Friday, 28 January 2000

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear faithful Collaborators,

1. It is a great joy for me to meet you at the end of your plenary assembly. I want to express my gratitude and appreciation for the work that your dicastery accomplishes each day in the service of the Church for the good of souls, in harmony with the Successor of Peter, the first guardian and defender of the sacred deposit of faith.

I thank Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger for the sentiments he has expressed on everyone's behalf in his address to me, and for explaining the topics that you have carefully considered during your assembly, which was especially dedicated to studying the problem of the uniqueness of Christ and to revising the norms of the so-called "graviora delicta".

2. I would now like to dwell briefly on the principal topics discussed at your meeting. Your dicastery has considered it timely and necessary to begin studying the themes of the uniqueness and salvific universality of Christ and the Church. The reaffirmation of the Church's doctrine on these themes is being proposed in order to show "the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ" (2Co 4,4) to the world and to refute errors and serious ambiguities that have taken shape and are spreading in various circles.

In recent years a mentality has arisen in theological and ecclesial circles that tends to relativize Christ's revelation and his unique and universal mediation of salvation, as well as to diminish the need for Christ's Church as the universal sacrament of salvation.

To remedy this relativistic mentality, the definitive and complete character of Christ's revelation must first of all be emphasized. Faithful to the word of God, the Second Vatican Council teaches: "The most intimate truth which this revelation gives us about God and the salvation of man shines forth in Christ, who is himself both the mediator and the fullness of all revelation" (Dogm. Const. Dei Verbum DV 2).

For this reason, in the Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio I reminded the Church of her duty to proclaim the Gospel as the fullness of truth: "In this definitive Word of his revelation, God has made himself known in the fullest possible way. He has revealed to mankind who he is. This definitive self-revelation of God is the fundamental reason why the Church is missionary by her very nature. She cannot do other than proclaim the Gospel, that is, the fullness of the truth which God has enabled us to know about himself" (n. 5).

3. The theory on the limited nature of Christ's revelation, which would find its complement in other religions, is thus contrary to the faith of the Church. The underlying reason for this assertion claims to be based on the fact that the truth about God could not be grasped and manifested in its totality and completeness by any historical religion, and so not even by Christianity or by Jesus Christ. This position, however, contradicts the affirmations of faith that the full and complete revelation of God's saving mystery is given in Jesus Christ, while the understanding of this infinite mystery is to be explored and deepened in the light of the Spirit of truth, who guides us in the era of the Church "into all the truth" (Jn 16,13).

The words, works and entire historical event of Jesus, while being limited as human realities, still have the divine Person of the incarnate Word as their source and therefore contain in themselves the definitive and complete revelation of his saving ways and of the divine mystery itself. The truth about God is not abolished or dimisnished because it is expressed in human language. On the contrary, it remains one, full and complete, because the one who speaks and acts is the incarnate Son of God.

4. Connected with the uniqueness of Christ's salvific mediation is the uniqueness of the Church he founded. The Lord Jesus, in fact, established his Church as a saving reality: as his Body, through which he himself accomplishes salvation in history. Just as there is only one Christ, so his Body is one alone: "one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church" (cf. Symbolum fidei, DS 48). The Second Vatican Council says in this regard: "Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, this holy Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim on earth, is necessary for salvation" (Dogm. Const. Lumen gentium LG 14).

It is a mistake, then, to regard the Church as a way of salvation along with those constituted by other religions, which would be complementary to the Church, even if converging with her on the eschatological kingdom of God. Therefore we must reject a certain indifferentist mentality "characterized by a religious relativism which leads to the belief that one religion is as good as another" (cf. Encyc. Let. Redemptoris missio RMi 36).

It is true that non-Christians - as the Second Vatican Council recalled - can "gain" eternal life "under the influence of grace", if "they seek God with a sincere heart" (Lumen gentium, LG 16). But in their sincere search for the truth of God, they are in fact "related" to Christ and to his Body, the Church (cf. ibid.). They nevertheless find themselves in an unsatisfactory situation compared to that of those in the Church who have the fullness of the means of salvation. Understandably, then, in accordance with the Lord's command (cf. Mt Mt 28,19-20) and as a requirement of her love for all people, the Church "proclaims, and is in duty bound to proclaim without fail, Christ who is "the Way, the Truth and the Life' (Jn 14,6). In him, in whom God reconciled all things to himself, men find the fullness of their religious life" (Decl. Nostra aetate NAE 2).

5. In the Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, I solemnly confirmed the Catholic Church's commitment to the "restoration of unity", in continuity with the great cause of ecumenism which the Second Vatican Council had so much at heart. Together with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, you helped to reach the agreement on fundamental truths of the doctrine of justification that was signed on 31 October last year in Augsburg. Trusting in the help of divine grace, let us go forward on this journey, even if there are difficulties. Our ardent desire to reach the day of full communion with the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities cannot obscure the truth that the Church of Christ is not a utopia to be reconstructed by our human powers from the fragments we find today. The Decree Unitatis redintegratio spoke explicitly of the unity which "we believe subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time" (n. 4).

Dear Brothers, in the service that your Congregation offers to the Successor of Peter and to the Church's Magisterium you help to ensure that Christ's revelation continues to be in history "the true lodestar" of all humanity (cf. Encyc. Let. Fides et ratio FR 15).

In congratulating you on your important and valuable ministry, I encourage you to continue with new enthusiasm in your service to the saving truth: Christus heri, hodie et semper!

With these sentiments I cordially give you all a special Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of my affection and gratitude.


Saturday, 29 January 2000

Dear Guanellian Religious,
Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

1. I extend my cordial greeting to all of you who in these days are holding the General Chapter of the Congregation of the Servants of Charity. My special congratulations and best wishes go to Fr Nino Minetti, whom you have reconfirmed in the office of Superior General. I also offer best wishes to Fr Protógenes José Luft, attending this Chapter, whom I recently appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Barra do Garças, Brazil. May the Lord help them in their respective tasks, so that they can respond to his plans for the congregation and for the Church at the beginning of a new millennium. I would like, through those of you here, to extend my greetings to all the members of Fr Guanella's Work who are spread throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas.

During your Chapter you have paused to reflect and to pray on a stimulating theme, which you have expressed as: "Charismatic identity and prophetic witness of the Servants of Charity in the Church and in the world of the third Christian millennium". In fact, this is a very fitting occasion for rediscovering the wealth and vitality of the charism entrusted by the Lord to your founder, Bl. Luigi Guanella, in today's world.

2. The return to the congregations's genuine sources of spirituality and Gospel witness will help you make a more profound discernment of what the will of God and the call of the Spirit are at this historical transition to the third Christian millennium. This commitment will nourish in each of you a renewed enthusiasm to become a credible manifestation of God's love and tenderness towards the expectations of the poor and the needs of those who live on the fringes of society.

The witness of charity is the great prophetic message of our times. In this Jubilee of the Year 2000, in which the "Holy Door" is symbolically wider to show the greatness of God's merciful love, the tent of charity must also be enlarged throughout the Church to accommodate the multitudes of poor living in contemporary society. This is a major challenge facing the Guanellian religious family.

I know you nurse the desire to extend your presence and charitable witness to nations in Africa and the Far East, through concrete forms of support to people who are in difficulty or are marginalized. I encourage you to continue on this path, treasuring your teaching experience and making your spiritual resources and competence available to those in need.

3. This fundamental commitment, whose primary goal is to meet the immediate, practical needs of the poor, should nevertheless be accompanied by a prophetic message that will affect the social structures themselves, which are at the root of so many acts of injustice and oppression towards the weakest groups. This is a second and more demanding challenge for all who have chosen to follow Christ, the Good Samaritan, who cares for man's physical and spiritual wounds. It involves influencing the cultural and social processes with the power of the Gospel, to enable the human heart to change its criteria of judgement and models of life that contradict God's plan.

As you face these demanding challenges, the shining example of Bl. Luigi Guanella will prompt you to choose the commandment of love as the essential criterion of your being and acting, expressed in decisions to serve and to promote the advancement of the poorest people. This will spur you to be present on the frontiers of charity, with full trust in Providence.

As in the past, your religious family can rely on the active contribution of many lay cooperators, both men and women. Drawn by the Guanellian charism, they generously share in your mission as "Good Samaritans" to the marginalized, thus living the basic Gospel vocation to charity.

The presence at your Chapter of representatives of the Guanellian Sisters and of a lay group is very significant in this regard. It will help you to deepen the unity and strengthen the cooperation of Fr Guanella's spiritual children, so that your witness to charity and your efforts for a more just and fraternal world can be more effective.

4. In the spirit of your blessed founder, in the midst of a world too frequently fraught by tension and individualism, may you be an ever more visible sign of dialogue and fraternal communion, and credible witnesses of reconciliation and peace.

Above all, may you be able each day to rediscover the deep spiritual roots of community life and the service of charity, so that you can continue to see your brethren as a true gift of Providence, especially if they are lonely or in trouble. In your daily work and in your mutual relations, may you always keep alive the ideal of unity indicated by Jesus in the "testament" he left his disciples at the Last Supper: Father, that they may all be one, so that the world may believe that you sent me (cf. Jn Jn 17,21).

In hoping that the guidelines resulting from the General Chapter you are holding during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 will bring your institute renewed dynamism and vitality in spiritual commitment, in fraternal life and in service to the poor and marginalized, I invoke the heavenly protection of Our Lady and Bl. Luigi Guanella, as I cordially bless you and all the Guanellian communities throughout the world.



Monday, 31 January 2000

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I am pleased to dedicate the new Janiculum Car Park, the result of the joint efforts of the Holy See and the Italian authorities.

I extend my cordial greeting to Cardinal Jozef Tomko, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, whom I thank for his words expressing the sentiments you share, and at the same time explaining the aims and functioning of this important project. With him, I greet the religious, civil and military authorities here, with a special thought for the Prefect, Undersecretaries Minniti and Bargone, and the ambassadors accredited to the Holy See.

I would also like to express my satisfaction to the executives of the contracting firms and to everyone who has worked with skill and diligence to build this important structure.

Lastly, I extend an affectionate greeting to the superiors and students of the Urban College of Propaganda Fide, as well as to the teachers and students of the Pontifical Urbanian University.

2. The Janiculum Car Park has been built on property belonging to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples with the intention of facilitating the access of pilgrims to the Vatican, especially during this Jubilee Year, but also to ease traffic at a critical intersection in the city.

Therefore, the value of this remarkable multifunctional complex goes well beyond the Year 2000. For Rome and especially for the neighbourhood around St Peter's it will later be an important part of the urban infrastructure, designed to improve traffic conditions and the quality of life for local residents.

I therefore express my deep satisfaction with a structure that offers great urban advantages without spoiling the well-known view from the Janiculum Hill, and I very gladly join you all in thanking the Lord. To him I entrust everyone who has helped build it and everyone who will use it.

Through the intercession of Mary, Salus Populi Romani, may abundant heavenly favours be showered on each and every one, in pledge of which I affectionately impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.

Thank you!




To my Venerable Brother Bishop
The Most Reverend Heinrich Mussinghoff Bishop of Aachen

1. "I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the Lord!'" (Ps 122,1).

The Psalmist's joyful cry has found a vivid echo in Aachen for 1,200 years, that is, since Charlemagne completed his palace chapel and dedicated it to Mary, Help of Christians.

Throughout its history countless pilgrims, great and small, have visited this Marian cathedral to pray before Mary's miraculous image and to invoke her motherly protection on the Church and the world.

2. I cannot be personally present for the 1,200th anniversary of Aachen's cathedral, but I have sent you a Special Envoy in the person of Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, who will take my place at this festive event as my personal representative. This expresses Catholic communion, whose centre is the Church of Rome and which covers the whole world like a net. Charlemagne, who built this house of God, was already aware of the need for these close ties with the Successor of Peter. With his coronation as emperor by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day of the year 800, this awareness reached a symbolic climax a few years after he had founded the "Schola Francorum" in the shadow of St Peter's Basilica. It was intended as a hostel for pilgrims who came to the Eternal City over the Alps to visit the tombs of the Princes of the Apostles.

3. In addition to this bond with Rome, the cathedral of Aachen has another connection. It preserves precious items which turn our hearts and minds not only to the Eternal City but also to the Holy City. Jerusalem gave Charlemagne four cloth relics that recall in a tangible and deeply reverential way important events in salvation history and, at the same time, can be considered as pilgrim's garb for the People of God on their journey through time.

Whoever looks at Jesus' swaddling clothes remembers that the faith community is also a living communion with Jesus. Indeed, like every Christian, Christ also began his life as a little child. Just as Jesus grew in wisdom, in stature and in favour with God and men (cf. Lk Lc 2,52), so we are asked to care for the growth and maturity of our faith. In the manger Jesus was not only a human child, but the Son of God. Thus the swaddling clothes are an invitation to honour him with our lives and to bring others with us on this path of adoration: Venite adoremus! Come let us adore the King, the Lord!

The King's throne is the Cross. The most precious relic venerated in Aachen's cathedral, from the standpoint of salvation history, is the cloth that girded Jesus' loins. This cloth alone was left to the King on the Cross, so that he could offer everything for God and the world. Just as he entrusted his whole self to the Father and at the same time entrusted his work to Mary and John, so too it is the Church's task in her pilgrimage through time to advance towards God without reserve and to bring him "the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the men of our time" (Gaudium et spes GS 1).

This testifies that the orthodoxy of her teaching is reflected in credibility of life. In this context, we recall the cloth which covered John the Baptist's head. Professing their faith does not cost Christians their head in modern society. Nevertheless, witnessing costs many sleepless nights and countless drops of sweat in a social context to which Christ has often become a stranger. Precisely at a time when God is frequently silenced, strength and courage are needed if we are to guarantee the inalienable dignity of all human beings through the love of God who sent his own Son, "so that they [might] have life, and have it abundantly" (Jn 10,10).

The word life makes us think of Mary who was chosen to bear Christ, the life of the world. The fourth cloth relic in Aachen's cathedral recalls the cloak that the Mother of God wore on the Holy Night. Just as Mary carried the Son in her womb, so the Church, her image, carries Christ in pilgrim garb down the centuries. What Mary lived for must motivate the Church in the course of history: the "mystery of faith" in Jesus Christ, the "Saviour of man" yesterday, today and for ever. It is a great honour for the Church and her noble task to be able to live with a mystery entrusted to her by God himself. The Church, as custodian of the divine mystery, is sent to reveal the mystery of salvation "to the ends of the earth" (Ac 1,8).

4. The Church's evangelizing mandate is her mission in every age but particularly in the Holy Year 2000, which we are celebrating as the Great Jubilee of the Incarnation of God. Let us thank the Giver of all things because not only have we not stopped 2,000 years after Christ, but we have been able to continue for 2,000 years with Christ. Christianity has a bright future in the new century as well. This was already recalled by the venerable and prematurely deceased Bishop Klaus Hemmerle when, a few months before his death, he made an assessment of the times: "We are not only stewards of a precious and holy past, but precursors of a future that we cannot create ourselves, but which will come because Christ comes" (Homily of 7 November 1993 for the 18th anniversary of his episcopal consecration).

May the 1,200th anniversary of the great cathedral of Aachen remind all Christians that they are being built like living stones into God's house (cf. 1P 2,5). May the pilgrimage to the shrines, which coincides with the Jubilee Year, encourage the Church of Aachen to see herself even more profoundly as the pilgrim People of God and set out with joyful hearts! May Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, be a faithful guide on their journey to the Lord! United in spirit, I am close to all of you who have gathered round the Bishop to celebrate the Jubilee of Aachen's Marian cathedral, and I cordially give you my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 25 January 2000.

February  2000



Monday, 7 February 2000

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. The inauguration of the new entrance to the Vatican Museums is a great joy for me. The fact that it is occurring during the first phase of the Great Jubilee gives it an exceptionally symbolic meaning.

After opening the Holy Doors of the Roman Basilicas, an access to the grace of the Redeemer, today I am inaugurating the entrance that leads to that temple of art and culture represented by the Museums.

I am very satisfied with the completion of this demanding project. I thank Cardinal Edmund Casimir Szoka for his sentiments, which he also expressed on your behalf, and for his interesting presentation of the work completed and the results achieved: I express my deepest appreciation to him and to the Technical Services Administration, and extend it to the consultants and workmen, as I gratefully recall Cardinal Castillo Lara, here with us today, who has the merit of having begun this endeavour.

I also express my heartfelt encouragement, through Dr Francesco Buranelli, Regent of the General Administration, to the executives and all the personnel of the Vatican Museums. It is now their task to manage this impressive structure in the best way, so that it will achieve the goals for which it was conceived and built.

2. When, at the end of the 18th century, Pope Clement XIV and Pope Pius VI founded the Vatican Museums in the modern sense of the term, visitors were a very restricted élite.

Today, thousands come every day from every social and cultural class and from every part of the world. One can truly say that the Museums, at the cultural level, are one of the most significant doors that the Holy See opens to the world.

Hence the value, not only practical but symbolic, of a more "capacious" entrance, in other words, one that is more welcoming and expresses the Church's renewed desire to dialogue with humanity through art and culture, making available to everyone the patrimony entrusted to her by history.

3. I cordially greet Giuliano Vangi, the sculptor of the work placed in this new entrance, and thank him, because his sculpture is not a celebratory work, but an invitation to reflection on the Petrine ministry to which Providence has called me. Since the first day of my Pontificate, I have been keenly aware of my mission to help men and women "cross the threshold": to escape from the constraints of materialism into the freedom of faith, the freedom to be themselves by following Christ the Redeemer, the supreme defender of their dignity and rights. This service to humanity has two elements which are portrayed on the two sides of the marble block: the element of action and, equally important, that of prayer. Indeed, in the face of human suffering, the Church finds in God the strength to spur man towards a future of hope and freedom.

I also congratulate the sculptor Cecco Bonanotte, responsible for making the portal of the new entrance. The subject of creation, which he has symbolically evoked, harmonizes well with that of art, and seems to invite the visitor to marvel at the mystery of the Creator Spirit in the universe, in living beings and especially in the human person.

4. The partnership between the Church and artists has always been "a source of mutual spiritual enrichment" which "has been a great boon for an understanding of man, of the authentic image and truth of the person" (Letter to Artists, n. 13).

With this conviction, I inaugurate the new entrance to the Vatican Museums, as I thank you all once again and bless you cordially, along with everyone who has worked to achieve this truly monumental project.


Thursday, 10 February 2000

Your Beatitude,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Maronite Church,

1. I welcome you to the house of Peter's Successor and to the Eternal City, where the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul and of so many holy martyrs and confessors are preserved. You have come from Lebanon, from other Middle Eastern countries and from the diaspora to celebrate the Great Jubilee in these days with His Beatitude Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, Patriarch of Antioch, the "Father and Head" (cf. Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, can. 55) of your Maronite Church. Your pilgrimage to Rome is the first of the Eastern Catholic Churches, for the Patriarchs, Bishops and faithful of the other Eastern traditions will be coming to Rome in the months ahead.

2. Wishing to give fresh proof of your unfailing, age-old fidelity to the Apostolic See of Rome, you have come here for the feast of St Maron, a pillar of your Church, whose memorial is celebrated according to your liturgical calendar on 9 February. On that day, you took part in a solemn Eucharistic celebration in the Basilica of St Mary Major, at which your beloved Patriarch presided.

Yesterday's celebration, like today's audience, strengthens the close bond that exists between the Sees of Rome and of Antioch, that ancient city where "the disciples were for the first time called Christians" (Ac 11,26) and where St Peter himself lived. Therefore, spurred by an "inner command" that stems from your faith, you have come "to visit Cephas" (Ga 1,18) in order to live your ecclesial communion with him. Indeed, your full communion with the Church of Rome is a tangible expression of your awareness of unity: "Unity is an essential characteristic of the Church and her deepest nature requires it" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation A New Hope for Lebanon, n. 84; cf. Apostolic Letter Orientale lumen, n. 19). In these days you are having a powerful experience of this ecclesial unity, which will help you in turn to be more and more committed to evangelizing the world, since the Maronite tradition is also "a privileged opportunity for reviving the dynamism and missionary zeal which each of the faithful must share" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation A New Hope for Lebanon, n. 84).

3. Aware and proud of the importance of unity with Rome, your Church, the spiritual daughter of St Maron, has seen many saints flourish down the centuries. On 9 October 1977 my Predecessor, Pope Paul VI, canonized Sharbel Makhlouf, a hermit monk and priest of the Maronite Lebanese Order, and on 17 November 1985 I myself had the joy of beatifying Rafka (Rebecca), a Maronite nun of the Maronite Lebanese Order, and on 10 May 1998 Nimatullah Al-Hardini, a monk and priest of the same order and the spiritual father of St Sharbel.

4. Nimatullah Al-Hardini was beatified exactly a year after my pilgrimage to Lebanon in 1997. That is why it is pleasant for me to remember here the time I spent in Lebanon, where the Maronite Church has her roots and real centre.

The new hope for Lebanon described in the Post-Synodal Exhortation, the document that resulted from the work of the Special Assembly for Lebanon of the Synod of Bishops, was "my cry for resurrection and peace", in which I "once again called the world's attention to the biblical land of cedars" (L'Osservatore Romano daily edition, 12-13 May 1997, p. 1). I encourage all the pastors and faithful of the Catholic communities in Lebanon to continue to welcome and absorb this Exhortation's ideas and suggestions. I am pleased to know that the first encouraging signs of its practical implementation can already be seen, as is also evident from the work of the last Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon (APECL), which met last November in Bkerké.

5. I am also pleased to announce that yesterday, after a very lengthy closure due to the Second World War and then to the difficult situation in Lebanon, the Pontifical Maronite College has officially reopened its doors, thanks especially to the tireless efforts of Bishop Émile Eid, Patriarchal Procurator in Rome. This institute, desired by Pope Gregory XIII, dates back to the 16th century. It has had countless distinguished students, of whom the most famous were Stéphane Douaihi, the future Maronite Patriarch, and the great scholar, Joseph S. Assemani, First Custodian of the Vatican Library, a renowned orientalist and canon lawyer who, among other things, played an important role in the Lebanese Maronite Synod of 1736.

I hope that the young Maronites who will live in this historic college will make a real contribution, like their predecessors, to Maronite ecclesial life in fidelity to the spirit of the universal Church.

6. As for the beloved land of Lebanon, to which the hearts of believers longingly turn, I hope that it will continue to remain faithful to its vocation as a "Message": a place where Christians can live in peace and brotherhood with the followers of other beliefs, and can foster this form of coexistence (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation A New Hope for Lebanon, n. 92). I would also like to tell you today with the force of love: "The Pope is always close to you all". I am beside you like a father and brother during this period when intolerance sometimes revives the ghosts of hatred which we would prefer to see vanish for ever.

Through the intercession of the Mother of God, of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, of St Maron, St Sharbel, Bl. Rafka, Bl. Nimatullah Al-Hardini and all the saints of your land, I ask the Lord to make your celebration in Rome the first fruit of the Great Jubilee. I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all.





February 11, 2000

This impressive torchlight procession, which set out from Castel Sant'Angelo and moved down Via della Conciliazione, closes this day entirely dedicated to Our Lady. The evocative sight offered by the long parade of torches calls to mind the procession being held at more or less the same time in Lourdes, Mary's citadel, where so many pilgrims, healthy or sick, have an intense and consoling spiritual experience.

Mary guides and lights our way, dear brothers and sisters, whom I greet with great affection. Mary, our most tender Mother, accompanies us in joy and in sorrow, in good times and in those of physical and spiritual trial, in order to help us in every circumstance to say our "yes" to God's will.
This morning in St Peter's Square, we celebrated the Jubilee of the Sick and Health-Care Workers. This evening we have returned to ask Mary, "Health of the Sick", to make the Holy Year a true "year of grace". May the Immaculate Virgin help everyone to experience, "through sincere conversion of heart, the abundance of God's mercy and the joy of a fuller communion with their brothers and sisters, the first fruits of endless joy in heaven" (Prayer to Mary, Health of the Sick).