S. John Paul II Homil. 1383
1383 3. From the beginning of her existence the Church, pointing to the mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection, has preached the mercy of God, a pledge of hope and a source of salvation for man. Nonetheless, it would appear that we today have been particularly called to proclaim this message before the world. We cannot neglect this mission, if God himself has called us to it through the testimony of Saint Faustina.
God has chosen our own times for this purpose. Perhaps because the twentieth century, despite indisputable achievements in many areas, was marked in a particular way by the "mystery of iniquity". With this heritage both of good and of evil, we have entered the new millennium. New prospects of development are opening up before mankind, together with hitherto unheard-of dangers. Frequently man lives as if God did not exist, and even puts himself in Godís place. He claims for himself the Creatorís right to interfere in the mystery of human life. He wishes to determine human life through genetic manipulation and to establish the limit of death. Rejecting divine law and moral principles, he openly attacks the family. In a variety of ways he attempts to silence the voice of God in human hearts; he wishes to make God the "great absence" in the culture and the conscience of peoples. The "mystery of iniquity" continues to mark the reality of the world.
In experiencing this mystery, man lives in fear of the future, of emptiness, of suffering, of annihilation. Perhaps for this very reason, it is as if Christ, using the testimony of a lowly Sister, entered our time in order to indicate clearly the source of relief and hope found in the eternal mercy of God.
The message of merciful love needs to resound forcefully anew. The world needs this love. The hour has come to bring Christís message to everyone: to rulers and the oppressed, to those whose humanity and dignity seem lost in the mysterium iniquitatis. The hour has come when the message of Divine Mercy is able to fill hearts with hope and to become the spark of a new civilization: the civilization of love.
4. The Church desires tirelessly to proclaim this message, not only by convincing words, but by the ready practice of mercy. This is why she ceaselessly holds up stupendous examples of individuals who out of love for God and for man "went forth and bore fruit". Today she adds four new Beati to their number. They lived at different times and led very different lives. But they are united by that particular feature of holiness which is devotion to the cause of mercy.
Blessed Sigismund Felix Felinski, Archbishop of Warsaw, during a difficult period marked by the lack of national freedom, urged everyone to persevere in generous service to the poor and to establish educational institutions and charitable works. He himself founded an orphanage and a school; he also brought the Sisters of Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy to Warsaw and supported the work they began. After the failure of the insurrection of 1863, in a spirit of mercy towards his brothers and sisters he openly defended the persecuted. This fidelity cost him deportment to the interior of Russa, which lasted twenty years. Even there he continued to be mindful of the poor and distressed, showing them great love, patience and understanding. It has been written of him that "during his exile, oppressed on every side, in the poverty of prayer, he remained always alone at the foot of the Cross, commending himself to Divine Mercy".
His was an example of pastoral ministry which today in a special way I wish to entrust to my Brothers in the Episcopate. Dear Brothers, Archbishop Felinski supports your efforts to create and carry out a pastoral programme of mercy. May this programme be the expression of your commitment, primarily in the life of the Church and then, as fitting and necessary, in the social and political life of the Nation, of Europe and of the world.
Inspired by this spirit of social charity, Archbishop Felinski gave himself fully in defending the freedom of the nation. This is necessary today also, when different forces ó often under the guidance of a false ideology of freedom ó try to take over this land. When the noisy propaganda of liberalism, of freedom without truth or responsibility, grows stronger in our country too, the Shepherds of the Church cannot fail to proclaim the one fail-proof philosophy of freedom, which is the truth of the Cross of Christ. This philosophy of freedom finds full motivation in the history of our nation.
5. The desire to bring mercy to the neediest led Blessed Jan Beyzym to far-away Madagascar, where, out of love for Christ, he devoted himself to caring for lepers. Day and night he served those who had been emarginated and separated from social life. By his works of mercy on behalf of the abandoned and despised, he bore extraordinary witness. This was a witness that rung out first in Krakůw, then in Poland, and afterwards among Poles overseas. Funds were collected to construct the hospital named after Our Lady of Czestochowa, which still stands today. One of those who promoted this help was Saint Brother Albert.
I am pleased that this spirit of solidarity in mercy continues to be active in the Church in Poland; this is seen in the many programmes lending assistance to the communities struck by natural catastrophes in different parts of the world, it is also seen in the recent initiative to purchase surplus grain and send it to those suffering hunger in Africa. I hope that this project will come to fruition.
The charitable work of Blesssed Jan Beyzym was an integral component of his fundamental mission: bringing the Gospel to those who do not know it. This is the greatest gift of mercy: bringing people to Christ and giving them the opportunity to know and savour his love. Therefore I ask you: pray for the birth of missionary vocations in the Church in Poland. Support missionaries unceasingly with your prayers.
1384 6. Blessed Jan Balickiís life was marked by his service of mercy. As a priest, his heart was always open to the needy. His ministry of mercy, besides offering help to the sick and the poor, found a particularly energetic expression in the confessional, where he was filled with patience and humility, always open to bringing the repentant sinner back to the throne of divine grace.
With this in mind, I turn to the priests and seminarians: I beseech you, Brothers, do not forget that, insofar as you are dispensers of Divine Mercy, you have a great responsibility; remember also that Christ himself comforts you with his promise handed on through Saint Faustina: "Tell my priests that hardened sinners will soften at their words, when they speak of my boundless Mercy and of the compassion that I feel for them in my Heart" (Diary, 1521).
7. The work of mercy traced out a path in the religious vocation of Blessed Santia Janina Szymkowiak, Sister "Seraphica". She had already received from her family an ardent love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and in this spirit she was filled with goodness towards others, especially the poor and the needy. She began to lend help to the poor first as a member of the Marian Guild and of the Saint Vincent Mercy Association; then, having embraced the religious life, she devoted herself to the service of others with greater fervour. She accepted the difficult times of the Nazi occupation as an occasion to give herself completely to the needy. She considered her religious vocation a gift of Divine Mercy.
As I greet the Congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of Sorrows, the "Seraphic" Sisters, I turn to all religious and consecrated persons. Let Blessed Santia be your patron. Make your own her spiritual witness, summarized in a simple phrase: "To give yourself to God, you have to give yourself to the point of totally losing yourself".
8. Brothers and Sisters, as we contemplate these Beati, I wish to recall once more what I wrote in the Encyclical Dives in Misericordia: "Man attains to the merciful love of God, his mercy, to the extent that he himself is interiorly transformed in the spirit of that love towards his neighbor" (No. 14). On this path, may we rediscover ever more profoundly the mystery of Divine Mercy and live it in our daily lives!
Faced with the modern forms of poverty that, as we all know, are not lacking in our country, what is needed today is ó as I called it in my Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte ó "a new Ďcreativityí in charity" (No. 50), in a spirit of solidarity towards our neighbour, so that the help we lend will be a witness of "sharing between brothers and sisters" ( ibid.). May this "creativity" never be lacking in the residents of Krakůw and in all the people of our homeland. It represents the pastoral plan of the Church in Poland. May the message of Godís mercy be reflected always in works of human mercy!
We must take a loving look around ourselves if we are to be aware of the neighbour by our side, who ó because of the loss of work, home, the possibility to maintain his family in a decent manner and to educate his children ó feels a sense of abandonment, of being lost, of distrust. This "creativity in charity" is needed to provide material and spiritual assistance to neglected children; to refrain from turning oneís back on the boy or girl who have gotten lost in the world of addiction or crime; to give advice, consolation, spiritual support to those engaged in an internal struggle with evil. May this "creativity" never be lacking when a needy person pleads: "Give us this day our daily bread!". Thanks to brotherly love, this bread will not be lacking. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Mt 5,7).
9. During my 1979 pilgrimage to Poland, here in Blonie I said that "when we are strong with the Spirit of God, we are also strong with faith in man ó strong with faith, hope and love, which are inseparable ó and we are ready to bear witness to the cause of man before those who really have this cause at heart" (Homily at Mass at Blonie Kraskowie, 10 June 1979, 4). Therefore, I asked you: "Never disdain charity, which is Ďthe greatest of theseí and which shows itself in the Cross. Without it, human life has no roots and no meaning" (ibid., 5).
Brothers and Sisters, today I repeat this invitation: open yourselves to Godís greatest gift, to his love that, through the Cross of Christ, has revealed itself to the world as merciful love. Today, living in different times, at the dawn of the new century and millennium, continue to be "ready to bear witness to the cause of man". Today, with all my strength, I beseech the sons and daughters of the Church, and all people of good will: never, ever separate "the cause of man" from the love of God. Help modern men and women to experience Godís merciful love! This love, in its splendour and warmth, will save humanity!
Kalwaria, 19 August 2002
"Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
1385 Our life, our sweetness and our hope!"
Dear Brothers and Sisters.
1. Today I come to this Shrine as a pilgrim, as I used to come when I was a child and as a young man. I come before Our Lady of Calvary as I used to come as Bishop of Krakůw to entrust to her the problems of the Archdiocese and of those whom God had entrusted to my pastoral care. I come here and, now as then, I repeat: Hail, Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy!
How many times have I seen that the Mother of the Son of God turns her eyes of mercy upon the concerns of the afflicted, that she obtains for them the grace to resolve difficult problems, and that they, in their powerlessness, come to a fuller realization of the amazing power and wisdom of Divine Providence? Has this not been the experience of the generations of pilgrims who have come here for four hundred years? Indeed it has. Otherwise todayís celebration would not be taking place. You would not be here, dear friends, you who tread the Paths of Kalwaria, tracing the steps of Christís Passion and Cross and following his Motherís journey of compassion and glory. This place wondrously helps the heart and mind to gain deeper insight into the mystery of that bond which united the suffering Saviour and his co-suffering Mother. At the centre of this mystery of love everyone who comes here rediscovers himself, his life, his daily existence, his weakness and, at the same time, the power of faith and hope: that power which springs up from the assurance that the Mother does not abandon her children at times of trouble, but leads them to her Son and entrusts them to his mercy.
2. "Standing by the cross of Jesus were his Mother, and his Motherís sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene" (Jn 19,25). She who was linked to the Son of God by bonds of blood and by maternal love, there, at the foot of the Cross, experienced this union in suffering. She alone, despite the pain of her motherís heart, knew that this suffering had meaning. She had trust Ė trust in spite of everything Ė that the ancient promise was being fulfilled: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel" (Gn 3,15). And her trust was vindicated when her dying Son addressed her: "Woman".
At that moment, standing beneath the Cross, could she expect that in a short time, in three days, Godís promise would be fulfilled? This will remain forever a secret of her heart. We do know one thing, however: she, the first among all human beings, shared fully in the glory of her Risen Son. She Ė as we believe and profess Ė was assumed body and soul into heaven in order to experience union in glory, to rejoice at her Sonís side in the fruits of Divine Mercy and to obtain them for those who seek refuge in her.
3. The mysterious bond of love. How splendidly is it expressed in this place. History relates that at the beginning of the seventeenth century Mikolaj Zebrzydowski, the founder of the Shrine, laid the foundations for the chapel of Golgotha, which was to be built on the model of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. He thus wished, above all else, to bring nearer to himself and to others the mystery of Christís passion and death. Later, however, when he planned the building of the paths of the Lordís Passion, from the Upper Room to Christís Tomb, guided by devotion to Mary and divine inspiration, he wished to place along that path a series of chapels commemorating events in the life of Mary. And thus other paths sprang up, together with a new religious practice, one which in a certain sense would complement the Way of the Cross: the celebration of the so-called Way of the Compassion of the Mother of God. For four centuries, ever new generations of pilgrims have walked here in the footsteps of the Redeemer and of his Mother, drawing abundantly from that love which resisted suffering and death, and found its crowning in the glory of heaven.
During those centuries, the pilgrims were faithfully accompanied by the Franciscan Fathers, known as "Bernardines", who were charged with the spiritual life of the Shrine of Kalwaria. Today I wish to express to them my gratitude for their particular love for Christ who suffered and his Mother who co-suffered: a particular love which with fervent devotion they pour into the hearts of pilgrims. Dear Bernardine Fathers and Brothers, may God in his goodness bless you in this ministry, now and in the future!
4. In 1641 the Shrine of Kalwaria was enriched by a particular gift. Providence guided here the steps of Stanislaw Paszkowski of Brzezie, who wished to entrust to the custody of the Bernardine Fathers the image of the Most Holy Mother, which had already become famous for its graces when it was located in his house chapel. From that time on, and particularly after the day in 1887 when, with the approval of Pope Leo XIII, it was crowned by the Bishop of Krakow, Albin Sas Dunajewski, pilgrims have concluded their pilgrimage in her sight. At the beginning the pilgrims came here from all parts of Poland, but also from Lithuania, Rusí, Slovakia, Bohemia, Hungary, Moravia and Germany. The natives of Silesia were especially devoted to her; it was they who offered the crown to Jesus and, from the day of the crowning until the present, they have taken part each year in the procession on the day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
How important was this place for a Poland divided by the partitions! Bishop Dunajewski eloquently expressed this when, at the crowning, he prayed: "On this day Mary was assumed into heaven and crowned there. At every anniversary of this day, all the Saints place their crowns at the foot of their Queen; today the Polish people also bring crowns of gold, that by the hands of their Bishop they may be placed on the head of Mary in this miraculous image. Reward us for this, O Mother, that we may be one among ourselves and one with you". This was his prayer for the unification of a divided Poland. Today, when Poland has become a territorial and national unity, his words have lost none of their timeliness; indeed they take on new meaning. We need to repeat them today, asking Mary to obtain for us unity of faith, unity of mind and spirit, unity in families and unity in society. For this I join you today in praying: Grant, O Mother of Calvary, "that we may be one among ourselves and one with you".
5. "Turn, then, most gracious Advocate,
1386 Thine eyes of mercy towards us,
and, after this our exile, show unto us
the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!"
Lady of graces, look upon this people
which for centuries has remained faithful to you and to your Son.
Look upon this nation,
which has always placed its hope in your maternal love.
Turn your eyes of mercy towards us,
obtain what your children most need.
Open the hearts of the prosperous to the needs of the poor and the suffering.
1387 Enable the unemployed to find an employer.
Help those who are poverty-stricken to find a home.
Grant families the love which makes it possible to surmount all difficulties.
Show young people a way and a horizon for the future.
Cover children with the mantle of your protection,
lest they be scandalized.
Confirm religious communities with the grace of faith, hope and love.
Grant that priests may follow in the footsteps of your Son by offering their lives each day for the sheep.
Obtain for Bishops the light of the Holy Spirit, so that they may guide this Church to the gates of your Sonís Kingdom by a single, straight path.
Most Holy Mother, Our Lady of Calvary,
obtain also for me strength in body and spirit,
1388 that I may carry out to the end the mission given me by the Risen Lord.
To you I give back all the fruits of my life and my ministry;
to you I entrust the future of the Church;
to you I offer my nation;
in you do I trust and once more to you I declare:
Totus Tuus, Maria!
Totus Tuus. Amen.
At the end of the Mass, the Holy Father gave this greeting to those present:
So now my pilgrimage to Poland, to Krakůw is drawing to a close. I am happy that the crowning of this visit should take place here in Kalwaria, at the feet of Our Lady. Once again I want to entrust to her protection all of you gathered here, the Church in Poland and all my fellow countrymen. May her love be the source of abundant grace for our country and for its citizens.
When I first visited this shrine in 1979, I asked you to pray for me, while I am alive and after my death. Today I thank you and all the pilgrims of Kalwaria for these prayers, for the spiritual support I continually receive. I continue to ask you: do not stop praying - once again I repeat it - as long as I am alive and after my death. As always, I will repay your kindness by recommending all of you to the merciful Christ and to his Mother.
1389 Wednesday 11 September 2002
1. "To the praise of his glorious grace" (Ep 1,6). The Apostle Paul's words which we have just heard in the Second Reading are an immediate and effective synthesis of the whole life of our venerable brother, Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves, to whom we are about to offer our last farewell.
He himself chose St Paul's words as the incipit of his spiritual testament, written on Holy Thursday 2000, in which he acknowledged the inspiration and interior enlightenment that accompanied him throughout his life. He wrote: ""To the praise of his glory' - may these words of St Paul - which for nearly 60 years have served as my spiritual enlightenment be also my inspiration at the moment when I appear before God. I deeply desire that in that moment there might be concentrated and brought to completion all my thanksgiving to the Holy Trinity".
2. Entering the Order of the Friars Preachers as a very young man, throughout his life he maintained a deep attachment to his vocation and identity as a spiritual son of St Dominic. In his testament he confided: "I have passionately loved this vocation" and continued, "I hope I will die having been completely faithful to the essential of the Dominican vocation". His religious calling was enriched and magnificently expressed in an intense priestly ministry, first with Catholic students, then as the spiritual director of the Christian Family Movement, later, with intellectuals, journalists and, especially, artists of the theatre and cinema.
As Auxiliary Bishop of S„o Paulo he was appreciated for his outstanding qualities of mind and heart, his pastoral sensitivity, his inexhaustible charity towards the poor, especially toward "his" meniŮos de rua (street children).... On account of these gifts, he was called to take on more important responsibilities.
The Church, the laity, the priesthood, the Petrine service, the young members of the ecclesial associations and movements were some of the Cardinal's favourite topics, expounded on countless occasions. In this regard, how can we forget the Spiritual Exercises he preached in the Vatican in 1982, that were universally appreciated for their deeply spiritual and ecclesial inspiration?
3. With the rich experience of his service in the Roman Curia to the entire Catholic community, Lucas Moreira Neves returned to Brazil as Archbishop of the Primatial See of S„o Salvador da Bahia. After making him a member of the College of Cardinals, I recalled him to Rome in June 1998 to make him Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, an office he held until September 2000, when for reasons of health, he asked to be relieved.
Precisely in those long years, marked by illness, his constant cooperation for the good of the brothers and sisters became even more apostolic and effective on account of his union with our Lord Jesus Christ. Cardinal Neves himself confesses this with reticence, since he was aware that he was revealing one of the more intimate and delicate acts of his own soul. "To do so costs me a great deal from the natural viewpoint of mere human reason, but in a perspective of faith and obedience to the adorable will of God, I also thank him for my illness". He goes on to give the profound reason for his attitude of faith: "I am comforted by the certainty that, through this suffering, I have entered into communion with the Passion of Christ, I have experienced in life something of Purgatory, and collaborated, more than by any sermon, in the redemption of the brethren".
4. This vision of faith helps us live more intensely the sorrowful moment of the departure of our beloved Brother from this earthly life. Our grief at the loss of his venerable person, a great gift for the Church and civil society, is lessened by hope in the resurrection based on the very word of Jesus that we heard in the Gospel. "For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up on the last day" (Jn 6,40). In the face of the mystery of death, for a person who has no faith, all would seem irreparably lost. Then it is the word of Christ himself that lights up the path of life and gives value to every moment. Jesus Christ is the Lord of Life, and he came "so that nothing should be lost of what the Father has given me" (Jn 6,39).
With this outlook of faith our beloved Brother lived his entire life, totally devoted to God and to the service of his brothers and sisters, especially the poorest, thus becoming a witness of that courageous faith which knows how to trust God blindly.
5. "I know that my redeemer lives" (Jb 19,25). In the great silence that envelops the mystery of death, the voice of the ancient believer is raised full of hope: Job implores salvation from the Living One, in whom every human life finds its meaning and its end.
1390 "I shall see God whom I myself shall see, and my eyes shall behold" (Jb 19,26-27), the sacred text affirms, allowing us, at the end of the earthly pilgrimage, to catch a glimpse of the merciful face of the Lord. To this quest for the face of God, Cardinal Neves dedicated his last thought; he chose to end his spiritual testament by expressing a last wish: "On my gravestone I would like nothing but the words of the Psalm: "Vultum tuum, Domine, quaesivi" (O Lord, I have sought your face).
And we believe, in the light of faith, that our venerable and beloved Brother is already contemplating that merciful Face of Christ, revealed in the joy of heaven, which he sought in hope throughout his earthly life.
In a special way let us ask this of Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Hope, as we entrust to the earth the mortal remains of Cardinal Lucas Moreira Neves. May the Blessed Virgin welcome him into her motherly arms and introduce him to the contemplation of the holy face of her Son, Jesus, in the festive choir of the angels and saints for all eternity. Amen!
1. "Their hope is full of immortality" (Sg 3,4).
These consoling words from the Book of Wisdom invite us, in the light of hope, to offer our prayers of suffrage for the elect soul of the late Cardinal FranÁois-Xavier NguyÍn Van Thu‚n, who lived his whole life under the banner of hope.
Certainly, his death saddens all who knew and loved him: his relatives, especially his mother, to whom I renew my expression of affectionate closeness. I think of the beloved Church in Vietnam, who generated him to the faith; and I also think of all the Vietnamese people, whom the venerable Cardinal expressly remembered in his spiritual testament, saying that he had always loved them. The Holy See mourns Cardinal Van Thu‚n; he spent his last years in its service, as Vice President and then President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Even at this moment, with great affection he seems to address to everyone, the invitation to hope. When I asked him to give the meditations for the Spiritual Exercises of the Roman Curia in the year 2000, he chose as his theme: "Testimony of Hope". Now that the Lord has tested him, as "gold in the crucible", and has accepted him "as a sacrificial burnt offering", we can truly say that "his hope was full of immortality" (cf. Wis Sg 3,4 Wis Sg 3,5). It was full of Christ, the life and resurrection of all who trust in him.
2. Hope in God! With this invitation to trust in the Lord the beloved Cardinal began the meditations of the Spiritual Retreat. His exhortations have remained impressed upon my mind, for the depth of his reflections, enriched with continuous personal memories; most of them were related to the 13 years he spent in prison. He told us that precisely in prison he understood that the foundation of the Christian life is "choosing God alone", totally abandoning oneself into His fatherly hands.
He added in the light of his personal experience, we are called to proclaim the "Gospel of hope" to everyone; and, he specified, only with the radicalness of our sacrifice can we bring this vocation to its full realization, even in the midst of the harshest trials. "To treasure each suffering", he said, "as one of the countless faces of Jesus crucified, and to unite our suffering to his, means to enter into his own dynamic of suffering-love. It means to participate in his light, his strength, his peace, it means to rediscover within us a new and abundant present of God" (Testimony of Hope, Rome 2001, PP 93-94).
3. We might wonder where he found the patience and courage that have always distinguished him. On this subject, he confided that his priestly vocation was mysteriously but truly bound to the blood of the martyrs who died in the last century while they were preaching the Gospel in Vietnam. "The martyrs", he noted, "taught us to say yes - a yes without conditions and limits to the love of the Lord. But the martyrs also taught us to say no - no to flattery, to compromise, to injustice - even with the intent of saving one's own life" (ibid., p. 107). He added that it was not a question of heroism, but of fidelity, developed by looking at Jesus, the model of every witness and martyr. It was a heritage to be accepted every day in a life full of love and gentleness.
1391 4. In offering our last farewell to this heroic herald of Christ's Gospel, let us thank the Lord for giving us, in him, a shining example of Christian loyalty to the point of martyrdom. He said of himself with striking simplicity: "In the abyss of my sufferings ... I never shut anyone out of my heart" (ibid., p. 94).
His secret was indomitable trust in God, nourished by prayer and suffering, accepted with love. In prison he celebrated the Eucharist every day with three drops of wine and a drop of water in the palm of his hand. This was his altar, his cathedral. The Body of Christ was his "medicine". He recounted with great feeling: Each time I celebrated Mass, I had the opportunity to extend my hands and nail myself to the cross with Jesus, to drink with him the bitter chalice. Each day in reciting the words of consacration, I confirmed with all my heart and soul a new pact, an eternal pact between Jesus and me through his blood mixed with mine" (ibid., p. 131).
5. "For me to live is Christ" (Ph 1,21). Faithful unto death, Cardinal NguyÍn Van Thu‚n made his own the Apostle Paul's words we have just heard. He preserved serenity and even joy, during his long and painful stay in the hospital. During the last days, when he could no longer speak, he fixed his gaze on the Crucifix before him. He prayed in silence while he consummated his last sacrifice, crowning a life marked by heroic configuration with Christ on the Cross. Very applicable to him are the words Jesus proclaimed in the immediate view of his Passion: "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit (Jn 12,24), aptly apply to him.
Only with the sacrifice of himself does the Christian contribute to the salvation of the world. It was so for our venerable Brother Cardinal. He leaves us, but his example remains. Faith assures us that he is not dead but has entered into the eternal day which knows no sunset.
1. "I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him cruciied" (1Co 2,2). The Apostle Paul's words that rang out during this ecumenical celebration found a special echo in the activity and mystical experience of St Bridget of Sweden; this evening we observe the seventh centenary of her birth.
In the different stages of her life, that saw her first as wife, mother and educator of her children, then as widow, and, finally, as foundress of a new form of consecrated life, the saint was constantly inspired by the mystery of Christ's passion and death. She never tired of contemplating the face of the Crucified One.
We remember her this evening, as we thank the Lord for giving us this distinguished and holy daughter of the noble land of Sweden, who was linked to the city of Rome and was a unique witness to the deep Christian roots of European civilization.
2. With great pleasure I extend heartfelt greetings to you, dear brothers and sisters, who are taking part in this solemn evening liturgy in honour of St Bridget. My thoughts go in particular to my Brother Bishops, to the clergy and to the men and women religious present.
In a spirit of brotherhood and friendship I greet the distinguished representatives of the Lutheran Churches. Your presence at this prayer is a cause of deep joy. I express the hope that our meeting together in the Lord's name will help to further our ecumenical dialogue and quicken the journey towards full Christian unity.
I wish to send a special greeting to Their Majesties, the King and Queen of Sweden, represented here by their daughter, Princess Victoria.
S. John Paul II Homil. 1383