Sunday, 3 December 2000

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. This Jubilee day for "Community with the Disabled", whose high point was the celebration of the Eucharist this morning in the Basilica of St Paul-Outside-the-Walls, is now coming to an end.
I greet all of you here, as well as those who have joined us by radio and television.

This afternoon's celebration shows that the integration of disabled persons has made progress, even though there is still a long way to go; indeed, there are some important and urgent needs on which it would be good to pause and reflect.

First of all, the right that every disabled man and woman has in any country of the world to a dignified life. It is not only a question of satisfying their specific needs, but even more of seeing their own desire for acceptance and autonomy recognized. Integration must become an attitude and a culture; at the same time, lawmakers and government leaders must give their consistent support to this cause.

2. Scientific research, for its part, is called to guarantee every possible form of prevention, while protecting life and health. When a disability cannot be remedied, it is still possible to unleash the potentials which the disability does not cancel. This potential should be supported and increased: for rehabilitation not only restores impaired functions, but puts others into action and prevents deterioration.

Among the rights to be guaranteed we must not forget the right to study, to work, to a home, to the removal of barriers, and not only architectural ones! For parents, moreover, it is important to know that society accepts responsibility for the so-called "after us", so that they can see their disabled sons or daughters entrusted to the concerned attention of a community prepared to care for them with respect and love.

3. The Church, as my venerable Predecessor Paul VI liked to say, is "a love that seeks out". How I would like you all to feel welcomed and embraced in her love! First of all you, dear families: those who have children with disabilities and those who share their experience. I say again to you today that I am close to you. Thank you for the witness you bear by the fidelity, strength and patience of your love.

In addition to families in the strict sense, I would like to mention those communities and associations where people marked by the most varied difficulties find the right environment for developing their potential. What a precious gift of Providence are the "family-homes", for example, where people who were once left on their own find a warm and generous welcome! And how praiseworthy are the various associations where, in a spirit of generous caring, limitations are not an obstacle but an incentive to grow together. And what can we say of the volunteers who help their needy brothers and sisters? Dear friends, you are a people who bear witness to hope, who silently but effectively are helping to build a freer and more fraternal world.

4. May the Lord's word illumine this path of solidarity. A little while ago the Gospel of the Beatitudes was heard in this hall, and on this maxi-screen we could admire the face of the merciful Jesus. In the kingdom of God - Christ reminds us - we experience a happiness that goes "against the tide" and is not based on success or well-being, but finds its profound reason in the mystery of the Cross. God became man out of love; he wanted to share totally in our condition, choosing to be, in a certain sense, "disabled" in order to enrich us with his poverty (cf. Phil Ph 2,6-8 2Co 8,9).

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake", for great will be their reward in heaven! This is the paradox of Christian hope: what seems humanly a ruin, is in the divine plan always a plan of salvation. Let us depart encouraged by this Jubilee day, one entirely marked by the Gospel Beatitudes. Christ, our travelling companion, is our joy. In a few days' time, we will contemplate him in the mystery of his birth: from Bethlehem, where he chose to make himself one of us, he will renew his message of happiness. It is our task to bring it everywhere, so that it may be a source of serenity and peace for everyone. I pray for this, as I bless you from my heart.




To my Venerable Brother

Archbishop François Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân,
President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

I am particularly happy to address this message to you and to the participants in the Seminar on the theme "From Debt Relief to Poverty Reduction", which the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is currently hosting, in collaboration with other Catholic Organizations.

For many years now the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has been in the forefront in addressing the question of the effects of the heavy burden of debt on the lives of the peoples of the poorest countries. Following the appeal I made in my Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, the preparation and celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 has been the occasion for many people, both Christians and members of other religious traditions, to renew their efforts to find a definitive solution to this problem (cf. No. 51).

With gratitude to all those who were sensitive to my appeals, I wish to encourage them to ensure that the efforts and goodwill shown in this Jubilee Year will continue to bear fruit in the future. We cannot permit fatigue or inertia to weaken our commitment when the lives of the poorest are at stake.

The foundations of the Jubilee tradition were essentially religious. The Jubilee was an occasion to remind everyone in the community that "to God alone, as Creator, belonged the ‘dominium altum’ - lordship over all Creation and over the earth in particular" (Tertio Millennio Adveniente TMA 13). Today this tradition draws our attention to the fact that we are only stewards of the riches of creation, which in God’s design are a common good to be shared by everyone. This is a vision which all who live in our interdependent world can understand and appreciate.

Our increasingly globalized world requires a corresponding increase of solidarity. Debt relief is part of a broader effort to achieve changed relationships between peoples and to establish a true sense of solidarity and sharing among all the Children of God, among all people. Despite great scientific progress, the scandal of severe poverty remains extremely widespread in our world. Awareness of the possibilities which modern scientific progress offers makes the persistence of such widespread poverty even more scandalous, especially when it is accompanied, as is often the case, by unbridled consumerism and ostentatious wealth.

It is my hope that the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace will intensify its efforts to be heard in discussions on ways of ensuring that debt relief becomes an effective instrument in the fight against poverty in today’s world. I ask the Pontifical Council to continue to work closely with all those in the scientific and the development communities, as well as with those within International Organizations, who are striving to ensure that the spirit of cooperation which has been generated by the Jubilee experience will continue to develop in the future. It is important, therefore, that the debt relief initiatives launched by the wealthier nations and the international institutions should come rapidly to full fruition, in a manner which will enable the poorest countries to become themselves the driving force of efforts to fight poverty and bring the benefits of economic and social progress to their people.

Your Seminar is also a recognition of the fact that progress in the fight against poverty in developing countries requires the concerted efforts of all sectors in society. In my Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus I spoke of the need to foster the "subjectivity of society" (cf. No. 46), a society which enables each person to be an active subject by placing their God-given talents at the service of the wider community.

The institutions of the Catholic Church, as the wide participation at your Seminar shows, willingly contribute the experience of their service of the poorest to the fight against poverty. They do so with full respect for the positive traditions, values and cultures of the people they serve.

Jesus Christ came to "proclaim good news to the poor" (cf. Lk Lc 4,18). May he be your support and inspiration during these days as you renew, in the light of the Great Jubilee, your special commitment to all who are poor and outcast. Commending you to the protection of Mary, Mater pauperum, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 3 December 2000




Monday, 4 December 2000

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. I am pleased to extend a cordial welcome to you at this special audience being held during Advent, which has just begun. I greet you all with great affection and hope that your visit to the tombs of the Apostles and your meetings in these days will deepen everyone's commitment of fidelity to Christ, sense of communion with the universal Church and zeal in bearing witness to the Gospel.

2. I first greet you, dear brothers and sisters of the International Forum of Catholic Action, holding an assembly during these days here in Rome. I greet the Bishops present and the national presidents who have gathered for the assembly. I extend a special greeting to Bishop Agostino Superbo, whom I thank for the courteous words he just addressed to me, expressing the sentiments shared by the other participants.

Your presence today is meant as a sign of renewed fidelity to the Church and a commitment to continue with ever greater enthusiasm on the path of the new evangelization. Catholic Action, like every other group, association and ecclesiastical movement, is called to be an authentic school of Christian perfection. That is, it is called to be that "school of faith" which, as I said to the young participants in the unforgettable Prayer Vigil at Tor Vergata during World Youth Day, helps to form true disciples and apostles of the Lord. Continue, dear friends, to deepen your search for God.

May your hearts always be open to the great apostolic expectations and challenges of our time. Grow in an authentic ecclesial spirit, nourished by study of the Council documents, whose teaching is always timely. Be faithful to the guidelines I set down in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici. Thus you will be an ever greater resource for the whole Church on her way to the third Christian millennium.

3. By returning to the sources of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, you will be able to grasp more clearly the characteristic features of your association, especially its ecclesial, secular and organic nature, in constant collaboration with your respective Pastors. These are the essential traits that define the face of Catholic Action, despite its various acronyms and names, in so many parts of the world.

If the progress of the communities in which you work sometimes seems slow or difficult to you, do not be discouraged, but increase your love and your efforts to make the Church's image ever more splendid by your holiness of life and apostolic zeal.

In your mission as humble servants of the unity of God's People, be constantly inspired by the examples and teachings of the saints and blesseds who were formed within your association: I am thinking in particular of the holy Mexican martyrs and of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, Gianna Beretta Molla, Pierina Morosini, Antonia Mesina and Sr Gabriella of Unity.

May you be guided and protected by Mary, the Immaculate Virgin, whom you are especially honoured to invoke as Mother and Queen of Catholic Action.

4. It gives me great joy to welcome Cardinal Thomas Winning and the Bishops, priests and seminarians gathered in Rome for the celebrations marking the fourth centenary of the foundation of the Pontifical Scots College. Grateful to His Eminence for his kind words, I am pleased also to extend a warm greeting to the Secretary of State for Scotland and the First Minister, as well as other distinguished visitors and benefactors who are honouring this occasion with their presence.

It was exactly 400 years ago, during the Jubilee Year 1600, that Pope Clement VIII, by the Bull In supremo militantis Ecclesiae, established the College at a time of political and religious upheaval in your country. In this anniversary year, I join you in giving thanks for all that the College has represented for the Church in Scotland, and in particular for the many generations of priests trained in the College who have spent themselves generously in the service of God and his people.

Their example should be a source of inspiration to you, the present generation of students, as you prepare to proclaim the Gospel to the people of our time. You do so, conscious of contemporary challenges and difficulties, but with the conviction that Jesus Christ, who is "the same, yesterday, today and for ever" (He 13,8), is the only fully satisfying answer to the most profound yearnings of the human heart.

During your years in Rome, in this city made holy by the blood of the martyrs and the lives of many other saintly men and women, I encourage you to follow their example by developing a deep intimacy with the Lord and becoming men of intense prayer. In your studies, seek always the truth and wisdom that will enable you to answer the fundamental questions affecting people's lives. Be always aflame with the love of Jesus Christ, so that in seeing you others will be led to him and his kingdom.

The task of the Pontifical Scots College at the dawn of the new millennium is to move ahead with confidence, fulfilling its mission to train priests "after the heart of Christ", imbued with zeal for the spread of the Gospel. Its distinguished past must encourage you to ensure an even more glorious future! I entrust you and your families, and the whole Church in Scotland, to the intercession of St Andrew and St Margaret, and to the protection of Mary, Mother of priests.

5. Thanking Archbishop François Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân for his kind words this morning, I warmly welcome him and the participants in the seminar organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and other Catholic agencies on the theme From Debt Relief to Poverty Reduction.

In the message which I have addressed to you, I have stressed the need to ensure that the efforts made in this Jubilee Year to find solutions to the heavy debt burdens of the poorest countries do not cease, but continue to bear fruit in the years to come. We cannot permit fatigue or inertia to weaken our commitment, when the lives of the poorest in our world are at stake.

The Jubilee is centred on the person of Jesus Christ: may he who came "to proclaim the good news to the poor" (Mt 11,5) assist you in your reflections and strengthen you in hope. May almighty God abundantly bless you and your families.

Last but not least, I extend a special greeting to the Daughters of St Mary of Providence, present with a group of sick and disabled people whom they care for. Dear friends: may the Lord be your comfort, strength and joy.

6. My affectionate thoughts now turn to you, dear Sisters Handmaids of the Incarnation, who this Holy Year are joyfully commemorating your institute's 50th anniversary. This providential coincidence not only highlights the connection between your religious family and the celebration of these two Jubilees, but above all proposes once again the centrality of the Mystery of the Incarnation, which inspires your spirituality and apostolate.

In following the examples and teachings of the Camillian Fr Primo Fiocchi and Mother Annunziata Montereali, your congregation is in fact committed to humbly living in the Church and for the Church, showing to the contemporary world the image of the Incarnate Word and discovering the face of Christ in the face of every human being. The effectiveness of your apostolic activity flows from contemplation of Christ, the Incarnate Word, who took upon himself the human condition, humbling himself even to the Cross.

Aware of the timeliness of your charism, you have brought the message of the Incarnation not only to the various regions of Italy where, for some time now, you have been involved in catechesis, in the formation of children and in assistance to the sick and the elderly, but also to other countries, thus opening yourselves to a promising missionary horizon. May the Lord make this apostolic work fruitful. I ardently hope that the celebration of your 50th anniversary during the Jubilee Year will especially strengthen you in contemplation of the Incarnate Word and in the desire to serve the Son of God in your brethren, especially the poorest and most suffering.

7. Dear brothers and sisters! As I again express to all of you here my deep gratitude for today's meeting and my most cordial wishes for your apostolic, formational and charitable activities, I hope that the celebration of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 will inspire in each of you a more ardent spiritual zeal and a courageous witness to the Gospel.

With these sentiments, I invoke the heavenly protection of the Immaculate Virgin, Mother of the Incarnate Word, and cordially impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you and to your communities.


Thursday, 7 December 2000

Dear Members of Serra International!

1. I am pleased to spend this intense spiritual moment with you during your Jubilee pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul.

I greet Archbishop Justin Francis Rigali of Saint Louis and thank him for the cordial words he addressed to me in your name. I extend my greeting to all of you who have come here from various nations.

You bring to this celebration the spiritual mark that distinguishes you: I refer to your particularly keen perception of the Christian life as a "vocation". "You did not choose me, but I chose you ..." (Jn 15,16): these words spoken by Christ to the Apostles apply to every baptized person. We must recognize them with joy and gratitude. In coming to implore the grace of the Jubilee, you have come precisely to open yourselves with new readiness to the fundamental call you received in Baptism by renewing the radical choice of Christian integrity and holiness.

2. Your baptismal calling leads you towards others: it is essentially a missionary calling, as you have learned from the example of Bl. Junipero Serra, the great evangelizer of California. Following in his footsteps, you have come to share in the heartfelt concern of Christ himself: "The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few!" (Mt 9,37 Lc 10,2). How can we fail to feel the timeliness and urgency of these words! The horizon of the Lord's "harvest" is indeed limitless, if we consider not only the pastoral needs of the Church herself but also the immense number of people who still await the first proclamation of the Gospel. Amid all the complexity of the present time, now, at the dawn of a new millennium, we need to recognize the search for meaning - a real yet often silent search - which is spreading through society. There is an unexpressed sense of need for Christ rising up from young people, from the world of culture, and from the great ethical and social challenges of our time. In order to respond to this need, the whole Church must become completely ministerial, a community of heralds and witnesses, rich in labourers for the harvest.

3. It is really God himself, the "Lord of the harvest", who chooses his labourers; his call is always undeserved and unexpected. And yet, in the mystery of God's covenant with us, we are called to cooperate with his providence, and to use the powerful tool which he has placed in our hands: prayer! This is what Jesus himself asked us to do: "Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest!" (Mt 9: 38).

Dear Serrans, you are committed in a special way to promoting vocations. Never forget that yours must be above all a commitment to prayer, prayer which is constant, unwavering and full of trust. Prayer moves the heart of God. It is the powerful key to resolving the vocations question. But at the same time prayer for vocations is also a school of life, as I had occasion recently to point out: "By praying for vocations we learn to look with Gospel wisdom at the world and at each person's need for life and salvation; it is a way of sharing in Christ's love and compassion for all mankind ..." (Message for the 38th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, 14 September 2000, n. 6).

4. Along with prayer, the work of fostering vocations also requires a constant effort to bring the need to people's attention through personal witness, so that God's call may encounter a ready hearing and generous response in those to whom it is directed. This is the aim of your efforts to spread an authentic culture of vocations.

The Christian community urgently needs to realize that promoting vocations is more than simply a matter of "programmes". It is something that touches the very mystery of the Church. Vocations in fact are relative to the very meaning of the Church as the Body of Christ, formed and enlivened by the Holy Spirit with all the wealth of his gifts. The Second Vatican Council reminded us of this: "In the building up of Christ's body there is a variety of members and functions. There is only one Spirit who, according to his own richness and the needs of the ministries, distributes his different gifts for the welfare of the Church" (Lumen gentium LG 7). Within the People of God, there is a specific mission awaiting each one. Because the needs of the "harvest" are so great, all the members of God's People must grow in the awareness of "being called". Significant are the gifts and tasks associated with the involvement of Christians in the temporal order. These are above all the responsibility of the laity. But a relevance all their own belongs to the ministries directed to the guidance and growth in holiness of the ecclesial community, namely the priesthood and the consecrated life. As Serrans you understand this, and members of the laity that you are, you are committed to fostering such vocations.

5. Your commitment to fostering vocations, dear Serrans, fits into this ecclesial framework. Your dedication to it ensures that the problem of vocations does not remain a concern for pastors alone, but is brought to the attention of all, involving families and teachers in particular. And this is vitally important.

Continue to make your contribution to this goal, in full harmony with your Bishops. Be people of communion, supporting your priests with active affection. With your characteristic charity, reach out to the needs of vocations among the poor. The good that flows from this to the Church will be a pledge of abundant heavenly gifts, which I willingly invoke upon each one of you and upon your movement through the motherly intercession of Mary, the Immaculate Virgin.

With these sentiments, I cordially bless you all.




Piazza di Spagna, 8 December 2000

1. Today, 8 December, Romans
have once again made a devout pilgrimage
to this historic Piazza di Spagna,
where in 1856 Bl. Pius IX wanted to erect
this Marian monument to recall the promulgation
of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

We pay homage to Mary Most Holy,
preserved from the contagion of original sin
and from any other hint of sin
from the very first moment,
in virtue of the merits of her Son,
Jesus Christ, our only Redeemer.

As I do every year, I willingly join
in the offering of this traditional floral tribute,
an eloquent symbol of unanimous entrustment
to the Immaculate Heart of the Lord's Mother.

2. In the context of the Great Jubilee,
the truth of faith which the Church professes
and proclaims today resounds
with exceptional clarity: "I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your seed and her seed;
he shall bruise your head" (Gn 3,15).

Prophetic words of hope,
echoing since the dawn of history!
They foretell the victory that Jesus,
"born of woman" (Ga 4,4),
would win over Satan, the prince of this world.

"He shall bruise your head": the Son's victory
is the Mother's victory, the victory
of the Immaculate Servant of the Lord,
who intercedes for us as advocate of mercy.
This is the mystery we celebrate today;
this is the proclamation we renew with faith
at the foot of this Marian column.

Rome, cradle of history and civilization,
chosen by God as the see of Peter
and his successors, land sanctified
by numerous martyrs and witnesses of the faith,
opens her arms this day to the entire world.

Rome, centre of the Catholic faith,
speaks on behalf of the Christian people
scattered across the five continents
and proclaims with joyful faith:
in you, Mary, Love has triumphed.

3. "I will put enmity between you
and the woman...". Do not these
mysterious words from the Book of Genesis
sum up the dramatic truth of all human history?
At the end of its work 35 years ago,
the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council recalled
that history, in its deepest reality,
is the scene of "an arduous struggle
against the powers of darkness, which started
at the world's beginning and will continue,
as the Lord tells us, until the last day"
(Gaudium et spes GS 37).

This relentless conflict involves man,
every human being, who "has to struggle
continuously to be allied with what is good,
and only with great effort and the help of God's
grace can he achieve his own inner unity" (ibid.).

4. Immaculate Virgin, Mother of the Saviour,
the ages tell of your motherly presence
supporting the pilgrim people on the paths
of history. To you we raise our eyes and
ask you to sustain us in the struggle against evil
and in the effort to do good. Keep us under your
motherly protection, Virgin all fair and all holy!
Help us go forward into the new millennium
clothed with that humility which made you
beloved above all in the sight of the Most High.

May the fruits of this Jubilee Year not be wasted!
In your hands we place the future that awaits us,
invoking your constant protection on the whole
world. Therefore, like the Apostle John,
we want to take you into our home (cf. Jn Jn 19,27).

Stay with us, Mary, stay with us always!
Ora pro nobis, intercede pro nobis,
ad Dominum Iesum Christum!



Saturday, 9 December 2000

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. I welcome you with great joy today, the day after the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, and I thank you for your kind visit. You have come to cross the threshold of the Holy Door and to celebrate your Jubilee. I extend my cordial greeting to each one of you, pleased to share with you the joy of meeting the Lord.

I am thinking first of all of the many pilgrims from the various parishes of Italy. In particular, I greet the faithful from Grumo Nevano. Dear friends, in modern society, marked by rapid and deep social and cultural changes, may it be your constant care to update your religious formation by studying in depth the contents of the faith. Grow also in knowledge of and communion with the Lord, in an intense personal relationship with him, formed of listening to his word and of authentic prayer. You will thus be ready to respond unhesitatingly to those who call you to account for the reason you follow Christ, the Redeemer of every human person and of the whole person.

2. I am now thinking affectionately of you, dear Members of the Radio Taxi 3570 Cooperative of Rome and all those who have joined you from the various nations of Europe to celebrate a special Jubilee of taxi-drivers and road haulage contractors. You have come with your families. Thank you for your presence, thank you for the significant gifts that you bring. You perform an important service to the community and spend many hours of your day in the vehicles you drive.

Your work brings you into constant contact with people; you thus know the various facets of society, since you are often taken into your passengers' confidence. Always be ready to listen with courtesy and patience, doing your best to transmit serenity to everyone you meet. You can carry out a precious service of evangelization if you are able to communicate to your interlocutors the joy of your faith and of your Christian commitment to those who approach you. For this to happen, never neglect to deepen your own knowledge of Christ and of his Gospel. Try to recognize in every person you meet a brother to love and serve.

3. I now address a word to the Federation of the Christian Agencies for International Volunteer Service. Dear friends, at the end of your annual general assembly, you have wished to bring me your respectful greeting. I thank you for your presence and for your cordial gesture.

Your worthy activity in favour of developing countries derives from a profound desire to put into practice the Gospel of love. In this context, your work qualifies as a special lay vocation in the service not only of the Christian proclamation, but also of the dignity of every person and the development of the world's peoples. While I express the Church's gratitude for your generous availability, I encourage the members of the 52 agencies that form your federation to continue enthusiastically initiatives to spread awareness of the goals that you have set yourselves and to persevere with an evangelical spirit in your activity for the benefit of so many needy brothers and sisters. I accompany my wishes with the assurance of special remembrance in prayer.

4. I then greet the Members of the Christian Union of Executive Entrepreneurs, who have gathered in Rome for the celebration of their Jubilee. Dear friends, may your worthy association's aim be to promote the knowledge, implementation and dissemination of the Church's social doctrine, thereby contributing to building a more just and fraternal society through the Christian and professional formation of its members and cooperation between them. In response to the Jubilee appeal for conversion, justice, and charity, you wanted to offer the Diocese of Rome the new parish complex of Holy Mary of the Presentation in Rome's Boccea district. Thank you for this noble act of positive cooperation in the evangelizing mission of the Bishop of Rome, which seals your sodality's long and praiseworthy commitment in the business world and in Italian society.

May the Jubilee event be a renewed experience of faith and grace and renew the motivation of each member of your union, to make common enterprises more and more capable of promoting a just well-being, fruit of the joint search for economic objectives, moral values and supportive attention to the needs of young people and the poor.

5. I extend a cordial greeting to the notaries who have come on pilgrimage to the Eternal City from 17 different countries of Europe. I am delighted that you wanted to meet the Successor of Peter during your pilgrimage, and I thank the President of the Austrian Notaries Association for this spiritual initiative in the Holy Year.

Your work is a service to citizens, so that the right balance will be maintained in their relations with one another. May this pilgrimage help you to fulfil this noble task for human well-being.

For this I gladly give you my Apostolic Blessing.

I extend my cordial greetings to all of you, notaries from various European countries who have come on pilgrimage to the Eternal City. I also greet the pilgrims from the Apostolic Region of Provence-Mediterranean, who have come from France to celebrate the Jubilee. May the Advent season be for you and for all disciples of Christ an opportunity to celebrate the Lord's Incarnation more intensely, by keeping your eyes fixed on the mystery of salvation. I wholeheartedly grant you all my Apostolic Blessing!

6. I joyfully greet the community of the Major Seminary of Tarnów: the teachers, professors and students. You have come to the Eternal City with your Pastor, Bishop Wiktor Skworc, as pilgrims of the Jubilee Year, to renew yourselves spiritually and to obtain the graces that derive from this Jubilee.

Rome is particularly marked by St Peter's presence. Peter is here! These words have been spoken in this city since the day of the death by martyrdom of the one who, through Christ's will, became the rock. In the district of Caesarea Philippi, Simon, son of Jona, called Peter by the Lord, made that profession of faith on which, as on a rock, the Church is built: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16,16). It is precisely on Peter's faith, strong as a rock, that the faith of the Church, and therefore our faith, is founded. He was the first, together with his brother Andrew, to be called to the service of fishers of men (cf. Mk Mc 1,16-18). It was he who confessed three times, in such simple and at the same time touching language, his love for the Risen Jesus before he was entrusted with power over the whole Church: "Feed my lambs" (cf. Jn Jn 21,15-19).

7. Dear students, Christ present in the Church, the one Redeemer of man, calls us to follow him today, as he once called Peter and the other Apostles. The scene of the calling of Andrew and of his brother, Simon Peter, is in a certain way constantly repeated in the history of man. Every one of you has heard in the depths of his heart Christ's words: "Come, follow me" (cf. Mt Mt 19,21) and carries this call in his heart, lives by it and is daily strengthened by it.

Every Christian vocation comes from God and is a gift of God. But the priestly vocation is a special gift of grace, the gift of the incomparable love of God for man. St John expressed this truth very profoundly with the words: "You did not choose me, but I chose you" (Jn 15,16). In response to this gift we should show God constant gratitude and the willingness to give ourselves unreservedly to the cause of proclaiming the Gospel. May the awareness that you have been especially chosen prompt you to be concerned with your sanctification. The priesthood for which you are preparing should be a special journey for you towards holiness, towards a life of deep interior union with Jesus Christ, because only "whoever abides in him, bears much fruit" (cf. Jn Jn 15,5). As I wrote in the Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis, "Holiness is intimacy with God; it is the imitation of Christ, who was poor, chaste and humble; it is unreserved love for souls and a giving of oneself on their behalf and for their true good; it is love for the Church which is holy and wants us to be holy, because this is the mission that Christ entrusted to her. Each one of you should also be holy in order to help your brothers and sisters to pursue their vocation to holiness" (n. 33).

8. You have come on pilgrimage to the Eternal City to entrust yourselves to Christ at the tomb of the Apostle Peter; your whole future is in a certain sense founded on the rock of his faith and love. Strengthened within and filled with grace, you will be able to respond to the gift of your priestly vocation with even greater fervour and generosity. Both in our homeland and beyond its frontiers, people are waiting for your ministry of the word and of the sacraments, for your guidance on the journey towards the Father's house. The Diocese of Tarnów enjoys a great number of priests and priestly vocations. Tarnów Seminary is an exceptional seminary from the standpoint of the number of candidates preparing for the priesthood there. This is a great grace for which we should fervently thank the Lord of the harvest; but it is also a task for your Diocese that it fulfils very well. For 25 years, priests from the Diocese of Tarnów have been proclaiming the Good News on the African continent. Missionary zeal has brought them to the countries of South Africa, to Belarus, to Ukraine and to Kazakhstan. May their example be an encouragement for you to undertake this great mission of proclaiming Christ to all peoples.

9. Dear students, I hope that you will be faithful to your vocation until the end of your lives. May your hearts always be filled with joy and youthful enthusiasm. Make good use of your time, growing, "in wisdom and grace before God and men" (cf. Lk Lc 2,52), after Christ's example.

Perseveringly build the seminary community on the foundations of brotherhood, prayer, meditation on the word of God and on the Eucharist. The world needs you. It needs your holiness and your authentic Christian witness. Bring the Gospel to the people of our time, who are more willing to listen to witnesses than to teachers, and are more sensitive to a living example than to words. I commend to God in prayer each and every one of you here present, as well as your parents, educators and professors. I entrust you to the protection of our Blessed Mother. May she accompany you on the path of preparation for the priesthood, and sustain you in the fulfilment of your priestly vocation.

I cordially bless the entire community of the Major Seminary of Tarnów.

10. Lastly, my cordial welcome is extended to the numerous groups of pilgrims who are taking part in this meeting. I am thinking especially of the Association of the Families and Sufferers of Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, the executives and members of the National Association of Insurance Agents, the members of the European Academy for Economic and Cultural Relations, the technicians and players of the Rome Basketball Society, the representatives of the Tanners Association, the Alpine soldiers from Martinengo and the Alpine Choir from Lauzacco, the Group of Emergency Radio Operators from Bari and the pilgrims from the Don Orione Centre in Bergamo. I also greet the faithful from Messina, Brindisi, St Teresa Riva and all the other groups present here.

Dear brothers and sisters, I renew my deep gratitude for your visit, I invite you to turn your gaze to Mary, so present during this season of Advent. May the Immaculate Virgin who, with her "yes" to the Angel Gabriel, totally adhered to God's will, sustain you in your intention to make the grace of the Jubilee fruitful. May you also be accompanied by my Blessing, which I willingly extend to your families, to your communities of origin and to all those who are dear to you.