S. John Paul II Homil. 980

980 The Father’s watch explains the Resurrection of the Son: even in the hour of death, the bond of love in God does not fail; nor does the Holy Spirit who, poured out by the dying Jesus on the Cross, fills with light the darkness of evil and raises Jesus from the dead, designating him as Son of God in power and glory (cf. Rom Rm 1,4).

4. “The stone rejected by the builders has become the corner-stone” (Ps 117,22). In the light of Christ’s Resurrection, how wonderfully we see in all its fullness the truth of which the Psalmist sings! Condemned to a shameful death, the Son of Man, crucified and risen, has become the corner-stone of the Church’s life and of the life of every Christian.

“This is the work of the Lord: a marvel in our eyes” (Ps 117,23). It happened on this holy night. The women recognized it when, “the day after the Sabbath while it was still dark” (Jn 20,1), they went to the tomb to anoint the body of the Lord and found the tomb empty. They heard the angel’s voice: “Do not be afraid! You are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. He is risen” (cf. Mt Mt 28,11-5).

Thus the prophetic words of the Psalmist were fulfilled: “The stone rejected by the builders has become the corner-stone”. This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church and we are proud to profess it on the threshold of the third millennium, because the Passover of Christ is the hope of the world, yesterday, today and for ever.



Sunday "in Albis", 11 April 1999

1. "Eight days later ... the doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, 'Peace be with you'" (Jn 20,26).

On this Octave of Easter we hear again the greeting of peace which Jesus gave the Apostles on the very day of his Resurrection: "Peace be with you". By his Death and Resurrection, Christ has reconciled us with the Father and offered the precious gift of peace to all who accept it. His redemptive grace makes them witnesses of his peace, committing them to become peacemakers by receiving this supernatural gift of God and expressing it in concrete acts of reconciliation and brotherhood.

How much the world needs genuine peace at the end of this millennium: this need touches individuals, families and the very life of nations! How many situations of tension and war unfortunately remain in the world, in Europe and on other continents! These days our eyes are filled with images of violence and death coming from Kosovo and the Balkans, where a conflict is being waged with tragic consequences. In spite of it all, we do not want to give up the hope of peace. Like Thomas and the other Apostles, we are called in this Easter season to renew our faith in the Lord who conquered sin and death, receiving the gift of peace from him and spreading it in every way we can.

2. Dear brothers and sisters of Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Castelverde! I am pleased at last to be with your community, which I was unable to visit at the beginning of February. I thank the Lord for the opportunity I have been given to be among you this Sunday, traditionally called the Sunday "in Albis". I gladly share with you the joy of the Easter season, expressed repeatedly these days in the psalmist's words: "This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Ps 117 [118]:24).

I extend a cordial greeting to the Cardinal Vicar, to the Vicegerent, to your dear parish priest, Fr Patrizio Milano, to his co-workers and to the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Hearts, to the members of the parish pastoral council and to all the members of the various groups, associations and movements in the parish. I affectionately greet you all, dear parishioners, recalling in particular the poor and the sick, who are the real "treasure" of your community.

981 It is not the first time, as you know so well, that your parish community has received a visit from the Successor of Peter. In fact, the Servant of God Pope Paul VI, my venerable Predecessor, the diocesan stage of whose beatification process was concluded a few weeks ago, visited you on 5 March 1967. It is an occasion to be remembered. His visit left a profound impression in people's hearts, but also in the very name of the neighbourhood, which until then had been called Castellaccio. When the Pope saw this rich green area he exclaimed: "It should be called Castelverde, not Castellaccio!". And the municipal administration, promptly heeding his suggestion, changed the neighbourhood's name.

3. Today, over 30 years later, the Pope is with you again. My hope is that our meeting today will be a good occasion for everyone to intensify his journey to God through a stronger Christian life, enlivened by constantly listening to the Word of God, invigorated by frequent reception of the sacraments and marked by a genuine Gospel witness in every circumstance and situation.

Dear brothers and sisters, the risen Lord calls you as individuals and as a parish to proclaim his Gospel in the same way as the apostolic community, described in today's first reading (cf. Acts
Ac 2,42-43). You will thus show the value of the faith which motivates you and the depth of your love for Christ (cf. 1P 1,7-8). You will then be blessed, as Jesus promised (Jn 20,29), because, even without being able to touch the marks of the crucifixion on the body of the Risen One as Thomas did, you believe in him and want to be his fearless and generous apostles.

You are supported in this difficult task by the City Mission, a providential opportunity for the new evangelization. I know that in your parish you have laudably continued such an important apostolic initiative this year as well by visiting families, setting up listening centres and trying to bring every resident the Gospel message. I am sure that the Mission will not end with the closing celebration at the solemn Vigil of Pentecost. How could the many expectations which the Mission has awakened in people's hearts be left without adequate answers? So many yearn for a more authentic Christian life, and this desire should be encouraged and supported with appropriate spiritual and missionary initiatives. It is up to you to continue this extraordinary apostolic experience, while taking into account the expectations and challenges of your neighbourhood, which has considerably changed in recent years.

More than 45 years have passed since 1953, when the foundation stone was laid for your church, placed under the protection of Our Lady of Loreto, so dear to the inhabitants of the Marches, the region from which the majority of Castelverde's first residents came. As the years have passed a certain level of prosperity has been reached, thanks be to God, and many have been able to build homes for their families and children. However, along with social progress, often the fruit of many sacrifices, some typical phenomena of a consumer society have appeared. At times a certain superficiality in living the faith has occurred. There is the risk of turning in on oneself and of not showing concern for the problems of the less fortunate. The crisis of the family is making itself felt, while young people are looking for demanding ways to live so that they will not fall into a mediocre and superficial existence.

4. The risen Lord calls us all to make a renewed apostolic effort: Go, he says to each of us. Go, proclaim the Gospel and do not be afraid! He is with us every day until the end of time. Strengthened by this knowledge, dear brothers and sisters, do not hesitate to be apostles of the Risen One. It is each person's duty, in his name, generously to promote spiritual values such as fidelity, the acceptance and defence of life in all its phases, love of neighbour and perseverance in the faith even amid the inevitable difficulties of daily life. Do not forget that we must reacquire a taste for prayer, so that Christian witness will experience the vigorous reawakening we desire. In this regard, I congratulate you on the beautiful practice of nocturnal prayer which is held in your church on the First Friday of the month. On the occasion of the forthcoming Jubilee, it would be a good idea if similar initiatives could be organized in all the parishes to offer an occasion of authentic spirituality to the pilgrims who will come to Rome.

Let us entrust to Our Lady of Loreto, protectress of your parish, not only the success of this meeting, but the expectations and projects of your entire parish community.

May Our Lady protect you and inspire you with thoughts of peace and reconciliation, so that you will always be able to give an account of the hope that is in you. May she help the residents of this neighbourhood and the community of those from the Marches who live in Rome.

Our Lady of Loreto, pray for us!



Sunday, 18 April 1999

1. "He took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him" (Lc 24,30-31).

982 We have just heard again these words of Luke's Gospel: they tell of Jesus' meeting with two disciples who were on their way to the village of Emmaus, the very day of the Resurrection. This unexpected meeting brings joy to the hearts of the two discouraged travelers and rekindles their hope. The Gospel says that when they recognized him, they left "that same hour and returned to Jerusalem" (Lc 24,33). They felt the need to tell the Apostles about "what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread" (Lc 24,35).

The desire to bear witness to Jesus arises in the hearts of believers from their personal encounter with him. This is what happened with the three new saints whom today I have the joy of raising to the glory of the altars: Marcellin Benoît Champagnat, Giovanni Calabria and Agostina Livia Pietrantoni. They opened their eyes to the signs of Christ's presence: they adored him and received him in the Eucharist; they loved him in their neediest brethren; they recognized the signs of his saving plan in the events of daily life.

They listened to Jesus' words and sought his companionship, feeling their hearts burning within them. What an indescribable attraction the Lord's mysterious presence holds for those who accept him! This is what the saints experience. It is the same spiritual experience we can have as we travel the ways of the world toward our heavenly homeland. The Risen One also comes to meet us through his Word, revealing his infinite love to us in the sacrament of the Eucharistic Bread, broken for the salvation of all humanity. May the eyes of our spirit be opened to his truth and his love, as happened to Marcellin Benoît Champagnat, to Giovanni Calabria and to Sr Agostina Livia Pietrantoni.

2. "Did not our hearts burn within us while he opened to us the Scriptures?". The burning desire for God in the disciples of Emmaus was vividly felt by Marcellin Champagnat, who was a priest captivated by the love of Jesus and Mary. Because of his unshakeable faith, he remained faithful to Christ despite difficulties, in the midst of a world sometimes lacking the sense of God. We too are called to draw strength from contemplation of the risen Christ by learning at the school of the Virgin Mary.

St Marcellin proclaimed the Gospel with a burning heart. He was sensitive to the spiritual and educational needs of his time, especially to religious ignorance and the situations of neglect experienced in a particular way by the young. His pastoral sense is an example for priests: called to proclaim the Good News, they must also be true teachers for young people who seek to give meaning to their lives, by accompanying each of them on their way and explaining the Scriptures to them. Fr Champagnat was also a model for parents and teachers, helping them to look with hope at young people, to love them with a total love which fosters their true human, moral and spiritual formation.

Marcellin Champagnat also invites us to be missionaries, to make Jesus Christ known and loved as the Marist Brothers did even in Asia and Oceania. With Mary as our guide and Mother, the Christian is a missionary and the servant of human beings. Let us ask the Lord to give us a heart that burns like that of Marcellin Champagnat, to recognize him and to be his witnesses.

3. "This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses" (Ac 2,32).

"We are all witnesses": the one speaking is Peter, in the name of the Apostles. In his voice we recognize those of countless other disciples who down the ages have made their life a witness to the Lord who died and rose again. The saints canonized today join this chorus. Fr Giovanni Calabria joins it, an exemplary witness to the Resurrection. He is resplendent for his fervent faith, genuine charity, spirit of sacrifice, love of the truth, zeal for souls and fidelity to the Church.

In the year dedicated to God the Father which leads us into the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, we are invited to put great emphasis on the virtue of charity. Giovanni Calabria's entire life was a living Gospel, overflowing with love: love for God and for his brothers and sisters, especially the very poor. The source of his love of neighbour was his boundless faith and his filial abandonment to the heavenly Father. He loved to repeat to his co-workers these words of the Gospel: "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well" (Mt 6,33).

4. The Gospel ideal of the love of neighbour, especially towards the lowly, the sick and the abandoned, also led Agostina Livia Pietrantoni to the peak of holiness. Formed in the school of St Joan Antida Thouret, Sr Agostina realized that the love of Jesus calls for generous service to one's brothers and sisters, for it is in their faces, especially those of the neediest, that the face of Christ shines. "God alone" was the "compass" that guided all the decisions of her life. "You shall love", the first and fundamental commandment put at the beginning of the "Rule of Life of the Sisters of Charity", was the inspiration for the new saint's works of solidarity, the inner stimulus which sustained her in her self-giving to others.

In the First Letter of Peter, which we have just heard, we read that Redemption was not achieved "with perishable things such as silver or gold", but with "the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot" (1P 1,18-19). Awareness of the infinite value of Christ's Blood shed for us led St Agostina Livia Pietrantoni to respond to God's love with an equally generous and unconditional love, expressed in humble and faithful service to the "dear poor", as she usually called them.

983 Ready to make any sacrifice, a heroic witness of charity, she paid the price for fidelity to Love with her blood. May her example and intercession obtain renewed apostolic zeal for the Institute of the Sisters of Charity, who this year will celebrate the second centenary of their foundation.

5. "Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent" (
Lc 24,29). The two exhausted travelers begged Jesus to stay at their home and share their table.

Stay with us, risen Lord! This is also our daily longing. If you remain with us, our hearts are at peace.

Accompany us, as you did the disciples of Emmaus, on our personal and ecclesial journey.

Open our eyes, so that we can recognize the signs of your ineffable presence.

Make us docile in listening to your Spirit. Nourished each day by your Body and your Blood, we will be able to recognize you and serve you in our brothers and sisters.

Mary, Queen of Saints, help us keep our faith and hope rooted in God (cf. 1P 1,21).

St Marcellin Benoît Champagnat, St Giovanni Calabria and St Agostina Livia Pietrantoni, pray for us!


Sunday, 25 April 1999

1. “I am the Good Shepherd ...; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (Gospel Acclamation).

As we continue our journey through the liturgical season of Easter, today we celebrate what is traditionally called “Good Shepherd Sunday”. Jesus applies to himself this image (cf. Jn Jn 10,6), rooted in the Old Testament and very dear to Christian tradition. Christ is the Good Shepherd who, by dying on the Cross, lays down his life for his sheep. Thus a profound communion is established between the Good Shepherd and his flock. Jesus, according to the Evangelist, “calls his own sheep by name and leads them out ... and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (Jn 10,3-4). Sheep and Shepherd are united by long familiarity, real knowledge and mutual attachment: he takes care of them; they trust him and follow him faithfully.

984 How comforting, then, are the words we have just repeated in the Responsorial Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want” (Jn 10,3-4).

2. Continuing a beautiful custom, for several years I have had the joy of ordaining new priests precisely on Good Shepherd Sunday. Today there are 31 of them. They will dedicate their enthusiasm and fresh energies to the service of the community of Rome and the universal Church.

Together with the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishops, the priests of the Diocese and everyone here, I thank the Lord for this great gift. In a particular way, dear ordinands, I share your joy and that of your teachers, your families and all the friends who have gathered round you at this deeply emotional moment which will leave you with a profound and lifelong memory.

In mentioning your teachers, my thoughts at this time turn to Bishop Plinio Pascoli, whom the Lord called to himself a few days ago. He was rector of the Roman Seminary for many years and then Auxiliary Bishop, dedicating his long life to the care of vocations and the formation of priests. May his example be a further incentive for everyone to grasp the importance of the gift of priesthood.

3. Dear ordinands, through the ancient and evocative sacramental rite of the laying-on of hands and the prayer of consecration, you will become priests in order to be servants of the Christian people in a new and more profound way, in the image of the Good Shepherd. You will share in Christ's own mission, scattering freely the seed of God's word. The Lord has called you to be ministers of his mercy and dispensers of his mysteries.

The Eucharist, the source and summit of the Christian life, will be the crystal clear spring that will constantly replenish your priestly spirituality. You will be able to draw from it the inspiration for your daily ministry, apostolic zeal for the work of evangelization and spiritual consolation in the inevitable moments of difficulty and inner struggle. By standing at the altar where the sacrifice of the Cross is renewed, you will increasingly discover the wealth of Christ's love and learn to express it in your life.

4. Dear friends, it is very significant that you are receiving the sacrament of Holy Orders on this Good Shepherd Sunday, when we are celebrating the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Indeed, throughout history Christ's mission is extended through the work of the Shepherds to whom he entrusts the care of his flock. As he did with the first disciples, Jesus continues to choose new co-workers to care for his flock through the ministry of the word, the sacraments and the service of charity. A vocation to the priesthood is a great gift and a great mystery. A gift, first of all, of divine benevolence, because it is the fruit of grace. It is also a mystery because a vocation is rooted in the depths of conscience and of human freedom. It starts with a dialogue of love, which day after day moulds the priest's personality through a formation process begun in the family, continued in the seminary and extended throughout his life. Only through this uninterrupted ascetical and pastoral journey can the priest become a living icon of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who gives himself for the flock entrusted to his care.

The words I will address to you in a little while when I give you the offerings for the Eucharistic sacrifice echo in my mind: “Imitate the mystery you celebrate”. Yes, dear ordinands, this mystery you dispense is really Christ himself, who through the communication of the Holy Spirit is the source of holiness and a ceaseless call to sanctification. Imitate this mystery: imitate Christ, be Christ! May each of you be able to say with St Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Ga 2,20).

5. Dear brothers and sisters who are participating in this celebration! Let us pray that these 31 new priests will be faithful to their mission, that each day they will renew their “yes” to Christ and be a sign of his love for every person. We also ask the Lord, on this World Day of Prayer for Vocations, to inspire generous souls who are ready to dedicate themselves totally to the service of God's kingdom.

Mary, Mother of Christ and of the Church, to you we entrust our brothers who are ordained today. With them I entrust the priests of Rome and of the whole world. Mother of Christ and of priests, accompany these sons of yours in their ministry and in their lives.

Praised be Jesus Christ!


Sunday, 2 May 1999

“Sing a new song to the Lord!”.

1. The summons of the entrance antiphon captures well the joy of so many of the faithful who have long awaited the beatification of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. By his life given wholly to prayer and to listening to his brothers and sisters, this humble Capuchin friar astonished the world.

Countless people came to meet him in the friary of San Giovanni Rotondo and, since his death, the flow of pilgrims has not ceased. When I was a student here in Rome, I myself had the chance to meet him personally, and I thank God for allowing me today to enter Padre Pio's name in the book of the blessed.

Guided by the texts of this Fifth Sunday of Easter, which provides the context for the beatification, let us this morning trace the main features of his spiritual experience.

2. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God and believe also in me” (
Jn 14,1). In the Gospel just proclaimed, we heard these words of Jesus to his disciples who were in need of encouragement. In fact, his allusion to his imminent departure had thrown them into turmoil. They were afraid of being abandoned, of being alone, and the Lord consoled them with a very specific promise: “I am going to prepare a place for you”, and then, “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (Jn 14,2-3).

Through Thomas, the Apostles reply to this reassurance: “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” (Jn 14,5). The remark is apt, and Jesus does not avoid the question which it implies. The answer he gives will remain for ever a light shining for generations still to come: “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me” (Jn 14,6).

The “place” that Jesus goes to prepare is in “the house of the Father”; there the disciple will be able to be with the Master for all eternity and share in his joy. Yet there is only one path that leads there: Christ, to whom the disciple must be conformed more and more. Holiness consists precisely in this: that it is no longer the Christian who lives, but Christ himself who lives in him (cf. Gal Ga 2,20). An exhilarating goal, accompanied by a promise which is no less consoling: “Whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do, and greater works than I will they do, because I am going to the Father” (Jn 14,12).

3. We hear these words of Christ and think of the humble friar of Gargano. How clearly were they fulfilled in Bl. Pio of Pietrelcina!

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe ...”. What was the life of this humble son of St Francis if not a constant act of faith, strengthened by the hope of heaven, where he could be with Christ?

“I am going to prepare a place for you ... that where I am you may be also”. What other purpose was there for the demanding ascetical practices which Padre Pio undertook from his early youth, if not gradually to identify himself with the Divine Master, so that he could be “where he was”?

986 Those who went to San Giovanni Rotondo to attend his Mass, to seek his counsel or to confess to him, saw in him a living image of Christ suffering and risen. The face of Padre Pio reflected the light of the Resurrection.His body, marked by the “stigmata”, showed forth the intimate bond between death and resurrection which characterizes the paschal mystery. Bl. Pio of Pietrelcina shared in the Passion with a special intensity: the unique gifts which were given to him, and the interior and mystical sufferings which accompanied them, allowed him constantly to participate in the Lord's agonies, never wavering in his sense that “Calvary is the hill of the saints”.

4. No less painful, and perhaps even more distressing from a human point of view, were the trials which he had to endure as a result, it might be said, of his incomparable charisms. It happens at times in the history of holiness that, by God's special permission, the one chosen is misunderstood. In that case, obedience becomes for him a crucible of purification, a path of gradual assimilation to Christ, a strengthening of true holiness. In this regard, Bl. Pio wrote to one of his superiors: “I strive only to obey you, the good God having made known to me the one thing most acceptable to him and the one way for me to hope for salvation and to sing of victory” (Letter I, p. 807).

When the “storm” broke upon him, he took as his rule of life the exhortation of the First Letter of Peter, that we have just heard: Come to Christ, a living stone (cf.
1P 2,4). He himself thus became a “living stone” for the building of that spiritual house which is the Church. For this we today give thanks to the Lord.

5. “You too are living stones, built into a spiritual house” (1P 2,5). How fitting are these words if we apply them to the extraordinary ecclesial experience which grew up around the new blessed! So many people, meeting him directly or indirectly, rediscovered their faith; inspired by his example, “prayer groups” sprang up in every corner of the world. To all who flocked to him he held up the ideal of holiness, repeating to them: “It seems that Jesus has no interest outside of sanctifying your soul” (Letter II, p. 155).

If God's Providence willed that he should be active without ever leaving his convent, as though he were “planted” at the foot of the Cross, this is not without significance. One day the Divine Master had to console him, at a moment of particular trial, by telling him that “it is under the Cross that one learns to love” (Letter I, p. 339).

The Cross of Christ is truly the outstanding school of love; indeed, the very “well-spring” of love. Purified by suffering, the love of this faithful disciple drew hearts to Christ and to his demanding Gospel of salvation.

6. At the same time, his charity was poured out like balm on the weaknesses and the sufferings of his brothers and sisters. Padre Pio thus united zeal for souls with a concern for human suffering, working to build at San Giovanni Rotondo a hospital complex which he called the “House for the Relief of Suffering”. He wanted it to be a first-class hospital, but above all he was concerned that the medicine practised there would be truly “human”, treating patients with warm concern and sincere attention. He was quite aware that people who are ill and suffering need not only competent therapeutic care but also, and more importantly, a human and spiritual climate to help them rediscover themselves in an encounter with the love of God and with the kindness of their brothers and sisters.

With the “House for the Relief of Suffering”, he wished to show that God's “ordinary miracles” take place in and through our charity. We need to be open to compassion and to the generous service of our brothers and sisters, using every resource of medical science and technology at our disposal.

7. The echo stirred by this beatification in Italy and throughout the world shows that the fame of Padre Pio, a son of Italy and of Francis of Assisi, has gone forth to embrace all the continents. And I gladly greet those who have gathered here — in the first place the Italian authorities who have chosen to be present: the President of the Republic, the President of the Senate, the Prime Minister, who leads the official delegation, and the many other ministers and distinguished guests. Italy is represented most worthily! But also the many faithful from other nations have gathered here to pay homage to Padre Pio.

My affectionate greeting goes to all who have come from near and far, with a special thought for the Capuchin Fathers. To everyone I offer heartfelt thanks.

8. Let me conclude with the words of the Gospel of this Mass: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God”. There is a reference to this exhortation of Christ in the advice which the new blessed never tired of giving to the faithful: “Abandon yourselves fully to the divine heart of Jesus, like a child in the arms of his mother”. May these words of encouragement fill our hearts too and become a source of peace, serenity and joy. Why should we fear, if Christ for us is the Way, and the Truth and the Life? Why should we not trust in God who is the Father, our Father?

987 May “Our Lady of Graces”, whom the humble Capuchin of Pietrelcina invoked with constant and tender devotion, help us to keep our gaze fixed on God. May she take us by the hand and lead us to seek wholeheartedly that supernatural charity flowing forth from the wounded side of the Crucified One.

And you, Bl. Padre Pio, look down from heaven upon us assembled in this square and upon all gathered in prayer before the Basilica of St John Lateran and in San Giovanni Rotondo. Intercede for all those who, in every part of the world, are spiritually united with this event and raise their prayers to you. Come to the help of everyone; give peace and consolation to every heart. Amen!



St Joseph Latin-Rite Cathedral, Bucharest

Saturday, 8 May 1999

1. “Dress yourself and put on your sandals” (Ac 12,8). The angel says these words to the Apostle Peter, whom the first reading shows us confined in prison. Guided by the angel, Peter escaped from prison and regained his freedom.

The Lord Jesus also spoke to us of freedom in the Gospel passage we have just heard: “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (Jn 8,32). Those who are listening to him do not understand: “From what slavery must we be freed?”, they ask themselves. And Jesus explains that the most deceptive and repressive slavery is that of sin (cf. Jn Jn 8,34). Only he can free us from that slavery.

This is the message that the Church proclaims to the world: Christ is our freedom, because he is the truth. Not an abstract truth, gropingly sought by ever restless human reason. The truth for us is the person of Christ. It is he who told us: “I am the way, and the truth and the life” (Jn 14,6). If the darkness of sin is defeated by the light of life, then there is no slavery that can suppress freedom.

2. You know this truth well, beloved brother Alexandru Todea, Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, and you, Archbishop Gheorghe Gutiu, because before you, as before Peter, the heavy door of slavery opened by itself and you were given back to your Churches together with many other brothers and sisters, some of whom we have the joy and privilege of greeting and spiritually kissing here at this Divine Liturgy in the Byzantine rite. Others were welcomed instead into the Father's embrace in the days of persecution, without being able to see basic freedoms restored in their country, including freedom of religion. Beloved brothers and sisters, your chains and the chains of your people are the glory and pride of the Church: the truth has set you free! They tried to silence your freedom, to suppress it, but they did not succeed. Inwardly you remained free, even though in chains; free, even though in tears and privation; free, even though your communities were attacked and violated; but “earnest prayer was made to God by the Church” (Ac 12,5) for you, for them, for all believers in Christ whom deceit sought to destroy. There is no son of darkness who can tolerate the hymn of freedom, since it reproaches him for his error and sin.

I have come in these days to pay homage to the Romanian people, who historically are a sign of the extension of Roman civilization its this part of Europe, where to memory, language and culture have been perpetuated. I have come to pay homage to the brothers and sisters who hallowed this land by the witness of their faith, producing a flourishing civilization inspired by the Gospel of Christ; to a Christian people proud of their identity, often defended at a high price in the sufferings and vicissitudes that have marked its life.

Today I am here to pay homage to you, sons and daughters of the Greek-Catholic Church, who for three centuries have borne witness to your faith in unity, sometimes with unprecedented sacrifices. I come to you to express the Catholic Church's gratitude, and not only hers: you have offered a witness of liberating truth to the entire Christian world, to all people of good will.

From this cathedral my thoughts must turn to Blaj. In spirit I kiss that land of martyrdom and make my own the moving words of the great poet Mihai Eminescu, who said of it: “I thank you, O God, for helping me so that I could see it”. At this holy celebration, I extend my affectionate greetings to my beloved Brother, Lucian Muresan, Metropolitan of your Romanian Greek-Catholic Church, to the Bishops, the priests, the deacons, the religious and all the faithful.

S. John Paul II Homil. 980