S. John Paul II Homil. 687


Sunday, 2 February 1997

1. Lumen ad revelationem gentium: a light for revelation to the Gentiles (cf. Lk Lc 2,32).

Forty days after his birth, Jesus was taken by Mary and Joseph to the temple to be presented to the Lord (cf. Lk Lc 2,22), according to what the law of Moses prescribes: “Every first-born male shall be consecrated to the Lord” (Lc 2,23); and to offer in sacrifice “a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons, in accord with the dictate in the law of the Lord” (Lc 2,24).

In recalling these events, the liturgy intentionally and precisely follows the sequence of Gospel events: the completion of the 40 days following Christ’s birth. It does the same, later, with regard to the period between the Resurrection and the Ascension into heaven.

Three basic elements can be seen in the Gospel event celebrated today: the mystery of the coming, the reality of the meeting and the proclamation of the prophecy.

2. First of all, the mystery of the coming. The biblical readings we have heard stress the extraordinary nature of God’s coming: the prophet Malachi announces it in a transport of joy, the responsorial psalm sings it and Luke's Gospel text describes it. We need only listen, for example, to the responsorial psalm: “Lift up, O gates, your lintels ... that the king of glory may come in! Who is this king of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle.... The Lord of hosts, he is the king of glory” (Ps 23 [24]:7-8;10).

He who had been awaited for centuries enters the temple of Jerusalem, he who fulfils the promise of the Old Covenant: the Messiah foretold. The psalmist calls him “the king of glory”. Only later will it become clear that his kingdom is not of this world (cf. Jn Jn 18,36) and that those who belong to this world are not preparing a royal crown for him, but a crown of thorns.

However, the liturgy looks beyond. In that 40-day-old infant it sees the “light” destined to illumine the nations, and presents him as the “glory” of the people of Israel (cf. Lk Lc 2,32). It is he who must conquer death, as the Letter to the Hebrews proclaims, explaining the mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption: “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature” (He 2,14), having taken on human nature.

After describing the mystery of the Incarnation, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews presents the mystery of Redemption: “Therefore he had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted” (ibid., 2:17-18). This is a deep and moving presentation of the mystery of Christ. The passage from the Letter to the Hebrews helps us to understand better why this coming to Jerusalem of Mary’s newborn Son should be a decisive event in the history of salvation. Since it had been built, the temple was awaiting in a most exceptional way the One who had been promised. Thus his coming has a priestly meaning: “Ecce sacerdos magnus”; behold, the true and eternal High Priest enters the temple.

3. The second characteristic element of today’s celebration is the reality of the meeting.Even if no one was waiting for Joseph and Mary when they arrived hidden among the people at the temple in Jerusalem with the baby Jesus, something most unusual occurs. Here they meet persons guided by the Holy Spirit: the elderly Simeon of whom St Luke writes: “This man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him and it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ” (Lc 2,25-26), and the prophetess Anna, who had lived “with her husband seven years from her virginity, and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day” (Lc 2,36-37). The Evangelist continues: “And coming up at that very hour, she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Lc 2,38).

Simeon and Anna: a man and a woman, representatives of the Old Covenant, who, in a certain sense, had lived their whole lives for the moment when the temple of Jerusalem would be visited by the expected Messiah. Simeon and Anna understand that the moment has come at last, and reassured by the meeting, they can face the last phase of their life with peaceful hearts: “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation” (Lc 2,29-30).

689 At this discreet encounter, the words and actions effectively express the reality of the event taking place. The coming of the Messiah has not passed unobserved. It was recognized through the penetrating gaze of faith, which the elderly Simeon expresses in his moving words.

4. The third element that appears in this feast is prophecy: today truly prophetic words resound. Every day the Liturgy of the Hours ends the day with Simeon's inspired canticle: “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, ... a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for the glory of your people Israel” (
Lc 2,29-32).

The elderly Simeon adds, turning to Mary: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed” (Lc 2,34-35).

Thus while we are still at the dawn of Jesus’ life, we are already oriented to Calvary. It is on the Cross that Jesus will be definitively confirmed as a sign of contradiction, and it is there that his Mother’s heart will be pierced by the sword of sorrow. We are told it all from the beginning, on the 40th day after Jesus’ birth, on the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, so important in the Church’s liturgy.

5. Dear brothers and sisters, today’s feast is enriched this year with a new significance. In fact, for the first time we are celebrating the Day for Consecrated Life.

Dear men and women religious and you, dear brothers and sisters, members of secular institutes and societies of apostolic life, you are all entrusted with the task of proclaiming, by word and example, the primacy of the Absolute over every human reality. This is an urgent task in our time, which often seems to have lost the genuine sense of God. As I recalled in the Message I addressed to you for this first Day for Consecrated Life: “Truly there is great urgency that the consecrated life show itself ever more ‘full of joy and of the Holy Spirit’, that it forge ahead dynamically in the paths of mission, that it be backed up by the strength of lived witness, because ‘modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and ‘if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses’ (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi EN 41)” (L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 29 January 1997, p. 3).

Together with the elderly Simeon and the prophetess Anna, let us go to meet the Lord in his temple. Let us welcome the light of his Revelation, committing ourselves to spreading it among our brothers and sisters in view of the now imminent Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

May the Blessed Virgin,
Mother of hope and joy,
accompany us
and grant that all believers
690 may be witnesses to the salvation
which God has prepared in the presence of all peoples
in his incarnate Son, Jesus Christ,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for the glory of his people Israel.




Ash Wednesday, 12 February 1997

1. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me” (Ps 51 [50]:12).

In a certain sense, these words of the responsorial psalm contain the very heart of Lent and, at the same time, express its essential programme. The words are taken from the Miserere, the psalm in which the sinner opens his heart to God, confesses his guilt and implores forgiveness for his sins: “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me. Against you, against you only, have I sinned and done that which is evil in your sight.... Cast me not away from your presence and take not your holy Spirit from me” (ibid., 4-6; 13).

This psalm is an unusually effective liturgical commentary on the rite of Ashes. Ashes are a sign of man’s transience and subjection to death. In this season, when we are preparing to relive liturgically the mystery of the Redeemer’s death on the cross, we must more deeply feel and experience our own mortality. We are mortal beings, yet our death does not mean destruction and annihilation. In it, God has inscribed the profound hope of the new creation. Thus the sinner who celebrates Ash Wednesday can and must cry: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me” (ibid., 12).

2. In Lent, the certainty of this new creation springs from the light of Christ’s mystery: the mystery of his Passion, Death and Resurrection. In today’s liturgy St Paul says: “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2Co 5,20-21). Being willing to experience in his own flesh the drama of human death, Christ came to share in the destructibility associated with man’s temporal life. The Apostle speaks of this very clearly when he states: “He made him to be sin”. This means that God treated Christ “who knew no sin” in the same way as a sinner, and this to our advantage. Indeed, Christ shares our human condition burdened by sin, so that through him we might become the righteousness of God.

691 Because of this faith in Christ we can cry together with the psalmist: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me” (Ps 50,12). What use would be the imposition of ashes if they were not to shed light for us on the hope of the new life, the new creation, given to us by God in Christ?

3. The Church lives Christ’s redemptive sacrifice throughout the liturgical year. However, in the season of Lent we would like to immerse ourselves in it in a particularly intense way, as the Apostle urges us: “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation!” (2Co 6,2). In this important season, the treasures of Redemption, merited for us by Christ crucified and risen, are dispensed to us in a most particular way. Thus the Psalmist's exclamation: “Create in me a clean heart ... and put a new and right spirit within me” becomes at the beginning of Lent a strong call to conversion.

With the words of the Miserere psalm, the sinner not only accuses himself of his own sins, but at the same time begins a new creative journey, the way of conversion: “Return to me with all your heart” (Jl 2,12), the prophet Joel says in the Lord’s name in the first reading. “To be converted” thus means to enter into deep intimacy with God, as today’s Gospel also proposes.

Authentic conversion implies doing all those works which belong to the Lenten season: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. However, these must not be performed only as an external fulfilment, but as the expression of an intimate encounter, to a certain extent unknown to men, with God himself. Conversion involves a new discovery of God. In conversion one experiences that in him resides the fullness of good, revealed in Christ’s paschal mystery, and one draws from it abundantly in the inner abode of the heart.

God is waiting for this! God wants to create a pure heart in us and to renew within us a steadfast spirit. And at the beginning of this Lent, we want to open our souls to God’s grace and to live intensely the journey of conversion towards Easter.



Sunday, 16 February 1997

1. “Behold I establish my covenant with you” (Gn 9,8).

The Liturgy of the Word for this First Sunday of Lent presents us with the covenant God made through Noah with men and creation after the flood. Once again we have heard the solemn words spoken by God: “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you.... I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth” (Gn 9,9-11).

This covenant has a characteristic value of its own in the Old Testament. God, Creator of man and of all living beings, had with the flood destroyed, in a certain sense, all that he had brought into being. This punitive decision had been provoked by the spread of sin in the world after the original fall of our first parents.

However, the waters had spared Noah and his family along with the animals he had taken with him into the ark. In this way man and the other living beings were saved, and, having survived the Creator’s punishment, after the flood they constituted the beginning of a new covenant between God and creation.

The rainbow was the tangible sign of this covenant: “I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant which is between me and you” (Gn 9,13-15).

692 2. Today’s readings therefore allow us to consider man and the world in which we live in a new way. Indeed, the world and man not only represent the reality of life as an expression of God’s creative work, but are also images of the covenant. All creation speaks of this covenant.

Down the various ages of history men have continued to commit sins, perhaps even greater than those described before the flood. However, from the words of the covenant God made with Noah we realize that now there is no sin that can bring God to destroy the world he himself created.

Today’s liturgy opens our eyes to a new vision of the world. It helps us to become aware of the world’s value in the eyes of God, who included the whole work of creation in the covenant made with Noah and committed himself to preserving it from destruction.

3. Lent began last Wednesday with the distribution of ashes, and today is the first Sunday in this important season, which is related to the 40-day fast begun by Christ after his baptism in the Jordan. St Mark, who accompanies us in the Sunday liturgy this year, writes in this regard: “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness 40 days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him” (
Mc 1,12-13).

St Matthew, in the parallel passage, notes only the answer the Lord gave the tempter who challenged him to turn stones into bread: “If you are the Son of God command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Mt 4,3). Jesus replies: “It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4,4 cf. Gospel acclamation). This is one of Christ’s three answers to Satan, who sought to ensnare and overcome him by referring to the three concupiscences of fallen human nature.

At the beginning of Lent, Christ’s victory over the devil gives us an indication of how to defeat evil with asceticism, of which fasting is an expression, in order to live this season in a genuine way.

4. Dear brothers and sisters of St Andrew Avellino Parish! I am pleased to be with you today to celebrate the Lord’s Day on this First Sunday of Lent! I greet the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishop of the area, your zealous parish priest, Fr Giuseppe Grazioli, and all of you who are taking part in this Eucharistic celebration. I extend an affectionate greeting to the pre-school children with their mothers, to the boys and girls who are preparing to receive Confirmation or First Communion, to the young people and to the members of the senior citizens' centre, to the cultural group and the choir, to the editors of the parish bulletin and the Caritas volunteers, to the catechists and to the members of the pastoral council. To all without exception I offer my greetings and my encouragement to live in full communion with the Church and to witness generously to the Gospel.

Dear brothers and sisters, may your parish, which is a significant gathering place in this suburb, always be safe for children and young people, a meeting point for adults and the elderly and a place of listening and sharing for all. This new and functional church, inaugurated and dedicated by the Cardinal Vicar on 20 October last, will not fail to foster participation in liturgical life and will allow each of you an ever greater communion and authentic spiritual solidarity.

5. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mc 1,15). These words of the Evangelist Mark re-echo in our hearts. The Gospel opens with the mission of Jesus, a mission that will be brought to fulfilment in the paschal events. The Church continues this mission in time, a mission to which each of us is called to make his own personal contribution, by proclaiming and bearing witness to Christ, who died and rose for the world’s salvation.

The city mission that will take place in Lent next year at the parish level fits within this context. Today, precisely in preparation for this mission, the distribution of the Gospel officially begins, so that it will reach every family and area of the city. With great joy I have also given your representatives a copy of the Gospel of Mark, disciple and faithful interpreter of the Apostle Peter.

6. St Peter writes in his First Letter: “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous ... [in the spirit] he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons were saved through water” (1P 3,18-20). Peter’s words refer to the covenant with Noah, mentioned in the first reading. This covenant represents a model, a symbol, a figure of the New Covenant which God made with all humanity in Jesus Christ, through his death on the Cross and his Resurrection. If the Old Covenant primarily concerned creation, the New Covenant, based on Christ’s paschal mystery, is the Covenant of Redemption.

693 In the text we have heard, the Apostle Peter refers to the sacrament of Baptism. The destructive waters of the flood give way to the sanctifying waters of Baptism. Baptism is the fundamental sacrament in which the Covenant of man’s redemption is realized. Since the origin of Christian tradition, the whole of Lent has been a preparation for Baptism which was administered to catechumens at the solemn Easter Vigil.

Dear brothers and sisters, especially in this Lenten season let us renew our awareness of our Covenant with God. God made a covenant with Noah and included it in the work of creation. Christ, Redeemer of man and of all man, brought the Creator’s work to completion by his Death and Resurrection.

We have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous.



of the Holy Cross on Via Flaminia

Second Sunday of Lent

Sunday, 23 February 1997

1. “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (
Mc 9,7).

In the context of the Lord's Transfiguration, today once again we listen to the words that echoed at the moment of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan (cf. Mt Mt 3,17). “Jesus took with him Peter and James and John ... and he was transfigured before them And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah’” (Mc 9,2-5). At that very moment a voice was heard: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mc 9,7).

This extraordinary manifestation of Jesus’ divine sonship did not last long. When the Apostles looked up again, they saw no one else but Jesus, who “as they were coming down the mountain”, the Evangelist continues, “charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man should have risen from the dead” (Mc 9,9).

694 Thus on this Second Sunday of Lent, together with the Apostles we hear the announcement of the Resurrection. We hear it as we set out with them on the way to Jerusalem, where we will relive the mystery of the Lord’s Passion and Death. The fasting and penance of this sacred season are oriented precisely to this event which is the key to the whole economy of salvation.

2. The Transfiguration of the Lord, which tradition claims took place on Mount Tabor, gives prominence to the person and work of God the Father, who is really and invisibly present beside his Son. This explains why that important Old Testament episode, which gives special emphasis to fatherhood, is used as a backdrop of the Gospel for the Transfiguration.

In fact, the first reading taken from the Book of Genesis, recalls Abraham’s sacrifice. He had a son, Isaac, born to him in his old age. He was the son who had been promised. But one day Abraham receives from God the order to offer him in sacrifice. The elderly patriarch finds himself facing the prospect of a sacrifice that for him, a father, is certainly the greatest imaginable. Nevertheless, he does not hesitate even for an instant, and after making the necessary preparations, sets out with Isaac for the appointed place. He builds an altar, sets the wood on it and, binding the boy, takes the knife to sacrifice him. Only then is he prevented by an order from on high: “Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (
Gn 22,12).

There is something disturbing about this event in which a father’s faith and trust in God reach their apex. Rightly St Paul calls Abraham the “father of all believers” (cf. Rom Rm 4,11). The Jewish and Christian religions refer to his faith. The Koran also recognizes the figure of Abraham. The faith of the father of believers is a mirror in which the mystery of God is reflected, a mystery of love that unites the Father and the Son.

3. Dear brothers and sisters of Holy Cross Parish on Via Flaminia! It is a great joy for me to celebrate Mass here today in this lovely church, built at the wish of my venerable predecessor St Pius X, and visited in 1964 by the Servant of God Pope Paul VI and raised by him to the rank of a minor basilica. I greet the Cardinal Vicar. I greet Cardinal Baum, titular of the basilica, the Auxiliary Bishop in charge of this area, the parish priest, Fr Carlo Zanini, the parochial vicars and the Stigmatine Fathers, who have been entrusted with the pastoral care of your community from the beginning. In carrying out their ministry here, many of them have had a profound influence on parish life. Among the many who deserve particular mention, I would like to name, in addition to Fr Emilio Recchia, your community’s parish priest for many years, Fr Cornelio Fabro, the well-known philosopher and theologian, who died two years ago.

4. Dear brothers and sisters, I know that the recently begun city mission has also found ready and generous support in your parish. I express my appreciation for your availability and I urge you to be witnesses to the Gospel in this neighbourhood which, like other areas of Rome, is undergoing rapid social change.

However, for the proclamation to be effective, believers must be deeply united and work together. Therefore, with this in mind, make the most of the many different forms of apostolic zeal present here. I am thinking of the religious institutes of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, the Sisters of St Elizabeth, the Daughters of Mercy and the Apostles of the Interior Life, as well as the numerous parish groups involved in the various areas of catechesis, the liturgy and charity.

I am thinking of the parish’s recreational facilities which, once they have been remodeled, will be a privileged place for formative meetings for the whole neighbourhood. May the Church and parish institutions increasingly become a reference point for all. May your community be ready to welcome every person, especially the many Filippino and Peruvian immigrants who often live here like “parishioners without a home in the parish”.

5. “He [God] who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?” (Rm 8,32). These words of St Paul in the Letter to the Romans bring us back to the basic theme of today’s liturgy: the mystery of divine love revealed in the sacrifice of the Cross.

The sacrifice of Isaac anticipates that of Christ: the Father did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for the world’s salvation. He who withheld Abraham’s arm when he was at the point of immolating Isaac, did not hesitate to sacrifice his own Son for our redemption. Abraham’s sacrifice thus emphasizes the fact that human sacrifices must never be performed anywhere, since the only true and perfect sacrifice is that of the only-begotten and eternal Son of the living God. Born of the Virgin Mary for us and for our salvation, Jesus voluntarily sacrificed himself once and for all, as a victim in expiation for our sins, thereby obtaining total and definitive salvation for us (cf. Heb He 10,5-10). After the sacrifice of the Son of God, no further human expiation is necessary since his sacrifice on the Cross includes and surpasses all others that man could offer God. Here is the heart of the paschal mystery.

From Tabor, the mountain of the Transfiguration, our Lenten journey leads us to Golgotha, the mountain of the supreme sacrifice of the one Priest of the new and eternal Covenant. In that sacrifice is contained the greatest power for transforming man and history. Taking upon himself all the consequences of evil and sin, Jesus would rise on the third day and emerge from this dramatic experience as the conqueror of death, hell and Satan. Lent prepares us to participate personally in this great mystery of faith which we celebrate in the Triduum of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection.

695 Let us ask the Lord that we might prepare ourselves suitably: “Jesus, beloved Son of the Father, grant that we may listen to you and follow you to Calvary, to the Cross, to share with you in the glory of the Resurrection”.


funeral Mass for Cardinal Ugo Poletti,

former Vicar of the Eternal City

Thursday, 27 February 1997

1. “Scio quod Redemptor meus vivit” (
Jb 19,25).

In the great silence that envelops the mystery of death, the voice of the ancient believer rises full of hope. Job implores salvation from the Living God, in whom every human event finds its meaning and definitive conclusion.

“I shall see God ... and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Jb 19,27), the inspired text continues, allowing a glimpse of the merciful face of the Lord at the end of the earthly pilgrimage. “My Redeemer .... will stand upon the earth”, the sacred author stresses, basing his expectations and the support of his hope on the assistance of the Almighty’s goodness.

2. This firm hope guided the path of our late and beloved Cardinal Poletti throughout his life among us: a hope that rested on his unshakeable and simple faith, learned at home and in the Christian community of Omegna, in the Diocese of Novara, where he was born over 82 years ago.

It was precisely this relationship of trust and dialogue with the Lord that led young Ugo to perceive the divine call and to enter the seminary of Novara. It was this relationship, nourished by daily prayer, which sustained his first steps in his priestly ministry. He let himself be led by the Divine Master in every subsequent service to the Diocese of Novara, of which he was appointed ProVicar, and later, Vicar General. Beside his Bishop and teacher, Bishop Gilla Gremigni, formerly a parish priest in Rome, the Lord was preparing him to take on greater responsibility.

Appointed Auxiliary of Novara in 1958, six years later Bishop Poletti was entrusted with the direction of the Pontifical Mission Societies. In 1967 he became Archbishop of Spoleto and, after barely two years, he was called to Rome as Vicegerent to assist the late Cardinal Dell’Acqua. In 1972, Pope Paul VI named him Pro-Vicar of the Diocese of Rome, and the following year created him a Cardinal and his Vicar General. In 1985 I entrusted him with the presidency of the Italian Episcopal Conference, an office he accepted with great willingness and carried out with his usual generosity until January 1991.

696 After he retired from guiding the Diocese of Rome, he willingly accepted the office of Archpriest of the Liberian Basilica, spending in the shadow of the “Salus Populi Romani” — “Spes certa poli”, as his episcopal motto says — the last silent but certainly no less fruitful years of his life.

3. “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share in its blessings” (
1Co 9,22-23). These words of the Apostle Paul, which have just been proclaimed, certainly point to the late Cardinal Ugo Poletti’s constant apostolic concern. We remember him today in his tireless self-giving to the Gospel cause, especially in his office as Cardinal Vicar, where he devoted his best energies to the service of the Church.

A particular love bound him to the city of Rome, which he considered his second homeland. He had sentiments of veneration for and sincere obedience to my venerable predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, sentiments which he later directed to me with equal cordiality, introducing me to the pastoral governance of this unique city, when Providence called me to the Chair of Peter. I recall with great feeling the many meetings I had with him and the enthusiasm with which he spoke of the Diocese, the priests, the religious, the laity, the problems of the ordinary people, of the lights and shadows discernible in the rapid changes in the texture of urban life.

Above all it was he who introduced me to a knowledge of the parishes, which I gradually began to visit. Thanks to his expert and wise guidance, I was able to grasp keenly the city’s complexity, acquiring an ever deeper understanding of the flock Providence has entrusted to me. For all these reasons, I feel it my duty today to express my sincere gratitude to dear Cardinal Poletti.

4. “I do it all for the sake of the Gospel”. The deceased Cardinal, from whom we are spiritually taking our leave today, made these words of St Paul his own. He saw the Church’s mission closely linked to the Eternal City’s concrete human and ecclesial reality. With particular zeal he devoted himself to reviving in the Diocese, along with an awareness of the deep link uniting it to the Roman Pontiff, the awareness and joy of contributing to his universal mission, rediscovering its own identity as a local Church.

Welcoming the impetus of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, he was able to give new vitality to the Diocese of Rome and its various components: the ecclesial conventions which aimed at regaining living and valuable forces for the city’s evangelization, in order to involve them harmoniously in the activities of the Diocese, were milestones for the growth of diocesan life.

5. “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!”. It could be said that the Apostle’s cry constantly resonated in the deceased Cardinal’s soul. His activity aimed at arousing in Romans a keen awareness of the extraordinary legacy of values inherited from their ancestors and the growing commitment to the city’s historical mission for the future.

By listening to those who were close and those who were distant, the cultured and the simplest people, those responsible for public administration and those who were critical of institutions, he helped instil in priests, religious and committed laity an attitude of acceptance and tolerance which also had its influence on the life of the civil community.

With these intentions he began preparations for the Diocesan Synod, which was a further example of frank, positive dialogue between Christians and the citizens of the Eternal City.

6. “I know my own and my own know me” (Jn 10,14).

The words of the Gospel, which have just resounded in this basilica, show what the Pastor’s altitude should be towards those entrusted to him. Was not Cardinal Poletti’s episcopal ministry distinguished by this way of acting? Did he not strive to establish a personal and affectionate relationship with everyone?

697 We can say that perhaps the secret of his productive ecclesial service lies in this. “I am not an intellectual, but a man who tries to be close to the people”, he said one day to a friend. With the heart of a pastor, he made “being close to people” a priority, devoting to this purpose both his energies and his remarkable theological, pastoral and administrative skills, acquired over his many years as a priest and Bishop.

The people of Rome knew him and were known by him. Over and above official functions, his pastoral zeal enabled him to establish a very human rapport in his many contacts during his visits to parishes, schools, associations and religious communities, as well as on the diocesan pilgrimages to Lourdes, for which he always sought to be present.

For this he was loved by the clergy and the people. I greet all who have come to show him their affection at this final leave-taking: Mr Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, President of the Italian Republic, Minister Giovanni Maria Flick, the other civil authorities, the many priests, men and women religious, and the vast representation of lay faithful.

7. “The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”.

With today's funeral liturgy, illumined by the presence of the risen Christ, we extend a last farewell to the mortal remains of this beloved Brother, my very capable assistant. We trustfully commend him to the Good Shepherd, as we invoke divine mercy on his chosen soul.

We give thanks to the Father for giving him to his Church. May Christ the Good Shepherd welcome him to his home of light and peace, and give him the reward reserved for his good and faithful servants.

And may the Virgin Mary, “Salus populi Romani”, to whom he was a devoted son, lead him to the joyful liturgy of heaven.

“In paradisum deducant te Angeli”, dilectissime Frater! Amen.


of St Julian Martyr IN ROME

S. John Paul II Homil. 687