Audiences 2005-2013 24085

Wednesday, 24 August 2005 - World Youth Day in Cologne

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Just as beloved John Paul II used to do after every Apostolic Pilgrimage, today I too would like to run through with you the days I spent in Cologne for World Youth Day.

Divine Providence determined that the destination of my first Apostolic Journey outside Italy be in my native Country and that it take place on the occasion of the great meeting of the world's young people, 20 years after the establishment of World Youth Day, desired with prophetic insight by my unforgettable Predecessor. After my return, I thank God from the bottom of my heart for the gift of this pilgrimage, of which I shall cherish beloved memories.

We all felt that it was a gift of God. Of course, many people worked together, but in the end the grace of this event was a gift from on high, from the Lord.

At the same time, I address my thanks to all those who prepared and organized every phase of the meeting with loving commitment: in the first place, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Archbishop of Cologne; Cardinal Karl Lehmann, President of the Bishops' Conference; and the Bishops of Germany, to whom I spoke at the very end of my Visit.

I would then like once again to thank the Authorities, organizers and volunteers who made their contribution. I am also grateful to the people and communities in every part of the world who supported it with their prayers, and to the sick, who offered up their sufferings for the spiritual success of this important appointment.

My spiritual embrace of the young participants of World Youth Day began with my arrival at the Cologne/Bonn Airport and continued, ever more filled with emotion, as we sailed down the Rhine from the Rodenkirchenerbrücke Wharf to Cologne, escorted by five other boats representing the five continents.

Then there was an evocative pause at the Poller Rheinwiesen Wharf where thousands and thousands of young people were already waiting. With them I had my first official Meeting, appropriately called the "Welcome Celebration" and whose motto was the Magi's question: "Where is the newborn King of the Jews?" (
Mt 2,2). The Magi themselves were the "guides" of those young pilgrims bound for Christ, adorers of the mystery of his presence in the Eucharist.

How significant it is that all this has occurred while we are on our way towards the conclusion of the Year of the Eucharist, desired by John Paul II! "We have come to worship him": the theme of the Meeting invited everyone to follow the Wise Men in spirit and with them to make an inner journey of conversion to Emmanuel, God-with-us, in order to know him, encounter him and worship him, and after meeting and adoring him, to set out anew, bearing his light and his joy in our hearts, in our innermost depths.

In Cologne, the young people had several opportunities to examine these important spiritual topics deeply; they felt impelled by the Holy Spirit to be enthusiastic and consistent witnesses of Christ, who promised to remain truly present among us in the Eucharist until the end of the world.

I am thinking back to the various moments that I had the joy of spending with them, especially the Saturday Vigil and the Concluding Celebration on Sunday. Millions of other young people from every corner of the earth joined us in these vivid expressions of faith, thanks to the providential radio and television link-ups.

However, I would like here to recall a special Meeting, my encounter with the seminarians, young men called to a more radical and personal following of Christ, Teacher and Pastor. I wanted a specific moment to be devoted to them, also to highlight the vocational dimension typical of World Youth Days. In the past 20 years, many vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life have been born precisely during the World Youth Days, privileged occasions when the Holy Spirit makes his call forcefully heard.

The Ecumenical Meeting with representatives of the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities fitted in very well with the context of the Cologne Day, rich in hope. Germany's role in ecumenical dialogue is important, both because of the sad history of divisions and because of its important role in the journey of reconciliation.

I hope that dialogue, as a reciprocal exchange of gifts and not only of words, will also help increase and develop that orderly and harmonious "symphony" which is Catholic unity. In this perspective, the World Youth Days are an effective ecumenical "workshop".

And how can we fail to relive with emotion the visit to the Synagogue of Cologne, the home of the oldest Jewish Community in Germany? With my Jewish brothers and sisters I commemorated the Shoah and the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps.

This year is also the 40th anniversary of the conciliar Declaration Nostra Aetate, which has ushered in a new season of dialogue and spiritual solidarity between Jews and Christians, as well as esteem for the other great religious traditions. Islam occupies a special place among them. Its followers worship the same God and willingly refer to the Patriarch Abraham. That is why I wanted to meet the representatives of some Muslim Communities, to whom I expressed the hopes and worries of the rough time in history that we are living through, in the hope that fanaticism and violence will be uprooted and that we will always be able to work together to defend human dignity and protect the fundamental rights of men and women.

Dear brothers and sisters from the heart of the "old" Europe, which unfortunately experienced in the past century horrendous conflicts and inhuman regimes, the young people have relaunched for the humanity of our time the message of hope that does not disappoint, for it is based on the Word of God made flesh in Jesus Christ, who died and rose for our salvation.

In Cologne, the young people encountered and adored Emmanuel, God-with-us, in the mystery of the Eucharist, and they came to understand better that the Church is the great family through which God creates a space of communion and unity between every continent, culture and race, a family vaster than the world that knows limits and boundaries; a "great band of pilgrims", so to speak, who walk together with Christ, guided by him, the bright star that illumines history.

Jesus makes himself our travelling companion in the Eucharist, and the Eucharist - as I said in my Homily at the concluding celebration, borrowing from physics a well known image - induces "nuclear fission" into the very heart of being (Homily, Holy Mass, Marienfeld Esplanade, Cologne, 21 August 2005; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 24 August 2005, p. 11). Only this innermost explosion of good that overcomes evil can give life to other transformations that are necessary to change the world.

May Jesus, the face of the merciful Lord for every person, continue to light our way, like the star that guided the Magi, and fill us with his joy.

Let us pray, therefore, that the young people of Cologne will take home with them, within them, the light of Christ, which is truth and love, and spread it everywhere. I am confident that through the power of the Holy Spirit and the motherly assistance of the Virgin Mary, we will see a great springtime of hope in Germany, in Europe and throughout the world.

To special groups

I extend a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims here today, including groups from England, Ireland, Gibraltar, Malta, Japan, Taiwan and the United States of America. May you have a happy stay in Rome and a safe return to your homes. Upon all of you, I invoke the peace and joy of Jesus Christ our Lord!

Lastly, as usual, I address my thoughts to you, dear young people, dear sick people and dear newly-weds. May the example of the Apostle St Bartholomew, whom we are commemorating today, help you look with trust to Christ, who is our light in difficulties, our support in trials and our guide in every moment of life.
On recent European disasters

My thoughts now go to the Regions of Europe hit in the past few days by floods or fires, which have unfortunately claimed many victims and caused immense damage. Many families have been left homeless and hundreds of people must face tragic hardships.

As I invoke from the Lord the eternal reward for those who have lost their lives, I assure my spiritual closeness in affection and prayer to all who are tried by these serious events, trusting that they will be sustained by the common solidarity.

Wednesday, 31 August 2005 - Psalm 127£[126] "If the Lord does not build the house' Evening Prayer - Wednesday of Week Three

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Psalm 127[126], just proclaimed, places a motion picture before our eyes: a house under construction, the city with its watchmen, family life, night watches, daily work, the little and great secrets of existence.

However, a crucial presence towers over everything, the presence of the Lord who watches over the works of man, as the incisive opening of the Psalm suggests: "If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labour" (v. 1).

Indeed, a sound society is born from the commitment of all its members, but it needs the blessing and support of that God who, unfortunately, is too often excluded or ignored.

The Book of Proverbs emphasizes the primacy of divine action for a community's well-being and does so radically, asserting: "It is the Lord's blessing that brings wealth, and no effort can substitute for it" (
Pr 10,22).

2. This sapiential Psalm, fruit of meditation on the reality of everyday life, is built mainly on a contrast: without the Lord, in vain does one seek to construct a stable house, to build a secure city, to bring our own efforts to fruition (cf. Ps 127[126]: 1-2).

With the Lord, instead, there is prosperity and fruitfulness, a peaceful family richly endowed with children, a well-fortified and protected city, free of constant worry and insecurity (cf. vv. 3-5).

The text opens with a reference to the Lord, portrayed as a builder of houses and a watchman on guard over the city (cf. Ps 121[120]: 1-8). Man goes out in the morning to toil at a job to support the family and serve the development of society. It is work that consumes his energy, making his brow sweat all day long (cf. Ps 127[126]: 2).

3. Well, the Psalmist, although he recognizes the importance of work, does not hesitate to say that all this work is useless if God is not beside the labourer. And he affirms that God even goes so far as to reward his friends' sleep.

Thus, the Psalmist desires to exalt the primacy of divine grace that impresses substance and value on human action, although it is marked by limitations and transience.

In the serene and faithful abandonment of our freedom to the Lord, our work also becomes solid, capable of bearing lasting fruit. Thus, our "sleep" becomes rest blessed by God and destined to seal an activity that has meaning and coherence.

4. At this point we move on to the other scene outlined in our Psalm.

The Lord offers the gift of children, seen as a blessing and a grace, a sign of life that continues and of the history of salvation extending to new stages (cf. v. 3).

The Psalmist extols in particular "the sons of youth": the father who has had sons in his youth will not only see them in their full vigour, but they will be his support in old age. He will be able, therefore, to face the future confidently, like a warrior, armed with a quiver of those victorious pointed "arrows" that are his sons (cf. vv. 4-5).

The purpose of this image, taken from the culture of the time, is to celebrate the safety, stability and strength found in a large family, such as is presented anew in the subsequent Psalm 128[127], in which the portrait of a happy family is sketched.

The last picture shows a father surrounded by his sons, who is welcomed with respect at the city gates, the seat of public life.

Begetting is thus a gift that brings life and well-being to society. We are aware of this in our days in the face of nations that are deprived, by the demographic loss, of the freshness and energy of a future embodied by children.

However, the blessing of God's presence, the source of life and hope, towers over it all.

5. Spiritual authors have often made use of Psalm 127[126] to exalt this divine presence, crucial to advancing on the path of good and of the Kingdom of God.

Thus, the monk Isaiah (who died in Gaza in 491), recalling the example of the ancient patriarchs and prophets, taught in his Asceticon (Logos 4, 118): "They placed themselves under God's protection, imploring his assistance, without putting their trust in some work they accomplished. And for them, God's protection was a fortified city, because they knew that without God's help they were powerless; and their humility made them say, with the Psalmist: "If the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil'" (Recueil Ascétique, Abbey of Bellefontaine 1976, pp. 74-75).

Thus, it is also true today that only communion with the Lord can safeguard our houses and our cities.

To special groups

I offer my heartfelt greetings to all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, including pilgrims from Malawi, Ireland, Malta, Australia and the United States of America. I extend a special welcome to the altar servers who have come from Malta with their families, to assist in St Peter's Basilica. May your pilgrimage strengthen your faith and renew your love for the Lord, and may God's Blessing be upon you all!

Lastly, my greeting goes to the young people, the sick people and the newly-weds. I urge you, dear young people, to place Jesus at the centre of your lives, and you will be true witnesses of hope and peace. Dear sick people, accept with faith the mystery of suffering, after the example of the One who died on the Cross for the redemption of all human beings. And you, dear newly-weds, draw from the Lord every day the spiritual strength to make your love genuine, lasting and open to others.

Let us now conclude our meeting by singing the Pater Noster.

Wednesday, 7 September 2005 - Canticle cf. Chapter of St Paul's Letter to the Colossians: "Firstborn of all creation!' Evening Prayer - Wednesday of Week Three

1. We have already reflected earlier on the grandiose fresco of Christ, Lord of the universe and of history, that dominates the hymn St Paul placed at the beginning of the Letter to the Colossians. This canticle, in fact, punctuates all four of the weeks spanned by the Liturgy of Vespers.

The heart of the hymn consists of verses 15-20, into which Christ enters directly and solemnly as the "image" of "the invisible God" (v. 15).

The Greek term ekon, "icon", is dear to the Apostle: in his Letters he uses it nine times, applying it both to Christ, the perfect icon of God (cf.
2Co 4,4), and to man, the image and glory of God (cf. 1Co 11,7).

However, by sin, men and women "exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images representing mortal man" (Rm 1,23), choosing to worship idols and become like them.

We must therefore continuously model our being and life on the image of that of the Son of God (cf. 2Co 3,18), so that we may be "delivered... from the dominion of darkness" and "transferred... to the Kingdom of his beloved Son" (Col 1,13).

This is a first imperative in this hymn: to model our life on the image of the Son of God, entering into his sentiments, his will and his thoughts.

2. Christ is then proclaimed the "firstborn" of "all creation" (v. 15). Christ is before all things (cf. v. 17) because he has been begotten since eternity, for "all things were created through him and for him" (v. 16). The ancient Jewish tradition also says that "the whole world was created in view of the Messiah" (Sanhedrin, 98b).

For the Apostle, Christ is the principle of coherence ("in him all things hold together"), the mediator ("through him") and the final destination toward which the whole of creation converges. He is the "firstborn of many brothers" (Rm 8,29), that is, the Son par excellence in the great family of God's children, into which we are incorporated by Baptism.

3. At this point, our gaze turns from the world of creation to that of history. Christ is "the Head of the Body, the Church" (Col 1,18); he already became this through his Incarnation.

Indeed, he entered the human community to support it and make it into a "body", that is, in harmonious and fruitful unity. Christ is the root, the vital pivot and "the beginning" of the coherence and growth of humanity.

Precisely with this primacy Christ can become the principle of the resurrection of all, the "firstborn from the dead", so that "in Christ all will come to life again": first Christ, the first fruits; then, at his coming, all those who belong to Christ (cf. 1Co 15,22-23).

4. The Canticle draws to a close celebrating the "fullness", in Greek pleroma, which Christ possesses in himself as a gift of love of the Father. It is the fullness of divinity that shines out, both in the universe and in humanity, becoming a source of peace, unity and perfect harmony (Col 1,19-20).

This "reconciliation" and "repacification" is brought about through "the blood of his Cross", by which we are justified and made holy. By pouring out his Blood and giving himself, Christ has spread peace, which in biblical language is a synthesis of the Messianic goods and saving fullness extended to the whole of created reality.

The hymn ends, therefore, with a shining horizon of reconciliation, unity, harmony and peace, against which the figure of its architect solemnly rises: Christ, the "Beloved Son" of the Father.

5. Many historians of the ancient Christian tradition have reflected on this important passage. St Cyril of Jerusalem, in one of his dialogues, cites the Canticle of the Letter to the Colossians in response to an anonymous correspondent who had asked him: "So can we say that the Word begotten by God the Father suffered for us in his flesh?".

The answer, echoing the Canticle, is in the affirmative. Indeed, Cyril says, "the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature, visible and invisible, for whom and in whom all things exist, was given - Paul says - to be the Head of the Church: he is also the firstborn from the dead", that is, the first in the series of the dead who are raised.

"He made his own", Cyril continues, "all that is of the flesh of man and "endured the Cross, heedless of its shame' (He 12,2). We do not say that a simple man, heaped with honours, I know not how because of his connection with him, was sacrificed for us, but that the Lord of glory himself was the One crucified" (Perché Cristo è uno: Collana di Testi Patristici, XXXVII, Rome, 1983, p. 101).

Before this Lord of glory, a sign of the supreme love of the Father, let us also raise our song of praise and bow down before him, in adoration and thanksgiving.

To special groups

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today's Audience, including the group of priests from Scotland, the Capuchin Friars from Indonesia and the Lutheran pilgrims from Sweden. I also greet with affection the groups from England, Denmark, Malta, New Zealand and the United States of America. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome!

Lastly, I greet you, young people, sick people and newly-weds.Tomorrow we will be celebrating the Feast of the Nativity of the Virgin. May the heavenly Mother of God guide and sustain you on your journey to an ever more perfect attachment to Christ and his Gospel.

Let us end our meeting by singing the Pater Noster.

Wednesday, 14 September 2005 - Psalm 132£[131] "A place for the Lord' Evening Prayer - Thursday of Week Three

1. We have heard the first part of Psalm 132[131], a hymn that the Liturgy of Vespers offers us at two different times. Many scholars think that this song would have rung out during the solemn celebration of the transportation of the Ark of the Lord, a sign of divine presence amid the people of Israel in Jerusalem, the new capital chosen by David.

In the narrative of this event, as told in the Bible, we read that King David "girt with a linen apron (efod), came dancing before the Lord with abandon, as he and all the Israelites were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and to the sound of the horn" (
2S 6,14-15).

Other experts, instead, relate Psalm 132[131] to a commemorative celebration of that ancient event, after David himself had instituted the worship in the Sanctuary of Zion.

2. Our hymn seems to suggest a liturgical dimension: it was in all likelihood sung during a procession with the presence of priests and faithful and included a choir.

Following the Liturgy of Vespers, let us reflect on the first 10 verses of the Psalm that has just been proclaimed. At the heart of this section is the solemn oath pronounced by David. Indeed, it says that, having left behind him the bitter struggle with his predecessor, King Saul, David "swore to the Lord, his vow to the Strong One of Jacob" (Ps 132,2 [131]). The content of this solemn commitment, expressed in verses 3-5, is clear: the sovereign will not set foot in the royal palace of Jerusalem, he will not go calmly to rest until he has found a dwelling place for the Ark of the Lord.

And this is a very important thing, because it shows that at the heart of the social life of a city, of a community, of a people there must be a presence that calls to mind the mystery of the transcendent God, a proper space for God, a dwelling for God. Man cannot walk well without God; he must walk together with God through history, and the task of the temple, of the dwelling of God, is to point out in a visible way this communion, this allowing God to guide.

3. Perhaps at this point, after David's words, a liturgical choir's words prepare the way for the memory of the past. In fact, it recalls the rediscovery of the Ark in the plains of Yearím in the Éphrata region (cf. v. 6): it had been left there for a long time after the Philistines had restored it to Israel, which had lost it during a battle (cf. 1S 7,1 2S 6,2 2S 6,11).

Thus, it was taken from the province to the future Holy City; and our passage ends with a festive celebration which, on the one hand, shows the people worshipping (cf. Ps 132[131]: 7, 9), that is, the liturgical assembly, and on the other, the Lord who returns to make himself present and active in the sign of the Ark set in place in Zion (cf. v. 8), that is, in the heart of his people.

The heart of the liturgy is found in this intersection between priests and faithful on one side, and the Lord with his power on the other.

4. A prayerful acclamation on behalf of the kings, the successors of David, seals the first part of Psalm 132[131]. "For the sake of David your servant do not reject your anointed" (v. 10).

One sees, then, the future successor of David, "your anointed". It is easy to perceive a Messianic dimension in this supplication, initially destined to implore support for the Hebrew sovereign in his life's trials.

The term "anointed", in fact, expresses the Jewish term "Messiah": the gaze of the praying person thus extends beyond the events in the Kingdom of Judah to the great expectation of the perfect "anointed One", the Messiah who will always be pleasing to God, and loved and blessed by him, and will be not only for Israel, but the "anointed", the king for all the world. He, God, is with us and awaits this "anointed", come then in the person of Jesus Christ.

5. This Messianic interpretation of the future "anointed" will dominate the Christian reinterpretation and will extend to the whole Psalm.

For example, the analogy Hesychius of Jerusalem, a priest in the first half of the fifth century, was to make between verse 8 and the Incarnation of Jesus is significant. In his Second Homily on the Mother of God, he addresses the Virgin in these words:

"Upon you and upon the One born of you, David does not cease to sing to the zither: "Rise, O Lord, and come to the place of your rest, you and the ark of your sanctification' (cf. Ps 132[131]: 8). What is "the ark of your sanctification?'". Hesychius replies: "The Virgin Mother of God, of course. For if you are the pearl, she is rightly the ark; if you are the sun, the Virgin must necessarily be called the sky; and if you are the uncontaminated flower, then the Virgin will be the plant of incorruption, the paradise of immortality" (Testi mariani del primo millennio, I, Rome, 1988, pp. 532-533).

This double interpretation seems very important to me. The "anointed" is Christ. Christ, the Son of God, is made flesh. And the Ark of the Covenant, the true dwelling of God in the world, not made of wood but of flesh and blood, is the Mother who offers herself to the Lord as the Ark of the Covenant and invites us also to be living dwellings for God in the world.

To special groups

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, including the many pilgrims from England, Ireland, Scotland, India, Indonesia, Japan, Puerto Rico and the United States. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke the Lord's Blessings of joy and peace.
Lastly, my thoughts go to the young people, the sick and the newly-weds.

Today, we are celebrating the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross. I hope that you will always be able to find comfort and support in this sign of salvation, to overcome every obstacle in daily life.
Let us end our meeting by singing the Pater Noster.

Wednesday, 21 September 2005 - Psalm 132£[131] "My crown shall shine' Evening Prayer - Thursday of Week Three

1. We have just heard the second part of Psalm 132[131], a hymn that recalls a major event in Israel's history: the transfer of the Ark of the Lord to the city of Jerusalem.

David was responsible for this transfer, as the psalmist testifies in the first part of the Psalm we have already seen. Indeed, the king had sworn not to take up residence in the royal palace until he had found a permanent dwelling place for the Ark of God, a sign of the Lord's presence with his people (cf. vv. 3-5).

In response to the sovereign's oath, God in turn takes an oath: "The Lord swore an oath to David; he will not go back on his word" (v. 11). This solemn promise is essentially the same one that the Prophet Nathan swore in God's name to David himself; it concerns the future of David's descendants, destined to reign for ever (cf.
2S 7,8-16).

2. The divine oath, however, involves a human commitment inasmuch as it is conditioned by an "if": if your sons "keep my covenant" (Ps 132,12 [131]).

Men and women must respond with faithful and active loyalty to God's promise and gift, which have nothing magic about them, in a dialogue in which are interwoven two freedoms, the divine and the human.

At this point, the Psalm becomes a hymn that extols the marvellous effects of both the gift of the Lord and the fidelity of Israel.

In fact, Israel will experience God's presence in the midst of his people (cf. vv. 13-14): he will be like an inhabitant among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, a citizen who lives the events of history with the other citizens, but who offers the power of his blessing.

3. God will bless the harvest and see to it that the poor can satisfy their hunger (cf. v. 15). He will clothe priests with his protective mantle, offering them his salvation; he will ensure that all the faithful live in joy and trust (cf. v. 16).

The greatest blessing is once again reserved for David and his descendants: "There David's stock will flower: I will prepare a lamp for my anointed. I will cover his enemies with shame, but on him my crown shall shine" (vv. 17-18).

As happened in the first part of the Psalm (cf. v. 10), the figure of the "anointed" One, in Hebrew, "Messiah", once again makes his entrance, thereby binding the house of David to messianism, which in the Christian interpretation reaches complete fulfilment in Christ.

Lively images are used: David is represented by a shoot that will flourish. God illumines David's descendants with a shining lamp, a symbol of vitality and glory; a splendid crown will indicate his triumph over his enemies, hence, victory over evil.

4. The twofold presence of the Lord, his presence in space and in history, is actuated in Jerusalem, in the temple that preserves the Ark, and in the Davidic dynasty. Psalm 132[131] therefore becomes a celebration of the God-Emmanuel who is with his creatures, who lives beside them and benefits them, as long as they stay united to him in truth and justice.

The spiritual centre of this hymn is already a prelude to the Joannine proclamation: "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (Jn 1,14).

5. Let us end by remembering that the beginning of this second part of Psalm 132[131] was commonly used by the Fathers of the Church to describe the Incarnation of the Word in the Virgin Mary's womb.

St Irenaeus, referring to the prophecy of Isaiah about the Virgin in labour, had already explained:
"The words: "Listen, then, O house of David!' (Is 7,13), indicate that the eternal King, whom God had promised David would be "the fruit of [his] body' (132[131]: 11), was the same One, born of the Virgin and descended from David.

"Thus, God promised him that a king would be born who was "the fruit of [his] body', a description that indicates a pregnant virgin. Scripture, therefore,... sets down and affirms the fruit of the womb to proclaim that the One to come would be begotten of the Virgin.

"Likewise, Elizabeth herself, filled with the Holy Spirit, testified, saying to Mary: "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb' (Lc 1,42).

"In this way the Holy Spirit points out to those who want to hear him that in the Virgin's, that is, Mary's, giving birth is fulfilled God's promise to David that he would raise up a king born of his body" (Contro le Eresie, 3, 21, 5: "Già e Non Ancora", CCCXX, Milan, 1997, p. 285).

And thus, we see God's faithfulness in the great span of time that goes from the ancient Psalm to the Incarnation of the Lord. The mystery of a God who dwells among us, a God who becomes one with us in the Incarnation, already appears and transpires in the Psalm. And this faithfulness of God and our trust throughout the changes of history contribute to our joy.

To special groups

I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking pilgrims present at this Audience, especially those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Malta and the United States of America. In a special way I greet the Chaplains from the Military Archdiocese of the United States. I also extend a warm welcome to the participants of the Fifth European Ecumenical Conference on China. Upon all of you I invoke the Lord's Blessings of peace and joy.

Lastly I address the young people, the sick and the newly-weds. Today, we are celebrating the Feast of the Apostle St Matthew. May his example encourage you, dear young people, to live your Christian vocation consistently; may it help you, dear sick people, to offer your sufferings in union with those of Christ for the salvation of humanity; may it sustain you, dear newly-weds, in the commitment to constant fidelity in love and openness to the gift of life.

The Holy Father then led the recitation of the "Pater Noster" and imparted his Apostolic Blessing.

Audiences 2005-2013 24085