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My People

Vol. 18, Issue 5, May 2005

"If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." — 2 Chronicles 7:14

Pope John Paul II
May 18, 1920 - April 2, 2005

Pope John Paul II: Faithful Disciple of Christ
Pope Benedict XVI Asks For Prayers
Believers Must "Interpret Social Realities In The Light Of The Gospel"
In Defense of Life: A Life Worthy To Be Lived
Light to the Nations: A Christian Perspective on World News
World Communications Day Is May 8
Church To Pope John Paul II: "May The Angels Lead You To Paradise!"


Pope John Paul II: Faithful Disciple of Christ

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation of the Faith, emphasized Pope John Paul II's faithful following of Christ in his homily at the Pope's funeral Mass on April 8. The Pope died at 9:37 p.m. (Rome time) on Saturday, April 2. Thus, he died on both a first Saturday, traditionally devoted to the Blessed Virgin, and the beginning of the feast of the Divine Mercy, a feast which Pope John Paul II established. He also canonized St. Faustina, the Polish nun who received the Divine Mercy revelations.

Cardinal Ratzinger's homily follows: "'Follow Me.' The Risen Lord says these words to Peter. They are His last words to this disciple, chosen to shepherd His flock. 'Follow Me' – this lapidary saying of Christ can be taken as the key to understanding the message which comes to us from the life of our late beloved Pope John Paul II. Today we bury his remains in the earth as a seed of immortality – our hearts are full of sadness, yet at the same time of joyful hope and profound gratitude.

"These are the sentiments that inspire us, Brothers and Sisters in Christ, present here in Saint Peter's Square, in neighboring streets and in various other locations within the city of Rome, where an immense crowd, silently praying, has gathered over the last few days. I greet all of you from my heart. In the name of the College of Cardinals, I also wish to express my respects to heads of state, heads of government, and the delegations from various countries. I greet the authorities and official representatives of other Churches and Christian communities, and likewise those of different religions. Next I greet the archbishops, bishops, priests, religious men and women, and the faithful who have come here from every continent; especially the young, whom John Paul II liked to call the future and the hope of the Church. My greeting is extended, moreover, to all those throughout the world who are united with us through radio and television in this solemn celebration of our beloved Holy Father's funeral.

"Follow Me – as a young student Karol Wojtyla was thrilled by literature, the theater, and poetry. Working in a chemical plant, surrounded and threatened by the Nazi terror, he heard the voice of the Lord: Follow Me! In this extraordinary setting he began to read books of philosophy and theology, and then entered the clandestine seminary established by Cardinal Sapieha. After the war he was able to complete his studies in the faculty of theology of the Jagiellonian University of Krakσw. How often, in his letters to priests and in his autobiographical books, has he spoken to us about his priesthood, to which he was ordained on November 1, 1946. In these texts he interprets his priesthood with particular reference to three sayings of the Lord. First: 'You did not choose Me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last' (Jn 15:16). The second saying is: 'The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep' (Jn 10:11). And then: 'As the Father has loved M, so I have loved you; abide in My love' (Jn 15:9). In these three sayings we see the heart and soul of our Holy Father. He really went everywhere, untiringly, in order to bear fruit, fruit that lasts. Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way!, is the title of his next-to-last book. 'Rise, let us be on our way!' – with these words he roused us from a lethargic faith, from the sleep of the disciples of both yesterday and today. 'Rise, let us be on our way!' he continues to say to us even today. The Holy Father was a priest to the last, for he offered his life to God for his flock and for the entire human family, in a daily self-oblation for the service of the Church, especially amid the sufferings of his final months. And in this way he became one with Christ, the Good Shepherd Who loves His sheep. Finally, 'abide in My love': the Pope who tried to meet everyone, who had an ability to forgive and to open his heart to all, tells us once again today, with these words of the Lord, that by abiding in the love of Christ we learn, at the school of Christ, the art of true love.

"Follow Me! In July, 1958, the young priest Karol Wojtyla began a new stage in his journey with the Lord and in the footsteps of the Lord. Karol had gone to the Masuri lakes for his usual vacation, along with a group of young people who loved canoeing. But he brought with him a letter inviting him to call on the Primate of Poland, Cardinal Wyszynski. He could guess the purpose of the meeting: he was to be appointed as the auxiliary Bishop of Krakσw. Leaving the academic world, leaving this challenging engagement with young people, leaving the great intellectual endeavor of striving to understand and interpret the mystery of that creature which is man and of communicating to today's world the Christian interpretation of our being – all this must have seemed to him like losing his very self, losing what had become the very human identity of this young priest. Follow Me – Karol Wojtyla accepted the appointment, for he heard in the Church's call the voice of Christ. And then he realized how true are the Lord's words: 'Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it' (Lk 17:33). Our Pope – and we all know this – never wanted to make his own life secure, to keep it for himself; he wanted to give of himself unreservedly, to the very last moment, for Christ and thus also for us. And thus he came to experience how everything which he had given over into the Lord's hands came back to him in a new way. His love of words, of poetry, of literature, became an essential part of his pastoral mission and gave new vitality, new urgency, new attractiveness to the preaching of the Gospel, even when it is a sign of contradiction.

"Follow Me! In October, 1978, Cardinal Wojtyla once again heard the voice of the Lord. Once more there took place that dialogue with Peter reported in the Gospel of this Mass: 'Simon, son of John, do you love Me? Feed My sheep!' To the Lord's question, 'Karol, do you love Me?,' the Archbishop of Krakow answered from the depths of his heart: 'Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.' The love of Christ was the dominant force in the life of our beloved Holy Father. Anyone who ever saw him pray, who ever heard him preach, knows that. Thanks to his being profoundly rooted in Christ, he was able to bear a burden which transcends merely human abilities: that of being the shepherd of Christ's flock, His universal Church. This is not the time to speak of the specific content of this rich pontificate. I would like only to read two passages of today's liturgy which reflect central elements of his message. In the first reading, Saint Peter says – and with Saint Peter, the Pope himself – 'I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ – He is Lord of all' (Acts 10:34-36). And in the second reading, Saint Paul – and with Saint Paul, our late Pope – exhorts us, crying out: 'My brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved' (Phil 4:1).

"Follow Me! Together with the command to feed His flock, Christ proclaimed to Peter that he would die a martyr's death. With those words, which conclude and sum up the dialogue on love and on the mandate of the universal shepherd, the Lord recalls another dialogue, which took place during the Last Supper. There Jesus had said: 'Where I am going, you cannot come.' Peter said to Him, 'Lord, where are You going?' Jesus replied: 'Where I am going, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow Me afterward.' (Jn 13:33,36). Jesus from the Supper went towards the Cross, went towards His resurrection – He entered into the paschal mystery; and Peter could not yet follow Him. Now – after the resurrection – comes the time, comes this 'afterward.' By shepherding the flock of Christ, Peter enters into the paschal mystery, he goes towards the cross and the resurrection. The Lord says this in these words: '. . .when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go' (Jn 21:18). In the first years of his pontificate, still young and full of energy, the Holy Father went to the very ends of the earth, guided by Christ. But afterwards, he increasingly entered into the communion of Christ's sufferings; increasingly he understood the truth of the words: 'Someone else will fasten a belt around you.' And in this very communion with the suffering Lord, tirelessly and with renewed intensity, he proclaimed the Gospel, the mystery of that love which goes to the end (cf. Jn 13:1).

"He interpreted for us the paschal mystery as a mystery of divine mercy. In his last book, he wrote: The limit imposed upon evil 'is ultimately Divine Mercy' (Memory and Identity, pp. 60-61). And reflecting on the assassination attempt, he said: 'In sacrificing himself for us all, Christ gave a new meaning to suffering, opening up a new dimension, a new order: the order of love. . . It is this suffering which burns and consumes evil with the flame of love and draws forth even from sin a great flowering of good' (pp. 189-190). Impelled by this vision, the Pope suffered and loved in communion with Christ, and that is why the message of his suffering and his silence proved so eloquent and so fruitful.

"Divine Mercy: the Holy Father found the purest reflection of God's mercy in the Mother of God. He, who at an early age had lost his own mother, loved his divine mother all the more. He heard the words of the crucified Lord as addressed personally to him: 'Behold your Mother.' And so he did as the beloved disciple did: he took her into his own home' (eis ta idia: Jn 19:27) – Totus tuus. And from the mother he learned to conform himself to Christ.

"None of us can ever forget how in that last Easter Sunday of his life, the Holy Father, marked by suffering, came once more to the window of the Apostolic Palace and one last time gave his blessing urbi et orbi. We can be sure that our beloved Pope is standing today at the window of the Father's house, that he sees us and blesses us. Yes, bless us, Holy Father. We entrust your dear soul to the Mother of God, your Mother, who guided you each day and who will guide you now to the eternal glory of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen."


Pope Benedict XVI Asks For Prayers

Prior to the traditional "Urbi et Orbi" ("to the city and the world") blessing after the announcement of the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope on April 19, the new Pope who chose the name Benedict XVI, addressed the faithful, saying:

"After the great Pope John Paul II, the Lord Cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord. I am consoled by the fact that the Lord knows how to act, even with inadequate instruments and above all I entrust myself to your prayers. In the joy of the Risen Lord, trusting in His permanent help, as we go forward the Lord will help us, and His Mother, Mary Most Holy, is on our side. Thank you."


Believers Must "Interpret Social Realities In The Light Of The Gospel"

The 40th anniversary of Vatican II's pastoral constitution, Gaudium et spies (The Church In The Modern World) was recently observed at a meeting sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and other international academic organizations. Pope John Paul II sent a message, dated March 15, to Cardinal Martino, president of this pontifical council for this occasion. Pope John Paul II is regarded as one of the major architects of this Vatican II document. A portion of the Pope's message follows:

". . .I cannot but emphasize the special importance of this event for the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace: indeed, the Council was established at the express request of the Council Fathers, formulated in the Document itself (cf. Gaudium et Spes, n. 90). In these years, the Pontifical Council has played an important role in deepening and developing the Conciliar teachings on justice and peace and well deserves the gratitude of the entire Ecclesial Community.

"The theme presented at the Symposium, 'The call to justice,' draws attention to the challenge that the Church constantly faces, committed as she is to reminding every believer of the need to interpret social realities in the light of the Gospel (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n. 62). Sometimes, the great advances in science and technology can actually lead to a forgetfulness of the fundamental issues of justice, despite the common aspiration to greater solidarity between peoples and a more human structuring of social relations (cf. Gaudium et Spes, n. 63; Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, nn. 213-214).

"The sad continuation of armed conflicts and the recurring manifestations of violence in so many parts of the world serve to show the necessity for the inseparable relationship between justice and peace, in accordance with the fundamental teaching proposed with courageous clarity in Gaudium et Spes (cf. n. 78). In this regard, I would like once again to reaffirm that peace is the work of justice: indeed, it is born from that order on which the Divine Founder Himself wanted to build human society. Therefore, how can we not approve and encourage those men and women of good will who spare no efforts to create conditions of greater justice in the world? (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, nn. 495, 498). Indeed, a true peace on earth entails the firm determination to respect others, individuals and peoples, in their dignity, and constant willingness to increase brotherly solidarity between the members of the human family (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n. 194).

"Gaudium et Spes does not reduce its teaching to this: in this Constitution the Council maintains that peace is 'also the fruit of love, for love goes beyond what justice can ensure . . .Therefore, all Christians are earnestly to speak the truth in love (cf. Eph 4:15) and join with all peace-loving men in pleading for peace and trying to bring it about' (Gaudium et Spes, n. 78).

"To say it in other words: the theme of justice does not exhaust the social doctrine of the Church. The virtue of love that leads to forgiveness and reconciliation and motivates Christian commitment to justice must never be forgotten. It nevertheless remains unquestionable that the topic of justice is the basis for 'the right ordering of human society' (ibid., n. 78). . ."



A Life Worthy To Be Lived

Fred H. Summe
Fred H. Summe, vice president of Northern Kentucky Right to Life
by Fred H. Summe

On March 31, thirteen days after her feeding tube was removed, Terri Schiavo went home to God, Who loved her.

Our prayers go out for Terri, her parents and family, her attorneys, and all those who so heroically struggled to save her life. We also remember in our prayers her husband, his attorneys, and the judges on whose hands the blood of her death cannot be washed away, that they may repent and seek the forgiveness of the Creator of life.


Terri had suffered brain injury (reported as usual by the pro-death media as "brain dead," "vegetative state," etc.). Her husband directed her physicians to withdraw her source of food and hydration (water), over the objection of her parents, who indicated that she gave recognition signs to them upon visitation. Although the husband maintained she did not want to be kept alive, there was direct contrary testimony from Terri's best friend.

Carefully avoided in the public presentation by the pro-death media was the fact that the woman was not dying. We are not talking about artificial methods to keep her alive, but rather, the simple furnishing of food and water, which, of course, is not medical care, but human care.

The news media tried to center the debate around whether Terri was in a "persistent vegetative state," unaware of her surroundings. This ignored the real issue. Regardless of Terri's medical condition, she was a living human being and thus entitled to live her life.

As with all disabled individuals, Terri was entitled to human care, particularly nutrition and hydration.

A Violation of God's Law

Even if Terri had expressed in words or in writing her desire to be starved to death, removing her feeding tube would still be morally unacceptable.

In his encyclical, The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II reminds us: "Certainly there is a moral obligation to care for oneself and to allow oneself to be cared for. . ."

Deciding that someone is in a "persistent vegetative state" is misleading by implying that somehow a person, because of their medical condition, ceases to be a human person, and thus is not entitled to a right to live. One's impaired mental ability does not transform a person into a vegetable or an animal. However, the use of such a term enables the pro-death community to feel more comfortable with their decision to kill.

In his March 20, 2004, address to the participants in the International Congress, Pope John Paul II reiterated the Church's teaching:

"I should like particularly to underline how the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. . .and as such (is) morally obligatory. . .

"Death by starvation or dehydration is, in fact, the only possible outcome as a result of their withdrawal. . .

". . .such an act is always 'a serious violation of the law of God,' since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person."

The Truth of "Compassionate" Killing

Particularly absent in the news media's reporting was a specific description of death by starvation and dehydration. The following is a quote from a decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Court in the case of Paul Brophy v. New England Sinai Hospital (1986).

". . .Various effects from lack of hydration and nutrition lead ultimately to death – mouth would dry out and become caked or coated with thick material. . .lips would become parched and cracked . . .tongue would swell and might crack. . .eyes would recede back into their orbits and cheeks would become hollow. . .lining of the nose might crack and cause the nose to bleed. . .skin would hang on his body and become dry and scaly. . .urine would become highly concentrated; leading to burning of the bladder. . .lining of his stomach would dry out and he would experience dry heaves and vomiting. . .body temperature would become very high. . .brain cells would dry out, causing convulsions. . . respiratory tract would dry out into thick secretions that would result in plugging his lungs. . . at some point within 5 days to 3 weeks his major organs, including lungs, heart, and brain would give out and he would die. . .extremely painful and uncomfortable. . .cruel and violent."

Always to Care

"Deeply embedded in our medical traditions is the distinction. . .between allowing to die, on the one hand, and killing, on the other. . .It is never permitted, it is always prohibited, to take any action that is aimed at the death of ourselves or others. . .we must learn again the wisdom that teaches us always to care, never to kill." A Declaration on Euthanasia, issued by Thirteen Jewish and Christian Scholars.

Terri's life, like all of our lives, regardless of the mental, physical, or emotional conditions, was one worthy to be lived. Why? For all eternity, her life was one for which the Author of all life had willed, and continues to will.


Light to the Nations: A Christian Perspective on World News

The Pope's "Last Gift"

VATICAN CITY – L'Osservatore Romano English edition reported that Pope John Paul II left a "last gift" for the Church in a Regina Caeli message for Divine Mercy Sunday. Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute of the Secretariat of State, read the message at the end of Mass celebrated on this day. L'Osservatore Romano's report continued:

"'. . .I have been charged,' Archbishop Sandri said, 'to read you the text that was prepared in accordance with his explicit instructions by the Holy Father John Paul II. I am deeply honored to do so, but also filled with nostalgia.'

The papal text read:

"Today the glorious Alleluia of Easter resounds. Today's Gospel from John emphasizes that on the evening of that day He appeared to the Apostles and 'showed them His hands and His side' (Jn 20:20), that is, the signs of the painful passion with which His Body was indelibly stamped, even after the Resurrection. Those glorious wounds, which He allowed doubting Thomas to touch eight days later, reveal the mercy of God Who 'so loved the world that He gave His only Son' (Jn 3:16).

"This mystery of love is at the heart of the liturgy today, the Second Sunday of Easter, dedicated to the devotion of Divine Mercy.

"As a gift to humanity, which sometimes seems bewildered and overwhelmed by the power of evil, selfishness, and fear, the Risen Lord offers His love that pardons, reconciles, and reopens hearts to love. It is a love that converts hearts and gives peace. How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy!

"Lord, Who reveals the Father's love by Your death and Resurrection, we believe in You and confidently repeat to You today: Jesus, I trust in You, have mercy upon us and upon the whole world.

"The liturgical solemnity of the Annunciation that we will be celebrating tomorrow urges us to contemplate with Mary's eyes the immense mystery of this merciful love that flows from the Heart of Christ. With her help, we will be able to understand the true meaning of Easter joy that is based on this certainty: the One whom the Virgin bore in her womb, Who suffered and died for us, is truly risen. Alleluia!" (Source: L'Osservatore Romano English Edition)

"African, Join Forces!"

VATICAN CITY – Pope John Paul II sent a letter to Archbishop Nikola Eterovic for the meeting of the Special Council For Africa of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. The letter was dated February 23. This Council is preparing for the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.

The Pope said: ". . .We give thanks to God for the remarkable expansion that the Catholic Church in Africa has seen in the past 10 years. For this growth to continue, I encourage the bishops to further the spiritual deepening of all that has been achieved, as well as of the human and Christian development of the clergy and laity. I am delighted with the commitment of many of the faithful to the urgent work of evangelization, and with the social development of the different countries on the continent. Africans, join forces!

"However, Africa is always confronted by terrible scourges, such as armed conflicts, persistent poverty, disease and its devastating consequences, starting with the social drama of AIDS, widespread insecurity, and lastly, the corruption that exists in many regions. All this weakens Africa, exhausts her energy, decimates her young generations, and mortgages her future. To build a prosperous and stable society, Africa needs all her children to join forces, and I know of the important part played with generosity and self-denial by the sons and daughters of the Church, whose example is an incentive for their African brothers and sisters. May the future Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops also encourage the strengthening of faith in Christ Our Savior, and genuine reconciliation! The Year of the Eucharist that we are celebrating is a particularly appropriate moment to strengthen or re-establish communion in relations between people and between human or religious groups as well as between the nations in the different African regions. . ." (Source: L'Osservatore Romano English Edition)


World Communications Day Is May 8

The 39th World Communications Day on Sunday, May 8, will focus on the media's call to promote understanding among peoples. Pope John Paul II issued a message for this day on January 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of the Catholic press.

The Pope's message follows: "We read in the Letter of Saint James, 'From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so' (Jas 3:10). The Sacred Scriptures remind us that words have an extraordinary power to bring people together or to divide them, to forge bonds of friendship or to provoke hostility.

"Not only is this true of words spoken by one person to another: it applies equally to communication taking place at any level. Modern technology places at our disposal unprecedented possibilities for good, for spreading the truth of our salvation in Jesus Christ and for fostering harmony and reconciliation. Yet its misuse can do untold harm, giving rise to misunderstanding, prejudice, and even conflict. The theme chosen for the 2005 World Communications Day – 'The Communications Media: At the Service of Understanding Among Peoples' – addresses an urgent need: to promote the unity of the human family through the use made of these great resources.

"One important way of achieving this end is through education. The media can teach billions of people about other parts of the world and other cultures. With good reason they have been called 'the first Areopagus of the modern age. . .for many the chief means of information and education, of guidance and inspiration in their behavior as individuals, families, and within society at large' (Redemptoris Missio, 37). Accurate knowledge promotes understanding, dispels prejudice, and awakens the desire to learn more. Images especially have the power to convey lasting impressions and to shape attitudes. They teach people how to regard members of other groups and nations, subtly influencing whether they are considered as friends or enemies, allies or potential adversaries.

"When others are portrayed in hostile terms, seeds of conflict are sown which can all too easily escalate into violence, war, or even genocide. Instead of building unity and understanding, the media can be used to demonize other social, ethnic, and religious groups, fomenting fear and hatred. Those responsible for the style and content of what is communicated have a grave duty to ensure that this does not happen. Indeed, the media have enormous potential for promoting peace and building bridges between peoples, breaking the fatal cycle of violence, reprisal, and fresh violence that is so widespread today. In the words of Saint Paul, which formed the basis of this year's Message for the World Day of Peace: 'Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good' (Rom 12:21).

"If such a contribution to peace-making is one of the significant ways the media can bring people together, its influence in favor of the swift mobilization of aid in response to natural disasters is another. It was heartening to see how quickly the international community responded to the recent tsunami that claimed countless victims. The speed with which news travels today naturally increases the possibility for timely practical measures designed to offer maximum assistance. In this way the media can achieve an immense amount of good.

"The Second Vatican Council reminded us: 'If the media are to be correctly employed, it is essential that all who use them know the principles of the moral order and apply them faithfully' (Inter Mirifica, 4).

"The fundamental ethical principle is this: 'The human person and the human community are the end and measure of the use of the media of social communication; communication should be by persons to persons for the integral development of persons' (Ethics in Communications, 21). In the first place, then, the communicators themselves need to put into practice in their own lives the values and attitudes they are called to instill in others. Above all, this must include a genuine commitment to the common good - a good that is not confined by the narrow interests of a particular group or nation but embraces the needs and interests of all, the good of the entire human family (cf. Pacem in Terris, 132). Communicators have the opportunity to promote a true culture of life by distancing themselves from today's conspiracy against life (cf. Evangelium Vitae, 17) and conveying the truth about the value and dignity of every human person.

"The model and pattern of all communication is found in the Word of God Himself. 'In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son' (Heb 1:1). The Incarnate Word has established a new covenant between God and His people – a covenant which also joins us in community with one another. 'For He is our peace, Who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility' (Eph 2:14).

"My prayer on this year's World Communications Day is that the men and women of the media will play their part in breaking down the dividing walls of hostility in our world, walls that separate peoples and nations from one another, feeding misunderstanding and mistrust. May they use the resources at their disposal to strengthen the bonds of friendship and love that clearly signal the onset of the Kingdom of God here on earth."


Church To Pope John Paul II: "May The Angels Lead You To Paradise!"

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State, gave the homily at the Mass for the repose of the soul of Pope John Paul II on Sunday, April 3, the feast of Divine Mercy. The cardinal's homily follows:

"Today, the Alleluia acclamation rings out more solemnly than ever.

"It is the Second Sunday of Easter. It is Sunday 'in albis,' the feast of the white garments of our Baptism. It is Divine Mercy Sunday, as we sang in Psalm 118 (117): 'Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His steadfast love endures for ever. . .'

"It is true. Our hearts have been shaken by a sorrowful event: our father and pastor, John Paul II, has departed from us. However, for 26 years he always asked us to look at Christ, the only reason for our hope.

"For a good 26 years he carried the Gospel of Christian hope to all the marketplaces in the world, teaching everyone that our death is but a passing to the heavenly Homeland. There is our eternal destiny, where God our Father awaits us.

"The grief of Christians is immediately transformed into an attitude of deep serenity. This stems from faith in the One Who said to us: 'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die' (Jn 11:25-26).

"Of course, love for our dear ones does not exempt us from shedding tears of sorrow at the moment of detachment, but the Apostle Paul's appeal to the Christians of Thessalonica, when he asked them not to grieve 'as others do who have no hope,' is ever timely: 'Sicut coeteri, qui spem non habent' (1 Thes 4:13).

"Faith, brothers and sisters, invites us to raise our heads and look beyond, to look on high! And thus, today, while we mourn the departure of the Pope who has left us, let us open our hearts to the vision of our eternal destiny.

"In the Masses for the Dead there is that beautiful sentence in the Preface: 'Life is not taken from us, but only transformed,' 'vita mutatur, non tollitur'! And while our earthly dwelling is destroyed, another is built for us in Heaven!

"This explains the joy of Christians at every moment of their lives.

"Moreover, they know that despite being sinners, they always have beside them the mercy of God the Father Who awaits them. This is the meaning of today's feast of Divine Mercy, established precisely by the late Pope John Paul II, to emphasize this most comforting aspect of the Christian mystery.

"On this Sunday, it would be moving to reread one of his most beautiful Encyclicals, Dives in Misericordia, which he offered to us in 1980, in the third year of his Pontificate.

"At that time, the Pope asked us to look at the Lord Who is the 'Father of mercies and God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all our affliction' (cf. II Cor 1:3-4).

"In the same Encyclical, John Paul II then asked us to look at Mary, the Mother of Mercy, the one who, during her visit to Elizabeth, praised the Lord, exclaiming: 'His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation' (cf. Lk 1:50).

"It was also our same beloved Pope who then called today's Church to be the house of mercy, in order to welcome all who are in need of help, forgiveness, and love.

"How often has the Pope repeated in the past 26 years that the mutual relations of persons and peoples cannot only be based on justice, but must be perfected by merciful love, which is the hallmark of the Christian message.

"Indeed, John Paul II, John Paul the Great, thus became the champion of the civilization of love, seeing in this term one of the most beautiful definitions of the 'Christian civilization.' Yes, the Christian civilization is a civilization of love, radically different from that civilization of hate which Nazism and Communism proposed.

"On the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday, the Angel of the Lord passed through the Vatican Apostolic Palace and said to His good and faithful servant: 'Enter into the joy of your master' (cf. Mt 25:21). From Heaven, may he always watch over us and help us 'to cross that threshold of hope' of which he so frequently spoke.

"May his message remain for ever engraved in the hearts of today's people. Once again, John Paul II repeats Christ's words to all: 'For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him' (cf. Jn 3:17).

"John Paul II spread this Gospel of salvation throughout the world, inviting the entire Church to bend down to the people of today in order to embrace them and set them aright with His redeeming love. May it be our task to accept the message that he has bequeathed to us and make it fruitful for the world's salvation!

"And to our unforgettable father let us say, with the words of the Liturgy: 'May the Angels lead you to Paradise!' 'In Paradisum deducant te Angeli!'

"May a festive choir welcome you and lead you to the Holy City, the heavenly Jerusalem, so that you may have eternal rest.



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