S. John Paul II Homil. 1244


Thursday, 22 February 2001

Feast of Saint Peter's Chair

1245 1. "'Who do you say that I am?'. Simon Peter replied, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God'" (Mt 16,15-16).

This conversation between Christ and his disciples, which we have just heard again, is always relevant to the life of the Church and of Christians. At every moment in her history, especially those which are the most decisive, Jesus questions his followers and, after asking them what "people" think of him, he narrows the field and asks them: "But who do you say that I am?".

We heard this question echoing in the background throughout the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. And every day the Church has ceaselessly replied in a unanimous profession of faith: "You are the Christ, the Saviour of the world, yesterday, today and for ever". A universal answer, in which the voices of the Pastors and faithful of the whole People of God are one with the voice of Peter's Successor.

2. One solemn confession of faith: You are the Christ! This confession of faith is the great gift which the Church offers the world at the beginning of the third millennium, as she ventures upon the "vast ocean" that lies before her (cf. Novo millennium ineunte, n. 58). Today's celebration highlights the role of Peter and his Successors in steering the barque of the Church across this "ocean". It is therefore very significant that at this liturgical celebration the College of Cardinals is beside the Pope together with the new Cardinals created yesterday at the first Consistory since the Great Jubilee.

Let us thank God together for founding his Church on the rock of Peter. As the opening prayer suggests, let us pray intensely that amid the upheavals of the world, she may not be shaken but advance with courage and trust.

3. But permit me first of all to express my joy and gratitude to the Lord for you, dear friends and venerable Brothers, who are now members of the College. Once again I offer you my most cordial greeting, which I extend to your relatives and to the faithful gathered here, as well as to the communities you come from, which are spiritually united with our celebration today.

I consider it providential to celebrate the feast of the Chair of Peter with you and with the entire College, because this is a remarkably eloquent sign of unity with which we begin the post-Jubilee period together. It is a sign which at the same time invites us to reflect more deeply on the Petrine ministry, to which your role as Cardinals is particularly related.

4. "You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church" (Mt 16,13-19).

In the "today" of the liturgy, the Lord Jesus also addresses these words to the Successor of Peter, and they become a duty for him to strengthen his brethren (cf. Lk Lc 22,32). With great consolation and deep affection I call you, venerable Brother Cardinals, to support the See of Peter in the particular ministry of unity entrusted to it.

"As Bishop of Rome, I am fully aware", as I reaffirmed in the Encyclical on the commitment to ecumenism Ut unum sint, "that Christ ardently desires the full and visible communion of all those Communities in which, by virtue of God's faithfulness, his Spirit dwells" (n. 95). To this primary goal Cardinals, both as a College and individually, can and must make their valuable contribution.

For they are the first collaborators in the Roman Pontiff's ministry of unity. The red that they wear recalls the blood of the martyrs, especially that of Peter and Paul, on whose supreme witness the vocation and universal mission of the Church of Rome and of her Pastor is founded.

1246 5. How can we forget that the Petrine ministry, the visible principle of unity, constitutes a difficulty for the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities? (cf. Encyclical Ut unum sint, UUS 88). But at the same time, how can we not recall the historical fact that in the first millennium the primatial role of the Bishop of Rome was exercised without encountering any resistance in the Church of either the West or the East? Today I would like in a special way to pray to the Lord with you that the new millennium we have entered may soon see this situation overcome and full communion re-established. May the Holy Spirit give all believers the necessary light and strength to achieve what the Lord so ardently desires. I ask you to help me and to collaborate in every way in this demanding mission.

Venerable Brother Cardinals, the ring that you wear and which I will shortly present to the new members of the College highlights the special bond that joins you to this Apostolic See. On the "vast ocean" which is opening before the barque of the Church, I am counting on you to guide her way in truth and love, so that she may survive the storms of the world and become an ever more effective sign and instrument of unity for the entire human race (cf. Lumen gentium, LG 1).

6. "Thus says the Lord God: "Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out'" (Ez 34,11).

On the feast of the Chair of St Peter, the liturgy once again offers us the famous oracle of the prophet Ezekiel, in which God reveals himself as the Shepherd of his people. Indeed, the chair is inseparable from the pastoral staff, because Christ, Teacher and Lord, came to us as the Good Shepherd (cf. Jn Jn 10,1-18). This is how Simon, the fisherman of Capernaum, knew him: he experienced his tender and merciful love and was won over by it. His apostolic vocation and mission, summed up in the new name of Peter that he received from the Master, is based entirely on his relationship with him from the first meeting, to which his brother Andrew had called him (cf. Jn Jn 1,40-42), until the last one on the lake shore, when the Risen One charged him to tend his flock (cf. Jn Jn 21,15-19). In between is the long journey of discipleship, in which the divine Master leads Simon to a profound conversion, which experienced the tragic hours of the Passion but then led to the bright joy of Easter.

By virtue of the transforming experience of the Good Shepherd, Peter described himself, in his Letter to the Churches of Asia Minor, as "a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed" (1P 5,1). He urges "the elders" to tend the flock of God and become examples to it (cf. 1P 5,2-3). Today, dear friends, this exhortation is addressed particularly to you, whom the Good Shepherd has wished to associate in the most eminent way with the ministry of Peter's Successor. Be faithful to your mission and ready to lay down your lives for the Gospel. The Lord is asking this of you, and the Christian people who have gathered around you today with joy and affection expect it of you.

7. "I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail" (Lc 22,32). This is what the Lord said to Simon Peter at the Last Supper. Jesus' words, fundamental for Peter and his Successors, also spread light and comfort to those who cooperate more closely in their ministry. Today, venerable Brother Cardinals, Christ is repeating to each of you: "I have prayed for you" that your faith will not fail in the situations in which your fidelity to Christ, to the Church, to the Pope, may be put to the greatest test.

May this prayer, which never ceases to flow from the Good Shepherd's heart, always be your strength! Have no doubt that just as it was for Christ and for Peter, so it will be for you: your most effective witness will always be one that is marked by the Cross. The Cross is God's chair in the world. On it Christ has offered humanity the most important lesson, that of loving one another as he has loved us (cf. Jn Jn 13,34): even to the ultimate gift of oneself.

The Mother of Christ and of the disciples, Mary Most Holy, always stands beneath the Cross. The Lord entrusted us to her when he said: "Woman, behold, your son!" (Jn 19,26). Since the Blessed Virgin, Mother of the Church, protected Peter and the Apostles in a special way, she will not fail to protect the Successor of Peter and his collaborators. May this consoling certainty encourage you not to be afraid of trials and difficulties. But, reassured by God's constant protection, let us obey together the command of Christ, who vigorously asked Peter, and with him the Church, to put out into the deep: "Duc in altum" (Lc 5,4). Yes, dear Brothers, let us put out into the deep, let us cast our nets for the catch and let us "go forward in hope!" (Novo millennio ineunte, NM 58).

Christ, the Son of the living God, is the same yesterday and today and forever. Amen!


Sunday, 25 February 2001

1. "Open our hearts, O Lord, to listen to the words of your Son".

1247 The invocation of the Gospel Acclamation introduces us to today's theme for the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Jesus is the true Teacher, who communicates the truth of salvation to mankind. Those who listen to him are invited to "understand", that is, to receive his words into their hearts and translate them into concrete decisions in life.

Jesus not only imparts teaching that comes from God, but is above all the Model on which to pattern ourselves; he did not leave us simply a collection of teachings to learn; above all, he showed us the path to take, offering himself as an example to follow.

Let us therefore open our hearts to him: we will thus enter into the mystery of his love, which enlightens all existence.

2. "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully taught will be like his teacher" (
Lc 6,40).

By following Christ, our divine Teacher, we learn that to be his disciples we must follow him especially in his ability to love, just as he describes in the passages from Luke's Gospel which we are reading on these Sundays. The heart of his message is precisely love, even love for one's enemies, which knows no revenge and offers pardon; it is mercy and the willingness to love always, even at the cost of one's life, like God himself (cf. Lk Lc 6,27-38).

This is the teaching to accept and faithfully transmit. This is the only school that forms authentic missionaries of the Gospel, who are called to be wise and sure guides for their brothers (cf. Lk Lc 6,39).

3. With these sentiments I greet you, dear brothers and sisters of Nativity of Mary Parish in Via di Bravetta!

I am pleased to be with you, as I continue my pastoral visits to Roman parishes. I joyfully thank those who welcomed me at the beginning of the Eucharist and expressed your sentiments.
In a special way, I would like to greet the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary for this sector, Bishop Vincenzo Apicella, your dear parish priest, Fr Lorenzo Rossi, and the Canons Regular of the Immaculate Conception, who assist him in the pastoral care of the parish.

I also greet the Sons of the Immaculate Conception, who for a long time have made the church of the Father Luigi Monti Institute available for the celebration of Sunday Mass with the children, young people and their families.

I am also grateful to the Sisters of Our Lady of Compassion and to the Daughters of St Joseph, who live in the neighbourhood and, when no church or other site was available, had offered their facilities to the parish community. My sincere gratitude goes to them for this generous service to the parish, together with my encouragement to continue their appreciated collaboration in pastoral activities. In affectionately embracing everyone here, I wish to extend my cordial greeting to all the residents of the neighbourhood.

1248 I know that you had to wait until last year for the construction of the new church where today, with deep satisfaction, we are celebrating the Eucharist.

Let us thank God for this work which took much effort and which, with the support of the Vicariate, you have finally been able to complete. Make this church a visible sign of unity and communion by overcoming that fragmentation of liturgical celebrations and catechetical sites which for a long time you were forced to maintain. If you proceed in unity and harmony, you will write a beautiful page in your parish community's spiritual and pastoral life.

4. In order to help you on this journey, allow me symbolically to give you the Message which last week I addressed to the Diocese of Rome at the end of the Jubilee and in view of the great Diocesan Convention next June. Reflect on it carefully and translate its guidelines into concrete apostolic decisions. Lent, which will begin in a few days, is a helpful occasion for this review of life.
Ask yourselves both as individuals and as a community: what contribution can I make to the growth of full communion in the Church? How can I make my specific contribution, so that it becomes more and more a home and school of communion? We must walk in unity, if we are to bear witness together to the Gospel. This is the message that I leave you, dear brothers and sisters of Nativity of Mary Parish.

There are many apostolic needs in your neighbourhood which, like others, has experienced profound changes in just a few years. For some time, you have been offering good programmes for children and young people, engaged couples, families, the poor and the elderly. Continue on this path, giving priority to the care of families, which are often unable to provide their children with adequate Christian formation. There are children and adolescents who need someone to help them grow in faith; Christians who look for guides who can support in their Gospel witness and advise them in the various areas of their study, work and service.

I am thinking especially of you, dear young people, who are entrusted with the task of being the first evangelizers of your contemporaries as part of our Diocese's "permanent mission". May everyone responsibly assume his role in the parish community.

5. "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? " (
Lc 6,41).

With these words Jesus gives us helpful guidance that we could call "pastoral". Unfortunately, we are often tempted to condemn the faults and sins of others, without being able to see our own with the same clarity. How then can we know if our own eye is free or if it is hampered by a log? Jesus replies: "Each tree is known by its own fruit" (Lc 6,44).

This sound discernment is the Lord's gift and should be sought with unceasing prayer. At the same time, it is a personal victory that requires humility and patience, the ability to listen and an effort to understand others.

These must be the characteristics of every true disciple and involve commitment as well as a spirit of sacrifice. If it can sometimes seem difficult to follow the Lord on this path, let us rely on Mary's support and intercession.

In the facade of your church there is an arch set in the main body of the building. It recalls the Blessed Virgin, the Dawn of Salvation, always ready to embrace her children and lead them into church to meet Christ.

1299 May she, the Virgin of silence and listening, help us to be courageous witnesses and proclaimers of the Gospel; may she make us look at others with eyes of understanding and kindness; may she obtain for us the gift of wise pastoral prudence.

And you, Lord, open our hearts; then we will understand your words of salvation. Amen!



Ash Wednesday, 28 February 2001

1. "Be reconciled to God.... Behold, now is the acceptable time" (2Co 5,206).

This is the invitation that the liturgy addresses to us at the beginning of Lent, urging us to be aware of the gift of salvation offered, in Christ, to everyone.

In speaking of the "acceptable time", the Apostle Paul refers to the "fullness of time" (cf. Gal Ga 4,4), that is, the time when God, through Jesus, "answered" and "helped" his people, completely fulfilling the promises of the prophets (cf. Is Is 49,8). In Christ the time of mercy and pardon, the time of joy and salvation, is accomplished.

From the historical standpoint, the "acceptable time" is the time when the Gospel is proclaimed by the Church to people of every race and culture so that they will repent and open themselves to the gift of redemption. Life is then deeply transformed.

2. "Behold, now is the acceptable time".

Lent, which begins today, is certainly an "acceptable time" in the liturgical year for receiving the grace of God with greater openness. Precisely for this reason it is called the "sacramental sign of our conversion" (Opening Prayer, First Sunday of Lent, Italian Missal): the sign and effective instrument of that radical change of life that calls for constant renewal in believers. The source of this extraordinary divine gift is the paschal mystery, the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ, the source of redemption for every person, for history and for the entire universe.

In a certain way the imposition of ashes, illustrated by the words that accompany it: "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mc 1,15), refers to this mystery of suffering and love. Even the fast we observe today refers to this same mystery, so that we might begin a journey of true conversion in which union with the passion of Christ enables us to face and to win the struggle against the spirit of evil (cf. Opening Prayer, Ash Wednesday).

3. "Behold, now is the acceptable time".

1250 With this in mind, we begin our Lenten journey, taking up the spirit of the Great Jubilee that marked an extraordinary time of repentance and reconciliation for the entire Church. It was a year of intense spiritual fervour, in which God's mercy was poured abundantly on the world. In order for this treasure of grace to continue spiritually enriching the Christian people, I offered concrete guidelines in the Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte on how to begin this new phase in the Church's history.

Here I would like to recall several of those guidelines which are well suited to the special characteristics of Lent. First of all, contemplation of the face of the Lord: a face that appears in Lent as "a face of sorrow" (cf. nn. 25-27). In the liturgy, in the Lenten Stationes and in the devout practice of the Via Crucis, contemplative prayer prompts us to unite ourselves with the mystery of the One whom, though he knew no sin, God made to be sin for our sake (cf.
2Co 5,21). In the school of the saints, every baptized person is called to follow Jesus more closely: as he was going up to Jerusalem and foresaw his passion, he confided to the disciples: "I have a baptism to be baptized with" (Lc 12,50). The Lenten journey thus becomes for us a docile following of the Son of God, who became an obedient Servant.

4. The journey to which Lent invites us takes place above all in prayer: Christian communities must become authentic "schools of prayer" in these weeks. Another important objective is helping the faithful to approach the sacrament of Reconciliation, so that everyone may "rediscover Christ as mysterium pietatis, the one in whom God shows us his compassionate heart and reconciles us fully with himself" (Novo millennio ineunte, NM 37). Moreover, the experience of God's mercy cannot fail to inspire the commitment to charity, spurring the Christian community to "stake everything on charity" (cf. Novo millennio ineunte, IV). In the school of Christ, the community better understands the demanding preferential option for the poor, which is a "testimony to the nature of God's love, to his providence and mercy" (ibid.).

5. "We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2Co 5,20).

There is a growing need for reconciliation and forgiveness in today's world. I spoke of this recurring desire for forgiveness and reconciliation in the Message for this Lent. The Church, basing herself on the word of Christ, proclaims forgiveness and love for one's enemies. By doing so she "is conscious to inspire in the spiritual patrimony of all humanity a new way of relating to each other; a somewhat difficult way but rich in hope" (Message, n. 4). This is the gift she offers to the people of our time.

"Be reconciled to God!": these words insistently echo in our spirit. Today - the liturgy tells us - is the "acceptable time" for our reconciliation with God. With this in mind, we will receive ashes and take the first steps of our Lenten journey. Let us generously continue on this road, keeping our eyes firmly set on Christ crucified. For the Cross is humanity's salvation: only by starting from the Cross is it possible to build a future of hope and peace for everyone.


Sunday, 4 March 2001

1. "Jesus ... was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil" (Lc 4,1-2). On this First Sunday of Lent, let us listen again to the account of Jesus' struggle against the devil at the beginning of his public life. After being acknowledged by the Father as his "beloved Son" during his Baptism in the river Jordan (cf. Lk Lc 3,22), now Jesus' fidelity to God is put to the test. However, unlike Adam and Eve in the earthly paradise (cf. Gn Gn 3), and contrary to the people of Israel in the desert (cf. Ex Ex 16-17 Dt 8), he resists the temptation and triumphs over the Evil One.

In this scene we glimpse the cosmic struggle of the forces of evil against the fulfilment of the saving plan which the Son of God came to proclaim and to initiate in his own person. For the era of the new creation begins with Christ; the new and perfect Covenant between God and all humanity is realized in him. This struggle against the Spirit of evil involves each of us, who are called to follow the divine Master's example.

2. "When the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time" (Lc 4,13). The tempter's attack on Jesus, which began during his stay in the wilderness, will culminate in the days of his passion on Calvary, when the Crucified One will definitively triumph over evil and reconcile man with God. The Evangelist Luke closes today's account of the temptations with a reference to Jerusalem; unlike Matthew, he seems to want to emphasize from the outset that Christ's triumph on the Cross will take place in the Holy City, where the paschal mystery will be fulfilled.

In my Message for Lent this year, I wrote that Christ also extends to the men and women of today the invitation to "go up to Jerusalem", that is, to follow him on the way of the Cross. Today we feel the powerful eloquence of his invitation, as we take our first steps of the Lenten season, an acceptable time for conversion and for returning to full communion with God.

1251 3. Dear brothers and sisters of St Andrew the Apostle Parish! I affectionately greet your entire community. I thank those who have welcomed me in the name of all at the beginning of the Eucharistic celebration. I greet the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishop of this sector, your dear parish priest, Fr Battista Previtali, and his co-workers from the Congregration of the Fathers of Christian Doctrine. I also extend my cordial greetings to the religious in the parish and to the faithful of the numerous and lively parish groups. Through those of you here, I would also like to extend my greeting to all who live in this neighbourhood.

This year your beautiful community of St Andrew the Apostle is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its foundation. Such a significant event will certainly be a fitting occasion to reflect on your past, to look clearly at the challenges and demands of the present time and courageously to develop plans for the future.

I joyfully join my voice to yours in thanking the Lord for the many signs of love he has granted this community from the beginning. Over the years your community has changed in part to acquire the form it has today, with the differences in the residents' way of life. The number of people from Eastern European countries and from the so-called "Third World" has increased.

4. This concrete situation in the parish requires you to keep on growing in communion with everyone. No one is a foreigner in the Church: thus it is important to create opportunities for dialogue and to encourage mutual understanding. It is particularly necessary that each person feel involved in pastoral care that is attentive to people's real needs.

May you thus be a community which is open to everyone, persevering in listening to God's word, in celebrating the sacraments of salvation and in sharing the many programmes of pastoral care and solidarity promoted by the Diocese and the Prefecture. I know you are continuing the task, begun during the City Mission, of bringing the Gospel to everyone, especially to young people and families. Lent is an acceptable time for the rediscovery of Baptism and the missionary power that flows from it. The over 100 secular missionaries of your community, who participated in the great City Mission in preparation for the Jubilee, can testify to this. Every Christian must feel involved in the vast work of evangelization. If you know how to be missionaries in your neighbourhood, the Lord will provide you with vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. In particular, generous missionary vocations "ad gentes" will arise among you, as you desire.

5. I would now like to address families. Lent is an important season that invites us to forgive and be reconciled. It is a difficult task, which also concerns relationships within the family. It is up to you, dear families, to allow the Spirit to make you places of serenity and peace, of listening and dialogue, of sharing and respect for one another. In families faithful to the Gospel, young people can find the courage and confidence to look to the future with a sense of mature co-responsibility.

Dear young people, your future and that of the families you will start is in your hands: be well aware of this. The Church expects much from you, from your enthusiasm, from your ability to look ahead and from your longing to make radical decisions in life. I repeat Christ's words to you, contained in my Message for the forthcoming 16th World Youth Day: "If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (
Lc 9,23).

We must imitate Jesus who struggles against evil in the desert; we must even follow him to Jerusalem, to Calvary.

6. "If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rm 10,9). Last Wednesday we began the Lenten journey, an ascetical journey which must lead us to a renewed encounter with Jesus, recognized as "Lord". It is he who saves us: professing the faith is therefore believing in Christ and entrusting ourselves to him without reserve. We will be saved (cf. Rom Rm 10,10), if we accept him and his words of eternal life.

May the Virgin Mary, faithful disciple of the Lord, help us to understand the meaning of Christ's death and resurrection (cf. Opening Prayer); may she help us to confess with our lips that Jesus is our Lord, and to believe in our hearts that he has conquered death, opening the gates of the kingdom to all humanity. Thus we will prepare ourselves, along with all believers, to taste the joy and splendour of Easter.



Sunday, 11 March 2001

1252 Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. "The Lord Jesus Christ will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body" (
Ph 3,21). These words of St Paul, which we heard in the second reading of today's liturgy, remind us that our true homeland is in heaven and that Jesus will transfigure our mortal body into a glorious body like his own. The Apostle comments in this way on the mystery of the Transfiguration of the Lord which the Church proclaims on this Second Sunday of Lent. Jesus, in fact, wanted to offer a sign and a prophecy of his glorious Resurrection, in which we are also called to share. What was accomplished in Jesus, our Head, must also be fulfilled in us who form his Body.

This is a great mystery for the life of the Church, since we should not think that the transfiguration will happen only later after death. The saints' lives and the martyrs' witness teach us that if the transfiguration of the body will occur at the end of time with the resurrection of the flesh, that of the heart takes place now on this earth with the help of grace.

We can ask ourselves: What are "transfigured" men and women like? The answer is very beautiful: they are people who follow Christ in living and dying; who are inspired by him and let themselves be imbued with the grace that he gives us; whose food is to do the Father's will; who let themselves be led by the Spirit; who prefer nothing to Christ's kingdom; who love others to the point of shedding their blood for them; who are ready to give him their all without expecting anything in return; who - in a word - live loving and die forgiving.

2. This how José Aparicio Sanz and his 232 companions lived and this is how they died, being killed during the terrible religious persecution which scourged Spain in the 1930s. They were men and women of all ages and states: diocesan priests, men and women religious, the fathers and mothers of families, young lay people. They were killed for being Christians, for their faith in Christ, for being active members of the Church. Before dying, all of them, as stated in the canonical processes for their declaration as martyrs, forgave their executioners from their heart.

The list of those who are being raised to the glory of the altars today for confessing their faith and dying for it is long. There are 38 priests from the Archdiocese of Valencia, with a large group of men and women, members of Catholic Action, also from Valencia; 18 Dominicans and two priests from the Archdiocese of Zaragoza; four Friars Minor and six Friars Minor Conventual; 12 Friars Minor Capuchin with five Capuchin women religious and a Discalced Augustinian; 11 Jesuits with a young lay man; 30 Salesians and two Daughters of Mary Help of Christians; 19 Third Order Capuchins of Our Lady of Sorrows with a laywoman cooperator; one Priest of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Dehonian); the chaplain of La Salle College of Bonanova, Barcelona, with five Brothers of the Christian Schools; 24 Carmelite Sisters of Charity; one Servite Sister; six Sisters of the Pious Schools with two laywomen cooperators from Uruguay, who are the first blesseds of this Latin American country; two Little Sisters of the Abandoned Elderly, three Third Order Capuchins of the Holy Family; a Claretian Missionary Sister; and lastly, Francisco Castelló y Aleu, a young member of Catholic Action in Lleida.

The testimonies we have received speak of honest, exemplary people whose martyrdom sealed lives that were interwoven with work, prayer and religious commitment in their families, parishes and religious congregations. Many of them in life had already enjoyed a reputation for holiness among their countrymen. It could be said that their exemplary conduct prepared them in a way for the supreme confession of faith that is martyrdom.

How can we not be deeply moved at hearing the accounts of their martyrdom? The elderly María Teresa Ferragud was arrested at the age of 83 with her four contemplative religious daughters. On 25 October 1936, the feast of Christ the King, she asked to accompany her daughters to martyrdom and to be executed last so that she might encourage them to die for the faith. Her death made such an impression on her executioners that they exclaimed: "This is a true saint". No less edifying was the witness of the other martyrs, such as the young Francisco Castelló y Aleu, 22 years old, a chemist by profession and a member of Catholic Action. Realizing the gravity of the situation, he did not want to hide but to offer his youth as a loving sacrifice to God and his brethren; he left us three letters, an example of strength, generosity, serenity and happiness, written a few moments before his death to his sisters, his spiritual director and his fiancée. Or the newly ordained priest, Germán Gozalbo, 23 years old, who was shot only two months after celebrating his first Mass, after endless humiliations and abuses.

3. How many examples of serenity and Christian hope! All these new blesseds and many other anonymous martyrs paid with their blood for the hatred of the faith and of the Church which was unleashed by the religious persecution and the outbreak of the Civil War, the immense tragedy that Spain experienced in the 20th century. During those terrible years many priests, religious and lay people were killed simply because they were active members of the Church. The new blesseds being raised to the altars today were not involved in political or ideological struggles, nor did they want to be concerned with them. This is well known to many of you who are their relatives and are taking part in this beatification today with great joy. They died solely for religious motives. Now, by this solemn proclamation of their martyrdom, the Church wishes to recognize these men and women as examples of courage and constancy in faith, helped by God's grace. For us they are models of consistency with the truth they professed, while at the same time they honour the noble Spanish people and the Church.

May their blessed memory remove forever any form of violence, hatred and resentment from Spanish soil! May everyone, especially young people, know the blessing of peace in freedom: peace forever, peace with everyone and for everyone!

4. Dear brothers and sisters, on various occasions I have recalled the need to preserve the memory of the martyrs. Their witness must not be forgotten. They are the most eloquent proof of the truth of the faith, which can give a human face even to the most violent death and show its beauty even in the midst of atrocious sufferings. The particular Churches must do everything possible not to forget those who suffered martyrdom.

1253 At the beginning of the third millennium the pilgrim Church in Spain is called to live a new springtime of Christianity, since she has been watered and fertilized by the blood of so many martyrs. Sanguis martyrum, semen christianorum! The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians (Tertullian, Apol., 50, 13: CCL 1, 171)! Today these words, coined during the persecutions of the first centuries, must instil hope in your apostolic initiatives and pastoral efforts in the often difficult task of the new evangelization. For this you can rely on the incomparable help of your martyrs. Remember their valour: "Consider the outcome of their life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever" (He 13,7-8).

5. I would like to entrust an intention deeply rooted in your hearts to the intercession of the new blesseds: the end of terrorism in Spain. For several decades you have been put to the test by a horrible sequence of violence and killing. At the root of these deeply regrettable incidents is a perverse logic which must be denounced. Terrorism is born of hate and in turn feeds it; it is radically unjust and increases the situations of injustice, since it seriously offends God and the dignity and rights of individuals. With terror, man is always the loser! No motive, cause or ideology can justify it. Only peace builds peoples. Terror is the enemy of humanity.

6. Dear friends in the Lord, the Father's voice also said to us in today's Gospel: "This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him" (Lc 9,35). Listening to Jesus means following and imitating him. The cross has a very special place on this journey. There is a direct connection between the cross and our transfiguration. Imitating Christ in death is the way that leads to the resurrection of the dead, that is, to our transformation in him (Ph 3,10-11). Now, in the celebration of the Eucharist Jesus gives his Body and his Blood so that, in a certain way, we can have a foretaste here on earth of our final state, when our mortal bodies will be transfigured in the likeness of Christ's glorious body.

May Mary, Queen of Martyrs, help us to listen to and imitate her Son. Let us ask her, who accompanied her divine Son in his earthly life and remained faithful to him at the foot of the Cross, to teach us to be faithful to Christ at every moment without losing heart in the face of difficulties; may she grant us the same strength with which the martyrs confessed their faith. In calling upon her as our Mother, I implore the gifts of peace, happiness and steadfast hope for everyone present here today and for your families.

S. John Paul II Homil. 1244