S. John Paul II Homil. 1474



Thursday, 1 January 2004

1. "When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman" (
Ga 4,4).

Today, the liturgy of the Octave of Christmas presents to us the icon of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary. The Apostle Paul points her out as the "woman" through whom the Son of God entered the world. Mary of Nazareth is the Theotokos, the One who "gave birth to the King of Heaven and earth for ever" (Entrance Antiphon; cf. Sedulius).

At the beginning of this new year, let us place ourselves with docility at the school of Mary. We want to learn from her, the Holy Mother, how to accept in faith and prayer the salvation that God never ceases to offer to all who trust in his merciful love.

2. In this atmosphere of listening and prayer, let us give thanks to God for this New Year: may it be a year of prosperity and peace for everyone!

With these wishes, I am pleased to address a respectful thought to the distinguished Ambassadors of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See who are present at today's celebration. I cordially greet Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State, and my collaborators in the Secretariat of State. With them, I greet Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino and all the members of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. I am grateful to them for their concerted effort to extend everywhere the invitation to peace that the Church constantly proclaims.

3 "An ever timely commitment: teaching peace": this is the theme of the Message for today's World Day of Peace. It is ideally linked to what I proposed at the beginning of my Pontificate when I reasserted the urgent need to form consciences to the culture of peace. For peace to be possible, I wished to repeat, it is also a duty (cf. Message, n. 4).

Challenged by situations of injustice and violence that threaten various parts of the globe and the never-ending wars, often ignored by public opinion, it is becoming more and more necessary to build roads to peace together; consequently, educating for peace becomes indispensable.

For Christians, in fact, "to proclaim peace is to announce Christ who is "our peace' (Ep 2,14); it is to announce his Gospel, which is a "Gospel of peace' (Ep 6,15); it is to call all people to the beatitude of being "peacemakers' (cf. Mt Mt 5,9)" (Message, n. 3). Archbishop Michael Aidan Courtney, my representative as Apostolic Nuncio in Burundi who was tragically killed a few days ago as he carried out his mission encouraging dialogue and reconciliation, was also a witness to the "Gospel of peace". Let us pray for him and hope that his example and his sacrifice will bear fruits of peace in Burundi and throughout the world.

4. Every year in this Christmas season we return in spirit to Bethlehem to adore the Child lying in the manger. Unfortunately, in the land in which Jesus was born tragic conditions endure. In other parts of the world, hotbeds of violence and conflict are also still smouldering. However, we must persevere without giving in to the temptation to despair. All are asked to make an effort to see that the fundamental rights of the person are respected, by constantly teaching respect for the law. With this in mind, it is necessary to strive to transcend "the logic of simple justice and to be open also to the logic of forgiveness". Indeed, "there is no peace without forgiveness!" (cf. Message, n. 10).

People are becoming more and more aware of the need for a new international order that will make the most of the experience of the United Nations Organization and the results it has achieved in recent years: an order that can provide satisfactory solutions to the problems of our day, founded on the dignity of the human person, on an integral development of society, on solidarity between the rich and poor countries and on sharing resources and the extraordinary results of scientific and technological progress.

1476 5. "Love is... the loftiest and most noble form of relationship possible between human beings" (ibid.). The awareness of this guided me in drafting the Message for today's World Day of Peace. May God help us build together the "civilization of love". Only a humanity in which love is triumphant will be able to enjoy authentic and lasting peace.

May Mary obtain this gift for us. May she sustain us and accompany us in the arduous but exalting process of building peace. Let us never tire of praying confidently for this: Mary Queen of Peace, pray for us!




Monday, 2 February 2004

1. "He had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest" (He 2,17).

These words from the Letter to the Hebrews express well the message of today's Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. They offer us the key to its interpretation, so to speak, putting it in the perspective of the Paschal Mystery.

The event we are celebrating today takes us back to what Mary and Joseph did when, 40 days after his birth, they presented Jesus to God as their firstborn son, complying with the law of Moses.

Their offering was later to find complete and perfect fulfilment in the mystery of the passion, death and Resurrection of the Lord. Only then would he fulfil his mission as the "merciful and faithful High Priest", sharing in our human destiny to the very end.

At the presentation in the Temple, Mary, the faithful Virgin who takes part with him in the eternal plan of salvation, was with him as she was on Calvary.

2. Today's liturgy opens with the blessing of the candles and the procession to the altar to meet Christ and to recognize him "in the breaking of the bread" until he comes again in glory.

The Church celebrates the Day of Consecrated Life in this setting of light, faith and hope. All those who have offered their life to Christ for ever for the coming of the Kingdom of God are invited to renew their "yes" to the special vocation they have received. The entire Ecclesial Community, however, also rediscovers the riches of the prophetic witness of consecrated life in the variety of its charisms and apostolic commitments.

3. With sentiments of praise and gratitude to the Lord for this great gift, I would like first of all to greet Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, who is presiding at today's Celebration. With him, I extend my cordial good wishes to all who are participating in this evocative liturgical assembly.

1477 My affectionate greeting goes especially to you, dear Men and Women Religious and Members of Secular Institutes, as well as to all the witnesses faithful to the values of consecrated life in every region of the world.

Christ is calling you to conform ever more closely to him, who out of love made himself obedient, poor and chaste. Continue to dedicate yourselves passionately to proclaiming and promoting his Kingdom. This is your mission, as necessary today as it was in the past!

4. Dear Men and Women Religious, what a favourable opportunity you are afforded on this day dedicated to you, to reaffirm your fidelity to God with the enthusiasm and generosity of the moment when you first pronounced your vows! Repeat your "yes" to the God of Love every day with joy and conviction. In the recollection of the cloistered monastery or beside the poor and marginalized, among young people or within the structures of the Church, in the various apostolic activities or in mission lands, God wants you to be faithful to his love and dedicated without reserve to the good of your brothers and sisters.

This is the precious contribution which you can make to the Church, so that the Gospel of hope may reach the men and women of our time.

5. Let us contemplate the Virgin while she offers her Son in the Temple of Jerusalem. She who unconditionally accepted God's will at the moment of the Annunciation in a certain way is repeating her words: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word" (
Lc 1,38). This attitude of docile adherence to the divine designs was to mark her entire existence.

Thus, Our Lady is the first and most exalted model for every consecrated person. Dear brothers and sisters, let yourselves be guided by her. Turn to her for help with humble trust, especially in moments of trial.

And you, Mary, watch over these children of yours, lead them to Christ, "the Glory of Israel, the Light of the peoples". Virgo Virginum, Mater Salvatoris, ora pro nobis!


Friday 13 February 2004

1. "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day" (Jn 6,54).

While we are preparing to pay our last respects to dear Cardinal Opilio Rossi, we remember this solemn promise of Christ. Feelings of affection and ecclesial communion bound us to this Brother of ours. What linked us to him above all was faith in Christ who died and rose, a faith we now express in the celebration of these holy Mysteries.

In the Eucharist, the testament of Christ's love, our Redeemer makes himself our spiritual food and drink for the journey we are making towards the eternal Easter. In the consecrated bread and wine, we are given the pledge of future life that will have no end. Therefore, although they die, those who eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ will live for ever. The beloved Cardinal of whom we are taking leave today has now reached this state.

1478 2. Faith enlivened the long and fruitful priestly ministry of Cardinal Opilio Rossi. How often did he celebrate the divine Sacrifice, drawing precisely from the Eucharist light and inner strength for his daily decisions and for his apostolate! We are confident that today he is partaking of the heavenly banquet, "face to face" with Christ Our Lord.

"Omnia in Christo": Cardinal Rossi chose these words from the well-known Pauline phrase: "Instaurare omnia in Christo" (
Ep 1,10) as his espicopal motto. With them, he intended to stress that Christians must gather and unite all things and submit them to the lordship of Christ.

3. We can say that despite the limitations of human frailty, this total striving for Christ motivated the Cardinal's unflagging service to the Holy See in the Papal Representations in various countries of America and Europe, and subsequently in the milieu of the Roman Curia.

During the dramatic moments of the Second World War, Fr Opilio Rossi, then Auditor at the Apostolic Nunciature in Berlin, had the opportunity to do everything possible, with the late Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Orsenigo, for numerous suffering brothers and sisters, imbuing them with courage and nurturing their faith and Christian hope. It was an enriching experience of humanity and solidarity for the weakest. Later during his life, he sought to pass on this experience to the new generations. Indeed, he was convinced that young people have an important lesson to learn from the history of the 20th century: that from hatred, contempt of others, violence and exasperated nationalism flow nothing but tears and blood.

4. Because of the wisdom he displayed in his ecclesial service and the rare human and spiritual qualities that enriched his personality, he was summoned by my venerable Predecessor, Servant of God Paul VI, to be a member of the College of Cardinals; and so he became even more deeply integrated into the life of the Church in Rome.

In this new and higher capacity, he continued to offer his appreciated collaboration to the Apostolic See. In particular, he was the first President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, whose Committee for the Family he also headed. I myself subsequently called him to preside over the Permanent Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses.

Everywhere that Cardinal Opilio Rossi carried out his pastoral and diplomatic work, he left memories of a worthy minister of God who knew how "to make himself close" to all.

5. "The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God" (Sg 3,1).

With this certainty we address our last farewell to him, as we like to think that the heavenly Father is stretching out his merciful "hands" to welcome him. Our hope, as we have just heard in the First Reading, "is full of immortality" (Sg 3,4).

May the Virgin Mary accompany you, venerable Brother, on your way to Heaven. You were so devoted to her that you wanted to feature her on your episcopal coat of arms with the symbol of the star. May it be she, the Morning Star, who brings you into the glory of the Resurrection.



Ash Wednesday, 25 February 2004

1. "Your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (
Mt 6,4, 6, 18). Jesus' words are addressed to each one of us at the beginning of our Lenten journey. We begin it with the imposition of ashes, an austere penitential gesture very dear to Christian tradition. It emphasizes the awareness of sinners as they stand before the majesty and holiness of God. At the same time, it demonstrates readiness to accept and to transform into concrete choices adherence to the Gospel.

The formulas that accompany it are very eloquent. The first, from the Book of Genesis: "You are dust and to dust you shall return" (Gn 3,19), calls to mind the present human condition, marked by transitoriness and limitation. The second one takes up the words of the Gospel: "Repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mc 1,15), which are a pressing appeal to change one's life. Both these formulas invite us to enter Lent in an attitude of listening and sincere conversion.

2. The Gospel emphasizes that the Lord "sees in secret", that is, he scrutinizes our hearts. The external gestures of penance are valuable if they are an expression of an inner attitude and demonstrate the firm determination to shun evil and to take the path of righteousness. This is the profound sense of Christian ascesis.

"Ascesis": the very word evokes the image of ascending to lofty heights. This necessarily entails sacrifices and renunciation. Indeed, to make the journey easier, one must be reduced to the bare essentials; to be prepared to face every hardship and overcome every obstacle in order to reach the pre-established goal. To become authentic disciples of Christ, it is necessary to deny oneself, take up one's cross and follow him (cf. Lk Lc 9,23). This is the arduous path to holiness that every baptized person is called to follow.

3. The Church has always pointed out certain useful means for taking this route. They consist above all in humble and docile adherence to God's will accompanied by ceaseless prayer; they are the typical forms of penance of Christian tradition, such as abstinence, fasting, mortification and giving up even good things legitimate in themselves; they are the concrete acts of acceptance of our neighbour that are referred to in today's Gospel with the term "giving alms". All these things are suggested once again but with greater intensity during the season of Lent, which in this regard is a "strong moment" for spiritual training and generous service to our brothers and sisters.
Who needs protection more than a frail, defenceless child?

4. In my Lenten Message, by recalling Christ's words: "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me" (Mt 18,5), I wanted to draw special attention to the difficult conditions in which so many of the world's children live. Indeed, who needs to be defended and protected more than a frail and defenceless little child?

The world of childhood is beset by many complex problems. I warmly hope that our solidarity will mean that proper care is given to these, the smallest of our brethren, who are often left to themselves. This is a concrete way of expressing our Lenten resolve.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us begin Lent with these sentiments: it is a journey of prayer, penance and genuine Christian ascesis. May Mary, Mother of Christ, go with us. May her example and intercession help us to proceed joyfully on our way towards Easter.


St Anselm

St Mary, Star of Evangelization

St Charles Borromeo

St John Baptist de la Salle

Paul VI Audience Hall

Saturday, 28 February 2004

1. “Jesus... was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, to be tempted by the devil” (Lc 4,1-2). The account of the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert at the beginning of his public ministry helps us to understand better the value of the “strong season” of Lent that has just begun.

As we journey through Lent, let us look at Christ who fasts and struggles with the devil. Indeed, in preparing for Easter, we too are “led” by the Holy Spirit into the desert of prayer and penance, to nourish ourselves intensely with the Word of God. We too, like Christ, are called to fight against the devil with all our might and determination. Only in this way, with renewed adherence to God's will, can we be faithful to our Christian vocation: to be heralds and witnesses of the Gospel.

2. I am pleased to welcome you, dear brothers and sisters from the Parishes of St Anselm in Cecchignola, St Charles Borromeo in Fonte Laurentina, St John Baptist de La Salle and St Mary, Star of Evangelization in Torrino.

I am pleased to celebrate the Eucharist with you, continuing in a different way the beautiful custom of my Visits to the parishes of Rome. These meetings enable me to express the affection that binds me to you very intensely, dear faithful of the Diocese of Rome. Never forget it: I have you very much at heart! You are the part of the Christian people especially entrusted to the pastoral care of the Bishop of Rome.

3. I first greet Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar of Rome, and the Auxiliary Bishop of the Southern Sector. I greet the parish priests: Fr Mario Sanfilippo, Fr Fernando Altieri, Fr Ilija Perleta and Fr Francesco De Franco, and I thank them for describing to me at our meetings prior to this occasion the different situations in their parishes. I greet the Priests and Deacons who assist them, as well as the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, precious collaborators in St John Baptist de La Salle Parish.

I address a cordial thought to the members of the Parish Pastoral and Administrative Councils, to the catechists, the Caritas groups, the altar servers and all the members of the various groups active in your communities. A special thought goes to the cantors who have formed a splendid interparochial choir for today's event and are enthusiastically enlivening our liturgical gathering.

4. Dear brothers and sisters, the neighbourhoods in which your Parishes are located are constantly expanding and it is mainly young families who live in them. Offer them an open and cordial welcome; foster their reciprocal knowledge, so that the communities may become increasingly “families of families” that can share their joys and difficulties together.

Involve parents in the preparation of children and young people for the sacraments and for Christian life, keeping in mind family schedules and needs; offer to organize prayer meetings and formation in their apartment block or in their own homes. Remember that families really are the first place for the Christian education of children.

Guide with tender concern those families in difficulty or in precarious conditions, helping them to understand and carry out God's authentic plan for marriage and the family.

5. Dear friends, I know that at present you have to make do with temporary structures for liturgical life and pastoral service. I hope that you will soon be able to use proper premises! In the meantime, however, be concerned to make your parishes genuine spiritual buildings that stand on the corner stone that is Christ! Christ and always Christ!

1481 The Apostle Paul reminds us in this regard: “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). This is the core of the faith you are each called to proclaim with your life: Jesus who died and rose for us! Refer to this fundamental truth for your spiritual growth that must be constant, and for your apostolic mission.

May Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, a privileged witness of the passion of her Son who shared in his suffering, help you to know him and serve him with generous enthusiasm. May she accompany you on your Lenten Journey, so that with her you may savour the joy of Easter. Amen!


St Bridget of Sweden

St Hilary of Poitiers

St Maximus, Bishop

Paul VI Audience Hall

Saturday, 6 March 2004

1. "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" (Lc 9,35). Today's Gospel reading makes us protagonists of the moving scene of Jesus' Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. Christ reveals his glory as the Son of God to Peter, James and John.

Luke the Evangelist highlights this extraordinary fact, enabling us to contemplate the face of the Lord that changed in appearance while he was praying (cf. Lk Lc 9,29). In him, shining with glory, we recognize the Chosen One, the Messiah, "the light of the world" (Jn 8,12), who gives meaning to our life. The mysterious voice from on high also invites us to follow him with docility: "This is my Son... listen to him!".

2. Listen to Christ and follow him! At the beginning of Lent, 25 years ago, I felt the need to encourage the entire People of God to "touch upon" this fundamental experience. "Jesus Christ is the chief way for the Church" (n. 13), I wrote in my first Encyclical Redemptor Hominis.This evening I would like to symbolically entrust it to you again, dear brothers and sisters of the Parish communities of St Bridget of Sweden, St Hilary of Poitiers and of St Maximus, Bishop.

I welcome and embrace you all with affection. I greet especially the Cardinal Vicar and thank him for explaining to me the realities of your parishes. I greet the Auxiliary Bishop of the Western Sector and your Parish Priests: Fr Jean-Jacques Boeglin, Fr Romano Matrone and Fr Romano Maria Deb, together with their parochial vicars. My profound thanks go to the Religious and lay people who, in various sectors, cooperate in the pastoral action of your communities.

3. The district of Palmarola, relatively less spread out than other sectors of the Diocese, is made up of three parishes. It is my cordial hope that, also thanks to this gathering, the desire for communion will be strengthened in all the parishioners so that the proclamation of the Gospel to those who live in the district will be more effective. Unfortunately, in the area where you live the modern phenomenon of "sects" is also widespread. They seek to attract especially those who are in a difficult situation or who are lonely. In this setting, it is necessary to set forth on a strong, new and courageous work of evangelization. Jesus, centre of the universe and of history, must meet every man and woman, since in the mystery of the Redemption, "the question of man is inscribed with a special vigour of truth and love" (Redemptor Hominis RH 18).

To proclaim Christ is to give everyone, especially those who suffer spiritual and material poverty, the possibility to experience divine tenderness and mercy.

4. Each one of your communities, under the generous and enlightened guidance of their respective pastors, becomes a place of welcome and of solidarity. The parishes must be schools of education in authentic faith, aware that they are guardians of a great treasure which they must not waste but must continually increase (cf. ibid., n. 18).

1482 The Eucharist must be at the centre of every pastoral project, building the Church as the authentic community of the People of God and always regenerating it on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ himself (cf. ibid., n. 20). I invite especially you, dear families, to make the Eucharist your reference point. You are called to walk together with your children on the itinerary of preparation for the sacraments of Christian initiation and to accompany them throughout adolescence and beyond, so that as they grow up, they may faithfully fulfil the mission God has in store for them.

5. Dear Brothers and Sisters, I know that your parishes still do not have adequate facilities for their pastoral and social activities; however, this must not prevent you from proclaiming with vigour in every corner of Palmarola the Good News that "Jesus Christ meets the man of every age, including our own, with the same words: "You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free'" (Redemptor Hominis
RH 12).

May the Virgin Mary, sublime model of faith and love of God, help you to recognize in Jesus the Son of God and Lord of our lives. To her I entrust all of you here present, together with your apostolic programmes and the Lenten journey we began a short while ago. May she help you to become familiar "with the profundity of the Redemption taking place in Jesus Christ" (ibid., n. 10).



St Maximilian Kolbe

St Patrick

St Margaret Mary Alacoque

St Mary Mediatrix

Paul VI Audience Hall

Saturday, 20 March 2004

1. "Rejoice..." (Entrance Antiphon; cf. Is Is 66,10-11). The invitation to rejoice that rang out at the beginning of the Eucharistic celebration clearly expresses the climate of today's liturgy. We have reached the Fourth Sunday of Lent, traditionally known as Laetare Sunday, and we are already given a foretaste of the spiritual joy of Easter.

The exhortation to rejoice becomes even more heartfelt and demanding when we listen to the Gospel that presents to us once again the moving Parable "of the Prodigal Son" (cf. Lk Lc 15,1-3,11). In the father who embraces his son who was "lost", we contemplate the face of the good and merciful Lord, ever ready to offer to all humankind his forgiveness, a source of serenity and peace.

2. Let us open our hearts to this consoling word of salvation, dear brothers and sisters of the Parishes of St Maximilian Kolbe in Via Prenestina, St Patrick, St Margaret Mary Alacoque and St Mary Mediatrix! I welcome you all with affection. I greet the Cardinal Vicar and thank him for his courteous words expressing the sentiments of all those present. I greet the Archbishop Vicegerent and your zealous parish priests: Fr Duilio Colantoni, Fr. Arnaldo D'Innocenzo, Fr Salvatore Uras and Fr Tomasz Porzycki of the Society of Christ for Polish emigrants. I extend my greeting to the priests and deacons who work with them, to the men and women religious established in some of your parishes, especially the Monfortian Fathers, the Sisters of St Paul of Chartres and the Sisters Reparatrix of the Sacred Heart. I embrace with affection all of you present here, with a special thought for the parish council members, the catechists, those who belong to the various parish groups and the children who attend catechism classes.

Your parishes, located in the eastern suburbs of Rome, are called to constant evangelization. I congratulate all those who, despite the precarious state of the structures, are diligently following the courses in Christian formation and catechesis and are dedicated to liturgical service and charity to their needy brothers and sisters, as well as to the preparation of young people for marriage and family life.

3. The presence of the parish community of St Margaret Mary Alacoque, in whose territory is located [the University of] Tor Vergata, brings us back in spirit to the unforgettable meeting of young people for the World Youth Day in the Year 2000. The Cross of the Holy Year of the Redemption stood out at that memorable event.

1483 Dear young people, make the Cross your essential reference point. Draw from the crucified and risen Christ the courage to evangelize our world so fraught by divisions, hatred, wars, terrorism, but rich in many human and spiritual resources. I am expecting many of you to come to St Peter's Square on Thursday, 1 April, together with your peers from Rome and Lazio. There we will prepare for the World Youth Day which will be celebrated this year in various dioceses on Palm Sunday.

4. I invite you all to look at the Cross, dear brothers and sisters who have gathered this evening for Holy Mass. Be open and hospitable parish communities. Numerous Latin American and Polish faithful live among you. May these brothers and sisters of ours feel loved as Christ loved and served every man and every woman to the point of giving up his life. It is this concrete witness of faith that also moves the hearts of the so-called "fallen away".

5. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come" (II Cor 5: 17). Dear brothers and sisters, may this knowledge, recalled by the Apostle in the Second Reading, guide you as you journey on!

Live in Christ as new creatures. An irrepressible hymn of praise and thanksgiving will then burst from your hearts to the One who redeemed us with his sacrifice on the Cross.

May Mary, who stood weeping on Calvary, obtain for you the gift of true conversion, a prelude to the joy without end promised to faithful disciples of her divine Son. Amen!


St Peter's Square

Fourth Sunday of Lent, 21 March 2004

1. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation" (II Cor 5: 17).

With these words spoken by the Apostle Paul, we can sum up the message of today's Beatification Liturgy, which is very fitting for this so-called "Laetare Sunday" in the middle of our Lenten journey.

The Second Reading and the Gospel form as it were a duet in praise of the love of God, our Merciful Father (Lc 15,11-32), who has reconciled us in Christ (II Cor 5: 17-21). It is a hymn that makes a heartfelt appeal to "be reconciled to God" (II Cor 5: 20).

This invitation is based on the certainty that the Lord loves us. He loved the Israelites and led them into the land of Canaan after the long journey of the Exodus that is full of heartfelt longing, as we heard in the First Reading. The Passover that they celebrated "in the evening in the plains of Jericho" (Jos 5,10) and the first months that they spent in the Promised Land became for them an eloquent symbol of divine fidelity, a gift of God's peace to his Chosen People after the sorrowful experience of slavery.

1484 2. The four new Blesseds whom the Church presents to us today are special witnesses of God's loving Providence that accompanies humanity on its way: Luigi Talamoni, Matilde of the Sacred Heart, Piety of the Cross and Maria Candida of the Eucharist.

They faced the labours and trials of their earthly pilgrimage sustained by indomitable trust in the Heavenly Father. In the difficult events of life, their support and comfort was always Christ. Thus, they experienced in themselves how true it is that by living in him we become "new creatures" (cf. II Cor 5: 17).

3. The priest Luigi Talamoni was a faithful reflection of God's mercy. Achille Ratti, subsequently Pope Pius XI, the most famous of the Blessed's high school students at the Seminary of Monza, described him as a "gem of the Ambrosian [Milanese] clergy and a spiritual director and father for countless souls because of his holy life, enlightened knowledge, great heartedness, Magisterial expertise, apostolic zeal and praiseworthy civic services in Monza". The new Blessed was diligent in the ministry of the confessional and in his service to the poor, to prisoners and especially to the poverty-stricken sick. What a shining example he is to us all! I urge especially priests and the Congregation of the Misericordine Sisters to keep their gaze on him.

4. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation" (II Cor 5: 17). St Paul's words can be applied perfectly to Mother Matilde of the Sacred Heart. In love with Christ, she gave herself to him as a true disciple who embodied this newness. This tireless, religious woman devoted herself through an intense prayer life to transforming the society of her time by welcoming young orphan girls, nursing the sick at home, advancing the working woman and collaborating in ecclesial activities.

Her deep devotion to the Eucharist and contemplation of Jesus in the Sacrament of the Altar gave rise to her desire to be like the bread that is broken and given to all to share. This is what she also taught her Religious, the Daughters of Mary, Mother of the Church. Her luminous witness is a call to live in adoration to God and in service to our brethren, two fundamental pillars of Christian commitment.

5. Mother Piety of the Cross was born in Bocairente, Spain, and founded the Congregation of the Salesian Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Alcantarilla , Murcia. She is a marvellous example of the reconciliation that St Paul suggests to us in the Second Reading: "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself" (II Cor 5: 19). But God asks us to collaborate with him to achieve his work of reconciliation (cf. vv. 19-20). Mother Piety gathered various young women who were eager to show the lowly and the poor the love of the provident Father as it is expressed in the Heart of Jesus, thereby giving life to a new religious family. A model of Christian and religious virtues and in love with Christ, the Blessed Virgin and the poor, she leaves us the example of austerity, prayer and charity to all the needy.

6. Maria Barba became a "new creature" who offered her entire life to God in Carmel, where she received the name Maria Candida of the Eucharist. She was an authentic mystic of the Eucharist; she made it the unifying centre of her entire life, following the Carmelite tradition and particularly the examples of St Teresa of Jesus and of St John of the Cross.

She fell so deeply in love with the Eucharistic Jesus that she felt a constant, burning desire to be a tireless apostle of the Eucharist. I am sure that Bl. Maria Candida is continuing to help the Church from Heaven, to assure the growth of her sense of wonder at and love for this supreme Mystery of our faith.

7. "Laetare, Jerusalem! - Rejoice Jerusalem! (Entrance Antiphon).

The invitation to rejoice that marks today's liturgy is broadened by the gift of the Blesseds Luigi Talamoni, Matilde of the Sacred Heart, Piety of the Cross and Maria Candida of the Eucharist. They give to us, pilgrims on earth, a taste of heavenly joy, and are witnesses for every believer of comforting hope.

S. John Paul II Homil. 1474