and of the ministerial priesthood which you, beloved deacons, are preparing to receive. You are called, like the Good Shepherd, to give your life by leading the Christian people to salvation. You must imitate Christ, becoming his courageous witnesses and tireless ministers of his Gospel.

Dear ordinands, I greet you with affection. I greet all those who guided you on your formative journey in the various seminaries of Rome; I greet your families and the Christian communities in which your vocation developed, as well as your friends who share the joy of your priestly ordination today.

The priestly vocation is a call to the pastoral ministry, that is, to the service of Christ’s flock: a service that you are about to undertake in the Diocese of Rome and in other particular Churches. The Christian community is praying for you today, so that the “great shepherd of the sheep” (He 13,20) may impart to you that total love which is indispensable for the pastors of the Church.

What we heard in the Gospel about Christ the Good Shepherd becomes at this moment a unanimous invocation to the heavenly Father to imbue you with Christ's love and generous dedication. “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn 10,11).

3. Dear deacons, you must make these words a living experience in every task and circumstance of your priestly life. It will be necessary to draw from them the light and strength that are indispensable for your priestly ministry.

May you be supported by the prayer of the Christian community, which is particularly intense in this liturgy, prayer that is joined to your trusting supplication, expressed by the moving rite of prostrating on the floor while the Litany of the Saints is being sung. The Church asks not only for the grace of the sacrament of the priesthood for you, but also for sanctification, so that you, in turn, can sanctify others. This is a decisive moment in your lives, which will remain imprinted on your minds and hearts for ever, as it does for every priest.

I also cherish a living and moving memory of this great prayer of supplication which precedes the culminating moment of ordination, when the Bishop lays his hands on the ordinand, pronounces the prayer of consecration and, through this ancient liturgical gesture which dates back to the Apostles, transmits to him the sacramental power of the priesthood, introducing him into the Church’s “presbyterium”. The hymn Veni Creator accompanies this solemn moment, a hymn in which we invoke the Holy Spirit, who is the Lord and Giver of life, that he may come and transfigure with his light and power all we accomplish in our human weakness.

Veni Creator Spiritus,
Mentes tuorum visita,
Imple superna gratia,
718 Quae tu creasti pectora”.

Come , O Creator, Spirit blest,
And in our souls take up your rest;
Come with your grace and heavenly uaid,
To fill the hearts which you have umade”.

4. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (
Ps 117 [118]:26). Through the words of the responsorial psalm we have just sung, this Sunday's liturgy continues to show us the mystery of the risen Christ. It is a hymn of thanksgiving; we praise and thank God for he is good: his steadfast love endures for ever (cf. Ps Ps 117 [118]:1). We give him thanks because he has heard our petitions and has become our salvation (cf. Ps Ps 117 [118]:21). We exalt him above all for Christ, who in his Death and Resurrection became the cornerstone of the divine building (cf. Ps Ps 117 [118]:22). The Church is built on him, and the royal priesthood of every baptized person and still more the ministerial priesthood of presbyters is founded on him.

The words of this psalm bring us into the Eucharistic mystery, which from this moment and for all the days of your lives will be your particular portion and your spiritual gift.

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”! All of us, Bishops and priests, when celebrating the divine sacrifice, repeat this invocation at the time of the Sanctus and immediately before the consecration. Thus we welcome Christ who daily becomes present on the altar, as he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, to offer the sacrifice of Redemption. When in his name, in persona Christi Capitis, we pronounce the words of consecration spoken by him in the Upper Room, it is always the same Christ who makes the sacrifice of the Cross present through our ministry.

Sacerdos alter Christus! Think, minister of the altar, think, priest of Christ, what a great mystery becomes your portion and inheritance! What great mercy has been lavished upon you! Ask God to be able to respond with total love to his infinite love.

May the Blessed Virgin Mary, who beneath the Cross was united to the sacrifice of her Son, and was given to us by him as our Mother, help and protect you with her intercession, so that you may be the faithful image of the Good Shepherd among your brothers and sisters.







Saturday, 26 April 1997

1. Veni Creator Spiritus! The readings which we have listened to, dear young people, speak of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.According to the Gospel of John, this took place first of all on the very day of the Resurrection. Christ appears in the Upper Room where the disciples have shut themselves in and, after revealing himself to them, says this to them: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (
Jn 20,22-23)

What takes place at Pentecost, fifty days after the Resurrection, will be the confirmation and public manifestation of this outpouring on the evening of Easter Day. The Apostles together with the Mother of Jesus await this moment gathered in prayer, as the first reading has reminded us. (cf. Acts Ac 1,13-14). They know that that event will bring a change in their lives and mission. And in effect, the experience of Pentecost marks the beginning of the mission of the Church, which from that moment publicly manifests herself and begins to proclaim the Gospel.

The Church knows that she was born by the power of the Holy Spirit: just as Christ was born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, so too the Church has at her beginning the life-giving power of the Spirit. And it is for this reason that she does not cease to pray: "Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth" (cf. Psalm Ps 104,30).

2. Ever since the day of Pentecost the work of salvation accomplished by Christ has found, through the Church, ever new ways of spreading throughout the world. In the ninth century, the Gospel, proclaimed by the Holy Brothers from Salonika, Cyril and Methodius, reached your land, Great Moravia, and also the neighbouring Slav nations, finding there fertile soil. Your ancestors accepted Christianity from the "Apostles to the Slavs" and became apostles themselves. Thus for example the baptism of Poland is linked to the apostolic activity of the neighbouring Czechs.

From Bohemia too comes Saint Adalbert, of the great Bohemian stock of the Slavniks, whose cradle was here, in the territory of the Diocese of Hradec Králové, where we are meeting. With today's Celebration we thank God, on the occasion of the millennium of Saint Adalbert, for his mission and for the witness which he bore to Christ even to the point of sacrificing his life.

3. Dear young people of the Dioceses of the Czech Republic! Young friends from other countries of Europe! Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood who have accompanied them here! Men and women religious, and all of you dear faithful people here present! I cordially greet you in this marvellous square, over which rises the Cathedral, the only one dedicated to the Holy Spirit, as dear Bishop Karel Otcenášek of this Diocese loves to remind people; and with our long-standing friendship which he knows so well I thank him for the cordial words he has addressed to me.

I wish to offer a special word of thanks also to the citizens of Hradec Králové for the great sense of hospitality which they have shown me on this occasion, giving up their places in the middle of the square to the young people from the various parts of the country who have come for this meeting dedicated to them. To all the faithful of the Diocese I owe a word of special appreciation for the generosity with which they have contributed, often at the cost of notable sacrifices, to the construction of the "Centre for New Evangelization and Inculturation" promoted by the Bishops. I am certain that they will also continue to support its effective functioning.

But let us come back to you, the young people. In the context of the celebrations in honour of Saint Adalbert, this is your day, dear young people, and I am happy to see you here in such great numbers. Two years ago, in May 1995, I was with many of you at Svatý Kopecek.I still remember with joy that meeting, at which I commented on the "Our Father": one of the nicest gatherings of young people I have ever taken part in. A few months later there was the pilgrimage of young people to Loreto, where many of you came with your Bishops. Your representatives also took part in the world meetings in Denver and Manila.

I greet you all with affection. A special thought goes to those who have not been able to be here with us. Particularly to you, young people who are ill and who are offering up your sufferings for your neighbour. And a special thought to you, young cloistered sisters who have chosen the contemplative life and pray so much for the people of your own age.

4. "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (Jn 20,21). Adalbert heard these words as though addressed to him personally. As the first Bishop of Prague of Bohemian blood, at the end of the first millennium, he was heir to the traditions of holiness of the martyrs who had gone before him, especially Ludmilla and Wenceslaus.At the same time he looked towards the future: he spared no effort for the spiritual rebirth of Prague and the homeland, sustained by ardent faith in Christ.

720 He fought for truth. He did not accept that the spirit of the time should stifle truth. This is what he lived for, and he was determined not to give way to any pressure from the society of his time. On the threshold of the third millennium, of which you young people will be the first protagonists, Saint Adalbert stands before you as a dauntless witness to faith. Looking to him you will be able to find inspiration and light to meet with courage the challenges of the present moment.

He teaches you openness to others through the generous gift of yourselves. You have great aspirations to freedom and fullness of life: none of this can be attained by a selfish search after personal advantage, but only in openness to love. The vocation to love is your fundamental vocation. Jesus is calling you to walk this path: say yes to him, as Saint Adalbert did. By overcoming the stifling limits of selfishness through the power of love of Christ, you will be the builders of the new Europe and of tomorrow's world.

5. "Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth". From the first Christian community gathered in the Upper Room we have received this invocation inspired by the Psalm, and today I have the joy of repeating it with you young people, on the threshold of the third millennium. You are living in a situation that, under certain aspects, is like the situation of the first Christians. The world around them did not know the Gospel. But they did not lose their way. Once they received the gift of the Holy Spirit, they kept close to the Apostles, with fraternal love for one another. They knew that they were the new leaven which the declining Roman world needed. United like this in love they overcame all resistance.

You too be like them! Be Church, to bring to today's world the joyful news of the Gospel. Saint Adalbert was a wholehearted servant of the Church. You too be the same! The Church needs you! After forty years of attempts to silence her, she is experiencing here among you a wonderful revival, even in the midst of many difficulties. She is counting on your fresh energies, on the contribution of your intelligence and enthusiasm. Have confidence in the Church, just as she has confidence in you!

6. "Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth". The Church which received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost brings the Spirit to the men and women of every age. She brings the Spirit also to you through her sacraments. These recall the fundamental stages of your lives: you were baptized in water and the Spirit, and many of you have already received Confirmation, the sacrament by which the Spirit enables you to be and commits you to being witnesses of Christ.

Ask the Holy Spirit to make his presence felt in your lives. For me, it was my father who in a special way made me aware of the activity of the Holy Spirit, precisely when I was your age. If I found myself in some difficulty, he would suggest that I pray to the Holy Spirit; and this teaching of his has shown me the path which I have followed to this day. I speak to you about this because you are young, as I was then. And I speak to you about it on the basis of many years of life, lived also in difficult times.

7. Let us return to the Upper Room. Jesus breathes on the Apostles and says to them: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (
Jn 20,22-23). Dear young people, I want these words especially to remain in you: in your minds and in your hearts. The Holy Spirit is given as the source of strength to conquer sin. Only God has the power to forgive sins, because he alone sees right into the human person and can measure human responsibility completely. Sin remains, in its psychological depth, a secret which God alone has the power to enter, in order to say to a person the efficacious words: "Your sins are forgiven you, you are pardoned" (cf. Mt Mt 9,2).

Dear friends, I want you to remember this. There are, as we know, so-called "social sins", but in the end every sin depends on the responsibility of an actual person. This actual person fights against sin and either beats it or is beaten by it. The actual person, if he or she is beaten by sin, suffers. Yes, remorse of the conscience is a form of suffering. It cannot be got rid of. Sooner or later we have to seek forgiveness. If the evil which we have done involves other people, we have to ask their forgiveness too; but for the guilt to be truly remitted, we always have to receive forgiveness from God.

In the Sacrament of Reconciliation Christ has given us a great gift. If we use it faithfully, it becomes an inexhaustible source of new life. Do not forget this! Draw with delight from this spring grace, healing, joy and peace, so as to share in the very life of Christ, who is the life of the Father given to us in the Holy Spirit.

8. Dear friends! To you I entrust the task of making a decisive contribution to the evangelization of your country. Take Christ into the third millennium. Trust him! His promise spans the centuries: "Whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel's will save it" (Mc 8,35). Do not be afraid! Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure. He alone can give full meaning to life, he alone is the centre of history. Live by him! With Mary! With your Saints!

Ask Christ for the gift of the Spirit. For it is precisely he, the Spirit, the Divine Person who has the task of healing, purifying, sanctifying men's consciences, and thus renewing the face of the earth. With all my heart I want this to happen to you, to your nation, to all who share in the thousand year-old heritage of Saint Adalbert, and to the people of the whole world. May the words proclaimed so powerfully by the Church in today's Liturgy be fulfilled in you: Veni Sancte Spiritus, Come, Holy Spirit!

721 In You is the source of light and life; in You the flame of eternal love; in You the secret of the hope that never disappoints.

Come, Holy Spirit! Amen.






Letná esplanade

Sunday, 27 April 1997

1. "The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (Jn 10,11).

We are gathered on this spacious esplanade to sing together the solemn Te Deum for the millennium of the birth into eternal life of Saint Adalbert, Bishop of Prague, apostle of the Gospel in the heart of Europe and witness to Christ even to the supreme sacrifice of his life.

Like the Good Shepherd, from the very beginning Saint Adalbert devoted his life to the flock, and offered it up definitively by the martyrdom which he suffered among the Prussians when they were still followers of pagan religions. He is thus the zealous Pastor, whom Providence placed at the beginning of the history of the Slav Nations of Central Europe: of the Czechs, Poles, Slovaks and also of the Hungarian nation.

This year we recall the millennium of his martyrdom: an event which all the particular Churches which for over ten centuries have lived and proclaimed the Gospel precisely among these Nations feel impelled to celebrate with special intensity, beginning from this land of Bohemia, which gave birth to this illustrious figure.

2. Called by the Successor of Peter to the episcopal service of the See of Prague, in Bohemia, Saint Adalbert did not have an easy ministry. In the face of the resistance offered by his own fellow-countrymen, he had to abandon his Episcopal See and go to Rome, where, on the Aventine Hill, he took up the monastic life in the Benedictine tradition.

He returned to Prague when circumstances seemed to have become more favourable; but the opposition of his people again forced him to leave his homeland. He spent the rest of his life as a missionary, first on the plain of Pannonia - the Hungary of today - and later he was received as a guest at Gniezno, the court of Boleslaw the Brave. But he did not stay even there. He again left as a missionary of the Gospel, heading towards the Baltic, where he met martyrdom. Boleslaw the Brave paid a large ransom for the mortal remains of his Bishop friend, and had them taken to Gniezno.

In the year 1000, precisely near the relics of the Martyr, there took place an important meeting at which decisions were made which were destined to influence to a significant degree the national and ecclesial life in the Poland of the Piasts. The Christians of that Nation therefore venerate Saint Adalbert as one of their principal Patrons, seeing in him an eloquent sign of the close affinity which from the beginning united the neighbouring Nations of Bohemia and Poland.

722 On Polish soil the memory of Saint Adalbert is linked above all to the Church of Gniezno. But the faithful often go on pilgrimage to Prague. It was here in fact that the Saint's mission began; he had profound spiritual links with the patrons of the Church in Bohemia: Saint Wenceslaus and Saint Ludmila, both of them among the first of a long series of saints to whom this country of yours has given birth.

3. In the passage from the Letter to the Colossians which we have listened to Paul states: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church" (1:24).

It is difficult to find words which better express the meaning of the martyrdom of Saint Adalbert! He was a minister of the Gospel, a servant of Christ living in the Church. He became, like the Apostles, a forthright and courageous witness to the mystery of Christ: "The mystery", as Saint Paul writes, "hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery" (
Col 1,26-27).

4. It is a Mystery destined for all peoples, both those in the ancient world reached by Paul's apostolic journeys and those reached during the first and the second millennium by the Church's missionary activity. Astride the first and the second millennium, Saint Adalbert made his own this apostolic labour to bring the Mystery of Christ to the pagan nations in the centre of Europe.

Today, at the end of the second millennium, as we celebrate the thousandth anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Adalbert, he himself seems to speak to us in the words of the Letter to the Colossians: "As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving" (2:6-7). Saint Paul's text warns us against every kind of knowledge and philosophy based, as he writes, on "the elemental spirits of the universe" (Col 2,8), that is to say on merely human tradition, and not on Christ. In today's language it could be said that Paul puts us on our guard against a worldly attitude and secularization. It is an extremely timely warning on this jubilee occasion.

5. Dear Brothers and Sisters! What a great joy to be able to celebrate with you today the millennium of Saint Adalbert! I thank the Lord who gives us the opportunity to meet here again, on the Letná esplanade, exactly as we did seven years ago.

I offer a cordial and fraternal greeting first of all to the dear Cardinal Archbishop of Prague, Miloslav Vlk, successor of Saint Adalbert. Together with him I greet the Bishops of the Czech Republic and those coming from the neighbouring countries, the priests and the men and women Religious. I likewise offer a respectful greeting to the Representatives of the world of politics, culture and science who, by their presence, bear witness to the social as well as the religious significance of this anniversary.

I cordially greet you, the beloved faithful of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, and all of you, Brothers and Sisters, who have come from Slovakia, Poland and other Nations of Europe, who today are welcome guests at this solemn celebration.

I recall with deep emotion Cardinal František Tomášek, who launched the decade of spiritual renewal in preparation for the Millennium of Saint Adalbert, in order to rediscover the historical roots of the country and its profound Christian traditions. As we look forward to the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, this celebration poses some specific questions not only to the citizens of the Czech Nation but to all who venerate the Holy Martyr as a father in faith: what is the state of the spiritual heritage which he left behind? What results have been take from it? Can today's Christians find in the teachings and example of their great Patron an inspiration and stimulus to contribute effectively to the building of a new civilization of love?

6. Saint Adalbert still exercises today a particular fascination through his balanced personality, endowed with granite-like firmness and open to the spiritual and material needs of his brothers and sisters. Many see in him a worthy representative not only of the Czech Nation but also of the Christian tradition still happily undivided.

Under this aspect Saint Adalbert is, we could say, a many-faceted witness whom God has given to the Christian Community of the past and of the present. He is a sign of that harmony and cooperation which ought to exist between the Church and society. He is a sign of the link between the Czech and Polish Nations. I say this with great pleasure because, God willing, in a month's time I shall be among my fellow-countrymen in order to celebrate with them the Millennium of your Saint. Thanks also to him, Christianity developed well in Poland. At the present time a considerable number of Polish priests, the fruit of the blood of this great Martyr, are coming to the Czech Dioceses to help in pastoral work in your communities, in this phase of hope after the long winter of violence and repression.

723 Saint Adalbert is a saint for the Christians of today: he invites them not to be defensive, not to keep for themselves the treasury of truths in their possession, with an attitude of sterile self-defence against the world. On the contrary, he asks them to be open to present-day society, to seek out all that is good and valid in it, in order to raise it up and if necessary purify it in the light of the Gospel.

7. "The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (
Jn 10,11).

The Liturgy of the Word of today's Solemnity in a certain sense finds its crowning point in the passage of the Gospel according to John. The parable of the "Good Shepherd" is centred on the person and mission of Christ. It is precisely he who is the Good Shepherd who offers his life for the sheep, as happened on Calvary in his Passion and Death on the Cross.

At the moment in which he offers himself, Christ is clearly aware of the universal value which his Sacrifice possesses. He says: "I lay down my life for the sheep" (Jn 10,15). And immediately he adds, as though thinking of all those for whom he is offering himself: "And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock and one shepherd" (Jn 10,16). On Golgotha there are already spiritually present the world's peoples and nations, all called to salvation.

8. The Gospel is meant for all people, because all have been redeemed by the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Everyone: and therefore also the peoples to whom Saint Adalbert was sent a thousand years ago as a witness to the mystery of Christ.

A thousand years later, as we recall the martyrdom and the whole evangelical life of Saint Adalbert, we sing with the whole Christian Community: Te Deum laudamus ...: - "We praise you, O God. / We proclaim you as Lord. / The white-robed army of martyrs acclaims you."

And at the same time we commend to Divine Providence the native land of the Holy Bishop, the illustrious Nation from which he was born, as also the Slav peoples who, at the beginning of their history, experienced the results of his mission. Salvum fac populum tuum, Domine, ...: "Lord, save your people, bless and protect your children."

Salvum fac! May the work of salvation first begun in this land by Saint Adalbert remain steadfast and bear abundant fruit among you, his fellow- countrymen, as also among those to whom he was sent!









Sunday, 4 May 1997

1. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15,12).

The liturgy of this Sixth Sunday of Easter invites us to reflect on the great commandment of love in the light of the paschal mystery. Precisely the meditation on the new commandment, the heart and synthesis of Christ’s moral teaching, introduces us into today’s celebration, made particularly solemn and evocative by the proclamation of five new blesseds.

724 In the second reading and in the Gospel passage, the law of love is presented to us as the testament of Jesus on the eve of his Passion. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (Jn 15,11): thus he concluded his discourse to the Apostles at the Last Supper.

Love of God then is the source of true joy. This is what our brothers and sister in the faith personally experienced. They are presented to the Church today as models of generous adherence to the Lord’s commandment. They are “blessed”. In their earthly lives, they lived the love of God in a very special way and for this reason, they were able to delight in the fullness of joy promised by Christ.

Today they are held up for our veneration as privileged witnesses to the love of God. By their example and intercession they show the way to that complete happiness which is the profound aspiration of the human soul.

2. As we have just repeated in the responsorial psalm, the whole world is invited to rejoice for the great works of the Lord: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” (Ps 98 [97]:4). Today from different parts of the world, especially from the places where the new blesseds lived and worked, a deep hymn of praise and thanksgiving rises to the Lord, for the beatification of Florentino Asensio Barroso, Bishop and martyr, Ceferino Giménez Malla, martyr, Gaetano Catanoso, priest and founder of the Congregation of the “Daughters of St Veronica,” Missionaries of the Holy Face, Enrico Rebuschini, priest, a member of the Order of the Clerics Regular, Servants of the Sick, and María Encarnación Rosal, religious, reformer of the Institute of the Bethlemite Sisters.

3. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love” (Jn 15,9). Bishop Florentino Asensio Barroso remained in the love of Christ. Like him, he gave himself to serving his brothers and sisters, especially in his priestly ministry for many years, in Valladolid first, and later in his brief period as Bishop and Apostolic Administrator of Barbastro, a see to which he had been appointed a few months prior to the outbreak of the deplorable Civil War in 1936. For a minister of the Lord, love is lived in pastoral charity and this is why, as he faced the dangers which he saw coming, he did not abandon his flock but like the Good Shepherd, he laid down his life for his sheep.

The Bishop, as his people’s teacher and guide in the faith, is called to profess it with his words and actions. Bishop Asensio carried his pastoral responsibilities to their extreme consequences by dying for the faith he lived and preached. At the last moments of his life, after having suffered lacerating humiliations and tortures, in answer to one of his torturers as to whether he knew the destiny that awaited him, he replied serenely and firmly: “I am going to heaven”. Thus he proclaimed his staunch faith in Christ, conqueror of death and giver of eternal life. Raised today to the glories of the altar, Bl. Florentino Asensio Barroso by his example continues to encourage the faith of the people of this beloved Aragonian Diocese, and watches over it with his intercession.

4. “I have called you friends” (Jn 15,15) Also in Barbastro, the Gypsy Ceferino Giménez Malla, known as “El Pelé” died for the faith in which he had lived. His life shows how Christ is present in the various peoples and races, and that all are called to holiness which is attained by keeping his commandments and remaining in his love (cf. Jn Jn 15,11). El Pelé was generous and welcoming to the poor, despite his own poverty; honest in his activities, faithful to his people and his Gypsy race, endowed with an extraordinary natural intelligence and the gift of counsel. He was above all a man of deep religious beliefs.

His frequent participation at Mass, devotion to the Bessed Virgin with the recitation of the rosary, and his membership in various Catholic associations helped him to firmly love God and his neighbour. Thus even at the risk of his own life, he did not hesitate to defend a priest who was about to be arrested, and for doing so he was put in prison where he never ceased to pray and was later shot, as he clutched his Rosary in his hands. Bl. Ceferino Giménez Malla knew how to sow peace and solidarity among his own, often mediating in the conflicts that relations between Gypsies and farmers sometimes involve, showing that Christ’s love is not limited by race or culture. Today “El Pelé” intercedes for all before our common Father, and the Church proposes him as a model to follow and a significant example of the universal vocation to holiness, especially for Gypsies, who have close cultural and ethnic ties with him.

5. Fr Gaetano Catanoso followed Christ on the way of the Cross, becoming with him a victim of expiation for sins. He often repeated that he wanted to be the Cyrenaean who helped Christ carry the Cross, heavy more for sin than for the weight of its wood.

A true image of the Good Shepherd, he worked tirelessly for the good of the flock entrusted to him by the Lord, in parish life and in assistance to orphans and the sick, in spiritual support to seminarians and young priests and in directing the sisters Veronicas of the Holy Face, which he had founded.

He fostered and spread a great devotion to the bloodstained and disfigured face of Christ, which he saw reflected in the face of every suffering person. All those who met him recognized in his person the good fragrance of Christ; and for this reason they loved to call him “father” and this they really felt he was, since he was an eloquent sign of the fatherhood of God.

725 6. Throughout his life, Bl. Enrico Rebuschini walked resolutely towards that “perfection of charity” which is the dominant theme of this Sunday's Liturgy of the Word. In the footsteps of the founder, St Camillus de Lellis, he witnessed to merciful love, practising it wherever he worked. His firm resolution “to commit his own life to giving God to his neighbour, seeing in him the Lord’s own face”, involved him in a demanding ascetic and mystical journey, marked by an intense life of prayer, extraordinary love for the Eucharist and constant dedication to the sick and the suffering.

He became a sure reference point both for the Clerics Regular, Servants of the Sick, as well as for the Christian community of Cremona. His example is a pressing invitation to all believers to be attentive to the suffering and the sick in body and in spirit.

7. “I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (
Jn 15,16). Mother María Encarnación Rosal, the first woman from Guatemala to be beatified, was chosen to continue the charism of Bl. Pedro de San José Betancourt, founder of the Order of Bethlemites, the first Latin American order. Today its fruit endures in the Bethlemite Sisters who, together with all the members of the great family of the Lay Association, strive to put his evangelizing charism into practice in their service to the Church.

A constant and tenacious woman motivated above all by charity, her life was fidelity to Christ her assiduous confidant through prayer and the spirituality of Bethlehem. He brought her many sacrifices and troubles, having to wander from one place to another to establish her work. Giving up many things did not matter to her, as long as the essential was saved, as she said: “May all be lost, except charity”.

Basing herself on the lessons learned in the school of Bethlehem, that is, love, humility, poverty, the generous gift of self and austerity, she lived a splendid synthesis of contemplation and action, uniting to her educational activities the spirit of penance, adoration and reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. May her example continue among her daughters, and may her intercession accompany the Church’s life on the American continent, which is preparing with hope to cross the threshold of the third millennium of the Christian era.

8. God calls everyone to holiness, but without forcing anyone’s hand. God asks and waits for man's free acceptance. In the context of this universal call to holiness, Christ then chooses a specific task for each person and if he finds a response, he himself provides for bringing the work he has begun to completion, ensuring that the fruit remains.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you You are my friends” (Jn 15,9), the Lord continues to repeat and he waits for our answer, as he did with the new blesseds. Their example reminds us that, each in a different way, we are all committed to bearing fruit, not only for our own good, but for the whole community.

We rejoice today in the gift of these new blesseds. Let us thank God for what they achieved and for the good works they left during their earthly pilgrimage. Let us pray that their example may be followed by many and increase the number of workers in the Lord’s vineyard.

May the face of the earth be renewed (cf. Ps 104[103]:30) by the power of the Holy Spirit, and may the canticle of joy and the proclamation of divine love resound in all the corners of the earth.

God is love: he has loved us first. Our task now is to love one another as he has loved us. By this we will be recognized as his disciples. Our responsibility: to be credible witnesses, stems from this. This is what the new blesseds were. May they obtain for us that we may be the same, so that this world which we love may recognize Christ as the one true Saviour!

S. John Paul II Homil. 716