S. John Paul II Homil. 1309



Cathedral of St. Gregory the Illuminator

Yerevan, 26 September 2001

"How good and how pleasant it is,
when brothers live in unity!" (Ps 133,1).

Praised be Jesus Christ!

1. Last Sunday Your Holiness and the entire Catholicosate of Etchmiadzin had the joy of consecrating this new Cathedral of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, as a worthy memorial of Armenia’s seventeen centuries of fidelity to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This splendid Shrine bears witness to the faith handed down to you by your fathers, and it speaks to us all of the hope which today inspires the Armenian people to look to the future with renewed trust and courageous determination.

For me, to preside with Your Holiness at this Ecumenical Liturgy is a source of great personal happiness. It is, as it were, the continuation of our common Prayer last year in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. There, together, we venerated the relic of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, and today the Lord grants us to do so again here in Yerevan. I embrace Your Holiness with the same fraternal affection with which you embraced me on your visit to Rome.

I am grateful to Your Excellency the President of the Republic for your presence at this ecumenical meeting, a sign of our shared belief that the nation will thrive and prosper through the mutual respect and cooperation of all its institutions. My thoughts turn to His Holiness Aram I, the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, and to the Armenian Patriarchs of Jerusalem and Constantinople: I send them greetings in the love of the Lord. I warmly greet the distinguished members of all the civic and religious bodies and communities represented here this evening.

1310 2. When, through the preaching of Saint Gregory, King Tiridates III was converted, a new light dawned in the long history of the Armenian people. The universality of the faith was wedded inseparably to your national identity. The Christian faith rooted itself in a lasting way in this land, gathered around Mount Ararat, and the word of the Gospel profoundly influenced the language, family life, culture and art of the Armenian people.

While preserving and developing its own identity, the Armenian Church did not hesitate to engage in dialogue with other Christian traditions and to draw on their spiritual and cultural patrimony. At a very early stage, not only the Sacred Scriptures but the major works of the Syriac, Greek and Latin Fathers as well were translated into Armenian. The Armenian liturgy drew its inspiration from the liturgical traditions of the Church in the East and in the West. Thanks to this remarkable openness of spirit, the Armenian Church throughout its history has been particularly sensitive to the cause of Christian unity. Holy Patriarchs and Doctors such as Saint Isaac the Great, Babghèn of Otmus, Zakary of Dzag, Nersès Šnorhali, Nersès of Lambron, Stephen of Salmast, James of Julfa and others were renowned for their zeal for the unity of the Church.

In his letter to the Byzantine Emperor, Nersès Šnorhali set out principles of ecumenical dialogue which have lost none of their relevance. Among his many insights, he insists that the search for unity is a task of the whole community, and it cannot be allowed to create internal divisions within the Churches; he also teaches that there is a need for the healing of memories in order to overcome past resentments and prejudices; that mutual respect and a sense of equality between the spokesmen of the various Churches are indispensable; and finally he says that Christians must have a profound interior conviction that unity is essential, not for strategic advantage or political gain but for the sake of preaching the Gospel as Christ commands. The insights of the great Armenian Doctor are the fruit of remarkable pastoral wisdom, and I make them my own among you today.

3. "How good and how pleasant it is, when brothers live in unity" (
Ps 133,1). When in 1970 Pope Paul VI and Catholicos Vazkèn I exchanged the kiss of peace, they launched a new era of fraternal contacts between the Church of Rome and the Armenian Church. Their meeting was soon followed by other important visits. I myself have very happy memories of the visits to Rome of His Holiness Karekin I, first as Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, then as Catholicos of Etchmiadzin. From the time he took part as an observer at the Second Vatican Council, Catholicos Karekin I never ceased to work to promote friendly relations and practical cooperation between Christians of East and West. I would have dearly loved to visit him here in Armenia, but his ill health and untimely death made that impossible. I give thanks to the Lord for having given us this great man of the Church, a wise and courageous champion of Christian unity.

Your Holiness, I am truly happy to be able to return the visit which you made to me in Rome, together with a delegation of Armenian Bishops and faithful. I saw your generous invitation to visit Armenia and Holy Etchmiadzin as a great sign of friendship and ecclesial charity. For long centuries contacts between the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Church of Rome were warm and intense, and the desire for full unity never disappeared altogether. My visit today testifies to our shared yearning to dwell in the full unity which the Lord wills for his disciples. We are close to Mount Ararat, where tradition says that the Ark of Noah came to rest. Like the dove returning with the olive branch of peace and love (cf. Gen Gn 8,11), I pray that my visit will be a kind of consecration of the already rich and fruitful cooperation existing between us.

There is a real and intimate unity between the Catholic Church and the Church of Armenia since both preserve apostolic succession and have valid sacraments, particularly Baptism and the Eucharist. Our awareness of this must inspire us to work even harder to strengthen our ecumenical dialogue. In this dialogue of faith and love no question, no matter how difficult, should be overlooked. Conscious of the relevance of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome in the search for Christian unity, I have asked – in my Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint – that the Bishops and theologians of our Churches reflect on "forms in which this ministry may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned" (No. 95). The example of the first centuries of the Church’s life can guide us in this discernment. My ardent prayer is for a renewal of the "exchange of gifts" of which the Church of the first millennium gave such wonderful examples. May the memory of the time when the Church "breathed with both lungs" spur Christians of East and West to walk together in unity of faith and with respect for legitimate diversity, accepting and sustaining each other as members of the one Body of Christ (cf. Novo Millennio Ineunte NM 48).

4. With one heart let us contemplate Christ who is our peace and who has brought about the unity of what was divided (cf. Eph Ep 2,14). Time is pressing, and ours is a sacred and urgent task. We must proclaim the good news of salvation to the men and women of our time. Having experienced the spiritual emptiness of communism and materialism, they are seeking the path to life and happiness: they are thirsting for the Gospel. We have a great responsibility towards them, and they expect from us a convincing witness of unity of faith and mutual love. As we work for full communion, let us do together what we do not have to do separately. Let us work together, with full respect for our distinctive identities and traditions. Never again Christians against Christians, never again Church against Church! Rather, let us walk together, hand in hand, so that the world of the Twenty-first Century and the new Millennium may believe!

5. The Armenian people have always had great veneration for the Cross of Christ. Down the centuries the Cross has been their unfailing source of hope in times of trial and suffering. A striking feature of this land are the many crosses in the form of the khatchkar, testifying to your steadfast fidelity to the Christian faith. At this time of year, the Armenian Church celebrates one of its great feasts: the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Lifted up from the earth on the wood of the Cross, Jesus Christ, our salvation, our life and our resurrection, draws us all to himself (cf. Jn Jn 12,32). O Cross of Christ, our true hope! Wherever sin and human weakness have caused division, give us strength to forgive and be reconciled with one another. O Cross of Christ, be our strength as we work to restore full communion between all who look upon the Crucified Lord as our Saviour and our God. Amen.

I am grateful for your attention and I invoke God’s blessings upon our steps towards full unity!



External Grand Altar

Etchmiadzin, 27 September 2001

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I greet you and bless you all!

"The Lord is my light and my salvation" (
Ps 26,1).

1. These words of the Psalm resounded in Armenian hearts when the Christian faith, first proclaimed in this land by the Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus, became the religion of the nation seventeen hundred years ago. From that time on Armenian Christians have lived and died in the "grace and truth" (Jn 1,17) of our Lord Jesus Christ. The light and salvation of the Gospel have inspired and sustained you at every stage of your pilgrimage down the centuries. Today we are honouring and commemorating Armenia’s fidelity to Jesus Christ at this Eucharist, which His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, with a brother’s love, has invited me to celebrate on the holy ground where the Son of God appeared to your father in faith, Saint Gregory the Illuminator.

How the Bishop of Rome has longed for this day! With intense joy, I greet His Holiness the Catholicos, his fellow Archbishops and Bishops and the faithful of the Armenian Apostolic Church. I warmly greet Archbishop Nerses Der Nersessian and Coadjutor Archbishop Vartan Kechichian and, through them, my thoughts go to His Beatitude Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX, and to the Armenian Bishops and faithful throughout the world. I embrace the priests, the men and women religious, and all of you, sons and daughters of the Armenian Catholic Church from the various parishes. I greet Bishop Giuseppe Pasotto, Apostolic Administrator of the Caucasus of the Latins and all who have come from Georgia and from other parts of the Caucasus.

2. For many years the voice of the priest fell silent in your churches, but still the voice of the people’s faith was heard, full of devotion and filial affection for the Successor of the Apostle Peter.

When evil-hearted men fired upon the Cross on the bell-tower of Panik, they sought to offend the God in whom they did not believe. But their violence was directed above all against the people who had gathered the stones to build a house for the Lord; against you who in those churches had received the gift of faith in the waters of Baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit in Chrismation; against you who gathered to share in the heavenly banquet at the Eucharistic table; against you who, in those places of prayer, had your marriages blessed that your families might be holy, and bade farewell to your loved ones in the sure hope of being reunited with them one day in heaven.

They fired upon the Cross; but still you sang the praises of the Lord, guarding and venerating the clerical robe of your last priest as a trace of his presence among you. You chanted your hymns in the sure knowledge that from heaven his voice was one with yours in praising Christ the eternal High Priest. You adorned your places of worship as best you could; and beside the images of Jesus and his Mother Mary, there often stood the picture of the Pope of Rome alongside the picture of the Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church. You understood that where Christians were suffering, though divided among themselves, there already existed a profound unity.

3. That is why your recent history has not been marked by the sad opposition between the Churches which has so troubled Christians in other lands not far from here. I still remember when, once the winter of ideological atheism was past, the late Catholicos Vazken I invited the Holy See of Rome to send a priest to the Catholics of Armenia. I chose for you then Father Komitas, one of the spiritual sons of Abbot Mekhitar. This year the Mekhitarist community celebrates three hundred years since its foundation. Let us give thanks to the Lord for the glorious witness which the monks have given; and let us be grateful to them for all that they are now doing to renew Armenian culture!

Although no longer young, Father Komitas immediately and enthusiastically agreed to join you in the difficult task of reconstruction. He came to live in Panik, where he restored the Cross which gunfire had sought to destroy. In a spirit of fraternity with the clergy and faithful of the Armenian Apostolic Church, he re-opened and embellished the church for the Catholics who had defended it for so long. Now he lies beside it, close even in death to his people, as he awaits the Resurrection of the dead.

1312 4. Later, with the fraternal understanding of Catholicos Vazken, who in the national Parliament had defended the rights of Catholics in Armenia, I was able to send you as pastor another Mekhitarist, Father Nerses, whom I ordained a Bishop in Saint Peter’s Basilica. He is the son of a confessor of the faith who paid for his fidelity to Christ in Communist prisons. To Archbishop Nerses I wish to say a special word of thanks. When asked, he was quick to leave his beloved Mekhitarist community on the island of San Lazzaro in Venice to serve among you as a loving father and revered teacher. Now he is helped by Archbishop Vartan, another spiritual son of Abbot Mekhitar. I wish him too a long and fruitful pastoral ministry.

Together with his former Vicar, who then became Bishop for Armenian Catholics in Iran, and now with the Coadjutor Archbishop, the priests and the religious women who give themselves so generously for the sake of the Gospel, Archbishop Nerses has taught you and shown you that the Catholic Church in this land is not a rival. A fraternal attitude pervades all our relations. Just as in the years of silence you placed the picture of the Pope beside the picture of the Catholicos, so in today’s liturgy we shall pray not only for the Catholic hierarchy but also for His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of all Armenians.

In your kindness, Your Holiness, you have invited the Bishop of Rome to celebrate the Eucharist with the Catholic community at Holy Etchmiadzin, and you are honouring us with your presence on this joyful occasion. Is this not a wonderful sign of our common faith? Does it not express the yearning of so many of our brothers and sisters who wish to see us advance quickly on the path of unity? My own heart is eager to hasten the day when we shall celebrate together the Divine Sacrifice which makes us all one. At this altar which is your altar, I beg the Lord to forgive us our past failings against unity and to lead us to the love that overcomes all barriers.

5. Dear Catholic brothers and sisters, you are rightly proud of this ancient land of your ancestors, and you too are heirs to its history and culture. In the Catholic Church the hymn of praise rises to God from many peoples, in many tongues. But this blending of different voices in a single melody in no way destroys your identity as Armenians. You speak the sweet tongue of your forebears. You chant your liturgy as you were taught by the holy Fathers of the Armenian Church. With your brothers and sisters of the Apostolic Church, you witness to the same Lord Jesus, who is not divided. You belong neither to Apollo, nor Cephas, nor Paul: "You belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God" (
1Co 3,23).

6. As Armenians, with the same rights and duties as all Armenians, you are helping to re-build the nation. I am certain that in this momentous task our brothers and sisters of the Armenian Apostolic Church look upon the members of the Catholic community as children of the same mother, the blessed land of Armenia, land of martyrs and monks, of scholars and artists. The divisions which arose left the root intact. We must rival one another – not in creating division or in accusing each other – but in showing mutual charity. The only rivalry possible among the Lord’s disciples is to see who can offer the greater love! Let us remember the words of your great Bishop Nerses of Lambron: "There is no way of being in peace with God, for anyone, if men are not first at peace among themselves... If we love, and this is our measure, love will be our inheritance; if our measure is resentment and hatred, then all we can expect is resentment and hatred".

At this time Armenia needs from all her sons and daughters fresh efforts and new sacrifices. Armenia today needs all her children to work wholeheartedly for the common good. For that alone will ensure that the honest and generous service of those in public life is met by the trust and esteem of the people; that families are united and faithful; and that every human life is lovingly welcomed from the moment of conception and carefully nurtured even when stricken by sickness or poverty. And where will you find strength for this great common effort? You will find it where the Armenian people have always found inspiration to persevere in their high ideals and defend their cultural and spiritual heritage: in the light and salvation which come to you from Christ.

Armenia hungers and thirsts for Jesus Christ, for whom so many of your ancestors gave their lives. In these difficult times, people are looking for bread. But when they have it, their hearts will still long for more – a reason for living and a hope that sustains them in their daily toil. And who will move them to put their trust in Jesus Christ? You, Christians of Armenia, and all of you together!

7. All Armenian Christians look together to the Cross of Jesus Christ as the world’s only hope and as Armenia’s true light and salvation. On the Cross you were all born from the wounded side of Christ himself (cf. Jn Jn 19,34). You cherish the Cross because you know it to be life not death, victory not defeat. You know this because you have learnt the truth which Saint Paul declares to the Philippians – that his imprisonment only served to advance the Gospel (1:12). Consider your own bitter experience, which was an imprisonment of a kind. You have taken up your Cross (cf. Mt Mt 16,24) and it has not destroyed you! It has in fact re-created you in mysterious and wonderful ways. That is why after seventeen hundred years you can say with the prophet Micah: "Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; for when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light" (7:8). Christians of Armenia, after the great trial, now is the time to rise! Rise with him who in every age has been your light and your salvation!

8. On this ecumenical pilgrimage, I very much wanted to visit the places where the Catholic faithful live in greater numbers. I would have liked to pray at the tombs of the victims of the terrible earthquake of 1988, knowing that many are still suffering its tragic consequences. I wanted personally to visit the Redemptoris Mater Hospital, which I was happy to contribute at the time of Armenia’s distress, and which I know is much appreciated for the service it offers, thanks to the tireless work of the Camillians and the Little Sisters of Jesus. But none of this has been possible. Know that all of you have a place in my heart and in my prayer.

Dear brothers and sisters, when you return home from this holy place, remember that the Bishop of Rome came to honour the faith of the Armenian people, among whom you are especially dear to him. He has come to celebrate your faithfulness and courage, and to praise God who has granted you to see the day of freedom. Here at this splendid altar, let us remember those who struggled to see this day and did not see it, but who contemplate it now in the eternal glory of God’s Kingdom.

May the great Mother of God, whom you love most dearly, watch over her Armenian children, and keep you all – the little ones, the young people, the families, the elderly, the sick – safe for ever beneath her protective mantle. Armenia semper fidelis! God’s blessings be upon you always! Amen.



Sunday 30 September 2001

1. "The Bishop, Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World".

This is the theme for the work of the Tenth General Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which we are now opening in the name of the Lord. The Synod follows the series of Special Assemblies that dealt with the Churches of the six continents, in preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

They all had in common the challenge of evangelization, as one can discover by reading the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortations that have been published. Today's Synod can be placed, both in continuity with the preceding Ordinary Assemblies, dedicated to the various vocations of the People of God: the laity in 1978, the priests in 1990, consecrated life in 1994 and also it can be taken as a further response to the call for the new evangelization. Thus the treatment on Bishops fills out the picture of an ecclesiology of communion and mission, which we must keep before us.

With great joy I welcome you, dear and venerated Brothers in the Episcopate, coming from all over the world. Meeting and working together, under the guidance of the Successor of Peter, reveals "that all the Bishops in hierarchical communion partake of the solicitude for the Universal Church" (Christus Dominus CD 5). I extend my cordial welcome to the other members of the Assembly and to those who in the following days will cooperate in its efficient development. In a special way, I thank the Secretary General of the Synod, Cardinal Jan Pieter Schotte, along with his collaborators, who actively prepared the present Synod session.

2. On Christmas Eve of 1999, inaugurating the Great Jubilee, after opening the Holy Door, I crossed it holding in my hands the Book of the Gospels. This was a highly symbolic gesture. The Gospels contain the agenda of the Synod we are beginning today on the theme: "The Bishop, Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World".

The Bishop is "minister, servant". The Church is at the service of the Gospel. "Ancilla Evangelii" (servant of the Gospel): this is how it could be defined, echoing the words the Virgin Mary used at the Annunciation of the angel. Then Mary said "Ecce ancilla Domini" (Behold the servant of the Lord); the Church continues to say today "Ecce ancilla Evangelii" (Behold the servant of the Gospel).

"Propter spem mundi" (For the hope of the world). The hope of the world lies in Christ. In Him, the expectations of humanity find a real and solid foundation. The hope of every human being comes from the Cross, sign of the victory of love over hate, of forgiveness over revenge, of truth over falsehood, of solidarity over egoism. Our task is to make the proclamation of salvation to the men and women of our time.

3. "Blessed are the poor in spirit". We sang it in the refrain of the Responsorial Psalm.

The evangelical beatitude of poverty, is a precious message for the Synod Assembly that we are beginning. In fact, poverty is an essential trait of the person of Jesus and His ministry of salvation and represents one of the indispensable requirements for the evangelical proclamation to be heard and welcomed by today's humanity.

1314 Listening to the First Reading, from the Prophet Amos, and paying attention to the famous parable of the "rich man" and poor Lazarus, as told by the Evangelist St Luke, we, venerable Brothers, are compelled to look into our hearts to discern what is our attitude towards earthly goods and the use we make of them. We are asked to verify to what extent the personal and community conversion to an effective evangelical poverty has taken place in the Church. I recall the words from Vatican Council II: "Just as Christ carried out the work of redemption in poverty and persecution, so the Church is called to follow the same route that she might communicate the fruits of salvation to men" (Lumen Gentium LG 8).

4. The route of poverty will allow us to transmit to our contemporaries the "fruits of salvation". As Bishops we are called upon, therefore, to be poor at the service of the Gospel. To be servants of the revealed word, who when needed will raise their voices in defence of the least, denouncing the abuses against those whom Amos called the "carefree" and the "revelers". To be prophets is to point out with courage the social sins that are the fruit of consumerism, hedonism, and an economy that produces an unacceptable gap between luxury and misery, between the few "rich men" and the many "Lazarus's" condemned to misery. In every age, the Church was close to the least, and has had holy Pastors who sided, like intrepid apostles of charity, with the poor.

But for the Pastors' Word to be credible, they must give proof of conduct detached from private interests and attentive towards the weaker ones. They must give an example to the community entrusted to them, teaching and supporting the synthesis of principles of solidarity and social justice that make up the social doctrine of the Church.

5. "You, man of God" (1Tm 6,11): with this title St Paul qualifies Timothy in the Second Reading, just proclaimed. It is a page where the Apostle traces a programme of life for the Bishop that is perennially valid. The Pastor must be "a man of God"; his existence and his ministry are entirely under the divine lordship and draw light and vigour from the supreme mystery of God.

St Paul continues: "You, man of God... You must aim to be upright and religious, filled with faith and love, perseverance and gentleness" (cf. 1Tm 6,11). How much wisdom in that "aim"! Episcopal Ordination does not infuse perfection of the virtues: the Bishop is called upon to continue his journey of sanctification with greater intensity, to reach the perfection of Christ, the perfect Man.

The Apostle adds: "Fight the good fight of faith and seek to reach eternal life... " (cf. 1Tm 6,12). Striving for the Kingdom of God, dear Brothers, we face our daily toils for the faith, not looking for any other reward but the one God will give us at the end. We are called upon to give this "noble profession of faith before many witnesses" (cf. 1Tm 6,12). The splendor of faith thus bears witness: it is the reflection of the glory of Christ in the words and gestures of each of His faithful ministers.

St Paul concludes: "I charge you to keep the commandment unstained and free of reproach, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ" (cf. 1Tm 6,14). "The commandment"! This word contains all of Christ: His Gospel, His witness of love, the gift of His Spirit that fulfills the law.

The Apostles received this inheritance from Him and entrusted it to us, to be preserved and handed on intact until the end of time.

6. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate! Christ repeats to us today: "Duc in altum - Put out into the deep!" (Lc 5,4). Following His invitation, we may reread the triple munus entrusted to us in the Church: munus docendi, sanctificandi et regendi (the ministry of teaching, sanctifying and governing (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 25-27 Christus Dominus CD 12-16).

Duc in docendo! (Lead in teaching). With the Apostle we will say: "Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke and exhort - be unfailing in patience and in teaching" (II Tm 4,2).

Duc in sanctificando! (Lead in sanctiying). The "nets" we are called upon to cast among men are, first of all, the Sacraments, of which we are the principal dispensers, governors, guardians and promoters (cf. Christus Dominus CD 15). They form a sort of saving "net", which frees from evil and leads to the fullness of life.

1315 Duc in regendo! (Lead in governing). As Shepherds and true Fathers, assisted by the Priests and other collaborators, we have the task of gathering the family of the faithful and in it fostering charity and brotherly communion (cf. Christus Dominus CD 16).

As arduous and labourious a mission as this may be, we must not lose heart. With Peter and the first disciples we too with great confidence renew our sincere profession of faith: Lord, "at your word I will lower the nets" (Lc 5,5)! At Your Word, O Christ, we wish to serve Your Gospel for the hope of the world!

We trust in your motherly assistance, O Virgin Mary. You who guided the first steps of the Christian community, be a support and encouragement for us also. Intercede for us, Mary, whom, using the words of the servant of God Paul VI, we invoke as "Help of Bishops and Mother of Pastors". Amen!


Sunday 7 October 2001

1. "The just man shall live by faith" (Ha 2,4): with these words full of confidence and hope the prophet Habakkuk spoke to the people of Israel at a particularly troubled moment of its history. Reread in the light of the mystery of Christ by the Apostle Paul, the Church can use the same words to express a universal principle: it is by faith that man is open to the salvation that comes to him from God.

Today we have the joy of contemplating this great mystery of salvation actualized in the new Blesseds. They are the just who by their faith live close to God in eternity: Ignatius Maloyan, bishop and martyr; Nikolaus Gross, father of a family and martyr; Alfonso Maria Fusco, priest; Tommaso Maria Fusco, priest; Emilie Tavernier Gamelin, religious woman; Eugenia Picco, virgin; Maria Euthymia Üffing, virgin. These illustrious brothers and sisters, now elevated to the glory of the altars, knew how to translate their invincible faith in Christ into an extraordinary experience of love for God and service to their neighbour.

2. Archbishop Ignatius Maloyan, who died a martyr when he was 46, reminds us of every Christian's spiritual combat, whose faith is exposed to the attacks of evil. It is in the Eucharist that he drew, day by day, the force necessary to accomplish his priestly ministry with generosity and passion, dedicating himself to preaching, to a pastoral life connected with the celebration of the sacraments and to the service of the neediest. Throughout his existence, he fully lived the words of St Paul: "God has not given us a spirit of fear but a spirit of courage, of love and self control" (II Tim 1,14. 7). Before the dangers of persecution, Bl. Ignatius did not accept any compromise, declaring to those who were putting pressure on him, "It does not please God that I should deny Jesus my Saviour. To shed my blood for my faith is the strongest desire of my heart". May his example enlighten all those who today wish to be witnesses of the Gospel for the glory of God and for the salvation of their neighbour.

3. In her life as mother of a family and religious foundress of the Sisters of Providence, Emilie Tavernier Gamelin was the model of a courageous abandonment to divine Providence. Her attention to persons and to situations led her to invent new forms of charity. She had a heart open to every kind of trouble, and she was especially the servant of the poor and the little ones, whom she wished to treat like kings. She remembered that she had received everything from the Lord and she wanted to give without counting the cost. This was the secret of her deep joy, even in adversity.

In a spirit of total confidence in God and with an acute sense of obedience, like the anonymous servant in the Gospel of today, she accomplished her duty which she considered a divine commandment, wishing above all to do the will of God in everything. May the new Blessed be a model of contemplation and action for the sisters of her institute and for the persons who work with them.

4. Both of the new Blesseds from Germany lead us into the dark time of the twentieth century. Let us focus on Bl. Nikolaus Gross, journalist and father of a family. With the clear insight that the Nazi ideology was incompatible with Christian faith, he courageously took up his pen to plead for the dignity of human beings. Nikolaus loved his wife and children very much. However, the inner bond with his own family never allowed him to pull back from confessing Christ and his Church. It was clear to him, "If we do not risk our life today, how then do we want to justify ourselves one day before God and our people?". For this conviction he submitted to being hanged so that heaven itself might be opened to him. In the Blessed Martyr Nikolaus Gross was accomplished what the prophet foretold "The just man will live on account of his faith" (Ha 1,4).

5. The Blessed Sr Euthymia offered another kind of witness. The Clemens Sister dedicated herself tirelessly to the care of the sick, particularly, of the prisoners of war and of foreign workers. For this reason she was nicknamed "Mamma Euthymia". After the war, she was put in charge of the laundry room rather than of the sick. She would have preferred to serve human beings rather than machines. However, she remained a dedicated sister who had a friendly smile and a kind word for everyone. She had a way of describing her mission: "The Lord can use me like a ray of sun to brighten the day". This Sister lived the word of the Gospel: whatever we do, we are only unworthy servants. We have only done our duty" (Lc 17,10). In her faith in small things lies her greatness.

S. John Paul II Homil. 1309