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Wednesday, April 23, 2003


VATICAN CITY, APR 17, 2003 (VIS) - Today, Holy Thursday, at 9:30 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, John Paul II concelebrated Chrism Mass with the cardinals, bishops and priests who are in Rome for Easter. After the renewal of priestly vows, the oils used for catechumens, the sick and confirmation were blessed.

In the homily, the Pope affirmed that every time that the Eucharist is celebrated "the mystery of Christ, the one and only high priest of the new and eternal Covenant, becomes present and effective."

The Holy Father urged priests "not to lose the spiritual enthusiasm of priestly ordination. And you, dear faithful, pray for priests that they may be careful dispensers of the gifts of divine grace, especially of God's mercy in the sacrament of Confession and of the Bread of Life in the Eucharist, living memorial of the death and resurrection of Christ."

"In order to emphasize the reality of the great memorial of the redemption," he concluded, "during the Mass of the Lord's Supper, I will sign the encyclical 'Ecclesia de Eucharistia' which I wanted to direct in a special way to you, dear priests, in place of the usual letter on Holy Thursday. Accept it as a special gift on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of my petrine ministry and make it known to the souls entrusted to your pastoral care."

At 5:30 p.m., John Paul II presided in St. Peter's Basilica at the Eucharistic concelebration of the Lord's Supper during which he signed the encyclical "Ecclesia de Eucharistia." Cardinals Joseph Ratzinger and Angelo Sodano washed the feet of 12 priests as is customary on Holy Thursday. During the presentation of the gifts, the Holy Father received an offering that will be sent to the people affected by the war in Iraq.

The Pope emphasized that "the washing of the feet and the sacrament of the Eucharist are two manifestations of the same mystery of love entrusted to the disciples 'because - Jesus says - you should also do as I have done to you'."

"The Eucharist," he exclaimed, "is a truly great mystery! It is a mystery that is 'incomprehensible' to human reason, but so bright to the eyes of faith! The Lord's Supper in the simplicity of the Eucharistic symbols - the shared bread and wine - is revealed as a supper of concrete fraternity. The message that comes from this supper is too clear to be ignored: those who participate in the Eucharistic celebration cannot remain insensitive to the poor and needy."

"In this context," continued the Holy Father, "I would like the money collected in this celebration to go to alleviate the urgent needs of those who suffer in Iraq due to the war. A heart that has experienced the Lord's love opens up spontaneously to charity toward our brothers and sisters."

John Paul II concluded by affirming that the Eucharist "is a great gift for the Church and for the world. Precisely so that greater attention may be reserved for the sacrament of the Eucharist, I wanted to offer to the entire community of believers an encyclical whose main theme is the Eucharistic mystery."

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VATICAN CITY, APR 18, 2003 (VIS) - As is customary on Good Friday, John Paul II heard confessions and presided at the celebration of the Lord's Passion in St. Peter's Basilica, and in the evening lead the Way of the Cross in the Colosseum.

Towards noon, the Pope went to St. Peter's Basilica where he heard the confessions of 10 people of different nationalities and afterward greeted the numerous faithful present in the basilica at that hour.

At 5 p.m., he presided at the celebration of the Lord's Passion, during which Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M.Cap., preacher of the Papal Household, gave the homily. The liturgy continued with prayers of the faithful, veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion.

Shortly after 9:15 p.m., the Way of the Cross began in the Colosseum. Seated on the Palatine Hill which overlooks this monument, the Pope presided at the celebration in which 30,000 people participated. This year the Pope wrote the meditations on the Way of the Cross on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his pontificate.

During the first 13 stations, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar of Rome, and faithful from Colombia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Egypt, the Holy Land, Italy and Iraq carried the cross. John Paul II carried the cross during the 14th and final station.

At the end, instead of reading a prepared text, the Holy Father spoke to the crowd spontaneously. "'Ecce lignum crucis in quo salus mundi pependit...Venite adoremus'. We heard this word," he said, "in today's liturgy: here is the wood of the cross. This is the key word on Good Friday. ... The day after tomorrow we will sing: 'Surrexit de sepulchro...qui pro nobis pependit in ligno'."
"I hope that everyone lives this Triduum as deeply as possible. We are here, as we are every year, in the Colosseum. It is a symbol. ... It is difficult to find another place where the mystery of the Cross speaks more eloquently than here, in front of the Colosseum."

In the text that he had prepared, the Pope wrote: "How many of our brothers and sisters are re-living the drama of Calvary in the flesh! So many are the forgotten 'ways of the cross'! I think about the tragic images of violence, wars and conflicts, that reach us daily from so many places; the pain and suffering of individuals and peoples of every continent; death due to hunger and the poverty of thousands of innocent adults and children; the offenses against human dignity, unfortunately perpetrated at times in the name of God. Can we remain indifferent to this excruciating cry of distress that is raised from so many parts of the planet?"

"When human beings keep silent, powerless before these distressing questions, faith offers the answer. It is an answer that is found in the same event we commemorate today: the death of Christ. ... The definitive victory does not belong to death. The last word belongs to God, Who will rise on the third day, the only-begotten Son, sacrificed for us."

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VATICAN CITY, APR 17, 2003 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed:

- Bishop Jerzy Mazur, S.V.D., of St. Joseph in Irkutsk, Russian Federation, as bishop of Elk (area 11,000, population 470,000, Catholics 440,000, priests 297, religious 176), Poland.

- Bishop Cyryl Klimowicz, auxiliary of Minsk-Mohilev, Belarus, as bishop of St. Joseph in Irkutsk (area 9,960,000, population 15,500,000, Catholics 49,000, priests 42, religious 80), Russian Federation.

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VATICAN CITY, APR 19, 2003 (VIS) - At 8 this evening in St. Peter's Basilica, the Pope presided at the solemn Easter vigil during which he administered Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist to seven catechumens from the United States, Italy, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Tunisia, Burundi and Japan.

The vigil began in the atrium of the basilica where the Holy Father blessed the new fire and the Easter candle. After the entrance procession to the altar with the candle and the singing of the "Exultet", the liturgy of the Word, the Baptismal liturgy and the Eucharistic liturgy took place.

During the homily, the Pope spoke of the women who go to the tomb where Jesus' body was laid but do not find Him because He has risen. "This upsetting news," he said, "destined to change the course of history from that moment on, continues to resound from generation to generation: an ancient proclamation, yet always new. It resonates once again during this Easter Vigil, mother of all vigils, and it is spreading at this very moment throughout all the earth."

"Oh sublime mystery of this Holy Night! The night in which we relive the extraordinary event of the Resurrection! If Christ were to have remained a prisoner of the tomb, humanity and all of creation, in a certain way, would have lost their meaning. But you, Christ, are truly risen," he exclaimed.

After recalling that through the sacrament of Baptism "one becomes a member of the people of the redeemed," the Holy Father addressed the seven catechumens who were about to receive the Sacraments of Christian initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. "Entering in this way into the house of the Lord, you will be consecrated with the oil of happiness and can feed yourselves with the Bread of Heaven. Sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit, you will persevere in your faith in Christ, and courageously proclaim his Gospel."

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VATICAN CITY, APR 19, 2003 (VIS) - The following telegram was sent by Pope John Paul to Teresa Sabattani, the sister of Cardinal Aurelio Sabattani who died this morning at his home in Vatican City at the age of 90. Cardinal Sabattani was prefect emeritus of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, archpriest emeritus of the Vatican Basilica and vicar general emeritus for Vatican City.

"Upon having learned the sad news of the death of your dear brother Cardinal Aurelio Sabattini, I wish to express to you and to the family members my sincere participation in the mourning that afflicts all those who knew and esteemed the late cardinal, an illustrious jurist for so many years, an industrious collaborator of the Holy See in particular in the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and as archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica, always giving an appreciated testimony of enthusiastic priestly zeal and of fidelity to the Gospel. While I raise fervent prayers to the Lord Jesus to give the late cardinal the eternal prize promised to His faithful disciples under the protection of the Virgin Mary, I send a special consoling Apostolic Blessing to you and to all those who mourn his loss."

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VATICAN CITY, APR 23, 2003 (VIS) - Pope John Paul dedicated the catechesis of today's general audience in St. Peter's Square to the Easter Octave, the days following Easter Sunday when the Church proclaims with great joy and hymns of praise and thanksgiving, that Jesus, through His death and resurrection, "freed man from the slavery of evil and sin."

The Pope pointed out that "Jesus appeared numerous times after His resurrection to the disciples," noting that "the Evangelist John, in particular, underscored the first words of the Risen Lord to His disciples. 'Peace to you'. ... This expression, 'peace to you', 'shalom' in Hebrew, contains and summarizes, in a certain way, the Easter message."

"Peace is born of a profound renewal in the hearts of men," the Holy Father explained. "It is not therefore the result of human efforts nor can it be achieved only thanks to agreements between persons and institutions. Rather it is a gift to be welcomed with generosity, preserved with care and made to be fruitful with maturity and responsibility. As anguishing as situations are and as strong as tensions and conflicts are, nothing can resist the efficacious renewal brought about by the Risen Christ. He is our peace."

John Paul II remarked that the Easter Octave concludes next Sunday, which is also known as Divine Mercy Sunday. "With His death on the Cross, Christ reconciled us with God and laid the foundations in the world for a fraternal coexistence among everyone. ... The blood of the redeemer has washed away our sins. We have thus experienced the renewing power of His pardon. Divine mercy opens our hearts to pardoning our brothers, and it is through pardon, offered and received, that peace is built in families and in every other milieu of life."

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VATICAN CITY, APR 21, 2003 (VIS) - Pope John Paul, appearing at noon at the window of his study overlooking St. Peter's Square, spoke briefly to the large crowd that had assembled there. After his remarks he led the recitation of the Regina Coeli, the prayer that replaces the Angelus during the Easter season.

The Pope noted that "Easter Monday is called 'Monday of the Angel' in memory of what happened at dawn the first day after Saturday. It was an angel, in fact, who gave heart to the women who, having run to the tomb, were dismayed and worried to see that it was empty. 'Don't be afraid!' he told them. 'He is risen, He is not here'. And the angel added: 'Now go' and announce this news to the Apostles."

The Holy Father said "the angel's words have great value for us too, as we always listen to them with innermost emotion. If Christ has risen, everything has changed and life and history take on a new meaning."

He pointed out that it was with "simplicity and clarity that Peter affirmed (to the crowds in Jerusalem) that Christ crucified is living, has risen and 'we are all witnesses to it'. Since then the Church has never ceased to proclaim the same good news. It is urgent for all men to know and encounter Christ, crucified and risen, and to allow themselves to be won over by Him. To all who welcome Him, He opens hearts to that true joy that makes human existence new, beautiful and rich with hope."

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VATICAN CITY, APR 20, 2003 (VIS) - In the presence of tens of thousands of faithful in a rain-soaked St. Peter's Square, Pope John Paul today celebrated his 25th Easter morning Mass of the Resurrection. At the end of Mass the Pope delivered his annual Easter Message, imparted the "Urbi et Orbi" (To the city and to the world) blessing, and greeted the faithful in 62 languages.

The world's faithful were linked to Vatican City via television and radio. Fifty-four countries and 80 television networks broadcast this morning's ceremonies, with commentaries being given in local languages. Dutch florists, for the 18th year in a row, provided the tens of thousands of flowers, flowering plants, trees and shrubs that decorated St. Peter's Square, many of which were in the Vatican colors of yellow and white. The trucks that delivered the flowers and plants, which were ordered from Holland last October, arrived in the Vatican between Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday. In his multi-lingual greetings, Pope John Paul had special words for the Dutch florists.

Following are excerpts from the Holy Father's Easter Message:

"'The Lord is risen from the tomb; for our sake He hung on the Cross'. Alleluia!"

"This proclamation is the foundation of the hope of all mankind. If Christ did not rise from the dead, not only would our faith be in vain but our hope would also be vain, for we would all still be held hostage by evil and death."

"'Peace be with you! This is the first greeting of the Risen One to His disciples; a greeting which echoes today throughout the world. O Good News, so long awaited, so greatly desired! O proclamation of consolation for all those oppressed beneath the burden of sin and its many structures! For all, especially for the least and the poor, we proclaim today the hope of peace,
of true peace, founded on the solid pillars of love and justice, of truth and freedom.

"'Pacem in terris'... Peace on earth, the profound aspiration of men and women of all times, can be firmly established and sustained only if the order established by God is firmly respected'. These are the first words of the historic Encyclical, in which forty years ago Blessed Pope John XXIII indicated to the world the way of peace. These words remain as timely as ever at the dawn of the third millennium, tragically marred by acts of violence and conflicts.

"Peace in Iraq! With the support of the international community, may the Iraqi people become the protagonists of the collective rebuilding of their country. Peace in other parts of the world, where forgotten wars and protracted hostilities are causing deaths and injuries amid silence and neglect on the part of considerable sectors of public opinion. With profound grief I think of the wake of violence and bloodshed, with no sign of ceasing, in the Holy Land. I think of the tragic situation of many countries on the African continent, which cannot be abandoned to itself. I am well aware of the centres of tension and the attacks on people's freedom in the Caucasus, in Asia and in Latin America, areas of the world equally dear to me.

"Let there be an end to the chain of hatred and terrorism, which threatens the orderly development of the human family. May God grant that we be free from the peril of a tragic clash between cultures and religions. May faith and love of God make the followers of every religion courageous builders of understanding and forgiveness, patient weavers of a fruitful inter-religious dialogue, capable of inaugurating a new era of justice and peace."

"However dark the horizon of humanity may seem, today we celebrate the radiant triumph of Easter joy. If a contrary wind slows the march of peoples, if the sea of history is tossed by storms, let no one yield to dismay and lack of trust! Christ is risen; Christ is alive in our midst; truly present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, He offers himself as the Bread of salvation, Bread for the poor, the Food of wayfarers."

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