Benedict XVI Reflects on Trip to Poland
"All Christians Must Feel Committed to Give Testimony"  (May 31, 2006)

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today I wish to go over with you the stages of the apostolic trip I made in recent days to Poland. I thank the Polish episcopate, in particular the metropolitan archbishops of Warsaw and Krakow, for the zeal and care with which they prepared this visit. I again express my gratitude to the president of the republic and to the country's different authorities, as well as to all those who have cooperated in the success of this event.

Above all I wish to thank from my heart the Catholics and the whole Polish people, as I have felt their embrace full of human and spiritual warmth. Many of you have seen it on television. It was a true _expression of catholicity, of love of the Church, which is expressed in love for the Successor of Peter.

After the arrival at Warsaw airport, the place of my first appointment reserved for priests was the cathedral of that important city on the day that the 50th anniversary was being celebrated of the priestly ordination of Cardinal Jozef Glemp, pastor of that archdiocese. In this way, my pilgrimage began with the sign of the priesthood and it continued later with the ecumenical solicitude witnessed in the Lutheran Church of the Most Holy Trinity.

On that occasion, together with the representatives of the different churches and ecclesial communities that live in Poland, I confirmed the firm decision to consider the commitment for the reconstruction of full and visible unity among Christians as an authentic priority of my ministry.

Then there was the solemn Eucharistic celebration in Pilsudski Square, full of people, in the center of Warsaw. This place, in which we solemnly celebrated the Eucharist with joy, had a symbolic value, as it had hosted historical events such as the holy Masses celebrated by John Paul II and the funeral of the Cardinal Primate Stefan Wyszynski, as well as some of the large celebrations for the repose of his soul in the days after the death of my venerated predecessor.

The program could not but include a visit to the shrines that marked the life of Karol Wojtyla as priest and bishop, above all three: that of Czestochowa, of Kalwaria Zebrzidowska and of Divine Mercy. I will not be able to forget the visit to the famous Marian shrine of Jasna Gora. On that Clear Mountain, heart of the Polish nation, as if it were a cenacle, very many faithful, especially men and women religious, seminarians and representatives of the ecclesial movements, gathered around the Successor of Peter to listen with me to Mary.

Inspired by the wonderful Marian meditation that John Paul II gave the Church in the encyclical "Redemptoris Mater," I wished to propose the faith again as a fundamental attitude of the spirit, which is not something merely intellectual or sentimental. Authentic faith involves the whole person: his thoughts, affections, intentions, relationships, corporeal nature, activity and daily work.

Later visiting the wonderful shrine of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, near Krakow, I prayed to Our Lady of Sorrows to support the faith of the ecclesial community in moments of difficulty and trial; the successive stage at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Lagiewniki, allowed me to emphasize that only Divine Mercy illuminates the mystery of man. In the convent near this shrine, on contemplating the luminous wounds of the risen Christ, Sister Faustina Kowalska received a message of confidence for humanity, the message of Divine Mercy, which John Paul II echoed and of which he became the interpreter. It is a really central message for our time: Mercy as the force of God, as the divine limit against the evil of the world.

I wished to visit other symbolic "shrines": I am referring to Wadowice, the locality which has become famous because Karol Wojtyla was born and was baptized there. The visit gave me the opportunity to thank the Lord for the gift of this tireless servant of the Gospel. The roots of his strong faith, of his very sensitive and open humanity, of his love of beauty and truth, of his devotion to the Virgin, of his love of the Church and above all of his vocation to holiness are found in this small city in which he received his early education and formation. Another place loved by John Paul II is Wawel Cathedral in Krakow, a symbolic place for the Polish nation: Karol Wojtyla celebrated his first Mass in the crypt of that cathedral.

Another very beautiful experience was the meeting with young people, which took place in Krakow, in the great Blonie Park. I handed symbolically to the numerous young people the "Flame of Mercy" so that they will be heralds of Love and Divine Mercy in the world. With them I meditated on the Gospel passage of the house built on the rock (cf. Matthew 7:24-27), read also today at the beginning of this audience.

I paused to reflect also on the Word of God on Sunday morning, solemnity of the Ascension, during the conclusive celebration of my visit. It was a liturgical meeting animated by the extraordinary participation of the faithful in the same park in which, the previous night, the appointment with young people had taken place.

I took advantage of the opportunity to renew before the Polish people the wonderful proclamation of the Christian truth about man, created and redeemed in Christ; that truth that John Paul proclaimed with vigor on so many occasions to encourage all to remain firm in faith, hope and love. "Stand firm in the faith." This is the instruction he has left the children of his beloved Poland, encouraging them to persevere in faithfulness to Christ and to the Church so that Europe and the world will never lack the contribution of her evangelical testimony. All Christians must feel committed to give this testimony so as to avoid that humanity of the third millennium might again know new horrors similar to those tragically evoked by the death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

In fact before returning to Rome I wished to pause in this place sadly known throughout the world. In the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, as in other similar camps, Hitler had 6 million Jews exterminated. In Auschwitz-Birkenau some 150,000 Poles and tens of thousands of men and women of other nationalities also died.

In the face of the horror of Auschwitz there is no other answer than the cross of Christ: Love that descends to the abyss of evil to save man in his innermost being, where his freedom can rebel against God. May today's humanity not forget Auschwitz and the other "death factories" in which the Nazi regime tried to eliminate God to take his place! May people again know that God is Father of all and that he calls us all in Christ to build together a world of justice, truth and peace! We want to ask this of the Lord through the intercession of Mary, whom today, at the conclusion of the month of May, we contemplate visiting with diligence and love her elderly relative Elizabeth.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father read the following summary in English:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My recent pastoral visit to Poland followed in the footsteps of my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, to the cities of Warsaw and Krakow. I stopped at many places dear to the late Pope: the Marian shrine of Jasna Gora, Kalwaria Zebrzidowska and the shrine of Divine Mercy in Lagiewniki, as well as Wadowice, Karol Wojtyla's birthplace, and Wawel Cathedral, where he celebrated his first Mass.

Everywhere I went, I echoed the appeal of Pope John Paul to "stand firm in the faith," to make Christ the foundation of our lives, and to bear witness to the Gospel message of man's dignity as a creature made in the image of God.

At the death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, a place of horror and godless inhumanity, I paid homage to the victims, including over a million Jews and many Poles. Our only response to Auschwitz can be to contemplate the mystery of the cross, of a love which brings salvation by freely descending into the abyss of evil. Our world must not forget Auschwitz! We need to turn once more to the God of love, who calls us in Christ to build together a world of justice, truth and peace.

[The Pope then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking visitors, especially the many pilgrims from England, Wales, Ireland, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and the United States. I also greet the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums visiting Rome for the 500th anniversary of the museums.

Dear friends: I am most grateful for your efforts to preserve the Vatican's artistic heritage, which testifies to the Church's faith, the beauty of God's creation and the highest aspirations of the human spirit.

Upon all present at today's audience I cordially invoke an abundance of joy and peace in the Risen Lord.

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                                                          APOSTOLIC JOURNEY

                                                              OF
                                         HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

                                          TO POLAND (May 25-28, 2006)



WELCOME CEREMONY
ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER

(Warszaw, International Airport of Oke;cie, 25 May 2006)

Mr President,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
My Brother Cardinals and Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am happy to stand in your midst today on the soil of the Republic of Poland. I have very much wanted to make this visit to the native land and people of my beloved Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II. I have come to follow in the footsteps of his life, from his boyhood until his departure for the memorable conclave of 1978. Along this journey I would like to meet and come to know the generations of believers who offered him to the service of God and the Church, as well as those who were born and matured for the Lord under his pastoral guidance as priest, Bishop and Pope. Our journey together will be inspired by the motto: "Stand firm in your faith". I mention this from the outset, in order to stress that this is no mere sentimental journey, although it is certainly that too, but rather a journey of faith, a part of the mission entrusted to me by the Lord in the person of the Apostle Peter, who was called to confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith (cf. Lk 22:32). I too wish to draw from the abundant fountain of your faith, which has flowed continuously for over a millennium.

I greet His Excellency the President, and I thank him heartily for his words of welcome on behalf of the Authorities of the Republic and the Nation. I greet my Brother Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops. I also greet His Excellency the Prime Minister and the members of the Government, the representatives of the Diet and the Senate, the members of the Diplomatic Corps with their Dean, the Apostolic Nuncio in Poland. I am pleased that the Regional Authorities are present, along with the Mayor of Warsaw. I also wish to greet the representatives of the Orthodox Church, the Augsburg Evangelical Church and the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities. My greeting likewise goes to the members of the Jewish community and the followers of Islam. Lastly I offer a heartfelt greeting to the whole Church in Poland: to the priests, the consecrated persons, the seminarians and all the faithful, especially the sick, the young and the little children. I ask you to accompany me in your thoughts and prayers, so that this journey will prove fruitful for all of us, leading us to a deeper and stronger faith.

I said that in this visit to Poland my route would be inspired by the life and pastoral ministry of Karol Wojty?a and by his own itinerary as a pilgrim Pope in this, his native land. Consequently, I have chosen to stay mainly in two cities dear to John Paul II: Warsaw, the capital of Poland, and Kraków, his archiepiscopal see. In Warsaw I shall meet the priests, the different non-Catholic Churches and Ecclesial Communities, and the State Authorities. I trust that these meetings will bear abundant fruit for our shared faith in Christ and for the social and political life of today’s men and women. A brief visit to Cze;stochowa is planned, as well as a meeting with representatives of men and women religious, seminarians and members of ecclesial movements. The loving gaze of Mary will accompany us as we join in seeking a deep and faithful relationship with Christ her Son. Then I shall travel to Kraków, and from there to Wadowice, Kalwaria, ?agiewniki and Wawel Cathedral. I am very much aware that these are the places that John Paul II most loved, for they were associated with his growth in faith and his pastoral ministry. There will also be a meeting with the sick and the suffering in what is perhaps the most fitting place for such an event - the Shrine of Divine Mercy in ?agiewniki. I shall certainly be present when the young people assemble for the prayer vigil. I shall gladly join them and I look forward to rejoicing in their witness of a young and lively faith. On Sunday we will gather at B?onie Park to celebrate a Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving for the Pontificate of my Predecessor and for the faith in which he always confirmed us by his words and by the example of his life. Finally, I shall go to Auschwitz. There I hope especially to meet the survivors of the Nazi terror who come from different countries, all of whom suffered under that tragic tyranny. Together we will pray that the wounds of the past century will heal, thanks to the remedy that God in his goodness has prescribed for us by calling us to forgive one another, and which he offers to us in the mystery of his mercy.

"Stand firm in your faith" - this is the motto of my Apostolic Visit. I would hope that these days will serve to strengthen all of us in faith - the members of the Church in Poland and myself as well. And for those who do not have the gift of faith, but whose hearts are full of good will, may my visit be a time of fraternity, goodness and hope. May these enduring values of humanity lay a firm foundation for building a better world, one in which everyone can enjoy material prosperity and spiritual joy. This is my prayer for all the Polish people. Once again I thank His Excellency the President and the Bishops of Poland for their invitation. I cordially embrace Polish people everywhere and I ask them to accompany me in prayer along this journey of faith.

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ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER:  MEETING WITH THE CLERGY

(Warszawa-Cathedral, 25 May 2006)
 

"First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you ... For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine" (Rom 1:8-12).

Dear priests, I address to you these words of the Apostle Paul, because they perfectly reflect my feelings and thoughts today, my wishes and my prayers. I greet in particular Cardinal Józef Glemp, Archbishop of Warsaw and Primate of Poland, to whom I extend my most cordial congratulations on his fiftieth anniversary of priestly ordination this very day. I have come to Poland, the beloved homeland of my great Predecessor Pope John Paul II, in order to inhale, as he used to do, this atmosphere of faith in which you live, and to "convey to you some spiritual gift so that you may be strengthened by it." I am confident that my pilgrimage during these days will "encourage the faith that we share, both yours and mine."

I am meeting you today in the great Cathedral of Warsaw, every stone of which speaks of the tragic history of your capital and your country. How many trials you have endured in the recent past! We call to mind heroic witnesses to the faith, who gave their lives to God and to their fellow human beings, both canonized saints and ordinary people who persevered in rectitude, authenticity and goodness, never giving way to despair. In this Cathedral I recall particularly the Servant of God Cardinal Stefan Wyszyn'ski, whom you call "the Primate of the Millennium." Abandoning himself to Christ and to his Mother, he knew how to serve the Church faithfully, despite the tragic and prolonged trials that surrounded him. Let us remember with appreciation and gratitude those who did not let themselves be overwhelmed by the forces of darkness, and let us learn from them the courage to be consistent and constant in our adherence to the Gospel of Christ.

Today I am meeting you, priests called by Christ to serve him in the new millennium. You have been chosen from among the people, appointed to act in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. Believe in the power of your priesthood! By virtue of the sacrament, you have received all that you are. When you utter the words "I" and "my" ("I absolve you ... This is my body ..."), you do it not in your own name, but in the name of Christ, "in persona Christi", who wants to use your lips and your hands, your spirit of sacrifice and your talent. At the moment of your ordination, through the liturgical sign of the imposition of hands, Christ took you under his special protection; you are concealed under his hands and in his Heart. Immerse yourselves in his love, and give him your love! When your hands were anointed with oil, the sign of the Holy Spirit, they were destined to serve the Lord as his own hands in today’s world. They can no longer serve selfish purposes, but must continue in the world the witness of his love.

The greatness of Christ’s priesthood can make us tremble. We can be tempted to cry out with Peter: "Lord, depart from me, for I am a sinful man" (Lk 5:8), because we find it hard to believe that Christ called us specifically. Could he not have chosen someone else, more capable, more holy? But Jesus has looked lovingly upon each one of us, and in this gaze of his we may have confidence. Let us not be consumed with haste, as if time dedicated to Christ in silent prayer were time wasted. On the contrary, it is precisely then that the most wonderful fruits of pastoral service come to birth. There is no need to be discouraged on account of the fact that prayer requires effort, or because of the impression that Jesus remains silent. He is indeed silent, but he is at work. In this regard, I am pleased to recall my experience last year in Cologne. I witnessed then a deep, unforgettable silence of a million young people at the moment of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament! That prayerful silence united us, it gave us great consolation. In a world where there is so much noise, so much bewilderment, there is a need for silent adoration of Jesus concealed in the Host. Be assiduous in the prayer of adoration and teach it to the faithful. It is a source of comfort and light particularly to those who are suffering.

The faithful expect only one thing from priests: that they be specialists in promoting the encounter between man and God. The priest is not asked to be an expert in economics, construction or politics. He is expected to be an expert in the spiritual life. With this end in view, when a young priest takes his first steps, he needs to be able to refer to an experienced teacher who will help him not to lose his way among the many ideas put forward by the culture of the moment. In the face of the temptations of relativism or the permissive society, there is absolutely no need for the priest to know all the latest, changing currents of thought; what the faithful expect from him is that he be a witness to the eternal wisdom contained in the revealed word. Solicitude for the quality of personal prayer and for good theological formation bear fruit in life. Living under the influence of totalitarianism may have given rise to an unconscious tendency to hide under an external mask, and in consequence to become somewhat hypocritical. Clearly this does not promote authentic fraternal relations and may lead to an exaggerated concentration on oneself. In reality, we grow in affective maturity when our hearts adhere to God. Christ needs priests who are mature, virile, capable of cultivating an authentic spiritual paternity. For this to happen, priests need to be honest with themselves, open with their spiritual director and trusting in divine mercy.

On the occasion of the Great Jubilee, Pope John Paul II frequently exhorted Christians to do penance for infidelities of the past. We believe that the Church is holy, but that there are sinners among her members. We need to reject the desire to identify only with those who are sinless. How could the Church have excluded sinners from her ranks? It is for their salvation that Jesus took flesh, died and rose again. We must therefore learn to live Christian penance with sincerity. By practising it, we confess individual sins in union with others, before them and before God. Yet we must guard against the arrogant claim of setting ourselves up to judge earlier generations, who lived in different times and different circumstances. Humble sincerity is needed in order not to deny the sins of the past, and at the same time not to indulge in facile accusations in the absence of real evidence or without regard for the different preconceptions of the time. Moreover, the confessio peccati, to use an expression of Saint Augustine, must always be accompanied by the confessio laudis – the confession of praise. As we ask pardon for the wrong that was done in the past, we must also remember the good accomplished with the help of divine grace which, even if contained in earthenware vessels, has borne fruit that is often excellent.

Today the Church in Poland faces an enormous pastoral challenge: how to care for the faithful who have left the country. The scourge of unemployment obliges many people to go abroad. It is a widespread and large-scale phenomenon. When families are divided in this way, when social links are broken, the Church cannot remain indifferent. Those who leave must be cared for by priests who, in partnership with the local Churches, take on a pastoral ministry among the emigrants. The Church in Poland has already given many priests and religious sisters who serve not only the Polish diaspora but also, and sometimes in extremely difficult circumstances, the missions in Africa, Asia, Latin America and other regions. Do not forget these missionaries, my dear priests. The gift of many vocations, with which God has blessed your Church, must be received in a truly Catholic perspective. Polish priests, do not be afraid to leave your secure and familiar world, to go and serve in places where priests are lacking and where your generosity can bear abundant fruit.

Stand firm in your faith! To you too I entrust this motto of my pilgrimage. Be authentic in your life and your ministry. Gazing upon Christ, live a modest life, in solidarity with the faithful to whom you have been sent. Serve everyone; be accessible in the parishes and in the confessionals, accompany the new movements and associations, support families, do not forget the link with young people, remember the poor and the abandoned. If you live by faith, the Holy Spirit will suggest to you what you must say and how you must serve. You will always be able to count on the help of her who goes before the Church in faith. I exhort you to call upon her always in words that you know well: "We are close to you, we remember you, we watch."

My Blessing upon all of you!

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Benedict XVI's Address at Ecumenical Meeting
Calls Attention to 2 Questions: Service and Marriage

WARSAW, Poland, MAY 25, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered this evening at a meeting with representatives of seven churches of the Polish Ecumenical Council and representatives of other religions. The meeting was in the Lutheran church of the Most Holy Trinity in Warsaw.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

"Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth" (Revelation 1:4-5). In these words with which St. John greets the seven Churches of Asia in the Book of the Apocalypse, I wish to address my own warm greetings to all who are present here, especially to the representatives of the churches and ecclesial communities affiliated to the Polish Council for Ecumenism.

I thank Archbishop Jeremiasz of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church for his greetings and his words of spiritual union addressed to me just now. And I greet Archbishop Alfons Nossol, president of the Ecumenical Office of the Polish bishops' conference.

What unites us here today is our desire to meet one another, and to give glory and honor to our Lord Jesus Christ in our common prayer: "to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father" (Revelation 1:5-6). We are grateful to our Lord, because he gathers us together, he grants us his Spirit and he enables us -- over and above what still separates us -- to cry out "Abba, Father."

We are convinced that it is he himself who intercedes unceasingly in our favor, pleading for us: "May they become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me" (John 17:23). Together with you I give thanks for the gift of this encounter of common prayer. I see it as a stage in the implementation of the firm purpose that I made at the beginning of my pontificate, to consider a priority in my ministry the restoration of full visible unity among Christians.

My beloved predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, stated clearly when he visited this Church of the Most Holy Trinity in 1991: "However much we dedicate ourselves to work for unity, it always remains a gift of the Holy Spirit. We will be available to receive this gift to the extent that we open our minds and hearts to him through the Christian life and above all through prayer."

In fact, it is impossible for us to "make" unity through our own powers alone. As I recalled during last year's ecumenical encounter in Cologne: "We can only obtain unity as a gift of the Holy Spirit." For this reason, our ecumenical aspirations must be steeped in prayer, in mutual forgiveness and in the holiness of life of each of us. I express my satisfaction at the fact that here in Poland, the Polish Council for Ecumenism and the Roman Catholic Church have launched numerous initiatives in this area.

"Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him" (Revelation 1:7). The words of the Apocalypse remind us that we are all on a journey toward the definitive encounter with Christ, when he will reveal before our eyes the meaning of human history, whose center is the cross of his saving sacrifice. As a community of disciples, we are directed toward that encounter, filled with hope and trust that it will be for us the day of salvation, the day when all our longings are fulfilled, thanks to our readiness to let ourselves be guided by the mutual charity which his Spirit calls forth within us.

Let us build this trust not on our own merits, but on the prayer with which Christ reveals the meaning of his coming on earth and of his redeeming death: "Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which you have given me in your love for me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24). On our journey toward the encounter with Christ who "is coming with the clouds," through our lives we announce his death, we proclaim his resurrection, as we wait for him to come again.

We feel the weight of the responsibility which all this entails; the message of Christ, in fact, must reach everyone on earth, thanks to the commitment of those who believe in him and who are called to bear witness that he is truly sent by the Father (cf. John 17:23). As we proclaim the Gospel, then, we must be moved by the aspiration to cultivate mutual relations of sincere charity, in such a way that, in the light of these, all may know that the Father sent the Son and that he loves the Church and each one of us just as he loved the Son (cf. John 17:23). The task of Christ's disciples, the task of each of us, is therefore to tend toward that unity, in such a way that we become, as Christians, the visible sign of his saving message, addressed to every human being.

Allow me to recall once more the ecumenical encounter that took place in this church with the participation of your great compatriot John Paul II, and his address, in which he outlined as follows his vision of the efforts directed toward the full unity of Christians: "The challenge that we face is to overcome the obstacles step by step ... and to grow together in that unity of Christ which is one only, the unity with which he endowed the Church from the beginning. The seriousness of the task prohibits all haste or impatience, but the duty to respond to Christ's will demands that we remain firm on the path toward peace and unity among all Christians. We know very well that it is not we who will heal the wounds of division and re-establish unity; we are simple instruments that God will be able to employ. Unity among Christians will be a gift of God, in his time of grace. Let us humbly tend toward that day, growing in love, in mutual forgiveness and in mutual trust."

Since that encounter, much has changed. God has granted us to take many steps toward mutual understanding and rapprochement. Allow me to recall to your attention some ecumenical events which have taken place in the world during that time: the publication of the encyclical letter "Ut Unum Sint"; the Christological agreements with the pre-Chalcedonian Churches; the signing at Augsburg of the "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification"; the meeting on the occasion of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 and the ecumenical memorial of 20th-century witnesses of faith; the resumption of Catholic-Orthodox dialogue at world level; the funeral of Pope John Paul II with the participation of almost all churches and ecclesial communities.

I am aware of the fact that here too, in Poland, this fraternal aspiration toward unity can boast concrete successes. I would like to mention at this time: the signing in the year 2000 in this very church, on the part of the Roman Catholic Church and the churches affiliated to the Polish Council for Ecumenism, of the declaration of the mutual recognition of the validity of baptism; the institution of the Commission for Dialogue of the Polish episcopal conference and the Polish Council for Ecumenism, to which the Catholic bishops and the heads of other churches belong; the institution of the bilateral commissions for theological dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox, Lutherans, members of the Polish National Church, Mariavites and Adventists; the publication of the ecumenical translation of the New Testament and the Book of Psalms; the initiative called "Aid for Children at Christmas," in which the charitable organizations of the Churches work together: Catholic, Orthodox and evangelical.

We note much progress in the field of ecumenism and yet we always await something more. Allow me to draw attention to two questions for today, in somewhat greater detail. The first concerns the charitable service of the churches. There are many brothers and sisters who expect from us the gift of love, of trust, of witness, of spiritual and concrete material help. I referred to this problem in my first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est," in which I said: "Love of neighbor, grounded in the love of God, is first and foremost a responsibility for each individual member of the faithful, but it is also a responsibility for the entire ecclesial community at every level: from the local community to the particular Church and to the Church universal in its entirety. As a community, the Church must practice love" (No. 20).

We cannot forget the essential idea that from the outset constituted the very firm foundation for the disciples' unity: "within the community of believers there can never be room for a poverty that denies anyone what is needed for a dignified life" (ibid.). This idea is always current, even if in the course of the centuries the forms of fraternal aid have changed; accepting contemporary charitable challenges depends in large measure on our mutual cooperation. I rejoice that this problem finds a vast resonance in the world in the form of numerous ecumenical initiatives.

I note with appreciation that in the community of the Catholic Church and in other churches and ecclesial communities, various new forms of charitable activity have spread and old ones have reappeared with renewed vigor. They are forms which often combine evangelization and works of charity (cf. ibid., 30b). It seems that, despite all the differences that need to be overcome in the sphere of interdenominational dialogue, it is legitimate to attribute charitable engagement to the ecumenical community of Christ's disciples in search of full unity. We can all enter into cooperation in favor of the needy, exploiting this network of reciprocal relations, the fruit of dialogue between ourselves and of joint action.

In the spirit of the Gospel commandment we must assume this devoted solicitude toward those in need, whoever they may be. In this regard, I wrote in my encyclical that "the building of a better world requires Christians to speak with a united voice in working to inculcate ?respect for the rights and needs of everyone, especially the poor, the lowly and the defenseless'" (no. 30b). To all those who are taking part in our encounter today I express the wish that the practice of fraternal caritas will bring us ever closer to one another and will render our witness in favor of Christ more credible before the world.

The second question to which I want to refer concerns married life and family life. We know that among Christian communities, called to witness to love, the family occupies a special place. In today's world, in which international and intercultural relations are multiplying, it happens increasingly often that young people from different traditions, different religions, or different Christian denominations, decide to start a family. For the young people themselves and for those dear to them, it is often a difficult decision that brings with it various dangers concerning both perseverance in the faith and the future structuring of the family, the creation of an atmosphere of unity in the family and of suitable conditions for the spiritual growth of the children.

Nevertheless, thanks to the spread of ecumenical dialogue on a larger scale, the decision can lead to the formation of a practical laboratory of unity. For this to happen there is a need for mutual good will, understanding and maturity in faith of both parties, and also of the communities from which they come. I would like to express my appreciation for the Bilateral Commission of the Council for Ecumenical Issues of the Polish episcopal conference and of the Polish Council for Ecumenism, which have begun to draft a document presenting common Christian teaching on marriage and family life and establishing principles acceptable to all for contracting interdenominational marriages, indicating a common program of pastoral care for such marriages. To all of you I express the wish that in this delicate area reciprocal trust and cooperation between the churches may grow, fully respecting the rights and responsibility of the spouses for the faith formation of their own family and the education of their children.

"I made known to them your name, and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them" (John 17:26). Brothers and sisters, placing all our trust in Christ, who makes his name known to us, let us walk every day toward the fullness of fraternal reconciliation. May his prayer cause the community of his disciples on earth, in its mystery and in its visible unity, to become ever more a community of love reflecting the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

[Original text: Polish]

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MASS IN PILSUDZKI SQUARE   Warsaw, 26 May 2006

 Praised be Jesus Christ!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ our Lord, “Together with you I wish to sing a hymn of praise to divine Providence, which enables me to be here as a pilgrim.”  Twenty-seven years ago, my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II began his homily in Warsaw with these words.  I make them my own, and I thank the Lord who has enabled me to come here today to this historic Square.  Here, on the eve of Pentecost, Pope John Paul II uttered the significant words of the prayer “Let your Spirit descend, and renew the face of the earth.”  And he added: “The face of this land.”  This very place witnessed the solemn funeral ceremony of the great Primate of Poland, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyn'ski, whose twenty-fifth anniversary occurs during these days.

God united these two men not only through the same faith, hope and love, but also through the same human vicissitudes, which linked each of them so strongly to the history of this people and of the Church that lives in their midst.  At the beginning of his Pontificate, Pope John Paul II wrote to Cardinal Wyszyn'ski:  “This Polish Pope would not be on the Chair of Peter today, beginning a new Pontificate, full of the fear of God, but also full of trust, had it not been for your faith, which did not bend in the face of imprisonment and suffering, your heroic hope, your trusting to the end in the Mother of the Church;  had it not been for Jasna Góra and this whole period of the history of the Church in our homeland, linked to your service as Bishop and Primate” (Letter of Pope John Paul II to the Polish People, 23 October 1978).  How can we not thank God today for all that was accomplished in your native land and in the whole world during the Pontificate of John Paul II?  Before our eyes, changes occurred in entire political, economic and social systems.  People in various countries regained their freedom and their sense of dignity.  “Let us not forget the great works of God” (cf. Ps 78:7).  I thank you too for your presence and for your prayer.  I thank the Cardinal Primate for the words that he addressed to me.  I greet all the Bishops here present.  I am glad that the President and the Authorities of national and local government could be here.  I embrace with my heart all the Polish people both at home and abroad.

“Stand firm in your faith!”  We have just heard the words of Jesus:  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor, to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth” (Jn 14:15-17a).  With these words Jesus reveals the profound link between faith and the profession of Divine Truth, between faith and dedication to Jesus Christ in love, between faith and the practice of a life inspired by the commandments.  All three dimensions of faith are the fruit of the action of the Holy Spirit.  This action is manifested as an inner force that harmonizes the hearts of the disciples with the Heart of Christ and makes them capable of loving as he loved them.  Hence faith is a gift, but at the same time it is a task.

“He will give you another Counsellor – the Spirit of truth.”  Faith, as knowledge and profession of the truth about God and about man, “comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ”, as Saint Paul says (Rom 10:17).  Throughout the history of the Church, the Apostles preached the word of Christ, taking care to hand it on intact to their successors, who in their turn transmitted it to subsequent generations until our own day.  Many preachers of the Gospel gave their lives specifically because of their faithfulness to the truth of the word of Christ.  And so solicitude for the truth gave birth to the Church’s Tradition.  As in past centuries, so also today there are people or groups who obscure this centuries-old Tradition, seeking to falsify the Word of Christ and to remove from the Gospel those truths which in their view are too uncomfortable for modern man.  They try to give the impression that everything is relative:  even the truths of faith would depend on the historical situation and on human evaluation.  Yet the Church cannot silence the Spirit of Truth.  The successors of the Apostles, together with the Pope, are responsible for the truth of the Gospel, and all Christians are called to share in this responsibility, accepting its authoritative indications.  Every Christian is bound to confront his own convictions continually with the teachings of the Gospel and of the Church’s Tradition in the effort to remain faithful to the word of Christ, even when it is demanding and, humanly speaking, hard to understand.  We must not yield to the temptation of relativism or of a subjectivist and selective interpretation of Sacred Scripture.  Only the whole truth can open us to adherence to Christ, dead and risen for our salvation.

Christ says:  “If you love me ... ”  Faith does not just mean accepting a certain number of abstract truths about the mysteries of God, of man, of life and death, of future realities.  Faith consists in an intimate relationship with Christ, a relationship based on love of him who loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:11), even to the total offering of himself.  “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).  What other response can we give to a love so great, if not that of a heart that is open and ready to love?  But what does it mean to love Christ?  It means trusting him even in times of trial, following him faithfully even on the Via Crucis, in the hope that soon the morning of the Resurrection will come.  Entrusting ourselves to Christ, we lose nothing, we gain everything.  In his hands our life acquires its true meaning.  Love for Christ expresses itself in the will to harmonize our own life with the thoughts and sentiments of his Heart.  This is achieved through interior union based on the grace of the Sacraments, strengthened by continuous prayer, praise, thanksgiving and penance.  We have to listen attentively to the inspirations that he evokes through his Word, through the people we meet, through the situations of daily life.  To love him is to remain in dialogue with him, in order to know his will and to put it into effect promptly.

Yet living one’s personal faith as a love-relationship with Christ also means being ready to renounce everything that constitutes a denial of his love.  That is why Jesus said to the Apostles:  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  But what are Christ’s commandments?  When the Lord Jesus was teaching the crowds, he did not fail to confirm the law which the Creator had inscribed on men’s hearts and had then formulated on the tablets of the Decalogue.  “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets;  I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.  For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished” (Mt 5:17-18).  But Jesus showed us with a new clarity the unifying centre of the divine laws revealed on Sinai, namely love of God and love of neighbour:  “To love [God] with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mk 12:33).  Indeed, in his life and in his Paschal Mystery Jesus brought the entire law to completion.  Uniting himself with us through the gift of the Holy Spirit, he carries with us and in us the “yoke” of the law, which thereby becomes a “light burden” (Mt 11:30).  In this spirit, Jesus formulated his list of the inner qualities of those who seek to live their faith deeply:  Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who weep, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for justice, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake ... (cf. Mt 5:3-12).

Dear brothers and sisters, faith as adherence to Christ is revealed as love that prompts us to promote the good inscribed by the Creator into the nature of every man and woman among us, into the personality of every other human being and into everything that exists in the world.  Whoever believes and loves in this way becomes a builder of the true “civilization of love”, of which Christ is the centre.  Twenty-seven years ago, in this place, Pope John Paul II said:  “Poland has become nowadays the land of a particularly responsible witness” (Warsaw, 2 June 1979).  I ask you now, cultivate this rich heritage of faith transmitted to you by earlier generations, the heritage of the thought and the service of that great Pole who was Pope John Paul II.  Stand firm in your faith, hand it down to your children, bear witness to the grace which you have experienced so abundantly through the Holy Spirit in the course of your history.  May Mary, Queen of Poland, show you the way to her Son, and may she accompany you on your journey towards a happy, peace-filled future.  May your hearts never be wanting in love for Christ and for his Church.  Amen!

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Papal Address in Czestochowa
"Place Yourselves in the School of Mary"

WARSAW, Poland, MAY 26, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today to men and women religious, seminarians and representatives of ecclesial movements in Jasna Gora, Czestochowa.

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Dear men and women religious, consecrated persons, who moved by the voice of Jesus, have followed him out of love!
Dear seminarians, who are preparing yourselves for the priestly ministry!
Dear representatives of ecclesial movements, who bring the power of the Gospel to your families, to your workplaces, to universities, to the world of media and culture, to your parishes!

Just as the apostles together with Mary "went to the Upper Room" and there "with one accord devoted themselves to prayer" (Acts 1:12,14), so we too have come together today at Jasna Gora, which for us at this hour is the "upper room" where Mary, the Mother of the Lord, is among us. Today it is she who leads our meditation; she teaches us how to pray. Mary shows us how to open our minds and our hearts to the power of the Holy Spirit, who comes to us so as to be brought to the whole world.

We need a moment of silence and recollection to place ourselves in her school, so that she may teach us how to live from faith, how to grow in faith, how to remain in contact with the mystery of God in the ordinary, everyday events of our lives. With feminine tact and with "the ability to combine penetrating intuition with words of support and encouragement" (John Paul II, "Redemptoris Mater," No. 46), Mary sustained the faith of Peter and the apostles in the Upper Room, and today she sustains my faith and your faith.

"Faith is contact with the mystery of God" (John Paul II, "Redemptoris Mater," No. 17), because "to believe means 'to abandon oneself' to the truth of the word of the living God, knowing and humbly recognizing 'how unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways'" (John Paul II, "Redemptoris Mater," No. 14).

Faith is the gift, given to us in baptism, which makes our encounter with God possible. God is hidden in mystery; to claim to understand him would mean to want to confine him within our thinking and knowing and consequently to lose him irremediably. With faith, however, we can open up a way through concepts, even theological concepts, and can "touch" the living God. And God, once touched, immediately gives us his power. When we abandon ourselves to the living God, when in humility of mind we have recourse to him, a kind of hidden stream of divine life pervades us. How important it is to believe in the power of faith, in its capacity to establish a close bond with the living God!

We must give great attention to the development of our faith, so that it truly pervades all our attitudes, thoughts, actions and intentions. Faith has a place, not only in our state of soul and religious experiences, but above all in thought and action, in everyday work, in the struggle against ourselves, in community life and in the apostolate, because it ensures that our life is pervaded by the power of God himself. Faith can always bring us back to God even when our sin leads us astray.

In the Upper Room the apostles did not know what awaited them. They were afraid and worried about their own future. They continued to marvel at the death and resurrection of Jesus and were in anguish at being left on their own after his ascension into Heaven. Mary, "she who believed in the fulfillment of the Lord's words" (cf. Luke 1:45), assiduous in prayer alongside the apostles, taught perseverance in the faith. By her own attitude she convinced them that the Holy Spirit, in his wisdom, knew well the path on which he was leading them, and that consequently they could place their confidence in God, giving themselves to him unreservedly, with their talents, their limitations and their future.

Many of you here present have experienced this secret call of the Holy Spirit and have responded with complete generosity of heart. The love of Jesus "poured into your hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to you" (cf. Romans 5:5), has shown you the way of the consecrated life. It was not you who looked for it. It was Jesus who called you, inviting you to a more profound union with him.

In the sacrament of holy baptism you renounced Satan and his works and received the necessary graces for a Christian life and for holiness. From that moment the grace of faith has blossomed within you and has enabled you to be united with God. At the moment of your religious profession or promises, faith led you to a total adherence to the mystery of the Heart of Jesus, whose treasures you have discovered. You then renounced such good things as disposing freely of your life, having a family, acquiring possessions, so as to be free to give yourselves without reserve to Christ and to his Kingdom.

Do you remember your enthusiasm when you began the pilgrimage of the consecrated life, trusting in the grace of God? Try not to lose this first fervor, and let Mary lead you to an ever fuller adherence. Dear men and women religious, dear consecrated persons! Whatever the mission entrusted to you, whatever cloistered or apostolic service you are engaged in, maintain in your hearts the primacy of your consecrated life. Let it renew your faith. The consecrated life, lived in faith, unites you closely to God, calls forth charisms and confers an extraordinary fruitfulness to your service.

Dear candidates to the priesthood! So much can be gained by reflecting on the way Mary learned from Jesus! From her very first "fiat," through the long, ordinary years of the hidden life, as she brought up Jesus, or when at Cana in Galilee she asked for the first sign, or when finally on Calvary, by the cross, she looked on Jesus, she "learned" him moment by moment. Firstly in faith and then in her womb, she received the Body of Jesus and then gave birth to him. Day after day, enraptured, she adored him. She served him with solicitous love, singing the Magnificat in her heart.

On your journey of preparation, and in your future priestly ministry, let Mary guide you as you "learn" Jesus. Keep your eyes fixed on him. Let him form you, so that in your ministry you will be able to show him to all who approach you. When you take into your hands the Eucharistic Body of Jesus so as to nourish his people, and when you assume responsibility for that part of the Mystical Body which will be entrusted to you, remember the attitude of wonder and adoration which characterized Mary's faith.

As she in her solicitous, maternal love for Jesus, preserved her virginal love filled with wonder, so also you, as you genuflect at the moment of consecration, preserve in your soul the ability to wonder and to adore. Know how to recognize in the People of God entrusted to you the signs of Christ's presence. Be mindful and attentive to the signs of holiness which God will show you among the faithful. Do not fear future duties or the unknown! Do not fear that words will fail you or that you will encounter rejection! The world and the Church need priests, holy priests.

Dear representatives of the new movements in the Church, the vitality of your communities is a sign of the Holy Spirit's active presence! It is from the faith of the Church and from the richness of the fruits of the Holy Spirit that your mission has been born. My prayer is that you will grow ever more numerous so as to serve the cause of the Kingdom of God in today's world. Believe in the grace of God which accompanies you and bring it into the living fabric of the Church, especially in places the priest or religious cannot reach.

The movements you belong to are many. You are nourished by different schools of spirituality recognized by the Church. Draw upon the wisdom of the saints, have recourse to the heritage they have left us. Form your minds and your hearts on the works of the great masters and witnesses of the faith, knowing that the schools of spirituality must not be a treasure locked up in convents or libraries.

The Gospel wisdom, contained in the writings of the great saints and attested to in their lives, must be brought in a mature way, not childishly or aggressively, to the world of culture and work, to the world of the media and politics, to the world of family and social life. The authenticity of your faith and mission, which does not draw attention to itself but truly radiates faith and love, can be tested by measuring it against Mary's faith. Mirror yourselves in her heart. Remain in her school!

When the Apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, went out to the whole world proclaiming the Gospel, one of them, John, the apostle of love, took Mary into his home (cf. John 19:27). It was precisely because of his profound bond with Jesus and with Mary, that he could so effectively insist on the truth that "God is love" (1 John 4:8,16).

These were the words that I placed at the beginning of the first encyclical of my pontificate: "Deus caritas est!" This is the most important, most central truth about God. To all for whom it is difficult to believe in God, I say again today: "God is love." Dear friends, be witnesses to this truth. You will surely be so if you place yourselves in the school of Mary. Beside her you will experience for yourselves that God is love, and you will transmit this message to the world with the richness and the variety that the Holy Spirit will know how to enkindle.

Praised be Jesus Christ.

[Original text: Polish]

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Benedict XVI's Message to Young People
John Paul II "Is Among Us"

WARSAW, Poland, MAY 26, 2006 (ZENIT.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today around 9 p.m. from the window of the archbishop's residence in Krakow, where he is staying.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Following the practice which arose during Pope John Paul II's visits to Krakow, you have gathered in front of the archbishop's residence to greet the Pope. Thank you for being here and for your warm welcome.

I know that on the second of every month, at the hour of my beloved predecessor's death, you come together here to commemorate him and to pray for his elevation to the honors of the altars. This prayer supports those working on his cause, and enriches your hearts with every grace. During his last visit to Poland, John Paul II said to you with regard to the passing of time: "We cannot remedy it. There is only one remedy. It is the Lord Jesus. 'I am the resurrection and the life' means -- notwithstanding old age, notwithstanding death -- youthfulness is found in God. This is my wish for you: for all the young of Krakow, of Poland, and of the world" (Aug. 17, 2002).

This was his faith, his firm conviction, his witness. And today, despite death, he -- youthful in God -- is among us. He invites us to reinvigorate the grace of faith, to be renewed in the Spirit and to "put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God, in the uprightness and holiness of the truth" (Ephesians 4:24).

I thank you once again for wishing to be with me this evening. Please pass on my greetings and blessing to the members of your families and to your friends. Thank you!

[Blessing in Latin]

[original text in Polish; translation issued by the Holy See; adapted]

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Papal Address in John Paul II's Hometown
His "Love for the Church Was Born Here"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 28, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday in Rynek Square in Wadowice, after visiting the Wojtyla family home, birthplace of the future Pope John Paul II.

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Beloved Brothers and Sisters,

I am filled with emotion in the birthplace of my great predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, in this town of his childhood and young adult life. Indeed, I could not omit Wadowice as I make this pilgrimage in Poland following in his footsteps. I wished to stop precisely here, in the place where his faith began and matured, to pray together with all of you that he may soon be elevated to the glory of the altars.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the great German poet, said: "He who wishes to understand a poet should visit his native land." This is also true for those who wish to understand the life and ministry of John Paul II; it is necessary to come to the city of his birth. He himself confessed that here, in Wadowice, "everything began: life, studies, the theater and the priesthood" (Wadowice, June 16, 1999).

John Paul II, returning to his beginnings, often referred to a sign: that of the baptismal font, to which he himself gave special veneration in the Church of Wadowice. In 1979, during his first pilgrimage in Poland he stated: "In this baptismal font, on June 20, 1920, I was given the grace to become a son of God, together with faith in my Redeemer, and I was welcomed into the community of the Church. I have already solemnly kissed this baptismal font in the year of the millennium of the baptism of Poland, when I was archbishop of Krakow. I kissed it again on the 50th anniversary of my baptism, when I was a cardinal, and today I kiss this baptismal font for the third time, as I come from Rome as the Successor of St. Peter" (Wadowice, June 7, 1979).

It seems that in these words of John Paul II is contained the key to understanding the consistency of his faith, the radicalism of his Christian life and the desire for sanctity that he continuously manifested. Here is the profound awareness of divine grace, the unconditional love of God for man, that by means of water and the Holy Spirit places the catechumen among the multitude of his children, who are redeemed by the Blood of Christ.

The way of an authentically Christian life equals faithfulness to the promises of holy baptism. The watchword of this pilgrimage: "Stand firm in your faith," finds in this place its concrete dimension that can be expressed with the exhortation: "Stand firm in the observance of your baptismal promises." A witness of just such a faith -- of whom this place speaks in a very special way -- is the Servant of God John Paul II.

My great predecessor indicated the basilica of Wadowice, his home parish, as a place of particular importance for the development of his spiritual life and the priestly vocation that was manifesting itself within him. He once stated: "In this church I made my first confession and received my first holy Communion. Here I was an altar boy. Here I gave thanks to God for the gift of the priesthood and, as archbishop of Krakow, I celebrated the 25th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. God alone, the giver of every grace, knows what goodness and what manifold graces I received from this church and from this parish community. To him, the Triune God, I give glory today at the doors of this church" (Wadowice, June 16, 1999).

The church is a sign of the communion of believers united by the presence of God who dwells in their midst. This community is the Church Pope John Paul II loved. His love for the Church was born in the parish of Wadowice. In it he experienced the sacramental life, evangelization and the formation of a mature faith. For this reason, as a priest, as a bishop and as Pope, he treated parochial communities with such great care. In the spirit of that same solicitude, during the visit "ad limina apostolorum," I asked the Polish bishops to do everything possible to ensure that the Polish parish would truly be an "ecclesial community" and a "family of the Church."

In conclusion, let me recall once again a characteristic of the faith and spirituality of John Paul II, which is united to this place. He himself remembered many times the deep attachment of the inhabitants of Wadowice to the local image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the custom of daily prayer in front of her by the schoolchildren. This memory helps us arrive at the source of the conviction that nourished John Paul II -- the conviction regarding the exceptional place that the Mother of God had in his life, a conviction that he himself, filled with devotion, expressed in the motto "Totus tuus." Until the last moments of his earthly pilgrimage he remained faithful to this dedication.

In the spirit of this devotion, before this image I wish to give thanks to God for the pontificate of John Paul II and, like him, I ask that Our Lady watch over the Church which, by the will of God, has been entrusted to me to guide. I also ask all of you, dear brothers and sisters, to pray for me just as you prayed for your great fellow countryman. From the depths of my heart, I bless all of you present here today and all those who come to Wadowice to draw from the font of the spirit of faith of John Paul II.

[Original text in Polish; translation issued by the Holy See]

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Pope's Words at Kalwaria Shrine
To Pray for John Paul II "as He Requested"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 28, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday when visiting the Shrine of Our Lady of Kalwaria, entrusted to the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor.

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Dear Franciscan Fathers,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

During his first journey to Poland, Pope John Paul II visited this shrine and dedicated his address to the topic of prayer. At the conclusion he said: "I ask you to pray for me here during my life and after my death." Today, I wanted to pause for a moment in the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary and, with gratitude, to pray for him as he requested. Following the example of John Paul II, I also turn to you, kindly asking that you pray for me and for all the Church.

I would also like to say, as dear Cardinal Stanislaw said, that I hope Divine Providence will soon concede the beatification and canonization of our beloved Pope John Paul II.

[Blessing in Latin]

[Original text in Polish; translation issued by the Holy See]

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Address to the Sick at Divine Mercy Shrine
"You Are Eloquent Witnesses of God's Mercy"

KRAKOW, Poland, MAY 28, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI visited the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Lagiewniki on Saturday, after his visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Kalwaria.

At Lagiewniki the Pope prayed at the tomb of St. Faustina Kowalska, where Karol Wojtyla often went as a laborer and later as an underground seminarian.

Benedict XVI then went to the basilica, where 800 sick people awaited him. Here is a Vatican translation of his address to them.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am very pleased to be able to meet you during my visit here to the Shrine of Divine Mercy. I extend heartfelt greetings to all of you: to the sick, their caretakers, the priests engaged in pastoral ministry at the shrine, to the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, to the members of the Faustinum and to all those present.

On this occasion we encounter two mysteries: the mystery of human suffering and the mystery of Divine Mercy. At first sight these two mysteries seem to be opposed to one another. But when we study them more deeply in the light of faith, we find that they are placed in reciprocal harmony through the mystery of the Cross of Christ. As Pope John Paul II said in this place: "the Cross is the most profound bowing down of the Divinity toward man … the Cross is like a touch of eternal love on the most painful wounds of humanity's earthly existence" (Aug. 17, 2002).

Dear friends who are sick, who are marked by suffering in body or soul, you are most closely united to the Cross of Christ, and at the same time, you are the most eloquent witnesses of God's mercy. Through you and through your suffering, he bows down toward humanity with love. You who say in silence: "Jesus, I trust in you" teach us that there is no faith more profound, no hope more alive and no love more ardent than the faith, hope and love of a person who in the midst of suffering places himself securely in God's hands. May the human hands of those who care for you in the name of mercy be an extension of the open hands of God.

I would so willingly embrace each one of you. But since this is impossible, I draw you spiritually to my heart, and I impart my blessing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

[Original text in Polish; translation issued by the Holy See]

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Address to Young People in Blonie Park
"Do Not Be Afraid to Lean on Christ"

KRAKOW, Poland, MAY 28, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday to close to 1 million young people gathered in Blonie Park.

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Dear Young Friends,

I offer all of you my warmest welcome! Your presence makes me happy. I thank the Lord for this cordial meeting. We know that "where two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus, he is in their midst" (cf. Matthew 18:20). Today, you are much more numerous! Accordingly, Jesus is here with us. He is present among the young people of Poland, speaking to them of a house that will never collapse because it is built on the rock. This is the Gospel that we have just heard (cf. Matthew 7:24-27).

My friends, in the heart of every man there is the desire for a house. Even more so in the young person's heart there is a great longing for a proper house, a stable house, one to which he cannot only return with joy, but where every guest who arrives can be joyfully welcomed. There is a yearning for a house where the daily bread is love, pardon and understanding.

It is a place where the truth is the source out of which flows peace of heart. There is a longing for a house you can be proud of, where you need not be ashamed and where you never fear its loss. These longings are simply the desire for a full, happy and successful life. Do not be afraid of this desire! Do not run away from this desire! Do not be discouraged at the sight of crumbling houses, frustrated desires and faded longings. God the Creator, who inspires in young hearts an immense yearning for happiness, will not abandon you in the difficult construction of the house called life.

My friends, this brings about a question: "How do we build this house?" Without doubt, this is a question that you have already faced many times and that you will face many times more. Every day you must look into your heart and ask: "How do I build that house called life?" Jesus, whose words we just heard in the passage from the Evangelist Matthew, encourages us to build on the rock. In fact, it is only in this way that the house will not crumble.

But what does it mean to build a house on the rock?

Building on the rock means, first of all, to build on Christ and with Christ. Jesus says: "Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock" (Matthew 7:24). These are not just the empty words of some person or another; these are the words of Jesus. We are not listening to any person: We are listening to Jesus. We are not asked to commit to just anything; we are asked to commit ourselves to the words of Jesus. To build on Christ and with Christ means to build on a foundation that is called "crucified love."

It means to build with Someone who, knowing us better than we know ourselves, says to us: "You are precious in my eyes and honored, and I love you" (Isaiah 43:4).

It means to build with Someone, who is always faithful, even when we are lacking in faith, because he cannot deny himself (cf. 2 Timothy 2:13).

It means to build with Someone who constantly looks down on the wounded heart of man and says: "I do not condemn you, go and do not sin again" (cf. John 8:11).

It means to build with Someone who, from the cross, extends his arms and repeats for all eternity: "O man, I give my life for you because I love you."

In short, building on Christ means basing all your desires, aspirations, dreams, ambitions and plans on his will. It means saying to yourself, to your family, to your friends, to the whole world and, above all to Christ: "Lord, in life I wish to do nothing against you, because you know what is best for me. Only you have the words of eternal life" (cf. John 6:68). My friends, do not be afraid to lean on Christ! Long for Christ, as the foundation of your life! Enkindle within you the desire to build your life on him and for him! Because no one who depends on the crucified love of the Incarnate Word can ever lose.

To build on the rock means to build on Christ and with Christ, who is the rock. In the First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul, speaking of the journey of the chosen people through the desert, explains that all "drank from the supernatural rock, which followed them, and the rock was Christ" (1 Corinthians 10:4). The fathers of the Chosen People certainly did not know that the rock was Christ. They were not aware of being accompanied by him who in the fullness of time would become incarnate and take on a human body. They did not need to understand that their thirst would be satiated by the very Source of life, capable of offering the living water which quenches every heart.

Nonetheless, they drank from this spiritual rock that is Christ, because they yearned for this living water, and needed it. On the road of life we may sometimes not be aware of Jesus' presence. However, it is really this presence, living and true, in the work of creation, in the Word of God and in the Eucharist, in the community of believers and in every man redeemed by the precious Blood of Christ, which is the inexhaustible source of human strength.

Jesus of Nazareth, God made Man, is beside us during the good times and the bad times and he thirsts for this relationship, which is, in reality, the foundation of authentic humanity. We read in the Book of Revelation these important words: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come to him and eat with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20).

My friends, what does it mean to build on the rock? Building on the rock also means building on Someone who was rejected. St. Peter speaks to the faithful of Christ as a "living stone rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious" (1 Peter 2:4).

The undeniable fact of the election of Jesus by God does not conceal the mystery of evil, whereby man is able to reject him who has loved to the very end. This rejection of Jesus by man, which St. Peter mentions, extends throughout human history, even to our own time.

One does not need great mental acuity to be aware of the many ways of rejecting Christ, even on our own doorstep. Often, Jesus is ignored, he is mocked and he is declared a king of the past who is not for today and certainly not for tomorrow. He is relegated to a storeroom of questions and persons one dare not mention publicly in a loud voice. If in the process of building the house of your life you encounter those who scorn the foundation on which you are building, do not be discouraged! A strong faith must endure tests. A living faith must always grow. Our faith in Jesus Christ, to be such, must frequently face others' lack of faith.

Dear friends, what does it mean to build on the rock?

Building on the rock means being aware that there will be misfortunes. Christ says: "The rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon the house ..." (Matthew 7:25).

These natural phenomena are not only an image of the many misfortunes of the human lot, but they also indicate that such misfortunes are normally to be expected. Christ does not promise that a downpour will never inundate a house under construction, he does not promise that a devastating wave will never sweep away that which is most dear to us, he does not promise that strong winds will never carry away what we have built, sometimes with enormous sacrifice.

Christ not only understands man's desire for a lasting house, but he is also fully aware of all that can wreck man's happiness. Do not be surprised therefore by misfortunes, whatever they may be! Do not be discouraged by them! An edifice built on the rock is not the same as a building removed from the forces of nature, which are inscribed in the mystery of man. To have built on rock means being able to count on the knowledge that at difficult times there is a reliable force upon which you can trust.

My friends, allow me to ask again: What does it mean to build on the rock?

It means to build wisely. It is not without reason that Jesus compares those who hear his words and put them into practice to a wise man who has built his house on the rock. It is foolish, in fact, to build on sand, when you can do so on rock and therefore have a house that is capable of withstanding every storm. It is foolish to build a house on ground that that does not offer the guarantee of support during the most difficult times.

Maybe it is easier to base one's life on the shifting sands of one's own worldview, building a future far from the word of Jesus and sometimes even opposed to it. Be assured that he who builds in this way is not prudent, because he wants to convince himself and others that in his life no storm will rage and no wave will strike his house. To be wise means to know that the solidity of a house depends on the choice of foundation. Do not be afraid to be wise; that is to say, do not be afraid to build on the rock!

My friends, once again: What does it mean to build on the rock?

Building on the rock also means to build on Peter and with Peter. In fact the Lord said to him: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). If Christ, the Rock, the living and precious stone, calls his Apostle "rock," it means that he wants Peter, and together with him the entire Church, to be a visible sign of the one Savior and Lord.

Here, in Krakow, the beloved city of my predecessor John Paul II, no one is astonished by the words "to build with Peter and on Peter." For this reason I say to you: Do not be afraid to build your life on the Church and with the Church. You are all proud of the love you have for Peter and for the Church entrusted to him. Do not be fooled by those who want to play Christ against the Church.

There is one foundation on which it is worthwhile to build a house. This foundation is Christ. There is only one rock on which it is worthwhile to place everything. This rock is the one to whom Christ said: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church" (Matthew 16:18).

Young people, you know well the Rock of our times. Accordingly, do not forget: Neither that Peter who is watching our gathering from the window of God the Father, nor this Peter who is now standing in front of you, nor any successive Peter will ever be opposed to you or the building of a lasting house on the rock. Indeed, he will offer his heart and his hands to help you construct a life on Christ and with Christ.

Dear friends, meditating on Christ's words describing the rock as an adequate foundation for a house, we cannot help but notice that the last word is a hopeful one. Jesus says that, notwithstanding the harshness of the elements, the house is not destroyed, because it was built on the rock.

In his word there is an extraordinary confidence in the strength of the foundation, a faith that does not fear contradictions because it is confirmed by the death and resurrection of Christ. This is the faith that years later was professed by St. Peter in his letter: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame" (1 Peter 2:6).

Certainly "he will not be put to shame."

Dear young friends, the fear of failure can at times frustrate even the most beautiful dreams. It can paralyze the will, making one incapable of believing that it is really possible to build a house on the rock. It can convince one that the yearning for such a house is only a childish aspiration and not a plan for life.

Together with Jesus, say to this fear: "A house founded on the rock cannot collapse!"

Together with St. Peter, say to the temptation to doubt: "He who believes in Christ will not be put to shame!" You are all witnesses to hope, to that hope which is not afraid to build the house of one's own life because it is certain that it can count on the foundation that will never crumble: Jesus Christ our Lord.

[At the end of the meeting, the Holy Father handed young people the "Flame of Mercy," entrusting to them the mission of evangelizing the world. He then returned to the archbishop's residence in Krakow. At 9 p.m. he appeared at the window of the residence and said the following:]

My dear friends,

This evening I met the young people gathered in Blonie Park. It was an unforgettable evening, and it bore witness to their faith and their will to build a future based on the teachings that Christ left for his disciples. I offer heartfelt thanks to the Polish young people for this testimony.

It includes your presence on Franciszkanska Street, which I know is an _expression of your great good will toward the Pope, and I thank you for this also. Tomorrow lies ahead of us. In greeting you now, I invite you to the Mass we are to celebrate tomorrow. I bless you from my heart: in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Good night!

[Original text in Polish; translation issued by the Holy See]

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Benedict XVI's Homily in Blonie Park
"Standing on Earth; Looking to Heaven"

KRAKOW, Poland, MAY 28, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered today when celebrating Mass on the solemnity of the Lord's Ascension in Blonie Park in Krakow.

* * *

"Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up to heaven?" (Acts 1:11)

Brothers and sisters, today in Blonie Park in Krakow we hear once again this question from the Acts of the Apostles. This time it is directed to all of us: "Why do you stand looking up to heaven?" The answer to this question involves the fundamental truth about the life and destiny of every man and woman.

The question has to do with our attitude to two basic realities which shape every human life: earth and heaven. First, the earth: "Why do you stand?" -- Why are you here on earth? Our answer is that we are here on earth because our Maker has put us here as the crowning work of his creation.

Almighty God, in his ineffable plan of love, created the universe, bringing it forth from nothing. Then, at the completion of this work, he bestowed life on men and women, creating them in his own image and likeness (cf. Genesis 1:26-27). He gave them the dignity of being children of God and the gift of immortality.

We know that man went astray, misused the gift of freedom and said "No" to God, thus condemning himself to a life marked by evil, sin, suffering and death. But we also know that God was not resigned to this situation, but entered directly into humanity's history, which then became a history of salvation.

"We stand" on the earth, we are rooted in the earth and we grow from it. Here we do good in the many areas of everyday life, in the material and spiritual realms, in our relationships with other people, in our efforts to build up the human community and in culture. Here too we experience the weariness of those who make their way toward a goal by long and winding paths, amid hesitations, tensions, uncertainties, in the conviction that the journey will one day come to an end. That is when the question arises: Is this all there is? Is this earth on which "we stand" our final destiny?

And so we need to turn to the second part of the biblical question: "Why do you stand looking up to heaven?"

We have read that, just as the apostles were asking the Risen Lord about the restoration of Israel's earthly kingdom, "He was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight." And "they looked up to heaven as he went" (cf. Acts 1:9-10). They looked up to heaven because they looked to Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Risen One, raised up on high. We do not know whether at that precise moment they realized that a magnificent, infinite horizon was opening up before their eyes: the ultimate goal of our earthly pilgrimage.

Perhaps they only realized this at Pentecost, in the light of the Holy Spirit. But for us, at a distance of 2,000 years, the meaning of that event is quite clear. Here on earth, we are called to look up to heaven, to turn our minds and hearts to the inexpressible mystery of God. We are called to look toward this divine reality, to which we have been directed from our creation. For there we find life's ultimate meaning.

Dear brothers and sisters, I am deeply moved to be able to celebrate this Eucharist today in Blonie Park in Krakow, where Pope John Paul II often celebrated Mass during his unforgettable apostolic visits to his native land.

Through his liturgical celebrations he met the People of God in almost every corner of the world, but surely his celebration of Holy Mass in Blonie Park in Krakow was always something special. Here he returned in mind and heart to his roots, to the sources of his faith and his service to the Church. From here he could see Krakow and all Poland.

In his first apostolic visit to Poland, on June 10, 1979, at the end of his homily in this park, he said with nostalgia: "Allow me, before leaving you, to look out once again on Krakow, this Krakow whose every stone and brick is dear to me. And to look out once again from here on Poland."

During the last Mass he celebrated here, on August 18, 2002, he said in his homily: "I am grateful for the invitation to visit my Krakow and for the hospitality you have given me" (No. 2).

I wish to take up these words, to make them my own and repeat them today: I thank you with all my heart "for the invitation to visit my Krakow and for the hospitality you have given me." Krakow, the city of Karol Wojtyla and of John Paul II, is also my Krakow!

Krakow has a special place in the hearts of countless Christians throughout the world who know that John Paul II came to Vatican Hill from this city, from Wawel Hill, "from a far country," which thus became a country dear to all.

At the beginning of the second year of my pontificate, I have felt a deep need to visit Poland and Krakow as a pilgrim in the footsteps of my predecessor. I wanted to breathe the air of his homeland. I wanted to see the land where he was born, where he grew up and undertook his tireless service to Christ and the universal Church. I wanted especially to meet the living men and women of his country, to experience your faith, which gave him life and strength, and to know that you continue firm in that faith. Here I wish to ask God to preserve that legacy of faith, hope and charity which John Paul II gave to the world, and to you in particular.

I cordially greet all those gathered in Blonie Park, for as far as my eyes can see and even farther. I wish I could meet each of you personally. I embrace all those who are taking part in our Eucharist by radio and television.

I greet all of Poland! I greet the children and young people, individuals and families, the sick and those suffering in body or spirit, who are deprived of the joy of life. I greet all those whose daily labors are helping this country to grow in prosperity. I greet the Polish people living abroad, everywhere in the world. I thank Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the metropolitan archbishop of Krakow, for his warm words of welcome. I greet Cardinal Franciszek Macharski and all the cardinals, bishops, priests and consecrated men and women, as well as the other guests who have come from many lands, particularly the neighboring countries. My greetings go to the president of the republic and to the prime minister, and to the representatives of the national, territorial and local authorities.

Dear brothers and sisters, I have taken as the motto of my pilgrimage to Poland in the footsteps of John Paul II the words: "Stand firm in your faith!" This appeal is directed to us all as members of the community of Christ's disciples, to each and every one of us.

Faith is a deeply personal and human act, an act which has two aspects. To believe means first to accept as true what our mind cannot fully comprehend. We have to accept what God reveals to us about himself, about ourselves, about everything around us, including the things that are invisible, inexpressible and beyond our imagination.

This act of accepting revealed truth broadens the horizon of our knowledge and draws us to the mystery in which our lives are immersed. Letting our reason be limited in this way is not something easy to do. Here we see the second aspect of faith: It is trust in a person, no ordinary person, but Jesus Christ himself. What we believe is important, but even more important is the One in whom we believe.

St. Paul speaks of this in the passage from the Letter to the Ephesians which we have heard today. God has given us a spirit of wisdom and "enlightened the eyes of our hearts, that we may know what is the hope to which he has called us, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great power in Christ" (cf. Ephesians 1:17-20). Believing means surrendering ourselves to God and entrusting our destiny to him. Believing means entering into a personal relationship with our Creator and Redeemer in the power of the Holy Spirit, and making this relationship the basis of our whole life.

Today we heard the words of Jesus: "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

Centuries ago these words reached Poland. They challenged, and continue to challenge all those who say they belong to Christ, who consider his to be the greatest cause. We need to be witnesses of Jesus, who lives in the Church and in human hearts. He has given us a mission. On the day he ascended to heaven, he said to his apostles: "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation. … And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it" (Mark 16:15,20).

Dear brothers and sisters! When Karol Wojtyla was elected to the See of Peter in order to serve the universal Church, your land became a place of special witness to faith in Jesus Christ. You were called to give this witness before the whole world. This vocation of yours is always needed, and it is perhaps even more urgent than ever, now that the Servant of God has passed from this life. Do not deprive the world of this witness!

Before I return to Rome to continue my ministry, I appeal to all of you in the words spoken here by Pope John Paul II in 1979: "You must be strong, dear brothers and sisters. You must be strong with the strength that comes from faith. You must be strong with the strength of faith. You must be faithful. Today, more than in any other age, you need this strength. You must be strong with the strength of hope, the hope that brings perfect joy in life and which prevents us from ever grieving the Holy Spirit! You must be strong with love, the love which is stronger than death. ... You must be strong with the strength of faith, hope and charity, a charity that is conscious, mature and responsible, and which can help us at this moment of our history to carry on the great dialogue with man and the world, a dialogue rooted in dialogue with God himself, with the Father, through the Son in the Holy Spirit, the dialogue of salvation" (Homily, June 10, 1979, No. 4).

I too, Benedict XVI, the Successor of Pope John Paul II, am asking you to look up from earth to heaven, to lift your eyes to the One to whom succeeding generations have looked for 2,000 years, and in whom they have discovered life's ultimate meaning.

Strengthened by faith in God, devote yourselves fervently to consolidating his Kingdom on earth, a Kingdom of goodness, justice, solidarity and mercy. I ask you to bear courageous witness to the Gospel before today's world, bringing hope to the poor, the suffering, the lost and abandoned, the desperate and those yearning for freedom, truth and peace. By doing good to your neighbor and showing your concern for the common good, you bear witness that God is love.

I ask you, finally, to share with the other peoples of Europe and the world the treasure of your faith, not least as a way of honoring the memory of your countryman, who, as the Successor of Saint Peter, did this with extraordinary power and effectiveness. And remember me in your prayers and sacrifices, even as you remembered my great Predecessor, so that I can carry out the mission Christ has given me. I ask you to stand firm in your faith! Stand firm in your hope! Stand firm in your love! Amen!

[Original text in Polish; translation issued by the Holy See]

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After Mass in Krakow's Blonie Park
"Do Not Let Yourselves Fall Victim to This World's Illusions"

KRAKOW, Poland, MAY 28, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before reciting the midday Regina Caeli. The Pope had just celebrated Mass at Blonie Park in Krakow, on his last full day in Poland.

* * *

Before concluding this solemn liturgy with the singing of the Regina Caeli and the blessing, I would like once again to greet the people of Krakow and the many visitors from all over Poland who have taken part in this celebration of Mass. I entrust all of you to the Mother of the Redeemer, and I ask her to guide you in your faith. I thank you for your presence here and for the witness of your faith.

In particular I address myself to the young people, who yesterday expressed their adherence to Christ and to the Church. Yesterday you presented me with the gift of your book of testimonies: "I do not take them, I am free of drugs." I ask you now as your father: Remain faithful to this promise. It is a question of your lives and your freedom.

Do not let yourselves fall victim to this world's illusions. I would also like to greet the scholarship holders of the Work of the New Millennium foundation. I wish you every success in your studies and in preparing for your future.

I greet all the representatives of the highest authorities of the Polish Republic. I am grateful to the Polish episcopate and to the representatives of many other European episcopates, who have taken part in this pilgrimage of mine on Polish territory.

I greet the professors and students of universities and colleges from all over Poland, represented by so many rectors.

And I thank everyone who has shown me kindness in all sorts of ways, including those who have gone to the trouble of organizing my meetings with the faithful. May Mary intercede for you and obtain for you all the graces that you need.

[Original text in Polish; translation issued by the Holy See]

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Pope's Message at Auschwitz
"As a Son of the German People, I Could Not Fail to Come Here"

KRAKOW, Poland, MAY 28, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today when visiting the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, the last stage of his apostolic trip to Poland.

* * *

To speak in this place of horror, in this place where unprecedented mass crimes were committed against God and man, is almost impossible -- and it is particularly difficult and troubling for a Christian, for a Pope from Germany. In a place like this, words fail; in the end, there can only be a dread silence -- a silence which is itself a heartfelt cry to God: Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this?

In silence, then, we bow our heads before the endless line of those who suffered and were put to death here; yet our silence becomes in turn a plea for forgiveness and reconciliation, a plea to the living God never to let this happen again.

Twenty-seven years ago, on June 7, 1979, Pope John Paul II stood in this place. He said: "I come here today as a pilgrim. As you know, I have been here many times. So many times! And many times I have gone down to Maximilian Kolbe's death cell, paused before the execution wall, and walked amid the ruins of the Birkenau ovens. It was impossible for me not to come here as Pope."

Pope John Paul came here as a son of that people which, along with the Jewish people, suffered most in this place and, in general, throughout the war. "Six million Poles lost their lives during the Second World War: a fifth of the nation," he reminded us. Here, too, he solemnly called for respect for human rights and the rights of nations, as his predecessors John XXIII and Paul VI had done before him, and added: "The one who speaks these words is ... the son of a nation which, in its history, has suffered greatly from others. He says this, not to accuse, but to remember. He speaks in the name of all those nations whose rights are being violated and disregarded ..."

Pope John Paul II came here as a son of the Polish people. I come here today as a son of the German people. For this very reason, I can and must echo his words: I could not fail to come here.

I had to come. It is a duty before the truth and the just due of all who suffered here, a duty before God, for me to come here as the successor of Pope John Paul II and as a son of the German people -- a son of that people over which a ring of criminals rose to power by false promises of future greatness and the recovery of the nation's honor, prominence and prosperity, but also through terror and intimidation, with the result that our people was used and abused as an instrument of their thirst for destruction and power.

Yes, I could not fail to come here. On June 7, 1979, I came as the archbishop of Munich-Freising, along with many other bishops who accompanied the Pope, listened to his words and joined in his prayer. In 1980, I came back to this dreadful place with a delegation of German bishops, appalled by its evil, yet grateful for the fact that above its dark clouds the star of reconciliation had emerged.

This is the same reason why I have come here today: to implore the grace of reconciliation -- first of all from God, who alone can open and purify our hearts, from the men and women who suffered here, and finally the grace of reconciliation for all those who, at this hour of our history, are suffering in new ways from the power of hatred and the violence which hatred spawns.

How many questions arise in this place! Constantly the question comes up: Where was God in those days? Why was he silent? How could he permit this endless slaughter, this triumph of evil?

The words of Psalm 44 come to mind, Israel's lament for its woes: "You have broken us in the haunt of jackals, and covered us with deep darkness ... because of you we are being killed all day long, and accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not cast us off forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? For we sink down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground. Rise up, come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!" (Psalm 44:19,22-26).

This cry of anguish, which Israel raised to God in its suffering, at moments of deep distress, is also the cry for help raised by all those who in every age -- yesterday, today and tomorrow -- suffer for the love of God, for the love of truth and goodness. How many they are, even in our own day!

We cannot peer into God's mysterious plan -- we see only piecemeal, and we would be wrong to set ourselves up as judges of God and history. Then we would not be defending man, but only contributing to his downfall. No -- when all is said and done, we must continue to cry out humbly yet insistently to God: Rouse yourself! Do not forget mankind, your creature!

And our cry to God must also be a cry that pierces our very heart, a cry that awakens within us God's hidden presence -- so that his power, the power he has planted in our hearts, will not be buried or choked within us by the mire of selfishness, pusillanimity, indifference or opportunism.

Let us cry out to God, with all our hearts, at the present hour, when new misfortunes befall us, when all the forces of darkness seem to issue anew from human hearts: whether it is the abuse of God's name as a means of justifying senseless violence against innocent persons, or the cynicism which refuses to acknowledge God and ridicules faith in him.

Let us cry out to God, that he may draw men and women to conversion and help them to see that violence does not bring peace, but only generates more violence -- a morass of devastation in which everyone is ultimately the loser.

The God in whom we believe is a God of reason -- a reason, to be sure, which is not a kind of cold mathematics of the universe, but is one with love and with goodness. We make our prayer to God and we appeal to humanity, that this reason, the logic of love and the recognition of the power of reconciliation and peace, may prevail over the threats arising from irrationalism or from a spurious and godless reason.

The place where we are standing is a place of memory. The past is never simply the past. It always has something to say to us; it tells us the paths to take and the paths not to take. Like John Paul II, I have walked alongside the inscriptions in various languages erected in memory of those who died here: inscriptions in Belarusian, Czech, German, French, Greek, Hebrew, Croatian, Italian, Yiddish, Hungarian, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, Romani, Romanian, Slovak, Serbian, Ukrainian, Judeo-Spanish and English.

All these inscriptions speak of human grief, they give us a glimpse of the cynicism of that regime which treated men and women as material objects, and failed to see them as persons embodying the image of God.

Some inscriptions are pointed reminders. There is one in Hebrew. The rulers of the Third Reich wanted to crush the entire Jewish people, to cancel it from the register of the peoples of the earth. Thus the words of the Psalm: "We are being killed, accounted as sheep for the slaughter" were fulfilled in a terrifying way.

Deep down, those vicious criminals, by wiping out this people, wanted to kill the God who called Abraham, who spoke on Sinai and laid down principles to serve as a guide for mankind, principles that are eternally valid. If this people, by its very existence, was a witness to the God who spoke to humanity and took us to himself, then that God finally had to die and power had to belong to man alone -- to those men, who thought that by force they had made themselves masters of the world. By destroying Israel, they ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith and to replace it with a faith of their own invention: faith in the rule of man, the rule of the powerful.

Then there is the inscription in Polish. First and foremost they wanted to eliminate the cultural elite, thus erasing the Polish people as an autonomous historical subject and reducing it, to the extent that it continued to exist, to slavery.

Another inscription offering a pointed reminder is the one written in the language of the Sinti and Roma people. Here too, the plan was to wipe out a whole people which lives by migrating among other peoples. They were seen as part of the refuse of world history, in an ideology which valued only the empirically useful; everything else, according to this view, was to be written off as "lebensunwertes Leben" -- life unworthy of being lived.

There is also the inscription in Russian, which commemorates the tremendous loss of life endured by the Russian soldiers who combated the Nazi reign of terror; but this inscription also reminds us that their mission had a tragic twofold aim: by setting people free from one dictatorship, they were to submit them to another, that of Stalin and the Communist system.

The other inscriptions, written in Europe's many languages, also speak to us of the sufferings of men and women from the whole continent. They would stir our hearts profoundly if we remembered the victims not merely in general, but rather saw the faces of the individual persons who ended up here in this abyss of terror.

I felt a deep urge to pause in a particular way before the inscription in German. It evokes the face of Edith Stein, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross: a woman, Jewish and German, who disappeared along with her sister into the black night of the Nazi-German concentration camp; as a Christian and a Jew, she accepted death with her people and for them.

The Germans who had been brought to Auschwitz-Birkenau and met their death here were considered as "Abschaum der Nation" -- the refuse of the nation. Today we gratefully hail them as witnesses to the truth and goodness which even among our people were not eclipsed. We are grateful to them, because they did not submit to the power of evil, and now they stand before us like lights shining in a dark night. With profound respect and gratitude, then, let us bow our heads before all those who, like the three young men in Babylon facing death in the fiery furnace, could respond: "Only our God can deliver us. But even if he does not, be it known to you, O King, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up" (cf. Daniel 3:17ff.).

Yes, behind these inscriptions is hidden the fate of countless human beings. They jar our memory, they touch our hearts. They have no desire to instill hatred in us: Instead, they show us the terrifying effect of hatred. Their desire is to help our reason to see evil as evil and to reject it; their desire is to enkindle in us the courage to do good and to resist evil. They want to make us feel the sentiments expressed in the words that Sophocles placed on the lips of Antigone, as she contemplated the horror all around her: My nature is not to join in hate but to join in love.

By God's grace, together with the purification of memory demanded by this place of horror, a number of initiatives have sprung up with the aim of imposing a limit upon evil and confirming goodness.

Just now I was able to bless the Center for Dialogue and Prayer. In the immediate neighborhood the Carmelite nuns carry on their life of hiddenness, knowing that they are united in a special way to the mystery of Christ's cross and reminding us of the faith of Christians, which declares that God himself descended into the hell of suffering and suffers with us. In Oswiecim is the Center of St. Maximilian Kolbe, and the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust. There is also the International House for Meetings of Young people. Near one of the old prayer houses is the Jewish Center. Finally the Academy for Human Rights is presently being established. So there is hope that this place of horror will gradually become a place for constructive thinking, and that remembrance will foster resistance to evil and the triumph of love.

At Auschwitz-Birkenau, humanity walked through a "valley of darkness." And so, here in this place, I would like to end with a prayer of trust -- with one of the psalms of Israel which is also a prayer of Christians: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff -- they comfort me ... I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long" (Psalm 23:1-4,6).

[Original text in Polish; translation issued by the Holy See]

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Benedict XVI's Farewell to Poland
"Enrich the Continent and the Whole World With Your Tradition"

KRAKOW, Poland, MAY 28, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today during the farewell ceremony at the Krakow/Balice airport, on the last day of his visit to Poland. The Pope had just heard the greetings of Polish President Lech Kaczynski.

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Mr. President of the Republic of Poland,
My Venerable Brother, the Cardinal Archbishop of Krakow,
Beloved brothers and sisters!

The time has come for me to say farewell to Poland. For four days I have passed through your country like a pilgrim, visiting places of particular importance for your historical and spiritual identity. Warsaw, Jasna Gora, Krakow, Wadowice, Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, Lagiewniki, Oawiecim -- how many memories these names evoke! What a wealth of meaning they have for the Polish people!

When taking leave of his homeland for the last time four years ago, my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II exhorted the Polish nation always to be guided by sentiments of mercy, fraternal solidarity, and dedication to the common good, and he expressed the firm conviction that in this way she would not only find her proper place within a united Europe, but would also enrich this continent and the whole world with her tradition.

Today, as your presence in the family of European states is being constantly consolidated, I wish with my whole heart to repeat those words of hope. I ask you to remain faithful custodians of the Christian deposit, and to transmit it to future generations.

Dear Polish people! I want to confide in you that this pilgrimage, during which I have visited places particularly dear to the great John Paul II, has brought me even closer to you, his compatriots. I thank you for the prayer with which you have surrounded me from the moment of my election. During my meetings with you, at audiences in the Vatican, I have often felt a bond of intense prayer and spontaneous sympathy. I would like you to continue to remember me in your prayers, asking the Lord to increase my strength in the service of the universal Church.

I thank the president of the Republic of Poland and the Polish episcopate for the invitation. I thank the prime minister for the government's fruitful cooperation with Church representatives in the preparation for this visit. I express my gratitude to the authorities at every level for their hard work, both before and during my visit.

I thank the representatives of the mass media for the efforts they have made to give ample coverage to this pilgrimage. My expressions of appreciation and gratitude are also extended to the services of public order, to the army, the police, the fire brigade, the health-care teams and all those who have helped to make such a success of the Pope's encounter with Poland and its inhabitants.

I would like to conclude my visit with the words of the Apostle Paul which have accompanied my pilgrimage in Polish territory: "Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love" (1 Corinthians 16:13-14). My blessing upon you all!

[Original text in Polish; translation issued by the Holy See]

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                                                   Comments on the papal visit


Assessing Benedict XVI's Visit to Auschwitz
Interview With Father Jean Stern

ROME, JUNE 7, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI's visit to Auschwitz is a continuation of John Paul II's teachings on the particular relationship between God and the Jews, says a priest whose parents died in that camp.

In this interview, held May 28, Father Jean Stern, a Jewish-born French missionary of Our Lady of LaSalette, shared with ZENIT his reflections on Benedict XVI's historic visit to Auschwitz during his trip to Poland.

Q: No doubt you followed closely Benedict XVI's visit to Auschwitz. What did you find especially significant about this visit?

Father Stern: The fact that the Holy Father presented himself as a German, saying: "It is a duty before the truth and the just due of all who suffered here, a duty before God, for me to come here as the successor of Pope John Paul II and as a son of the German people, that people over which a ring of criminals rose to power by false promises of future greatness and the recovery of the nation's honor, prominence and prosperity, but also through terror and intimidation, with the result that our people were used and abused as an instrument of their thirst for destruction and power."

Benedict XVI knows the catechism and he knows that the intervention of a deceitful tempter is not an excuse that can make innocent those who have listened to him and followed him. "The serpent deceived me," Eve said after her sin.

On the other hand, the Pope abstained from specifying how many people followed the Nazi power out of conviction [or] weakness and how many, on the contrary, were able to resist heroically. It belongs to God to read consciences and judge them.

Q: Benedict XVI's visit had three stages: Auschwitz I, with the wall of those shot and the bunker of hunger; the Catholic center for dialogue and prayer; and, finally, Birkenau, also called Auschwitz II, a camp specialized in massacres on an industrial scale. Is it significant that the Pope paused at the Catholic center?

Father Stern: That center, with the Carmel which is next to it, manifests a notable openness of the Polish people to others' sufferings.

Of the 6 million Poles who lost their lives during the war, half were Jews, the other half were all, or almost all, baptized Christians. The majority of the latter were led to death by the Nazis.

Although the proportion of non-Jewish victims in relation to the total population is far lower than the proportion of Jewish victims, around 10% in the first case, and 90% in the second, it is in any case huge figures of wounds that have left profound and painful scars on the Polish people.

Openness to sufferings, and also to the problems of others, which the existence of this center represents, seems very positive to me for the future of Europe.

Q: What perception was there at the time of this barbarism?

Father Stern: For many people in France, at least until 1942, the German invader was still the German of 1914-1918.

My family was in the know, in a general way, of Nazi atrocities. My parents died in Auschwitz. But when they climbed into the cattle wagons that took them there, did they have an idea of the "final solution"? I don't know.

Q: What do you think is important to make new generations understand?

Father Stern: Young people must be made to understand that every man is weak at the moral level.

It is tempting for young people to think: "Our fathers have committed abominations, OK. But we have understood it." In fact, today as yesterday, each one must watch over his convictions and his conduct. Otherwise, there is a great risk of being drawn where, in principle, one did not wish to go.

Q: What impressed you most when Benedict XVI spoke about the Jews?

Father Stern: I was impressed by the continuity between his teachings and those of John Paul II. According to this last Pope, God never gave up the Covenant he made with Israel.

The Jewish people, Benedict XVI said at Auschwitz, "by its very existence, is a witness to the God who spoke to humanity and took us to himself," who in Sinai enunciated the criteria that remains valid for eternity.

In the intentions of the Nazis, he added, "by destroying Israel, by the Shoah, they ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith."

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